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Title: The Rivers of Great Britain; Rivers of the South and West Coasts

Author: Various

Release Date: November 5, 2014 [EBook #47292]

Language: English

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Cover Page

Original Cover Page.



THE ROYAL RIVER: THE THAMES FROM SOURCE TO SEA. With Several Hundred Original Illustrations. Original Edition, £2 2s.

“Its illustrations surpass all that have previously adorned any book on the same subject”—Daily Telegraph.

RIVERS OF THE EAST COAST. With numerous highly finished Engravings. Original Edition, £2 2s.

“We have read with the greatest interest ‘The Rivers of the East Coast of Great Britain.’ All the articles are by pleasant writers, and the pages are lavishly illustrated by engravings after photographs.”—The Times.

Popular Editions of the above can also be obtained.

CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED, London; Paris and Melbourne.

Cader Idris, from the Dolgelley Road









La Belle Sauvage


General Characteristics—The CANTERBURY STOUR and its Branches: Ashford and Jack Cade—Horton and Lyminge—Canterbury—Fordwich and Izaak Walton—Isle of Thanet—Minster. The LESSER STOUR: “Bourne Ground”—Sandwich. The BREDE. The ROTHER: Bodiam—Isle of Oxney—Winchelsea—Seaford. The CUCKMERE: Alfriston and Lullington. THE OUSE: St. Leonard’s Forest—Fletching—Maresfield—Lewes. The ADUR: Bramber—Shoreham. The ARUN: Amberley—Arundel—Littlehampton. Hampshire Rivers—The ARLE: The Meon District—Wickham and the Bishop-Builder—Titchfield. The ITCHEN: A Curious Example of Instinct—Alresford Pond—Cheriton—Tichborne—The Winnal Reaches—Winchester and Izaak Walton—St. Cross—St. Catherine’s Hill—Southampton. The TEST: Romsey and its Abbey. The BEAULIEU: Beaulieu Abbey. The LYMINGTON and the MEDINA—The HAMPSHIRE AVON and the STOUR: Christchurch—Salisbury—Wimborne. The FROME: Dorchester—Mr. Hardy’s Country—Poole Harbour 1
General Characteristics—Sources of the Devon Streams: Exmoor and Dartmoor. The OTTER: Ottery Saint Mary and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Exmoor Streams:—The EXE: Its Source in The Chains—The Barle—The Batherm—Tiverton and Peter Blundell—Bickleigh Bridge and the “King of the Gipsies”—The Culm—Exeter—Countess Weir—Exmouth. The LYN: Oareford—The Doone Country—Malmsmead—Watersmeet—Lyndale—Lynton and Lynmouth. Dartmoor Streams:—The TEIGN: Wallabrook—Chagford—Fingle Bridge—Chudleigh—The Bovey—Newton Abbot—Teignmouth. The DART: Holne Chase—Buckfast Abbey—Dartington Hall—Totnes—The Lower Reaches—Dartmouth. The Tavy. The TAW: Oxenham and its Legend—Barnstaple—Lundy. The TORRIDGE: The Okement—Great Torrington—Bideford—Hubbastone. The Avon, Erme, and Yealm. The PLYM: Dewerstone—The Meavy and Plymouth Leat—Plympton St. Mary and Plympton Earl—The Three Towns 25
The Minor Streams of Cornwall—The TAMAR: Woolley Barrows—Morwellham and Weir Head—Morwell Rocks—Harewood—Calstock—Cotehele—Pentillie—Confluence with the Tavy—Saltash—The Hamoaze. The FOWEY: A Change of Name—St. Neot—Lostwithiel—Fowey. The FAL: Fenton Fal—Tregony—Truro—Tregothnan—Falmouth 54
The PARRET: Its Source—Muchelney Abbey—The Tone and Taunton—Athelney Island and Alfred the Great—Sedgemoor—Bridgwater—Burnham. The LOWER AVON: Escourt Park—Malmesbury—Chippenham—Melksham—Bradford-on-Avon—Bath—The Frome—Beau Nash—Bridges at Bath—The Abbey Church—Bristol—St. Mary Redcliffe and Chatterton—The Cathedral—“The Chasm”—Clifton Suspension Bridge—The Lower Reaches—Avonmouth 67
CHAPTER I.—FROM THE SOURCE TO TEWKESBURY.—Birthplace of the Severn—Plinlimmon—Blaenhafren—Llanidloes—Caersws—Newtown—Montgomery—Welshpool—Powys Castle—The Breidden Hills—The Vyrnwy. Distant Views—Shrewsbury—Haughmond Hill—The Caradoc Hills—Atcham—Wroxeter—Condover—The Wrekin—Benthall and Wenlock Edges—Buildwas Abbey—Coalbrook Dale—Ironbridge—Broseley and Benthall—Coalport—Bridgnorth—Quatford—Forest of Wyre—Bewdley—Stourport—Worcester—The Teme—Ludlow— Tewkesbury 82
CHAPTER II.—THE UPPER OR WARWICKSHIRE AVON.—The Watershed of Central England—Naseby—Rugby—The Swift—Lutterworth and Wiclif—Stoneleigh Abbey and Kenilworth Castle—Guy’s Cliff—The Leam—Warwick and its Castle—Stratford-on-Avon and its Shakespeare Associations—Evesham—Pershore—Tewkesbury 107
CHAPTER III.—FROM TEWKESBURY TO THE SEA.—Deerhurst—Gloucester—The “Bore”—May Hill—Minsterworth—Westbury-on-Severn—Newnham—Berkeley Castle—Lydney—Sharpness—The Severn Tunnel—The Estuary—A Vanished River 119
“The Notorious Hill of Plinlimmon”—The Stronghold of Owen Glendower—Llangurig—Rhayader Gwy—Llyn-Gwyn—The Elan, the Ithon, and the Yrfon—Llandrindod—Builth—Aberedw and the Last Prince of Wales—Hay—Clifford Castle and the Fair Rosamond—Hereford—The Lug—“The Wonder”—Ross and John Kyrle—Goodrich Castle—Coldwell Rocks—Symond’s Yat—Monmouth—The Monnow, the Dore, and the Llonddu—Wordsworth’s Great Ode—Tintern Abbey—The Wyndcliff—Chepstow—The Lower Reaches 124
The Black Mountains—Trecastle—The Gaer—Brecon—The Brecknock Beacons—Crickhowell—Abergavenny—Usk—Caerleon and the Arthurian Legend—Christchurch—Newport 149

[Pg vi]

Brecknock Beacons—The TAFF: Taff Fawr and Taff Fechan—Cardiff Reservoirs—Merthyr—The Dowlais Steel and Iron Works—The Rhondda—Pontypridd—Castell Coch—Llandaff and its Cathedral—Cardiff and its Castle. The NEATH: Ystradfellte—The Mellte and its Affluents—The Cwm Porth—Waterfalls and Cascades—The Sychnant—Pont Neath Vaughan—Neath and its Abbey—The Dulas and the Clydach. Swansea and its Docks—Morriston Castle—Swansea Castle—The Mumbles and Swansea Bay. The TAWE: Craig-y-Nos—Lly-Fan Fawr. The TOWY: Ystradffin—Llandovery—Llandilo—Dynevor Castle—Carmarthen and Richard Steele—Carmarthen Bar. The TAFF: Milford Haven—Carew Castle—Pembroke Castle—Monkton Priory—New Milford and Old Milford—Haverfordwest. The TEIFI: Strata Florida Abbey—Newcastle Emlyn—Cenarth—Cardigan. The YSTWITH: The Upper Waters—Aberystwith 159
CHAPTER I.—THE DOVEY, THE DYSYNNI, THE MAWDDACH.—Glories of a Wet Autumn in North Wales. The DOVEY: Source of the Stream—Dinas Mowddwy—Mallwyd—Machynlleth. The DYSYNNI: Tal-y-Llyn—The “Bird Rock”—Towyn. The MAWDDACH: The Estuary—The Wnion—Torrent Walk—Dolgelley—Precipice Walk—The Estuary—Barmouth—Harlech Castle—Portmadoc—Glaslyn—Tremadoc and Shelley—The Traeth Bach 193
CHAPTER II.—THE SEIONT, THE OGWEN, THE CONWAY.—The SEIONT: Llanberis Pass—Lakes Peris and Padarn—Dolbadarn Castle and Cennant Mawr—Carnarvon and its Castle. The OGWEN: Llyn Ogwen and Llyn Idwal—Bethesda—Penrhyn Castle. The LLUGWY: Capel Curig—Moel Siabod—Pont-y-Cyfing—Swallow Falls—The Miners’ Bridge—Bettws-y-Coed. The LLEDR: Dolwyddelen—Pont-y-Pant. The MACHNO and its Fall. The CONWAY: Fairy Glen—Llanrwst—Gwydir Castle—Llanbedr—Trefriw—Conway Marsh—Conway Castle and Town—Deganwy—Llandudno 205
CHAPTER III.—THE CLWYD AND THE DEE.—The CLWYD: Rhyl—Rhuddlan Castle—The Elwy—A Welsh Gretna Green—St. Asaph—Denbigh—Ruthin. The DEE: Bala Lake—Corwen—Vale of Llangollen and Valle Crucis Abbey—Dinas Bran—The Ceiriog—Chirk Castle and Wynnstay—The Alyn—Eaton Hall—Chester—Flint 223
A Modern River—Derivations—The Tame, the Goyt, and the Etherow—Stockport—Northenden—The Irwell and its Feeders—Manchester and Salford—The Ship Canal—Bridges over the Irwell—Ordsall—Eccles—Barton—Warburton—Irlam—Warrington—Latchford—Runcorn and Widnes—The Weaver—Eastham Locks—Liverpool and its Growth—Its Docks and Quays—Birkenhead and its Shipbuilding Yards—New Brighton—Perch Rock Lighthouse 242
A Birthplace of Rivers—The RIBBLE: Ribblehead—Horton-in-Ribblesdale—Survival of Old Traditions—Hellifield—The Hodder—Stonyhurst and its College—The Calder—Burnley—Towneley Hall—Preston—Its Development as a Port. The WYRE: Poulton-le-Fylde. The LUNE: Kirkby Lonsdale—The Greta and the Wenning—Hornby Castle—Lancaster—Morecambe Bay—The Journey from Lancaster to Ulverston in Coaching Days—Shifting Sands. The KENT: Kentmere—Kendal. The Gilpin and the Winster. The ROTHAY and the BRATHAY. Grasmere and Wordsworth—Rydal Water—Ambleside—Windermere. Troutbeck. Esthwaite Water. The LEVEN: Newby Bridge—The Estuary. The CRAKE: Coniston Water—Coniston Hall—Brantwood and Mr. Ruskin. The DUDDON: Wordsworth’s Sonnets. The ESK and the IRT: Wastwater. The LIZA: Ennerdale Water. The EHEN: Egremont Castle. The DERWENT: The Vale of St. John’s—The Greta and Keswick—The View from Castlerigg top—Derwentwater 271
The Firth—A Swift Tide. The EDEN: The Eamont—Eden Hall—Armathwaite—John Skelton—Wetheral and Corby Castle—The Caldew and the Petteril—Greystoke Castle—Carlisle, its Romance and History—Serva Pactum—“Kinmont Willie” and the “bauld Buccleuch”—Executions of Jacobites—The Carlisle of To-day—The Sark—Gretna Green. The LIDDEL—Hermitage Water and Castle. The ESK: The Tarras—Gilnockie Tower—Carlenrig and Johnnie Armstrong—Young Lochinvar—Kirtle Water and its Tragic Story. The ANNAN: The Land of the Bruces—Thomas Carlyle. The NITH: Dumfries—Burns’s Grave—Robert Bruce and the Red Cumyn—Drumlanrig and Caerlaverock Castles—The Cairn and its Associations—The New Abbey Pow and Sweetheart Abbey. The DEE: Douglas Tongueland—Threave Castle. The CREE: Newton Stewart—The “Cruives of Cree.” The BLADENOCH: The Wigtown Martyrs 301
Poetic Associations—Headstreams of the Ayrshire Rivers—“The Land of Burns”—The Ayr and the Doon—Sorn—Catrine—Ballochmyle— Mossgiel—Mauchline—Barskimming—Coilsfield House and the Fail Water—The Coyl—Auchencruive—Craigie—Ayr—The Doon 328
Clydesdale and its Waters—“The Hill of Fire”—Douglasdale—“Castle Dangerous”—Bonnington Linn—Corra Linn and “Wallace’s Tower”—Lanark—The Mouse Water—Stonebyres Linn—The Nethan and “Tillietudlem”—“The Orchard of Scotland”—Hamilton and its Palace—Cadzow Castle and its Associations—Bothwell Brig and Castle—Blantyre—Cambuslang—Rutherglen—Glasgow—The City and its History—The Quays, Docks, and Shipbuilding Yards—The Work of the Clyde Navigation Trust—Govan and Partick—The White Cart—Dumbarton Rock and Castle—The Leven Valley—Ben and Loch Lomond—Greenock—Gourock—The Firth at Eventide 342


Distant View of CanterburyRivers of Kent and Sussex (Map)—Arundel CastleSandwich: The Old Bridge and BarbicanGeneral View of WinchesterSt. Catherine’s HillWinchester CathedralSouthampton DocksThe Royal Pier, SouthamptonSouthampton from the WaterRomsey AbbeyChristchurch AbbeyRivers of Hants and Dorset (Map)—A New Forest StreamThe Avon at AmesburySalisbury CathedralThe Frome at Frampton CourtDorchester from the FromePoole HarbourWimborne Minster 1–24
Bideford BridgeRivers of Devon (Map)—The Wear WaterExeterExmouth, from the BeaconWatersmeetLynmouth and Lynton“Clam” Bridge over the WallabrookFingle BridgeTeignmouthNew BridgeBuckfastleighStavertonThe Island, TotnesTotnesDittishamMouth of the DartBarnstaple, from the South WalkThe Torridge near TorringtonThe Plym from Cadaford BridgeIn Bickleigh ValePlympton EarlThe Hoe, Plymouth 25–53
DanescombeRivers of Cornwall (Map)—Tavistock New BridgeMorwell RocksCargreenThe Hamoaze, from SaltashThe Fal from TolverneFalmouth HarbourFalmouth, from Flushing 54–66
The Isle of AthelneyThe Parret and the Lower Avon (Map)—Taunton ChurchMalmesbury AbbeyThe Avon near TetburyBradford-on-Avon Church, from the North-EastThe Avon at BathView from North Parade Bridge, BathView from the old City Bridge, BathBristol, from the Site of the old Drawbridge across the HarbourClifton Suspension Bridge 67–81
CHAPTER I.—FROM THE SOURCE TO TEWKESBURY.Source of the Severn, PlinlimmonThe Severn, from the Source to Tewkesbury (Map)—Valley of the Severn, from PlinlimmonThe First House on the Severn, BlaenhafrenMoel-y-Golfa and Breidden, from WelshpoolThe Vyrnwy Embankment, before the flooding of the ValleyA Quiet Nook on the VyrnwyThe Boat-house Ferry, between Welsh and English BridgesShrewsbury CastleQuarry Walk, ShrewsburyEnglish Bridge, ShrewsburyBuildwas AbbeyThe Severn from Benthall EdgeIronbridgeThe Severn in Wyre ForestNear ShrawleyOld Houses at BewdleyWorcester Cathedral, from the SevernLudlowThe Severn at Tewkesbury 82–106
CHAPTER II.—THE UPPER OR WARWICKSHIRE AVON.The Avon near RugbyThe Warwickshire Avon (Map)—Warwick CastleThe Avon from Warwick CastleStratford-on-Avon ChurchShakespeare’s HouseThe Avon at StratfordEveshamThe Avon at Tewkesbury 107–118
CHAPTER III.—FROM TEWKESBURY TO THE SEA.Distant View of TewkesburyThe Severn, from Tewkesbury to the Sea (Map)—GloucesterThe Severn Bridge, Sharpness 119–123
A Bend of the WyeViews in the Lower Elan ValleyThe Wye and the Usk (Map)—Pont-Hyll-Fan, in the Elan ValleyThe Shaky Bridge, LlandrindodThe Wye Bridge and Hereford CathedralGoodrich CastleRoss ChurchSymond’s Yat and the FerryMonmouthThe Monnow Bridge and Gate-house, MonmouthTintern Abbey, from the WyeThe Nave, Tintern AbbeyGateway at ChepstowChepstow CastleView from the WyndcliffOld Monastery on the Wye 124–148
Near the Source of the Usk, Talsarn-sideThe Usk at BrecknockBit of the Roman Wall at CaerleonUskCaerleonNewport: The Bridge and Castle 149–158

[Pg viii]

The Brecknock Beacons, from the Taff—Llandaff Cathedral: The West Front; The Nave and Choir; The West and North DoorsRivers of South Wales (Map)—The Bishop’s Gateway, LlandaffCardiff CastleSt. Mary Street, CardiffThe Drawing Room, Cardiff CastleIn the Vale of NeathNeath AbbeyOutskirts of NeathNorth Dock, SwanseaMorristonThe MumblesCarew CastleCarmarthen QuayPembroke Castle and Monkton PrioryThe Royal Dockyard, Pembroke DockHaverfordwestMilford HavenThe Teifi at KilgerranAberystwith 159–192
CHAPTER I.—THE DOVEY, THE DYSYNNI, THE MAWDDACH.DolgelleyRivers of North Wales (Map)—Torrent Walk, DolgelleyThe Lower Bridge, Torrent WalkBetween Dolgelley and BarmouthBarmouth Bridge and Cader IdrisSnowdon, from Crib-GochThe Estuary, Barmouth 193–204
CHAPTER II.—THE SEIONT, THE OGWEN, THE CONWAY.Pass of LlanberisCarnarvon CastleThe Swallow Falls—Miners’ Bridge, Bettws-y-CoedMoel Siabod, from the LlugwyPont-y-PairOn the LledrAnother View in the Lledr ValleyFairy Glen, Bettws-y-CoedOn the ConwayThe Conway, from Conway CastleConway CastleThe Bridge, from Conway Castle 205–222
CHAPTER III.—THE CLWYD AND THE DEE.View from Rhuddlan CastleRhuddlan CastleSt. AsaphDenbighBala LakeValle Crucis AbbeyLlangollenEaton HallThe Roodee, ChesterThe Dee at Chester, from the WallsChester Cathedral, from the South-WestSwing Bridge over the Dee near HawardenThe Sands of Dee 223–241
The Mersey at StockportThe Mersey (Map)—NorthendenOn the IrwellPendleton, from the CrescentManchester, from the Grammar School, showing the Cathedral, the Exchange, the Town Hall, etc.Victoria and Blackfriars BridgesSteamer passing through Trafford Road Swing BridgeThe Old and the Swing Aqueducts, BartonThe Irwell at Ordsall, with Worrall’s WorksRuncorn BridgeThe Locks at EasthamSt. George’s Landing-Stage, LiverpoolSwing Bridge over the Entrance to Stanley Dock, LiverpoolLiverpool, from BirkenheadSt. George’s Hall and Lime Street, LiverpoolThe Perch Rock Lighthouse 242–270
Stainforth BridgeTowneley Hall, BurnleyRivers of Lancashire and Lakeland (Map)—Preston, from the WestLancasterWindermereRydal WaterGrasmereNewby BridgeAnother Bit of the LevenThe Liza flowing into Ennerdale WaterThe Liza at GillerthwaiteConiston WaterEnnerdaleThe Greta between Threlkeld and KeswickThe Derwent, with Keswick in the DistanceThe Derwent at CrosthwaiteDerwentwater and SkiddawDerwentwater from ScafellThe Cocker flowing from Crummock LakeThe Cocker at Kirkgate 271–300
The Annan, near Annan TownThe Eden, the Petteril, and the Caldew (Map)—Eden HallThe Weir at ArmathwaiteWetheral BridgeView from Brackenbank looking towards CotehillCotehill IslandView from the Long Walk, Corby CastleRock Stairway to the Boathouse, Corby CastleGreystoke CastleCarlisle, looking EastCarlisle, looking WestRivers flowing South into Solway Firth (Map)—The Esk, near GilnockieHigh Street, DumfriesLincluden AbbeyDrumlanrig CastleCaerlaverock CastleThe Dee at Douglas TonguelandThe Cree at Newton Stewart 301–327
The Ayr above MuirkirkSornRivers of Ayrshire (Map)—BallochmyleThe Ayr at BarskimmingAuchencruiveThe Twa Brigs of AyrThe Dam at AyrThe Doon: The New and the Auld BrigAyrmouth 328–341
One of the Sources of the ClydeThe Clyde (Map)—Douglas CastleBonnington LinnCorra LinnRoman Bridge near LanarkStonebyres LinnBothwell CastleGlasgow UniversityThe Broomielaw Landing-StageThe Clyde at GlasgowPartickPaisleyDumbarton RockLoch LomondGreenockGourock 342–369

[Pg ix]


View of Canterbury

Photo: G. W. Wilson & Co., Aberdeen.



General Characteristics—The CANTERBURY STOUR and its Branches: Ashford and Jack Cade—Horton and Lyminge—Canterbury—Fordwich and Izaak Walton—Isle of Thanet—Minster. The LESSER STOUR: “Bourne Ground”—Sandwich. The BREDE. The ROTHER: Bodiam—Isle of Oxney—Winchelsea—Seaford. The CUCKMERE: Alfriston and Lullington. THE OUSE: St. Leonard’s Forest—Fletching—Maresfield—Lewes. The ADUR: Bramber—Shoreham. The ARUN: Amberley—Arundel—Littlehampton. Hampshire Rivers—The ARLE: The Meon District—Wickham and the Bishop-Builder—Titchfield. The ITCHEN: A Curious Example of Instinct—Alresford Pond—Cheriton—Tichborne—The Winnal Reaches—Winchester and Izaak Walton—St. Cross—St. Catherine’s Hill—Southampton. The TEST: Romsey and its Abbey. The BEAULIEU: Beaulieu Abbey. The LYMINGTON and the MEDINA—The HAMPSHIRE AVON and the STOUR: Christchurch—Salisbury—Wimborne. The FROME: Dorchester—Mr. Hardy’s Country—Poole Harbour.


THE long and strong backbone of the North Downs extends, roughly speaking, from Kent, by way of Dorking and Guildford, to the source of the Avon, north of Salisbury Plain; and the South Downs run parallel, more or less, through Sussex and Hants to the Dorset heights. From these green hills spring the streams which will be briefly traced from source to sea in this chapter. They are not rivers of first account in their aid to commerce; even the pair which combine in the formation of Southampton Water have never been reckoned in the nomenclature of dock or port. To the angler, however, some of these chalk streams are exceedingly precious—as they indeed ought to be, when a rental varying from fifty to a hundred pounds per mile per annum is gladly paid (and taken) for the[Pg 2] right of fishing with rod and line. Such choice preserves are stocked with trout of aristocratic quality, trout which can only be reared in streams issuing from the chalk; their water, when unpolluted by contact with towns, is crystal clear; and the beds of gravel and fine sand favour the growth of typical vegetation, which in its turn favours typical water insects and other food suitable for the highest class of non-migratory salmonidæ.

Wholly different from such noisy, turbulent, masterful rivers as those which distinguish North Britain, these chalk streams enter into the very spirit of that sweet pastoral scenery which suggests repose, peace, and plenty. They maintain for the most part an even course, tranquilly flowing without fret or violence through level land, and pursuing their tireless journey seawards, unobstructed by the rugged rocks, obstinate boulders, and uneven beds which provoke your mountain-or moorland-born waters into thunderous roar, angry swirl, and headlong rapidity. For foam-flecked pools, and mighty leaps in romantic gorges, the South-country chalk stream offers forget-me-nots by the margin, and beds of flowers blossoming from its harmless depths. It is with rivers of this class we have now to deal, presenting such features as may be noticed within the limits which have been assigned to the present chapter.

Rivers of Kent and Sussex


Beginning, as the sun in its progress would have us do, from the east, we introduce the reader to the fair county of Kent. There are at least half-a-dozen Stours, great and small, in England; and though the stream with which we start is entirely Kentish (and might, therefore, take the name of the county), it is commonly distinguished by the name of the CANTERBURY STOUR. There are others of its namesakes—one of which we shall meet with towards the end of our journey—of greater watershed, but there is no more interesting member of the family. As a rule, a river, with its tributaries, as seen on the map, offers the appearance of the root of a tree, with its branches gracefully following in a common direction towards the parent stream, on the principle that, as the main river ever has marching orders towards the ocean, all its feeders, in the same spirit, loyally join in a forward movement. Our Stour, however, is a notable exception. It assumes a respectable magnitude at Ashford, but near that town, and almost at right[Pg 3] angles to the subsequent direction of the main stream, two distinct branches join issue. The main stream from Ashford to the Isle of Thanet runs almost due north-east; branch number one, that comes from the hills in the direction of Maidstone, travels to Ashford almost due south-west, and the other branch that rises north of Hythe flows in a diametrically opposite course. These little rivers are of equal length, and flow, in their unpretending fashion, through purely rural country.

The first-named of these branches rises near Lenham, which takes its name from a feeder of the great river of the northern watershed of the county. Visitors to the seat of the Dering family at Surrenden, where there have been Derings since the time of the Conqueror, and to Little Chart Church, will be, at the latter place, not far from what is regarded as the real source of the river Stour, but this brook must not be confounded with the Beult at Smarden, which belongs to the Medway. Our stream flows the other way, passing Cale Hill, Hothfield, and Godinton. Hereabouts—if there is anything in tradition—is the country of troublesome Jack Cade, who must have known a good deal about the river, for the story is that he was born at Ashford, and that the squire who had the honour of taking him into custody lived on the estate known in these days as Ripley Court Farm.

The southern branch takes its rise near Postling, on the famous Stone Street, or Roman road, which from Westenhanger is a straight northerly highway to Canterbury. The farmhouse at Horton was a priory founded in the time of Henry II. Naturally, in this part of England, where Augustine landed, the countryside is rich in the earliest ecclesiastical reminiscences. At Lyminge, for example, hard by, was one of the Benedictine nunneries, and the church where the daughter of Ethelbert was buried is often visited by admirers of Roman and Anglo-Saxon masonry, for it is believed that the Saxon church was built on the site of a basilicon. There are many parish churches in Kent which are of exceptional interest, but that at Lyminge is generally accepted as the first of them.

The entire course of the Stour is about forty-five miles, and its valley from Ashford to Canterbury is one of the loveliest features of a lovely county. Overlooking it is Eastwell Park, which for many years was the country-house of the Duke of Edinburgh. The valley of the Stour, seen from one of its higher knolls as on a chart, is not always so open as it is in this neighbourhood, though its narrowing means but the concentration of charming scenery, with wooded heights on the one side and open downs on the other. For a considerable distance the Stour follows the railway line, and at Wye, where there is one of the most lovely miniature racecourses in the kingdom, it is crossed by a bridge of five arches. Thenceforth, it is a notable trout stream, gradually widening until it forms the distinctive feature of the well-known meadows, with the square-towered cathedral always a prominent object of the landscape.

Canterbury has been so often described, for it is frequently the scene of great[Pg 4] ceremonials (as witness the impressive burial of Archbishop Benson in 1896, and the enthronisation of his distinguished successor in 1897), that a few sentences only are required as we muse by the riverside. But it is impossible to visit Canterbury without recalling its stirring and suggestive associations, and the distinction it had in times when other parts of the country were obscure. It was too near the water to escape the ravages of the sea-kings, who liked to land at Sheppey and Thanet, and it was more than once devastated by the Danes. In 1011 it was taken by storm amidst scenes of death and desolation during which the cathedral and monastery were burnt, the inhabitants slaughtered in masses, and women and children carried away into captivity. There is no need to re-tell the story of that different kind of landing, glorified by the arrival of St. Augustine and his missionaries. This also honoured the Isle of Thanet, which the Saxon chronicle mentions as the place of disembarkation of Hengist and Horsa on their heathen mission to Vortigern. The Stour in its terminal portion has probably become much cabined and confined since that period, when it must have been a broad estuary.

Arundel Castle

Photo: J. White, Littlehampton.


About two miles below Canterbury is the village of Fordwich, on the opposite[Pg 5] bank of the Stour. As the tide in old days reached thither, it ranked as a Cinque Port. According to Izaak Walton, the old name of Fordwich was “Fordidge,” and as such he immortalised it in the “Compleat Angler” as the home of the Fordidge trout, about which there was some mystery, until in the present century it was proved to be one of the migratory salmonidæ. An occasional specimen is now found. This fish does now and then run into some of our south-east rivers, and no doubt at the time when the Thames was a salmon river and the waters were unpolluted, it was common in the Stour, which throughout is an excellent trout stream.

Old Bridge and Barbican

Photo: Poulton & Son, Lee.


Below Canterbury, where the water becomes brackish and the conditions prosaic, the trout gives place to the ordinary coarse fish of our streams. Grove Ferry is one of the favourite holiday resorts of the citizens. At Sarr, a few miles from Fordwich, the ferry which now plies at Grove Ferry was formerly the means of[Pg 6] communication with the Isle of Thanet. This historic island is formed by the Stour separating right and left, the arm to the north finding the sea a little east of the Reculvers; while the branch flowing in the opposite direction marks the boundary of the promontory which includes the watering-places of Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Margate, and Birchington, and has for the extreme tip of its snout the lonely North Foreland. This divergence, which, on a smaller scale, corresponds with the curious right-angled course of the brooks at the source, used to have a name of its own: it was called the Wantsum, with a well-known ford at St. Nicholas-at-Wade; and no doubt this channel was once an arm of the sea. The lesser Stour, of which something will presently be said, falls into the navigable portion of the parent river below Sarr. The lower branch runs through marshes by Minster, which is a deservedly popular village to tourists exploring Kent who are specially on the lookout for interesting relics of the past. King Egbert, one of the Christian kings of Kent, founded a nunnery here by way of atonement for the murder of a couple of princely cousins, and he agreed to endow it with as much land as a hind would cover in one course. The Danes had their will of the place. The restored church in its present form has a Norman nave, with Early English transepts and choir. Minster is a favourite ramble for seaside visitors to Ramsgate; it is well situated, and its high ground affords views of distant Canterbury, the ruins of Richborough Castle, the coast country about Deal, and a proper expanse of marsh. The Stour, when nearly opposite the point of coast where it eventually falls into the Straits of Dover, takes a turn to the east, calling, as it were, at the ancient town of Sandwich, and then proceeds due north to Pegwell Bay.

Rising somewhere near the source of the lower arm of Stour major, the LESSER STOUR is another charming Kentish trout stream. It flows through what may be designated bourne ground, as the names of many of its villages testify. The source is near Bishopsbourne Church, where the judicious Hooker, a native of the place, performed the duties of parish priest. There are also Patrixbourne, Bekesbourne, Nailbourne, and Littlebourne. The last named is well known to tourists, for the village has a traditional association with the monks of St. Augustine; here are an Early English church with monuments, and the park at Lee Priory where Sir Egerton Brydges worked his press; and within a quarter of an hour’s walk is an old church formerly belonging to some of the Canterbury priors. On the banks of the stream at Bekesbourne are the remains of a palace of Archbishop Cranmer; and when the Parliamentarians, according to their custom, laid it under contribution, in their ransacking they discovered the Primate’s will behind an old oak wainscoting. Wickham Breaux is another of the Lesser Stour villages, and all around are the fruit orchards and occasional hopfields which give a distinctive and agreeable character to the entire watershed. The Lesser Stour for a while runs parallel with its companion, which it joins at Stourmouth, to assist in outlining the Isle of Thanet, and mingling therefore with the current which goes the round of Sandwich to Pegwell Bay. It seems almost incredible that Sandwich was once a[Pg 7] great port, but if a quiet hour be spent in what is left of it, the town will be found to repay careful inspection. The Barbican, as the old gateway tower is called, and the bridge indicate the haven in which refugees from France and the Low Countries found a safe home.

From Hythe to the ancient and always interesting town of Rye, stretches the Royal Military Canal; the first stream to claim attention is the BREDE, though it is scarcely entitled to river rank. It takes its rise a few miles from Battle, and its course is held to have been the old channel of the Rother, near Winchelsea. The “Groaning Bridge” is on the Brede, and it was on this spot that the Oxenbridge ogre of ancient legend was said to have been disposed of once for all by being divided across the middle with a wooden saw.


Photo: Poulton & Son, Lee.

Winchester/St. Catherine Hill

Photo: Poulton & Son, Lee.


But the principal river in the Rye and Winchelsea district, so full of suggestion in its evidences of past prosperity and present decay, is the ROTHER, known as the Eastern, to distinguish it from another of the same name in the western part of the county. At Bodiam is a famous foss, fed by the river, encircling the excellently preserved castle, with its round tower, great gateway approached by a causeway, spacious central court, outer portcullis, and portions of hall, chapel, and kitchen.[Pg 8] This is held by antiquaries to be one of the best of the feudal fortresses in Sussex. In monkish days the stream was no doubt one of great value. Near the source, at Gravel Hill, is Robertsbridge, or Rotherbridge, where a Cistercian abbey, secluded almost from the world by the river, was visited by Edward II. and Edward III. There are still fragments of the abbey on a farm which occupies at least a portion of the site. The Rother is a river of many tributaries, one of them acting partly as the boundary of Sussex and Kent. Its scenery is somewhat commonplace, but it is navigable for a considerable portion of its course, which has much altered since the old chronicles were inscribed. Two of its branches enclose the Isle of Oxney, a flat so easily flooded that the villagers within its bounds often find the use of a boat a necessity.

Winchester Cathedral

Photo: Frith & Co., Reigate.


The railway crosses the Rother by a stone bridge, then comes Rye Harbour, and at a distance of two miles, set upon a hill so that it cannot be hid, is the old-world borough of Winchelsea, which the sea has left high and dry, though it had been the abode of great kings, and the witness of battles by sea and land. At Hastings the Downs supply sufficient rivulet-power to maintain glen, waterfall, and dripping well, for sea-side visitors. Following the coast-line to Seaford, the quiet and unpretending watering place which was once a Cinque Port, and which returned[Pg 9] members to Parliament until it was disfranchised by the Reform Act, a short walk over the Downs brings the tourist to the pretty broken country of East and West Dean.

Southampton Docks

Photo: F. G. O. Stuart, Southampton.


The stream crossed by Exceat Bridge is the CUCKMERE, of which it need only be said that it has ceased to be a feature of importance to shipping people. It is worth while, nevertheless, to follow it up from the reaches where barges still find resting-place. At Alfriston British, Roman, and Saxon coins have been found; there is a rare sixteenth-century inn, supposed to have been built as a house of call for Canterbury pilgrims, a market cross, a church on the plan of a Greek cross, sometimes designated “the cathedral of the South Downs,” a parish register dating from 1512—possibly the oldest in England—and a half-timbered rectory of still earlier date. There is some doubt as to which is now the smallest church in[Pg 10] Great Britain, but the claim has been made for Lullington, which is on the slope of Cuckmere vale. In rambling by this little river the tourist will make acquaintance with the South Downs free and unadulterated. The Cuckmere flows into the sea about two miles from Seaford, having escaped through the opening which takes the name of Birling Gap.

Within an area of four square miles, and almost in touch with St. Leonard’s Forest, three important Sussex streams take their rise—the Ouse, Adur, and Arun. This was the centre of the ancient iron industry of Sussex, and the position would not have been possible without water supply for the hammer ponds. The OUSE is crossed by the London and Brighton Railway a little north-west of Lindfield. The river afterwards winds round the well-wooded seat of the Earl of Sheffield; and at Fletching Common, hard by, the baronial army spent the night before fighting the battle of Lewes. Gibbon the historian was buried in the church, which is noted also for an ancient rood screen and the mausoleum of the Neville family. Maresfield, where the furnaces and forges of the old Sussex iron-masters clustered thick, retains vast expanses of the cinder and slag they created centuries ago. It is beautified by the trees of Ashdown Forest, and sends a tributary to the Ouse; another tributary presently arrives from Buxted, where the first cast cannon ever seen in Europe was made in 1543.

The Ouse is the river of the pleasant county town of Lewes. This rare old town, on its chalk hill, with downs surrounding it, and with the Ouse, on whose right bank it is spread, adding to its attractions, ranks in interest with Chester and Durham. The great battle which was fought on May 14th, 1264, is the event of which the local historians are most proud. As we have seen, it was at Fletching Common that De Montfort encamped his soldiers, and thence he sent a couple of bishops the day before the battle on a fruitless errand to the king, who was quartered at the priory. The most sanguinary slaughter appears to have taken place south of the town, where the Ouse was crossed by a bridge; and the river with its marshy flats assisted in the destruction, for many knights were discovered after the battle stuck in the swamp, “sitting on their horses, in complete armour, and with drawn swords in their lifeless hands.” The Ouse cannot be said to be picturesque; at Lewes it has long lost the sparkle which characterised it in the forest outskirts; but from any elevated point of Lewes Castle, notably the western keep, the easy stream may be seen as it is about to disappear between the hills. The disestablished locks between Cuckfield and Lewes indicate a brisk bygone barge traffic. Early in the present century the river was navigable for barges of forty tons burden for ten miles without interruption, and thence beyond Lindfield in the Hayward’s Heath country. In early times it was probably a broad estuary extending to Lewes itself, and at some time found an outlet to the sea at Seaford, three miles to the east. This, however, is very ancient history, for the river was brought back to its present channel in the sixteenth century.

[Pg 11]

Shoreham, the humble and dull attendant upon Brighton, has an advantage over the great watering-place—which is streamless—in being situated on a river. It is not a beautiful place, but it has something of a harbour, in which you may find port in a storm, and it has a bridge across the ADUR. This river comes down from openings in the hills, having passed through pretty country, with such villages as Bramber (where there was once a broad estuary in which vessels anchored) and Steyning. The source of the Adur on the borders of St. Leonard’s Forest has been previously mentioned; but there are at least two other rills that have an equal claim. From Henfield the river runs south, through pasture land, and, as we have seen, winds past Bramber, supposed to be the Portus Adurni of the Romans. There is very little of the castle left, and that is almost hidden by trees. At New Shoreham the Adur turns eastward, and runs for a while parallel with the seashore.

These Sussex rivers which are projected from the neighbourhood of St. Leonard’s Forest can scarcely be considered as akin to the pure, bright chalk stream which was described at the commencement of this chapter; and the most important of the trio, the ARUN, does not in this respect differ from its fellows. Something more than passing glimpses of it are obtained from the carriage windows by the railway traveller as he speeds through the imposing scenery around Arundel. It is navigable for an unusual distance, and whatever beauty it possesses it owes to its surroundings. Of late years the river has become the Mecca of members of the London angling clubs, who charter special trains and invade the districts by hundreds on Sundays. The first stopping-place of any account from this point of view is Pulborough, the site of an old Roman settlement, with traces of camp and buildings, which will not, however, be found on Arun-side, but at Hardham and elsewhere. Amberley was rescued from oblivion, and from the desertion enforced upon it by neighbouring marshes, by the railway; and the scenery between it and Arundel has always been prized and worked at by artists. Swanbourne Mill as a picture is probably familiar to many who have never entered the county.

The splendidly kept castle at Arundel has not been dwarfed by the cathedral-like Roman Catholic church built by the Duke of Norfolk, and dedicated to St. Philip Neri. Even now it looks like the splendid stronghold that it was, and the most venerable in the land that it is, on its commanding terminal of swelling down, with the stream from the Weald narrowing between the hills through its beautiful valley, to the characteristic marsh flats beyond. The river hence to the sea does not call for admiration or comment, save that there is a remnant of a priory at Tortington, a point of view from which Arundel with its castle-crowned heights looks its best. Littlehampton, four miles from Arundel, is better known as a port of departure for steamships than as a watering-place competing with the pleasure resorts in more favoured situations on the coast.

Hampshire is a well-watered county, and classic ground for that new school of[Pg 12] anglers who are classified as “dry-fly” men. The masters thereof graduated on the Itchen and the Test, most famous of all South-country chalk streams, and honourably mentioned in angling literature. To know that a man is a successful fisher upon either is tantamount to a certificate of the highest skill. The Hampshire rivers, other than these celebrated feeders of the Southampton water, are few, and modest in character. There is, it is true, a small trout stream at Fareham, a busy little seaport which owes its standing to its proximity to Portsmouth Harbour, and its attractions as a district abounding in country seats to the rampart of Portsdown Hill, affording at once protection from the north and opportunity for overlooking the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Less than three miles west, across the peninsula that sustains Gosport, is a considerable stream, little known outside the county, but an ever-present delight to the villages through which it lightly flows to the eastern shore of Southampton water. This is the Arle, or Titchfield river.


Photo: Perkins, Son, & Venimore, Lewisham.



In its course of some score of miles the ARLE takes its share in a diversity of scenery of a soothing rather than romantic character. Rising in the South Downs, it begins by mingling with village and hamlet life in a sequestered valley; then it proceeds through an open forest country, and becomes navigable at Titchfield. The source of the stream is but a few miles west of Petersfield, but it begins with a sweep to the north and a loop round a southerly point, passing so much in the Meon district that it is often marked on the maps by that name, which was probably its only one in the past. Meonware was a Pictish province when there[Pg 13] was a king of the South Saxons, and Saint Wilfrid preached Christianity to the British heathen. Indeed a portion of Corhampton Church, across the stream, is ascribed to that prelate. Wickham, most beautifully situated on the Arle, is celebrated as the birthplace of William of Wykeham, the great bishop-builder. Warton the poet lived his last days at Wickham, and died there in the first year of the century.

Romsey Abbey

Photo: A. Seeley, Richmond.


References to William of Wykeham continually occur in county Hants: thus in the district under consideration there are a Wykeham chancel at Meonstoke, a Wykeham foundation of five chantries near the coast at Southwick, and a reputed Wykeham aisle in the church at Titchfield. The remains of Funtley Abbey are naturally not far from the stream. They are close to Titchfield, and mark the site of a Priory founded by Bishop de Rupibus in the reign of Henry III. The house which Sir Thomas Wriothesley built upon the place acquired in the usual way at the Dissolution was “right statelie” when Leland described it; and this was the Titchfield House where poor Charles Stuart found temporary refuge between the flight from Hampton Court and the grim lodging of Carisbrooke.

The ITCHEN, as next in order on our westward progress, must receive first consideration, though it is the smaller of the streams which pay tribute to the Solent at Calshot Castle. The Itchen and the Test have many things in common: they both rise out of the chalk downs which stretch from the Stour in Kent, through Hants, to the confines of Wilts; they both give Southampton importance;[Pg 14] they are both salmon rivers, but to so unimportant a degree that they have never yet been considered worthy of governance by a Board of Conservators; and they have the distinction of being the only salmon rivers in England that may be fished without a rod licence. But these rivers are so distinct in one characteristic that they may be quoted as evidence of almost miraculous instinct. The salmon of the Test hold no communion with those of the Itchen; no fisherman acquainted with the rivers would be likely to mistake the one for the other; yet, while the Itchen fish, on return from the salt water, unerringly turn to the right, and pass the Docks on their way to Woodmill, the salmon of the Test swim straight ahead, and pause not till they reach their own river beyond the furthest of the western suburbs of Southampton.

Christchurch Abbey

Photo: Poulton & Son, Lee.


When a river issues from a lake it is the custom to regard the latter as the headwaters. In this sense Alresford Pond may be set down as the source of the Itchen. Locally, a brook at Ropley Dean, about eleven miles from Winchester as the crow flies, has been nominated for the distinction, but there are other rivulets from the high land between Alresford and Alton which might be brought into competition. The Bishops of Winchester formerly had a summer palace at Bishop’s Sutton, and it is somewhat of a coincidence that in our own times Archbishop Longley was one of its vicars. There are stores of pike and mammoth trout in Alresford Pond, and no doubt they had ancestors there when Richard I. was[Pg 15] king. Even now, in its reduced size, this beautiful sheet of clear water covers sixty acres.

Rivers of Hants and Dorset


The tributaries are inconsiderable; but it is a land of innumerable watercourses, and of carriers, kept in action for the flooding of the pastures. Hence the meads are found in a perpetual freshness of “living green,” and the verdant pastures in the late spring are magnificent with their marsh-marigolds and cuckoo flowers marking the lines of the meadow trenches, while the hedges and coppices are a dream of May blossom. Noble country houses are set back on the slopes, real old-fashioned farmhouses and thatched cottages are embowered in every variety of foliage, and the background is frequently filled in by gently ranging upland clothed with the softest herbage. Here a village with its mill, and there a hamlet with its homely old church, mark the stages of the crystal clear river, every foot of which is the treasured preserve of some wealthy angler. There are golden trout upon the gravel, and in the deeps, while the shallows, many of which have been fords from time immemorial, are open to the eye of the wayfarer who quietly pauses on the rustic bridges to watch the spotted denizens as they cruise and poise.

At Cheriton the Royalists received a crushing blow on the March day when Lords Hopton and Forth led their army of 10,000 men against an equal force of Waller’s Roundheads. The engagement was fatal to the Royal cause, and it gave Winchester and its fort to the Parliamentarians. Of Tichborne this generation heard somewhat in the seventies, and the notorious trials brought for many years an increase of visitors, who would interrupt the discourse upon Sir Roger de Tychborne, and the Tychborne Dole founded by the Lady Mabell (whose monument is in the church on the hill), with questions about the Claimant and the lost Sir Roger. Martyr’s Worthy, King’s Worthy, and Abbot’s Worthy are within sound of the sonorous Cathedral bells; and after these villages are the loved Winnal reaches[Pg 16] of the stream, one of them sadly marred by the Didcot and Newbury Railway, which, within the last few years, has been opened with a station south of the town. The Nun’s Walk is to the right as you follow the Itchen downwards, often over planks half-hidden in sedges. Sleek cattle graze in the water-meads; beyond them is the clustering city and its Cathedral, which at a distance resembles nothing so much as a long low-lying building that has yet to be finished, the squat tower seeming a mere commencement. The bye-streams, of which there are several, meet at the bottom of the town, and the strong, rapid, concentrated current has much mill work to do before it recovers perfect freedom.

Forest Stream


Izaak Walton lived a while at Winchester, in the declining years of his long and—who can doubt?—tranquil life. He had friends among the bishops and clergy, and wrote the lives of contemporary divines. So he came to Winchester, where a room was kept for him in the Bishop’s Palace, and in this city he died on December 15th, 1683. His grave is in the Cathedral, marked by a black marble slab, and within the last few years a memorial statue has been placed in one of the niches of the newly-erected screen.

[Pg 17]

The Avon at Amesbury


The ancient hospital of St. Cross is one of the best-known features of the Itchen in the neighbourhood of Winchester, but there are charming country-seats along the whole remaining course—fair homes of English gentlemen, planted above the grass land whence the evening mists of summer rise to shroud the winding stream and far-stretching water-meads, and adorned with smooth-shaven lawns intersected by gravel-walks, winding amidst shrubberies and parterres to the sedgy banks of the silently gliding river. But St. Cross is unique with its gateway tower and porter’s hutch, where the wayfarer may even now make the vagrant’s claim for dole of beer and bread, the former no longer brewed on the spot, and for its own sake not worth the trouble often taken by sentimental visitors to obtain it. Fine old elms surround the venerable home of the brethren of this cloistered retreat; the river flows close to its foundations; and, facing you across the stream, rises the bold rounded steep surmounted by the clump of beech-trees on St.[Pg 18] Catherine’s Hill. The speculative builder, however, has long been pushing his outworks towards this breezy eminence where the Wykeham College boys of past generations trooped to their sports.

Salisbury Cathedral


The Itchen as it narrows to serve the South Stoneham water-wheels loses much of its beauty, and is finally, after its course of twenty-five miles, abruptly stopped at the flour-mill. Through artificial outlets it tumbles into the tideway, and becomes at a bound subject to the ebb and flow of the Solent. Southampton, after a temporary depression due to the withdrawal of the Peninsular and Oriental Company to other headquarters, has[Pg 19] launched out into renewed enterprise; great docks have been added, and the extension is likely to continue in the future. Queen Victoria opened the Empress Docks in 1890; the graving docks were the next scheme, and in 1893 the new American line of steamers began to run. In 1833 her Majesty, then the Princess Victoria, opened the Royal (or Victoria) Pier, which was rebuilt in 1892 and re-opened by the Duke of Connaught; and from it and other vantage points commanding views are to be had of the estuary, and of the New Forest on the further side. To meet this vigorous revival of commercial development, the suburbs have pushed out in all directions, and the estuary of the Itchen, from the Salmon Pool at South Stoneham to the Docks, is now bordered by modern dwellings, and presents an appearance of life in marked contrast to the dreariness of a quarter of a century ago.

In its general characteristics the Test resembles the Itchen. It is ten miles longer, and has a tributary assistance which its sister stream lacks; but there are in its valley similar country mansions, ruddy farm-houses, picturesque cottages and gardens, water-meads and marshy corners, mills and mill-pools, rustic bridges, and superb stock of salmon in the lower, and of trout and grayling in the higher, reaches. It springs from the foot of the ridge on the Berkshire border, and is joined below Hurstbourne Park by a branch from the north-east. For the first few miles it is the ideal of a small winding stream, and is established as a chalk stream of the first class at Whitchurch. It skirts Harewood Forest, and takes in a tributary below Wherwell. The principal feeder is the Anton, which is of sufficient magnitude to be considered an independent river. For quite sixteen miles the Test runs a sinuous course, as if not certain which point of the compass to select, but eventually it goes straight south. Stockbridge is the only considerable town, and that owes its reputation to ample training downs, and to the periodical races which rank high in that description of sport. Between this and Romsey there are many bye-waters, and it requires one accustomed to the country to distinguish the main river.

Occasionally a salmon, taking advantage of a flood, will ascend as high as Stockbridge, but this does not happen every year. At Romsey, however, gentlemen anglers find their reward, though anything more unlike a salmon river could not be found, unless, indeed, it should be the Stour and the Avon, to which we shall come presently. The Test in its upper and middle reaches is seldom so deep that the bottom, and the trout and grayling for which it is justly celebrated, cannot be clearly seen. It gets less shallow below Houghton Mill, and at Romsey there is water enough for salmon of major dimensions. But the current is even and stately, salmon pools as they are understood in Scotland and Ireland do not exist, and there are forests of weeds to assist the fish to get rid of the angler’s fly. The most noted landmark on the banks of the stream is Romsey Abbey, long restored to soundness of fabric, yet preserving all the appearance of perfect Norman architecture. Near it the first Berthon boats were built and launched on the Test by[Pg 20] the vicar, whose name is borne by this handy collapsible craft. The Test enters Southampton Water at Redbridge, which is in a measure the port of lading for the New Forest.


Photo: W. Pouncy, Dorchester.


There are tiny streams in the recesses of the New Forest little known to the outer world. The BEAULIEU river is worthy of mark on the maps, and when the tide is full it is a brimming water-way into the heart of the forest. The acreage of mud at low-water, however, detracts from its beauty, and the upper portion, from near Lyndhurst to the tidal limit, is small and overgrown. The ruins of Beaulieu Abbey, set in the surroundings of an exquisite New Forest village, far from the shriek of the locomotive whistle, or the smoke and bustle of a town, are truly a “fair place.” Beaulieu is one of the most entrancing combinations of wood, water, ruins, and village in the county, and the Abbey is especially interesting from its establishment by King John, after remorse occasioned by a dream.

The LYMINGTON river, the mainland channel opposite Yarmouth, in the Isle of Wight, is tidal to the town, a tortuous creek in low-water, the course, however, duly marked by stakes and beacons. The great Poet Laureate, Tennyson, used to cross to his Freshwater home by this route, and in the late ’fifties the writer of these words often took passage by the Isle of Wight boats for the privilege of gazing from a reverent distance at the poet, whose cloak, soft broad-brimmed hat, and short clay pipe filled from a packet of bird’s-eye, filled the youthful adorer with unspeakable admiration.



[Pg 22]

The Isle of Wight, garden of England though it has been called, is poverty-stricken in the matter of running water, and it is not rich in woods. Tho principal river is the Medina, which, flowing from the foot of St. Catherine’s Down to the Solent at East Cowes, divides the island into two hundreds. The pretty village of Wootton is situated on Fishbourne creek, also called Wootton river. There are two Yars—the Yar which rises at Freshwater, and is tidal almost throughout to Yarmouth Harbour; and the eastern Yar, at the back of Niton.

The famous salmon of Christchurch, so much in request in the spring, when the end of the close time brings out the nets in the long open “run” between the town and the bay, come up from the English Channel on their annual quest of the spawning grounds of the Avon and the Stour. These rivers unite almost under the shadow of the splendidly situated church and the priory ruins. The church was restored by the architect who performed a similar office for Romsey; and it is under the tower at the west end of the nave that the singular Shelley memorial is erected. The Avon has the finest watershed in the South of England, and its feeders water much of Hampshire and a large portion of Wilts. Its tributaries are numerous; even one of the two branches of its headwaters is formed by the junction of minor streams at Pewsey. It has a winding way from Upavon, becomes a goodly stream at beautiful Amesbury, where it traverses the pleasure grounds of the Abbey, and crosses direct south by Salisbury Plain to Old Sarum. The Wiley and Nadder are the largest tributaries, the former entering the Avon near the seat of the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton. The valleys of main stream and tributaries alike are a succession of fine landscapes, made distinctive by the downs of varying height, rising on either side, clothed at intervals with grand woods, and protecting sequestered villages and hamlets nestling at their feet.

The environs of Salisbury are intersected in all directions by the abundant water of Avon or its feeders, and the clear murmuring runnels are heard in its streets. The lofty tapering spire of the glorious cathedral is the landmark of Avon-side for many a mile around, but the river equally forces itself upon the notice of the stranger. There is no cathedral in England better set for a landmark than this, and of none can it be more literally said that distance lends enchantment. It is on the watermead level, and probably owes its position to the river. Old Sarum, perched upon its conical hill, had its fortified castle and many an intrenchment for defence, had its Norman cathedral and the pomp and power of a proud ecclesiastical settlement; but it was exposed to the wind and weather, and the Sarumites looked with longing eye at the fat vale below and its conjunction of clear streams. Wherefore, under Richard Le Poer, its seventh bishop, there was migration thither; the present cathedral was commenced, the site,[Pg 23] according to one legend, being determined by the fall of an arrow shot as a token from the Old Sarum ramparts; and the new town soon gathered around it. At first the cathedral had no spire; that crowning glory of the structure was added nearly a hundred years later, and about the time when the work of demolition at Old Sarum had been concluded. The stone used in the new cathedral was brought from the Hindon quarries a few miles distant, and Purbeck supplied the marble pillars. The best view of the cathedral, and of the straight-streeted and richly-befoliaged city, is from the north-eastern suburb; and so gracefully is the building proportioned that it is hard to realise that the point of the spire is 400 feet in air.

Poole Harbour


The STOUR rises at Six Wells, at Stourhead, in Wiltshire, and joins the Hampshire Avon, as previously stated, at Christchurch, but is essentially a Dorsetshire river. It touches Somersetshire, and receives the Cale from Wincanton, and other small tributaries, passing Gillingham, Sturminster, Blandford, and Wimborne, where it receives the Allen, which flows through More Critchell. Canford Hall, an Elizabethan mansion which received many of the Assyrian relics unearthed by Layard; Gaunt’s House and Park; and St. Giles’ Park, reminiscent of “Cabal” Cooper and the other Earls of Shaftesbury, are also features of the Stour country. The clean little town of Wimborne, where Matthew Prior was born, is made rich and[Pg 24] notable by its ancient Minster, which as it stands retains but little of the original foundation, though the fine central tower dates from about 1100, and the western tower from the middle of the fifteenth century.

The next river in Dorsetshire is the FROME, formed, as seems to be the fashion in Wessex, of two branches, both uniting at Maiden Newton. Frampton Court, the seat of the Sheridans, is in this neighbourhood. The county town of Dorchester rises from the bank of the river, and has magnificent avenues as high-road approaches. The Black Downs that interpose between the country that is fairly represented by the Blackmore vale of the hunting men further north, and the sea at Weymouth, are bare enough; Dorchester is surrounded by chalk uplands, and it is, no doubt, because there were few forests to clear that the entire neighbourhood is remarkable for its Roman and British remains. The trees around the town have fortunately been sedulously planted and preserved, and the avenues of sycamores and chestnuts on the site of the old rampart have somewhat of a Continental character. The well-defined remains of ancient camps are numerous on the slopes overlooking the Frome, Maiden Castle and the Roman amphitheatre being wonderfully perfect in their typical character. Yet, old-world as Dorchester is in its associations, it has few appearances of age, standing rather as a delightful example of the clean, healthy, quiet, well-to-do country town of the Victorian era, pleasantly environed, and boasting several highways that were Roman roads.

Flowing through the sheep country so graphically described by Mr. Hardy in his novels, the Frome arrives, after an uneventful course, at Wareham, and is discharged into Poole Harbour, a place of creeks and islands, sand and mud banks, regularly swelling with the incoming tide into a noble expanse of water.


Wimborne Minster


Bideford Bridge



General Characteristics—Sources of the Devon Streams: Exmoor and Dartmoor. The OTTER: Ottery Saint Mary and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Exmoor Streams:—The EXE: Its Source in The Chains—The Barle—The Batherm—Tiverton and Peter Blundell—Bickleigh Bridge and the “King of the Gipsies”—The Culm—Exeter—Countess Weir—Exmouth. The LYN: Oareford—The Doone Country—Malmsmead—Watersmeet—Lyndale—Lynton and Lynmouth. Dartmoor Streams:—The TEIGN: Wallabrook—Chagford—Fingle Bridge—Chudleigh—The Bovey—Newton Abbot—Teignmouth. The DART: Holne Chase—Buckfast Abbey—Dartington Hall—Totnes—The Lower Reaches—Dartmouth. The Tavy. The TAW: Oxenham and its Legend—Barnstaple—Lundy. The TORRIDGE: The Okement—Great Torrington—Bideford—Hubbastone. The AVON, Erme, and Yealm. The PLYM: Dewerstone—The Meavy and Plymouth Leat—Plympton St. Mary and Plympton Earl—The Three Towns.


AMONG the charms which make Devonshire, in Mr. Blackmore’s words, “the fairest of English counties,” one need not hesitate to give the first place to its streams. They who know only its coasts, though they know them well, may walk delicately, for of much that is most characteristic of its loveliness they are altogether ignorant. But anyone who has tracked a typical Devon river from its fount high up on the wild and lonely moorland to the estuary where it mingles its waters with the inflowing tide, following it as it brawls down the peaty hillsides, and winds its way through glen and gorge until it gains the rich lowlands where it rolls placidly towards its latter end, may boast that his is the knowledge of intimacy. Commercially, the Devonshire streams are of little account, for Nature has chosen to touch them to finer issues. Yet, for all their manifold fascinations, they have had but scant attention from the poets, who, instead of singing their graces in dignified verse, have left them, as Mr. J. A. Blaikie has said, to be “noisily advertised in guide-books.” At first sight the omission seems curious enough, for the long[Pg 26] roll of Devonshire “worthies” is only less illustrious for its poets than for its heroes. Perchance the explanation of what almost looks like a conspiracy of silence is that the streams, full of allurement as they may be, are not rich in associations of the poetic sort. Of legend they have their share, but for the most part it is legend uncouth and grotesque, such as may not easily be shaped into verse. Their appeal, in truth, is more to the painter than to the poet. For him they have provided innumerable “bits” of the most seductive description; and neither against him nor against the angler—the artist among sportsmen—for whom also bountiful provision has been made, can neglect of opportunity be charged.

Rivers of Devon


It is in the royal “forests” of Exmoor and Dartmoor that nearly all the chief rivers of Devon take their rise. Of these moorland tracts, the one extending into the extreme north of the county from Somersetshire, the other forming, so to speak, its backbone, Dartmoor is considerably the larger; and in High Willhayse and in the better known Yes Tor, its highest points, it touches an altitude of just over 2,000 feet, overtopping Dunkery Beacon, the monarch of Exmoor, by some 370 feet. Between the two moors there is a general resemblance, less, however, of contour than of tone, for while Exmoor swells into great billowy tops, the Dartmoor plateau breaks up into rugged “tors”—crags of granite that have shaken off their scanty raiment and now rise bare and gaunt above the general level. Both, as many a huntsman knows to his cost, are beset with treacherous bogs, out of which trickle streams innumerable, some, like the Wear Water, the chief headstream of the East Lyn, soon to lose their identity, others to bear to the end of their course names which the English emigrant has delighted to reproduce in the distant lands that he has colonised. Not strange is it that with loneliness such as theirs, Exmoor and Dartmoor alike should be the haunt of the mischief-loving pixies, who carry off children and lead benighted wayfarers into quagmires; of the spectral wish-hounds,[Pg 27] whose cry is fearsome as the wailing voice which John Ridd heard “at grey of night”; and of the rest of the uncanny brood who once had all the West Country for their domain. Exmoor, too, is almost the last sanctuary, south of the Tweed, of the wild red-deer; and hither in due season come true sportsmen from far and near to have their pulses stirred by such glorious runs as Kingsley has described.

Wear Water


Of the streams that have their springs elsewhere than in the moors, the Axe, which belongs more to Dorset and Somerset than to Devon, may, like the Sid, be passed over with bare mention. But the OTTER must not be dismissed so brusquely, for though it cannot vie with its moorland sisters in beauty of aspect, it has other claims to consideration. Rising in the hills that divide Devon from South Somerset, it presently passes Honiton, still famous for its lace, and a few miles further on flows by the knoll which is crowned by the massive towers of the fine church of Ottery St. Mary, the Clavering St. Mary of “Pendennis.” It was here, in 1772, that Samuel Taylor Coleridge, most gifted scion of a gifted stock, was born. His father, vicar of the parish and headmaster of the Free Grammar School, and withal one of the most amiable and ingenuous of pedants, whose favourite method of edifying his rustic congregation was to quote from the Old Testament in the original Hebrew, as “the immediate language of the Holy Ghost,” died when Samuel Taylor was in his ninth year; and the pensive child, who yet was not a child, was soon afterwards entered at Christ’s Hospital. A frequent resort of his was a cave beside the Otter, known as “The Pixies’ Parlour,” where his initials may still be seen. Nor is this his only association with the stream. “I forget,” he writes, “whether it was in my fifth or sixth year ... in consequence of some quarrel between me and my brother, in the first week in October I ran away from fear of[Pg 28] being whipped, and passed the whole night, a night of rain and storm, on the bleak side of a hill on the Otter, and was there found at day-break, without the power of using my limbs, about six yards from the naked bank of the river.” The experience may well have left its mark upon his sensitive nature, but it is clear that he carried with him from his native place a store of agreeable recollections of the stream, of whose “marge with willows grey” and “bedded sand” he afterwards wrote in affectionate strains.

Leaving the Otter to pursue its pleasant, but not exciting, course to the English Channel, we pass at a bound from the sunny south to one of the weirdest parts of Exmoor, where the most important of the streams that rise in the northern “forest” have their birth. The chief of them, and, indeed, the longest of all the Devonshire rivers, the EXE, which has a course five-and-fifty miles long, oozes out of a dismal swamp known as The Chains, in Somerset county, some two or three miles north-west of Simonsbath; and within a space of not more than two miles square[Pg 29] are the sources of three other streams—the Barle, which merges with the Exe near Exbridge; the West Lyn, which flows northwards to the finest spot on the Devon coast; and the Bray, a tributary of the Taw. Looking around, one sees in every direction a waste of undulations rolling away to the horizon like a deeply-furrowed sea. Far away eastwards rises Dunkery, his mighty top now, as often, obscured by clouds which the western winds are slowly driving before them; on the other hand stretches the North Molton Ridge, culminating in Span Head, which comes within about fifty feet of the stature of Dunkery himself.


Photo: Denney & Co., Exeter.

EXETER (p. 31).

The infant Exe and the Barle are both brown, peaty streams, and their valleys, separated from each other by one of the Exmoor ridges, and following the same general south-easterly trend, have much in common, though that of the Barle is the less regular and more picturesque of the two. It is when they have each sped in the merriest-hearted fashion somewhere about a score of miles that they meet, forming a current which, as it rushes tumultuously beneath the arches that give to Exbridge its name, must be a full fifty yards wide. Now the Exe becomes a Devonshire stream, with a predominantly southerly course; but as it approaches Oakford Bridge it bends to the west, then curving round to the east[Pg 30] to meet the Batherm, fresh from its contact with Bampton, an old market town celebrated all over the West Country for its fairs and markets, whereat are sold the shaggy little Exmoor ponies and the bold and nimble Porlock sheep. The main stream still shows no disposition to play the laggard, but by this time it has left the moorland well behind, and, as we follow it among luxuriantly timbered hills, it presently brings us to Tiverton, agreeably placed on its sloping left bank. Here it takes toll of the Loman, which has been in no haste to complete its course of ten miles, or thereabouts, from the Somerset border.


Photo: H. T. Cousins, Exmouth.


Of Twy-ford-town—for so the place was called in former days, in allusion to its fords across the Exe and the Loman at the points where now the streams are spanned by bridges—the most salient feature from the banks of the larger water is the Perpendicular tower of the Church of St. Peter. The body of the church was virtually reconstructed in the ’sixties, with the fortunate exception of its most interesting feature, the Greenaway Chapel, founded nearly four hundred years ago by the merchant whose name it shares with the quaint almshouses in Gold Street. What remains of the ancient castle, which stood hard by the church, has been converted into a modern dwelling and a farmhouse. The old Grammar School, too, on Loman Green, is now divided up into private houses, a more commodious structure, in the Tudor style, having been reared a mile or so out of the town to take its place. Who will begrudge good old Peter Blundell the immortality which this famous school has conferred upon his honest-sounding name? A native of Tiverton, he began life as an errand-boy. With his carefully-hoarded earnings, as Prince tells the story in his “Worthies,” he bought a piece of kersey, and got a friendly carrier to take it to London and there sell it to advantage. So he gradually extended his operations, until he was able to go to town himself, with as much stock-in-trade as a horse could carry. In London he continued to thrive, and in due course was able to fulfil the ambition of his life by establishing himself in the town of his birth as a manufacturer of kerseys; and here he remained until his death, at the ripe age of eighty.

“Though I am not myself a scholar,” the good old man would say with proud humility, “I will be the means of making more scholars than any scholar in England.” And the school founded under his will in 1604 has not failed to justify his boast. The roll of “Blundell’s boys” includes a brace of bishops and an archbishop, the present occupant of the throne of Canterbury, who, before his translation to London, ruled with abundant vigour the diocese to which Tiverton belongs. Yet, without disrespect to spiritual dignities, one may be pardoned for remembering with deeper interest that it was here that “girt Jan Ridd” had his meagre schooling, and fought his great fight with Robin Snell. John, by the way, who left Blundell’s at the age of twelve, must have been considerably less stupid than he appeared to his contemporaries, for when long afterwards he came to describe the combat he was able to say that he replied to his antagonist “with all the weight and cadence of penthemimeral cæsura”; and although he modestly protests that he could “never make[Pg 31] head or tail” of the expression, it is clear from his epithets that he knew perfectly well what he was writing about.

But we have paused at the town of the fords too long, and must gird up our loins to follow the Exe southwards to the county town, through scenery which, if on the whole less picturesque than that above Tiverton, is pleasing as one of the most fertile of Devonshire vales cannot but be. Four miles lower down we find ourselves at Bickleigh Bridge, one of the prettiest spots in this part of the Exe valley. Close by is Bickleigh Court, long a seat of the Devonshire Carews, and still belonging to members of the family, though sunk to the uses of a farmhouse. Bickleigh is of some note as the birthplace, towards the end of the seventeenth century, of Bampfylde Moore Carew, “King of the Beggars.” Son of the rector of the parish, he was sent to Blundell’s School, whence he ran away to avoid punishment for some trifling escapade, and threw in his lot with a tribe of gipsies. Next he emigrated to Newfoundland, but after a time came back, and soon signalised himself by eloping from Newcastle-on-Tyne with an apothecary’s daughter, whom, however, he was afterwards good enough to marry. Having rejoined the gipsies, he became their king, and ruled over them until he was transported to Maryland as an incorrigible vagrant. Before long he contrived to escape, and lived for a while with a band of Red Indians. When he returned to civilisation it was in the guise of a Quaker, a part which he successfully played until he grew weary of it, and once more came back to his native land and his nomadic life. Some say that he was afterwards prevailed upon to adopt more settled habits, but of his closing years little is known.

The hill to the right, a little below Bickleigh Bridge, is known as Cadbury Castle, a Roman encampment, and from its summit may be seen, away to the south-east, athwart the river, Dolbury Hill, which, according to the legend, shares with Cadbury a treasure of gold, guarded by a fiery dragon, who spends his nights flying from one hoard to the other. Now the Exe, flowing with a dignity befitting its maturity, receives the tribute of the Culm, which comes from the Blackdown Hills, on the Somerset border, passing Culmstock and Cullompton, and Killerton Park, a finely placed and magnificently wooded demesne of one of the most honourable of Devonshire houses, the Aclands. Over against the point of junction is Pynes, the seat of another family of high repute, the Northcotes, now Earls of Iddesleigh, looking down on the one side upon the valley of the Exe, and on the other upon that of the Creedy, a western affluent after which the town of Crediton is named.

As it approaches the ever-faithful city, lying like Tiverton on the left bank, the Exe is bordered by a green strath, with swelling hills on either hand. No sooner is the suburb of St. David passed than there comes into view the eminence which formed the limits of the ancient Exeter, its summit crowned with trees that half conceal the meagre remains of the Norman castle, while from its southern slope rise the mighty towers of the Cathedral. Pointing out that, although surrounded by hills higher than itself, Exeter is seated on a height far above river or railway, Freeman remarks that we have here “what we find so[Pg 32] commonly in Gaul, so rarely in Britain, the Celtic hill-fort, which has grown into the Roman city, which has lived on through the Teutonic conquest, and which still, after all changes, keeps to its place as the undoubted head of its own district. In Wessex such a history is unique. In all Southern England London is the only parallel, and that but an imperfect one.” And he goes on to say that the name teaches the same lesson of continuity that is taught by the site. It has been changed in form but not in meaning. Caerwise, “the fortress on the water,” as it was in the beginning of things, “has been Latinised into Isca, it has been Teutonised into Exanceaster, and cut short into modern Exeter; but the city by the Exe has through all conquests, through all changes of language, proclaimed itself by its name as the city on the Exe.”


Photo: E. D. Percival, Ilfracombe.


[Pg 33]

The Castle of Rougemont is represented by not much more than an ivy-clad gateway tower of Norman date, and portions of the walls, which on one side have been levelled, and the timbered slopes converted into a pretty little recreation ground, known as Northernhay, where, among the statues of men whom Devonshire delights to honour, is one of the first Earl of Iddesleigh, gentlest of protagonists. Of the cathedral little can be said in this place except that it admirably exemplifies the development of the Decorated style, which here reaches its culmination in the venerable west front, its lower stage enriched with figures of kings and apostles and saints. The massive transeptal towers that distinguish Exeter from all other English cathedrals, and, indeed, from all other English churches, with the single exception of that of Ottery St. Mary, built in imitation of this, are much earlier than the rest of the fabric, for they were reared early in the twelfth century by Bishop Warelwast, nephew of the Conqueror, and were left standing when, towards the end of the thirteenth century, the reconstruction of the rest of the fabric was begun. Disproportionately large they may be, in relation both to their own height and to the body of the church; but, if they cannot be said to contribute to the harmony of the design, it must be allowed that in themselves they are exceedingly impressive.

Lynmouth and Lynton

Photo: E. D. Percival, Ilfracombe.


The transformation of the cathedral, begun by Bishop Bronescombe, was continued by his successor, Peter Quivil, whose plans appear to have been pretty faithfully followed by those who came after him. Not until the year 1369 was the nave[Pg 34] finished, under Grandisson, the bishop who re-built the church of Ottery St. Mary in its present form; and even then it was left to Bishop Brantyngham to add the rich west front. What most strikes one about the interior, which was restored with no lack of vigour by Sir Gilbert Scott, is the prolonged stretch of graceful vaulting, extending through all the fourteen bays of nave and choir, with, of course, no central tower to break the line. There is much beautiful carving, both ancient and modern, in the church, but the bishop’s throne, attributed to Bishop Stapledon (1307–26), is perhaps of rather diffuse design, although the craftsmanship merits all the admiration that has been lavished upon it.

Around the Close, and in a few of the older streets, some interesting specimens of domestic architecture are to be seen; but, the cathedral and its adjuncts apart, Exeter is less rich than might be expected in memorials of the distant past. Of its public buildings, the only one which may not be ignored is the Guildhall, a stone structure dating from the end of the sixteenth century, with a balustraded façade resting on substantial piers, and projecting over the pavement. The ancient bridge over the Exe, connecting the city with St. Thomas, its western suburb, was destroyed in 1770, and replaced by the present one.

Hundreds of years have come and gone since the cliffs of Exeter were lapped by salt water. Towards the end of the thirteenth century Isabella de Redvers, Countess of Devon, was pleased to cut off the city from the sea by forming the weir which has given name to the village of Countess Weir, and it was not till the reign of Henry VIII. that, by means of a canal to Topsham, communication was re-established. Early in the present century this waterway was widened, and now Exeter is accessible to vessels of about 400 tons. It is at Topsham, four miles below the city, that the river, augmented by the waters of the Clyst, expands into an estuary. From this point to the embouchure its course lies through delightful scenery. On the right bank are the woods of Powderham Castle, the ancestral seat of the Earls of Devon, stretching from the water’s brink to the summit of the high ground behind; away to the west, Haldon’s long ridge rises as a sky-line, dividing the valley of the Exe from that of the Teign; and finally comes Starcross. On the left bank, about midway between Topsham and Exmouth, is Lympstone, a pretty, straggling fishing village. To Exmouth, lying over against Starcross, belongs the distinction of being the oldest of the numerous tribe of Devonshire watering-places. A port of some consequence in very early days, it presently fell into an obscurity from which it was only rescued in the last century through the agency of one of the judges of assize, who, sojourning here for the good of his health while on circuit, was so advantaged by its genial breezes that he spread abroad its praises, and so gave it another start in life. Its attractions may be less insistent than those of other places that were mere fishing villages long after it had become a popular resort, but it has a pleasant beach and a very respectable promenade, and with still more reason is it proud of the views to be had from The Beacon.

[Pg 35]

The LYN, sometimes called the East Lyn, to distinguish it from the West Lyn, is one of the shortest as it is one of the most wilful of the Devonshire streams, its length not exceeding a dozen miles, while in a direct line its outlet is only half that distance from its source. Rising on Exmoor, a little to the north of Black Barrow Down, its upper valley is bleak and bare, and in this part of its career there is little to differentiate it from other moorland waters that hurriedly leave the dreary solitudes in which they have their birth. Above Oareford it dashes and splashes along over boulders and rocky ledges, the hills that rise from either bank being bare of aught but ling and brake and heather, save that the lower slopes bear here and there a group of wind-swept scrub-oaks; it is only lower down that the ravine assumes the combination of wildness and luxuriance in which Lyn is excelled by none of its sister streams. How can we pass Oareford without recalling that we are in the country of John Ridd and the Doones? It was in the parish of Oare that the giant yeoman was born and bred; it was in the little Perpendicular church of St. Mary that he married the lovely but elusive Lorna Doone; it was from its altar that he sallied forth to pursue the man whom he believed to have slain his bride, his only weapon the limb of a gnarled oak which he tore from its socket as he passed beneath it. Many there be who come into these parts to spy out the land, and to such it is a pleasant surprise to find that there are still Ridds of the Doones engaged upon the soil at Oare. Less palatable is the discovery that Mr. Blackmore has thought fit to mix a good deal of imagination with his word-pictures. The Badgworthy “slide,” in particular, which the hero was wont to climb in order to get speech of the captive maiden, has been the occasion of grievous disappointment. It is at Malmsmead that the Badgworthy Water—the dividing line between Devon and Somerset—falls into the Lyn, and “makes a real river of it”; the “slide,” a mile or so up the “Badgery” valley, as they call it hereabouts, is simply a succession of minute cascades formed by shelving rocks over which a little tributary stream glides down out of the Doone Valley.

The novelist has not scrupled to take ample liberties with such of his characters as are not purely imaginary, as well as with his scenes; but, unless tradition is a very lying jade, the Doone Valley really sheltered a gang of robbers, said to have been disbanded soldiers who had fought in the Great Rebellion. One may still see traces of what are believed to have been their dwellings, though one writer profanely identifies them with pig-sties; and it is credibly stated that the destruction of the miscreants by the country-folk was provoked by the cruel murder of a child, as described in the romance. Nor may one doubt that the mighty John was an actual personage, though it were vain to seek for his history in biographical dictionaries. As to Lorna, what if Mr. Blackmore has invented her? Is that to be counted to him for unrighteousness?

“Clam” Bridge

Photo: Chapman & Son, Dawlish.


From Malmsmead, with its primitive bridge of two arches, to Watersmeet, where the Brendon Water plunges down a charming glen on the left to lose itself in the larger stream, the Lyn ravine is a very kaleidoscope of beauty and grandeur.[Pg 36] Watersmeet, “an exquisite combination of wood and stream, the one almost hiding the water, the other leaping down over rocky ledges in a series of tiny cascades,” must tax the painter’s pencil, and is certainly no theme for a prosaic pen; and of Lyndale the same despairing confession must be made. Every turn in this lovely glen reveals some new beauty, until, with Lynton lying in the cup of a hill on the left, one reaches Lynmouth, where, just before the river plunges into the sea, it receives the waters of the West Lyn as they merrily tumble out of Glen Lyn. Southey, whose description of these and other features of the place has been quoted to the point of weariness, was one of the first to “discover” Lynmouth; and in these days it has no reason to complain that its unrivalled attractions are not appreciated. For some years it has had its little mountain railway, to spare those whose chief need is exercise the fatigue of walking up the hill to Lynton; and now the lines have been laid which bring it into touch with the South Western and Great Western systems at Barnstaple. Let us hope that it will not presently have to complain of defacement at the hands of the lodging-house builder,[Pg 37] and of desperation inflicted upon it by hordes of day-trippers, with their beer-bottles and greasy sandwich-papers!

Fingle Bridge

Photo: Frith & Co., Reigate.


Dartmoor is a much more prolific “mother of rivers” than Exmoor. In one of the loneliest and dreariest regions of the southern “forest,” no great way from its northern extremity, is the quagmire known as Cranmere Pool, and from this and the sloughs that surround it ooze all the more important of the Devonshire streams except the Exe and the Torridge. Out of Cranmere Pool itself—a prison, according to local legend, of lost spirits, whose anguished cries are often borne on the wings of the wind—the West Okement drains, to flow northwards to the Torridge; and at distances varying from half a mile to a couple of miles, the Teign, the Dart, the Tavy, and the Taw have their birth. The Okement will be noticed presently, when we have to do with the Torridge; of the other rivers, the TEIGN rises in two headstreams, the North and the South Teign, near Sittaford Tor. As is the way of these moorland waters, they are soon reinforced by tributary rills, among them the Wallabrook, which flows by Scorhill Down to join the North Teign. Scorhill Down has in its stone circle one of the most remarkable of those mysterious relics[Pg 38] of an immemorial past in which Dartmoor abounds. At one time all such remains were regarded, like those at Stonehenge, as Druidical monuments, but this theory of their origin is no longer in fashion, and antiquaries now prefer to say nothing more specific than that they usually have a sepulchral significance, and betoken that regions now abandoned to the curlew and the buzzard once had a considerable population. Near Scorhill the Wallabrook is bestridden by a “clam” bridge, which, interpreted, means a bridge of a single slab of unhewn stone resting on the ground, as distinguished from a “clapper” bridge, consisting of one or more such slabs pillared on others, with no aid from mortar.

The North and the South Teign merge at Leigh Bridge, close by Holy Street and its picturesque mill, which has furnished a theme for the pencil of many an artist besides Creswick. Then the Teign flows under the old bridge at Chagford, a village overhung on one side by two rocky hills. The fine air of the place and its convenient situation for the exploration of Dartmoor bring to it many visitors in the summer; but it is certainly no place for a winter sojourn. The story goes—and racy of the soil it is—that if a Chagford man is asked in summer where he lives, he replies, as saucily as you please, “Chaggyford, and what d’ye think, then?” But if the question is put to him in winter, he sadly answers, “Chaggyford, good Lord!”

At Chagford the valley broadens out, but soon it again contracts, and, sensibly quickening its speed, Teign plunges headlong into what is perhaps the very finest of all the gorges in Devonshire. Near the entrance is a “logan” stone, a huge boulder of granite about a dozen feet long, so finely poised that it may with a very moderate exercise of force be made to rock, though it is less accommodating than when Polwhele, a century ago, succeeded in moving it with one hand. The finest view of the gorge is that to be got from Fingle Bridge, a couple of miles lower down, where, looking back, one sees how the stream has wound its way amid the interfolded hills, of which the steep slopes are clad with coppice of tender green. Here, on the left, is Prestonbury, and on the right the loftier Cranbrook, each crowned with its prehistoric “castle.” Of the narrow, ivy-mantled bridge, simple and massive, an illustration is given (p. 57) showing the wedge-shaped piers which serve to break the fury of the torrent in time of spate.


Photo: G. Denney & Co., Teignmouth.


But we must hurry on past Clifford Mill and its bridge to Dunsford Bridge, another spot of singular beauty. On the right Heltor, on the left Blackstone, exalt their towering heads, both crowned with large “rock basins,” in which the rude fancy of our forefathers saw missiles that King Arthur and the Great Adversary hurled at each other athwart the intervening valley. So, passing more and more within the margin of cultivation, we come to Chudleigh, with its Rock, yielding a blue limestone, known to the builder as Chudleigh marble, and its lovely, richly-wooded glen, down which a little tributary dances gaily into the Teign. Not a great way beyond, our river is swollen by the waters of a more important affluent,[Pg 39] the Bovey, which, from its source on Dartmoor, has followed a course not dissimilar from that of the Teign, lilting along through a rich and often spacious valley, past North Bovey, Manaton, Lustleigh, with its “Cleave,” and Bovey Tracy. At Newton Abbot, pleasantly placed a little to the south of the Teign, in a vale watered by the Lemon, we may have fine views of the valleys of the Teign and the Bovey by ascending the hills up which this neat little town has straggled. Its most memorable association is with the glorious Revolution, and there still stands in front of a Perpendicular tower, which is all that is left of the old Chapel of St. Leonard, the block of granite from which the Prince of Orange’s proclamation was read.

New Bridge


Now swerving sharply to the east, the Teign develops into an estuary, and[Pg 40] with a background of hills on either hand, those on the left rising into the broad downs of Haldon, hastens to discharge itself into the sea, flowing beneath what claims to be the longest wooden bridge in England, which connects Teignmouth on the north with Shaldon on the south. Teignmouth is an ancient fishing-village which has grown into a watering-place. If the story that it suffered at the hands of Danish pirates in the eighth century is an error due to confusion between Teignmouth and Tynemouth, it was indubitably ravaged by the French at the end of the seventeenth century. In these days its chief feature is the Den, a sandbank due to the shifting bar that obstructs the mouth of the river, but now converted into an esplanade, whence, looking inland, one sees the twin peaks of Heytor and other outlying hills of Dartmoor, while to the south, along the shore-line, appears the bold promontory known as The Ness, and on the north stand out the quaint pinnacles of red rock which the patient waves have carved into shapes that have won for them the designation of the “Parson and the Clerk.”



The DART may be said to attain to self-consciousness at Dartmeet, where in a deep and lovely valley the rapid East and West Dart mingle their foaming waters.[Pg 41] The two streams rise at no great distance from each other, in the neighbourhood, as we have seen, of Cranmere Pool; and they are never far apart, but the western water follows a somewhat less consistently south-east course, past Wistman’s Wood—a grim assemblage of stunted, storm-beaten oaks, springing up amidst blocks of granite—and Crockern Tor and Two Bridges; while the eastern stream, from its source at Dart Head, speeds by Post Bridge and Bellaford, crossed at both places by “clam” bridges. Hurrying impetuously along over a shallow rocky bed, with a monotonous clatter which is locally known as its “cry,” Dart washes the base of Benjay Tor, and rushing beneath New Bridge—a not unpicturesque structure, despite its unpromising name—enters a richly timbered glade. Presently, as its valley deepens, it makes a wide circuit to wander past the glorious demesne of Holne Chase. Beyond the woods which stretch away for miles to the north-east, Buckland Beacon rears his giant form; on the other side of the stream is the little village of Holne, birthplace of Charles Kingsley, whose father was rector here. A mile or so above Buckfastleigh, on the right bank, are the ruins of Buckfast Abbey, consisting of little more than an ivy-clad tower and a spacious barn. Originating in the tenth century, this house was re-founded in the reign of Henry II., and grew to be the[Pg 42] richest Cistercian abbey in all Devon. From the Dissolution till the beginning of the present century the site remained desolate. Then a mansion in the Gothic style was built upon it, and this is now occupied by a community of Benedictine monks from Burgundy, who have in part re-built the monastery on the old foundations.

