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Full text of "The Great North road, the old mail road to Scotland"

NO 





THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

RIVERSIDE 



Ex Libris 
C. K. OGDEN 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



HISTORIES OF THE ROADS 

BY 

CHARLES G. HARPER. 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD : The Classic Highway 

to the South. 

THE GREAT NORTH ROAD : London to York. 
THE GREAT NORTH ROAD : York to Edinburgh 
THE DOVER ROAD : Annals of an Ancient 

Turnpike. 
THE BATH ROAD : History, Fashion and 

Frivolity on an old Highway. 
THE MANCHESTER AND GLASGOW ROAD : 

London to Manchester. 
THE MANCHESTER ROAD : Manchester to 

Glasgow. 

THE HOLYHEAD ROAD : London to Birming- 
ham. 
THE HOLYHEAD ROAD: Birmingham to 

Holyhead. 
THE HASTINGS ROAD : And The " Happy 

Springs of Tunbridge." 
THE OXFORD GLOUCESTER AND MILFORD 

HAVEN ROAD : London to Gloucester. 
THE OXFORD, GLOUCESTER AND MILFORD 

HAVEN ROAD Gloucester to Milford Haven. 
THE NORWICH ROAD An East Anglian 

Highway. 
THE NEWMARKET, BURY, THETFORD AND 

CROMER ROAD. 
THE EXETER ROAD . The West of England 

Highway. 

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

ROAD. 



GREAT NORTH ROAD 

The Old Mail Road to Scotland 

' 
By CHARLES G'. HARPER 



YORK TO EDINBURGH 

With 77 Illustrations by the Author, and from 
old-time Prints and Pictures 




LONDON : 

CECIL PALMER 
OAKLEY' HOUSE, BLOOMSBURY STREET, W.C. I 



D/K ' 

H38 

I f.3.2. 



First Published in 1901. 
Second and Revised Edition 1922. 



Printed in Great Britain by C. TINLING & Co., LTD., 
53, Victoria Street, Liverpool. 
Also at London and Prescot. 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 
YORK TO EDINBURGH 

London (General Post Office) to MILES 

York , 196| 

Clifton. . . . ... . * 198J 

Rawcliff . . . ... . . , 200J 

Skelton . . . ... . . . 201 J 

Shipton . 202f 

Tollerton Lanes . . . . . . 206 

Easingwold . 210J 

White House . .... . 211J 

Thormanby 214J 

Birdforth . . . . . ..215 

Bagby Common (" Griffin " Inn) . ... 217J 

Mile House . . , ^ . . 218J 

Thirsk . . * fc % . . 220J 

South Kilvington ...... 222 

Thornton-le-Street . . . . ; . 223J 

Thornton-le-Moor . . ., . . . . 224| 

Northallerton . . . . . . . . 229 

Lovesome Hill . . , ,. . . 229| 

Little Smeaton (cross River Wiske) . . . 231 1 

Great Smeaton 232J 

High Entercommon ...... 233J 

Dalton-on-Tees 236J 

Croft (cross River Tees) . . . 237f 

Oxneyfield Bridge (cross River Skerne) . . 238 

Darlington ....... 241 J 

Harrowgate ....... 243 1 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

MILES 

Coatham Mundeville ..... 245J 

Aycliffe 246f 

Traveller's Rest 248 

Woodham 249 J 

Rushyford Bridge 250 

Ferryhill 253 

Low Butcher Race and Croxdale . . . 255 

Sunderland Bridge ..... 255| 

Browney Bridge (cross River Wear) . . 256 

Durham (cross River Browney) . . . 260 

Durham Moor (Framwellgate) . . . 261 

Plawsworth 263 

Chester-le-Street 266 

Birtley 269 

Gateshead Fell 271 

Gateshead (cross River Tyne) .... 273 

Newcastle-on-Tyne ..... 274J 
Gosforth . . . . . . .277 

Seaton Burn 280| 

Stannington Bridge (cross River Blyth) . . 284 

Stannington ...... 284J 

Clifton. . 286J 

Morpeth (cross River Wansbeck) . . . 289J 

Warrener's House . . . . 29 1J 

Priest's Bridge 293J 

West Thirston (cross River Coquet) . . 299J 

Feiton , 299| 

Newton-on-the Moor ..... 302 

Alnwick (cross River Aln) .... 308 J 

Heiferlaw Bank 310 

North Charlton 31 4 1 

Warenford 318| 

Belford 323 

Detchant Cottages 325} 

Fenwick 328 



MILEAGES. 

