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THE CAMBRIDGE, ELY, AND 
KING'S LYNN ROAD 



WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 

The Brighton Road : Old Times and New 
on a Classic Highway. 

The Portsmouth Road, and its Tributaries : 
To-day and in Days of Old. 

The Dover Road : Annals of an Ancient 
Turnpike. 

The Bath Road : History, Fashion, and 
Frivolity on an Old Highway. 

The Exeter Road : The Story of the West 
of England Highway. 

The Great North Road : The Old Mail 
Road to Scotland. Two Vols. 

The Norwich Road: An East Anglian 
Highway. 

The Holyhead Road: The Mail-Coach 
Road to Dublin. Two Vols. 

Cycle Rides Round London. 

The Oxford, Gloucester, and Milford 
Haven Road. [In the Press. 




S "2 

- s 

H S3 



THE CAMBRIDGE 
ELY AND KING'S 

LYNN ROAD THE 

GREAT FENLAND HIGHWAY 
BY CHARLES G. HARPER 

AUTHOR OF "THE BRIGHTON ROAD" "THE PORTS- 
MOUTH ROAD" "THE DOVER ROAD" "THE BATH ROAD" 
"THE EXETER ROAD" "THE GREAT NORTH ROAD" 
"THE NORWICH ROAD" "THE HOLYHEAD ROAD" AND 
"CYCLE RIDES ROUND LONDON" 





ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR, AND FROM OLD-TIME PRINTS 
AND PICTURES 



LONDON: CHAPMAN & HALL LTD. 1902 

(All Rights Reserved] 




H3 




IN the course of an eloquent passage in an eulogy 
of the old posting and coaching days, as opposed 
to railway times, Ruskin regretfully looks back 
upon " the happiness of the evening hours when, 
from the top of the last hill he had surmounted, 
the traveller beheld the quiet village where he 
was to rest, scattered among the meadows, beside 
its valley stream." It is a pretty, backward 
picture, viewed through the diminishing -glass of 
time, and possesses a certain specious attractive- 
ness that cloaks much of the very real discomfort 
attending the old road -faring era. For not 
always did the traveller behold the quiet village 
under conditions so ideal. There were such things 
as tempests, keen frosts, and bitter winds to make 
his faring highly uncomfortable ; to say little of 
the snowstorms that half smothered him and pre- 



viii PREFACE 

vented his reaching his destination until his very 
vitals were almost frozen. Then there were 
MESSIEURS the highwaymen, always to be reckoned 
with, and it cannot too strongly be insisted upon 
that until the nineteenth century had well dawned 
they were always to be confidently expected at 
the next lonely bend of the road. But, assuming 
good weather and a complete absence of those 
old pests of society, there can be no doubt that 
a journey down one of the old coaching highways 
must have been altogether delightful. 

In the old days of the road, the traveller saw 
his destination afar off, and town or city or 
village it disclosed itself by degrees to his 
appreciative or critical eyes. He saw it, seated 
sheltered in its vale, or, perched on its hill-top, 
the sport of the elements ; and so came, witli a 
continuous panorama of country in his mind's eye, 
to his inn. By rail the present-day traveller has 
many comforts denied to his grandfather, but 
there is no blinking the fact that he is conveyed 
very much in the manner of a parcel or a bale 
of goods, and is delivered at his journey s 
end oppressed with a sense of detachment never 
felt by one who travelled the road in days of 
old, or even by the cyclist in the present age. 
The railway traveller is set down out of the void 
in a strange place, many leagues from his base ; 



PREFACE ix 

the country between a blank and the place to 
which he has come an unknown quantity. In 
so travelling he has missed much. 

The old roads and their romance are the herit- 
age of the modern tourist, by whatever method he 
likes to explore them. Countless generations of men 
have built up the highways, the cities, towns, villages 
and hamlets along their course, and have lived 
and loved, have laboured, fought and died through 
the centuries. Will you not halt awhile and listen 
to their story fierce, pitiful, lovable, hateful, 
tender or terrible, just as you may hap upon it; 
flashing forth as changefully out of the past as 
do the rays from the facets of a diamond ? A 
battle was fought here, an historic murder wrought 
there. This way came such an one to seek his 
fortune and find it ; that way went another, to 
lose life and fortune both. In yon house was 
born the Man of his Age, for whom that age 
was ripe; on yonder hillock an olden malefactor, 
whom modern times would call a reformer, ex- 
piated the crime of being born too early there 
is no cynic more consistent in his cynicism than 
Time. 

All these have lived and wrought and thought 
to this one unpremeditated end that the tourist 
travels smoothly and safely along roads once rough 
and dangerous beyond belief, and that as he goes 



x PREFACE 

every place has a story to tell, for him to hear 
if he will. If he have no ears for such, so 
much the worse for him, and by so much the 
poorer his faring. 

CHAELES G. HARPER. 



PETERSHAM, SURREY, 
October 1902. 



HIST OF L 
ILLUSTRATIONS 




SEPARATE PLATES 



THE "CAMBRIDGE TELEGRAPH" STARTING FROM THE WHITE 

HORSE, FETTER LANE . . . . Frontispiece 

From a Print after J. Pollard. 

THE "STAR OP CAMBRIDGE" STARTING FROM THE BELLE 

SAUVAGE YARD, LUDGATE HILL, 1816 . . . 17 

From a Print after T. Young. 

" KNEE-DEEP " : THE " LYNN AND WELLS MAIL " IN A SNOW- 
STORM ....... 23 

.From a Print after C. Cooper Henderson. 

A LONDON SUBURB IN 1816 : TOTTENHAM . , .39 

From a Drawing by Roivlandson. 

WALTHAM CROSS ....... 61 

THE "HULL MAIL" AT WALTHAM CROSS . . .65 

From a Print after J. Pollard. 

CHESHUNT GREAT HOUSE ..... 

HODDESDON ...... 

WARE . 

BARLEY ....... 

FOWLMERE : A TYPICAL CAMBRIDGESHIRE VILLAGE 



MELBOURN 



77 
83 
89 
105 
113 
129 



xii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PACK 

TRUMPINGTON MILL . . . . . .137 

TRUMPINGTON STREET, CAMBRIDGE . . . .145 

HOBSON, THE CAMBRIDGE CARRIER .... 159 

A WET DAY IN THE FENS . . . . .203 

ALDRETH CAUSEWAY ...... 219 

A FENLAND ROAD : THE AKEMAN STREET NEAR STRETHAM 

BRIDGE ....... 245 

STRETHAM BRIDGE . . . . . . 249 

ELY CATHEDRAL ....... 271 

After J. M. W. Turner, R.A. 

ELY, FROM THE OUSE ...... 277 

JOSEPH BEETON IN THE CONDEMNED CELL . . .311 

THE TOWN AND HARBOUR OF LYNN, FROM WEST LYNN . 317 
"CLIFTON'S HOUSE" ...... 320 

THE CUSTOM-HOUSE, LYNN ..... 323 

THE FERRY INN, LYNN ...... 327 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT 



PAGE 



VIGNETTE : EEL-SPEARING .... Title-page 

PREFACE . ....... vii 

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS : TAKING TOLL . . . xi 

THE CAMBRIDGE, ELY, AND KING'S LYNN ROAD . . 1 

THE GREEN DRAGON, BISHOPSGATE STREET, 1856 . . 8 

From a Drawing by T. Hosmer Shepherd. 

THE FOUR SWANS, BISHOPSGATE STREET, 1855 . .9 

From a Drawing by T. Hosmer Shepherd. 

TOTTENHAM CROSS ...... 38 

BALTHAZAR SANCHEZ' ALMSHOUSES, TOTTENHAM . . 41 

WALTHAM CROSS A HUNDRED YEARS AGO . 59 

THE ROMAN URN, CHESHUNT ..... 76 

CHARLES THE FIRST'S ROCKING-HORSE .. . .79 

CLARKSON'S MONUMENT ...... 99 

A MONUMENTAL MILESTONE . . . . .111 

THE CHEQUERS, FOWLMERE . . . . .115 

WEST MILL ....... 118 

A QUAINT CORNER IN ROYSTON . . . . 125 

CAXTON GIBBET . . . . . . .127 

THE FIRST MILESTONE FROM CAMBRIDGE . . .139 

HOBSON'S CONDUIT ...... 141 

HOBSON ........ 162 

From a Painting in Cambridge Guildhall. 

MARKET HILL, CAMBRIDGE . . . . .167 

THE FALCON, CAMBRIDGE 168 



xiv LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

INTERIOR OP ST. SEPULCHRE'S CHURCH . . . 169 

CAMBRIDGE CASTLE A HUNDRED YEARS AGO . . .171 

LANDBEACH ....... 181 

THE FENS ... . .191 

After Dugdale. 

THE ISLE OF ELY AND DISTRICT .... 215 

ALDRETH CAUSEWAY AND THE ISLE OF ELY . . . 218 

UPWARE INN ....... 237 

WICKEN FEN . . . . . .... 241 

HODDEN SPADE AND BECKET ..... 248 

STRETHAM. . . . . . . . 254 

THE WEST FRONT, ELY CATHEDRAL .... 265 

ELY CATHEDRAL, FROM THE LITTLEPORT EOAD . . 289 

LITTLEPORT ....... 291 

THE KIVER ROAD, LITTLEPORT . . . . . 293 

THE OUSE ....... 295 

SOUTHERY FERRY. ...... 296 

KETT'S OAK . . . . . . . 300 

DENVER HALL . . . . . . . 301 

THE CROWN, DOWNHAM MARKET . . . ; . 302 

THE CASTLE, DOWNHAM MARKET .... 303 

HOGGE'S BRIDGE, STOW BARDOLPH . 305 

THE LYNN ARMS, SETCHEY . . . <' . . ' 306 

THE SOUTH GATES, LYNN . . . . 308 

THE GUILDHALL, LYNN . . . . . ' . 314 

THE DUKE'S HEAD, LYNN . . . . .321 

ISLINGTON . . 329 



THE ROAD TO CAMBRIDGE, ELY, AND 
KING'S LYNN 

London (Shoreditch Church) to 

Kingsland ....... 1| 

Stoke Newington ...... 2^ 

Stamford Hill . . . . . . . 3| 

Tottenham High Cross ., . . . . 4|- 

Tottenham ....... 5| 

Upper Edmonton . . . . . .6 

Lower Edmonton . . . . . . 6| 

Ponder's End ....... 8| 

En field Highway ...... 9J 

Enfield Wash 10 

Waltham Cross . . . . . .11^ 

Crossbrook Street . . . . . .12 

Turner's Hill . . . . . . .13 

Cheshunt . . . . . . 13^ 

CheshuntWash . . . . . . 13| 

Turnford . . . . . . .14 

Wormley (cross New River) . . ... . . 14| 

Broxbourne . . . . . . . 15| 

Hoddesdon . . . . . . .17 

Great Amwell (cross New River and the Lea) . .19^ 

Ware ........ 21 

Wade's Mill (cross River Rib) . . . .23 

High Cross ....... 23^ 

Collier's End . . . . . . .25 

Puckeridge (cross River Rib) . . . . . 26| 

Braughing . . . . . . . 27| 

Quinbury ....... 28| 

Hare Street ....... 30| 

Barkway . . ...... . . 35 

Barley . . . ... . . 36| 

Fowlmere . . . . . . . 42 

Newton ....... 44 

Hauxton (cross River Granta) . . . 47| 



xvi THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



Trumpington ... . 48J 

Cambridge (Market Hill) . . 50f 

To Cambridge, through Royston 

Puckeridge (cross River Rib) . . . , 26f 

West Mill . . . . . ' '. 29 j 

Buntingford . . . . . . .31 

Chipping ....... 32 

Buckland ....... 33| 

Royston ....... 37f 

Melbourn ....... 41^ 

Shepreth ....... 43| 

Foxton Station and Level Crossing . . . .44 

Harston ....... 45^ 

Hauxton (cross River Granta) .... 46^ 

Trumpington ....... 48| 

Cambridge (Market Hill) . . . . .51 

Milton ........ 54 

Landbeach ....... 54| 

Denny Abbey ....... 58 

Chittering ....... 58| 

Stretham Bridge (cross Great Ouse River) . . . 61| 

Stretham ....... 63J 

Thetford Level Crossing . . . . 64^ 

Ely 67J 

Chettisham Station and Level Crossing . . . 69| 

Littleport ....... 72! 

Littleport Bridge (cross Great Ouse River) . . . 73^ 

Brandon Creek (cross Little Ouse River) . . . 76f 

Southery . . . . . . . 78 3 

Modney Bridge (cross Sams Cut Drain) . . . 80 

Hilgay (cross Wissey River) . . . . . 81| 

Fordham ....... 82f 

Denver ..... 84 

Downham Market . . . . . . n g5i 

Wimbotsham ....... 86^ 

Stow Bardolph . . . . . g7i 

South Runcton (cross River Nar) . . . . . 89jh 

Setchey ..... 92 x 

West Winch ..... 933 

Hard wick Bridge .... 95 l 

King's Lynn ....... 97 







" SISTER ANNE, Sister Anne, do you see anyone 
coming ? " asks Fatima in the story of Bluebeard. 
Clio, the Muse of History, shall be my Sister Anne. 
I hereby set her down in the beginnings of the 
Cambridge Road, bid her be retrospective, and ask 
her what she sees. 

" I see," she says dreamily, like some medium or 
clairvoyant, " I see a forest track leading from the 
marshy valley of the Thames to the still more marshy 
valley of the Lea. The tribes who inhabit the land 
are at once fierce and warlike, and greedy for trading 
with merchants from over the narrow channel that 
separates Britain from Gaul. They are fair-haired 
and blue-eyed, they are dressed in the skins of wild 
animals, and their chieftains wear many ornaments 
of red gold." Then she is silent, for Clio, like her 
eight sisters, is a very ancient personage, and like 
the aged, although she knows much, cannot recall 
sights and scenes without a deal of mental fumbling. 

" And what else do you see ? " 



2 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

" There conies along the forest track a great con- 
course of soldiers. Never before were such seen in 
the land. They form the advance-guard of an 
invading army, and the tribes presently fly from 
them, for these are the conquering Romans, whose 
fame has come before them. There are none who 
can withstand those soldiers." 

" Many a tall Roman warrior, doubtless, sleeps 
where he fell, slain by wounds or disease in that 
advance ? " 

Clio is indignant and corrective. " The Romans," 
she says, " were not a race of tall men. They were 
undersized, but well built and of a generous chest- 
development. They are, as I see them, imposing as 
they march, for they advance in solid phalanx, and 
their bright armour, their shields and swords, flash 
like silver in the sun. 

"I see next," she says, " these foreign soldiers as 
conquerors, settled in the land. They have an armed 
camp in a clearing of the forest, where a company of 
them keep watch and ward, while many more toil at 
the work of making the forest track a broad and firm 
military way. Among them, chained together like 
beasts, and kept to their work by the whips and 
blows of taskmasters, are gangs of natives, who 
perform the roughest and the most unskilled of the 
labour. 

" And after that I see four hundred years of 
Roman power and civilisation fade like a dream, and 
then a dim space of anarchy, lit up by the fitful 
glare of fire, and stained and running red with blood. 
Many strange and heathen peoples come and go in 



IN THE BEGINNING 3 

this period along the road, once so broad and flat 
and straight, but now grown neglected. The strange 
peoples call themselves by many names, Saxons, 
Vikings, Picts, and Scots and Danes, but their aim 
is alike : to plunder and to slay. Six hundred years 
pass before they bring back something of that 
civilisation the Eomans planted, and the land obtains 
a settled Christianity and an approach to rest. And 
then, when things have come to this pass, there 
comes a stronger race to make the land its own. 
It is the coming of the Normans. 

"I see the Conqueror, lord of all this land but 
the Isle of Ely, coming to vanquish the English 
remnant. I see him, his knights and men-at-arms, 
his standard-bearers and his bowmen, marching 
where the Romans marched a thousand years before, 
and in three years I see the shrunken remains of his 
army return, victorious, but decimated by those 
conquered English and their allies, the agues and 
fevers, the mires and mists of the Fens." 

" And then what of the Roman Road, the 
Saxon ' Ermine Street ' ? tell me, why does it lie 
deserted and forgot ? " 

But Clio is silent. She does not know ; it is a 
question rather for archaeology, for which there is no 
Muse at all. Nor can she tell much of the history 
of the road, apart from the larger national concerns 
in which it has a part. She is like a wholesale 
trader, and deals only in bulk. Let us in these pages 
seek to recover something from the past to illustrate 
the description of these many miles. 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



II 

THE coach-road to Cambridge, Ely, and King's Lynn 

the modern highway follows in general direction, 

and is in places identical with, two distinct Roman 
roads. From Shoreditch Church, whence it is 
measured, to Royston, it is on the line of the Ermine 
Street, the great direct Roman road to Lincoln and 
the north of England, which, under the names of the 
"North Road" and the "Old North Road," goes 
straight ahead, past Caxton, to Alconbury Hill, sixty- 
eight miles from London, where it becomes identical 
with our own Great North Road, as far as Stamford 
and Casterton. 

From Royston to Cambridge there would seem 
never to have been any direct route, and the Romans 
apparently reached Cambridge either by pursuing 
the Ermine Street five miles farther, and thence 
turning to the right at Arrington Bridge ; or else 
by Colchester, Sudbury, and Linton. Those, at 
anyrate, are the ways obvious enough on modern 
maps, or in the Antonine Itinerary, that Roman 
road-book made about A.D. 200-250. We have, 
however, only to exercise our own observation to 
find that the Antonine Itinerary is a very inaccurate 
piece of work, and that the Romans almost certainly 
journeyed to Camboricum, their Cambridge, by way 
of Epping, Bishop's Stortford, and Great Chester- 
ford, a route .taken by several coaches sixty years 



ago. 



From Cambridge to Ely and King's Lynn the 



THE ERMINE STREET 5 

coach-road follows with more or less exactness the 
Akeman Street, a Koman way in the nature of an 
elevated causeway above the fens. 

The Ermine Street between London and Lincoln 
is not noted by the Antonine Itinerary, which takes 
the traveller to that city by two very indirect routes : 
the one along the Watling Street as far as High 
Cross, in Warwickshire, and thence to the right, along 
the Fosse Way past Leicester ; the other by 
Colchester. The Ermine Street, leading direct to 
Lincoln, is therefore generally supposed to be a 
Eoman road of much later date. 

We are not to suppose that the Eomans knew 
these roads by the names they now bear ; names 
really given by the Saxons. Ermine Street enshrines 
the name of Eorman, some forgotten hero or divinity 
of that people ; arid the Akeman Street, running from 
the Norfolk coast, in a south-westerly direction 
through England, to Circncester and Bath, is gener- 
ally said to have obtained its name from invalids 
making pilgrimage to the Bath waters, there to 
ease them of their aches and pains. But a more 
reasonable theory is that which finds the origin 
of that name in a corruption of Aqua? Solis, the 
name of Bath. 

No reasonable explanation has ever been ad- 
vanced of the abandonment of the Ermine Street 
between Lower Edmonton and Ware, and the 
choosing of the present route, running roughly 
parallel with it at distances ranging from half a mile 
to a mile, and by a low -lying course much more 
likely to be flooded than the old Roman highway. 



6 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

The change must have been made at an early period, 
far beyond the time when history dawns on the 
road, for it is always by the existing route that 
travellers are found coming and going. 

Few know that the Roman road and the coaching 
road are distinct ; and yet, with the aid of a large- 
scale Ordnance map, the course of the Ermine Street 
can be distinctly traced. Not only so, but a day's 
exploration of it, as far as its present condition, 
obstructed and diverted in places, will allow, is of 
absorbing interest. 

It makes eleven miles of, in places, rough walk- 
ing, and often gives only the satisfaction of being 
close to the actual site, and not actually on it. A 
straight line drawn from where the modern road 
swerves slightly to the right at Northumberland 
Park, Edmonton, to Ware, gives the direction the 
ancient road pursued. 

The exact spot where the modern road leaves 
the Roman way is found at Lower Edmonton, where 
a Congregational Church stands in an open space, 
and the houses on the left hand are seen curving 
back to face a lane that branches off at this point. 
This, bearing the significantly ancient name of 
" Langhedge Lane," goes exactly on the line of the 
Ermine Street ; but it cannot be followed for more 
than about a hundred yards, for it is cut through 
by railways and modern buildings, and quite obliter- 
ated for some distance. Where lanes are found 
near Edmonton Rectory on the site of the ancient 
way, names that are eloquent of an antiquity closely 
allied with Roman times begin to appear. " Bury 



THE ERMINE STREET 7 

Hall," and, half a mile beyond it, "Bury Farm," 
neighboured by an ancient moat, are examples. 
" Bury " is a corruption of a Saxon word meaning 
anything, from a fortified camp to a settlement, or 
a hillock ; and when, found beside a Koman road 
generally signifies (like that constantly recurring 
name " Coldharbour ") that the Saxons found de- 
serted Eoman villas by the wayside. Beyond Bury 
Farm the cutting of the New River in the seven- 
teenth century obscured some length of the Ermine 
Street. A long straight lane from Forty Hill 
Park, past Bull's Cross, to Theobalds, represents it 
pretty accurately, as does the next length, by Bury 
Green and Cheshunt Great House. Cold Hall and 
Cold Hall Green mark its passing by, even though, 
just here, it is utterly diverted or stopped up. 
" Elbow Lane " is the name of it from the neigh- 
bourhood of Hoddesdon to Little Amwell. Beyond 
that point it plunges into narrower lanes, and 
thence into pastures and woods, descending steeply 
therefrom into the valley of the Lea by Ware. 
In those hillside pastures, and in an occasional 
wheatfield, a dry summer will disclose, in a long line 
of dried-up grass or corn, the route of that ancient 
paved way below the surface. A sepulchral barrow 
in one of these fields, called by the rustics " Penny- 
loaf Hill," is probably the last resting-place of some 
prehistoric traveller along this way. A quarter of 
a mile from Ware the Ermine Street crossed the 
Lea to " Bury Field," now a brickfield, where many 
Roman coins have been found. Thenceforward it 
is one with the present highway to Royston. 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



III 



ALTHOUGH Shoreditch Church marks the beginning 
of the Cambridge Road, of the old road to the North, 
and of the highways into Lincolnshire, it was always 
to and from a point somewhat nearer the City of 




THE GREEN DRAGON, BISHOPSGATE STREET, 1856. 
[From a Drawing by T. Hosmer Shepherd ] 

London that the traffic along these various ways 
came and went. Bishopsgate Street was of old the 
great centre for coaches and vans, and until quite 
modern times until, in fact, after railways had 
come those ancient inns, the Four Swans, the 
Vine, the Bull, the Green Dragon, and many 
another, still faced upon the street, as for many 
centuries they had done. Coaches were promptly 
withdrawn on the opening of the railways, but the 



BISHOPSGATE STREET 9 

lumbering old road-waggons, with their vast tilts, 
broad wheels, swinging horn - lanterns, and long 
teams of horses, survived for some years later. Now 
everything is changed ; inns, coaches, waggons are 
all gone. You will look in vain for them ; and of 




THE FOUR SWANS, BISHOPSGATE STREET, 1855. 

[From a Drawing by T. Hosmer Shepherd.] 

the most famous inn of all the Bull, in Bishops- 
gate Street Within the slightest memory survives. 
On its site rises that towering block of commercial 
offices called " Palmerston House," crawling abund- 
antly, like some maggoty cheese, with companies 
and secretaries, clerks and office-boys, who seem, 



io THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

like mites, to writhe out of the interstices of the 
stone and plaster. Overhead, on the dizzy roof, are 
the clustered strands of the telegraph-wires, resem- 
bling the meshes of some spider's web, exquisitely 
typical of much that goes forward in those little 
cribs and hutches of offices within. It is a sorry 
change from the old Bull the Black Bull, as 
it was originally named with its cobble-stoned 
courtyard and surrounding galleries, whence audiences 
looked down upon the plays of Shakespeare and 
others of the Elizabethans, and so continued until 
the Puritans came and stage-plays were put under 
interdict. When plays were not being enacted in 
that old courtyard, it was crowded with the carriers' 
vans out of Cambridgeshire and the Eastern Coun- 

o 

ties generally. " The Black Bull," we read in a 
publication dated 1633, "is still looking towards 
Shoreditch, to see if he can spy the carriers coming 
from Cambridge." Would that it still looked 
towards Shoreditch ! 

It was to the Bull that old Hobson, the 
Cambridge carrier of such great renown, drove on 
his regular journeys, between 1570 and 1631. 
Hobson was the precursor, the grand original, of 
all the Pickfords and Carter Patersons of this 
crowded age, and lives immortal, though his body 
be long resolved to dust, as the originator of a 
proverb. That is immortality indeed! No deed 
of chivalry, no great achievement in the arts of 
peace and war, shall so surely render your name 
imperishable as the linking of it with some proverb 
or popular saying. Who has not heard of "Hobson's 



HOBSON, THE CARRIER 



i i 



Choice " ? Have you never been confronted with 
that "take it or leave it" offer yourself? For, in 
truth, Hobson's Choice is no choice at all ; and is, 
and ever was, " that or none." The saying arose 
from the livery-stable business carried on by Thomas 
Hobson at Cambridge, in addition to his carrying 
trade. He is, indeed, rightly or wrongly, said to 
have been the first who made a business of letting 
out saddle-horses. His practice, invariably followed, 
was to refuse to allow any horse in his stables to 
be taken out of its proper turn. " That or none " 
was his unfailing formula, when the Cambridge 
students, eager to pick and choose, would have 
selected their own fancy in horseflesh. Every 
customer was thus served alike, without favour. 
Hobson's fame, instead of flickering out, has en- 
dured. Many versified about him at his death, 
but one of the best rhymed descriptions of his stable 
practice was written in 1734, a hundred and three 
years later, by Charles Water ton, as a translation 
from the Latin of Vincent Bourne 



"In his long stable, Cambridge, you are told, 
Hobson kept studs for hire in days of old, 
On this condition only that the horse 
Nearest the door should start the first on course, 
Then next to him, or none : so that each beast 
Might have its turn of labour and of rest ; 
This granted, no one yet, in college dress, 
Was ever known this compact to transgress. 
Next to the door next to the work ; say, why 
Should such a law, so just, be doomed to die? 
Remember then this compact to restore, 
And let it govern as it did before. 
This done, O happy Cambridge ! you will see, 
Your Hobson's stud just as it ought to be." 



I 2 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



IV 

WHO was that man, or who those associated 
adventurers, to first establish a coach between 
London and Cambridge, and when was the custom 
first introduced of travelling by coach, instead of on 
horseback, along this road ? No one can say. We 
can see now that he who first set up a Cambridge 
coach must of necessity have been great and forceful : 
as great a man as Hobson, in whose time people 
were well content to hire horses and ride them ; but 
although University wits have sung the fame of 
Hobson, the greater innovator and the date of his 
innovation alike remain unknown. It is vaguely 
said that the first Cambridge coach was started in 
the reign of Charles the Second, but Pepys, who 
might have been trusted to mention so striking a 
novelty, does not refer to such a thing, and, as on 
many other roads, we hear nothing definite until 
1750, when a Cambridge coach went up and down 
twice a week, taking two whole days each way, stay- 
ing the night at Barkway going, and at Epping 
returning. The same team of horses dragged the 
coach the whole way. There was in this year a 
coach through to Lynn, once a week, setting out on 
Fridays in summer and Thursdays in winter. 

In 1 753 a newer era dawned. There were then two 
conveyances for Cambridge, from the Bull and the 
Green Dragon in Bishopsgate : one leaving Tuesdays 
and Fridays, the other Wednesdays and Saturdays, 
reaching the Blue Boar and the Red Lion, Cambridge, 



STAGES AND WAGGONS 13 

the same night and returning the following day, 
when that day did not happen to be Sunday. 

Each of these stage-coaches carried six passengers, 
all inside, and the fares were about twopence-half- 
penny a mile in summer and threepence in winter. 
The cost of a coach journey between London and 
Cambridge was then, therefore, about twelve shillings. 
Hobson's successors in the carrying business had 
by this time increased to three carriers, owning two 
waggons each. There were thus six waggons continu- 
ally going back and forth in the mid-eighteenth 
century. They took two and a half days to perform 
the fifty-one miles, and " inned " at such places as 
Hoddesdon, Ware, Royston, and Barkway, where they 
would be drawn tip in the coachyards of the inns at 
night, and those poor folk who travelled by them at 
the rate of three-halfpence a mile would obtain an 
inexpensive supper, with a shakedown in loft or barn. 
The coaches at this period did by much effort 
succeed in performing the journey in one day, but it 
was a long day. They started early and came late 
to their journey's end ; setting out at four o'clock in 
the morning, and coming to their destination at 
seven in the evening ; a pace of little more than 
three miles an hour. 

In 1763, owing partly to the improvements that 
had taken place along the road, and more perhaps to 
the growing system of providing more changes of 
horses and shorter stages, the " London and Cambridge 
Diligence" is found making the journey daily, 
in eight hours, by way of Royston, "performed 
by J. Roberts of the White Horse, Fetter Lane; 



I4 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Thomas Watson's, the Red Lyon, Royston ; and Jacob 
Brittain, the Sun, Cambridge." The "Diligence" 
ran light, carrying three passengers only, at a fare of 
thirteen shillings and sixpence. There were in this 
same year two other coaches ; the " Fly," daily, from 
the Queen's Head, Gray's Inn Lane, by way of Epping 
and Chesterford, to the Rose on the Market Hill, 
Cambridge, at a fare of twelve shillings; and the 
" Stage," daily, to the Red Lion, Petty Cury, carrying 
four passengers at ten shillings each. 

We hear little at this period of coaches or 
waggons on to Ely and King's Lynn. Cambridge- 
shire and Norfolk roads were only just being made 
good, after many centuries of neglect, and Cambridge 
town was still, as it always had been (strange though 
it may now seem), something of a port. The best 
and safest way was to take boat or barge by Cam 
and Ouse, rather than face the terrors of roads 
almost constantly flooded. Gillam's, Burleigh's, and 
Salmon's waggons, which at this time were advertised 
to ply between London and Cambridge, transferred 
their loads on to barges at the quays by Great Bridge. 
Indeed it was not until railways came that Cambridge 
ceased to depend largely upon the rivers, and the 
coals burnt, the wine drank, and the timber used 
were water-borne to the very last. Hence we find 
the town always in the old days peculiarly distressed 
in severe winters when the waterways were frozen ; 
and hence, too, the remonstrance made by the 
Mayor and Corporation when Denver Sluice was 
rebuilt in 1745, " to the hindering of the navigation 
to King's Lynn." 



IMPROVED TRAVELLING 15 

In 1796, the roads now moderately safe, a stage- 
coach is found plying from Cambridge to Ely and 
back in one day, replacing the old "passage-boats" ; 
but Lynn, as far as extant publications tell us, was 
still chiefly approachable by water. In this year 
Cambridge enjoyed a service of six coaches between 
the town and London, four of them daily ; the 
remaining two running three times a week. The 
Mail, on the road ten years past, started at eight 
o'clock every night from the Bull and Mouth, London, 
and, going by Royston^ arrived at the Sun, Cambridge, 
at 3.30 the following morning. The old " Diligence," 
which thirty-three years before had performed the 
journey in eight hours, now is found to take nine, and 
to have raised its fares from thirteen shillings and six- 
pence to one guinea, going to the Hoop instead of 
the Sun. The "Fly," still by Epping and Great 
Chesterford, has raised its fares from twelve shillings 
to eighteen shillings, and now takes " outsides " at 
nine shillings. It does not, however, fly very swiftly, 
consuming ten hours on the way. " Prior's Stage " 
is one of the new concerns, leaving the Bull, 
Bishopsgate Street, at eight in the morning on 
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and, going by 
Barkway, arriving at some unnamed hour at the Red 
Lion, Petty Cury. It conveys six passengers at 
fifteen shillings inside and eight shillings out, like 
its competitor, " Hobson's Stage," setting out on 
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from the 
Green Dragon, Bishopsgate Street, for the Blue Boar, 
Cambridge. "Hobson's" is another new-comer, 
merely trading on the glamour of the old name. 



,6 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

The " Night Post Coach" of this year, starting from 
the Golden Cross, Charing Cross, every afternoon at 
5.30, went by Epping and Great Chesterford. 
carried only four passengers inside, at fifteen shillings 
each, and a like number outside at nine shillings. 
Travelling all night, and through the dangerous 
glades of Epping Forest, the old advertisement 
especially mentions it to be "guarded." Passing 
through many nocturnal terrors, the " Night Post 
Coach " finally drew up in the courtyard of the still- 
existing Eagle and Child (now called the Eagle) at 
Cambridge, at three o'clock in the morning. 

The next change seems to have been in 1804, 
when the " Telegraph " was advertised to cover the 
fifty-one miles in seven hours, and made the promise 
good. People said it was all very well, but shook 
their heads and were of opinion that it would not 
last. In 1821, however, we find the "Telegraph" 
still running, and actually in six hours, starting 
every morning at nine o'clock from the White Horse 
in Fetter Lane, going by Barkway, and arriving at 
the Sun at Cambridge at 3 p.m. This is the coach 
shown in Pollard's picture in the act of leaving the 
White Horse. In the meanwhile, however, in 1816 
another and even faster coach, the " Star of 
Cambridge," was established, and, if we may go so 
far as to believe the statement made on the rare old 
print showing it leaving the Belle Sauvage Yard 
on Ludgate Hill in that year, it performed the 
journey in four hours and a half ! Allowing for 
necessary stops for changing on the way, this would 
give a pace of over eleven miles an hour ; and we may 



CAMBRIDGE COACHES 19 

perhaps, in view of what both the roads and coaching 
enterprise were like at that time, be excused from 
believing that, apart from the special effort of any 
one particular day, it ever did anything of the kind ; 
even in 1821, five years later, as already shown, the 
"Telegraph," the crack coach of the period on this 
road, took six hours ! 

Let us see what others there were in 1821. To 
Cambridge went the " Safety," every day, from the 
Boar and Castle, Oxford Street, and the Bull, 
Aldgate, leaving the Bull at 3 p.m. and arriving at 
Cambridge, by way of Royston, in six hours; the 
" Tally Ho," from the Bull, Holborn, every afternoon 
at two o'clock, by the same route in the same time ; 
the " Royal Regulator," daily, from the New Inn, 
Old Bailey, in the like time, by Epping and 
Great Chesterford ; the old "Fly," daily, from the 
George and Blue Boar, Holborn and the Green 
Dragon, Bishopsgate, at 9 a.m., by the same route, 
in seven hours ; the " Cambridge Union," daily, from 
the White Horse, Fetter Lane and the Cross Keys, 
Wood Street, at 8 a.m., by Royston, in eight hours, 
to the Blue Boar, Cambridge ; the " Cambridge New 
Royal Patent Mail," still by Royston, arriving at 
the Bull, Cambridge, in seven and a half hours ; the 
" Cambridge and Ely " coach, every evening at 6 p.m., 
from the Golden Cross and the White Horse, arriving 
at the Eagle and Child, Cambridge, in ten hours ; and 
the " Cambridge Auxiliary Mail," and two other 
coaches, which do not appear to have borne any 
distinctive names, the duration of whose pilgrimage 
is not specified. 



20 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Cambridge was therefore provided in 1821 with 
no fewer than twelve coaches a day, starting from 
London at all hours, from a quarter to eight in the 
morning until half-past six in the afternoon. There 
were also the "Lynn and Wells Mail," every evening, 
reaching Lynn in twelve hours thirty-three minutes ; 
and the "Lynn Post Coach," through Cambridge, 
starting every morning from the Golden Cross, 
Charing Cross, and reaching Lynn in thirteen hours. 
The " Lynn Union " ran three days a week, in 
thirteen and a half hours, through Bark way. Other 
Lynn stages were the " Lord Nelson," " Lynn and 
Fakenham Post Coach," and two not dignified by 
specific names. 

By 1828 the average speed was greatly improved, 
for although no coach reached Cambridge in less than 
six hours, there was, on the other hand, only one 
that took so long a time as seven hours and a half. 
The Mail had been accelerated by one hour, through- 
out to Lynn, and was, before driven off the road, further 
quickened, the post-office schedule of time for the 
London, Cambridge, King's Lynn, and Wells Mail in 
1845 standing as under : 

London (G.P.O.) .... 8.0 p.m. 

Wade's Mill .... 10.32 

Buckland . . . . . 11.43 

Melbourn . . . . .12.32 a.m. 

Cambridge .... 1.36 

Ely ..... 3.31 

Brandon Creek .... 4.27 

Downhara Market . . . 5.21 

Lynn ..... 6.33 

Wells ..... 10.43 

In the 'forties, up to 1846 and 1847, the last 



CAMBRIDGE COACHES 21 

years of coaching on this road, the number of coaches 
does not seem to have greatly increased. The " Star " 
was still, meteor-like, making its swift daily journey 
to the Hoop at Cambridge, and the " Telegraph," 
"Regulator," "Times," and "Fly," and the "Mail," 
of course, were old-established favourites ; but new 
names are not many. The " Regulator," indeed, the 
daily "Royal Regulator" of years before, is found 
going only three times weekly. The " Red Rover," 
however, was a new-comer, between London and 
Lynn daily ; with the " Norfolk Hero " (which was 
probably another name for Nelson) three days a 
week between London, Cambridge, Ely, Lynn, and 
Wells. Recently added Cambridge coaches were the 
Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday " Bee Hive," and 
the daily " Rocket " ; while one daily and two tri- 
weekly coaches through Cambridge to Wisbeach the 
daily " Rapid " ; the Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday 
" Day " ; and the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 
" Defiance," make their appearance. 

How do those numbers compare with the number 
of trains run daily to Cambridge in our own time ? 
It is not altogether a fair comparison, because the 
capacities of a coach and of a railway train are so 
radically different. Twenty-nine trains run by all 
routes from London to Cambridge, day by day, and 
they probably, on an average, set down five hundred 
passengers between them at the joint station. Taking 
the average way-bill of a coach to contain ten 
passengers, the daily arrivals at Cambridge were a 
hundred and sixty, or, adding twenty post-chaises 
daily with two passengers each, a hundred and 



22 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

eighty. These are only speculative figures, but, un- 
supported by exact data though they must be, they 
give an approximation to an idea of the growth of 
traffic between those times and these. The imagina- 
tion refuses to picture this daily host being conveyed 
by road. It would have meant some thirty-five 
coaches, fully laden, and as for goods and general 
merchandise, the roads could not possibly have 
sufficed for the carrying of them. 



COACHING on the road from London to Lynn has 
found some literary expression in the Autobiography 
of a Stage Coachman, the work of Thomas Cross, 
published in 1861. Cross was a remarkable man. 
Born in 1791, he may fairly be said to have been 
born to the box-seat, his father, John Cross, having 
been a mail-contractor and stage-coach proprietor 
established at the Golden Cross, Charing Cross. 
The Cross family, towards the end of the eighteenth 
century, claimed to rank with the county families 
of Hampshire, and John Cross was himself a man 
of wealth. He had inherited some, and had made 
more by fetching and carrying for the Government 
along the old Portsmouth Road in the romantic days 
of our long wars with France. He not only had his 
establishment in London and a town house in Ports- 
mouth, but also the three separate and distinct 
country seats of Freeland House and Stodham, near 



JOHN CROSS 25 

Petersfield, and the house and grounds of Qualletes, 
at Horndean, purchased in after years by Admiral Sir 
Charles Napier, and renamed by him " Merchistoun." 
John Cross was always headstrong and reckless, and 
made much money and lost much. The story of 
how he would fill his pockets with gold at his bank 
at Portsmouth and then ride the lonely twenty miles 
thence to Horndean explains his making and his losing. 
No cautious traveller in those times went alone by that 
road, and the highwaymen tried often to bag this par- 
ticularly well-known man, who carried such wealth on 
him. " Many a shot I've had at old John Cross of 
Stodham," said one of these gentry when lying, cast 
for execution, in Portsmouth Gaol ; adding regret- 
fully, " but I couldn't hit him : he rode like the 
devil." 

This fine reckless character lived to dissipate 
everything in ill-judged speculations, and misfortunes 
of all kinds visited the family. We are told but 
little of them in the pages of his son's book, but 
it was entirely owing to one of these visitations that 
Thomas Cross found his whole career changed. 
Destined by his father for the Navy, he was 
entered as a midshipman, but he had been subject 
from his birth to fits, and coming home on one 
occasion and going into the cellars of a wine business 
his father had in the meanwhile taken, he was 
seized by one of these attacks, and falling on a 
number of wine-bottles, was so seriously injured 
that the profession of the Navy had to be abandoned. 
We afterwards find him as a farmer in Hampshire, 
and then, involved in the financial disasters that 



26 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

overtook the family, reduced to seeking an engage- 
ment as coachman in the very yard his father had 
once owned. It is curious that, either intentionally 
or by accident, he does not mention the name of 
the coach he drove between London and Lynn, but 
calls it always "the Lynn coach." There were 
changes on the road between 1821, when he first 
drove along it, and 1847, when he was driven off, 
but he is chiefly to be remembered as the driver of 
the " Lynn Union." He tells how he came to the 
box-seat, how miserably he was shuttlecocked from 
one to the other when in search of employment, and 
how, when the whip who drove the "Lynn coach" 
on its stage between Cambridge and London had 
taken an inn and was about to relinquish his seat, 
he could obtain no certain information that the post 
would be vacant. The bookkeeper of the coach-office 
said it would ; the coachman himself told a lie and 
said he was not going to give up the job. In this 
condition of affairs Cross did not know what to do, 
until a kindly acquaintance gave him the date upon 
which the lying Jehu must take possession of his 
inn and of necessity give up coaching, and advised 
him to journey down to Cambridge, meet the up 
coach there as it drove into the Bull yard, and 
present himself as the coachman come to take it up 
to London. Cross scrupulously carried out this sug- 
gestion, and when he made his appearance, with 
whip and in approved coaching costume, at the 
Bull, and was asked who he was and what he wanted, 
replied as his friend had indicated. No one offered 
any objection, and no other coachman had appeared 



THOMAS CROSS 



27 



by the time he drove away, punctual to the very 
second we may be quite sure. An old resident of 
Lynn, who has written his recollections of bygone 
times in that town, tells us that Thomas Cross " was 
not much of a whip," a criticism that seems to be 
doubly underscored in Cross's own description of 
this first journey to London, when he drove straight 
into the double turnpike gates that then stretched 
across the Kingsland Road, giving everyone a good 
shaking, and cause, in many bruises, to remember 
his maiden effort. 

Cross had a long and varied experience, extending 
to twenty-eight years, of this road. At different 
times he drove between London and Cambridge, 
on the middle ground between Cambridge and Ely, 
and for a while took the whole distance between 
Ely and Lynn. He drove in his time all sorts and 
conditions of men, and instances some of his ex- 
periences. Perhaps the most amusing was that 
occasion when he drove into Cambridge with a 
choleric retired Admiral on the box-seat. The old 
sea-dog was come to Cambridge to inquire into the 
trouble into which a scapegrace son had managed to 
place himself. He confided the whole story to the 
coachman. By this it seemed that the Admiral had 
two sons. One he had designed to make a sailor ; 
the other was being educated for the Church. It 
was the embryo parson who had got into trouble : 
very serious trouble, too, for he had knocked down 
a Proctor, and was rusticated for that offence. The 
Admiral, in fact, had made a very grave error of 
judgment. His sons had very opposite characters : 



28 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

the one was wild and high-spirited, and the other 
was meek and mild to the last degree of inoffensive- 
ness. Unfortunately it was this good young 
man whom he had sent to sea, while his devil's 
cub he had put in the way of reading for Holy 
Orders. 

"I have committed a great mistake, sir," he 
said. " I ought to have made a sailor of him and 
a parson of the other, who is a meek, unassuming 
youth aboard ship, with nothing to say for himself ; 
while this, sir, would knock the devil down, let 
alone a Proctor, if he offended him." 

The Admiral was a study in the mingled moods 
of offended dignity and of parental pride in this chip 
of the old block ; breathing implacable vengeance one 

moment and admiration of a " d d high-spirited 

fellow " the next. When Thomas Cross set out on 
his return journey to London, he saw the Admiral 
and his peccant son together, the best of friends. 

Cross was in his prime when railways came and 
spoiled his career. In 1840, when the Northern and 
Eastern line was opened to Broxbourne, and thence, 
shortly after, to Bishop Stortford, he had to give 
up the London and Cambridge stage and retire 
before the invading locomotive to the Cambridge 
and Lynn journey. In 1847, when the Ely to Lynn 
line was opened, his occupation was wholly gone, 
and all attempts to find employment on the railway 
failed. They would not have him, even to ring the 
bell when the trains were about to start. Then, like 
many another poor fellow at that time, he presented an 
engrossed petition to Parliament, setting forth how 



A COACHMAN'S FATE 29 



hardly circumstances had dealt with him, and hoping 
that "your honourable House" would do something 
or another. The House, however, was largely com- 
posed of members highly interested in railways, and 
ordered his petition, with many another, to lie on 
the table : an evasive but well-recognised way of 
utterly ignoring him and it and all such troublesome 
and inconvenient things and persons. Alas ! poor 
Thomas ! He had better have saved the money he 
expended on that engrossing. 

What became of him ? I will tell you. For 
some years he benefited by the doles of his old 
patrons on the " Union," sorry both for him and for 
the old days of the road, gone for ever. He then 
wrote a history of coaching, a work that disappeared 
type, manuscript, proofs and all in the bankruptcy 
proceedings in which his printers were presently 
involved. Then he wrote his Autobiography. He 
was, you must understand, a gentleman by birth and 
education, and if he had little literary talent, had at 
least some culture. Therefore the story of his career, 
as told by himself, although discursive, is interesting. 
He had some Greek and more Latin, and thought 
himself a poet. I have, however, read his epic, The 
Pauliad, and find that in this respect he was mis- 
taken. That exercise in blank verse was published 
in 1.863, and was his last work. Two years later he 
found a place in Huggens' College, a charitable 
foundation at Northfleet, near Gravesend ; and died 
in 1877, in his eighty-sixth year, after twelve years' 
residence in that secure retreat. He lies in Northfleet 
churchyard, far away from that place where he would 



3 o THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

be, the little churchyard of Catherington beside the 

Portsmouth Road, where his father and many of his 
people rest. 



VI 



FEW and fragmentary are the recollections of the 
old coachmen of the Cambridge Road. A coloured 
etching exists, the work of Dighton, purporting to 
show the driver of the "Telegraph" in 1809; but 
whether this represents that Richard Vaughan of the 
same coach, praised in the book on coaching by Lord 
William Pitt-Lennox as "scientific in horseflesh, 
unequalled in driving," is doubtful, for the hero of 
Dighton's picture seems to belong to an earlier 
generation. Among drivers of the "Telegraph" 
were "Old Quaker Will" and George Elliott, just 
mentioned by Thomas Cross ; himself not much 
given to enlarging upon other coachmen and their 
professional skill. Poor Tommy necessarily moved 
in their circle ; but although with them, he was not 
of them, and nursed a pride both of his family and 
of his own superior education that grew more 
arrogant as his misfortunes increased. As for 
Tommy himself, we have already heard much of him 
and his Autobiography of a Stage Coachman. The 
" Lynn Union," however, the coach he drove down 
part of the road one day and up the next, was by no 
means one of the crack " double " coaches, but started 
from either end only three times a week, and 
although upset every now and again, was a jog- 



JO WALTON 31 

trot affair that averaged but seven miles an hour, 
including stops. That the "Lynn Union" commonly 
carried a consignment of shrimps one way and the 
returned empty baskets another was long one of Cross's 
minor martyrdoms. He drove along the road, his 
head full of poetry and noble thoughts, and yearning 
for cultured talk, while the shrimp-baskets diffused 
a penetrating odour around, highly offensive to those 
cultured folk for whose society his soul longed. 
People with a nice sense of smell avoided the " Lynn 
Union " while the shrimp-carrying continued. 