Beyond smoky Buckfastleigh and its spire, the Dart flows among lush meadows and around wooded hills, past Dean Prior, with its memories of Herrick, and Staverton, where it is crossed by a strongly buttressed bridge. Now it again makes a bend eastwards to enclose the fine grounds of Dartington Hall. The house, partly in ruins, is commandingly placed high above the densely wooded right bank; and the oldest part of the structure, the Great Hall, dates from the reign of Richard II., whose badge, a white hart chained, appears on one of the doorways. Soon Totnes comes into view, climbing the steep right bank and spreading itself over the summit, its most salient features the ruined ivy-draped shell of the Norman castle on the crest of the hill, and the ruddy pinnacled tower of the church.

Totnes has not scrupled to claim to be the oldest town in England, and, quite half way up the acclivity, far above the highest water-mark of the Dart, they show the stone on which Brute set foot at the end of his voyage from ruined Troy. Few places can better afford to dispense with fabulous pretensions, for the evidences of its antiquity declare themselves on every hand. Its name is allowed to be Anglo-Saxon, and it is thought to be not improbable that its castle mound was first a British stronghold. A considerable part of the ancient wall is left[Pg 43] standing, and the East Gate still divides High Street from Fore Street. Very quaint and charming are many of the old houses in the High Street, with their gables and piazzas; and the venerable Guildhall preserves its oaken stalls for the members of the Corporation, with a canopied centre for the Mayor. Below the town is the graceful three-arched bridge which connects it with Bridgetown Pomeroy, on the left bank; and from this one may descend by steps to the tiny island in mid-stream, some years ago laid out as a public garden.



The Island, Totnes



It is the ten miles or so of river between Totnes and Dartmouth that have earned for the Dart the title of “the English Rhine.” The absurdity of likening the inconsiderable Dart, with its placid current and its backing of gently-sloping[Pg 44] hills, to the broad and rushing Rhine, flanked by lofty, castle-crowned steeps, has before been exposed, but the nickname is still current, and while it remains so the protest must continue. Yet how manifold and bewitching are the graces of the stream in these lower reaches, where it curves and doubles until from some points of view it appears to be resolved into a series of lakes, embosomed among hills of softest contour, their braes either smooth and verdant as a lawn or rich with foliage! Not long after leaving Totnes one sees, on the right, Sharpham House, surrounded by lawns and parterres and by magnificent woods, which border the stream for at least a mile. Sandridge House, on the opposite bank, is notable as the birthplace of John Davis, the Elizabethan navigator, who discovered the Straits which are known among men by his name; and presently we shall pass the well wooded grounds of Greenway, where was born Sir Humphrey Gilbert, another of the heroes of great Eliza’s “spacious days,” who established the Newfoundland fisheries. Between these two points comes Dittisham, with its grey church tower, its famous plum orchards, and its bell, which is rung when one wants to be ferried over to Greenway Quay. Soon the Dart begins to widen out, and, threading our way among yachts and skiffs, we come within sight of the Britannia training-ship, and find ourselves betwixt Dartmouth on the right, and Kingswear on the left.



Dartmouth, rising from the bank in terraces, wears an aspect hardly less ancient than that of Totnes. It was incorporated in the fourteenth century, but for[Pg 45] hundreds of years before that was of note as a harbour. William the Conqueror is said to have sailed herefrom on his expedition for the relief of Mans; a century later the English fleet, or a part of it, gathered here for the third Crusade; and did not Chaucer think that probably his shipman “was of Dertemuthe”? The castle, close to the water’s edge, at the mouth of the harbour, is something more than the picturesque remnant of an ancient fortress, for the wall and foss which surround it enclose also a casemated battery of heavy guns. On the crest of the hill behind are the ruins of Gallant’s Bower Fort. Nearly opposite is Kingswear Castle, which claims an even more remote origin; and crowning the hill at whose base it lies are some remains of Fort Ridley, which, like Gallant’s Bower, was wrested from the Parliamentarians by Prince Maurice, both strongholds, however, being afterwards stormed by Fairfax. The harbour, though a fine, broad sheet of water, is almost landlocked, and the entrance to it is through a strait channel known as “The Jawbones,” which in more primitive days than these was protected by a strong chain stretching from one bank to the other.

Mouth of the Dart


Of the two remaining streams that rise in the morasses around Cranmere Pool, the TAVY runs a course which, though not long, is remarkable for the grandeur and the richness of its scenery. Did space permit, one would be glad to follow it from its peaty spring under Great Kneeset Tor, through the grand defile known as Tavy Cleave, on between Peter Tavy and Mary Tavy to Tavistock, with its statue of Drake, who was born hard by, and its associations with the author of the[Pg 46] “Pastorals”; thence past Buckland Abbey, rich in memories of Sir Francis and of the Cistercian monks from whom the neighbouring village of Buckland Monachorum gets its distinctive appellation, and so to Tavy’s confluence with the Tamar. Pleasant also would it be to trace its principal tributary, the Walkham, down its romantic valley, nor less so to track the Lid from its source, a few miles above Lidford, through its magnificent gorge, and onwards to its union with Tamar. But the sands are fast running out, and we must pass on to sketch very rapidly the career of the Taw as it flows first north-eastwards, then north-westwards, to meet the Torridge in Barnstaple Bay.

In the first part of its course the TAW, which the Exe exceeds in length by only five miles, is as frisky and headstrong as the rest of the moorland streams, but as soon as it has got well within the line of civilisation it sobers down, and thereafter demeans itself sedately enough. The first place of interest which it passes is South Tawton, where is Oxenham, now a farmhouse, but formerly the seat of a family of this name who lived here from the time of Henry III. until early in the present century. Of these Oxenhams it is an ancient tradition that a white-breasted bird is seen when the time has come for one of them to be gathered to his fathers. The last appearance of the portent was in 1873, when Mr. G. N. Oxenham, then the head of the house, lay dying at 17, Earl’s Terrace, Kensington. His daughter and a friend, the latter of whom knew nothing of the legend, were sitting in the room underneath the chamber of death when, to quote from Murray’s “Handbook,” their attention “was suddenly roused by a shouting outside the house, and on looking out they saw a large white bird perched on a thorn tree outside the window, where it remained for several minutes, although some workmen on the opposite side of the road were throwing their hats at it in the vain effort to drive it away.” An interesting occurrence, certainly; but if we are to see in it more than a coincidence, what is to be said of the puffin, the only one of its tribe ever recorded to have visited London, which, having found its way so far inland, flew into the rooms of the President of the British Ornithologists’ Union? Must we believe that the adventurous bird was moved to call there in order that its feat might be duly recorded in the Proceedings of the Institution?

Barnstaple, from the South Walk

Photo: Photo: Vickery Bros., Barnstaple.


It is below Nymet Rowland that Taw changes its course. Thenceforward it placidly flows amid rich meadows agreeably diversified with woodland. At Eggesford it is overlooked by the Earl of Portsmouth’s seat, peeping out from the trees which climb the left bank. At Chulmleigh it gathers up the Little Dart; and beyond South Molton Road Station the Mole, which gives name to North Molton and South Molton, brings in its tribute from the border of Exmoor. Having laved the foot of Coddon Hill, from whose rounded top one may have far views of the valley in both directions, the Taw flows by the cosy little village of Bishop’s Tawton on the right; along the other bank stretches Tawstock Park, the demesne of the Bourchier-Wreys, set about with fine old oaks. Then with a sudden bend it comes within sight of Barnstaple Bridge, and beyond the South Walk, on the right bank, bordering a[Pg 47] pretty little park, appear the graceful tower of Holy Trinity Church—an unusually effective piece of modern Perpendicular work—and the ugly warped spire of the mother church.

The “metropolis of North Devon,” as this comely and lusty little town proudly styles itself, is a very ancient place, which had a castle and a priory at least as far back as the time of the Conqueror; but these have long since vanished, and save for a row of cloistered almshouses dating from 1627, and its bridge of sixteen arches, built in the thirteenth century, it is indebted for its savour of antiquity mainly to the venerable usages that have survived the changes and chances of the centuries. Like Bideford, long its rival among North Devon towns, it fitted out ships for the fleet which gave so good an account of the Spanish Armada. During the Civil War it declared for the popular cause, but was captured by the king’s forces in 1643; and although it soon succeeded in flinging off the royal yoke, it was re-captured, and remained in the king’s hands until nearly the close of the war.

Just below the hideous bridge which carries the South Western line across the Taw is the Quay, on the right bank, and beyond it, lined by an avenue of ancient elms, is the North Walk, now unhappily cut up for the purposes of the new railway from Lynton. The stream, by this time of considerable breadth, widens out yet more during the five or six remaining miles of its course; but its channel is tortuous and shifting, and only by small vessels is it navigable. A few more bends, and Instow and Appledore are reached, and Torridge is sighted as it comes up from the south to blend its waters with those of the sister stream. Then far away over the curling foam of Barnstaple Bar we get a full view of Lundy, its cliffs at this distance looking suave enough, though in truth they are not less jagged than when the Spanish galleon fleeing from Amyas Leigh’s Vengeance was impaled upon their granite spines; while on the left Hartland Point boldly plants its foot in the Atlantic, and on the right Baggy Point marks the northern limit of Barnstaple Bay.

The Torridge


It is at no great distance from Hartland Point that the TORRIDGE, most circuitous of Devonshire rivers, rises. First flowing in a south-easterly direction past Newton St. Petrock and Shebbear and Sheepwash, it presently makes a bend and follows an almost precisely opposite course north-westwards. In about the middle of the loop which it forms in preparing to stultify itself, it is augmented by the Okement, which has come almost due north from Cranmere Pool, brawling down a valley which, near Okehampton and elsewhere, is finely wooded. Past Yew Bridge and Dolton and Beaford, Torridge continues its sinuous course; and as it approaches Great Torrington, set on a hill some 300 feet above its right bank, its valley presents the combination of smooth haugh and precipitous rock shown in our view (page 49). Torrington has a history, and little besides. Even the church, enclosed in a notably pretty God’s acre, graced with avenues of beeches and chestnuts, has no special interest save that it contains the carved oak pulpit in which the great John Howe preached before his ejectment in 1662; for it had to be rebuilt after the Civil War, having been blown up by the accidental explosion[Pg 48] of a large quantity of gunpowder while it was being used as a magazine and prison. Two hundred Royalists were confined in the building at the time, and these, with their guards, all perished. Winding round Torrington Common, gay in due season with gorse and bracken, our river glides on past Wear Gifford—an idyllically beautiful spot incongruously associated with a melancholy tragedy—to the “little white town” described by Charles Kingsley in the opening paragraph of his one great story. White it hardly is in these days, but this is the only qualification that strict accuracy requires. The famous bridge of four-and-twenty arches dates from about the same period as that at Barnstaple, which it considerably exceeds in length. The town itself lays claim to a much higher antiquity, for it traces its origin to a cousin of the Conqueror, founder of the illustrious line which came to full flower in the Richard Grenville who, as he lay a-dying, after having matched the Revenge against the whole Spanish fleet of three-and-fifty sail, was able proudly to say, in a spirit not unlike that of a later naval hero, that he was leaving behind him “an everlasting fame of a valiant and true soldier, that hath done his duty as he was bound to do.” He it was who revived the fortunes of Bideford after a period of[Pg 49] decline, and so increased its prosperity by attracting to it trade from the settlements in the New World that it was able to send seven ships to join the fleet that gathered in Plymouth Harbour to fight the Spaniard. With memories such as these, the town may surely abate its eagerness to have accepted as Armada trophies the old guns which have been unearthed from its dustheap.

Pleasant the course of the stream continues to be, past “the charmed rock of Hubbastone,” where sleeps an old Norse pirate, with his crown of gold, till, with Instow on the right and Appledore on the left, Torridge meets her sister Taw, and the two with one accord turn westward and roll towards “the everlasting thunder of the long Atlantic swell.”

Of the streams that have their fountains on Dartmoor, the longer ones rise, as we have seen, in the northern division of the “forest”; the shorter ones, the Avon, the Erme, the Yealm, and the Plym, come to being in the southern division, at no great distance from each other, and amid surroundings not unlike those of Cranmere Pool; and all of them flow into the Channel on the western side of Bolt Head. Neither of them is without charms of its own; but the PLYM is easily chief among them, and with a rapid sketch of its course from Plym Head, some three miles south of Princetown, to the Sound, the present chapter must end. Flowing by rugged, flat-topped Sheepstor on the right, and Trowlesworthy[Pg 50] Tor on the left, Plym presently reaches Cadaford Bridge, where it plunges into a rocky ravine, the precipitous hillside on the left crowned by the church of Shaugh Prior, while from the hill on the right, smothered with oak coppice, projects a huge crag of ivy-clad granite, the Dewerstone, celebrated for its views. At Shaugh Bridge the stream is swollen by the Meavy, which, not far from its source on the moorland, is tapped to supply Plymouth Leat—a work for which the Plymouth folk are indebted to Sir Francis Drake. Afterwards the Meavy runs by the grey granite church of Sheepstor, where, under the shadow of a noble beech, is the massive tomb of Sir James Brooke, of Sarawak fame. Richly-wooded Bickleigh Vale is one of the beauty spots of the Plym; another lovely scene is that at Plym Bridge, where, close to the mossy bridge, is the ruined arch of a tiny chantry, built by the monks of Plympton Priory that travellers might here pray to Heaven for protection before adventuring into the wilds beyond. Of the Priory, founded in the twelfth century to replace a Saxon college of secular canons, nothing remains but the refectory and a kitchen and a moss-grown orchard, which may be seen close to the lichened church of Plympton St. Mary, if we care to wander a little eastwards from the river. Not far off is the other Plympton, with its scanty[Pg 51] fragments of a castle of the de Redvers, Earls of Devon. More memorable is Plympton Earl from its association with Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was born here, and sat at his father’s feet in the quaint cloistered Grammar School, where, too, three other painters of note were educated—Sir Joshua’s pupil and biographer, Northcote, the luckless Haydon, and the fortune-favoured Eastlake. Reynolds was not without honour in his own country, at any rate during his life. The Corporation of Plympton once chose him mayor, and he declared to George III. that the election was an honour which gave him more pleasure than any other which had ever come to him—“except,” he added as an afterthought, “that conferred on me by your Majesty.” A portrait of himself, which he painted for his native town, was long treasured in the ancient Guildhall, but the virtue of the Corporation was not permanently proof against temptation, and at last the picture was sold, for £150. This happened a good many years ago.

The Plym/Bickleigh Vale



Below Plym Bridge the river begins to expand into the estuary, known in the upper part as the Laira and in the lower as the Catwater, the division between the two sections being marked by the Laira Bridge, five hundred feet long. Of “Laira” various derivations have been suggested, the most ingenious, and perhaps, therefore, the least likely, being that since “leary” in the vernacular means “empty,” the name may be taken as pointing to the large expanses of mud and sedge left bare by the tide—larger in the days before the stream was embanked than they are now. Saltram, a seat of the Earls of Morley, the first of whom both built the bridge and constructed the embankment, is on the left shore, embosomed in woods. Below the bridge the estuary curves round northwards, and, sweeping by Sutton Pool, its waters lose themselves in one of the noblest havens in the world, studded with craft of all shapes and sizes, from the grim battleship and the swift liner to the ruddy-sailed trawler.

To get a coup d’œil of Plymouth and its surroundings, let us take our stand on the limestone headland known as The Hoe, where, according to the tradition which Kingsley has followed, Drake was playing bowls with his brother sea-dogs when the Armada was descried, and refused to stop until the game was ended. In these days it is surmounted by a statue of the hero, by the Armada Memorial, and by Smeaton’s lighthouse, removed from the Eddystone from no defect of its own, but because the rock on which it was based was becoming insecure. On the east The Hoe terminates in the Citadel, an ancient fortification which has been adapted to modern conditions; on the low ground behind crouches Plymouth, effectually screened from the sea-winds; on the west, beyond the Great Western Docks, lies Stonehouse, and west of this again is Devonport, its dockyards lining the Hamoaze, as the estuary of the Tamar is called. Seawards, restraining the rush of the broad waves of the Sound, is the Breakwater, a lighthouse at one end, a beacon of white granite at the other, and in the middle, as it seems at this distance, but really on an island just within it, a mighty oval fort of granite cased in iron. About half-way to the Breakwater is Drake’s Island, another link in a chain of[Pg 52] defences which has, one may hope, rendered the Three Towns invulnerable to assault either from sea or from land; and over against this, bordering the Sound on the west, are the woods and grassy slopes of Mount Edgcumbe, the noble domain which the Spanish Admiral, Medina Sidonia, is said to have designed for himself. Away in the dim distance the new Eddystone rears its lofty head. How the first of the four lighthouses which have warned mariners of this dangerous reef was washed away, and the second fell a prey to the flames, every schoolboy knows. Familiar, too, is the story of the third; yet as we turn to look at it, now that it is retired from active service, we may be pardoned for recalling how, from this very spot, Smeaton was wont to watch the progress of the work which was to be his title to enduring fame. “Again and again,” says Dr. Smiles, “the engineer, in the dim grey of the morning, would come out and peer through his telescope at his deep-sea lamp-post. Sometimes he had to wait long until he could see a tall white pillar of spray shoot up into the air. Then, as the light grew, he could discern his building, temporary house and all, standing firm amidst the waters; and thus far satisfied, he could proceed to his workshops, his mind relieved for the day.”

Plympton Earl


[Pg 53]

The Hoe, Plymouth

Photo: W. Heath, Plymouth.


Plymouth, beginning as Sutton Prior, an appanage of the Augustinian Monastery at Plympton, the original harbour being what is now known as Sutton Pool, has a history extending at least as far back as the Domesday Survey. Stonehouse is a comparatively modern extension; and Devonport, though its dockyards date from the days of William III., was long in growing into the consequence which now it possesses. Those who know their Boswell well will remember that Johnson, coming into Devonshire with Sir Joshua, visited Plymouth at a time when great jealousy was being felt of the pretensions of Devonport, then just beginning to assert itself. Half in jest and half in earnest he vigorously espoused the prejudices of the older town; and when, in time of drought, Devonport applied to Plymouth for water, he burst out, “No, no. I am against the dockers; I am a Plymouth man. Rogues! let them die of thirst! They shall not have a drop!” Since then Devonport has gone to Dartmoor for a water supply of its own; and Plymouth, while not oblivious of its glorious memories, is well content to take a maternal pride in the prosperity of the younger towns.



Photo: W. Heath, Plymouth.



The Minor Streams of Cornwall—The TAMAR: Woolley Barrows—Morwellham and Weir Head—Morwell Rocks—Harewood—Calstock—Cotehele—Pentillie—Confluence with the Tavy—Saltash—The Hamoaze. The FOWEY: A Change of Name—St. Neot—Lostwithiel—Fowey. The FAL: Fenton Fal—Tregony—Truro—Tregothnan—Falmouth.


COMPARATIVELY insignificant though they may be, the rivers of Cornwall have peculiar interest alike for the geographer and the geologist, and are rife with the charms of natural scenery which attract every lover of the beautiful. If we except the Camel, which is the only river worthy of mention that flows into the Bristol Channel, the county has a southern drainage, this arising from the fact that the watershed of Cornwall is almost confined to the country contiguous to the north coast. Perhaps it is by way of compensation to the Camel, or Alan, that it has two sources. By Lanteglos and Advent its course runs through a romantic country of wood and vale, and it meets the tide at Egloshayle, thence passing Wadebridge, eight miles below which it falls into Padstow Harbour.

[Pg 55]

Of the streams possessing something of historic interest and scenic charm, the Looe must be mentioned because of the lovely vale through which it flows between Duloe and Morval and the association of the river with the ancient Parliamentary boroughs of East and West Looe at its mouth. The Seaton, the St. Austell river, the Hayle, the Gannel, and the Hel, each and all have their individuality, owing allegiance to no other river tyrannous of its tributaries; but the three principal streams of the county, the Tamar, the Fowey, and the Fal, which have been selected for special notice here, have a virtual monopoly of interest and attention. The TAMAR possesses, in a singular degree, the more striking characteristics of the Cornish rivers, and is fairly entitled to the distinction of first consideration at our hands. Having its rise at Woolley Barrows, in the extreme east of the westernmost county, a short distance from its source Tamar becomes the boundary between the counties of Devon and Cornwall, and so continues during nearly the whole of its course, some forty miles. Flowing distinctly southward, the river leads a quiet life for at least a league, till, gaining in size and importance, it gives its name to the pretty village and parish of North Tamerton. Thenceforth

“Its tranquil stream
Through rich and peopled meadows finds its way.”

At St. Stephen’s-by-Launceston it receives the Werrington stream, and expands into a beautiful lake in Werrington Park. Below the lake the impetuous Attery stream joins the now brimming river, which, passing under Poulston and Greston, reaches Tavistock New Bridge, where we are on the “scientific frontier” of Devon and Cornwall. At this point, too, the Tamar enters upon a new stage of its existence, leaving its lowly moorland birth and quiet ordinary youth behind it, and beginning a career which is henceforth the cynosure of all eyes. Hurrying by Gunnislake, the busy little hamlet of workers in clay and stone, at Weir Head the river literally leaps into fame.

Rivers of Cornwall


From the coaching hamlet it has slided on through a woodland glade of bewitching beauty, which wins a spontaneous outburst of admiration from the visitor who, haply, has chosen to approach the favoured scene by the serpentining sylvan walk from Morwellham to Weir Head. Here its waters break in a pretty cascade over the artificial ridge of rocks that reaches from bank to bank. Then they prettily describe a circle about the islet in mid-stream, gaining new life and movement from the impetus. With the briskness of a waterslide the Tamar rushes on to Morwellham. A charming variety of river-glimpses may be gained through the luxuriant foliage at Weir Head, the views hereabouts having become the objective of the highly popular steamer-trips from Plymouth, Devonport, and Saltash, which have constituted “Up the Tamar” quite a colloquialism in the West.

The winding river gains a new glory from its beautiful and impressive surroundings as it flows at the base of Morwell Rocks, those wonderful examples[Pg 56] of Nature’s carvings, set in the midst of luxuriant foliage that here hides their shaggy sides and there throws into bold relief an awe-inspiring pile. The Rocks are unique in their romantic beauty, even though they figure among the many objects of interest in a highly picturesque neighbourhood. The Chimney Rock and the Turret Rock are happier instances of descriptive nomenclature than usual. Bolder still is that most striking specimen of natural architecture, Morwell Rock, the massiveness of which doubtless gained for it the capital distinction. To the giddy height of the topmost rock, above the far-stretching woodland of Morwellham, scarce a sound of the rippling river comes; but the silver thread of its serpentine course may be traced afar through the romantic valley, winding about Okel Tor and the great bend that forms the peninsula between Morwellham and Calstock, and then taking its favoured way through cherry orchard-groves on to the haven under the hill.

The river is navigable to Weir Head, but Morwellham is the highest point reached by the steamers. Pursuing the line of least resistance, the Tamar now makes a tremendous sweep about the hill on which Calstock Church stands. But ere the first view of the “two-faced church” is caught, an interesting riparian residence is skirted—Harewood, the scene of Mason’s play of Elfrida, now the office of the Duchy of Cornwall, but formerly one of the Trelawny properties. Calstock, if it please you, is the centre of the old “cherry picking” district, though to-day its strawberry gardens must rival the orchards in their remunerative return to the industrious population of the quaint little town that seems to have grown away from the water’s edge to the pleasant Cornish country beyond Tamar bank. Still, if you would see Calstock in its daintiest garb and most delightful beauty, come you when the pretty cherry blossom decks the groves by the river, and the tender pink and white clothes the orchard lawns to the uplands.

Tavistock New Bridge


From Calstock on to Cotehele, and thence almost to the junction of the Tamar and the Tavy, the same delightful eccentricity of the river-scenery presents itself—every prominent feature re-appearing in an entirely different aspect, scarce five[Pg 58] minutes of the river-trip passing without a variation of the point of view. A last glimpse of Calstock Church, and we are encompassed by woodland. Everywhere a luxuriant living green meets the eye. Apparently, the swelling woods and orchard lawns approach ahead and form a cul-de-sac; but the Tamar makes a sharp detour to the right or to the left, and another glory of the leafy way bursts upon the sight. Again and again the pleasing experience is repeated ere a human habitation relieves a monotony that for once is wholly charming.

Beyond the limekilns of Cotehele appears the lodge gate of Cotehele House, one of the residences of the Edgcumbe family, and a place of some historic interest. By far the most prominent feature in the fine landscape which may be viewed from a tower at the highest point of the grounds is Kit Hill, the loftiest eminence on Hingston Down, which was the scene of a last desperate battle between the Britons of Cornwall and the invading Saxons in the year 835. A beautiful valley near Cotehele, known as Danescombe to this day, is said to have taken its name from the allies whom the Cornish called to their aid in this sanguinary struggle.

Immediately below Cotehele the zig-zag course of the Tamar is most strongly marked, and nowhere are its revelations of new views and fresh charms more entrancing than where it winds about the extensive grounds of Pentillie. Shortly after we have doffed our caps in deference to the pious Sir Richard Edgcumbe, devout worshipper of the Holy Mother, who erected a church by the river-bank to commemorate his miraculous escape from the soldiers of the royal Richard, we catch a fleeting but impressive glimpse of another stately residence of a county family, on a hilly eminence clothed to its crown with thickly grown woods, the castellated mansion emerging from dense leafy environs well towards the crest. All suddenly the coquetting stream swerves to the Devonshire side, as speedily returns to caress the fair meads of Cornwall, and another glorious prospect is disclosed. A nearer view is now to be had of Pentillie Castle, lying embowered in the far-stretching woodland, the Gothic features of the lordly pleasure-house which the late owner, Mr. John Tillie Coryton, built for himself admirably harmonising with its beautiful surroundings.

Below Pentillie, the Tamar, in its ampler waters and wider course, has to be satisfied with less interesting associations. A last big bend in the river, and, past the pretty hamlet of Cargreen, we shortly find ourselves abreast of the church of St. Dilpe, at Landulph, erected very near the river-bank, on the Cornish side. The tower of St. Budeaux Church, whose melodious bells chime cheerily across the water, rises high above the Devon bank. Here the Tavy makes common cause with the Tamar, and the twin rivers flow on by Saltash into the Hamoaze. Nearly opposite the mouth of the Tavy, on the Cornish side, is the ecclesiastical parish of St. Stephen-by-Saltash, with the ruins of Trematon Castle at the summit of a well-wooded hill. The castle is believed to have been built at the period of the Conquest, and was subsequently held by the Earls of Cornwall.

[Pg 59]

Morwell Rocks


At Saltash—as the Western men will not forget to remind the boasting Cockney—the Tamar is wider than the Thames at Westminster. Saltash itself, by the way, was originally (according to Carew) Villa de Esse, after a family of that name, and to this was added “Salt,” on account of its “marine situation.” The busy little waterside town has this great dignity—that its Mayor and Corporation take precedence of those of Plymouth and Devonport. Saltash has gradually, through many generations, built itself up a steep, rocky acclivity until the habitations extend to the summit of the hill at Longstone, from which favoured eminence the prospect is very fine. Here may we see the broadened river where the ebbing tide swirls by the Mount Edgcumbe training-ship, that is swinging round on its tidal pivot just above Brunel’s great bridge; thence, flowing beneath the wondrous iron link of the two westernmost counties with which the engineer spanned the river, here half a mile across, the Tamar, now joined by the Lynher from the West, loses its identity in the all-embracing Hamoaze, with its wood-fringed shores; the river passing unremarked into Plymouth Harbour, from the Harbour to the Sound, and from the Sound to the Channel—forgotten now in the great affairs of navies, and the thrilling stories of the seas on which Drake and Hawkins, Raleigh and Grenville, sailed to[Pg 60] fight the Spaniard. From haunts of peace, the Tamar, itself a pleasant stream, has flowed through scenes of rare beauty to these so warlike surroundings, where its current eddies about the decaying hulks on whose decks the old sea-dogs died, where its waters wash arsenal, dock, and victualling yard, and where it oft bears on its broad bosom a mighty fleet of men-of-war.


CARGREEN (p. 58).

At the foot of Brown Willy, Cornwall’s highest hill, in the parish of St. Breward, there is an aqueous locality in which the water-finder might exercise his art of divination with the utmost confidence, if, indeed, he did not find his occupation gone by reason of the abundance of the surface water. This is Foy-Fenton, and here the FOWEY rises. As, to this day, Fowey becomes “Foy” in the naming of the boats that boast the prettiest harbour in the county for their port, one may easily discover a close association in the nomenclature of the sites and scenes at the beginning and the end of this very charming stream. In its course, curiously enough, the river changes its name. Where it flows southward through the moorlands between St. Neot and St. Cleer, it is called the Dranes (or Dreynes) river; and fishermen from the “model borough” of Liskeard, who love to flog its pleasant waters for the toothsome trout that they harbour, would be prepared to[Pg 61] contend, in the face of the maps and in the presence of geographers, that it is the Dranes river, and no other. In flood-time a strong stream that gives the road-surveyor endless trouble, the Fowey, leaping along its bouldered way, here and there lightening its journey by falling in picturesque cascades, scattering its showers of iridescent spray over the thick foliage that everywhere clothes its banks, runs almost level with the main road to St. Neot—a village noted for its window-pictured legend of St. Neot and the miraculous supply of fish, in the parish church—where it receives a goodly stream of that name. Increasing the beauty and interest of its course with every mile it travels, the river by-and-by glides into the far-stretching woodland of Glynn, the seat of Lord Vivian, and then becomes one of the principal contributors to the scenic charms of the railway-side from Devonport to Par, which Miss Braddon describes as the most delightful of all journeys by rail.

The Hamoaze


After leaving its moorland haunts, and in order to reach Glynn, the Fowey took a westerly turn, but, Bodmin once skirted, the river runs directly southward again, under Resprin bridge and past Lanhydrock House, the Cornish home of that Lord Robartes who was the leader of the Parliamentarian forces in these parts. The ancient mansion, of the Tudor period, passed through many crises, and, together with modern additions, was practically destroyed by fire in 1881, and rebuilt in 1883–4. The next object of interest seen from the river is the ruin of Restormel Castle,[Pg 62] on the summit of a bold headland a mile from Lostwithiel. The building of the castle is ascribed to the Cardenhams, who flourished hereabouts in the reign of the first Edward; and it was once the residence of the Earls of Cornwall.

At Lostwithiel—the Uzella of Ptolemy—the Fowey is crossed by an ancient and narrow bridge of eight pointed arches, erected in the fourteenth century. The bridge is very strongly buttressed, and over each buttress is an angular niche. A silver oar, which is among the insignia of the Corporation, bears the inscription: “Custodia aquæ de Fowey.” The celebrated Colonel Silas Titus, author of “Killing noe Murder,” Member of Parliament for the borough 1663–79, was the donor of the oar. Lostwithiel, where the river meets the tide, at once becoming navigable for small vessels, boasts great antiquity, and in 1664 was the headquarters of the Parliamentarian forces in Cornwall.

Here, below Lostwithiel’s ancient bridge, let us take boat and taste of the ineffable enjoyment which laureates of the Fowey have attributed to a sail or a row down the romantic stream to the mouth of the harbour, where the sailors sing their chanties as they work the merchantmen out between the old towers whence chains were stretched across the harbour in the stirring days when the Spaniard sailed the main. Sing hey, sing ho, for indeed life is worth living when the soft zephyrs blow, and we glide by the prettily placed church of St. Winnow, and catch the musical chiming of its melodious peal of bells. “Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm,” our delight knows no surcease, but rather grows as, something less than three miles below the old Parliamentary borough, the banks open out, and we behold that daydream of scenic beauty, the sunlit reaches of the river winding away toward the sea. One branch of this estuary, by-the-by, flows to St. Veep, which has an interesting church. The Lerrin and St. Cadoc creeks yet further enrich a river which Nature has endowed with charms so abundant. Bodinnoc Ferry is a name to conjure with in yachting circles, since there is not one log among the many of the pleasure-boats that make for the “little Dartmouth” of the Far West in the height of summer but contains some fine compliment to the rare beauty of the view, landward and seaward, from this familiar tacking point. No wonder that Fowey Harbour shares with its Devonshire rival the generous tribute of sportsmen, who have lavished upon each of these picturesque ports effusive praise that has its point in the proud title of the “Yachtsman’s Paradise.” Long ere these pleasure-seeking days was the discovery of Fowey’s possession of a safe and commodious harbour made: “The shippes of Fowey sayling by Rhie and Winchelsey, about Edward the IIIrd tyme, would vayle no bonnet beying required, whereupon Rhie and Winchelsey men and they fought, when Fowie men had victorie, and thereupon bare their arms mixt with the arms of Rhie and Winchelsey, and then rose the name of the Gallants of Fowey.” But Leland knew that they deserved the title long years before, as “the glorie of Fowey rose by the warres in King Edward I. and III. and Henry V.’s day, partly by feats of warre, partly by piracie, and so waxing rich fell all to merchandize.”

[Pg 63]

Fowey took so naturally and keenly to the practice of piracy that the “gallants” had a little affair at sea with the French on their own account and against the King’s treaty and commandment, in the reign of the fourth Edward, who appears not to have been well pleased, since he took the head of one of their number, imprisoned the captains, and sent men of Dartmouth down to seize their ships and remove the chain then drawn across the mouth of the haven. But the “gallants” were nothing daunted, and in the time of Charles II. their successors beat off eighty Dutch ships of war that, greatly daring, had chased a fleet of merchantmen into Fowey Harbour. St. Finbarrus, first Bishop of Cork, is said to have been buried in the church, which is dedicated to him, and is a handsome structure. Place House, the seat of the Treffry family, besides being a noble mansion, gloriously dight with very fine specimens of Cornish granite and porphyry, is of great historic interest. It was Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Treffry—an ancient statue of whom stands in the grounds—who, in the absence of her husband, headed his men and beat off the French in an assault on Place House in July, 1457.

Along its course of but twenty miles, four of which are tidal, the FAL divides the county into two nearly equal parts. Fenton Fal, in Tregoss Moor, is the birthplace of the stream; and from the moorland it receives the tributary waters of many peaty rivulets before gaining entrance to the romantic vale of Treviscoe, which gives us a foretaste of that feast of the beautiful which the Fal affords in its lower reaches. Compared with what goes before and follows after, the course of the stream by Grampound (the Voluba of Ptolemy), through Creed valley, where it leaves Tregony on its left bank, and on to Ruan, is somewhat lacking in interest, and the river itself is of no great strength. Ere tin-streaming and the sandbanks had done their mischief, you might have reached Tregony on the top of the tide; nowadays the ebb and flow affect the river no farther than Ruan. Yet this has sufficed to gain for the Fal a glorious name. Perhaps the finest compliment ever paid to the river fell from royal lips. When the Queen, accompanied by the Prince Consort, made the trip down the Fal from Truro in 1864, she was visibly impressed with the beauty and splendour of the scenery, and particularly charmed with the view about Tregothnan. Her Majesty was reminded by it of the Rhine, but thought it almost finer where winding between woods of stunted oaks, and full of numberless creeks.

At Truro, the two little rivers, Kenwyn and Allen, flow through the city into a creek of the Fal, known as Truro river; the first-named separates St. Mary’s from St. Paul’s, while the second divides the parish of St. Mary from that of St. John. The little Kenwyn is “personally conducted” through the streets of the cathedral town by the Corporation, in open conduits, and forms a not unpleasant feature of the tiny city in Western Barbary whose inhabitants were once said to have a good conceit of themselves: “The people of this town dress and live so elegantly that the pride of Truro is become a by-word in the county.” The most modern of our[Pg 64] English cathedrals is a monument to the pious zeal, marvellous industry, and unquenchable enthusiasm of Dr. Benson, the first Bishop of Truro, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. The Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone in 1880, and its consecration took place seven years later. The style is Early English of the thirteenth century, and at present the cathedral but partially realises the ambitious design of the architect, who planned a very imposing edifice, which, in the event of its ultimate completion, must inevitably challenge comparison with the most notable of modern achievements in the Gothic. Already it possesses several splendid windows and many beautiful specimens of modern sculpture.

The Fal

Photo: F. Argall, Truro.


The prettiest parts of our river lie between King Harry’s Passage and Roseland. Below Tregothnan, where the Fal unites with the Truro river and St. Clement’s creek, both shores are beautifully clothed with wood, and the fine expanse of[Pg 65] water at high tide lends a nobility and magnificence to the scene which affords ample occasion for the high-flown descriptions and lavish praise bestowed upon the Fal. On the right are the grounds of Trelissick; and a picturesque glimpse of the stream may be caught near the estuary called Malpas Road, by the ferry at Tolverne. After dividing Mylor from St. Just, the river loses its identity in forming Carrick Road, and shortly expands into the splendid haven of Falmouth Harbour. The inner part, between Trefusis Point, Pendennis, and the town, is called King’s Road. Carrick Road, where the river enters, forms the middle of the harbour, and midway between the entrance—which is from Pendennis Point to St. Anthony’s Head—there lies the ominously-named Black Rock, around which the Mayor of Truro sailed in June, 1709, when he sought to exercise jurisdiction over the port and harbour of Falmouth. But the citizens of the port themselves had had a powerful friend at Court, in the person of King Charles II., who had given Falmouth a charter overriding the ancient claims of Truro, by which the Mayor of the latter town had levied dues on all goods laden or unladen in any part of the Fal, from Truro to the Black Rock; and a trial at law in the same year finally established home rule in Falmouth Harbour.

Falmouth Harbour

Photo: Frith & Co., Reigate.


Though to-day its prosperity is scarcely commensurate with its natural advantages, the harbour still remains almost unrivalled. First port of call for homeward-bound vessels, with a depth of water and safe anchorage that many[Pg 66] another harbour might envy, and sheltered from all the winds that blow save those from the south-south-east, it is so capacious that the whole British fleet could ride at anchor in its waters. Falmouth as a town owes its existence to these striking features of its harbour. Beholding them, it struck the shrewd sons of the House of Killigrew, Lords of Arwenack (there is an Arwenack Street to this day), who flourished in the time of James I., that there was no earthly reason why vessels should go seven miles to Truro, or two miles to Penryn, for a port when an infinitely better one might be created at the very mouth of the harbour. Vested interests, as represented by the communities of Truro, Penryn, and Helston, offered stout opposition. But the silver-tongued Lords of Arwenack prevailed in the argument before King James, and it was not long ere Falmouth was the first port in Cornwall. Its great era of prosperity exemplifies the adage that it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good, for, during our wars with the French, Falmouth became a mail packet station, and flourished exceedingly on “Government service.”

It was the boast of proud Falmouthians that a hundred vessels could ride in the creeks of Falmouth Harbour and yet that no two should be in sight of each other. How this might be may be understood in part when it is explained that, besides many smaller arms, there are five principal creeks. Of these branches not the least is that which was probably the earliest used, to Penryn; there is a second to Restronguet and Perranarworthal; a third, also of ancient use, to Truro and Tresillian Bridge; a fourth running up to St. Mawes and Gerrans; and the fifth and greatest, to King Harry’s Reach, toward Tregony, which is the main stream of our Fal.



Photo: Frith & Co., Reigate.


Isle of Athelnly



The PARRET: Its Source—Muchelney Abbey—The Tone and Taunton—Athelney Island and Alfred the Great—Sedgemoor—Bridgewater—Burnham. The LOWER AVON: Escourt Park—Malmesbury—Chippenham—Melksham—Bradford-on-Avon—Bath—The Frome—Beau Nash—Bridges at Bath—The Abbey Church—Bristol—St. Mary Redcliffe and Chatterton—The Cathedral—“The Chasm”—Clifton Suspension Bridge—The Lower Reaches—Avonmonth.


OF the even, placid course of the PARRET one sententious writer has said, “There is nothing remarkable in it, the country being flat.” A spark of imagination and the merest glimmering of historic interest would have spared us this dull commonplace. Surely the stream which saw the dawn of intellect in England, which witnessed the very beginnings of our modern civilisation, which watered the self-same mead where walked the first royal patron of learning that the country boasted, is notable, even if it does not attain to higher rank among our English rivers.

The Parret—Pedred of the Saxon Chronicle—is not of native Somerset birth, since it has its uprising a mile over the southern boundary, at Cheddington Copse, in the Dorsetshire parish of South Perrott. Flowing in a south-easterly direction, by Crewkerne and the Dorsetshire border, its basin occupies that portion of the Bridgwater Level lying between the Mendips and the Quantock Hills. At Crewkerne we have wide glimpses of its broad green valley, the busy little market town itself rising in the midst of the natural amphitheatre formed by the distant, unpretentious hills, lying low, like shadows on the horizon. The fine cruciform[Pg 68] church of St. Bartholomew, whose only real rival among Somersetshire churches is that at Ilminster, in precisely the same style of architecture, occupies a pleasant situation westward of the river.

Parret and Lower Avon


The ruins of Muchelney Abbey rise above the marshy banks of the river in the hamlet bearing the same name, which the ancient chronicler would have us accept as a facile corruption of “Muckle Eye,” or Great Island. Of Athelstan’s Abbey there are but scant remains, though these are most suggestive of a structure of imposing size and great architectural interest and beauty. By the interesting little town of Langport the dividing hills are broken, and the Parret receives the waters of the Isle from the left, and of the Yeo (so common a river name, with its obvious derivation), or Ivel, from the right. Swollen by these tributaries, the Parret’s lazy waters now creep on under a bridge which unites the banks that marked the limits of the dominions of the Belgic and Danmonian tribes.

Hereabouts we do indeed appear to be at the very beginnings of English history, for but a little below the confluence, at Aller, the Danish king, Guthrum, is said to have received the rite of baptism in the river, his conqueror, Alfred the Great, magnanimously standing sponsor to the fallen foe; whilst eight centuries later a fiercer warrior, filled with zeal for what he conceived to be his righteous cause—Fairfax, to wit—routed the Royalist forces, giving no quarter, as he had asked none. Before we take up the other thread of the historical tale, there is the Tone to be reckoned with. Born in a bog on the Brendon Hills, this most important of the affluents of the Parret is seen at its greatest in the picturesque vale of Taunton Dean. Imparting its name to the handsome town of Taunton, it passes at least one splendid specimen of ecclesiastical architecture in St. Mary’s Church, which rears its lofty tower in the midst of a delightful neighbourhood, of which Taunton is the attractive capital.

Below the hill-top village of Boroughbridge the Tone joins forces with the Parret, and in the slack water at their confluence rises that little plot of ground made for ever sacred in English eyes by reason of its being the remote retreat of Alfred the Great when he sought to escape the slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune. Hurrying thither from his fierce enemies, the Danes—and, if the fable is in the least to be trusted, from the equally-to-be-feared anger of the neatherd’s wife—he found a peaceful haven, where he might heal him of his[Pg 69] wounds, recruit his resources, and lay his plans for the meditated rally. And so, by bold forays from this natural stronghold, he regained the confidence of his adherents, won over the waverers, and paved the way for his eventual triumph over the pagan foe and the complete recovery of his power.

Taunton Church


To the honour of St. Saviour and St. Peter, his patron saints, the pious hero of Athelney raised a monastery on the island, where, in their holy orisons, the monks chanted the praises of the God who had so confused the heathen by the shores of the river that stayed its course and stagnated where the reeds and rushes caught the water-sprite, heavy with sleep, in their toils. Barely two acres in William of Malmesbury’s day, yet covered by “a forest of alders of vast extent”(!), the historic spot is now known as Athelney Farm, a stone pillar telling its great[Pg 70] story in this concise inscription: “King Alfred the Great, in the year of our Lord 879, having been defeated by the Danes, fled for refuge to the Forest of Athelney, where he lay concealed from his enemies for the space of a whole year. He soon after regained possession of his throne; and, in grateful remembrance of the protection he had received under the favour of Heaven, he erected a monastery on the spot, and endowed it with all the lands contained in the Isle of Athelney. To perpetuate the memory of so remarkable an incident in the history of the illustrious prince, this edifice was founded by John Slade, Esq., of Maunsell, the proprietor of Athelney, and lord of the manor of North Petherton, A.D. 1801.”

Malmesbury Abbey

Photo: William Hanks, Malmesbury.


History in its heroic elements still clings to Parret’s banks, for, as the river flows on near Weston-Zoyland, washing the parish on the south and south-west, Sedgemoor, the Duke of Monmouth’s fatal field, comes into view, and one looks upon the scene of what in Macaulay’s words was “the last fight deserving the name of a battle that has been fought on English ground.” Emerging from the marsh of Sedgemoor, the Parret now takes upon itself the new office of patron and benefactor of populous, busy Bridgwater, two miles to the south-west of “Sowyland.” It is the river which at ebb and flood tide deposits that peculiar sediment of clay and sand that goes to make “the Bath brick,” of which product Bridgwater has the monopoly. But why “Bath”? Well, presumably, because the best market for the brick was originally found in Beau Nash’s town, with the result that it eventually became the principal centre of trading in the commodity. From half a mile above to half a mile below the three-arched bridge which Walter de Briwere[Pg 71]—the first of that ilk—commenced, and Sir Thomas Trivet completed, in the reign of Edward I., the brickworks stretch, giving employment to a large number of hands, and forming a source of considerable revenue.

The current which nearly overwhelmed General Fairfax in Bridgwater’s stirring days of 1645 is said to advance with such rapidity and boldness on the Parret as to rise no less than two fathoms on one wave. But, judging from the statement of another authority, this must be but a moderate estimate of the dimensions to which the bore occasionally attains, since it is asserted that the upright wave-phenomenon of the Parret has repeatedly reached nine feet in height! This much, however, is positively ascertained—that spring-tides in the Bristol Channel rise a full 36 feet at the mouth of the Parret.

King John gave Bridgwater its charter in 1200, but the Briwere family, one of whom began the building of the great bridge over the Parret, were the real founders of the town and the actual authors of its commercial prosperity. The most striking landmark in the birthplace of Admiral Blake, the great Republican commander, whose glorious achievement it was to defeat the “invincible” Van Tromp, is the tall tower and fine spire of the parish church of St. Mary, 174 feet in height, and, therefore, one of the loftiest in England. A splendid altar-piece, said to have been taken from a Spanish privateer, is one of the features of the church.

Six miles from the sea at Bridgwater, the Parret, as if loth to lose its individuality, lingers in the rich valley, doubling the distance by its circuitous course to the Bristol Channel. At Burnham, just before the Severn Sea claims them, its waters are still further swollen by those of the Brue, a considerable stream, which, like the Parret, has a wealth of historical association, and is of some commercial significance. To the wharves at Highbridge, above Burnham, vessels of many tons burthen are borne by the tide; here also are the gates and sluice-locks of the Glastonbury canal navigation. Then the united streams fall into that part of the Bristol Channel which is known as Bridgwater Bay. A few miles to the north the Axe indolently pours into Uphill Bay the waters which it has brought from the flanks of the Mendips, where it runs a subterranean course some two miles long before issuing forth in a copious flood from Wookey Hole—a cavern famous for the prehistoric treasures which it has yielded to the explorer—to flow through a picturesque glen, and presently to drain the level plains of West Somerset.

Watering three counties, to the scenic interest and beauty of each of which it lends an infinitude of charms, the LOWER AVON is not to be measured for its importance by its length (seventy-five miles), since there are far longer streams that one would willingly exchange for half the romantic valleys and the rich country of this river, which has its source in a piece of ornamental water at Escourt Park, in the neighbourhood of Great Thurston, where the boundaries of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire almost meet.

Distinction is immediately given to the stream. Just below the village it enters[Pg 72] the grounds of Pinckney House, and after it has passed Eastongrey and a dozen little thorpes, the river claims proud association with historic Malmesbury—the British Caer Bladon, and the Anglo-Saxon Ingelburne—which it enters on the west. This ancient town stands on the ridge of a narrow hill, sloping down steeply on its southern and northern sides, and is nearly surrounded by two streams which, uniting at its southern extremity, form the Avon. On the highest point of the ridge are seen the ruins of the famous Malmesbury Abbey, which once covered forty-five acres of ground. Leland, writing in the time of Henry VIII., described it as a “right magnificent thing.” The present remains are small; but the south porch is one of the finest specimens of Norman work in the country. A portion of the structure is still used as a church. Another notable feature of the town in which William of Malmesbury, the historian, was educated, is a quaint fifteenth-century market-cross, to which also Leland gave none but honest praise when he styled it “a righte faire piece of worke.” Malmesbury—which, by the way, was the birthplace of “Leviathan” Hobbes—has been built on the peninsula between the Tetbury stream, flowing down from the Gloucestershire town, and the first beginnings of the Avon, which here accepts its earliest tributary.

Avon Near Tetbury

Photo: J. Clark, Tetbury.


Bending southward at Somerford, another branch is caught up, this subsidiary stream hailing from the neighbourhood of Wootton Bassett. By this time the Avon[Pg 73] has become no mean river, and in its course by Dauntsey and Seagry to woody Christian Malford it forms a very prominent feature in the fine landscape that may be viewed from the high hill to the eastward, on the summit of which stood Bradenstoke Priory, now converted to the use—we will not say ignoble—of a comfortable farmhouse. Fast gathering its supplementary forces, the Avon after passing Kellaways and before reaching Chippenham welcomes the waters of the Marlan. Chippenham, pleasant in itself, but made still more interesting by reason of its surroundings in the fertile valley, is well nigh compassed about by the Avon, which here is a clear stream and of sweet savour. Later in its history it may deserve the description of a dark and deep river, except where shallows interfere. In its lower reaches it will be largely affected in colour by storms, Wiltshire floods tinging it with the whitish hue of the chalk hills, and the Somersetshire rains with the red of the ochre beds. But here it is a placid, pleasant stream, which makes a bold sweep round the environs of the town, driving its mill-wheels and lending that dignity and interest which a river peculiarly affords.

Bradford-on-Avon Church

Photo: R. Wilkinson, Trowbridge.


Hitherto the Avon’s gliding way has lain by the low-lying dairy lands of North Wiltshire, through peaceful pastoral scenes, its banks clothed with the brightest flowers of the field, and here and there shaded with willows and elms, But now, beyond Chippenham, it embarks upon the chequered and romantic phase[Pg 74] of its career. The country becomes more hilly directly we near the clothing district of Wiltshire. For a short space the Avon renders the useful service of a boundary, effectually dividing Wilts and Somerset. The scenery of Chippenham Vale, through which the river flows on to Melksham, Trowbridge, and Bradford—a trio of interesting towns, each watered by the same stream—is extremely beautiful.

Melksham, a town of one long principal street, is flanked by rich meadows, through which meanders the Avon. The quaint, old-fashioned houses are built on the acclivity of an eminence which may fairly be ascribed to the river’s wearing work through the ages; and the inhabitants are not without reason proud of their handsome four-arched bridge.

Again there comes a season of increase, in which the river gains, from this source and that, a considerable addition to its volume. At Broughton Gifford a brook by that name surrenders to the brimming river from the west, whilst from the east enters the Whaddon streamlet. Then, again, near Staverton the little Biss joineth the great Avon. So our river swells with importance as it approaches romantic Bradford-on-Avon. The name of this town—from the “broad ford” over the river—is by no means its only indebtedness to the Avon, for the highly picturesque situation of Leland’s “clooth-making” centre is entirely the outcome of Nature’s handiwork. Immediately on the north side of the river a hill abruptly rises, and it is on the brow and along the sloping declivity of this eminence that most of the tastefully-designed dwellings have been erected. The deep and hollow valley of the Avon now extends between two ranges, the hills here and there richly wooded to their summits; and pretty villages have scattered themselves along these bold acclivities.

Bradford-on-Avon Church is of considerable interest, and is remarkable for the success of its highly sympathetic restoration by Canon Jones, the vicar, a distinguished archæologist. Two bridges here cross the Avon; the most ancient, in the centre of the town, being described by Aubrey, two centuries since, as “a strong handsome bridge, in the midst of which is a chapel for Mass.” Bradford gained its original eminence in the woollen trade mainly from the introduction of “spinners” from Holland in the seventeenth century, and lost it with the development of the greater Bradford of the North, in the midst of the coalfields.

Before, following the more impetuous course of the now considerable river, we quit Bradford and its seductive scenes, the peculiar loveliness of the valley of the Avon in the vicinity of the town, and more particularly at such fascinating spots as Freshfield, Limpley Stoke—just where the river leaves Wiltshire and enters Somerset—and Claverton, to name but a few, must be remarked upon. Then Bladud’s creation, “Queen of all the Spas in the World,” “City of the Waters of the Sun,” “Queen of the West,” “King of the Spas,” gives greeting to the noble river that plays so great a part in the beautification of the historic city lying at the foot of the valley of the Avon, whence it has grown up its steep banks. Below Bradford the Frome has become a tributary of the Avon, bringing,[Pg 75] besides its goodly stream, many most interesting reminiscences of its course. After flowing through the lower part of the agreeably situated town to which it gives its name, the Frome adds its charms to the manifold attractions of the scenery of Vallis Bottom. Just half a mile beyond the time-worn Priory of Hinton, which rears its ivy-clad tower amidst a grove of venerable oaks, Frome merges itself in the Avon.

As if Nature were here conspiring to make the river worthy of the city of “Bladud, eighth in descent from Brutus,” at Bathford the Avon receives the Box brook, from the vale of that name in Wiltshire, and, after a loop to the west, is joined at Batheaston by another small stream, the Midford, which has enhanced the romantic interest of the Vale of Claverton; whilst a third brook descends from the heights of Lansdowne, the fatal battlefield of Sir Basil Grenville and his Cornish friends, who lost their lives for the Parliamentary cause under the ill-starred leadership of Sir William Waller.

Approaching the city of “Beau Nash” from the east, and passing between Bathwick and Bath proper, the Avon washes “Aqua Solis” (or “Sulis”) of the Romans on the south, and plays its part in the fair scene which, “viewed under the influence of a meridian sun, and through the medium of an unclouded atmosphere, presents to sight and imagination everything that is united with the idea of perfect beauty.” And yet, with all the natural advantages of its situation, Bath long awaited the touch of the wand of the modern magician—the man of enterprise and speculation. There lay the deep romantic valley, gloriously encircled by the triple band of splendid hills—towering Lansdowne to the north, 813 feet above the sea; Claverton and Bathwick to the east, some 600 and 400 feet in height respectively; with Beechen Cliff, Sham Castle, Camden Crescent, and Lansdowne Crescent, all fine natural view-points, below. Compare with the Bath of to-day the overgrown village to the practical government of which the famous Beau Nash succeeded in 1704, when he followed the notorious gambler, Captain Webster, as Master of the Ceremonies, and you have some idea of the miracle of change and growth which has been performed. It was after the death of Beau Nash that the city, waxing great, extended its borders to Bathwick, on the country side of the river. Towards the close of the seventeenth century, private munificence caused a bridge to be thrown across the river, and Bathwick itself, from being a daisied meadowland, became a thickly populated suburb. And even the bridge thus built was shortly occupied with rows of dwelling houses and shops, so that the connection between Bath and Bathwick was complete. Long prior to the building of this, the Poulteney bridge—nearly five centuries before, in point of fact—the Avon was crossed by the St. Lawrence’s, or the Old Bridge, as it is now usually called. Originally built in 1304, it became a prey to the fever of building speculation which had marked the career of the elder Wood, of the famous family of Bath architects. Out of date, and, we may presume, somewhat out of repair also, it was rebuilt in 1754. The Poulteney Bridge, crossing to Bathwick, followed in 1769; and half a century’s growth of the popular[Pg 76] lower suburb revealing the need for further means of communication that would relieve the congested traffic, the Bathwick, or Cleveland, Bridge was added in 1827. Some years later the North Parade Bridge was built. With the advent of the iron horse there had, by this time, arisen a newer necessity still. In comparatively rapid succession the Midland Railway and the Skew Bridge—which justifies its name by the remarkable angle at which it crosses the Avon—with three suspension bridges and a foot-passengers’ bridge near the station, have followed.

Avon at Bath

Photo: J. Dugdale & Co., Bath.


Bath boasts at least one ecclesiastical structure of great interest, in the “Lantern of England,” as the tower of the Abbey Church has been styled, because of the unusual number and size of its windows. In the exceptional height of the clerestory and the oblong shape of the tower, the church is also distinguished from the general.

Out by the Western Gate the Avon runs, with Holloway Hill and Beechen Cliff conspicuous landmarks on its left. By Twerton—“the town on the banks of the Avon”—there are large cloth-mills on the riverside, relics of the monastic industries established by the monks of Bath so far back as the fourteenth century.[Pg 77] Fielding Terrace, in this town, is the reputed neighbourhood of the residence of the novelist, who is said to have written a part of “Tom Jones” during his stay.


Bridges, Bath


Now the Avon is in its beloved valley, deep and green again. Three miles, or a little more, from the city, a beautiful circling knoll seems to shut in the vale. The hill is crowned with a handsome house, and ornamented with woodland and lawn. Kelston Round Hill, as this impressive eminence is called, is 730 feet above the sea-level, the Avon winding at its foot and the ascending groves of Newton Park reaching to the fine prospect and the highest hill in this part of Somerset. Ere, at this point, we bid a reluctant adieu to the beauties of Bath, it should be pointed out that in most of the commanding and delightful views obtainable from all the vantage points in and about the city the Avon and its fertile valley conspicuously figure, heightening the interest of each entrancing scene. It is no exaggeration to say that the neigh[Pg 78]bourhood of Bath is rife with scenic charms. The cliffs, ravines, and deep excavations in the strata lend endless variety to the landscape, which is finely compact of hill, vale, rock, wood and water, the striking beauties of the Avon’s course ever and anon lending a crowning grace to the view.

Below Kelston the more expanded vale of the Keynsham Hams succeeds. Flowing round this rich tract of land, the Avon becomes the dividing line between Gloucester and Somerset. Just beyond, within the parish of Keynsham, and midway between the sister cities of Bath and Bristol, the waters of yet another tributary, the Chow, a stream which has come down from the north side of the Mendip Hills, are gathered up.

Contracted in its channel for more than a mile between lofty rocks at Hanham, the Avon, emerging from its straitened circumstances, diverts itself with the strikingly sinuous course which it then follows between Brislington and St. George’s, ere it is sobered and dignified by its contact with the traditional Caer Oder, “the City of the Chasm,” the birthplace of Sebastian Cabot, of Southey, and of Chatterton. Before the river begins to be tidal, it has another, perhaps its greatest, recruit in the Lower Frome. After a picturesque course, the Frome washes the Bishop’s Palace at Stapleton, enters Bristol, and there loses itself in the Lower Avon.

Between modern Bristol and the great port of the “spacious times” the difference is one of degree only, for the commercial spirit is still strong in the sons of Cabot and Canynge; and, amid the thick smoke that overhangs the very centre of the city, there rise e’en to-day the tall spars, fluttering pennons, and the rigging of the ships of the mercantile marine that made the name of the opulent city known in every port and on every sea, and brought to Bristol by the tidal river the trade that trimmed her sails to the breeze of fortune and set her course fair on the voyage to fame and prosperity. One of the earliest chapters of the history of the city is connected with the river. It records the building of the first bridge over the Avon in 1247, an undertaking mentioned in a charter of Henry II. This bridge united the city with what was then the suburb of Redcliffe. To-day, this association is splendidly preserved by that golden historical link, the “finest and stateliest parish church in England,” as Queen Elizabeth pronounced the edifice of St. Mary Redcliffe on her visit to Bristol in 1753. The style is the Early English, though the richly sculptured northern doorway and some other portions belong rather to the Decorated Period. The structure was founded about the year 1300, but was enlarged, beautified, and, in fact, refounded by William Canynge, whose effigy, with that of his wife Joan, will be found at the end of the south transept. The upper part of the stone steeple was struck down by lightning in 1445, and not rebuilt for upwards of four hundred years. It was in the muniment room of this church that young Thomas Chatterton professed to have found a number of curious MSS. in prose and poetry, the boy-poet’s ingenious deception long escaping detection. Such success, which might never have attended the confessed productions of his own precocious genius, gave the gifted lad of seventeen the necessary[Pg 79] stimulus, and his growing ambition led him to London, where he became a mere literary hack, and took a life threatened by starvation. A handsome monument in St. Mary Redcliffe churchyard pays Bristol’s tribute to her great, but unhappy, son. Of St. Mary Redcliffe, the “pride of Bristowe,” Camden said it was “the most elegant of all the parish churches I have ever seen.”

The present bridge replaced the thirteenth-century causeway in 1768. It was in 1247 that the course of the Frome was diverted to a new channel. Anciently, the city boundaries were the two confluent rivers which environed it with a natural defence on all sides save one, where a castle stood, protected by a broad deep moat supplied with water from the Frome, which at that time flowed by its northern walls. In Bristol Castle the son of the Conqueror, Robert, was shut up by his brother Henry.

Though it has been justly said of the Cathedral that it is remarkable neither for antiquity nor beauty, being far inferior to St. Mary Redcliffe in at least one of these respects, the Berkeley chapel, forming the north aisle of the choir, is worthy of note as an elegant example of Early English. The spacious nave, with side aisles and clerestory in the Early Decorated style, is a modern addition. Among the animated busts are those of Joseph Butler, of “Analogy” fame—one of Bristol’s famous line of bishops, two of whom were of the “glorious company” of seven—Robert Southey, and the “Dorcas” of the city, Miss Mary Carpenter.

In 1809 our river became a fellow-sufferer with the Frome. The course of the Avon lay through the city, but now a new channel was dug for it on the south side, leaving the river to fall into its original bed at Rownham Ferry. For the rest, the old channels of both the Frome and the Avon were converted into a fine floating harbour, which, at Cumberland Basin, will accommodate some of the largest vessels afloat.

“The Chasm” itself, or, as it is more familiarly known, the Gorge of the Avon, lying just below the Basin, is bridged by a triumph of modern engineering art. The Clifton Suspension Bridge—our English “Bridge of Sighs” for suicides—admits to a magnificent view of the Avon where it flows through the romantic defile of St. Vincent’s Rocks. As the story runs, St. Vincent, a rival, caught the Giant Goram asleep, and once and for ever determined the course of the river by cleaving the ravine through which the Avon now runs to the sea. Brunel’s Bridge, after a remarkably chequered history—its construction being actually suspended for a period of nearly thirty years!—was completed for the visit of the British Association in 1864. The foundations had been laid in 1836. The chains of Hungerford Suspension Bridge at Charing Cross were taken down and here re-hung. The centre span—one of the longest in the world—is 676 feet in extent, and the entire length of the bridge is 1,352 feet. Fifteen hundred tons in weight, the stupendous structure is a wonderful combination of strength and grace, adding a new interest and beauty to the impressive view rather than detracting from its great natural charm.

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Bristol, from Old Drawbridge

Photo: Harvey Barton, Bristol.


When “Cook’s Folly” and the “Pitch and Pay” gate, of mournful memory, have been passed, and we have reached Sea Mills on the right bank, there is a distinct softening in the character of the scenery. Here is the supposed site of the Roman station Abona. The Avon at this point is joined by the small river Trym. Leland, having the St. Vincent legends clearly in remembrance, wrote of it: “Some think a great piece of the depeness of the haven, from St. Vincent to Hungo-rode, hath been made by hande.” As we pass Pill, which furnishes pilots for the port of Bristol, its ancient fish-like smell forces itself upon our attention. Now we near the last reach of the Avon, Broad Pill, where the river widens greatly. Sinuous as well may be, and running between low banks, those “sea-walls” of[Pg 81] rich marshland that lie about Birchampton, the river’s course beyond that pretty neighbourhood changes fast, and gathers a new and picturesque interest when the tide comes in. Now we are at the mouth of the Avon, and in that fine roadstead which the loyal Bristol seamen would have styled King’s Road.

From the decks of the great ships that here ride out the light gale in safety a glorious view, up river, along shore, and about the fine anchorage in the estuary of the Avon and the Severn, may be enjoyed. The pier and docks at Avonmouth form another splendid enterprise, which, if it has not come too late, may retain for Bristol something more than a remnant of its ancient glory as the first port of the kingdom, a training ground for the British Navy, the haunt and home of sea-dogs who added many a gallant deed to the proud annals of our island story.


Clifton Suspension Bridge


Source of the Severn




Birthplace of the Severn—Plinlimmon—Blaenhafren—Llanidloes—Caersws—Newtown—Montgomery—Welshpool—Powys Castle—The Breidden Hills—The Vyrnwy—Distant Views—Shrewsbury—Haughmond Hill—The Caradoc Hills—Atcham—Wroxeter—Condover—The Wrekin—Benthall and Wenlock Edges—Buildwas Abbey—Coalbrook Dale—Ironbridge—Broseley and Benthall—Coalport—Bridgnorth—Quatford—Forest of Wyre—Bewdley—Stourport—Worcester—The Teme—Ludlow—Tewkesbury.


THE SEVERN, though a much longer river than the Dee, for it is the second[1] in Britain, is born among less striking scenery. The latter issues from an upland lake, enclosed by the peaks of the Arans and the craggy slopes of the Arenigs. But south of Cader Idris the mountains become less striking in outline, the cliffs fewer and lower, the summits tamer. It is a region not so much of mountains as of great hills, which stretch away into the distance, range after range, like rollers on the Atlantic after a storm. The central point of this region, the loftiest summit of Mid-Wales, is Plinlimmon, which, though so insignificant in outline, attains to a height of 2,463 feet, and is the parent of quite a family of rivers. Of these, one is the Wye, the other the Severn; the sources of the two, though their paths are distinct unto the end, when they mingle their waters in the Bristol[Pg 83] Channel, are some couple of miles apart. Nor is the distance very great between the founts of the Severn and the Dee. If we suppose, as is generally done, the actual head of the latter to be on the flank of Aran Benllyn, the interval between the two is less than twenty-three miles.

The Severn; Source to Tewkesbury


But to return to the Severn, which rises on the north-east side of Plinlimmon, at Maes Hafren. Our first illustration gives a good idea of the scenery near its source: not, indeed, striking in outline—upland moors without trees, hills nearly without crags, covered for the most part with herbage, coarse on the lower ground near the rivulets, rank in the not unfrequent bogs, but finer on the upper slopes; somewhat monotonous in its tints, yet not without a charm of its own—a sense of freedom and expansion, which is sometimes felt to be wanting among the towering peaks and precipitous ravines of the grander mountain ranges. At first, as is the wont of rivers among such surroundings, the Severn wanders idly through the moorland, a mere brook rippling among stones and boulders; then by degrees it begins to fray out a path for itself and to cut down into the underlying rocks. The second illustration shows it at this stage of life—the child just beginning to feel its strength—and, besides this, gives a good idea of the character of the hill scenery in Mid-Wales, of which we have already spoken. The little Severn has now begun to strike out a way for itself on its journey to the sea; the general plan of its course curiously resembling that of the Dee. Though the two rivers ultimately flow in opposite directions, and finish their courses at opposite ends of the Principality, yet each rises well on the western side of Wales—each, though here and there with some flexures, maintains for long an eastward direction; their paths only diverging when they arrive at the margin of the lowland among the foothills of the more[Pg 84] mountainous region. But for some distance there is little material change in the general character of the scenery, except that the valleys gradually become more clearly defined. The next picture shows the youthful Severn about a mile and a half below its source, at Blaenhafren, the first house in the neighbourhood of its banks, the earnest of many a “thorpe and town” by which its waters will flow. A flattish valley bed, a few rather stunted trees, some stone walls, and a rough-built cottage, with great billowy hills behind, make up a scene which is characteristic of a good many square miles in Central Wales.

Valley of the Severn


This is, as we have said, a comparatively humble beginning for the second in length among the rivers of Britain—for a stream which passes more towns of historic and antiquarian interest than any other in the land, and has been always the delight of poets. The Britons knew it as Hafren, the Romans as Sabrina, from which, obviously, the present name has arisen. For several miles from its birthplace its descent is comparatively rapid, but gradually the slope diminishes, the stream ceases to brawl among rocks and stones, the valley widens, and after a course of from a dozen to fifteen miles, according as its path is estimated, it arrives at its first town, Llanidloes, where it is joined on the northern side by the Clywedog, which flows through a pretty valley and seems to be a longer stream than the Severn itself.

[Pg 85]

At Llanidloes the Severn plunges abruptly into the bustle of life, for this is a town with some ten thousand inhabitants, which carries on a brisk trade in flannels. But, except for its church, which is one of the finest in Wales, and has a handsome carved oak roof, there is nothing to hinder the uncommercial traveller. For another ten miles or so there is little to note along the course of the river; but on approaching a station rejoicing in the modern name of Moat Lane Junction, where the line from Machynlleth, descending the wooded valley of the Carno, joins that which comes down from Llanidloes, one comes to two places which will repay a halt. Here we are carried back over seventeen centuries of history. Here Briton and Roman in former days looked at one another with no friendly eyes across the river; the one, as was his wont, clinging to the mountains, the other to the valley and the river-side. The gods of the one were gods of the hills, those of the other loved the plain. The one preferred the eyrie from which, like the vulture, he could swoop to plunder, and to which he could fly for safety. The other made his hold sure on the fields, the river, and the roads; for where he came there he meant to stay.



The British earthwork, Cefn Carnedd by name, from its bastion-like hill between the Carno and the Severn, commands a beautiful view overlooking both valleys. In plan it is a blunt-ended oval, the longer axis lying nearly east and west; on the[Pg 86] latter side and towards the north it is enclosed by a triple ditch and rampart, but on the southern side a single entrenchment, owing to the steepness of the hill, suffices for defence. The enclosed area, about 300 yards in length, rises slightly towards the west, and at this end about one-third of the whole is cut off by a ditch and rampart, apparently with the intention of forming a kind of keep. Entrances may still be found and the approaches traced; these evidently were cunningly devised so as to be commanded by the defences; in fact, this must formerly have been one of the strongest and most formidable among the hill-forts of Britain. There are others in the neighbourhood, though these are inferior to Cefn Carnedd.

The Roman fortress, Caersws by name, is in the valley on the opposite bank of the Severn, at a distance of some 300 yards from the river. This, too, must have been in its day a place of great strength. It was enclosed by a high quadrangular rampart, with a ditch outside, which still remains in most places, though they have been injured here and there, and one angle of the vallum has been destroyed to make a site for the railway station. Caersws, the Mediolanum of Tacitus, evidently was once a stronghold of great importance, for three Roman roads converge to it. The strategic advantages of the position are obvious.

The valley of the Severn is now broadening, and its scenery becomes richer and more fertile, although bare hills still rise in the background. About four miles lower down another manufacturing town is reached, which, however, is considerably smaller than Llanidloes. This is Newtown, a place comparatively modern—as the name implies—which, however, has a certain commercial status as the recognised centre of the Welsh flannel trade, but is otherwise uninteresting, except for a carved rood screen and one or two more relics of an older building preserved in its modern church, and for being the place where Robert Owen, the father of modern socialism, was born and was buried.

Wandering on through scenery generally similar in character, pleasant, pretty, and hilly, but without any very bold features, the Severn in a few miles reaches Montgomery, a town which is peaceful enough now, but in former days was not at all suited for people desirous of a quiet life, for it was one of the fortresses of the Marches, over which Welsh and English fought like dogs over a bone. As can be readily seen, the castle was a place of considerable strength, for it stands on a scarped, rocky headland, overlooking the valley. But of its walls and towers not much remains. Near at hand is a British camp, but the first castle was built in the days of William the Norman. After being thrice demolished by the Welsh, it became the residence of a noted family, the Herberts of Cherbury. The last episode of interest in its history was a struggle for its possession in the time of the Civil War. The Royalists were defeated, and the castle was ultimately “slighted” by the victors. At that time it was owned by Edward, first Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the eccentric philosopher, statesman, and gallant; and within its walls, his brother George was born, as noted for the strictness as the other was for the laxity of his[Pg 87] religious views. In fact, this is the cradle of a distinguished race. The church is cruciform in plan, and contains old monuments of the Herbert and the Mortimer families. A romantic story is, or was, told about a bare cross visible in the grass of the churchyard; it marks the grave of one Newton, who was hanged on a charge of robbery and murder. He died protesting his innocence, and prayed that the grass might never grow about his burial-place, as a witness to the injustice of his doom.

Near Montgomery the Severn begins to change its course, and to trend more towards the north. Down a fertile valley it makes its way towards Welshpool, practically the capital of the shire, for it is almost double the size of Montgomery, and is the assize town. Place and church date from olden times. Near to the town—approached through a gateway in the main street—is the family seat of Castell Coch (the Red Castle, from the stone of which it is built), but more commonly called by the simpler title of Powys Castle. It has been greatly modernised, but a good deal is of Elizabethan or of Jacobean date, and some goes back to the thirteenth century. The site, a rocky knoll, descending steeply in natural terraces, has been occupied from the beginning of the twelfth century, and the earlier building had, of course, its due share of sieges, for, as the centre of the old district of Powysland, it was a place of some importance. In the surrounding park are some fine old oaks, and the views from the terraces under the castle are noted for their beauty; they look over the wooded lowland and down the valley of the Severn to the arched back of the Long Mountain, and the bolder outlines of the Berwyns, of which one mass is foreshortened to be like a huge tumulus and the other forms a sharp pyramid. Entrenchments of various kinds and sizes show that all the district round was formerly one of importance. The noted “Offa’s Dyke” is only a very few miles away, and interest is added to the sometimes monotonous aspect of the Long Mountain by a large earthwork on the summit, where, according to tradition, was fought in 1294 the last battle for the independence of Wales.

The Severn, still working in a direction more northerly than easterly, leaves the Long Mountain at the gap through which a railway passes towards Shrewsbury, and then sweeps back into its former course as it rounds the feet of the Breidden Hills. It needs but a glance at their bold and rugged outlines to see that they must be carved from a different rock to that of which the Long Mountain and its neighbours is formed. They consist of masses of lava and of hard slaty rock, of a more ancient date than the mudstones of the adjoining district, forming, in fact, a kind of outpost of the Ordovician or Lower Silurian rocks of the west. The highest point, Moel-y-golfa, is as nearly as possible 1,200 feet above sea-level, and its pyramidal outline adds to its apparent elevation. Another, the Breidden proper, is a heavy mass like a flattened dome; it bears a pillar to commemorate Rodney’s victory in 1782. The hills are well suited for a watch-tower, for they command a view far and wide—in one direction over the Welsh hills, in another towards the Shropshire lowlands.

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Moel-y-Golfa and Breidden


Two or three miles further a tributary enters the Severn, larger than any which it has hitherto received. This is the Vyrnwy, which drains a considerable area south of a watershed extending from near Aran Mowddwy to the Berwyn Hills, though now a heavy tribute has been exacted from its waters by the town of Liverpool. This great feat of engineering was completed, after years of labour, in 1890. Up to that time Liverpool had drawn its main supply from reservoirs on Rivington Pike. A huge dam, as our illustration (page 89) shows, has been built across the narrowest part of the Vyrnwy valley. It is 1,255 feet in length and 60 in height; the foundations, which at some parts had to be carried down to a depth of 50 feet, resting on the solid rock. By this means a lake has been formed, four miles in length, which hides beneath its waters—800 feet above sea-level—a little village and its church. A curious mound rises near the junction of the two rivers, designed, as some think, to guard the passage; and then the Severn, turning again to the east, passes on towards Shrewsbury. Its valley now has become more open: parks and country houses here and there dapple the gentler slopes within no great distance of the river, and the views of the hills are always beautiful.


Photo: J. Maclardy, Oswestry.

The Vyrnwy

Photo: Robinson & Thompson, Liverpool.


The group of the Breiddens is gradually left behind, then rises the steep mass of Pontesbury Hill, backed by the long ridge of the Stiper Stones, with their broken crests of rugged and hard white rock, and behind them the broad backs of the[Pg 89] Longmynds or the distant pyramid of Corndon. But, of course, to enjoy to perfection views of the land which feeds the upper waters of the Severn, it is necessary to quit the valley and obtain a Pisgah sight from some commanding hill. Thence we look over mile after mile of lowland, woodland, cornfield, and pasture, undulating downwards from bare rough hillsides on which the copses often are thickly clinging, to the margins of brooks and to the bed of the main river. To the west, line after line of hills recedes more dimly into the distance, till at last one shadow is pointed out as Plinlimmon, and another, yet fainter, as Cader Idris, and sometimes an apex of a far-off pyramid is said to be Snowdon. South of us, and yet more to the east, lie the nearer masses already mentioned, while in these directions the eye may detect, from some points of view, the peaked summits of the Caradoc Hills, or may rest upon the huge hog’s back of the Wrekin as it rises abruptly from the Shropshire lowland. There are few prettier districts in our country than the borderland[Pg 90] between England and Wales; and that part of which we now speak can hold its own with most others. Here and there, perhaps, the hills are a little bare, and we seldom find much boldness of outline. In the Shelve district also, the lead mines with their white spoil-banks are distinctly an offence to the eye; but the wooded glens are often singularly beautiful, and the outlook from the heath-covered moorlands gives a sense of breadth and freedom, like the open sea.

As it nears Shrewsbury, the Severn quits for a time the hill-country, though it is only near the waterside that the land is distinctly a plain. The town itself is at the edge of a low plateau, and some of its streets are fairly steep, though the ascents are not long. The situation is fine, and in former days, when the town was restricted to narrower limits, must have been much more striking than it is at present. The river bends in sharp curves, like a reversed S, as though the hills had made a final struggle to hold it in bondage. Of these loops, that on the eastern side is the larger; and it forms a kind of horseshoe, almost enclosing a hilly headland of moderate elevation, which shelves down towards the neck of the isthmus, but falls steeply, sometimes almost precipitously, towards the river brink. Thus, with the Severn for a moat on more than three sides, and a comparatively narrow and defensible approach on the fourth, the position is almost a natural stronghold, and it was selected at a comparatively early date as the site of a fortified town.

If we could believe certain chroniclers, the history of Shrewsbury would begin more than four hundred years before the Christian era; but we can hardly doubt that the town existed in the days of the Romans. Towards the close of the sixth century English invaders came marauding up the valley of the Severn, and destroyed the old city of Wroxeter. For a time the fugitives found a refuge in the fortified palace of the Princes of Powis, which then stood on the headland now occupied by Shrewsbury; but before long that stronghold also became a prey to the plunderers, and the Britons were forced to seek safety among the fastnesses of Wales. Then Pengwern, as it had been called, became Scrobesbyrig—“the burgh of bushes”—from which obviously it has obtained its present name. Before very long its importance as a frontier town was fully recognised, but at first it remained small—probably because it was too near Wales for merchants or for men of peace—so that at the date of Domesday Book, though it had four churches, it contained only 252 houses. The castle was built a few years later by Roger de Montgomery, a Norman earl, and a gateway leading to the inner court is a relic of his work. The enclosing wall of the town was completed in the reign of Henry III. This follows, as far as possible, the line of the ancient river-cliff, which on the southward side is parted from the Severn by a strip of level land. Portions of this wall still remain, and it can be traced more or less perfectly along the southern and eastern sides.

The fortress resisted Stephen, who besieged it in 1138; on its fall, by way of reading a lesson to his enemies, he hanged ninety-four of the defenders. Later on,[Pg 91] Shrewsbury was twice betrayed by the Welsh, and had one or two other “sensational” experiences, till the famous fight “for a long hour by Shrewsbury clock.” It was a race for the fortress between Hotspur and Henry IV., which was won by the king, who succeeded next day in forcing an action at a place since called Battlefield, about a league north of the town, and a mile from the Severn. The river figures more than once in the accounts of the marching and counter-marching connected with the battle, in which, as everyone knows, the king gained a complete victory, Hotspur falling on the field. Some of his principal associates felt the headsman’s axe a couple of days after the fight. In the Wars of the Roses the town was for the House of York, and two sons were born to the Duke within its walls: one died in infancy, and the other was the younger of the two lads murdered in the Tower. In the great Civil War the townsmen repaired their ruined walls and declared for King Charles, who spent a short time in Shrewsbury early in the struggle; but, later on, they were caught napping, for two parties of the Parliamentary Army effected an entrance during the night, one of them by scaling the steep slope below the old Council House. This daring band was headed by Captain Benbow, who afterwards took part with Prince Charles, was captured at Worcester, and was shot on the scene of his former exploit. He was buried in St. Chad’s Church, “October ye 16th, 1651,” as may still be read on his tombstone. Since then Shrewsbury has dwelt in peace, and during the last half-century has increased greatly and prospered proportionally. It is now a very important railway junction; the station, too small for its present needs, being on the lower ground on the eastern side of the neck of land already mentioned.

In former days the river was crossed by two bridges only, giving access to the headland—one from the eastern side, and so called the English bridge; the other, from the north-western, which, of course, bore the name of the Welsh bridge. Both were fortified in mediæval times, but they were rebuilt in more modern fashion during the eighteenth century. South of the Welsh bridge the plateau occupied by the old town slopes more gently down to the brink of the Severn. This part—a grassy space, planted with avenues of trees, which has long borne the name of the Quarries, from some old excavations—now forms a public park, which, as may be inferred from the illustration (p. 95), adds greatly to the attractions of the town. Between the Welsh and English bridges is the Boathouse Ferry.

The Boathouse Ferry


Shrewsbury has produced its fair share of eminent men, among whom are the fighting old admiral, Benbow, and the great naturalist, Charles Darwin; but for many years past its school has been among its chief glories. This was one of Edward VI.’s foundations, but it assumed its present high position as a nursery of scholars under Dr. Butler, who was appointed headmaster about the beginning of the present century. A few years ago the ancient site had to be discarded, for more room had become imperatively necessary, and new buildings were erected on Kingsland, an excellent site near the edge of the plateau to the south-west, looking towards the town across the Severn. The old school buildings, which are on the left-[Pg 92]hand side of the road going down to the railway station, are of considerable architectural interest, for they date from the end of the sixteenth century; they are now used for a town museum and free library. But to a lover of architecture, the especial charm of Shrewsbury lies in its old black-timbered houses. In these it is richer than any town, even in the West of England, with the sole exception of Chester. Indeed, even after the “improvements” which have been rendered necessary by the development of commerce, the street architecture of Shrewsbury is universally quaint and attractive; for we find, shuffled together like the cards in a pack, houses of all dates during the last three centuries. This gives a picturesque irregularity both to the façades and the sky-lines in the streets. But these black-timbered houses keep the chance visitor in a constant state of quiet excitement; he never knows what may be disclosed at the next turning, for Shrewsbury is pre-eminently a town of pleasant architectural surprises. Some of the houses are dated; as is usual, they generally belong to the later part of Elizabeth’s reign, and all probably were built during the half century centring on the year 1600. The best specimens are Ireland’s Mansion in the High Street, and the group of old shops in Butcher Row, which is considered by Mr. Parker to be the finest example of the kind in England.