MILKS 

Haggerston ....... 331 

Tweedmouth (cross River Tweed) . . . 337 

Berwick-on-Tweed . . . . * 338 

Lamberton Toll . 341 



(ENTER SCOTLAND) 

Greystonelees ...... 343 1 

Flemington Inn and Burnmouth (cross River Eye) 344 

Ayton ..... .... 346 

Hound wood ...... 351 f 

Grant's House . . . . . 354i 

Cockburnspath . . . . . 358 

Dunglass Dene . . . . . 359J 

Broxburn ....... 3634 

Dunbar ....... 365 

Belhaven . . . . , . .- 365J 

Beltonford . . . .. ... 367 

Phantassie . . . . . . 370 

East Linton ..... . 370 

Haddington . . . . ~: .376 

Gladsmuir ....... 379| 

Macmerry ....... 381 J 

Tranent ...... . 383J 

Musselburgh (cross North Esk River) . . 387J 

Joppa . . . ... ... 389J 

Portobello . . . , . . . .390 

Jock's Lodge . . . . . . 391 \ 

Edinburgh . . . . . . 393 

Via FERRYBRIDGE, WETHERBY, AND BOROUGHBRIDGE. 



Doncaster (cross River Don) .... 
York Bar ..... . . 164 

Red House . . . . . . 167J 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

MILES 

Robin Hood's Well 169J 

Went Bridge (cross River Went) . . . 172f 

Darrington ....... 174J 

Ferrybridge (cross River Aire) . . . 177J 

Brotherton . . . . . . 178i 

Fairburn 180 

Micklefield 184 

Aberford 186J 

Bramham Moor . . . . . .189 

Bramham 190J 

Wetherby (cross River Wharfe) . . . 194J 

KirkDeighton 195J 

Walshford Bridge (cross River Nidd) . . 197^ 

Allerton Park 200 f 

Nineveh 202^ 

Ornham's Hall 204 

Boroughbridge (cross River Ure) . . . 206 

Kirkby Hill 207 

Dishforth ...."... 210J 

Asenby 212J 

Topcliffe (cross River Swale) . . . . 21 2 J 

Sand Hutton 217 

Newsham ....... 219 

South Otterington 220| 

North Otterington 222J 

Northallerton 225J 

Edinburgh 389 



ILBS? 




PAGE 

The " Highflyer," 1812 . . Frontispiece 

Old York : The Shambles . . ... 6 

The Walls of York . . ... . 9 

York Castle : Clifford's Tower . . . 14 

York Minster, from the Foss .... 33 

All Saints' Pavement ..... 41 

Jonathan Martin, Incendiary . . ... 45 

York Minster 011 Fire ..... 49 

Bootham Bar ...... 52 

Skelton Church ...... 53 

The " Spotted Dog," Thornton-le-Street . . 60 

York Bar 63 

Robin Hood's Well ..... 64 

The Battlefield of Towton and surrounding 

country ...... 70 

Saxton ....... 71 

Towton Dale 72 

Lead Chapel . . . . . . 74 

Ruined Mill overlooking Aberford . 76 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

PAGE 

Barwick-in-Elmete ..... 77 

Moor End 80 

Nineveh . . . . . . . 81 

The Edinburgh Express, 1837 . . . 85 

Croft Bridge 93 

Sockburn Falchion ..... 94 

" Locomotion " . . . . . . 98 

" The Experiment "" 99 

" I say, fellow, give my buggy a charge of coke, 

your charcoal is too d d dear " . . 101 

The Iron Road to the North . . . .105 

Traveller's Rest .108 

Rushyford Bridge . . . . .109 

Ferry hill : The Abandoned Road- Works. . Ill 

Merrington Church . . . . . 113 

Road, Rail, and River : Sunderland Bridge . 115 

Entrance to Durham . . . . .117 

Durham Cathedral, from Prebend's Bridge . 121 

The Sanctuary Knocker. . . . .125 

Durham Cathedral and Castle from below 

Framwellgate Bridge . . . 12 T 

Framwellgate Bridge . . . . .130 
Penshaw Monument . . . . .132 

The Coal Country 137 

A Wayside Halt 138 

Travellers arriving at an Inn . . . .145 
Modern Newcastle : from Gateshead . . 153 

Old Newcastle : showing the Town Bridge, now 

demolished . . . . . .157 

" The Drunkard's Cloak " . . .162 
" Puffing Billy " 165 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