Contemporary with Cross was Jo Walton, of the 
" Safety," and later of the " Star." He was perhaps 
one of the finest coachmen who ever drove on the 
Cambridge Road, and it was possibly the knowledge 
of this skill, and the daring to which it led, that 
brought so many mishaps to the "Star" while he 
wielded the reins. He has been described as "a 
man who swore like a trooper and went regularly to 
church," with a temper like an emperor and a grip like 
steel. This fine picturesque character was the very 
antithesis of the peaceful and dreamy Cross, and 
thought nothing of double - thonging a nodding 
waggoner who blocked the road with his sleepy team. 
Twice at least he upset the " Star" between Roys ton 
and Buntingford when attempting to pass another 
coach. He, at last, was cut short by the railway, 
and his final journeys were between Broxbourrie 
and Cambridge. "Here," he would say bitterly, as 
the train came steaming into Broxbourne Station, 
" here comes old Hell-in-Harness ! " 

Of James Reynolds, of Pryor, who drove the 



32 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

" Rocket," of many another, their attributes are lost 
and only their names survive. That William Clark, 
who drove the " Bee Hive," should have been widely 
known as " the civil coachman " is at once a testi- 
monial to him and a reproach to the others; and 
that memories of Briggs at Lynn should be restricted 
to the facts that he was discontented and quarrelsome 
is a post-mortem certificate of character that gains 
in significance when even the name of the coach he 
drove cannot be recovered. 



VII 



BISHOPSGATE STREET WITHIN and Without, and Norton 
Folgate of to-day, would astonish old Hobson, not 
only with their press of ordinary traffic, but with 
the vast number of railway lorries rattling and 
thundering along, to and from the great Bishopsgate 
Goods Station of the Great Eastern Kailway ; the 
railway that has supplanted the coaches and the 
carriers' waggons along the whole length of this 
road. That station, once the passenger terminus of 
Shoreditch, before the present huge one at Liverpool 
Street was built, remains as a connecting-link 
between the prosperous and popular " Great Eastern " 
of to-day and the reviled and bankrupt "Eastern 
Counties" of fifty years ago. The history of the 
Great Eastern Kailway is a complicated story of 
amalgamations of many lines with the original 
Eastern Counties Railway. The line to Cambridge, 



EARL Y RAIL WA Y DA YS 



33 



with which we are principally concerned, was in the 
first instance the project of an independent company 
calling itself the Northern and Eastern Kailway, 
opened after many difficulties as far as Broxbourne 
in 1840, and thence, shortly afterwards, to Bishop 
Stortford. Having reached that point and the end 
of its resources simultaneously, it was taken over by 
the Eastern Counties and completed in 1847, the 
line going, as the Cambridge expresses do nowadays, 
vid Audley End and Great Chesterford. 

Having thus purchased and completed the scheme 
of that unfortunate line, the Eastern Counties' own 
difficulties became acute. Locomotives and rolling 
stock were seized for debt, and it fell into bankruptcy 
and the Keceiver's hands. How it emerged at last, a 
sound and prosperous concern, this is not the place 
to tell, but many years passed before any passenger 
whose business took him anywhere along the Eastern 
Counties' "system" could rely upon being carried 
to his destination without vexatious delays, not of 
minutes, but of hours. Often the trains never 
completed their journeys at all, and came back whence 
they had started. Little wonder that this was then 
described as " that scapegoat of companies, that 
pariah of railways." 

" On Wednesday last," said Punch at this time, 
" a respectably-dressed young man was seen to go to 
the Shoreditch terminus of the Eastern Counties 
Railway and deliberately take a ticket for Cambridge. 
He has not since been heard of. No motive has 
been assigned for the rash act." 

The best among the Great Eastern Cambridge 
3 



3 4 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

expresses of to-day does the journey of 55| miles in 
1 hour 13 minutes. Onward to Lynn, 97 miles, 
the best time made is 2 hours 25 minutes.. 



VIII 

IT is a far cry from Shoreditch Church to the open 
country. Cobbett, in 1822, journeying from London 
to Koyston, found the suburbs far-reaching even 
then. " On this road," he says, " the enormous 
Wen " (a term of contempt by which he indicated the 
Metropolis) " has swelled out to the distance of above 
six or seven miles." But from the earliest times 
London exhibited a tendency to expand more quickly 
in this direction than in others, and Edmonton, 
Waltham Cross, and Ware lay within the marches 
of Cockaigne long before places within a like radius 
at other points of the compass began to lose their 
rural look. The reason is not far to seek, and may 
be found in the fact that this, the great road to the 
North, was much travelled always. 

But where shall we set the limits of the Great Wen 
in recent times ? Even as these lines are written they 
are being pushed outwards. It is not enough to 
put a finger on the map at Stamford Hill and to 
say, " here, at the boundary of the London County 
Council's territory," or "here at Edmonton, the 
limit of the 'N' division of the London Postal 
Districts," or, again, " here, where the Metropolitan 
Police Area meets the territories of the Hertfordshire 



WHERE DOES LONDON END ? 35 

and the Essex Constabulary at Cheshunt " ; for those 
are but arbitrary bounds, and, beyond their own indi- 
vidual significances, tell us nothing. Have you ever, 
as a child, looking, large-eyed and a little frightened 
it may be, out upon the bigness of London, wondered 
where the houses ended and God's own country 
began, or asked where the last house of the last 
street looked out upon the meadows, and the final 
flag-stone led on to the footpath of the King's 
Highway ? 

I have asked, and there was none to tell, and if 
you in turn ask me where the last house of the 
ultimate street stands on this way out of London 
I do not know ! There are so many last houses, 
and they always begin again ; so that little romantic 
mental picture does not exist in plain fact. The 
ending of London is a gradual and almost insensible 
process. You may note it when, leaving Stoke 
Newington's continuous streets behind, you rise 
Stamford Hill and perceive its detached and semi- 
detached residences ; and, pressing on, see the streets 
begin again at Tottenham High Cross, continuing to 
Lower Edmonton. Here at last, in the waste lands 
that stretch along the road, you think the object of 
your search is found. As well seek that fabled pot 
of gold at the foot of the rainbow. The pot and the 
gold may be there, but you will never, never reach 
the rainbow. 

The houses begin again, absurdly enough, at 
Bonder's End. You will come to an end of them at 
last, but only gradually, and when, at fifteen and 
three-quarter miles from Shoreditch Church, Brox- 



3 6 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

bourne and the first glimpse of "real country" are 
reached, the original quest is forgotten. 

Very different was the aspect of these first miles 
out of London in the days of Izaak Walton, Cowper, 
and Lamb. Cowper's Johnny Gilpin rode to 
Edmonton and Ware, and Walton and Lamb the 
inspired Fleet Street draper and the thrall of the 
Leadenhall Street office are literary co-parceners in 
the valley of the Lea. 

"You are well overtaken, gentlemen," says 
Piscator, in the Compleat Angler, journeying 
from London ; "a good morning to you both. I 
have stretched my legs up Tottenham Hill to over- 
take you, hoping your business may occasion you 
towards Ware, whither I am going this fine, fresh 
May morning." He meant that suburban eminence 
known as Stamford Hill, where, in the beginning of 
May 1603, the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of London, 
having ridden out in State for the purpose, met 
James the First travelling to London to assume the 
Crown of England. 

Stamford Hill still shadows forth a well-established 
prosperity. It was the favoured suburban resort of 
City merchants in the first half of the nineteenth 
century, and is still intensely respectable and well- 
to-do, even though the merchants have risen with 
the swelling of their bankers' pass-books to higher 
ambitions, and though many of their solid, stolid, 
and prim mansions know them no more, and are 
converted not infrequently into what we may bluntly 
call " boys' and girls' schools," termed, however, by 
their respective Dr. Blimber's arid Miss Pinkerton's 



STAMFORD HILL 37 

" scholastic establishments for young ladies and 
young gentlemen." The old-time City merchant 
who resided at Stamford Hill when the nineteenth 
century was young (a period when people began to 
" reside " in " desirable residences " instead of merely 
living in houses), used generally, if he were an active 
man, to go up to his business in the City on horse- 
back, and return in the same way. If not so active, 
he came and went by the " short stage," a conveyance 
between London and the adjacent towns, to all 
intents and purposes an ordinary stage-coach, except 
that it was a two-horsed, instead of a four-horsed, 
affair. The last City man who rode to London on 
horseback has probably long since been gathered to 
his fathers, for the practice naturally was discon- 
tinued when railways came and revolutionised 
manners and customs. 

As you top Stamford Hill, you glimpse the 
valley of the Lea arid its factory-studded marshes, 
and come presently to Tottenham High Cross. 
No need to linger nowadays over the scenery of 
this populous road, lined with shops and villas and 
crowded with tramways and omnibuses ; no need, 
that is to say, except for association's sake, and 
to remark that it was here Piscator called a halt 
to Venator and Auceps, on their way to the 
Thatched House at Hoddesdon, now going on for 
two hundred and fifty years ago. " Let us now " 
(he said) " rest ourselves in this sweet, shady arbour, 
which Nature herself has woven with her own fine 
fingers ; it is such a contexture of woodbines, sweet 
briars, jessamine, and myrtle, and so interwoven as 



3 g THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

will secure us both from the sun's violent heat and 
from the approaching shower." And so they sat 
and discussed a bottle of sack, with oranges 

and milk. 

So gracious a "contexture" is far to seek from 
Tottenham nowadays. If you need shelter from 




TOTTENHAM CROSS. 



the approaching shower you can, it is true, obtain 
it more securely in the doorway of a shop than 
under a hedgerow in May, when Nature has not 
nearly finished her weaving ; but there is something 
lacking in the exchange. 

Tottenham High Cross that stands here by, over 
against the Green, is a very dubious affair indeed ; 



4 o THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

an impostor that would delude you if possible into 
the idea that it is one of the Eleanor Crosses ; with 
a will-o'-wisp kind of history, from the time in 
1466, when it is found mentioned only as existing, 
to after ages, when it was new-built of brick and 
thereafter horribly stuccoed, to the present, when 
it is become a jibe and a jeer in its would-be Gothic. 
Much of old Tottenham is gone. Gone are the 
" Seven Sisters," the seven elms that stood here in 
a circle, with a walnut-tree in their midst, marking, 
as tradition would have you believe, the resting- 
place of a martyr ; but in their stead is the 
beginning of the Seven Sisters' Eoad ; not a 
thoroughfare whose romance leaps to the eye. 
What these then remote suburbs were like in 
1816 may be seen in this charming sketch of 
Rowlandson's, where he is found in his more sober 
mood. The milestone in the sketch marks four 
and three - quarter miles from Shoreditch : this is 
therefore a scene at Tottenham, where the tramway 
runs nowadays, costermongers' barrows line the 
gutters, and crowds press, night and day. Little 
enough traffic in Rowlandson's time, evidently, 
for the fowls and the pigs are taking their ease 
in the very middle of the footpath. 

Yet there are still a few vestiges of the old and 
the picturesque here. Bruce Grove, hard by, may 
be but a name, reminiscent of Robert Bruce and 
other Scottish monarchs who once owned a manor 
and a castle where suburban villas now cluster 
plentifully, and where the modern so-called "Bruce 
Castle" is a school; but there are dignified old 



OLD ALMSHOUSES 41 

red-brick mansions here still, lying back from the 
road behind strong walls and grand gates of 
wrought iron. The builder has his eye on them, 
an Evil Eye that has already blasted not a few, 
and with bulging money-bags he tempts the owners 
of the others : even as I write they go down before 
the pick and shovel. 

Old almshouses there are, too, with dedicatory 




BALTHAZAR SANCHEZ' ALMSHOUSES, TOTTENHAM. 

tablet, complete. The builder and his money-bags 
cannot prevail here, you think. Can he not ? My 
good sirs, have you never heard of the Charity 
Commissioners, whose business it is to sit in their 
snug quarters in Whitehall and to propound 
"schemes" whereby such old buildings as these 
are torn down, their sites sold for a mess of 



42 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

pottage, and the old pensioners hustled off to some 
new settlement? " But look at the value of the 
land," you say : "to sell it would admit of the 
scope of the charity being doubled." No doubt; 
but what of the original testator's wishes ? I think, 
if it were proposed to remove these old almshouses, 
the shade of Balthazar Sanchez, the founder, 
somewhere in the Beyond, would be grieved. 

One Bed well, parson of Tottenham High Cross 
circa 1631, and a most diligent Smelfungus, tells 
us Balthazar was " a Spanyard born, the first 
confectioner or comfit-maker, and the grand master 
of all that professe that trade in this kingdom e " ; 
and the tablet before-mentioned, on the front of the 
old almshouses themselves, tells us something on its 
own account, as thus 

" 1600 

BALTHAZAR SANCHEZ, Borne in Spayne 
in the Cittie of Sherez in Estremadu- 
ra, is the Fownder of these Eyght 
Almeshowses for the Eeleefe of 
Eyght poor men and women of the 
Towne of Tattenham High Crasse." 

Long may the queer old houses, with their monu- 
mental chimney - stalks and forecourt gardens 
remain : it were not well to vex the ghost of the 
good comfit-maker. 

" Scotland Green " is the name of an odd and 
haphazard collection of cottages next these aims- 
houses, looking down into Tottenham Marshes. 
Its name derives from the far-off days when those 
Scottish monarchs had their manor-house near by, 



EDMONTON 43 

and though the weather-boarded architecture of the 
cottages by no means dates back to those times, 
it is a queer survival of days before Tottenham 
had become a suburb ; each humble dwelling a 
law to itself, facing in a direction different from 
those of its neighbours, and generally approached 
by crazy wooden footbridges over what was probably 
at one time a tributary of the Lea, now an evil- 
smelling ditch where the children of the neighbour- 
hood enjoy themselves hugely in making mud-pies, 
and by dint of early and constant familiarity 
become immune from the typhoid fever that would 
certainly be the lot of a stranger. 



IX 



EDMONTON, to whose long street we now come, has 
many titles to fame. John Gilpin may not afford 
the oldest of these, and he may be no more than 
the purely imaginary figure of a humorous ballad, 
but beside the celebrity of that worthy citizen and 
execrable horseman everything else at Edmonton 
sinks into obscurity. 

" John Gilpin was a citizen 

Of credit and renown, 
A train-band captain eke was he 
Of famous London town." 

Izaak Walton himself, of indubitable flesh and blood, 
forsaking his yard-measure and Fleet Street counter 
and tramping through Edmonton to the fishful Lea, 



44 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

has not made so great a mark as his fictitious fellow- 
tradesman, the draper of Cheapside. 

Who has not read of John Gilpin's ride to 
Edmonton, in Cowper's deathless verse? Cowper, 
most melancholy of poets, made the whole English- 
speaking world laugh with the story of Gilpin's 
adventures. How he came to write the ballad 
it may not be amiss to tell. The idea was suggested 
to him at Olney, in 1782, by Lady Austen, who, to 
rouse him from one of his blackest moods, related 
a merry tale she had heard of a London citizen's 
adventures, identical with the verses into which he 
afterwards cast the story. He lay awake all that 
night, and the next morning, with the idea of 
amusing himself and his friends, wrote the famous 
lines. He had no intention of publishing them, 
but his friend, Mrs. Unwin, sent a copy to the 
Public Advertiser. Strange to say, it did not 
attract much attention in those columns, and it 
was not until three years later, when an actor, 
Henderson by name, recited the ballad at Free- 
masons' Hall that (as modern slang would put it) 
it " caught on." It then became instantly popular. 
Every ballad - printer printed, and every artist 
illustrated it ; but the author remained unknown 
until Cowper included it in a collection of his 
works. 

There are almost as many originals of John 
Grilpin as there are of Sam Weller. There used to 
be numbers of respectable and ordinarily dependable 
people who were convinced they knew the original 
of Sam Weller, in dozens of different persons and in 



JOHN GILPIN 45 

widely - sundered towns, and the literary world is 
even now debating as to who sat as the model for 
Squeers. So far back as the reign of Henry the Eighth 
the ludicrous idea of a London citizen trying to 
ride horseback to Edmonton made people laugh, and 
on it Sir Thomas More based his metrical " Merry 
Jest of the Serjeant and the Frere." It would be 
no surprise to discover that Aristophanes or another 
waggish ancient Greek had used the same idea to 
poke fun at some clumsy Athenian, and that, even 
so, it was stolen from the Egyptians. Indeed, I 
have no doubt that the germ of the story is to be 
found in the awkwardness of one of Noah's sons 
in trying to ride an unaccustomed animal into 
the Ark. 

The immediate supposititious originals of John 
Gilpin were many. Some identified him with a 
Mr. Beger, a Cheapside draper, who died in 1791, 
aged one hundred. Others found him in Commodore 
Trunnion, in Peregrine Pickle, and a John Gilpin 
lies in Westminster Abbey. The Gentleman's 
Magazine in 1790, five years after Cowper's poem 
became the rage, records the death at Bath of a 
Mr. Jonathan Gilpin, " the gentleman who was so 
severely ridiculed for bad horsemanship under the 
title of ' John Gilpin.' " All accidental resemblances 
and odd coincidences, without doubt. 

But if John had no corporeal existence, the 
Bell at Edmonton at Upper Edmonton, to be 
precise was a very real place, and, in an altered 
form, still is. Who could doubt of the man who 
ever saw the house ? Is not the present Bell 



4 6 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

real enough, and, for that matter, ugly enough ? and 
is not the picture of John, wigless and breathless, 
and his coat-tails flying, sufficiently prominent on 
the sign ? The present building is the third since 
Cowper's time, and is just an ordinary vulgar 
London " public," standing at the corner of a shabby 
street (where there are no trees), called, with horrible 
alliteration, " Gilpin Grove." 

Proceed we onwards, having said sufficient of 
Gilpin. Off to the right hand turned old Izaak, to 
Cook's Ferry and the Bleak Hall Inn by the Lea, 
that " honest ale-house, where might be found a 
cleanly room, lavender in the windows, and twenty 
ballads stuck about the wall." Ill questing it would 
be that should seek nowadays for the old inn. 
Instead, down by Angel Road Station and the Lea 
marshes, you find only factories and odours of the 
Pit, horrent and obscene. We have yet to come 
to the kernel, the nucleus of this Edmonton. Here 
it is, at Lower Edmonton, at the end of many 
houses, in a left-hand turning Edmonton Green ; 
the green a little shorn, perhaps, of its old pro- 
portions, and certainly by no means rural. On it 
they burnt the unhappy Elizabeth Sawyer, the 
Witch of Edmonton, in 1621, with the full approval 
of king and council : Ahriman perhaps founding 
one of his claims to Jamie for that wicked deed. 
It was well for Peter Fabell, who at Edmonton 
deceived the devil himself, that he practised his 
conjuring arts before Jamie came to rule over us, 
else he had gone the way of that unhappy Elizabeth ; 
for James was of a logical turn of mind, and would 



CHARLES LAMB 47 

have argued the worst of one who could beat the 
Father of Lies at his own game. Peter flourished, 
happily for him, in the less pragmatical days of 
Henry the Seventh. We should call him in these 
matter-of-fact days a master of legerdemain, and 
he would dare pretend to no more ; but he was 
honoured and feared in his own time, and lies 
somewhere in the parish church, his monument 
clean gone. On his exploits Elizabethan dramatists 
founded the play of the Merry Demi of Edmonton. 

The railway and the tramway have between 
them played the very mischief with Edmonton 
Green and the Wash 

"... the Wash 
Of Edmonton so gay" 

that here used to flow athwart the road, and does 
actually still so flow, or trickle, or stagnate ; if 
not always visible to the eye, at least making its 
presence obvious at all seasons to the nose. In the 
first instance, the railway planted a station and a 
level crossing on the highway, practically in the 
Wash ; and then the Tramway Company, in order 
to carry its line along the road to Ponder's End, 
constructed a very steeply rising road over the 
railway. Add to these objectionable details, that of 
another railway crossing over the by-road where 
Lamb's Cottage and the church are to be found, and 
enough will have been said to prove that the Edmon- 
ton of old is sorely overlaid with sordid modernity. 

Charles Lamb would scarce recognise his Edmon- 
ton if it were possible he could revisit the spot, and 



48 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

it seems the present suburban aspect of the road 
before us a curious ideal of happiness he set him- 
self : retirement at Edmonton or Ponder's End, 
" toddling about it, between it and Cheshunt, anon 
stretching on some fine Izaak Walton morning to 
Hoddesdon or Amwell, careless as a beggar, but 
walking, walking ever, till I fairly walked myself 
off my legs, dying walking." 

Everyone to his taste, of course, but it does not 
seem a particularly desirable end. It is curious, 
however, to note that this aspiration was, in a sense, 
realised, for it was in his sixtieth year that, taking 
his customary walk along the London road one day 
in December 1834, he stumbled against a stone and 
fell, cutting his face. It seemed at the time a slight 
injury, but erysipelas set in a few days later, and on 
the twenty-seventh of the same month he died. It 
was but a fortnight before, that he had pointed out to 
his sister the spot in Edmonton churchyard where 
he wished to be buried. 

Lamb's last retreat " Bay Cottage " as it was 
named, and " Lamb's Cottage " as it has since been 
re - christened, "the prettiest, compactest house I 
ever saw," says he stands in the lane leading to 
the church ; squeezed in between old mansions, and 
lying back from the road at the end of a long 
narrow strip of garden. It is a stuccoed little house, 
curiously like Lamb himself, when you come to 
consider it : rather mean-looking, undersized, and 
unkempt, and overshadowed by its big neighbours, 
just as Lamb's little talents were thrown into in- 
significance by his really great contemporaries. The 



CHARLES LAMB 



49 



big neighbours of the little cottage are even now on 
the verge of being demolished, and the lane itself, 
the last retreat of old-world Edmonton, is being- 
modernised ; so that those who cultivate their Lamb 
will not long be able to trace these, his last land- 
marks. Already, as we have seen, the Bell has 
gone, where Lamb, "seeing off" his visitors on their 
way back to London, took a parting glass with 
them, stutteringly bidding them hurry when the 
c-cu-coach c-came in. 

One of the most curious of literary phenomena is 
this Lamb worship. Dingy, twittering little London 
sparrow that he was, diligent digger-up of Elizabethan 
archaisms with which to tune his chirpings, he seems 
often to have inspired the warmest of personal 
admiration. As the " gentle Elia " one finds him 
always referred to, and a halo of romance has been 
thrown about him and his doings to which neither he 
nor they can in reality lay much claim. Eomance 
flies abashed before the picture of Lamb and his 
sister diluting down the poet of all time in the 
Tales from Shakespeare : Charles sipping gin 
between whiles, and Mary vigorously snuffing. Nor 
was his wit of the kindly sort readily associated with 
the epithet "gentle." It flowed the more readily 
after copious libations of gin -and -water, and resolved 
itself at such times into the offensive, if humorous, 
personalities that were the stock in trade of early 
nineteenth-century witlings. His famous witticism 
at a card-party on one who had hands not of the 
cleanest ("If dirt were trumps, what a hand you'd 
have") must have been bred of the juniper berry. 
4 



5 o THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Stuttering and blue-lipped the next morning, he was 
an object of pity or derision, just according to the 
charity of those who beheld him. Carlyle, who 
knew Lamb in his latter days, draws him as he was, 
in one of those unmerciful pen-portraits he could 
create so well : " Charles Lamb and his sister came 
daily once or oftener ; a very sorry pair of phenomena. 
Insuperable proclivity to gin in poor old Lamb. 
His talk contemptibly small, indicating wondrous 
ignorance and shallowness, even when it was serious 
and good-mannered, which it seldom was, usually 
ill-mannered (to a degree), screwed into frosty 
artificialities, ghastly make-believe of wit, in fact 
more like ' diluted insanity ' (as I defined it) than 
anything of real jocosity, humour, or geniality. A 
most slender fibre of actual worth in that poor 
Charles, abundantly recognisable to me as to others, 
in his better times and moods ; but he was Cockney 
to the marrow ; and Cockneydom, shouting * glorious, 
marvellous, unparalleled in nature ! ' all his days 
had quite bewildered his poor head, and churned 
nearly all the sense out of the poor man. He was 
the leanest of mankind, tiny black breeches buttoned 
to the knee-cap, and no further, surmounting spindle- 
legs also in black, face and head fineish, black, bony, 
lean, and of a Jew type rather ; in the eyes a kind 
of smoky brightness or confused sharpness ; spoke 
with a stutter; in walking tottered and shuffled; 
emblem of imbecility bodily and spiritual (something 
of real insanity I have understood), and yet some- 
thing too of human, ingenuous, pathetic, sportfully 
much enduring. Poor Lamb ! he was infinitely 



AN OSTLER'S EPITAPH 51 

astonished at my wife and her quiet encounter of 
his too ghastly London wit by a cheerful native 
ditto. Adieu, poor Lamb ! " 

Edmonton Church has lain too near London in 
all these years to have escaped many interferences, 
and the body of it was until recently piteous with 
the doings of 1772, when red brick walls and windows 
of the factory type replaced its ancient architecture. 
These have now in their turn been swept away, and 
good modern Gothic put in their stead, already 
densely covered with ivy. The ancient tower still 
rises grandly from the west end, looking down upon 
a great crowded churchyard ; a very forest of tomb- 
stones. Near by is the grave of Charles and Mary 
Lamb, with a long set of verses inscribed upon their 
headstone. 

There was once in this churchyard of Edmonton 
a curious epitaph on one William Newberry, ostler to 
the Rose and Crown Inn, who died in 1695 from the 
effects of unsuitable medicine given him by a fellow- 
servant acting as an amateur doctor. The stone 
was removed by some clerical prude 

" Hie jacet Newberry, Will 
Vitam finivet cum Cochin Pill 
Quis administravit ? Bellamy, Sue 
Quantum quantitat nescio, scisne tu ? 
Ne sutor ultra crepidam." 

The feelings of Sue Bellamy will not be envied, 
but Sue, equally with William, has long reached 
beyond all such considerations, and the Rose and 
Crown of that day is no more. There is still, 
however, a Rose and Crown, and a very fine building 



52 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

it is, with eleven windows in line and wearing a 
noble and dignified air. It is genuine Queen Anne 
architecture ; the older house being rebuilt only ten 
years after the ostler was cut off untimely, as may 
be seen by the tablet on its front, dated not only 
1705, but descending to the small particular of 
actual month and day of completion. 



X 



THE tramway line, progressing through Edmonton 
in single track, goes on in hesitating fashion some 
little distance beyond Edmonton Green, and termin- 
ates in a last feeble, expiring effort on the open road, 
midway between Edmonton and Ponder's End ; like 
the railhead of some African desert line halting on 
the edge of a perilous country. Where it ends there 
stands, solitary, a refreshment house, so like the last 
outpost of civilisation that the wayfarer whimsically 
wonders whether he had not better provision himself 
liberally before adventuring into the flats that lie so 
stark and forbidding before him. 

It is indeed an uninviting waste. On it the 
gipsy caravans halt ; here the sanguine speculative 
builder projects a street of cheap houses and generally 
leaves derelict " carcases " of buildings behind him ; 
here the brick-maker and the market-gardener 
contend with one another, and the shooters of 
rubbish bring their convoys of dust, dirt, and old 
tins from afar. On the skyline ahead are factory 



PONDER 'S END 53 

chimneys, and to the east the only gracious note in 
the whole scene the wooded hills of Essex, across 
the malodorous Lea, 

This desolate tract is bounded by the settlement 
of Ponder's End, an old roadside hamlet. " Ponder's 
End," says Lamb, "emblematic name, how beautiful!" 
Sarcasm that, doubtless, for of what it is emblematic, 
and where lies the beauty of either place or name, 
who shall discover? The name has a heavily 
ruminative or contemplative sound, a little out of 
key with its modern note. For even Ponder's End 
has been rudely stirred up by the pitchfork of 
progress and bidden go forward, and new terraces of 
houses and shops no, not shops, nothing so vulgar ; 
" business premises " if you please have sprung up, 
and the oldest inhabitant is distraught with the 
changes that have befallen. Where he plodded in 
the mud there are pavements ; the ditch into whose 
unsavoury depths he has fallen many 'a time when 
returning late from the old Two Brewers is filled up, 
and the Two Brewers itself has changed from a road- 
side tavern to something resplendent in plate-glass 
and brilliant fittings. Our typical ancient and his 
friends, the market-gardening folk and the loutish 
waggoners, are afraid to enter. Nay, even the name 
of the village or hamlet, or urban district, or what- 
ever the exact slang term of the Local Government 
Board for its modern status may be, is not unlikely 
to see a change, for to the newer inhabitants it 
sounds derogatory to be a Ponder's Ender. 

To this succeeds another strip of sparsely-settled 
land, and you think that here, at last, the country 



54 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

is gained. Vain thought! Enfield Highway, a 
populous mile-length, dispels all such ideas, and even 
Enfield Wash, where the travellers of old were 
content to be drenched in the frequent floods, so 
long as they actually escaped with their lives, is 
suburban and commonplace. The stretch of road 
between the Wash and Waltham Cross still goes by 
the shivery name of Freezy water. 

Enfield Highway, like Ponder's End, was until 
quite recently stodged in sloughs, and resolutely old- 
world ; almost as old world indeed as when, in 1755, 
Mr. Spencer, the Lord Spencer of a few years later, 
came up from the shires in great state with his 
bride. Their procession consisted of three chariots, 
each drawn by six horses and escorted by two 
hundred horsemen. At sight of this cavalcade the 
whole neighbourhood was up in arms. The timid 
fled, the Jacobites rejoiced and ran off to ring the 
church bells in a merry peal, while loyal folks and 
brave armed themselves with pitchforks, pokers, and 
spades; for all thought the Pretender had come 
again and was marching on London. 

At Waltham Cross, formerly entered through a 
toll-gate, Middlesex is left behind and Hertfordshire 
gained. The name of Waltham Cross probably does 
not at this period inspire anyone with dread, but 
that was the feeling with which travellers approached 
it at any time between 1698 and 1780 ; for this was 
in all those years a neighbourhood where highway- 
men robbed and slew with impunity. Here was the 
favourite lurk of those desperate disbanded soldiers 
who on the Peace of Eyswick, finding pay and 



THE INEVITABLE HIGHWAYMAN 55 

occupation gone, banded together, and, building huts 
in the coverts of Epping Forest, came forth even in 
broad daylight, and, to the number of thirty, armed 
with swords and pistols, held up the traffic on this 
and the surrounding roads. Even when that for- 
midable gang was disposed of by calling out the 
Dragoon Guards in a regular campaign against them, 
there were others, for in 1722 a London morning 
paper stated that the turnpike-men from Shoreditch 
to Cheshunt had been furnished with speaking- 
trumpets, " as well to give notice to Passengers as 
to each other in case any Highwaymen or footpads 
are out," and the satisfactory report is added, " we 
don't find that any robbery has been committed in 
that quarter since they have been furnished with 
them, which has been these two months." Was it 
not hereabouts, too, that Turpin first met Tom King, 
and, taking him for an ordinary citizen, proposed to 
rob him ? Ay, and in that self-same Epping Forest, 
whose woodlands may even yet be seen, away to 
the right-hand, Turpin had his cave. Even so late 
as 1775 the Norwich stage was attacked one 
December morning by seven highwaymen, three of 
whom the guard shot dead. He would perhaps have 
finished the whole of them had his ammunition not 
failed and he in turn been shot, when the coach was 
robbed at leisure by the surviving desperadoes. 



56 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



XI 



IF the traveller does not know what to expect on 
approaching Waltham Cross, then the cross, standing 
in the centre of the road, must needs be a pleasant 
surprise to him, even though he presently discovers 
that they have done a great deal in recent times to 
spoil it ; " they " meaning the usual pastors and 
masters, the furbishers and titivators of things 
ancient and worshipful, applying to such things 
their own little nostrums and programmes. But, 
woefully re-restored though it be, its crockets and 
pinnacles and panellings patched with a stone whose 
colour does not match with that of the old work, one 
can still find it possible to look upon it with rever- 
ence, for among the ancient wayside memorials of 
our storied land the beautiful Eleanor Crosses stand 
foremost, both for their artistic and their historic 
interest. More than any others, they hold the 
sentiment and the imagination of the wayfarer, and 
their architecture is more complex. The story that 
belongs to them is one long since taken to the warm 
hearts of the people, and cherished as among the 
most touching in all the history of the realm a 
realm rich in stories of a peculiarly heart-compelling 
kind. 

It is that of Eleanor of Castile, Queen of Edward 
the First, who accompanied him to Palestine in 1270, 
on his Crusade against the Infidel. History tells 
how, on the evening of June 17, 1272, the King 
was seated alone and unarmed in a tent of the camp 



QUEEN ELEANOR 



57 



before Acre. It was his birthday, but birthdays 
find scant celebration in the tented field, and 
Edward on that day was engaged in the sterner 
business of receiving proposals of surrender from the 
besieged. He had given audience to a messenger 
from the Emir of Jaffa, who, having delivered the 
letter he had brought, stood waiting. Bending low, 
in answering a question the King had put to him, he 
suddenly put his hand to his belt, as though to 
produce other letters ; but, instead, drew a poisoned 
dagger and struck at the King with it. Edward 
endeavoured to shield himself, but received a deep 
wound in the arm ; then, as the man endeavoured 
to strike again, giving him a kick that felled him to 
the ground, he wrenched away the would-be assassin's 
dagger and plunged it into his body. When the 
King's attendants came rushing in, the man was 
dead. Fortunate for him it was that he died so 
simply, for the imaginations of those who dispensed 
the rough justice of the time were sufficiently fertile 
to have devised many novel and exquisitely painful 
variations of torture for such an one. 

The King's wound was serious, and although all 
the drugs and balsams in the limited pharmacopoeia 
of those times were administered, it grew worse. 
Then it was, according to the pretty story univers- 
ally received, that the Queen, finding the efforts 
of physicians vain, sucked the poison from the 
wounded arm of her lord to such good purpose that 
he recovered, and sat his charger again within fifteen 
days. 

Medical criticism on this recorded action of the 



5 8 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

poison could scarce fail of being destructive, and 
indeed it is not to be expected that the story of 
Eleanor of Castile would be left unassailed in these 
days, when history is treated scientifically, and when 
all the old and gracious stories are being explained 
away or resolved into something repellent and 
utterly commonplace. Modern historians have told 
us that William Tell is a myth, and that, conse- 
quently, the famous incident of the apple could 
never have occurred. Eobin Hood, they say, was 
equally imaginary, or if any real person existed on 
whom that figure of endearing romance was built 
up, he had more the attributes of a footpad than 
those of the chivalrous outlaw those legends have 
made him. They would even take from us Dick 
Whittington and his cat. In fact, all these romantic 
people are classed with King Arthur, Jack the Giant 
Killer, and Little Eed Riding Hood. It is not a 
little cruel thus to demolish these glamorous figures, 
but historians since Macaulay have been merciless. 
It is, therefore, not surprising to read that Eleanor, 
instead of being heroic was a very woman, and was 
led "weeping and wailing" from the scene when 
the surgeons declared that the King's hurt was in- 
curable, unless the whole of the poisoned fiesh were 
cut away. The cure, says an old chronicler, was 
effected by the surgeons, and the romantic story 
has in recent times been declared " utterly unworthy 
of credit." 

Alas ! too, for the gentle and tender character 
that has ever been ascribed to Eleanor of Castile ; 
for we read that "though pious and virtuous, she 



QUEEN ELEANOR 



59 



was rather grasping," causing scandal by taking part 
with Jewish usurers in cozening Christians out of 




WALTIIAM CROSS A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. 

their estates. Ancient records, clone on rolls of 
sheepskin in mediaeval dog-Latin, and preserved in 
the Record Office for all men to see and read if 



60 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

they can tell how hard a landlord she was, and 
how Archbishop Peckham interfered on behalf of 
her unfortunate tenants, telling her that reparation 
for wrongs done must precede absolution. 

And yet, although we allow this to be truth, to 
some she must have been winsome and gracious. 
Not to the lower herd, almost certainly, for people 
below the rank of knights or dames were never, in 
those times, thought worthy the least consideration. 
To those who more nearly approached her own rank 
she may have been the generous personality she has 
ever been pictured, although for a true Castilian to 
be other than insufferably haughty and arrogant 
would seem, if traditions do not lie, to be against 
nature. To the King she was evidently all in all, 
or how explain the existence of so long and 
elaborate a series of crosses raised to the memory 
of his chere reine ? Eighteen years after the famous 
incident of the poisoned wound the Queen died, on 
November 28, 1290. She breathed her last on the 
evening of that day at the village of Harby, in 
Nottinghamshire, whither she had accompanied the 
King on a royal progress he had been making 
through the Eastern Counties during the three 
preceding months. Parliament in those times was 
a perambulating body of lawgivers, following of 
necessity the footsteps of the monarch. The King, 
therefore, having arranged to stay at his Eoyal 
Palace of Clipstone, in Sherwood Forest, at the end 
of October, Parliament was summoned to meet there 
on the twenty-seventh of that month. Meanwhile, 
however, the Queen fell ill of a lingering fever, and 



THE QUEEN'S OBSEQUIES 63 

for sake of the quiet that could not be obtained in 
the neighbourhood of the Court she was housed at 
Harby, twenty miles distant. But not all the care 
that was hers, nor the syrups and other medicines 
detailed in the old accounts, procured in haste from 
the city of Lincoln, five miles away, availed to avert 
the fatal conclusion of that wasting sickness. 

The Queen's body was at once removed to 
Lincoln Cathedral, and the funeral procession seems 
to have set out from Lincoln city for Westminster 
on the fourth day of December. London was not 
reached until eleven days later, and the entombment 
at Westminster did not take place until the seven- 
teenth of the month. Travelling was a slow and 
tedious process then, but not necessarily so slow as 
this. The reasons for the length of time consumed 
between Lincoln and AVestminster were two, and 
are found both in the pompous circumstances of 
the journey and in the circuitous route taken. 
The ordinary route was by Stamford, Huntingdon, 
Royston, Puckeridge, and Cheshunt ; but it was 
determined that the august procession should pass 
through a more frequented part of the country, and 
through districts where the Queen had been better 
known. Another object was to take some of the 
great religious houses on the way, and thus have 
suitable places at which to rest. The route chosen, 
therefore, included Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, 
Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, 
St. Albans, Waltham Abbey, West Cheap, and 
Charing. At each of these places the Queen's body 
rested, and at each one was subsequently erected a 



6 4 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

memorial cross. This is no place for recounting the 
almsgiving, the endowments of charities and monas- 
teries, and the payments for tapers and masses for 
the repose of her soul. Let it be understood that 
all these things were done on a scale of the greatest 
magnificence, and that the erection of these twelve 
great crosses was but one feature among many in 
the means employed to keep her memory alive and 
her soul in bliss unending. This last, indeed, was 
the principal reason of their building. In these 
days one regards the three crosses, that the rage of 
rabid men and the slower but scarce less sure fury 
of the elements between them have alone left us of 
the twelve, as merely beautiful specimens of the 
wedded arts of Sculpture and Architecture ; or as 
affecting memorials of conjugal love. Those, how- 
ever, would be erroneous regards. The crosses were 
to attract by their beauty, no doubt ; but their 
higher purpose was to inspire the devotional senti- 
ment ; their presence by the wayside was to implore 
the passers-by to remember the " Queen of Good 
Memory," as documents of the time call her, that 
they might pray for her. Although they bore no 
inscription, they silently bade the traveller " Orate 
pro animd" and were, accordingly, consecrated with 
full religious ceremonies. 

The crosses were not of a uniform pattern, 
although many of them seem to have borne strong 
likenesses to each other. Nine have so utterly 
disappeared that not a single stone of them is 
discoverable at this day, but old prints serve to 
show, in conjunction with the still existing building 



WALTHAM CROSS 67 

accounts, their relative size and importance. The 
three remaining are those of Geddington, Harding- 
stone near Northampton, and this of Waltham. 
Waltham Cross stands seventy feet in height. It 
cost 95, equal to 1000 of our present money, and 
was originally built of stone from the quarries of 
Caen, in Normandy, as the lower stage of the work 
still shows. The two upper stages and the spirelet 
were restored and reconstructed in 1832 at a cost 
of 1200, and again, as recently as 1885-92, at 
an almost equal expense. 

The beautiful old engraving of 1806, reproduced 
here, proves into what a dilapidated condition the 
Cross had at that time fallen. It would appear to 
have been even worse in 1720, when Dr. Stukeley 
was commissioned by the Society of Antiquaries to 
see that posts were placed round for its protection ; 
and in 1757 it was in danger of falling, for Lord 
Monson, the then Lord of the Manor of Cheshunt, 
was petitioned to build some brickwork round the 
base and to set up some other posts. A later Lord 
of the Manor, a certain Sir George Fresco tt, in 1795, 
with colossal impudence endeavoured to remove it 
to his park at Theobalds, and would have done so 
had not his workmen found the stone too decayed 
to be displaced. 

In the old print already referred to, and in the 
coaching print of some thirty years later, it will be 
noticed that a portion of that old coaching hostelry, 
the Falcon, actually abutted upon the Cross. The 
inn, indeed, occupied the site of a chantry chapel 
adjoining, where prayers for the soul of the Queen 



68 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



had been said for some two hundred and fifty years 
after her -death. It may be suspected that those 
prayers, endowments notwithstanding, had grown 
somewhat perfunctory after that lapse of time, and 
the Queen herself little more than a legend ; and so, 
when all Chantries were dissolved under Edward the 
Sixth, their revenues seized and the mumbling priests 
ejected, the world was well rid of a hoary piece of 
humbug. The Falcon was demolished when the 
latest restoration was brought to a conclusion, and 
a portion of its site thrown into the roadway, so 
that the Cross stands once more free from surround- 
ing buildings. 

In choosing a stone for those parts to be restored, 
the gross mistake was made of selecting a brownish- 
red stone from the Ketton quarries, in Northants. 
The reason for making this selection was that Caen 
stone is perishable and that of Ketton particularly 
durable ; but in the result the restored Cross wears 
to-day a sadly parti-coloured appearance. 



XII 



THE already named Falcon was not the only hostelry 
at Waltham Cross. The Four Swans, whose great 
gallows sign still straddles across the highway, w r ith 
the four swans themselves represented in effigy 
against the sky, was the other house. There is 
always Another in everything, even in Novelettes and 
on the Stage, where he or she, as the case may 



A COACHING ADVENTURE 69 

happen, is generally accorded a capital letter. That 
there should always be a rival, that is to say, 
Another, shows, I suppose, that competition is a 
heaven-sent condition of affairs, and incidentally 
that " Trusts " and " Combines " are immoral and a 
direct challenge to Providence. That, however, is 
another matter. But, in this case, which is " the 
other" it would be difficult, if not impossible, to 
determine. Whether the Falcon or the Four Swans 
was established first cannot be told with certainty, 
although if it be true that the Four Swans is built 
on the site of the ancient manor-house of Cheshunt, 
it seems likely that to this queer rambling old 
coaching-inn must be given the honour. 

A story used to be told of an adventure here 
that might have had unpleasant consequences, had 
it not been for the ready wit of the guard attached 
to the "York Mail." When the Mail reached the 
village and drew up in front of the inn, shortly after 
nine o'clock, a quiet, gentlemanly-looking man took 
a vacant seat inside, and remained silent and in- 
offensive until the coach started on its way to Ware, 
when he suddenly became very talkative. Address- 
ing a lady present with some absurd remarks, the 
other gentlemen turned upon him arid said, if he 
did not cease they would put him in the road. 
This was no sooner said than he began to adopt a 
threatening tone ; but no notice was taken of him, 
as Ware was being neared, when he could be better 
dealt with than by stopping the coach. When it 
came to a halt, the guard was beckoned to and told 
quietly what an odd customer was seated within. 



7 o THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

The guard looked inside, and at once recognised the 
strange person as a gentleman of that neighbourhood 
who had been consigned to a lunatic asylum, and 

must have escaped. " Ah ! Mr. F ," he said, 

" how are you ? Are you going far down the 

road ? " " I'm going," said Mr. F , " to Stamford 

to catch that rascal C , who has stolen my estates." 

" Why," rejoined the guard, with the well-known 
promptitude of his class, " you needn't go any 
farther, I've just seen him in the back parlour, 
behind the bar." " Have you ? " shouted the mad- 
man. " By Jove ! let me find him," and he leapt out 
of the coach. " Right away, Bill," sang out the 
guard, and the Mail was off. How the people at 
Ware dealt with the poor wretch is not recorded. 

As this, so far as Eoyston, was a part of the 
original great post-road to Scotland, many royal and 
noble processions, besides that attendant on the 
obsequies of Queen Eleanor, passed of necessity 
through Waltham Cross, and the coaching and 
posting traffic was of huge dimensions, up to the last 
days of the road. 

Royal processions and progresses have a way, as 
you read them, of being insufferably dull ; hedged 
about with formula and rule and precedent surround- 
ing the gilded and be-crowned fetish for the time 
being, who, generally wrapped up warm in selfishness 
and greed, and dealing out lies and condescension, 
passes by and affords no interest or amusement to 
later generations, who merely yawn when they read 
of the dusty old properties, the tinsel and the gold 
lace. It is otherwise when the faults and foibles of 



JAMES THE FIRST 71 

the fetish are known and can be displayed to show 
that a monarch is, after all, human ; and sometimes 
even a very poor specimen of humanity. James the 
First (of England and Sixth of Scotland, as the 
tender susceptibilities of Scots put it) came up this 
way to his Kingdom of England, on Elizabeth's 
death in 1603. He had set out from Edinburgh on 
the 5th of April, and only arrived in London on the 
7th of May. Abundant and overbrimming loyalty 
had kept him long on the road. The noblemen and 
gentry of the shires lavished attentions on James 
and his following, and festive gatherings enlivened 
every manor-house on the way. Many a squire 
loaded his estates with encumbrances, in his anxiety 
to royally entertain the new sovereign and his 
numerous suite, and the story told of one of their 
halting-places very eloquently illustrates the sacrifices 
made. After staying some days with his host, the 
King remarked upon the disappearance of a particu- 
larly fine herd of cattle he had noticed in the park 
on his arrival, and asked what had become of them ? 
As a matter of fact, they had been all slaughtered 
for the use of James's hungry Scots, and his host 
unwillingly told him so. " Then," said the King 
ungraciously, it is time we were going "; and so, when 
the food was exhausted, they went. 

So prodigal was the display made for him that 
James might almost have thought the country tired 
of Elizabeth's long rule, and glad to welcome a new 
monarch. He conferred titles with a lavish hand 
as he went, and knights - bachelors sprouted up 
in every town and village like mustard-and-cress 



7 2 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

after a dewy evening. He came across the Border 
mild enough, but by degrees rid himself of the 
humility proper to a King of Scots, and as King 
of England assumed an imperious air not even 
inferior to that of Henry the Eighth himself. Such 
an air sat ill upon James, at once constitutionally 
weak in body and simultaneously timid and braggart 
in disposition. The " British Solomon " his toadies 
called him, and indeed he was in many ways the 
Superior Person. Educated in all the 'ologies, and 
accounting himself in especial a master of theology 
and demonology, he was learned and superstitious 
at once. Witchcraft he firmly believed possible, and 
made it a capital offence, and was thus the prime 
cause of many an ill-favoured old woman or eccentric 
person being cruelly put to death as warlocks and 
wizards. The Duke of Sully, better informed than 
James's satellites, or more candid, pronounced him 
"the wisest fool in Europe." 

At no place was the new monarch so lavishly 
entertained as at Theobalds, the princely residence 
of Lord Burleigh, whose estates bordered the road 
between Waltham Cross and Cheshunt. Who was 
the original owner of Theobalds, history does not tell 
us. Doubtless some Saxon notable, Theobald by 
name, thus immortalised in unilluminative fashion. 
In the late Elizabeth's time it had been acquired 
by the great Cecil, dead some six years before the 
coming of this northern light. Cecil's son, only less 
great than his father, now ruled, and received James 
right nobly in those magnificent halls his sire had 
added, where Elizabeth herself had been royally 



AN UNKING L Y KING 73 

entertained. Four days he stayed, hunting and 
feasting, and left with so profound an admiration 
of the place that he never rested until he had ex- 
changed the Koyal Palace of Hatfield for it. Cecil 
made no bad bargain in the transfer, and in addition 
secured much favour and many added dignities, 
ending as Earl of Salisbury. 

James's passion for the chase explains his eager- 
ness to secure Theobalds, surrounded in those times 
by far-reaching and ancient woodlands. Epping 
Forest and the woods of Waltham lay for miles to 
the east, and the green alleys of Enfield Chase and 
Northaw (really "north holt," i.e. north wood) to 
the south and the north-west. 