Shrewsbury Castle


[Pg 94]

But if the antiquary halts in Shrewsbury he will not find it very easy to take his departure. Two of the Shrewsbury churches are unusually interesting; one, St. Mary’s, the principal church of the town, stands almost on the brink of the river-cliff, a little to the south of the castle, and its tall tapering spire adds greatly to the picturesque grouping, which, notwithstanding modern changes, the town still presents on the eastern side. St. Mary’s is a church of various dates, impossible to describe in a few words; for it has been altered and augmented repeatedly. There is Norman work in the north and south porches of the nave and in the basement of the tower; Early English in the transept; Decorated and Perpendicular in the body of the church, the east window being a very fine example of the former style. It has recently undergone considerable structural repairs, for the upper part of the spire was blown down in a gale early in the year 1894, and its fall greatly damaged the roof of the nave and the fittings of the interior. Holy Cross, the other important church, commonly called the Abbey, stands on the low ground, or in the Foregate, on the English side of the fortress, on the right bank of the Severn. It is a relic of an abbey founded by the first Norman lord of Shrewsbury. The vicissitudes which it has experienced are obvious at a glance. The rather low western tower, with the bays immediately adjoining, are evidence of a reconstruction in the fourteenth century; and Perpendicular work is, on the whole, the more conspicuous in the western and older part. We rail often—and with good cause—at the restorers of our own age, but they of the century and a half before the Reformation were no whit better, as this church can testify. The east end is modern, for it was destroyed after the dissolution of the monasteries, and was only rebuilt in 1887; but some fine massive Norman work remains inside the church, especially in the pillars of the nave, and there are some interesting monuments. The conventual buildings have been destroyed, except a stone pulpit, which was once in the refectory, and now remains looking disconsolately at the rails and trucks in the goods-yard of the railway; for this occupies the site of the monastic buildings, and is on the opposite side of the Severn to the station.


Quarry Walk/English Bridge


On leaving Shrewsbury, the Severn still continues to wind. Immediately below the town, it strikes off in a north-easterly direction for well over a mile, then, again swinging to and fro, it almost touches the foot of Haughmond Hill, from which it recoils, still oscillating, in a direction rather east of south. It has now entered an undulating and fertile district, where in one place its waters flow by some river-cliff or wooded brae; in another, between fields which shelve gently down to its brink; in a third, through flat meadows, over which, as can sometimes be detected, it has taken in past ages more than one course. Now more extensive views may be obtained, even from its stream—views to which a distinctive character and a special charm is often added by the peculiar shapes of the hills which here and there rise quite suddenly from the lowlands. Of them, Haughmond Hill is one; the Wrekin is another, but on a far larger scale; the Caradoc Hills are a third instance, but these form quite a little range. All have the same origin; they are[Pg 95] wedge-like masses of very old and hard rock, the relics of primæval volcanos, which crop out here and there among the softer sandstones and marls from which the long-continued action of rain, stream, and river has carved the Shropshire lowland. Haughmond Hill looks down upon the scene of the battle between the forces of Henry IV. and of Hotspur, and is associated with its memories, for the Douglas, who had come to aid the Percies, while seeking to escape along its craggy slopes, was so disabled by a fall that he was taken prisoner. On the western side of the Hautmont—for that was the original name—a priory was founded by William Fitzalan, in the days of King Stephen. The monks soon found their way to royal, and even to papal, favour, for they were permitted to say the divine office in a low voice and with closed doors, even when the land lay under an interdict. Then the priory became an abbey of the Augustinian order, until at last it shared the fate of all others at the Reformation, passing into lay hands and being cared for no longer. It is now a complete ruin; the church is gone, though just enough remains to show that it was cruciform in plan. The monastic buildings have been nearly destroyed, though a couple of Norman doors remain, and the more important structures can be identified. The best preserved part is the chapter-house, in the[Pg 96] west front of which are three fine arches in the Transitional-Norman style. The views from the slopes above are very attractive, as the eye ranges over the Shropshire lowlands, with their rich alternations of pasture, cornfield, and wood, to the ridges already named, and still further towards the Longmynds, the Breiddens, the Berwyns, and the yet more distant ranges of Wales.

Buildwas Abbey


On winds the Severn, gliding with steady flow by meadows, shelving fields or copses, till it comes at last to Atcham, with its bridge and picturesque old church near the waterside. Here was born Ordericus, afterwards historian of William the Conqueror. About a mile below, the little Tern adds its waters to the Severn, near the home of the Berwicks; and yet another mile, and the river glides by the parish church of Wroxeter, with its interesting Norman work, and the site of the Romano-British city of Uriconium, on the famous Watling Street road; founded, as is supposed, about the reign of Trajan, to guard the passages over the Severn and the outlets from Wales. In the year 577 a band of West Saxons forced their way, plundering and destroying as they went, up the rich valley of the Severn. Uriconium was taken, and, as the bard lamented, “The white town in the valley went up in flames, the town of white stone gleaming among the green woodland; the hall of its chieftain left without fire, without light, without song: the silence broken only by the eagle’s scream—the eagle who had swallowed fresh drink—heart’s blood of Kyndylan the Fair.” The walls of Uriconium were three miles in extent, and the area enclosed was larger by nearly a third than that of Pompeii.[Pg 97] Excavations have been made which have disclosed a basilica, or public hall, a hypocaust belonging to the baths, and many foundations of houses; but no work of a high class, either in architecture or in decorative art, has been discovered. Uriconium at best was only a provincial city, and that in distant Britain; and even if it had possessed any important buildings, they would have perished, if not from the fury of the barbarian invaders, at least by the hands of those in later days, who used it as a quarry. Most of the things dug up are preserved in the museum at Shrewsbury. “In the corner of the hypocaust three skeletons were found—one of a man, and two of women; by the side of the former lay a heap of copper coins, numbering a hundred and thirty-two, which belonged to the days of the later emperors, and some bits of rotten wood and rusty iron, which may have been the fragments of a box. It is supposed that some poor wretches, perhaps servants at the baths, sought refuge here during the sack of the city, and then perished, either suffocated by the smoke of its burning or buried alive by the fallen ruins.”[2]

The Severn from Benthall Edge


Below Wroxeter, the undulation of the country through which the Severn now[Pg 98] flows, for a time with a straighter course, becomes rather more strongly marked. The Cound brook joins the river on the right, flowing down by Condover village, with its Hall, “a perfect specimen of Elizabethan stonework,” and its interesting church and monuments. Then the Severn glides under a red sandstone cliff and beneath the wooden bridge of Cressage, with its memories of old oak trees; then through wooded ravines as the ground begins to rise. On its right bank copse-clad slopes enrich the view, while in one direction or another the great hill masses stand out against the sky. Among these the Wrekin is generally the most conspicuous, and now for a time it rises on the northern side of the river almost without a rival. It is the Salopian’s landmark—his Olympus or Parnassus—“all round the Wrekin” is his toast. This is no wonder, for few hills in Britain, considering its moderate elevation—1,320 feet above the sea—are more imposing in aspect, because it rises so boldly and abruptly from the lowland; and though the Salopian could not assert that “twelve fair counties saw the light” of its beacon fire, as was said of the Malverns, still, from far distances and from unexpected places the Wrekin is visible. In shape it is a rather long ridge, steep on either side, capped by three fairly distinct summits, of which the central is the highest. But from many points the lower summits seem to be lost in the central one, and the Wrekin assumes a form rudely resembling a huge tumulus. Like several of the other hills, it is largely composed of very ancient volcanic rocks.

As we look down the stream, the view before long appears to be closed by a wooded ridge, which seems at first to prohibit further progress. This is Benthall Edge, which may be said to begin at Lincoln Hill, on the left bank of the Severn, and on the opposite side to join on to Wenlock Edge, to the south-west. It is formed of the Wenlock limestone, belonging to the Silurian system, and so called from the townlet of Much Wenlock. This owes its origin and part of its name—for “Much” is a corruption of monasterium, like moutier in French—to its priory, once famed as “the oldest and most privileged—perhaps the wealthiest and most magnificent—of the religious houses of Shropshire.” Now it is only a ruin, except that the priory-house is still inhabited, and is a remarkably good instance of a domestic building of the fifteenth century. The ruins, however, are very extensive, and in parts most picturesque. But as they are a league away from the riverside, and are hid by the wooded slopes of Wenlock Edge, we must turn to another ruin, which stands on the level strath, almost by the waterside, just before the hills close in upon the Severn. This is Buildwas Abbey, formerly an abode of the Cistercians, which bears traces of that strict order in the simplicity of its architecture. Still, its ruins are admirable in their noble simplicity. “They impress us with the power of its designer, who ventured to trust simply to the strength of his composition and the grace of his outlines, so as to dispense with almost all ornamentation whatever. It thus gives it a sense of calmness and repose, for which we seek in vain in works of more modern date.”[3] The style indicates the passage[Pg 99] from Norman to Early English; the influence of the latter, on the whole, predominating. The church and chapter-house are still in fair preservation. The abbot’s house—mainly thirteenth-century work—has been restored, and is inhabited. The date of the foundation is a little uncertain; but it is believed to have been about the middle of the twelfth century. Buildwas was a wealthy abbey in its day, but made no figure in history.

Through the ridge of Benthall Edge the Severn has sawn its way, so that the river-valley now becomes almost a gorge, along which, on the abrupt southern side, the Severn Valley railway has been conducted, and this not without considerable engineering difficulties. Wooded steeps and grey crags on either side of the strong stream flowing at their feet form a series of exquisite pictures, though unhappily not for long, for a change comes where the dirty hand of man has smirched the face of Nature. To the north and to the east of the limestone hills lies the most noted of the Shropshire coalfields, that of Coalbrook Dale, which is rich also in iron, though its mineral wealth is becoming exhausted. Dismantled engine-houses and great piles of dark rubbish are only one shade less unpicturesque than tall chimneys vomiting black fumes, smelting furnaces, the apparatus of the pit-mouth, and smouldering spoil-banks. But before the days of “smoke, and wealth, and noise,” this part of the ravine of the Severn, and even Coalbrook Dale itself, must have been very beautiful.

Ironbridge is a dingy-looking town, built on the steep hillside, which gets its name from the metal arch—120 feet in span—by which the Severn was bridged in the year 1779. On the opposite side of the river, hardly more than a mile away, is Broseley, noted for pottery and clay pipes; and another mile west of that, Benthall, equally noted for encaustic tiles. The neighbourhood of the Severn, as far as Coalport, has fallen off in beauty as it has increased in wealth. But soon, in a geological sense, “the old order changeth, yielding place to new”: the Severn quits the coal-measures to enter once more upon the red rocks, which belong to a more recent period. Smoking chimneys and spoil-banks are left behind, the valley widens, though the scenery continues to be far from tame, and we pass on by Linley and by Apley Park; the river sometimes gliding beneath sandstone crags and steeply sloping woods, till in about four miles we reach Bridgnorth.

The situation is a striking one: the Severn has carved out a deep and rather narrow valley in the sandstone rock, and a tributary stream has fashioned another after a like pattern. Between these the upland forms a wedge-like promontory, defended on either side by a steep, almost precipitous, scarp. On this, not very much less than a couple of hundred feet above the river, the upper town, the church, and the castle were built. The town has gradually climbed down the eastern slope towards the Severn, it has spread out along its margin, it has crossed the stream and has occupied the tract of level meadow on the opposite side, the two portions being connected by a bridge which is in part far from modern. From the lower town here to the upper one on the plateau is a steep ascent, even though the principal road winds up. The church stands near the edge of the scarp, on which the[Pg 100] wall of its graveyard is built. Needless to say, it commands a very striking view—sandstone crags, and steeply shelving woods and green fields beyond, with the river and the lower town in the glen beneath. The most interesting part of Bridgnorth is its broad High Street, bounded at one end by a gateway, with the old market hall—a black and white structure, of the date 1652, which is supported on brick arches. This street also contains one or two fine houses of about the same era. Others, again, will be found in or near to the churchyard, and yet another near the end of the street, which descends so steeply as the main way to the lower town. This, which bears the date 1580, is a particularly good specimen of the black-timbered houses so abundant in the valley of the Severn. Here, in the year 1729, Percy was born, the collector and editor of the “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.” Bridgnorth Castle also must not be forgotten; occupying the extremity of the promontory already mentioned, it was a place of great strength in olden days, and stood more than one siege. It was destroyed after holding out for a month for King Charles. The most conspicuous remnant is a massive wall, a portion of the keep, which has heeled over to one side, at so great an angle—about 17 degrees—that it looks actually unsafe. The adjacent church was designed by Telford, the eminent engineer, to whom we are more indebted for the suspension bridge over the Menai Straits than for this rather ugly Renaissance building.



Severn in Wyre Forest


[Pg 102]

For some miles below Bridgnorth the valley of the Severn is extremely pretty, the banks half slopes of pasture, half masked with trees. “Now it is a little wider, now a little narrower, the hills a little steeper here or a little more wooded there, the grass by the riverside always green, the Severn sweeping on as it swings from side to side of the valley,” and breaking here and there into a series of little rapids. It passes Quatford, the site of a Saxon fortress, which was erected in the tenth century, and through the Forest of Morf, long since brought under cultivation. Quatford was a place of some importance till some years after the Conquest, when Bridgnorth was built, and most of its inhabitants removed to the new stronghold. The river leaves on its western side the old Forest of Wyre, which, though it still retains some pretty woods, had lost its best trees even so long ago as the days of Camden. It is now better known as a coalfield, though it is not one of much commercial importance.

The Severn glides on beneath the wide arch of an iron railway bridge and across the parting of Shropshire and Worcestershire to Bewdley, pleasantly situated on a slope by the river-bank, and well worthy of its name, Beau lieu. In olden times it had an extensive trade by means of the river, when it was a place of import and export, especially for the Principality. All the country round is pretty, notwithstanding occasional symptoms of factories. The lanes are sometimes cut deep in the red sandstone, and here and there the rock is hollowed out into dwellings after a primæval fashion. Three miles or so away to the east is busy but unpicturesque Kidderminster, famed for its carpets. Stourport follows, not less busy, and yet less picturesque, where the Severn is joined by the river after which the place is named. Here the construction of the Worcestershire and Staffordshire Canal has turned a hamlet into a town. Undulating ground on either hand, the long low line of the Lickey Hills some miles away to the east, the slightly more varied forms of the Abberley Hills on the west, limit a piece of country pleasant to the eye through which the Severn flows for several miles, past Shrawley and Ombersley. Then the valley becomes a little broader and flatter. The scarp of the Cotswolds, with Bredon Cloud as an advanced bastion, replaces the Lickey Hills, and on the other side, as the tower of Worcester Cathedral grows more and more conspicuous in the view, the Malvern Hills, with their mountain-like outlines, divert the attention from their humbler advanced post on the north. There are no places of importance near the Severn, though Hartlebury Palace, which has belonged to the See of Worcester for over a thousand years, lies about a league away on the east.

Worcester has no special charm in point of situation, though the river itself and the distant hills are always an attraction, but some of its streets are quaint, and its cathedral is grand. The site, comparatively level, but raised well above the river, early attracted settlers, and it is believed to have been inhabited before the days of the Romans. It figures from time to time in our history, but its most stirring days were in the Civil War, when it took the king’s side, was twice[Pg 103] besieged, twice compelled to surrender, and twice suffered severely for its “malignity.” But even the king’s death did not bring peace to Worcester, for it was occupied by the younger Charles, and the decisive battle which crushed the hopes of the Cavaliers was fought in its very streets. Since the Restoration it has been undisturbed, and has prospered, especially since it added the manufacture of porcelain to that of gloves, for which it has long been famed, the compounding of sauce to the potting of lampreys, and took to making bricks and yet more strongly scented chemicals.

Worcester Cathedral

Photo: Harvey Barton, Bristol.


The cathedral overlooks the Severn, its precincts being almost bounded by the river-bank. It is a noble pile, the tall central tower being a conspicuous object for many a mile away in the valley, though it has been, perhaps, overmuch restored. Parts, however, of the fabric had become so decayed that it was thought necessary to re-build them. A crypt belongs to a building erected soon after the Norman Conquest, but the greater part of the present structure is Early English, and very beautiful work of its kind, being begun about 1225. The nave, however, is of later date, with the exception of one or two incorporated fragments of the preceding cathedral. Some of the monuments also are interesting. Though King[Pg 104] John loved not churches, he lies in the middle of the choir, where his effigy remains, the earliest one of a royal personage in England; a beautiful chantry chapel commemorates Prince Arthur, the elder brother of Henry VIII., and no visitor is likely to forget the mysterious gravestone with its single and sorrowful inscription, “Miserrimus.” Cloisters, chapter-house, and other portions of the conventual buildings still remain, though the fine old Guesten Hall was destroyed not many years ago. The town also retains some fairly interesting houses, though neither these nor the twelve parish churches are likely to divert the visitors’ attention from the cathedral.

Below Worcester the Teme comes into the Severn from the west. Few rivers of its size pass through more charming or more interesting scenery. It collects a group of streams that have risen among the great hill-masses on the edges of Radnor and Montgomery, and in the southern part of Shropshire. They have flowed by craggy slopes and wild moorland, by lonely farms and quiet villages, by ancestral oaks and ancient halls, by ruined forts and many a relic of primæval folk. But on these we must not linger; a glance at Ludlow must suffice. It is one of the most attractive towns in England—church and castle crown a hill between the Teme and the Corve, and from it the streets run down the slope. In olden time Ludlow was a place of great importance, for the castle was the chief of thirty-two that guarded the Welsh Marches, and here the Lords Presidents of Wales held their courts. Even after this state had passed away, the town was a centre of county society. The castle, a picturesque ruin, crowns the headland, the inner court occupying its north-western angle, and the main block of buildings overlooks a wooded cliff. These are of various dates, from Norman to Tudor; the most remarkable being a curious little circular chapel of Late Norman work, which now stands alone, its small chancel having disappeared. The castle witnessed sharp fighting more than once in the Border Wars, and finally surrendered to the troops of the Parliament. Here died Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII.; here also Milton wrote “The Masque of Comus” and Butler part of “Hudibras.” The church—a grand building in the Perpendicular style, on a commanding site—is justly designated one of the noblest parish churches in England. There are several good specimens of timber-work among the older houses; the most striking, perhaps, being the Reader’s House in the churchyard, and the Feathers Inn. The grand old trees in Oakley Park, the Clee Hills, Stokesay Castle, Tenbury Church, and St. Michael’s College, are but a few of the many attractions of the surrounding district.


LUDLOW (p. 104).

For some fourteen miles below Worcester the Severn flows through its wide and pleasant valley without passing near any place of special interest, unless it be Kemsey, with its fine church standing within the enclosure of a Roman camp, or Upton, which makes much vinegar and enjoys, besides, considerable traffic up and down the river; for its bridge, in place of a central arch, has a platform which can be raised to let vessels pass. But the foreground scenery, fertile and wooded,[Pg 106] is often very pretty: the scarp bounding the limestone uplands of the Cotswolds is pleasant to see, and the range of the Malverns is always beautiful. Passing thus through a fertile land, we come to Tewkesbury, with its abbey church, less magnificent but hardly less interesting than the Cathedral of Worcester, and its black-timbered houses not far behind those of Shrewsbury. But as this town belongs to the Avon even more than to the Severn, it shall be described in connection with the former river.

The Severn at Tewkesbury


The Avon Near Rugby

Photo: E. H. Speight, Rugby.




The Watershed of Central England—Naseby—Rugby—The Swift—Lutterworth and Wiclif—Stoneleigh Abbey and Kenilworth Castle—Guy’s Cliff—The Leam—Warwick and its Castle—Stratford-on-Avon and its Shakespeare Associations—Evesham—Pershore—Tewkesbury.

THE Avon is a typical river of the English lowlands, and it is surpassed by few in the quiet beauty of its scenery or in the places of interest on its banks. It rises in the northern part of Northamptonshire, on an elevated plateau, the highest spot on which is nearly 700 feet above sea-level. This forms the watershed of Central England, for on it also the Welland and the Nen begin their courses to the Wash. But it is not only the source of an historic stream, it is also the scene of an historic event. Almost on the highest ground is Naseby Church, and to the north of that, quite in the corner of the county, is the fatal “field” where the forces of Charles and of Cromwell met in a death-grip and the King’s cause was hopelessly lost. It was more than a defeat, it was an utter rout. Henceforth Charles was “like a hunted partridge, flitting from one castle to another.”

[Pg 108]

From this upland country—pleasantly varied by cornfield, pasture, and copses—the Avon makes its way to the northern margin of the county, and then, working round to the south-west, forms for a while the boundary between it and Leicestershire. Entering Warwickshire, the Avon passes near Rugby. All know the great railway junction, immortalised by Charles Dickens, and the famous school, with its memories of old Laurence Sheriffe the founder, and Dr. Arnold, its great headmaster. Then the river is joined by the tributary Swift, which, while hardly more than a brook, has rippled by the little town of Lutterworth. There, higher up the slope, is the church where Wiclif ministered, the pulpit from which he preached. There, spanning the stream, is a little bridge, the successor of that from which the ashes, after his bones had been dug up and burnt by order of the Council of Constance, were flung into the water. So the Swift bore them to the Avon, and the Avon to the Severn, and that to the sea, to be dispersed abroad into all lands—“which things are an allegory.”

The Upper Avon


The Avon flows on through the pretty, restful scenery of Warwickshire, which has been rendered classic by the authoress of “Adam Bede,” twisting in great curves gradually more and more to the south. It leaves, some three miles away from its right bank, the spires and ancient mansions of Coventry—once noted for its ribbons, now busy in making cycles; it sweeps round Stoneleigh Abbey, with its beautiful park and fine old oaks, where a comparatively modern mansion has replaced a Cistercian monastery. On the opposite side, half a league away, are the ruins of Kenilworth Castle, with their memories of Leicester and Queen Elizabeth. It glides beneath Guy’s Cliff, where the famous Earl, the slayer of the Dun Cow, after his return from the Holy Land, dwelt in a cave as a hermit, unrecognised, till the hour of his death, by his own wife, though she daily gave him alms. A little further, and a short distance away on the left, on the tributary Leam, is the modern town of Leamington, which began a career of prosperity just a century ago on the discovery of sundry mineral springs. Then the Avon sweeps by the foot of the hill on which[Pg 110] stands the old town of Warwick. The site is an ideal one—a hill for a fortress, a river for a moat—and has thus been occupied from a distant antiquity. Briton, Roman, Saxon—all are said to have held in turn the settlement, till the Norman came and built a castle. The town retains two of its gates and several old timbered houses, one of which, the Leicester Hospital, founded in 1571, is perhaps the finest in the Midlands; and on the top of the hill, set so that “it cannot be hid,” is the great church of St. Mary. It is in the Perpendicular style, more or less, for the tower and nave were rebuilt after a great fire in 1694, the choir escaping with little injury. Two fine tombs of the Earls of Warwick are in this part, but the glory of the church is the Beauchamp Chapel, with its far-famed altar-tomb and effigy of Richard Beauchamp, the founder. He died in 1439; and near him lie the Earl of Leicester, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, and other members of the house of Dudley.

Warwick Castle


Warwick Castle is one of the most picturesquely situated mansions in England. It stands on a rocky headland, which descends almost precipitously to the Avon. One of our illustrations (p. 111) may give some notion of the beauty of the view over the rich river-plain; the other (p. 109) indicates the aspect of the castle itself. A mediæval fortress has been gradually transformed into a modern mansion, yet it retains an air of antiquity and not a little of the original structure. It incorporates portions of almost all dates, from the Norman Conquest to the present day. The oldest part is the lofty tower, called Cæsar’s tower, which must have been erected not many years after the victory at Hastings. The residential part mostly belongs to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, though alterations and additions have been made, especially during the restoration, which was rendered necessary by a lamentable fire in 1871. We must leave it to the guide-books to describe the pictures, antiquities, and curiosities which the castle contains—relics of the Civil War, when it was in vain besieged by the king’s forces, the sword and porridge-pot of the legendary Guy, and the famous Warwick Vase, dug up near Tivoli at Hadrian’s Villa. But the view from the windows is so beautiful that the visitor will often find a difficulty in looking at pictures on the walls; he will be well rewarded if afterwards he stroll down towards the old mill by the riverside.

The Avon From Warwick Castle


After leaving Warwick the Avon keeps winding towards the south-western boundary of the county till, before reaching this, it arrives at another and yet more noted town. Stratford-on-Avon is a household word wherever the English tongue is spoken. No American thinks his visit to the country of his ancestors is complete till he has made a pilgrimage to the birthplace and the grave of Shakespeare—nay, even our distant kinsmen in Germany are not seldom drawn thither by the same magnetic force. The town, till the days of railways, was a quietly prosperous, old-fashioned place, in harmony with the scenery of the neighbourhood. This is thoroughly characteristic of the Midlands, and exhibits one of their most attractive types. “The Avon, a fairly broad bright stream, sweeps silently along[Pg 111] on its way to the Severn, through level meadows, where the grass grows green and deep. The higher ground on either side rolls gently down, descending sometimes to the margin of the stream, but elsewhere parted from it by broad stretches of level valley. The slopes are dotted with cornfields, and varied by clumps of trees and lines of hedgerow timber. It is a peaceful, unexciting land, where hurry would seem out of place.”[4] The little house where Shakespeare was born—in 1564, on the 23rd of April, as they say—after many vicissitudes has been saved to the nation, and perhaps a little over-restored. It is a parcel-timbered dwelling without enrichment—one of those common in the Midlands—such as would be inhabited by an ordinary burgess of a country town.

When Shakespeare returned, a prosperous man, to his birthplace, he lived in a much better house near the church, which he purchased in 1597. This, however, was pulled down by an ill-tempered clerical vandal in the middle of the last century. Shottery, where we can still see the cottage of Anne Hathaway, whom Shakespeare loved not wisely but too well, is a mile away; and about four times that distance is the picturesque old brick and stone mansion of Charlecote, with its beautiful park. Here dwelt Sir Thomas Lucy, with whose deer the youth made too free, and on account of whose anger he ran away to London. The dramatist, it is said, took his revenge on the knight in the[Pg 113] portrait of Justice Shallow, but when he looked back on the ultimate results of his flight from Stratford he might have justly said, “All’s well that ends well!”

In the month of his birth, 1616, Stratford Church received the body of William Shakespeare. “Church and churchyard are worthy of being connected with so great a memory. The former is a fine cruciform structure, crowned with a central spire; the latter a spacious tract, planted with aged trees. An avenue of limes leads up to the church porch, between which, perhaps, the poet often passed to worship, and whose quivering shadows may one sad day have fallen upon his coffin. But there is a part of the God’s acre where, perhaps, more than any other, we may think of him, for it is one which can hardly have failed to tempt him to musing. The Avon bounds the churchyard, and by its brink is a terraced walk, beneath a row of fine old elms. On the one hand, through the green screens of summer foliage, or through the chequered lattice-work of winter boughs, we see the grey stones of the church—here the tracery of a window, there a weather-beaten pinnacle—then, through some wider gap, the spire itself. On the other hand, beneath the terrace wall, the Avon slowly and silently glides along by bridge and town, by water-meadows, bright with celandine in spring and thick with lush grass in June.”[5]

Stratford-on-Avon Church


[Pg 114]

The church, once collegiate, is an unusually fine one, partly Early English, partly Decorated, but mostly Perpendicular in style. To the last belongs the chancel, where Shakespeare is buried, with his wife, daughter, and other relations. His monument, with the bust, is on the north wall, and his grave with the quaint inscription is near at hand, both too well known to need description; but though this one great memory pervades the place, almost to the exclusion of all beside, there are other tombs of interest, and the church of itself is well worth a visit.

Shakespeare’s House


About a league below Stratford, the Avon becomes a county boundary, separating Warwickshire from the north of Gloucestershire. Then it returns to the former county, and lastly enters Worcestershire. Its valley becomes more and more definitely marked as the river cuts its way through the upland, which forms the eastern limit of the broad Vale of Severn. On a peninsula of Worcestershire made by a southward sweep of the stream, near the boundary of the two other counties, stands an historic town, Evesham, which gives its name to the beautiful vale. A ruined archway and a noble tower are the sole relics of its once famous abbey. This was founded early in the eighth century, on a spot where they said both a swineherd and a bishop had seen a vision of the Virgin. Ultimately it was attached to the Benedictine order, became one of the most wealthy monasteries, with one of the grandest churches in the West. It was exceptionally rich in relics and ornaments. The shrine of the founder was a superb specimen of the goldsmith’s work; the forms of worship were unusually sumptuous. But at last the crash came, and the spoiler’s hand fell with exceptional weight on the abbey of Evesham. “The estates were confiscated and parcelled out, and the abbey was dismantled and given away to Sir Philip Hoby, a gentleman of Worcestershire, who shortly afterwards seems to have leased out the magnificent buildings of abbey and monastery as a quarry for stone, and thus it continued to be for many a day.” So now “it can hardly be called a ruin”;[6] but the beautiful tower still remains, which stood at the entrance of the cemetery, and was meant for clock and bells. This was only completed just before the surrender of the abbey. Near it are two churches, each of fair size, each with its own steeple, chapels founded by the monks for the use of the townsfolk. The three, as shown in our illustration (p. 117), form a very striking group.

But this quiet town in a peaceful valley was once disturbed by the noise of battle, and witnessed a crisis in English history. Prince Edward, son of Henry III., had contrived by masterly generalship to prevent the junction of the armies of Simon de Montfort and his son. The former was encamped at Evesham. The Prince’s army blocked his one outlet by land; a detachment of it had cut off a retreat by the bridges over the river. The fight from the first was hopeless; De Montfort’s troops were inferior: “The Welsh fled at the first onset like sheep, and were cut ruthlessly down in the cornfields and gardens where they had sought refuge. The little group of knights around Simon fought desperately, falling one by one till the Earl was left alone. So terrible were his sword-strokes that he had[Pg 115] all but gained the hill-top when a lance-thrust brought his horse to the ground; but Simon still rejected the summons to yield, till a blow from behind felled him, mortally wounded, to the ground. Then with a last cry of ‘It is God’s grace,’ the soul of the great patriot passed away.”[7]

The beauty and richness of the Vale of Evesham are proverbial; it is a land of corn and orchards, and it widens out as the Avon winds on in rounding the northern extremity of the Cotswolds. After a time the stream makes a great undulating sweep to the northward, as if to avoid the outlying mass of Dundry Hill, and brings us to another country town and another fragment of a grand church of olden time. Pershore was founded in the tenth century, as was Evesham, and only a few years afterwards; it too passed under the rule of the Benedictines, and was richly endowed by a pious Saxon noble, not only with lands, but also with relics. Pershore, however, was less uniformly prosperous than Evesham. Edward the Confessor gave of its lands to his new abbey at Westminster. William the Conqueror took of them for himself or his courtiers. For all that, money was found for rebuilding, and for rearing a glorious structure, resembling those at Gloucester and Tewkesbury, in the latter part of the eleventh century. The choir was again re-built in the thirteenth; the central tower dates from the middle of the fourteenth. The Reformation here, as elsewhere, was a time of plunder and destruction—nave, lady-chapel, and monastic buildings were pulled down; the people of Pershore, to their honour, purchased the rest of the church, and thus saved it from annihilation. The north transept fell down at a later date; but what is left has been carefully repaired and restored, and this fragment has been justly called one of the noblest specimens of Norman and Early English work that our country possesses.

Though the foreground scenery, as the two valleys merge, becomes less striking, the more distant views are always attractive; for the scarp bounding the limestone uplands of the Cotswolds forms a pleasant feature, and the range of the Malverns is beautiful in its outline. At last, just before its confluence with the Severn, the Avon brings us to another interesting town—Tewkesbury, on the left bank of the latter river, and within half a mile of the former one. Tewkesbury has an abbey church, not so magnificent, but hardly less interesting than that of Worcester, while it is not less rich than Shrewsbury in black-timbered houses. Here the course of the Severn is interrupted by a weir and a lock, constructed in order to make the river navigable to Worcester for vessels of larger tonnage, and is crossed by a fine bridge of iron. It receives the Avon, by the side of which the town is built, and this stream is spanned by another and ancient bridge of stone. The streets, with their old timbered houses, are a delight to the antiquary: they usually have bay windows carried the whole height of the front, the “Wheatsheaf Inn” being one of the best specimens. The abbey, however, is the glory of the town, and in ancient days, before Tewkesbury mustard became a proverb, made its name known all over England. It claims as its founder two kings of Mercia, rather more than eleven[Pg 116] and a half centuries ago, and in any case appears to carry back its history almost to this time. But the greater part of the present church was erected early in the twelfth century, though the choir was re-constructed about two centuries afterwards. Yet this, though graceful Decorated work in the upper part, maintains the massive Norman piers below, the combination producing a rather unusual effect. But not only so, the choir terminates in an apse, a feature not very common in our English churches, and certainly not the least among the attractions of Tewkesbury. Central tower, transept, and nave are mainly Norman; and the west end is peculiar, for it terminates in a huge arch, which occupies almost the whole of the façade, and in which a great Perpendicular window has been inserted. It has a curiously[Pg 117] incomplete look, so, possibly, the architect contemplated the addition of a façade with towers. The church also is unusually rich in chantries and ancient monuments, secular and ecclesiastical.

The Avon at Stratford

Photo: Harvey Barton, Bristol.



Photo: Harvey Barton, Bristol.

EVESHAM (p. 114).

Tewkesbury, too, has a place in English history, for on the meadows south of the abbey was fought the last battle between the houses of Lancaster and York, and the Red Rose was trampled in the mire. Margaret of Anjou was taken prisoner; her only son, Edward, was stabbed by the Yorkists—it is said after the Duke of York had struck him in the face with his gauntlet; and a large number of the chief men on the losing side were killed or were executed after the battle. Some of them fled to the abbey for sanctuary. Edward and his soldiers came in hot[Pg 118] pursuit, but a priest, bearing the Host, confronted them on the threshold, nor would he move until the victor promised to spare the lives of the fugitives. But on the third day afterwards a troop of soldiers broke into the building, dragged out the refugees, and promptly struck off their heads. Revenge proved stronger than religion!

The Avon at Tewkesbury


The young prince lies in a nameless grave beneath the central tower of the abbey; and other illustrious victims of the battle were buried within its walls. The building itself has had more than one narrow escape from destruction: it was seriously injured by a fire in the later part of the twelfth century; at the suppression of the monasteries it was placed on the list of “superfluous” buildings and doomed to be pulled down by the greedy vandals of that age. But the good folk of Tewkesbury bought it for themselves, and thus preserved one of the finest and most interesting ecclesiastical buildings in the West Country. They have well earned the gratitude of posterity. The monastic buildings, however, to a great extent have disappeared. The cloisters, which seem to have resembled those at Gloucester, are unfortunately gone, but the monks’ infirmary, with some adjacent buildings, has been incorporated into a mansion called Abbey House, and the principal gateway still remains. Tewkesbury, in short, is to the lover of architecture far the most interesting town of its size in the valley of the Severn.

Distant View of Tewkesbury




Deerhurst—Gloucester—The “Bore”—May Hill—Minsterworth—Westbury-on-Severn—Newnham—Berkeley Castle—Lydney—Sharpness—The Severn Tunnel—The Estuary—A Vanished River.

BELOW Tewkesbury several pleasant places, country-houses, parks and quiet villages are situated on the lowland, or on the gentle undulations which diversify the width of the valley, but few are of special interest, except the little church of Deerhurst, standing near the waterside, which was built, as an inscription now preserved at Oxford has recorded, in the year 1056. The greater part of the comparatively lofty tower, with some portions of the body of the church, belongs to this age; but the latter to a considerable extent has been rebuilt at various dates, and its plan altered. There was a priory of earlier foundation, but of this nothing of interest remains.

But for some miles a great tower has been rising more and more distinctly above the lush water-meadows, as did that of Worcester on the higher reaches of the Severn. It is another cathedral, on a scale yet grander than the former one, the centre of the old city of Gloucester, which for not a few years has been rapidly increasing; but all about the precincts and in the original streets are many picturesque remnants of the last and preceding centuries, while its churches surpass those of Worcester.

Gloucester, as it guards the Severn, and is one of the natural approaches to Wales, very early became a place of mark. An important station for the Roman troops, it was in the days of Bede a very notable town, not only in the Mercian kingdom, but also in all Britain. At Gloucester the first of its Christian kings founded a monastery about eighty years after the landing of Augustine; and when the Dane began to harry England the town had not seldom to fight and sometimes to suffer.[Pg 120] Saxon and the earlier Norman kings often visited it. Probably in few cathedrals out of London—except, perhaps, Winchester—were royal worshippers so frequent. Henry III., a boy of ten, was crowned here, and had a particular affection for the town. Hither the murdered Edward II. was brought for burial; Parliaments were held in the city; and most of the kings up to the sixteenth century paid it at least one visit. But when the great Civil War broke out, Gloucester took the side of the Parliament. So, presently, the Royal troops and Charles himself appeared before its walls. For about four weeks it was closely invested, and its defenders were in sore straits, till Essex raised the siege. As a penalty the walls were destroyed after the Restoration. That did no real harm; the city was quietly prosperous, till it was quickened to a more active life by becoming a railway junction, when the “break of gauge” provided many a subject for Punch.

The Severn, from Tewkesbury to the Sea


The cathedral stands well within the old city, a good quarter of a mile from the Severn. One rose on this site before the Norman Conquest, but that was destroyed by fire—the crypt beneath the choir being the only relic—and another building was erected in the last dozen years of the eleventh century. Notwithstanding great and conspicuous alterations, the shell of this structure is comparatively intact. The nave has undergone the least change, and is a very fine example of the earlier work in that style. It resembles Tewkesbury in the increased height of the piers and consequent dwarfing of the triforium, thus differing from, and not improving on, the great Norman cathedrals of Eastern England; the choir is also of the same age, though the older work is often almost concealed beneath a veil of Perpendicular tracery; and the east window, of the latter date, is the largest in England. The roof also is a magnificent piece of vaulting. In fact, all the eastern part, including the transept, was remodelled between the years 1337 and 1377, but the roof of the nave had been already replaced nearly [Pg 121] a century earlier than the former date. The latest conspicuous changes in the cathedral were the additions of the grand Lady Chapel and of the central tower. The former was grafted on to its little Norman predecessor in the last forty years of the fifteenth century, and its great Perpendicular east window still preserves the stained glass with which it was filled on the completion of the structure. The east window of the choir also contains the original glass, which is a yet finer specimen of the art, and is older by nearly a hundred and fifty years. The central tower was begun at the same time, but was not completed till some[Pg 122] thirty years later. It has few rivals in Britain; some prefer that in the same position at Lincoln, others Bell Harry Tower at Canterbury. Gloucester, at any rate, is the most ornate, even if it be not the most beautiful.


Photo: H. W. Watson, Gloucester.


The old stained glass, the exquisite tracery of its windows, walls and roof, give exceptional richness to the eastern half of the cathedral, but in addition to this, it possesses several remarkable monuments. The luckless Robert Courthose, eldest son of the Conqueror, who died a prisoner at Cardiff Castle, was buried before the high altar. His tomb and effigy, contrary to the usual custom, are of wood (Irish oak), but whether they are contemporaneous is uncertain. The yet more luckless Edward II. was brought from Berkeley Castle to lie under the central arch on the north side of the choir. There his son and successor raised a memorial, which is not surpassed by any in England. Despised in life, this Edward was honoured in death—such is the irony of fate. A constant stream of pilgrims flocked to his grave as to that of an uncanonised saint, and the magnificent reconstruction of the choir was the fruit of their offerings.

The Severn Bridge, Sharpness

Photo: Hudson.


Telford spanned the Severn with an arch of stone 150 feet in diameter, and below Gloucester the railway runs on a viaduct across the meadows, Alney Island, and the river. The valley now is becoming very wide, and seems to hint that before long the Severn will broaden into an estuary. The river begins to swing in huge curves through the level meadows. The tidal wave, called “the bore,” sometimes[Pg 123] attains a considerable height, and is one of its “wonders.” The Malvern Hills have receded into the background, and their place is taken by May Hill, famous among geologists; on the opposite side the scarp of the Cotswolds continues, though with a rather more broken outline; but outlying hills come nearer to the city.

The Severn ebbs and flows by Minsterworth, where Gwillim is buried, whose heraldry was beloved by country squires. The main high road, when possible, keeps away from the stream, for the land lies low and is liable to floods. Westbury-on-Severn is the first place of mark—a small town with a rather large church noted for having a separate steeple, the spire of which is of wood. The Severn here has pressed against higher ground and has carved it into a low cliff, which affords sections well known to every geologist; and in the neighbourhood iron ore is worked, as it has been for many a century. Newnham comes next, a market-town, and an outlet for the important mining district of the Forest of Dean, which lies a few miles away to the west. It still preserves a sword of state given to it by King John, and there is some old Norman work in its church.

The Severn is now changing from a river to an estuary. No places of importance lie near the riverside, and its scenery is becoming marshy and monotonous; but some distance away to the east is Berkeley, an old town with an old castle, memorable for the murder of the hapless Edward; and on the other side is Lydney, a quaint little town with a small inland harbour, a market cross, and a fine old church. In the adjacent park, on a kind of elevated terrace overlooking the valley, are the remains of a group of Roman villas, from which many coins, pieces of pottery, and other relics have been unearthed.

At Sharpness, above Lydney, a railway crosses the Severn by a long bridge of twenty-eight arches, a magnificent work; but below it ferryboats were the only communication from shore to shore till in 1886 the completion of the Severn Tunnel linked Bristol and the West more closely to the eastern part of South Wales. At this point the river is more than two and a quarter miles across; but the tunnel itself is about double that length. This, the greatest work of its kind in Britain, was completed by the late Sir John Hawkshaw.

The banks become yet farther apart, the water is salt, the tide ebbs and flows, as in the sea. The estuary, indeed, continues for many a mile, still retaining the form of a river-valley. Very probably there was a time when a Severn flowed along a broad valley, where now the Bristol Channel parts England from South Wales, to join another stream which had descended over land, now sunk beneath the Irish Sea, and the two rivers discharged their united waters into a more distant Atlantic Ocean; but that was very long ago, so that our task is now completed. We have followed the Severn from its source to its ending—till our brook has become a river, and our river has become a sea.


A Bend of the Wye



“The Notorious Hill of Plinlimmon”—The Stronghold of Owen Glendower—Llangurig—Rhayader Gwy—Llyn-Gwyn—The Elan, the Ithon, and the Yrfon—Llandrindod—Builth—Aberedw and the Last Prince of Wales—Hay—Clifford Castle and the Fair Rosamond—Hereford—The Lug—“The Wonder”—Ross and John Kyrle—Goodrich Castle—Coldwell Rocks—Symond’s Yat—Monmouth—The Monnow, the Dore, and the Honddu—Wordsworth’s Great Ode—Tintern Abbey—The Wyndcliff—Chepstow—The Lower Reaches.


LIKE many another thing of beauty, the WYE is born amidst surroundings dreary and dismal. Plinlimmon, the monarch of the vast waste of hills that forms the southern portion of the Cambrian system, has three heads. But no one can point the finger of scorn at him on that account, for great are his cares as he stands there in that region of morass and bog, the father of five rivers. His chief head, towering to the sky, gathers from the heavy clouds as they drift across the land the raindrops and the mist, and these, trickling down his shoulders, are gathered into five different courses, and, hurrying on their way, form the five rivers—the Severn, the Wye, the Rheidol, which flows to Aberystwyth, and the Dulas and the Llyffnant, which by different courses flow to the Dovey. Moreover, the rugged, austere mountain has long been spoken lightly of; for a shepherd—it would never do to call him an humble shepherd—who, in the early part of the present century, had the right to sell ale and small beer in his cottage up amongst the mountain-tops, had a board hung out with this modest sentence, which, to be sure, soon became classic, painted upon it: “The notorious hill of Plinlimmon is on these premises, and it will be shown with pleasure to any gentleman travellers who wishes to see it.” So, what with the clouds and mists resting upon his head, the large family of rivers he[Pg 125] has to feed, and the slighting language that is held towards him, the “notorious hill of Plinlimmon” is bald and sad and sodden. Unless, therefore, the traveller is fond of dreariness and dankness, he will scarcely find this a profitable journey to make—this climb to the very source of the Wye.

The Lower Elan Valley

Photos: Hudson.


Legend, however, weaves a charm over many an else dreary waste, and up amongst the scramble of hills of which Plinlimmon is monarch, legend and history unapocryphal combine to fill the home of mists with interest for all who love a stirring tale. Here, at the very source of the Wye, Owain Glyndwr—the Owen Glendower of Shakespeare’s King Henry IV.—who could call spirits from the vasty deep, had his stronghold, and gathered around him his vicious little band of followers:—

“Three times hath Henry Bolingbroke made head
Against my power: thrice from the banks of Wye
And sandy-bottomed Severn have I sent him
Bootless home, and weather-beaten back.”

[Pg 126]

This he truthfully told his fellow-conspirators. Plinlimmon and the surrounding country is rich in records and legends concerning this turbulent prince, whose very birth, on May 28th, 1354, is said to have been attended by remarkable premonitions of coming trouble, for it is told that on that eventful night his father’s horses were found in their stalls standing in a bath of blood that reached to their bellies. This is the popular account, but Shakespeare’s imagination created other and farther-reaching warnings to the world concerning the fiery spirit that had been ushered upon the scene:—

“At my nativity
The front of Heaven was full of fiery shapes,
Of burning cressets; and at my birth
The frame and huge foundation of the earth
Shak’d like a coward.”

From this lofty region, half earth and half sky—for the Wye can lay claim to trace its source to the very clouds that hang thick upon Plinlimmon’s head—the tiny rivulet bounds down the mountain-side, and the Fates, catching at a myriad of still smaller rills, braid them into the main stream, as the tresses of a maiden’s hair are woven together, till united they form a brook. For a number of miles the land through which the Wye’s course is laid continues to be melancholy in the extreme, and the torrent, like all urchins brought up amidst harsh, inclement surroundings, goes on its way brawling and turbulent, playing leapfrog with rocks, flinging itself over precipices, swirling in little maelstroms, and almost getting blown away in spray; and it is not until the pretty village of Llangurig is reached that it comes in part to its senses, and, although still boisterous, shows itself amenable to the influence of civilisation. Not only does the Wye here meet for the first time with civilisation, but here, too, it becomes acquainted with that which later on in its life is one of its glories, almost its crowning glory—trees. The head and shoulders of mighty Plinlimmon afford no gracious foothold for these children of fat lands and lusty air, scarcely a bush raising its branches in the bog and marsh of the mountain. But up to Llangurig a few of them have straggled, to break the monotony of the mountainous region. Here, too, a bridge—one of the few works of man that sometimes add to rather than detract from the effect of river-scenery, always provided that it is not a modern railway bridge of iron—crosses the young stream; and a church, the first of many on the banks of the Wye, stands near by. A short distance below this village the stream spreads out in its valley, and flows more gently amongst huge boulders that have been hurled down from the sides of the mountains.

The Wye and the Usk


Between Llangurig and the next village of any importance, Rhayader Gwy, to give it its full name, although most people are content to call it by its “Christian” name only, leaving the “Gwy” to take care of itself—between these two villages the Wye enters Radnorshire; and now the scenery, although still wildly mountainous, is of a more subdued description, trees becoming more plentiful, and the rocks, occasionally shaking their heads free from the thick covering of spongy morass,[Pg 127] beginning to stand out bold and picturesque, and to take their proper place in the composition of mountain-scenery. A short distance above Rhayader Gwy the river Marteg pours its tiny volume into the Wye, and here is one of the choicest bits of scenery in all the upper reaches of our stream. Nannerth Rocks, lofty crags, confront the river, and narrow the bed so that the combined waters can only squeeze through at the expense of a mighty uproar and much plunging and dashing and flinging of spray and foam, the brawl of the forced passage being audible for a great distance. After its straitened course between these rocks, the river enters an easier bed and flows sulkily down to Rhayader Gwy.

This village has a situation as wonderful as any in all the kingdom. On every side tower the great hills, not harsh and gloomy now, but clothed with oak forest thick and deep. Not so many years ago there were, as the name of the village bears record, falls at Rhayader Gwy; but in building the bridge that spans the stream the good people, little caring for the picturesqueness of the place, removed the stones and widened the channel, and so reduced the falls to rapids.

Although the place is of little note now, being only a lovely village, once upon a time it was of considerable importance in the country, and saw stirring times. Among other things, it had a strong fortress of its own, erected by Rhys ap Gruffydd, the Prince of South Wales; but this was so thoroughly rased to the ground by Llewelyn, in 1231, that not a vestige remains. At a later day a successor to this stronghold was built, but it, too, fell, in the stormy days of the Parliamentary War, and only a mound marks the spot where it stood. Near to Rhayader Gwy the Wye, like a mountain chief exacting tribute from his weaker neighbours, secures the overflow from a quaint lake, said to be the only beautiful lake in Radnorshire—the Llyn-Gwyn. In olden days many a pilgrim, full of faith in the miraculous powers of this little lake, made his way through the rugged district to bathe in its waters; and there can be little wonder at the hope inspired in their breasts by the sight of Llyn-Gwyn, for it is such a lake as is rarely found, dainty, clear, cool, its high wooded banks rising nearly perpendicularly—a veritable fairies’ ocean. With the overflow from this the Wye tumbles along, soon to find tributaries of much more importance.

The first of these is the Elan. This river receives the Claerwen; and near to the juncture of the two streams[Pg 128] is Nantgwillt, a house which, in the momentous year 1812, was occupied by the poet Shelley, while at Cwm Elan lived Harriet Grove. The journey from Rhayader to Cwm Elan, a distance of five miles up the valley of the little river, is very beautiful. Mountains rise on every side, as though guarding the privacy of the delicious glen; inspiring sights are to be seen at every turn, dainty views of the Wye and the Elan pleasantly breaking the green of trees and grass, and the variegated colours of rocks. Further up the valley is the scene chosen for the illustration on this page, where the waters of the Elan splash along over the rocks that bestrew their course, until they come to a sombre and forbidding pool, which might well be bottomless.


Photo: J. Owen, Newtown, North Wales.


Next, the Ithon, its waters drawn from the Montgomeryshire hills, flows into the Wye; and then, more considerable by far than any Brecknock tributary, comes the Yrfon, whose fountain-head is some ten miles from Llanwrtyd. Long time ago a cave near to the river-bank harboured Rhys Gethin, an audacious freebooter, who levied contributions from all and sundry, including his Majesty the King himself. At the Wolf’s Leap, a point on the Yrfon worthy of a visit, the river may be said to run on edge, for the rocks close in so that the water, while some 30 feet deep, is only a few inches across. This is the place where, if tradition is to be credited, the last Welsh wolf took matters into his own paws, and committed suicide. The niche of land formed by the junction of the Yrfon with the Wye is pointed to as the spot where Llewelyn, in 1282, made his last[Pg 129] stand against Edward I. and his English hosts, and was there slain and buried. About an equal distance from Rhayader and Builth, up the valley of the Ithon, is Llandrindod, long famous for its pure air and healing wells. As long ago as the seventeenth century, the waters of these wells were known to have medicinal properties that made them of peculiar value to those suffering from scrofula and kindred troubles. The water flows out of the rock high up on a hillside, and guests at the pump-house and hotels enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the valleys of the Wye, Ithon, and Yrfon. In the last century an hotel of extravagant luxury was erected by the side of these wells, but, proving unprofitable, it soon became a favourite resort of gamblers, and continued to be the scandal of the country until a lady of practical piety became possessed of the property, and, so that there should be no doubt about her ideas on the subject of gambling, had the building torn down and utterly removed. That happened long ago, and now other hotels have taken the place of the one of evil repute; and Llandrindod, having railway communication with the outside world, is prospering exceedingly. Let us add that it has not, in its prosperity, come to feel ashamed of its Shaky Bridge—a primitive arrangement of planks and stretched ropes, which will some day, it is to be feared, be displaced by a more “imposing” structure.

The Shaky Bridge, Llandrindod

Photo: Hudson.


[Pg 130]

Builth, on the Wye, is a fisherman’s paradise. Using the little town as a base, he has within easy reach the waters of the Wye, the Yrfon, the Edw, the Dihonw, and the Chweffru, all waters rich in sporting fish; and in the seasons of the sport about as many artificial as natural flies skim the waters, for anglers come from far and near to a centre so celebrated. The authentic history of Builth reaches back to Roman times; and in later days the Danes came with fire and sword, and levelled the place with the ground. The Castle of Builth was stormed and destroyed as often as it was rebuilt, the partisans of one chief after another wreaking their rage upon it, and now nothing but a mound marks the spot where once a succession of strongholds stood.

History has no more romantic tale to tell, nor one that is more generally known, than that of the ride of the Prince of Wales, Llewelyn, from Aberedw, where on the banks of the Wye he had a castle, towards Builth, which refused to succour him. There is scarce an elementary schoolboy who has not heard of the ingenious blacksmith who hastily nailed to the hoofs of Llewelyn’s horse the shoes reversed, so that the tracks in the snow might mislead those who were in hot pursuit; and alas! heard, too, that the blacksmith, clever as he was at his trade, was not clever enough to keep the secret, but betrayed his prince to the enemy, so that the last authentic Prince of Wales was hounded to his death. It is a story destined to immortality, for it has drifted into folklore, and, like the curiously barbarous tale of Little Red Riding Hood, is crooned to each generation of children until every Welsh child dreams at least once in its lifetime of the harried prince and the foaming steed, the new-fallen snow, and the marks of the seven-nailed shoes running, as it were, backwards. The tale has been transplanted to many quarters of the globe, but the Wye knows that the prince fled along its banks from the castle to the cruel, inhospitable town. Of the castle—Llewelyn’s—to be sure, almost nothing now remains; but the village is delightfully situated, and is much resorted to by anglers, and not by anglers only.

The next place of particular importance is Hay. From the river the streets of this picturesque and thriving little town rise rather too abruptly for the pleasurable convenience of vehicular traffic; but picturesqueness and practicability seldom go hand in hand, and what Hay streets lack in the latter is fully made up in the former virtue. To crown them rises the ivy-clad fragments of the famous castle.

The Wye Bridge and Hereford Cathedral

Photo: J. Thirlwall, Hereford.


It is often found that the same hero ciphers through the history of a country or district with the persistence of a damaged note in an organ, although usually with a less irritating effect. In this quarter of the kingdom, which was once the buffer State between England and Wales, the name of Owen Glendower crops up continually, and at Hay among other places. At the head of his wild men from the hills, he came down like an avalanche upon the castle at Hay; when he retired, the pile was a mass of ruins, and now nothing stands of the ancient fort but a gateway—the very stones grey with age—and part of a tower.[Pg 131] Legend, which has a pretty fancy and nimble brain, relates that the castle was built in one night by the celebrated Maud de Saint Wallery, alias Maud de Hain, alias Moll Walbee. “She built the Castle of Hay” (to quote Jones’s “Brecknock”) “in one night, the stones for which she carried in her apron. While she was thus employed, a small pebble, of about nine feet long and one foot thick, dropped into her shoe. This she did not at first regard; but in a short time finding it troublesome, she indignantly threw it over the river Wye into Llowes churchyard, in Radnorshire (about three miles off), where it remains to this day, precisely in the position it fell, a stubborn memorial of the historical fact, to the utter confusion[Pg 132] of all sceptics and unbelievers.” Americans have long claimed for their Chicago belles the largest feet; but from this well-substantiated fact it is doubtful if any one of them ever wore so spacious a shoe as the fair Maud on the banks of the Wye. King John, in revenge for succour refused, visited the town with his vengeance; and altogether its early history is as stirring as any to be met with in these parts.

Goodrich Castle


By the time Hay is reached the Wye is fast becoming a stream of considerable size. Now entering Herefordshire, it flows through a broad vale, cultivated and mellow, where Clifford Castle stands a hoary ruin. Here, if history speak true, was born, in the reign of Henry II., one of great and general notoriety, whose name—or nom de guerre, as Dryden has it—is woven richly into the ballads of that and later days; for doubtless her beauty, like her failings, was great, and her death untimely and cruel:—

“Jane Clifford was her name, as books aver;
Fair Rosamond was but her nom de guerre.”

Fair Rosamond was born about the year 1140. How much of the story coming to us through the medium of ballads and folk-tales be true, it is now quite impossible to discover, but popular fancy still clings to the idea of a lonely and innocently unfortunate girl installed at Woodstock, protected by a nurse who proved insufficient when pitted against the cunning of a scandalised wife and queen. Fair Rosamond was buried at Godstow, and upon her tomb was carved the famous epitaph:—

[Pg 133]

“Hic jacet in tumba Rosa Mundi, non Rosa munda:
Non redolet, sed olet, quæ redolere solet.”

The railway has not improved the situation of this old castle:—

“Clifford has fallen—howe’er sublime,
Mere fragments wrestle still with time;
Yet as they perish, sure and slow,
And, rolling, dash the stream below,
They raise tradition’s glowing scene,—
The clue of silk, the wrathful queen;
And link in memory’s firmest bond
The love-lorn tale of Rosamond.”

Passing between wooded eminences, broad fields, and peaceful farms, the Wye at length reaches the suburbs, and then the ancient city of Hereford.

Ross Church

ROSS CHURCH (p. 136).

Hereford was a town of importance even at the dawn of English history. Outside its walls stood the palace of Offa, the greatest of all the Mercian princes; and during the reign of the Mercian kings it was the principal town of Mercia. Ethelfleda, sister of Edward the Elder, governed the place with great skill, and she it was who constructed the castle that guarded the town, and constructed it so well that it proved to be one of the strongest in all England. Leland has this to say of the keep: “High, and very strong, having in the outer wall ten semicircular towers, and one great tower within”; and adds that “it hath been one of the largest, fayrest, and strongest castles in England.”

Here, again, the wily Llewelyn comes upon the scene, for he led his men from the fastness of the Upper Wye, pillaged and burnt the place, murdered the bishop and his assistants, set the cathedral ablaze, and left what had been a fair town a mass of smouldering ruins.

A visitor to this ancient city will find it hard to realise that anything but peace and goodwill ever reigned in all the district, for in these days of bustle and worry it would be difficult to discover in all Great Britain a more placid, steady-going, self-satisfied city than Hereford. Well laid out, clean, at least reasonably well-to-do—although it does not lay claim to be a place of great[Pg 134] industry, relying more upon the church and the market than upon the manufactory—there seems to be a perpetual air of Sunday hovering over the town. The very visitors—and they are many—move soberly about the streets, and appear to have become imbued with the spirit of the place. No one can be many minutes in Hereford without detecting that not only the people but the very buildings take their key from the grand cathedral that, calmly gazing into the face of Time, has seen of men and houses generations come and generations go.

Hereford as an ecclesiastical centre is one of the most ancient in Great Britain, but until the commission of Offa’s grievous crime it must have been comparatively unimportant, with a small wooden structure for a church. Offa’s perfidy changed all that. It will be remembered that the ruthless prince treacherously induced Ethelbert, King of the East Angles, to visit his Court, where he had him foully murdered, and buried in the church. Offa, of course, then seized Ethelbert’s crown. Having secured this, and being safely installed in the place of his murdered guest, he found time to repent; and that his repentance might seem the more real, he endowed with great riches the church in which lay the body of his victim, and soon the wooden building gave place to a stone edifice. No doubt the king’s offerings greatly assisted in founding Hereford on a solid ecclesiastical basis, but the effect of his gifts was evanescent, compared with the value of his victim’s bones, as an attraction to the devout. Ethelbert’s remains had not long been buried in the cathedral ere they began to work miracles, and soon great numbers of people from near and from afar sought the good saint’s assistance, so that great riches flowed to the church and town; and from that day to this Hereford has continued to prosper.

For two hundred years the church built over the bones of Ethelbert stood, before the Welsh, as has been told, laid the place in ruins. In 1079 Bishop Robert of Lorraine began to rebuild, and the work was not completed until early in the sixteenth century. This is the building—many times restored—that stands to the present day. More than a hundred years ago (in 1786) the western tower collapsed, bringing down with it most of the west front, and this, as well as many other parts of the cathedral, was rebuilt.

Inside the cathedral are many interesting monuments of men who played large parts in the history of England, and, besides these, the cathedral has a unique treasure in the far-famed “Mappa Mundi,” a production of one De Haldingham, who lived in the fourteenth century. This map, if not the oldest, is at least one of the very oldest in the world. Havergal says of it: “The world is here represented as round, surrounded by the ocean. At the top of the map is represented Paradise, with its rivers and trees; also the eating of the forbidden fruit and the expulsion of our first parents. Above is a remarkable representation of the Day of Judgment, with the Virgin Mary interceding for the faithful, who are seen rising from their graves, and being led within the walls of Heaven. The map is chiefly filled with ideas taken from Herodotus, Solinus, Isidore, Pliny, and other ancient[Pg 135] historians. There are numerous figures of towns, animals, birds, and fish, with grotesque customs such as the mediæval geographers believed to exist in different parts of the world. The four great cities are very prominent—Jerusalem as the centre of the world; Babylon, with its famous tower; Rome, the capital of the world ... and Troy.... In Great Britain most of the cathedrals are mentioned, but of Ireland the author seems to have known very little.” Truly a wonderful record of the geographical knowledge of the Middle Ages!

Hereford was the birthplace of Nell Gwynne, orange-seller, actress, and Court favourite—short, red of hair or nearly so, and with feet so small as to cause general amusement. The street in which she was born is now called Gwynne Lane, and the place is still pointed out to tourists who are interested in the story of the famous beauty. David Garrick also was born in the city.

Before leaving Hereford, it may be worth while to note that here, as at many other places, it was once the custom to insert a clause in the indentures of apprentices “that they should not be compelled to live on salmon more than two days in the week.” Needless to say, no such clause is now necessary. In 1234 the wolves became so numerous about the outskirts of the city, that a proclamation called upon all the king’s liege people to assist in destroying them.

And now leaving the cathedral city, our river flows under the Wye Bridge, built so long ago as 1490, with six noble arches, and proceeds on its way towards Ross. Four miles below Hereford, the most important of all the tributaries that spill their floods into the winding Wye is met with. This is the Lug, which itself absorbs the waters of several smaller rivers on its way southwards. The meeting of the Lug with the Wye takes place at the little village of Mordiford, where once upon a time an enormous serpent, winged and awful, used to betake itself from feasting upon men and women and little children to drink of the waters of the Wye. This terrible serpent was destroyed by a malefactor, who was offered a pardon should he accomplish the task of ridding the good people of the sore pest; and it is sad to learn that in killing the serpent he inhaled so much of its poisonous breath that he died almost at the same time as the monster he had brought low. But the results of a later event, almost as important, and awe-inspiring, are to be seen not far from this part of the Wye. They are known as “The Wonder,” a mile and a half from Woolhope, in a parish which, one would think, should be called Miracle, but is really called Marcle. To best describe what “The Wonder” is, we will quote Sir Richard Baker’s “Chronicles of England” as follows:—“In the thirteenth year of Queen Elizabeth a prodigious earthquake happened in the east part of Herefordshire, at a little town called Kinnaston. On the 17th of February, at six o’clock in the evening, the earth began to open, and a hill, with a rock under it, making at first a great hollowing noise which was heard a great way off, lifted itself up and began to travel, bearing along with it the trees that grew upon it, the sheepfolds, and flocks of sheep abiding there at the same time. In the place from whence it was first moved it left a gaping distance 40 foot broad and[Pg 136] fourscore ells long: the whole field was about twenty acres. Passing along, it overthrew a chapel standing in the way, removed a yew-tree planted in the churchyard from the west to the east; with the like force it thrust before it highways, sheepfolds, hedges, the trees; made tilled ground pasture, and again turned pasture into tillage. Having walked in this sort from Saturday evening till Monday noon, it then stood still.” Surely, this is a record, even in the land of Saturday-to-Monday trips!

SYMOND’S YAT (p. 140).

Symond’s Yat


Between Hereford and Ross the Wye flows quietly, and without many striking features, either as regards the scenery or the stream itself. Upon its breast float pleasure-boats in great numbers, although in the dry season of the year, unless the midmost channel is rigidly adhered to, numbers of shallows interrupt the passage even of skiffs of light draught, for the river occasionally spreads out to a great surface, and runs proportionately shallow over rock and gravel. Indeed, it is not until the ancient town of Ross is reached that the Wye becomes a general favourite with the floating population.

Ross, as seen from the surrounding country, appears to be standing a-tiptoe, trying to touch the sky with the tip of its beautiful spire. The church with its slender spire attracts the eye from a great distance—it is, to all appearances, the one prominent object in all the country round about—and the first sight of it has caused travellers to sigh, for to see it for the first time is to be a long, long way from it. Here in this tiny town of Ross lived and died a man whose name is known,[Pg 137] one might say, not at all, but whose descriptive appellation, given to him whilst he was still alive, will be recognised the world over. This is John Kyrle, “The Man of Ross.”


MONMOUTH (p. 141).

The history of the town of Ross is principally a mass of details, authentic and apocryphal, regarding the life, times, and labours, the recreations, walks, works, and ways of “The Man of Ross.” Few places are so entirely given up to the memory of one man as is Ross to the memory of John Kyrle. Everywhere in that quaint and clean little town, “The Man of Ross,” in some form or other, meets the eye. Here his favourite walk, there the park he gave to the people, again the pew in which he worshipped, the house in which he lived, the buildings he reared, the streets he made—everything tells of John Kyrle. He was born in the year 1637, and was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, where is still to be seen a silver tankard bearing his name. As this tankard holds five pints, it is to be inferred that the student who was to become “The Man of Ross” was a lusty drinker, although in after-life he proved himself to be a man of abstemious habits. His long life—he died aged eighty-eight—was devoted to doing good to all whom he could help, improving not only man but town and country as well:—

“But all our praises why should lords engross?
Rise, honest Muse! and sing the Man of Ross:
Pleased Vaga echoes through her winding bounds,
And rapid Severn hoarse applause resounds.
Who hung with woods yon mountain’s sultry brow?
From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?
Not to the skies in useless columns tost,
Or in proud falls magnificently lost,
But, clear and artless, pouring through the plain,
Health to the sick, and solace to the swain.
Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?
Whose seats the weary traveller repose?
Who taught the heaven-directed spire to rise?
‘The Man of Ross,’ each lisping babe replies.”

[Pg 138]

So says Pope in his “Moral Essays,” and, in saying this and much more about the good man, scattered the fame of John Kyrle far and wide. It is pleasant to know that a man who showed himself so solicitous that others should taste of enjoyment was able himself to take great delight in simple things. “He dearly loved a goose,” says Leitch Ritchie, “and was vain of his dexterity in carving it. During the operation, which he invariably took upon himself, he always repeated one of those old sayings and standing witticisms that seem to attach themselves with peculiar preference to the cooked goose. He never had roast beef on his table save and except on Christmas day, and malt liquors and good Hereford cyder were the only beverages ever introduced.”

The good man’s bones rest in Ross Church, the spire of which he had repaired; and to this day are shown the trees that have forced a way through chinks in the wall and floor of the building, so that their branches and leaves might droop as though in the attitude of mourning over his grave. From the churchyard there is to be had a magnificent view of the Wye sweeping in a great curve far below, the waters hastening on to lose themselves in the Severn. From Ross to the mouth of the Wye, those who can afford the time should make the journey by boat. It will be well to discard the use of adjectives and exclamations in taking this trip, for the most gifted in the use of these parts of speech will speedily find themselves at their wits’ end for words to express their admiration of the scenery.

Monnow Bridge

Photo: R. Tudor Williams, Monmouth.


Midway between Ross and Monmouth stands Goodrich Castle, grandly seated upon a steep, heavily-wooded hill—a castle built so long ago that the memory of its beginning is lost, in the haze of ancient days. During the Civil War it was besieged and at length successfully stormed by the Roundheads, in 1646. It is in form a parallelogram, having a tower at each angle, and a keep in the south-west part of the enclosure; and, viewed from the Wye, it is a splendid ruin, trees that cling to the face of the cliffs heightening the effect of the picture. The Wye, flowing swiftly, soon sweeps one’s boat round its many bends, until the district known as the Forest of Dean is reached, lying between the Wye and the Severn. Striking scenes of stream and forest-clad cliffs, of castles and courts, of abbeys haunted by memories of events rich in historical interest, now follow one another as rapidly as changes in a kaleidoscope. Courtfield claims the honour of being the place where Henry V. was nursed; and there is a cradle to substantiate the claim. After passing Mailscot Wood, the river forms itself into a loop like an elongated horseshoe. On one side of the narrow neck of land are the famous Coldwell Rocks, the beginning of the great limestone cliffs that, onward to the[Pg 140] sea, hem in the stream, and carry on their rugged sides clinging woods and ivy. Rains and storms have beaten these Coldwell Rocks into fantastic shapes, until to the traveller who first sets eyes upon them they seem to be castles cut out of stone by a race of mighty giants. “Castles and towers, amphitheatres and fortifications, battlements and obelisks, mock the wanderer, who fancies himself transported into the ruins of a city of some extinct race.”[8]

Tintern Abbey


Anyone who has seen the beauty of both the Moselle and the Wye must be struck by the similarity between the two rivers. The Moselle, to be sure, is in every way more important than the Wye—in depth and breadth of stream, in height of the bluffs that at many points form the banks, and in the number of castles that crown the hills; but, notwithstanding these differences, they might almost be called twin rivers. There are no neatly-trimmed vineyards sloping down the sides of the Wye heights, but, on the other hand, the Moselle cannot show such grand forests as can the English stream. And each river, at least once in its course, doubles back upon itself, so that the spectator can trace the loop, and see the stream flowing far beneath on either hand. At Symond’s Yat, a little below Coldwell[Pg 141] Rocks, the neck of land that divides the Wye from itself is only some 600 yards across; and by standing on the rocky plateau, one may see the river flowing by on both sides. The prospect, one of the finest in all England, embraces large parts of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Monmouthshire, including Coppet Hill, Huntsham, Rocklands, Whitchurch, Goodrich Castle, Coldwell Rocks, the Forest of Dean, Courtfield, and—it is difficult to escape this—the spire of Ross Church.

The Nave, Tintern Abbey


In hurrying between these gigantic cliffs, and sweeping round the loop, it is only natural that the Wye, born with a turbulent disposition, should have many savage encounters with the rocks; and, now grown so mighty, the waters roar their anger in deep-lunged notes. Many obstacles impede the course of the stream, for storms still continue occasionally to hurl great masses of rock from their positions; and altogether, were one to be given the choice of seeing only one part of the Wye, Symond’s Yat should be the chosen spot.

Passing between Lords Wood and Lady-Park Wood and skirting Greatwood and Newton Court, the Wye arrives at Monmouth. Encircled by hills, and itself seated high, this town, still unspoiled by the modern builder and restorer, occupies a position between the Wye and the Monnow. Monmouth has had its ups and downs; for long before the Conquest a fortress existed here, and to build a castle has ever been to invite a siege. In the days of Henry III. the castle was levelled with the ground so effectively that Lambarde writes: “Thus the glorie of Monmouth had clean perished; ne hade it pleased Gode longe after in that place to give life to the noble King Henry V., who of the same is called Henry of Monmouth.” John of Gaunt lived here, and Henry IV. also, and, as the ancient writer says, Henry V. was born in the castle. This event has not been forgotten, for a statue of the popular king stands opposite the Town Hall in Agincourt Square, the centre of the town. In more ancient days Monmouth was a walled town, and one of the four gates of the wall still stands; and a bridge built in 1272, remarkably narrow, but sturdy and strong, still spans the Monnow; while the meagre ruins of the castle look down from the brow of[Pg 142] the river-cliff on the meadows by this tributary stream. St. Mary’s Church has a spire 200 feet in height; St. Thomas’s Chapel, dating from the days of the Normans, stands in the centre of the part of the town which used to be given up to the making of the renowned Monmouth cap, of which Fuller, in his “Worthies,” says: “These were the most ancient, general, warm, and profitable coverings of men’s heads in this island. It is worth our pains to observe the tenderness of our kings to preserve the trade of cap-making, and what long and strong struggling our State had to keep up the using thereof, so many thousands of people being thereby maintained in the land, especially before the invention of fulling-mills, all caps before that time being wrought, beaten, and thickened by the hands and feet of men, till those mills, as they eased many of their labour, outed more of their livelihood.” Not far from the parish church is the picturesque remnant of a Benedictine priory, founded in the reign of Henry I. by Wyhenoe, third Lord of Monmouth; and here it is not improbable that Geoffrey of Monmouth, compiler of the fabulous “History of the Britons,” out of which grew the Poem of the Table Round, was educated.

Gateway at Chepstow


The Monnow, which flows into the Wye below Monmouth, has for its chief tributary the Dore, which winds its way through that delightful region known far and wide as the Golden Valley. This valley is fitly styled Golden, though it has received its designation from a mistaken derivation of its name, which means “water”—that and nothing more—being but a form of the Welsh dwr. Round it ring the hills, not bald and craggy, nor morass-bound, but gentle and lush and green, for the valley lies just out of the grip of the mountainous districts of Wales. Here the fields are fresh, the undulations capped with glorious trees, and the whole valley is chequered with tints; for it is a region rich of soil, and highly cultivated. One of the most interesting places on the banks of the stream is the little village of Abbey Dore, where is the remnant of an ancient abbey, now forming the parish church. It was begun for the Cistercians, by Robert of Ewias, in the reign of Henry I., but was only finished in the days of the third Henry. Not less attractive to the antiquary is the tiny Norman church of Kilpeck, celebrated for the richness of its decorations. Near by there once stood a castle, but of this nothing now remains but the mound, a deep moat, and fragments of the walls.

Another tributary of the Monnow is the Honddu, which flows down through the Vale of Ewias, past the ruins of Llanthony Priory. This famous house seems to have been founded in the early years of the twelfth century by William de Lacy, a Norman knight, and Ernisius, chaplain to Maud, wife of Henry I. At first it had a prosperous career, but the wild Welshmen soon fell upon it, and the Prior and his brethren were forced to betake themselves to the more peaceable regions of Gloucestershire. When men and times became quieter, however, the monks returned. The remains of the Priory are still beautiful. In 1809 Walter Savage Landor purchased the estate on which they stand, and set about making great[Pg 143] improvements. Mr. Colvin, in his “Landor,” says: “He imported sheep from Segovia, and applied to Southey and other friends for tenants who should introduce and teach improved methods of cultivation. The inhabitants were drunken, impoverished, and morose: he was bent upon reclaiming and civilising them. The woods had suffered from neglect or malice: he would clothe the sides of the valley with cedars of Lebanon. With that object, he bought two thousand cones, calculated to yield a hundred seeds each, intending to do ten times as much afterwards, and exulting in the thought of the million cedar-trees which he would thus leave for the shelter and the delight of posterity.” All Landor’s schemes, however, came to nought. Before long he found himself in embarrassed circumstances: Llanthony was, by arrangement, taken out of his hands and vested in those of trustees, and his half-built mansion was pulled down.

A little below Monmouth the Trothey, a much smaller stream than the Monnow, also joins the Wye. The banks from Monmouth onwards to the sea are steep and well wooded, and for the greater part of the way a splendid and well-kept road winds along the side of the right bank. Far below, the river is continually appearing and disappearing; and the trees dig their feet into the rocks and seem precariously to cling as they dip down towards the stream. Occasionally a cliff more than usually near to the perpendicular has managed to ward off the encroaching growths of forest and bush and ivy, and to stand bold-faced to the sun; but generally there is foliage to make more refreshing to the sight the precipitous banks.

Rivers have ever attracted to their banks poets, who of all men most closely[Pg 144] search the heart of Nature in her peaceful and gentle moods; but few streams have enjoyed the good fortune of the Wye to have their very spirit caught and shaped into imperishable verse. Wordsworth’s noble poem, “Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour, July 13th, 1798,” breathes the inmost soul of river and hills, and of the tranquil, meditative atmosphere that fills the glorious valley. No poet has held his ear so close to Nature’s bosom as Wordsworth, and in these lines he has pictured and glorified the Wye as no pen may hope to picture and glorify it again. To quote but the opening score of lines:—

“Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain springs
With a sweet inland murmur. Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
Among the woods and copses, nor disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!”

Meditation, contemplation, serenity, each not unmixed with pathos, are the keynotes of this part of the Wye valley; and our river would have done well enough if not another poet had ever afterwards sung of its banks and flood. But this was not to be its fate: for has not Tennyson told us in “In Memoriam” how “half the babbling Wye” is hushed by the Severn, whose mightier tide drives back its flood?—

“The Wye is hushed, nor moved along,
And hushed my deepest grief of all
When filled with tears that, cannot fall
I brim with sorrow drowning song.
“The tide flows down, the wave again
Is vocal in its wooded walls;
My deeper anguish also falls,
And I can speak a little then.”

It is at the Bargain Pool, past the pretty village of Llandogo, that the Severn tide is first met. Now, although the scenery is sublime, there can be no gainsaying that the rise and fall of the tide mars the beauty of the[Pg 145] Wye. Instead of the clear mountain water, the stream is turbid, and at low tide the banks present great stretches of soft mud. For the first time the stream now takes on a commercial aspect, lazy barges floating up and down, and a few enterprising little steamers making their cautious way round the sharp bends.

Chepstow Castle

Photo: Harvey Barton, Bristol.


But forgetting the blemish, if blemish it be, the traveller can set his thoughts upon and his face towards one of the most inspiring of all the ancient memorials of England’s past, the home of the Cistercian monks dedicated to the Virgin Mary—Tintern Abbey. Coming round a bend in the river one catches sight of the beautiful ruin with startling suddenness. It stands close by the waterside, on what[Pg 146] was once a meadow stretching away from the Wye. Here the hills rise in a complete circle, and nestling in the midst of this amphitheatre is the abbey, a ruin, it is true, yet not so mutilated by the hand of Time as to make it impossible or even difficult at this day to imagine it as it stood in all its completeness and beauty. Whether Tintern, unspoiled by Time and neglect, was as impressive as it is in its decay, though the greenest of green grass now grows on the floor once trodden by the white-robed monks, and the rooks sit in a jet-black line on the top of the roofless walls—one may very well doubt. Those who have passed even a day in and about the ancient abbey will find it easy to believe that its history is one of serenity and peace. The hills that ring it round stand like a cordon of mighty giants to beat back all worldliness that would enter the charmed circle. The very air hangs heavy and still, and the river, forgetting its wild youth and stormy middle age, passes by, if one might so describe it, with bared head and hushed breath. Here for hundreds of years lived successive generations of monks, having little, wanting little, passing their days in the deepest peace and solitude; and though they have long since vanished, they have left behind them what is perhaps the finest monastic ruin in the kingdom.

Shortly after the dawn of the twelfth century one Walter de Clare founded Tintern for Cistercian monks, and in the thirteenth century a lord of Chepstow, Roger de Bigod, built the abbey. Cruciform in shape, it was 228 feet in length, 70 feet high, and 37 feet in breadth, with transepts 150 feet long. When King Henry VIII. took possession of the monasteries, he allowed this to fall into rapid decay, and at length presented it to the Earl of Worcester. The ruins now belong to the Duke of Beaufort, and they are watched and guarded from further decay with admirable vigilance, each particular stone being carefully noted, and every moulded arch and mullioned window—indeed, the very ivy and grass—receiving close attention. The magnificent eastern window, 64 feet in breadth, is but one feature of a ruin that attracts multitudes of visitors to the valley of the Wye.

Between Tintern and the little metropolis of the lower Wye, Chepstow, duty to one’s sense of sight requires him to scale the summit of Wyndcliff. Once on top, nine counties, according to Bevan, can be seen—to wit, Gloucester, Somerset, Wilts, Devon, Glamorgan, Monmouth, Brecknock, Hereford, and Worcester. Not only for the curiosity of a prospect which in its sweep takes in so many shires, but also for the beauty of the view, this ascent of the Wyndcliff should not be missed. For an exquisite blending of rock and river, forests, mountains, and plain, towns and villages, ruins and farmhouses, roads like white-silk threads blown upon the face of the land, black railways, drifting ships, it is not too much to say that the finest views in all the land can do no more than claim to be its peer.

After we have passed on the left Llancaut and on the right Pierce Woods, the sturdy old town of Chepstow comes into view. The castle, from the river, seems to have grown out of the living rocks, which here rise sheer from the water to a great[Pg 147] height, and form a natural defence that must have rendered the fortress impregnable to all attack from the water. Supposed to have been built in the eleventh and rebuilt in the thirteenth century, it experienced its most stirring times in the days of the Civil War. It was held by the Royalists; and there first appeared before it Colonel Morgan, who, with singular valour and determination, carried it by assault. Later on Sir Nicholas Kemys successfully surprised the place, which action brought before the battlements Cromwell himself, who, however, could not spare the time personally to direct the operations. His substitute, Colonel Ewer, with great skill conducted the siege, and ultimately forced the king’s men to throw open the gates.


Wyndcliff/Old Monastery


Several parts of an ancient wall that once surrounded Chepstow still remain, with the watch-towers complete; and one gate dating from the sixteenth century—the Town Gate—still stands, a curious archway across the principal street, a thoroughfare that slopes steeply down to the Wye. A church of great antiquity is Chepstow Church, built in the days of the Normans, and containing several monuments of unusual interest, with the grave of Henry Marten, one of the signatories of King Charles’s death-warrant, who spent many long years as a prisoner in Chepstow Castle. One of the towers of the castle is called Marten’s Tower, an unintended commemoration of the Roundhead’s imprisonment within its walls.

Bidding a final good-bye to towns and tributaries, but still retaining its rugged[Pg 148] banks and, in a measure, its stately woods, the Wye makes straight for the sea, where this child of the mountains, after swallowing the largess brought down to it by a score of smaller streams, is itself, in turn, swallowed in the greater flood of the Severn. To the very last, however, the Wye retains its individuality and character—picturesque ever, picturesque to the end. From its fount on Plinlimmon to the end of its course of a hundred and thirty miles, where it gracefully rolls into the broad estuary, it has scarcely ever, even for a mile, been commonplace.


Sailing Vessel

Near the Source of the Usk



The Black Mountains—Trecastle—The Gaer—Brecon—The Brecknock Beacons—Crickhowell—Abergavenny—Usk—Caerleon and the Arthurian Legend—Christchurch—Newport.


THE wild and inclement Black Mountains, “Fforest Fawr,” between Carmarthenshire and Brecknockshire, collect the first drops that, trickling down the side of the hills, gather volume and strength and in time become rivers that are the delight and pride of a country. Three springs, clear and tiny, away up the dark mountain side, where Talsarn towers to an altitude of more than 2,500 feet, are the fountain-heads of a river that, after an extended course of seven-and-fifty miles in the general shape of a bow, joins the sea at Newport—the USK.[9] Not far away are the sources of many another river—the Tawe and the Neath, to name but two; but of all the streams that are born in this cheerless region the Usk is by far the most important.

Hurrying on its way with the leaps and falls that are characteristic of mountain streams, our river is first joined by the Henwen brook, a tiny[Pg 150] stream that has the honour of forming a part of the boundary-line between two shires. Beyond the wooded vale of Cwm Wysc the Usk receives the Hydfer, and at length comes to Trecastle, once a place of rare show and importance, but now modest enough in all conscience. Here may still be seen a mound and large earthworks of Bernard Newmarch’s Castle. Below this village the Usk receives the waters of Drayton’s “Cray,” the first stream of real importance that flows into the greater river; and, after leaping a ledge of rock in a beautiful fall, continues its way through a tract of country once the hiding-place of a swarm of determined robbers and outlaws—the Forest of Brecon. At one time this region lay at the mercy of these desperadoes; and it seems to have been necessary for Edward III. to build castles for the protection of people compelled to journey through the forest. Henry IV. sojourned in one of these fortresses in 1403, and thence issued a general pardon to all the rebels who would cease from troubling; but the chances are that this wild and well-nigh inaccessible district offered more attractions to the turbulent robbers than did the prospect of hard and honest work, coupled with the king’s pardon. The Usk now receives a goodly contribution from the Yscir; and between the two streams are the remains of a Roman camp, the Gaer, rectangular in form and believed to have been in command of Ostorius Scapula. The ruins of this fort are remarkably well preserved, the walls in places standing six feet high, although partly overgrown with bush. Many valuable coins and other curiosities belonging to the Roman period have here been excavated. Inclining to the south, the Usk now flows through a lovely bit of wooded country, and reaches the village of Llanspyddid, where an attractive view is to be had of the river, still in its youth, running with merry song over shallows and between high picturesque banks.

Brecon, occupying a highly picturesque situation, is the first place of any importance that the Usk comes to in its flight from the mountains. Two streams join the river at this point, the Tarel and the Honddu; and, as the town is ringed completely round with high mountains, it may be said to lie in the bottom of a huge bowl. Near by, the Beacons, twin peaks, the highest mountains in South Wales, tower to the sky, and add grandeur to the beauty of the neighbouring hills. In the reign of good Queen Bess, Churchyard was moved to verse at the sight of Brecon and its surroundings. Thus he sings:—

“The towne is built as in a pit it were
By waterside, all lapt about with hill;
You may behold a ruinous castle there,
Somewhat defaste, the walles yet standeth still.
Small narrowe streetes through all the towne ye have,
Yet in the same are sundrie houses brave;
Well built without, yea trim and fayre within,
With sweete prospect, that shall your favour win.
The river Oske and Hondie runnes thereby,
Fower bridges good, of stone stands on each streame.”