The figure of James is thus prominent on this 
part of the road. By no means an imposing figure, 
this King, as he reels in his saddle, or shambles 
rather than walks, his weak knees threatening a 
collapse, his thin yellow beard scarce disguising a 
chin striking the mean between obstinacy and weak 
irresolution ; his wide-staring, watery, light-blue eyes 
rimmed with red eyelids ; and lips running with the 
thin slobber of the drunkard, or rather of the in- 
veterate tippler, not honestly drunken but grown 
maudlin, babbling and bubbling like a spring. This 
poor creature, who pretends to Eight Divine, has the 
tense nerves of a hare ; a hunted, hare-like glance 
too, when not primed and blusterous with Greek 
wine. He has a ludicrously acute sense of personal 
danger, and yet chases the deer a-horseback, seated 
on a padded saddle and plentifully equipped with 
drink. I see him very plainly, though much of the 



74 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

great domain of Theobalds be disparked, and land- 
marks grown dim and confused, hunting and halloing 
in the greenwood, and cursing and raving like a 
madman when the quarry escapes him forgetful, 
in the excitement of the moment, of the Solomonic 
character he has to sustain and falling out of his 
saddle and biting the grass in frenzy. 

But James's domestic character bears more 
scrutiny than that of many of his predecessors. 
He would have pleased Mr. Squeers, for his " morrils " 
(in the common and restricted sense) were distinctly 
good much better than those of the Hebrew Solomon. 

It is quite evident that James delighted in his 
nickname and failed to discover any hidden vein 
of sarcasm in it, for in one of the extravagant 
masques he gave in honour of his father-in-law, 
Christian the Fourth of Denmark, at Theobalds, 
he took the part of that incarnation of Wisdom. 
Conceive the gorgeousness and the scandal of the 
occasion. Koyal James as Solomon, and no less 
royal Christian, his part not stated, seated on a 
throne awaiting the Queen of Sheba, coming to 
offer precious gifts : attendant upon her, Faith, 
Hope, and Charity. The Queen of Sheba, sad to 
say, had taken too much to drink, and, there being 
no one to advise her to " Mind the step ! " she tripped 
over the throne and shot all the gifts, some very 
treacly and sticky, into the lap of his Danish 
majesty, who rose and essayed a dance with her, 
but fell down and had to be taken off to bed, like 
many a jolly toper before and since. Then the 
Three Virtues, hiccoughing and staggering, tried 






THE ROMAN URN 



75 



their parts, but nature forbade, and they retired 
very sick. The spectacle of the drunken endeavour- 
ing to carry off the drunk must have been vastly 
entertaining to His Majesty, himself too well seasoned 
to be quite helpless. It seems probable that, picking 
an unsteady way among the courtiers who strewed 
the floor, he saw himself to bed without the aid of 
chamberlains and grooms-in-waiting and their kind. 
James the First and Sixth died at Theobalds in 
1625, in the fifty-ninth year of his age, cut off in 
part by the agency of Greek wine. The halls where 
he revelled, and where between whiles he piously 
translated the Psalms, are gone, dismantled under 
the rule of the Commonwealth, a period especially 
fatal to Royal Palaces. The site of the Palace is 
commemorated by " Theobalds Square." The modern 
mansion of Theobalds is a mile distant. 



XIII 

AN inn bearing the odd name of the Roman Urn 
stands by the wayside on entering the hamlet of 
Cheshunt called Crossbrook Street. An urn in a 
niche of the wall over the front door bears the 
inscription " Via Una," and is witness to the finds of 
Roman remains close by. It gives point to the old 
belief that Cheshunt itself was a station on that 
Roman road, the Ermine Street. 

Turner's Hill, Cheshunt, and Cheshunt Wash are 
all one loosely -joined stretch of houses : recent houses, 



7 6 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



houses not so recent, dignified old mansions, and 
undignified second- and third-rate shops. It is an 
'effect of shabbiness, of a halting two ways, between 
remaining as it was and developing into a modern 
suburb. The road itself shares this uncertainty, for 
it is neither a good country highway nor a decent 
town street, being bumpy macadam and gravel 
alternating, and full of holes. Cheshunt's modern 
fame is for roses, and the nurseries where they are 
cultivated spread far and wide. Its ancient fame 




THE ROMAN UKN, CHESHUNT. 

was not so pleasing, for the Wash, when the Lea was 
in flood, made Cheshunt a place to be dreaded, as we 
learn from the diary of Ralph Thoresby, who travel- 
led prayerfully this way between 1680 and 1720. 
Coming up from Yorkshire to London on one 
occasion, he found the washes upon the road near 
Ware swollen to such a height that travellers had to 
swim for their lives, one poor higgler being drowned. 
Thoresby prudently waited until some country- 



A HAUNTED HOUSE 



79 



people came and conducted him over the meadows, 
to avoid the deepest part of Cheshunt Wash. Even 
so, he tells how " we rode to the saddle-skirts for a 
considerable way, but got safe to Waltham Cross." 

Cheshunt possesses a local curiosity in the shape 
of " Cheshunt Great House," a lonely mansion of red 
brick, standing in a meadow within what was once a 
moated enclosure. It is a gloomy old place belong- 
ing to the time of Henry the Seventh, but altered 
and patched to such a degree that even the genuine 
parts of it look only 
doubtfully authentic. 
A large central hall 
with hammer - beam 
carved roof is the 
feature of the interior, 
hung with tapestry, 
suits of armour, and 
portraits of historic 
personages, in which 
are mixed together 
real antiquities and 

forgeries of such age that they even are antique. 
Among them is a rude and battered rocking-horse, 
said to have been used by Charles the First when an 
infant. 

Obviously Cheshunt Great House should be 
haunted, and is ! Cardinal Wolsey's is the unquiet 
shade that disturbs the midnight hours beneath this 
roof, lamenting the more or less authentic murders 
he is said to have perpetrated here. There is not, 
of course, the slightest foundation for these wild 




CHARLES THE FIRSTS ROCKING-HORSE. 



So THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

stories, and the great Cardinal, so far as Cheshunt is 
concerned, leaves the court without a stain on his 
character. 

But we must hasten onward to Ware, halted, 
however, in half a mile, at Turnford, a place for- 
gotten by most map-makers. Writers of guide-books, 
too, pass it coldly by. And indeed, if you be of the 
hurrying sort, you may well pass and never know 
the individual existence of the hamlet ; so close are 
Cheshunt on the one hand and Wormley on the 
other. As the poet remarks 

" Full many a flower is born to blush unseen 
And waste its sweetness on the desert air " ; 

and Turnford is a modest place, consisting, all told, 
of an old residence or so, a farmstead, and the Bull 
Inn : the sign showing a bull's head with a remark- 
ably coy expression. One no longer splashes through 
the ford that gave the place its name ; a bridge has 
long since replaced it. 

Why, it may be asked, linger over Turnford ? 
Because here, in some lowly cot not now to be 
identified, somewhere about the year 1700, was 
born, of the usual poor but honest parents, one 
who might have been truly great in his profession 
had not the accursed shears of Fate cut him off 
before he had time to develop himself. I speak of 
16 Dr." William Shelton, apothecary and highwayman. 
William was at an early age apprenticed to an 
apothecary at Enfield, and presently distinguished 
himself in an endeavour to elope with the apothe- 
cary's sister, an elderly charmer by no means 



AN UNFORTUNATE HIGHWAYMAN 81 

averse from being run away with. The attempt 
miscarried, and our poor friend was soundly 
cudgelled for his pains. His second enterprise, 
the carrying off of a widow's daughter, was more 
fortunate. The runaways were married at the Fleet, 
and afterwards settled at Enfield, where, with the 
aid of his wife's fortune, Shelton eked out a living 
while trying to develop a practice. Tiring, after 
a while, of this, he obtained an appointment as 
surgeon in Antigua, but although generally liked 
in that island, he was obliged to return home on 
account of some wild escapades. He then settled 
in succession at Buntingford and Braughing, but 
doctors were at a discount at those places, and so, 
like many another wild spirit, he took to the road. 
A good horse and a reliable pair of pistols did more 
for him than his dispensary, and he prospered for 
a little while. There is no knowing to what 
eminence he might have risen for he robbed with 
grace and courtesy had not the authorities seized 
him one evil day. He made a dignified exit at 
Tyburn in 1732. 

At Wormley, a roadside village of nondescript 
character, the New River is crossed, bringing us 
into Broxbourne, lying in a dip of the road, with 
that famous Cockney resort, Broxbourne Gardens, 
off to the right, by the river Lea. The Gardens 
themselves are as popular as ever, but the medicinal 
spring the "rotten-egg water" is the eloquently 
descriptive name of it has fallen into neglect. 

The traveller along the highroad has left 
Broxbourne behind before he has quite discovered 
6 



82 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

lie has reached it, and comes into Hoddesdon 
unawares. Broxbourne, where the " brocks," or 
badgers, were once plentiful enough to give a name 
to the little stream running into the Lea, is indeed a 
much more shy and retiring place than those who 
on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays visit the 
tea-gardens aforesaid have any idea of. This is 
by way of a testimonial. Hoddesdon, too, which 
to be sure is not a tiny village like Broxbourne, 
but quite a little town, is altogether delightful. 
It has not been modernised, and its inhabitants still 
obtain their water in pailsful from the public pump 
in the middle of the broad street, which remains 
much as it was when the Cambridge "Telegraph" 
came through, and when the Newmarket and 
Bishop Stortford traffic branched off to the right 
in the midst. To this day most of its old inns 
remain, clustering round the fork of the roads : the 
Bull, its gabled porch and projecting sign quickening 
the traveller's pace as he sees it afar ; the Salisbury 
Arms, the Maiden's Head, the Swan. 

The Bull is a famous house, finding, as it does, 
a mention in Prior's "Down Hall." It was in 1715 
that Matthew Prior, one of the most notable poets 
of his day, and sometime Ambassador at the Court 
of Versailles, travelled this road to Down Hall, near 
Hatfield Broadoak. His "chariot" halted at the 
Bull, as he tells us 

" Into an old inn did this equipage roll, 
At a town they call Hodsdon, the sign of the Bull, 
Near a nymph with an urn that divides the highway, 
And into a puddle throws mother of tea." 



PRIOR AND HODDESDON 85 

Nymph and urn and puddle are gone long since, 
and where they were placed there stands at this 
day the ugly modern building that Hoddesdon 
folk call the "Clock House": really a fire-engine 
house with a clock-tower ; the tower surmounted 
by a weather-vane oddly conjoining the character- 
istics of a fiddler, a Sagittarius, and a dolphin. 
Inquiry fails to discover what it symbolises. 
Before ever the nymph or the present building 
occupied this site, there stood here the wayside 
chapel of St. Catherine, whose ancient bell hangs 
in the clock-tower. 

Prior writes as though the Bull had long been 
familiar to him, but his intimate touches of the life 
and character of an inn came, doubtless, from his 
own youthful observation ; for his uncle had been 
landlord of the Kummer at Charing Cross, where 
as a boy he had been a waiter and general help. 
Doubtless he had heard many an old frequenter 
of the Rummer put questions similar to these he 
asks : 

" ' Come here, my sweet landlady ! how do you do 1 
Where's Cic'ly so cleanly, and Prudence, and Sue ? 
And where is the widow that lived here below ? 
And the other that sang, about eight years ago ? 
And where is your sister, so mild and so dear, 
Whose voice to her maids like a trumpet was clear ? ' 



'By my troth,' she replies, 'you grow younger, I think. 

And pray, sir, what wine does the gentleman drink 1 

But now, let me die, sir, or live upon trust, 

If I know to which question to answer you first, 

For things since I saw you most strangely have varied 

The ostler is hanged, and the widow is married ; 



86 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

And Prue left a child for the parish to nurse ; 
And Cic'ly went off with a gentleman's purse ; 
And as to my sister, so mild and so dear, 
She has lain in the churchyard full many a year.'" 

What a sorry catalogue of changes and dis- 
asters ! 

A mile or more distant, along the Bishop Stort- 
ford road, is the gatehouse of the famous Eye House, 
its clustered red-brick chimneys and thick walls still 
left to remind the historically-minded of that Eye 
House Plot of 1681 which was to have ended 
Charles the Second, and his brother, the Duke of 
York, on their way past from Newmarket to London. 
Although the Bishop Stortford road does not concern 
us, the house is alluded to in these pages because it 
now contains that notorious piece of furniture, the 
Great Bed of Ware. 

Hoddesdon gives place to Amwell, steeply down- 
hill. The village is properly " Great Amwell," but 
ho one who knows his Lamb would think of calling 
it so, although there is a " Little Amwell " close at 
hand. To the Lambs it was just "Amwell," and 
that is sufficient for us. Moreover, like so many 
places named " Great," it is now really very small. 
It is, however, exceedingly beautiful, with that 
peculiarly park-like beauty characteristic of Hertford- 
shire. The old church, also of the characteristically 
Hertfordshire type, stands, charmingly embowered 
amid trees, on a bank overlooking the smoothly- 
gliding stream of the New Eiver, new-born from its 
source in the Chadwell Spring, and hurrying along 
on its beneficent mission toward the smoke and fog 



WARE 87 

of London. Two islands divide the stream ; one of 
them containing a monument to Sir Hugh Myddelton, 
and a stone with lines from Scott, the " Quaker poet 



of Amwell," commencing 



"Am well, perpetual be thy stream, 
Nor e'er thy spring be less." 

An aspiration which, let us hope, will be fulfilled. 



XIV 

ALTHOUGH to hurry past spots so interesting and 
so beautiful looks much like the act of a Vandal, 
our business is with the road, and linger we must 
not ; and so, downhill again, by the woods of Charley 
or "Charl-eye" as the country folk insist on 
calling them we come to a vantage-point overlook- 
ing Ware ; an old town of many maltings, of the 
famous Bed aforesaid, and of Johnny Gilpin's ride. 
Fortunate are those who come thus in view of Ware 
upon some still golden afternoon of summer, when 
the chimes from the old church-tower are spelling 
out the notes of that sentimental old song, " Believe 
me, if all those endearing young charms." Time and 
tune conspire to render Ware romantic. 

The town takes its name from the weir or dam 
built across the Lea by invading Danes in the year 
896. Coming up the Lea in a great flotilla of what 
historians call ships, more correctly perhaps to be 



88 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

named sailing-barges, they halted here, and, design- 
ing a fort beside the dam they built, imagined them- 
selves secure. Around them in the Lea valley 
between Ware and Hertford stretched the great 
lake their dam had created, and all King Alfred's 
men could not by force dislodge them. 

Can you not find it possible to imagine that 

great King that King truly great in counsels both 

of war and peace, that contriver and man of his 

hands on these Amwell heights and looking down 

upon that Danish fortress and its ceinture of still 

water, with twice a hundred prows lying there, 

proudly secure ? Truly, despite the dark incertitude 

of history on these doings, we may clearly see that 

monarch. He knits his brows and looks upon the 

country spread out beneath him : just as you may 

look down to-day upon the valley where the Lea and 

the railway run, side by side. He we have said it 

with meaning is a contriver ; has brains of some 

quality beneath that brow ; will not waste his men 

in making glorious but wasteful attacks upon the 

foe : they shall work so he wills it not merely 

fight ; or, working, fight the better for King and 

Country. Accordingly, his army is set to digging a 

great channel down this selfsame valley ; a channel 

whose purport those Danes, lying there, do by no 

means comprehend ; nor, I think, many even in this 

host of the great Alfred himself; for the spy has 

ever watched upon the doings of armies, and he who 

keeps his own counsel is always justified of his 

reticence. 

This great ditch, then, excavated over against 



ALFRED THE GREAT 

the camp and harbour of the sea-rovers, is therefore 
inexplicable, and doubtless the subject of much jest 
among the enemy : jesting that dies away presently, 
when, the excavation completed, it is found to touch 
the river above and below the weir, and indeed to 
be designed to drain away the Lea from its old 
channel and so steal away those cherished water- 
defences. 

With what rejoicings Alfred turned the stream 
into this artificial course we know not, nor anything 
of the Saxon advance when the old channel ran dry 
and the Danish war-fleet presently lay stranded ; 
the black hulls canted in all manner of ridiculous 
and ineffective angles ; the sails with the cog- 
nisance of the raven on them flapping a farewell 
to the element they were to know no more. Only 
this we know, that the Danish host were forced to 
fly across the country to Cambridge and the 
fens ; those unfailing resorts of fugitives in the 
long ago. 

Alfred probably burnt the deserted fleet ; but 
there may yet lie, somewhere in this pleasant valley 
between Hertford and Ware, deep down in im- 
memorial ooze and silt, the remains of those hapless 
craft. 

Ware, seen from a distance, is a place of singular 
picturesqueness ; its Dutch-like mass of mellow red 
roofs endowed with a skyline whose fantastic ap- 
pearance is due to the clustered cowls of the four- 
score malthouses that give the old town a highly 
individual character. Here, as elsewhere, the sunset 
hour touches the scene to an unearthly beauty : only 



9 2 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

here those slanting cowls assume the last note of 
melodramatic significance, to which, ordinarily, in the 
broad eye of day, they are by no means entitled ; 
being just so many ventilators to buildings in whose 
dark recesses is carried on the merely commercial 
work of drying the malt of which it is fondly assumed 
our beer is made. 

The town, when you come to it, resolves itself 
into zigzag streets, coal-dust, and bargees. It is a 
very back-door kind of entrance you find, coming 
downhill, past a railway goods-yard and a smelly 
waterside with wharves and litter, where solemn 
horses stolidly drag barges and railway-trucks, and 
modern Izaak Waltons, sublime in faith, diligently 
"fysshe with an angle," with ill results. What they 
seek, these hapless sportsmen, is known only to them- 
selves. Is it the festive tiddler, dear to infantile 
fisherfolk, or do they whip the water for the lordly 
trout, the ferocious pike, the grey mullet, or the 
carp ? I know not ; but what they find is the Old 
Boot, the discarded hat, the derelict gamp ; in short, 
the miscellaneous floatable refuse of Hertford. To 
see one of these brothers of the angle carefully 
playing what ultimately discloses itself as a ragged 
umbrella affords one of the choicest five minutes that 
life has to offer. 

Crossing an iron bridge over this fishful stream, 
you are in Ware. To the left stands the old 
Saracen's Head, now a little out of date and 
dreamy, for it is the veritable house where the 
principal coaches changed horses, and it has re- 
mained outwardly the same ever since. Here it was 



THE GREAT BED OF WARE 93 

that the Great Bed of Ware stood for many years, 
conferring fame upon the town until 1869, when it 
was spirited away to the Rye House, there to be 
made a show of. 

He w T ho would correctly rede the riddle of the 
Great Bed would be a clever man, for its history is 
so confounded with legend that to say where the one 
begins and the other ends is now impossible. The 
Bed is a huge four-poster of black oak, elaborately 
carved with Renaissance designs, and is now twelve 
feet square, having been shorn of three feet of its 
length by a former landlord of the Saracen's Head. 
The date, 1463, painted on the head is an ancient 
and impudent forgery intended to give verisimilitude 
to the legend of this monumental structure's origin. 
This story tells how it was the work of one Jonas 
Fosbrooke, a journeyman carpenter, who presented 
it to Edward the Fourth " for the use of the royal 
family or the accommodation of princes, or nobles, 
or for any great occasion." The King, we are told, 
was highly pleased with this co-operative bedstead, 
and pensioned the ingenious Fosbrooke for life ; but 
history, curiously, fails to tell us of royal or any other 
families herding together in this way. The legend 
then goes on to tell how, not having been used for 
many years by any noble persons, it was put to use 
when the town was very full of strangers. These 
unfortunate plebeian persons found it anything but 
a bed of roses, for they were tormented throughout 
the night by the snobbish and indignant ghost of 
Jonas, who objected to anyone beneath the rank of a 
knight-bachelor sleeping in his bed, and savagely 



94 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

pinched all who could not claim gentility. This 
weird ghost-story was probably invented by the 
landlords of the several inns in which the Bed has 
been housed to account for a vigorous and hungry 
race of fleas that inhabited the old four-poster, and 
must have been originated at a very early date, for 
on it hangs the story of Harrison Saxby, Master of 
Horse to Henry the Eighth. Saxby fell violently in 
love with the daughter of a miller near Ware, and 
swore he would do anything to win her from her 
many other suitors. The King, passing through the 
town, heard of this and promised to give her (those 
were autocratic times !) to him who should sleep in 
the Great Bed, and, daring all that the ferocious 
apparition of Fosbrooke could do, should be found 
there in the morning. All save the valorous Saxby 
held back, but he determined that no disembodied 
spirit should come between him and his love, and, 
duly tucked in, was left to sleep no, not to sleep, 
for the powers of darkness were exalted to con- 
siderable purpose in the night, and when day 
dawned the rash Saxby was discovered on the 
floor, covered with bruises. If we seek rather the 
practical joker than the supernatural visitant to 
poor Saxby, we shall probably be on the right 
quest. 

The Great Bed was not always housed at 
the Saracen's Head. Coming originally from 
Ware Priory, it was next at the Crown, where 
it remained until that old house was pulled 
down, in 1765, being in turn transferred to the 
Bull. 



OLD-TIME WARE 95 

Ware was always a place of great traffic in the 
long ago. Railways have altered all that, and it is 
now a gracious old town, extraordinarily rich in the 
antique entries of ancient hostelries disappeared so 
long since that their very signs are forgot. As you 
go along its High Street there are between twenty 
and thirty of these arched entries countable, most of 
them relics of that crowded era of road-faring when 
Ware was a thoroughfare town at the end of a day's 
journey from London on the main road to the North. 
It was, in the words of an Elizabethan poet, "the 
guested town of Ware," and so remained for centuries, 
even when day's journeys grew longer and longer, 
and until the road became an obsolete institution. 
Some of these entries, on the other hand, always 
were, and others early became, features in the 
warehouse premises of the old maltsters, for Ware has 
ever been a place dedicated to the service of John 
Barleycorn. 

Long centuries ago, ere railways were dreamt of, 
this was the great warehousing place of the malt 
from five neighbouring counties. It came in vast 
quantities by road and by river from up country, and 
was stored here, over against the demands of the 
London brewers ; being sent to town chiefly by the 
river Lea. The Lea and its ready passage to London 
built up this distinctive trade of Ware : the railway 
destroyed it, and the maltsters' trade exists here 
nowadays only because it always has been here and 
because to utterly kill its local habitation would be 
perhaps impossible. But it is carried on with a 
difference, and malt is not so much brought and 



96 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

warehoused here as made on the spot. Many of the 
old houses in which the old-established maltsters 
reside, adjoining their own warehouses, in the good 
old style absolutely obsolete in other places, are of 
early eighteenth century date, and rich in exquisite 
moulded plaster ceilings and carved oak panelling. 
One at least dates back to 1625, and is nothing less 
in appearance than the home of an old prince of 
commerce. 

To have an opportunity of inspecting this is a 
privilege not lightly to be valued. On one side of 
the entry, and over the archway, is the residence, and 
on the other the old-world counting-house, with a 
narrow roadway between for the waggons to and 
from the maltings at the farther end. The maltings 
themselves are rebuilt and fitted with modern 
appliances, but they strike the only note out of key 
with the general harmony of the place, and, even so, 
they are not altogether unpleasing, for they are 
earnest of trade still brisk and healthy, in direct 
descent from days of old. Beyond the maltings are 
old walled gardens where peaches ripen, and velvet 
lawns and queer pavilions overhanging the river Lea : 
the whole, from the entry in the High Street, down 
the long perspective to the river, embowered in 
flowers. 

For the rest, Ware commands much interest, not 
greatly to be enlarged upon here. The church- 
tower, rising nobly above the roof-tops of the town, 
amid a thickly clustered group of oast-house cowls, 
the interior of the building, noble beyond the 
common run ; the so-called " John Gilpin's House " ; 



WADE'S MILL 97 

the river scenery up the delightful valley to Hertford : 
all these things are to be seen and not adequately 
written about in this place. 



XV 



UPHILL goes the road out of Ware, passing the 
Royston Crow Inn and some old cottages on the 
outskirts. The two miles between this and Wade's 
Mill form the dividing-line between the valleys of 
the Lea and the Rib, and consequently the way, after 
climbing upwards, has to go steeply down again. 
The Sow and Pigs is the unusual name of an inn 
standing on the crest of the hill before descending 
into Wade's Mill. Who was Wade of the mill that 
stands to this day in the hollow where the little 
stream called the Rib runs beneath the highway ? 
History, imperial, national, or parochial, has nothing to 
tell us on this head. Perhaps nay, probably there 
never was a Wade, a person so-named ; the original 
mill, and now the hamlet that clusters in the bottom, 
taking its name from the ford the ford, or water- 
splash, or " wade "-that was here before ever a bridge 
was built. The parish of St. Nicholas-at-Wade, 
beside the channel that formerly divided the Isle of 
Thanet from Kent, obtained its name from the ford 
at that point, and in like manner derives the name 
of Iwade, overlooking the King's Ferry entrance to 
Sheppey. 
7 



98 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

The hamlet of Wade's Mill is a product of the 
coaching age. Before folks travelled in any large 
numbers there stood only the mill in the hollow ; but, 
as road-faring progressed, there at length rose the 
Feathers Inn beside the way, and by degrees a dozen or 
so cottages to keep it company. Here they are still ; 
standing, all of them, in the parish of Thundridge, 
whose old church, a mile distant, is now in ruins. 
The new church is built on the height overlooking 
Wade's Mill, and may be noticed in the illustration 
on the following page. 

Steeply rising goes the road out of this sleepy 
hollow ; passing, when half-way up the hill, a mean 
little stone obelisk perched on a grassy bank. This 
is a memorial to Thomas Clarkson, a native of 
Wisbeach, and marks the spot where in his youth 
he knelt down and vowed to dedicate his life to the 
abolition of the slave trade. It was placed here in 
1879 by Arthur Giles Puller, of Youngsbury, in the 
neighbourhood. Clarkson was born in 1760, the 
son of the Rev. John Clarkson, Headmaster of 
Wisbeach Free Grammar School. He graduated at 
Cambridge in 1783, and two years later gained the 
first prize in the Latin Essay competition on the 
subject of " Slavery and Commerce of the Human 
Species, particularly the African." This success 
finally fixed his choice of a career, and he forthwith 
set afoot an agitation against the slave trade. In 
an introduction to the wealthy William Wilberforce, 
he succeeded in enlisting the support of that phil- 
anthropist, to whom the credit of abolishing the 
nefarious traffic is generally given. A Committee 



CLARKSON 



99 



was formed to obtain the passing of an Abolition 
Bill through Parliament ; an object secured after 
twenty years' continued agitation and strenuous 
work on the platform. Clarkson's health and sub- 
stance were alike expended in the effort, but he 
was not eventually without reward for his labours, 




CLAKKSON'S MONUMENT. 

a recompense in subscriptions to which he seems 
to have looked forward in quite a business-like 
way ; more soothing than Wordsworth's pedestrian 
sonnet beginning 

" Clarkson, it was an obstinate hill to climb ; 
How toilsome, nay, how dire it was." 



ioo THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Doubtless he argued the labourer was worthy of his 
hire. 

Abolition in the West Indian Islands followed, 
and then the Emancipation Act of 1833, liberating 
800,000 slaves and placing the sum of twenty 
millions sterling, as compensation, into the pockets of 
Liverpool, Bristol, and Glasgow slave-owners. That 
sturdy beast of burden, the British taxpayer, of 
course paid for this expensive burst of sentiment. 
Clarkson, already an old man, and weary with his 
long labours, received the Freedom of the City of 
London in 1839, and died in his eighty-seventh year, 
in 1846. 

Midway between the hamlets of High Cross and 
Collier's End, at the second of the two left-hand 
turnings sign-posted for " Eowney Abbey and the 
Mundens," is the other hamlet of Standon Green 
End if the two cottages and one farmhouse in 
a by-lane may so be dignified. Some three hun- 
dred yards along this lane, in the centre of a 
meadow, stands the singular monument known in 
all the country round about as the " Balloon Stone," 
a rough block of sandstone, surrounded by an iron 
railing, placed here to record the alighting on this 
spot of the first balloon that ever ascended in 
England. Tradition still tells of the terror that 
seized the rustics when they saw " a summat " drop- 
ping out of the sky, and how they fled for their 
lives. 

On lifting a hinged plate, the astonishing facts 
of this antique aeronautical adventure may be found 
duly set out in an amusingly grandiloquent inscription, 



THE "BALLOON STONE" 101 

engraved on a bronze tablet let into the upper part 
of the stone 

" Let Posterity Know 
And Knowing be Astonished 

That 

On the 15 Day of September 1784 

Vincent Lunardi of Lucca in Tuscany 

The first Aerial Traveller in Britain 

Mounting from the Artillery Ground 

in London 

And 

Traversing the Regions of the Air 
For Two Hours and Fifteen Minutes, 

In this Spot 

Eevisited the Earth. 

On this Rude Monument 

For Ages be Recorded 
That Wondrous Enterprise 

Successfully atchieved 

By the Powers of Chemistry 

And the Fortitude of Man 

That Improvement in Science 

Which 

The Great Author of all Knowledge 

Patronising by His Providence 

The Invention of Mankind 

Hath graciously permitted 

To their Benefit 

And 
His own Eternal glory." 



"This Plate 
A facsimile of the Original 

One was placed here 

in the month of November 

1875 by Arthur Giles 

Puller of Youngsbury." 



Collier's End is a wayside hamlet of a few timber- 
framed and plaster cottages, leading to Puckeridge, 



102 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

where the ways to Cambridge divide : one going by 
Buntingford, Koyston, and Melbourn ; the other by 
Braughing, Barkway, Barley, and Fowlmere, meeting 
again at Harston in another nineteen miles. Away 
to the left, between Collier's End and Puckeridge, is 
St Edmund's College, a Koman Catholic seminary. 

Puckeridge itself, standing where the roads 
branch, grew in the old road-faring days from a 
tiny hamlet to be considerably larger than its mother- 
parish of Standon, a village nearly two miles distant, 
to the right-hand. That it developed early is quite 
evident in its two old inns, the fifteenth century 
Falcon, and the Old George, scarcely a hundred years 
younger. 



XVI 

WE will first take the right-hand road to Cambridge, 
by Barkway, for that would appear in early days to 
have been the favourite route. Braughing, the first 
village on this route, is soon reached, lying down 
below the highway beside the river Kib, with the 
usual roadside fringe of houses. The local pro- 
nunciation of the place-name is " Braffing." 

The road now begins to climb upwards to the 
crest of the Chilterns at Barley, passing the small 
hamlets of Quinbury and Hare Street, and through 
a bold country of rolling downs to Barkway, whose 
name, coming from Saxon words meaning " a way 
over the hill," is descriptive of its situation. Few 
signs of habitation are seen on the way, and those 



BARK WAY 103 

at great distances ; Great and Little Hormead and 
Ansty peering down upon the road from distant 
hillsides. 

Since the coaches left the road, Barkway has 
gone to sleep, and dreams still of a bygone century. 
At the beginning of its broad street there stands the 
old toll-house, with the clock even yet in its gable 
that marked the flight of time when the Cambridge 
" Telegraph " passed by every day, at two o'clock in 
the afternoon ; and old houses that once were inns 
still turn curiously gabled frontages to the street. 
The Wheatsheaf, once the principal coaching house, 
still survives ; outside it a milestone of truly monu- 
mental proportions, marking the thirty-fifth mile 
from London. It stands close upon six feet in 
height, and besides bearing on its face a bold 
inscription, setting forth that it is thirty-five miles 
from London and sixteen from Cambridge, shows 
two shields of arms, one of them bearing a crescent, 
the other so battered that it is not easily to be 
deciphered. This is one of a series of milestones 
stretching between this point and Cambridge ; a series 
that has a history. It seems that Dr. William 
Mouse, Master of Trinity Hall, and a Mr. Robert 
Hare, left between them in 1586 and 1599 the sum 
of 1600 in trust to Trinity Hall, the interest to be 
applied to mending the highway along these sixteen 
miles ; as the Latin of the original document puts it, 
"in et circa villam nostram Cantcibrigise prsecipue 
versus Barkway." Whatever Trinity Hall may have 
done for the repair of the road in the hundred 
and twenty-six years following the bequest, there 



104 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

were certainly no milestones along its course until 
1725, when Dr. William Warren, the then Master, 
set up on October 20th the first five, starting from 
the church of Great St. Mary in Cambridge Market 
Square. On the 25th June, in the following year, 
another five stones were placed in continuation, and 
the next year another five. The sixteenth was not 
placed until 29th May 1728. Of this series the 
fifth, tenth, and fifteenth were about six feet in 
height, with the Trinity Hall arms carved on them ; 
in heraldic jargon described as " sable, a crescent in 
fess ermine, with a bordure engrailed of the second." 
The others were originally small, with merely the 
number of miles engraved on them, but were replaced 
between 1728 and 1732 by larger stones, each 
bearing the black crescent ; as may be seen to this 
day. 

These stones, very notable in themselves, and 
more so from the open and exposed character of the 
road, have not only the interest of the circumstances 
already narrated, but gain an additional notability 
in the fact that, excluding those set up by the 
Eomans, they are the earliest milestones in England. 
Between Koman times and the date of these examples 
the roads knew no measurement, and miles were a 
matter of repute. It was not until the Turnpike Act 
of 1698 that, as part of their statutory obligations, 
Turnpike Trusts were always bound not only to 
maintain the roads on which they collected tolls, 
but to measure them as well, and to set up a stone 
at every mile. 

The road between Barkway and Barley is a 



BAP LEY 107 

constant succession of hills ; steep descents, and 
correspondingly sharp rises, with the folds of the 
Chilterns, bare in places and in others heavily 
wooded, rising and falling for great distances on 
either hand. It was while ascending Barkway Hill 
on the up journey that the " Lynn Union," driven 
by Thomas Cross, was involved in a somewhat 
serious affair. Three convicts were being taken to 
London in charge of two warders, and the whole 
party of five had seats on the roof. As the coach 
slowed to a walking pace up the ascent, one of the 
gaol-birds quietly slipped off at the back, and was 
being followed by the other two when attention was 
drawn to their proceedings. The principal warder, 
who was on the box-seat, was a man of decision. 
He drew a pistol from his pocket, and, cocking it, 
said, " If you do not immediately get up I'll shoot 
you ! " The one who had already got down, there- 
upon, with a touching faith in the warder's marks- 
manship, returned to his place, and the others 
remained quiet. They finished the remainder of the 
journey handcuffed. It is, indeed, surprising that 
they were not properly secured before. 

The road on to Barley is of a switchback kind, 
finally rising to the ridge where Barley is perched, 
overlooking a wild treeless country of downs. 
Barley is a little village as thoroughly agricultural 
as its name hints, and consists of but a few houses, 
mostly thatched, with a not very interesting church 
on a by-way, and a very striking inn, the Fox and 
Hounds, on the main road. It is the sign of the inn, 
rather than the house itself, that is so notable, for it 



io8 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

is one of those gallows signs, stretching across the 
road, that are now becoming so few. The illustration 
sufficiently describes its quaint procession of fox, 
hounds, and huntsmen, said to have been placed here 
in allusion to a fox that took refuge in a dog-kennel 
of the inn. 

If the name of Barley hints strongly of agri- 
cultural pursuits, it does not by any means derive it 
from that kind of grain. Its earliest Saxon name is 
" Berle," coming from the words " beorh " and " lea," 
and meaning a cleared space in a forest. Barley, 
in fact, stands on the final ridge where the Chiltern 
Hills end and the East Anglian heights and the 
forest of Essex begin, overlooking a valley between 
the two where the trees fell back and permitted a 
way through the primeval woods. 

The restored and largely rebuilt church contains 
little of interest, but in the churchyard lies one 
whose career claims some notice. There the passing 
stranger may see a simple stone cross, bearing the 
words, "Heinrich, Count Arnim. Born May 10th, 
1814. Died October 8th, 1883." Beside him lies 
his wife, who died in 1875. The story of Count 
Arnim is one of political enthusiasms and political 
and personal hatreds. One of the greatest nobles 
in conservative Germany, he early developed Radical 
ideas, and joined Kossuth in his struggle for 
Hungarian liberty, refusing to desert that ill-fated 
cause, and disregarding the call of his own country 
to arms. The neglect of this feudal duty rendered 
his vast estates liable to forfeiture, and placed him 
in danger of perpetual confinement in a military 



A NOBLE EXILE 109 

prison ; a danger aggravated by the personal and 
bitter animosity of the all-powerful Bismarck, and 
the hatred of the relatives of two antagonists whom 
he had slain in duels. To escape this threatened 
lifelong imprisonment he fled to England, and, after 
much privation, established a school of fencing and 
physical exercise, under the assumed name of Major 
Loeffler. In the meanwhile he had married a 
German governess. His association with Barley 
arose from the then Kector resorting to his school 
for a course of exercise, and becoming in time a 
fast friend, to whom the Count disclosed his iden- 
tity. The Kector interested himself in Arnim's 
fortunes, and went so far as to write to the German 
Emperor on behalf of his son, then growing to 
manhood. As a result of these efforts young Arnim 
was permitted to enter the German Army and to 
enjoy his father's estates. Unfortunately his mother 
accompanied him, and as, according to the savage 
notions of German society, she was not of noble 
birth and not ennobled by marriage, she was re- 
stricted to the servants' hall at every place her son 
visited, while he was received in the highest circles. 
Count Arnim had, in his long residence in England, 
adopted the sensible views prevailing here, and 
indignantly recalled his son. " I would rather," he 
said in a noble passage, " I would rather have my 
son grow up a poor man in England, in the service 
of his adopted country, than as a rich man in the 
service of his Fatherland, where he would have to 
be ashamed of his mother." 

It was his friendship with the Rector that made 



no THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

the Count choose this as the resting-place of his 
wife and himself. His body was brought by train 
to Buntingford, and thence by road, being buried 
by the light of torches at midnight, after the old 
German custom. 



XVII 

A MILE beyond Barley the road leaves Hertfordshire 
and enters Essex, but passes out of that county 
again and enters Cambridgeshire in another two 
miles. Midway, amid the solemn emptiness of the 
bare downs, the Icknield Way runs as a rugged 
chalk-and-grass track athwart the road, neighboured 
by prehistoric tumuli. Amidst all these reminders 
of the dead-and-gone Iceni, at the cross-roads to 
Royston and Whittlesford, and just inside the 
Cambridgeshire border, stands a lonely inn once 
known as the Flint House. Beside it is one of the 
Trinity Hall milestones, with the crescent badge of 
the college, and hands with fingers like sausages 
pointing down the weirdly straight and empty 
roads. 

The two miles of road through Essex long bore 
the name of the " Recorder's Road." It seems that 
when in 1725 an Act of Parliament was obtained 
for mending the then notoriously bad way from 
Cambridge to Fowlmere and Barley "in the counties 
of Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire," the fact that 
two miles lay in Essex was overlooked. In conse- 



THE "RECORDER'S ROAD" 



in 



quence of this omission nothing was done to the 
Essex portion, which became almost impassable for 
carriages until the then Kecorder of Cambridge, 
Samuel Pont, obtained the help of several of the 
colleges, and at last mended it. 



TO- . 

CA&TORIDGE 




A MONUMENTAL MILESTONE. 



It is a good enough road now, though passing 
through very exposed and open country, with 
tumuli, the solemn relics of a prehistoric race, 
forming striking objects on the bare hillsides and 



ii2 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

the skyline. In cosy and sheltered contrast with 
these comes the village of Fowlmere, snugly nestled 
amid the elms and poplars aptly named "Crows' 
Parlour." 

Fowlmere is a very Proteus in the spelling of 
its name. In Domesday Book it is set down as 
" Fugelesmare," and has at any time since then 
been written in half a dozen different ways, in 
which "Foulmere" and "Fowlmere" are the most 
prominent. Old-time travellers, who found the road 
inexpressibly bad, adopted the first of these two 
styles, and thought the place well suited with a 
name : others and among them local patriots 
adopted the variant less expressive of mud and mire. 
In so doing they were correct, for the village takes 
its name from a marshy lake or mere, thickly over- 
grown with reeds in ancient times, in whose recesses 
myriads of wild -fowl found a safe harbourage. 
Even when the nineteenth century had dawned the 
mere was still in existence, and wild-fowl frequented 
it in some numbers. To-day it is but a spot where 
watercress grows and the grass springs a thought 
more luxuriant than elsewhere. 

Here we are on the track of Samuel Pepys, who 
makes in his Diary but a fleeting appearance on 
this road, a strange circumstance when we consider 
that he was a Cantab. It is, however, an appear- 
ance of some interest. In February 1660, then, 
behold him rising early, taking horse from London, 
and setting out for Cambridge, in company with a 
Mr. Pierce, at seven o'clock in the morning, in- 
tending to make that town by night. They rode 



SAMUEL PEPYS 115 

twenty-seven miles before they drew rein, baiting 
at Puckeridge, doubtless at that old house the 
Falcon, the way "exceeding bad" from Ware. 
" Then up again and as far as Fowlmere, within 
six miles of Cambridge, my mare almost tired." 

Almost ! Good Heavens ! he had ridden the 
poor beast forty-six miles. At anyrate, if the mare 
was not quite tired, Samuel at least was, and at 
Fowlmere he and Mr. Pierce stayed the night, at 




THE CHEQUERS, FOWLMEIIE. 

the Chequers. An indubitable Chequers still stands 
in the village street, but it is not the house under 
whose roof the old diarist lay, as the inscription, 
" W.T., Ano Dom. 1675," on the yellow-plastered front 
sufficiently informs us. The next morning Samuel 
was up betimes, and at Cambridge by eight o'clock. 

Thriplow Heath once stretched away between 
Fowlmere and Newton, our next village, but it is 



n6 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

all enclosed now, and cultivated fields obscure that 
historic portion of the Heath where, in June 1647, 
Cromwell's troops, victorious over the last struggles 
of the Koyalists, assembled and sent demands to 
the Parliament in London for their long overdue 
pay. A striking position, this. The Parliament 
had levied war upon the King and had brought him 
low, and now the hammer that had shattered his 
power was being threatened against itself. Cromwell 
and a military dictatorship loomed ominous before 
my lords and gentlemen of Westminster, and they 
hastily sent down two months' pay, with promises of 
more, to avert Cromwell's threat that he would seize 
the captive King, and, placing him at the head of 
the army, march upon London. That payment and 
those promises did not suffice, and how Cornet Joyce 
was sent across country from this point, with a troop 
of horse, to seize Charles from the custody of the 
Parliamentary Commissioners at Holmby House is a 
matter of history, together with the military usurpa- 
tion that did actually follow. 

Newton village itself has little interest, but a 
small hillside obelisk on the right calls for passing 
notice. It marks the spot where two friends were 
in the habit of meeting in the long ago. The one 
lived at Newton and the other at Little Shelford. 
Every day for many years they met at this spot, and 
when one died the survivor erected this memorial. 
The left-hand hillside also has its interest, for the 
commonplace brick building on the hilltop is all 
that remains of one of a line of semaphore telegraph 
stations in use between London and Cambridge over 



BUNTINGFORD 117 

a hundred years ago. A descending road brings us 
from this point to a junction with the Royston route 
to Cambridge, at Harston. 



XVIII 

THE Royston route to Cambridge now demands 
attention. Harking back to Puckeridge, we have by 
this road certainly the most difficult way, for eight 
of the eleven miles between Puckeridge and Royston 
lead, with few and unimportant intervals, steadily 
uphill, from the deep valley of the Rib up to the 
tremendous and awe-inspiring climax of Royston 
Downs ; from whose highest point, on Reed Hill, the 
road drops consistently for three miles in a 
staggering descent into Royston town. 

At West Mill, where the valley opens out on the 
left, the road continues on the shoulder of the hill, 
with the village and the railway lying down below ; 
a sweetly pretty scene. West Mill is a name whose 
sound is distinctly modern, but the place is of a 
venerable age, vouched for by its ancient church, 
whose architecture dates back to the early years of 
the thirteenth century. It is the fashion to spell 
the place-name in one word Westmill an ugly 
and altogether objectionable form. 

Buntingford succeeds to West Mill. A brick 
bridge crossing a little river, an old red-brick chapel 
bulking large on the left hand, a long, long street of 
rustic cottages and shops and buildings of more 



n8 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

urban pretensions, and over all a sleepy half-holiday 
air: that is Buntingford. It is difficult to take 
Buntingford seriously, even though its street be half 
a mile in length, for its name recalls that hero of 
nursery rhyme, that Baby Bunting whose father 
went a-hunting, and went to buy a rabbit-skin to 
put the Baby Bunting in. Buntingford, for all the 




WEST MILL. 



length of its long street and the very considerable 
age of it, is but a hamlet of Layston, close upon a 
mile distant. That is why Buntingford has no old 
parish church, and explains the building of the red- 
brick chapel aforesaid in 1615, to the end that the 
ungodly might have no excuse for not attending 
public worship and the pious might exercise their 
piety without making unduly long pilgrimage. 
" Domus Orationis " is inscribed on the gable-wall of 



TURNPIKE TRUSTS 119 

the chapel, lest perhaps it might be mistaken for 
some merely secular building ; an easy enough 
matter. Behind it, stands the little group of eight 
almshouses built in 1684 by Dr. Seth Ward, "born 
in yis town," as the tablet over the principal door 
declares ; that Bishop of Salisbury who lent his 
carriage - horses to King James's troops to drag 
the ordnance sent against the Monmouth rebels on 
Sedgemoor. 

Layston Church stands in a meadow, neglected, 
and with daylight peering curiously through its 
roof ; and the village itself has long disappeared. 

The fifteen miles between Wade's Mill and 
Royston, forming the " Wade's Mill Turnpike Trust," 
continued subject to toll long after the railway was 
opened. With the succeeding trusts on through 
Royston to Kirby's Hut and Caxton, on the Old 
North Road, and so on to Stilton, it was one of the 
earliest undertakings under the general Turnpike 
Act of 1698, and, like them, claimed direct descent 
from the first turnpike gates erected in England in 
1663, under the provisions of the special Act of that 
year, which, describing this " ancient highway and 
post-road" to the North as almost impassable, 
proceeded to give powers for toll-gates to be erected 
at Stilton and other places. 

To this particular Trust fell the heavy task of 
lowering the road over the London Road hill, the 
highest crest of the Downs ; a work completed in 
1839, at a cost of 1723, plus 50 compensation 
paid to a nervous passenger on one of the coaches 
who jumped off the roof while it was crossing a 



120 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

temporary roadway and broke his leg. The tolls 
at this time were let for 4350 per annum. 

Reed Hill, to which we now come, passing on 
the way the hamlets of Buckland and Chipping, 
commands the whole of Royston Downs, a tract of 
country whose bold, rolling outlines are still im- 
pressive, even though the land be enclosed and 
brought under cultivation in these later years. This 
chalky range is a continuation of the Chiltern Hills, 
and gives Royston, lying down below in the deep 
hollow, a curiously isolated and remote appearance. 
Indeed, whether it be the engineering difficulties in 
tunnelling these heights, or whether the deterrent 
cause lies in rival railway politics, or in its not being 
worth while to continue, the branch of the Great 
Eastern Railway to Buntingford goes no farther, but 
comes ingloriously to a terminus in that little town ; 
while the Great Northern Railway reaches Royston 
circuitously, by way of Hitchin and Baldock, and 
artfully avoids the heights. 

A wayside inn the Red Lion crowns the 
summit of Reed Hill, and looks out upon vast distances. 
The Red Lion himself, a very fiercely -whiskered 
vermilion fellow projecting over the front door of 
the house, and looking with an agonised expression 
of countenance over his shoulder passant regardant, 
as the heralds say hails from Royston itself, where 
he occupied a similar position in front of the old 
coaching-inn of the same name. Alas ! when old 
coaching days ended and those of railways dawned, 
the Red Lion at Royston, ever in the forefront of 
coaching affairs in the town, was doomed. The 



THE ROYSTON CROW 121 

High Street knows it no more, and the Bull reigns 
in its stead as the principal house. 

These windy downs, now robbed of much of their 
wildness of detail, but losing nothing of their bold 
outline, long harboured two forms of wild life not 
commonly found elsewhere. The Koyston Crow, 
indeed, still frequents this range of hills ; and on 
some undisturbed slopes of turf the wandering 
botanist is even yet rewarded in his Eastertide search 
for the Anemone, Pulsatilla, the Pasque Flower. The 
Koyston Crow, the Corvus comix of ornithologists, 
is a winter visitor from Sweden and Norway, and is 
known in other parts of the country as the " hooded 
crow." He is distinguished from his cousin corvi by 
his grey head and back, giving him an ancient and 
venerable appearance. He is not a sociable bird, 
and refuses to mix with the blackbirds, the thrushes, 
and his kindred crows, who, for their part, are con- 
tent to leave him alone, and doubtless rejoice when 
in April he wings his way to northern latitudes. 