[Pg 151]

Though a town of great antiquity, Brecon, when compared with many places in Wales, is almost modern, for it seems to have first come into prominence in the days of the Normans, who out of the ruins of the old Roman fortress already referred to built the first stronghold here. It was, of course, a walled town, with ten turrets and five gates, and traces of this old wall still exist. The castle was a strong one, occupying a commanding position. In one of its towers Morton, Bishop of Ely, lay in prison, given into the custody of the Duke of Buckingham by Richard III., who was jealous of the bishop’s power; and here the gaoler and prisoner, neither of them well disposed towards the king, plotted to marry Henry of Richmond with the Lady Elizabeth, and thus heal the breach between the rival houses of York and Lancaster. So Morton was allowed to escape, while Buckingham, marching against the king, fell into his enemy’s hands and lost his head at Salisbury. The Castle of Brecon met its fate in sorry manner. When the great Civil War broke out, and king and Parliament came to blows, the people of the town, fearing that the fortress would be garrisoned by one party or the other, and that the place would be besieged and themselves visited with all the danger and suffering that waits upon active war, took matters into their own hands by demolishing the stronghold, of which only some ivy-clad walls, with the Ely tower, now remain, overlooking the Honddu. Charles I., in his feverish flight, after the disastrous battle of Naseby, put up for a time at Priory House; and in a humble hostelry in High Street, then known as “The Shoulder of Mutton,” Mrs. Siddons, queen of actresses, was born in 1755, her parents being temporarily resident here.

The chief glory of the town in these days is the Priory Church of St. John, founded by Bernard Newmarch, in the reign of Henry I., in the hope of atoning for the murders and other crimes that he had committed in hewing his way to the place of power he occupied in this part of Wales. It is a building of unusual interest, predominantly Norman in style, but with Early English and Decorated additions. Another feature of Brecon is the massive bridge of seven strongly buttressed arches which spans the Usk.

Taking a south-easterly direction, the Usk flows away from the county town, and soon receives a tiny river that comes from the towering heights of the Beacons, locally called “Arthur’s Chair,” and forming one of the finest of the sights which Wales offers to her lovers. “Artures Hille,” says Leland, “is three good Walche miles south-west from Brekenok, and in the veri toppe of the hille is a faire welle spring. This Hille of summe is countid the hiest Hille of Wales, and in a veri cleere day a mannne may see from hit a part of Malvern hilles, and Glocester, and Bristow, and part of Devenshire and Cornwale. There be divers other hilles by Artures Hille, the wich, with hit, be communely caullid Banne Brekeniane.” Wood, in his “Rivers of Wales,” declares that “the well here mentioned does not exist,” so that it would have been better, perhaps, if Leland had done as Churchyard[Pg 152] did, who wrote of nothing he had not seen—if his verse is to be taken quite literally. He says:—

“Nere Breaknoke Towne, there is a mountaine hye,
Which shewes so huge, it is full hard to clime.
The mountaine seemes so monstrous to the eye,
Yet thousands doe repayre to that sometime.
And they that stand right on the top shal see
A wonder great, as people doe report;
Which common brute and saying true may bee,
But since, in deede, I did not there resort,
I write no more, then world will witnesse well.”

From the Brecknock Beacons there is a truly remarkable view; and for those unable or unwilling to climb, there is the sight of the mountains themselves.

The Usk at Brecknock


Continuing its course to the east and south, the Usk passes on, skirting Bwlch,[Pg 153] a mountain over which the main road runs, offering glimpses on one hand of the valley of the Wye, and on the other of the valley of the Usk. Presently, our stream passes by the meagre remains of Dinas Castle, which had the honour of being stormed by Alfred the Great’s daughter, Ethelfleda, and taken too, although garrisoned at the time by three-and-thirty valiant Welsh women; for the men were all fighting far afield. Through a lovely valley the Usk reaches its second town of consequence—Crickhowell. This “preatie tounlet stondith as in a valley upon Wisk,” Leland says; and, indeed, its situation on the north-east bank of the river is beautiful. Whichever way one looks, the scenery is charming in its attractiveness and rich in the romantic and the picturesque. Close to the Abergavenny road stand the ruins of what once must have been a castle of very considerable dimensions, which covered as much as eight acres of ground. Even in the days of Elizabeth this castle was nothing more than a ruin. No great distance from Crickhowell is the Well of St. Cenau, eagerly sought for by the newly-married, for to drink its waters first was to secure command of the house for life:—

“‘You drank of the well, I warrant, betimes,’
He to the countryman said;
But the countryman smiled as the stranger spoke,
And sheepishly shook his head.
‘I hasten’d as soon as the wedding was done,
And left my wife in the porch;
But, i’ faith, she had been wiser than me,
For she took a bottle to church.’”

Farther down stream is Llangattoc Park, with its roomy cave, known as Eglwys Faen, “the stone church”; and beyond is Llangwryney, where Richard, Earl of Clare, passing through the wood, preceded by pipers, was set upon by the Welsh and murdered. Here the Gwryney joins the Usk, which, flowing through scenery that has been called the “Garden of Wales,” and passing from Brecknock into Monmouth, reaches the ancient town of Abergavenny, lying in the shadow of the[Pg 154] Sugar-Loaf Mountain at the junction of the Usk and the Gavenny—“the brook that christneth Abergeney.” As is the case with so many Welsh towns, Abergavenny is wholly surrounded by high hills, but here the valley is spacious and fruitful. Of this place Churchyard, whose poetry is met with at every turn, says:—

“Aborganie, behind I kept in store,
Whose seat and soyle with best may well compare.
The towne somewhat on steepe and mounting hill,
With pastor grounds and meddowes great at will:
On every side huge mountaines hard and hye,
And some thicke woods, to please the gazer’s eye.”
Roman Wall at Caerleon


“Hard and hye” the mountains do rise and tower above the luxurious valley of “pastor grounds.” Not so long ago all the streets of Abergavenny were narrow and crooked, but of late years there has been a great display of public enterprise. Whether the changes that have been effected are to be regarded as improvements is questionable; for with the widening of the thoroughfares and the building of a new town hall and markets, and so forth, the individuality of a town is apt to disappear; but the residents may be pardoned for thinking themselves to be much better off than were their forefathers. To be sure, the town has scanty remains of a castle rising from a tree-clad hill to overlook the houses and the river. Part of the castle area is covered with houses, and another part has been converted into public gardens. The associations of the fortress are none of the noblest, for historians tell us that “it was dishonoured by treason oftener than any other castle in Wales.” It seems to have been the practice of the Norman lords of Abergavenny Castle to invite neighbouring Welsh chiefs to feasts within the walls of the stronghold, and then treacherously murder them. Wood tells of one of the most dastardly of these deeds. “Soon after the murder of Trahaern Vechan, at Slansavaddon lake, by William de Braose (lord of Abergavenny Castle), the Welsh, inflamed with resentment and revenge, commanded by Sitsylt ap Dyfnwald and other Welsh chieftains, surprised the Castle of Abergavenny, and took the whole garrison prisoners. William de Braose recovered his castle by composition; and after the reconciliation of the Welsh lords to King Henry, A.D. 1175, he invited Sitsylt, his son Geofrey, and other men of note to a feast, under pretence of congratulation upon the late peace; when, contriving cause for dispute, he called upon his men, who were ready for that purpose, and most treacherously murdered the unsuspicious and unarmed Welsh; then proceeded to Sitsylt’s house, slew his son Cadwallader in his mother’s presence, and, setting fire to the house, carried her away to his castle.”

Once upon a time Abergavenny was noted for flannels, but this industry has been wrested from it by more enterprising competitors, while the manufacture of wigs, for which it was once noted, has succumbed to change of fashion. St. Mary’s Church, a fine fourteenth-century church, occupying the site of a Norman church which was attached to a Benedictine priory, contains many ancient monuments, amongst others that of Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook, who, together with his[Pg 155] brother, was beheaded, after the Battle of Banbury, in 1469; and in the Herbert chapel is “a Jesse tree,” of which Murray’s “Handbook” says that it is “perhaps one of the most perfect extant.”

Leaving this lovely town, the Usk makes more directly for the sea. A few miles away to the east, in the valley of one of its tributaries, are the ruins of Raglan Castle, standing on a richly-wooded eminence not far from the village of the same name. It was begun not earlier than the reign of Henry V., and apparently not finished until the time of Charles I.; and so strong was it that it had the distinction of being one of the last fortresses in the kingdom to surrender to Cromwell’s men. It would be interesting to recall the story of the siege which it endured, and to describe the lovely remains of it; but it lies too far out of our course, and we must return to our river and follow it through the pretty scenery it traverses to the town to which it has lent its name. In days long gone by, Usk had to bear many a sore blow from Owen Glendower, but now it has no more alarming invaders than the placid, contemplative wielders of the rod—for here the Usk is famous for its salmon and its trout. Standing upon a tongue of land formed by the confluence of the Olwey with the main stream, Usk has been identified with a Roman station; and though the evidences are external rather than internal, the theory has been almost universally accepted of antiquaries. Of its castle, occupying a commanding site near the river, and still retaining its outer walls in very fair preservation, with the gateway, towers, and keep, the precise origin is not known; but in the reign of Henry III. it was in the hands of Robert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. From this family it passed to the Mortimers, Earls of March, and in the reign of Henry VI. was granted to Richard, Duke of York, as nephew of the last of the Mortimers. It became a favourite residence of this personage, and is believed to have been the birthplace of Edward IV. and other princes. Of the scathe which Owen Glendower had wrought at Usk we have already spoken, but it remains to add that the citizens were at last avenged, for here he sustained a crashing defeat and had to flee to the mountains.

Flowing beneath the ancient stone bridge shown in our view (page 156), the river passes on, through scenery that is never less than pleasant, to Caerleon, prettily placed on the right bank; and here the Usk takes toll of the Afon. Caerleon is one of the most interesting spots in all this part of Wales. Here was quartered the second Augustan legion, and this was the principal Roman town in the country of the Silures. In those days it must have been a place of great magnificence and refinement as well as of war, for Giraldus Cambrensis, writing in the twelfth century, tells of the remains of splendid palaces, baths, theatres, and other public buildings; and though these have all vanished, an abundance of Roman relics has been unearthed, which are treasured in a museum that has been built by an antiquarian society; and bits of the wall are still to be seen in situ. But the legendary associations of Caerleon are even more memorable than its history; for[Pg 156] here it was, according to one version of the Arthurian myth, that the British prince, when, after the withdrawal of the legions, the land was laid waste by the “heathen hosts” and by the warfare of the native princes—

“Thro’ the puissance of his Table Round
Drew all their petty princedoms under him,
Their king and head, and made a realm and reigned.”

Photo: A. Dunning, Usk.

USK (p. 155).

The Roman amphitheatre consists of a grassy hollow enclosed by a bank, lying just outside the wall on the east; “Arthur’s Round Table” is a bank of earth some sixteen feet high. There is no reason to doubt that after the Roman era Caerleon became the centre of one of the British kingdoms. At a later time it was “threatened by the fleet of Alfred, which, however, was recalled home before making an attack. In early days it had its martyrs—St. Julius and St. Aaron—and afterwards it became the seat of a bishopric, which for some time enjoyed the honour of being the Metropolitan See of Wales. After the Norman Conquest Caerleon was a frequent bone of contention between the Welsh and the invaders, and was alternately taken and retaken. A castle was built here by one of the Norman barons; but it was not until the reign of Edward I. that the English obtained undisturbed possession of the town, which, prior to the building of a castle at Newport, was a place of considerable strategic importance.”[10]

[Pg 157]


Photo: Frith & Co., Reigate.


By this time the Usk has become a tidal stream with a rapidly widening valley; and now it follows a devious course through rich meadows with wooded hills on either hand. A tomb in Christchurch, on the road connecting Caerleon and Newport, was long believed to have miraculous powers of cure for sick children who touched the sepulchre on the eve of the Ascension; and in 1770 as many as sixteen children were laid upon it to pass the night. Newport, four miles from the mouth of the river, owes its prosperity mainly to the great output of iron and coal from the interior of Wales that comes here for shipment. It has many railways to wait upon it, and its facilities in this kind have been greatly increased by the construction of the Severn Tunnel; and it is also furnished with abundant dock accommodation. Of the castle, built by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, a natural son of Henry I., to command the Usk, some of the walls and towers still remain, close to the famous bridge of five arches, reared at the beginning of the century and widened and improved in 1866; but the greater part of the stronghold has been either demolished or converted into business premises. The record of the town is, for the most part, one of peace and commercial development, and contains few episodes of violence, except the attack upon it by the Chartists led by John Frost in the year 1839. The tower of the church of St. Woollos, standing on an eminence overlooking the valley of the Usk and the Bristol Channel, is said by Wood to have been built by Henry III. in gratitude to the inhabitants of this place and surrounding districts,[Pg 158] who, by a victory over his enemies, relieved him from captivity. Newport may not have great attractions to offer to the tourist, but in these later days it has not been mindful only of money-making, as one may see from the many public buildings with which it has provided itself.

The Bridge and Castle

Photo: Hudson.


Leaving Newport, the Usk wanders through a plain of no particular interest, scenically speaking, and almost at its embouchure is joined by the river Ebbw, which, rising on the border of Brecknockshire in two headstreams that unite near Llanhilleth, has run a course some twenty-four miles long. Thus reinforced, Usk merges itself in the larger life of the Bristol Channel.


The Brecknock Beacons



Brecknock Beacons—The TAFF: Taff Fawr and Taff Fechan—Cardiff Reservoirs—Merthyr—The Dowlais Steel and Iron Works—The Rhondda—Pontypridd—Castell Coch—Llandaff and its Cathedral—Cardiff and its Castle. The NEATH: Ystradfellte—The Mellte and its Affluents—The Cwm Porth—Waterfalls and Cascades—The Sychnant—Pont Neath Vaughan—Neath and its Abbey—The Dulas and the Clydach. Swansea and its Docks—Morriston Castle—Swansea Castle—The Mumbles and Swansea Bay. The TAWE: Craig-y-Nos—Lly-Fan Fawr. THE TOWY: Ystradffin—Llandovery—Llandilo—Dynevor Castle—Carmarthen and Richard Steele—Carmarthen Bar. The TAF: Milford Haven—Carew Castle—Pembroke Castle—Monkton Priory—New Milford and Old Milford—Haverfordwest. The TEIFI: Strata Florida Abbey—Newcastle Emlyn—Cenarth—Cardigan. The YSTWITH: The Upper Waters—Aberystwith.


THE bold-headed, ruddy Brecknock Beacons and their neighbouring heights of the Fforest Fawr are, between them, to be held responsible for the nativity of three important streams of South Wales: the Taff, the Neath, and the Tawe. Not one of these streams is navigable, and they all have courses trivial enough compared with the Severn, the Usk, or the Wye. They are, however, quite strangely remarkable for their natural beauty, and for the scars on their beauty due to the mineral wealth of the valleys they drain. Nowhere in Great Britain is there more fascinating glen scenery or more sequestered and picturesque waterfalls than on the Neath and its tributaries.[Pg 160] Yet Neath itself is a grimy town, and the river, which, ten miles to the north, wins admiration from everyone, here flows discoloured amid ironworks and coal mines, with all their ugly rubbish heaps. The Taff and the Tawe begin among heather and bracken, loftily and crystal clear; and they end alike, brown as canals in manufacturing districts, the one among the shipping of Cardiff, and the other in the blackest and most forbidding part of Swansea.

Llandaff Cathedral: West Front


In all Wales there is no finer little group of mountain-tops than the Brecknock Beacons, as seen from the south. Pen-y-Fan, the highest summit, stands 2,910 feet above sea-level, and 500 feet less above the town of Brecon, some five miles to the north. The Beacons are an isolated society, separated by the Usk and its valley from the Black Forest Mountains east, and by the deep Glyn Tarel from the irregular mountain mass whence Tawe springs to the light. Their bases lie set among charming pastoral nooks. Above, they are good to see when autumn has made tawny the acres of their bracken; and at the summits they vie with each other in the redness of their precipices, that of Pen-y-Fan rightly winning the day with a sheer slide of rock some 600 feet deep, at an angle of about 70 degrees.

Many are the legends that animate the Beacons. Enough if we believe with certain of the bards that it was here, on Pen-y-Fan, that Arthur called his chivalry together, and initiated the Order of the Knights of the Round Table. In the land[Pg 161] of the Red Dragon, centuries ago, there could be no higher dignity than to be associated with him who was to appear for the glory of Britain: “the lamp in darkness”:—

“In forest, mountain, and in camp,
Before them moved the Burning Lamp;
In blackest night its quenchless rays
Beckoned them on to glorious days.”
Llandaff Cathedral: Nave and Choir

Photo: F. Bedford, by permission of Catherall & Pritchard, Chester.


Having clambered, not without considerable exertion, to Pen-y-Fan, the traveller, if he feels thirsty, has but to turn his back to the north, face the distant smoke clouds above the hills of Merthyr and Rhymney, and walk a few yards down the western slope of the mountain. Here are two ice-cold springs, the parents of baby rivulets. Below you see how briskly these rivulets broaden and unitedly carry the pure water to the south. This is, in fact, one of the two main sources of the Taff. The other also is on the Beacons. The two streams, Taff Fawr and Taff Fechan (the “Great” and “Little” Taff), run parallel, in respective glens, among heather and rocks, for eight or ten miles, to join just above Merthyr. Pollution of all kinds comes to the stream as soon as it is thus fully entitled to be called the Taff.

Even before Merthyr is reached, Taff Fawr has learnt something of the pains[Pg 162] and penalties of an industrial district. Ere it has run five miles from its source, it falls into the hands of the Cardiff Corporation. Its valley is here a characteristic mountain glen, with heathery solitudes on either side, and little clefts among the heather by which nameless affluents bring their pure tribute to the main stream. Houses there are none. But of a sudden, in all this loneliness, you come to a huge dam built and building across the valley from east to west, and beyond you perceive the goodly lake of which the rising dam is to be the mighty northern boundary.

Rivers of South Wales


Yet farther south are other evidences of Cardiff’s great thirst. Our Taff is again enclosed, and flows through a second reservoir, proceeding out of it by a series of prepared waterfalls, not unpicturesque, though they have artificial flagged beds and precise parapets. Here, however, one may almost look one’s last at Taff the pellucid. The area of toil and sophistication is at hand. Yet some four miles above Merthyr the river has one notable reach of beauty. There is a ruined turnpike house to hint of the time of “Rebecca,” when this part of Wales rose in arms and fought toll-bars as ancient Wales fought the Normans of the Marches; and high above the wrecked house are some precipitous limestone cliffs, with jackdaws always circling about their crests. Taff lies in a deep bed here, with woods on the western slopes where its waters wash them. It rose in the old red sandstone of the Beacons: it has now come to the carboniferous limestone and to the coal-measures to which South Wales owes its phenomenal prosperity.

Merthyr would be a pretty place if it were not sullied by smoke beyond redemption. The hills, studded with chimneys, cumber each other; and in all the adjacent hollows, high up and low down, are manufactories. The people wear clogs. As in other such busy centres, they seem happy enough, and by no means tearful about the local desecration of Nature. But it must be admitted that they are grimy, like their environment.

[Pg 163]

Of all the large manufactories round Merthyr, those of the Dowlais Steel and Iron Works, two miles away (a constant ascent), are the most considerable. One may doubt, perhaps, if these are now the largest of their kind in the world, but they are still very extensive. A recent report tells us that they consist of eighteen blast furnaces, producing about 700 tons of iron and 2,400 tons of steel rails per week, and that their collieries can lift 3,700 tons of coal daily. Founded about a hundred and fifty years ago, they have been a staff of life to millions. Few sights of the kind are more impressive than the manipulation here of the huge cruses of molten steel, and the methodical treatment of the ores, which develop in a few hours into red-hot steel rails from thirty to sixty yards long; or than the cutting of these substantial rails into sections by a serrated disc which makes some 1,600 revolutions a minute.

Llandaff Cathedral

The “Dowlais Lights,” as they are called, flash at times high over the mountains to the north. The landlord of the little inn at Devynnock called the writer out at night to see them. “It’s a sign of rain, for certain,” he said. Tradition locally lays down this law; but tradition often errs, and on this occasion the Dowlais lights, seen here twenty miles away, were, as it chanced, the augurs of a glorious autumnal morrow.

From Merthyr downwards Taff flows fast, as if anxious to reach the sea from the uncomely rows of colliers’ cottages which rise so thickly above it. It is still hedged about by mountains, but the mountains are not now “things of beauty.” Quaker’s Yard, Aberdare Junction, and Pontypridd are names of industrial value. At each of these places, “coal” railways from lateral valleys join the Taff Vale line. With these tributary railways descend tributaries for the Taff itself, the river Rhondda (which itself bifurcates higher up into the Rhondda Fawr and Fechan) being the most noteworthy for the volume of its water. The scenery of these affluents is, like that of the Taff itself, imposing, with deep glens and wooded dingles, but mercilessly cut about by capitalists.

Pontypridd deserves particular mention for the famous bridge which gives it its name. In the words of a specialist, this bridge “is a perfect segment of a circle, and stretches its magnificent chord of 140 feet across the bed of the Taff, rising like a rainbow from the steep bank on the eastern side of the river, and gracefully resting on the western—the beau idéal of architectural elegance.” It is the supreme[Pg 164] achievement of a local stonemason named Edwards, who, a hundred and fifty years ago, devoted himself to the construction of bridges much as a mediæval artist devoted himself to the Madonnas of his canvases or to his crucifixes. South Wales owes much to Edwards the bridge-builder: we shall meet with his work on the Towy and the Teifi as well as here. In 1755 this “beau idéal of architectural elegance” showed to better advantage than now, when it is surrounded by the common buildings of a mining town; but it was never more useful than at present.

Hence, now wide in a shallow bed, and now narrow and rushing deeply between high banks, gaily wooded in places and mere refuse-heaps in others, Taff speeds towards Llandaff. Three or four miles ere it comes to this tranquil spot, a striking crag is seen on its left bank, with glorious beech woods clothing the steep red slopes of the rock. This is an historic spot: Castell Coch, or the Red Castle. It is such a site as in Rhineland would at one time have given a robber-baron a superb base for his depredations. As such, in fact, it was utilised. We read how, in 1158, Ivor Bach of Castell Coch descended upon Cardiff Castle and carried off the Earl and Countess of Gloucester as prisoners: the event is set forth on canvas in the Cardiff Town Hall. Nowadays the turret that rises above the topmost trees of the crag tells of other exploits. Castell Coch belongs to the Marquess of Bute, and it is here that the wine is grown which, in the opinion of some, is convincing proof that England might, if she would, become a viniferous country. In the Cardiff Exhibition of 1896 a stall was devoted to the sale of Castell Coch wines.

The Palace Gateway, Llandaff


But the graceful spire and tower of Llandaff soon appear, in the midst of green meadows and lofty old trees, to tell of yet other aspirations, with the myriad houses of expanding Cardiff beyond. Its name describes it: Llan-ar-Daf, “the church on the Taff.” It has been spoken of “as the most ancient episcopal see remaining on its original site in Great Britain.” The old records go far to acclaim Llandaff as both venerable and ancient. Lucius, the great-grandson of Caractacus, in the second[Pg 165] century A.D., endowed, we are told, four churches from the royal estates, one being Llandaff. A bishop of Llandaff is also said to have died a martyr in the Diocletian persecution. And yet, with such high associations, forty years ago this cathedral was the most desolate and neglected in the land. As it stands, it is eloquent of the whole-hearted labours of two men, chiefly: Dean Conybeare and Dean Williams. Previous to 1857, the cathedral was a picturesque ivied ruin of Perpendicular tower and Early-English roofless walls, with a ghastly eighteenth-century conventicle absorbing what is now half the nave and the east end of the building. The grand old Norman doorways south, north-east, and west, and also the tower, seemed to have outlived their vocation; and the Norman arch of the interior, above the present altar—perhaps the finest thing in Llandaff—was plastered up and totally expunged. The present cathedral owes its origin to the Norman bishop Urban (1107–33), who was dissatisfied with the church—28 feet long, 15 feet broad, and 20 feet high—to the throne of which he had been raised; and its remarkable restoration to the Llandaff architect, John Pritchard, of recent times. It can no longer be described as, by Bishop Bull in 1697, “our sad and miserable cathedral.” Alike within and outside it satisfies by its beauty and good order. The old and the new are well blended here.

Cardiff Castle

Photo: Alfred Freke, Cardiff.


[Pg 166]

As a village, Llandaff is now hardly aught except a flourishing suburb of Cardiff. Still, it keeps its individuality, and declines to be incorporated with the great invading town. The remains of the old episcopal palace and the old market-cross consort amicably with the one or two single-storeyed thatched cottages of the village square. The palace gateway has quite a baronial look, but it leads to nothing of particular interest. Bishopscourt, the modern palace, is a more cosy residence than that built by Bishop John de la Zouch early in the fifteenth century, of which this gateway is the most conspicuous relic.

St. Mary Street, Cardiff

Photo: Valentine & Sons, Dundee.


Of Cardiff, what can be said adequately in few words? It began the century with about a thousand inhabitants; in 1881 its population was 82,671; and now it is about double as much. The Romans had a fort here, which the Welshmen called Caer Didi, or the fort of Didius (Aldus Didius): hence, Caerdydd and Cardiff. Fitzhamon the Norman, about 1095, erected the castle, the substantial fragments of which adorn the grassy courtyard of the mansion of the Marquess of Bute, who—more than Morgan ap Rhys, or Fitzhamon, who dispossessed Morgan—may well be called the lord of Cardiff. The prosperity of the present town began with the canal and sea-lock, early in this century, which enabled Merthyr to send its coal abroad; but it was guaranteed by the enterprise of the father of the actual Marquess of Bute, who expended millions in the construction of docks. Within the memory of men still living there was tidal mud close to the stately, if bizarre, outer wall of the Marquess’s residence, with its glass-eyed effigies of wild beasts perched on the stones. But the “Welsh Metropolis,” as Cardiff loves to call itself, will not again see those times.

One cannot conscientiously say that there is much of romantic or even artistic interest in this thriving town—the castle, with its Asiatic richness of decoration, apart. But the place is at least interesting, in its acres of docks, its prodigious machinery for the control of water-power and for the lading of vessels, and even its long ugly road of mean houses connecting it with the town of Bute Docks. This last is a cosmopolitan district. Coal is in demand everywhere, and it is pre-eminently coal that Cardiff thrives on. In 1849, only 162,829 tons of it were exported hence;[Pg 167] in 1895, the amount was 11,067,403 tons. One of the astonishing sights of the Docks is to see a railway truck full of coal lifted by machinery as easily as if it were a penny loaf, emptied into the hold of a ship, and then, in less than a minute, be succeeded by another truck.

The Drawing Room, Cardiff Castle

Photo: Mr. Francis Bedford, Camden Road, N.


Cardiff has every incentive and determination to go ahead. St. Mary’s, the main street, can boast of costly banks and hotels and a very great deal of traffic. It is singularly noisy at night; and that also, we presume, is evidence of the strong modern spirit of the place. The town in 1896 indulged in an Exhibition on such a scale that its loss may be computed in scores of thousands of pounds; but the Exhibition was an investment, and it is a proof of Cardiff’s wealth that it can afford thus to cast expectantly so many thousands upon the waters. The Marquess’s castle is as unique in its splendour as is Cardiff among Welsh towns in its development. Of its external towers, one, the Clock Tower (with many quaint, arrangements for spectacular effect), is as modern as the residential part of the building. The other, or Black Tower (though it is of white limestone), dates from early times. It is also known as the Duke Robert Tower, because it was here that[Pg 168] Robert Duke of Normandy was, by his own brother, Robert of Gloucester, son of Henry I., confined for many years.

The Vale of Neath


Taff has much to be proud of as it glides into the sea past the castle, though it has, for miles and miles ere this, lost its crystal purity.

The river NEATH, like Taff, rises among lonely mountains, heather, bracken, and the bracing winds of the uplands. The three summits of the Fforest Fawr range—long-backed ridges, woeful to be lost upon—each give names to the tributaries that flow from them, and at Pont Neath Vaughan form the Neath river proper. Y-Fan-Nedd, Y-Fan-Llia, and Y-Fan-Dringarth thus beget the Little Neath (the “dd” in Welsh being equivalent to our “th”), the Llia, and the Dringarth.[Pg 169] The two latter, after about five miles of independence, join just above Ystradfellte, where another Castell Coch reminds us that Wales had long ages of intestine and other strife ere she gave up unfurling the Red Dragon on her hilltops. We are here in the “fiery heart of Cambria,” where the rocks and morasses were such mighty fastnesses for the brave Welshmen of old. But these times are long past, and Cambria’s fiery heart may now be said to depend literally upon the fuel in the bowels of the land.

Neath Abbey

NEATH ABBEY (p. 171).

There is little of exceptional interest in the upper reaches of the Neath’s tributaries. Maen Llia, or the Stone of Llia, is a huge boulder of granite some eleven feet high by the Roman road of Sarn Helen, which, far up near the source of the Llia, crosses the mountains with the recognised audacity of a Roman thoroughfare. But few are the wayfarers, other than reckless tramps, who set eyes on this one among the many monoliths that decorate Wild Wales. It is at Ystradfellte that the wonders of the Neath’s scenery begin. This little village stands more than 900 feet above the sea-level, and the Mellte (as Llia and Dringarth conjoined are named), in its fall of nearly 500 feet in the five miles between Ystradfellte and Pont Neath Vaughan, is a succession of pictures so lovely, and yet so confined, that they excite as much admiration as despair in the mind of the artist who comes to paint them. The Little Neath runs parallel with the Mellte during this course, separated from it by a high ridge, and scarcely a mile apart. This stream also gallops in a rocky bed, with soaring woods on both banks,[Pg 170] and with waterfalls here and there of much beauty. But the Mellte and its two affluents, the Hepste and the Sychnant, quite put the Little Neath in the shade in this respect. You may see it for yourself, and also judge by the opinions expressed without reserve by the many colliers and their families who come hither, on picnic bent, from Hirwain and even Merthyr, over the high eastern hills. The Vale of Neath would be accounted a wonder if it were in Middlesex. But its remoteness keeps metropolitan tourists aloof; its charms are for the local colliers, and few besides.

The Cwm Porth, or “river cavern,” a mile below Ystradfellte, is the first of the Mellte’s marked eccentricities. The combination of rocks and water and wood, with the added element of danger in exploring this rugged, echo-haunted perforation in the cliff, are attractive in the extreme to the able-bodied traveller. Mellte, in time of flood, carries a deal of amber-tinted water in its rocky bed, and Cwm Porth is not in the hands of a company who charge for admittance, and guarantee smoothed paths, and ropes and handrails where there is a risk of broken limbs. This, indeed, is just the best of the Mellte: you feel as if you are on virgin soil while scrambling at a venture in its steep woods, now on the edge of the roaring little stream fifty feet sheer above a waterfall, and now midway in the river itself, perched on a rock, with vistas of boisterous water up and down, and the river’s banks, wooded to the sky-line, hundreds of feet on either hand, at an angle of forty-five or fifty degrees. The writer, on one memorable September afternoon, was for hours alone in these woods, passing from waterfall to waterfall, more by instinct than sure guidance, with the gold and bronze and crimson of foliage constantly betwixt him and the blue autumnal sky; nor did he see sign of other human being than himself, nor more than one white farmstead, when he climbed above the topmost trees and returned to the bleak and bare uplands beyond. The squirrels ran from bough to bough, the birds chirped in the infrequent grassy glades, where the sunlight made a bright spot in the midst of this dense, damp shade, and the waters filled the glen with their clamour. In all England there is nothing of its kind so admirable as the seclusion and beauty of this gorge of the Mellte, with its tributary, the Hepste, to the east.

Categorically, the chief waterfalls may be mentioned thus: the Clun Gwyn Falls—Upper, Middle, and Lower—and the two Falls of the Hepste. One cannot describe such things; each of these five has such individuality and beauty that on seeing it you prefer it to the others. Their framing is perfect. Even the heron that gathers up its long legs and whips across the stream out of your way is not wanted to complete your satisfaction in such pictures. Yet in a three miles’ flight a crow would reach coal mines and swart heaps of such refuse as you would not dream could lie within scores of miles of these divine solitudes.

The great Cilhepste Fall, otherwise Ysgwd-yr-Eira (the Spout of Snow), though the best known of the valley’s cascades, is, in the writer’s opinion, the least convincing. The water is tossed in one curve over a ledge of rock, and falls[Pg 171] about 45 feet into a basin, whence it moves downwards to the far finer succession of furious white steps known as the Lower Hepste Falls. The woods in autumn clasp it amphitheatrically with their green and gold. There is no fault anywhere. There is also this added eccentricity: you may walk under the Fall from one side of the river to the other. The writer did it in time of heavy flood, and was soaked for his pains. Afterwards he clambered, not easily, down to the Lower Falls, the disarray of which was much more to his taste. The Ysgwd-yr-Eira would please more if it had a flaw. As it is, it looks as if Nature and man had conspired to make a cascade with surroundings that should be a model of their kind. Yet even this criticism—which may well be held to be of the bilious order—will by most be regarded as highly flattering to the Spout of Snow.

After the Mellte, one is not profoundly stirred by the Falls and sylvan graces of the Little Neath and its tributary, the Perddyn. Yet, they, too, are beautiful, especially the cascades of Scwd Gwladys (the Lady’s Fall) and Scwd Einon Gam (Crooked Einon’s Fall), in the latter stream.

The Sychnant, however, is a sensational little river. It joins the Mellte at the foot of a rocky precipice, Craig Dinas, which, even with its mere 170 feet of perpendicular rock, may be warranted to yield a thrill. From the grassy, hawthorned summit of Craig Dinas, one may peer into the deep-cut bed of the Sychnant, where this cleaves through the mountains from Hirwain, and also see its brace of waterfalls. But the glen is well-nigh impassably dense with undergrowth and trees, and bound about with precipices as emphatic, though not as high, as Craig Dinas. Where the Sychnant comes to the light from this dark embedded dingle, it is sadly spoiled by quarry men and others. But even these enterprising gentlemen will fight shy of its higher recesses, especially as they have nothing to gain by the intrusion.

Point Neath Vaughan is a snug little village, with none of the airs it might assume in pride of its position as key to the glories of these glens of the Neath. Its inns are homely, modest buildings. South, for the ten or twelve miles to the sea, the river Neath flows through a broad and lovely valley, with wooded or bare mountains on both sides. From Cefn Hirfynydd (west) and Craig-y-Llyn (east) many a dashing little stream, with miniature cascades, makes great haste to swell the main river. But collieries are here, as well as fascinating scenery, and it is impossible to overlook them and their smoke.

The town of Neath neither gives to nor gains from its river much distinction where this moves through its midst, brown, and with tidal mud on its banks. It is a colliery town, pure and simple, surprisingly furnished with public-houses. The fragments of its castle that survive are pent about by dismal slums, so that a man must have a very keen antiquarian sense to discover them. Nor are they much when found: just a gateway with its towers, the whole prettily hugged by ivy. Richard Grenville, of Bideford, who founded it in the twelfth century, would not care to see it now.

Hence to the much more grandiose ruins of the Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary[Pg 172] and the Holy Trinity, which also owed its origin to the same Richard Grenville, is a walk of a mile or more—not a rural walk, by any means. You may, if you will, take a tram-car thither, with collier-lads or their womenfolk for your companions, and with black mud on the roadway. The ruins stand close-girt by canals and mines and ironworks. Leland describes the abbey as, in his day, the fairest in Wales; and in the year 1500 its glories, and especially the sweetness of its convent bells, were bardic themes. Never was there so abject a change; and yet, after the Dissolution, when it fell to the lot of Sir Richard Cromwell, nephew of Henry VIII.’s minister and great-grandfather of Oliver, it was for long an appreciated residence. The white stone mullions of the many windows of the parts of the abbey added by Sir P. Hoby, in 1650 or so, still gleam against the dark gritstone of the walls.

Outskirts of Neath


In spite of its sordid surroundings, however, Neath Abbey is not despicable. The area of its ruins impresses; the jagged towering ends of the ivied walls of its church, with daws croaking about them, and the long-desolate aisle, tangled with coarse grass and brambles, are also impressive. The ecclesiastics who sleep in Neath Abbey may be said to lie fathoms deep under the accumulated soil. Not a trace of one of them remains above the surface. The dark refectory of their convent, with its pillared roof, stands pretty much as it did in the sixteenth century, and of itself would dignify the ruins. But echo alone feasts in its damp, sombre hall. One[Pg 173] remembers that it was here our Edward II. sought shelter after his evasion of Caerphilly Castle, and that it was a Neath monk who betrayed him into that terrible custody of Berkeley Castle, where death awaited him; and, remembering this, one is inclined to be sentimental, and to talk about the curse that broods over the Neath Abbey ruins. In truth, however, smoke is the main brooder here.

North Dock, Swansea


The river Neath glides on to its estuary by Briton Ferry, some two miles distant from the town. Hills escort it right to the sea—not all with smoking chimneys on them. The town is indeed quite uniquely hemmed round with beauty, as well as ugliness. Up the valleys of the Dulas and the Clydach, slim streams which join the Neath near its mouth, are nooks and recesses as winsome as those of the Mellte itself; and once on the tops of the mountains, in any direction, the pedestrian may readily forget coal and iron.

It is but seven or eight, miles from Neath to Swansea, where the TAWE comes to its end, foully enough, amid ironworks and “coalers.” One may, for convenience sake, make the journey, and later rise with the river to its source. There is more satisfaction in seeing it gradually purify than in watching its progress from pellucidity to pollution; from the sweet-aired heather hills where[Pg 174] Adelina Patti has fixed her quiet home, to the sulphureous atmosphere of Landore and Hafod.

Sweyn’s Ea (Sweyne’s Eye or Inlet), Aber Tawe—or Swansea, as we modern English call it—is not what it was when Sweyne the King and Rover was wont to come hither as a base for his forays into the vales of South Cambria. Still, it can, if it cares to, brag stoutly of its ancient enlistment in the service of carbon. In 1305 it received a charter from William de Brews (Breos), great-grandson of the famous Lord Marcher, “to have pit coal.” That was beginning an industrial career early indeed. Four centuries later, in 1709, its jurisdiction as a port extended from Oxwich, in the Gower peninsula, to Chepstow—of course, including the then unborn and unthought—of Cardiff. It began to smelt copper in 1564, thanks to a charter given by Queen Elizabeth; and it is to copper and shipping, quite as much as to its position at the mouth of a great coalfield (estimated still to hold 19,200,000,000 tons of fuel underground), that Swansea owes its fine fortunes and its population of about a hundred thousand.

It seems an ungracious thing to say, but Swansea is apparently somewhat hampered by its antiquity. In the struggle for supremacy with Cardiff, it has not had Cardiff’s free hand in the matter of laying out a new town; nor, one may add, quite that powerful vigour of youth which carries all before it. Hence, it has already been left behind. The Duke of Beaufort is not such a potentate in Swansea as the Marquess of Bute in Cardiff; yet he stands to this city somewhat like the Marquess to Cardiff. It was a Duke of Beaufort who cut the first sod of the North Dock, or Town-Float, in 1852; and his Grace has large representation in the Swansea Harbour Trust, which has charge of the city’s port affairs. The late Lord Swansea, speaking on behalf of this Corporation, once said: “Swansea, you may depend upon it, is destined to become the Ocean Port of England.” Cardiff, at any rate, laughs such words to scorn, and even a layman of England may be allowed to think the prophecy over-sanguine. The North Dock has an area of 14 acres, and is “connected with a half-tide basin of two and a half acres by a lock 160 feet long and 50 feet wide, having at its seaward entrance gates of 60 feet, with a depth of 23 feet over the sill at spring-tides and 16 feet at neaps.” This is, of course, but one of Swansea’s docks, and by no means the most important of them. Cardiff’s docks are undoubtedly finer than Swansea’s, with more gigantic fitments.

Swansea, though ancient, possesses few relics of its past. The castle tower, in the main street, with a clock set in it, is the chief of them. In the large hall of the Royal Institution of South Wales—one of Swansea’s many meritorious establishments—may be seen divers drawings and engravings of the city one, two, and three centuries ago. In all of them the castle towers stand up as if they still had the feudal faith strong in them. Green, pleasant, wooded hills form the invariable background. How changed the landscape now! The green hills are gone; cut bare and covered with mean mechanic tenements or smoking manufactories.[Pg 175] On the summit of the most conspicuous of them are a few gaunt walls, which by night may, with the help of a glamorous moon, come near being deceptively picturesque. This is the so-called Morriston Castle, three miles north of the city, yet with the black suburb of Morriston at its feet, an active contributant to Swansea’s fortunes. The “castle’s” history is brief and ignominious. A hundred years ago Sir John Morris, a maker of tin plates, who gives his name to the suburb, erected a lofty and large building on this breezy hilltop, for the accommodation of four-and-twenty of his workmen and their families. Healthier homes these could not then have had within easy reach of their daily labour. But the gradient of the hill soon wore out their enthusiasm, and, one by one, the families moved down on to the level. Then the lodging-house, being abandoned, fell slowly but surely into ruin. The ruin is now Morriston Castle.

Swansea’s castle has a more conventional history. It was built in its final form (which can only be conjectured from its remains) by Bishop Gower of St. David’s, in the fourteenth century. After the usual vicissitudes of disestablished castles, it still, until 1858, offered its dungeons for the confinement of recalcitrant debtors. In that year even these privileges were taken from it, and, ever since, civilisation has tried to crowd it out of existence. Its body is lost in the various buildings and workshops that have encroached upon it, but the graceful arcaded clock-tower remains. It gives a pretty touch to Swansea’s main street, which it commands.

Little more can here be said about Swansea, except that the visitor owes it to himself to leave the city (which was made a suffragan bishopric in 1890) as soon as possible, and make friends with the Mumbles. The five-mile curve of bay thither has been compared to that of the Bay of Naples. The comparison is not a modest one. Nevertheless, there is something uncommonly exhilarating about this Swansea Bay, with the red and white green-topped cliffs of the Mumbles at its south-western horn. You soon get out of reach of the fumes of the city’s copper and other metal works. The shipping of the Mumbles has a nice clean look after that at the mouth of the Tawe. And, save when the wind is north-east, the air is sweet here, as it is bound to be. Mumbles—or Oystermouth, as it used to be called—has an attractive old castle of its own, of the Decorated period. But it is precious chiefly to Swansea for its sea and the lighthouse islets at the extremity of the headland. The view hence towards the busy city, less than four miles across the water, is not gay. Tall chimneys and a dense canopy of smoke: such is the Erebus you behold from the pleasant Mumbles cliffs.

Ere moving up Tawe’s valley, it seems quite worth while to tell of Swansea’s connection with the fortunes of John Murray, the publisher. Gower the poet, Beau Nash, and other celebrities, owed their birth to this city; and it was while living here in 1806 that one Mrs. Randell compiled the “Domestic Cookery,” for which John Murray paid her the solid sum of £2,000, and which, Dr. Smiles tells us, was very profitable to the young publisher, and helped in a great measure to establish[Pg 176] his position. It may be added, also, that in the parish churchyard at the Mumbles lies the Dr. Thomas Bowdler who busied himself so strenuously with Shakespeare’s Plays, and gave to our dictionaries an awkward, ugly word.



The Tawe cannot be much more than twenty-five miles in length, from its source in the lakelet on the Brecknock Van, or summit, of the Fforest Fawr Mountains, to the Swansea Docks. As fully half its course is through a colliery district, it may be supposed that its claims to beauty cannot be of the strongest. But the Neath river has taught us that these South Wales streams cannot be judged thus summarily. One must, therefore, proceed up the long valley of Tawe in the hope of charms other than those that emanate from pit-gear, long chimneys, and factories.

Morriston has already been noticed for its “castle.” It deserves a word also for its bridge over the river. This bears the look of one of Edwards’s constructions; its eyelet holes and graceful single curve remind one of Pontypridd. From Morriston to Ystradgynlais, Tawe is continually trammelled. In one part there is a cañon of slag heaps half a mile long for it to descend through. It is here shallow, and not more tainted than you would expect. The hills rise in high long banks on the outer boundaries of the valley, with wooded reaches above the lofty collieries, and crowned by the naked rock. Just south of Ystradgynlais the river receives its chief affluent, the Twrch, which has as bright and lengthy a youth as Tawe itself, rising under the Carmarthen Van,[Pg 177] the rival peak of this Fforest Fawr range, which makes so commanding a mark on the two counties of Brecknock and Carmarthen.

The ascent here begins to be steep, and it is constant to the source. The colliery villages become less and less assertive, and the woods greener. By Coelbren a little stream hurries to the Tawe through one of those deep, thickly-treed glens which the Neath river knows so well. It is an enchanting spot, with the blue and green and russet of Craig-y-Nos across the valley to the north-west. The river gets quite near to the palace of our sweetest singer, whose conservatories can be seen gleaming for miles. In South Wales Patti holds a court other than that assured to her in all the world’s capitals. She is at home here. Her photographs are in the shop-windows of Neath and Swansea, and so are the photographs of the various luxurious rooms of her mountain palace; and she is praised for other virtues than those that proceed from her entrancing throat. People wonder how she can isolate herself here,[Pg 178] where collieries are not so remote that they cannot be seen. But that is Adelina Patti’s affair, and has nothing to do with us. She is queen of the Tawe valley, in one sense, as well as the world’s queen regnant of melody. At Craig-y-Nos, which is 700 feet above sea-level, Tawe is distant only five or six mountainous miles from its origin. It begins, like the Taff, with numerous slender rills from red cuttings in the stony sides of the bleak uplands, all hurrying together, as if anxious to compose a little strength with their divided weakness. But its chief source is the lonely tarn (to borrow the North-country word) of Lly-Fan Fawr, which never fails to keep it active. This is on the Brecknock Van. On the Carmarthen Van also there is a lake, Lly-Fan Fach, some two miles from the source of Tawe. From Lly-Fan Fach comes the Sawddy, one of the Towy’s band of tributaries, which enters that river at Llangadock.


Swansea Castle; The Mumbles

THE MUMBLES (p. 175).

The TOWY, which now claims our notice, in a far nobler river than the others treated in this chapter. From its start in the desolate wet uplands of Cardiganshire (less trodden than any other part of Great Britain) to the long channel south of Carmarthen, where it enters the bay of that name, it knows nothing of such pollution as spoils Tawe, Taff, and Neath. It is rural from first to last: savage almost in its upper reaches, beyond Ystradffin, where it can be explored only at some not inconsiderable risks, and where its first company of eager affluents rush to it from all sides in glens and defiles, as deep, craggy, and yet beautiful, as its own. Of its early affluents, the Doethiau certainly deserves particular mention. Hard by its junction with Towy is a strikingly picturesque wooded hill, one of Wales’s many Dinases.

Ystradffin is scarcely a village, but it boasts of attachment to the memory of a seventeenth-century cattle-raider named Twm Shon Catti (otherwise Tom Jones, the son of Catherine), who made use of a cave in the side of the Dinas by Towy for purposes of concealment. This hero of tradition at length determined to mend his ways, and, we are told, set about it by wooing an heiress. He secured her hand in the literal sense, and vowed to cut it off unless she gave it to him in the matrimonial sense. So stern a courtship was irresistible. Afterwards Twm Shon Catti became respectable, and died holding high office in the county. But the cave over Towy keeps the memory of his naughty youth and early manhood still green.

From Ystradffin the river descends circuitously some eleven miles to the well-known fishing and tourist townlet of Llandovery, gambolling gaily in its rocky pools as if resolved to make the most of its youth ere coming to the long green valley which extends from Llandovery to Carmarthen. Here it receives two voluminous aids in the Bran from the north-east, and the Gwedderig from the east, both yielding pleasant prospects even for the few miles their valleys are visible from Llanymddyfri (i.e. “the Church amid the Waters”), or, as we know it, Llandovery.

[Pg 179]

Green hills embrace Llandovery as if they loved it. The little town is not so interesting as its situation, apart from its old inn, the “Castle,” a mellow, time-worn house. The very rooms here in which you sup on eggs and bacon (if you are lucky enough) may have known that worthy, the Vicar of Llandingat, who, in the seventeenth century, daily came hither for his ale, attended by a goat as thirsty as himself. One day, it is said, this goat drank well rather than wisely, and thenceforward declined to cross the threshold of the “Castle” with its master. One may hope that the Vicar learnt a lesson from the goat.

Towy is here a great, clear, rapid stream, and so it continues for the remaining thirty miles of its career. Famous view-points on it are the bridges of Llandovery, Llangadock, and Llandilo, the bridges themselves as graceful as the valley. Llandilo stands on a knoll on the west bank of the river, and rejoices in its superiority to Llandovery as a market-town. This, to the stranger, is much less commendatory than its nearness to one of the most beautiful seats in South Wales, Dynevor, where the Barons of that title have long held sway. The ruins of the old Dynevor Castle, on a hill crowded with oak, ash, and beech trees, are from the river quite ideally picturesque. It is a pity that the “common herd” of tourists have so misbehaved themselves that Lord Dynevor has felt compelled to deny free access to so charming a spot. Golden Grove, an estate as winsome as its name, on the other bank of the Towy, opposite Dynevor, has had its attractions sung by Dyer, the poet, who was born in the neighbourhood, and died rector of Coningsby, in Lincolnshire, in 1757: here is the Grongar Hill, where “often, by the murm’ring rill,” one “hears the thrush while all is still.”

Between Llandilo (Llan-Teilo: the Church of St. Teilo, who died Bishop of Llandaff, in A.D. 540) and Carmarthen, Towy’s zigzags are many and eccentric. After Dynevor another castle, that of Dryslwyn, is soon passed. It is a mere ruin on a green hill. The Nelson Monument, high in the distance, on the south side of the river, is a more assertive feature in the landscape, though less welcome. Midway towards Carmarthen, we cross the Cothi, the longest of all Towy’s affluents, and here, near its mouth, as great a stream as the Towy at Llandovery. Looking up it, there is even here some suggestion of its fine upper gorges. At Abergorlech, some ten miles nearer its sources, either artist or angler would find reason to rejoice in it, while higher still it absorbs streamlets right and left as greedily as the Towy itself.

One must, however, resist the temptation to loiter on Cothi’s bridge by Llanegwad. There is nothing of especial mark to see by the way, save Merlin’s grotto, where the Arthurian wizard fell a victim to the wiles of the fairy Viviana, and where he is still imprisoned, and will be for all time. But you must carry a fine faith with you to be fitly moved by the legend, and it will not be inexcusable if you fail to find it.

At the Ivy Bush Hotel of Carmarthen, whence there is a commanding view over the lower part of the valley, one may think tenderly of Sir Richard Steele,[Pg 180] who once lived in it. The tablet to his memory in the parish church of St. Peter here describes him as the “first chief promoter of the periodical press of England.” What would he say to the growth of the babe for which he is thus made responsible?

Carew Castle

CAREW CASTLE (p. 182).

This capital town, which in the time of Giraldus had walls of burnt brick, is nowadays of the modernest. Its castle, or what was left of it, has been turned into a jail; though you may discern some of its ancient stonework in the adjacent alleys. The town stands well above the river and the seven-arched bridge beneath which Towy now moves with stately ease towards the sea, a navigable stream. There is a small quay here, and a larger one some three miles farther down, for local coasters. For five miles more Towy holds its own against the ocean; and yet another five have to be passed ere, at Carmarthen Bar, the fresh waters gathered from the peaceful and fertile vales of Carmarthenshire are wholly merged in the salt sea.

We have now come to a singular district of Wales—a part of South Wales that is not Wales, but “a little England in Wales.” Close by Towy’s mouth, another river Taf (though with only one “f”) enters the sea very broadly with the body of water yielded to it by the rivers Dewi Fawr, Gynin, Feni, and Marias,[Pg 181] which all have bright tortuous courses among the green hills of Pembrokeshire. And four or five miles still farther west, the “Llans” and “Abers” which proclaim the land of the Cymry end, and give place to names Danish, Norwegian, and Norman. This continues until we are at Newgale Bridge, on St. Bride’s Bay, eight miles from the thoroughly reverend and Welsh city of St. David’s. Newgale Bridge has a small ale-house adjacent, where they seem contemptuously ignorant of the existence of the Welsh counties of Carmarthen and Glamorganshire to the east, so positively do they inform you that on one side of the streamlet spanned by the bridge it is England, and on the other side Wales.

Carmarthen Quay

Photo: Hudson.


[Pg 182]

The Normans could not, in spite of their sternest efforts, make much impression on Wales as a whole for a century or two after the battle of Senlac. But they could, thanks to Milford Haven, nibble at its south-western extremity. This is what they did, and with the planting here by Henry I. of a large colony of Flemings the earlier stock seems to have been either absorbed or superseded.

Milford Haven, with its arms of tidal water extending twenty miles into the heart of the country, was a grand aid to conquest in these parts. The Norman lords who were invited hither to carve out careers for themselves had much success. They raised castles at the extremities of Milford’s water-ways, and thus assured to themselves broad controlling powers. Enough if mention be made of only the important fortresses of Pembroke, Haverfordwest, and Carew.

The last of these may be first visited. Its situation at the head of a dammed tidal inlet, low-lying and with no prominent hills near, is unworthy of so noble a ruin. But Gerald de Windsor, the Norman lord who built it (having received the land as a dowry with his Welsh wife, Nesta, daughter of Prince Rhys ap Tewdwr of Dinefawr, or Dynevor), probably cared little for the picturesque. The strong western towers still bear witness to him; but to the mere tourist by far the most interesting part of the castle is the east side, over against the water, with its high wall and the lofty great, flaunting skeletons of the windows of the palace above, their white mullions bowing forward with inimitable grace. Unfortunately, one cannot romance about the rooms to which these majestic oriels and bays belonged. This part of the castle is of the sixteenth century, and was left unfinished.

Carew Castle (Caerau = fortified camps) still belongs to the Carews. The Windsors took the name of this possession of theirs, and held the castle for more than three hundred years. Then their line of lordship was interrupted; and it was during this period that the great Sir Rhys ap Thomas (whom Henry VII. made a Knight of the Garter for the part he played before and at Bosworth Field in aid of the House of Tudor) held such revels here as have made Carew almost a by-word. Among other shows was a “feate of arms” of five days’ duration, to which knights flocked from all parts of England and Wales. These guests filled the castle and more: five hundred, “moste of them of goode ranke,” were accommodated with tents in the park adjacent, of which no trace remains. Sir Rhys himself, in gilt armour, on a “goodlie steede,” attended by two pages on horseback and a herald, “was the judge of the jousts.” This same mighty noble received Henry VII. at Carew before Bosworth Field was fought; and, if tradition speak true, with his own hands killed Richard of Gloucester, who would dearly have liked ere then to have killed him. Sir Rhys lies in the parish church of Carmarthen, with about seven feet of armoured stone for a monument; and a very small effigy of a wife lies by his side. With the Civil Wars came the castle’s destruction. The Carews of Crowcombe, in Somersetshire, are now lords of the castle, and anyone may tread its grass and broken stones on payment of a threepenny bit.

[Pg 183]

Carew had the honour of entertaining Henry VII., but Pembroke had the higher honour of being his birthplace, Margaret Beaufort, his mother, being then only in her fifteenth year. Five months later he was an orphan, and Jasper Tudor, his uncle, began his long, exemplary, and singularly fortunate guardianship. Ere then this great castle, at the tip of the most southerly of Milford Haven’s arms, had had nearly four centuries of existence. The first castle was only “a slender fortress with stakes and turf,” says Giraldus the chronicler. If so, however, it must soon have been ousted by the existing Norman keep, which, with its 70 feet of height and 17 feet of thickness at the base, is anything rather than “a slender fortress.” Throughout England there is no better specimen left to us of a feudal keep than this of Pembroke.

The castle buildings, as a whole, measure some 500 feet by 400 feet within the walls; and, viewed, from the breezy summit of the keep (reached by broken steps and a rope), are, even in their ruin, a very instructive lesson in feudal history. The gate-house and the keep are by far the best preserved parts; these are both little less serviceable than they were in their prime. The central space, or Outer Ward, is now a grass-plot, kept trim for tennis.

One cannot do more than touch on the conventional last scene in this castle’s active history. The building was held for Charles I. by Colonel Laugharne and two other Royalists named Powell and Poyer. As was to be expected, they made a stout resistance even to Cromwell, who came hither in person. Eventually, however, supplies were cut off, and the castle surrendered. “The three leaders were condemned to be shot—though the sentence was reduced to one. Lots were drawn, it is said, by a little girl. Two were marked ‘Life given by God,’ the third was blank, and fell to Poyer, who was shot in Covent Garden, 1649.”

Since then Pembroke Castle has accepted its rôle as a ruin. The very peacocks that strut about its courtyard seem to understand that their haunt is a superb one.

There is little else in Pembroke save two of those pleasant white church-towers which are quite a characteristic, of the shire. Monkton Priory, one of these, has as lengthy a history as the castle. It was founded in 1098, and belonged to a community of Benedictines connected with Jayes in Normandy. Anciently this church, which has a very long back, with the tower about midway in it, was divided by an inner wall between the monks of the priory and the local parishioners. Its Norman nave and Decorated choir are well preserved: indeed, the original builders were as generous of material as they who raised the castle keep. Externally, save for its tower (restored in 1804), and a Norman south doorway, it has a very modern aspect, though its acre or two of gravestones in the churchyard bear witness against appearances.

There are two Pembrokes and two Milfords on Milford Haven; in each case one old and the other new. Our New Pembroke, however, goes by the name of Pater or Pembroke Dock, and a very important little town it is for the United Kingdom, with its building slips, dry dock, and naval stores. If you chance to[Pg 184] be going from Old Pembroke to Pater between two and three o’clock any Saturday afternoon, you will be tempted to form an exaggerated idea of the number of hands employed at this State dockyard. In fact, there are about 1,000, though, of course, the figure is a variable one. From Pater the view down the Haven is uninterrupted as far as the watering-place of Dale, eight or nine miles due west, just at the north corner of the entrance. The channel is there nearly two miles in breadth, and fortifications on the small island of Thorn, to the south of Dale, are designed to prevent undesirable interference with British property in the Haven’s recesses.


Carmarthen Quay


In less than five minutes you may cross the Haven, by steam ferry, from Pembroke Dock to New Milford or Neyland, which calls for no particular notice. It is a creation of the Great Western Railway, in connection with which steamers ply nightly to Ireland. Hence to Old Milford is a pleasant walk of three miles,[Pg 185] with the water continuously to the left. The low green hills of the Haven to the south are not very beautiful, and it is only on exceptional occasions that the great water-way holds more than half a dozen big ships in its midst. One or two ironclads on guard may, however, at all times be looked for. Imogen, in Cymbeline, inquires, as a significant aside—

“by the way,
Tell me how Wales is made so happy as
To inherit such a haven!”


But Wales’s happiness in this possession is of the kind that depends more on the expectation of favours to come than on benefits actually enjoyed. Milford Haven was better appreciated in the Middle Ages than it is now. It was only natural, for example, that Henry Tudor should land here in his quest of the English crown. Here too, earlier still, Richard II. set foot, on his anxious return from Ireland, when Henry of Bolingbroke was troubling his realm. The French chronicler, De la Marque, who was at Milford at this time, finds much to praise in the conduct of the Welshmen who were with the unhappy king. Richard’s English retinue deserted him and plundered his baggage, but the Welsh could with difficulty be dissuaded from accompanying him in his march north to Conway, and they fell upon such of the deserters as they could. “What a spirit! God reward them for it!” says De la Marque.

Old Milford is a prettily situated town terraced above the Haven, with quays and embankments on its shore-line, ready for the traffic that is still withheld from it. Master Atkins’s red coat helps to enliven it. The blue water, the green level ridges that run west to the sea, and the Atlantic itself in the distance, all prepossess in its favour. But Liverpool and Holyhead both hold it aloof from the fortune it aspired to.

[Pg 186]

Before proceeding north to that little known yet seductive river, the Teifi, Haverfordwest, on one of the two Cleddaus, which enter the Haven at its northern and westernmost arms, must be briefly mentioned. It is an ancient town, as its castle—built about 1112 by the father of Richard Strongbow, that eminent castle-builder—testifies. Among its other privileges was that of being county and capital town in one; also of having its own lord-lieutenant. Here the Flemings of the twelfth century most did congregate in this peninsula, and no doubt the little town’s prosperity was largely due to them. Nowadays, however, it is a waning place, in spite of its lively look and, considering its remoteness, its fine buildings. This is proven by the number of its Maiden Assizes in the later years of its independence, before its annexation to Carmarthen for judicial purposes, as well as by other less agreeable tokens. It is, perhaps, the most hilly town in the kingdom. Ere you are half a mile away from it on the road to St. David’s, it is lost to sight; while, approaching it from Milford, its situation seems quite Alpine.

The TEIFI (or Tivy), like the Towy, is little known to Englishmen other than anglers; and again, like the Towy, it well deserves knowing. The two rivers both rise among the heather-clad moors of Cardiganshire; so near, indeed, that you may stand on the watershed and mark the different trend of their streams. Teifi’s chief supply, however, comes from the Teifi pools, three miles from Strata Florida Abbey, a congeries of mountain lakes, the abode of interesting and capricious trout that may be recommended to the traveller with a fishing rod—and a mackintosh. It has as wild an origin as any of the rivers of South Wales. The Cistercians of Strata Florida probably fished these lakes far more than do the moderns.

From the pools Teifi descends impetuously to the mere graveyard that reminds one of the Mynachlog Fawr, or Great Monastery, of which only an archway remains. Either Rhys ap Tewdwr or Rhys ap Gruffydd, royal princes both, was the founder of the abbey, which was so important an establishment that Henry IV. made a special expedition to destroy it. If, as tradition says. Dafydd ap Gwilym—“the greatest genius of the Cimbric race and one of the first poets of the world,” in the opinion of George Borrow—was buried here, one can understand the patriotic influence of such a spot, and Bolingbroke’s ruthlessness. But many are the poets and princes, as well as Dafydd ap Gwilym, who lie in this “Westminster of Wales.” The Strata Florida monks have been made responsible for the Devil’s Bridge, on the Rheidol—that bonne bouche for visitors to Aberystwith. Excavations have recently been made in the abbey precincts, with promising results.

Strata Florida is accessible by railway from the Manchester and Milford station of Pontrhydfendigaid. It must be confessed that some courage is required to alight at this dreary place on a wet autumn day. Teifi traverses dismal bog-land for miles hence: a vast flat of glittering pools and reddish grass and reeds, abounding in hares. One marvels that no serious attempt has been made to drain these thousands of acres: not such a difficult task, surely, considering the steep fall to the[Pg 187] west beyond the hills. However, each landlord to his own ideas. Tregaron is passed, and still Teifi is rather a dull stream, though it can be seen that, lower down, the hills are drawing together suggestively. This is a famous district for cattle-drovers and cattle fairs. Your modern Cardigan farmer finds in these fairs one of the main excitements of his life. But the dealers are often far gone in whisky by the end of the fair-day, especially if they have had “bargains.”

So towards Lampeter, leaving on the east Llanddewi Brefi, where, in A.D. 519, was held the Great Synod, attended by St. David, at which Pelagius was adjudged a heretic. Teifi has now become a real river, broad and swift, and a charm to the angler. A column on a hill by Derry Ormond holds the eye. This is a tale told of it. The grandsire of the present owner of the estate wooed a young lady of London, and brought her home; but she pined for the Metropolis, and said either that she could not or would not live where she could not see London. To help her a little in this respect, her husband built the column. History does not inform us whether the wife was won to her allegiance by this proof of marital infatuation.

Teifi does not excel in its auxiliary streams. This is explainable by the nature of the country it traverses. Its watershed is not an extensive one, like Towy’s. The streams that flow to it throughout its course are all insignificant in size, though the two Cletwrs (Fawr and Fach), Afon Cych, and especially the merry little mountain-rivulet that joins it a mile west of Newcastle Emlyn, are not without the customary fascinations of these well-nigh untrodden glens of Wild Wales.

It is when Teifi turns decisively to the west and its home in the long inlet of Port Cardigan that its graces become truly bewitching. From Llandyssil to Newcastle Emlyn it alternates between sweet, green, hill-bounded reaches and contracted gorges which trammel and fret it so that it roars with dissatisfaction. At Newcastle its valley is broad again, with wooded hills on all sides, enclosing the pretty little village and its castle. Put thence to Cardigan it is majestic all the way, zigzagging with glorious curves, and with high, densely-wooded banks in the main. Seen when the tints are on its trees, this part of Teifi’s course makes an enduring mark on the memory. The salmon-fisher who comes once to Teifi here (and it is a prolific river, in spite of the “professionals,” who take heavy tolls at its mouth) will have abundant compensation, even though he have poor sport. There is no railway between Newcastle and Cardigan; but what a nine miles’ drive or walk it is!

At Cenarth, for instance, it is impossible not to pause awhile. Here the river bursts from a confined defile into greater freedom, sweeping under a bridge of the Edwards hall-mark. Cenarth is a lovely little village, out of the world, given up to the woods and the crying waters. And under its bridge, at the side, you may see some of the tiny coracles still in use on this stream. Fashions die hard in these sequestered parts of Wales. Giraldus tells us that the beaver kept its haunt on the Teifi when it was extinct elsewhere in Great Britain.

[Pg 188]

There is a contenting sameness about Teifi all the way to Cardigan: unchanged perfection. Two miles short of this capital town, however, it speeds to the south, and then turns boldly in its final curve towards the sea. Above it here, on a lofty crag, with woods caressing it, is Kilgerran Castle, which Turner painted. He could hardly have resisted the temptation, having seen it. The castle remains consist of two towers and a gateway, all of the thirteenth century. Historically, little seems known about it.

Milford Haven

Photo: Hudson.


Thence Teifi makes for the defile which ushers it to salt water, past the small yet prosperous county town, which has close sea intercourse with Bristol, and does a good trade in fish. Cardigan, like all these Welsh capitals, has a fragmentary castle; so fragmentary, indeed, that it is hardly discoverable. It has also an old church with a remarkably massive tower, having a buttress like a staircase. From its churchyard tombstones one may learn much, as well as the common lesson of the mortality of mortals. It is, for example, interesting to the stranger to be informed that “Let” is no unusual Christian name for a man here, and “Lettice” for a woman. The town suffers from a complaint nowadays rare among the capitals of British counties, to wit, difficult railway communication with the rest of the land. This will be remedied somewhat when the existing line is continued from Newcastle Emlyn. But one may be excused for hoping that Teifi’s[Pg 189] banks may for years to come know nothing of the mauling and devastation that will be inevitable when this takes place.

If you wish to see Teifi, or Tivy, quite to its end, it is worth while to go north another three miles, to Gwbert-on-the-Sea, a distinctly primitive and pleasing watering-place, facing Kemmaes Head, with the mile and a half of Teifi’s mouth (at its widest) intervening.

The Teifi at Kilgerran

Photo: S. J. Allen, Pembroke Dock.


Bidding farewell to the beauteous Teifi, we must now in few words track the last of our rivers to the same inevitable destination. YSTWITH has had no poets that we are aware of. Not all who visit Aberystwith, indeed, perceive (though they surely might) that it gives its name to this salubrious town. The Rheidol, which also enters the sea at Aberystwith, is treated with distinction. For it there is a solid, handsome bridge, lighted with lamps. But for Ystwith there is only a very commonplace bridge.

The Ystwith rises in the broken upland a few miles south of Plinlimmon, runs in a deep channel for three or four miles, and then, with little hesitation, though infinite sinuosities, rushes due west. Its entire length is not more than thirty miles. Until it comes to the road by Eglwys Newydd, and within four[Pg 190] miles of the Devil’s Bridge, on its rival the Rheidol, and even past Hafod, it sees few admirers, though it might have many. People who come to Eglwys Newydd, on their circuitous way to the Devil’s Bridge, do not go out of their path to see the Ystwith, but the Chantrey monument, in memory of Miss Johnes, in this “New Church.” Farther west the Manchester and Milford Railway runs in its valley from Trawscoed, and accompanies it to the sea. Here its beauty is of a superb order. The wooded mountains soar with most impressive effect on its southern side, now and then parting to show an abysmal glen, just as densely wooded, down which a baby stream tumbles towards our Ystwith. It matters not so very much, except to the angler, if the river does suffer from lead-poisoning. The mines do not obtrude themselves; and one may cheat oneself into the belief that the thickness of its waters comes from the melting snows high up on the mountains which it taps. For a few miles one may search the vocabulary for adjectives in eulogy of Ystwith. Then it sobers into comparatively level ground, and green pastures between receded green and heather-clad hills succeed the splendid towering woods. For the rest of its journey, it is an ordinary stream, and as such it slides into the sea just south of the town with a modesty that is almost affecting.

Aberystwith the piered, esplanaded and castled, might well condescend to take a little notice of its humble “godparent,” as well as of the Rheidol, and might gain credit in the condescension. This resort of a certain order of fashion (especially now that there are sweet girl-graduates to give a classic touch to its broad breezy promenade) seems, however, fully content to rely on the seducing charms of its powerful pure air, its tea-gardens on Constitution Hill, and—the Devil’s Bridge.

Wondrous indeed is the power of ozone! It reconciles us to weeks in lodging-houses that are ugly to behold and are in themselves uncomfortable. Not that Aberystwith is worse off in this respect than other places. Indeed, it may be said to be in a better plight than most, since the Esplanade buildings are handsome, once you have accepted their uniformity. Even were it otherwise, it would matter not at all to the sojourner in bracing Aberystwith! He acquires resignation and divers other virtues merely in breathing this pure invigorating air on the broad paved walk between the lodging-houses and the sea.


Photo: E. R. Gyde, Aberystwith.


Of Aberystwith’s castle it must suffice to say that it dates from the eleventh century, and owes its parentage to Gilbert Strongbow. Cromwell cut its little comb effectually, and now it exists only in fragments. They are, however, attractive morsels, and the little green enclosure which they prettily dignify is a popular resort for visitors. There are seats about it, and you may perch close over the mutilated low cliffs of the coast and watch the breakers rolling in towards the town, while listening with your mind’s ear to the tales told by Time of this downright ancient little place. The University buildings adjoin the castle demesne. They are quite grandiose. One wonders how often in the year the noise of the waves on[Pg 192] their stones is so loud that it distracts the academic minds within its stately walls. It has been said authoritatively that “Aberystwith stands out as being far and away the Welshiest of the University Colleges, and Cardiff as the most English.” This is gratifying to those of us who like to see the boundary-lines of nationalities clearly defined. And yet the faces of the students in the streets here do not show their birthright as one would expect.

But enough. One must be very morose or abased in body as well as mind not to perceive the peculiar charms of Aberystwith. To the enterprising, and perhaps jaded, sojourner in this Brighton of Wales it may, moreover, come as welcome news that for a mile or two of its course the Ystwith is of a beauty matchless even in Wales.




DOLGELLEY (p. 200).



Glories of A Wet Autumn in North Wales. The DOVEY: Source of the Stream—Dinas Mowddwy—Mallwyd—Machynlleth. The DYSYNNI: Tal-y-Llyn—The “Bird Rock”—TOWYN. The MAWDDACH: The Estuary—The Wnion—Torrent Walk—Dolgelley—Precipice Walk—The Estuary—Barmouth—Harlech Castle—Portmadoc—The Glaslyn—Tremadoc and Shelley—The Traeth Bach.


THERE are times of the year when North Wales seems to be all rivers and mountain torrents and tumbling cataracts. The hills are seamed by thin, white streaks of foaming water. It is as if all the land were rushing down to the valleys and the sea. What was yesterday a slow dribble from pool to pool, a scarcely perceptible moisture among weeds, a narrow reflection of sky among stones and boulders, is to-day a broad, impetuous stream, or a wide expanse of bog-stained water, or a torrent swollen and turbulent. The cataracts which have disappointed the tourist in dry seasons come down in a way that wholly sustains their ancient reputation. But the mountains are, for the most part, hidden in mist, or whelmed in cloud; the white roads glitter like streams, and—

“The rain, it raineth every day;
Heigho, the wind and the rain!”

Yet, decidedly, it is in a wet autumn that one should see North Wales. “Then, if ever, are perfect days,” when the whole glory of wild Nature reveals itself in some[Pg 194] interval of dripping rains; when the brown foliage, dipping into the flooded rivers, glows like gold in some sudden outburst of the sun; and when the mountains fade upward from their heathery bases, and purple middle-distances, into shadowy peaks of faintest blue.

Rivers of North Wales


How fascinatingly the bells of Aberdovey have rung themselves into the popular consciousness! And all by means of some foolish verses that are as securely immortal as the famous and touching air in which Neil Gow has set the bells of Edinburgh town to music:—

“‘Ae os wyt ti’n fy ngharu i
Fel ’rwyf fi’n dy garu di,
Mal un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump, chwech,’
Go the bells of Aberdovey.”

Seated in a boat in the middle of the estuary of the DOVEY river, one laments the fact that the bells exist in legend only. How sweetly they would sound through the distance and in the dusk, over this wide expanse of shallow water and glimmering sand! But the little town of Aberdovey, hugging the hillside at the south-westerly corner of Merionethshire, has certainly had no peal of bells at any date more recent than the time when Owen Glendower descended into the Dovey valley to procure his own proclamation as Prince of Wales. It is a humble little town, which, as somebody has remarked, seems to ask itself why it is not Liverpool. It has a wharf and a deep-water pier, and a railway at only a few yards from the beach. Large vessels could lie in safety near to the doors of the Aberdovey folk, and the maps insist strenuously on the directness of the sea-routes to Dublin, to Rosslare, and to Waterford. They are direct enough, no doubt; but who cares to travel by them? Only a few small schooners are to be seen in the harbour of Aberdovey. Two or three others are drawn up high and dry on the sands, so that one might almost leap on board from the thresholds of the cottages. If the world were more happily ordered, the chief trade of the place might be the exchange of rich merchandise; but, as one may perceive from the pier yonder, it is merely the exportation of slates.

The river Dovey—or Dyti, as it is called in the more ancient language—rises among the peaks of Aran Mowddwy, and, dashing down the mountain-sides with a pretty music, leaves Merioneth for a while to course through a jutting corner of[Pg 195] Montgomeryshire. Then it becomes the boundary between Merioneth and Cardigan, making its way to the sea through an estuary 6½ miles long—broad, noble, and impressive, with hills green, gentle, and round on its left, and on its right high mountains and purple heather, and “the sleep that is among the lonely hills.” It is a river much beloved of angling folk, for there are “salmons” not only, as Fluellen said, in Monmouthshire, but also in Montgomery and Merioneth. Likewise there is abundance of sewin and trout; and the fisherman who visits Dinas Mowddwy, Mallwyd, or Machynlleth will be likely enough to store his memory with recollections not only of fine scenery but of glorious days.

Dinas Mowddwy is a small village with a large hotel; but it was nothing less than a city in the old days, and it calls itself a city still. Even up to so recent a date as 1886, it had all the honours of a borough, with a Mayor of its own, and a Corporation, and a Recorder, and the tradition of a charter dating from James I. It may be reached by means of a ridiculous but convenient railway from Cemmaes Road, the trains consisting of an engine and one carriage, with, possibly, a few truckloads of slates attached behind. Aran Mowddwy, on which the Dovey rises, is, next to Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. It is the centre of a district full of vague traditions and curiously varied grandeur and beauty. After the death of Owen Glendower, “many powerful gentlemen of Wales” assembled at Dinas “for the purpose of making compacts to enforce virtue and order.” Their success can scarcely have been very great, for it was at this place, not long afterwards, that the “Red-Haired Banditti of Mowddwy” were wont to hold their meetings and arrange their murders. It is pleasant to be able to record that in due course these gentry were as effectually suppressed as were the Doones of Exmoor, if the story of John Ridd is to be believed. How they found means to exist by rapine in a country so sparsely peopled is not now intelligible; but they were, clearly, a very savage and revengeful folk, for forty arrows were found in the body of a judge who had condemned some of their brethren to death.

Sparkling along through Dinas, and flowing under the ruins of an ancient bridge, with a more modern and substantial structure close beside it, the river Dovey shortly reaches Mallwyd, where there is a church that is much visited, occupying the site of an earlier edifice which is said to have been erected by St. Tydecho in the sixth century, and with an ancient yew-tree which the saint himself is believed to have planted. On the other side of the river stands the farmhouse of Camlan, associated by a tradition, into the veracity of which we need not now inquire, with Camelot, and that “battle long ago” in which King Arthur is said to have been overthrown. All this wide, winding Dovey valley teems with history of a sort. At the farmhouse of Mathafarn, below Cemmaes Road, “the great poet and scholar,” David Llwyd ap Llewelyn, entertained the Earl of Richmond, who was afterwards to become King Henry VII., and was then on his way to Bosworth fight. At Machynlleth, with its fine, broad, mediæval street, much frequented by salesmen of cattle and sheep, you may see the house in which Owen Glendower held[Pg 196] his Parliament after he had “defeated” the English by flying before them into the hills. Machynlleth itself was the Roman station of Maglona, and is now a fairly considerable town, situated almost as happily as Dolgelley, with the square ivy-clad tower of an ancient church dominating the centre of the valley. Here the beautiful river Dulas joins the Dovey, and hence one may travel by the tiny Corris railway to Tal-y-Llyn, through some of the most satisfying scenery in all Wild Wales.

Torrent Walk


Before reaching the estuary, the Dovey wanders through much wide marshland, over which a railway has been carried, where there is a railway station set amid desolateness, and where no tree or shrub breaks the flat, brown margins of the stream. From such scenery it is very agreeable to break away to where, at high tide, there is a sheet of water six miles broad—the sweetest, calmest, most restful estuary in all Wales, with Borth sunning itself by the sea far away, with hills at whose feet plantations flourish, and mountains with fir-woods climbing up their slopes.

[Pg 197]

Flowing from the sides of Cader Idris, which holds a gloomy lake in its lap, there is a complex network of streams. Several of these join themselves together to form the little river Dysynni, which, after wandering among the mountains for twelve miles or so, drowns itself in the sea beyond Towyn. One of the sources of the Dysynni is Tal-y-Llyn. Noble and beautiful and ever memorable is the valley through which the stream hurries downwards from that renowned lake, the object of innumerable excursions made from Dolgelley, from Towyn, from Machynlleth, and from all the wild, wonderful, fascinating places roundabout. Tal-y-Llyn is no more than a mile long, and a quarter of a mile broad; but it is like a small piece of Norway transported to Wales. Here alike come those who are intent on reaching the summit of Cader Idris, and those who desire to follow “the contemplative man’s recreation,” for the Dysynni, like the Dovey, is a famous fishing river. Salmon, sewin, and gwyniad are to be found therein, from May until after the autumn leaves are falling. There are white and sea trout, and bass, and in the estuary plentiful grey mullet, which make fine and exciting sport when a ring of nets is thrown around them, and the noisy and vigorous “beaters” drive them into the meshes.

The Lower Bridge


One must go up the Dysynni to see the famous “Bird Rock,” a great shoulder of mountain on which the hawk and the cormorant dwell. It is so precipitous that it may be climbed on only two of its sides, and it has one of those echoes for which Wales is almost unapproachable, so that the music of any instrument that is played upon it will be reverberated in a startling chorus from all the surrounding hills. Lower down the river, always amid such scenery as it were vain to describe, there is the site of a manor house from which Prince Llewelyn wrote important letters to ecclesiastical magnates in London, and which that stout soldier-king Edward I. visited, for he dated a charter thence. Older relics there are, like the Tomen Ddreiniog, which, maybe, is one of “the grassy barrows of the happier[Pg 198] dead.” It is a valley renowned for its birds and their songs, this of the Dysynni, and for its rare plants and mosses, and its rich store of maiden-hair fern. As we approach Towyn the mansion of Ynys-y-Maengwyn, the dwelling of an ancient Welsh family, presents a quaint and most picturesque mixture of architectural periods, for it combines all the styles of domestic architecture that prevailed between the period of Elizabeth and that of the Georges.

The Dysynni is a land-locked river as it approaches the sea, for the Cambrian Railway crosses its estuary. There is a spectacle on one hand of what seems a lake among purple mountains, and on the other of a stream winding amid dreary flats to the breezy waters of Cardigan Bay. Towyn, which is but a small place, has a certain fame for sea-bathing, and for its association with “a holy man of Armorica, who came to Wales in the sixth century to refute the Pelagian heresy.” One does not inquire too curiously into these things; but there, not far from the estuary of the Dysynni, is St. Cadfan’s Church, and St. Cadfan was one who performed miracles; and in the church there is a pillar which, as some aver, is inscribed in debased Roman characters, and once marked the site of St. Cadfan’s grave.

“Neither the North of England, nor Scotland, no, nor Switzerland, can exhibit anything so tranquil, romantic, snug, and beautiful as a Welsh valley.” These are the words of John Wilson, the “Christopher North” of the famous “Noctes Ambrosianæ” and the “Recreations”; the “rusty, crusty Christopher” of Lord Tennyson’s early satire. He was thinking of Dolgelley and all the indescribable charm of its surroundings. Wilson was a Scot who had dwelt continuously and for many years amid the English Lakes. He knew his Switzerland, too; and it must have been reluctantly, one would think, that he gave this unstinted praise to the particular valley in which North Wales seems most to unite its grander and its quieter beauties, all its wonders of mountains and wood, torrent and waterfall, snug valley and scarred and towering height. The MAWDDACH estuary, which has the appearance of a chain of lakes, winds among the mountains as far as Penmaenpool, where there is a long, low, sinuous railway bridge of innumerable arches. Here, where the Mawddach suddenly becomes a stream, flowing through green marshes, with its course indicated by lines of deep-driven stakes, Christopher North must often have been reminded of the head of his beloved Windermere, missing only the solemn and silent majesty of the Langdale Pikes. Following the river upward through the wide, marshy plain until it again hides itself among woods and hills, one comes upon the river Wnion, which is chiefly of importance among Welsh rivers because it is famous for its trout, because it winds through Dolgelley on its way, and because, two miles further upwards, it is joined by the tumultuous thread of water which tumbles from pool to pool, over cataract after cataract, close beside the steep, mile-long piece of sylvan beauty known as the Torrent Walk. Until it receives this tributary the WNION is, except in seasons of rain, but a thin and feeble stream; but it flows through beautiful and shady woods, fretting sometimes over a rocky bed,[Pg 199] sometimes flowing in a peaceful, sunlit calm, and now and again reflecting one of those wide-arched, mossy bridges which indicate by their breadth of span how much way this little river claims for itself when the thin silvery threads of all the small streams that flow into it from the Arans on one side, and from the lower slopes of Rhobell Fawr on the other, are swollen into mountain torrents by continuous rain.

Between Dolgelley and Barmouth


There are innumerable little rivers in North Wales, boiling down over tumbled rocks, in deep valleys, with trees swaying and arching overhead. The type of these is the turbulent brook, so narrow that one might leap across it, which descends through the Dwygyfylchi valley, and then quietly loses itself in the sea between Conway and Penmaenmawr. But in all Wild Wales there is no such mad, merry, laughing, and leaping piece of water as the long cataract which hastens down from the upper to the lower bridge of the Torrent Walk, to join the Wnion two miles above Dolgelley. It falls, like a white mist, amid riven cliffs; it pours itself, with a frolic music, between great masses of moss-grown rock; it dips under tree-trunks which have been thrown across it, like rustic bridges, by long-forgotten storms. The channel which this torrent has made for itself is a deep, dark, winding cleft through a beautiful wood on the side of a steep hill. It is in the late autumn that it is at its best, when the trees are of all rich tints, from russet to gold, and when there is a glorious, glowing carpet of brown leaves on either side of the Torrent Walk, and[Pg 200] when the torrent itself, swollen by the unfailing rains, breaks into white spray amid the blue mist of the cataracts. The Wnion is tame enough after such a spectacle; but it makes some really striking loops and bends as it winds away to Dolgelley, broadening out in the ever-broadening valley, and then darting forward to the tall, grey arches of Dolgelley bridge, where it dreams along for a while over its multitudinous pebbles, and then wanders away into the green shadow of trees.