The Pasque Flower, so named from the paschal 
season of its blossoming, affects the windiest and most 
unlikely situations in chalk and limestone pastures, 
and thrives where it might be supposed only the 
coarsest grasses would grow. In these exposed places 
its purple blooms flourish. They nestle close to the 
ground, and are only to be easily discovered by the 
expert. Do not attempt to transplant this wild beauty 
of the downs. You may dig roots with the greatest 
care, and cherish them as tenderly as possible ; but, 
torn from its stern surroundings and lapped in 
botanical luxury, the Pasque Flower droops and dies. 



122 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



XIX 

ROYSTON stands where the Ermine Street and the 
Icknield Way intersect one another. To old Cobbett, 
travelling with a censorious eye upon men and 
things and places in the early years of the nineteenth 
century, it appeared to be " a common market-town. 
Not mean, but having nothing of beauty about it." 
This is not a very shrewd or illuminating opinion, 
because, while it is true that Royston is not beauti- 
ful on the one hand, nor exactly mean on the other, 
this description is not quite descriptive, and fails to 
explain where the town stops short of beauty or of 
meanness. Royston, in fact, is a little grim, and 
belies the preconceived notion of the expectant 
traveller, who, doubtless with some wild idea of a 
connection between Royston and roystering, is 
astonished at the grave, almost solemn, look of its 
narrow streets. The grim shadow of the Downs is 
thrown over the little town, and the houses huddle 
together as though for company and warmth. 

There are those to whom the place - name 
suggests a Norman - French derivation Roy's ton, 
or the King's Town, but although the name arose 
in Norman times, it had a very different origin from 
anything suggested by royal patronage. Eight 
hundred years ago, when this part of the country 
remained little but the desolate tract the fury of the 
Conqueror had made it, the Lady Rohesia, wife of 
the Norman lord of the manor, set up a wayside 
cross where the roads met. The object of this cross 



JROYSTON 123 

does not clearly appear, but it probably filled the 
combined purpose of a signpost and wayside oratory, 
where those who fared the roads might pray for a 
happy issue from the rigours of their journey. At 
anyrate, the piety of the Lady Rohesia (or Roesia, 
for they were very uncertain about their h's in those 
times) has kept her name from being quite forgot, 
preserved as it is in Royston's designation ; but it is 
not to be supposed that the pilgrims, the franklins, 
and the miscellaneous wayfarers along these roads 
tortured their tongues much with this awkward 
word, and so Rohesia's Cross speedily became known 
as " Roise's," just as to the London 'bus-conductors 
High Holborn has become " 'iobun." A town 
gathered in course of time round the monastery 
" Monasterium de Cruce Roesise" founded here a 
century after this pious lady had gone her way. 
Monastery and cross are alike gone, but the parish 
church is the old priory church, purchased by the 
inhabitants for public worship when the monastic 
establishment was dissolved, and Royston Fair, held 
on 7th July in every year, is a reminiscence of that 
old religious house, for that day is the day of 
St. Thomas a Becket, in whose honour it was 
dedicated. As " Becket's Fair " this annual celebra- 
tion is still known. 

For centuries afterwards Royston was a town 
and yet not a parish, being situated in portions of 
the five adjoining parishes of Melbourn, Bassing- 
bourn, Therfield, Barley, and Reed ; and for centuries 
more, after it had attained parochial dignity, its 
chief cross street, Melbourn Street, divided the 



124 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

place into two Roystons Royston, Hertfordshire, 
and Royston, Cambridgeshire. The doings of one 
with the other afford amusing reading : how a 
separate workhouse was established and separate 
assessments made for each parish, and how at length, 
in 1781, an Act was passed for consolidating the 
two for local government purposes ; all these incon- 
venient and absurdly conflicting jurisdictions of 
parishes and counties being eventually swept away 
in 1895, when the Cambridgeshire portion of Royston 
was transferred to Hertfordshire, the whole of the 
town now being in that county. 

They still cherish the memory of King James the 
First at Royston, though the open Heath where he 
hunted the hare is a thing of the past, and the races 
and all the ancient jollifications of that time are now 
merely matters for the antiquary. Where the four 
roads from the four quarters of the compass still meet 
in the middle of the town stood the old Palace. Its 
remains, of no very palatial appearance, are there 
even yet, and form private residences. Close by is 
that prime curiosity, Royston Cave. James and his 
courtiers and all their gay world at this corner never 
knew of the Cave, which was only discovered in 1742. 
It is a bottle-shaped excavation in the chalk, situated 
immediately under the roadway. Its age and 
original purpose are still matters in dispute. 
Whether it was excavated to serve the purpose of 
dust-bin to a Roman villa, or was a flint quarry, we 
shall never know, but that it certainly was in use 
by some religious recluse in the twelfth century is 
assured by the curious rough carvings in the chalk, 



THE RED LION, ROYSTON 



125 



representing St. Catherine, the Crucifixion, mitred 
abbots, and a variety of subjects of a devotional 
character. The hermit whose singular piety led 
him to take up his abode in this dismal hole 
must have had great difficulty in entering or 
leaving, for it was then only to be approached by 
plunging as it were into the neck of the bottle. 




A QUAINT CORNER IN ROYSTON. 

The staircase by which visitors enter was only made 
in modern times. 

The old Eed Lion at Royston has already been 
mentioned as having ceased to be. It was kept for 
many years in the eighteenth century by Mrs. 
Gatward, a widow, assisted in the posting and 
coaching business attached to the house by her two 
sons. One of them came to a terribly tragic end. 
What induced him to turn highwayman we shall 



126 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

never know ; but he took to the road, as many a 
roving blade in those times did. Perhaps his life 
lacked excitement. If that were so, he took the 
readiest means of adding variety to existence, for he 
waylaid the postboy carrying His Majesty's Mails on 
the North Road, between Roys ton and Huntingdon, 
and robbed the bags. There was in those times no 
method of courting death with such success as robbing 
the mails, and accordingly young Gatward presently 
found himself convicted and cast for execution. 
They hanged him in due course and gibbeted his 
body, pursuant to the grim old custom, near the 
scene of his crime. The story of this unhappy 
amateur highwayman is told and, a tale of horror 
it is by one Cole, a diligent antiquary on Cambridge- 
shire affairs, whose manuscript collections are in the 
British Museum. Hear him : "About 1753-54, the 
son of Mrs. Gatward, who kept the Red Lion at 
Royston, being convicted of robbing the mail, was 
hanged in chains on the Great Road. I saw him 
hanging, in a scarlet coat, and after he had hung 
about two or three months it is supposed that the 
screw was filed which supported him, and that he 
fell in the first high wind after. Mr. Lord, of Trinity, 
passed by as he lay on the ground, and, trying to 
open his breast, to see what state his body was in, 
not being offensive, but quite dry, a button of brass 
came off, which he preserves to this day, as he told 
me at the Vice-Chancellor's, Thursday, June 30th, 
1779. I sold this Mr. Gatward, just as I left college 
in 1752, a pair of coach horses, which was the only 
time I saw him. It was a great grief to his mother, 



A TRAGIC NOTE 



127 



who bore a good character, and kept the inn for many 
years after." 

This account of how a malefactor's body might 
lie by the roadside, the sport of any wayfarer's idle 
curiosity, gives no very flattering glimpse of this 
England of ours a hundred and fifty years ago. Yet 
these were the " good old times." 

The story goes that the agonised mother of the 
gibbeted man secretly conveyed his body to the inn 




CAXTON GIBBET. 



and gave it decent, if unconsecrated, burial in the 
cellar. His brother, James Gatward, was for many 
years afterwards part proprietor of the London, 
Koyston, and St. Ives coach, running past the 
gibbet. 

Caxton Gibbet, where Gatward's body hung in 
chains, is still marked by a tall post standing on a 
mound by the wayside, on the North Road, thirteen 
miles from Royston. It is a singularly lonely spot, 
even though a public-house with the gruesome name 



i 2 8 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

of the Gibbet Inn stands close by. A mile distant 
is the village of Caxton, with its old coaching-inns 
converted into farmhouses ; the only other places on 
the twelve miles being the old Hardwicke Arms 
Posting House and the gates of Wimpole Park at 
Arrington Bridge, and the solitary " Old North Eoad " 
railway station. 

Koyston's old inns have lost much of their old-time 
air. Among them, the George possessed one of 
those old " gallows " signs crossing the road in a 
fashion similar to that of the Fox and Hounds 
at Barley, but, somewhere towards the close of the 
eighteenth century, it fell at the moment when a 
London-bound waggoner was passing beneath, and 
killed him. Since then such signs have not been in 
favour in the town. 



XX 

EOYSTON has of late years spread out largely to the 
north, over those grassy heaths where James hunted. 
Looking back when midway between the town and 
Melbourn, this modern growth is readily noted, for 
the houses of it are all of Cambridgeshire white brick. 
At this distance they give a singularly close imitation 
of a tented military camp. 

Melbourn why not spelled with a final * e,' like 

other Melbournes, is a mystery no inquiry can satisfy 

is a large village of much thatch. Especially is 

the grey-green velvety moss on the thatch of a row 

of yellow plaster cottages beyond the church a thing 



FRUIT-FARMING 131 

of beauty, however rotten the thatch itself may be. 
Melbourn has a beautiful church and church-tower, 
seen in the accompanying picture, but its other 
glory, the Great Elm that for many centuries spread 
a shade over the road by the church, is now only a 
memory, a memory kept green by the sign of the 
inn opposite. Everyone in Melbourn lives on fruit. 
In other words, this is a great fruit-growing district. 
This village and its neighbour, Meldreth, specialise 
in greengages, and from the railway station that 
serves the two, many hundreds of tons of that fruit 
are despatched to London in the season. These 
terms are perhaps vague, but they are reduced to a 
more definite idea of the importance of the greengage 
harvest when some returns are noted. From Mel- 
bourn, station, then, thirty tons a day is an average 
consignment. Little wonder, then, that when one 
has come down from the bleak downs and heaths 
of Royston to these sheltered levels, the swelling 
contours of the windy pastures and breezy cornfields 
give place to long lines of orchards. 

Cambridgeshire very soon develops its flat and 
fenny character along this route, and Melbourn left 
behind, the road on to Cambridge is a dead level. 
The low church - tower just visible to a keen eye, 
away to the left, among some clustered trees, is that 
of Shepreth. Shepreth hides its modest self from 
the road : let us take the winding by-way that 
leads to it and see what a purely agricultural Cam- 
bridgeshire village, set down in this level plain, and 
utterly out of touch with the road, may be like. It 
needs no great exercise of the deductive faculty to 



i 3 2 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

discover, on the way to Shepreth, that it is not a 
place of great or polite resort, for the lane is a 
narrow and winding way, half muddy ruts and half 
loose stones. Beside it crawls imperceptibly in its 
deep, ditch-like bed, overhung by pollard willows, 
a stream that takes its rise in the bogs of Fowlmere. 
By what lazy, snakish windings it ultimately finds 
its way into the Cam does not concern us. Here 
and there old mud-walled cottages, brilliantly white- 
washed and heavily thatched, dot the way ; the sum 
total of the village, saving indeed the church, stand- 
ing adjoining a farmyard churned into a sea of 
mud. 

The appearance of Shepreth Church is not 
altogether prepossessing. The south aisle has been 
rebuilt in white brick, in a style rivalling the worst 
efforts of the old-time chapel-builder ; and the old 
tower, whose upper stages have long fallen in ruin, 
shows in the contorted courses of its stonework how 
the building has sunk and settled in the waterlogged 
soil. 

Beyond this soddened village, coming to the high- 
road again, the station and level-crossing of Foxton 
are reached ; the situation of Foxton itself clearly 
fixed by the church-tower, rising from the flat fields 
on the right, half a mile away. There is something 
of a story belonging to this line of railway from 
Royston to Shepreth, Foxton, Shelford, and Cam- 
bridge. As far as Shepreth it is a branch of the 
Great Northern, anxious in the long ago to find a 
way into Cambridge and so cut up the Great Eastern's 
trade. The Great Eastern could not defeat the 






RAIL WA Y RIVALRIES 1 33 

scheme altogether, but stopped it at Shepreth, to 
which point that line was opened in 1848. This 
was awkward for the Great Northern, brought to a 
halt seven miles from Cambridge, at a point which 
may, without disrespect to Shepreth, well be called 
" nowhere in particular." But the Great Northern 
people found a way out of the difficulty. Parliament, 
in the interests of the Great Eastern, would not 
permit them to build a railway -into Cambridge, 
but no one could forbid them conveying passengers 
by coach along these last few miles. And so, for 
close upon four years, Great Northern passengers left 
the trains at Shepreth and were conveyed by a forty 
minutes' coach journey the rest of the way. Thus, 
along these few miles at anyrate, coaching survived 
on the Cambridge road until 1851, when the Great 
Eastern built a short line from Shelford to Foxton 
and Shepreth, to join the Great Northern branch, 
allowing running-powers to that Company into Cam- 
bridge station. 

Harston village succeeds to Foxton. Its present 
name is a corruption of " Harleston," which itself was 
a contraction of " Hardeliston." It stands at a bend 
of the road, with a very small village green and a 
very large church to the left, and the long village 
street of small cottages and large gardens following 
the high road, and bringing the traveller presently 
to an inn the Old English Gentleman where the 
Barkway route to Cambridge meets this ; both thence- 
forward joining forces for the remaining four miles 
and a half. Hauxton Church starts up on the right, 
by the Granta, which comes down from AudleyEnd and 



i 3 4 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

is crossed here, over a little bridge, the only striking 
object in what has now become a very desolate road, 
so lonely and empty that an occasional thorn-tree, 
rising from the dwarf hedges of the immense flat 
fields, becomes quite companionable, and a distant 
clump of leafy elms a landmark. Those distant 
trees mark where Trumpington village church lies 
hid, and, if the horizon ahead be closely scanned, 
the long line of King's College Chapel will presently 
be seen. We are coming at last into Cambridge. 



XXI 

THE entrance to Cambridge town through Trumping- 
ton is singularly noble and dignified. This is an age 
when almost every ancient town or city is approached 
through a ring of modern suburbs, but Cambridge 
is one of the few and happy exceptions. You cannot 
enter Oxford by the old coach road from London 
without passing through the modern suburb of St. 
Clements, whose mean street pitifully discounts the 
approach to the city over Magdalen Bridge ; but at 
first, when nearing Cambridge, nothing breaks the flat 
landscape save the distant view of King's College 
Chapel, that gigantic pile of stone whose long flat 
skyline and four angle - turrets so wrought upon 
Ruskin's feelings that he compared it with a billiard- 
table turned upside down. It is not because of 
the great Chapel that the entrance to Cambridge 
is noble : it will add nothing to the beauty of the 






TRUMPINGTON 135 

scene until that day perhaps never to come when 
the building shall be completed with a stately bell- 
tower after the design contemplated by its founder, 
Henry the Sixth. No ; it is rather by reason, firstly, 
of the broad quiet rural village street of Trumping- 
ton, set humbly, as it were, in the gates of learning, 
and secondly of the still broad and quiet, but more 
urban, Trumpington Road that follows it, that 
Cambridge is so charmingly entered. A line of old 
gabled cottages with old-fashioned gardens occupies 
either side of the road ; while an ancient mansion 
or two, together with the village church, are hid, or 
perhaps glimpsed for a moment, off to the left, where 
a by-road goes off. past the old toll-house, to Grant- 
chester. This is Trumpington. In that churchyard 
lies a remarkable man : none other, indeed, than Henry 
Fawcett we will not call him by his title of " Pro- 
fessor," for that seems always so blatant a dignity 
who died at Cambridge in 1884, thus ending 
a life that had risen triumphant above, surely, 
the keenest affliction Fate can inflict. Completely 
blinded in youth by an accident of the most deplor- 
able kind, he yet lived to fill a career in life and 
politics apparently denied by loss of sight. The 
text on his gravestone a garbled passage from 
Exodus, chap. xiv. ver. 15 is singularly appropriate : 
" Speak unto the people, that they go forward/ 7 

It is down this leafy by-way, past the church, 
that one finds Grantchester Mill, a building generally 
thought to occupy the site of that " Trumpington 
Mill " made famous in one of Chaucer's Canterbury 
Tales. 



136 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

For Trumpington has a certain literary fame, in 
association with Chaucer's " Reeve's Tale " : 

"At Trompington, not fer fro Cantebrigge, 
Ther goth a brook, and over that a brigge, 
Upon the whiche brook ther stont a melle." 

The " Reeve's Tale " is not precisely a part of Chaucer 
to be discussed in every drawing-room, and is indeed 
a story well calculated to make a satyr laugh and 
the judicious grieve. Therefore, it is perhaps no 
great pity that the mill stands no longer, so that you 
cannot actually seek it out and say, " Here the proud 
Simon, the ' insolent Simkin,' ground the people's 
corn, taking dishonest toll of it, and hereabouts 
those roystering blades of University scholars, Allen 
and John, played their pranks." Grantchester Mill 
is a building wholly modern. 

It is a grave and dignified road, tree-shaded and 
echoing to the drowsy cawing of rooks (like tired 
professors weary of lecturing to inattentive classes), 
that conducts along the high road through Trumping- 
ton village to the beginnings of the town. Here, by 
the bridge crossing the little stream called the " Vicar's 
Brook," one mile from Great St. Mary's Church, the 
very centre of Cambridge, stands the eight-foot high 
milestone, the first in the series set up between 
Cambridge and Barkway in the early years of the 
eighteenth century, and paid for out of " Dr. Mouse's 
and Mr. Hare's Causey Money." This initial stone 
cost 5, 8s. The arms of Dr. Mouse may still be 
traced, impaling those of Trinity Hall. 

Beyond this hoary but little-noticed relic begin 



CAMBRIDGE WATER 139 

the Botanic Gardens, and beside them runs or creeps 
that old Cambridge water-supply, the "little new 
river," brought in 1610 from the Nine Wells under- 
yonder gentle hills that break the flatness of the 
landscape away on the right. 

The idea of bringing pure water into Cambridge 




THE FIRST MILESTONE FROM CAMBRIDGE. 



originated, in 1574, with a certain Dr. Perne, Master 
of Peterhouse ; its object both to cleanse the King's 
Ditch, " which," says Fuller, " once made to defend 
Cambridge by its strength, did in his time offend it 
with its stench," and to provide drinking water for 



140 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

the University and town. This clear-running stream 
has an interest beyond its local use, for the cutting 
of its course was designed by Edward Wright, of 
Gonville and Caius College, who also drew the plans 
for Sir Hugh Myddleton's " New Kiver," whose course 
so closely neighbours this old road between Ware 
and London. 

The Conduit " Hobson's Conduit," as it is 
called that once stood on Market Hill, was re- 
moved in 1854, and now stands at the very be- 
ginning of Cambridge, where Trumpington "Boad" 
becomes " Street," at the head of this open stream. 

The Nine Wells are not easy to find. They are 
situated near the village of Great Shelford, under 
a shoulder of the Gog Magog Hills, and are ap- 
proached across two rugged pastures, almost im- 
practicable in wet weather. The term "wells" is 
misleading. They are springs, found trickling 
feebly through the white clay in the bed of a deep 
trench with two branches, cut in the hillside. Above 
them stands a granite obelisk erected by public 
subscription in 1861, and setting forth all the 
circumstances at great length. The term " Nine 
Wells" is not especially applied to this spot, but 
is used throughout Cambridgeshire for springs, what- 
ever their number. A similar custom obtained in 
classic Greece, but the evidence by which our 
Cambridgeshire practice might possibly be derived 
from such a respectable source, and so be linked 
with the Pierian spring and the Muses Nine, is 
entirely lacking. 

The Gog Magogs" the Gogs," as the country- 



THE GOG MAGOGS 



141 



folk irreverently abbreviate their mysterious name 
are the Cambridgeshire mountains. They are not 
particularly Alpine in character, being, indeed, just 
a series of gently rising grassy downs, culminating 
in a height of three hundred feet above sea-level. 




HOBSON S CONDUIT. 



No one will ever be able to explain how these very 
mild hills obtained their terrific title ; and Gog and 
Magog themselves, mentioned vaguely in Eevelations, 
where the devil is let loose again after his thousand 



142 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

years' imprisonment in the bottomless pit, are equally 
inexplicable. 

The crowning height of the Gog Magogs was 
in Koman times the summer camp of a cohort of 
Vandals, quartered in this district to overawe the 
conquered British. It was then the policy of Rome, 
as it is of ourselves in India and elsewhere at the 
present day, to enrol into her service the strange 
tribes and alien nations she had conquered, and to 
bring them from afar to impress her newest subjects 
with the far-reaching might and glory of the Empire. 
This Vandalian cohort was formed from the barbarian 
prisoners defeated on the Danube by Aurelian, and 
enlisted by the Emperor Probus. The earthworks 
of their camp are still traceable within the grounds 
of the mansion and estate of ^ 7 andlebury, on the 
hilltop, once belonging to the Duke of Leeds. From 
this point of view Cambridge is seen mapped out 
below, while in other directions the great rolling 
fields spread downwards in fold upon fold. Immense 
fields they are, enclosed in the early years of last 
century, when Cambridgeshire began to change its 
immemorial aspect of open treeless downs, where the 
sheep grazed on the short grass and the bustard still 
lingered, for its present highly cultivated condition. 
Fields of this comparatively recent origin may 
generally be recognised by their great size, in strik- 
ing contrast with the ancient enclosures whose area 
was determined by the work of hand-ploughing. 
These often measure over half a mile square, and 
mark the advent of the steam-plough. 



" THE FITZBILL Y" 143 

XXII 

THE old Cambridge water-supply, meandering down 
from the hills, has induced a similar discursiveness 
in these last pages. Onward from Trumpington 
Koad it runs in a direct line to the Conduit, and 
our course shall, in sympathy, be as straight. 

The Fitzwilliam Museum is the first public 
building to attract notice on entering the town : a 
huge institution in the classic style, notable for the 
imposing Corinthian columns that decorate its front ; 
its effect marred by the stone screen that interrupts 
the view up the noble flights of steps. " The Fitz- 
billy," as all Cambridge men know it, derives from 
the noble collections of art objects and antiquities, 
together with great sums of money, left to the 
University in 1816 by a Lord Fitzwilliam for the 
establishment of a museum and art gallery. It was 
completed some forty years ago, and has since then 
been the great architectural feature in the first 
glimpse of Cambridge. The coloured marble decora- 
tions and the painting and gilding of the interior 
are grandiose rather than grand ; and although the 
collections, added to by many later bequests, contain 
many priceless and beautiful objects, the effect of 
the whole is a kind of mental and optical indigestion 
caused by the "fine confused feeding" afforded by 
the very mixed arrangement of these treasures, a 
bad arrangement, like that of an overgrown private 
collection, and utterly unsuited for public and educa- 
tional needs. You turn from a manuscript to a 



i 4 4 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

picture, from a picture to a case of china, from that 
to missals, and so all through the varied incarnations 
of art throughout the centuries. 

Just beyond the Fitzwilliam Museum comes 
Peterhouse College, the oldest of all the colleges in 
the University. To understand something of the 
meaning of the colleges and their relation to the 
supreme teaching and governing body, it will be 
necessary to recount, as briefly as may be, the 
circumstances in which both University and Colleges 
had their origin. 

The origin of Cambridge University, as of that of 
Oxford, is of unknown date, and the manner of its 
inception problematical. Who was the great teacher 
that first drew scholars to him at this place ? We 
cannot tell. That he was a Churchman goes without 
saying, for the Church, in the dark ages when learn- 
ing began to be, held letters and culture in fee- 
simple. Nor can we tell why Cambridge was thus 
honoured, for it was not the home, like Ely, Crowland, 
or Thorney, of a great monastic establishment, whence 
learning of sorts radiated. One of the untrustworthy 
early chroniclers of these things gives, indeed, a 
specific date to the beginnings of the University, and 
says that Joffrid, Abbot of Crowland, in 1110 sent 
monkish lecturers to the town ; but the earliest 
record, beyond which we must not go into the regions 
of mere surmise, belongs to a hundred and twenty- 
one years later, when royal regulations respecting 
the students were issued. Already a Chancellor and 
a complete governing body appear to have been in 
existence. It is arguable that a century and more 




10 



ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSITY 147 

must have been necessary for these to have been 
evolved from the earliest days of a teaching body ; 
but these affairs are for pundits. Such special 
pleaders as John Caius and Thomas Key, who fought 
with great bitterness and amazing pertinacity in the 
sixteenth century on the question as to whether 
Oxford or Cambridge were the older of the two, had 
the hardihood to trace them back to astonishing 
lengths. According to Caius, arguing for Cambridge, 
it was one Cantaber, a Spanish prince, who founded 
the University here in the very remote days when Gur- 
guntius was King of Britain. To this prince he traces 
the name of the town itself, and I think that fact 
alone serves to discredit anything else he has to say. 

But no matter when and how the University 
originated. To those early teachers came so many 
to listen in the one room or hall, that probably 
constituted the original University, that the town did 
not suffice to accommodate them, and, both for the 
sake of convenience and discipline, the first college 
was founded, as primarily a lodgment or hostel for 
the scholars. As their numbers continually grew, 
and as benefactors began to look with increasing 
kindliness upon learning, so were more and more 
colleges added. 

The first of all the colleges was, as already stated, 
this of Peterhouse, founded so far back as 1280 by 
Hugh de Balsham, Bishop of Ely. It was at first 
established in the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist, 
near by, but was removed, only six years later, to 
the present site, for convenient access to the Church 
of St. Peter. It is to the fact that the chancel of this 



i 4 8 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

church was used as its chapel that the college owes 
its official but rarely heard title of " St. Peter's." In 
1352 St. Peter's Church was given a new consecra- 
tion, and has ever since been known as St. Mary the 
Less. Meanwhile, in 1632, the college built a chapel 
of its own. 

Peterhouse has points of interest other than being 
the first of the colleges. It has nurtured men not 
only of distinction, but of fame. Men so opposite in 
character as the worldly Cardinal Beaufort the 
great Cardinal who figures in Shakespeare and the 
pious Archbishop Whitgift were educated here ; and 
in later times that great man of science, Lord 
Kelvin ; but perhaps the most famous of all is Gray, 
the poet, whose " Elegy Wrote in a Country Church- 
yard " has done more to endear him to his country 
than the acts of any statesman or divine. 

Peterhouse does not present a cheerful front to 
the street. It is heavy and gloomy, and its build- 
ings, as a whole, do not help out the story of its age. 
The chapel, whose weather-vane bears the emblem of 
a key, an allusion to St. Peter, stands recessed 
behind the railings that give upon the street, and 
blocks the view into the first of the three quads. It 
is flanked on one side by the venerable brick build- 
ing seen on the extreme left of the illustration 
representing Trumpington Street, and on the other 
by a great ugly three-storeyed block of stone, interest- 
ing only because the rooms overlooking the street on 
the topmost floor were those occupied by Gray. They 
are to be identified by iron railings across one of 
the windows. A story belongs to these rooms. 



THE POET GRAY 149 

Gray, it seems, lived long in them as a Fellow of his 
College, and might have eked out his morbid life 
here, dining according to habit in Hall, and then, 
unsociable and morose, retiring to his elevated eyrie, 
reading the classics over a bottle of port. Gray had 
a very pretty taste in port, but it did not suffice to 
make him more clubbable. His solitary habits, 
perhaps, were responsible for a morbid fear of fire 
that grew upon him, and increased to such a degree 
that he caused the transverse bars, that still remain, 
to be placed outside his window overlooking the 
churchyard of Little St. Mary's, and kept in constant 
readiness a coil of rope to tie to them and so let him- 
self down in case of an alarm. His precautions were 
matters of common knowledge, and at last his fears 
were taken advantage of by a band of skylarking 
students, who placed a bath full of water beneath his 
rooms one winter night and then, placing themselves 
in a favourable position for seeing the fun, raised 
cries of "Fire !" 

Their best expectations were realised. The 
window was hurriedly flung up, and the frenzied 
poet, nightcapped and lightly clad, swiftly descended 
into the bath, amid yells of delight. These intimate 
facts seem to hint that Gray had not endeared him- 
self to the scholars of Peterhouse. This practical 
joke severed his connection with the college, for he 
immediately removed across the street, to Pembroke. 

Pembroke is prominent in this view down the 
long, quiet, grave street ; and the quaint turret of its 
chapel, built by Sir Christopher Wren, is very 
noticeable. Gravity is, we have said, the note here, 



150 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

and so solid a quality is quite in order, for 
Trumpington Street and the road beyond have ever 
been the favourite walks of dons and professors, 
walking oblivious to their surroundings in what we 
are bound to consider academic meditation rather 
than that mere mental vacuity known as absent- 
mindedness. There is a story told of the late 
Professor Seeley exquisitely illustrating this mental 
detachment. It is a story that probably has been 
told of many earlier professors, to be re-incarnated 
to suit every succeeding age : a common enough thing 
with legends. It seems, however, that the late Pro- 
fessor of History was walking past the Conduit one 
fine day, speculating on who shall say what abstruse 
matters, when a mischievous boy switched a copious 
shower of water over him from the little stream in 
the gutter. The Professor's physical organism felt the 
descending drops, some lazy, unspeculative brain-cell 
gave him the idea of a shower of rain, and he immedi- 
ately unfurled his umbrella, and so walked home. 

Next the new buildings of Pembroke, over against 
Peterhouse, the Master of that college has his 
residence, behind the high brick walls of a seventeenth 
century garden. On the left hand are Little St. 
Mary's, a Congregational Church, and the church-like 
pinnacled square tower of the Pitt Press, all in 
succession. Beyond, but hid from this view-point 
by a gentle curve of the street, are " Cats," otherwise 
St. Catherine's, and Corpus ; and then we come to 
that continuation of Trumpington Street called 
" King's Parade," opposite King's College. Here we 
are at the centre of Cambridge, with Market Hill 



MARKET HILL 151 

opening out on the right and the gigantic bulk of 
King's College Chapel on the left, neighboured by 
that fount of honour, or scene of disgraceful failure, 
the beautiful classic Senate House, where you take 
your degree or are ignominiously " plucked." 

In midst of Market Hill stands the church of 
Great St. Mary's, the University Church. Town and 
University are at this point inextricably mixed. 
Shops and churches, colleges, divinity schools and 
Town Hall all jostle one another around this wide 
open space, void on most days, but on Saturday so 
crowded with the canopied stalls of the market that 
it presents one vast area of canvas. Few markets are 
so well supplied with flowers as this, for in summer- 
time growing plants are greatly in demand by the 
undergrads to decorate the windows of their 
lodgings. This living outside the colleges is, and 
has always been, a marked feature of Cambridge, 
where college accommodation has never kept pace with 
requirements. It is a system that makes the town 
cheerful and lively in term., but at vacation times, 
when the " men " have all " gone down," its emptiness 
is correspondingly noticeable. To " go down " and 
to " come up " are, by the w^ay, terms that require 
some little explanation beyond their obvious meaning 
of leaving or of arriving at the University. They 
had their origin in the old-standing dignity of Alma 
Mater, requiring that all other places should be 
considered below her even the mighty Gog Magogs 
themselves. From Cambridge to London or elsewhere 
is therefore a /carafiasis a going downward. 

The Cambridge system of lodging out does not 



152 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

make for discipline, and creates a lamentable laxity 
in a man keeping his proper quota of chapels. To 
attend chapel at an early hour of the morning seems 
much more of an infliction when living in the 
freedom of lodgings than when in the cloistered shades 
of a college quad, and has led to many absences, 
summonses before the Dean, and mild lectures from 
that generally estimable and other-worldly personage. 
You, in the innocence of your heart and your first 
term, advance the excuse that late study makes it 
difficult to always keep chapels. Observe that it is 
always midnight study, never card-parties and the 
like, and never that very natural disinclination to turn 
out of bed in the morning that is answerable for 
these backslidings. All very specious and unoriginal, 
and that Dean has heard it all before, so many times, 
and years and years ago, from men now gone into the 
world and become middle-aged. Why, in his own 
youth lie gave and attended parties, and missed 
chapels, and made these ancient blue-mouldy pre- 
varications to the Dean of his college, and so back 
and back to the infinities. Is he angry : does he 
personally care a little bit? Not at all. It is 
routine. " Don't you think, young man," he says, in 
his best pulpit- cum-grandfather style, "don't you 
think that if you were to try to study in the morning 
it would be much better for your health, much better 
in every way than reading at night ? When I was 
your age / studied at night. It gave me headaches. 
Now try and keep chapel. It is so much better to 
become used to habits of discipline. They are of such 
value to us in after life " and so forth. 



THE CAM 153 



XXIII 

CAMBRIDGE is often criticised because it is not 
Oxford. As well might one find fault with a lily 
because it is not a rose. Criticism of this kind 
starts with the belief that it is a worse Oxford, an 
inferior copy of the sister University. How false 
that is, and how entirely Cambridge is itself in out- 
ward appearance and in intellectual aims need not be 
insisted upon. It is true that Trumpington Street 
does not rival " the High " at Oxford, but it was not 
built with the object of imitating that famous 
academic street ; and if indeed the Isis be a more 
noble stream than the Cam, Oxford at least has 
nothing to compare with the Cambridge "Backs." 

" The Backs " are the peculiar glory of Cambridge, 
and he who has not seen them has missed much. 
They are the back parts of those of the colleges 
Queens', King's, Clare, Trinity, and John's whose 
courts and beautiful lawns extend from the main 
street back to the Cam, that much-abused and much 
idealised stream. 

" The Cam," says a distinguished member of the 
University, with a horrid lack of enthusiasm for the 
surroundings of Alma Mater, " is scarcely a river at 
all ; above the town it is a brook ; below the town it 
is little better than a sewer." Can this, you wonder, 
be the same as that "Camus, reverend sire," of the 
poets ; the stream that " went footing slow, His 
mantle hairy and his bonnet sedge." 

That, undoubtedly, is too severe. Above the 



154 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

town it is a brook that will at anyrate float such 
craft as Cambridge possesses, and has shady nooks 
like ''Paradise" and Byron's Pool, where the canoe 
can be navigated and bathing of the best may be 
found ; and now that Cambridge colleges no longer- 
drain into the river, the stream below town does not 
deserve that reproach. Everything, it seems, depends 
upon your outlook. If you are writing academic odes, 
for example, like Gray's, you praise the Cam ; if, like 
Gray again, writing on an unofficial occasion, you en- 
large upon its sluggish pace and its mud. Gray, it will 
be observed, could be a dissembling poet. His " In- 
stallation Ode," as official in its way as the courtly lines 
of a Poet Laureate, pictures Cambridge delightfully, 
in the lines he places in the mouth of Milton 

" Ye brown, o'er- arcli ing groves, 

That contemplation loves, 
Where willowy Carnus lingers with delight ! 

Oft at the blush of dawn 

I trod your level lawn 

Oft wooed the gleam of Cynthia, silver bright, 
In cloisters dim, far from the haunts of Folly, 
With Freedom by my side, and soft-eyed Melancholy." 

Few lines in the whole range of our poetry are so 
beautiful as these. 

But Gray's own private and unofficial idea of the 
Cam was very different. When he took the gag off 
his Muse and allowed her to be frank, we hear of the 
" rushy Camus," whose 

"... Slowly- wind ing flood 
Perpetual draws his humid train of mud." 

Yet "the Backs" give a picture of mingled 



CAMBRIDGE POETS 155 

architecture, stately trees, emerald lawns, and placid 
stream not to be matched anywhere else : an ideal 
picture of what a poet's University should be. If, 
on entering the town from Trumpington Street, -you 
turn to the left past the Leys School, down the lane 
called Coe Fen, you come first upon the Cam where 
it is divided into many little streams running and 
subdividing and joining together again in the oozy 
pasture of Sheep's Green, and then to a water-mill. 
Beyond that mill begin " the Backs," with Queens' 
College, whose ancient walls of red brick, like some 
building of romance, rise sheer from the water. 
From them springs a curious "mathematical" 
wooden bridge, spanning the river and leading from 
the college to the shady walks on the opposite side. 

With so dreamy and beautiful a setting, it is not 
surprising that Cambridge, although the education 
she gave was long confined largely to the unim- 
aginative science or art of mathematics, has been 
especially productive of poets. Dryden was an 
alumnus of Trinity ; Milton sucked wisdom at 
Christ's ; Wordsworth, of John's, wrote acres of 
verse as flat as the Cambridgeshire meads, and much 
more arid ; Byron drank deep and roystered at 
King's ; and Tennyson was a graduate of Trinity. 
Other poets owning allegiance to Cambridge are 
that sweet Elizabethan songster, Robert Herrick, 
Marlowe, Waller, Cowley, Prior, Coleridge, and 
Praed. Poetry, in short, is in the moist relaxing 
air of Cambridge, and in those 

". . . . brown o'er-arching groves 
That contemplation loves." 



156 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Cambridge would stand condemned were poets 
its only product. Fortunately, as some proof of the 
practical value of an University education, it can 
point to men like Cromwell, Pitt, and Macaulay, 
whose strenuous lives have in their several ways left 
a mark on the nation's history. Though one be not 
a champion of Cromwell's career, yet his savagery, 
his duplicity, his canting hypocrisy fade into the 
background and lose their significance beside the 
firmness of purpose, the iron determination and the 
wise policy that made England respected and feared 
abroad under the rule of the Protector. The be- 
heading of a King weighs little in the scale against 
the upholding of the dignity of the State ; and 
though a sour Puritanism ruled the land under 
the great Oliver, at least the guns of a foreign 
foe were never heard in our estuaries under the 
Commonwealth, as they were heard after the 
Restoration. Cambridge gives no sign that she 
is proud of Oliver, neither does Sidney Sussex, 
his old college. But if Cambridge be not out- 
wardly proud of Old Noll, she abundantly glories 
in William Pitt. And rightly, too. None may 
calculate how the equation stands : how greatly 
his natural parts or to what extent his seven 
years of University education contributed to 
his brilliant career ; but for one of her sons to 
have attained the dignity of Chancellor of the 
Exchequer at twenty -three years of age, to 
have been Prime Minister at twenty-five, the 
political dictator of Europe and the saviour of his 
country, is a triumph beyond anything they can 



HOB SON THE CARRIER 157 

show on the Isis. The Pitt Press, the Pitt Scholar- 
ship, the Pitt Club, all echo the fame of his astonishing 
genius. 



XXIV 

THE impossibility of giving even a glimpse of the 
principal colleges of Cambridge in these pages of a 
book devoted to the road will be obvious. Thus, the 
great quads of Trinity, the many courts of John's, 
Milton's mulberry tree at Christ's, the Pepysian 
Library of Magdalen, and a hundred other things 
must be sought elsewhere. Turn we, then, to 
further talk of Thomas Hobson, the carrier and 
livery-stable keeper of " Hobson's Choice," who lies 
in an unmarked resting-place in the chancel of St. 
Benedict's Church, hard by the Market Hill. Bora 
in 1544, he was not a native of Cambridge, but 
seems to have first seen the light at Buntingford, 
his father's native place. Already, in that father's 
time, the business had grown so profitable and 
important that we find Hobson senior a treasurer of 
the Cambridge Corporation ; and when he died, in 
1568, in a position to leave considerable landed and 
other property among his family. To Thomas, his 
more famous son, he bequeathed land at Grantchester 
and the waggon and horses that industrious son had 
been for some years past driving between Cambridge 
and London for him, with the surety and regularity 
of the solar system. " I bequeath," he wrote, " to my 
son Thomas the team-ware that he now goeth with, 



158 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

that is to say, the cart and eight horses, and all the 
harness and other things thereunto belonging, with 
the nag, to be delivered to him at such time and 
when as he shall attain and come to the age of 
twenty-five years ; or 30 in money, for and in 
discharge thereof." 

And thus he continued to go once a week, back 
and forth, for close upon sixty-three years, riding 
the nag and its successors beside the waggon that 
ploughed its ponderous way along the heavy roads. 
An ancient portrait of him, a large painting in oil, 
is now in the Cambridge Guildhall, and inscribed, 
"Mr. Hobson, 1620." This contemporary portrait 
has the curious information written on the back, 
" This picture was hung up at Ye Black Bull inn, 
Bishopsgate, London, upwards of one hundred years 
before it was given to J. Burleigh 1787." 

Hobson scarce fitted the picture of the "jolly 
waggoner" drawn in the old song. Have you ever 
heard the song of the " Jolly Waggoner" ? It is a song 
of lightly come and lightly go ; of drinking with good 
fellows while the waggon and horses are standing 
long hours outside the wayside inn, and consignees are 
waiting with what patience they may for their goods. 
A song that bids dull care begone, and draws for you 
a lively sketch of the typical waggoner, who lived 
for the moment, whistled as he went in attempted 
rivalry with the hedgerow thrushes and blackbirds, 
spent his money as he earned it, and had a greeting, 
a ribbon, and a kiss for every lass along the familiar 
highway. 

It is a song that goes to a reckless and flamboyant 




HOBSON, THE CAMBKIDGE CARRIER. 

" Laugh not to see so plain a man in print ; 

The Shadow's homely, yet ther's something in't. 

Witness the Bagg he wears, (though seeming poore) 

The fertile Mother of a hundred more ; 

He was a thriving man, through lawfull Gain, 

And wealthy grew by warrantable paine, 

Then laugh at them that spend, not them that gather, 
Like thriveing Sonnes of such a thrifty Father." 



160 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

tune, an almost Handelian melody that is sung 
with a devil-may-care toss of the head and much 
emphasis ; a rare, sweet, homely old country ditty 

"When first I went a-waggoning, a- waggoning did go, 
I filled my parents' hearts with sorrow, trouble, grief, and woe ; 
And many are the hardships, too, that since I have gone through. 

Sing wo ! my lads, sing wo ! 

Drive on, my lads, heigh-ho ! 

For who can live the life that we jolly waggoners do? 

It is a cold and stormy night : I'm wetted to the skin, 
But I'll bear it with contentment till I get me to my inn, 
And then I'll sit a-drinking with the landlord and his kin. 
Sing wo ! my lads, etc. 

Now summer is a-coming on what pleasure we shall see ! 
The mavis and the blackbird singing sweet on every tree. 
The finches and the starlings, too, will whistle merrily. 
Sing wo ! my lads, etc. 

Now Michaelmas is coming fast what pleasure we shall find ! 
'Twill make the gold to fly, my lads, like chaff before the wind. 
And every lad shall kiss his lass, so loving and so kind. 
Sing wo ! " etc. 

And so forth. 

Hobson was not this kind of man. He had his 
horse-letting business in Cambridge, where, indeed, 
he had forty saddle-nags always ready, " fit for 
travelling, with boots, bridle, and whip, to furnish 
the gentlemen at once, without going from college 
to college to borrow " ; but he continued throughout 
his long life to go personally with his waggon, and 
died January 1st, 1631, in his eighty-sixth year, of 
the irksome and unaccustomed inaction imposed upon 
him by the authorities, who forbade him to ply to 
London while one of the periodical outbreaks of 



HOB SON THE CA UTIO US 1 6 1 

plague was raging in the capital. Dependable in 
business as Hobson was, he prospered exceedingly, 
and amassed a very considerable fortune, " a much 
greater fortune," says one, " than a thousand men of 
genius and learning, educated at the University, 
ever acquired, or were capable of acquiring." This 
is not a little hard on the learned and the gifted, 
by whose favour and goodwill he prospered so 
amazingly. For, be it known, he was not merely 
and solely a carrier ; but the carrier, especially 
licensed by the University, and thus a monopolist. 
Those were the days before a Government monopoly 
of the post was established, and one of Hobson's 
particular functions was the conveying of the mails. 
He was thus a very serious and responsible person. 

You cannot conceive Hobson " carrying on " like 
the typical "jolly waggoner." Look at the portrait 
of him, taken from a, fresco painted on a wall of his 
old house of call, the Bull, in Bishopsgate Street. 
A very grave and staid old man it shows us ; look- 
ing out upon the world with cold and calculating 
eyes, deep-set beneath knitted brows, and with a 
long and money-loving, yet cautious, nose. His 
hand is unwillingly extracting a guinea from a well- 
filled money-bag, and you may clearly see from his 
expression of countenance how much rather he 
would be putting one in. 

Yet in his last years he appeared in the guise 
of a benefactor to the town of Cambridge, for in 
1628 he gave to town and University the land on 
which was built the so-called " Spinning House," or, 
more correctly, " Hobson's Workhouse," where poor 



1 1 



162 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



people who had no trade might be taught some 
honest one, and all stubborn rogues and beggars be 
compelled to earn their livelihood. A bequest pro- 
viding for the maintenance of the water-conduit in 
the Market Place kept his memory green for many 
a long year afterwards. It remained a prominent 




HOBSON. 

[From a Painting %n Cambridge Guildhall] 



object in the centre of the town until 1856, when 
it was removed ; but the little watercourses that of 
old used to run along the kennels of Cambridge 
streets still serve to keep the place clean and sweet. 

It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that 
Hobson, although he fared the road personally, and 
attended to every petty detail of his carrying busi- 



HOBSON'S EPITAPHS 163 

ness, was both a very wealthy and a very important 
personage. The second condition is not necessarily 
a corollary of the first. But Hobson bulked large 
in the Cambridge of his time. Indeed, as much 
may be gathered from the mass of literature written 
around his name. In his lifetime even, some com- 
piler of a Commercial Letter Writer, for instructing 
youths ignorant of affairs, could find no more apt 
and taking title than that of Hobson s Horse Load 
of Letters, or Precedents for Epistles of Business ; 
and poets and verse-writers, from Milton downwards, 
wrote many epitaphs and eulogies on him. Milton, 
who had gone up to Christ's College in 1624, was 
twenty-three years of age when Hobson died, and 
wrote two humorous epitaphs on him, more akin 
to the manner of Tom Hood than the majestic 
periods usually associated in the mind with the style 
commonly called " Miltonic." " Quibbling epitaphs " 
an eighteenth century critic has called them. But 
you shall judge 

"On the University Carrier, who sickened in 
the time of the Vacancy, being forbid to 
go to London by reason of the Plague. 

Here lies old Hobson : Death hath broke his girt, 
And here, alas ! hath laid him in the dirt ; 
Or else, the ways being foul, twenty to one 
He's here stuck in a slough and overthrown. 
'Tvvas such a shifter that, if truth were known, 
Death was half glad when he had got him down ; 
For he had any time this ten years full 
Dodged with him betwixt Cambridge and the Bull; 
And, surely, Death could never have prevailed, 
Had not his weekly course of carriage failed ; 
But, lately, finding him so long at home, 
And thinking now his journey's end was come, 



1 64 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

And that he had taken up his latest inn, 

In the kind office of a Chamberlain 

Showed him his room where he must lodge that night, 

Pulled off his boots, and took away the light : 

If any ask for him, it shall be said, 

'Hobson hath supped, and's newly gone to bed. 533 

The subject seems to have been an engrossing 
one to the youthful poet, for he harked back to it 
in the following variant : 

" Here lieth one who did most truly prove 
That he could never die while he could move ; 
So hung his destiny, never to rot 
While he might still jog on and keep his trot, 
Made of sphere-metal, never to decay 
Until his revolution was at stay ! 
Time numbers motion, yet (without a crime 
'Gainst old truth) motion numbered out his time; 
And, like an engine moved with wheel and weight, 
His principles being ceased, he ended straight. 
Eest, that gives all men life, gave him his death, 
And too much breathing put him out of breath; 
Nor were it contradiction to affirm 
Too long vacation hastened on his term ; 
Merely to drive the time away he sickened, 
Fainted and died, nor would with ale be quickened. 
'Nay,' quoth he, on his swooning bed outstretched, 
' If 1 may not carry, sure I'll ne'er be fetched ; 
But vow' (though the cross Doctors all stood hearers) 
Tor one carrier put down, to make six bearers.' 
Ease was his chief disease, and, to judge right, 
He died for heaviness that his cart went light ; 
His leisure told him that his time was come, 
And lack of load made his life burdensome; 
That even to his last breath, (there be that say't,) 
As he were pressed to death, he cried ' More weight ! ' 
But, had his doings lasted as they were, 
He had been an immortal Carrier. 
Obedient to the moon, he spent his date 
In course reciprocal, and had his fate 



HOB SON'S EPITAPHS 165 

Linked to the mutual flowing of the seas ; 
Yet, strange to think, his wain was his increase ; 
His letters are delivered all and gone ; 
Only remains this superscription." 