Barmouth Bridge and Cader Idris

Photo: H. Owen, Barmouth.


Dolgelley is the capital of Merioneth, and the curfew is still rung there; and some of its houses retain all the quaintness of the Elizabethan age, and its streets are so odd, and winding, and confused, that one thinks of the legend of the giant’s wife who dropped a heap of stones from her apron, the which in due course became a town. In the distance, Dolgelley looks like a grey nest amid green branches, sheltering in a basin of the hills. It is walled round by the mountains, Cader Idris being its loftiest and its grandest bulwark. Owen Glendower had a Parliament House here, pulled down only a few years ago; and that is almost the whole history of the[Pg 201] place, which is attaining some small additional importance in these days because the gold mines are not far away, and also by reason of its manufacture of excellent Welsh cloth.


Photo: I. Slater, Llandudno.


It is a land of cataracts all round about; but to reach the finest of those one must leave the river Wnion and ascend the Mawddach valley, up the beautiful Ganllwyd Glen, and so to the gold mines. Rely not too implicitly on those learned books which would instruct the confiding stranger wandering amid these mountainous wildernesses. “There are three fine Falls on the Mawddach,” one reads in a book of considerable geographical pretensions—“one of 60 feet in Dolmelynllyn Park, another of 60 feet called the Mawddach Fall, the third, of 150 feet, called the Pistyll-y-Cain.” “I wonder,” said an American humorist, “whether it is worth while knowing so much that is not so.” The Rhaiadr-y-Mawddach—over which, at this stage, flows the river that is shortly to broaden out into the grandest estuary in Wales—descends, in two leaps, into a large and magnificent basin, about which the rocks and trees have arranged themselves into[Pg 202] a noble amphitheatre. The Precipice Walk is not far away. One may behold all the Snowdon region from this dizzy height on the open hillside; the Ganllwyd valley opens out below; the Arans tower upwards to the right; and beyond the village of Llanfachreth, looking northward, rises the grand mass of Rhobell Fawr, its head half-hidden in a cloud, “that moveth altogether, if it move at all.” And as for the Pistyll-y-Cain and the Rhaiadr-Du, “the black cataract,” the one, as its name indicates, is the fall of the river Cain, and the other is the fall of the Camlan, less broad, less precipitous, at the first glance less impressive, than its more renowned rival, but quite wonderfully beautiful in its surroundings, its rocks and woodlands, its dual leap, and many windings, and numerous tumbling streams.

Says a Welsh proverb: “There is only one prettier walk in Wales than the road from Dolgelley to Barmouth. It is the road from Barmouth to Dolgelley.” The adjective is ill-chosen. Not prettiness, but a calm majesty, is the characteristic of the rich scenery of the valley of the Mawddach. When the tide is up, the river between Penmaenpool and Barmouth is like a chain of lakes among bold and craggy heights, sloping brown moorlands, and terraced woods. One is reminded sometimes of Switzerland and sometimes of the Rhine. It is advisable to ascend the river, as Wordsworth did, in a boat. The poet was at Barmouth in 1824, when he rowed up “the sublime estuary, which may compare with the finest in Scotland.” One is always driven back upon these comparisons. The estuary of the Mawddach arouses sensations of strangeness and unexpectedness. Even amid the grandeur and the beauty of North Wales, it seems to belong to some other country, and almost to a land of dreams. It may have been some recollection of rowing upwards towards Penmaenpool that inspired the first and greatest of the Lake poets with two of his most splendid lines:—

“I hear the echoes through the mountains throng;
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep.”

And the scenery here is everything. There is little history to engage the mind. One merely shudders at the story of how, in what are now the grounds of Nannau House, Owen Glendower fought with his cousin, Howel Selé, slew him, and hid the body in a hollow tree. The Abbot of Cymmer is credited with having brought about the meeting, in the hope that the two kinsmen might be reconciled; but who knows anything about the Abbot of Cymmer? So much of the abbey as remains is mixed up with farm buildings, amid beautiful sylvan scenery, about two miles from Dolgelley, and near to the banks of the Mawddach. Griffith and Meredydd, lords of Merioneth and grandsons of Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, founded the abbey in 1198. The architecture suggests Irish influences, and an Irishman by whom such influence is likely to have been exercised is known to have emigrated to Wales at about the time of the foundation. The monks were of the Cistercian order, and the abbey was dedicated to St. Mary. The ruins of the church are the principal portion of what now remains. The abbot’s lodgings and part of the[Pg 203] refectory have been incorporated into the present farmhouse. The emissaries of Henry VIII. penetrated even to this remote spot, and so the abbey was despoiled.

Barmouth, which, in Welsh, is Abermaw, or the mouth of the Mawddach, is built in strange fashion about the foot of a mountain which is surpassingly noble in its contour. Some of the houses cling high up among the perilous slopes. In one direction they look out to sea, and in the other across the “sublime estuary” at its widest part. The rich, glowing woods of Arthog climb up the opposite slopes, with the side of Cader Idris rising like a vast cliff above their topmost branches. The little town, with its tremendous background of rugged mountain, has been likened to Gibraltar. The oldest of its dwellings is alleged to date back to the reign of Henry VII. For us of to-day the place has the interest of having been selected as the earliest of the settlements of Mr. Ruskin’s Guild of St. George. “I have just been over to Barmouth,” the Master wrote many a year ago, “to see the tenants on the first bit of ground—noble crystalline rock, I am glad to say—possessed by St. George on the island.” Grandly impracticable was the idea of settling a community of this kind in such a place, and one looks at the small cottages, high on the hillside, with a feeling that they are a stray and stranded fragment of Utopia.

It is a bare, ordinary-looking town, this Barmouth, when surveyed from the level of its lower streets; but there is an unapproachable dignity, beauty, and charm in the wide, level stretch of sand and water which lies between here and Arthog, which winds inland among the brown mountain-slopes, which broadens outward to Cardigan Bay. The bridge is a curious and useful rather than a pleasant feature of the landscape. It carries a railway that branches off to Dolgelley on the one hand, and to Glandovey and South Wales on the other. Fortunately, it lies low down, and close to the water, as it were, its central portion being occasionally raised for the admission of ships, of a tonnage, however, that is marvellously small. From its further side, where the sand has gathered into hillocks, crowned by long, waving, rank grass, the town of Barmouth, with its vast hill of Craig Abermaw, brings into mind the castle of Chillon and its surroundings. It seemed poor and common enough, away there on the other side of the bridge; but from this point it is graceful, noble, almost sublime.

The grand castle of Harlech looks out on to the waters about midway in that waste of shore which divides Barmouth from Portmadoc. The castle has long been a ruin, but, all things considered, it has been magnificently preserved. It had the fortune to escape the dismantling which was so nearly universal during the Civil Wars. Later times have been less considerate, for many of the houses roundabout have been built from the stone and timber of the fortress; yet, looking at it from a distance, the place still seems to be intact, and grandly formidable in its strength and its situation. From Portmadoc it is the principal feature of the landscape as the eye sweeps round the fine curve of the bay. The[Pg 204] interest of Portmadoc itself lies in the incomparable view of the Snowdon range which is to be obtained therefrom, and in a curious association with Shelley. A huge alluvial plain, the Traeth Mawr, or Great Sand, sheltered by an irregular semicircle of hills, makes an impressive foreground. Here one might expect to hear tales of that Prince Madoc who is alleged to have preceded Columbus, by a huge interval, in the discovery of America; but Portmadoc, with its long, low line of railway across the Traeth Bach, its small schooners laden with slate, its rows of houses struggling about the hillside, its active industry, its bridges and quays, is a town of quite modern date, its history extending backward only to the end of the last century, and its name being derived, not from the adventurous prince whom Southey has made the subject of an epic, but from an energetic Mr. Maddocks, who reclaimed 2,000 acres of good land from the sea, and carried a mile-long mole of stone across the great estuary into which the little river Glaslyn flows. Portions of Portmadoc are at this day some two or three feet below the sea-level. One may obtain from here one of the best views of Snowdon; and on the south side of the valley, over which his shadow seems to be cast, the Cynicht—the Matterhorn of Wales, as it has been called—rises up in noble and entrancing proportions. Hence, too, come into impressive prominence the green and grassy sides of Moel Wyn. A walk of a few miles would bring us to Beddgelert, or to the lovely Pass of Aberglaslyn, with its unforgettable admixture of mountain and of sylvan scenery; or, by climbing the hill at our back, we may come within sight of Tremadoc, and the house in which the poet Shelley alleged that he was assailed by a mysterious and murderous visitant. Into the Traeth Bach, which is an unreclaimed extension of the Traeth Mawr, pours down the stream which accompanies the traveller on the “baby railway” from the heights of Blaenau Festiniog. Westward lie Criccieth and Pwllheli, and the sharp bend of the Lleyn peninsula, and Bardsey Island and its lighthouse, round which one may sail into Carnarvon Bay.

The Estuary, Barmouth




The SEIONT: Llanberis Pass—Lakes Peris and Padarn—Dolbadarn Castle and Ceunant Mawr—Carnarvon and its Castle. The OGWEN: Llyn Ogwen and Llyn Idwal—Bethesda—Penrhyn Castle. The LLUGWY: Capel Curig—Moel Siabod—Pont-y-Cyfing—Swallow Falls—The Miners’ Bridge—Bettws-y-Coed. The LLEDR: Dolwyddelen—Pont-y-Pant. The MACHNO and its Fall. The CONWAY: Fairy Glen—Llanrwst—Gwydir Castle—Llanbedr—Trefriw—Conway Marsh—Conway Castle and Town—Deganwy—Llandudno.

THE river SEIONT is only about thirteen miles long. One seldom hears mention of its name, except by the trout-fisher, it may be. It is treated, in general, as of small account. And yet, surely it is one of the most distinguished rivers of North Wales, for does it not drain the north-eastern side of Snowdon, and flow through the Pass of Llanberis, and broaden out into Llyn Peris and Llyn Padarn, and finally, after devious wanderings, and much merry tumbling among rocks, boulders, and little reedy islets, culminate in a port, with the great castle of Carnarvon guarding its exit into the Strait across which one looks to the lovely island of Anglesea? But if few speak of the Seiont, there has been unlimited eloquence concerning the grandeur—what the descriptive writers of the last century would have considered the awfulness—of the Llanberis Pass. The point of view has changed whilst the century has been passing away. Where our great-grandfathers spoke of “horrid scenes” we find nowadays glory of colour, and magnificence of form, and all the finer characteristics of mountain beauty. But something, after all, is to be said from the point of view of our great-grandfathers. We travel through the Pass of Llanberis by coach on good and safe roads, and they ventured, perforce, along “a horse-path so rugged that much of it was like going up and down rough stone stairs.”

It was between the two lakes Peris and Padarn, and at the new village of Llanberis, that the late Poet Laureate foregathered, in his youth, with his friend Leonard, who sang of “all the cycle of the golden year”:—

“We crost
Between the lakes, and clambered half-way up
The counter side . . . . . .
. . . . . . and high above, I heard them blast
The steep slate quarry, and the great echo flap
And buffet round the hill from bluff to bluff.”

The first recorded ascent of Snowdon seems to have been made from the same spot in 1639. “At daybreak on the 3rd of August,” says the seventeenth-century mountaineer, “having mounted our horses, we proceeded to the British Alps.”

After the mountains, Dolbadarn Castle and Ceunant Mawr—the Waterfall of the Great Chasm—are the principal attractions of Llanberis. The cataract is upwards[Pg 206] of 60 feet in height. It tumbles over a few ledges, rushes down a wide slope, and falls into a pool below. The castle is singularly well placed for picturesque effect. The one tower now remaining occupies the whole of the surface of a rocky eminence, which presents a precipitous front to the lake, and has a marvellous background of high-peaked mountains. Often enough it can be seen only through mists, or driving sheets of rain, for Llanberis seems to be the home of the rain-cloud and the cradle of the storm.

An unspeakable lumber of waste slates stretches out into the lakes as we proceed downwards, but does not interfere with the splendid view of Snowdon which is to be obtained at the point where the Seiont leaves Llyn Padarn. Wooded cliffs and heathery crags, and peeps of wild moorland, and rugged country that is redeemed from desolateness by frequent white cottages, make fine pictures for us as we proceed down the river towards Carnarvon. Here and there the stream is divided by great masses of stone, past which it races in order to drive some watermill, half hidden in leaves. There are reedy pools, in which a wild swan may occasionally be seen, and then willowy marshes; and so, bending this way and that, now bursting into the open sunlight, and then plunging into woodland shade, and always noisy and impetuous, the little river hastens on until it joins the tide, issuing into the Menai Strait between the grimly beautiful walls of Carnarvon Castle and a wooded bank. Only as to its interior can the castle now be properly described as a ruin. Restoration has here taken the form of rebuilding, and this proud stronghold is now immeasurably more complete as to its outward appearance than it can have been when Edward I. exhibited from its walls the prince who, having first seen the light only a few hours before, was “not only born in Wales but could not speak a word of the English tongue.”

Pass of Llanberis


Away from the castle and what remains of the walls, which, in appearance, still to some extent justify the ancient name of “the fort over against Anglesea,” the town of Carnarvon is painfully modern; but what there is of it that is really old conveys the impression of mediævalism more completely than any other place in Wales, except, perhaps, the old town of Conway. The walls of the castle, with their numerous towers and turrets, rise up to a prodigious height above the quays, at which little coasting vessels with red sails and gay streaks of paint take in their cargoes of slates. The great gateway looking out seaward has a loftiness and a massiveness which cow the spirit. But the outlook hence becomes all the more beautiful by contrast with this castellated gloom. Yonder is the Isle of Anglesea—the sacred island—shimmering through a sunlit mist, and the Strait; with sandbanks visible here and there, and flocks of sea-birds soaring and dipping and screaming, is like a broad river, widening itself to its utmost until it becomes impossible to distinguish between river and sea.

At the head of the Pass of Nant Francon, and behind the huge, dark, threatening shoulder of Carnedd Dafydd, Llyn Ogwen stretches along for about[Pg 207] a mile or so, hemmed in at its further extremity by a low range of hills. In Cumberland this lake would be called a tarn, as would also Llyn Idwal, a sort of miniature Wastwater, which lodges in a hollow, among deep and gloomy precipices, a few hundred yards to the left. “This,” wrote Leland, “is a smoule poule, where they say that Idwalle, Prince of Wales, was killed and drounid.”

“No human ear but Dunawt’s heard
Young Idwal’s dying scream,”

says the ballad in which the tradition is enshrined. The appearance of the place may well have suggested either the legend in modern or the crime in ancient days. In stormy weather the surroundings of the little lake are inconceivably wild and forbidding, and the wind swirls about in this hollow of the rocks until Llyn Idwal boils like a sea.

Ogwen is a lake of gentler and more serene aspect. At its foot, under Carnedd Dafydd, where the coach-road crosses, its waters, with those from Llyn Idwal, form the Falls of Benglog, so well described by an older writer that his words shall be made to serve the purpose here. “The highest Fall,” observes Bingley, “is grand and majestic, yet by no means equal to the other two. At the second, or middle, Fall the river is precipitated, in a fine stream, through a chasm between two perpendicular rocks that each rise several yards above. The mountain, Trivaen, fills up the wide space at the top, and forms a rude and sublime distance. The stream widens as it descends, and below passes over a slanting rock, which gives it a somewhat different direction. In the foreground is the rugged bed of a stream, and the water is seen to dash in various directions among broken masses of rock.” At the lowest fall “the stream[Pg 208] roars with great fury, and in one sheet of foam, down an unbroken and almost perpendicular rock. The roar of the water, and the broken and uncouth disposition of the surrounding rocks, add greatly to the interest of the scene.” And from these Falls of Benglog one looks down the wide, treeless vale of Nant Francon, a broad, peaty marsh, the bed of some ancient lake, as it would appear, hemmed in by dark ridges of mountains.

Carnarvon Castle


Throughout the whole length of Nant Francon the river OGWEN is a thin, quiet, winding, silvery stream, unsheltered by bush or tree; but as it approaches the Bethesda slate quarries it is shadowed by its first foliage, that seems designed to hide from it the gigantic outrage on which was built the scattered and rather extensive town of Bethesda, and which has made Lord Penrhyn one of the wealthiest members of the House of Lords. Below the fine bridge leading to the quarries the river is lost among deep woods; but, pursuing it further, one comes most unexpectedly on a long and romantic series of cascades, continuing until the Ogwen is lost to sight in a deep hollow filled with mist and foam. The river has a beautiful and picturesque bend as it passes behind the cottages[Pg 209] of Bethesda, a mile or so lower down, and thenceforward it becomes a river something like the Llugwy in appearance, tumbling over short cataracts, or wandering deep among woods, or emerging now and again amid pleasant green spaces, its banks shaded by overhanging trees.

The Swallow Falls


As Carnedd Dafydd, and its twin, Llewelyn, are left behind there comes in sight the steep side and dark, rounded summit of Penmaenmawr, and then, on an opposite and less conspicuous eminence, looking over Bangor and the Menai Strait, and surrounded by woods in which the Ogwen is for a while completely hidden, rises Penrhyn Castle, the seat of Lord Penrhyn, with one great square, turreted tower dominating all the country roundabout. Henceforth the river is little seen until it flows out, through a deep ravine, on to the broad, sandy flats which stretch from Bangor to Beaumaris, its short, swift, troubled life ending thus in sunlit peace.

[Pg 210]

The steep mountain-sides which hem in Lake Ogwen at its foot are so black, bare, rugged, and forbidding, as to suggest the skeleton of an unfinished world. A kindlier scenery opens out beyond the head of the lake, where the river LLUGWY—the first of the tributaries of the Conway which have now to be noticed—after wandering downwards from a small mountain tarn under the shadow of Carnedd Llewelyn, runs through a wild and fine pass to Capel Curig. The valley is hemmed in by the great mountains, and to the south rise the three peaks of Y Tryfan, with the Glyder-Fach in the hollow to its left.

At Capel Curig, where is Pont-y-Garth, the Llugwy is an inconspicuous stream, but it grows wider, and its valley becomes very beautiful, immediately after leaving that place, when it is joined by the waters from the two small lakes which make the best of all the foregrounds to Snowdon. Here is “a region of fairy beauty and of wild grandeur,” as George Borrow says. Moel Siabod, “a mighty mountain, bare and precipitous, with two peaks like those of Pindus, opposite Janina,” here hides its sternness amid woods of oak and fir. Above the lakes, all the peaks of Snowdon are in sight—Y Wyddfa, which is the summit; Lliwedd, “the triple-crested”; craggy Crib-Goch, advancing itself before the rest; and Crib-y-Ddysgyl. To the right of the valley, which has Moel Siabod on its left, there is a curving range of rocky heights, their harshness softened by bracken and dwarf shrubs, and beyond, and high above, is the stony wilderness of the Glyder-Fach.

Afon Llugwy—afon being the pretty Welsh word for “river”—flows through one of the most beautiful of all pastoral valleys on its way from Capel Curig to the Swallow Falls. Every bend of the stream, every green, shady pool, every long stretch of rock impeded water has appeared again and again on the walls of the great picture exhibitions; for there is no river of Wales which is so much haunted by artists as this which we are now following to its junction with the Conway. At Pont-y-Cyfing—a modern bridge of a single tall arch—the river plunges through riven cliffs, boils round enormous masses of rock, and then tumbles over a bold cascade, to recover its quiet almost immediately; but only to be again driven into turbulence where a pretty rustic bridge strides across, to give unimpeded view of a succession of rapids above and below.

The Llugwy dreams along through pleasant meadows and by quiet woods before it comes to the famous Rhaiadr-y-Wennol (the Waterfall of the Swallow). Whence, one is driven to ask, comes such a name as this? The easy and the usual reply is that these are called Swallow Falls because of the swiftness with which the water descends. But all waterfalls are swift. The correct answer to the question suggests itself, as one continues to gaze, through a mist of fine spray, when the river comes down in an autumn flood. The ears deafened by the rush of the cataract, the eyes dazzled and fascinated by the breadth and the mass of the falling waters, a dim sense of something white, with black streaks here and there, overpowers all other impressions. As the river sweeps downward over the higher fall, it is broken and divided by dark pillars of rock. Yes, that is the idea, certainly.[Pg 211] What these Falls suggested to the ancient inhabitants of Wales, to those who gave its name to the Rhaiadr-y-Wennol, was the swift alternation between the white gleam of the swallow’s breast and the dark shadow of its wings, as it darted to and fro between river and sky. George Borrow has a concise, vivid, and fairly correct description of the Falls, which may be quoted here because it is impossible to put the matter in fewer words. “First,” he says, “there are a number of little foaming torrents, bursting through rocks about twenty yards above the promontory on which I stood; then come two beautiful rolls of white water, dashing into a pool a little above the promontory; then there is a swirl of water round its corner into a pool below, black as death, and seemingly of great depth; then a rush through a very narrow outlet into another pool, from which the water clamours away down the glen.”

Miners’ Bridge


We have had the last sight of the mountains for a while when we enter the little, rock-poised wood from which the Swallow Falls are to be seen. The grand, solitary mass of Moel Siabod lies behind us, one grey, far-away peak of Snowdon exhibiting itself over the lowermost slope. Henceforth, almost to Bettws-y-Coed, the course of the Llugwy is through a deep, rocky, and finely-wooded glen. It is Matlock on a more magnificent scale. It is the High Tor repeating itself again and again, in greater grandeur of scale, and with additional beauty of surroundings. Wild nature is here clothed and softened by luxuriant foliage, which towers up to the heights. The bare rock is visible only where the river[Pg 212] courses through the deep woods, which are to be seen to most advantage from the Miners’ Bridge, slanting far upward across the river to the opposite slope—a bridge of rough sections of tree trunk bound together, with a hand-rail of long boughs for security—a bridge erected in an emergency, and for a temporary purpose, as one might guess; a bridge of perilous slope, which has done good service to more than one generation of miners, climbing up the hillside to their daily toil.

Moel Siabod

Photo: I. Slater, Llandudno.


Of Bettws-y-Coed—“the Bede House in the Wood”—so much is known that little needs in this place to be said. Here is Pont-y-Pair, and a scene which painting[Pg 213] has made more familiar than almost any other in these islands. The bridge has been associated with the name of Inigo Jones, but at least the base of the structure dates back to the fifteenth century, being the work of a mason who must also have been a fine architect, and who died, as it seems, before his work was complete. It has four lofty arches, about which an ancient and gnarled ivy clings. Below, when the water is quiet, one may see the trout dashing about amid the pools. The river-bed is riven and torn, and full of craggy masses. A rocky islet, on which clusters a most picturesque group of fir trees, divides the accelerating waters, that now, after one final battle with obstructions, sweep sharply round a curve, and shortly join the Conway.



The valley of the LLEDR always presents itself to this present writer’s recollection as he beheld it first, at the end of a dry summer, when the eye feasted without[Pg 214] weariness on glowing colour, and when every bend of the river opened up some piece of country which was like one of Turner’s glorious dreams. He saw it last on a day of drifting rain. And in wet or in dry seasons the Lledr valley permits of no comparison between itself and any other. It is incomparable in its various beauty; it is unique in its power of attraction, in its way of producing a satisfying sense of something wholly individual and complete. High up towards Blaenau Festiniog it has little beauty; but before the stream reaches Dolwyddelen Castle the real Lledr valley begins, and is thenceforward down to the junction with the Conway a perpetually changing scene of loveliness. Here again Moel Siabod, seen in a new aspect, but always striking in form and noble in proportions, seems to dominate the landscape. It may be seen from one impressive point with Dolwyddelen Castle in the middle distance. This ruin is the fragment of an ancient stronghold which derives all its present importance from the beauty of its situation. A single tower occupies the summit of a rocky knoll, and stands out clear against its misty mountain background. Yet the castle was fairly large in its day, occupying the whole surface of the hill. Here lived Iorwerth Drwyndwn, whose fortune in battle gained him his surname of “the Broken Nose”; and here, too, Llewelyn the Great is said to have been born. At a later day the castle became the residence of Howel Coetmor, a notorious outlaw and robber chief, who so harried his neighbours that they sat in church with weapons in their hands. A Roman road crossed the Lledr at the village of Dolwyddelen, which is about a mile from the castle, and there are still distinct Roman remains on the hill above the village. But let no one, on that account, meditate on the ruins of empires at the railway station which is called Roman Bridge, for the road crossed the river at quite another place, and the bridge is of an antiquity corresponding to that of the relic which was discovered by the credulous hero of Sir Walter Scott’s romance.

The Lledr wanders about its valley as if it were loth to leave. It makes huge loops and bends, almost knotting itself sometimes into what the sailors call “a figure of eight.” The whole valley is a combination of wildness and fertility, of wide prospects and confined glimpses of sylvan beauty, of wooded hills and frowning crags and broken upland. In rainy weather innumerable foamy streams swell the Lledr, until, in some portions of its course, it seems to make a series of lakes. The oldest bridge is Pont-y-Pant, not far from the entrance to the valley from the direction of Bettws-y-Coed. Below this the stream hurries onwards through woods and meadow-land, under mighty bluffs which are wooded to their summits, and, issuing at length from its rocky barriers, adds to the Conway a volume of water that is equal to its own.

The river MACHNO falls into the Conway a mile or two beyond its junction with the Lledr. It is a short river, drawing to itself a number of little mountain streams, and its principal feature—but that is of the first importance from the tourist point of view—round which painters of landscape seem to encamp themselves[Pg 215] all the year through, the falls of the Machno, combines every element of what one may call the ordinary picturesque. The river foams among crags and boulders, and between rocky ledges, from which the trees hang dizzily, casting deep shadows across the stream, and making green reflections in each swirling pool. Then, too, there is Pandy Mill, making a sunshine in the shady place, and a mill-wheel with a tumbling jet of water; and nature seems to have lavished all its softer endearments on this exquisite little scene, delighting the eye with tender arrangements of moss and film-fern, and lichen and hoar boughs.

On the Lledr

Photo: Green Bros., Grasmere.


Not far below this pretty landscape cameo are the Falls of the Conway, where the river rushes on through a gorge of dark, sloping, almost columnar rocks, and then—divided by a tall crag, on which one or two small bushes have contrived to grow—bends and plunges down two steep descents to where a half-ruinous salmon leap brings to mind the eminence of the Conway as a[Pg 217] fishing river. And next, the Fairy Glen! This is a genuine ravine, where the stream forces itself between riven cliffs, and flows in deep, rapid streaks of peaty-brown water among a wilderness of grey rocks, plunging downward, thereafter, into a wild glen overhung by woods. The name of the Fairy Glen would seem inappropriate enough to such a scene were it not that here, again, Nature has thrown all manner of rustic decorations about this frowning gorge. The sunlight, too, seems to fill the place in a strange, mystic way, so that the lichen-encrusted rocks are seen through a kind of blue, misty glamour, and there is a suggestion of rainbow colour over all.

Another View in the Lledr Valley


From the road high above the Fairy Glen there is a fine prospect of the mountains. Moel Siabod seems to have come nearer, and the far distance is closed in by the Glyders, Tryfan, and the Carnedd Llewelyn range. Down in the valley is the Llyn-yr-Afanc, or the Beaver’s Pool, and nearer to Bettws-y-Coed the river is crossed by the fine span of the iron bridge which was built in the year of the battle of Waterloo.

Fairy Glen


The CONWAY has no particular attractiveness as it passes Bettws, where David Cox’s famous signboard may still be seen at the Royal Oak Hotel. It has here a green margin of meadow-land, which grows broader as we proceed towards Llanrwst, a sweetly-placed little market town, to which small vessels seem to have made their way in the last century, for a sailor who penned a diary in 1769 wrote how “Llanrwst is situated in a very deep bottom on the river Conway, betwixt Denbigh hills and Carnarvon rocks, some of which appear to hang over the town. Nevertheless, we found a much better anchorage than we could have expected at such a bottom.”

[Pg 218]

This sailor was an observing man, for he continues:—“Llanrwst is a small market-town, containing one church, a market-hall, as they call it, and about fifty or sixty houses, but never a good house among the whole lot.” There are some good houses nowadays, however, and a fine stone bridge of three arches, with a peculiarly high and graceful spring. Here, again, the design is attributed to Inigo Jones, as, perhaps, ought to be the case in the immediate country of that renowned architect. Gwydir Castle, the family mansion of the Wynns, is a conspicuous object among the woods which here cluster under the feet of the craggy Carnarvonshire hills. It has now passed, through the hands of the Earl of Ancaster, whose forbears married with the Wynn family, into the possession of the Earl Carrington. The founder of the castle was Sir John Wynn of Gwydir, who represented Carnarvonshire in Parliament in 1596, and whose soul is said to be imprisoned under the Swallow Falls, “there to be punished, purged, spouted upon, and purified from the foul deeds done in his days of nature.” A truly tremendous malediction! Some traces of the sixteenth-century building still remain, but the present castle belongs to our own century, though it contains carved work of the reigns of Elizabeth and James.

At Llanbedr, on the hills above the Llanrwst road, may be found one of the most remarkable primitive fortifications that are to be seen anywhere in these islands, Pen-Caer-Helen by name. “It was a British post of great strength,” says Pennant, “in some parts singularly guarded. It had the usual fosses, and vast ramparts of stones, with some remains of the facing of walls, and the foundations of three or four round buildings.” The remains are still very extensive, and clearly indicate the extent of the ancient stone ramparts. It was a post from which a very great extent of country could be surveyed. In one direction you look over the Conway and the Denbighshire hills, as far as the valley of the Clwyd; in another, the eye stretches over a barren waste to the Carnedd Llewelyn range. The Great and the Little Orme are in sight, and Puffin Island, and the sea.

The Conway is still navigable by small vessels as far as Trefriw, a pretty village of small houses and neat villas, clustering under the hill, and close to the coach road. Trefriw is renowned not only for its situation, but for its “Fairy Falls,” and its “spa,” which, says Mr. Halliwell-Phillips, yields “the nastiest chalybeate I ever had the folly to taste.” For some distance below Trefriw, the river, now broader and much more deep, runs for a while between great masses of tall reeds and sedge, and then opens out into a lake-like width, with such a prospect of spreading water, and woods and mountain, as recalls the characteristic beauties of Windermere. Very delightful indeed is a voyage in the little steamer which plies between Deganwy, Conway, and Trefriw; but it is at Conway Marsh that the river is at its noblest. When the tide is out, this is a broad, sweeping, sandy bay, with oozy spaces of bright green towards its centre; and when the[Pg 219] tide is full, it has the appearance of a large and beautiful islanded lake. The river is walled in on the Conway side, and a thick wood shadows the stream as it bends round towards the sea. It is here that one of the most effective views of Conway Castle comes into sight, with the two white bridges stretching over the narrowing channel, and the great circular towers clustering together in such manner as to convey a most formidable impression of massiveness and strength. One naturally compares Conway with Carnarvon Castle. The two buildings are said to have been designed by the same architect, and, of their kind, they are among the finest in the world. Carnarvon Castle is more elaborated in idea, more ingenious, more decorative, and in general aspect more grand; but Conway suggests a greater antiquity, a more solid strength, a sounder and more artistic unity of structure. It is a mere ruin, having been dismantled in 1665. Even before that period it seems to have been abandoned to time. There is a letter of James I.’s reign which says that “the King’s Castle of Conway, in the county of Carnarvon, is in great ruin and decay, whereof the greater part hath been downe and uninhabitable for manie ages past; the rest of the timber supporting the roof is all, or for the most part, rotten, and growth daylie by wet more and more in decay, no man having dwelt in anie part thereof these thirty years past.” There[Pg 220] is no roof at all now; the timbers are long consumed; the castle is gutted throughout; and yet, as seen from the Conway river, the castle still has a certain august and complete majesty, as if time could do it no real despite.

On the Conway


Conway Castle, with the Conway mountain, on which there is a British fort, towering up in the rear, held complete command of the estuary. It was an English, not a Welsh, stronghold, being built by Edward I., about 1284. Queen Eleanor is said to have lived there with the king, and one of the towers has been named the “Queen’s” tower in memory of that event. The great hall, which was supported on vaults, was 130 feet long by 32 feet broad. The castle was besieged in 1290 by Madoc, one of the sons of Llewelyn, the English king himself being present on the occasion. A fleet bringing provisions saved the garrison just as it was being starved into surrender. When Bolingbroke landed in England, and Richard II. found himself abandoned by his army, he fled here for safety, and at this castle, it is averred, was his abdication signed.

The Conway

Photo: I. Slater, Llandudno.


Conway town, sloping swiftly down to the riverside, and almost wholly enclosed within its many-towered walls, looks like a contemporary illustration of Froissart. There is no other such perfect specimen of a small mediæval walled town now remaining. The fortifications climb up a steep hillside, in a triangular form—or rather, as has been said, so as to make the figure of a Welsh harp. The highest point of the triangle is so far above the other portions of the walls that the whole has that quaint look of being out of perspective which is the most pronounced characteristic of all mediæval draughtsmanship.

[Pg 221]

Conway Castle


Across the water, and on the way to Llandudno, the little town, or village, or city of Deganwy half hides itself among the sands, just above the verge of what was formerly, and even up to recent times, a marsh stretching from opposite Conway to Llandudno Bay. It was hereabout, but on the Conway side of the river, that the pearl-fishing was carried on:—

“Conway, which out of his streame doth send
Plenty of pearls to deck his dames withal”—

says Spenser, in the “Faërie Queene.” The pearl fishery had once a real importance. Sir Richard Wynn of Gwydir presented to the queen of Charles II. a Conway pearl, which afterwards adorned the regal crown. This was probably of a kind that was found higher up the river, at Trefriw. A more common variety was found in abundance on the bar, and the collection of the pearl-bearing mussels was for a long time a distinct and regular industry. “As for the pearls found in these mountainous rivers,” said a letter-writer of the seventeenth century, “they are very plentiful, and uncommonly large, though few of them well coloured. They are found in a large, black muscle, peculiar to such rivers. Several ladyes of this county and Denbighshire have collections of good pearle, found chiefly in the river Conway.”

[Pg 222]

Deganwy, “the place where the white waves break upon the shore,” was a royal residence from a very remote period. It had a castle, which is said to have been erected in the sixth century by Maelgwyn Gwynedd, and to have been destroyed by Llewelyn the Great, whose statue is to be seen in Conway town. “It was a noble structure,” says Giraldus Cambrensis, “and its possession was held to be of great importance to the English, so that Randal Blondevil, Earl of Chester, rebuilt it in 1210. King John encamped at Deganwy two years later, but was compelled to retreat with his army before Llewelyn. There were other royal retreats from Deganwy, before the fierce Welsh, in 1245, 1258, and 1262. There were “great ruines” of the castle in Leland’s time; but now it is with difficulty that any fragment is discerned. Deganwy itself has become a watering-place, a small rival to Llandudno, mainly attractive because it presents a magnificent view of the estuary of the Conway, and of the fine range of mountains which ends in Penmaenmawr.”

Llandudno, for the most part, occupies the flat and formerly marshy space between the Great and the Little Orme. It is altogether a favourable type of the modern watering-place; but it need not detain us here, for we have reached the point at which the river broadens out into Conway Bay, and is lost among the in-rushing waves of the Irish Sea.

The Bridge, from Conway Castle




The CLWYD: Rhyl—Rhuddlan Castle—The Elwy—A Welsh Gretna Green—St. Asaph—Denbigh—Ruthin. The DEE: Bala Lake—Corwen—Vale of Llangollen and Valle Crucis Abbey—Dinas Bran—The Ceiriog—Chirk Castle and Wynnstay—The Alyn—Eaton Hall—Chester—Flint.

THE town of Rhyl is like a piece of Liverpool or Manchester, “borne, like Loretto’s chapel, through the air,” and arranged in long terraces and orderly blocks on a piece of flat coast-land near the mouth of the river CLWYD. The place has been much praised by a grandiloquent writer who, in the very height of his rapture, had to admit that “the great object of attraction was the sun setting in a flood of golden beauty on his evening throne.” It is a spectacle that may be observed elsewhere. The virtue of Rhyl is that it is easily accessible from large centres of population, that it enjoys pure and bracing air, that it has a vast expanse of firm sands, that the Great Orme and the Penmaenmawr range look very noble and beautiful from its broad promenade, and that the soft winds blow towards it from the pleasant Vale of Clwyd.

But in the immediate neighbourhood of Rhyl even the famous vale has no attractiveness. The bare river flows through bare mud. This enormously wide valley is, for the most part, a soft, dark marsh, on which a thin vegetation struggles to maintain a dank existence. But even from Rhyl there are agreeable views of what the Welsh call Dyffryn Clwyd, the Vale of the Flat, “the Eden of Wales.” Three miles away, over an absolutely level and barren space, the wooded knolls and the dark towers of Rhuddlan advance almost to the centre of the valley, and have a fine impressiveness when they are thrown into relief by the shadow of some passing cloud. The Clwydian hills seem to close in behind them, with Moel Fammau in the remote distance. The old poet, Thomas Churchyard, says:

“The vale doth reach so far in view of man
As he far of may see the seas, indeede;
And who awhile for pleasure travel can
Throughout this vale, and thereof take good heede,
He shall delight to see a soyle so fine,
For ground and grass a passing plot devine;
And if the truth thereof a man may tell,
This vale alone doth all the rest excell.”
View from Rhuddlan Castle


However, it is not until after Rhuddlan has been passed that the great fertility of the Vale of Clwyd declares itself, and to pass Rhuddlan is impossible without some examination, and without some ransacking of one’s historical memory; for[Pg 225] poor and unimportant as it now seems, this little place has played a great part in the history of Wales.

Rhuddlan Castle


A long bridge of several arches stretches over from the high road which crosses the marsh, to a steep, firm ascent, a little church with a square tower, and a few small cottages. Other cottages, mostly set amid neat gardens, border on the curves of what is more like a country lane than a village. Then suddenly, for it has been hidden by trees, one comes face to face with the colossal fragments of what must have been a nearly impregnable castle, poised on the summit of a bare, rounded hill, its huge towers buried in ivy, its outer walls sloping down to the Clwyd, and to an outer tower which has long been half in ruins, but which is so strongly built that it may still, for centuries to come, defy the malice of Time. On the partially reclaimed morass on the further side of the river, where a herd of black Welsh cows is grazing, the Saxons under Offa, King of Mercia, fought a great battle with the Welsh, under Caradoc, Prince of Wales, in 795. Caradoc and many of his principal chieftains were slain. The well-known air of “Morva[Pg 226] Rhuddlan” commemorates the event, and the native poet sings, not without sweetness and pathos:

“I seek the warrior’s lowly bed
On Rhuddlan’s marsh; but cannot trace
A vestige of the noble dead,
Or aught to mark their resting place.
Green rush and reeds are all that grace
The graves of those in fight who fell,
For freedom—for their land and race,
Oh fatal field! farewell, farewell!”

Where Rhuddlan Castle stands there was a fortress so early as 1015, and it was taken by Harold Godwinson, in Edward the Confessor’s time. Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, rested at Rhuddlan in 1167, when he was preaching a Crusade. Edward I. took Rhuddlan Castle in 1277, and here it was that his son, recently born at Carnarvon, was proclaimed Prince of Wales. Edward made the place his grand depôt for arms and provisions, and his principal residence whilst he was engaged in the conquest of Wales. It was to Rhuddlan, too, that Llewelyn consented to repair to take the oath of fealty. The castle passed into the hands of the Black Prince in the reign of Edward III. Richard II. was here held in honourable captivity after his return from his expedition to Ireland. The forces of the Parliament unsuccessfully besieged the place in 1645, but captured it a year later, when it was ordered to be dismantled, and the long, troubled chapter of its history was finally closed.

The sea comes up to Rhuddlan, which, indeed, has some slight pretensions as a port; then, with flat meadows on one side and low-hanging woods on the other, the Clwyd bends about, this way and that, until, before long, it is joined by the river ELWY, which, as it is a pretty river to follow, and takes us to St. Asaph, we shall, for a while, keep company. The Elwy is a merry, romantic, shaded stream, with abundant trout. It is fringed by willow and hazel copse. Sometimes it is wholly lost in foliage, except for a silvery gleam among the leaves; sometimes it comes out into the sunlight, and flows by shingly holms and muddy flats. A peaceful, rich, pastoral country is that through which it courses merrily on its way, with here and there groups of cattle huddling under the hedges for coolness and shade. The water is stained brown with peat, telling of its birth on mountain slopes. Below Ffynnon Fair, seated on the brow of a hill, it receives the waters of a holy well, once sheltered by shrine work, and a place of pilgrimage, as the ivy-clad ruins of a cruciform chapel still declare. And this chapel was also the Gretna Green of Wales, a place for the marriage of runaway couples, as this ancient record shows:—“1611. Mem.: Thatt upon Frydaye, at night, happening upon vij. day of Februarie, one Pyers Griffith ab Inn Gryfydd, my brother in lawe, was married clandestinely with one Jane rch Thomas hys second wieff at the chapel at Wicwer called Capel Fynnon Fair.”

The Elwy loses the shadow of its willows and hazels a mile or so below St. Asaph, which is five miles upwards from Rhyl. Winding among deep banks of[Pg 227] rich soil, it makes the necessary part of a pretty picture when, flowing under a fine stone bridge of five arches, it forms a foreground for one of the smallest cities, crowned by the smallest cathedral, in all these islands. St. Asaph may be satisfactorily explored in half an hour’s time. It spreads itself over a hill, which is called Bryn Paulen, after some legendary Paulinus, a Roman general. The cathedral, which is no more than an average-sized church, is the central and highest object. St. Kentigern is said to have built a church of wood on the site about the middle of the sixth century, when he was driven from Scotland by a prince who declined to be won from Paganism. St. Asaph, who was a native of Wales, succeeded as bishop when Kentigern returned to Scotland. He built a church of stone, in which he was buried in 576. For five hundred years the see has no dependable history; but in the period of the Civil Wars there was a cathedral in which horses and oxen were stabled, and a see whose revenues were sequestrated by Parliament. The building was restored, when Charles II. came to the throne, by Bishop Griffith, and a bishop’s palace was erected by his successor, who was none other than the learned Isaac Barrow. The cathedral of St. Asaph contains the tomb of this distinguished prelate, and a monument to Mrs. Hemans, who spent a large portion of her life in the Vale of Clwyd, as readers of her poems may easily discover. In front of the cathedral stands a tall red-sandstone monument, erected in memory of Bishop Morgan, the first translator of the Bible into the language of Wales.

From a couple of miles above St. Asaph to the meeting of the waters above Rhuddlan, the Clwyd and the Elwy pursue an almost parallel course, the Elwy in long bends and sweeps, the Clwyd with almost infinite small windings. To that point their streams have been almost at right angles to each other, the Elwy rising not far from the hills above Llanrwst, overlooking the Conway valley, the Clwyd flowing down by Ruthin and Denbigh, a thin thread of water, except in very rainy seasons, with its course worn so deep, after the lapse of ages, into the rich, yielding soil, that it is sometimes scarcely to be discerned as a feature in the landscape.

Denbigh, say the etymologists, hazarding a guess, means “a small hill.” In that case, the older designation, Caledfryn-yn-Rhos (“a rocky hill in Rhos”), was much more appropriate, for the town ascends by one long street to heights that appear mountainous to the tired pedestrian; and from Denbigh Castle, the ruins of which occupy the summit of this “small hill,” the land slopes off suddenly to an immense depth of rich pastoral landscape, enclosed in a basin of lofty but graciously rounded hills. Like Carnarvon, Denbigh Castle is to some extent being rebuilt; but it is immeasurably a more hopeless sort of ruin. It was dismantled by order of Charles II., and the work seems to have been thoroughly accomplished, for the walls were of great strength, and it must have been a very determined act of destruction that reduced them to such fragments as now remain. Here, within the actual walls of the castle, but in a cottage that has now been destroyed,[Pg 228] was Henry M. Stanley born. The special distinction of Denbigh, however, is that it was the last castle which held out for Charles I. It was, indeed, only surrendered at the king’s own order, dated from Newcastle, when Charles was himself a prisoner there.

St. Asaph

ST. ASAPH (p. 227).

Eight miles further on is Ruthin, which is another town that clusters about the summit of a hill. The castle here, which has been restored, and is still inhabited, was in existence in the reign of Edward I., and how much earlier is not known. We are now in the richest and most fertile portion of the Vale of Clwyd, with its highest mountain not far away. To the summit of Moel Fammau, 1,845 feet above the level of the sea, is only five miles. The mountain is crowned by the ugly ruin of a tower which was erected at the jubilee of George III. Hence may be seen the valleys of the Dee and the Mersey, and, by aid of a telescope, the coasts of Lancashire and Cheshire. Looking down the Vale of Clwyd, the eye ranges over a landscape that is dotted about with farmhouses and herds of kine; the white, tapering tower of Bodelwyddan Church rises high above its trees, and Rhyl, Llandudno, and Great Orme’s Head stand out clearly on the sea margin far away. At a greater distance, and in another direction, one may behold Snowdon and Cader Idris, with their summits buried in brooding clouds.

The river DEE rises in a country which has been immemorially associated with the Arthurian legends. Here, indeed, was the infant king committed to the care of old Timon, and here his boyhood was spent—

[Pg 229]

“In a valley green,
Under the foot of Rauran mossy hore,
From whence the river Dee, as silver clene,
His tombling billows rolls with gentle rore.”

So says Spenser, using a phrase which may have been in Shakespeare’s mind when he made Bottom promise to “roar you as gently as any sucking-dove.” Almost beyond counting are the streams which empty themselves into Bala Lake, high up among the peaks of Merionethshire. And they scarcely run dry in the hottest summers, for, as a cynical humorist has written—

“The weather depends on the moon as a rule,
And I’ve found that the saying is true;
For at Bala it rains when the moon’s at the full
And it rains when the moon’s at the new.
“When the moon’s at the quarter, then down comes the rain:
At the half it’s no better, I ween;
When the moon’s at three-quarters it’s at it again,
And it rains, besides, mostly between!”

The Dee is said to flow through the lake without mingling its waters—a tradition that may be gently set aside. It rises on the flank of Aran Benllyn, and already receives two tributaries before it joins Bala Lake at its head. At Llanuwchllyn, near to the spot at which the three little streams become one, it has grown important enough to be crossed by a rude stone bridge of two arches.


Photo: Catherall & Pritchard, Eastgate Row, Chester.

DENBIGH (p. 227).

[Pg 230]

Drayton speaks of Bala Lake as Pimblemere. That is a name signifying “the lake of the five parishes.” Llyn Tegid, the lake of beauty, is the favourite Welsh designation. And a very beautiful lake it is, though with less majesty of surroundings than one would expect to find at such a height, in such a country, where, as George Borrow says, everything is “too grand for melancholy.” It was the largest sheet of water in Wales until Lake Vyrnwy was made, its length being about four and a half miles by about a mile in average breadth. In the Welsh mind it has filled so large a place that there is a tradition of how the bursting of the banks of Bala Lake caused the Deluge. A feature that has always attracted much attention is the influence of a south-west wind in driving its waters outward into the Dee. Thus, for example, writes Tennyson, speaking of Enid’s nursing of Geraint:—

“Her constant motion round him, and the breath
Of her sweet tendence hovering over him,
Filled all the genial courses of his blood
With deeper and with ever deeper love,
As the south-west, that blowing Bala Lake,
Fills all the sacred Dee.”

A sacred character has been associated with the Dee from the very earliest times. It was “holy” to the Druids; it was a “wizard stream” to Milton; Drayton speaks of where “Dee’s holiness begun,” and credits it with presaging woe to the English or the Welsh according as, in one portion of its course, it shifted the bed of its stream. The Dee is a mountain-river from Bala downwards, and until Llangollen has been passed. Its outlet from the lake is through a quaint, many-arched stone bridge—a bridge, as Coleridge might have said, “with a circumbendibus.” The railway runs close at hand for almost the whole of its course, which, for the present, lies through what is the peculiar country of Owen Glendower. We have encountered traces of this valiant chieftain at Machynlleth, Dolgelley, and almost everywhere that we have been; but here, at Corwen and roundabout, the country fairly reeks with his memory. The Dee is a fair, wide river when it leaves Bala Lake, and flows for a while through open meadow lands, to plunge before long and with great suddenness into a beautiful mountain gorge, where it is overhung by trees. At the delightful village of Llandderfel it is crossed by another picturesque bridge, set among rocky hills which teem with wild legends, and shortly thereafter it flows once more among wide, open spaces, bare, bleak, and harried by the winds. The Vale of Edeyrnion is the name of the country through which we have just passed, and this valley, in which the character of the scenery changes so conspicuously and so often, comes to an end just before the town of Corwen is reached.

Bala Lake

Photo: Carl Norman & Co., Tunbridge Wells.


Grey, slaty, nestling among trees and wooded heights, with a slate quarry prominent in the foreground, with many odd, old-fashioned, solid-looking houses, Corwen has a church dedicated to Mael and Sulien, saints unknown to the English calendar. Of Sulien it is said that he was “the godliest man and greatest clerke[Pg 231] in all Wales.” On a stone in the churchyard is shown “the true mark of Owen Glendower’s dagger,” which weapon he threw from a rock behind the church, thus doing something more to surround his life with legend. There was another Owen whom the Corwen folk hold in loving remembrance—that Owen Gwynedd, Prince of Wales, who opposed himself to Henry II., and who made so strong an encampment near the town that there were vestiges of it remaining in Pennant’s time.

Valle Crucis Abbey


There is an exquisite view of the Dee from what is known as Owen Glendower’s Mound. The surrounding country is comparatively open; but the river is again, before long, lost in a narrowing valley and among rich woods. And by[Pg 232] this time we have come into the region of modern achievement. The valley of the Dee is now to be seen to most advantage from Telford’s road, which brings us to more than one of the seven wonders of Wales, and first of all to the glorious Vale of Llangollen. George Borrow has too much limited the scope and range of this glorious valley. “The northern side of the vale,” he says, “is formed by certain enormous rocks called the Eglwyseg rocks, which extend from east to west, a distance of about two miles. The southern side is formed by the Berwyn hills.” Here, says Mr. Ruskin, speaking from a wide observation, “is some of the loveliest brook and glen scenery in the world.” The remains of Valle Crucis give a special human interest to a district that is wonderfully full of beauty and charm. It was a Cistercian house, much smaller than the other famous abbeys of the same order, but resembling them in certain[Pg 233] high architectural qualities, as well as in the seclusiveness of its situation. The abbey was founded by Madoc, Lord of Bromfield, in the time of King John, in what was, even at that time, called the Valley of the Cross, in virtue of the mysterious “Eliseg’s Pillar,” which is still a puzzle to the antiquary. The ruins lie among steep hills—

“For when one hill behind your backe you see,
Another comes, two times as high as Dee,”

as Thomas Churchyard sings. The main tower of the abbey appears to have been standing in the days of this poet; but now nothing remains but its piers. The pointed gables on the eastern and western ends of the church are, however, conspicuous objects still. The abbey is believed to have been at the point of highest prosperity in the time of Owen Glendower. Henry VIII. employed the abbot to draw out a Welsh pedigree for him, which was, no doubt, as faithfully done as circumstances would allow. Two later abbots became Bishops of St. Asaph. And then followed the Dissolution, with all its waste and ruin.



The Bridge of Llangollen is enumerated among the “seven wonders of Wales,” four of which belong to the Valley of the Dee. It scarcely seems to deserve this particular renown, though it is a very excellent specimen of a mediæval bridge, its builder being John Trevor, Bishop of St. Asaph, who completed his work in 1350. The Dee at this point flows over a solid bed of rock, or, as Churchyard says:

“And still on rocke the water runnes, you see,
A wondrous way—a thing full rare and strange,
That rocke can not the course of waters change;
For in the streame huge stones and rockes remayne
That backward might the flood, of force, constrain.”

[Pg 234]

The name of Llangollen is, by some authorities, derived from St. Collen, to whom the church is dedicated. It is an ordinary enough little town in itself; but is so remarkably placed that the eye can scarcely turn in any direction without finding pictures of most extraordinary beauty.

On the opposite side of the bridge from the town the hill of Dinas Bran rises, a huge cone, to the height of a thousand feet or so. It is so regular in its conical shape that it at first suggests artificial construction. But just at this place the hills are all abnormal. The Eglwyseg rocks, for example—best seen from the slope of Dinas Bran—might have been transported from some cañon in Colorado. They are a strange series of cliffs, one above the other, regular as walls, and with dark bushes clinging to them in such a manner as to suggest cave dwellings. They are a greater wonder than Dinas Bran itself, which, nevertheless, is very remarkable and striking. On its summit is the ruin of what is popularly known as Crow Castle, attributed in local guide-books to the British, but obviously of much later construction, and probably a relic of Norman times.

From this singular eminence there is a far-stretching view of the valley of the Dee, as the river speeds on its way to a rich and more open country. Near to where the stream is further swollen by receiving the waters of the Ceiriog, it is spanned by the majestic aqueduct which carries the waters of the Ellesmere Canal, one of those few architectural achievements which, placed where Nature has done her utmost, add a new beauty to their surroundings. Even more unrestrained praise might be given to the fine, slender, lofty pillars and arches of the Dee viaduct, which is among the greatest works of the Great Western Railway. The aqueduct is Telford’s work, and the viaduct was built by Robertson. For the former, however, Telford claimed no credit, for he wrote thus in praise of his foreman:—“The Vale of Llangollen is very fine, and not the least interesting object in it, I can assure you, is Davidson’s famous aqueduct, which is already reckoned among the wonders of Wales.”

Churchyard differentiates very discreetly and observingly between the Ceiriog and the Dee. The one, he says, is “a wonderous violent water when rayne or snowe is greate,” and the other is “a river deep and swifte,” running “with gushing streame.” The meeting-place of the two rivers is distinguished as the site of two famous houses, each surrounded by fine parks. On one side is the feudal castle of Chirk, and on the other is Wynnstay, which has long been the seat of the great family after which it is named. Chirk Castle dates back to the eleventh century. It was the home of those Myddletons to whom belonged that famous Sir Hugh Myddleton who brought the New River to London. Wynnstay also has its history, for here lived Madoc ap Gruffydd Maelor, who built Valle Crucis Abbey. It is now the principal seat of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, whose possessions are so extensive that he is sometimes called the real Prince of Wales. The present Hall dates only from a time that is still very recent, for its predecessor was burned down in 1858. From the terrace of Wynnstay there is such a view of the Dee—of wood, of[Pg 235] river, of lofty bridge and distant mountains slopes—as seems almost to belong to the landscape of another world.

Eaton Hall

Photo: Hudson.

EATON HALL (p. 237).

The Dee has finally emerged from the mountainous country when it flows, with many a sharp bend, and long, glittering loop, between the grounds of Chirk Castle and of Wynnstay. It is shortly to become a river that is English on the one side and Welsh on the other, and already, except in the distance, we have seen the last of the characteristic scenery of North Wales. The Dee now courses through a country of wide plains. Offa’s Dyke runs in a straight line through the grounds of Chirk Castle, almost to the point at which the stream is crossed by the railway viaduct. Watt’s Dyke commences on the other side of the Dee, a little lower down, and proceeds through the grounds of Wynnstay, past Ruabon, in the direction of Wrexham. What may have been the purpose of these ancient fortifications is a question which the antiquaries have so far failed to answer in any way that is final and conclusive. Thomas Churchyard has an explanation which is as good as any that has since been offered. He says—

“There is famous thing
Cal’de Offa’s Dyke, that reacheth far in length;
All kind of ware the Danes might thither bring;
It was free ground, and cal’de the Britaine’s strength;
Wat’s Dyke likewise about the same was set
Between which two both Danes and Britaines met,
And trafficke still.”

At these Dykes, too, it would appear, the exchange of prisoners was generally effected. In their origin, no doubt, they were defensive works, as well as lines of demarcation.

The Roodee, Chester


After its junction with the Ceiriog, the Dee divides Denbighshire and Shropshire for some two or three miles. Soon afterwards it again becomes wholly Welsh for a brief while, and forms the boundary between Denbighshire and Flint. This is after we have passed Ruabon, and the great Welsh coalfield. Here is Overton Churchyard, one of those “seven wonders of Wales” whose title to fame is so often inexplicable. At this place there is less to wonder at in the churchyard itself than in the view of the Dee which is presented therefrom, for here it winds, with many curves, through a pleasant valley, interspersed with broad, flat green spaces, woods, and low, rounded hills. Bangor-on-Dee, the chief spawning ground for salmon, is near at hand; and, then, before long, the great tower of Wrexham Church comes in sight, much more of a wonder than either Overton Churchyard or Llangollen Bridge.

[Pg 237]

The Dee at Chester


The river ALYN joins the Dee below Wrexham. It has come through much lovely country, of one portion of which, near Mold, Pennant says:—“I hang long over the charming vale which opens here. Cambria here lays aside her majestic air, and condescends to assume a gentler form, in order to render her less violent in approaching union with her English neighbour.” The Alyn runs underground for about half a mile after it has passed the old fortress of Caergwele. Indeed, as Drayton says, with all due exactness, “twice underground her crystal head doth run.” Our first great landscape painter, Richard Wilson, was buried at Mold, and it was in the vale of the Alyn that fortune at last came to him, for here, on a small estate which had been bequeathed to him, he came upon a vein of lead, and was henceforth able to live in reasonable affluence.

“And following Dee, which Britons long ygone
Did call ‘divine,’ that doth to Chester tend”—

so remarks Edmund Spenser. First, however, we pass Eaton Hall and its splendid grounds. Sir John Vanbrugh built a great mansion on the site, which was pulled down when Gothic architecture again came into fashion. Its successor was, in spite of great cost and elaboration, an architectural failure, and it has now given place to Mr. Waterhouse’s greatest and most colossal achievement in domestic architecture. This magnificent seat of the Duke of Westminster is situated in a very extensive park, in which there is one avenue two miles in length, bordered on each side by forest trees. The style of architecture adopted by Mr. Waterhouse is that which prevailed in France in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. “There is not a house in England,” it has been said, “that has been built on a more perfect arrangement.” The Dee flows round the outskirts of the park to the beautiful village of Eccleston, where the grounds, sloping down to the river, are very[Pg 238] beautifully ornamented with trees. Henceforward to Chester the stream is like a broad reach of the Thames, calm, massive, with leafy banks, a truly impressive introduction to one of the most famous of English cities.

Chester is remarkable alike for its present and its past. It shares with York the distinction of having kept its ancient walls unimpaired; and the walls of Chester, of a rich red sandstone, are much finer, both in colour and in form, than those of the northern city. The definite history of the place goes back at least as far as Agricola, who was at Chester in the year 60 A.D. as an officer in the army of Suetonius Paulinus. Then it was, probably, that the Romans first established a camp on the banks of the Dee. Chester seems to have been the headquarters of the Twentieth Legion, which, soon after the death of Augustus, was stationed at Cologne, on the Rhine, from the reign of Claudius to the departure of the Romans from Britain. The memorials of this occupation are not now very numerous, but are of the highest value in determining what kind of city Chester was when it was occupied by a legion so distinguished that it was generally placed in posts of difficulty and great honour. Probably the most perfect hypocaust in England is that which is to be seen in the grounds attached to the Water Tower at Chester. Ignorant men who offer themselves as guides still speak of the wall as Roman work, and one may find for them this excuse, at least—that the existing walls, with but one deviation, follow the line of the Roman fortifications, part of which can be seen near the canal, not very far from the point at which it communicates with the Dee. The Road-Book of Antonine has this entry: “DEVA. LEG. XX VICTRIX.”

Among the pictures which most impressed the present writer’s boyhood was an illustration of Edgar the Peaceful being rowed down the Dee by eight tributary princes. The incident is not legendary, but historic. One might linger for almost any length of time in this unique city, recalling the memorable facts of its history, were not the Dee still tempting us along. It is a city surrounded by beautiful country, and is full of a quaint charm, with rare architectural features. The famous “Rows”—long covered galleries above the basements of the houses and shops, originally intended for purposes of hasty defence—probably reflect the influence of Rome on the city long after the departure of the legions. This was the surmise of Stukeley, who wrote, “The Rows, or piazzas, of Chester are singular through the whole town, giving shelter to the foot people. I fancied it a remains of the old Roman portico.” Nowhere else in these islands are the ancient, half-timbered houses, like the “God’s Providence House” which has become so famous, in such satisfactory preservation, and they have given a character even to the modern architecture of Chester, which, in many striking instances, is only a reproduction on a larger scale of the prevailing style of the past.

Chester has two cathedrals, and a remarkable ecclesiastical history. The city walls, round which the river sweeps in broad, bold curves, are chiefly of the Edwardian period. From one of the towers, which is now much what it was during[Pg 239] the Civil Wars, Charles I. watched the defeat of his army on Rowton Heath. Chester was shortly afterwards surrendered, and thus was finally lost the cause of the king in the north-west. Following the walls to the opposite side of the city, we find that pleasant pictures are made by two of the Dee bridges—the modern Suspension Bridge for foot-passengers, erected where the river is of great breadth, and the old Dee Bridge, just under the walls, with a huge flour-mill beside it, and a little colony of salmon-fishers on the other side, not far away. Passing the Roodee, a great level space by the river, on which the races are held and other popular festivities take place, we arrive at the great iron arch of the Grosvenor Bridge, which is as noticeable on account of its design as because of the breadth of its single span.

Chester Cathedral

Photo: Frith & Co., Reigate.


For eight miles henceforward the river flows through an artificial channel, made for purposes of navigation, and with the consequence of reclaiming some five thousand acres of land. The swing railway bridge, opened by Mrs. Gladstone in 1889, the first cylinder being placed in position by Mr. Gladstone two years earlier, is the next object of interest. Not far away is Hawarden Park, “not exceeded in beauty by any demesne in the world,” says Dean Howson. After these eight miles of artificial waterway have been traversed, the Dee suddenly broadens out into a wonderful estuary, which, according to the state of the tide, separates England from Wales by wide stretches of water, or by still wider stretches of sand. We pass the Castle of Flint on our way downwards, with one huge round tower dipping its base into the Dee. The town which it once defended is known in these days for its chemical works; but it has seen stirring times. It was here that Richard II. was held prisoner, within “the rude ribs of that ancient[Pg 240] castle,” as Shakespeare says, and here, also, it was that Bolingbroke became King of England. The Castle of Mostyn, not far from where the shore of the river becomes the coast of the sea, was also mixed up in these transactions. Nearly midway between these two fragments of mediævalism are Basingwerk Abbey and the Fountain of Holywell, which is even to this day credited with the working of miracles.

Swing Bridge Over the Dee


The estuary of the Dee has its Lindisfarne; for, as an old writer on Hillbree Island, with the square tower of its church rising above a wooded knoll, has remarked, “It is an island but twice a day, embraced by Neptune only at the full tydes, and twice a day shakes hands with great Britain.” The sands stretch away in almost illimitable expanse, the Wirral Promontory making a distant, faint, and irregular boundary between the Dee and the Mersey. Kingsley’s account of one of Copley Fielding’s sketches of the Dee estuary says almost all that is possible in the way of description:—“A wild waste of tidal sands, with here and there a line of stake-nets fluttering in the wind—a gray shroud of rain sweeping up from the westward, through which low red cliffs glowed dimly in the rays of the setting sun—a train of horses and cattle splashing slowly through shallow, desolate pools and creeks, their wet red and black hides glittering in one long line of level light.” It was the simple, dreary grandeur of the picture, combined with the relation of a tragic story, which inspired[Pg 241] one of the most pathetic ballads in the language—that long, piercing wail, “The Sands of Dee”:—

“‘O Mary, go and call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home
Across the sands of Dee.’
The western wind was wild and dank with foam,
And all alone went she.
“The western tide crept up along the sand,
And o’er and o’er the sand,
And round and round the sand,
As far as eye could see.
The blinding mist came down and hid the land:
And never home came she.

“They rowed her in across the rolling foam,
The cruel crawling foam,
The cruel hungry foam,
To her grave beside the sea:
But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home
Across the sands of Dee.”


The Sands of Dee


The Mersey at Stockport



A Modern River—Derivations—The Tame, the Goyt, and the Etherow—Stockport—Northenden-The Irwell and its Feeders—Manchester and Salford—The Ship Canal—Bridges over the Irwell—Ordsall—Eccles—Barton—Warburton—Irlam—Warrington— Latchford—Runcorn and Widnes—The Weaver—Eastham Locks—Liverpool and its Growth—Its Docks and Quays—Birkenhead and its Shipbuilding Yards—New Brighton—Perch Rock Lighthouse.


MERSEY may be described as the most modern of our rivers. There was a time, in fact—and that not measured by geological computation—when, so far as knowledge of it went, the Mersey could hardly be said to be in existence. Even the great estuary where a world’s argosies now assemble escaped the attention of the Romans, and we come down to the beginning of the eleventh century before we find the Mersey named in any record. It is mentioned for the first time in a deed of the reign of Ethelred, and there it figures less as a river than as a boundary mark concerning a grant of some lands “between Maersae and Ribbel.” It has been said also of the Mersey that it got its name from the fact that it formed the northern limit of the kingdom of Mercia. Another derivation, and not an altogether unlikely one, when considered along with the chief seat on its banks and the open[Pg 243] channel beyond, is that in “Mersey” we have the Celtic word “Marusia,” signifying quiet or sluggish water. A more curious derivation, and one lending itself to the belief that in the early history of our country the character and identity of the Mersey were very different from what they are to-day, is that the word is from the Anglo-Saxon “Meres-ig,” or “Sea-Island.” It is known that what is now the Wirral Peninsula, forming the western boundary of the estuary of the Mersey, was at one time cut off from the mainland by the sea. It is known also that the Dee flowed over into the Mersey; and as the two rivers must then have appeared as one, with a common mouth, it is easily seen how in the long ago the Mersey would escape recognition altogether.

But the river that was to minister to the greatness of Lancashire, and through Lancashire to aid so materially in the development of industrial Britain, was, of course, no sudden creation. It may have been for ages nothing but quiet or dead water, but Nature in her slow and sure way was all the while working in its favour. For centuries, vessels, as they sailed up and down the west coast, passed by the Mersey, and found their way instead up the Dee to Chester, or up the Ribble to Preston, and occasionally up the Lune to Lancaster. But, even as they did so, these streams were gradually becoming less navigable. A strong tidal flow raised sand barriers at their entrances, and for some considerable distance upwards, that meant danger to shipping. The same cause gave the Mersey its opportunity and its individuality; and once the bar at its mouth was crossed, there were found not only capacious and safe anchorage, but possibilities for commercial enterprise that have gone on increasing from the moment at which men began to take advantage of them.

The Mersey


The Mersey has its origin in three other streams that come down to it from Yorkshire and Derbyshire uplands; and when it becomes for the first time entitled to the name, it is among huge factories, and not by willow-covered banks. The three streams in question are the Tame, the Goyt, and the Etherow. Starting from the Peak district, and running between Derbyshire and Cheshire, the Goyt strikes a northerly course, and for a considerable distance forms the boundary line between the two counties. Near to the village of Mellor it receives the Etherow, which has come down from the breezy region known as the backbone of England, almost at the meeting-point between Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Cheshire.[Pg 244] Like the Goyt, the Etherow serves as a boundary line between Derbyshire and Cheshire. It runs through Longdendale, where is one of those artificial lake districts which come by way of compensation to the country from the town; for here, on the slopes of Blackstone-edge, are the reservoirs which until recently were thought sufficient for the water-supply of Manchester and district. Four in number, they mean a daily supply of 25,000,000 gallons; but that is not enough for the steadily increasing population of the great city and its environs, and Manchester has therefore gone much further afield, and tapped Thirlmere, so as to secure an additional supply of 50,000,000 gallons. From here the Etherow runs merrily down to where the Goyt comes northwards to meet it. The combined stream, now of somewhat doubtful identity, goes westward to Stockport, and receives there the Tame from beyond Saddleworth, on the Yorkshire borders.


NORTHENDEN (p. 245).

The Mersey now takes name and form. Starting at Stockport, it has an industrial beginning at a point that must formerly have been possessed of no small picturesqueness. Built on the slopes of a gorge, Stockport is in these days a town of bridges. Through it runs the London and North Western railway on a viaduct rising to a height of 111 feet, supported on some twenty arches, and stretching from 600 to 700 feet. Railway lines centre here from all points of the compass; and in the past, as to-day, Stockport was regarded as a key to the situation north and south. The Romans recognised its importance. The Normans were equally alive to its strategic value, and built a stronghold here, where[Pg 245] the Earls of Chester long held court. The castle at Stockport was demolished during the Civil Wars by order of the Parliament, but not until it had been taken by Prince Rupert, and by General Leslie after him. It was from Stockport also that Prince Charlie passed during the Stuart rising in 1745. The name of the town gives a clue to its history. Here was a great fort where stores were kept. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the present spelling of the name is comparatively modern. In old days it appears plainly as Storefort and Stokefort. The place has never lost its reputation as a source of supply, although what it yields now is produced within its own boundaries. It is an important textile centre, and the seat of the felt hat trade; and from it also much good work is sent out in iron and brass. It has always been an active town politically, and a statue of Richard Cobden in the market-place shows the delight the inhabitants take in recollecting that for six years they had the great Free Trader as one of their two representatives in Parliament.

On the Irwell


From Stockport the Mersey serves as the boundary line between the counties of Chester and Lancashire. At Northenden, where its surroundings are rural and pleasing, it takes a sudden turn to the north, and after several twists runs decidedly and sharply to the north-west, till it gets to Stretford. Here it is in touch with the southern suburbs of Manchester, and is at its nearest point to that city. For its natural junction with the stream which leads to Manchester, we must, however, follow the river over what is now a tortuous westerly course, past Flickstone to Irlam. At this point, some nine miles from Manchester, the Irwell and the Mersey[Pg 246] used to meet in confluence. They do so still, but under other than the old conditions. In the course of last century Manchester found it advisable to meet the demands of its increasing trade by making the Irwell, and next the upper parts of the Mersey, navigable for small vessels; and in the closing years of the nineteenth century she has caught up the waters of her own considerable tributary, and those of the main stream, in a series of capacious locks along that great water-way which has now made what Mr. Gladstone has called “the commercial metropolis of England” a great inland seaport.

The Irwell is fed by more rivers than any other of Mersey’s tributaries of the same length, and all along its course it serves manufacturing purposes, as the appearance of its waters betokens only too clearly. Rising in the neighbourhood of Burnley, it passes through Rosenstall, Tottington, Bury, and Radcliffe. At the last-mentioned place it receives the Roch, and then goes westward to Farnworth, where it is joined by the Tong. Taking next a south-easterly direction, it passes through Prestwich, and after a bend to the north of Pendleton it runs into Manchester. At Manchester the Irwell is fed by three other streams darker even than itself, these being the Medlock, the Irk, and the Cornbrook. The Irwell divides Manchester from Salford, but it is only by the black boundary line thus afforded that it is possible to tell where the one borough ends and the other begins. Each is distinct so far as civic and Parliamentary affairs are concerned; but in all that concerns their material well-being, they are one. Both are mentioned in the Domesday Book, and there are glimpses of them back to the Roman occupation.

There were signs of industrial activity in Manchester in the thirteenth century, when a fulling mill is mentioned as having been in operation on the riverside, and when the dyeing of yarns and cloth was also practised on the banks of the Irwell, or its tributaries. Leland, coming here in Henry VIII.’s time, found Manchester “the fairest, best builded, quickliest, and most populous towne of all Lancestreshire.” Camden, in his pilgrimage in the reign of Elizabeth, also paid Manchester a pretty compliment, seeing that he described it as “surpassing neighbouring towns in elegance and populousness.” Dr. Stukeley, writing in the first half of the eighteenth century, refers to Manchester as the “largest, most rich, populous, and busy village in England.” The term “village” seems strangely out of place applied to what is now so great a community; but it is significant as showing how enormously Manchester has grown since then. Dr. Stukeley speaks of there being about two thousand families in the place, “and their trade, which is incredibly large, consists of fustians, tickings, girthwebs, and tapes, which are dispensed all over the kingdom, and to foreign parts.” The population of Manchester to-day is probably not far short of 600,000, and that of Salford (which for Parliamentary and municipal purposes includes Pendleton) is about 200,000. Both towns combined did not contain more than 90,000 inhabitants at the beginning of the present century. It is estimated that some 700 different industries are now carried on within their borders. The explanation of this extraordinary development is to be found in an[Pg 247] observation made by one of the topographers of last century regarding Manchester—namely, “that the inhabitants are not only thrifty and inventive, but very industrious and saving.”

It is this “striving and inventing something new”—this disposition to go forward, and make the most of their circumstances and surroundings—that has made modern Manchester. Arkwright with his spinning frame, and Hargreaves with his spinning jenny, were not at first made too welcome, masters and men in Manchester combining against these appliances. But the revolution effected by what Arkwright and Hargreaves had done elsewhere was too obvious to be ignored; and when the inventions of these men were fairly introduced into the seat of the cotton trade, followed as they were by Compton’s “mule,” the way was opened up in Manchester for greater developments. It was not enough, however, to improve the quality of goods and augment the output: it became necessary to increase the facilities for the introduction of the raw material, and for the prompt removal and distribution of the finished article. Much was done in this direction by the ready support Manchester gave from the first to the canal system. The town got into touch with the navigable waters of the Mersey by opening a waterway of its own from Longford Bridge to Runcorn in 1767. Other canals brought it into touch with the north, the south, and the east of England. This was an immense gain over the waggon and pack-horse arrangements that had previously prevailed, and the trade of Manchester grew apace, developing eventually more quickly than there were means for dealing with it. The introduction of the factory system, and the replacing of the old hand-looms by looms having steam as the motive power, forced Manchester to consider whether some still speedier method of transit could not be obtained. Fortunately, with the hour came the man, and with the man came also the agency that was wanted. George Stephenson and his “Rocket” appeared upon the scene. Lines of rails were laid westward, not without immense difficulty, over Chat Moss to Liverpool; and from 1830 it became possible to have communication between Manchester and Liverpool in almost as many minutes as it had formerly taken hours.

With the aid of the locomotive, and all that is meant by this mode of transit, the trade of Manchester continued to expand, progressing to such an extent that during recent years it became necessary to consider whether Liverpool itself, although but an hour distant by rail, was not too far away for Manchester merchants. Manchester could not go to the sea, but the sea could be brought to Manchester; and again with the hour the man appeared. In April, 1877, the suggestion came from Mr. Hamilton H. Fulton to establish tidal navigation between Manchester and the Mersey. Beyond an indication of what could be done, nothing came of the proposal, but Manchester people will not forget that Mr. Fulton first mooted the scheme that was eventually taken up on the strength of designs submitted by Mr. E. Leader Williams. A start was given to the movement at a meeting held in June, 1882, at the residence of Mr. Daniel Adamson, of Didsbury. On November 11th, 1887,[Pg 248] the first sod in the making of the canal was cut by the Chairman of the Company (Lord Egerton of Tatton) at Eastham. In seven years from that time the canal was completed, it being opened for through traffic on New Year’s Day, 1894. The formal opening by the Queen took place on the 21st of May in the same year. At the time of the opening for traffic, the canal, including sums paid in compensation for vested interests, had cost £11,750,000.



The Ship Canal being a continuation of the Mersey, and the two blending in some places and in others running in close proximity, some of the engineering and other features of this the greatest of our English artificial waterways will be referred to as the further course of the Mersey is sketched. But as the canal has its headquarters in Manchester, it may be mentioned here that its total length from Eastham, where it runs into the estuary of the Mersey, to Pomona Docks at Manchester is 35½ miles, that its average water width at the level is 172 feet, and that its width at the bottom is 120 feet, except between Barton and Manchester, where the bottom width is as much as 170 feet, with 230 feet stretch at the level. As the minimum depth of the canal is 25 feet, it has, therefore, accommodation for the largest vessels; and as it is lit up with the electric light along its course, it is navigable by night as well as by day. The canal is in four stretches, divided by five sets of locks, that eventually raise its waters to a height of 60½ feet above the sea. There is a range of docks both on the Manchester and on the Salford side of the terminus of the canal, with a great open stretch of water for the movement of vessels. Mere figures give but a poor idea of the extent and character of the canal, but there are certain features which appeal strikingly to the least imaginative mind. Thus, in regard to the excavations, we have the startling statement that the quantity of earth removed to secure a channel for the canal could have made a wall round the globe 6 feet high and 2 feet thick, and that enough[Pg 250] bricks were used to make a causeway 6 feet wide from one end of the kingdom to the other. Another point we have to remember is that but for improved machinery and the use of steam and of powerful explosives, the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in all its parts, instead of being accomplished in seven years, could hardly have been finished in half a century.



There are political as well as industrial features that cannot be overlooked in any reference to the great seat of the cotton trade. A statue of Cromwell in Victoria Street, standing on a rugged block of granite, may be taken as a memorial of the strong stand Manchester made for the Parliament in the Civil Wars of the seventeenth century. It was in Manchester that the first blow in that struggle is said to have been struck. Curiously enough, however, Manchester, in a moment of impulse, declared for the Stuarts in the rising a century later. Its inhabitants not only welcomed Prince Charlie in his march to the South, but went so far as to proclaim him king. They changed their minds, however, almost as quickly as they had made them up; and the Prince and his adherents received but scant courtesy from the Manchester folk some two weeks later while retreating northward. Agitation for Parliamentary reform ran to fever heat in Manchester almost from the inception of that movement, and had one lamentable incident—a charge by yeomanry at a mass meeting in St. Peter’s Field in 1819, when several persons were killed. While deplorable in itself, this event, which has passed into history as the “Peterloo massacre,” was not without potent influence in bringing in that better era for which the people of Manchester, in common with the inhabitants of other large towns, were clamouring. Where that memorable mass meeting took place now stands the Free Trade Hall—a suggestive reminder of the fact that in Manchester the Corn Law League, with Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, and Mr. Milner Gibson as leading spirits, had its headquarters. In 1832 Manchester obtained the right to send two members to Parliament, Salford getting one member. By the Reform Bill of 1867 both boroughs got an additional representative; and when, in 1885, the great towns were cut up into divisions, Manchester had its Parliamentary strength increased to six members, and Salford to three.

Long as it had to wait for Parliamentary recognition, it was still later before Manchester secured the municipal powers to which by its antiquity, its growth, and its business importance it was entitled. Its charter of incorporation as a borough was not obtained until 1838. Nine years later (1847) it was made a city, in the episcopal sense, its collegiate church—“the one Paroch Church” Leland speaks of in his “Itinerary”—ranking as the cathedral. It was six years later still (1853) before the civic charter was obtained confirming what had been done ecclesiastically. In 1893 another titular dignity came to Manchester, its chief magistrate being then created Lord Mayor. The cathedral, regarded as a parish church, dates from 1422, when it was founded by Thomas de la Warre, who was doubly qualified for the work he undertook, being not only lord of the manor but rector of the parish. He founded a church, it is said, “as well for the greater honour of the place as the[Pg 251] better edification of the people”—hence its collegiate character. Much has been done, with marked success, to improve the appearance of the building since its elevation to the dignity of a cathedral, and, architecturally and otherwise, it is well entitled to the rank it now holds. Close to it is Chetham College, the original residence of the Warden and Fellows of the old collegiate body. Humphrey Chetham, the founder of this institution, was a dealer in fustians in Manchester early in the seventeenth century. Before his death he saw to the education and maintenance of a number of poor boys of the town and neighbourhood, and by his will he left money to continue and expand the good work he had begun.

A still earlier trust is the Grammar School, which goes back to 1515, when it had as its founder Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter. The school drew revenues from the mills on the Irk in the days when that stream ran in limpid purity into the Irwell. It has a high reputation for scholarship. Educationally Manchester owes much also to a citizen of the present century—John Owens, who died in 1846, having left £100,000, to which an equal sum was added for the foundation of the college that bears his name. Manchester has thus been generously helped in the matter both of elementary and of secondary education. And she has had the further satisfaction of mounting the next step in the ladder of learning, having obtained in 1880 a Royal Charter for the founding of Victoria University, of which Owens is one of the colleges, others being the Yorkshire College at Leeds and the University College at Liverpool. Chetham College possesses a finely selected library of 30,000 volumes, housed in a picturesque range of old buildings. And in this connection it is interesting to note that Manchester was the first borough to take advantage of the Free Libraries Act. To-day she has free libraries and reading rooms in every part of the city where they seem needed, in addition to a great central reference library containing about 200,000 volumes. Salford is equally well equipped in this respect; and in both places technical training has kept pace with other forms of instruction.

Victoria and Blackfriars Bridges


With the exceptions named, the principal buildings of Manchester are modern. The Victoria Buildings and Hotel, a palatial pile,[Pg 252] now cover what was one of the oldest parts of the city. The Town Hall, completed in 1883, is a fine Gothic structure, occupying a triangular site. It is really a municipal palace—imposing externally, and admirably adapted internally for the conduct of the public affairs of a great city. The rise and progress of the city has been pictorially treated in the great chamber of the Town Hall by Ford Madox Brown. A wide open space known as Albert Square fronts the Town Hall, with an Albert Memorial in the centre, flanked by statues of John Bright and Bishop Fraser. Near by, in St. Anne’s Square, is a bronze statue of Richard Cobden. The Assize Courts in Strangeways are as noble architecturally as the Town Hall, and are from designs by the same architect, Mr. Alfred Waterhouse; while the Royal Exchange, in Market Street, is a notable building in the Italian style, possessing the largest meeting room of its kind in the United Kingdom, but a room not too large for the demands made upon its space, as visitors who attempt to inspect it on Tuesdays and Fridays, the chief business days, will readily testify. Then there is the Royal Institution, from designs by Sir Charles Barry, in the Doric style, containing a gallery of paintings and a School of Design, with a statue of Dr. Dalton, the propounder of the Atomic Theory, and a Manchester worthy.

The Infirmary, built in the same style as the Exchange, dates from the year 1755. The esplanade in front of it, where are statues of the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, and Dr. Dalton, covers the site of what was the “ducking pond” in Manchester in the days when the town troubled itself less about the spread of enlightenment than it does now. Like the Exchange, the Infirmary exists for the benefit of other places than its own immediate neighbourhood. Some 30,000 patients are treated annually within its walls. Its wards bear the names of various benefactors of the institution, and one of the wings was built through the beneficence of Jenny Lind, who gave two concerts for the purpose. The reference to Jenny Lind suggests the fact that Manchester during the present century has been distinguished as a musical centre. Nor has she been backward as a patron of artists; her Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857 brought together the finest collection of ancient and modern paintings the provinces have known. The needs of the inhabitants, in the physical sense, have also during recent years been well attended to, as is shown by the open spaces made even in busy neighbourhoods, and the parks and recreation grounds in the outskirts of both Manchester and Salford. When the citizens feel disposed to travel far afield, they cannot in these days complain of lack of facilities. Having brought the sea to their own doors, they can go direct by boat to almost every part. By rail they have choice of routes to all the leading towns of the kingdom.

Steamer Passing Through Trafford Road Swing Bridge


One may not be particularly pleased with what one sees of the Irwell as it passes through the city, but it cannot be regarded as a hindrance to free locomotion. It is bridged over in many places, so much so that it is possible to get to and from Salford along most of the chief thoroughfares of the larger town. The Victoria Bridge is modern, as its name implies. Built two years after the accession of the[Pg 254] Queen, it replaced one erected in 1365, and which, from that period up to 1760, was the only bridge connecting Manchester proper with Salford. A wooden structure—built, it is said, by a theatrical company, to enable them to pass between the two towns—preceded the present Blackfriars Bridge, on the line of the street of that name. There are also the Albert, the Regent, the Broughton, and other bridges. At Hulme Hall Road, where the Medlock passes into the main stream, the Irwell loses itself in the ship-canal. Here, too, is the entrance to the Manchester series of docks, which cover the site of the old Pomona Gardens. They are in four arms. The water space occupies 33½ acres, and there is a quay area of 23 acres, with two miles of quay length. On the opposite side lies Ordsall, with a rectangular dock 980 feet by 750 feet, and with another feature of interest in the great calico printing, dyeing, and bleaching works of the Messrs. Worral. From here the canal curves round and flows under a great swing bridge, said to be the largest in the country (it is 265 feet long by 150 feet wide), forming part, when closed, of the Trafford Road. To the right are the Salford Docks, and here the water space covers 71 acres, with a quay area of 129 acres, and 4 miles length of quayage. Just at the entrance to the Salford Docks the canal is at its widest—1,388 feet.