The next example an anonymous one makes 
no bad third 

" Here Hobson lies among his many betters, 
A man unlearned, yet a man of letters ; 
His carriage was well known, oft hath he gone 
In Embassy 'twixt father and the son : 
There's few in Cambridge, to his praise be't spoken, 
But may remember him by some good Token. 
From whence he rid to London day by day, 
Till Death benighting him, he lost his way : 
His Team was of the best, nor would he have 
Been mired in any way but in the grave. 
And there he stycks, indeed, styll like to stand, 
Untill some Angell lend hys helpyng hand. 
Nor is't a wonder that he thus is gone, 
Since all men know, he long was drawing on. 
Thus rest in peace thou everlasting Swain, 
And Supream Waggoner, next Charles his wain." 

The couplet printed below touches a pretty note 
of imagination, and is wholly free from that sus- 
picion of affected scholarly superiority to a common 
carrier, with which all the others, especially Milton's, 
are super-saturated 

"Hobson's not dead, but Charles the Northerne swaine, 
Hath sent for him, to draw his lightsome waine." 

Charles's Wain, referred to in these two last ex- 
amples, is, of course, that well-known constellation 
in the northern heavens usually known as the Great 
Bear, anciently " Charlemagne's Waggon," and more 
anciently still, the Greek Hamaxa, " the Waggon." 



166 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Coming, as might be expected, a considerable 
distance after Milton and the others in point of 
excellence, are the epitaphs printed in a little book 
of 1640, called the Witt's Recreations, Selected 
from the Finest Fancies of the Modern Muses. Some 
of them are a little gruesome, and affect the reader 
as unfavourably as though he saw the authors of these 
lines dancing a saraband on poor old Hobson's grave 

"Hobson (what's out of sight is out of mind) 
Is gone, and left his letters here behind. 
He that with so much paper us'd to meet ; 
Is now, alas ! content to take one sheet. 

He that such carriage store was wont to have, 
Is carried now himselfe unto his grave : 
O strange ! he that in life ne're made but one, 
Six Carriers makes, now he is dead and gone." 



XXV 

THE Market Hill is, as already hinted, the centre of 
Cambridge. The University church is there. There, 
too, the stalls of the Wednesday and Saturday 
markets still gather thickly, and on them the in- 
quisitive stranger may yet discover butter being 
sold, as from time immemorial, by the yard. Here a 
yard of butter is the equivalent of a pound, and the 
standard gauge of such a yard the obsolete symbol 
of a time when the University exercised jurisdiction 
over the markets as well as over the students is to 
this day handed over to the Senior Proctor of the 
year on his taking office. It is a clumsy cylinder of 



CHEAP REJOICINGS 167 

sheet iron, a yard in length and an inch in diameter. 
A pound of butter rolled out to this measurement 
looks remarkably like a very yellow candle of 
inordinate length. 

Hobson's Conduit, as already noted, once stood 
in the centre of this market-place. When his silent, 
hook-nosed Majesty, AVilliam the Third, visited 




MARKET HILL, CAMBRIDGE. 

Cambridge in 1689, the Conduit was made by the 
enthusiastic citizens to run wine. Not much wine, 
though, nor very good, we may surely suppose, for 
the tell-tale account-books record that it cost only 
thirty shillings ! 

Few of the old coach-offices or inns stood in this 
square, but were and are now to be found chiefly 
in the streets leading out of it. The Bull, 
anciently the Black Bull, still faces Trumpington 



i68 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



Street ; the Lion flourishes in Petty Cury ; the 
old Three Tuns, Peas Hill, is now the Central 
Temperance Hotel ; and the Blue Boar, in whose 
archway an unfortunate clergyman, the Eeverend 
Gavin Braithwaite, was killed in 1814 when seated 
on the roof of the Ipswich coach, still faces Trinity 
Street. The Sun, however, in Trinity Street, where 




THE FALCON, CAMBRIDGE. 



Byron and his cronies dined and caroused, is no 
more ; and of late years the Woolpack and the 
Wrestlers, both very ancient buildings, have been 
demolished. Foster's Bank stands on the site of one 
and the new Post Office on that of the other. For 
a while the remains of the galleried, tumbledown 



THE FALCON 



169 



Falcon, stand in a court off Petty Cury ; the inn 
in whose yard Cambridge students entertained and 




INTERIOR OF ST. SEPULCHRE'S CHURCH. 

shocked Queen Elizabeth with a blasphemous stage 
travesty of the Mass. In Bridge Street stands the 



1 70 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Hoop, notable in its day, and celebrated by 
Wordsworth 

" Onward we drove beneath the Castle ; caught, 
While crossing Magdalen Bridge, a glimpse of Cam ; 
And at the Hoop alighted, famous inn." 

Beyond the Hoop, the quaintly-named Pickerel 
Inn stands by Magdalen, or Great Bridge, just as it 
did in days when the carriers dumped down their 
loads here, to be transferred to the passage-boats for 
Ely and King's Lynn. In Benet Street the Eagle, 
once the Eagle and Child, still discloses a courtyard 
curiously galleried, and hard by is the old Bath Hotel. 
This list practically exhausts the old coaching inns, 
but of queer hostelries of other kinds there are many, 
with nodding gables and latticed windows, in every 
other lane and by-way. Churches, too, abound. 
Oldest among these is St. Sepulchre's, one of the 
four round churches in England ; a dark Norman 
building that in the blackness of its interior accur- 
ately figures the grimness of the Norman mind. 



XXVI 

CAMBRIDGE, now a town abounding in and surrounded 
by noble trees, was originally a British settlement, 
placed on that bold spur of high ground, rising from 
the surrounding treeless mires, on which in after 
years the Eomans established their military post of 
Camboricum, and where in later ages William the 
Conqueror built his castle. The great artificial 



WHERE CAMBRIDGE STANDS 171 

mound, which, like some ancient sepulchral tumulus, 
is all that remains to tell of William's fortress and to 
mark where Koman and Briton had originally seized 
upon this strategic point, crowns this natural bluff, 
overlooking the river Cam. Standing on it, with 
the whole of Cambridge town and a wide panorama 
of low-lying surrounding country disclosed, it is 
evident that this must have been the place of places 
for many miles on either hand where, in those remote 




CAMBRIDGE CASTLE A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. 

days, the river could be crossed. Everywhere else 
the wide-spreading swamps forbade a passage ; and, 
consequently, those who held this position, and could 
keep it, could deny the whole country to the passage 
of a hostile force from either side. Whether one 
enemy sought to penetrate from London to Ely and 
Norfolk, or whether another would come out of 
Norfolk into South Cambridgeshire or Herts, he must 
first of necessity dispose of those who held the key 
of this situation. The Romans, before they could 



172 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

subdue the masters of this position, experienced, we 
may well believe, no little difficulty ; and it is probable 
that the perplexity of antiquaries, confronted by the 
existence of a Roman camp or station here, and of 
another three miles higher up the Cam at Grant- 
chester, may be smoothed out by the very reasonable 
explanation that Gran tch ester was the first Roman 
camp over against the British stronghold at Cam- 
bridge, and that, when the Romans had made 
themselves masters of Cambridge, that place remained 
their military post, while Grantchester became a civil 
and trading community and a place of residence. 

Both place-names derive from this one river, 
masquerading now as the Granta and again as the 
Cam, but by what name the Romans knew Grant- 
Chester we do not know and never shall. 

At Roman Camboricum those ancient roads, the 
Akeman Street and the Via Devana, crossed at right 
angles, meeting here on this very Castle hill : the 
Via Devana on its way from Colchester to the town 
of Deva, now Chester ; the Akeman Street going 
from Branodunum, now Brancaster, on the coast of 
Norfolk, to Aquse Solis, the Bath of our own day. 

Cambridge Castle, built in 1068 by William the 
Conqueror to hold Hereward the Saxon and his 
East Anglian fellow-patriots in check, has entirely 
disappeared. It never accumulated any legends of 
sieges or surprises, and of military history it had 
none whatever. It was, therefore, a castle of the 
greatest possible success ; for, consider, although the 
first impulse may be to think little of a fortress that 
can tell no warlike story, the very lack of anything 



CAMBRIDGE CASTLE 173 

of the kind is the best proof of its strength and 
fitness. It is not the purpose of a castle to invite 
attacks, but by its very menace to overawe and 
terrify. Torquilstone Castle and the story of its 
siege and downfall, in the pages of Ivanhoe, make 
romantic and exciting reading ; but, inasmuch as it 
fell, it was a failure. That Cambridge Castle not 
only never fell, but was not even menaced, is the 
best proof of its power. 

These great fortresses, with their stone keeps and 
spreading wards and baileys, dotted here and there 
over the land, rang the knell of English liberties. 
" New and strong and cruel in their strength how 
the Englishman must have loathed the damp smell 
of the fresh mortar, and the sight of the heaps of 
rubble, and the chippings of the stone, and the 
blurring of the lime upon the greensward ; and how 
hopeless he must have felt when the great gates 
opened and the wains were drawn in, heavily laden 
with the salted beeves and the sacks of corn and 
meal furnished by the royal demesnes, the manors 
which had belonged to Edward the Confessor, now 
the spoil of the stranger ; and when he looked into 
the castle court, thronged by the soldiers in bright 
mail, and heard the carpenters working upon the 
ordnance every blow and stroke, even of the 
hammer or mallet, speaking the language of 
defiance." 

William himself occupied his castle of Cambridge 
on its completion in 1069, and from it he directed 
the long and weary military operations against 
Hereward across the fens toward the Isle of Ely, 



174 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

only twelve miles away. From his keep-tower he 
could see with his own eyes that Isle, rising from the 
flat, on the skyline, like some Promised Land, but 
two years were to pass before he and his soldiers 
were to enter there ; admitted even then by 
treachery. 

From the Castle Mound the Cam may be seen, 
winding away through the flats into the distant haze. 
Immediately below are Parker's Piece, and Mid- 
summer and Stourbridge Commons; this last from 
time beyond knowledge the annual scene of Stour- 
bridge Fair. "Sturbitch" Fair, as the country-folk 
call it, existed, like the University itself, before 
history came to take note of it. When King John 
reigned it was already an important mark, and so 
continued until, at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, 
its rights and privileges were transferred to the 
Corporation of Cambridge. 

Whether the story of its origin be well founded, 
or merely a picturesque invention, it cannot be said. 
It is a story telling how a Kendal clothier, at date 
unknown, journeying from Westmoreland to London, 
his pack-horses laden with bales of cloth, found the 
bridge over the Cam at this point broken down, and, 
trying to ford the river, fell in, goods and all. 
Struggling at last to the opposite bank, and fishing 
out his property, he spread his cloth to dry on 
Stourbridge Common, where so many of the towns- 
folk came to see it and to bid that in the end he sold 
nearly all his stock, and did much better than if he 
had gone on to London. The next year, therefore, he 
took care not to fall into the Cam again but to 



STOURBRIDGE FAIR 175 

make Cambridge his mart. Other trades then 
became attracted to the place where he found business 
so brisk, and hence (according to the legend) the 
growth of a fair in its prime comparable only with 
that greatest of all fairs the famous one of Nijni- 
Novgorod. 

To criticise a legend of this kind would be to 
take it too seriously, else, among many things that 
might be inquired into would be the appearance at 
Cambridge of a traveller from Westmoreland bound 
for London. He must have missed his way very 
widely indeed ! 

The Fair still lasts three weeks, from 18th 
September to 10th October, but it is the merest shadow 
of its former self. The Horse Fair, on the 25th 
September, is practically all that remains of serious 
business. In old times its annual opening was 
attended with much ceremony. In those days, 
before the computation of time was altered, and Old 
Style became changed for New, the dates of opening 
and closing were 7th and 29th September. On 
Saint Bartholomew's Day the Mayor and Corporation 
rode out from the town to set out the ground, then 
cultivated. By that day all crops had to be cleared, 
or the stall-holders, ready to set up their stalls and 
booths, were at liberty to trample them down. On 
the other hand, they were under obligation to remove 
everything by St. Michael's Day, or the ploughmen, 
ready by this time to break ground for ploughing, 
had the right to carry off any remaining goods. 
Stourbridge Fair was then a town of booths. In the 
centre was the Duddery, the street where the 



176 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

mercers, drapers and clothiers sold their wares ; and 
running in different directions were Ironmongers' 
Row, Cooks' Row, Garlick Row, Booksellers' Row, and 
many another busy street. In those times the three 
weeks' turnover of the various trades was calculated 
at not less than a quarter of a million sterling. The 
railways that destroyed the position of Lynn, Ely, and 
Cambridge as distributing places along the Cam 
and Ouse, have wrought havoc with this old-time 
Fair. 



XXVII 

THROUGH Chesterton, overlooked by the Castle 
and deriving its name from it, the road leaves 
Cambridge for Ely, passing through the village of 
Milton, where the Fenland begins, or what is more 
by usage than true description so-called now the Fens 
are drained and the land once sodden with water and 
covered with beds of dense reeds and rushes made 
to bear corn and to afford rich pasture for cattle. 
This is the true district of the "Cambridgeshire 
Camels," as the folk of the shire are proverbially 
called. The term, a very old one, doubtless took its 
origin in the methods of traversing the Fens formerly 
adopted by the rustic folk. They used stilts, or 
" stetches," as they preferred to call them, and no 
doubt afforded an amusing spectacle to strangers, as 
they straddled high above the reeds and stalked 
from one grassy tussock to another in the quaking 
bogs. 



WATERBEACH 177 

There is a choice of routes at Milton, the road, 
running in a loop for two miles. The left-hand 
branch, through Landbeach, selected by the Post 
Office as the route of its telegraph-poles, might on 
that account be considered the main road,. but the 
right-hand route has decidedly the better surface. 
Midway of this course, where the Slap Up Inn 
stands, is the lane leading to Waterbeach, a scattered 
village near the Cam, much troubled by the floods 
from that stream in days gone by. 

Something of what Waterbeach was like in the 
eighteenth century may be gathered from the 
correspondence of the Kev. William Cole, curate 
there from 1767 to 1770. Twenty guineas a year 
was the modest sum he received, but that, fortunately 
for him, was not the full measure of his resources, 
for he possessed an estate in the neighbourhood. 
The value of his land could not have been great, and 
may be guessed from his letters. Writing in 1769, 
he says : " A great part of my estate has been drowned 
these two years : all this part of the country is now 
covered with water and the poor people of this parish 
utterly ruined." And again in 1770: "This is the 
third time within six years that my estate has been 
drowned, and now worse than ever." Shortly after 
writing that letter he removed. "Not being a 
water-rat," he says, " I left Waterbeach," and went 
to the higher and drier village of Milton, two miles 
away. 

Waterbeach long retained its old-world manners 
and customs. May Day was its greatest holiday, 
and was ushered in with elaborate preparations. The 



12 



178 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

young women collected materials for a garland, 
consisting of ribbons, flowers, and silver spoons, with 
a silver tankard to suspend in the centre ; while the 
young men, early in the morning, or late at night, 
went forth into the fields to collect emblems of their 
esteem or disapproval of the young women aforesaid. 
" Then," says the old historian of these things, " woe 
betide the girl of loose habits, the slattern and the 
scold ; for while the young woman who had been 
foremost in the dance, or whose amiable manners 
entitled her to esteem, had a large branch or tree 
of whitethorn planted by her cottage door, the girl 
of loose manners had a blackthorn at hers." The 
slattern's emblem was an elder tree, and the scold's 
a bunch of nettles tied to the latch of the door. 

After having thus (under cover of darkness, be it 
said) left their testimonials to the qualities or defects 
of the village beauties, the young men, just before 
the rising of the sun, went for the garland and 
suspended it in the centre of the street by a rope 
tied to opposite chimneys. This done, sunrise was 
ushered in by ringing the village bells. Domestic 
affairs were attended to until after midday, and then 
the village gave itself up to merrymaking. Dancing 
on the village green, sports of every kind, and kiss- 
in-the-ring were for the virtuous and the industrious ; 
while the recipients of the elders, the blackthorns, 
and the nettles sat in the cold shade of neglect, 
wished they had never been born, and made up their 
minds to be more objectionable than ever. Such 
was Waterbeach about 1820. 

Some thirty years later the village acquired an 



SPURGEON 179 

enduring title to fame as the first charge given to 
that bright genius among homely preachers, Charles 
Haddon Spurgeon. It was in 1851, while yet only in 
his seventeenth year, that Spurgeon was made pastor 
of the Baptist Chapel here. Already his native 
eloquence had made him famed in Colchester, where, 
two years before, he had first spoken in public. The 
old thatched chapel where the youthful preacher 
ministered, on a stipend of twenty pounds a year, 
almost identical with that enjoyed by the Reverend 
William Cole, curate in the parish church eighty 
years before, has long since disappeared, destroyed 
by fire in 1861 ; and on its site stands a large and 
very ugly " Spurgeon Memorial Chapel " in yellow 
brick with red facings. Scarce two years and a half 
passed before the fame of Spurgeon's eloquence 
spread to London, and he was offered, and accepted, 
the pastorate of New Park Street Chapel, South- 
wark, there to fill that conventicle to overflowing, 
and presently draw all London to Exeter Hall. 
Even at this early stage of his wonderful career 
there were those who dilated upon the marvel of 
"this heretical Calvinist and Baptist" drawing a 
congregation of ten thousand souls while St. Paul's 
and Westminster Abbey resounded with the echoing 
footsteps of infrequent worshippers ; but Spurgeon 
preached shortly afterwards to a congregation number- 
ing twenty-four thousand, and maintained his hold 
until the day of his death, nearly forty years after. 
Where shall that curate, vicar, rector, dean, bishop, 
or archbishop of the Church of England be found 
who can command such numbers ? 



i8o THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

That his memory is held in great reverence at 
Waterbeach need scarce be said. There are still 
those who tell how the " boy - preacher," when 
announced to hold a night service in some remote 
village, not only braved the worst that storms and 
floods could do, but how, finding the chapel empty 
and the expected congregation snugly housed at 
home, out of the howling wind and drenching rain, 
he explored the place with a borrowed stable-lantern 
in his hand, and secured a congregation by dint of 
house-to-house visits ! 



XXVIII 

THE left-hand loop, through Landbeach, if an inferior 
road, has more wayside interest. Landbeach is in 
Domesday Book called " Utbech," that is to say 
Outbeach, or Beach out (of the water). " Beach " in 
this and other Fenland instances means "bank"; 
Waterbeach being thus "water bank." Wisbeach, 
away up in the extreme north of the county, is a 
more obscure name, but on inquiry is found to mean 
Ousebank, that town standing on the Ouse in days 
before the course of that river was changed. Land- 
beach Church stands by the wayside, and has its 
interest for the ecclesiologist, as conceivably also for 
those curious people interested in the stale and futile 
controversy as to who wrote Shakespeare's plays ; 
for within the building lies the Reverend William 
Rawley, sometime chaplain to Bacon, and not only 



LANDBEACH 181 

so, but the author of a life of him and the publisher 
of his varied acknowledged works. He, if anyone, 
would have known it if Bacon had been that self- 
effacing playwright, so we must needs think it a 
pity there is so little in spiritualism save idiotic 
manifestations of horseplay and showers of rappings 
in the dark ; otherwise the obvious thing would be 
to summon Kawley's shade and discreetly pump it. 
Beyond Landbeach, close by the fifty-sixth mile- 




LANDBEACH. 



stone from London, the modern road falls into the 
Roman Akeman Street, running from Brancaster 
(the Eoman " Branodunum") on the Norfolk coast, 
through Ely, to Cambridge, to Dunstable, and 
eventually, after many leagues, to Bath. Those 
who will may attempt the tracing of it back between 
this point and Cambridge, a difficult enough matter, 
for it has mostly sunk into the spongy ground, but 
here, where it exists for a length of five miles, plain 
to see, it is still a causeway raised in places con- 



182 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



siderably above the levels, and occasionally showing 
stretches of imposing appearance. It remains thus a 
striking monument to the surveying and engineering 
skill of that great people, confronted here in far-off 
times with a wilderness of reeking bogs. The object 
in view to reach the coast in as straight a line as 
possible meant wrestling with the difficulties of 
road-making in the mixed and unstable elements of 
mud and water, but they faced the problem and 
worked it out with such completeness that a solid 
way arose that only fell into decay when the civilisa- 
tion they had planted here, on the rim and uttermost 
verge of the known world, was blotted out. Onwards 
as far as Lynn a succession of fens stretched for sixty- 
five miles, but so judiciously did the Romans choose 
their route that only some ten miles of roadway were 
actually constructed in the ooze. It picked a careful 
itinerary, advancing from isle to isle amid the swamps, 
and, for all its picking and choosing of a way, went 
fairly direct. It was here that it took the first 
plunge into the sloughs and made direct, as a raised 
bank, through them for the Ouse, where Stretham 
Bridge now marks the entrance to the Isle of Ely. 
How that river, then one of great size and volume, 
was crossed we do not know. Beyond it, after some 
three miles of floundering through the slime, the 
causeway came to firm ground again where the 
village of Stretham (its very name suggestive of solid 
roadway) stands on a rise that was once an island. 
Arrived at that point, the road took its way for ten 
miles through the solid foothold of the Isle of Ely, 
leaving it at Littleport and coming, after struggling 



THE FENS 183 

through six miles of fen, to the Isle of Southery. 
Crossing that islet in little more than a mile, it 
dipped into fens again at the point now known as 
Modney Bridge, whence it made for the eyot of 
Hilgay. Only one difficulty then remained : to cross 
the channel of the Wissey Kiver into Fordham. 
Thenceforward the way was plain. 

We have already made many passing references 
to the Fens, and now the district covered in old 
times by them is reached, it is necessary, in order 
to make this odd country thoroughly understood, 
to explain them. What are the Fens like ? The 
Fens, expectant reader, are gone, like the age of 
miracles, like the dodo, the pterodactyl, the iguanodon, 
and the fancy zoological creatures of remote antiquity. 
Ages uncountable have been endeavouring to abolish 
the Fens. When the Komans came, they found the 
native tribes engaged upon the task, and carried it 
on themselves, in succession. Since then every age 
has been at it, and at length, some seventy or eighty 
years ago, when steam-pumps were brought to aid 
the old draining machinery, the thing was done. 
There is only one little specimen of natural fen now 
left, and that is preserved as a curiosity. But 
although the actual morasses are gone, the flat 
drained fields of Fenland are here, and we shall 
presently see in these pages that although the 
sloughs are in existence no longer, it is no light 
thing in these districts to venture far from the main 
roads. 

No one has more eloquently or more truly de- 
scribed the present appearance of the Fen country 



1 84 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



than Cobbett. " The whole country," he says, " is 
as level as the table on which I am now writing. 
The horizon like the sea in a dead calm : you see 
the morning sun come up, just as at sea; and see 
it go down over the rim, in just the same. way as 
at sea in a calm. The land covered with beautiful 
grass, with sheep lying about upon it, as fat as 
hogs stretched out sleeping in a stye. Everything 
grows well here : earth without a stone so big as a 
pin's head ; grass as thick as it can grow on the 
ground." 

The Fenian d has, in fact, the wild beauty that 
comes of boundless expanse. Only the range of 
human vision limits the view. Above is the summer 
sky, blue and vast and empty to the sight, but filled 
to the ear with the song of the soaring skylark, 
trilling as he mounts higher and higher ; the sound 
of his song diminishing as he rises, until it becomes 
like the " still small voice of Conscience," and at 
last fades out of hearing, like the whisper of that 
conscience overwrought and stricken dumb. 

These levels have a peculiar beauty at sunset, 
and Cambridgeshire sunsets are as famous in their 
way as Cambridge sausages. They (the sunsets, not 
the sausages) have an unearthly glory that only a 
Turner in his most inspired moments could so much 
as hint at. The vastness of the Fenland sky and 
the humid Fenland atmosphere conspire to give 
these effects. 

The Fenland is a land of romance for those who 
know its history and have the wit to assimilate its 
story from the days of fantastic legend to these of 



HISTORY OF THE FENS 185 

clear-cut matter-of-fact. If you have no reading, or 
even if you have that reading and do not bring to 
it the aid of imagination, the Fens are apt to spell 
dulness. If so, the dulness is in yourself. Leave 
these interminable levels, and in the name of God 
go elsewhere, for the flatness of the Great Level 
added to the flatness of your own mind will in 
combination produce a horrible monotony. On the 
other hand, if some good fairy at your cradle gave you 
the gift of seeing with a vision not merely physical, 
why, then, the Fenian d is fairyland; for though to 
the optic nerve there is but a level stretching to 
the uttermost horizon, criss-crossed with dykes and 
lodes and learns of a severe straightness, there is 
visible to the mind's eye, Horatio, an ancient order 
of things infinitely strange and uncanny. Anti- 
quaries have written much of the Fens, but they do 
not commonly present a very convincing picture of 
them. They tell of Iceni, of Komaiis, fierce Norse- 
men marauders, Saxons, Danes, and the conquering 
Normans, but they cannot, or do not, breathe the 
breath of life into those ancient peoples, and make 
them live and love and hate, fight and vanquish or 
be vanquished. The geologists, too, can speculate 
learnedly upon the origin of the Fens, and can prove, 
to their own satisfaction at least, that this low-lying, 
once flooded country was produced by some natural 
convulsion that suddenly lowered it to the level of 
the sea ; but no one has with any approach to 
intimacy with the subject taken us back to the 
uncountable seons when the protoplasm first began 
to move in the steaming slime, and so conducted 



1 86 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

us by easy stages through the crucial and hazardous 
period when the jelly-fish was acquiring the rudi- 
ments of a backbone (if that was the order of the 
progress) to the exciting era when the crocodile 
played the very devil with aboriginal man, and the 
rhinoceros and the hippopotamus wallowed in the 
mud. The Iceni are very modern, compared with 
these very ancient inhabitants, and have done what 
those inarticulate protoplasms, neolithic men and 
others, could not do ; that is, they gave their names 
to many places in these East Anglian shires, and a 
title that still survives to a great road. Look on 
any map of East Anglia and the surrounding counties 
and you shall see many place-names beginning with 
"Ick": Ickborough, Ickworth, Ickleton, Icklington, 
Ickleford, and Ickwell. 

These are the surviving names of Icenian settle- 
ments. There is a "Hickling" on the Broads, in 
Norfolk, which ought by rights to be "Ickling"; 
but the world has ever been at odds on the subject 
of aspirate or no aspirate, certainly since the classic 
days of the Greeks and the Romans. Does not 
Catullus speak of a certain Arrius who horrified the 
Romans by talking of the " Hionian Sea " ? and is 
not Tom Hood's " Ben Battle " familiar ? " Don't let 
'em put 'Hicks jacet' there," he said, "for that is 
not my name." 

When the Romans came and found the Iceni 
here, the last stone-age man and the ultimate 
crocodile (the former inside the latter) had for ages 
past been buried in the peat of the Fens, resolving 
into a fossil state. The Iceni probably, the pur- 



PREHISTORIC MAN 187 

poseful Komans certainly, endeavoured to drain 
the Fens, or at least to prevent their being worse 
flooded by the sea ; and the Roman embankment 
between Wisbeach and King's Lynn, built to keep 
out the furious wind-driven rollers of the Wash, 
gave a name to the villages of Walsoken, Walton, 
and Walpole (once Wall-pool). When the Romano- 
British civilisation decayed, the defences against 
the sea decayed with it, and the level lay worse 
flooded than before. Far and wide, from Lynn, on 
the seacoast in the north, to Fen Ditton, in the 
south, almost at the gates of Cambridge ; from 
Mildeuhall in the east, to St. Ives and Peterborough 
in the west, a vast expanse of still and shallow water 
covered an area of, roughly, seventy miles in length 
and thirty in breadth : about 2100 square miles. 
Out of this dismal swamp rose many islands, formed 
of knobs of the stiff clay or gault that had not been 
washed away with the surrounding soil. It was on 
these isles that prehistoric man lived, and where his 
wretched wattle - huts were built beside the water. 
He had his dug-out canoe and his little landing- 
stage, and sometimes, when his islet was very 
diminutive and subject to floods, he built his 
dwelling on stakes driven into the mud. In 
peaceful and plenteous times he sat on his stag- 
ing overhanging the water, and tore and gnawed at 
the birds and animals that had fallen to his arrow 
or his spear. Primitive man was essentially selfish. 
He first satisfied his own hunger and then tossed the 
remainder to his squaw and the brats, and when 
they had picked the bones clean, and saved those 



i88 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

that might be useful for fashioning into arrow-heads, 
they threw the remains into the water, whence they 
sent up in the fulness of time an evil smell which 
did not trouble him and his in the least, primitive as 
they were in every objectionable sense of the word. 

Kelics of him and his domestic odds and ends 
are often found, ten feet or so beneath the present 
surface of the land. His canoe is struck by the spade 
of the gaulter, his primitive weapons unearthed, his 
dustbin and refuse-heap turned over and examined 
by curious antiquaries and naturalists, who can tell 
you exactly what his menu was. Sometimes they 
find primitive man himself, lying among the ruins of 
his dwelling, overwhelmed in the long ago by some 
cataclysm of nature, or perhaps killed by a neigh- 
bouring primitive. 

To these isles in after centuries, when the Eomans 
had gone and the Saxons had settled down and 
become Christians, came hermits and monks like 
Guthlac, who reared upon them abbeys and churches, 
and began in their several ways to cultivate the land 
and to dig dykes and start draining operations. 
For the early clergy earned their living, and were 
not merely the parasites they have since become. 
These islands, now that the Fens are drained, are just 
hillocks in the great plain. They are still the only 
villages in the district, and on those occasions when 
an embankment breaks and the Fens are flooded, 
they become the islands they were a thousand years 
ago. The very names of these hillocks and villages 
are fen-eloquent, ending as they do with u ey" and 
" ea," corruptions of the Anglo-Saxon words " ig," 



FENLAND PLACE-NAMES 189 

an island, and " ea," a river. Ely, the largest of 
them, is said by Bede to have obtained its name 
from the abundance of eels, and thus to be the " Eel 
Island." There are others who derive it from " helig," 
a willow, and certainly both eels and willows were 
abundant here ; but the name, in an ancient elision 
of that awkward letter "'h," is more likely to come 
from another " helig," meaning holy, and Ely to 
really be the " holy island." 

Other islands, most of them now with villages of 
the same name, were Coveney, Hilgay, Southery, 
Horningsea, Swavesey, Welney, Stuntney, and 
Thorney. There was, too, an Anglesey, the Isle of 
the Angles, a Saxon settlement, near Horningsea. A 
farm built over the site of Anglesey Abbey now 
stands there. 

But many Fenland place-names are even more 
eloquent. There are Frog's Abbey, Alderford, Little- 
port, Dry Drayton and Fenny Drayton, Landbeach 
and Waterbeach. Littleport, really at one time a 
port to which the ships of other ages came, is a port 
no longer ; Fenny Drayton is now as dry as its fellow- 
village ; and Landbeach and Waterbeach are, as we 
have already seen, not so greatly the opposites of one 
another as they were. 



XXIX 

A GREAT part of the Fens seems to have been drained 
and cultivated at so early a time as the reigns of 
Stephen and Henry the Second, for William of 



i 9 o THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Malmesbury describes this as then "the paradise 
of England," with luxuriant crops and flourishing 
gardens ; but this picture of prosperity was suddenly 
blotted out by the great gale that arose on the 
morrow of St. Martin 1236, and continued for eight 
days and nights. The sea surged over the embank- 
ments and flowed inwards past Wisbeach, and the 
rivers, instead of flowing away, were forced back and 
so drowned the levels. Some attempts to reclaim 
the land were made, but a similar disaster happened 
seventeen years later, and the fen-folk seem to have 
given up all efforts at keeping out the waters, for 
in 1505 we find the district described as " one of the 
most brute and beastly of the whole realm ; a land 
of marshy ague and unwholesome swamps." But 
already the idea of reclamation Vas in the air, for 
Bishop Morton, in the time of Henry the Seventh, 
a most worshipful Bishop of Ely, Lord Chancellor too, 
churchman, statesman, and engineer, had a notion 
for making the stagnant Nene to flow forth into the 
sea, instead of doubling upon itself and seething in 
unimaginable bogs as it had done for hundreds of 
years past. He cut the drain that runs from Stan- 
ground, away up in the north near Peterborough, 
to Wisbeach, still known as Morton's Learn, and 
thus began a new era. But though he benefited 
the land to the north-west of Ely, the way between 
his Cathedral city and Cambridge was not affected, 
and remained in his time as bad as it had been for 
centuries; and he, like many a Bishop before him 
and others to come after, commonly journeyed 
between Ely and Cambridge by boat. Our road, 



EARL Y FEN-DRAINING 



191 



indeed, did not witness the full activity of the good 
Bishop and his successors. Their doings only attained 
to great proportions in the so-called Great Level of 
the Fens, the Bedford Level, as it is alternatively 
called, that stretches over a district beginning eight 
miles away and continuing for sixteen or twenty 
miles, by Thorney, Crowland, and Peterborough. 




THE FENS. 
[After Dugdale.] 



This map, from Dugdale's work, showing the Fens 
as they lay drowned, and the islands in them, will 
give the best notion of this curious district. You 
will perceive how like an inland sea was this waste 
of mud and water, not full fathom five, it is true, 
but less readily navigable than the sea itself. Here 



1 92 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

you see the road from Cambridge to Ely and on to 
Downham Market pictured, with no great accuracy, 
you may be sworn, and doubtless with as much 
margin of error as it is customary to allow in the 
somewhat speculative charts of Arctic continents and 
regions of similarly difficult access. In this map, 
then, it will be perceived how remote the Bedford 
Level lies from our route. Why " Bedford Level," 
which, in point of fact, is in Cambridgeshire and not 
in Bedfordshire at all ? For this reason : that these 
are lands belonging to the Earls (now Dukes) of 
Bedford. To the Russells were given the lands 
belonging to Thorney Abbey, but their appetite for 
what should have been public property was only 
whetted by this gift, and when in the reign of 
Charles the First proposals were made to drain and 
reclaim 310,000 acres of surrounding country, they, 
in the person of Francis, the then Earl, obtained of 
this vast tract no less than 95,000 acres. It is true 
that this grant was made conditional upon the Earl 
taking part in the drainage of the land, and that it 
was a costly affair in which the smaller adventurers 
were ruined and the Earl's own resources strained ; 
but in the result a princely heritage fell to the 
Bedfords. 

The great engineering figure at this period of 
reclamation was the Dutchman, Cornelius Vermuydeii, 
who began his dyking and draining under royal 
sanction and with Bedfordian aid in 1629. Yermuy- 
den's is a great figure historically considered, but 
his works are looked upon coldly in these times, and 
it is even said that one of the principal labours of 



THE PENMEN 193 

modern engineers has been to rectify his errors. 
That view probably originated with Kennie, who in 
1810 was employed to drain and reclaim the exten- 
sive marshland between Wisbeach and Lynn, and 
was bound, in the usual professional manner, to 
speak evil things of one of the same craft. There 
was little need, though, to be jealous of Vermuyden, 
who had died obscurely, in poverty and in the cold 
shade of neglect, some hundred and fifty years 
before. Vermuyden, as a matter of course, em- 
ployed Flamands and Hollanders in his works, for 
they were not merely his own countrymen, but 
naturally skilled in labour of this technical kind. 
These strangers aroused the enmity of the Fenmen, 
not for their strangeness alone, but for the sake of 
the work they were engaged upon, for the drainage 
of the Fens was then a highly unpopular proceeding. 
The Fenmen loved their watery wastes, and little 
wonder that they did so, for they knew none other, 
and they were a highly specialised race of amphi- 
bious creatures, skilled in all the arts of the wild- 
fowler and the fisherman, by which they lived. 
Farming was not within their ken. They trapped 
and subsisted upon the innumerable fish and birds 
that shared the wastes with them ; birds of the 
cluck tribe, the teal, widgeon, and mallard ; and 
greater fowl, like the wild goose and his kind. For 
fish they speared and snared the eel, the pike, and 
the lamprey pre-eminently fish of the fens ; for 
houses they contrived huts of mud and stakes, 
thatched with the reeds that grew densely, to a 
height of ten or twelve feet, everywhere ; and as for 
'3 



194 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



firing, peat was dug and stacked and burnt. Con- 
sider. The Fenman was a product of the centuries. 
His father, his grandfather, his uttermost ancestors, 
had squatted and fished and hunted where they 
would, and none could say them. nay. They paid 
no rent or tithe to anyone, for the Fens were common, 
or waste. And now the only life the Fenman knew 
was like to be taken from him. What could such 
an one do on dry land ? A farmer put aboard ship 
and set to navigate it could not be more helpless 
than the dweller in those old marshes, dependent 
only upon his marsh lore, when the water was 
drained off and the fishes gone, reed-beds cut down, 
the land cultivated, and the wild-fowl dispersed. 
The fears of this people were quaintly expressed in 
the popular verses then current, entitled "The 
Powte's Complaint." " Powte," it should be said, 
was the Fen name for the lamprey 



"Come, brethren of the water, and let us all assemble 
To treat upon this matter, which makes us quake and tremble ; 
For we shall rue, if it be true the fens be undertaken, 
And where we feed in fen and reed they'll feed both beef an 
bacon. 



They'll sow both beans and oats where never man yet thought it ; 
Where men did row in boats ere undertakers bought it ; 
But, Ceres, thou behold us now, let wild oats be their venture, 
And let the frogs and miry bogs destroy where they do enter. 

Behold the great design, which they do now determine, 
Will make our bodies pine, a prey to crows and vermine ; 
For they do mean all fens to drain and waters overmaster, 
All will be dry, and we must die, 'cause Essex Calves want 
pasture. 



CROMWELL 195 

Away with boats and rudders, farewell both boots and skatches, 
No need of one nor t'other ; men now make better matches ; 
Stilt-makers all and tanners shall complain of this disaster, 
For they will make each muddy lake for Essex Calves a pasture. 

The feather'd fowls have wings, to fly to other nations, 

But we have no such things to help our transportations ; 

We must give place, grievous case ! to horned beasts and cattle, 

Except that we can all agree to drive them out by battle." 

Other verses follow ^ where winds, waves, and 
moon are invoked in aid, but enough has been 
quoted to show exactly how affairs stood at this 
juncture. But the Ferimen were not without their 
defender. He was found in a certain young Hunt- 
ingdonshire squire and brewer, one Oliver Cromwell, 
Member of Parliament for Huntingdon, reclaimed 
from his early evil courses, and now, a Puritan and 
a brand plucked timeously from the burning, posing 
as champion of the people. Seven years past this 
draining business had been going forward, and now 
that trouble was brewing between King and people, 
and King wanted money, and people would withhold 
it, the popular idea arose that the Fens were being 
drained to provide funds for royal needs. Cromwell 
was at this time resident in Ely, and seized upon 
the local grievances and exploited them to his own 
end, with the result that the works were stopped 
and himself raised to the extreme height of local 
popularity. But when the monarchy was upset and 
Cromwell had become Lord Protector, he not only 
authorised the drainage being resumed, but gave 
extreme aid and countenance to William, Earl of 
Bedford, sending him a thousand Scots prisoners 



196 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

from Dunbar, as pressed men, practically slaves, to 
work in his trenches. Appeal from Philip drunk 
to Philip sober is a famous remedy, but appeal to 
Oliver, besotted with power, must have seemed 
helpless to our poor Fen-slodgers, for they do not 
seem to have made resistance, and the work pro- 
gressed to its end. 



XXX 

IF most of those who have described Fenland have 
lacked imagination, certainly the charge cannot be 
brought against that eighth -century saint, Saint 
Guthlac, who fled into this great dismal swamp and 
founded Crowland Abbey on its north - easterly 
extremity. Crowland has nothing to do with the 
Ely and King's Lynn Road, but in describing what 
he calls the " develen and luther gostes " that made 
his life a misery, Guthlac refers to the evil inhabitants 
of the Fens in general. Precisely what a "luther" 
ghost may be, does not appear. A Protestant 
spook, perhaps, it might be surmised, except that 
Lutheran schisms did not arise for many centuries 
later. 

Saints were made of strange materials in ancient 
times, and Guthlac was of the strangest. Truth was 
not his strong point, and he could and did tell tales 
that would bring a blush to the hardy cheek of a 
Sir John Mandeville, or arouse the bitter envy of a 
Munchausen. But Guthlac's character shall not be 
taken away without good cause shown. He begins 



SAINT GUTHLAC 197 

reasonably enough, with an excellent descriptive 
passage, picturing the " hideous fen of huge bigness 
which extends in a very long track even to the sea, 
ofttimes clouded with mist and dark vapours, having 
within it divers islands and woods, as also crooked 
and winding rivers " ; but after this mild prelude 
goes on to make very large demands upon our 
credulity. 

He had a wattle hut on an island, and to this 
poor habitation, he tells us, the " develen and hither 
gostes" came continually, dragged him out of bed 
and " tugged and led him out of his cot, and to the 
swart fen, and threw and sunk him in the muddy 
waters." Then they beat him with iron whips. He 
describes these devils in a very uncomplimentary 
fashion. They had " horrible countenances, great 
heads, long necks, lean visages, filthy and squalid 
beards, rough ears, fierce eyes, and foul mouths ; 
teeth like horses' tusks, throats filled with flame, 
grating voices, crooked shanks, and knees big and 
great behind." It would have been scarce possible 
to mistake one of these for a respectable peasant. 

After fifteen years of this treatment, Guthlac 
died, and it is to be hoped these hardy inventions of 
his are not remembered against him. No one else 
found the Fens peopled so extravagantly. Only the 
will-o' -wisps that danced fitfully and pallid at night 
over the treacherous bogs, and the poisonous miasma 
exhaled from the noxious beds of rotting sedge ; only 
the myriad wild-fowl made the wilderness strange 
and eerie. 

Guthlac was the prime romancist of the Fens, 



198 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

but others nearly contemporary with him did not 
altogether lack imagination and inventive powers ; 
as where one of the old monkish chroniclers gravely 
states that the Fen -folk were born with yellow 
bellies, like frogs, and were provided with webbed 
feet to fit them for their watery surroundings. 

Asthma and ague were long the peculiar 
maladies of these districts. Why they should have 
been is sufficiently evident, but Dugdale, who has 
performed the difficult task of writing a dry book 
upon the Fens, uses language that puts the case very 
convincingly. He says, " There is no element good, 
the air being for the most part cloudy, gross, and 
full of rotten harrs ; the water putrid and muddy, 
yea, full of loathsome vermin ; the earth spungy and 
boggy." No wonder, then, that the terrible disease 
of ague seized upon the unfortunate inhabitants of 
this watery waste. Few called this miasmatic 
affection by that name : they knew it as the " Bailiff 
of Marshland," and to be arrested by the dread bailiff 
was a frequent experience of those who worked early 
or late in the marshes, when the poisonous vapours 
still lingered. To alleviate the miseries of ague the 
Fen-folk resorted to opium, and often became slaves 
to that drug. Another very much dreaded " Bailiff" 
was the " Bailiff of Bedford," as the Ouse, coming 
out of Bedfordshire, was called. He of the marsh- 
land took away your health, but the flooded Ouse, 
rising suddenly after rain or thaw, swept your very 
home away. 

Still, in early morn, in Wicken Fen, precautions 
are taken by the autumn sedge-cutter against the 



FENLAND HABITS 199 

dew and the exhalations from the earth, heavy with 
possibilities of marsh fever. He ties a handkerchief 
over his mouth for that purpose, while to protect 
himself against the sharp edges of the sedge he 
wears old stockings tied round his arms, leather 
gaiters on his legs, and a calfskin waistcoat. 

The modern Fen-folk are less troubled with ague 
than their immediate ancestors, but the opium habit 
has not wholly left them. Whether they purchase 
the drug, or whether it is extracted from the white 
poppies that are a feature of almost every Fenland 
garden, they still have recourse to it, and "poppy 
tea" is commonly administered to the children to 
keep them quiet while their parents are at work 
afield. The Fenlanders are, by consequence, a solemn 
and grim race, shaking sometimes with ague, and at 
others " as nervous as a kitten," as they are apt to 
express it, as a result of drugging themselves. An- 
other, and an entirely innocent, protection against 
ague is celery, and the celery-bed is a cherished part 
of a kitchen-garden in the Fens. 

One of the disadvantages of these oozy flats is 
the lack of good drinking-water. The rivers, filled 
as they are with the drain ings of the dykes and 
ditches, can only offer water unpleasant both to 
smell and taste, if not actually poisonous from the 
decaying matter and the myriad living organisms in 
it ; and springs in the Fens are practically unknown. 
Under these circumstances the public-houses do a 
good trade in beer and spirits. 



200 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



XXXI 

CAMBRIDGESHIRE is a singularly stoneless country, 
and in the Fens there is not so much as a pebble to 
be found. Thus it has become a common jest of the 
Cambridgeshire farmers to offer to swallow all the 
stones you can pick up in their fields. Farm horses 
for this reason are never shod, and it sounds not a 
little strange and uncanny to see one of the great 
waggon-horses plodding along a Fenland " drove," as 
the roads are named, and to hear nothing but the 
sound of his bells and the indistinct thudding of his 
shoeless feet in the dust or the mud, into whichever 
condition the weather has thrown the track. 

A Fenland road is one thing among others 
peculiar to the Fens. It is a very good illustration 
of eternity, and goes on, flat and unbending, with a 
semi-stagnant ditch on either side, as far as eye can 
reach in the vast solitary expanse, empty save for an 
occasional ash-tree or group of Lombardy poplars, with 
perhaps a hillock rising in the distance crowned by a 
church and a village. No " metal " or ballast has ever 
been placed on the Fenland drove. In summer it is 
from six to eight inches deep in a black dust, that 
rises in choking clouds to the passage of a vehicle or 
on the uprising of a breeze ; in winter it is a sea of 
mud, congealed on the approach of frost into ruts and 
ridges of the most appalling ruggedness. The Fen- 
folk have a home-made way with their execrable 
"droves." When they become uneven they just 
harrow them, as the farmer in other counties harrows 



FENLAND FIELDS 201 

his fields, and, when they are become especially hard, 
they plough them first and harrow them afterwards ; 
a procedure that would have made Macadam faint 
with horror. The average-constituted small boy, 
who throws stones by nature, discovers something 
lacking in the scheme of creation as applied to these 
districts. Everywhere the soil is composed of the 
ancient alluvial silt brought down to these levels by 
those lazy streams, the Nene, the Lark, the Cam, 
and the Ouse, and of the dried peat of these some- 
time stagnant and festering morasses. Now that 
drainage has so thoroughly done its work, that in 
ardent summers the soil of this former inland sea 
gapes and cracks with dryness, it is no uncommon 
sight to see water pumped on to the baking fields 
from the learns and droves. The earth is of a light, 
dry black nature, consisting of fibrous vegetable 
matter, and possesses the well-known preservative 
properties of bog soil. Thus the trees of the primeval 
forest that formerly existed here, and were drowned 
in an early stage of the world's history, are often dug 
up whole. Their timber is black too, as black as coal, 
as may be seen by the wooden bridges that cross the 
drains and cuts, often made from these prehistoric 
trees. 

Here is a typical dyke. Its surface is richly 
carpeted with water- weeds, and the water-lily spreads 
its flat leaves prodigally about it ; the bright yellow 
blossoms reclining amid them like graceful naiads on 
fairy couches. But the Fenland children have a 
more prosaic fancy. They call them " Brandy-balls." 
The flowering rush, flushing a delicate carmine, and 



202 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

the aquatic sort of forget-me-not, sporting the 
Cambridge colours, are common inhabitants of the 
dykes ; and in the more stagnant may be found the 
" water-soldier," a queer plant without any roots, liv- 
ing in the still slime at the bottom until the time 
comes for it to put forth its white blossoms, when it 
comes to " attention " in the light of day, displays its 
fleeting glory, and then sinks again, " at ease," to its 
fetid bed. There is a current in the dykes, but the 
water flows so imperceptibly that it does not deflect 
the upstanding spikes of the daintiest aquatic plant 
by so much as a hair's-breadth. Indeed, it would 
not flow at all, and would merely stagnate, were it 
not for the windmill-worked pumps that suck it 
along and, somewhere in the void distance, impel it 
up an inclined plane, and so discharge it into the 
longer and higher drain, whence it indolently flows 
into one of the canalised rivers, and so, through a 
sluice, eventually finds its way into the sea at ebb- 
tide. 

The means by which the Fens are kept drained 
are not without their interest. A glance at a map 
of Cambridgeshire and its neighbouring counties will 
show the Great Level to be divided up into many 
patches of land by hard straight lines running in 
every direction. Some are thicker, longer, and 
straighter than others, but they all inter-communi- 
cate, and eventually reach one or other of the rivers. 
The longest, straightest, and broadest of these repre- 
sents that great drain already mentioned, the Old 
Bedford River, seventy feet wide and twenty-one 
miles long ; cut in the seventeenth century to shorten 



FENLAND DRAINS 



205 



the course of the Ouse and to carry off the floods. 
Others are the New Bedford River, one hundred feet 
in width, cut only a few years later and running 
parallel with the first ; Vermuyden's Eau, or the 
Forty Foot Drain, of the same period, feeding the 
Old Bedford River from the Nene, near Ramsey, 
with their tributaries and counter-drains. The North 
Level cuts belong principally to the early part of 
the nineteenth century, when Rennie drained the 
Wisbeach and Lynn districts. 

The main drains are at a considerably higher 
level than the surrounding lands, the water in them 
only prevented from drowning the low-lying fields 
again by their great and solid banks, fourteen to 

O J 

sixteen feet high, and about ten feet in breadth 
at the top. These banks, indeed, form in many 
districts the principal roads. Perilous roads at night, 
even for those who know them well, and one thinks 
with a shudder of the clangers encountered of old by 
local medical men, called out in the darkness to 
attend some urgent case. Their custom was 
perhaps it is in some places still observed to mount 
their steady nags and to jog along with a lighted 
stable-lantern swinging from each stirrup, to throw 
a warning gleam on broken bank or frequent sunken 
fence. 

At an interval of two miles along these banks is 
generally to be found a steam pnmping-engine, busily 
and constantly occupied in raising water from the 
lodes and dykes in the lower levels and pouring it 
into the main channel. The same process is repeated 
in the case of raising the water from the field-drains 



206 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

into the smaller dykes by a windmill or " skeleton- 
pump," as it is often called. It is a work that is 
never done, but goes forward, year by year, and is 
paid for by assessments on the value of the lands 
affected by these operations. Commissioners, them- 
selves local landowners and tenants, and elected by 
the same classes, look after the conduct and the 
efficiency of the work, and see that the main drains 
are scoured by the " scourers " ; the banks duly 
repaired by the "bankers" and the "gaulters"; the 
moles, that might bring disaster by burrowing 
through them, caught by the "molers"; and the 
sluices kept in working order. The rate imposed for 
paying the cost of these works is often a heavy one, 
but the land is wonderfully rich and productive. 
Nor need the Fenland farmer go to extraordinary 
expense for artificial manure, or for marling his fields 
when at length he has cropped all the goodness out 
of the surface soil. The very best of restoratives lies 
from some five to twelve feet under his own land, in 
the black greasy clay formed from the decaying 
vegetable matter of the old forests that underlie the 
Fens. A series of pits is sunk on the land, the clay 
obtained from them is spread over it, and the fields 
again yield a bounteous harvest. 

Harvest-work and farm-work in general in the 
Fens is in some ways peculiar to this part of the 
country, for farm-holdings are large and farmsteads 
far between. The practice, under these conditions, 
arose of the work being done by gangs ; the hands 
assembling at break of day in the farmyard and 
being despatched in parties to their distant day's 



FARM-HANDS IN THE FENS 207 

work in hoeing, weeding, or picking in the flat and 
almost boundless fields ; returning only when the day's 
labour is ended. Men, women, and children gathered 
thus in the raw morning make a picture and in 
some ways a pitiful picture of farming and rustic 
life, worthy of a Millet. But our Millet has not yet 
come ; and the gangs grow fewer. If he does not 
hasten, they will be quite gone, and something 
characteristic in Fenland-life quite lost. A Fenland 
farm-lass may wear petticoats, or she may not. 
Sometimes she acts as carter, and it is precisely in 
such cases that she sheds her feminine skirts and 
dons the odd costume that astonishes the inquisitive 
stranger new to these parts, who sees, with doubt as 
to whether he sees aright, a creature with the boots 
and trousers of a man, a nondescript garment, half 
bodice and half coat with skirts, considerably above 
the knees, and a sun-bonnet on her head, working 
in the rick-yards, or squashing heavily through the 
farmyard muck. Skirts are out of place in farmyards 
and in cattle-byres, and the milkmaid, too, of these 
parts is dressed in like guise. If you were to show 
a milkmaid in the Fens a picture illustrating " Where 
are you going to, my pretty maid ? " in the conven- 
tional fashion, she would criticise very severely, as 
quite incorrect, the skirted figure of a poet's dream 
usually presented. She saves her skirts and her 
flower-trimmed hat for Sundays. 



20 8 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



XXXII 

AND now we must come from the general to the 
especial ; from Fens and Fen-folk in the mass to a 
bright particular star. 

The greatest historical figure along the whole 
course of this road is that of Hereward the Wake, the 
" last of the English," as he has been called. " Here- 
ward," it has been said, means " the guard of the 
army," while " the Wake " is almost self-explanatory, 
signifying literally the Wide Awake, or the Watch- 
ful. He is thought to have been the eldest son of 
Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and of the famous Godiva, 
and to have been banished by his father and out- 
lawed. Like objects dimly glimpsed in a fog, the 
figure of Hereward looms gigantic and uncertain 
through the mists of history, and how much of him 
is real and how much legendary no one can say. 
When Hereward was born, in the mild reign of 
Edward the Confessor, the Anglo-Saxons who six 
hundred and fifty years before had conquered Britain, 
and, driving a poor remnant of the enervated race 
of Romanised Britons to the uttermost verge of the 
island, changed the very name of the country from 
Britain to England, had themselves degenerated. 
The Saxons were originally among the fiercest of 
savages, and derived their name from the " ssexe," 
or short sword, with which they came to close and 
murderous combat; but the growth of civilisation 
and the security in which they had long dwelt in the 
conquered island undermined their original combative- 



HERE WARD THE WAKE 209 

ness, and for long before the invasion of England by 
William the Conqueror they had been hard put to it 
to hold their own against the even more savage 
Danes. Yet at the last, at Hastings under Harold, 
they made a gallant stand against the Normans, and 
if courage alone could have won the day, why then 
no Norman dynasty had ever occupied the English 
throne. The Battle of Hastings was only won by 
superior military dispositions on the part of William. 
His archers gained him the victory, and by their 
disconcerting arrow-flights broke the advance of the 
Saxons armed with sword and battle-axe. 

That most decisive and momentous battle in the 
world's history was lost and won on the 14th day of 
October 1066. It was followed by a thorough-going 
policy of plunder and confiscation. Everywhere the 
Saxon landowners were dispossessed of their property, 
and Normans replaced them. Even the Saxon 
bishops were roughly deprived of their sees, and 
alien prelates from over sea took their place. The 
Saxon race was utterly degraded and crushed, arid to 
be an Englishman became a reproach ; so that the 
Godrics, Godbalds, and Godgifus, the Ediths, the 
Alfreds, and other characteristic Saxon names, began 
to be replaced by trembling parents with Roberts, 
and Williams, and Henrys, and other names of 
common Norman use. 

Now, in dramatic fashion, Hereward comes upon 
the scene. Two years of this crushing tyranny had 
passed when, one calm summer's evening in 1068, a 
stranger, accompanied by only one attendant, entered 
the village of Brunne, in Lincolnshire, the place now 



210 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

identified with Bourne ; Bourne and its Teutonic orig- 
inal form of Brunne meaning a stream. It was one 
of his father's manors. Seeking, unrecognised, shelter 
for the night, he was met by lamentations, and was 
told that Leofric, the great Earl, was dead ; that his 
heir, the Lord Hereward, was away in foreign parts ; 
and that his younger brother, now become heir, had 
only the day before been foully murdered by the 
Normans, who had in derision fixed his head over the 
doorway. Moreover, the Normans had seized the 
house and the manor. " Alas ! " wailed the unhappy 
Saxon dependants, " we have no power to revenge 
these things. Would that Hereward were here ! 
Before to-morrow's sunrise they would all taste of 
the bitter cup they have forced on us." 

The stranger was sheltered and hospitably 
entertained by these unhappy folk. After the 
evening meal they retired to rest, but their guest 
lay sleepless. Suddenly the distant sounds of singing 
and applause burst on his ears. Springing from his 
couch, he roused a serving-man and inquired the 
meaning of this nocturnal merrymaking, when he 
was informed that the Norman intruders were 
celebrating the entry of their lord into the patrimony 
of the youth they had murdered. The stranger 
girded on his weapons, threw about him a long black 
cloak, and with his companion repaired to the scene 
of this boisterous revelry. There the first object that 
met his eyes was the head of the murdered boy. He 
took it down, kissed it, and wrapped it in a cloth. 
Then the two placed themselves in the dark shadow 
of a doorway whence they could command a view into 



HEREWAR&S VENGEANCE 211 

the hall. The Normans were scattered about a 
blazing fire, most of them overcome with drunken- 
ness and reclining on the bosoms of their women. 
In their midst was a jongleur, or minstrel, chanting 
songs of reproach against the Saxons and ridiculing 
their unpolished manners in coarse dances and 
ludicrous gestures. He was proceeding to utter 
indecent jests against the family of the youth they 
had slain, when he was interrupted by one of the 
women, a native of Flanders. " Forget not," she 
said, " that the boy has a brother, named Here ward, 
famed for his bravery throughout the country whence 
I come, ay, and even in Spain and Algiers. Were 
he here, things would wear a different aspect on the 



morrow." 



The new lord of the house, indignant at this, 
raised his head and exclaimed, " I know the man 
well, and his wicked deeds that would have brought 
him ere this to the gallows, had he not sought safety 
in flight ; nor dare he now make his appearance 
anywhere this side the Alps." 

The minstrel, seizing on this theme, began to 
improvise a scurrilous song, when he was literally 
cut short in an unexpected manner his head clove 
in two by the swift stroke of a Saxon sword. It 
was Hereward who had done this. Then he turned 
on the defenceless Normans, who fell, one after the 
other, beneath his furious blows ; those who attempted 
to escape being intercepted by his companion at the 
door. His arm was not stayed until the last was 
slain, and the heads of the Norman lord and fourteen 
of his knights were raised over the doorway. 



212 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

The historian of these things goes on to say 
that the Normans in the neighbourhood, hearing of 
Hereward's return and of this midnight exploit, fled. 
This proves their wisdom, at the expense of their 
courage. The Saxons rose on every side, but 
Hereward at first checked their zeal, selecting only 
a strong body of relations and adherents, and with 
them attacking arid slaying those of the Normans 
who dared remain on his estates. Then he repaired 
to his friend Brand, the Saxon Abbot of Peter- 
borough, from whom, in the Anglo-Saxon manner, 
he received the honour of knighthood. After sud- 
denly attacking and killing a Norman baron sent 
against him, he dispersed his followers, and, promising 
to rejoin them in a year, sailed for Flanders. We 
next hear of Hereward in the spring of 1070, when 
he appears in company with the Danes whom 
William the Conqueror had allowed to winter on the 
east coast. Together they raised a revolt, first in 
the Humber and along the Yorkshire Ouse ; and 
then they are found sacking and destroying Peter- 
borough Abbey, by that time under the control of 
the Norman Abbot Turold. A hundred and sixty 
armed men were gathered by the Abbot to force 
them back to their lair at Ely, but they had already 
left. With the advent of spring Hereward's Danish 
allies sailed away, rich in plunder, and he and his 
outlaws were left to do as best they could. For a 
year he remained quiet in his island fastness, secured 
by the trackless bogs and fens from attack, while 
the discontented elements were being attracted to 
him. With him was that attendant who kept the 



HERE WARD IN ELY 213 

door at Bourne : Martin of the Light Foot was his 
name. Others were Leofric " Prat," or the Cunning, 
skilful in spying out the dispositions of the enemy ; 
Leofric the Mower, who obtained his distinctive 
name by mowing off the legs of a party of Nor- 
mans with a scythe, the only weapon he could lay 
hands on in a hurry; Ulric the Heron, and Ulric 
the Black all useful lieutenants in an exhausting 
irregular warfare. Greater companions were the 
Saxon Archbishop Stigand, Bishop Egelwin of 
Lincoln, and the Earls Morcar, Edwin, and Tosti. 
All these notables, with a large following, flocked 
into the Isle of Ely, as a Camp of Refuge, and 
quartered themselves on the monks of the Abbey of 
Ely. There they lay, and constituted a continual 
menace to the Norman power. Sometimes they 
made incursions into other districts, and burnt and 
slew ; at others, when hard pressed, they had simply 
to retire into these fens to be unapproachable. None 
among the Norman conquerors of other parts of the 
land could cope with Here ward, and at last William, 
in the summer of 1071, found it necessary to take 
the field in person against this own brother to Will- 
o'-the-Wisp. His plan of campaign was to attempt 
the invasion of the Isle of Ely simultaneously from 
two different points ; from Brandon on the north- 
east, and from Cottenham on the south-west. The 
Brandon attempt was by boat, and soon failed : the 
advance from Cottenham was a longer business. 
Why he did not advance by that old Roman road, 
the Akeman Street, cannot now be explained. That 
splendid example of a causeway built across the 






214 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



morasses must still have afforded the better way, 
even though the Komans who made it had been 
gone six hundred years. But the Conqueror chose 
to advance from Cambridge by way of Impington, 
Histon, and Cottenham. It is, of course, possible 
that the defenders of the Isle had destroyed a portion 
of the old road, or in some way rendered it im- 
practicable. His line of march can be traced even 
to this day. Leaving the old coaching road here at 
Cottenham Corner, we make for that village, famed 
in these days for its cream cheeses and grown to 
the proportions of a small town. 1 It was here, at 
Cottenham and at Kampton, that William collected 
his invading force and amassed the great stores of 
materials necessary for overcoming the great diffi- 
culty of entering the Isle of Ely, then an isle in the 
most baulking and inconvenient sense to an invader. 
Before the Isle could be entered by an army, it was 
necessary to build a causeway across the two miles' 
breadth of marshes that spread out from the Ouse 
at Aldreth, and this work had to be carried out in the 
face of a vigorous opposition from Hereward and his 
allies. It was two years before this causeway could 
be completed. Who shall say what strenuous labour 
went to the making of this road across the reedy 
bogs ; what vast accumulations of reeds and brush- 

1 Famous, too, in that Cambridgeshire byword, " a Cottenham 
jury," which arose (as the inhabitants of .every other village will have 
you believe) from the verdict of a jury of Cottenham men, in the case 
of a man tried for the murder of his wife. The foreman, returning 
into Court, said, " They were unanimously of opinion that it sarved 
her right, for she were such a tarnation bad 'un as no man could live 
with." 



TO ALDRETH 



215 



wood, felled trees and earth ? The place has an 
absorbing interest, but to explore it thoroughly 
requires no little determination, for the road that 
William made has every appearance of being left 



Ear.ffv 




Cambridge Ely, am) 
KingUynn'Road ~ 
Deserfcd Roman Road 
from Giinbridge " 



THE ISLE OF ELY AND DISTRICT. 



just as it was when he had done with it, more than 
eight hundred years ago, and the way from Kampton, 
in its deep mud, unfathomable ruts and grassy 
hollows, soddened for lack of draining, is a terrible 
damper of curiosity. The explorer's troubles begin 



si6 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

immediately he has left the village of Rampton. 
Turning to the right, he is instantly plunged into 
the fearful mud of a mile-long drove described on the 
large-scale Ordnance maps as " Cow Lane," a dismal 
malebolge of black greasy mud that only cattle can 
walk without difficulty. The unfortunate cyclist 
who adventures this way and pushes on, thinking 
these conditions will improve as he goes, is to be 
pitied, for, instead of improving, they go from bad 
to worse. The mud of this horrible lane is largely 
composed of the Cambridgeshire clay called " gault," 
and is of a peculiarly adhesive quality. When he is 
at last obliged to dismount and pick the pounds 
upon pounds of mud out of the intimate places of 
his machine, his feelings are outraged and, cursing 
all the road authorities of Cambridgeshire in one com- 
prehensive curse, he determines never again to leave 
the highways in search of the historic. A few yards 
farther progress leaves him in as bad case as before, 
and he is at last reduced to carrying the machine on 
his shoulder, fearful with every stride that his shoes 
will part company with his feet, withdrawn at each 
step from the mud with a resounding " pop," similar 
to the sound made by the drawing of a cork from a 
bottle. But it is only when at last, coming to the 
end of Cow Lane and turning to the left into Irani 
Drove, he rests and clears away the mud and 
simultaneously finds seven punctures in one tyre 
and two in the other, that his stern indignation 
melts into tears. The wherefore of this havoc 
wrought upon the inoffensive wheelman is found in 
the cynical fact that although Cow Lane never 



BELSAR'S HILL 217 

receives the attentions of the road-repairer, its 
thorn-hedges are duly clipped and the clippings 
thrown into what, for the sake of convenience, may 
be called the road. 

The geographical conditions here resemble those 
of Muckslush Heath in Colman's play, and although 
Irani Drove is paradise compared with what we have 
already come through, taken on its own merits it is 
not an ideal thoroughfare. One mile of it, past 
Long Swath Barn, brings us to the beginning of 
Aldreth Causeway, here a green lane, very bumpy 
and full of rises and hollows. Maps and guide-books 
vaguely mention Belsar's Hill near this point, and 
imaginative guides who have not explored these 
wilds talk in airy fashion of it " overlooking " the 
Causeway. As a matter of fact, the Causeway is 
driven squarely through it, and it is so little of a hill, 
and so incapable of overlooking anything, that you 
pass it and are none the wiser. The fact of the 
Causeway being thus driven through the hill and 
the ancient earthworks that ring around six acres 
of it, proves sufficiently that this fortress is much 
more ancient than William the Conqueror's time. 
It is, indeed, prehistoric. Who was Belsar ? History 
does not tell us ; but lack of certain knowledge has 
not forbidden guesswork, more or less wild, and 
there have been those who have found the name to 
be a corruption of Belisarius. We are not told, 
however, what that general that unfortunate 
warrior whom tradition represents as begging in his 
old age an obolus in the streets of Constantinople 
was doing here. But the real " Belsar " may perhaps 



2l8 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



have been that " Belasius, Prseses Militum versus 
Elye," mentioned in the " Tabula Eliensis," one of 
William's captains in this long business, from whom 
descended the Belasyse family. 

Two miles of green lane, solitary as though fdot 
of man had not passed by for years, lead down to the 
Ouse. Fens spread out on either hand Mow Fen, 
Willingham. Fen, Smythy Fen, Great North Fen- 
fens everywhere. It is true they are now chiefly 




ALDRETH CAUSEWAY AND THE ISLE OF ELY. 

cultivated fields, remarkable for their fertility, but 
they are saved from being drowned only by the 
dykes and lodes cut and dug everywhere and drained 
by the steam pumping-station whose chimney-shaft, 
with its trail of smoke, is seen far off across the 
levels. In front rises the high ground of the Isle of 
Ely, a mile or more away across the river : high 
ground for Cambridgeshire, but likely, in any other 
part of England, to be called a low ridge. Here it 
is noticeable enough of itself, and made still more so 
by a windmill and a row of tall slender trees on the 



WILLIAM ATTACKS ELY 221 

skyline. A new bridge now building across the 
Ouse at this point is likely to bring Aldreth Cause- 
way into use and repair again. On the other shore, 
at High Bridge Farm, the Causeway loses its grassy 
character, becoming a rutted and muddy road, 
inconceivably rugged, and so continuing until it 
ends at the foot of the rising ground of Aldreth. 
Drains and their protecting banks lie to the left of 
it ; the banks used by the infrequent pedestrians in 
preference to the Causeway, low-lying and often 
flooded. 



XXXIII 

THIS, then, was the way into that Isle of Eefuge to 
which the Normans directed their best efforts. At 
the crossing of the Ouse, the fascines and hurdles, 
bags of earth and bundles of reeds, that had thus far 
afforded a foundation, were no longer of use, and a 
wooden bridge had of necessity to be constructed in 
the face of the enemy. Disaster attended it, for the 
unlucky timbering gave way while the advance was 
actually in progress, and hundreds were drowned. 
A second bridge was begun, and William, calling 
in supernatural aid, brought a "pythonissa" -a 
sorceress to curse Hereward and his merry men and 
to weave spells while the work was going forward. 
William himself probably believed little in her un- 
holy arts, but his soldiers and the vast army of 
helpers and camp-followers gathered together in this 
unhealthy hollow, dying of ague and marsh-sickness, 



222 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

and disheartened by failure and delay, fancied forces 
of more than earthly power arrayed against them. 
So the pythonissa was provided with a wooden tower 
whence she could overlook the work and exercise her 
spells while the second bridge was building. Fisher- 
men from all the countryside were impressed to aid 
in the work. Among them, in disguise, came 
Hereward, so the legends tell, and when all was 
nearly done, he fired the maze of woodwork, so that 
the sorceress in her tower was sent, shrieking, in 
flames to Ahrimanes, and this, the second bridge, was 
utterly consumed. Kingsley, in his very much over- 
rated romance of Hereward the Wake, makes him 
fire the reeds, but the Fenland reed does not burn 
and refuses to be fired outside the pages of fiction. 

It was at last by fraud rather than by force that 
the Isle of Ely was entered. A rebel earl, a 
timorous noble, might surrender himself from time 
to time, and most of his allies thus fell away, but it 
was the false monks who at last led the invader in 
where he could not force his way. Those holy men, 
with the Saxon Abbot, Thurston, at their head, who 
prayed and meditated while the defenders of this 
natural fortress did the fighting, came as a result of 
their meditations to the belief that William, so 
dogged in his efforts, must in the end be successful. 
He had threatened pious man though he was to 
confiscate the property of the monastery when he 
should come to Ely, and so, putting this and that 
together, they conceived it to be the better plan to 
bring him in before he broke in ; for in this way 
their revenues might yet be saved. It is Ingulphus, 



TREACHERY 



223 



himself a monk, who chronicles this treachery. 
Certain of them, he says, sending privily to William, 
undertook to guide his troops by a secret path 
through the fens into the Isle. It was a chance too 
good to be thrown away, and was seized. The 
imagination can picture the mail-clad Normans 
winding single file along a secret path among the 
rushes, at the tail of some guide whose life was to be 
forfeit on the instant if he led them into ambush; 
and one may almost see and hear the swift onset 
and fierce cries when they set foot on firm land and 
fell suddenly upon the Saxon camp, killing and 
capturing many of the defenders. 

But history shows the monks of Ely in an ill 
light, for it really seems that William's two years' siege 
of the Isle might have been indefinitely prolonged, 
and then been unsuccessful, had it not been for this 
treachery. Does anyone ever stop to consider how 
great a part treachery plays in history ? It was the 
monks who betrayed the Isle, otherwise impregnable, 
and endless in its resources, as Hereward himself 
proved to a Norman knight whom he had captured. 
He conducted his prisoner over his water- and - 
morass-girdled domain, showed him most things 
within it, and then sent him back to the besieging 
camp to report what he had seen. This is the 
tale he told, as recorded in the Liber Eliensis : 

" In the Isle, men are not troubling themselves 
about the siege ; the ploughman has not taken his 
hand from the plough, nor has the hunter cast aside 
his arrow, nor does the fowler desist from beguiling 
birds. If you care to hear what I have heard and 



224 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

seen with my own eyes, I will reveal all to you. 
The Isle is within itself plenteously endowed, it is 
supplied with various kinds of herbage, and in 
richness of soil surpasses the rest of England. Most 
delightful for charming fields and pastures, it is 
also remarkable for beasts of chase, and is, in no 
ordinary way, fertile in flocks and herds. Its woods 
and vineyards are not worthy of equal praise, but it 
is begirt by great meres and fens, as though by a 
strong wall. In this Isle there is an abundance of 
domestic cattle, and a multitude of wild animals ; 
stags, roes, goats, and hares are found in its groves 
and by those fens. Moreover, there is a fair 
sufficiency of otters, weasels, and polecats ; which in 
a hard winter are caught by traps, snares, or any 
other device. But what am I to say of the kinds of 
fishes and of fowls, both those that fly and those 
that swim ? In the eddies at the sluices of these 
meres are netted innumerable eels, large water- 
wolves, with pickerels, perches, roaches, burbots, and 
lampreys, which we call water-snakes. It is, indeed, 
said by many that sometimes salmon are taken there, 
together with the royal fish, the sturgeon. As for 
the birds that abide there and thereabouts, if you 
are not tired of listening to me, I will tell you about 
them, as I have told you about the rest. There you 
will find geese, teal, coots, didappers, water-crows, 
herons, and ducks, more than man can number, 
especially in winter, or at moulting-time. I have 
seen a hundred nay, even three hundred taken at 
once ; sometimes by bird-lime, sometimes in nets and 
snares." The most eloquent auctioneer could not do 



TREACHER Y RE WARDED 225 

better than this, and if this knight excelled in 
fighting as he did in description, he must have been 
a terrible fellow. 

It is pleasant to think how the monks of Ely met 
with harder measures than they had expected. 
William was not so pleased with their belated 
submission as he was angered by their ever daring to 
question his right and power. Still, things might 
have gone better with them -had they not by ill-luck 
been at meals in the refectory when the King 
unexpectedly appeared. None knew of his coming 
until he was seen to enter the church. Gilbert de 
Clare, himself a Norman knight, but well disposed 
towards the monks, burst in upon them : " Miserable 
fools that you are," he said, " can you do nothing 
better than eat and drink while the King is here ? " 

Forthwith they rushed pellmell into the church ; 
fat brothers and lean, as quickly as they could, but 
the King, flinging a gold mark upon the altar, had 
already gone. He had done much in a short time. 
Evidently he was what Americans nowadays call a 
" hustler," for he had marked out the site for a 
castle within the monastic precincts, and had already 
given orders for its building by men pressed from 
the three shires of Cambridge, Hertford, and Bedford. 
Torn with anxiety, the whole establishment of the 
monastery hasted after him on his return to Aldreth, 
and overtook him at Witchford, where, by the in- 
tercession of Gilbert de Clare, they were admitted 
to an audience, and after some difficulty allowed to 
purchase the King's Peace by a fine of seven hundred 
marks of silver. 
15 



226 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Unhappily, their troubles were not, even then, 
at an end, for when on the appointed day the 
money, raised by the sacrifice of many of the 
cherished ornaments of the church, was brought to 
the King's officers at Cambridge, the coins were 
found, through some fraud of the moneyers, to be of 
light weight. William was studiously and politically 
angry at what he affected to believe an attempt on 
the part of the monks to cheat him, and his 
forbearance was only purchased by a further fine of 
three hundred marks, raised by melting down the 
remainder of the holy ornaments. The quality of 
William's piety is easily to be tested by a comparison 
of the value of his single gold mark, worth in our 
money one hundred pounds, with that of the one 
thousand silver marks, the sum total of the fines he 
exacted. A sum equal to thirty thousand pounds was 
extracted from the monastery and church of Ely, and 
forty Norman knights were quartered upon the 
brethren; one knight to each monk, as the old 
" Tabula Eliensis " specifies in detail. 



XXXIV 

WHAT in the meanwhile had become of Hereward ? 
What was he doing when these shaven-pated traitors 
were betraying his stronghold ? One would like to 
find that hero wreaking a terrible vengeance upon 
them, but we hear of nothing so pleasing and 
appropriate. The only vengeance was that taken by 
William upon the rank and file of the rebels, and 



DEA TH OP HERE WARD 227 

that was merely cowardly and unworthy. It was 
not politic to anger the leaders of this last 
despairing stand of the Saxons, and so they obtained 
the King's Peace ; but the churls and serfs felt the 
force of retribution in gouged eyes, hands struck off, 
ears lopped, and other ferocious pleasantries typical 
of the Norman mind. Hereward who, I am afraid, 
was not always so watchful as his name signifies, 
seems to have found pardon readily enough, and one 
set of legends tells how at last he died peacefully and 
of old age in his bed. 

Others among the old monkish chroniclers give 
him an epic and more fitting end, in which, like 
Samson, he dies with his persecutors. They marry 
him to a rich Englishwoman, one Elfthryth, who had 
made her peace with the King, and afterwards ob- 
tained pardon for her lover. But the Normans still 
hated him, and one night, when his chaplain Ethel- 
ward, whose duty was to keep watch and ward 
within and without his house and to place guards, 
slumbered at his post, a band of assassins crept in 
and attacked Hereward as he lay. He armed himself 
in haste, and withstood their onslaught. His spear 
was broken, his sword too, and he was driven to 
use his shield as a weapon. Fifteen Frenchmen lay 
dead beneath his single arm when four of the party 
crept behind him and smote him with their swords 
in the back. This stroke brought him to his knees. 
A Breton knight, one Ralph of D61, then rushed on 
him, but Hereward, in a last effort, once more wielded 
his buckler, and the Englishman and the Breton fell 
dead together. 



228 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

However, whenever, or wherever he came to his 
end, certainly the great Hereward was laid to rest 
in the nave of Crowland Abbey, but no man knows 
his grave. Just as the bones and the last resting- 
place of Harold at Waltham Abbey have disappeared, 
so the relics of " the Watchful," that " most strenuous 
man," that hardy fighter in a lost cause, are scattered 
to the winds. 

There are alleged descendants of Hereward to 
this day, and a "Sir Herewald Wake" is at the 
head of them ; but we know nothing of how they 
prove their descent. " Watch and pray " is their 
motto, and a very appropriate one, too ; although 
it is possible that Here ward's praying was spelt with 
an " e," and himself not so prayerful as predatory. 

Hereward, the old monkish chroniclers tell us, 
was " a man short in stature but of enormous 
strength." By that little fragment of personal 
description they do something to wreck an ideal. 
Convention demands that all heroes be far above 
the height of other men, just as all knights of old 
were conventionally gentle and chivalric and all 
ladies fair ; though, if history do not lie and limners 
painted what they saw, the chivalry and gentleness 
of knighthood were as sadly to seek as the loving- 
kindness of the hysena, and the fair ladies of old 
were most furiously ill-favoured. Hereward's figure, 
without that personal paragraph, is majestic. The 
feet of him squelch, it is true, through Fenland 
mud and slime, but his head is lost in the 
clouds until this very early piece of journalism 
disperses the mists and makes the hero some- 



ALDRETH 229 

thing less of the demi-god than he had otherwise 
been. 

The name of Here ward's stronghold offers a fine 
blue-mouldy bone of contention for rival antiquaries 
to gnaw at. In face of the clamour of disputants 
on this subject, it behoves us to take no side, but 
just to report the theories advanced. The most 
favoured view, then, is that "Aldreth" enshrines 
a corruption of St. Etheldreda's name, that Ethel- 
dreda who was variously known as St. Ethelthryth 
and St. Audrey, and that it was originally none 
other than St. Audrey's Hythe, or Landing, on this 
very stream of Ouse, now much shrunken and 
running in a narrow channel, instead of spreading 
over the country in foul swamps and unimaginable 
putrid bogs. "Aldreche" the old reach of this 
Ouse is another variant put forward ; but it does 
not seem to occur to any of these disputants that, 
at anyrate, the termination of the place-name is 
identical with that in the names of Meldreth and 
Shepreth, where little streams, the mere shadows 
and wraiths of their former selves, still exist to hint 
that it was once necessary to ford them, and that, 
whatever the first syllable of Meldreth may mean, 
" reth " is perhaps the Celtic " rhyd," a ford, and 
Shepreth just the " sheep ford." 

But whatever may have been the original form 
of Aldreth's name, the village nowadays has nothing 
to show of any connection with St. Etheldreda, save 
the site only of a well dedicated to her, situated half- 
way up the steeply rising street. It is a curious 
street, this of Aldreth, plunging down from the 



230 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

uplands of the Isle into the peat and ooze that 
William so laboriously crossed. Where it descends 
you may still see the stones with which he, or others 
at some later time, paved the way. For the rest, 
Aldreth is one long street of rustic cottages very 
scattered and much separated by gardens : over all 
a look of listlessness, as though this were the end of 
the known world, and nothing mattered very much. 
When a paling from a garden fence falls into the 
road, it lies there ; when the plaster falls from a 
cottage wall, no one repairs the damage ; when a 
window is broken, the hole is papered or stuffed 
with rags : economy of effort is studied at Aldreth. 

The curious may still trace William's route 
through the Isle, to Ely city. It is not a straight 
course. Geographical conditions forbade it to be 
so, and I doubt not, that if the road were to make 
again, they would still forbid ; for to rule a straight 
line across the map from Aldreth to Ely is to plunge 
into hollows where water still lies, though actual fens 
be of the past. His way lay along two sides of a 
square ; due north for three miles and almost due 
east for a like distance, along the track pursued 
nowadays by the excellent road uphill to where the 
mile-long and populous village of Haddenham stands 
on a crest, and down again and turning to the right 
for Witchford, whence, along a gentle spur, you 
come presently into Ely. 



DISMAL HALL 231 



XXXV 

RETURNING to the high road at Cottenham Corner, 
and passing the junction of the road from Water- 
beach, we come presently, at a point six and a half 
miles from Cambridge, to a place marked " Dismal 
Hall" on large-scale Ordnance maps. Whatever 
this may have been in old days, it is now a small 
white-brick farmhouse, called by the occupier " The 
Brambles," and by the landlord " Brookside." The 
name perhaps derived originally from some ruined 
Eoman villa whose walls rose, roofless and desolate, 
beside the ancient Akeman Street. It is a name 
belonging, in all probability, to the same order as 
the "Caldecotes" and " Coldharbours," met fre- 
quently beside, or in the neighbourhood of, Roman 
ways ; places generally conceded to have been ruined 
houses belonging to that period. The modern repre- 
sentative of " Dismal Hall " stands beside a curiously 
small and oddly-shaped field, itself called " Dismal " ; 
triangular in form and comprising only two acres. 

Half a mile beyond this point, a pretty group of 
cottages marks where the way to Denny Abbey lies 
to the right across a cow -pasture. A field -gate 
whose posts are the battered fragments of some Per- 
pendicular Gothic pillars from that ruined monastery, 
crowned incongruously with a pair of eighteenth- 
century stone urns, clearly identifies the spot. There 
has been a religious house of sorts on this spot since 
eight hundred years ago, and most of the remains 
are of the Norman period, when a settlement of 



232 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Black Monks from Ely settled here. In succession 
to them came the Knights Templars, who made it a 
preceptory, and when their Order was suppressed 
and ceased out of the land, in consequence of its 
corruption and viciousness, the nuns of St. Clare 
were given a home in these deserted halls. Close 
upon four hundred years have gone since they, too, 
were thrust forth, and it has for centuries past been 
a farmhouse. Indeed, if you regard Denny Abbey, 
as also many another, in anything else save a con- 
ventional light, you will see that it was really always 
a farm. What else than a farm was the great Abbey 
of Tintern, and what other than farmers those 
Cistercian monks who built it and cultivated those 
lands, the godless, growing fearful and in expiatory 
mood, had given them ? So also with the Bene- 
dictines, the Templars, and the Clares who succeeded 
one another here. You may note the fact in their 
great barns, and in the fields they reclaimed. To- 
day, groups of buildings of uncertain age, as regards 
their outer walls, enclose littered rick-yards, but the 
dwelling-house, for all the uninteresting look of one 
side, shows, built into its inner face, the sturdy piers 
and arches of one of the aisles; and the otherwise 
commonplace hall and staircase of the interior are 
informed with a majestic dignity by two columns 
and a noble arch of the Norman church. A large 
and striking barn, approached and entered across a 
pig-haunted yard rich in straw and mud, proves, on 
entering, to be a beautiful building of the Decorated 
period, once the refectory. 

Leaving Denny Abbey behind, we come to 



TO WICKEN FEN 233 

Chittering, a place unknown to guide-books and 
chartographers. We need blame neither the one 
nor the other for this omission, for Chittering is 
remarkable for nothing but its insignificance and 
lack of anything that makes for interest. It con- 
sists, when you have counted everything in its 
constituent parts, of two lonely public-houses, the 
Traveller's Kest and the Plough and Horses, 
a grotesquely unbeautiful Baptist Chapel and a 
school, five or six scattered cottages, and one new 
house, entrenched as it were in a defensive. manner 
behind a sedgy and duckweedy drain. It is here, 
at a right-hand turning, that the exploratory cyclist 
turns off for Wicken Fen, the last remaining vestige 
of the natural Fenland that once overspread the 
greater part of the county. In Wicken Fen, a 
square mile of peaty bog and quaking morass, where 
the reeds still grow tall, and strange aquatic plants 
flourish, the rarer Fenland lepidoptera find their last 
refuge. Dragon-flies, in glittering panoply of green- 
and-gold armour and rainbow-hued wings, flash like 
miniature, lightnings over the decaying vegetation, 
and the sulphur-coloured, white-and-scarlet butter- 
flies find a very paradise in the moist and steamy 
air. Wicken Fen is jealously preserved in its natural 
state, and is a place of pilgrimage, not only for the 
naturalist, with his butterfly-net and his collecting- 
box, but for all who would obtain some idea of what 
this country was like in former ages. At the same 
time it is a place difficult to find, and the route to 
it a toilsome one. The Fens express flatness to the 
last degree, it is true, but, even though they be 



234 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



drained, they are not easy to explore. Mountain- 
ranges are, indeed, not more weariful than these 
flats, where you can never make a straight course 
when once off the main roads, but are compelled by 
dykes and drains to make for any given point by 
questing hither and thither as though following the 
outlines of the squares on a chessboard. The distance 
to Wicken Fen, measured from Chittering in a direct 
line on the map, is not more than four miles. 
Actually, the route is nearly eight. 

We have already seen what a Fenland drove is 
like. To such a complexion does this treacherous 
by-way descend in less than a quarter of a mile, 
bringing the adventurer into an apparently bound- 
less field of corn. If the weather has recently been 
wet, he is brought to a despairing pause at this 
point, for the rugged drove here becomes a sea of a 
curious kind of black buttery mud, highly tenacious. 
The pedestrian is to be pitied in this pass, but the 
cyclist in in worse case, for his wheels refuse to 
revolve, and he finds, with horror, his brake and 
his forks clogged with the horrible mess, and his 
mud-guards become mud-accumulators instead. To 
shoulder his machine arid carry it is the only course. 
If, on the other hand, the weather be dry, with a 
furious wind blowing, the mud becomes dust and 
fills the air with a very respectable imitation of a 
Soudan sandstorm. In those happy climatic con- 
ditions when it is neither wet nor too dry, and when 
the stormy winds have sunk to sleep, the way to 
Wicken Fen, though long and circuitous, loses these 
terrors. At such times the ditchers may be seen 



UPWARE 335 

almost up to their knees in what looks like dry sand, 
hard at work clearing out the dykes and drains 
choked up by this flying dust, and it becomes of 
interest to examine the nature of this curious soil. 
A handful gathered at haphazard, shows a kind of 
black sand, freely mixed with a fine snuff-coloured 
mixture of powder and minute fibrous shreds ; 
pulverised peat from the vanished bogs and morasses 
that once stewed and festered where these fields now 
yield abundant harvests. This peaty soil it is that 
gives these fields their fertility, for, as Sir Humphry 
Davy once said, " A soil covered with peat is a soil 
covered with manure/ 1 

It is a curious commentary on the fame of 
Wickeu Fen as an entomologist's paradise, and on 
its remoteness, that all the ditchers and farming-folk 
assume the stranger who inquires his way to it to 
be a butterfly-hunter, 

At last, after crossing the railway to Ely, making 
hazardous passage over rickety plank-bridges across 
muddy dykes, and wending an uncertain way 
through farmyards inhabited by dogs keenly desirous 
of tearing the infrequent stranger limb from limb, 
the broad river Cam is approached, at Upwart\ 
Upware is just a riverside hamlet, remote from the 
world, and only in touch with its doings on those 
occasions when boating-parties from Ely or Cam- 
bridge come by on summer days. 

On the opposite shore, across the reedy Cam, 
stands a queer building, partly ferry -house, partly inn, 
with the whimsical legend, "Five Miles from Any- 
where, No Hurry," painted on its gable. The real 



236 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

sign of Upware Inn, as it is generally called, is the 
" Lord Nelson," but this knowledge is only acquired 
on particular inquiry, for signboard it has none. 

The roystering old days at Upware are done. 
They came to an end when the railway between 
Cambridge, Ely, and King's Lynn was opened, and 
coals and heavy goods no longer went by barge 
along the Ouse and Cam. In that unregenerate 
epoch, before modern culture had reached Cambridge, 
and undergrads had not begun to decorate their 
rooms with blue china and to attempt to live up to 
it, the chief delight of Cambridge men was to walk 
or scull down to Upware and have it out with the 
bargees. Homeric battles were fought here by the 
riverside in those days of beef and beer, and it was 
not always the University man who got the worst 
of it in these sets-to with or without the gloves. 
In the last days of this Philistine era the railway 
navvy came as a foeman equally well worth the 
attention of young Cambridge ; and thus, in a final 
orgie of bloody noses and black eyes, the fame of 
Upware culminated. When the navvy had com- 
pleted his work and departed, the bargee went also, 
and peace has reigned ever since along the sluggish 
reaches of the Cam. There are, it is true, a few 
of the barging craft and mystery still left along 
this waterway, but, beyond a singular proficiency in 
swearing, they have nothing in common with their 
forebears, and drink tea and discuss social science. 

In those old robustious days famous once, but 
now forgot flourished the Kepublic of Upware, a 
somewhat blackguardly society composed chiefly of 



THE "KING OF UP WARE" 237 

muscular undergrads. Admission to the ranks of 
this precious association was denied to none who 
could hit hard and drink deep. In the riverside 
field that still keeps its name of " Upware Bustle," 
the Republic held many of its drunken, uproarious 
carouses, presided over by the singular character 
who called himself, not President, but " King of 
Upware." Eichard Ramsay Fielder, this pot-house 




UPWARE INN, 



monarch, " flourished," as histories would say, circa 
1860. He was an M.A. of Cambridge, a man of 
good family and of high abilities, but cursed with a 
gipsy nature, an incurable laziness, and an unquench- 
able thirst : the kind of man who is generally, for 
his sake and their own, packed off by his family to 
the Colonies. Fielder perhaps could not be induced 
to cross the seas ; at any rate, he enjoyed an allow- 
ance from his family, on the degrading condition 



238 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

that he kept himself at a distance. He earned the 
allowance loyally, and found the society that pleased 
him most at Upware and in the inns of the sur- 
rounding Fen] and villages ; so that on leaving the 
University he continued to cling to the neighbour- 
hood for many years, becoming a hero to all the 
dissolute youngsters at Cambridge. He it was who 
originally painted the apt inscription, " Five Miles 
from Anywhere," on the gable-wall of this waterside 
inn, his favourite haunt, where he lounged and 
smoked and tippled with the bargees ; himself apeing 
that class in his dress : coatless, with corduroy 
breeches and red waistcoat. A contemporary sketch 
of him tells of his thin flowing hair of inordinate 
length, of his long dirty finger-nails, and of the far 
from aromatic odour he gave forth ; and describes 
his boating expeditions. " He used to take about 
with him in his boat an enormous brown-ware jug, 
capable of holding six gallons or more, which he 
would at times have filled with punch, ladling it 
out profusely for his aquatic friends. This vast 
pitcher or ' gotch,' which was called ' His Majesty's 
pint ' (' His Majesty ' in allusion to his self-assumed 
title), had been made to his own order, and decorated 
before kilning with incised ornaments by his own 
hand. Amongst these figured prominently his 
initials ' R. R. F. ' and his crest, actual or assumed, 
a pheon, or arrow-head." Alluding to his initials, 
he would often playfully describe himself as " more 
R. than F.," which means (is it necessary to explain ?) 
" more rogue than fool." Eccentric in every way, 
he would change his quarters without notice and 



MODERN UP WARE 



239 



without reason, and would remain in bed, smoking 
and drinking, for weeks together. 

This odd character lingered here for some years 
after the bargees had gone, and into the time when 
even the most rowdy of Cambridge undergraduates 
began to find it " bad form " to booze and be hail- 
fellow with the village rapscallions of Fenland. Then 
Fielder himself " forswore sack and lived cleanly " ; 
or at anyrate deserted his old haunts. Report tells 
how he died at last at Folkestone, in comfortable 
circumstances and in a quite respectable and con- 
ventional manner. 



XXXVI 

UPWARE INN has lost a great deal of its old-time look. 
With something akin to melancholy the sentimental 
pilgrim sees a corrugated iron roof replacing the old 
thatch of reeds, characteristic of Fenland. The great 
poplar, too, has had its curious spreading limb 
amputated : that noble branch whereon the King of 
that Republic sat on summer evenings and held 
his disreputable Court. But not everything is 
modernised. The Cam is not yet bridged. You 
still are ferried across in an uncouth flat-bottomed 
craft, and they even yet burn peat in the domestic 
grates at Upware, so that links yet bind the present 
with the past. Peat is the traditional fuel of the 
Fens, largely supplanted nowadays by coal, but 
should coal become permanently dear, these 
Cambridgeshire villages would, for sake of its 



24 o THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

cheapness, go back to peat and endure its acrid 
smell and dull smouldering humour in place of the 
brightness of a coal fire. At Wicken Fen the peat 
is still forming : perhaps the only place in England 
where the process is going on. It is still three miles 
from Upware to this relic of the untamed wilderness, 
past Spinney Abbey, now a farmhouse with few or 
no relics of the old foundation to be seen. It was in 
this farmstead that Henry Cromwell, one of the 
Protector's sons, lived in retirement. He was visited 
here one September day in 1671 by Charles the 
Second, come over from Newmarket for the purpose. 
What Charles said to him and what Henry Cromwell 
replied we do not know, and imagination has 
therefore the freer rein. But we spy drama in it, 
a " situation " of the most thrilling kind. What 
would you say to the man who had murdered 
judicially murdered, if you like it your father? 
Charles, however, was a cynic of an easy-going type, 
and probably failed to act up to the theatrical 
requirements of the occasion. At anyrate, Henry 
Cromwell was not consigned to the nearest, or any, 
dungeon. Nothing at all was done to him, and he 
died, two years later, at peace with all men. He lies 
buried in the little church of Wicken, and was allowed 
to rest there. 

Wicken Fen is just beyond this abbey farmstead. 
You turn to the right, along a green lane and across 
a field, and there you are, with the reeds and the 
sedge growing thick in the stagnant water, water- 
lilies opening their buds on the surface, and a lazy 
hum of insects droning in the still and sweltering air. 



WICKEN FEN 241 

The painted lady, the swallow-tail, the peacock, the 
scarlet tiger, and many other gaily-hued butterflies 
float on silent wings ; things crawl and creep in the 
viscous slime, and on warm summer days, after rain, 
the steam rises from the beds of peat and wild 
growths as from some natural cookshop. Old 
windmill pumps here and there dot the banks of the 
fen, and in the distance are low hills that form, as it 




WICKEN FEN. 



were, the rim of the basin in which this relic 
is set. 

Away in one direction rises the tall majestic 
tower of Soham Church, deceiving the stranger into 
the belief that he is looking at Ely Cathedral, and 
overlooking what are now the pastures of Soham Fen ; 
in the days of King Canute that inland sea that 
mare de Soham which stretched ten miles wide 
between Mildenhall and Ely. It was across Soham 
16 



242 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Mere that Canute came voyaging by Ely, rowed by 
knights in his galley, when he heard, while yet a 
long way off, the sound of melody. Bidding his 
knights draw nearer to the Isle, he found the 
music to be the monks in the church singing vespers. 
The story is more than a legend, and is alluded 
to in the only surviving stanza of an ancient 
song 

"Merle sungen tlie Muneches binnen Ely 
Tlia Cnut Ching rew therby. 
Koweth cnites noer the lant, 
And here we thes Muneches saeng." 

It is a story that well pictures the reality the 
actual isolation of the Isle, just as does that other, 
telling how that same Canute, coming again to Ely 
for Christmas, found the waters that encompassed it 
frost-bound, but so slightly that crossing the ice was 
perilous in the extreme. He was thus of necessity 
halted on the shores of the frozen mere, and until 
they found one Brithmer, a Saxon cheorl of the Fen, 
skilled in Fen-lore and able to guide the King and his 
train across the shallow places where the ice lay 
thick and strong, it seemed as though he and his 
retinue would be unable to keep the Feast of the 
Nativity in Ely. Brithmer was a man of prodigious 
bulk, nicknamed " Budde," or "the Fat," and where 
he led the way in safety men of ordinary weight could 
follow without fear. So Canute followed in his 
sledge, with his Court, and kept Christmas on the 
Isle. As for Brithmer, who had performed this ser- 
vice, he was enlarged from serfdom to be a free man, 
and loaded with honours. Indeed, he was probably 



THE ISLE OF EL Y 243 

only known as " the Fat " before this time, and was 
doubtless called Brithmer, which means " bright mere," 
after this exploit. 