A little further down is Mode Wheel, where are the locks that begin the process of descent, the fall at this point being 13 feet. Here the canal runs nearly west, and continues in this direction till it reaches the outskirts of Eccles, where it begins to run due west through a rock cutting that revealed in the exposed gravel, as the work was in progress, the trend of flowing water in historic times. Beyond are the Barton swing aqueduct and locks. The aqueduct which Brindley carried over the roadway here for the Bridgewater Canal was at the close of last century one of the wonders of the Manchester district. It had to be demolished to give place to a still greater wonder of the kind. Not only had a new aqueduct to be constructed to allow the ship-canal to pass underneath, but it had to be made in such a form that it could swing. This was done by forming the bridge portion of the aqueduct into a caisson, or trough, some 90 feet long by 19 feet wide, and 6 feet deep, and weighing some 1,400 tons. Ordinarily, of course, the water in the old canal is continuous, but when a ship is approaching on the larger canal, double sets of gates are closed at each end of the caisson, thus confining the water in the canal above and in the caisson itself. The caisson is then swung round on a central pier, on each side of which vessels may pass on the ship-canal. Below this engineering triumph are the Barton locks on the ship-canal, giving a fall of 15 feet. Here the new waterway takes a south-westerly turn, and continues thus till it gets to Warburton. About midway between Barton and the latter place, Irlam is reached, and here there are several interesting features of the canal to be seen. To begin with, there is another series of locks, giving a descent this time of 16 feet, with a set of sluice gates in addition, which have been constructed to carry off excess of water in times of flood—an expedient rendered[Pg 255] necessary by the fact that just below Irlam the Mersey runs into the canal. Here also the Cheshire Railway lines cross the canal, and these had to be dealt with so as to give a clear waterway of 75 feet above water-level.

About a mile below the weir at Irlam the canal widens out at the bottom to 250 feet, to form the Partington coal-basin, thus allowing barges and other vessels to be moored at the side, leaving the regulation stretch of the canal for ordinary traffic. Elaborate arrangements are made here to deal with the shipment of coal from both the Lancashire and Yorkshire fields. Just below are the Cadis Head viaducts, carrying the Cheshire lines over the canal, a work that involved much labour to secure the desired gradients and the 75 feet above water-level. At Warburton the roadway has been carried over a high level bridge, on the cantilever principle. The town, which lies to the south of the canal, is of some antiquity, and was the site of a Premonstratensian Priory. Some little distance down, the river Bollin, coming northwards from the neighbourhood of Macclesfield, falls into the canal on one side; on the other, the Mersey is liberated, being now at the same level as the canal itself. Here the Mersey begins to assume its most tortuous course. It twists, bends, and doubles upon itself in a perplexing way, affording a great contrast to the canal, which now runs straight as an arrow all the way to Runcorn. In the course of its meanderings the river comes down to the canal again at Thelwall Ferry, where it had to be deviated for a short distance and made into a straight line. At the end of the deviation it resumes its serpentine character, and here and there accommodation canals run through it to give short cuts. In another of its great bends the Mersey comes down to the canal again at the point where Warrington is brought into touch with the new waterway.

Lying almost wholly to the north of the river, Warrington was anciently approached by the south, by way of Latchford, and this route still affords a principal means of access to the town, both by road and by rail. The Mersey touches no part possessing a more remote history. It has been claimed for Warrington that it is the oldest town in Lancashire. It was the Veritenum of the Romans, and it figures in Domesday as Wallingtun. Situated where there was ferryage over the Mersey, and where at one time the river itself seems on occasion to have been fordable, it practically was the key to Lancashire and Cheshire on the west. As may be supposed, there was clashing of arms frequently in its streets and on the road to the riverside. The Botelers were lords of the manor here from the thirteenth century, and they had, among other good things, right of toll on the ferry. The first bridge was the result of a king’s visit, and is said to have been constructed by the first Earl of Derby for the better accommodation of Henry VII. when that monarch was a guest at Lathom. With the construction of the bridge the need for the ferry disappeared, and so also did certain emoluments which fell to the lords of the manor, whereupon a feud arose between the Botelers and the Stanleys that was not settled without bloodshed. The bridge had another effect: it caused large numbers of the population to change their quarters in order to be[Pg 256] nearer the stream, so that in the end the parish church was left where Leland found it—“at the tail end of the town.” It is no longer there, of course, and no longer the only building of its kind, for Warrington has grown with Lancashire generally, and the old church has not been neglected. It has many fine Gothic features, including a spire rising to 200 feet. Timber houses, suggesting the days of the old ford, may be found in some of the streets, but Warrington is by no means a place of the past. It is a very active, thriving community, numbering 60,000, and doing much business in the staple trade of the county, and also in iron, steel, glass, leather, and soap.


Aqueducts, Barton


There are locks on the canal at Latchford giving a fall of 16½ feet, but as the water is now tidal the fall varies. The railway line had to be cut through[Pg 257] here by the canal, but in the meantime a new route was made for the iron horse, including a massive viaduct, in the piers of which some 12,000,000 bricks are said to have been used. Here, too, as elsewhere, arrangements had to be made for road traffic, and in this connection Latchford has been supplied with both a swing and a cantilever bridge.

The Irwell at Ordsall


From Warrington the Mersey, still keeping a sinuous course, begins to expand, and when next it comes into touch with the ship-canal, which it does at a point known as Randall’s Creek, it assumes estuarial form, and markedly so just before reaching Runcorn. Then there is a sudden change, caused by the outswelling of both banks of the river, the result being that the Mersey is contracted to about 1,200 feet across, after being more than twice that width. This contraction, known as Runcorn Gap, lies between Widnes Point on the Lancashire side, and Runcorn on the Cheshire side. At this, the nearest point to the upper estuary proper, the Mersey is crossed by a high level bridge, giving the London and North Western Railway access to Liverpool. Runcorn has been made by canals; three, approaching from different directions, touch the Mersey there. The ship-canal lies to the north of the town, after passing through a cutting extending to a depth of 66 feet, the deepest on the route. Lying under the railway bridge, and coming close to the river, it soon finds itself wholly in the bed of the Mersey, separated from the stream by a massive concrete wall, for which in one place a foundation had to be made 70 feet down. There were considerable docks and warehouses here before the greatest of the canals gave additional claim to Runcorn to be considered a seaport.[Pg 258] Ethelfreda, daughter of Alfred the Great, is said to have founded the town; and antiquaries are pleased to regard the name as a corruption of Runcofan, from the Anglo-Saxon “cofa,” a cove or inlet. The locks on the canal here are so constructed as to enable vessels to leave or enter at any state of the tide. Widnes, on the opposite side of the river, is a busy, thriving manufacturing town, with chemicals as its leading commercial product, but doing a good deal also in various branches of the iron trade.

From Runcorn the ship-canal forms the southern side of the Mersey. The outer wall of protection follows the course of the river, bending with it round what may be called the Runcorn headland, and crossing the mouth of the river Weaver. The Weaver being navigable up to Northwich, the construction of the canal across its opening into the Mersey was a work of considerable ingenuity and difficulty. In the first instance, provision had to be made by special locks to give entrance to the tributary before the point of junction with the Mersey could be interfered with; and when the canal itself was carried over the tributary, a series of great sluices had to be constructed to regulate the flow of the waters into the Mersey. Since then the Weaver has not been subjected to the inconvenience of low tide. Another result of the change has been the formation of a new town on its west bank, known as Saltport, with wharves and other arrangements specially adapted for the cargoes of salt that come down the Weaver for shipment elsewhere. In the case of a smaller stream further on, the Gowy, the water had to be carried under the canal by means of syphons strong enough and large enough to withstand tidal influences. From the Gowy the line of the canal follows the northward sweep of the estuary, and continues thus past Ellesmere Port, where is the outlet for the Shropshire Union system of canals. It then passes onward to what may be called the grand entrance to this commercial undertaking, namely, the Eastham Locks. These locks are in sets of varying sizes, according to the vessels that come and go, this arrangement being necessary to avoid waste of water from the canal. From Eastham the distance by the Mersey to Liverpool is six miles, and to the lightship at the bar nineteen miles.

The Mersey is at its widest in the neighbourhood of Ellesmere Port, the stretch across from here to Dungeon Point, on the Lancashire side, being about three miles. Gradually narrowing in its progress to the sea, it is only some 1,250 yards wide at the entrance. The passage outwards, between Liverpool and Birkenhead down to the bar, has been compared to a bottle-neck, and it is this feature of the stream, added to the fact that, although a river of the west coast, it turns round and takes a northerly direction, which gives it its commercial importance. Through the narrow passage, the tidal flow is rapid enough to maintain an open channel into the inlying estuary, and to clear a passage for the largest vessels well out into the open sea. One source of danger lies at the bar. Here sand is apt to silt up; and if this were allowed to go on, the result would[Pg 259] be that large vessels would have to wait on either side for high water in order to get in or out. The remedy has been found in extensive and frequent dredging, the effect of which is not only to make entrance to the river accessible at all states of the tide, but also to increase the inrush and the outrush of water, to the manifest improvement of the inner channels. The estuary has the further advantage of natural protection. The Wirral Peninsula, as a glance at the map will show, serves as a magnificent break-water, and the harbour has of course a great out-lying safeguard in the barrier Ireland presents between it and the Atlantic.

It is where Mersey is at its widest and best—at the places where it affords safe and capacious anchorage for the merchantmen of all nations—that its story begins to unfold itself; and, as has been indicated, it is not an ancient recital, by any means. Elsewhere along its course are references to places and persons that take one back as far as the written history of this island can go, but in the neighbourhood of Liverpool the references are all of them comparatively modern. Here there is trace neither of Roman nor of Norman. Yet if Liverpool and Birkenhead do not figure in the Domesday pages, they are by no means creations of yesterday, though, as we now find them, both are very much the outcome of nineteenth-century enterprise. Liverpool got a charter as far back as the year 1173, and about a century and a half later the enterprising Prior of Birkenhead obtained a licence to build hospices for travellers, and secured at the same time the right of ferryage, of which the Monk’s Ferry of to-day is an interesting reminiscence.

It is in the early Liverpool charter that the name of the great city is first met with. It is there written Lyrpul, and the name has undergone such variations as Litherpool, Liderpool, Liferpool, and Lithepool, before finally passing into its existing form. No one has been able to say exactly what the name means. The latter part, of course, causes no difficulty. The first part can be one of half a dozen different things, or may mean something else. Certain authorities favour the notion that in Liver we have the name of an aquatic bird of the cormorant family, that found choice food on the shores of the Pool. Others assert for the first part of the name that it comes from the liverwort plant, which grew abundantly in the neighbourhood. Other opinions are that the name really means “Ship Pool,” or “the place at the pool,” or “the gentle pool,” but all that is guesswork. What is certain is that a cormorant or a pelican, or a liver (whatever sort of creature that may have been), has figured upon the borough seal since the time of King John, although advocates for another derivation have claimed that the figure upon the seal was not meant for an aquatic bird, but for an eagle. The authorities of the town never adopted this view; they have kept loyally to the bird that is said to have found peace and plenty on the banks of the stretch of still water around which Liverpool sprang into existence.

[Pg 260]

Runcorn Bridge; Locks at Eastham

1. RUNCORN BRIDGE (p. 257). 2. THE LOCKS AT EASTHAM (p. 258).

The pool on whose borders the city grew spread out over the site of the Custom House and adjoining buildings. At some uncertain date after the Norman occupation a castle was built where now stands St. George’s Church, and this stronghold was held for many generations by the Molineux family, the descendants of William de Molines, one of the Conqueror’s lieutenants. In time another Norman family, the Stanleys, found their way into Liverpool, and got possession of “the Tower,” a structure which had been raised for the purpose of observation on what is now Water Street. The Stanleys strengthened and fortified “the Tower,” building a mansion round it, and covering some four thousand square yards in the process; so that practically Liverpool had two castles, with two powerful families dominating the place, and making life almost unbearable, for they were continually at feud as to their rights, though, curiously enough, fighting side by side for the king as the occasion arose.

Neither of castle nor of tower is there any trace to be found in these days. While they existed they were the chief features of Liverpool, but they[Pg 261] had nothing in common with the circumstances that led to the development of the port, although their possessors had influence enough with successive sovereigns to obtain privileges for the place, and, indeed, they were far-seeing as well, and believed that the roadstead at their doors meant much for the future of England. King John himself came here, formed Toxteth Park, and gave the town a charter. Henry II. made Liverpool a free port, while Henry III. constituted it a borough. A Parliament summoned at Westminster in the reign of Edward I. was attended by two burgesses from Liverpool; and from the time of Edward III. the town seems to have sent members to Parliament with commendable regularity, although there was but little for them to represent. Liverpool, however, had to be content with only two members down to the Reform Bill of 1867, long after she had made a name and reputation the world over. In 1867 the number was increased to three; and when, in 1885, the Redistribution Scheme came into force, Liverpool was strong enough to secure nine members, and is the only constituency in England whose Irish voters are sufficiently numerous in any one division to return a member after their own heart, though, singular to say, the division which that member represents is known as the Scotland division.

St. George’s Landing-stage

Photo: Valentine & Sons, Dundee.


[Pg 262]

Although favoured, as we have seen, in the reign of Edward I., Liverpool was then of so little importance that she was only required to furnish one barque and six sailors for the assistance of that monarch; while Hull, on the east coast, had to supply sixteen ships and four hundred and sixty-six men, and Bristol twenty-one ships and six hundred men. That the town made but slow progress is shown also by the fact that while Charles I. assessed Bristol for £1,000 in ship-money, and Chester at £100, the amount claimed from Liverpool was only £25. Liverpool does not seem to have hesitated to meet the demand, probably because she owed a debt of gratitude to Charles, who raised the place in civic importance by constituting the authorities a corporate body. Nevertheless, the burgesses favoured the Puritan rather than the Royal cause when the crisis came; and probably for this reason, although the Molineuxs in their castle and the Stanleys in their tower stood for the King, the Parliament had no great difficulty in raising the siege of Liverpool and taking possession for the Commonwealth.

Prince Rupert had a sufficiently hard task when he tried to win the place back. That dashing leader made light of the defences that had been thrown up; but the citizens kept him outside, for all that, for full three weeks, beating back his troops at every successive assault, and only surrendering after a combined attack by night. The fiery Prince did not appreciate the bravery of the men of Liverpool, but smote them without mercy when the chance came, and did much damage to their property besides. His triumph, however, was of the briefest. The battle of Marston Moor, with its crowning victory for the Commonwealth, was fought six days afterwards, and all that Prince Rupert had gained gradually passed into the hands of the Parliament, Liverpool included, though not without another siege. The attitude of the citizens favoured them with the Protector. As compensation for the loss they had sustained, the Corporation secured rights of ferryage over the Mersey, they were allowed £500 worth of timber from the estates of the Royalists in the neighbourhood, and they got a money allowance in addition of £10,000.

Camden in the reign of Elizabeth found Liverpool “not so eminent for being ancient as for being neat and populous”; and the historian who speaks of it in the closing years of the nineteenth century may fittingly describe the city in the same terms. But there is this difference between the two epochs—that while the inhabitants in Camden’s time were housed in seven streets, they are now spread over a great area north and south, and away to the east, in streets almost too numerous to count. In 1565 a census that was taken gave the population of Liverpool at 820. In 1700 the number had risen to 5,700. Fifty years later it was about 25,000. At the beginning of the present century it was 85,000. At the present time, including Birkenhead and the suburbs, it probably exceeds 900,000. Its position as a port, as has been shown, was insignificant in the ship-money days; it now handles about one-fifth of the tonnage of Great Britain. In 1801 vessels trading to and from[Pg 263] Liverpool numbered 5,000, with an aggregate tonnage of 459,710, providing dues to the extent of about £28,000. For the year ending June 30th, 1896, 23,659 vessels entered the port, representing a tonnage of 11,946,459. For the same period, the total revenue of the dock estate from all sources amounted to £4,014,000. The number of sailing vessels finding their way to the Mersey as compared with the Thames is as three to one, and to the Clyde as two to one. One-third more steamers enter the Thames, but the greater number of large liners that come to Liverpool almost equalises the steam tonnage.

It is not difficult to ascertain how this marvellous development of population and trade has taken place. The situation of Liverpool, with its practically open though well protected roadstead, has, of course, had much to do with the change. But this natural advantage has its drawbacks, and these were sufficiently serious to have prevented progress beyond a certain point had not there been public-spirited and large-minded men to direct the enterprise of the community. To attract navigation, the channels of the river had to be defined, and they had to be kept clear. They had to be buoyed and provided with beacons on both sides. Notable among the guiding influences are the New Brighton Lighthouse (known also as the Perch Rock Lighthouse) at the mouth of the river on the Cheshire side, and the Formby and numerous other lights on the other side along the stretch of the Crosby channel until safe passage out to sea is secured. But something more was needed. The tidal rise and fall of the water-level meant a variation of some 30 feet at spring tides, which made the loading and unloading of vessels difficult, and at times dangerous; besides, the vessels soon became too numerous for ordinary quay accommodation. It was necessary to provide special basins, and the first step in this direction was taken as far back as 1699, when the Pool was deepened and improved.

This was but an insignificant beginning to what has now grown to such vast dimensions, but it solved a serious problem for the trade of Liverpool of that day; and in about ten years afterwards the Pool was made into a dock some four acres in extent, giving accommodation for 100 small vessels, Liverpool securing its reward in Parliamentary permission “to impose a duty for twenty-one years upon the tonnage of all ships trading to or from the port for making a wet dock.” This earliest of the docks no longer exists; but others were soon afterwards constructed in its vicinity, though parallel with the river, and some of these are still in use. The expansion of the dock system eventually necessitated the formation of a Dock Estate and the acquisition of property along the whole city front. The docks now stretch along the line of the Mersey for a distance of from six to seven miles, and comprise some 25 miles of quay space and 380 acres of water space. In addition, there are nine miles of quay space and 164 acres of water space in the dock accommodation provided across the river at Birkenhead. This is irrespective of graving dock arrangements. The area of the Dock Estate exceeds 1,600 acres, inclusive of provision for extension.

[Pg 264]

Swing-bridge, Liverpool


The dock system of Liverpool, as we now find it, is very largely the work of the present century, and it separates readily into two divisions. For about thirty-six years (from 1824) the docks were laid out upon plans prepared by Mr. Jesse Hartley, assisted by his son, Mr. John B. Hartley. Since then the work has been conducted by Mr. G. F. Lyster, assisted by his son, Mr. A. G. Lyster. In the first instance the docks had to be constructed for sailing vessels. The many additions that have since been made have been almost wholly for the accommodation of steamships. But whether we take the docks that were constructed during the first half of the present century, or those that have been opened since then, they are engineering triumphs; and the world has no more wonderful sight of the kind than they, alike in their capacity, their admirable adaptation to tidal conditions and particular classes of goods, their warehouse and office arrangements, and the care that has been taken to provide ample quay and road space. The cost has been enormous, but it has been justified by the returns. By means of its docks Liverpool is able to meet any demand upon its shipping powers. The vessels that are at times housed within its protecting river chambers, if ranged side by side, would cover the banks of the Mersey along all its navigable length.

It is, of course, only a part, although the major part, of the tonnage of Liverpool that finds treatment in this way. There is a constantly moving flotilla. The goods and passenger traffic from one side of the Mersey to the other is scarcely ever at a standstill; but while this traffic passes to or from widely separated points on the Wirral Peninsula, it converges at Liverpool to that which is as much one of[Pg 265] the sights of the city as the docks themselves—namely, the landing-stage. This is constructed on a series of enormous floating pontoons, about midway between the northern and southern lines of the docks. Formerly there were two such structures, and nominally there are still two—St. George’s and the Prince’s; but while they were for many years separated by a space of 500 feet to give access to the St. George’s basin, they are now continuous, and their unbroken length makes a stretch of over 2,400 feet. The landing-stage, which is connected with the quay wall by a succession of girder bridges, adapted for both passengers and vehicles, is at any period of the day a scene of unusual activity and bustle; but the official arrangements are admirable, and seldom is there any difficulty in dealing with the great crowds that gather and disperse here, either for lands across sea or on their way to inland towns. Here, if anywhere, the cosmopolitan character of the passenger traffic of Liverpool is seen in its fulness and variety. The landing-stage is, in fact, the temporary meeting-place of people of all nations, and belonging to all grades and conditions of life, from wretched stowaways to ambassadors with princely retinues.

Liverpool, from Birkenhead


Although called a stage, this landing-place is really a magnificent promenade, with ranges of official buildings and waiting and refreshment rooms. Until recently the passengers by the deep-sea liners were taken to and from the steamers[Pg 266] in tenders. This arrangement often gave rise to serious inconvenience, and entailed also much loss of time. The latest addition to the stage was therefore contrived specially with the object of overcoming these drawbacks. Passengers may now pass direct from the stage to the largest vessels; and more than this has been done for them. They are now brought close to the stage itself by railway, so that they may book themselves and their luggage from London or from any of our large towns to any part of the world, and have no more trouble on arriving on the banks of the Mersey than is usually involved in a change of conveyance. To facilitate passenger traffic to and from the docks, an electric overhead railway running along the whole stretch of the six or seven miles comprising the city front, and into the districts beyond, has been in operation since February, 1893, when it was formally opened by Lord Salisbury. The line has since undergone extension, and it was carried as far as Dingle in December, 1896. It is now about eight miles long. The Dingle extension presents some notable engineering features. In one place it crosses the Dock Estate by girders 220 feet in length—an unusually large span; in another it is run through a tunnel arch said to be the largest of its kind in the world; while at Dingle the line belies its name, the terminal station being here considerably below the road level. The only dock entrance that runs inland sufficiently far to be crossed by the overhead railway is the Stanley, and here a swing-bridge has been erected, on the double-deck principle, so as to provide for the railway traffic overhead and the usual carriage and foot traffic underneath. This railway may be considered a part of the great work of dock development at Liverpool. A report laying out the scheme was presented by Mr. Lyster, the engineer to the Dock Board, in 1885, but for public and other reasons it was thought advisable to leave the work to private enterprise, and it was therefore undertaken by an incorporated company, Sir William Forwood being the chairman, and Mr. S. B. Cottrell the engineer and general manager. A railway under the Mersey from Birkenhead was opened in 1885 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, to meet the growing increase in the cross-river traffic, and this line, which passes for 2,100 yards under the river, has since been connected with main lines on each side.

Liverpool, with its great line of protected dockage and quayage, and the movement of vessels of every description and of every size along its water front, is seen in its finest panoramic effect from the Birkenhead side of the river; but the city reveals itself also in increasing multiplicity of architectural detail and business activity to the visitor whose first impressions of it are obtained as he stands on the vessel that carries him over the Mersey bar to the landing-stage. At the same time, the passenger by rail does not enter Liverpool by any back door. At the Lime Street terminus of the London and North Western Railway he looks out immediately on the municipal centre of the city; should he arrive at the Exchange Station of the Lancashire and Yorkshire and Midland lines, he is at once in the commercial heart of Liverpool, surrounded by noble and spacious buildings.[Pg 267] Other lines land him in scenes of shipping activity, others in more residential quarters; but nowhere is he left in squalid surroundings.

The front of the Lime Street Station itself adds to the picturesqueness of the street it looks upon. Almost opposite, in isolated grandeur, is St. George’s Hall, and on one side of that building is the magnificent range of edifices of the classic order where are housed the Brown Free Library (including the Museum of Natural History, presented by the thirteenth Earl of Derby), the Mayer Museum of Antiquity, the Picton Reading Room, and the Walker Art Gallery—all alike monuments of the beneficence of merchants who in this way have enriched and adorned the city from which they drew their wealth. Even St. George’s Hall, the cost of which was £330,000, was in the nature of a gift, it being paid for by the Corporation out of the dock dues, which they controlled up to 1858, when the dues were transferred to the Dock Board. The fact, too, that the Corporation owned large estates makes the burden of taxation rest lightly on the citizens of Liverpool; and since the present century began, improvements have not ceased to be the order of the day in the city. The Town Hall is in Castle Street. It is in the Corinthian style, and is conspicuous for its dome and its raised portico; but a much more majestic building lies behind it in the Royal Exchange—a structure in the Flemish Renaissance style, with a noble façade, and wings that enclose a spacious quadrangle. Here on “the Flags,” when the weather is favourable, the merchants and brokers of Liverpool mingle together in animated colloquy and strike their bargains.

Education flourishes in Liverpool no less than commerce, and in all its branches has not been without liberal support. University College, although only inaugurated in 1882, has an endowment of over £125,000. It has a numerous staff of professors, technical and medical departments, and is affiliated to the Victoria University. There are several secondary schools of note, Schools of Art, and Nautical Training Institutions. The charitable societies of the city number over 100, the oldest in the medical sense being the Infirmary, which dates from 1748. Of open spaces there is nothing, of course, equal to the grand sweep of the estuary in front of the city. But there are ornamental grounds in the city itself, and in the outskirts recreation grounds and pleasure resorts, the largest and most picturesque being Sefton Park, which was purchased at a cost of over a quarter of a million. For water the city has gone into Mid-Wales and purchased the Vyrnwy Valley, and from the lake and the reservoirs there is able to draw an unfailing supply of some fifty million gallons daily. The bishopric dates from 1879, but Liverpool is without ancient churches. St. Peter’s, which serves as the pro-cathedral, is the oldest in structure but not in foundation (that distinction belongs to St. Nicholas’, near the Prince’s Dock), but this does not carry us further back than the beginning of the eighteenth century.

A long list could be made of eminent men connected with Liverpool, were this the place for it. But there are two names that ought not to be omitted—one is[Pg 268] Francis Bacon, “the wisest, greatest, meanest of mankind,” who was member for Liverpool towards the close of the sixteenth century; the other is Mr. Gladstone, who is a citizen of Liverpool by birthright as well as by complimentary burgess ticket. It is interesting to add also that the Stanley (Derby) and the Molineux (Sefton) families are still closely identified with the town. They are no longer housed in the heart of Liverpool, but their Lancashire seats are close to its boundaries, and they rival one another in the active interest they take in the municipal, commercial, and educational progress of this great community.

It is the bottle-neck part of the estuary of the Mersey that runs between Liverpool and Birkenhead, but a good three-quarters of a mile of water separates the two places. They are divided also by county distinctions: otherwise they may be regarded as one, their interests being identical. Many business men of Liverpool make Birkenhead and its outskirts their home. Like the great city on the other side, Birkenhead has its landing-stages adapted to the rise and fall of the tide. Its range of docks has already been touched upon, and need only be referred to again to indicate that they do not run parallel with the river, like those on the other side, but pass inland. Behind them are the commodious water spaces known as the east and west “floats.” Nearly all the great liners find their way to the Liverpool side, but on the Birkenhead side great liners are built. Its shipbuilding yards are among the most extensive in the kingdom, and include the great establishment of the Laird Brothers, from which the Confederate cruiser, The Alabama, was turned out in 1862.

Proportionately, Birkenhead has made even greater progress during the century so soon to close than Liverpool. In 1800 its population numbered only about 100 persons. That figure may now be multiplied 1,000 times over and still be within the mark. Its tonnage is about one-tenth that of Liverpool. In 1861 the town was formed into a Parliamentary borough, with a single member, the gentleman who became its first representative being the late Mr. John Laird, of whom there is a statue in front of the Town Hall. Birkenhead has been a municipal borough since 1887. It did not, however, wait for corporate privileges to show public spirit and enterprise. It was one of the first towns of the kingdom, if not the very first, to introduce tramways, which it did on the suggestion of George Francis Train, who had previously established a similar mode of conveyance in New York. It has long had a public park, 180 acres in extent, laid out by Sir Joseph Paxton, and costing £140,000. Although a hundred years or so ago it consisted of less than a score of habitable houses, it can trace back its name for centuries, and the ruins may be seen of the Benedictine Priory of Byrkhead, founded here in the eleventh century, and whose monks in their simple way did the work that is now carried on by enormous steam ferries on the river, and by railway trains through a submarine tunnel.

St. George’s Hall and Lime Street

Photo: Valentine & Sons, Dundee.


All along the inner line of the Wirral Peninsula, which here bounds the Mersey, are pleasant residential suburbs, and at the extreme end lies New Brighton, beloved of Lancashire and Cheshire folk. Immediately to the north of New Brighton is one[Pg 270] of the defences of the river in Rock Fort, and just beyond the fort is the Perch Rock Lighthouse. At this point, the visible shore-line of the Mersey on the west side comes to an end, but the channel of the river runs on over a well-buoyed line of route, some eight or nine miles further on, and for navigation purposes does not really cease till the bar is crossed. Directly to the north-west of the Wirral Peninsula are great sandbanks, but these as a rule are within the ken only of the mariner familiar with the ins and the outs of this great commercial highway. The total length of the river is about 70 miles. At least 12 miles of that, towards the mouth, is a vast basin, having an average width of about two and a half miles, and containing at high tide some 600,000,000 tons of water. To see the Mersey here at the flood is to agree with Drayton:—

“Whence, where the rivers meet with all their stately train,
Proud Mersey is so great in entering the Main,
As he would make a sea for Empery to stand,
And wrest the three-forked mace from out grim Neptune’s hand.”


The Perch Rock Lighthouse



A Birthplace of Rivers—The RIBBLE: Ribblehead—Horton-in-Ribblesdale—Survival of Old Traditions—Hellifield—The Hodder—Stonyhurst and its College—The Calder—Burnley—Towneley Hall—Preston—Its Development as a Port. The WYRE: Poulton-le-Fylde. The LUNE: Kirkby Lonsdale—The Greta and the Wenning—Hornby Castle—Lancaster—Morecambe Bay—The Journey from Lancaster to Ulverston in Coaching Days—Shifting Sands. The KENT: Kentmere—Kendal. The GILPIN and the WINSTER. The ROTHAY and the BRATHAY. Grasmere and Wordsworth—Rydal Water—Ambleside—Windermere. Troutbeck. Esthwaite Water. The LEVEN: Newby Bridge—The Estuary. The CRAKE: Coniston Water—Coniston Hall—Brantwood and Mr. Ruskin. The DUDDON: Wordsworth’s Sonnets. The ESK and the IRT: Wastwater. The LIZA: Ennerdale Water. The EHEN: Egremont Castle. The DERWENT: The Vale of St. John—The Greta and Keswick—The View from Castlerigg top—Derwent water.


IN the lonely moorland solitudes guarded by Ingleborough, Whernside, and Pen-y-gent, with outlying fells of almost mountain magnitude, may be traced the birthsprings of many important rivers. They shoot off to every point of the compass, and, gathering in tributary waters from the best of our bold English scenery, are lost in the North Sea as with the Yorkshire Ouse, or in the Irish Sea as with the Ribble, the Lune, and the many minor streams that diversify Morecambe Bay. The whole extent of this corner of the North-West Riding is wild, open country, with diverging dales lost in fading distances: stone walls for leafy hedges, and limitless grazing uplands clothed with the herbage peculiar to unwooded elevations of over two thousand feet. In the blithe springtime, when the tender flush of green proclaims the renewed life-blood of the grass; in the summer prime, when the umbers and greys of prolonged heat are faintly changing the broad faces of the untrodden mountains and silent valleys; and in winter, when all is white with unsullied snow, this expanse of billowy hill and fell has a grandeur all its own. Its features are repeated under a more striking development by-and-by in Lakeland, but this is the crowning point of the great backbone of picturesque highland which, beginning in Derbyshire, defines much of the boundary of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

The RIBBLE is one of the rivers which take their rise from the Ingleborough and Whernside heights. It is a babbling brook as it is seen by the railway traveller at Ribblehead, but the source must be sought in one of the rills that tumble down the shoulders of Wold Fell. The difficulty usually encountered in tracing a mountain-born river to the precise bubble of water that may without hesitation be pronounced its source is intensified here. So much depends upon circumstances in these matters. After a rainless month in summer, the wayfarer would note a water[Pg 272]less country; let the rains descend, or the snows melt, and every hill is silvered by tumbling cascades, the air is musical with the leap of a hundred rivulets. So it is that, for the Ribble’s source, old Craven maps select Gearstones, north-east of Settle; more recent local authorities are divided between Wold Fell and Cam Fell; and for the world at large Ribblehead serves the general purpose of identification.

Stainforth Bridge

Photo: A. Horner, Settle.


The source of the Ribble, let the spot be where it may, makes it imperative to associate with its distinctions the great engineering triumph that ended in the awakening of its echoes by the railway train. From Settle—where Birkbeck, the founder of the Mechanics’ Institutions of our youth, was born—to Carlisle is only a matter of seventy miles, but it cost the invaders three millions sterling to overcome the obstacles of the stubborn Pennine chain, and the enterprise seemed to be well-nigh hopeless when they advanced into the Pen-y-gent region. The course of the young Ribble had hereabouts to be diverted by the blasting out of a new channel; but at length the line was safely laid a thousand feet above sea-level, and clear running for the trains was achieved by means of nineteen tunnels, thirteen embankments, and cuttings innumerable.

Towneley Hall, Burnley

Photo: Frith & Co., Reigate.


There are a few villages in the early stages of the Ribble, the first of any note being Horton-in-Ribblesdale, under the shadow of Pen-y-gent. The railway has little spoiled its primitive character, nor have the frequent expresses led to the disbandment of the beagles which still hunt the wild retreats of the mountain-side.[Pg 273] There are ancient inhabitants in lonely farmhouses built of hard stone, and gleaming white from afar, who inherit the old traditions that portions of the mountain are honeycombed with giants’ graves. There have long been legends to that effect, but men of science explain that the wondrous bones unearthed from caverns, and what not, belonged, not to sons of Anak, but to huge animals now unknown. The dalesmen but slowly discard such beliefs, retaining them as of right, just as the shepherds on the fells, and the hard-headed farmers in the valleys, cling to the customs of their grandfathers. The high-road between Horton and Giggleswick—in whose grammar school Paley was educated—gives access to the heart of Upper Ribblesdale; and the tourist visiting the cascades near Stainforth will recognise the sturdy bridge in the illustration (page 272) as a favourite resting-place. The river is represented in its peaceful mood, in one of its romantic bends.

Rivers of Lancashire and Lakeland


The country remains rich in its distinctive botany, and from no portion of the North do the great markets of Manchester and Leeds draw more of their supplies of whortleberry and mushroom in the early autumn months. At such junctions as Hellifield these natural products of the moorland may be seen stacked by the ton. It is almost the only indication of the gradual change that must come with the new era. Yet until comparatively recent times the peel-house at Hellifield stood witness to the remoteness of the district. So long back as the reign of Henry VI. a licence was granted to the Hamerton family to erect and keep as a place of defence the[Pg 274] strong square peel which guarded the west; and around Gisburne Hall, the ancestral seat of the Listers, represented now by the Ribblesdale family, the wild cattle of the breed perpetuated chiefly at Chillingham roamed at large in the secluded woods of the high tract whence the feeder Stockbeck fitfully meanders to the valley of the Ribble.

The bracing bleakness of Bowland Forest is relieved for many a league by the Hodder, the Ribble’s largest and longest tributary, which is in part of its course a natural line of demarcation between the counties that gave title to princely houses when the realm was divided by the Wars of the Roses. Dense fringes of bush and brier proclaim its progress, and exquisitely sweet spots, like that of the oak-covered knoll on which stands the little chapel at Whitewell, occur in the district where, to the commanding eminence of ancient Brownsholm Hall, a curious relic found its way—the veritable Seal of the Commonwealth, with a Bible between two branches of palm as the centre, and the inscription, “Seal for the approbation of Ministers.”

The famous Roman Catholic College of Stonyhurst, south-west of Longridge Fell, is near the meeting of Hodder with Ribble. Beautiful is its situation, wooded valleys dipping in the east, and beyond them the substantial landmarks of Clitheroe and Pendle Hill. Stonyhurst, even to one who has no cognisance of its modern character, its origin, or the manner of its conversion from the mansion of the Sherburnes to the purpose which it has fulfilled with high distinction for more than a hundred years, has the appearance and atmosphere, even at a distance, of a place for study and retreat. It is wholly removed from the busy world, and all the surroundings give an involuntary impression of harmony and quiet. Stonyhurst was probably always a home of Catholics at heart, though the Sir Richard Sherburne who was one of Harry VIII.’s Commissioners at the dissolution of religious houses did contrive to be a favourite with young Edward, Mary, and, after her, Elizabeth. He it was who built part of the mansion on the site of an older baronial edifice; and[Pg 275] the shapely west front, amongst other considerable portions of the present building, is his work. The Sherburnes, however, were not able to finish the structure; but Sir Nicholas, who was made a baronet, in whom the title became extinct, and who was a man of culture and travel, planned and laid out the gardens which no visitor to Stonyhurst is likely to forget. Through Cardinal Weld, to whose family the property fell, it was in 1794 devoted to the use of the Jesuits driven from Liège by the French Revolutionists. Since then it has gathered high renown as an educational agency amongst the Roman Catholic aristocracy.


Photo: Arthur Winter, Preston.


In approaching Stonyhurst, even the simple village on its borders exercises its tranquillising influence upon the visitor; the cemetery and oratory, the trim lawn, the trees on either side of the drive, the sheet of water, and the glimpse of the inner seclusion through the gateway, claim a share of the admiration which is given without stint to the imposing two-towered building so finely situated. The gardens are an enchantment; and the fountain, the observatory with its Peter’s telescope, the summer-houses, the tall, deep dividing walls of ancient yew clipped square and pierced with archway exits and[Pg 276] entrances, blend in strengthening the conviction that here we are removed from scenes of strife. The Tudor-Gothic church is the most notable of the additions made since Stonyhurst became a college eminent for the most perfect appliances for scientific study, for a well-furnished museum, and all that is best for students at work or play. In the Mitton area, which trends to a point where the two rivers mingle, may be found many interesting specimens of the well-preserved, half-timbered houses for which the two counties (each of which claims a part of Mitton) are celebrated. The well-known doggerel perpetrated in honour of this neighbourhood, may be quoted—not, however, as warranted by any climatic defects, but rather as showing the straits to which the author was put for a rhyme:

“The Hodder, the Calder, Ribble, and rain,
All meet together in Mitton domain.”

Into the Ribble, at no great distance below this ancient parish, protruding like a wedge into the County Palatine, flows the Calder, coming from the south-east, and from a district once as wild as Longridge Fell and Bowland Forest, but now reduced to modern uses by the cotton and worsted mills, calico works, and foundries of thriving Burnley, through which ran a Roman way once upon a time. It has an indirect relation with the Ribble, being placed on the Brun, the Calder intervening. Never had manufacturing town a finer “lung” than is furnished by Pendle Hill, which offers a climb of 1,800 feet above sea-level to the dwellers in a district which is in touch also (near or far) with Sawley Ruins, Blackstone Edge, and the Vale of Craven. Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, was so carried away with delight in his travels thereabouts that he declares he was moved by the Lord to go up to the top of Pendle Hill, and in the clear atmosphere saw the sea shining beyond the Lancashire coast.

Amongst many old houses of which Lancashire is proud is Towneley Hall, seat of a family one of whose ancestors was first dean of Whalley Abbey, the ruins of which are one of the most valued relics on the banks of the Calder. This takes us back to a century and a half before the Conquest; and it was one of this ilk who was the last of the deans. The original hall of the Towneleys appears to have partly stood somewhat south of the mansion which is the subject of one of the illustrations to this chapter (page 273). Whitaker, the great authority on Lancashire history, was unable to ascribe a date to the Hall, but it is evident to the modern observer that portions are of considerable antiquity. Many must have been the changes, however, since the six-feet walls were built. The work of Richard Towneley in 1628 is known, and the addition was by W. Towneley in 1741. A still later member of the family removed turrets, gateway, chapel, and sacristy to their present position, but the rebuilding had been begun a few years earlier. The portraits, as is often the case, tell in great measure what the Towneleys were in their day and generation: one died at Wigan Lane, another at Marston Moor; one was an eminent antiquary, another translated “Hudibras” into French, another collected art treasures, secured to the trustees of the British Museum by means of a Parliamentary grant.


LANCASTER (p. 282).

[Pg 278]

Some of the most interesting of the old Towneley relics were believed to have been brought from Whalley Abbey, built upon a spot which, before streams were polluted by factories, yielded fish from the river, and feathered game from the woods and heather, whilst the forest and park around the old Hall furnished abundance of venison. Burnley then must have been a delightful town, lying in its hollow, environed by swelling moors and crystal streams. This is the country of which Philip Gilbert Hamerton often pathetically speaks in his “Autobiography,” though “the voice of Nature,” to which he refers in one of his poems, must even in his young days have been thickened here and there by the smoke of tall chimneys, and marred by the echo of raucous sounds from foundry and loom.

“Proud Preston” is an appellation which had its significance in another generation, and was indicative of the loyalty of the town to old traditions, to the Grown, to its own independence. The hundred in which it was situated was attached, in the reign of Athelstan, to the Cathedral Church of York: hence Priests’ Town, or Preston. This is evidence of a satisfactory old age; and in 1840 more was forthcoming from a rude box dug up from the alluvial soil on the banks of the Ribble, containing a precious store of coins, rings, and ingots, including nearly 3,000 Anglo-Saxon pieces. Higher up the stream was the still older settlement of Ribchester, the Roman station of Coccium, which declined into nothing as Preston increased in importance. The sweep of country surveyed from Red Scar, where the river curves into a horseshoe course under a precipitous bank, or from the popular point of look-out in Avenham Park, is studded with points around which history clings.

The lonesome moor where Cromwell routed Sir Marmaduke Langdale and his Royalists has become an open space for the recreation of the people; the Jacobite rebellions and the temporary sojourn of Charles Edward on that disastrous Derby campaign are remembrances dimmed by the remarkable rise of Preston in modern times as a manufacturing and commercial town. This is owing to its position at the head of the Ribble estuary. There are two things in the present century of which even “Proud Preston” need not be ashamed: it was here that the first total abstinence pledge was taken in England, the signatories being Joseph Livesey and half a dozen brother-abstainers; and it was here that the practical working of the vote by ballot was tested in 1872.

For more than thirty years the flourishing town, standing 120 feet above its river, has been undergoing improvements, carried out with great public spirit. Sir Gilbert Scott designed for it the French-Gothic Town Hall which rises gracefully above the other buildings; County Hall, Free Library, and Museum have been added; even the parish church has been rebuilt, and the once steepleless town now boasts, in St. Walburge’s Roman Catholic Church, the loftiest spire erected in England since the Reformation. An unbroken link with the past is the Guild-Merchants’ Festival, celebrated since 1397 (half a century before the first charter was granted); and for the last 400 years the “Preston Guild” has been observed with intense fervour every twenty years, the next coming due in 1902. The present writer was in Preston during, probably, the saddest[Pg 279] circumstances under which such a celebration could occur. It was in 1862, when the cotton famine was sore in Lancashire; but the Prestonians threw themselves with energy into the traditional observance, and made it a memorable success. Rose festivals, morris dances, and other old English revelries retain their hold here, as in other parts of Lancashire, and are likely long to prevail.

It is as a port that Preston has recently claimed attention. The changes effected since the passing of the Ribble Navigation Act in 1883 have been striking. The marsh which kept the town apart from its river has been drained, and made fit for houses and streets. Woods that were familiar objects in the immediate landscape have disappeared, and the deepening of the channel of the tidal Ribble to admit ships of 1,700 tons has been but a natural result of Arkwright and his spinning-frame, and the cotton industry that superseded the linen-making of the previous century. The new dock, opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1892, with the Corporation as its owners, cost a million of money. The scheme made it necessary to divert the course of the Ribble below the town, and the prediction of the eminent engineer, Sir John Coode, that there would be no port in the country with so free a run to the sea, has been fulfilled. Even with the construction of docks, involving three miles’ length of permanent railway sidings, the old charm of the scene is not entirely lost. The brawny shoulders of Longridge Fell may be discerned in the north-east; cattle and sheep graze on the levels; the borders of the Fylde country are in view, and abrupt Rivington Pike is on the remote horizon.

Between the estuary of the Ribble and the south-eastern boundary of Lancaster Bay is the fertile Fylde district, the conformation of which is, roughly speaking, that of a foreshortened peninsula. The Margate and Ramsgate of Lancashire—if Lytham and Blackpool may be so-called—are on the outlying coast, but they are only of interest to us at the present moment from the arrival of the river WYRE at Fleetwood. This is a seaport and military station of what may, without offence, be termed upstart growth. It is but twenty-one miles north of Preston as the railway flies, and it has the double advantage of being a port and a watering-place. Within the memory of persons who heard about the coronation of Queen Victoria, the place where this important harbour is now situated, with its lighthouse ninety feet high and showing a glare that is visible for thirteen miles at sea, was a mere rabbit-warren, its one adornment a dilapidated limekiln. Its population now must be close upon 10,000, and from its docks lines of steamers ply to and from Belfast and the Isle of Man.


WINDERMERE (p. 291).

The river Wyre, rising near Brennand Fells, on the western side of the Bowland Forest of which previous mention has been made, takes in as a small tributary another river Calder, which rises on Bleasdale Moor, forming part of a ridge of country often exceeding 1,700 feet above sea-level. Wyresdale is noted for its striking combinations of wild and motley fells in recurring variations, alternating with copse and woodland. One of the earliest ecclesiastical sites in Lancashire is[Pg 280] St. Michael’s, some miles below Garstang; and, at a point where the river nears the estuary, the Wyre for several miles is protected from the strength of its own current by a series of artificial banks. The old fashioned town of Poulton-le-Fylde overlooks the river where it expands into the salt expanse of Wyre Water, and the estuary, contrary to the usual custom, after broadening out considerably, contracts somewhat sharply at the mouth, at the western point of which is Fleetwood.

[Pg 281]

Our next river has been characterised by “Faërie Queene” Spenser as

“the stony, shallow Lone,
That to old Loncaster his name doth lend.”

RYDAL WATER (p. 290).

Rydal Water; Grasmere

GRASMERE (p. 290).

As the poet was probably born near the Burnley which has been described on a previous page, he no doubt knew his Lancashire well, and spoke from the book when he claims that it gives name to the town and the county. The LUNE is what in the North-country is called a bonny river, and it rises, not on the edge of Richmondshire, as is sometimes stated, but at the upper extremity of a dale to the south-east of Wharton, in Westmorland. This is a portion of the upheaved Lancashire country, however, that stands something midway between sea-level and the summits of its best mountains. The uplands and highlands of the early course of the Lune range between 500 feet and 1,000 feet, and the lower half is below the smaller figure. The course, however, is through a section of valleys watered by innumerable creeks, and kept in bounds by the lonely fells. Sometimes, as at Howgill, there are fairy glens, and the occasional intervals of fertile pastures and wooded levels are a not ungrateful contrast. On one of the plains of the Lune is Kirkby Lonsdale, the capital of a vale which stretches away with Ingleborough in the distance. The river courses round a half-circle, and the scene, with its mountainous background in the east, is particularly beautiful.

[Pg 282]

It is a rare kind of panorama for this part of the country. The radiating valleys in the Lancashire portion of the Lune’s course bring in the Greta and the Wenning. The former must not be confounded with the other Greta that is born near Helvellyn, nor with the tributary of the Tees in the North Riding, at the bridge of which Nicholas Nickleby, old Squeers, and the wretched boys were put down from the coach en route to Dotheboys Hall. This Greta which is a tributary of the Lune is a rocky-bedded, brawling, rushing little stream, tumbling down from Whernside, and, between Ingleborough and Ingleton Fells, finding its way through a dale which is much visited for the sake of the roaring subterranean waterfall of Wethercote Cave, the charming surroundings of Ingleton village, and the caves and fells of Kingsdale valley.

The Wenning is the larger tributary, and its popular attractions are the subterranean grotto called Ingleborough Cave, in the gloomy Clapdale ravine, and Hornby Castle, conspicuously placed on a craggy height fringed with old trees. This interesting country is now traversed by a railway branching west from Settle, with a junction at Clapham for the aforesaid Ingleton, and affording to the traveller a sight of Giggleswick Scar and the geological curiosity of Craven Fault. The Hornby Castle referred to was built by one of the Normans on the site of a Roman villa, and the ruins near are those of a priory reared in the sixteenth century. The vale of Caton, within a five-mile walk of Lancaster, at the navigable limit of the Lune, moved the poet Gray to remarks which might fairly be applied to more than one spot in Lunedale. These are the words: “To see the view in perfection, you must go into a field on the left. Here Ingleborough, behind a variety of lesser mountains, makes the background of the prospect. On each hand, up the middle distance, rise two sloping hills, the left clothed with thick woods, the right with variegated rock and herbage. Between them, in the richest of valleys, the Lune serpentines for many a mile, and comes forth ample and clear, through a well-wooded and richly-pastured foreground.” For the last seven miles of its course the Lune runs almost parallel to and within a short distance of Morecambe Bay, and the narrow neck of land which it forms is distinguished by the designation of Little Fylde.

While Preston, as we have seen, has been rising into importance as a port, and the Ribble has been made worthy of vessels of considerable tonnage, Lancaster, though the county town, has declined very swiftly in maritime importance in the course of the last hundred years. No one looking at John of Gaunt’s old home in the present day, and upon the business transacted on the Lune, which passes by it, could guess that it was a very considerable emporium of commerce, being, indeed, ranked above Liverpool when Charles I. levied the ship-money which brought him to disaster. At that time Lancaster was assessed at £30 and Liverpool at £25. Even then the Lancaster ships sailed regularly to the West Indies and the Baltic. The sinuosity of the channel and the shallowness of the ancient ford near the town became a serious hindrance to navigation, but by dint of enterprising dredging[Pg 283] Lancaster is still reckoned amongst the English ports, and at Glasson, where the little Conder flows into the estuary under the railway, there is a harbour and dock which may yet revive the prosperity of the town.

Lancaster is one of the many Roman settlements about whose name antiquaries are entitled to contend. A piece of brass money, found under one of the foundation-stones of the arch of a former Lancaster bridge, was described as Danish, and in the time of King John the Abbot of Furness had royal permission to get timber from the King’s forests of Lancaster for such of the repairs of the bridge as he was “liable to” for his fisheries. These fisheries, like those of the Ribble, were once of the first class, and were granted to the Abbot of Furness in the reign of Stephen. There were always disputes, however, and sometimes hot quarrels, as to the rights in both salmon and timber, and king after king, according to the necessity of those days, backed up the Church, while legal regulations from time to time controlled the fisheries. From this, coupled with the fact that its first charter was granted by Richard I., we may without more ado conclude that Lancaster is an ancient borough. Indeed, there are many curious evidences of this kept alive in surviving customs, the origin of which must be found in musty grants and charters.

Lancaster Castle, through whose time-honoured owner the county became a duchy, was strongest, perhaps, in the reign of Elizabeth, when the threat of a Spanish invasion led to the overhauling of all its points of defence. This, too, was the date of the strengthening of the great keep, the remnant of which is a treasured example of Norman architecture. From a mighty royal and baronial residence the castle has now become a gaol, and John of Gaunt’s Oven, as the mill and bakery of the fortress was termed, became the Record Office. There were five monastic establishments in Lancaster, with privilege of sanctuary. The time came when the privilege was of no avail. But the unfortunate rebels of 1715 entered Lancaster with flying colours, bravely marching, and mustering in the market-place to the skirl of the bagpipes. They proclaimed the Pretender King of England under the title of James III., and some of them, poor fellows, returned soon afterwards, not in search of the sanctuary they needed, but to be imprisoned in the castle, and to suffer the last penalty of the law as in their case made and provided. Even in the ’45 Charles Edward, at the head of his little band, must needs trouble Lancaster, but the invaders were only passing through on their way to Manchester and Derby. A second time they came here, and then they were in full retreat, heralds of a finally lost cause.

The situation of Lancaster on the flank of a hill is most favourable for an appreciation of its appearance, and the castle buildings on its summit give a remarkable panorama of the town, the valley of the Lune winding on its way to the sea through the lowland. The principal gateway of the castle is an ancient portcullised archway, flanked by octagonal towers, and in it are chambers to which far-off traditions refer, for the authorities assure us that the gateway belonged to[Pg 284] “time-honoured Lancaster’s” tower, while in an apartment called the Pin Box Henry IV. gave audience to the King of Scotland and the French Ambassadors. The dungeon tower, demolished in 1818, became the penitentiary for women prisoners. “John of Gaunt’s Chair” is a turret at the top of the tower, and from this eminence of ninety feet superb views, which in clear weather comprise shadowy forms in the Lake-country, are to be obtained. Whewell, the Master of Trinity College, is one of the worthies of whom the town is proud, and all the more because he was a son of one of its carpenters. But for the accident of the lad attracting the attention of a kindly master, and the existence of a Grammar School, founded in 1483 by John Gardiner, the distinguished scholar might never have attained his eminence. Another pupil of the school was Sir Richard Owen, the great naturalist.


Leven; Newby Bridge

NEWBY BRIDGE (p. 293).

A couple of lines by Spenser prefaced these remarks about the Lune, and an extract from the river-poet, Drayton, may well conclude them:—

“For salmon me excels; and for this name of Lun,
That I am christened by the Britons it begun,
Which fulness doth import of waters still increase
To Neptune bowting low, when christal Lune doth cease;
And Conder coming in conducts her by the hand,
Till lastly she salutes the Point of Sunderland,
And leaves our dainty Lune to Amphitrite’s care.

Then hey, they cry, for Lune, and hey for Lancashire,
That one high hill was heard to tell it to his brother.”

There are streams which find their way, sometimes through devious and uncertain channels, into Morecambe Bay, but they are little known even to the inquisitive[Pg 285] angler, who is always in search of new waters. The local sportsmen in their wisdom periodically look for the run of silver sea-trout, and keep their secret. The line of the bay from its north-eastern corner, where the Kent comes in, and round to Walney Island, is in the most literal sense irregular, for its indentations and river tributaries are continuous. It forms the intake of what Windermere and Coniston water send down to the sea, and it is, moreover, the watery foreground from which the world-famed scenery of Westmorland and Cumberland may be finely viewed. At Carnforth and Silverdale the outlook in this direction is unrivalled; Fairfield, Helvellyn, and Red Screes loom in the clouds or stand clear against the sky afar, and along the shores of the Bay are nestling towns and villages, wooded knolls and slopes, cottages, farms, and, always behind them, that wonderful amphitheatre, tier upon tier, of mountain.


The Liza


In pre-railway days the journey from Lancaster to Ulverston was something of an adventure, always exciting, not only on account of the scenery brought under review, but because of the absolute danger of the shifting channels that had to be crossed. The coach was invariably joined at Hestbank (a cliff about three miles from the county town) by guides, whose duty it was to be up to date with the last manœuvres of the quicksands, and to be ready with safe crossing places. These guides were an old institution, and were originally appointed and paid as retainers by the Prior of Cartmel. When the downfall came, and there was no longer an[Pg 286] abbey treasure-chest to fall back upon, the Duchy of Lancaster paid the wages. It used to be said that few of those who got their living by “following the sands” died in their beds. Nevertheless, the calling of guide was kept in the same family for generations. The danger of this passage of the sands was long ago put into a distich—

“The Kent and the Keer
Have parted many a good man and his mear.”

Some of the channels, it was said, were never two days together in the same place. The Keer mentioned in the old couplet was very treacherous, and was always carefully sounded before the coach ventured to cross. Sand tracks had to be staked out with furze-bushes, as the channel of a river is buoyed. Perilous difficulties were apprehended when nearing the Cartmel tongue of the Kent; the Leven sands beyond Cartmel and Ulverston were the worst of all. The poet Wordsworth told Mrs. Hemans, according to the lady’s own letter, that he admired her exploit in crossing the Ulverston sands as a deed of derring-do, and as a decided proof of taste; and he truly added that the lake scenery is never seen to such advantage as after the passage of what he calls its majestic barrier.

Before arriving at the Lake district we might in farewell turn our faces to the south, standing in imagination at Silverdale. There in the picture are the Wharton Crags, with houses great and small amongst their wooded feet; and then there are Bolton-le-Sands, Hestbank, Poulton-le-Sands (which to all intents and purposes is Morecambe), Heysham, and Lancaster Bay. It is a journey of twenty-six miles by rail from Lancaster to Ulverston, and the greater part of the distance is close to the shores of Morecambe Bay. The traveller going north, therefore, has the sea laving the tract to his left, and always, as an alternative prospect, rock, wood, stream, bushy dales and retiring glens to the right. From the sea the fishermen obtain great store of shrimp and flat fish. There are border guard-houses, such as Arnside Tower; and in reaching Hawes Tarn (which is said to be affected somehow by the rise and fall of the tide) groves of larch and pine, with a plenteous undergrowth of gorse and ling, offer themselves to the view. Picturesque Holme Island, at the mouth of the Kent, and the ruins of Peel Castle on the islet of that name, enter into the picture in other directions.

The river KENT, upon whose left bank the town of Kendal is situated, must not long delay our round of the streams that await introduction. It gives name to Kentmere village, and to the reservoir, or tarn, fed by the beck springing from the mountain bearing, in memory of the Roman road which neared its loftiest point, the very familiar name of High Street. There is also Kentmere Hall, remnant of one of the peel towers, and birthplace of Bernard Gilpin, the almost forgotten Apostle of the North in the dangerous times of Mary and Elizabeth, and after whom a parallel stream westward is called. The Kent, like the Mint from Grayrigg Forest, and the Sprint running down the middle of Long Sleddale—like, indeed, unnumbered becks on every hand in the whole district—is of the rapid order, abounding in boulders,[Pg 287] shingly strands, deep channels between banks of imperishable rock, opening pools and pebbly shallows, haunts of trout and of the anglers who understand their ways and know the seasons when salmonidæ should be ascending from the salt water.

Coniston Water


Her Majesty Catherine Parr, who had the good fortune to escape the peril of burning as a heretic, and the loving attention which was fatal to other wives of Bluff Harry, was born on the banks of the Kent, in the castle whose ruins are a prominent object in the scenery of which Kendal is the centre. Wordsworth sketches it in happy terms:—

[Pg 288]

“A straggling burgh, of ancient charter proud,
And dignified by battlements and towers
Of a stern castle, mouldering on the brow
Of a green hill.”

Shakespeare and others refer to Kendal in connection with an industry established by the Flemings, who settled there under Edward III. They became famous for their woollens, and their special “line” was the cloth termed “Kendals” in trade parlance, and “Kendal-green” by the outlaws and their critics. This was the colour of the clothes worn by the “three misbegotten knaves” whose exploits upon Falstaff were denounced by Prince Henry as lies “gross as a mountain, open, palpable.” The foresters’ cloth made by the Flemings was deservedly popular; but cotton superseded woollens in the last century, and this in time gave place to other textile fabrics.

The GILPIN flows into the head of the long and crooked estuary a mile or so away from the mouth of the Kent river; and, further south, the viaduct carrying the railway to Grange crosses from Arnside. The isolated conical hill, Castle Head (or Castle Hill), is prettily brightened by foliage, and it is a significant survival of the old landmarks. The waves used to wash the base of this now high and dry eminence, for the plain traversed by the river WINSTER is mostly land reclaimed from the sea at different times, but most extensively for the construction of the railway. Holme Island is opposite and near the mouth of the Winster, and has not been inaptly described as a marine paradise made by the art and industry of man from a rude, isolated rock upon which previously nothing better than whins and brambles struggled for precarious roothold. The causeway which joins this beautiful little realm of a few acres to the mainland makes it an island only in name, but the name abides. Upon the Cartmel peninsula is the wooded domain of Holker Hall, which was the favourite autumnal resort of the late Duke of Devonshire.

The much more spacious peninsula of Furness—with Ulverston as its central town, the great docks and shipbuilding yards of Barrow marking modern progress, and the ruins of Furness Abbey pointing to a distant past—is divided from Cartmel by the estuary of the Leven. Leven from our point of consideration means Windermere and entrance to the unchanging beauty of Lakeland. The river Leven, however, is but a conclusion; in other words, it is the final link of the chain of water-pictures which have inspired many a poet; and to arrive at the first we must leave for a moment the sands of Morecambe Bay and take a new departure away beyond Grasmere, where the river ROTHAY (or Rotha) is formed by a congregation of murmuring becks or gills. One of the feeders of the Rothay comes from the tiny Codale Tarn and the larger Easedale Tarn, well known to tourists from the rattling little waterfall, Sourmilk Force. Codale lies pretty high in the world, rising to an altitude considerably over 2,000 feet. Easedale is a basin somewhat down hill, and is in these days much better known than when Wordsworth strolled beside its out[Pg 289]pouring stream, and confessed to having composed thousands of verses in the solitude of the vale. The conspicuous headland of Helm Crag is an essential part of the scenery, and it is climbed for the sake of the view over Grasmere, Windermere, Esthwaite Tarn, Helvellyn, and Fairfield.


ENNERDALE (p. 298).

It may be remarked that we are now in the region of tarns and pikes, and the derivation of the former word, if not strictly correct, is not unpoetical, for it is said to mean “a tear.” This imaginative investment reminds us of Wordsworth’s declaration that the stream which traverses Easedale is now and again as wild and beautiful as a brook may be. The river Rothay, however, does not rely entirely upon this immortalised brook, but it can fairly reckon upon what can be spared from the tarns when the other gills fail in their shrunken currents. In the valley is the village of Grasmere, sacred to Wordsworth’s cottage; and the church, containing a medallion of the author who sang its “naked rafters intricately crossed,” and whose grave and that of members of his family, with Hartley Coleridge lying hard by, and a memorial-stone to Clough, attract renewed streams of pilgrims. The cottage is not far from the church, and it is now owned by trustees, who keep it in order for the inspection of visitors. There is no section of this district which is not beautiful, and the recurring clumps of trees recall how the country was at one time alleged to be so covered with wood that wild boars abounded. There was, and probably is, a local saying that a squirrel could travel from Kendal to Keswick without once touching the ground.

[Pg 290]

It was at this cottage that Wordsworth first set up housekeeping, and many and distinguished were his visitors to Grasmere. It had been previously a rustic inn under the prophetic sign of the “Dove and Olive Bough”; and upon about £100 a year the poet contrived to entertain relays of visitors, amongst them Southey, Coleridge, and Scott. It was, perhaps of necessity, a teetotal cottage, and it was here (according to report) that Sir Walter, after dinner, used to pretend that he was going for a meditative stroll, and resort to the public-house for a draught of what was best. Until recent years the descendant of a certain publican—who was said to have given Scott away by addressing him, as he and Wordsworth walked up, with, “Ah, Master Scott, you’re early to-day for your drink”—was pointed out as an inhabitant of the village; but there is some doubt about this pretty story, as Sir Walter only visited Wordsworth for one day while he resided at the cottage, and then it was a call in company with Davy, on an occasion when they ascended Helvellyn together. On the whole, the Lake district must remain a most temperate region, for it was reported that on the Christmas day of so recent a year as 1896 a party of young men who called at the most elevated public-house in England were the first customers the landlord had seen for six weeks.

The Rothay courses south, a short length between the village and the mere. Writ large in literary associations, and a household word amongst English-speaking peoples, Grasmere is but a mile long, and nothing like so broad at its widest part, but it is a precious gem in a setting where all is worthy. Gray, whose prose descriptions of Lakeland are passed on from writer to writer, rejoiced exceedingly because not a single red tile, and no staring gentleman’s house (meaning probably no gentleman’s staring house) broke in upon the repose of the unsuspected paradise. The paradise is not any longer unsuspected; it is public property; but there are still left the eternal hills, Grasmere water hollowed in their bosom, the small bays and miniature promontories, the soft turf green as an emerald, trees, hedges, cattle, pastures, and corn-land—items of description that may in a varying degree apply to almost every one of these famous sheets of Lakeland water. In truth, there is no better travelled ground in the three kingdoms than this; and it may be assumed once for all that its general attractions are known to the reader, and that we are free to proceed with our purpose of showing the part borne by the rivers as connecting ways, and systems of supply and relief for the lakes.

The river Rothay does precisely what Wordsworth did: it moves from Grasmere to Rydal, flowing along the base of Loughrigg Fell, avoiding the terrace and curving up towards the “Wishing Gate” to the western point of Rydal Water. From any of the paths which conduct downwards the course of the Rothay is brightly and clearly mapped. We need not pause at Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s last residence, nor at the rock which is remembered as his favourite seat, nor at Rydal Hall and the shade-giving trees of its park, nor follow the beck to the little tumbles of water named Rydal Falls, nor stroll the half mile which would bring us to Fox How, the holiday retreat of Arnold of Rugby. Amongst[Pg 291] the trees in the so-called Rydal forest there are oaks that must often have given pleasure to Wordsworth in his rambles; and the beck which is always scurrying to the Rothay receives its impetus from the steepness of its journey from the mountain—

“Down Rydal Cove from Fairfield’s side.”

On past Ambleside, which it leaves untouched to the left, the Rothay proceeds, with greetings from Rydal Water to busy Windermere. Ambleside, though it has no immediate lake view, is not without its water effects, both heard and seen when the swollen little tributary gives power to Stock Ghyll Force, a very respectable fall of some seventy feet. Every visitor to Ambleside pays homage to this romantic termination of a delightful walk through a sylvan enclosure. Ambleside is nowadays practically connected with the lake by Waterhead and the extended occupation of the flat; and a short distance above the head of the lake is the junction of the Brathay and the Rothay. The former, like the latter, is in intimate relations with lakelet and feeder, and, in truth, cuts an important figure by its drainage of Great and Little Langdale, its reception of sundry gills from the dominating pikes which seldom allow themselves to be forgotten in the Windermere county, its inclusion of Little Langdale tarn and Elterwater, and its share in keeping in action various waterfalls, of which Dungeon Ghyll Force and the Mill Beck Cascades are the best. The neighbourhood elicited the warmest admiration from Professor Wilson, who said that sweeter stream scenery with richer foreground and loftier background was nowhere to be seen within the four seas. Of the three lakelets he preferred the small tarn on Loughrigg Fell—

“By grandeur guarded in its loveliness.”

The two rivers have time and space to combine in a united volume before fairly entering Windermere. It is strange to notice the exaggerated idea entertained by those who have never explored Lakeland as to the dimensions of such waters as Windermere, Ullswater, and Derwentwater. They have read so much and so often about them that they have become visions of vast distances, inland seas upon which storm-bound mariners have to run to port for shelter when the stormy winds do blow. Yet Windermere, the first of the lakes in dimensions, is not more than ten miles and a half in length, and, except in its broadest section, opposite Windermere and Bowness towns, less than a mile broad. Its real greatness lies in its exquisite islets or holms, and in the commanding views which receive so much charm from the intervening foreground of water, however limited in extent it may be.

The Greta


Two of the feeders of Windermere, and they the principal ones, have been mentioned in their geographical order; and there remain to complete the category at least two others. TROUTBECK, which is said to be one of the few streams in all Lakeland that are of small value to the angler, comes in from the north-east down a beautiful valley, an easy excursion distance either from Ambleside for the higher, or from Windermere for the lower, portions; and midway, under Wansfell[Pg 292] Pike, lies Troutbeck village, the most picturesque conceivable, as it was also when Christopher North wrote of the scattered dwellings “all dropped down where the painter and the poet would have wished to plant them, on knolls and in dells, on banks and braes, and below tree-crested rocks—and all bound together in picturesque confusion by old groves of ash, oak, and sycamore, and by flower-gardens and fruit-orchards rich as those of the Hesperides.” There to the north-east, over against Kentmere Reservoir, Ill Bell offers the temptation of an ascent of 2,476 feet, and Troutbeck valley is preferred as on the whole the easiest and pleasantest route.

Esthwaite Water, one of the smaller lakes, and a satellite of Windermere, is also narrow in proportion to length, and a matter of four miles removed to the west. No one is heard to rave about its homely shores and indifferent setting, but it comes under frequent notice from its nearness to Hawkshead, a quaint little market-town with a notable church, and a grammar school, one of whose forms is preserved with Wordsworth’s initials cut in it. Esthwaite Water, however, is bound to receive its due in these pages, as the helpmeet of Windermere through the medium of the short and business-like stream CUNSEY BECK. At the point where this feeder is lost in the lake, though it is not its deepest part, the angler may reckon upon the miscellaneous sport which is yielded by the lakes generally. In the deeper waters (and the plumb-line[Pg 293] makes the bottom 240 feet at the maximum depth) the char, only to be found in a few localities in the three kingdoms, occurs. Its capture with rod and line is sport of a kind, but it is inferior in this respect to the trout. At a time when the available rivers for the angler who cannot afford to be his own riparian owner are becoming fewer and fewer, it is a little remarkable that these countless becks, tarns, full-sized streams and lakes are not more highly prized by the fisherman-tourist. It is true that Windermere, from one cause and another, has of late years fallen into disrepute, but under the operations of a local association there has been distinct improvement, though steamer traffic must always seriously reduce the value of such fishing haunts.

Very pleasing to the eye are the undulating shores, and the green of the grass, and the foliage of Windermere at its southern end. At Lakeside it is so narrow that it is hard to put your finger on the spot where the LEVEN begins, though, for want of a better, Newby Bridge, as shown in the illustration (p. 284), will serve. The Leven, as before remarked, is the last link of our Windermere chain, but after Rothay and Brathay, and the becks with their forces and falls, we need give it but the consideration which is due to an outlet bearing to the sea such waters as Windermere does not want, through the long tortuous channel in the sandy wastes of Morecambe Bay.


The Derwent


The CRAKE river falls into the Leven so near its mouth that it might almost claim to be a tributary. But it is independent and apart in its character and[Pg 294] mission. It belongs to Coniston Water, as Leven belongs to Windermere; and the commonplace scenery of its short course, with its trio of bridges, is another mark of similarity. All that is noticeable around Coniston lake is at the upper portion. The steamer pier is at Waterhead, the village and station are half a mile inland; the Old Man of Coniston (2,633 feet), whom generations of climbers have been proud to attack, is in the same direction, and Yewdale and its tarn, howes, crags and fells are towards the north. The coaching traveller may feast his eyes upon the lancet-shaped water, some five miles long from Schoolbeck at the upper or from the Crake at the lower terminal, and of a uniform width of about half a mile; while the upward trip from Lake Bank affords clear and happy views of the mountains of which the Old Man is the irrepressible head. Off the high road opposite Coniston Hall, a farmhouse once the Westmorland seat of the Le Fleming family, is Brantwood, associated with the names of Gerald Massey, poet and self-made man, of Linton the engraver, and of Ruskin, great as any of those giants of literature whose names are linked with Lakeland.

The river DUDDON as a thing of beauty has often been overpraised, no less an authority than Wordsworth setting the example when, in his “Scenery of the Lakes,” he says it may be compared, such and so varied are its beauties, with any river of equal length in any country. Yet there are streams in Wales, and even in the north of England, which their admirers would not hesitate to rank above it. It rises upon Wrynose Fell, on the confines of Westmorland, Cumberland, and Lancashire, and for twenty-five miles or so is the boundary between the two latter counties. It possesses, no doubt, a certain picturesqueness, having its wild mountain phases, its torrents roaring around obstructive rocks, its passage through fertile meadows, and at last its slow ending through the everlasting sands to an open outlet into the Irish Sea at the north end of Walney Island.

Donnerdale, with Seathwaite as its most notable centre, has received much attention because Wordsworth (from whom we cannot, and would not if we could, escape in Lakeland) made it the subject of thirty-four sonnets, dedicated to his brother Christopher. The poet evidently set himself down to glorify this particular district by prolonged observation—

“... For Duddon, long-beloved Duddon, is my theme.”

In the course of his sonnets he sings its dwarf willows and ferny brakes; its sullen moss and craggy mound; its green alders, ash and birch trees, and sheltering pines; its hamlets under verdant hills; its barns and byres, and spouting mills. Nor does he fail to celebrate the gusts that lash its matted forests. When the gale becomes too obstreperous, then, reckless of angry Duddon sweeping by, the poet turns him to the warm hearth, to

“Laugh with the generous household heartily
At all the merry pranks of Donnerdale.”

[Pg 295]

The only pollution he would admit in this innocent stream was the occasional sheep-washing by the dalesmen. In his notes Wordsworth recommends the traveller who would be most gratified with the Duddon not to approach it from its source, as is done in the sonnets, nor from its termination, but from Coniston over Walna Scar, first descending into a little circular valley, a collateral compartment of the long, winding vale through which the river flows. In fact, Wordsworth’s notes are a very excellent guide to the district, and Thorne, who was a first-hand authority upon rivers, confessedly took the poet as his cicerone when he followed the stream from the very top of Wrynose, marking even the bed of moss through which the water oozes at the source. With a poet’s licence, Wordsworth likens his river finally to the Thames; but though the Duddon widens considerably at Ulpha, it loses its beauty before it finishes its career.




Following the coast around Haverigg Point, whence the sand of the coast becomes only the decent margin which makes the shore pleasant, we pause at the three-branched estuary of the Esk, the creeks, right, left, and middle, being formed by the Esk, the Mite, and the Irt. This is all majestic country. Our Cumberland Esk hails from Scafell, whose pike of 3,210 feet is the highest ground in England. Upper Eskdale may also be spoken of in the superlative degree for its marked[Pg 296] grandeur. No mean skill in mountaineering is required to reach Wastdale, Langdale, and Borrowdale from the different paths. The Esk Falls are formed by the junction of becks from Bowfell and Scafell. The fine cataract, Cam Spout, descends from Mickledore; and Hardknott, which is one of the lesser heights, has a Roman ruin spoken of as a castle. There are, moreover, Baker Force and Stanley Gill amongst the waterfalls. Little need be said about the second-named river, the Mite, except that it passes the fell, the railway station, and the castle, bearing each the name of Muncaster.

The Cocker Flowing from Crummock Water


The river IRT is the outlet of Wastwater, a gloomy lake three and a half miles long and half a mile broad, and of immense depth. It is a tradition in Lakeland that this piece of water is never frozen, but this is clearly an error, for there is a distinct record by the learned brother of Sir Humphry Davy that it was partly covered with ice in the great frost of 1855. The desolate crags around the lake are answerable for much of its severe character, and perhaps it was on this account that the Lakers used to visit it. Waugh, the Lancashire poet, encountered a local gossip who was full of memories of Wordsworth, Wilson, De Quincey, and[Pg 297] Sedgwick, and the man very much amused his listener by describing Wordsworth as a very quiet old man, who had no pride, and very little to say. Christopher North was naturally a horse of another colour, being full of his gambols, and creating great excitement by his spirited contests with one of the Cumberland wrestlers. Wastwater is often violently agitated by heavy squalls from the south, which is somewhat of an anomaly, seeing that the boundary on that side is a mighty natural rampart named the Screes, so called from the loose nature of the scarps, which tend to make some of the neighbouring mountains practically inaccessible.

The Cocker at Kirkgate


Ennerdale Water, a few miles to the north, receives its first influx from the river LIZA, locally known as Lissa Beck. It is a lovely valley, and there is no overcrowding of population. The last house is the farmhouse of Gillerthwaite, and further progress upwards to the mountains is by footpath only. This is in truth the only excuse for mentioning the Liza, though it might serve as an opportunity for singing the praises of the Great Gable, formerly known as the Green Gable. It is one of the most conspicuous of mountain heads, and its frowning peak meets the view from great distances. Pillar Mountain, which is nearer Ennerdale Plain, is almost exactly the same height—2,927 feet, which is about seven yards less[Pg 298] than the Gable—and it has a pinnacled and abrupt descent almost to the confines of the lake. Ennerdale Water at one time had the character of being the best fishing resort in the Lakes. “The Anglers’ Inn” is not, as may be supposed, an establishment of modern growth, for it is bepraised in the literature of forty years ago. The bold headland projecting into the water at the western end was more than half a century back well known as Angler Fell, for a reason which the term itself explains, and at that time one of the curiosities of the lake was a collection of loose stones which, according to tradition, had been placed at the head of the shoal by unknown mortal or supernatural hands. Anyhow, the heap was always pointed out as a mystery until a scientific visitor explained it away by pronouncing it to be the remnant of an old moraine.

Though not so deep as Wastwater, Ennerdale Water can boast its twenty-four fathoms, and the familiar statement is made as to its immunity from ice, the fact being that it is only in the severest frosts that these uncommonly deep lakes are affected. At the lower end the river Ehen takes up the duty of carrying the overflow to the sea, describing a long and semicircular course that from opposite St. Bees becomes by quick swerve a journey due south. The valley thence is of a pastoral character, and is perhaps best known from the establishment on its banks (long before the Cleator Iron Works sent up their smoke) of the little town of Egremont, with its ruins of a strong fortress. It was this that suggested the Cumberland tradition told by Wordsworth in the poem “The Horn of Egremont Castle.”

“Scarcely ever have I seen anything so fine as the Vale of St. John,” Southey exclaims; and the Valley of St. John which is named more than once in Scott’s “Bridal of Triermain” is always accepted as the same. It is in the country of Helvellyn, of Thirlmere, of the river GRETA, and Keswick is its capital. The Greta, however, is known by sectional names, even after it issues from the mere, which has the distinction of being, while one of the minor lakes, the highest in altitude. The other lakes are generally something between 200 and 300 feet above sea level. This is over 500 feet, and its precipitous borderings here and there are in accord with its unusual elevation.

The stream which has to make so steep a descent before it is received by the Derwent is generally spoken of as St. John’s Beck as it trends northward through the namesake vale, Naddle Fell on the one side, and Great Dodd on the other, keeping watch and ward, deeply scored; Saddleback always looming grimly ahead beyond Threlkeld, with Skiddaw as near neighbour. At this stage the Glenderamakin makes conjunction from the east, and, united, the streams become the Greta. From Threlkeld it takes a new course, westerly to Keswick, and its scenery is of the highest beauty as it hurries past Latrigg, otherwise known as Skiddaw’s Cub. Greta in this short length of established identity is not to be denied, as Greta Bridge, Greta Hall (the home of Southey for forty years), and[Pg 299] Greta Bank testify. Half a mile from Keswick, over the bridge, is Crosthwaite, the old parish church in whose God’s acre Southey was buried.

The tourist in Lakeland will bring back his special impression of “the very finest view,” according to his individual tastes and, maybe, temperament. A well-ordered ballot would probably, however, place at the head of the list that prospect—never to be adequately described—from Castlerigg top. For water there are Bassenthwaite and Derwentwater; for giant mountain forms, Skiddaw and Saddleback; for cloud-capped and shadowy fells, the highlands of Buttermere and Crummock, with “the mountains of Newlands shaping themselves as pavilions; the gorgeous confusion of Borrowdale just revealing its sublime chaos through the narrow vista of its gorge,” as De Quincey described them; and for the softer toning and the human interest, the valley of the Greta and the goodly town of Keswick are in the nearer survey. Out of town the river becomes moderately tranquil, and enters the Derwent at the northernmost point of Keswick Lake or Derwentwater.

Derwentwater is the most oval in outline of any of the lakes, and it has the bijou measurements of three miles in length, by a mile and a half in breadth. Foreshores of foliaged slopes or herbaged margins give play to an imposing presentment of cliff and wooded knoll, with dark masses of fantastic mountains behind; the clear water is studded with small islands of varying form and bulk, and in its centre is St. Herbert’s Isle, sacred to the memory of a “saintly eremite” whose ambition it was to die at the moment when his beloved Cuthbert of Durham expired, so that their souls might soar heavenwards in company. After hot summers a phenomenal floating islet, of bog-like character and covered with vegetation, rises at a point about 150 yards from the shore near the far-famed waters coming down from Lodore. Scafell is somewhat a far cry from Keswick, but one of the most impressively comprehensive views of Derwentwater, as of Windermere and Wastwater in a lesser degree, is to be obtained from the summit.

The river DERWENT, known alternatively as the Grange, rises at the head of Borrowdale, flows along the middle of the valley, and enters the lower part of the lake near the Falls of Lodore. Issuing from the further extremity, augmented by the Greta, it flows north-westwards to pay tribute to Bassenthwaite Water, which, after Derwentwater and its strong features of interest, is somewhat of an anti-climax; yet it is a fine lake some four miles in length, with woods on the Wythop shore, and Armathwaite Hall at its foot commanding a full view of the lake. The Derwent, renewing its river-form on the outskirts of this wooded estate, turns to the west, and arrives at Cockermouth, so named from the river which here joins it from the south.

Buttermere and Crummock Water, with Little Loweswater up in the high fells, are the western outposts of Lakeland, and they must be considered as the starting-point of the river COCKER. They are a small chain of themselves, equidistant, and in a line from south-east to north-west. Loweswater is of least account, and not[Pg 300] in eager request by tourists; but it is the moving spirit of Holme Force, in a wood beside which the explorer of the lake passes; and the lower end, where the small stream connects with Crummock Water, is not without pleasant scenery. Kirkgate, about half a mile south and half-way on the connecting stream, is a favourite resting-point. In the illustration on page 297 the artist has eloquently described the river Cocker in its hill solitudes, and in its early life, when a single arch is enough to span its modest channel; the plain whitewashed cottage in its sheltered nook, the straggling trees, the sheep fresh from the higher grazings, are very typical of these remote districts.

Crummock Water, the largest of this trio, is somewhat out of the beaten track, but there are boats upon it, and walls of mountain rise on either side. The tourist generally spends the time possible for the casual excursionist at Scale Force, on a feeder of the Cocker after it has cleared the lake. It is a sheer fall of over a hundred feet when there is plenty of water. A kindred cataract in the neighbourhood is Sour Milk Force, the second waterfall of that name mentioned in this chapter. The main river, having sped through the meres and the meadows that separate them, passes through the Vale of Lorton, and enters the Derwent near the castle ruins at Cockermouth. The town was so important, through its baronial fortress, of which the gateway remains, that the Roundhead troops gave it the fatal honour of a passing visit, and there an end of the castle, which they promptly dismantled. But Wordsworth was born here, and the garden-terrace of his home was by Derwent side. The railway frequently crosses the Derwent between Cockermouth and Workington, keeping it on the whole close company through a generally level and ordinary country. Workington is in these days a prosperous seaport; yet we must not forget that Mary Queen of Scots landed here on a May day in 1568, and Wordsworth tells us how—

“With step prelusive to a long array
Of woes and degradations hand in hand—
Weeping captivity and shuddering fear
Stilled by the ensanguined block of Fotheringay.”



Photo: W. J. Munro, Annan.



The Firth—A Swift Tide. The EDEN: The Eamont—Eden Hall—Armathwaite—John Skelton—Wetheral and Corby Castle—The Caldew and the Petteril—Greystoke Castle—Carlisle, its Romance and History—Serva Pactum—“Kinmont Willie” and “bauld Buccleuch”—Executions of Jacobites—The Carlisle of To-day. The SARK: Gretna Green. The LIDDEL—Hermitage Water and Castle. The ESK: The Tarras—Gilnockie Tower—Carlenrig and Johnnie Armstrong—Young Lochinvar—Kirtle Water and its Tragic Story. The ANNAN: The Land of the Bruces—Thomas Carlyle. The NITH: Dumfries—Burns’s Grave—Robert Bruce and the Red Cumyn—Drumlanrig and Caerlaverock Castles—The Cairn and its Associations—The New Abbey Pow and Sweetheart Abbey. The DEE: Douglas Tongueland—Threave Castle. The CREE: Newton Stewart—The “Cruives of Cree.” The BLADENOCH: The Wigtown Martyrs.


IT is some years since we last saw the Solway Firth, but we well remember the long stretch of naked sand so quickly covered by the galloping tide, and the giant shape of Criffell guarding the whole expanse of water from out which it appeared to rise, so that the prophecy ascribed to Thomas the Rhymer, “In the evil day coming safety shall nowhere be found except atween Criffell and the sea,” seemed in truth a hard saying. Our abode was a solitary house on the northern bank, and, save for the wild ebb and flow of the waters, all was peace. On the right was the open sea, not much ploughed of passing keel; straight across was the indented Cumberland shore, well tended and fertile, but not more[Pg 302] so than the inland from our cottage. How plainly it comes back as one takes up the pen!