XXXVII 

RETURNING to the old coach road from this expedition, 
and coming to it again with a thankful heart, we 
presently come to Stretham Bridge, a narrow old 
hunch-backed brick structure spanning the Great 
Ouse, or Old West River, and giving entrance to 
this Isle of Ely, of which already we have heard so 
much, and will now hear more. The sketch-map that 
has already shown the Conqueror's line of march 
indicates also the size and shape of the Isle : the 
physical Isle. For there are really two, the physical 
and the political. The last-named comprises the 
whole of the northern part of Cambridgeshire, from 
this point along the Ouse to Upware, and thence, 
following the Cambridgeshire border, round to 
Littleport and Tydd St. Giles in the north, by the 
neighbourhood of Crowland and Peterborough, and 
so down to the Ouse again at Earith, Aldreth, and 
Stretham Bridge. It is still a political division, and 
has its own government, under the style of the 
County Council of the Isle of Ely. The real 
geographical Isle the one sketched in the map is 
much smaller ; only one- third the size of the other ; 
measuring in its greatest length and breadth but some 
twelve and eight miles, and bounded by the Great 
Ouse from Earith to Upware, by Cam and Little 



244 E CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Ouse to Littleport, and thence by the Old Croft 
Kiver to the New Bedford Kiver, returning along 
that cut to Earith. 

As you approach Stretham Bridge along this old 
causeway the Isle is plain to see in front, its gentle 
hills glimpsed between the fringe of willows and 
poplars that now begin to line the way. No one has 
bettered the description Carlyle wrote of the Fen- 
country seen from this causeway that was once the 
Akeman Street ; and no one can better it. " It has 
a clammy look," he says, clayey and boggy ; the 
produce of it, whether bushes and trees or grass and 
crops, gives you the notion of something lazy, 
dropsical, gross. From the " circumfluent mud," 
willows, " Nature's signals of distress," spring up by 
every still slime-covered drain : willows generally 
polled and, with that process long continued, now 
presenting a very odd and weird appearance. The 
polled crown of an ancient willow bears a singularly 
close resemblance to a knuckly fist, and these, like 
so many gnarled giant arms of bogged and smothered 
Goliaths thrust upwards in despair, with clenched 
and imprecatory hands, give this road the likeness 
of a highway into fairyland whose ogres, under the 
spell of some Prince Charming, have been done to 
death in their own sloughs. Pollards, anathema to 
Cobbett, are in plenty in these lowlands, but it must 
not be thought that because of them, or even because 
Carlyle's description of the country is so apt, it is 
anything but beautiful. Only, to see its beauties 
and appreciate them, it is necessary here, more than 
elsewhere, to have fine weather. 



ZENLAND OCCUPATIONS 



247 



Stretham Bridge, that makes so great a business 
of crossing the Ouse, seems an instance of much ado 
about nothing, for that river, " Great Ouse" though 
it be named, is very much to seek in summer, trick- 
ling away as it does between tussocks of rough grass. 
The Great Ouse is not of the bigness it once boasted, 
in days before the Old and New Bedford Kivers 
were cut, two hundred and sixty years ago, to carry 
its sluggish waters away by a direct route to the 
sea, and the fair-weather pilgrim marvels at the 
bridge and at the great banks he sees stretching 
away along its course to protect the surrounding 
lands from being flooded. That they are needed is 
evident enough from the care taken to repair them, 
and from a sight of the men digging hard by in the 
greasy gault to obtain the repairing materials. 
These are the "gaulters" and the "bankers" of 
Fenland life. It was one of these who, as a witness 
in some cause at the Cambridge Assizes, appearing 
in his working clothes, was asked his occupation. 
" I am a banker, my Lord," he replied. " We cannot 
have any absurdity," said Baron Alderson testily ; to 
which the man answered as before, " I am a banker " ; 
and things were at cross-purposes until the meaning 
of the term was explained to the Court. 

The local occupations all have curious names, 
and the inhabitants of the Fens in general were long 
known as " Fen-slodgers," a title that, if indeed 
unlovely, is at least as expressive of mudlarking as it 
is possible for a word to be. You picture a slodger 
as a half-amphibious creature, something between a 
water-sprite and a sewer-man, muddy from head to 



248 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

foot and pulling his feet out of the ooze as he goes 
with resounding "plops," like the noise made in 
drawing the cork of a bottle. But if the Fenman 
did not quite fill all the details thus conjured up, he 
was, and is still, a watery kind of creature ; half- 
farmer, half-fisherman and wild-fowler. He is some- 
times a " gozard," that is to say, a goose-ward or 
goose-keeper. This occupation does not seem to 
have given an abiding surname, as many others have 
done, and you may search in many directories for it 
without avail, although the Hay- 
wards, the Cartwrights, and the 
Cowards are prominent enough. 
HODDEK The Fenman digs his land with 

an 

a becket or a hodden spade. The 
design of the first -named goes 
back to Roman times, and is seen 
figured on columns and triumphal 
arches in the Imperial City, just 
as it is fashioned to-day. It is this form of spade that 
is alluded to in such wayside tavern-signs as the 
Plough and Becket, apt to be puzzling to the 
uninitiated. When the Fenland rustic, weary of the 
daily routine, wants a little sport or seeks to grace 
his table with fish, he goes " dagging for eels " along 
the rivers and the drains, "learns," "lodes," or 
" eaus " (which he calls " ees ") with a " gleve," which, 
translated into ordinary English, means an eel-spear, 
shaped very like Neptune's trident. 




HODDEN SPADE AND 
BECKET. 



OLD-TIME VAGABONDS 



2 5 i 



XXXVIII 

CROSSING Stretham Bridge, with Stretham Common 
on the right and Stretham village two miles ahead, 
the Akeman Street appears to be soon lost, for the 
way is crooked, and much more like a mediaeval 
than a classic road. Indeed, the entrance to Stret- 
ham is by two striking right-angle turns and a curve 
past a low-lying tract called Beggars' Bush Field. 

"Beggars' Bush" is so frequent a name in rural 
England l that it arouses curiosity. Sometimes these 
spots bear the unbeautiful name of " Lousy Bush," 
as an apt alternative. They were probably the 
lurking-places of mediaeval tramps. The tramp we 
have always had with us. He, his uncleanliness and 
his dislike of work are by no means new features. 
Only, with the increase of population, there is 
naturally a proportional increase in the born-tired 
and the professional unemployed. That is all. So 
long ago as Queen Elizabeth's time legislation was 
found necessary to suppress the tramp. The 
Elizabethan statute did not call him by that name : 
they were not clever enough in those times to invent 
so descriptive a term, and merely called him a 
" sturdy rogue and vagrant." Of course he was not 

1 There was once a Beggars' Bush on the Old North Road, fifty- 
five miles from London and two and a half from Huntingdon. King 
James the First seems to have heard of it, when on his progress to 
London from Scotland, for he said, on the road, in a metaphorical 
sense to Bacon, who had entertained him with a lavish and ruinous 
hospitality, " Sir Francis, you will soon come to Beggars' Bush, and 
I may e'en go along with you too, if we be both so bountiful." 



252 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

suppressed by the hardness, the whips and scorpions, 
of the Elizabethans, but endured them and the 
branded "B." and "V,"and sporting them as his 
trade-marks, went tramping to the end of his earthly 
pilgrimage. These are the "strangers" whom you 
will find mentioned in the burial registers of many a 
wayside parish church ; the " strangers " found dead 
on the road, or under the " Beggars' Bushes," and 
buried by the parish. 

It was the indiscriminate almsgiving of the 
religious houses the Abbeys and the Priories of 
old that fostered this race of vagrom men and 
women, the ancestors of the tramps of to-day. Like 
the Salvation Army in our times, either better or 
worse, whichever way you regard it, they fed, and 
sometimes sheltered, the outcast and the hungry. 
Only the hungry are not fed for nothing, nor without 
payment sheltered by the Salvationists. They pur- 
chase food and lodging off the Army for a trifle in 
coin or by a job of work : the monks exacted nothing 
in return for the dole or the straw pallet that any 
hungry wretch was welcome to. Thus, throughout 
the land a great army of the lazy, the unfortunate, 
and the afflicted were in mediaeval times continually 
tramping from one Abbey to another. Sometimes 
they stole, oftener they begged, and they found the 
many pilgrims who were always making pilgrimage 
from one shrine to another handy to prey upon. Ill 
fared the straggler from the pilgrim train that wound 
its length along the ancient ways ; for there were 
those among the vagrom gang who would not 
scruple to rob or murder him, and that is one 



A FENLAND VILLAGE 



253 



among many reasons why pilgrimage was made in 
company. 

Stretham village, it is scarce necessary in these 
parts to say, is set on a hill, or what in the Fens is 
by courtesy so-called. No village here has any other 
site than some prehistoric knob of clay that by 
strange chance raised itself above the ooze. The 
site of Stretham, being in the Isle of Ely, was an isle 
within an isle. Still one goes up to and down from 
it. Still you see ancient houses there with flights of 
steps up to the front doors, so hard put to it were 
the old inhabitants to keep out of the way of the 
water ; and even yet, when you are come to the 
levels again, the houses cease and no more are seen 
until the next rise is reached, insignificant enough 
to the eye, but to the mind stored with the old lore 
of the Fens significant of much. Stretham is a large 
village. It does not run to length, as do places in 
other parts of the country situated, like it, on a great 
road. They commonly consist of one long street : 
Stretham, built on the -crown of a hill, has odd turns 
and twists, and streets unexpectedly opening on 
either hand as the explorer advances, and is, so to 
speak, built round and round itself. In its midst, 
where the road broadens into as wide a space as a 
village squeezed on to the crown of an island hill- 
top could anciently afford, stands a market cross. 

You may seek far and wide for information about 
this cross, but you will not find. All we know is 
that, by its look, it belongs to the fifteenth century, 
and we may shrewdly suspect that the nondescript 
plinth it stands upon replaces a broad approach 



254 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

of steps. When the steps were taken away is a 
matter as unknown as the history of the cross itself ; 
but if we do not know the when, we at least, in 
the light of Stretham's circumstances, know the 
why. The street was inconveniently narrowed by 
them. 




Cf*****. 



STEETHAM. 



The fine church stands to the left of the road by 
the cross, and is adjoined by an ancient vicarage. 
At the top of the main street, where the village ends, 
the traveller obtains his first glimpse of Ely Cathedral, 
four miles away. It must have been here, or close 
by, that Jack Goodwin, guard on the Lynn " Kover," 
about 1831, met Calcraft the hangman, for he tells 
how the executioner got up as an outside passenger 
"about four miles on the London side of Ely," to 
which city he had been paying a professional visit, to 



THE HANGMAN 



255 



turn off an unhappy agricultural labourer sentenced 
to death for incendiarism, then a capital offence. 
Calcraft had been at considerable pains to avoid 
recognition, and had appeared in the procession to 
the scaffold on Ely Common as one of the Sheriff's 
javelin-men. Probably he feared to be the object of 
popular execration. 

When he mounted the coach, he was dressed 
like a Cambridgeshire farmer, and thought himself 
quite unknown. Goodwin took charge of his baggage, 
comprising a blue bag, half a dozen red cabbages, 
and a piece of rope the identical rope that had 
put an end to the unhappy wretch of the day before. 
He then offered him a cigar (guards were fine fellows 
in their way) and addressed Calcraft by name. 

The hangman replied that he was mistaken. 
" No, no," said Goodwin, "I am not ; I saw you 
perform on three criminals at the Old Bailey a few 
weeks ago." 

That, of course, was conclusive, and they 
chatted more or less pleasantly ; although, to be 
sure, the conversation chiefly turned on Mr. Calcraft's 
professional experiences. He told Goodwin, when 
he left, that " if ever he had the pleasure of doing 
the job for him, he would soap the rope to make it 
as comfortable as possible." 



XXXIX 

THERE is little or nothing to say of the way into Ely, 
and only the little village of Thetford, and that to 



256 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

one side of the road, intervenes. Nothing distracts 
the attention from the giant bulk of the Cathedral. 

How shall we come into Ely ? As archaeologists, 
as pilgrims spiritually inclined and chanting a sursum 
corda as we go, or shall we be gross and earthly, scent- 
ing lamb and green peas, spring duckling and asparagus 
from afar, for all the world like our hearty grand- 
fathers of the coaching age, to whom the great white- 
faced Lamb Inn, that is still the principal hostelry 
of this city, appealed with much more force than 
that great grey religious pile? We will to the 
Lamb, which is not a difficult house to find, and in 
fact presents itself squarely and boldly as you enter. 
" Come," it seems to say, " you are expected. The 
cloth is laid, you shall dine royally on Ely delicacies. 
This is in no traditional way the capital of the Fens. 
Our ducklings are the tenderest, our asparagus the 
most succulent, there never were such eels as those of 
Ouse ; and you shall conclude with the cream-cheese 
of Cottenham." Is an invitation so alluring to be 
despised ? 

It is strange to read how Thomas Cross in his 
Autobiography of a Stage Coachman devotes pages 
to an elaborate depreciation of the Lamb in coaching 
times. From a "slip of a bar," with a netful of 
mouldy lemons hanging from the ceiling, to the 
catering and the appointments of the hostelry, he finds 
nothing good. But who shall say he was not justi- 
fied ? Lounging one day in this apology for a bar, 
there entered one who was a stranger to him, who 
asked the landlady what he could have for dinner. 
" Spitchcocked eels and mutton chops," replied the 



ELY ALL YAWNS 



257 



hostess, naming what were then, and are still, the 
staple commodities. The stranger was indignant. 
Turning to Cross, he said, " I have used this house 
for five-and-twenty years and never had any other 
answer." 

Presently they both sat down to this canonical 
dinner in a sparsely-furnished room. The stranger 
cleaned his knife and fork (brought into the room 
in a dirty condition) by thrusting them through the 
soiled and ragged tablecloth. The sherry was fiery, 
if the port was good ; and for gooseberry tart they 
had a something in a shallow dish, with twenty 
bottled gooseberries under the crust. The good 
cheer of the Lamb was then, it seems quite evident, 
a matter of conventional belief rather than of actual 
existence. 

It has been already said that nothing distracts 
the attention of the traveller on approaching the 
city. Ely, indeed, is nearly all Cathedral, and very 
little of that which is not can claim any interest. 
It is true that six thousand five hundred people live 
in Ely, but the figures are surprising. Where do 
these thousands hide themselves ? The streets are 
not so many, and even at that are all emptiness, 
slumber, and yawns. The shopkeepers (who surely 
keep shop for fun) come to their doors and yawn, 
and regard the stray customer with severity ; the 
Divinity students yawn, and the Dean and the 
Cathedral staff yawn horribly at the service they 
have gone through so many times and know by 
heart. The only place where they don't yawn is the 
railway station, down below by the Ouse, by whose 
'7 



258 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

banks you get quite the finest near view of the 
Cathedral. Ely, in short, lives chiefly by and on 
the Cathedral. If there had never been a cathedral 
here, it would have been a village the size of Stretham. 
Perhaps to that size it will even yet decline. 

" Ely," wrote Cobbett eighty years ago, " is what 
one may call a miserable little town ; very prettily 
situated, but poor and mean. Everything seems to 
be on the decline, as, indeed, is the case everywhere 
where the clergy are masters." True enough, enter- 
prise and industry are deadened in all such places ; 
but this bull-headed old prevaricator, in proceeding 
to account for the decay, furiously assaults the 
Protestant religion, and pretends to find it respon- 
sible. It is true that the cleric is everywhere a 
brake on the wheels of progress, but what religion 
plunges its adherents in so abject a condition of 
superstitious dependence as the Koman Catholic 
creed ? Cobbett on Ely is, in short, a monument 
of blundering clap-trap. 

" Arrived at Ely," he says, " I first walked round 
the beautiful cathedral, that honour to our Catholic 
forefathers and that standing disgrace to our Pro- 
testant selves. It is impossible to look at that 
magnificent pile without feeling that we are a fallen 
race of men. You have only to open your eyes to 
be convinced that England must have been a far 
greater and more wealthy country in those days 
than it is in these days. The hundreds of thousands 
of loads of stone of which this cathedral and the 
monasteries in the neighbourhood were built must 
all have been brought by sea from distant parts of 



FALLACIES 



259 



the kingdom. 1 These foundations were laid more 
than a thousand years ago ; and yet there are vaga- 
bonds who have the impudence to say that it is the 
Protestant religion that has made England a great 
country." 

Here we have Cobbett, who ought to have known 
better, and did actually know, repeating the shamb- 
ling fallacy that the architectural art of the Middle 
Ages was so artistic because it was inspired by 
religion, and that its artistry decayed by conse- 
quence of the Eeformation. Such an argument loses 
sight of the circumstance that edifices dedicated to 
religious use were not the only large or beautiful 
buildings erected in those ages, and that those who 
wrought upon secular castle or manor-house wrought 
as well and as truly as those who reared the soaring 
minster or noble abbey. And whence came the 
means wherewith to build cathedrals like this of 
Ely ? Did they not derive from the lands settled 
upon monasteries by those anxious only to save 
their own souls, and by others who sought thus to 
compound for their deeds of blood or infamy ? And 
is it possible to think without aversion of a Church 
that, accepting such gifts, absolved the givers in 
consideration of them ? 

Life is endeavour ; not all cloistered prayer. He 
prays best whose prayers are an interlude of toil ; 
and so, when we read Cobbett's long account of the 
wretched condition of Ely Cathedral, of its "dis- 
graceful irrepair and disfigurement," and of the two 

1 The stone really came from Barnack, in Northamptonshire, 
thirty-five miles distant. 



260 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

old men who on a week-day afternoon formed the 
whole of the congregation, coupled with his regretful 
surmise that in Catholic times five thousand people 
would have been assembled here, we are apt to think 
that sparse congregation a very healthy sign, and 
that even those two old men would have been better 
employed out in the workaday world. He would 
be a Goth who should fail to perceive the beauty of 
Ely Cathedral and of its like, but those noble aisles, 
those soaring towers tell a tale of an enslaved land, 
of fettered souls, of a priestcraft that sought to rule 
the State, as well as to hold the keys of Heaven and 
of Hell. No man, whether he be Pope, Archbishop, 
or merely the Boanerges of some hideous Bethel, 
has the right to enslave another's soul. Let even 
the lovely cathedrals of our land be levelled in one 
common ruin if the sight of them harks us back to 
Popery, for in that harking back England would be 
utterly undone. 

But since the saving common - sense of the 
Englishman can never again permit him to deliver 
up his soul into another's keeping, and since it 
follows naturally from this that the Komanising 
tendencies of our clergy must of necessity lead 
nowhere and bear no fruit, it becomes possible to 
look with a dispassionate eye upon these architec- 
tural relics of discredited beliefs. 

Why was the Cathedral built here ? That is a 
long story. It originated in the monastery founded 
on this spot in A.D. 673 by Etheldredd, daughter of 
Auna, King of the East Angles. Etheldreda has 
long since been canonised, and it behoves us to deal 



MIRACLES 



261 



as gently as may be with a saint ; but she was, if 
the chroniclers tell truth, an eccentric and original 
creature, twice wed by her own consent, and yet 
vowed to a life-long chastity. Her first husband 
was one Tondbert, a kinglet of the Gyrvians or Fen- 
folk, a monarch of the mudlarks, ruling over many 
miles of reed and sedge, in whose wastes Ely was 
centred. He gave his Queen this Isle, and died. 
For five years she remained a widow and then 
married again ; this time a sturdier and less manage- 
able man, King Egfrid of Northumbria. He re- 
spected her vows for twelve years, but when at last 
she took the veil in the north of England and fled 
from her Northumbrian home he took the only way 
open in the seventh century of asserting conjugal 
rights, and pursued her with an armed force. When, 
however, he arrived at the monastery of Coldingham 
she was gone, and I do not think Egfrid ever saw 
her again, or wanted to, for that matter. We will 
not follow Etheldreda in her long and adventurous 
journey to Ely, whither she had fled, nor recount 
the many miracles that helped her on the way. 
Miracles were cheap at that period, and for at least 
four hundred years to come were freely invented and 
elaborated by monkish chroniclers, who were the 
earliest novelists and writers of fairy tales, in the 
scriptorium of many a monastery. 



262 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



XL 



IN the year 673, then, behold the ecstatic 
Etheldreda come out of many perils to Ely. Here, 
where she thought the Isle lifted its crest highest 
above the waters, she founded a mixed monastery for 
monks and nuns. At this point the ground is one 
hundred and nine feet above sea-level : at Hadden- 
ham, the crowning crest is but thirteen feet higher. 
Here she ruled as Abbess for six years, when she 
died, and was succeeded by her sister, the sainted 
Sexburga. It was Sexburga who, sixteen years 
from this time, determined to honour Etheldreda to 
the best of her ability, bethought her of translating 
the body from the humble graveyard of the 
monastery to the church itself. She sent forth a 
number of the brethren on a roving commission to 
find a block of stone for a coffin, and as stone of any 
kind is the least likely thing to find for many miles 
around Ely, theirs looked to be a long and difficult 
quest. They had, indeed, wandered as far as the 
ruins of Roman Cambridge before they discovered 
anything, but there they found a magnificent 
sarcophagus of white marble, which they joyfully 
brought back, and in it the remains of Etheldreda, 
entire and incorrupt, were laid. 

In 870, the time of the fourth Abbess, St. 
Withburga, a great disaster befell the monastery of 
Ely. For years past the terror of the heathen 
Vikings, the ruthless Danes and Jutes from over sea, 
had been growing. Wild-eyed fugitives, survivors of 



MORE MIRACLES 263 

some pitiless massacre of the coastwise settlements 
by these pirates, had flung themselves, exhausted, 
upon the Isle, and now the peril was drawing near 
to this sanctuary. A special intercession, " Deliver 
us, Lord, from the Northmen," distinguished 
morning and evening office, but the prayer was 
unanswered. Presently along the creeks came the 
beaked prows of the ruthless sea-rovers, and the 
monastery was sacked and burnt and all upon the 
Isle slain. That is history. To it the old chronicler 
must needs put a clinching touch of miraculous 
vengeance, and tells how a bloodstained pirate, 
thinking the marble shrine of St. Etheldreda to be 
a treasure-chest, burst it open. " When he had 
done this there was no delay of Divine vengeance, 
for immediately his eyes started miraculously from 
his head, and he ended there and then his sacrilegious 
life." 

Before many years had passed, a new monastery 
was founded upon the blackened and bloodstained 
ruins of the old. This was a College of Secular 
Clergy, patronised by King Alfred. It was 
succeeded by a new foundation, instituted by 
Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, who made it a 
Benedictine House ; but even of that we have no 
trace left, and the church under whose roof Canute 
worshipped and Edward the Confessor was educated 
was swept away in the great scheme of rebuilding, 
entered upon by Simeon, the first Norman Abbot, 
in 1080. Twenty-six years later the relics of St. 
Etheldreda were translated to the choir just 
completed. The translation took place on October 



264 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

17th, a day ever afterwards, while the Koman 
Catholic religion prevailed, celebrated by a religious 
festival and a secular fair. Pilgrims flocked 
throughout the year to St. Audrey's shrine, but 
many thousands assembled on her feast-day, and, 
that no doubt should rest upon their pilgrimage, 
purchased such favours and tokens as " St. Audrey's 
chains," and images of her. The chains were lengths 
of coloured silks and laces, arid were, like most 
articles sold at the stalls, cheap and common. From 
them, their vulgar showiness, and their association 
with the Saint, comes the word " tawdry." 

Two years after this translation of St. Audrey, 
the Abbey Church was made the Cathedral of the 
new diocese of Ely, carved out of the vast See of 
Lincoln. Of the work wrought by Abbot Simeon 
and his successor, Eichard, the great north and south 
transepts alone remain. The choir they built was 
replaced in the thirteenth century by that lovely 
Early English work we now see ; the nave they had 
not reached. This is a work of some sixty years later 
than their time, and is one of the finest examples 
of late Norman architecture in the country. The 
Norman style went out with a blaze of architectural 
splendour at Ely, where the great west front shows 
it blending almost imperceptibly into Early English. 
It is a singular architectural composition, this 
western entrance and forefront of Ely Cathedral ; 
the piling up to a dizzy height of a great tower, 
intended to be flanked on either side by two western 
transepts each ending in a smaller tower. The 
north-western transept fell in ruins at some unknown 



MATTERS OF TASTE 



265 



period and has never been rebuilt, so that a view of 
this front presents a curiously unbalanced look, very 
distressing to all those good folk whose sensibilities 
would be harrowed if in their domestic establish- 
ment they lacked a pendant to everything. To the 




THE WEST FRONT, ELY CATHEDRAL. 



housewife to whom a fender where the poker is not 
duly and canonically neighboured by the tongs looks 
a debauched and sinful object ; to the citizen who 
would grieve if the bronze or cut-glass lustre on one 
side of his mantel-shelf were not matched on the 



266 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

other, this is a sight of the most dolorous sort. It 
must have been to soothe the feelings of all such that 
a sum of 25,000 was appealed for when Sir Gilbert 
Scott was restoring the Cathedral, many years ago, 
and its rebuilding was proposed. The money was 
not forthcoming, the work was not done, and so 
Scott did not obtain the 2500 commission. Scott's 
loss is our gain, for we are spared one more example 
of his way with old cathedrals. 

The ruins of the missing transept are plain to 
see, and a huge and ugly buttress props up the 
tower from this side ; but, were that building 
restored, we should only have again, in its complete- 
ness, a curiously childish design. For that is the 
note of this west front and of this great tower, 
rising in stage upon stage of masonry until the great 
blocks of stone, dwarfed by distance, look like so 
many courses of grey brick. So does a child build 
up towers and castles of wooden blocks. 

We must, however, not accuse the original 
designers of the tower of this mere striving after 
enormous height. The uppermost stage, where the 
square building takes an octagonal form, is an 
addition of nearly two hundred years later, when 
the nice perceptions and exquisite taste of an earlier 
period were lost, and size was the goal of effort, 
rather than beauty. Those who built at that later 
time would have gone higher had they dared, but if 
they lacked something as artists, they must at least 
be credited with engineering knowledge. They 
knew that the mere crushing weight of stone upon 
stone would, if further added to, grind the lower 



ALAN OF WALSINGHAM 267 

stages into powder and so wreck the whole fabric. 
So, at a height of two hundred and fifteen feet, they 
stayed their hands ; but, in earnest of what they would 
have done, had not prudence forbade, they crowned 
the topmost battlements with a tall light wooden 
spire, removed a century ago in one of the restorations. 
It was from the roof of this tower, in 1845, that 
Basevi, an architect interested in a restoration then in 
progress, fell and was killed. 

The octagonal upper stage of this great western 
tower was added in the Decorated period, about 1350, 
when the great central octagon, the most outstand- 
ing and peculiar feature of the Cathedral, was built. 
Any distant view of this vast building that com- 
mands its full length shows, in addition to the 
western tower, a light and fairy like lantern, like 
some graceful coronet, midway of the long roof-ridge, 
where choir and nave meet. This was built to re- 
place the tall central tower that suddenly fell in 
ruins in 1332 and destroyed much of the choir. To 
an architect inspired far above his fellows fell the 
task of rebuilding. There are two works among the 
whole range of ancient Gothic art in these islands 
that stand out above and beyond the rest and 
proclaim the hand and brain of genius. They are 
the west front of Peterborough Cathedral and the 
octagonal lantern of Ely. We do not know who 
designed Peterborough's daring arcaded front, 
but the name of that resourceful man who 
built the great feature of Ely has been preserved. 
He was Alan of Walsingham, the sacrist and sub- 
prior of the monastery. He did not build it in 



268 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

that conventional and deceitful sense we are 
accustomed to when we read that this or that 
mediaeval Abbot or Bishop built one thing or 
another, the real meaning of the phrase being that 
they provided the money and were anything and 
everything but the architects. No : he imagined it ; 
the idea sprang from his brain, his hands drew 
the plans, he made it grow and watched it to its 
completion. 

No man dared rebuild the tower that had fallen ; 
not even Alan, or perhaps he did not want to, being 
possessed, as we may well believe, by this Idea. 
What it was you shall hear, although, to be sure, no 
words have any power to picture to those who have 
not seen it what this great and original work is like. 
The fallen tower had been reared, as is the manner 
of such central towers, upon four great pillars where 
nave and choir and transepts met. Alan cleared 
the ruins of them away, and built in their stead a 
circle of eight stone columns that not only took in 
the width of nave and the central alleys and 
transepts and choir that had been enclosed by the 
fallen pillars, but spread out beyond it to the whole 
width of nave aisles and the side aisles of choir and 
transepts. This group of columns carries arches and 
a masonry wall rising in octagonal form above the 
roofs, and crowned by the timber structure of the 
lantern itself. The interior view of this lantern 
shows a number of vaulting ribs of timber spreading 
inwards from these columns, and supporting a whole 
maze of open timber -work pierced with great 
traceried windows and fretted and carved to wonder- 



A GIANT CATHEDRAL 269 

ment. The effect is as that of a dome, " the only 
Gothic dome in the world" as it has been said. 
How truly it is a " lantern" may be seen when the 
sun shines through the windows and lights up the 
central space in the great church below. Puritan 
fury did much to injure this beautiful work, and its 
niches and tabernacles, once filled with Gothic 
statuary, are now supplied with modern sculptures, 
good in intention but a poor substitute. The modern 
stained -glass, too, is atrocious. 

To fully describe Ely Cathedral in any but an 
architectural work would be alike impossible and 
unprofitable, and it shall not be attempted here : 
this giant among English minsters is not easily 
disposed of. For it is a giant. Winchester, the 
longest, measuring from west front to east wall of its 
Lady Chapel five hundred and fifty-five feet, is but 
eighteen feet longer. Even in that particular, Ely 
would have excelled but for the Lady Chapel here 
being built to one side, instead of at the end, owing to 
the necessity that existed for keeping a road open at 
the east end of the building. 

Like the greater number of English minsters, 
Ely stands in a grassy space. A triangular green 
spreads out in front, with the inevitable captured 
Russian gun in the foreground, and the Bishop's 
Palace on the right. By turning to the south and 
passing through an ancient gateway, once the en- 
trance to the monastery, the so-called "Park" is 
entered, the hilly and magnificently wooded southern 
side of what would in other cathedral cities be named 
the "Close," here technically "the College," and 



270 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

preserving in that title the memory of the ancient 
College of Secular Clergy which ruled sometime in 
that hundred years between A.D. 870 and 970. 

It was from this point of view, near the ancient 
mound of " Cherry Hill," the site of William the 
Conqueror's Castle, that Turner painted his picture. 
Many remains of the monastic establishment are to 
be seen, built into charming and comfortable old 
houses, residences of the Cathedral dignitaries. 
Here are the time-worn Norman pillars and arches of 
the Infirmary, and close by is the Deanery, fashioned 
out of the ancient thirteenth-century Guesten Hall. 
Quiet dignity and repose mark the place ; every 
house has its old garden, and everyone is very well 
satisfied with himself. It is a pleasant world for 
sleepy shepherds, if a sorry one for the sheep. 



XLI 

LET them sleep, for their activity, on any lines that 
may be predicated from past conduct, bodes no one 
good. Times have been when these shepherds 
themselves masqueraded as wolves, acting the part 
with every convincing circumstance of ferocity. The 
last of these occasions was in 1816. I will set forth 
in detail the doings of that time, because they are 
intimately bound up with the story of this road 
between Ely and Downham Market. 

It was not until after Waterloo had been fought 
and Bonaparte at last imprisoned, like some bottle- 



AN EVIL HOUR 273 

imp, at St. Helena, that the full strain of the past 
years of war began to be felt in its full severity. 
It is true that for years past the distress had been 
great, and that to relieve it, and to pay for Imperial 
needs, the rates and taxes levied on property had in 
many places risen to forty and even forty-eight 
shillings in the pound, but when military glory had 
faded and peace reigned, internal affairs grew more 
threatening. Trade was bad, harvests were bad, wheat 
rose to the unexampled figure of one hundred and three 
shillings a quarter, and any save paper money was 
scarce. A golden guinea was handled by many with 
that curiosity with which one regards some rare and 
strange object. Everywhere was the one-pound note, 
issued for the purposes of restricting cash payments 
and restoring credit ; but so many banks issuing 
one-pound notes failed to meet their obligations 
that this medium of exchange was regarded with 
a very just suspicion, still echoed in the old song 
that says 

"I'd rather have a guinea than a one-pound note." 

Everyone at this period of national exhaustion was 
"hard up," but worse off than any were the un- 
fortunate rural folk the farm-labourers and their 
like. 

The agricultural labourer is now an object of 
solicitude, especially at election times. There are, 
in these happy days, always elections ; elections to 
Parliament, elections to parish and other councils, 
always someone to be elected to something, and as 
our friend Hodge has oftentimes a vote to give his 
18 



274 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

best friend, his welfare is greatly desired. But at 
this unhappy time of which we have been speaking, 
Hodge had no vote and, by consequence, no friends. 
His wages, when he could get any work, ranged 
from seven to nine shillings a week, and the quartern 
loaf cost one shilling and sixpence. Tea was eight 
shillings a pound, sugar one shilling, and other 
necessaries at famine prices. How, then, did Hodge 
live ? It is a difficult question to answer. In many 
cases the parish made him an allowance in augmenta- 
tion of wages, but it need scarce be added that this 
extraordinary system did not help him much. In- 
deed, the odd idea of financially relieving a man in 
work tended directly to injure him, for it induced 
the farmers to screw him down by a corresponding 
number of shillings. This difficulty of answering 
the question of how Hodge managed to exist was 
felt by himself, in the words of a doleful ballad then 
current 

" Eighteen pence for a quartern loaf, 
And a poor man works for a shilling : 
'Tis not enough to find him bread, 
How can they call it living ? " 

Observe : Hodge did not ask for anything more than 
to be allowed to live. It is not a great thing to 
ask. His demand was for his pay to be raised to 
the equivalent of a stone of flour a day ; eleven 
shillings a week. He desired nothing to put by ; 
only enough to fill the hungry belly. No one paid 
the least heed to his modest wants. Eather did 
events grind him and his kind deeper into the dust. 
Many rustics in those days, when half the land was 



THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLT 275 

common fields, kept geese. Some, a little better off, 
had a cow. Fine pasturage was found on these 
commons. But towards the end of the eighteenth 
century, and well on into the nineteenth, there began, 
and grew to enormous proportions, a movement for 
enclosing the commons. Most of them are gone 
now. Very early in this movement Hodge began to 
feel the pinch, and, when his free grazing was ended, 
was provided with a grievance the more bitter 
because entirely new and unusual. 

All over the country there were ugly disturb- 
ances, and at last the stolid rustics of the Fens began 
to seethe and ferment. Still no one cared. If 
Hodge threatened, why, a troop or so of Yeomanry 
could overawe him, and were generally glad of the 
opportunity, for those yeomen were drawn from the 
squirearchy and the farming classes, who regarded 
him as their natural slave and chattel. To no one 
occurred the idea of relieving or removing these 
grievances. 

At last the starving peasantry of these districts 
broke into revolt. The village of Southery seems to 
have been the origin of the particular disturbance 
with which we are concerned. One May day the 
farm -labourers assembled there to the number of 
some eight hundred, and marched to Downham 
Market, nearly seven miles distant, calling at the 
farms on the way and bringing out the men engaged 
on them. Arrived at Downham,. they numbered 
fifteen hundred ; a very turbulent and unruly mob, 
ready for any mischief. The first to feel their re- 
sentment were the millers and the bakers, who had 



276 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

put up the price of flour and bread. Their mills 
and shops were sacked and the contents flung into 
the roadway, so that the streets of the little town 
were ankle-deep in flour, and loaves were kicked 
about like footballs. The butchers suffered next, 
and by degrees the whole shopkeeping fraternity. 
It is not to be supposed that the inns were let alone. 
Determined men stormed them and brought out the 
beer in pails. At one inn the Crown the local 
magistrates were holding their weekly sitting, and 
with some difficulty escaped from an attack made 
upon them. Their escape enraged the rioters, who 
redoubled their energies in wrecking the shops, and 
were still engaged upon this pastime when the 
magistrates returned, either at the head, or perhaps 
(counsels of prudence prevailing) in the rear, of a 
troop of Yeomanry. The Eiot Act was read while 
the air was thick with stones and brickbats, and 
then the Yeomanry fell upon the crowds and be- 
laboured them with the flat of their swords. The 
net results of the day were streets of pillaged shops, 
and ten men and four women arrested by the 
special constables who had hastily been sworn in. 
A renewal of the riot was threatened the next 
morning, and only stopped by the release of these 
prisoners and an agreement among employers to 
advance the rate of wages. 

This first outbreak was no sooner suppressed 
than another and much more serious one took place 
at Littleport. Gathering at the Globe Inn one 
morning to the number of a hundred and fifty, 
armed with cleavers, pitchforks, and clubs, the 



INCIDENTS OF THE RISING 279 

desperate labourers set out to plunder the village. 
At their head marched a man bearing a pole with 
a printed statement of their grievances flying from 
it. The first object to feel their rage was a shop 
kept by one Martin, shopkeeper and farmer. Martin 
attempted to buy them off with the offer of a 
five-pound note, but they took that and burst into 
the shop as well, smashing everything and carrying 
off tea and sugar. An amusing side to these in- 
cidents is seen in an account telling how one 
plunderer staggered away with a whole sugarloaf, 
and how a dozen of Martin's shirts, " worth a guinea 
apiece," as he dolefully said afterwards, disappeared 
in the twinkling of an eye. 

Then they visited a retired farmer and de- 
molished his furniture. He had a snug hoard of a 
hundred guineas tucked away in an old bureau. 
Alas ! when these men of wrath had gone, the 
guineas were found to have gone with them. And 
so forth, throughout the long day. 



XLII 

NIGHT at last shuts down on Littleport. The village 
is in deshabille : furniture lying broken in the streets, 
the household gods defiled, the beer-barrels of all 
the public-houses run dry. Every oppressor of the 
poor has been handsomely served out, and, in- 
cidentally, a good many unoffending people too : 
for a mob maddened with the sense of wrongs long 



2 8o THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

endured is not discriminating. One there is, how- 
ever, not yet punished. This is the vicar, conspicuous 
earlier in the day, alternately threatening and cajoling, 
but, many hours since, prudently retired to his vicar- 
age. With a savage growl, they invest the house 
and batter at the door, demanding money. The vicar 
offers two one-pound notes ; scornfully rejected, and 
ten pounds at the very least is demanded. He refuses, 
and to his refusal he adds the folly of presenting a 
pistol at the heads of these furious men ; a pistol 
instantly snatched from his hands and like to be 
used against him. From this very patent danger 
and the sudden dread of murder he runs ; runs 
upstairs to his wife and daughters, and presently 
they are out somewhere at the back door, all flying 
together, the women, as I gather, in their night- 
gowns, making for Ely, where they arrive at mid- 
night. 

Meanwhile, all this night, Littleport is trembling : 
the shopkeepers, the farmers, anyone who has anything 
to lose, with fear : those who have nothing to lose, 
something even to gain, with certain wild hopes and 
exaltations. Not without fear, they, either ; for it 
is a brutal Government with which, in the end, they 
must reckon. So far, these wild despairing folk 
have had no leader, but now they turn to one well- 
known to sympathise with them : one John Dennis, 
an innkeeper and small farmer, and by consequence 
of the hated class of oppressors. By conviction, 
however, he sides with them : a very Saul among 
the prophets. To him, late at night, they come. 
He is abed and asleep, but they rouse him. Will 



THE GUNS OF ARC AD Y 



281 



he lead them to Ely on the morrow, to urge their 
needs and their desperate case upon the authorities ? 

He will not : it is useless, he says. Nay, but 
you must, you shall, say they, else we will shoot 
you, as one forsworn. 

So poor Dennis, whose fate is sealed from this 
hour, leaves his bed and dresses himself, while the 
excited peasantry loot all Littleport of its gunpowder, 
bullets, and small shot, used in wild-fowling. Some 
sixty muskets and fowling-pieces they have found, 
and eight of those curious engines of destruction 
called " punt-guns " or " duck-guns." A gun of 
this kind is still used in duck-shooting. It has a 
barrel eight feet long, with two inches bore, and is 
loaded with three-quarters of a pound of shot and 
about an ounce of gunpowder. It is mounted on a 
swivel, generally at the end of a punt. 

Guns of this calibre they have mounted in a 
farm- waggon, drawn by two horses, and at the 
back of the waggon they have placed a number of 
women and children : with some idea of moving 
hearts, if not by fear of their quaint artillery, at least 
in pity for their starving families. It is daybreak 
when at last they set out on the five miles to Ely, 
a band of two hundred, armed with muskets, fowling- 
pieces, scythes, pitchforks, clubs, and reaping-hooks. 
Ely has heard something of this projected advance, 
and sends forth three clerical magistrates and the 
chief constable to parley and ask the meaning of 
this unlawful assembly. The meaning, it seems, is 
to demand wages to be fixed at not less than two 
shillings a day, and that flour shall be sold at not 



282 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



more than two shillings and sixpence a stone. 
Meanwhile, the duck-guns look these envoys in the 
eyes perhaps a little more sternly than we are 
disposed nowadays to credit. At anyrate, the 
magistrates temporise and promise to inquire into 
these things. They retire to the Cathedral precincts 
to consult, and ah ! yes, will these demonstrators 
please go home ? 

No ; they will not do anything of the kind. 
Instead, they advance into the Market Square, 
where their battery is wheeled, pointing up the 
High Street, much to the consternation of the 
citizens, firmly persuaded that this is the end of 
all things and now busily engaged in secreting their 
little hoards, their silver spoons and precious things, 
in unlikely places. The rioters, conscious of having 
easily overawed the place, now determine to put it 
under contribution, beginning with those who have 
ground the faces of the poor the millers and their 
kind. Dennis, armed with a gun, and at the head 
of a threatening crowd, appears before the house of 
one Rickwood, miller. " They must have fifty pounds," 
he says, "or down come house and mill." Little 
doubt that they mean it : in earnest thereof, observe, 
windows are already smashed. Bring out those 
fifty sovereigns, miserable ones, before we pull the 
house about your ears ! 

They send off to the bank accordingly; Mrs. 
Rickwood going in haste. On the way she meets 
the Bank Manager, a person who combines that 
post with the civil over]prdship of Ely. He is, in 
point of fact, the chief constable. Something 



COLLAPSE OF THE REVOLT 283 

grotesquely appropriate, if you think of it, in 
these two posts being in the hands of one man. 
' They shall not have a penny," he stoutly declares, 
assisting Mrs. Kickwood from the crowds that beset 
her ; but certain blows upon head and body determine 
him to be more diplomatic, and after some parley 
he agrees to pay the fifty pounds in cash to those who 
constitute themselves leaders of three divisions of 
rioters. These three men alone, representing Ely, 
Littleport, and Downham, shall be admitted to the 
bank, and each shall and does actually receive 
one-third of that sum, signing for it. Kesourceful 
manager ! They are paid the coin, and sign : they 
might as well have signed their death-warrants, for 
those signatures are evidence of the very best 
against them when proceedings shall subsequently 
be taken. 

Other houses are visited and people terrified, 
and then they are at a loss for what next. You 
cannot make a revolution out of your head as you 
go on : what is needed is a programme, some definite 
scheme, and of such a thing these poor wretches have 
no idea. So, gradually, as afternoon comes on, they 
disperse and fall back upon discontented Littleport, 
just before the arrival of a troop of the 18th Dragoons 
and a detachment of the Koyston Volunteer Cavalry, 
sent for to Bury St. Edmunds and Koyston by the 
magistrates who had in the early morning parleyed 
with the rioters. Ely is saved ! 

We we the authorities have now the upper 
hand, and mean to be revenged. On the morrow, 
then, behold the military, with the Prebendary of 



284 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Ely, Sir Bate Dudley, and many gentlemen and 
persons of consideration, invading Littleport and 
wilfully stirring up again the excitement that had 
spent itself. Kumours of this advance have been 
spread, and on entering the village they find the 
men of the place hidden behind doors and windows, 
whence they fire with some effect, wounding a few. 
The soldiers return the fire, and one man is killed 
and another pitifully mangled. The rest flee, 
soldiers and magistracy after them, hunting for some 
days in fen and dyke, and taking at last seventy- 
three ; all marched into Ely and clapped in gaol, 
there to await the coming of the Judge presiding over 
the Special Assize appointed to try them. 

The proceedings lasted six days, opened in state 
by a service in the Cathedral : an exultant service 
of thanksgiving to God for this sorry triumph. To 
it the Judge and his javelin-men went in procession, 
behind the Bishop, and escorted by fifty of the 
principal inhabitants carrying white wands. The 
Bishop himself, the last to wield the old dual 
palatine authority of Church and State, was pre- 
ceded k by his butler, bearing the Sword of State 
that symbolised the temporal power ; and as he 
entered the Cathedral the organ burst forth in the 
joyful strains of Handel's anthem: "Why do the 
heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing ? " 
with its triumphant chorus, "Let us break their 
bands asunder ! " 

Nothing else so well portrays the unchristian 
savagery of the time as the doings of this prelate 
let us record his name, Bishop Bowyer Edward 



VENGEANCE 



285 



Sparke, that it may Le execrated a veritable Hew- 
Agag-in-pieces-before-the-Lord, who preached earthly 
vengeance and spiritual damnation to the three-score 
and thirteen in prison close by. Truly, a wolf sent 
to shepherd the flock. 

Those were times when to steal to the value of 
forty shillings, and to steal to the value of a shilling, 
accompanied by violence, were capital offences. Five 
of the prisoners, convicted on these counts, were 
sentenced to be hanged, and five were transported 
for life. To the others were dealt out various terms 
of imprisonment. Chief among the ill-fated five was 
John Dennis, the leader, somewhat against his own 
judgment, of the outbreak. His, we must allow, is a 
figure tragical above the rest, touched with some- 
thing like the dignity of martyrdom. They hanged 
him and the four others, in due course, on Ely 
Common, on a day of high holiday, when three 
hundred wand-bearers and bodies of troops assembled 
to protect the authorities and to see execution done. 
It may be read, in old records, how the whole of the 
city was searched for a cart to take the condemned 
men to the scaffold, and how at last five pounds was 
paid for the use of one ; so there was evidently a public 
opinion opposed to this policy of bloodshed. Let 
us not seek to discover who was that man who took 
those five pounds, and with the taking of them sold 
his immortal soul. 

The victims of the combined fear and rage of the 
authorities were buried in one common grave in the 
churchyard of St. Mary's, hard by the great Cathedral's 
western front, and on the wall of that church-tower 



286 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

was placed the tablet that may still be seen, record- 
ing that 

" Here lye in one grave the bodies of William 
Beamiss, George Crow, John Dennis, Isaac Harley, 
and Thomas South, who were all executed at Ely on 
the 28th day of June 1816, having been convicted 
at the Special Assizes holden there of divers robberies 
during the riots at Ely and Littleport in the month 
of May in that year. May their awful fate be a 
warning to others ! " 

There is no place more sacred to me in the whole 
of Ely than this humble and neglected spot, where 
these men, victims of this pitiful tragedy in corduroy 
and hobnailed boots, martyrs to affrighted and re- 
vengeful authority, lie. It is a spot made additionally 
sad because the sacrifice was sterile. Nothing re- 
sulted from it, so far as our human vision can reach. 
Bishop Sparke and Prebendary Sir Bate Dudley and 
the host of Cathedral dignitaries continued to feast 
royally, to clothe themselves in fine raiment, and to 
drink that old port always so specially comforting to 
the denizens of cathedral precincts ; and every night 
the watchman went his rounds, as even now, in our 
time, he continues to do, calling the hours with their 
attendant weather, and ending his cry with the con- 
ventional " All's Well !" 

To the soldiers employed in the unwelcome task 
of suppressing these disturbances and of shooting 
down their fellow-countrymen, no blame belongs : 
they did but obey orders. Yet they felt it a dis- 
grace. The 18th Dragoons had fought at Waterloo 
the year before, and one of the troopers who had 



TRAGEDY 



287 



come through that day unscathed received in this 
affair a wound that cost him his arm. He thought 
it hard that fate should serve him so scurvy a trick. 
But among the soldiery employed was a Hanoverian 
regiment, whose record is stained deeply and foully 
with the doings of one German officer. Patrolling 
Ely in those tempestuous days, his company were 
passing by the old Sextry Barn, near the Cathedral, 
when he heard a thatcher employed on the roof call 
to his assistant in the technical language of thatchers 
" Bunch ! bunch ! " He was merely asking for another 
bundle of reeds, but the foreign officer, not properly 
understanding English, interpreted this as an insult 
to himself, and ordered his men to fire. They did 
so, and the unfortunate thatcher fell upon the open 
doors of the barn, his body pierced by a dozen 
bullets. There it hung, dropping blood, for three 
days, the officer swearing he would serve in the same 
way anyone who dared remove it. 