“Rank-swelling Annan, Lid with curled streams,
The Esks, the Solway where they lose their names”:

so sings quaint and courtly Drummond of Hawthornden. It is before these and the other Solway tributaries “lose their names” that we wish to write of them, touch on their beauty, and repeat again some of the brave tales, weird traditions, and choice songs that hallow their fields. And first as to the Firth itself. The Solway opens so rapidly on the sea that it is hard to draw the line between it and the ocean. We shall not try. The Cumberland side falls rapidly off, and presents a larger coast to the open water. Its rivers are not numerous, but in the Eden it possesses one of great interest and importance. The coast-line of the three counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, and Wigtown forms the northern shore. It has many streams. We do not go beyond the Cree, which runs into Wigtown Bay, and of which we shall count the Bladenoch a tributary.

Eden, Petteril, Caldew


The Solway is noted all the world over for its swift tide: “Love flows like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide,” says Scott in one of his best-known lines. A spring-tide, urged by a breeze from the south-west, speeds along at a rate of ten miles an hour. A deep, hoarse roar is heard twenty miles away, a swirling mist glittering with a number of small rainbows is seen on the sea, a huge wave of foam comes into sight, and this resolves itself into a volume of water six feet high—the vanguard of the ocean itself, which follows, a great mass in violent perturbation. The Solway near Annan is crossed by a long railway bridge. Some years ago this bridging of the Firth was considered a remarkable engineering feat, but now that you rattle in express trains over the Tay and the Forth, the Solway viaduct seems a very trumpery affair. In the old days, when communication was slow and costly, and when, maybe, folk were bolder, how strong the temptation to make a dash for it across the sand! And yet how dangerous! Dense fogs would arise of a sudden, quicksands abounded, and had a nasty trick of shifting their place ever and anon. How easy to miscalculate time or distance! Imagine the feeling of the unfortunate traveller, midway across, when there fell on his ear the sullen roar of the advancing tide! Fatal accidents were frequent, especially[Pg 303] to those returning from Cumberland fairs with their brains heated and their judgment confused by hours of rustic dissipation. You remember the graphic account in “Redgauntlet” of Darsie Latimer’s mishap on the northern shore, and his rescue by the Laird of the Lakes on his great black steed. Scott in his novel gives a vivid account of the salmon-fishing on the Solway: how horsemen with barbed spears dashed at full gallop into the receding tide, and speared the fish with wondrous skill. This picturesque mode is long out of date, and stake nets, which, when the tide is out, stretch like huge serpents over the sand, are now the principal engines of capture. The Solway has somewhat dwindled of late epochs; geologists report it as receding seaward at the rate of a mile a century, which is lightning speed for that species of alteration—but ’twas ever a hasty Firth!

The EDEN is our first river. During its course of thirty-five miles it has much variety of pleasant scenery; whereof let Wordsworth tell:—

“Eden! till now thy beauty had I viewed
By glimpses only, and confess with shame
That verse of mine, whate’er its varying mood,
Repeats but once the sound of thy sweet name:
Yet fetched from Paradise, that honour came,
Rightfully borne; for Nature gives thee flowers
That have no rival among British bowers,
And thy bold rocks are worthy of their fame.”

It rises in the backbone of England, on the borders of Westmorland, in Yorkshire. We do not loiter in the long street of Kirkby Stephen, or dilate on the many antiquities of Appleby, though in its Westmorland course it flows by both places. On the Cumberland border it is joined by the Eamont, which rises nine miles off in romantic Ullswater—a lake renowned for the remarkable combination of savage and cultivated scenery on its borders. A mile or two further, and the Eden winds through a noble park, wherein stands Eden Hall. Here, since the time of Henry VI., have lived the “martial and warlike family of the Musgraves,” as Camden calls them. They acquired the estate by marriage from the heirs of one Robert Turpe, who had it under Henry III.; and how far back his ancestors go—why, ’twould gravel the College of Heralds themselves to tell! Thus Eden Hall has been held by the same race from time immemorial. Not this alone has made the family famous, but the possession of a famous goblet, called “The Luck of the Musgraves,” which they got, so the story goes, in this fashion. There stood in the garden St. Cuthbert’s Well, of the most exquisite spring water. Hither repaired the Seneschal (“butler” some prosaically dub him; but the other sounds much finer, and is at least as accurate) to replenish his vessels. ’Twas a fine summer evening, and he found the green crowded with fairies, dancing and flirting “and carrying on most outrageous,” quite forgetting they had left their magic glass on the brink of the well. The Seneschal promptly impounded it, as a waif and stray, for[Pg 304] the benefit of the lord of the manor. The fairies implored and threatened in vain, and at length they vanished, uttering the prophecy—

“If that glass either break or fall,
Farewell the luck of Eden Hall.”
Eden Hall

Photo: Frith & Co., Reigate.


How to doubt this story when the goblet is there to speak for itself? It is of green-coloured glass, ornamented with foliage and enamelled in different colours. Spite of all, some affirm it a church vessel of the fourteenth or fifteenth century, and hint that it came into the family in a more commonplace if equally high-handed way. How far the fame of that goblet has travelled! Uhland, the German poet, makes it the theme of a romantic ballad whose spirit Longfellow’s rendering admirably preserves. It tells how young Musgrave wantonly smashed the goblet, and how instant ruin fell on him and his house. All poetic licence! The Musgraves are still lords of Eden Hall.


The Weir; Wetheral Bridge


Ten miles further down the stream we come to Armathwaite. The castle thereof is a plain old tower modernised. Its charm lies in the surroundings. There is a fine wooded walk by the river, which swirls round a huge crag. Above the weir the stream swells out into a lake. The weir itself is some four yards high and twenty long; its slope does not approach the perpendicular; and though the[Pg 305] Eden must needs fall over it, it does so with a gentle grace quite in keeping with its character. The place has its musty records: William Rufus built a mill here. Here, too, the Benedictines had a religious house; but what pleasant spot in England is without its religious house? The ancient family of Skelton held the castle from the days of the second Richard; and here most probably John Skelton, the poet—the best known, if not most reputable, member of the race—was born about 1461. He took holy orders, and was rector of Diss, in Norfolk, but lost this and other appointments—from his improper conduct, said his superiors—rather you fancy from his mad wit, which lampooned everything and everybody. Three things he held in special horror: the mendicant friars, Lilly the grammarian, and Cardinal Wolsey. And he found vulnerable points in the red robe of the cardinal. “Why come ye not to Court?” is a bitter, brutal, yet brilliant invective against the great statesman. He taunts the English nobility that they dared not move—

[Pg 306]

“For dread of the mastiff cur,
For dread of the butcher’s dog
Worrying them like a hog.”

No doubt Wolsey’s father was a butcher, but his Eminence scarce cared to have his memory jogged on the matter; no doubt the English nobles were afraid of the great prelate, but they would rather not be told so. Thus, when vengeance threatened, Skelton found none to take his part. With a mocking grin, you fancy, invoking the protection of the very Church he had disgraced, he took sanctuary at Westminster, whence not even Wolsey dared drag him forth. Here he is said to have amused himself in inditing certain “Merrie Tales,” accounts, it would seem, of his own adventures.

We must find room for one of these stories from his student days. He had made merry at Abingdon, near Oxford, where he had eaten “salte meates.” Returned to Oxford, he “dyd lye in an ine named the ‘Tabere.’” At midnight he awoke with a most consuming thirst; he called in succession on the “tappestere” (the quaint mediæval term for a barmaid), “hys oste, hys ostesse, and osteler,” but none would give him ear—possibly the poet lacked regularity in his payments. “‘Alacke,’ sayd Skelton, ‘I shall perysh for lacke of drynke: what remedye!’” He soon found one: he bellowed “fyer, fyer, fyer,” so long and so loud that presently the whole house was up and scurrying hither and thither in excitement and alarm. Finding nothing, they finally asked the poet where the fire was? The mad rogue, pointing to his open mouth and parched tongue, implored, “fetch me some drynke to quench the fyer and the heate and the driness in my mouthe.” Our forefathers dearly loved a joke even at their own expense. The honest folk of the “Tabere” were amused rather than enraged. Mine host produced him of his best, and at length even Skelton’s thirst was quenched. Yet this madcap was a man of genius. Erasmus spoke of him to Henry VIII. as “Britannicarum literarum decus et lumen”; and if you can endure the obsolete and (one must add) the coarse expressions, you will find in “The Tunnyng of Elynour Running” the most remarkable picture in existence of low life in late mediæval England.

But let us return to the Eden, which now enters the parish of Wetheral. Not far from Wetheral Bridge the riverside is precipitous. Here, cut in the face of the rock, forty feet above the water level, are three curious cells known as “Wetheral Safeguards.” Tradition affirms that St. Constantine, younger son of an early Scots king, having excavated them with his own hands, lived therein the pious life of a hermit. To him was dedicated Wetheral Priory, whereof a mouldering gateway alone survives the havoc of well-nigh a thousand years. The choicest of Eden scenery is in this parish. There is Cotehill, with its sweet pastoral aspect; Cotehill Island, fringed with trees, whose low-lying branches continually sway to and fro in the stream; and Brackenbank, wherefrom you best catch the prominent features of the surrounding country. We think the pencil gives the aspect of such places better than the pen, so we refer to our illustrations, and move on to Corby[Pg 307] Castle in the same parish, which tops a precipitous cliff overhanging the river. From it you see far along the richly wooded banks. Do you wonder that it “has been a gentleman’s seat since the Conquest”? And yet, not to be disdained of the most fastidious modern, for “the front of Corby House is of considerable length and consists of a suite of genteel apartments.” And those delightful walks through the woods! There among the trees by the edge of the stream is the Long Walk, best of all. The reflection of the moon in the water on a calm summer evening is much admired by amorous couples, who cannot understand, however, why the Walk is called Long. If those same couples go up the winding stairway cut in the rock, they will be chagrined to find that, despite its wildly picturesque appearance, it leads to nothing more romantic than a boathouse! Years ago some ingenious wit carved choice quotations from the poets on the rocks and trees, and the name of the river suggested many passages from Milton’s account of Eden in “Paradise Lost”; but the quotations were not appreciated by the rustics, who joyed in defacing them. Edward II. gave the place to the Salkeld family, but it has long been in the possession of the Howards. In Wetheral Church, among many other monuments, is a touching one to the lady of the house, commemorated by Wordsworth in the perfect lines beginning—

“Stretched on the dying mother’s lap lies dead
Her new-born babe; dire ending of bright hope!”

We have now followed the Eden’s course to Carlisle; there it is joined by two tributaries, the Caldew and the Petteril, each of some importance. The CALDEW rises on the eastern slope of Skiddaw. Both it and its affluent, the Caldbeck, flow through the romantic scenery of the Fells, and dash at quite a headlong pace down steep declines, whereof Howk Fall is the most renowned. At Holt Close Bridge the Caldew deserts the light of day altogether, but after four miles of subterranean windings it “comes up smiling” (as one might say) at Spout’s Dub. The PETTERIL comes from two headstreams in Greystoke Park and by Penruddock, and has a course of some twenty miles through pleasant woodland and meadow scenery. Near the Westmorland border, on a steep eminence by its first headwater, stands Greystoke Castle. The old castle was, during the Civil Wars in 1648, taken by Lambert for the Parliament, and burned to the ground. The remains of the battery he threw up are still called “Cromwell’s Holes.” This place has long been in the possession of the Howards. The castle was widely famed for its collection of curiosities, more or less authentic. Thus, there were “a large white hat,” said to have covered no less a head than Thomas Becket’s; and a picture of silk embroidery representing the Crucifixion, worked by the royal hands of Mary Queen of Scots. A fire in 1868 played sad havoc among these oddities; but you may still admire the great park with its deer and its ponds, and the charming prospects of the Lake mountains which you have from the castle windows.


View from Brackenbank; Cotehill Island


And now we are in Carlisle town—to-day a thriving, well-built, but, after all,[Pg 308] not very remarkable place. Here as elsewhere, romance has fled, and prosaic comfort takes its place. “Merrie Carlisle” the ballads call it. Do you wonder why? It was in the very centre of border warfare; some eight miles north lay the Debatable Land—for centuries a bone of contention between Scots and English. In frequent incursions the Northman wasted the country far and near, and the warder, as he looked from the Scots Gate—so they termed the northern port of the citadel—could see robber bands moving here and there, and note the country round dotted with fire and smoke; but against the strong walls of Carlisle Castle they dashed themselves in vain. Here was a secure haven of refuge—here at least was peace and comfort, whatever red ruin wasted either border; nay, the town throve on the very disorder; and the bullocks and horses were cheap and good, what need to inquire too curiously whence they came? Far better to get and part with them quickly and quietly and profitably. Even if the seller was a Scot, come there in time of truce, so much more reason to make a profit out of him. And then the merchants had everything to sell, from strong waters to trinkets; so it was strange if the gentleman took much cash away with him. A “merrie”[Pg 309] town, in truth! In flowing lines Lydia Sigourney has admirably touched off the place and its history:—

“How fair amid the depth of summer green
Spread forth thy walls, Carlisle! Thy castled heights
Abrupt and lofty; thy cathedral dome
Majestic and alone; thy beauteous bridge
Spanning the Eden.

“Old Time hath hung upon thy misty walls
Legends of festal and of warlike deeds,—
King Arthur’s wassail-cup; the battle-axe
Of the wild Danish sea-kings; the fierce beak
Of Rome’s victorious eagle: Pictish spear
And Scottish claymore in confusion mixed
With England’s clothyard arrow.”


Corby Castle


Some of these legends are but half told or half sung. One scarcely coherent, yet weird and powerful, ballad suggests an ancient, and but for it forgotten, tragedy:—

“She’s howket a grave by the light o’ the moon.
The sun shines fair on Carlisle wa’;
And there she’s buried her sweet babe in,
And the lyon shall be lord of a’!”

We turn to the authentic, but scarce less tragic or romantic, history to present three pictures from Carlisle’s past. Edward I. in his last Scots expedition halted here. The country on whose conquest he had lavished blood and treasure for twenty years, which he had ground under his heel again and again, had revolted yet again with a purpose as fell as his own. When knighting the Prince of Wales, he had given a great banquet, wherein two swans were introduced, “richly adorned with[Pg 310] gold network.” On these he had made his son swear that fantastic yet terrible vow to God and the swans (in accordance with the etiquette of chivalry), that if he died leaving Scotland unconquered, his son would boil his flesh from his bones and carry these with him to war against the rebels. The king, though stricken with mortal sickness, was carried north as far as Carlisle in a horse-litter. Here he pretended himself recovered, hung his litter in the cathedral as an offering, and, with terrible resolve, mounting his horse, moved onwards for a few miles. Near where the Eden loses itself in the sands of the Solway, at the little village of Burgh-on-the Sands, his strength completely gave way. His dying eyes looked across the waters of the Solway on the land which he had conquered so often in vain, and here the fierce old man made his son renew his solemn oath, and soon all was over.

The new monarch was a man of softer mould. Turning with a shudder from the task, he hurried back to the pleasures of London. Go to-day to Westminster Abbey, and read the inscription on the old king’s tomb: “Eduardus Primus Scotorum malleus hic est 1308 pactum serva.” Dean Stanley thinks the last two words merely a moral maxim; others have more reasonably taken it as a reminder to the son to keep his promise. Moreover, it was provided that “once every two years the tomb was to be opened, and the wax of the king’s cerecloth renewed”; as if Edward even in death had some work to do. The son, no doubt, meant some day or other to fulfil his promise; but the day never dawned, and the voice from the grave spoke in vain.

Our next picture is from the days of Good Queen Bess. In the year 1596 there was peace between England and Scotland, but that did not prevent a little private marauding on the Borders. It was customary for the wardens on either side to hold courts, and there settle their differences. William Armstrong, of Kinmont—to be known to all time as “Kinmont Willie”—a famous Scots freebooter, was present at one of these courts. When it was over he rode away with some friends along the north bank of the Liddel, scornfully heedless of the angry looks of certain Englishmen, who had (you guess) lately suffered from his depredations. By Border law there was truce till the next sunrise; but the sight of Kinmont so slenderly guarded was too much for his southern foes. A troop of two hundred pursued and caught him after a long chase, and so our bold freebooter was laid safely by the heels in a strong dungeon in Carlisle Castle. The feelings with which Scott of Buccleuch, keeper of Liddesdale, received news of this are vigorously described in the old ballad:—

“He has ta’en the table, wi’ his hand
He garr’d the red wine spring on hie;
‘Now, Christ’s curse on my head,’ he said,
‘But avenged of Lord Scrope I’ll be.’”

Buccleuch, having urged the release of Kinmont Willie in vain, determined to free him by force. At Morton Tower, in the Debatable Land, he collected one[Pg 311] evening before sunset a chosen band of followers with scaling ladders and pickaxes. Through the darkness of a misty and stormy night they forded in succession the Esk and the Eden, and halted under the wall of Carlisle two hours before daybreak. Bursting in the postern, and overpowering the sentinels, they made such a ferocious din with tongue and trumpet that the garrison, thinking all the wild men of the Border had got into the town, prudently shut themselves up in the Keep, and then—

“Wi’ coulters, and with forehammers,
We garr’d the bars bang merrilie,
Until we came to the inner prison,
Where Willie o’ Kinmont he did lie.”

The prisoner was soon rescued; and there being no time to knock off his irons, he was mounted on the shoulders of “Red Rowan,” described as “the starkest man in Teviotdale.” Some attempt was made to prevent the escape; but the night continuing dark, the bold band got away, and a wild gallop brought them safe to the Scots border two hours after daybreak. Kinmont humorously complaining of his steed and his spurs, as he playfully termed his irons, the company halted at a smith’s cottage in their own country, and demanded his services. The smith seemed loth to rise so early, whereupon Buccleuch, playfully thrusting his lance through the window, speedily had him wide awake. This stroke of humour was highly appreciated on the Border—was considered quite side-splitting, in fact—but history has failed to record the smith’s observations on the incident. The “bauld Buccleuch” himself never did a bolder deed, but Elizabeth was furious. In October, 1597, he was sent to the English court to make what excuse he might to the Queen, who, in one of her Tudor tempers, angrily demanded “how he dared to undertake an enterprise so desperate and presumptuous.” “What is there that a man dares not do?” was the answer, surely in fit keeping with the tradition of boldness. Elizabeth turned to her courtiers: “With ten thousand such men our brother of Scotland might shake the firmest throne in Europe!” and so Buccleuch departed in peace.

Our last picture is from the days after the Jacobite rising of 1745. A great many of the trials of the Scots rebels took place at Carlisle, and, as one can understand, the accused had but short shrift. “We shall not be tried by a Cumberland jury in the next world!” was the comforting reflection of one of the prisoners. A long series of executions, with all the terrible rites practised on traitors, took place on Gallows Hill, and the heads of these poor Jacobites were planted over Carlisle gates as a warning. A ballad of deepest pathos tells the fate of one unfortunate:—

“White was the rose in his gay bonnet,
As he faulded me in his brooched plaidie;
His hand, which clasped the truth o’ luve,
Oh, it was aye in battle readie!
“His lang, lang hair in yellow hanks
Waved o’er his cheeks sae sweet and ruddie,
But now they wave o’er Carlisle yetts,
In dripping ringlets, clotting bloodie.”

[Pg 312]

Greystoke Castle

Photo: Frith & Co., Reigate.


Not all merrie are the records of Carlisle! And to-day you will find the castle has suffered change. You enter through an ancient gateway, and there is still the portcullis adorned with a sadly battered piece of sculpture. Unsightly barracks, and so forth, cumber the outer ward. The half-moon battery is dismantled, and the great keep is now used as an armoury. You turn to the cathedral, and there, spite of many alterations and more or less judicious restoration, there is much to admire. We can but mention the splendid central window at the east end of the choir, the graceful arcades below the windows of the side aisles, and the carved oak work of the stalls.

At the head of the Solway Firth the SARK, a small river, or rather “burn,” which in a dry summer well-nigh vanishes, divides the two kingdoms. On the Scots side the first village on the road is Gretna Green, famed for just over a century because of its irregular marriages. Here we might take leave of England were it not that our next two rivers, the Esk and the Liddel, Scots for most of their course and rising at very different points, finally meet and pass into Cumberland, whence they flow into the Solway Firth; the Esk having made a complete circuit round the Sark. The Debatable Land already mentioned was the piece of ground between the Solway and the junction of the two streams, of each of which we must now speak.

[Pg 313]




The LIDDEL rises in a great morass in Roxburghshire called Deadwater. For some ten miles it is a wild mountain stream, flowing dark and sullen through a rocky glen, but as it reaches lower ground the glen widens and softens into a beautiful valley with trees and fine pasture land, whilst lower still are fertile fields. The Liddel has many tributaries, whereof we will only mention Hermitage Water, near the source. It is a wild mountain stream, and at its wildest part, amidst morasses and bare desolate mountains, stand the ruins of grim old Hermitage Castle, with its thick towers and walls and rare narrow windows. See it on some gloomy November day, when the storm spirit is abroad, and it stands the very abomination of desolation! Turn to its history, and the gloom grows ever darker; for ’tis little but a record of cruel deeds. This is one of the oldest baronial buildings in Scotland. Sir William Douglas, the “Knight of Liddesdale” and “Flower of Chivalry,” took the place in 1338 from the English. You wonder at his name! Four years later he wounded and seized at Hawick Sir Alexander Ramsay, Sheriff of Teviotdale, of whose appointment he was jealous, and, throwing him into a deep dungeon at Hermitage, left him to starve. A few chance droppings from the granary protracted his miserable existence through seventeen awful days. His captors, hearing his groans, at length took him out and gave him—not bread, but a priest, in whose arms Ramsay expired! The “Flower of Chivalry” was finally slain by the Earl of Douglas, head of his house, whilst[Pg 314] hunting in Ettrick Forest. It was whispered the Earl had discovered that his Countess entertained a guilty passion for the murdered man. A rude old ballad represents her as coming out of her bower when she heard of the crime, and proclaiming her own shame—

“And loudly there she did ca’,
It is for the Lord of Liddesdale
That I let all these tears doune fa’.”

In October, 1566, Bothwell had gone to the Borders as Warden of the Marshes, to prepare for a court which Mary Queen of Scots was about to hold at Jedburgh for the trial of freebooters. He was wounded by Elliott of the Park, known as “Little Jock Elliott,” and lay dangerously ill at Hermitage. The infatuated Mary, scantily attended, dashed over from Jedburgh through the wildest and most dangerous territory (what a prize for a freebooter!), spent two hours by Bothwell’s bedside “to his great pleasure and content,” and then dashed as madly back again. Who shall dare to guess the secret of that meeting? Seven months earlier was Rizzio’s murder, four months later was Darnley’s—the great tragedy of Mary’s life. The question of her guilt is still open, but no one doubts Bothwell’s. Some dark hint of his perhaps caused the torture of mind which men noted in her after the visit. She was immediately stricken down with a fever of ten days’ duration, and for some time her life was despaired of. But let us away from this sad old ruin among those far-off gloomy mountains.

The Liddel is, after all, but a tributary of the ESK. There are several rivers of that name in Britain, which fact will not surprise you when you remember that Esk is Celtic for “water.” Its scenery has the characteristic features of all these Border streams: wild hills, bare save for a fringe of heather at the source; then richly wooded meadows, with fertile fields in the lower reaches. The Esk and its tributaries are much praised of anglers; nowhere will you find better salmon-fishing. Three miles below Langholm, on the left bank, the Tarras falls into the Esk. Its narrow channel is broken by huge masses of rock over which the water foams and swirls in wild fury. A strange old rhyme ever rings in our ears when we think of its passionate rush—

“Was ne’er ane drowned in Tarras, nor yet in doubt,
For e’er the head can win doun the harns are out,”—

which means that Tarras never drowned anybody who fell in, for the excellent reason that before his head touched the bottom, the current and the rocks, between them, knocked out his brains! Is there not a tragic power about this snarling couplet? Indeed, those pithy popular rhymes will well repay attention. Nowhere else is so much said in so few words; each is, in truth, the distilled essence of a poem.

Rivers Flowing South Into Solway Firth


The Tarras divides Langholm from Canonbie parish, wherein once stood, in a[Pg 315] position of great natural strength, washed on three sides by the Esk, Gilnockie Tower. Johnnie Armstrong, the famous Border freebooter, took his title from this place, whereof not a stone remains. A little higher up the river is Hollows Tower, also a nest of this bird of prey. Johnnie was summoned to appear before James V. when that monarch made a Border tour in 1539 to administer justice. Getting himself up in the most magnificent apparel, and with an easy mind and a clear conscience, he, accompanied by many of his name, whereof “Ill Will Armstrong” is specially noted, set forth to meet the king. On Langholm Holm, according to the Chronicle, “they ran their horse and brak their spears when the ladies lookit frae their lofty windows, saying, ‘God send our men well back again.’” The fair dames’ anxieties were well founded, for Johnnie’s reception was scarce as cordial as he expected. “What wants yon knave that a king should have?” exclaimed James in angry amazement, as he ordered off Gilnockie and his companions to instant execution. The culprit’s petition for grace was sternly refused. “Had I known, I’d have lived upon the Borders in spite of King Harry and you both,” said Johnnie as they led him away. The trees whereon he and his followers were strung up are still shown at Carlenrig, and tradition still identifies their graves in that lonely churchyard. The ballads praise his honesty and lament the treachery which led to his end. James’s was the violent act of a weak man; it had an unroyal touch of trickery; and no good results followed.

Of another romantic character it is written that he “swam the Esk river where ford there was none”—that, of course, was young Lochinvar, who “came out of the west” to run off with a fair daughter of Netherby Hall. The “west” in this case is a lake in Dalry parish, in Kirkcudbrightshire, containing an island which still has remains of the castle of the Gordons, knights of Lochinvar, one of whom was the hero of Lady Heron’s song in “Marmion.” Netherby is away by the Debatable Land, and Canobie Lee (perhaps) in the Dumfriesshire parish of Canonbie; but how idle to localise the incidents of the splendid ballad! Scott himself never touched the romantic note with truer hand or to better purpose—

“And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.”

And then we know how the bride

“... looked down to blush and looked up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips, and a tear in her eye.”

[Pg 316]

And how they danced a measure, and how the charger stood near by the hall door, and ’twas but the work of an instant to swing the lady on its back, and so light to the saddle before her he sprung:—

“‘She is won! We are gone over bank, bush, and scaur;
They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,’ said young Lochinvar.”

And the delightful couple again fade away into the “rich heart of the west.”

The Esk, Near Gilnockie


There is no end to those ballads and traditions! The very streams in their flow seem to murmur of them. But few can find place here; yet how can we pass from Eskdale and leave untouched its sweetest spot, its most, tragic story, its most pathetic song? Kirtle Water, after a short course of a little over sixteen miles, runs into the Solway at Kirtle Foot, near the head of the Firth. In the parish of Kirkpatrick-Fleming it passes through “fair Kirkconnel Lee,” where, in the churchyard of Kirkconnel, sleep the ashes of Helen and her lover. According to the well-known tradition, she was loved by Fleming of Redhall and Bell of Blacket. The latter was not the favoured one, and basely tried to slay Fleming. Helen threw herself in the path of the murderer’s bullet, and perished to save her friend. Fleming did speedy justice on his cruel foe, wandered in far lands for many years,[Pg 317] and returned to die and be buried in the same grave with the love of his youth. Of the ancestral tower of the Flemings not a fragment is left; and Dryasdust still dully debates the exact measure of historic truth in the story. Some great but unknown poet long ago moulded the passionate complaint of Fleming into imperishable verse, with its mournful refrain:—

“I wish I were where Helen lies,
Night and day on me she cries;
O that I were where Helen lies,
On fair Kirkconnel Lee!”
High Street, Dumfries


Annandale is the second division of Dumfries. ANNAN means in Celtic “quiet water”; perhaps that river was called so in fear, to propitiate the water-sprite, as malignant fairies were dubbed “the good people” to ward off their anger. Allan Cunningham lauds it as the “Silver Annan,” but none the less he has some hard words for it:—

“The cushat, hark, a tale of woe
Is to its true love telling;
And Annan stream in drowning wrath
Is through the greenwood swelling.”

[Pg 318]

And the old ballad of “Annan Water” calls it a “drumlie river,” and tells a most melancholious tale of a lover and his steed drowned whilst attempting to cross it to keep tryst with his love, Annie, who, we are assured, was “wondrous bonny.” The last verse warns the river that a bridge will presently be thrown over, that “ye nae mair true love may sever”: the prosaic purposes of transit to kirk or market being, of course, quite unworthy of a minstrel’s mention. Well! Annan has its moods—quiet and gentle in the pleasant summer days, given to violent outbursts in time of spate.

Annandale was the home of Bruce, and the great Robert is supposed to have been born at Lochmaben, which, situated on seven lochs, is a sort of Caledonian Venice. Bruce, not unmindful of the place of his nativity, is famed to have created it a royal burgh soon after his sword won him the crown. This did not prevent the citizens from treating through many generations his ancestral castle as a common quarry, and nothing is now left but a shapeless mass of stones. According to old Bellenden, in his translation of Boace (1536), the people of former times were a terrible lot; the women worst of all! “The wyvis usit to slay thair husbandis, quhen they wer found cowartis, or discomfit be thair ennymes, to give occasion to otheris to be more bald and hardy quhen danger occurrit.” “To learn them for their tricks,” as Burns might have remarked. Annandale’s most famous modern son was Thomas Carlyle, who, as everybody knows, was born at Ecclefechan in 1795, and was buried there at the end of his long career on a “cloudy, sleety day” early in 1881. Ecclefechan is on the Main Water, a tributary of the Annan; you will find it described in “Sartor Resartus” as Entepfuhl. Many spots around are connected with his life or works. Hoddam Kirk, his parish church, he pointed out to Emerson in a remarkable talk as an illustration of the connection of historical events. His once bosom friend, Edward Irving, was born in the town of Annan, of which Carlyle had his own memories, for here he went to school, first to learn, afterwards to teach. Craigenputtock, where he lived for six years, is in Nithsdale, the third division of Dumfries, to which we now turn.

The NITH, its name-river, in its course of some seventy miles, rising in Ayrshire, passes through the Queen of the South, as its citizens proudly designate Dumfries, and, during the last ten miles of its existence, is rather an estuary than a river. It has many important tributaries—the Carron, with its almost Alpine gorge, known as the Wallpath; the Enterkin, with its famed Enterkin pass, of old time the bridle-path from Clydesdale to Nithsdale, noted for the famous rescue in 1684 of a band of Covenanting prisoners who were being conveyed to Edinburgh; the Minnick Water, with its many traditions of the Hill Folk; and “many mo’.”

Every variety of scenery diversifies the banks of those streams, and there is a great mass of legendary lore as to the famous men who dwelt by their waters; but one name swallows up all the rest. How to follow the windings of the[Pg 319] Nith, or tread the High Street of Dumfries, without thinking of Robert Burns? He sang of the streams of Nith in his choicest verse. “Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes” is linked with one tributary, and the song he fitted to “Ca’ the yowes to the knowes”—most musical fragment of old Scots poetry—reminds of another. Among the beautiful ruins of Lincluden Abbey, surrounded by the defaced monuments of the great house of Douglas, he saw that “Vision” which he has commemorated in so remarkable a poem. Not far off is Friars’ Carse, where the bacchanalian contest related in “The Whistle” took place. In Dumfries, as an exciseman, he spent the last five years of his life. Let us find place for one incident of his closing days. He had gone to the little village of Brow, on the Solway, to try the effect of the seaside. During a visit to the manse, one of the family remarked the sun shining in his eyes and made some effort to adjust the blind. Burns noted it; “Thank you, my dear, for your kind attention—but ah, let him shine! He will not shine long for me.” This was the end of June, 1796; on the twenty-first of July he was dead. “Who will be our poet now?” was the quaint inquiry of an honest Dumfries burgher. Who, indeed! His remains were buried in the churchyard of St. Michael’s. “They were originally interred in the north corner, upon which spot a simple table-stone was raised to his memory; but in 1815 his ashes were removed to a vault beneath an elegant mausoleum, which was erected by subscription, as a tribute to his genius, at a cost of £1,450. This monument contains a handsome piece of marble sculpture, executed by Turnerelli, representing the genius of Scotland finding the poet at the plough, and throwing ‘her inspiring mantle’ over him.” Well meant, and yet—! We remember standing in the cemetery at Montmartre by the plain stone that bears the name, and nothing but the name, of Heine. It had a simple, a pathetic, dignity beyond the reach of the most cunningly carved monument. One thought of the “elegant mausoleum” at Dumfries, and sighed for the “simple table-stone” which humble but pious hands had placed as the first and, still after a century the best, monument to Robert Burns. Do you doubt which himself had chosen?

Of the antiquities of Dumfries we will only mention its famous mediæval bridge over the Nith, built by Devorgilla, mother of John Baliol. A remarkable old dame this Devorgilla! Balliol College, Oxford, was endowed by her liberality; and we shall come across another of her foundations presently. The Queen of the South has a long history; its most important event is connected with the house rival to Baliol. On the 4th of February, 1306, Robert the Bruce disputing with the Red Cumyn in the Greyfriars’ Monastery, struck and wounded him with his dagger. He burst out remorseful, exclaiming, “I fear I have slain the Red Cumyn.” “I mak siccar,” was the grimly pithful remark of Kirkpatrick of Closeburn as he rushed in, and—exit the Red Cumyn!

Lincluden Abbey

Photo: J. Rutherford, Jardington, Dumfries.


Even in Scotland this district is remarkable for old castles and abbeys. Of these one first notes Drumlanrig Castle, in Durisdeer parish, on a drum, or long[Pg 320] ridge of hill, on the right bank of the Nith. It is a huge and splendid building, finished in 1689 after ten years’ labour, by the first Duke of Queensberry, who spent but one night within its walls. It had splendid woods, which old “Q,” that picturesque rascal of the Georgian period, shamelessly depleted, for which he was righteously castigated by Wordsworth; his descendants have repaired the damage, and poets and forest nymphs are at length appeased and consoled. The Highlanders, passing by here in the ’45, amused themselves by stabbing the portrait of William III. with their claymores. Again, there is Caerlaverock Castle, the Ellangowan of Scott’s “Guy Mannering,” situated on the left bank of the Nith, just where it becomes part of the Solway Firth. A wild romantic spot! The boiling tides of the Solway and the Nith approach its walls; and of old time it was so hemmed by lake and marsh as to deserve the name of the “Island of Caerlaverock.” It has a long romantic history, in keeping with its environment. It has been in possession of the Maxwells since the beginning of the thirteenth century, and you can still spell out their motto, “I bid ye fair,” on its mouldering walls. They took—as was but seemly in so ancient a family—the Stuart side in the rising of 1715; and the title of Baron Herries, held since 1489, was destroyed by attaint in 1716. It was revived, however, in favour of William Constable Maxwell by various[Pg 321] Parliamentary proceedings ending in 1858; then high revel was held in the long deserted courts of Caerlaverock, and little imagination was needed to recall the incidents of a long-vanished feudal day.

Drumlanrig Castle

Photo: J. Rutherford, Jardington, Dumfries.


It is hard to leave the Nith, so much is to be said on each of its tributaries. There is the Cairn, for instance, with its memories of the noble family of Glencairn. Also it flows by Maxwellton, still the seat of the Lauries, a fair scion of whose ancient house is celebrated in the pleasing old ditty known to everybody as “Annie Laurie,” though the song that rises in your mind when Glencairn is mentioned is Burns’s noble tribute to the memory of the fourteenth earl, ending—

“The mother may forget the babe
That smiles sae sweetly on her knee,
But I‘ll remember thee, Glencairn,
And a‘ that thou hast done for me!”

Even when we leave Dumfries and pass into Galloway (which consists of the stewartry of Kirkendbright and shire of Wigtown) we are not quite away from the[Pg 322] Nith. On the right bank, nearly opposite Caerlaverock, the small stream of New Abbey Pow runs into the estuary. Follow this a little way up, and you come on the scanty but beautiful ruins of Sweetheart Abbey. The origin was as romantic as the name: it was founded in memory of her husband by the Devorgilla already mentioned. He died in 1269 at Barnard Castle, and was buried there, all save his heart, which his spouse had enclosed in a “coffyne of evorie,” and ever at mealtimes the “coffyne” was carried in and placed beside her, and she “dyd reverens” to it as if it had been her living lord. Thus she existed for twenty years, and then was splendidly interred before the high altar of Dulee Cor, or Sweetheart Abbey, so called because the heart of her dead spouse was laid on hers. Verily, love is stronger than death!

The DEE, chief river of Kirkcudbrightshire, rises in desolate Loch Dee, among heather-clad hills with impressive names—Lamachen, Cairngarnock, Craiglee, and so forth. How those Celtic words suggest of themselves a remote and desolate wilderness! Dee means “dark river,” and in the early part of its flow so sullen is its appearance that, with impressive tautology, it is called the “black water of Dee.” Some twenty miles from its source its colour is lightened by its confluence with the Water of Ken, and, like other Border streams, the scenery on its banks gradually becomes softer and richer. We have selected for illustration (p. 326) a beautiful spot on the Dee at Douglas Tongueland, within two or three miles of the burgh of Kirkcudbright. Here the river still retains some of its early wildness, for it rushes foamin’ over masses of rock, but the scenery on its banks is sweetly rural rather than wild and mountainous.

The most famous place on the Dee is Threave Castle, standing on an islet formed by the river not far from Castle Douglas. It was built by Archibald, called the Grim, third Earl of Douglas, and was the scene of one of the terrible crimes which brought about the ruin of that proud house. William, the eighth earl, had imprisoned there Maclellan, tutor (or guardian) of Bombie, whose relative, Sir Patrick Grey, having procured an order for his release from James II., therewith repaired to the castle. Douglas, knowing very well what he came about, with pretended courtesy refused to receive any message till the guest had dined. Whilst Grey was eating with what appetite he might, the prisoner was led forth and beheaded in the courtyard. Dinner over, Grey produced the royal warrant, which Douglas read with mock respect and consternation. Taking his guest by the hand and leading him to the window overlooking the courtyard, he showed him the bleeding corpse. “There lies your sister’s son,” quoth he, “he lacks the head, but the body is at your service.” Grey dissembled his rage and grief till he was in the saddle, when, turning on the mocking earl, he solemnly vowed his heart’s blood should pay for that day’s work. “To horse! to horse!” cried the enraged tyrant. The pursuers followed Grey for many a long league, nor did they draw bridle till the Castle-Rock of Edinburgh loomed on the horizon. A few months after, the king[Pg 323] stabbed Douglas at a conference at Stirling, and Grey avenged Maclellan by killing the wounded man with a pole-axe. In 1455 King James besieged Threave Castle, which held out under James, the brother of the murdered noble. It seemed impossible to batter down the stronghold till an ingenious blacksmith, M’Kim of Mollance, constructed the enormous gun which lies to-day on the Argyle battery at Edinburgh Castle, and is known far and wide as “Mons Meg”—the “Mons” being a corruption of Mollance, whilst Meg was M’Kim’s wife. He named the gun after her in ironical compliment, her voice being, he said, as the cannon’s, neither soft nor low. However, this piece was dragged with enormous labour to an eminence commanding Threave Castle. The charge, it is said, consisted of a peck of powder, and a granite ball the weight of a Carsphairn cow. The Countess of Douglas, the Fair Maid of Galloway, who had married in succession the two brothers, sat at table in the banqueting hall when the gun was shot off; the ball crashing into the room, carried away her right hand, wherewith she was in the act of raising a goblet of wine to her lips. The place at once surrendered. Roofless, but still grim and massive, the castle frowns amidst the peaceful surroundings of to-day. They “still show you the gallows knob,” “a large block of granite projecting from the front wall immediately over the main gateway; from here the meaner victims of the Earl’s vengeance were suspended.” Rarely did the knob want the ornament, of a “tassel,” as, with ghastly pleasantly, its human burden was termed—nay, it is said that the Douglas was so averse to see the “knob” out of use, and his power of life and death rusting unexercised, that, did the supply of malefactors run short, he would string up on any or no pretext some unoffending peasant—pour encourager les autres, no doubt!

We now pass to the CREE river, which forms the boundary between Kirkcudbright and Wigtown, the two divisions of Galloway. It is endeared to the poets, who name it “the crystal Cree”; either the alliterative effect fascinated the tuneful ear, or they contrasted it with the Dee, that other Galloway river whose dark waters have already been described. Burns also, whose verse is linked with so much of the scenery of his native land, has not forgotten this stream. In pleasing numbers he sings its beauties:—

“Here is the glen, and here the bower,
All underneath the birchen shade;
The village-bell has told the hour,
O, what can stay the lovely maid?”

The song goes on to describe the emotions of the rustic youth, who mistakes the whisper of the evening wind and the “warbler’s dying fall” for the voice of the beloved. Well! the lady is a little late, but she keeps her appointment, after all:—

“And art thou come! and art thou true!
O welcome, dear, to love and me!
And let us all our vows renew,
Along the flowery bunks of Cree.”
Caerlaverock Castle

Photo: J. P. Gibson, Hexham.


[Pg 325]

In truth the river has many beautiful prospects, whereof the finest are in the vicinity of Newton Stewart, the most considerable town on its banks. We have selected the river at the bridge for our illustration. The bridge is lauded in the “New Statistical Account” as “elegant and substantial, built of granite, with a freestone parapet”; and another authority assures us that it was built in 1813, and cost £6,000—all which, no doubt, you are prepared to take on trust, as you can scarce be expected to go to Newton Stewart to verify the facts!

One must not leave the river without mention of the famous “Cruives of Cree,” to wit, “salmon-traps in the stone-cauls or dam-dykes, which, serving the country-folk for bridges, came to be well known landmarks.” They were situate near Penninghame House, in the parish of Penninghame, and are commemorated in an ancient rhyme celebrating the power of the Kennedys:—

“’Twixt Wigtown and the town o’ Ayr,
Portpatrick and the Cruives o’ Cree,
You shall not get a lodging there
Except ye court a Kennedy.”

One more river and we have done. The BLADENOCH is a small stream which passes by the town of Wigtown, and falls into Wigtown Bay, the broad estuary of the Cree river. In 1685 it was the scene of the greatest of the Covenanting tragedies, known in history as the death of the Wigtown martyrs. Woodrow, in his “History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland,” tells the story. In the year noted there lived in the parish of Penninghame a substantial farmer named Gilbert Wilson, a law-abiding person who submitted to all the orders of the Government. He had three children: Gilbert sixteen, Margaret eighteen, and Agnes thirteen years of age. These, unlike their parents, would “by no means conform or hear the Episcopalian incumbent, but fled to the hills, bogs, and caves.” The son went abroad, fought as a soldier in the Low Countries, and returned long after the Revolution. The daughters had come to Wigtown, where they were living with an old woman of the name of Margaret McLachlin. All three, being apprehended, were tried at Wigtown on various charges of nonconformity, the chief being their presence at twenty field conventicles. The facts were patent, the law clear, and it was adjudged that “all the three should be tied to stakes fixed within the floodmark in the water of Blednoch, near Wigtown, where the sea flows at high water, there to be drowned.” (Drowning, one ought to explain, was the ordinary method of execution for women.) Gilbert Wilson hastened to Edinburgh, and procured, probably bought, a pardon for his younger daughter; then Margaret McLachlin was persuaded to sign a petition in which she promised to conform and besought the Lords of Privy Council to have mercy on her. But the passionate words of field preaching heard in lonely glens had sunk deep into Margaret Wilson’s mind; she refused,[Pg 326] as she would have said, “to bow the knee to Baal.” She wrote a letter from prison to her friends “full of a deep and affecting sense of God’s love to her soul, and in entire resignation to the Lord’s disposal. She likewise added a vindication of her refusing to save her life by taking the abjuration and engaging conformity; against both she gave arguments with a solidity and judgment far above one of her years and education.”

The Dee

Photo: Poulton & Son, London.


But the brave child’s constancy found admirers, and her respite was procured; it was drawn up in a somewhat loose form, and sent off to Wigtown. Either it did not arrive in time, or (more likely) those in authority determined to ignore it; at any rate, the sentence was carried out. The chief actors were Grierson of Lag, the central figure of “Wandering Willie’s Tale” in “Redgauntlet”; and David Graham, brother to Dundee. On the fated eleventh of May the two women, being brought from prison, were tied to stakes on the Solway shore. A horror-struck multitude lined the banks, but a force of soldiery rendered any chance of rescue impossible. The women sang psalms; then the fierce tide rushed in, and Margaret McLachlin’s sufferings were over. Margaret Wilson had been placed close to the bank of set purpose, and before the Solway had done its fell work there ensued the most moving incident in the martyrology of the Covenant. “While at prayer the water covered her; but[Pg 327] before she was quite dead, they pulled her up, and held her out of the water till she was recovered and able to speak; and then, by Major Windram’s orders, she was asked if she would pray for the king. She answered that she wished the salvation of all men and the damnation of none. One deeply affected with the death of the other and her case, said, ‘Dear Margaret, say “God save the king!” say “God save the king!”’ She answered with the greatest steadiness and composure, ‘God save him if He will, for it is his salvation I desire.’ Whereupon some of her relations near by, desirous to have her life spared if possible, called out to Major Windram, ‘Sir, she hath said it; she hath said it.’ Whereupon the Major came near and offered her the abjuration, charging her instantly to swear it or else return to the water. Most deliberately she refused, and said, ‘I will not; I am one of Christ’s children; let me go!’ Upon which she was thrust down again into the water, where she finished her course with joy.”

And so we bid the Solway farewell!


The Cree

Photo: Poulton & Son, London.


The Cree



Poetic Association—Headstreams of the Ayrshire Rivers—“The Land of Barns”—The Ayr and the Doon—Sorn—Catrine—Ballochmyle—Mossgiel—Manchline—Barskimming—Coilsfield House and the Fail Water—The Coyl—Auchencruive—Craigie—Ayr—The Doon.


THE rivers of Ayrshire have a corner by themselves in the heart of the Scot, and in the memory of the world. “Bonnie Doon” and “auld hermit Ayr” are better known and more extolled on the banks of the St. Lawrence and of the Ganges than nearer streams incomparably greater in length and volume. Why this should be so, the Philistine who takes no account of the magical power of poetry may find it hard to understand. Those waters of Kyle, Carrick, and Cunningham are short of course and lacking in features of scenery that are in any marked degree impressive or sublime. Their beauty, such as it is, they owe as much to Art as to Nature. None of them can be said to be in any genuine sense navigable. It is true that some among them are centres and outlets of important industries. But even in the sordid affairs of trade their valleys hardly take a first rank among Scottish streams. Commercially, and almost geographically, they might be described as mere tributaries of the wealthy Clyde.


SORN(p. 332).

The headsprings of these Ayrshire waters are nowhere more than twenty or thirty miles distant from the shores of the Firth, and their sources as well as their[Pg 329] mouths come within the range of view of travellers by that broad highway to the Broomielaw. They rise for the most part in high and featureless moorlands, where the county of Ayr borders with Galloway, Lanark, and Renfrew, and disappear in the folds of a lower country in which one appraiser of the picturesque has discovered a general character of “insipidity”—a character which every true-born son of Ayrshire will vehemently deny as belonging to the landscapes of his county, pointing, as his witnesses, to many a “flowery brae,” bold crag, and richly-wooded dell watered by the clear currents of his native streams. Some of these slip quietly to the sea behind hills of bent and sand, lonely except for the golfer, the salmon-fisher, and the sea-fowl. Others have at their mouths ancient burghs, busy seaports or pleasant Clyde watering-places flanked by breezy links or steep cliff and headland, that look out across sand and wave to the purple peaks of Arran, to the huge columnar stack of Ailsa Craig, to Bute, and the Cumbraes, and the other wonders of those Western seas.

The county might be likened in shape to a boomerang, or to a crescent moon, with horns tapering to a point towards the north and south, the shore-line from Wemyss Bay to Loch Ryan representing the concave inner edge, and the land frontier, roughly approximating to the boundary of the river-basins, standing for the outer surface. To the north the brown moorlands come near to the sea; the streams are correspondingly short, and the strip of fertile coast-territory narrows to nothing. But from the basin of Garnock to that of Doon there extends a diversified plain country, intersected by broad ridges, veined in all directions by roads and railway lines, full of thriving towns and villages, and amply[Pg 330] endowed with the charms of wood, water, rock, and hill, as well as with coalfields, pastures, and cornlands. This is the heart of Ayrshire—the classic ground where the Ayr and the Doon are the chief among a host of streams whose currents flow to the music of the choicest of Scotland’s lyric songs. South of Doon lies the broken sea of hills known as Carrick, a country with a poorer surface and a wilder and higher background of green or heathy mountains, yet with many beautiful and some spacious and famous river-valleys opening between its barer uplands, which run down to the coast in bold promontories, crowned with ancient castles, or front it with walls of cliff pierced with caves in which has found refuge many a legend of the Killing or the Smuggling times.

Not, however, by its memorials and traditions of old strifes—or not by these chiefly—are the hearts and the feet of strangers drawn to Ayrshire. It is the “Land of Burns.” The spirit of the song of the Ploughman-Bard has taken possession of the banks of its streams, and has almost silenced all older and harsher strains. Those who wander by them think less about Bruce and Wallace, the grim deeds of the Earls of Cassilis and Lairds of Auchendrane, and the dour faces and pathetic deaths of the martyrs of the Covenant, than of Tam o’ Shanter glowering in at the “winnock-bunker” of Alloway’s auld haunted kirk, of the “Jolly Beggars” feasting and singing round Poosie Nancy’s fireside at Mauchline, and of all the rustic Nells and Jeans, and Nannies and Bessies, and Marys, with whose praises Burns has made the waters of Ayr vocal for all time. But chiefly the music of their currents seems to be a running accompaniment to his own stormy life. It reminds us of his youthful saunterings “adoun some trottin’ burn’s meander” while the voice of poetry in him was yet only struggling for utterance; of his later hours of rapture or of anguish in meetings with his “Bonnie Jean” in the woods of Catrine or Barskimming or Ballochmyle, or in his parting with Highland Mary where the Fail steals by leafy coverts past the Castle o’ Montgomerie to meet the Ayr; and all the other episodes of passionate or pawky love which he turned to song as naturally and spontaneously as do the birds.

Rivers of Ayrshire


From his earliest years, as he has told us, the ambition fired him to “gar our streams and burnies shine up wi’ the best.” He lamented that while—

“Yarrow and Tweed to mony a tune
Owre Scotland rings;
The Irwin, Lugar, Ayr, an’ Doon
Naebody sings.”

Gloriously has the wish been fulfilled and the want retrieved. The very[Pg 331] names of these rivers have become instinct with the spirit of lyric poetry. To some he returned again and again, and docked them with the freshest and sweetest garlands of his verse. Who has not heard of “bonnie Doon,” of “winding Ayr,” of “crystal Afton,” and the “moors and mosses mony” of stately Lugar? Others, somewhat more removed from the centre of his enchantments, have been immortalised in a line or two of exquisite characterisation. Cessnock and Stinchar, “Girvan’s fairy-haunted stream”; where “well-fed Irwine stately thuds”; where the Greenock “winds his moorland course,” and “haunted Garpal draws his feeble source,” are all parts of “the dear, the native ground” of this master of the notes of rivers and of human hearts.

The AYR and the DOON, in particular, Burns has painted for us in all moods of the mind and of the weather. They murmur and rave with him in his despondency, and lilt gaily in sympathy with the brighter hours he spent beside them. He finds them fresh at dawn, when the dew is hanging clear on the scented birks, and they are “sweet in gloaming.” He traces them from their first rise on the heathery hillside, through hazelly shaw and hanging wood down to the sea—from “Glenbuck to the Ratton Quay.” He is familiar with their aspect in brown autumn and bleak winter, not less than when spring has set their choirs singing, or when summer is in prime. Often must he have stood and watched the effects of spate and storm in his beloved valleys, when, brown and turbid with the rains, or with “snowy wreathes upchoked,” “the burns came down and roared from bank to brae,” and “auld Ayr” itself became “one lengthened tumbling sea.” Nor, after seeing it through the poet’s eyes, can we forget the moonlight scene of frost and glamour in the “Twa Brigs,” wherein, by a marvellous blending of the real and the imaginary, the river spirits foot it featly over the thin platform of the ice as it “creeps, gently-crusting, o’er the glittering stream.”

The description in “Hallowe’en” of the burn where “three lairds’ lands met,” although Doon might claim it as applied especially to some spot not far from where “fairies light on Cassilis Downans dance,” might be drawn as well from scores of nooks by the Ayr and its feeders:—

“Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
As thro’ the glen it wimpl’t;
Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays,
Whyles in a wiel it dimpl’t;
Whyles glitter’d in the nightly rays,
Wi’ bickerin’, dancin’ dazzle;
Whyles cookit underneath the braes,
Below the spreading hazel,
Unseen that nicht.”

Many such might be discovered hidden even in the bare bleak moorlands, bordering upon Clydesdale, where the Ayr has its source. Their brown undulations, nowhere taking any boldness of form, and only in certain lights any beauty of colouring,[Pg 332] rise on one hand to the crown of Cairntable, and on the other to Priesthill and its neighbour heights. Stern and moving dramas have been enacted on these bleak hillsides. Priesthill was the home of the “Christian carrier,” John Brown, shot beside his own door by Claverhouse’s dragoons; and on Airds Moss, the heathery ridge between Ayr and Lugar’s mossy fountains, fell Richard Cameron, the “Lion of the Covenant.” If desolate, the district is no longer lonely, for coalpits smoke at the taproots of the Ayr beside the reservoirs that supply water to the mills and factories of Catrine; and Muirkirk—the “Muirkirk of Kyle”—is a considerable village, with iron and chemical works.



Through a cold moorish country the Ayr wanders to Sorn, a place not easy to reach even now, when communication has improved so much since the times when a Scottish king testily declared that if he wanted to give “the devil a job” he[Pg 333] would send him on a journey in winter to Sorn. Here the face of the valley changes. It runs betwixt high and wooded banks, often rising precipitously in great red cliffs, patched with lichen and fern, and with birch and oak coppice growing in their crannies, below which the strong dark current rushes tumultuously over its shoals or eddies, and sleeps in its deep “wiels,” or curves majestically round the green margins of level “holms” or haughs. Wiel and holm, crag and hanging wood, continue indeed to be characteristics of the valley landscapes from this point almost to the sea; and, for its short length of course, few streams, either of the Lowlands or Highlands, or none, can compete with “winding Ayr” in the rich beauty and romantic interest of its scenery.

The Ayr at Barskimming


These features are blended in wonderful and picturesque variety where, at the junction of the Cleuch burn, Sorn Castle looks down from its rock upon the Ayr, with the parish church and the village in close proximity. Here we come upon[Pg 334] the footsteps of Peden the Covenanter, who was born in this parish, and had his “cave” in the dell. Memories of Burns, however, thrust those of the fierce withstander of the “Godless” into the background even in his native parish. Catrine House, beautifully placed among its woods on the left bank, is lower down; and there the poet, as guest of Professor Dugald Stewart and his father, first “dinnered with a lord”—had his first glimpse into that polite and lettered society which, as many think, did as much harm as good to the man and his genius. Catrine village, a model home of industry ever since David Dale planted his spinning factories here more than a century ago, is on the opposite side of the river; and adjoining it, and skirting the stream, are the “braes of Ballochmyle,” whose picturesque beauties are worthy of their singer. And Ballochmyle, the seat in Burns’s time and our own of the Alexanders, brings us to the environs of Mauchline, which, next to Ayr and Alloway and Dumfries, may boast of being the locality most closely associated with the poet and his muse. Mossgiel, where he farmed the stiff and thankless soil of the “ridge of Kyle,” is three miles behind the town, on high ground forming the watershed between the Cessnock and the Ayr. There, as Wordsworth sings, the pilgrim may find “the very field where Burns ploughed up the daisy,” and look far and wide over the undulating plain furrowed by many a tuneful stream to where, “descried above sea-clouds, the peaks of Arran rise.” On the road leading down to the clean and thriving little town below, Burns foregathered with Fun and her glum companions on their way to Mauchline “Holy Fair.” In the kirkyard one may find the graves of “Daddy Auld” and of “Nance Tinnock.” Close by, on the site of the ancient priory that had Melrose as its mother house, Burns wrote some of his best known lyrics; while opposite still stands the change-house of “Poosie Nancy,” whose fame has been made immortal by the “Jolly Beggars.” Jean Armour was the daughter of a local mason; and other “Mauchline Belles,” besides his “Bonnie Jean,” attracted his fickle fancy, and spurred his Muse to song. The best and the worst memories of Robert Burns cling about Mauchline.

A mile from the town—a mile also below the railway viaduct that bestrides the river—Ayr is joined by Lugar, and the united streams flow in dark swirls under the picturesque arches of Barskimming Bridge and along the margin of the pretty holm in which Burns is said to have composed his “Man was Made to Mourn.” The stretch of three or four miles from this point down to Failford is perhaps the most beautiful and romantic on the Ayr. The current alternately hurries and pauses in its winding course, now between lofty crags of old red sandstone or steep banks clad with hawthorn and bramble, now through umbrageous woods of oak and beech coming down to the water’s edge, or past the skirts of flat green haughs.

Barskimming House, a square red mansion of last century, occupies a noble and commanding position on a rock overlooking some of the deepest pools of Ayr. Beside it, the river is spanned, high above its darkling eddies, by an elegant balustrated bridge grey with age and green with mosses. A mile below, the river[Pg 335] path drawn athwart the stoop brae-sides plunges by a tunnel through a great barrier of red rock that rises sheer from the right bank, and openings in the cliff face give glimpses of the rushing stream, and of the trees climbing the crags opposite to where they are crowned by a mimic porticoed temple.

Hard by, on the Water of Fail, is the Castle o’ Montgomerie, otherwise known as Coilsfield House, where, according to some authorities, Mary Campbell—“Highland Mary”—was dairymaid when Burns was farming at Lochlea, behind the village of Tarbolton, whose “mote hill,” high-standing parish church, and long village street, in which thatched cottages still alternate with more modern dwellings, are only half an hour’s walk away. These “banks and braes and streams” will be associated with this brief and somewhat obscure episode in the poet’s career until song itself is forgotten:—

“Time but the impression stronger makes,
As streams their channels deeper wear.”

If we may trust his verse on the point, the last meeting of the lovers was some trysting-place by the Ayr:—

“Ayr, gurgling, kiss’d his pebbled shore,
Overhung with wild woods, thick’ning green;
The fragrant birch and hawthorn hoar
Twin’d am’rous round the raptur’d scene.”

There are scores of spots near the inflow of the Fail to which the description, in “My Mary in Heaven,” of the place of meeting might, apply. But tradition and the poet himself point to the lovely wooded glen of the Fail as the scene of parting; and the very spot, beside a rustic bridge, is shown.



With many a sweeping curve and abrupt elbow, the Ayr continues to pursue its course by rock and wood and level meadow and factory chimney to the sea; past Coilsholm and the “Dead Man’s Holm,” a name that may preserve the memory of some otherwise forgotten battle; past Stair village and Stair House, now neglected and forlorn, whence the noble and gifted family of Dalrymple have taken their title; past Dalmore and Enterkin, that early seat of the Cunninghames, and Annbank, where the scene of Burns’s “Fête Champêtre” is now obscured by colliery smoke; by Gadsgirth also, whose mansion, standing on a coign of the southern bank, was long the home of the old family of Chalmers; and on to where the river is joined by the Coyle, whose “winding vale,” were we to trace it up, would lead us to the bold cliffs and cascades of Sundrum, to Coylton and the “King’s Steps,” which, too, preserve traditions of “Coil, king of the Britons,” said to have been defeated on the neighbouring uplands by “Fergus, king of the Picts and Scots”; and so to the Crains of Kyle, where, among “the bonnie blooming heather,” one can look down upon the Doon.

The Twa Brigs of Ayr

Photo: Bara, Ayr.


The same scenery—the alternation of pool and shallow, of wood and crag and meadow—continues along the great double curve which the main stream makes past[Pg 337] the grounds of Auchencruive. Each wiel and holm has its own name and story; and the woods of Auchencruive, of Laiglan, and of Craigie are full of legends of William Wallace, who here sought shelter when hiding from his English foes, or meditating his attack on the “Barns of Ayr.” Auchencruive, so named from the natural trap dyke which here crosses the river, has a Wallace “Seat” and “Cave.” It is said to have been a possession of a branch of the family of the “Knight of Elderslie,” but passed from them and from their successors, the Cathcarts.

“Sundrum shall sink, and Auchencruive shall fa’,
And the name o’ Cathcart shall soon wear awa’.”

From Burns’s day to our own it has been held by the Oswalds. Craigie, too, was for centuries a seat of the Wallaces; and it also has its cave and its well, dedicated to the hero—the mark of his heel is still pointed out on the platform of rock on which he jumped down, and whence rushed, and still rushes, a pure spring of water. And among the trees of Laiglan, Burns tells us that he spent a summer-day tracing[Pg 338] the footsteps of the patriot, and in vision saw him “brandish round the deep-dyed steel in sturdy blows.”

The Dam at Ayr


From the summit of these high banks delightful glimpses are had, through the trees, of the ancient burgh of Ayr. “Low in a sandy valley spread”; with spires, towers? and factory stalks rising above the greenery and the masses of houses; its broad and rushing river in the midst of it, crossed by bridges old and new; behind these the sweep of the Bay of Ayr, and, as background towards the south, the dark ridge of Brown Carrick Hill ending seaward in the bold front of the Heads of Ayr—the town shows bravely from a distance. Nor does a nearer view destroy the impression which it makes, especially as seen from the leafy margin of the stream, across the still expanse of the Dam, or from the Railway Bridge. Lower down are the historic arches of the “Twa Brigs” that unite the original Ayr with its northern suburbs of Newtown and Wallacetown. The poet’s prophecy, as the citizens noted with ill-concealed delight, has been, at least in part, fulfilled. The Auld Brig, “the very wrinkles Gothic in its face,” still stands, although reserved for foot-passengers alone; its younger rival, giving way prematurely to the assaults of time and flood, has had to be rebuilt:

“I’ll be a brig when ye’re a shapeless cairn.”

Near the approaches of the Auld Brig are congregated what remains of the old[Pg 339] Ayr houses—a diminishing company, as town improvements break in and sweep away narrow closes and grim dwellings with high-pitched roofs and crow-stepped gables; below it are the harbour and the shipping. Of what was memorable and historic in Old Ayr—its monasteries of the Black and the Grey Friars; its castle, where kings and parliaments sat in council; its ancient church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, wherein great Kirk controversies have been held, and Knox and other Reformers have preached—all have disappeared except the tower of St. John, and even it was reft of its gables last century “to give it a more modern appearance.” Cromwell, to make room for his fort, cleared away church and castle; and the fort itself has followed in its turn.

The high places of Ayr are of more modern date; and chief among them, perhaps, are the Wallace Tower, the imposing front of the Joint Railway Station, and the Hospital and the Poorhouse, heirs and successors of the Lepers’ Home, endowed by The Bruce in gratitude for the ease yielded to him by the waters of St. Helen’s Well at “King’s-ease.” The handsome Town Hall was destroyed by fire in 1897. Round the margin of the town, especially in the direction of the Doon, are streets of handsome villas and open spaces shaded by trees; and the place grows and thrives steadily if slowly. But, more than of its architecture, Ayr is proud of its sons and daughters:—

“Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a toon surpasses,
For honest men and bonnie lasses.”

The “auld clay biggin” where, in wild January weather, Burns first saw the light, is two or three miles outside the burgh, close to the Doon and to the haunted Kirk of Alloway. Within the thatched and whitewashed cottage—the shrine of crowds of pilgrims, whose numbers grow with the years—is a little museum of Burns mementoes and curiosities; and the beautiful monument of the poet, a temple raised on lofty fluted columns, overlooks the scene. The road thither leads past the racecourse on the way to Maybole, and crosses the romantic wooded dell through which flows the Water of Doon, by the Auld Brig, the senior by some years of the Brig of Ayr itself. Across its keystone young Robin often trudged on his way to school, after the family had removed to Mount Oliphant, two miles off on the Carrick side. In the churchyard his father, whose portrait is so grandly painted in “The Cotter’s Saturday Night,” is buried. The “cairn above the well,” the “winnock-bunker in the east,” and other places mentioned in the tale of Tam o’ Shanter’s ride, are still pointed out in or near the roofless and ivy-clad kirk. The neighbourhood is haunted by the strong and familiar spirit of Robert Burns.

The Doon

Photo: Bara, Ayr.


Having lingered so long on the Ayr, we can only spare time to glance up “Bonnie Doon,” although its charms are scarce less many and celebrated than those of its twin river. Like the Ayr, the channel of its lower course is carved boldly and deeply into the land. It flows, in pool or shallow, under impending[Pg 340] crags and steep banks clothed with coppice and greenwood, or past the margin of fertile haughs. It has its ruined castles and venerable mansion houses, its picturesque old kirks and bridges and mills, and its rich dowry of tradition and song. Like its neighbour, too, the Doon draws its strength from waste and solitary places; only, its cradle is in barer and wilder scenes, and is haunted by wilder legends, than are to be found about the headsprings of Ayr. Its windings would bring us to Auchendrane, the home of James Muir, “The Grey Man,” as gruesome a villain as ever figured in history or romance; to the woods and cliffs and walls of Cassilis, the seat of the head of the Kennedys—those most unruly of the[Pg 341] unruly men of Garrick—whence Johnnie Faa, the Gipsy, stole away the lady, and where he and his men afterwards dangled from the “Dool Tree”; to many a spot beside, famous in song and legend, until, through long bare moorlands on which mineral works and villages have intruded, we come, past Dalmellington, to the solitary shores of Loch Doon, its tunnelled outlet, its islands and old castle of the Baliols; and beyond it, to the high green hills of Galloway now rising over against the dark heathery slopes of the Carrick fells. And so we reach the sources of the stream under the brow of Merrick in the desolate wilderness of granite and peat-moss that surrounds Loch Enoch and the “Wolf’s Slock,” a region the wildest in the South of Scotland, where Mr. Crockett has found the scenery of his “Raiders” and his “Men of the Moss Hags.”





Clydesdale and its Waters—“The Hill of Fire”—Douglasdale—“Castle Dangerous”—Bonnington Linn—Corra Linn and “Wallace’s Tower”—Lanark—The Mouse Water—Stonebyres Linn—The Nethan and “Tillietudlem”—“The Orchard of Scotland”—Hamilton and its Palace—Cadzow Castle and its Associations—Bothwell Brig and Castle—Blantyre—Cambuslang—Rutherglen—Glasgow: The City and its History—The Quays, Docks, and Shipbuilding Yards—The Work of the Clyde Navigation Trust—Govan and Partick—The White Cart—Dumbarton Rock and Castle—The Leven Valley—Ben and Loch Lomond—Greenock—Gourock—The Firth at Eventide.


GLASGOW CITY has, as its chief armorial device, a tree of massive trunk and wide-spreading branches. The minor symbols, of bird and bell and fish, have lost their old significance. The salmon no longer ventures so far up the labour-stained waters of the Clyde as Glasgow Green. No more the monkish bell sounds to matins and vespers on the banks of the Molendinar Burn, now turned by man’s improving hand into a main sewer. The sooty street-sparrow, almost alone among the feathered tribe, is at home under the great city’s pall of smoke.

But more than ever the stately and flourishing tree is an apt similitude, not only of the little cathedral town that has grown to be, as its inhabitants proudly boast, the “Second City of the Empire,” but also of the stream that has nurtured it to greatness. The Clyde, if it is not the longest of course or the largest of volume of Scottish streams, is beyond all comparison the most important from the point of view of industry and commerce. Within its basin are contained something like one-third of the population and half of the wealth and traffic of the Northern Kingdom. Between Dumbarton Rock and the sources of the infant Clyde we are carried from the busiest hives of labour and marts of trade to green or heathy solitudes, whose silence is only broken by the bleat of the sheep and the cry of the muirfowl.

Harking back to the figure of the tree of goodly stem and spread of limb, one has to observe that it is not by any means upon the largest of the branches that immemorial usage has fixed the name of the Clyde. According to the popular saying—

“Tweed, Annan, and Clyde,
A’ rise in ae hillside.”

But this description of the source applies only to the “Clyde’s Burn,” whose valley the main line of the Caledonian Railway ascends, on its way by Beattock Summit into Annandale. When the Clyde’s Burn has run its half-dozen miles and met, above Elvanfoot, the Daer Water, coming from a height of over 2,000 feet, on the slopes of the Gana and Earncraig Hills, the latter has already flowed[Pg 343] a course more than twice the length; and there are other tributaries—the Powtrail and the Elvan, for instance, draining the eastern slopes of the wild hills, veined with lead-ore, that on the other side command the valley of the Nith—which might successfully compete, as the source of the Clyde, with the modest little runlet, issuing from the shoulder of Clyde’s Law, that overlooks Tweed’s Well.

One of the Sources of the Clyde


A “sea of hills,” green or heather clad, is the whole of this region of Clydesdale, forming the districts of Crawford, Crawfordjohn, and adjoining parishes. It is rolled into great waves—not, however, as Sir Archibald Geikie remarks, steep and impending like those that darken the Highland glens, but[Pg 344] rounded and smooth like the swell of the ocean subsiding after a storm. On either hand streams innumerable have hollowed out their channels—“hopes” and “gills” and “cleuchs”—in the heart of the hills; and the clear or brown waters tumble merrily over rock and shingle, or skirt the edges of peat-moss or pasture land on their way to reinforce the Clyde. Bare and bleak are these landscapes, as a rule. But there are not wanting fairylike nooks and glades, as well as scenes of sterner beauty. The watersides are often fringed with a natural growth of birch and oak and alder; and on the hillsides are thriving plantations or groups of ash and rowan, sheltering the infrequent farmhouse or shepherd’s cottage. Only at the headstreams of the Glengonnar Water, under the “Green Lowther,” have smoky industries broken in upon these pastoral and moorish solitudes of the Upper Ward: for at Leadhills, as at the neighbouring village of Wanlockhead, across the watershed, lead-ore is still worked and smelted in considerable quantity, although the gold mines of this and other parts of Crawford Moor, once the objects of kingly quest and solicitude, have long been abandoned.

The Clyde


By the sites of old camps and mote-hills, by grey peels and kirkyards, and clachans and mansion-houses, past Tower Lindsay, looking across from its mound and its grove of lichened plane and oak trees to the tiny barony burgh of Crawford; past the desolate little God’s acre of St. Constantine, or Kirkton, where lies the dust of Jane Welsh Carlyle’s mother, of the gipsy kin, of the Baillies; past the woods and lawns and pretty red hamlet of Abington, runs the Water of Clyde until, beside the fragment of Lamington Tower—the heritage, if tradition may be credited, of the wife of William Wallace—it brings us fairly under the shadow of Tinto.

This “Hill of Fire” spreads its skirts through four parishes, whose boundaries meet at the huge cairn of stones on its crest—the site of old beacon fires, perhaps of Druid altars. It is the sentinel height of Upper[Pg 345] Clydesdale. Few hills in Southern Scotland are so isolated or command so wide and glorious a prospect. Its porphyritic mass seems to be set in the very jaws of the Upper Vale; and between Lamington and the mouth of the Douglas Water—little more than six miles as the crow flies—the Clyde meanders through low-lying haughs and holmlands, by Covington and Carstairs and Hyndford Bridge, for a distance of twenty miles and more round the base of Tinto and its subject hills. From the summit, on a clear day, one can descry the Bass Rock and Goat Fell, and even the hills of Cumberland and Ireland, besides portions of nearly a score of Scottish counties.

Over against it to the eastward rises Cutler Fell and, divided from the latter by the rich plain of Biggar, the heights of Bizzyberry and Quothquan, scenes of the exploits of William Wallace. Its northern slopes all drain into the Douglas Water. The moorland pastures that enclose Douglasdale spread away towards Cairn Table and the Ayrshire border; and from the nearer buttresses of Tinto glimpses are had, in the valley below, of the smoke from its coalfield and of the woods that surround the “Castle Dangerous” of history and romance.

Douglas Castle


The story of the House of Douglas may be read on the walls and on the floor of the church of St. Bride of Douglas, of which there remains only the spire and the choir, lately restored by the latest heir and representative of the Douglas line, Lord Dunglass, the eldest son of the Earl of Home. In its precincts, on Palm Sunday, 1307, took place that memorable struggle between the “good Sir James” of Douglas and his adherents, and the English garrison of Sir John de Walton,[Pg 347] who undertook, for the winning of his lovesuit, the perilous emprise of holding the castle of the Douglases against its rightful master. Here, enclosed in what we are told is a silver casket, placed under glass in the floor of the church above the Douglas vault, is the heart of the great warrior and patriot himself, brought home after he had lost his life among the Paynim hosts of Spain while seeking to carry the Bruce’s heart to the Holy Land. His recumbent cross-legged effigy is one of the most ancient of the monuments to his kin who lie in the church of St. Bride; among these being “Archibald Bell the Cat,” and Archibald the second and James the third Dukes of Touraine, the sons of “Earl Tineman.” Hither came Sir Walter Scott, with Lockhart in his company, on his last sad pilgrimage of romance, when the shadows of the grave had already begun to gather about himself and his right hand was already losing its cunning.

Bonnington Linn

Photo: A. Brown & Co., Lanark.


Along the waterside for miles below Douglas extend the magnificent woods and gardens and “policies” of Lord Home’s estate, enclosing the grand castellated mansion of Douglas Castle—although this is but a fraction of the vast edifice begun by the last Duke of Douglas; the vestiges of the old “Tower Perilous”; the three artificial lakes, and spots that speak so plainly of the wars of old and of the rough deeds of the Douglases as the “Bloody Sykes,” the “Bottomless Mire,” and the artificial mound of the “Boncastle.”

Just where it meets the Douglas Water, the Clyde makes a sharp and momentous turn. It reaches the romantic crisis in its career, and tumbles headlong over the Falls of Clyde. It leaves its youth behind it as it passes the turning-point, and makes its plunge over Bonnington Linn. Hitherto its flow has been placid or rippling; it has been the clear-flowing Clyde Water of song and ballad, winding among lone places of the hills, washing the bases of Roman camps or feudal peels, or skirting leisurely the edges of fertile meadows or rough pastures, browsed by sheep and cattle. The sound and stir of labour have not greatly disturbed it; there have been no busy seats of industry near its banks. But from its great ordeal it comes forth a stream with a changed character and destiny; not less attractive in itself and its surroundings—for a time, indeed, it gains in beauty—but with the sober pace and growing burden of middle life upon it, gathering, as it moves seaward, more and more of the stains and defilements of human toil—the black trickles from the Lanarkshire coalfield, and the sewage of busy towns and villages—until it becomes a muddy and ill-smelling current, flowing between ranks of tenements and ranges of factory chimneys.

In the three miles and three-quarters of its course beginning at Bonnington, the Clyde descends a depth of 260 feet, leaping again and again, and yet again, over sheer walls of rock, boiling in pools and pot-holes, and brawling over boulder and shingle bed, between mural cliffs of old red sandstone or high banks clothed with wood or diversified by parks and orchards. In the remaining forty or fifty miles of its journey, before it becomes finally merged in the salt water, its fall is only 170 feet.

[Pg 348]

Corra Linn

Photo: A. Brown & Co., Lanark.


Clyde’s first plunge, at the Bonnington, or Boniton, Linn, is the least deep and impressive of the three; and by comparison with the scenes below, the surroundings of the spot where the river takes its leap are open and bare. The water falls sheer over a precipice into a deep cauldron 30 feet below, and is broken in its descent only by a projecting rock in the middle. Thence it churns and eddies and boils between the lofty walls of sandstone overhung by wood, and draped wherever there is hold for root and fibre by trees and undergrowth, to meet a greater catastrophe at Corra Linn. At this the grandest of Scotland’s waterfalls—“Clyde’s most majestic daughter”—the stream flings itself down from a height of 84 feet, in a tumultuous white mass of foam, the falling body of water being[Pg 349] broken and torn in its descent by many sharp ledges and points of rock. In time of spate, especially when the sun shines and wreathes rainbows in the smoke of mist and spray that rises from the fall, the scene is indescribably grand. The deafening roar of the angry waters, the loveliness of the rock and sylvan scenery in which they are set, deepen beyond measure the impression which these Falls of Clyde make on the mind and imagination. The wealth of foliage—bracken, broom, sloe, and wild flowers of many kinds, as well as tall forest trees—drapes what would otherwise be the savage nakedness of the spot with hues and forms of beauty; and there is no lack of the shady “ell-wide walks” which Wordsworth so much appreciated, winding from one to another coign of vantage on the riverside. Nor is there wanting the charm of romantic and historical association:—

“The deeds
Of Wallace, like a family of ghosts,
People the steep rocks and the river banks,
Her natural sanctuaries, with a local soul
Of independence and stern liberty.”
Roman Bridge Near Lanark

Photo: A. Brown & Co., Lanark.


[Pg 350]

“Wallace’s Tower” helped to inspire the poet of the “Excursion” at sight of Corra Linn:—

“Lord of the vale! astounding Flood!
The dullest leaf in this thick wood
Quakes—conscious of thy power;
The caves reply with hollow moan;
And vibrates to its central stone
Yon time-cemented Tower.”

There is also a “Wallace Chair” below Corra Linn; and in Bonnington House, whose beautiful grounds, to which the public have access, occupy the right bank of the river opposite both of these upper falls, there are relics of the hero who made Lanark and the Linns of Clyde one of his chief haunts.

Quite other memories—those of David Dale, “herd-boy, hawker, manufacturer, turkey-red dyer, banker, and evangelist,” and of his partner and son-in-law, Robert Owen—linger about the wheels and chimney-stacks of New Lanark, those celebrated cotton mills which were established, in days before steam had robbed water-power of great part of its workaday functions, for the purpose of carrying out a noble experiment in industry and philanthropy. And Braxfield, still lower down the stream, recalls to us the name and rural tastes—surely, not without a redeeming touch of grace and romance—of that Hanging Judge, the Jeffreys of the Scottish bench, whom Robert Louis Stevenson has immortalised as the Lord Justice Clerk in “Weir of Hermiston.”

But the Castle Hill and streets of the “ancient burgh of Lanark”—now close by, on the table-land above the river—bring back our thoughts to “Wallace wight” and to lawless and troublous times. The site of the old Royal Castle, which had harboured kings and stood sieges, is now occupied by a bowling green. Lanark Moor, where armies have mustered in the cause of the Douglases or the Stuarts, of King or Covenant, is in peaceful possession of golf and horse-racing. In the Castlegait is the site of the house where, according to a cherished tradition over which the duller Muse of History shakes the head, lived Marion Bradfute, that heiress of Lamington whom Wallace took to wife, and whom he so terribly avenged when Hazelrig, the sheriff and governor of Lanark Castle, had slain her for giving harbourage to the hero.

The valley below Lanark gradually opens up into the fruitful “Trough of the Clyde,” and becomes beautifully diversified by fertile fields, by woods and lawns, and by cottages surrounded by orchard trees, that in spring are overspread with the tinted and perfumed snow of the apple-blossom. From the right the Mouse Water flows into Clyde through the savage chasm of the Cartland Crags—opposing walls and pinnacles of rock, crowned and seamed with wood, that have apparently been riven apart to allow scant passage for the turbid little moorland stream that brawls over the sandstone reefs and ledges in the green obscurity below. Still the ghost of Wallace flits before us, for in the jaws of the Cartland defile, close to Telford’s handsome bridge over the Mouse, is the champion’s Cave, and perched on the[Pg 351] summit of the cliffs is the “Castle of the Quaw,” associated in legend with his deeds. Another arch spanning the Mouse—the Roman Bridge at Cleghorn—has associations much more ancient; it marks the spot where Watling Street, which traversed Clydesdale and crossed Lanark Moor on its way from Carlisle to Antonine’s Wall, passed the brawling little stream.

Stonebyres Linn, the last of the three great leaps of Clyde, is somewhat more than a mile below Lanark Bridge, and close to the road that holds down the left bank of the stream to Crossford, Dalserf, and Hamilton. It has not the romantic surroundings of Corra Linn. But the fall of water descending headlong over rocky ledges in a dizzy plunge into the “Salmon Pool”—the “thus far and no farther” of the lordly fish that once swarmed in the Clyde—has by many been adjudged more graceful, if less majestic, than the upper linn. Two miles further on comes in the Nethan, winding through its wooded strath under the base of Craignethan Castle. It is the Tillietudlem of “Old Mortality,” the name being probably borrowed by Scott from “Gullietudlem,” a ravine adjacent to Corra Linn. It was a stronghold of the Hamiltons; and, with its strong position on a steep peninsulated bluff between the Nethan and a tributary burn, its moat, and its massive walls and towers of hewn stone, of which a goodly portion yet keep its place, it must when first built have been well-nigh impregnable. The traditional tale is that the Scottish monarch of the time, taking alarm at the portentous and threatening strength, rewarded the builder and owner—the “Bastard of Arran”—by hanging him betimes as a suspected rebel. The chief incident in its annals is the stay made at Craignethan by Mary Stuart before fortune went finally against her at Langside. More vividly do the frowning keep, the crumbling vaults, the ivy-clad garden walls, and the steep copse-clad dells and braes, recall to our minds Lady Margaret Bellenden sitting down to “disjeune” in the chamber of daïs, Jenny Dennison scalding the too-adventurous Cuddie Headrigg with the porridge, Henry Morton before the Council, and Burley lurking like a wounded wolf in his cave.

From this point downward the stream of Clyde, as it winds towards Glasgow through the centre of the great coal and iron field that has fed the wealth of the city and the commerce of the river, becomes more and more closely beset by the great armies of industry. For a time they still keep at a respectful distance; their camp fires—pillars of flame by night and of cloud by day—rising from furnace chimney and pit head on the high ground enclosing the “Trough of the Clyde.” Up there, in an intricate network of railway lines, are busy and growing towns and villages sending forth their smoke to overshadow the valley, and pouring down into it, by a score of tributary streams, the lees and pollutions of labour and of crowded urban life. But for a while the sheltered haughs and sloping banks of the Clyde still deserve the name of the “Orchard of Scotland.” The drumlie gills and burns, that higher up have drained moss hags and skirted mounds of slag and mean rows of miners’ cottages, break into the central valley through bosky and craggy dells, and through acres of fruit trees and the woods[Pg 353] and lawns of stately mansion houses, or past venerable parish churches or fragments of old castles, to join the Clyde. There are such fine sweeps of river as those, for instance, that skirt the grounds of Mauldslie Castle, and wind round Dalserf, before the now broad and full stream takes a straighter course under Dalserf Bridge, past Cambusnethan, towards Dalziel and Hamilton.

Stonebyres Linn


All these names invite the down-stream wayfarer to pause and survey the beauties of Clydesdale. But the spot of really commanding interest is Hamilton, the centre for four or five centuries of the power of the great family of Hamilton, that succeeded to so much of the dominion and influence owned by the Douglases in the valley of the Clyde. The haughlands here spread out to a truly noble width; and the lawns and parks that surround the chief seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, and stretch down to the right bank of the river and extend along its windings from Hamilton Bridge down to Bothwell Bridge, have space enough to give an air of grandeur and seclusion to the scene, spite of the crowding around it of a modern workaday world. For the town of Hamilton is at the very gate of the palace; and over against the low parks and the racecourse by the riverside rise sheaves of chimney-stacks, crowned with smoke, that proclaim the neighbourhood of Motherwell and other grimy haunts of the Lanarkshire coal and iron industries.

From the plain white baronial house of “The Orchard,” built in 1591 and set among its pleasant fruit trees, Hamilton Palace has spread and risen into one of the princeliest piles in the land. Its long and lofty façade, adorned with Corinthian columns, overlooks its parterres and flower gardens; the grand mausoleum of the Hamiltons, built—at a cost, it is said, of £150,000—in the style of the castle of San Angelo at Rome; and the spacious parks, dotted with trees, that slope gently towards the margin of Clyde.

The soul of Hamilton Palace has departed since the sale in 1881 of the unrivalled collection of pictures, books, and rare works of art, brought together by the taste and wealth of Beckford, the author of “Vathek,” and of successive dukes. With this removal the centre of interest seems once more to have shifted to the further side of the busy burgh, where, in the High Parks adjoining the original seat of the Hamilton family, the “crumbled halls” of Cadzow Castle, are to be found the yet more venerable remains of the Caledonian Forest—huge gnarled and decayed boles of ancient oaks, sadly thinned by latter-day gales—and the survivors of what are supposed to be the native breed of wild white cattle.