XLIII 

THOSE days are far behind. When Bishop Sparke 
died in 1836, the temporal power was taken away 
from the See, and his Sword of State was buried 
with him: a fitting piece of symbolism. These 
memories alone are left, found only after much 
diligent and patient search ; but with their aid the 
grey stones and the soaring towers of Ely, the quiet 
streets, and the road on to Littleport, take on a more 



288 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



living interest to the thoughtful man, to whom 
archaeology, keenly interesting though it be, does 
not furnish forth the full banquet of life. 

Save for these memories, and for the backward 
glance at the Cathedral, looming dark on the sky- 
line, much of the way to Littleport might almost be 
called dull. A modern suburb called "Little London" 
has thrown out some few houses in this direction 
during the last century, but why or how this has 
been possible with a dwindling population let others 
explain, if they can do so. At any rate, when the 
Reverend James Bentham, the historian, was Canon 
here, from 1737 to 1794, no dwellings lined the way, 
for he planted a mile-long avenue of oaks where 
these uninteresting houses now stand. A few only 
of his trees remain, near the first milestone ; a 
clump of spindly oaks, more resembling elms in their 
growth, and in midst of them a stone obelisk with a 
Latin inscription stating how Canon James Bentham, 
Canon of the Cathedral Church of Ely, planted them 
in 1787, his seventieth year, not that he himself 
might see them, but for the benefit of future ages. 
The Latin so thoroughly succeeds in obscuring this 
advertisement of himself from the understanding of 
the country-folk that the obelisk is generally said to 
mark the grave of a favourite racehorse ! 

The descent from the high ground of the Isle 
begins in another half mile from this point. Past 
Chettisham Station and its level crossing, standing 
solitary on the road, we come down Pyper's Hill, at 
whose foot is the field called, on the large Ordnance 
maps, "Gilgal." Why so-called, who shall say? 



LITTLEPORT 289 

Did some old landowner, struck perhaps by its 
situation near the verge of this ancient Fen-island, 
name this water-logged meadow after that biblical 
Gilgal where the Israelites made their first encamp- 
ment across the Jordan, and where they kept their 
first Passover in the Land of Canaan ? It may be, 
for we have already seen how that Norman knight, 
shown the riches of the Isle of Ely by Hereward, 




ELY CATHEDRAL, FROM THE LITTLEPORT ROAD. 

described it even as another Canaan, a land figur- 
atively flowing with milk and honey. 

An old toll-house still stands here by the wayside 
and heralds the approach to Littleport, whose name, 
preparing the stranger for some sleepy, old-world 
decayed creek-side village, with rotting wharves and 
a general air of picturesque decrepidness, ill fits the 
busy, ugly place it is. Littleport is more populous 
than Ely. It stands at the confluence of the Great 
Ouse and the Old Croft rivers, and at the lower end 
'9 



2 9 o THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

of its long, long gritty streets, lined with whitey-grey 
brick houses, the road is bordered by yet another 
stream the " Holmes River." Indeed, speaking of 
its situation in the Fens and by these waters, Carter, 
the eighteenth-century historian of Cambridgeshire, 
tells us that in his time it was " as rare to see a 
coach there as a ship at Newmarket." Much of its 
recent prosperity derives from the factories of the 
prominent London firm of hosiers and clothiers, 
" Hope Brothers," established here. The church and 
the adjoining vicarage, where the rioters of 1816 so 
terrified the clergyman and his family, stand on an 
elevated site behind the main street. There was, 
until recent years, when it was built up, a passage 
through the tower, said to have been a short cut to 
the Fenland. If this was its real purpose, it vividly 
shows how little solid ground there was here in old 
days. The tower top, too, has its story, for it burnt 
a nightly beacon in those times ; a light in beneficent 
competition with the marshland Jacks-o'-Lantern, 
to guide the wanderer to the haven where he would 
be. 

It must not be forgotten that Littleport is a place 
famed in the annals of a certain sport. It is not a 
sport often to be practised, for a succession of open 
winters will render the enjoyment of it impossible, 
and its devotees stale and out of form. It is the 
healthful and invigorating sport and pastime of 
skating. Nowhere else in all England is there such 
a neighbourhood as this for skating and sliding, for 
when the flooded fields of winter are covered with a 
thin coating of ice you may skate pretty well all the 



FENLAND SKATING 



291 



way to Lynn on the one hand and to Peterborough 
on the other. The country is then a vast frozen 
lake. Indeed, years before skating was a sport it 
had been a necessity ; the only way by which a 
Fenman could travel from place to place in a hard 
winter. That is why Fenland skaters became such 
marvellous proficients, rivalling even the Dutchmen. 
Who that knows anything of skating and skating- 
matches has not heard of those champions of the Fens, 




LITTLEPORT. 



it T 



Turkey" Smart and "Fish" Smart? And Little- 
port even yet takes the keenest of interest in skating 
carnivals, as the traveller along the roads in mid- 
summer may see, in the belated bills and placards 
relating to them that still hang, tattered and 
discoloured, on the walls of roadside barn and 
outhouse. Reading them, he feels a gentle coolness 
steal over him, even on a torrid afternoon of the 
dog-days. 



292 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

One leaves Littleport by a bridge, a single-span 
iron bridge of great width, that crosses the Great 
Ouse. As you cross it, the way to Mildenhall lies 
straight and flat, as far as eye can see, ahead. When 
that picturesque tourist, William Gilpin, visited 
Mildenhall a century ago, he found little to say in 
its praise, and of the scenery all he can find to 
record is that the roads were lined with willows 
whose branches were hung with slime. 

Our way is not along the Mildenhall road, but 
by the left-hand track following the loops and 
windings of the Ouse ; flat, like that other way, but 
by no means straight. It is a road of the most 
peculiar kind, somewhat below the level of that river 
and protected from it by great grassy banks, in some 
places from twelve to fourteen feet high. Windmills 
are perched picturesquely on the opposite shore, 
patient horses drag heavy barges along the stream, 
and the sodden fields stretch away on the right to 
infinity. Houses and cottages are few and far 
between ; built below the river banks, with their 
chimney-pots rarely looking over them. 

The reclaimed Fens being themselves things of 
recent history, there are few houses in the Fenland, 
except on the islands, and these few are comparatively 
modern. A cottage or a farmstead in these levels 
may be a weather-boarded affair, or it may be of 
brick, but it is always built on timber piles, for there 
is no other way of obtaining a sure foundation ; and 
a frequent evidence of this is the sight of one of the 
older of these buildings, perched up at an absurd 
height through the gradual shrinkage of the land in 



FENLAND BUILDINGS 



293 



consequence of the draining away of the water and 
the wasting of the peat. This subsidence averages 
six feet over the whole extent of the Fens, and in 
some places is as much as eight or nine feet. As a 
result of this, a man's front door, once on a level 
with the ground, is often approached by a quite 
imposing flight of steps, and instances are not 




THE RIVER ROAD, LITTLEPORT. 

unknown where a room has been added underneath 
the original ground floor, and a two-floored cottage 
promoted by force of circumstances to the dignity of 
a three-storeyed residence. 

A brick building in these districts is apt to be 
exceedingly ugly. For one thing, it has been built 
within the severely utilitarian period, and is just 



294 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

a square box with a lid for roof and holes for doors 
and windows. For another, the brick, made of the 
local gault, is of the kind called by courtesy " white," 
but really of a dirty dough-like hue : distressing to 
an artist's eye. 



XLIV 

BRANDON CREEK bridge, where the Great Ouse and 
the Little Ouse and Crooked Dyke pour their waters 
into one common fund, and send it crawling lazily 
down to Lynn, marks the boundaries of Cambridge- 
shire and Norfolk. On the hither side you are in 
the territory of the Cambridgeshire Camels, and on 
the thither are come into the land of the Norfolk 
Dumplings. 

It is here, at this meeting of the waters, that 
" Kebeck, or Priests' Houses," is marked on the 
maps of Speed and Dugdale, and attributed to the 
thirteenth century, but what this place was, no man 
knoweth. It has clean vanished from sight or 
knowledge, and the houses of Brandon Creek hamlet 
afford no clue, being wholly secular and commonplace, 
from the inn that stands at the meeting of the rivers 
to the humble cottages of the bankers and the 



gaulters. 



Southery Ferry is but a little distance ahead, 
to be recognised by the inn that stands on the river 
bank. It is a lonely ferry, and little wonder that it 
should be, considering the emptiness of the country 
on the other side, all fens at the Back of Beyond, to 



SOUTHERY 



295 



whose wastes cometh the stranger never, where the 
bull-frogs croak, the slodger slodges among the dykes, 
and the mists linger longest. 

Away ahead sits Southery village, enthroned 
upon its hillock, once an island in the surrounding 
fen, and still, in its prominence against the skyline, 
telling its story plain for all to learn. Even if it 
were not thus evident from Southery Ferry how the 
village of old sat with its feet in the mud and its 







THE OUSE. 



head on the dry land, at least the pilgrim's wheels 
presently advise him in unmistakable fashion that he 
is on an ascent. There is little in the village itself 
to interest the stranger. The spire so picturesquely 
crowning the hill in the distant view is found on close 
acquaintance to be that of a modern church, filled 
with the Papistical abominations commonly found in 
these days of the forsworn clergy of the Church of 
England. The old church of St. Mary, disused forty 
years ago, and now in ruins, stands at a little distance, 



296 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



in a bend of the road, overlooking many miles of 
what was once fen. There it stands in its heaped-up 
graveyard, a shattered and roofless shell of red-brick 
and rubble walls, thickly overgrown with ivy, and 
neighboured by an old windmill as battered and 
neglected as itself. From a field-gate overlooking 
the levels you see, in the distance, the high ground 
about Thetford, and, near at hand, an outlying part 
of Southery called Little London. An old inhabitant 




SOUTHERY FERRY. 



shares the field-gate and the outlook with the present 
writer, and surveys the many miles with a jaundiced 
eye. He remembers those lands below, when he was 
a boy, all swimming with water. Now they are 
drained, and worth ever so much an acre, "'cause 
they'll, as you might say, grow anything. But a 
man can't earn mor'n fourteen shillun a week here. 
No chance for nobody." 

No local patriot he. He was bom here, married 
in the old church forty years ago, and went. away to 
live in Sheffield. " Ah ! that is a place," says he. 



LEAVING THE FENS 297 

That is a phrase capable of more than one interpreta- 
tion, and we feelingly remark, having been there, 
that indeed a place it is. His regretful admiration of 
Sheffield is so mournful that we wonder why he ever 
left. 

The road between Southery and Hilgay dips but 
slightly and only for a short distance, proving the 
accuracy, at this point at least, of Dugdale's map 
showing the Fen-islands of Hilgay and Southery 
conjoined. They are divided by the long, straight, 
and narrow cut called "Sam's Cut Drain," crossed 
here at Modney Bridge. Here the true Fenland 
begins only to be skirted, and hedgerows once more 
line the way, a sign that of itself most certainly 
proclaims fields enclosed and cultivated in the long 
ago. The ditches, too, are dry, and not the brimming 
water-courses they have been these last twenty-five 
miles. Moreover, here is hedgerow timber : ancient 
elms and oaks taking the place of the willows and 
poplars that have been our only companions through- 
out a whole county. They have not consciously 
been missed, but now they are come again, how 
fresh and dear and welcome they are, and how 
notable the change they produce ! 

Between Hilgay and that old farmhouse called 
" Snore Hall," from an absurd tradition that King 
Charles once slept there, we cross the river Wissey 
and the Catchwater Drain. The road between is still 
known as " the Causeway," and, with the succeeding 
village of Fordham, teaches in its name a lesson in 
old-time local geography. 

In 1809, when that old tourist, William Gilpin, 



298 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



passed this way, Hilgay Fen extended to one 
thousand acres. According to the picturesque story 
told him, the district was periodically visited, every 
six or seven years, by an innumerable host of field- 
mice, which began to destroy all vegetation and 
would have laid everything bare but for a great flight 
of white horned-owls that, as if by instinct, always 
arrived at such times from Norway and, immediately 
attacking the mice, destroyed them all, when they 
disappeared as suddenly as they had come. 



XLV 

RYSTON STATION, between Ryston Park and Fordham, 
marks the neighbourhood of a very interesting spot, 
for Ryston, though a place of the smallest size and 
really but a woodland hamlet, is of some historic 
note, with " Kett's Oak," or the Oak of Reformation, 
standing in the Park, as a visible point of contact 
with stirring deeds and ancient times. It is a 
gigantic tree with hollow trunk and limbs carefully 
chained and bound together, and marks one of 
the encampments of the Norfolk peasantry in Kett's 
Rebellion of 1549. This was a popular outbreak 
caused by the lawless action of the Norfolk gentry 
of that time in enclosing wastes and common lands. 
'The peasant whose pigs and cow and poultry had 
been sold, or had died because the commons where 
they had once fed were gone ; the yeoman dis- 
possessed of his farm; the farm-servant out of 



KETTS REBELLION 



299 



employ because where once ten ploughs had turned 
the soil, one shepherd watched the grazing of the 
flocks ; the artisan smarting under the famine prices 
the change of culture had brought all these were 
united in suffering, while the gentlemen were 
doubling, trebling, quadrupling their incomes, and 
adorning their persons and their houses with 
splendour hitherto unknown." 

The outbreak began at Attleborough in June 
1549, and a fortnight later there was fighting at 
Wymondham, where the country-folk, led by Robert 
Kett, a tanner, of that place, destroyed many illegal 
fences. Thence, headed by Kett and his brother 
William, an army of sixteen thousand peasants 
marched to Household Heath, overlooking Norwich, 
where their greatest camp was pitched. Under 
some venerable tree in these camps Robert Kett was 
wont to sit and administer justice, and Conyers, 
chaplain to the rebel host, preached beneath their 
shade while the rising of that memorable summer 
lasted. Never were the demands of rebellion more 
reasonable than those put forward on this occasion. 
They were, that all bondsmen should be made free, 
" for God made all free with His precious blood- 
shedding " ; that all rivers should be made free and 
common to all men for fishing and passage ; that 
the clergy should be resident, instead of benefices 
being held by absentees ; and, in the interest of 
tenants' crops, that no one under a certain degree 
should keep rabbits unless they were paled in, and 
that no new dove-houses should be allowed. That 
last stipulation sounds mysterious, but it referred to 



3 oo 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



a very cruel grievance of olden times, when only the 
Lord of the Manor might keep pigeons and doves, 
and did so at the expense of his tenants. The 
manorial pigeon-houses often seen adjoining ancient 
Hall or old-world Grange are, in fact, relics of that 
time when the feudal landowner's pigeons fattened 
on the peasants' crops. 

The story of how the people's petition was dis- 




KETT S OAK. 



regarded, and how the city of Norwich was taken 
and retaken with much bloodshed, does not belong 
here. The rebellion was suppressed, and Robert and 
William Kett hanged, but the memory of these 
things still lingers in the rural districts, and every- 
one in the neighbourhood of Ryston knows " Ked's 
Oak," as they name it. There were Pratts of Ryston 



KETTS OAK 



301 



Hall then, as now, and old legends still tell how 
Robert Kett seized some of the Squire's sheep to 
feed his followers, leaving this rhymed note 
acknowledgment 



in 



Mr. Prat, your shepe are verry fat, 
And wee thank you for that. 
Wee have left you the skinnes 
To buy your ladye pinnes 
And you may thank us for that." 



Some of the insurgents were hanged from this 




DENVERtHALL. 



very tree, as the rhyme tells us 

"Surely the tree that nine men did twist on 
Must be the old oak now at Ryston." 

The present Squire has recorded these things on a 
stone placed against the trunk of this venerable relic. 
Denver, which presently succeeds Fordham and 
Ryston, is remarkable for many things. Firstly, for 
that beautiful old Tudor mansion, Denver Hall, by 
the wayside, on entering the village ; secondly, for 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

the semicircular sweep of the high road around the 
church; and, thirdly, for the great " Denver Sluice" 
on the river Ouse, a mile away. This is the massive 
lock that at high tide shuts out the tidal waters 
from flooding the reclaimed Fens, and at the ebb is 
opened to let out the accumulated waters of the 
Ouse and the innumerable drains of the Great Level. 




THE CROWN, DOWNHAM MARKET. 



The failure of Denver Sluice would spell disaster and 
ruin to many, and it has for that reason been specially 
protected by troops on several occasions when Irish 
political agitators have entered upon " physical force " 
campaigns, and have been credited with a desire to 
blow up this main protection of two thousand square 
miles of land slowly and painfully won back from 
bog and waste. 



DO WNHAM MARKET 303 

Denver gives its name to a town in America 
Denver, Colorado and has had several distinguished 
natives; but, despite all these many and varied 
attributes of greatness, it is a very small and very 
modest place, quite overshadowed by the little town 
of Downham Market, a mile onward. Downham, as 
Camden informs us, obtains its name from " Dun " 




THE CASTLE, DOWNHAM MARKET. 

and " ham," signifying the home on the hill ; and the 
ancient parish church, which may be taken as stand- 
ing on the site of the original settlement, does 
indeed rise from a knoll that, although of no intrinsic 
height, commands a vast and impressive view over 
illimitable miles of marshland. It is not a church of 
great interest, nor does the little town offer many 
attractions, although by no means unpleasing. 



34 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



They still point out the house where Nelson once 
went to school ; and two old inns remain, very much 
as they were in coaching days. In the Crown 
yard you may still look up at the windows of the 
room where the magistrates were sitting on that day 
in 1816 when the rioters made them fly. 

Villages on these last twelve miles between 
Downham and Lynn are plentiful. No sooner is 
the little town left behind than the church of 
Wimbotsham comes in sight, with that of Stow 
Bardolph plainly visible ahead. Both are interesting 
old buildings, with something of almost every period 
of architecture to show the curious. Beyond its 
church, and a farmstead or two, Wimbotsham has 
nothing along the road, but Stow Bardolph is a 
village complete in every story-book particular. 
Here is the church, and here, beneath a spreading 
chestnut (or other) tree the village smithy stands ; 
while opposite are the gates of the Park and the 
shady avenue leading up to the Hall where, not 
Bardolphs nowadays, but Hares, reside in dignified 
ease ; as may be guessed from the village inn, the 
Hare Arms, with its armorial sign and motto, Non 
videre, sed esse "not to seem, but to be," the 
proud boast or noble aspiration of the family. Alms- 
houses, cottages with pretty gardens, and a very 
wealth of noble trees complete the picture of 
" Stow," as the country-folk solely know it, turning 
a bewildered and stupid gaze upon the stranger who 
uses the longer title. 

The pilgrim through many miles of fen revels in 
this wooded mile from Stow Bardolph village to 



STO W BARDOLPH 



35 



Hogge's Bridge, where the road makes a sharp bend 
to the left amid densely overarching trees, command- 
ing a distant view of Stow Bardolph Hall at the 
farther end of a long green drive. South Euncton 
Church, standing lonely by the road beyond this 
pretty scene, is an example of how not to restore a 




HOGGE'S BKIDGE, STOW BARDOLPH. 

pure Norman building. It still keeps a very 
beautiful Norman chancel arch, but the exterior, 
plastered to resemble stone, is distressing. 

At Setchey, originally situated on a navigable 
creek of the river Nar and then named Sedge-hithe, 
or Seech-hithe meaning a sedge and weed-choked 



20 



306 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



harbour we are come well within the old Dutch 
circle of influence over local building design. There 
are still some characteristic old Dutch houses at 
Downham ; and Lynn, of course, being of old a port 
in closest touch with Holland, is full of queer gables 
and quaint architectural details brought over from 
the Low Countries. Here at Setchey, too, stands a 
very Dutch-like old inn the Lynn Arms. 




THE LY;NN ARMS, SETCHEY. 



Commons " Whin Commons " in the local 
phrase and the scattered houses of West Winch, 
lead on to Hard wick Bridge, where, crossing over the 
railway, the broad road bends to the right. There, 
facing you, is an ancient Gothic battlemented gate- 
house, and beyond it the long broad street of a 
populous town : the town of King's Lynn. 



LYNN 307 



XLVI 

THERE is a tintinnabulaiy, jingling sound in the 
name of Lynn that predisposes one to like the place, 
whether it be actually likeable or not. Has anyone 
ever stopped to consider how nearly like the name of 
this old seaport is to that of London ? Possibly the 
conjunction of London and Lynn has not occurred to 
any who have visited the town, but to those who 
have arrived at it by the pages of this book, the 
similarity will be interesting. The names of both 
London and Lynn, then, derive from the geograph- 
ical peculiarities of their sites, in many respects 
singularly alike. Both stand beside the lower 
reaches of a river, presently to empty itself into the 
sea, and the ground on which they stand has always 
been marshy. At one period, indeed, those were 
not merely marshes where Lynn and London now 
stand, but wide-spreading lakes fed by the lazy 
overflowings of Ouse and Thames. The Celtic 
British, who originally settled by these lakes, called 
them llyns, and this ancient seaport has preserved 
that prehistoric title in its original purity, only 
dropping the superfluous " 1 " ; but London's present 
name somewhat disguises its first style of Llyn dun, 
or the " hill by the lake " ; some inconsiderable, but 
fortified, hillock rising above the shallow waters. 

When the Saxons came, Lynn was here, and 
when the Norman conquerors reached the Norfolk 
coast they found it a busy port. To that early 
Norman prelate, Herbert de Losinga, a tireless 



3 o8 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



builder of churches throughout East Anglia, the 
manor fell, and the town consequently became known 
for four hundred and thirty years as Lynn Episcopi. 
It was only when the general confiscation of religious 
property took place under Henry the Eighth that 
it became the "King's Lynn" it has ever since 
remained. 

To the " average man," Lynn is well known. 




THE SOUTH GATES, LYNN. 

Although he has never journeyed to it, he knows 
this ancient seaport well ; not as a port or as a town 
at all, but only as a name. The name of Lynn, in 
short, is rooted in his memory ever since he read 
Hood's poem, the "Dream of Eugene Aram." 

Aram was no mere creation of a poet's brain, but 
a very real person. His story is a tragic one, and 
appealed not only to Hood, but to Bulwer Lytton, 



EUGENE ARAM 309 

who weaved much romance out of his career. Aram 
was born in 1704, in Yorkshire, and adopted the 
profession of a schoolmaster. It was at Knares- 
borough, in 1745, that the events happened that 
made him a wanderer, and finally brought him to the 
scaffold. 

How a scholar, a cultured man of Aram's remark- 
able attainments (for he was a philologist and 
student of the Celtic and Aryan languages) could 
have stooped to commit a vulgar murder is not 
easily to be explained, and it has not been de- 
finitely ascertained how far the motive of revenge, 
or in what degree that of robbery, prompted him to 
join with his accomplice, Houseman, in slaying 
Daniel Clarke. The unfortunate Clarke had been 
too intimate a friend of Aram's wife, and this may 
explain his share in the murder, although it does not 
account for Houseman's part in it. Clarke was not 
certainly known to have been murdered when he 
suddenly disappeared in 1745, and when Aram 
himself left Knaresborough, although there may have 
been suspicions, he was not followed up. It was 
only when some human bones were found in 1758 at 
Knaresborough that Houseman himself was suspected. 
His peculiar manner when they were found, and his 
assertions that they "could not* be Dan Clarke's" 
because Dan Clarke's were somewhere else, of course 
led to his arrest. And, as a matter of fact, they 
were not Clarke's, as Houseman's confession under 
arrest sufficiently proved. 

Whose they were does not appear. He told how 
he and Aram had killed that long-missing man and 



3 io THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

had buried his body in St. Kobert's Cave ; and, on 
the floor of that place being dug up, a skeleton was 
in due course discovered. 

Aram was traced to King's Lynn and arrested. 
Tried at York, he defended himself with extraordinary 
ability, but in vain, and was sentenced to death. 
Before his execution at York he confessed his part, 
and so to this sombre story we are at least spared 
the addition of a mystery and doubt of the justice of 
his sentence. 

Hood's poem makes Aram, conscience-struck, 
declare his crime to one of his Lynn pupils, in the 
form of a horrible dream. How does it begin, that 
ghastly poem ? Pleasantly enough 

'"Twas in the prime of summer time, 

An evening calm and cool ; 
And four-and-twenty happy boys 
Came bounding out of school." 

The Grammar School of those young bounders was 
pulled down and rebuilt many years ago, and so 
much of association lost. 

"Pleasantly shone the setting sun 
Over the town of Lynn," 

but Eugene Aram, the Usher, on this particular 
evening, 

"Sat remote from all, 
A melancholy man." 

Presently, Hood tells us, he espied, apart from the 
romping boys, one who sat and " pored upon a book." 
This morbid youngster was reading the " Death of 
Abel," and Aram improved the occasion, and " talked 




JOSEPH BEETON IN THE CONDEMNED CELL. 



A LYNN HIGHWAYMAN 313 

with him of Cain." With such facilities for entering 
intimately into Cain's feelings of blood-guiltiness, he 
conjured up so many terrors that, if we read the 
trend of Hood's verses correctly, the boy thought 
there was more in this than the recital of some 
particularly vivid nightmare, and informed the 
authorities, with the well-known result 

" Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn, 

Through the cold and heavy mist, 
And Eugene Aram walked between, 
With gyves upon his wrist." 

Twenty -five years later, Lynn turned off a local 
criminal on its own account, Joseph Beeton being 
executed, February 22, 1783, on the spot where 
a few weeks previously he had robbed the North 
Mail, on what is called the " Saddlebow Koad." This 
spot, now commonplace enough, was long marked by 
a clump, of trees known as "Beeton's Bush." An 
old engraving shows poor Joseph in the condemned 
hold, and represents him of an elegant slimness, 
heavily shackled and wearing what, under the 
circumstances, must be described as an extraordinarily 
cheerful expression of countenance. A contemporary 
account of his execution makes interesting, if 
gruesome, reading 

" The culprit was conveyed from Lynn Gaol in a 
mourning coach to the place of execution near the 
South Gates, and within a few yards of the spot 
where the robbery took place, attended by two 
clergymen : the Rev. Mr. Horsfall and the Rev. Mr. 
Merrist. After praying some time with great fervency, 



3 1 4 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

and a hymn being sung by the singers from St. 
Margaret's Church, the rope was fixed about his neck, 
which was no sooner done than he instantly threw 
himself off and died amidst the pitying tears of 
upwards of 5000 spectators. His behaviour was 




&&** 

THE GUILDHALL, LYNN. 

devout and excellent. This unfortunate youth had 
just attained his 20th year, and is said to have been 
a martyr to the villainy of a man whom he looked 
upon as his sincere friend. Indeed, so sensible were 
the gentlemen of Lynn that he was betrayed into the 
commission of the atrocious crime for which he 
suffered by the villainy of this supposed friend, that 



OLD L YNN 



a subscription was entered into and money collected 
to employ counsel to plead for him at his trial." 

The barbarous method of execution in those days 
placed the condemned in the dreadful alternative of 
slow strangulation, or what was practically suicide. 
To save themselves from the lingering agonies of 
strangulation, those who were possessed of the 
slightest spirit flung themselves from the ladder and 
so ended, swiftly and mercifully. 

The old account of Beeton's execution ends 
curiously like a depraved kind of humour: "The 
spirit of the prisoner, the constancy of his friends, 
and the church-parade made bright episodes in a 
dreadful scene." 



XLVII 

IT is a long, long way from the entrance through the 
South Gates, on the London road, into the midst of 
the town, where, by the Ouse^side, along the wharves 
of the harbour, and in the maze of narrow streets 
between the Tuesday and the Saturday market- 
places, old Lynn chiefly lies. In the Tuesday 
market-place, Losinga's great church of St. Margaret 
stands ; that church whose twin towers are prominent 
in all views of the town. Many of the old merchants 
and tradesmen lie there, but many more in the vast 
church of St. Nicholas, less well known to the casual 
visitor. On the floor of that noble nave, looked 
down upon by the beautiful aisle and clerestory 
windows, and by the winged angels that support the 



3 z6 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 



open timber roof, you may read the epitaphs of 
many an oversea trader and merchant prince, as well 
as those of humbler standing. Crusos are there, and 
among others a certain Simon Duport " Marchand, Ne 
en risle de Ke en France," whose epitaph is pre- 
sented bi-lingually, in French and English, for the 
benefit of those not learned in both. That of "Mr. 
Thomas Hollingworth, an Eminent Bookseller," is 
worth quoting. He, it appears, was " a Man of the 
Strictest Integrity In His Dealings and much 
esteemed by Gentlemen of Taste For the neatness 
and Elegance of his Binding." 

The merchants of Lynn are an extinct race, and 
most of their old mansions are gone. Yet in the 
old days, when Lynn supplied seven counties with 
coals, timber, and wine from the North of England, 
from the Baltic, and from many a port in Holland, 
France, Italy, and Spain, to be a Lynn merchant was 
no mean or inconsiderable thing. They lived, these 
princely traders, in mansions of the most noble 
architectural character, furnished with the best that 
money could buy and hung with tapestry and 
stamped leather from the most artistic looms and 
workshops of France and Spain. It never occurred 
to them that trade was a thing despicable and to be 
disowned. Instead of disconnecting themselves from 
their business, they lived with it; their residences 
and their warehouses in one range of buildings. 

A typical mansion of this old period is Clifton's 
House. The Cliftons and their old business are 
alike gone, and many of the beautiful fittings of 
their mansion have been torn out and sold, but the 



A L YNN ARCHITECT 319 

house itself stands, a grand memorial of their 
importance and of the patronage they and their kind 
extended to art. It faces Queen Street, at the 
corner of King's Staith Lane, and its courts and 
warehouses extend back to those quays where 
Clifton's ships, richly laden, once came to port from 
many a foreign clime. How anxiously those vessels 
were awaited may perhaps be judged from the tall 
red-brick tower rising in many storeys from the first 
courtyard, and commanding panoramic views down 
the river, out to the Wash, and away to the open 
sea at Lynn Deeps ; so that from the roof-top the 
coming of Clifton's argosies might early be made 
known. 

This house owes its fine Renaissance design to a 
Lynn architect whose name deserves to be remem- 
bered. Henry Bell, who built it in 1707, and whose 
works still enrich the town in many directions, 
flourished between 1655 and 1717. To him is due 
the beautiful Custom House overlooking the river 
and harbour, a work of art that in its Dutch-like 
character seems to have been brought bodily from 
some old Netherlands town and set down here by 
the quay. It was built as an Exchange, in the time 
of Charles the Second, whose statue still occupies an 
alcove ; but very shortly afterwards was taken over 
by the Customs. 

The great Tuesday market-place was once graced 
by a Renaissance market-cross from Bell's designs, 
but it was swept away in 1831. The Duke's Head 
Hotel, so originally named in honour of James, 
Duke of York, is another of Bell's works, not 



L YAW COACHING 32I 

improved of late by the plaster that has been spread 
entirely over the old red-brick front. 

The Duke's Head was in coaching days one of 
those highly superior houses that refused to entertain 
anyone who did not arrive in a carriage, or, at the 
very least of it, in a post-chaise. The principal inns 
for those plebeian persons who travelled by coach 
were the Globe and the Crown. It was to the 
Crown that old Thomas Cross and his " Lynn Union " 




THE DUKE S HEAD, LYNN. 

came. It is still standing, in Church Street, over 
against the east end of St. Margaret's Church, but 
in a pitifully neglected and out-at-elbows condition, 
as a Temperance House, its white plastered front, 
contemporary with the coaching age, even now 
proclaiming it to be a "Commercial and Family 
Hotel." 

The coaching age ended, so far as Lynn was 
concerned, in 1847, when the East Anglian Railway, 
from Ely to Lynn, with branches to Dereham, 

21 



322 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

Wisbeach, and Huntingdon, was opened. It was 
an unfortunate line, an amalgamation of three 
separate undertakings : the Lynn and Dereham, 
the Ely and Huntingdon, and the Lynn and Ely 
Railways. By its junction with the Eastern 
Counties, now the Great Eastern, at Ely, a through 
journey to London was first rendered possible. 
Three trains each way, instead of the twenty now 
running, were then considered sufficient for all needs. 
They were not, at that early date, either swift or 
dignified journeys, for engine-power was often 
insufficient, and it was a common thing for a train 
to be stopped for hours while engine-driver and 
stoker effected necessary repairs. It was then, and 
on those not infrequent occasions when trains ran 
by favour of the sheriff, accompanied by a " man in 
possession " and plastered with ignominious labels 
announcing the fact, that passengers lamented the 
coaches. The East Anglian Railway, indeed, like 
the Great Eastern, which swallowed it, had a very 
troubled early career. 

Lynn in those early years of innovation still 
retained many of its old-world ways. It was a 
sleepy time, as Mr. Thew, who has written his 
reminiscences of it, testifies. For police the town 
possessed one old watchman, who bore the old East 
Anglian name of Blanchflower, and patrolled the 
streets " with one arm and a lantern." The posting 
of letters was then a serious business, calling for 
much patience, for you did not in those days drop 
them into a letter-box, but handed them through a 
window at which you knocked. When the clerk in 







Ss 



THE CUSTOM-HOUSE, LYNN. 



cxusos 



325 



charge, one John Cooper, had satisfied his official 
dignity and kept you waiting long enough, he was 
graciously pleased to open the window and receive 
the letters. The successor to this upholder of official 
traditions, was one Charles Eix, addicted to Declaiming 
Shakespeare from his window. 

The postmaster of Lynn at this easy-going time was 
Mr. Eobinson Cruso, who also filled the miscellaneous 
occupations of auctioneer and estate agent, and wine' 
and spirit merchant, and was a member of the Town 
Council. He was a descendant of an old Lynn 
family, many of whose representatives lie in the 
church of St. Nicholas. This Cruso (they spelled 
their name without the "e") was an upholsterer, 
and born ten years after Defoe's famous book was 
published ; hence the " Robinson." There are still a 
number of the name in Norfolk and Suffolk. 



XLVIII 

WE must now make an end. Of Lynn's long 
municipal history, of the treasures stored in its 
ancient Guildhall, of King John's disastrous journey 
from the town across the Wash ; of many another 
stirring scene or historic pile this is not the place to 
speak. The Story of the Road is told, and, that 
being done, the task is completed ; but it is not 
without regret that a place like Lynn, so rich in 
picturesque incident, is thus left. Many a narrow, 
cobbled lane, lined with quaint houses, calls aloud to 



326 THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

be sketched ; there, too, are the ancient Keel Mount 
Chapel, in the lovely park-like "walks" that extend 
into the very heart of the town, and the ancient 
Greyfriars Tower to be noted ; but Lynn has been, 
and will be again, the subject of a book entirely 
devoted to itself. 

One pilgrimage, however, must be made ere 
these pages close : to Islington, four miles away on 
the Wisbeach road, for it is to that secluded place 
the sweet old ballad of the " Bailiff's Daughter of 
Islington " refers, and not to the better known 
" merry Islington " now swallowed up in London. 

The ballad of the "Bailiffs Daughter" is of 
unknown origin. It is certainly three hundred years 
old, and probably much older ; and has survived 
through all those centuries because of that sentiment 
of true love, triumphant over long years and distance 
and hard-hearted guardians, which has ever appealed 
to the popular imagination. Who was that Marsh- 
land bailiff and who the squire's son we do not know. 
It is sufficient to be told, in the lines of the sweet 
old song, that 

"There was a youth, and a well beloved youth, 

And he was a Squire's son ; 
He loved the Bailiff's daughter dear 
That lived at Islington." 

She was coy and reluctant and rejected his 
advances; so that, in common with many another, 
before and since, love-sickness claimed him for its 
own. Then, for seven long years, he was sent away, 
bound apprentice in London. Others in those 



AN OLD BALLAD 

circumstances would have forgotten the fair maid of 
Islington, but our noble youth was constancy itself, 
and, when his seven years had passed, came riding 
down the road, eager to see her face again. With 
what qualities of face and head and heart that maid 
must have been endowed ! 

Meanwhile, if we read the ballad aright, no one 




ISLINGTON. 



else came a-courting. Seven years mean much in 
such circumstances, and our maid grew desperate 

"She pulled off her gown of green, 

And put on ragged attire, 
And to fair London she would go, 
Her true love to enquire. 

And as she went along the high road 

The weather being hot and dry, 
She sat her down upon a green bank, 

And her true love came riding by. 



33 



THE CAMBRIDGE ROAD 

She started up, with a colour so red, 
Caught hold of his bridle rein; 

'One penny, one penny, kind sir,' she said, 
' Will ease me of much pain.' 

'Before I give you a penny, sweetheart, 
Pray tell me where you were born.' 

' At Islington, kind sir,' said she, 
'Where I have had many a scorn.' 

'Prythee, sweetheart, then tell to me, 
Oh, tell me whether you know 

The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington?' 
'She is dead, sir, long ago.' 



' If she be dead, then take my horse, 
My saddle and bridle also; 

For I will into some far countrye 
Where no man shall me know.' 



'Oh, stay, oh stay, thou goodly youth, 

She is standing by thy side ; 
She is here alive, she is not dead, 

But ready to be thy bride.'" 

I cannot read those old lines, crabbed and 
uncouth though they be, without something sus- 
piciously like a mist before the eyes and a certain 
difficulty in the throat. " God forbid I should 
grieve any young hearts," says Miss Matty, in 
Cranford. Sentiment will have its way, deny it 
though you will. 

Islington itself is, for these reasons, a place for 
pious pilgrimage. And a place difficult enough to 
find, for it is but an ancient church, a Park and 
Hall, and two cottages, approached through a 



A SENTIMENTAL CONCLUSION 



33' 



farmyard. That is all of Islington, the sweet 
savour of whose ancient story of true love has 
gone forth to all the world, and to my mind 
hallows these miles more than footsteps of saints 
and pilgrims. 



THE END 



INDEX 



Akeman Street, 5, 172, 181-183, 

213, 231, 244 251. 
Aldreth, 214, 225, 229, 243. 

Causeway, 217-221. 

Alfred the Great, 88-91, 263. 
Amwell, Great, 86. 
Aram, Eugene, 308-313. 
Arnim, Count, 108-110. 
Arrington Bridge, 4. 

Balloon Stone, 100. 

Barkway, 102-104. 

Barley, 102, 107-110, 123. 

Beggars' Bush, 251. 

Bishopsgate Street, 8-10, 32. 

Brandon Creek, 294. 

Braughing, 81, 102. 

Bread Riots, 273-287. 

Broxbourne, 35, 81. 

Bruce Grove, 40. 

Buckland, 120. 

Buntingford, 81, 110, 117-119,157. 

Cam, The, 153-155, 171, 172, 174, 
177, 201, 235, 236, 239, 243. 

Cambridge, 4, 14, 134-176, 226, 
262. 

Castle, 170-174. 

Caxton, 4. 

Gibbet, 127. 

Chaucer, Geoffrey, 135. 

Cheshunt, 35, 67, 69, 72, 75-80. 

Great House, 7, 77-80. 

Wash, 75-79. 

Chesterton, 176. 

Chettisham, 288. 

Chipping, 120. 

Chittering, 233. 

Clarkson, Thos., 98-100. 



Coaches 

Bee Hive, 21, 32. 

Cambridge Auxiliary Mail, 19. 
- Lynn, and Wells Mail, 20. 

Mail, 15, 19, 21. 

Stage, 14. 

and Ely Stage, 19. 

Telegraph, 16, 19, 21, 82, 

103. 

Union, 19. 

Day (Cambridge and Wisbeach), 
21. 

Defiance (Cambridge and Wis- 
beach), 21. 

Diligence (Cambridge), 13, 15. 

Fly (Cambridge), 14, 15, 19. 

Hobson's Stage (Cambridge), 15. 

Lord Nelson (Lynn), 20. 

Lynn and Fakenham Post 
"Coach, 20. 

Post Coach, 20. 

Union, 20, 26, 29, 31, 107, 

321. 

Night Post Coach (Cambridge), 
16. 

Norfolk Hero (Lynn and Wells), 
21. 

Prior's Stage (Cambridge), 15. 

Rapid (Cambridge and Wis- 
beach), 21. 

Red Rover (Lynn), 21, 254. 

Rocket (Cambridge), 21, 32. 

Royal Regulator (Cambridge), 
19, 21. 

Safety (Cambridge, Lynn, and 
Wells), 19, 31. 

Star of Cambridge (Cambridge), 
16-19, 21, 31. 

Tally Ho (Cambridge), 19. 



334 



INDEX 



Coaches continued. 
Telegraph (Cambridge), 16, 19, 

21, 82, 103. 

Times (Cambridge), 21. 
York Mail, 69. 
Coaching, 12-32, 69, 133. 
Notabilities 

Briggs, , 32. 

Clark, William, 32. 

Cross, John, 22-25. 

Cross, Thomas, 22-31, 107, 
256, 321. 

Elliott, George, 30. 

Goodwin, Jack, 254. 

Pryor, , 31. 

"Quaker Will," 30. 

Reynolds, James, 31. 

Vaughan, Richard, 30. 

Walton, Jo, 31. 

Denny Abbey, 231. 
Denver, 301-303. 

Sluice, 14, 302. 
Dismal Hall, 231. 
Downham Market, 192, 270, 275, 
283, 303, 306. 

Edmonton, Lower, 5, 34, 35, 36, 

46-52. 

, Upper, 6, 34, 36, 43-46. 
Eleanor, Queen, 56-68. 
Ely, 4, 190, 195, 225, 230, 241, 258, 

270, 281-288, 321, 322. 

Cathedral, 254, 256-270. 

, Isle of, 3, 182, 189, 212-226, 

230, 243, 289. 
Enfield Highway, 54. 

Wash, 54. 

Ermine Street, 3, 4-7, 75, 122. 
Etheldreda, Saint, 229, 260-264. 

Fens, The, 176, 182-208, 214-223, 
233-235, 239-248, 253, 275, 
291-298. 

Fielder, Richard Ramsay, 237-239. 

Fordham, 183, 298, 301. 

Fowlmere, 110, 112-115. 

Foxton, 132. 

Freezywater, 54. 

Gog Magog Hills, 140-142, 151. 
Granta, The, 133, 172. 
Grantchester, 135,172. 



Gray, Thomas, 148, 154. 
Great Amwell, 86. 

Eastern Railway, 31-34, 120, 

132, 236, 322. 

Northern Railway, 120, 132. 
Shelf ord, 133, 140. 



Guthlac, Saint, 196-198. 

Haddenham, 230, 262. 

Hardwick Bridge, 306. 

Hare Street, 102. 

Harston, 117, 133. 

Hauxton, 133. 

Hereward the Wake, 172, 208-214, 

221-223, 226-229. 
High Cross, 100. 
Highwaymen (in general), 54. 
Highwaymen 

Beeton, Joseph, 313-315. 

Gatward, , 125-127. 

King, Tom, 55. 

Shelton, Dr. Wm., 80. 

Turpin, Dick, 55. 
Hilgay, 297. 
Hobson, Thomas, 10-12, 32, 140, 

157-166. 

Hobson's Conduit, 140, 167. 
Hoddesdon, 7, 37, 82-86. 
Hogge's Bridge, 305. 

Iceni, The, 185. 
Inns (mentioned at length) 
Bath Hotel, Cambridge, 6, 170. 
Bell, Edmonton, 45, 49. 
Blue Boar, Cambridge, 15, 19, 

168. 
Bull, Bishopsgate Street Within, 

8-10, 12, 15, 158, 161. 
Bull, Cambridge, 19, 167. 
Bull, Hoddesdon, 82. 
Castle, Downham Market, 303. 
Chequers, Fowlmere, 115. 
Crown, Downham Market, 276, 

302, 304. 

, King's Lynn, 321. 

Duke's Head, King's Lynn, 319- 

321. 

Eagle, Cambridge, 16, 19, 170. 
Falcon, Cambridge, 169. 

, Waltham Cross, 67-69. 
Four Swans, Bishopsgate Street 

Within, 8. 
, Waltham Cross, 68. 



INDEX 



335 



Inns continued. 

Fox and Hounds, Barley, 107. 

Green Dragon, Bishopsgate 
Street Within, 8, 12, 15, 19. 

Hoop, Cambridge, 170. 

Lamb, Ely, 256. 

Lion, Cambridge, 14, 168. 

Lord Nelson, Upware, 235-239. 

Lynn Arms, Setchey, 306. 

Pickerel, Cambridge, 170. 

Eed Lion, Reed Hill, 120. 

, Royston, 14, 120, 125-127. 

Roman Urn, Crossbrook Street, 
75. 

Rose and Crown, Upper Edmon- 
ton, 51. 

Saracen's Head, Ware, 92, 94. 

Sun, Cambridge, 14, 15, 16. 

Three Tuns, Cambridge, 168. 

Two Brewers, Ponder's End, 53. 

Upware Inn, 235-239. 

White Horse, Fetter Lane, 13, 
16. 

Woolpack, Cambridge, 168. 

Wrestlers, Cambridge, 168. 
Islington, 326-331. 

Kett's Oak, 298-300. 
Kingsland Road, 27. 
King's Lynn, 4, 34, 306-326. 

Lamb, Charles, 36, 47-51, 53, 86. 
Landbeach, 177, 180, 189. 
Layston, 119. 

Littleport, 182, 189, 243, 244, 276- 
281, 283, 284, 289-292. 

Melbourn, 123, 128-131. 
Milestones, Early examples of, 

103, 110, 136. 
Milton, 176, 177. 

, John, 155, 163. 

Modney Bridge, 183, 297. 

Newton, 115. 

Nine Wells, The, 140. 

Old-time travellers 

Cobbett, Richard, 34, 122, 184, 

244, 258. 

Gilpin, John, 36, 38, 43-46, 87, 
96. 



Old-time travellers continued. 
James the First, 36, 46, 71-75. 
Pepys, Samuel, 12, 112-115. 
Prior, Matthew, 82-85. 
Thoresby, Ralph, 76-79. 
Walton, Izaak, 36-38, 43. 
Ouse, The, 180, 182, 198, 201, 205, 
218-221, 229, 236, 243, 257, 
289, 292, 294, 302, 315. 

Pasque Flower, The, 121. 
Ponder's End, 35, 47, 48, 52-54. 
Puckeridge, 102, 117. 

Quinbury, 102. 

Railways, 22, 28, 32-34, 95, 120, 

132, 236, 321. 
Rampton, 214. 
Roman roads, 34-37, 75, 122, 172, 

181-183, 213, 231, 244, 251. 
Royston, 4, 7, 117, 119, 120, 122- 

128. 

Cave, 124. 
Crow, 121. 

Downs, 117, 119-122. 
Ryston, 298, 300. 

Scotland Green, 42. 
Setchey, 305. 
Seven Sisters Road, 40. 
Shelford, Great, 133, 140. 
Shepreth, 131-133,229. 
Shoreditch Church, 10, 34, 35, 48. 
Southery, 183, 189, 275, 295-297. 
South Runcton, 305. 
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon, 179. 
Stamford Hill, 34, 35, 36. 
Standon Green End, 100. 
Stoke Newington, 35. 
Stow Bardolph, 304. 
Stretham, 182, 253. 

Bridge, 182, 243, 247-251. 

Theobalds, 7, 67, 72-75. 
Thetford, 255. 
Thriplow Heath, 115. 
Tottenham, 36, 38-43. 

High Cross, 35, 37, 38-43. 

Trumpington, 134-136. 
Turner's Hill, 75. 
Turnford, 80. 



336 INDEX 

Turnpike Acts, 119. 
Trusts, 119. 

Upware, 235-240, 243. 

Wade's Mill, 97, 119. 
Walsingham, Alan of, 267. 
Waltham Cross, 34, 54-70, 79. 
Ware, 5, 6, 7, 34, 36, 87-97. 
, Great Bed of, 86, 87, 93. 



Waterbeach, 177-180, 189. 

West Mill, 117. 

West Winch, 306. 

Wicken Fen, 198, 233-235, 240. 

William the Conqueror, 3, 170- 

173, 209, 212-215, 217, 221- 

227, 230, 270. 
Wimbotsham, 304. 
Witchford, 225, 230. 
Worrnley, 81. 



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