When Queen Mary escaped from Lochleven, she fled for shelter and aid to her kinsfolk at Cadzow. A few years later, as Scott’s ballad rehearses, another refugee spurred thither—Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, after assassinating the Regent Moray in the street of Linlithgow. The Magician waves his wand and restores the scene, by Avon side, as it was more than three centuries ago:—

[Pg 354]

“Where, with the rock’s wood-cover’d side
Were blended late the ruins green,
Rose turrets in fantastic pride,
And feudal banners flaunt between.
“Where the rude torrent’s brawling course
Was shagged with thorn and tangled sloe,
The ashlar buttress braves its force,
And ramparts frown in battled row.”

A hundred years later, when Cadzow was already abandoned and in decay, the victorious Covenanting force which had defeated the dragoons of Claverhouse at Drumelog, on the dreary moorland slopes near the sources of the Avon, marched down this waterside—the Evandale of “Old Mortality”—on their way to make their bold but luckless attempt on Glasgow. Soon after they were back again in this neighbourhood in force, preparing to resist, with what disastrous results is well known, the passage of Monmouth’s Royalist troops across Bothwell Brig:—

“Where Bothwell Bridge connects the margin steep,
And Clyde below runs silent, strong, and deep,
The hardy peasant, by oppression driven
To battle, deemed his cause the cause of Heaven;
Unskilled in arms, with useless courage stood,
While gentle Monmouth grieved to shed his blood.”

So writes the author of “The Clyde”; and in spite of the beauty of the scene, the old associations of Bothwell Brig and its vicinity are with broil and wrong and bloodshed. Below the scene of Monmouth’s victory are sylvan banks consecrated to the memory of forsaken love—“O Bothwell bank, thou bloomest fair!” And lower down, facing each other from vantage ground on opposite sides of the stream, are the grand ruins of old Bothwell Castle and the remains of Blantyre Priory.

Between these two sentinels of the past—the crumbling but still massive feudal towers of the Douglases on their bold green bank, and the meagre fragment of the monastic house perched on its red sandstone cliff—runs the smooth deep current of the Clyde, inspiring, as Wordsworth has said, “thoughts more in harmony with the sober and stately images of former times, than if it had roared over a rocky channel, and forced its sound upon the ear.” The castle, both from the mass and height of its huge walls and round towers and turrets, and from its situation, is still magnificent in its decay. It has had many masters, among them that Aymer de Valence who held Clydesdale for the English and planned the capture of Wallace. Edward I. and Edward III. have sojourned in it. But its best remembered owners are the Black Douglases. They swore indifferently by “St. Bride of Bothwell” and by “St. Bride of Douglas.” In the beautiful choir of the old collegiate church, now forming part of the church of the parish, reposes the dust of chiefs of the name;[Pg 355] and descendants of the old race still hold the lands and woods around Bothwell Castle. In St. Bride’s too, in 1400, a couple of years after its erection, took place in an “unhappy hour” the fateful marriage between David, Duke of Rothesay, and Marjory, the daughter of “Archibald the Grim,” Earl of Douglas. A more pleasant association with Bothwell Church is the birth, in the manse here, of Joanna Baillie, the poetess, who has preserved in her verse fond remembrances of the “bonnie braes” and “sunny shallows” of the Clyde, where she spent her childhood.

Bothwell Castle

Photo: F. W. Bergman, Hamilton.


The left, or Blantyre, bank of Clyde also has its “stately images of the past.” The barony, which had belonged to Randolph and to “Black Agnes of Dunbar,” fell, with the Priory lands, to Walter Stewart, the first Baron Blantyre, James VI.’s old classfellow and favourite, whose descendant still bears the title. Blantyre Priory had in its day sheltered Wallace. They will show you the rock, one of many, from which, in legend, the patriot leaped to escape his enemies. It was a daughter-house of the Abbey of Jedburgh, which, like other great Tweedside monasteries, had a retreat in the Clyde, when invading armies crossed the Border. Now the rifled and wasted monk’s nest is itself besieged by the clamorous army of labour. In a nook by the waterside, between it and Bothwell Bridge, David Dale and John Monteith planted their calico-printing and turkey-red works—those Blantyre mills which have since thriven so mightily, and under whose shadow David Livingstone was born. Blantyre village grows to a town on the bank above, and behind are[Pg 357] the pit shafts of High Blantyre, reminding us of one of the saddest of colliery catastrophes.

Glasgow University

Photo: T. & R. Annan & Son, Glasgow.


Escaping from the shadow of Bothwell’s braes, our river flows smoothly on between widening haughs and opening prospects within sight of Uddington, where Glasgow has planted a colony of villas, by a long serpentine sweep past the parks and trees of Dalbowie, and so under the steep wooded bluff of Kenmuir, long renowned for its wild flowers and its “Wedding Well,” to Carmyle, a hamlet that still, in spite of the close neighbourhood of the great city, retains something of rural quaintness and simplicity in its rushing mill-dams and its climbing garden plots. Cambuslang is only a mile below, but on the other or southern bank, along a reach of river beautifully fringed by trees—Cambuslang, with its high-placed church tower, its Kirkton burn bickering down its ravine past the golf-course and the amphitheatre where Whitfield uplifted his voice in the great “Revival Wark” of 1742; and with Rosebank, the home of David Dale, on the river front, shouldered by dye works and neighboured by the fine new railway bridge over the Clyde.

The Broomielaw Landing-stage


The high ground behind “Cam’s’lang,” as those name it who know it, is a convenient coign from whence to survey the myriad spires and chimneys of Glasgow; for the river makes only a few more great sweeps through a plain where pleasure-[Pg 358]grounds alternate with public works, before reaching Rutherglen—the senior and once the rival of Glasgow—and the Green itself, and disappearing into St. Mungo’s wilderness of houses and canopy of smoke.

Passing strange it is to one who gazes down from Dechmont Hill or from the Cathkin Braes upon the Clyde losing itself in the murky depths of the great city, whose fog and reek and densely packed masses of dwellings seem to fill the valley, to reflect that the spot was originally chosen as a place suitable for seclusion and calm meditation; that so late as the period of the Reformation Glasgow was a country town of three or four thousand people. How much of the legendary story of St. Kentigern is founded on fact, none can positively say. But we can certainly believe that he came here and preached to the heathen Britons of Strathclyde, whose capital, Dumbarton, was not far off, and whose “high places” were on the neighbouring hills; that he gathered disciples about him, and founded a monastery, after the old Columban rule, on the slopes beside the clear Molendinar Burn, something more than a mile above its confluence with the waters of Clyde. His shrine is still the centre of the “Laigh Kirk,” or crypt of the Cathedral, and is, indeed, the nucleus around which have grown not only the ancient and beautiful church, but also the vast modern city that bears the name of Mungo “the Beloved.” It is the seed out of which Glasgow has grown.

A map of Glasgow in the early part of the seventeenth century shows it to have then consisted of little more than two streets crossing each other—one running at right angles to and the other parallel with the course of the Clyde—together with a few tributary vennels and closes, and with “kailyards” rendering upon the open fields. The former thoroughfare, as the Saltmarket and High Street, climbed the slope to the Metropolitan Church and the Bishop’s Castle; the other diverged to right and left as the Gallowgait and the Trongait, which latter extended as far as the precincts of the church, croft, and well of St. Tenu—transmogrified by time and wear into St. Enoch’s—in the line of the present Argyll Street. At the intersection were the Mercat Cross and the Tolbooth, prison and council chamber in one. The Cross was, accordingly, the centre of the commerce and of the municipal authority of Old Glasgow. The venerable Tolbooth and Cross Steeples still look down upon a busy scene. Still are they redolent of the memories of the citizens and the burgh life of former times: spite of change, they continue to be haunted by the spirit of Bailie Nicol Jarvie picking his way along the street, accompanied by his lass and lantern, to visit Francis Osbaldistone behind prison walls, and of Captain Paton’s Nelly bringing an ingredient of that hero’s punch from the West Port Well.

Halfway between the Cross and the Cathedral, on the west side of a thoroughfare which three hundred years ago was accounted spacious and even stately, were the old College Buildings, where the University, founded in 1450, was housed until, a quarter of a century ago, the intrusion of the railway and other considerations made it flit to more splendid and salubrious quarters at Gilmorehill.

[Pg 359]

The Clyde at Glasgow


In this oldest core of Old Glasgow, there are but few relics left of its buildings mid monuments of early times. The Cathedral is the chief; and, happily, the grey shape of this grand old Gothic pile remains to put to shame even the finest of the modern edifices of which Glasgow is so proud. It is, like most other minsters, of many dates; but there is great harmony as well as dignity both in its exterior and interior aspect, its style being mainly that of the First Pointed, or Early Decorated, period. Only a fragment, in the crypt or lower church, is supposed to remain of the building with which Bishop Joscelin 700 years ago replaced the previous edifice of wood. Within, the solemn grandeur of the lofty groined roof, and the long receding array of arches of the nave, chancel, and choir of the High Kirk, with the perspective closed by the magnificent east window, awe all beholders. But still more impressive are the wonderful clusters of pillars, the low-browed arches, and the dim and obscure “religious light” of the crypt underneath. “There are finer minsters in the kingdom than Glasgow,” says Dr. Marshall Lang, the present minister of the Barony Parish, “but there is none with a finer crypt.” In the centre of the darkling maze is the shrine of St. Mungo, the position of which, in the sloping ground falling eastward towards the Molendinar, is the key to the construction of the church. After the Reformation, the crypt became the Laigh Barony Church before there was set up, in the Cathedral green without, what Dr. Norman Macleod, one of its later incumbents, called “the Temple of Ugliness,” which has in its turn given place to the handsome structure that is the parish church of the old Bishop’s Barony. The famous Dr. Zachary Boyd—he who, in the High Church above, railed at Cromwell to his face—was minister for nearly thirty years in the Laigh Barony; and from behind its pillars Rob Roy spoke his warning word into the ears of the English stranger.

While Time and reforming zeal—aided by the voices and pikes of the citizens of the day—have spared to us St. Mungo’s Church, the fortress-like Bishop’s Palace and the “Manses” of the thirty prebends and other ecclesiastics have been swept away, along with memorials of earlier and later date; St. Roche’s Chapel, in the fields to the north, now flaunts a smoky pennon as St. Rollox; the high ground of the “Craigs,” or the “Fir Park,” across the once limpid trouting burn—where St. Columba is fabled to have met St. Kentigern—is covered with the thicket of headstones and obelisks of the Necropolis, grouped about Knox’s monument,[Pg 360] and holds the dust of some of the host and most distinguished of Glasgow’s sons; the Molendinar itself has been buried from sight and smell—none too soon.


PARTICK (p. 363).

Returning to the lower end of what was once the main thoroughfare of the Glasgow of old, the Briggait—once a busy centre of the city’s commerce—led to the riverside and what was long the sole bridge connecting the north and south banks of the Clyde. Stockwell Street also gave access to it from the Trongait. Only in the early ’fifties was the ancient stone structure, which had stood for five centuries and which figures prominently in old views of Glasgow from the Clyde, replaced by the present Victoria Bridge. Nine other bridges, including two suspension bridges for foot-passengers and three great railway viaducts, now span the stream within the city bounds. All of them have sprung up within the last fifty years; and the traffic between bank and bank has required, besides, the burrowing under the river-bed of subways and underground lines, and the connection of bank and bank by steam and other ferries. Chief among these bridges, as channels of commerce and intercourse—what London Bridge is to the Metropolis—is the “roaring lane” of the Jamaica Street Bridge. The fine structure immediately below it, which carries the Caledonian line across from the Bridge Street to the Central Station, marks the limits of navigation for all but the smaller kind of river-craft; for here Clyde may be said to merge into[Pg 361] Glasgow Harbour, and a new and almost last chapter in its career opens at the Broomielaw.


PAISLEY (p. 366).

There was a time when Rutherglen reckoned itself a seaport, and when fishermen drew shoals of salmon from the clear-flowing Clyde, and spread their nets on Glasgow Green. Such sights have long ceased to be witnessed; and the Camlachie Burn no longer wimples in the face of day between alder-covered banks through the flat riverside meadow to join the Molendinar and the Clyde. But “the Green” remains the most famous and most prized of the city’s open spaces: it is the central “lung” of Glasgow. If not in fashionable surroundings, in its function as a safety valve for popular enthusiasm and excitement it is the Hyde Park of the Second City of the Empire. In it great political and religious gatherings have been and still are held; here do the East-enders throng and bask in holiday time, and here have been seen also riot and rejoicing, and events of note in the history of the municipality, the kingdom, and even of the world. To mention the greatest of all, did not the epoch-making idea of the steam-engine flash through the brain of James Watt as he took a Sunday ramble, thoughtful and solitary, on the Green, near the Humane Society’s quarters, where afterwards Lambert, “hero and martyr,” achieved his wonderful rescues from drowning? Did not the Regent Moray’s army here cross the Clyde to[Pg 362] intercept and disperse Mary Stuart’s adherents at Langside? And did not Prince Charlie—an unwelcome guest in Whiggish Glasgow—review his Highlanders in the Flesher’s Haugh?

At the time of the Pretender’s visit, the era of Glasgow’s commercial prosperity—the reign of the “tobacco dons” and the “sugar dons,” who preceded the “cotton lords” and the present reigning dynasty of the “iron kings”—was only opening. The current of the city’s business life had already begun to turn aside from the channel of the High Street, in order to run parallel with the river, along the line of the Trongait and Argyll Street, to absorb little suburban villages, to overflow the neighbouring fields, and by-and-by to swallow up, one by one, the mansions of its merchant princes. But when the present century opened, the town could boast of only some 80,000 inhabitants. The Saracen’s Head in the Gallowgate was still the chief place of entertainment; there Dr. Johnson housed on his return from his Hebridean tour, and Burns was also among its guests. Queen Street a hundred years ago had not so long ceased to be the Cow Loan through which the citizens drove out their cows to pasture; and George Square, when the century was young, was a retired park, with trees and turf and shrubberies, surrounded by the private dwellings of a few city magnates.

Dumbarton Rock


To this once rural spot the centre of interest and authority of Modern[Pg 363] Glasgow has now flitted; and here the city has set up its Valhalla. In the heart of the Square a statue of Sir Walter Scott towers on its high pedestal; and surrounding it are ranks of other monuments—equestrian statues, and figures erect and seated: among them those of Sir John Moore and Lord Clyde, both of them “Glasgow callants” who won for their native city war-laurels to place beside its trophies of peaceful industry; and of Thomas Campbell, the poet, who was born in the High Street, within a stonecast of the old College Buildings. Chief of the public edifices that face the Square are the new Municipal Buildings, in which, after several shiftings from the venerable Tolbooth, the City Fathers have set up their gods. The foundation stone of this magnificent pile was laid in October, 1883, and it has cost the town nearly £600,000. Here would be a convenient standpoint whence to survey the more recent spread and growth of the city, were this a description of Glasgow instead of a glance down the course of the Clyde. From George Square as a centre, a radius of fully two and a half miles would now be required in order to draw a circle embracing the whole area of the city. In that space, and included within the municipal boundaries, is a population which in 1891 numbered 656,000. But the circle would enclose also the police burghs of Govan, Partick, and Kinning Park, which, although partially surrounded by Glasgow, and essentially a part of the same urban community, have separate municipal organisations. Adding these and the suburban villages and populous areas attached to, but outside the circumference of, the city, and making allowance for the growth of five years, we have a greater “geographical Glasgow” which Sir James Bell and Mr. Paton, in their recent work, estimate to contain no fewer than 900,000 souls. So that since the beginning of the century the increase has been something like tenfold in population; while in wealth, in trade, and in the multiplication of the resources of civilisation, its progress has been, perhaps, still more marked.

The classic but now much-befouled Kelvin is at its mouth the boundary between the city and the adjoining burgh of Partick; and when it passes this point the Clyde leaves Glasgow territory behind it, without, however, escaping from the sphere of its administrative authority. Very different is this straight, broad highway of commerce—lined by quay walls and wet and graving docks, by shipbuilding yards and boiler-sheds, by factories, timber depôts, and railway sidings, burdened with craft innumerable, and overhung by the shapes of great iron vessels (the pride of Glasgow and the Clyde) in every stage of construction—from the stream that winds and gleams like a serpent between its green banks only a few miles above. The opposing shores send up a perpetual din of iron smiting upon iron: the deafening and yet, to the understanding ear, inspiriting sound of the Clyde’s most famous industry—that of shipbuilding. The broad tide of waters is churned by paddles and propellers innumerable. It is muddy and evil-smelling, for Glasgow has not repaid its debt to the Clyde with gratitude, and still makes its river the receptacle of its sewage and garbage. All[Pg 364] this, however, is to be changed; already the experiment of sewage purification has been for some years in operation at Dalmarnock, and shortly a scheme intended to embrace the whole north side of Glasgow will be at work on ground purchased by the Corporation at Dalmuir, some miles down the river. So that in time trout may venture back to Kelvin, and the “stately salmon” itself be seen basking in the sandbanks opposite the Broomielaw, or stemming the “amber-coloured Clyde,” once more pure and sweet as well as “beneficent and strong.”

Often the channel itself is choked with mist and overhung with smoke; and vessels and houses loom vaguely through the haze, or stand out in startling relief against their dim background when the sun manages to send his shafts through the mist and to light up river and shipping. Nowhere are there such sunsets to be seen as in this murky and rainy and dinsome clime of Glasgow Harbour.

To embark on board one of the river-steamers at the Broomielaw is a convenient mode of surveying what remains to be seen of the river and its surroundings. Steering down-stream by the broad and deep channel between the lines and thickets of masts and funnels of the craft moored to either bank, or assembled in the great dock basins, there is plenty of time to reflect on the changes that have come over the scene, even since Campbell deplored that Nature’s face was banished and estranged from the “once romantic shore of his native Clyde,” and the face of Heaven was no more reflected in its soot-begrimed waters—

“That for the daisied greensward, down thy stream
Unsightly brick-lanes smoke and clanking engines gleam.”

The days when the river could be forded at high-water opposite Govan Point, and when a voyage up or down stream was a series of bumpings from shoal to shoal, seem almost as far removed from our own as the date of the canoes of our remote ancestors that have been found embedded in the ooze of the channel in the course of dredging operations. Yet they belong to the present century; and even after Henry Bell’s Comet inaugurated steam navigation by making her runs between Greenock and Glasgow, the better part of a day has been known to be spent on the trip. In the course of a century and half some sixteen millions have been spent on widening, deepening, and straightening the channel and improving the harbour accommodation of Glasgow; and the revenue of the Clyde Navigation Trust now reaches about £400,000 annually. As the fruit of all this expenditure, the Trust can point to the long lines of quay walls and the magnificent Queen’s and Govan Docks, and to a broad and straight waterway which, from Glasgow Bridge to Port Glasgow, has a uniform depth of 28 feet at high tide.

Loch Lomond

Photo: Andrew Young, Burntisland.

LOCH LOMOND (p. 367).

Even fifty years ago Dr. Macdonald could write of Govan as “a still rural-looking village,” to which the denizens of St. Mungo resorted on Sundays, after the skailing of the kirks, to “snuff the caller air” by the waterside; and of[Pg 365] Partick, on the opposite bank, as an “old-fashioned town with a pleasant half-rural aspect,” also in repute as a holiday-resort on account of the “salubrity of its air.” Now, these adjuncts of Glasgow, with the adjoining Whiteinch, are world-famous as the headquarters of Clyde shipbuilding. From the Govan, Fairfield, and Linthouse yards, on the south side, and from the Finnieston, Pointhouse, Meadowbank, and Whiteinch slips, on the north bank, have been launched some of the largest and finest vessels—mercantile craft and ships of war—that have ever put to sea. Dwelling-houses and public works have spread over the ground behind, so that little is left of the “rural” or “half-rural” villages of the ’fifties. Yet Govan has its spacious breathing-space in the Elder Park, and[Pg 366] elms still shade the ancient Celtic crosses and monuments in its parish kirkyard; Partick still borders on Kelvin Grove; and Whiteinch boasts, in its Victoria Park, of a “Fossil Grove” of more hoar antiquity than Runic crosses, or the prehistoric canoes of Govan.

Clyde, as it moves majestically away from the stir and clangour of the water fronts of Govan and Partick, begins slowly to open what Wilson, the descriptive poet of the stream, calls an “ampler mirror” to the sky and the objects on the banks. Its shores resume something of their old romance and rusticity as we come abreast of the woods and lawns of Elderslie and of Blytheswood. Behind them is the ancient burgh of Renfrew—once a fishing port and the rival of Glasgow—which, as part of the earliest heritage of the High Stewards, gives the title of Baron of Renfrew to the Heir Apparent. Further back is the romantic valley of the White Cart, that flows under Gleniffer Braes and through the busy town of Paisley—birthplace of poets, burial-place of kings, and metropolis of thread manufactures—to meet the Black Cart at Inchinnan, and enter the Clyde at the “Water Neb.”

Opposite, on the busier right bank of the river, are the factories and building-yards of Yoker and Clydebank; below these, Dalmuir and its purification works; and lower down, beyond Erskine Ferry, the houses of old Kilpatrick and of Bowling—its little harbour filled with craft, new and ancient—facing the fine lawns and woods that surround Lord Blantyre’s beautiful mansion of Erskine House. Here, where under the rough and furrowed spurs of the Kilpatrick Hills the Highlands meet the Lowlands; where the Forth and Clyde Canal joins the tide-water, and the line of “Grime’s Dyke” (the Roman wall of Antonine) found its western term; here where, according to legend, Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, was born and spent his childhood—we might lay down the limits of River and Firth. Or passing the ancient castle of Dunglass and the ford under the Hill of Dumbuck, which was the first great obstacle to Clyde navigation, it might be found in that grandest of landmarks, the Rock and Castle of Dumbarton, 91 miles from the source of the Clydes Burn, and 106 miles from the taproot of the Daer.

The lofty isolated double-headed crag sentinels alike the channel of the Clyde and the valley of the Leven, and mounts guard over the ancient and still thriving burgh at its base, once the capital of the Britons of Strathclyde, and for a thousand years the refuge and defence of kings. On the crown or at the base of the Rock many strange scenes in Scottish history have been enacted. From Dumbarton Queen Mary, a child of six, set sail for France to wed the Dauphin; and to the friendly shelter of its castle she was hastening when—

“From the top of all her trust
Misfortune laid her in the dust.”

The town has still its great shipbuilding industry, its shipping trade, and its foundries and turkey-red and other manufactories. Some of the old houses remain, along with a fragment of its collegiate church. Other bold hills beside the Castle[Pg 367] Rock overlook it, and the broad and smooth Leven—harbour and river—divides it into two parts. The view northwards from the Rock carries the eye through the wide and beautifully-wooded vista of the Leven valley into the heart of the Highlands.

The pyramid of Ben Lomond, buttressed by Ptarmigan Hill, is the presiding shape. But a score of other peaks are huddled behind and around it. Below can be traced the folds of the hills that sheltered Rob Roy, and over against it the glens of the Colquhoun country that witnessed the prowess and revenge of the Wild Macgregors. Loch Lomond, the queen of our northern lakes, with its lovely archipelago of islands, is spread between. Loch Lomond, too, is tributary to the Clyde, and all the waters that tumble through its glens, from Ardlui to Balloch Pier, including the fine stream of the Endrick, which drains the heart of the Lennox, and flows past Buchanan House, the seat of the great family of Montrose, are poured by the Leven past Smollett’s old home of Bonhill, and past the busy manufacturing towns of Alexandria, and Renton, to the foot of Dumbarton Rock.

The prospect commanded by the southern side of the Rock is hardly less grand, and has infinitely more of movement and space and variety. Winding into view from out of its coverts of smoke, and under its shadowing heights, comes the great river which in its westward course here opens up into the dimensions of a firth; and beyond it the fertile plains and valleys, the busy towns and villages, and the bare enclosing hills of Renfrew, are spread out like a map. The deep-water channel of the Clyde is marked not alone by the line of red buoys and beacons, but by the craft of all nations and all sizes, from the dredger to the huge floating palace of the ocean-going passenger steamer, that are continually plying up or down on it.

As the eye travels westward the shores expand and grow dim. But the houses, shipping, and shipbuilding yards of Port Glasgow, and the long line of timber lying off its sea front, are well in view, and beyond them the thicker pall of smoke and the more densely packed masses of dwellings, chimney stalks, and masts that proclaim the whereabouts of Cartsdyke and Greenock.


Photo: Fergus & Sons, Greenock.


[Pg 368]

One has to embark and pass this dingy and crowded side of the birthplace of James Watt—the harbour, the docks, and the shipbuilding yards, the custom house, the steamboat quays, the handsome classic façade and tower of its Municipal Buildings, and the bulk of the many spires and steeples that rise among the masses of houses which climb the hillside—before seeing the fairer and more open face which Greenock presents to those approaching it from the west. Beyond Prince’s Pier stretch wide esplanades, lined with trees, lashed with saltwater, and blown upon by salt breezes; and behind and above these are broad and handsome streets and boulevards, ascending to the steeper sides of the Craig and the Whin Hill, on whose airy heights the town has planted its cemetery, golf course, public park, and water works. Beyond Fort Matilda is the semicircular sweep of Gourock Bay, thronged with yachts and lined with villa residences, which stretch on under the base and round the corner of the headland, crowned by a fragment of Gourock Castle, towards the Cloch Light, the beacon of the inner waters of the Firth.



In mid-firth, opposite Prince’s Pier, is the “Tail of the Bank”—the station of the guardship, the anchorage of vessels preparing to ascend the river or put out to sea. Opposite, the dark-wooded headland of Ardmore projects into the estuary, and lower down the beautiful glades and tree-clad slopes surrounding the Grecian front of the Duke of Argyll’s mansion rise gently from the water to the bare ridge of[Pg 369] the peninsula of Roseneath. Between these opens the Gare Loch—perhaps the most charming nook in all the winding waters of the Clyde—with Craigendoran Pier and Helensburgh on its lip, Row in its narrow throat, and Shandon and a string of other seaside retreats in its inner recesses. Behind this the peaks that mount watch over Loch Lomond, Loch Long, and waters yet more distant—Ben Lomond, Ben Vorlich, The Cobbler, the rugged mass of “Argyll’s Bowling Green,” and far Ben Cruachan among them—stand up in the evening light in purple and gold. Nearer at hand are lower heights that surround the Holy Loch and guard the entrance to the inner Firth; at their feet are rank upon rank of fine seaside residences and favourite watering-places, to which the crowds in populous city pent rush for fresh air and recreation. All these and other scenes lying beyond, in the outer vestibule of the Firth—the Shores of Cowal and Ayrshire; the Cumbraes; Rothesay, and the windings of the Kyles of Bute; and, well seen from the neighbour island, the rugged peaks and corries of Arran—are fringes of Greater Glasgow, and creatures of the Clyde.


The Sea



Abbey Dore, 142

Abbot’s Worthy, 15

Aberdovey, 104

Abergavenny, 153;

streets, historical associations of castle, former industries, St. Mary’s Church, 154

Aberglaslyn, Pass of, 204

Abergorlech, 179


Devil’s Bridge, Castle, and University College, 190, 192

Abington, 344

Adur, The, 10, 11

Afon, The, 155

Afon Cych, The, 187

Ailsa Craig, 329

Airds Moss and the death of Richard Cameron, 332

Alexanders, The, Seat of, 334

Alfred the Great and the baptism of Guthrum, 68;

his retreat from the Danes, 68, 69;

and the monastery in the Isle of Athelney, 70;

his fleet at Caerleon, 156

Allen, The, tributary of the Stour, 23

Allen, The (Cornwall), 63

Alresford Pond, 14

Alyn, The:

Scenery, and junction with the Dee, Richard Wilson, Eaton Hall, 237

Amberley, 11

Ambleside, 291

Amesbury, 22

Anglesea, Isle of, 206

Annan, The:

Meaning of name, and allusion of Allan Cunningham, 317;

ballad of “Annan Water,” 318;

Annandale and Bruce, Ecclefechan and Carlyle, Annantown and Edward Irving, 318

Annbank, 335

Anton River, The, 19

Aran Benllyn, 229

Aran Mowddwy, 195

Ardmore, 368

Argyll, Duke of, Mansion at Roseneath of, 368

Arle, The (or the Titchfield):

Source and scenery, 12;

Wickham and William of Wykeham, Warton the poet, Funtley Abbey, and Titchfield House, 13


The Castle, 304;

Benedictine monastery, 305;

John Skelton, 305, 306

Armstrong, Johnnie, hanged by order of James V., 315

Armstrong, William (“Kinmont Willie”), his imprisonment at Carlisle and rescue, 310, 311

Arnside, 286, 288

Arthur, King:

Legends at Caerleon, 156;

Knights of the Round Table, 160, 161;

Merlin’s Grotto, 179;

battle at Camlan, 195;

association with the Dee, 228, 229

“Arthur’s Chair,” 151

Arun, The:

Its surroundings, Arundel, angling, Pulborough, Amberley, Swanbourne Mill, Arundel Castle, and Littlehampton, 11


Scenery, Castle, and Roman Catholic Church, 11

Ashdown Forest, 10

Ashford and the Stour, 3

Atcham, 96

Athelney, Isle of, 69, 70

Attery stream, The, 55

Auchencruive, 337

Auchendrane, 339, 340

Avenham Park, 278

Avon, The Devon, 49

Avon, The Hants:

Confluence with the Stour, tributaries, Christchurch, and Amesbury, 22;

Salisbury and its cathedral, 22, 23

Avon, The Lower:

Source at Estcourt Park, 71:

Malmesbury and the abbey, 72;

view near Christian Malford, Bradenstoke Priory, Chippenham, 73;

Melksham, Bradford and its cloth industry, Freshfield, Limpley Stoke, Claverton, 74;

tributary of the Frome, 74, 75;

Priory of

Hinton, 75;

Bath, its history, abbey, and views of the river and bridges, 7578;

Bristol, birthplace of Cabot, Southey, and Chatterton, St. Mary Redcliffe, 78;

Bristol Cathedral, “The Chasm,” Clifton Suspension Bridge, 79;

the lower reaches, site of the Roman station Abona, 79, 80;

Avonmouth, 81

Avon, The Upper or Warwickshire:

Source, Naseby, 107;

Rugby, the Swift, Lutterworth and Wiclif, Coventry, Stoneleigh Abbey, Kenilworth, Leamington, 108;

Warwick Castle and Church, 110;

Stratford and Shakespeare, 110114;

Evesham and its abbey, death of Simon de Montfort, 114, 115;

Pershore Church, 115;

Tewkesbury Church, 115, 117;

battle of Tewkesbury, 117, 118

Avonmouth, 81

Axe, The Devonshire, 27

Axe, The Somersetshire, 71

Aymer de Valence, and the defence of Clydesdale, 354

Ayr, The, 330;

in the poetry of Burns, 331;

Priesthill and Muirkirk, 332;

scenery at Sorn, 333;

Sorn Castle, 333;

Catrine House and village, Ballochmyle, Mossgiel, Mauchline, Barskimming Bridge and House, 334;

the Castle o’ Montgomerie and “Highland Mary,” Stair, Enterkin, Gadsgirth, Coylton, 335;

Auchencruive and Craigie, 337;

Laiglan, 337, 338;

Ayr town, 338, 339

Ayr town:

Viewed from Laiglan, 338;

the two bridges, 338;

remnant of ancient buildings, modern buildings, and suburbs, 339

Ayrshire, The rivers and scenery of, General features of, 328331

Bacon, Francis, and Liverpool, 267

Badgworthy Water, The, 35

Baillie, Joanna, Birthplace of, 355

Bala Lake, 230

Baldwin, Archbishop, at Rhuddlan, 226

Baliol, John, 319

Baliols, The, Castle of, 340

Balliol College, Oxford, and the mother of John Baliol, 319

Ballochmyle, 334

Bampton, 30

Bangor-on-Dee, 236

Barle, The, 29

Barmouth, 202, 203

Barnstaple, 36, 46, 47

Barrow, 288

Barrow, Bishop, 227

Barskimming House, 334

Barton aqueduct and locks, 254

Basingwerk Abbey, 240

Bass Rock, 345


Names given to it, 74;

beauty of approach from the east, Beau Nash, growth, bridges over the Avon, 75;

the Skew Bridge, Abbey Church, 76;

Twerton and Fielding, 76, 77;

Kelston Round Hill, views of the Avon, 77

Batherm, The, 30

Battle, 7

Beacons, The, 150, 152, 159161

Beaulieu Abbey, 20

Beaulieu river, The, 20

Beckford collection at Hamilton Palace, 353

Beddgelert, 204

Bekesbourne, 6

Ben Cruachan, 369

Ben Lomond, 367

Ben Vorlich, 369

Benbow, Admiral, Birthplace of, 91

Benbow, Captain, and the capture of Shrewsbury, 91

Benglog, Falls of, 207, 208

Benson, Archbishop, and Truro Cathedral, 64

Benthall, 99

Benthall Edge, 98

Berkeley Castle, 122, 123

Berthon boats, 19, 20

Berwyn hills, 232

Bethesda, 208, 209

Bettws-y-Coed, 212, 213

Beult, The, 3

Bewdley, 102

Bickleigh Bridge, 31

Bickleigh Vale, 50

Bideford, its antiquity, bridge, and the Grenvilles, 48, 49

Biggar, Plain of, 345

Birchington, 6

“Bird Rock” on the Dysynni, 197


Railway to Liverpool, 266;

landing-stages and Docks, 267;

shipbuilding yards, progress during the century, population, Parliamentary representation, tramways, Priory, 268

Bishop’s Sutton, 14

Bishop’s Tawton, 46

Bishopsbourne Church and Bishop Hooker, 6

Biss, The, 74

Bizzyberry, 345

Black Mountains, The, and the rise of the Usk, 149

Black Prince and Rhuddlan Castle, 226

Black Rock, 65

Blackstone-edge Reservoirs, 244

Bladenoch, The:

Wigtown martyrs, 325, 326

Blaenau Festiniog, 214

Blaenhafren, 84

Blantyre Priory, 354, 355

Blantyre Town, 355

Bleasdale Moor, 279

Blundell, Peter, Grammar School of, 30

Bodinnoc Ferry, 62

Bolton-le-Sands, 286

Bonhill, 367

Bonnington House, 350

Bonnington Linn, 347, 348

Bothwell, visited by Mary Queen of Scots at Hermitage Castle, 314

Bothwell Bridge, 353, 354

Bothwell Castle, 354

Bovey, The, 39

Bowdler, Dr. Thomas, Burialplace of, 176

Bowland Forest, 274, 279

Bowling, 366

Boxbrook, The, 75

Boyd, Dr. Zachary, and the Laigh Barony Church, Glasgow, 359

Brackenbank, 306

Bradenstoke Priory, 73


Woollen industry, Church, and bridges, 74

Bramber, 11

Bran, The, 178

Brantwood and its associations, 294

Brathay, The, 291

Braxfield, 350

Bray, The, 29

Brecknock Beacons, 150, 152, 159161


Picturesque situation and Churchyard’s verses, 150;

history of the castle, birthplace of Mrs. Siddons, Church of St. John, 151

Brede, The, 7

Breidden Hills, The, 87

Brendon Water, The, 35

Bridgnorth, 99, 100


Manufacture of bath brick, 70, 71;

Admiral Blake, St. Mary’s Church, 71

Brighton, 11


Birthplace of Cabot, Southey, and Chatterton, commerce, first bridge over the Avon, St. Mary Redcliffe, 78;

Chatterton’s forgeries and monument, 78, 79;

Castle, Cathedral, and busts of Joseph Butler, Southey, and Mary Carpenter, floating harbour, “The Chasm,” Clifton Suspension Bridge, 79

Broadstairs, 6

[Pg 371]

Broseley, 99

Broughton Gifiord brook, 74

Brown Willy, 60

Brownsholm Hall and the Seal of the Commonwealth, 274

Bruce, Robert, and Annandale, 318;

his dispute with the Red Cumyn, 319

Brue, The, 71

Brydges, Sir Egerton, 6

Buchanan House, 367

Buckfastleigh, 41, 42

Buckland Abbey, 46

Buildwas Abbey, 98, 99

Builth, 130

Burgh-on-the-Sands, 310

Burnham, 71

Burnley, 276

Burns, Robert, at Dumfries, 319;

and Lincluden Abbey, 319;

incident of his last days, and monument in St. Michael’s Churchyard, 319;

and the Glencairn family, 321;

and the rivers and scenery of Ayrshire, 330, 331, 334, 335, 337;

birthplace and relics, 339

Bute, Marquess of, and the Cardiff Docks, 166

Buttermere, 299

Buxted, and the manufacture of the first cannon, 10

Cabot, Sebastian, Birthplace of, 78

Cadbury Castle, 31

Cade, Jack, 3

Cader Idris, 197, 200, 203

Cadzow Castle, 353, 354

Caerlaverock Castle and the Maxwell family, 320, 321

Caerleon, its splendour in Roman times, Arthurian legends, university and bishopric, 155, 156

Caersws fortress in Roman times, 86

Cain, The, 202

Cairntable, 332

Calder, The (Lancashire), 279

Caldew, The, 307

Cale, The, 23

Caledonian Forest, Remains of, 353

Calstock, 56

Cambuslang, 357

Cambusnethan, 353

Camel, The, 54

Camlan, The, 202

Camlan, Farmhouse of, 195

Canford Hall, 23

Canonbie, 314, 315

Canterbury and its associations, 3, 4

Capel Curig, 210

Caradoc Hills, 94


Water-supply, 162;

Castle, mansion of the Marquis of Bute, 166;

docks, streets, and exhibition, 166, 167

Cardigan, 188

Carew, Bampfylde Moore, the “King of the Beggars,” 31

Carew Castle, its historical associations and present condition, 182, 183

Carew family, The, 182, 183

Carlisle: 307;

incursions by the Northmen, the Castle, 308;

lines by Mrs. Sigourney, 309;

Edward I. and the oath enjoined on the Prince of Wales, 309, 310;

“Kinmont Willie” and Buccleuch, 310, 311;

execution of Jacobites, 311;

Cathedral, 312

Carlyle, Thomas, Birthplace of, 319

Carmarthen, 79, 80

Carmyle, 357

Carnarvon, Town and Castle of, 206, 219

Carnforth, 285

Carrick Road estuary, 65

Carron, The, 318

Carstairs, 345

Cartland Crags, 350

Cartmel Peninsula, 288

Cartsdyke, 367

Cassilis and the Kennedys, 340

Castell Coch, 164

Castle Head (or Alterpite Castle), 288

Castlerigg Top, View of Lakeland from, 299

Caton, The Vale of, The poet Gray on, 282

Catrine, 332, 334;

and the visit of Burns to Dugald Stewart, 334

Cefn Carnedd, British earthwork, 85

Ceiriog, The, 234

Cenarth, 187

Cessnock, The, 334

Ceunant Mawr, 205, 206

Chagford, 38

Charlecote and Sir Thomas Lucy, 111

Chartists, Attack on Newport of, 158

Chatterton, his birthplace, forgeries, and monument, 78, 79

Chepstow, 146, 147

Cheriton, Defeat of the Royalists at, 15


Antiquity, “Rows,” walls, Cathedrals, 238, 239

Chetham, Humphrey, and Chetham College, 251

Chillingham cattle, 274

Chippenham, 73

Chirk Castle, 234, 235

Chow, The, 78


Salmon-fishing, church, and Shelley memorial, 22

Chudleigh, 38

Churchyard, the poet, on the situation of Brecon, 150;

on the Vale of Clwyd, 223;

and Valle Crucis Abbey, 233;

on the waters of the Dee, 233;

and Offa’s Dyke, 235

Chweffru, The, 130

Cilhepste Fall, The, 170

Claerwen, The, 127

“Clam” Bridge over the Wallabrook, 38

Clapdale Ravine, 282

Clare, Richard, Earl of, Murder of, 153

Cleghorn, Roman bridge at, 351

Cletwrs, The two, 187

Clifford Castle and Rosamond, 132, 133

Clough, Memorial stone to, 289

Clun Gwyn Falls, 170

Clwyd, The:

Rhyl, Rhuddlan, 223226;

junction with the Elwy, 226

Clyde, The:

Its importance, the population and wealth within its basin, and variety of scenes on its banks, 342;

source and some of its tributaries, 342, 343;

the “sea of hills” of Clydesdale, 343, 344;

the trees on the banks, 344;

smoky industries of the Upper Ward at Leadhills and Wanlockhead, 344;

its course past Tower Lindsay, the churchyard of St. Constantine, or Kirkton, the woods and lawns of Abington, and the fragment of Lamington Tower, 344;

Tinto Hill—“Hill of Fire”—and the prospects it commands, 344, 345;

its meandering through haughs and holmlands, by Covington, Carstairs, and Hyndford Bridge, 345;

scenes of Wallace’s exploits, 345;

Douglas Water, 345, 347;

the Church of St. Bride of Douglas and the struggle between the “good Sir James” and St. John de Walton, 345, 346;

Douglas Castle, 345, 347;

Falls at Bonnington Linn, 347, 348;

Corra Linn Falls—“Clyde’s most majestic daughter,” 348350;

meeting the Douglas Water, 347;

“Wallace’s Tower” and “Wallace Chair,” 350;

Braxfield, Lanark, “Trough of the Clyde,” 350;

Mouse Water and Cartland Crags, 351;

Roman bridge at Cleghorn and site of Watling Street, 351;

Stonebyres Linn, the Nethan, Craignethan Castle and Mary Stuart, 351;

“Orchard of Scotland,” 351;

Hamilton, 353;

Hamilton Palace and the Beckford collection, 353;

Cadzow Castle, 353, 354;

remains of the Caledonian Forest, 353;

Bothwell Castle, 354, 355;

Blantyre, 355;

Uddington, Dalbowie, Carmyle, Cambuslang, 357;

Rutherglen, 358, 361;

Glasgow, 358365;

St. Mungo, 358, 364;

the early days of steamships, 364;

widening and deepening the channel, 364;

Partick, Whiteinch, Govan, shipbuilding yards, 365;

the opening of an “ampler mirror,” 366;

Renfrew, valley of the White Cart, Inchinnan, Yoker, Clydebank, Dalmuir and its purification works, Erskine House, Castle of Dunglass, and Hill of Dumbuck, 366;

Dumbarton Castle and town, 366;

prospects from Dumbarton Rock, 367;

Greenock, Gourock, Fort Matilda, Whin Hill, the Clock Light, the “Tail of the Bank,” Ardmore, Roseneath, and the Duke of Argyll’s mansion, 368;

Gare Loch, 368, 369;

Craigendoran Pier, Helensburgh, Row, and Shandon, 369;

view of the peaks of Ben Lomond, Ben Vorlich, The Cobbler, “Argyll’s Bowling Green,” and Ben Cruachan, 369;

seaside residences and watering-places, 369

Clydebank, 366

Clydesdale, The hills of, 343

Coalbrook Dale, 99

Cobbler Peak, The, 369

Cobden, Richard:

Statue at Stockport, 245

Coccium, Roman station of, 278

Cocker, The:

Crummock Water, scenery, cataracts, Vale of Lorton, Cockermouth, Workington, 299, 300

Cockermouth, 299, 300

Codale Tarn, 288

Coelbren, 177

Coilsfield House (Castle o’ Montgomerie) and “Highland Mary,” 335

Coldwell Rocks, 138, 140, 141

Coleridge, Birthplace of, 27

Coleridge, Hartley, Burialplace of, 289

Condover, 98

Coniston Water, 294

Conway, 206, 220

Conway, The:

Bettws and Llanrwst, 217, 218;

Gwydir Castle, Llanbedr and ancient British post, Trefriw, 218;

Castle, 219, 220;

Conway town, 220;

Deganwy, pearl-fishery and Castle, 221, 222;

Llandudno, 222

Conway Castle, 219, 220

Corby Castle, 307

Cornbrook, The, 246

Corra Linn, 348, 349

Corwen and associations of Owen Glendower, 230, 231

Cotehele House, 58

Cotehill, 306

Cothi, 179

Countess Weir, 34

Courtfield and Henry V., 138

Courthose, Robert, eldest son of the Conqueror, tomb in Gloucester Cathedral, 122

Coventry, 108

Covington, 345

Coyle, The, 335

Craig-y-Nos and Madame Patti, 177, 178

Craigendoran, 369

Craigenputtock, 318

Craigie, 337

Craignethan Castle, 351

Craigs of Kyle, 335

Crake, The, 293;

and Coniston Water, Brantwood and Gerald Massey, 294

Cranbrook, 38

Cranmer and his palace at Bekesbourne, 6

Cranmere Pool, 37, 41, 45

Crawford, 343, 344

Crawford Moor, 344

“Cray,” Drayton’s, 150

Cree, The:

Scenery near Newton Stewart and bridge, 323;

the “Cruives of Cree,” 323, 324

Creedy, The, 31

Crewkerne, 67

Crickhowell, 153

Crockett, Mr., Scenes of some of the stories by, 341

Cromwell, Oliver, and the siege of Pembroke Castle, 183;

statue at Manchester, 250;

Greystoke Castle, 307;

at Ayr, 339

Cromwell, Sir Richard, and Neath Abbey, 172

Crosthwaite, 299

Crow Castle, 234

Crummock Water, 299, 300

Cuckfield, 10

Cuckmere, The:

Alfriston and its church and cross, 9;

Lullington Church, 10

Culm, The, 31

Cumyn, The Red, and Robert Bruce in the Greyfriars’ Monastery, 319

Cunningham, Allan, his allusions to the Annan, 317

Cunsey Beck and Esthwaite Water, 292

Cutler Fell, 345

Cwm Porth, The, 170

Cynicht, The, “the Matterhorn of Wales,” 204

Daer Water, The, 322

Dalbowie, 357

Dale, David, and his mills at New Lanark, 350, 355

Dalmuir, 366

Dalserf, 353

Dalziel, 353

Dart, The:

Mingling of waters of East and West Dart, 40;

features of the upper waters, Buckland Beacon, and Holne, 41;

Buckfastleigh, 41, 42;

Dean Prior and Herrick, Staverton and Dartington Hall, 42;

Totnes, its claim to antiquity and general features, 42, 43;

the “English Rhine,” 43;

Sharpham House, Sandridge House and John Davis, Greenway and Sir Humphrey Gilbert, 44;

Kingswear, Dartmouth and its associations, 44, 45

Dartington Hall, 42

Dartmoor, 26, 27, 37

Dartmouth, 44, 45

Darwin, Charles, Birthplace of, 91

Davis, John, Birthplace of, 44

Dean Prior and Herrick, 42

Dee, The:

Source and length, 82, 228, 229;

Bala Lake, 229, 230;

Llanuwchllyn, 229;

reputed sacred character, 230;

Llandderfel and the Vale of Edeyrnion, 230;

Corwen and the mark of Owen Glendower’s dagger, 230, 231;

encampment of Owen Gwynedd, 231;

Vale of Llangollen, 232, 234;

Valle Crucis Abbey, 232, 233;

Bridge of Llangollen, 233;

Llangollen town and derivation of name, 234;

Dinas Bran, Eglwyseg Rocks, Crow Castle, viaduct and Telford’s aqueduct, junction with the Ceiriog, Chirk Castle, and Wynnstay, 234;

Offa’s Dyke and Watt’s Dyke, 235, 236;

Overton Churchyard, Bangor-on-Dee, 236;

junction with the Alyn, Eccleston, 237;

Chester and its history, 238, 239;

swing railway bridge, Hawarden, Castle of Flint, 239;

Castle of Mostyn, Basingwerk Abbey, Fountain of Holywell, “The Sands of Dee,” 240, 241

Dee, The (Kirkendbrightshire):

Its rise, meaning of name, confluence with the water of Ken, scenery at Douglas Tongueland, 322;

Threave Castle, 322, 323

[Pg 372]

Deerhurst, 119

Deganwy, 218;

ancient pearl-fishery and castle, 221, 222

Denbigh and its castle, 227, 228

Dering family, The, 3

Derry Ormond column and its romance, 187

Derwent, The, also known as the Grange, its rise and course, 299

Derwentwater, 299

Devon, Earl of, Seat of, 34

Devonport, 51, 53

Devorgilla, mother of John Baliol, and the bridge over the Nith at Dumfries, 319;

her endowment of Balliol College, Oxford, 319;

and Sweetheart Abbey, 322

Dewi Fawr, The, 180

Dihouw, The, 130

Dinas Bran, 234

Dinas Castle and the daughter of Alfred the Great, 153

Dinas Mowddwy, 195

Docks at Liverpool, 263, 264, 266

Doethiau, The, 178

Dolbadarn Castle, 205, 206

Dolbury Hill, 31

Dolgelley, 200, 201

Dolwyddelen Castle, 214

Donnerdale and Wordsworth’s sonnets, 294

Doon, The, 330;

in the poems of Burns, 331;

its attraction, 339;

Auchendrane, 339, 340;

Cassilis, Dalmellington, Loch Doon, Castle of the Baliols, hills of Galloway, 340;

sources, 341

Dorchester, 24

Dore, The, 142

Douglas, Countess of, and the siege of Threave Castle, 323

Douglas, House of, Story of the, 345, 347

Douglas, William, eighth Earl of, and the murder of Maclellan, 322;

his death, 323

Douglas, Sir William, his imprisonment of Sir Alexander Ramsay, 313;

slain by the Earl of Douglas, 313, 314

Douglas Castle, 347

Douglas Tongueland, 322

Douglas Water, 345, 347

Douglases, The Black, 354

Dovey (or Dyfi), The:

Aberdovey, and source, 194;

estuary, angling, Dinas Mowddwy, Aran Mowddwy, church at Mallwyd, farmhouse of Camlan, farmhouse of Mathafarn, 195;

Machynlleth, 195, 196;

the Dulas, 196

Dowlais Steel and Iron Works, 163

Drake, Sir Francis, 50, 51

Drayton, Lines on the Mersey by, 268

Dringarth, The, 168, 169

Drumclog, 354

Drumlanrig Castle, 319, 320

Dryslwyn Castle, 179

Duddon, The:

Its rise, Donnerdale, Seathwaite, Wordsworth’s allusions, 294;

the most picturesque approach, likened to the Thames, 295

Dulas, The, 124, 196

Dumbarton, 358, 366;

Rock and Castle of, 366, 367;

prospects from the Rock, 367;

shipbuilding industry and manufactories, 366

Dumbuck, Hill of, 366


Its memories of Robert Burns, 319;

Lincluden Abbey, St. Michael’s Churchyard, Devorgilla’s Bridge, Bruce’s dispute with the Red Cumyn, 319

Dunglass, Ancient Castle of, 366

Dunglass, Lord, heir of the Douglas line, 345

Dunsford Bridge, 38

Dyer the poet, and Golden Grove, 179

Dynevor Castle, 179

Dysynni, The:

Source, scenery, Bird Rock, manor-house, and Prince Llewelyn, 197;

mansion of Ynys-y-Maengwyn, Towyn, and St. Cadfan’s Church, 198

Eamont, The, 303

Easedale Tarn, 288

East and West Dean, 9

Eastham Locks, 258

Eastwell Park, 3

Eaton Hall, 237

Ebbw, The, 158

Ecclefechan and Thomas Carlyle, 318

Eccleston, 237

Eden, The:

Length, source, junction with the Eamont, Eden Hall, 303;

Armathwaite and John Skelton, 304, 305;

Wetheral, Cotehill, Brackenbank, Corby Castle, 306, 307;

Carlisle, 307312

Eden Hall and the Musgrave family, 303, 304;

and the story of the fairies’ goblet, 303, 304

Edeyrnion, Vale of, 230

Edw, The, 130

Edward I.:

Carnarvon Castle, 206;

Conway Castle, 220;

takes Rhuddlan Castle, 226;

his last Scots expedition and the oath enjoined on the Prince of Wales, 309, 310

Edward II.:

Memorial in Gloucester Cathedral, 122;

at Neath Abbey, 173;

and Corby Castle, 307

Egbert, King, and Minster nunnery, 6

Eggesford, 46

Eglwys Newydd, 190

Eglwyseg Rocks, 232, 234

Egremont, 298

Ehen, The, 298

Elan, The, 127, 128

Elizabeth, Queen, visit to Bristol, 78;

and Buccleuch’s rescue of “Kinmont Willie,” 311

Ellesmere Canal, Aqueduct of, 234

Elvan, The, 343

Elwy, The:

Junction with the Clwyd, 226;

St. Asaph, Denbigh and its castle, 227, 228;

Ruthin and its castle, 228

Ennerdale Water, 297, 298

Enterkin, 318, 335

Erme, The, 49

Erskine House, 366

Esk, The (Cumberland):

Source, 295;

Scafell, Wastdale, Langdale, and Borrowdale, Esk Falls, Cam Spout Cataract, Hardknott, Baker Force and Stanley Gill Waterfalls, 296

Esk, The (Solway):

Scenery, angling, the Tarras tributary, 314;

Gilnockie Tower, Hollows Tower and Johnnie Armstrong, 315;

the romance of Lochinvar, 315, 316

Eskdale, Upper, 295

Esthwaite Water, 292

Ethelbert, Murder of, 134

Etherow, The, 243, 244

Evesham, its Abbey and the death of Simon de Montfort, 114, 115

Exbridge, 29

Exe, The:

Source and length, 28;

characteristics, and confluence with the Barle, 29;

Bampton, Tiverton, and Twy-ford-town, 30;

Bickleigh Bridge, Bickleigh Court and the Carews, 31;

Cadbury Castle, Dolbury Hill, and the seats of the Aclands and the Earls of Iddesleigh, 31;

Exeter, 3134;

Countess Weir, canal to Topsham, Powderham Castle, Starcross, Lympstone, and Exmouth, 34


Situation, 31;

meaning of name, 32;

Castle of Rougemont, 33;

Cathedral, 33, 34;

Guildhall, canal communication with the sea, 34

Exmoor, 26, 27, 35, 37

Exmouth, 34

Fail, The, 335

Failford, 334

Fair Maid of Galloway, The, 323

Fairfax, General, his rout of the Royalist forces near Taunton, 68;

and the river Parret, 71

Fairfield, 285

Fal, The:

Its rise in Tregoss Moor, Treviscoe, length of course, Grampound, view about Tregothnan and Queen Victoria’s visit, the Kenwyn and Allen, 63;

Truro and its cathedral, scenery between King Harry’s Passage and Roseland, 64;

grounds of Trelissick, view from Malpas Road, Carrick Road, Black Rock and the claim of Truro, 65;

Falmouth and its harbour, 65, 66;

the Lords of Arwenack, the creeks of Falmouth Harbour, 66

Falls of Clyde, 347349, 351

Falls of the Hepste, 170

Falmouth and its harbour, 65, 66;

and the Lords of Arwenack, 66

Fareham, 12

Feni, The, 180

Fingle Bridge, 38

Fishbourne Creek, 22

Fitzalan, William, Priory founded by, 95

Fleetwood, 279, 280

Fleming of Redhall and Helen, The romance of, 316, 317

Fletching Common, the burialplace of Gibbon, 10

Flint, Town and Castle of, 239, 240

Fordwich, 4;

its former name, and Izaak Walton’s allusions, 5

Forest of Brecon, 150

Forest of Dean, 123, 138

Fowey, The:

Its rise, also called the Dranes, 60;

St. Neot, features of scenery, seat of Lord Vivian, Lanhydrock House, 61;

Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel, Colonel Titus and the silver oar, Bodinnoc Ferry, 62;

Fowey Harbour, 62, 63;

seat of the Treffry family, and French assault on Place House, 63

Fowey Harbour, 62, 63

Fox, founder of the Society of Friends, and Pendle Hill, 276

Frampton Court, 24

Frome, The:

Branches, Dorchester, Frampton Court, the Black Downs, Roman and British remains, Maiden Castle, and Wareham, 24;

tributary of the Avon, 74, 75

Funtley Abbey, 13

Furness Peninsula, 288

Gadsgirth, 335

Gaer, The, Roman camp, 150

Galloway, 321, 340

Gannel, The, 55

Gare Loch, 368, 369

Gaunt’s House, 23

Gerald de Windsor and Carew Castle, 182

Gibbon, Burialplace of, 10

Giggleswick, 273

Gilbert, Sir Humphrey, Birthplace of, 44

Gilnockie Tower and Johnnie Armstrong, 315

Gilpin, The, 288

Gilpin, Bernard, Birthplace of, 286

Gisburne Hall, 274

Gladstone, Mr., and the swing railway bridge over the Dee, 239;

Hawarden Park, 239;

his connection with Liverpool, 267


Its chief armorial device, 342;

population at the period of the Reformation, 358;

legend of St. Kentigern, 359;

its extent in the seventeenth century, 358;

the Cathedral, Cross, and other ancient buildings, 358, 359;

Laigh Barony Church, 359;

St. Roche’s Chapel, 359;

streets and bridges, 360;

the Green, 361;

population at the beginning of the nineteenth century, 362;

George Square and the monuments, 362, 363;

the Municipal buildings, and population in 1891, 363;

shipbuilding industry and drainage, 363, 364;

sunsets seen from the harbour, docks, and quays, 364;

adjoining places, 364366

Glaslyn, The, 204

Glencairn family, The, 321

Glenderamakin, The, 298

Glendower, Owen, his stronghold on Plinlimmon, 125, 126;

at Hay, 130;

defeat at Usk, 155;

and Aberdovey, 194;

his Parliament at Machynlleth, 196;

Parliament House at Dolgelley, 200;

tight with Howell Selé, 202;

and Corwen Churchyard, 231


The Cathedral, 119122;

a Roman station, 119;

monastery, 119;

during the Civil War, 120

Goat Fell, 345

Golden Grove, 179

Golden Valley, The, 142

Goodrich Castle, 138

Gourock Bay and Castle, 368

Govan, 364, 365

Govan Point, 364

Gowy, The, 258

Goyt, The, 243, 244

Grampound, 63


Wordsworth’s cottage, the Church, graves of Wordsworth, Hartley Coleridge, and memorial to Clough, 289;

length of Lake and its beautiful surroundings, 290

Gray, The poet, on the Vale of Caton, 282;

on Grasmere, 290

Graygarth, 282

Great Gable Mountain, 297

Greenock, 367, 368

Grenville, Richard, and Bideford, 48

Greta, The:

Source, 298;

Keswick, 298, 299;

Crosthwaite, view from Castlerigg Top, 299

Greta, The (Lancashire), 282

Gretna Green, 312

Grey, Sir Patrick, and the Earl of Douglas, 322, 323

Greystoke Castle, 307

Grongar Hill, 179

Grove Ferry, 5

Guild of St. George at Barmouth, 203

Guild-Merchants’ Festival at Preston, 278, 279

Gunnislake, 55

Gwbert-on-the-Sea, 189

Gwedderig, The, 178

Gwryney, The, 153

Gwydir Castle, 218

Gwynedd, Owen, 231

Gwynne, Nell, Birthplace of, 135

Gynin, The 180

Hamerton, Philip Gilbert, and the country round Burnley, 278

Hamilton and Hamilton Palace, 353

Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, 353

Hamoaze, The, 58, 59

Hardham, 11

Harewood Forest, 19

Harlech, Castle of, 203

Harold Godwinson and Rhuddlan fortress, 226

Hastings, 8

Haughmond Hill, 94, 95

Haverfordwest, past and present, 186

Haverigg Point, 295

Hawarden Park, 239

Hawes Tarn, 286

Hawkeshead, 292

Hay, its castle and legends, 130132

Hayle, The, 55

Hel, The, 55

[Pg 373]

Helensburgh, 369

Hellifield, Peel-house at, 273, 274

Helm Crag, 289

Helvellyn, 285

Hemans, Mrs.:

Monument in the Cathedral of St. Asaph, 227;

crossing the Ulverston sands, 286

Henfield, 11

Henry IV. and Hotspur at the battle of Shrewsbury, 91, 95

Henry VII. and Carew Castle, 183;

at Milford Haven, 185;

at Mathafarm, 195

Henry VIII. and his Welsh pedigree, 233

Henwen, The, 149

Hepste The, 170

Herbert of Coldbrook, Sir Richard, 154, 155

Herberts of Cherbury, The, 86, 87


Offa’s Palace, Llewelyn’s raid, 133;

murder of Ethelbert, the Cathedral, the “Mappa Mundi,” 134, 135;

Nell Gwynne, 135

Hermitage Castle and its historical associations, 313, 314

Heslock Towers, 286

Hestbank, 286

Heysham, 286

High Blantyre, 357

Highbridge and the Glastonbury Canal, 71

Hobbes, Birthplace of, 72

Holker Hall, 288

Hollows Tower and Johnnie Armstrong, 315

Holme Island, 286, 288

Holne and Charles Kingsley, 41

Holy Loch, 369

Holywell, Fountain of, 240

Home, Earl of, Estate of, 347

Honddu, The, 142, 150

Honiton, 27

Hooker, Bishop, 6

Hornby Castle, 282

Horton Priory, 3

Horton-in-Ribblesdale, 272

Howgill, Fairy glens at, 281

Hyndford Bridge, 345

Hythe, 7

Iddesleigh, Earls of, Seat of, 31;

statue to the first Earl, 33

Idwal, The, 207

Ill Hell, 292

Ingleborough Cave, 282

Ingleborough Heights, 272, 282

Ingleton, 282

Irk, The, 246

Irlam, 245, 254, 255

Ironbridge, 99

Irt, The:

Outlet of Wastwater, 296, 297

Irving, Edward, Birthplace of, 318

Irwell, The:

Confluence with the Mersey, 246;

rise, course, and tributary streams, 246;

bridges, 252, 254

Isle, The, 68

Isle of Oxney, 8

Isle of Thanet, 3, 4, 6

Isle of Wight:

Lack of running water and woods, 22;

the Medina, 22

Itchen, The, 12;

source, 13, 14;

salmon-fishing, 14, 15;

Alresford Pond, 14;

tributaries, Cheriton and the defeat of the Royalists, Tichborne and “the Claimant,” 15;

Nun’s Walk, Winchester and Izaak Walton, 16;

Hospital of St. Cross, 17;

St. Catherine’s Hill, 18;

Southampton, its docks, piers, etc., 19

Ithon, The, 128, 129

Jacobites, Execution at Carlisle of, 311

James V. and Johnnie Armstrong, 315

Jedburgh, Abbey of, 355

Jesuits, The, and Stonyhurst College, 274

John, King, at Deganwy Castle, 222;

and Liverpool, 259, 261

John of Gaunt and Lancaster Castle, 282284

Johnson, Dr., at Plymouth with Sir Joshua Reynolds, 53

Kemsey, 104

Kendal, 286288

Kenilworth Castle, 108

Kenmuir, 357

Kennedys, The, Seat of, 340

Kent, The:

Kentmere village and Kentmere Hall, 286;

Kendal, 286288

Kentmere, 286

Kenwyn, The, 63

Keswick, 298, 299

Kidderminster, 102

Kilgerran Castle, 188

Kilpeck Church, 142

King’s Road Estuary, 65

King’s Worthy, 15

Kingsley, Charles, Birthplace of, 41;

his description of the Dee estuary, 240

Kingswear, 44, 45

Kinnaston, “The Wonder” of, 135

Kirkby Lonsdale, 281

Kirkconnel and the romance of Helen and her lover, 316, 317

Kirkgate, 300

Kirtle Water and the romance of Helen and her lover, 316, 317

Kit Hill, 58

Kyrle, John, “The Man of Ross,” 137, 138

Laiglan, 337, 338

Laira Bridge, 51

Laird, Mr. John, 268

Lamington Tower, 344

Lanark, 350


Former prosperity as a port, 282;

associations of John of Gaunt, 282284;

a Roman settlement, ancient fisheries, and first charter, 283;

the castle, 283, 284;

monastic establishments, proclamation of the Pretender, 283;

birthplace of Whewell, Grammar School, 284

Lancaster Bay, 286

Landing-stage at Liverpool, 265, 266

Landor, Walter Savage, and Llanthony, 142, 143

Langdale, Great and Little, 291

Langport, 68

Lansdowne and the defeat of Sir William Waller, 75

Latchford, 255, 256, 257

Lauries, The, The Seat of, 321

Leadhills, 344

Leamington, 108

Lee Priory, 6

Lemon, The, 39

Lenham, The, 3

Lerrin Creek, The, 62

Leven, The, 293

Lewes, Battle of, 10

Liddel, The:

Hermitage Castle and its associations, 313, 314

Lid, The, 46

Lincluden Abbey, 319

Lind, Jenny, and Manchester Infirmary, 252

Lindfield, 10

Linton the engraver and Brantwood, 294

Listers, The, Family seat of, 274

Littlebourne, 6

Littlehampton, 11


Early history and variations in name, 259;

castles, and feuds between the Molineux and Stanley families, 260;

King John and Toxteth Park, Parliamentary representation, 261;

during the Civil Wars, 262;

allusion by Camden, and population, 262;

tonnage of ships entering the port, 263;

New Brighton Lighthouse, 263;

docks, 263, 264;

landing-stage, 265, 266;

electric overhead railway, 266;

railway to Birkenhead, view of the city from Birkenhead, Lime Street Station, St. George’s Hall, etc., 266;

Town Hall, Royal Exchange, University College, Infirmary, Sefton Park, water-supply, 88, 267;

bishopric, eminent men, 267

Livesey, Joseph, and the first total abstinence pledge, 278

Livingstone, David, Birthplace of, 355

Liza, The and the Great Gable, 297, 298

Llanbedr and its ancient fortifications, 218

Llanberis, and the Pass, 205

Llandaff Cathedral, 165;

village and Bishop’s palace, 166

Llandderfel, 230

Llanddewi Brefi, 187

Llandilo, 179

Llandingat, Vicar of, Story of the, 179

Llandogo, 144

Llandovery, 178, 179

Llandrindod and its wells, 129

Llandudno, 222

Llanegwad, 179

Llangadock, 179

Llangattoc Park, 153

Llangollen, Vale of, 232;

bridge of, 233;

town of, and derivation of name, 234

Llangurig, 126

Llangwryney, 153

Llanidloes, 84, 85

Llanrwst, 217, 218

Llanspyddid, 150

Llanthony and its priory, 142;

and Walter Savage Landor, 142, 143

Llanuwchllyn, 229

Llanymddyfri, 178

Lledr, The, 213, 214

Llewelyn, Last stand and burialplace of, 128, 129;

ride to Builth, 130;

at Hereford, 133;

and the Dysynni, 197;

birthplace of, 214;

and Deganwy Castle, 222;

at Rhuddlan, 226

Llewelyn, David Llwyd ap, 195

Llia, The, 168, 169

Llugwy, The:

At Capel Curig, turbulent course and scenery, 210;

Swallow Falls, 210, 211;

Moel Siabod, 210, 211;

Bettws-y-Coed, 211213

Llyffnant, The, 124

Llyn-Gwyn Lake, The, 127

Loch Doon, 340

Loch Enoch, 341

Loch Lomond, 367, 369

Loch Long, 369

Lochinvar, The romance of, 315, 316

Lochmaben, the supposed birthplace of Robert Bruce, 318

Lodore, Falls of, 299

“Logan” stone, in Teign valley, 38

Loman, The, 30

Long Mountain, The, 87

Longridge Fell, 279

Looe, The, 55

Lostwithiel, 62

Love, The, 55

Loweswater, 299, 300

Ludlow, its castle and church, 104

Lug, The, 135

Lugar, The, 334

Lundy, 47

Lune, The:

Spencer’s allusion, its rise, uplands, highlands, valleys, fairy glens, Howgill, Kirkby Lonsdale, 281;

the Greta and the Wenning, Vale of Caton, Morecambe Bay and Little Fylde, 212;

Lancaster, 282284;

Drayton’s lines, 284

Lutterworth and Wiclif, 108

Lydney, 123

Lyminge Church, 3

Lymington river, The, 20

Lympstone, 34

Lyn, The (also called the East Lyn):

Source, length, general features, places and scenes described in “Lorna Doone,” 35;

its beauty between Malmsmead and Watersmeet, 35, 36;

Lynton and Lynmouth, 36

Lynher, The, 59

Lynmouth, 36

Lynton, 36, 47

Machno, The:

Scenery, Pandy Mill, Falls of the Conway, 215;

Fairy Glen, 217

Machynlleth, 195, 196

Madoc, Prince, Tales of, 204, 220

Madoc ap Gruffydd Maelor, 234

Maiden Newton, 24

Mallwyd Church, 195

Malmesbury, ruins of the abbey, William of Malmesbury, and Hobbes, 72

Malpas Road estuary, 65


Water-supply, 244;

earliest industries, in Tudor times, and population, 246;

progress of manufacture and trade, 247;

Ship-Canal, 247, 248, 250, 254, 255;

during the Civil Wars, Peterloo massacre, Parliamentary representation, Free Trade Hall, incorporation, 250;

Cathedral, 250, 251;

Chetham College, Grammar School, Owens College, Victoria University, Free Libraries, 251;

Albert Memorial, Town Hall, Infirmary and other buildings, 252;

the Irwell, 246, 252, 253;

Salford docks, 254

“Mappa Mundi,” 134

Maresfield and the remains of iron-smelting industry, 10

Margate, 6

Marias, The, 180

Marlan, The, 73

Marteg, The, 127

Martyr’s Worthy, 15

Mary Queen of Scots, her landing at Workington, 300;

visit to Bothwell, 314;

at Craignethan Castle, 351;

at Cadzow, 353

Massey, Gerald, and Brantwood, 294

Mauchline, 334

Maud de Saint Wallery and the Castle of Hay, 131

Mauldslie Castle, 353

Mawddach, The, 198;

Ganllwyd Glen, 201;

the Falls, 201, 202;

Barmouth and Wordsworth, Penmaenpool, Abbey of St. Mary, 202;

antiquity and appearance of Barmouth, Guild of St. George, hill of Craig Abermaw, 203

Maxwell family, The, and Caerlaverock Castle, 320, 321

Maxwelltown, 321

Meavy, The, 50

Medina river, The, 22

Medlock, The, 246

Melksham, 74

Mellte, The, 169171

Menai Strait, 206

Meonware, 12

Merlin’s Grotto, 179

Mersey, The:

A modern river, 242;

derivations of name, 242, 243;

origin, 243, 244;

Blackstone-edge reservoirs and the Manchester water-supply, 244;

Stockport, 244, 245;

Northenden, Stretford, 245;

the Irwell, 245, 246;

Manchester and Salford, 246, 247, 250252, 254, 255, 257;

[Pg 374]

the Ship-Canal, 247, 248, 250;

Ordsall, Eccles, Barton, Warburton, Irlam, 254;

Warrington, 255, 256;

Latchford, 256, 257;

Runcorn and Widnes, 257, 258;

the Weaver, Saltport, Eastham Locks, Ellesmere Port, 258;

entrance to estuary and Wirral Peninsula, 258, 259;

Liverpool, 259268;

Birkenhead, 266, 268;

New Brighton, Perch Rock Lighthouse, sandbanks, length, lines of Drayton, 268

Merthyr, Manufactories of, 162, 163

Midford, The, 75

Milford, Old and New, 183186

Milford Haven, 182186

Minnick Water, The, 318

Minster, 6

Minsterworth, 123

Mint, The, 26

Moel Famman, 228

Moel Siabod, 210, 211, 214, 217

Moel Wyn, 204

Mold, 237

Molineux family, The, and Liverpool, 260

Monkton Priory, 183

Monmouth in olden time, 141;

St. Mary’s Church, St. Thomas’s Chapel, Benedictine Priory, the “Monmouth Cap,” 142

Monmouth, Earl of, his defeat of the Covenanters at Bothwell Bridge, 354

Monnow, The, 141, 142

“Mons Meg” gun, The, 323

Monteith, John, and the Blantyre mills, 355

Montgomery, its castle and the Herberts of Cherbury, 86;

the church and its monuments, 87

Mordiford and the legend of a serpent, 135

Morecambe Bay, 282, 284, 285, 286

Morgan, Bishop, 227

Morley, Earls of, Seat of, 51

Morriston, 175, 176

Morton, Bishop, at Brecon Castle, 151

Morwell Rocks, 55, 56

Morwellham, 56

Moselle, The, its resemblance to the Wye, 140

Mossgiel, 334

Mostyn, Castle of, 240

Motherwell, 353

Mouse Water, The, 350, 351

Much Wenlock, 98

Muchelney Abbey, 68

Muir, James, “The Grey Man,” 340

Muirkirk, 332

Mumbles, The, 175

Murray, John, and Mrs. Randell’s “Domestic Cookery,” 175

Musgrave family, Seat of the, 303, 304

Myddleton, Sir Hugh, and Chirk Castle, 234

Nadder, The, 22

Nailbourne, 6

Nant Francon, Vale of, 206, 208

Naseby, Battle of, 107

Neath, The, 159, 160;

its rise, 168;

the Stone of Llia, scenery near Ystradfellte, 169;

the Mellte, 169, 170;

the Little Neath, the Hepste, and the Sychnant, 169171;

the Cwm Porth, 170;

waterfalls, 170, 171;

Pont Neath Vaughan, 171;

Neath and its abbey, 171173

Neath town, 160, 171;

Abbey, 172, 173

Nelson monument near Carmarthen, 179

New Brighton, 268

New Forest, its streams, 20

New Lanark, 350

Newcastle Emlyn, 187

Newgale Bridge, 181

Newmarch, Bernard, Church at Brecon founded by, 151

Newnham, 123


Trade, docks, and castle, 157;

Church of St. Woollos, 158

Newton Abbot, 39

Newton Stewart, 323

Newtown, 86

Nith, The:

Its rise, course, and tributaries, 318;

Dumfries, 319;

Drumlanrig Castle, 319, 320;

Caerlaverock Castle, 320, 321;

the Cairn, Maxwelltown, 321;

Sweetheart Abbey, 322

North, Christopher, on Troutbeck village, 292

North Foreland, 6

North Tamerton, 55

Northenden, 245

Offa, Palace at Hereford of, 133;

his murder of Ethelbert and founding of Hereford Cathedral, 134;

battle with the Welsh at Rhuddlan, 225

Offa’s Dyke, 235, 236

Ogwen, The:

Length, Falls of Benglog, 207;

Vale of Nant Francon, Bethesda slate quarries, cascades, 208, 209;

Penmaenmawr, Penrhyn Castle, 209

Old Man of Coniston, 294

Old Sarum, 22, 23

Oldham, Bishop, and Manchester Grammar School, 251

Olwey, The, 155

Ordericus, Birthplace of, 96

Ordsall, 254

Otter, The:

Honiton, Ottery St. Mary, and Coleridge’s reminiscences of his birthplace, 27, 28

Ottery St. Mary, 27

Ouse, The Sussex:

Course, Fletching Common, Maresfield and its remains of iron-smelting industry, battle of Lewes, 10

Overton Churchyard, 236

Owen, Sir Richard, and Lancaster Grammar School, 284

Owen, Robert, Birthplace of, 86;

his mills at New Lanark, 350

Owens, John, and Owens College, 251

Oxenbridge Ogre, The, 7

Oxenhams, The, Tradition relating to, 46

Paisley, 366

Paley and the Grammar School at Giggleswick, 273

Parr, Catherine, Birthplace of, 287

Parret, The:

Source, and view at Crewkerne, 67;

Church of St. Bartholomew, ruins of Muchelney Abbey, Langport, historical associations, the Tone and Taunton, 68;

Athelney Island and Alfred the Great, 69, 70;

Sedgemoor, 70;

Bridgwater and its trade, Burnham, Highbridge, Wookey Hole, 70, 71

Partick, 363, 365

Patrixbourne, 6

Patti, Madame, and Craig-y-Nos, 177, 178

Paxton, Sir Joseph, 268

Pearl-fishery at Deganwy, 221

Peden the Covenanter, 334

Peel Castle, 286

Pegwell Bay, 6

Pembroke, Old and New, 183, 184

Pembroke Castle, 183

Pendle Hill, 276

Penmaenmawr, 209

Penmaenpool, 198, 202

Penrhyn Castle, 209

Pentillie Castle, 58

Perddyn, The, 171

Peterloo massacre, 250

Petteril, The, and Greystoke Castle, 307

Pillar Mountain, 297

Plinlimmon, source of five rivers, 82, 124;

legendary associations, 125, 126

Plym, The:

Rise and outlet, 49;

Cadaford Bridge, Shaugh Prior, the Dewerstone, the Meavy, Sheepstor, Bickleigh Vale, Plympton Priory, 50;

Plympton, Earl, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, Laira Bridge, and Saltram, 51;

Plymouth, Devonport, and Stonehouse, 52, 53

Plymouth, 5053

Plympton Earl and Sir Joshua Reynolds, 51

Plympton St. Mary, 50

Pont Neath Vaughan, 171

Pontypridd and its bridge, 163, 164

Portmadoc, 203, 204

Portsmouth, Earl of, Seat of, 46

Postling and the southern branch of the Canterbury Stour, 3

Potrail, The, 343

Poulton-le-Fylde, 280

Powderham Castle, 34

Powys Castle, 87

Prehistoric animals, Remains of, 273


Antiquity, Anglo-Saxon remains, rout of the Royalists, buildings, 278;

port and docks, 279

Prestonbury, 38

Pretenders, The, at Lancaster, 283

Priesthill and the shooting of John Brown, 332

Prior Matthew, Birthplace of, 23

Pulborough, 11

“Q.,” Old, 320

Quatford, 102

Queensberry, First Duke of, and Drumlanrig Castle, 319

Quicksands of Morecambe Bay, 285, 286

Quothquan, 345

Raglan Castle and its siege, 155

Ramsgate, 6

Red Scar, 278

Red Screes, 285

Redbridge, 20

Renfrew, 366, 367

Restormel Castle, 61, 62

Reynolds, Sir Joshua, and his birthplace, 51;

at Plymouth with Dr. Johnson, 53

Rhayader Gwy, 126, 127

Rheidol, The, 189, 190

Rhuddlan, 223;

Castle and historical associations, 225, 226

Rhyl, 223

Rhys ap Thomas, Sir and Carew Castle, 182

Ribble, The:

Source, 271, 272;

Settle, formation of the railway and diversion of the river, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, 272;

legendary giants, Giggleswick, cascades near Stainforth, whortleberry and mushroom produce, 273;

peel-house at Hellifield, 273, 274;

Gisburne Hall, wild cattle, Bowland Forest, the Hodder, Whitewell Chapel, Brownsholm Hall, and the Seal of the Commonwealth, 274;

Stonyhurst College and the Sherburne family, 274276;

the Calder, Burnley, Pendle Hill, and a story of Fox, 276;

Towneley Hall and the ruins of Whalley Abbey, 276, 278;

allusions of Philip Gilbert Hamerton, 278;

Preston, 278, 279

Richard II., landing at Milford Haven on his return from Ireland, 185;

at Conway Castle, 220;

a captive at Rhuddlan Castle, 226;

at Flint Castle, 239

Richborough Castle, 6

Rivington Pike, 279

Robartes, Lord, Cornish home of, 61

Robertsbridge and the Cistercian Abbey, 8

Roch, The, 246


Salmon-fishing, and the abbey, 19

Ropley Dean, and the source of the Itchen, 14

Roseneath, 368

Ross Town and the “Man of Ross,” 136138

Rothay (or Rotha), The:

Its feeders, Codale Tarn, Easedale, 288;

Helm Crag, Wordsworth’s allusion, Grasmere, the Church, aspect of the country in former times, 289;

Wordsworth’s Cottage, 289, 290;

hills and other scenery round Grasmere, 290;

Rydal, Rydal Water and Forest, 290, 291;

Ambleside, junction with the Brathay, fall into Windermere, 291

Rother, The Eastern, and Bodiam Castle, 7, 8;

source, Robertsbridge and its abbey, tributaries, scenery, Isle of Oxney, and Winchelsea, 8

Row, 369

Royal Military Canal, 7

Rugby, 108

Runcorn, 255, 257, 258

Rupert, Prince, and the siege of Liverpool, 262

Ruskin, Mr.:

Guild of St. George at Barmouth, 203;

allusion to scenery in the Vale of Llangollen, 232;

and Brantwood, 294

Rutherglen, 358, 361

Rydal Water, 290, 291

Rye, 7, 8

Saddleback, 298

St. Asaph and its cathedral, 227

St. Augustine, Arrival of, 4;

and Littlebourne, 6

St. Austell, The, 55

St. Bride of Douglas, Church of, and the Douglas family, 347

St. Cadoc creek, The, 62

St. Constantine, Churchyard of, 344

St. Finbarrus, first Bishop of Cork, Church dedicated to, 63

St. Giles’s Park, 24

St. John’s Beck, The, 298

St. Kentigern, Legendary story of, 358

St. Leonard’s Forest, 10, 11

St. Michael’s, Lancashire, 280

St. Mungo, 358

St. Neot, 61

St. Nicholas-at-Wade, Ford at, 6

St. Patrick, Birthplace of, 366

St. Wilfrid and the South Saxons, 13

Salford, 246, 248, 254.

(See also Manchester)

Salisbury and the Avon, 22;

Cathedral, 23

Saltash, 55, 59

Saltport, 258

Sandwich, 6, 7

Sark, The, 312

Sarr, 5, 6

Sawddy, The, 178

Scafell, 295

Scorhill Down and the “Clam” Bridge, 37, 38

Scott, Sir Walter, at Wordsworth’s cottage when an Inn, 290;

his visit to the Church of St. Bride of Douglas, 347;

and “Old Mortality,” 351, 354

Seaford, 8, 10

Seal of the Commonwealth, The, at Brownsholm Hall, 274

Seaton, The, 55

Sedgemoor, 70

Sefton Park, 267

Seiont, The:

Length, Pass of Llanberis, 205;

Dolbadarn Castle and Ceunant Mawr, 205, 206;

view of Snowdon, Carnarvon Castle, Carnarvon, Conway, and the Isle of Anglesea, 206

Serpent of the Wye, The, Legend of, 135

Settle, 272

“Seven Wonders of Wales,” 232, 233, 236

Severn, The:

Source, 82;

length, 82 and note; and the course of the Dee, 83;

scenery near source, 83;

its ancient names, 84;

Llanidloes, 84, 85;

Blaenhafren, 84;

Cefn Carnedd, 85, 86;

Caersws fortress, Newtown and Robert Owen, 86;

[Pg 375]

Montgomery, its castle and the Herberts of Cherbury, 86, 87;

Welshpool, Powys Castle, Roman entrenchments, the Long Mountain, the Breidden Hills, 87;

Vyrnwy tributary, Liverpool water-supply, 88;

views from the hills, 87;

Shrewsbury, 9094;

Haughmond Hill, 94, 95;

Augustinian Priory, 95;

Atcham, Wroxeter Church, site of Uriconium, 96;

relics of Roman times, 97;

Condover, the Wrekin, Benthall Edge, Much Wenlock, Buildwas Abbey, 98;

Coalbrook Dale, Ironbridge, Broseley, Benthall, 99;

Bridgnorth, 99, 100;

Quatford, Bewdley, Kidderminster, Stourport and the canal, 102;

Worcester, 102104;

the Teme, Ludlow Castle and Church, 104;

Kemsey and Upton, 104;

Tewkesbury, 106;

Deerhurst, 119;

Gloucester, its cathedral and historical associations, 119122;

Telford’s bridge, 122;

tidal wave, 122;

Minsterworth, Westbury, Newnham, Berkeley, Lydney, Sharpness Bridge, tunnel, the estuary, 123

Shaftesbury, Earls of, and St. Giles’s Park, 23

Shakespeare, his associations with Stratford-on-Avon, 111114;

his allusions to Kendal, 288

Shandon, 369

Sharpness, 123

Sheffield, Earl of, Seat of, 10

Shelley and Tremadoc, 204

Sherburne family, The, and Stonyhurst College, 274, 275

Ship-Canal, Manchester, 247, 248, 250, 254, 255, 257

Shoreham, 11

Shottery and Anne Hathaway, 111


Situation and history, 90;

attacks on the fortress, bridges over the Severn, birthplace of Admiral Benbow and Charles Darwin, school, 91;

black-timbered houses, Ireland’s Mansion, 92;

churches, 94;

museum, 97

Sid, The, 27

Siddons, Mrs., Birthplace of, 151

Sigourney, Lydia, Lines on Carlisle by, 309

Silverdale, 285, 286

Simon de Montfort, Death of,