The Gates of Blagdon Park . . . .167 

Morpeth 169 

The Market-place, Morpeth . . . .173 

Felton Bridge 174 

Alnwick ....... 175 

Alnwick Castle . . . . . . 185 

Malcolm's Cross . . . ... . 188 

Bambrough Castle 192 

The Scottish Border : Berwick Town and Bridge 

from Tweedmouth . . . . .197 

Lamberton Toll 203 

Off to the Border . . . . .205 

Cockburnspath Tower . . . . .213 

The Tolbooth, Dunbar . . . . .215 

Bothwell Castle ...... 220 

Haddington Abbey, from Nungate . . . 221 
Edinburgh, from Tranent .... 223 

Musselburgh . . . v . . ~ . 228 

Calton Hill .232 

The " White Horse " Inn . . . . 235 
" Squalor and Picturesqueness " . . 238 

Canongate 239 

Old Inscription, Lady Stair's House . . 241 
The " Heave Awa " Sign . . . . 242 

A Tirle-pin " 243 

Greyfriars ....... 245 

The Wooden Horse 247 

Stately Princes Street ..... 249 

P^dinburgh, New Town, 1847, from Mons Meg 

Battery 251 

Skyline of the Old Town . . . . 255 



THE 

GREAT 



, NORJH 




YORK TO EDINBURGH 



AT last we are safely arrived at York, perhaps no cause 
for comment in these days, but a circumstance which 
" once upon a time " might almost have warranted 
a special service of prayer and praise in the Minster. 
One comes to York as the capital of a country, rather 
than of a county, for it is a city that seems in more 
than one sense Metropolitan. Indeed, you cannot 
travel close upon two hundred miles, even in England 
and in these days of swift communication, without 
feeling the need of some dominating city, to act 
partly as a seat of civil and ecclesiastical government, 
and partly as a distributing centre ; and if something 
of this need is even yet apparent, how much more 
keenly it must have been felt in those " good old days " 
which were really so bad ! A half-way house, so to 
speak, between those other capitals of London and 
Edinburgh, York had all the appearance of a capital 
in days of old, and has lost but little of it, in these, 

B 1 



2 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

even though in point of wealth and population it 
lags behind those rich and dirty neighbours, Leeds 
and Bradford. For one thing, it has a history to 
which they cannot lay claim, and keeps a firm hold 
upon titles and dignities conferred ages ago. We 
may ransack the pages of historians in vain in 
attempting to find the beginnings of York. Before 
history began it existed, and just because it seems a 
shocking thing to the well-ordered historical mind 
that the first founding of a city should go back 
beyond history or tradition, Geoffrey of Monmouth 
and other equally unveracious chroniclers have 
obligingly given precise and quite untrustworthy 
accounts of how it arose, at the bidding of kings 
who never had an existence outside their fertile 
brains. 

When the Romans came, under Agricola, in A.D. 70, 
York was here. We do not know by what name 
the Brigantes, the warlike tribe who inhabited the 
northern districts of Britain, called it, but they 
possessed forts at this strategic point, the confluence 
of the rivers Ouse and Foss, where York still stands, 
and evidently had the military virtues fully developed, 
because it has seemed good to all who have come 
after them, from the Romans and the Normans to 
ourselves, to build and retain castles on the same 
sites. The Brigantes were a great people, despite 
the fact that they had no literature, 110 science, and 
no clothes with which to cover their nakedness, and 
were they in existence now, might be useful in 
teaching our War Office and commanding officers 
something of strategy and fortification. They have 
left memorials of their existence in the names of 
many places beginning with " Brig," and they are the 
sponsors of all the brigands that ever existed, for 
their name was a Brito- Welsh word meaning " hill- 
men " or " highlanders," and, as in the old days, to be 
a highlander was to be a thief and cut-throat, the 
chain of derivative facts that connects them with the 
bandits of two thousand years is complete. 



ROMAN YORK 3 

A hundred and twenty years or so after the Romans 
had captured the Brigantes' settlement here, we find 
York suddenly emerging, a fully-fledged Roman city, 
from the prehistoric void, under the name of 
Eboracum. This was in the time of the Emperor 
Septimus Severus, who died in A.D. 211 in this 
Altera Roma, the principal city of Roman Britain. 
For this much is certain, that, as Winchester was, 
and London is, the capital of England, so was York 
at one time the chief city of the Roman colony, the 
foremost place of arms, of ru^e, and of residence ; and 
so it remained until Honorius, the hard-pressed, freed 
Britain from its allegiance in A.D. 410 and withdrew 
the legionaries. Two hundred years is a considerable 
length of time, even in the history of a nation, and 
much happened in Eboracum in that while. Another 
Roman emperor died here, in the person of Constantius 
Chlorus, and his son, Constantine the Great, whom 
some will have it was even born here, succeeded 
him. Both warred with the Pictish tribes from 
the North ; that inhospitable North which swallowed 
up whole detachments ; the North which Hadrian 
had conquered over two hundred years before, and 
now was exhausting the energies of the conquerors. 
Empire is costly in lives and treasure, and the tragedy 
of Roman conquest and occupation is even now 
made manifest in the memorials unearthed by 
antiquaries, recording the deaths of many of the 
Roman centurions at early ages. Natives of sunny 
Italy or of the south of France, they perished in the 
bleak hills and by the wintry rivers of Northumbria, 
much more frequently than" they did at the hands of 
the hostile natives, who soon overwhelmed the 
magnificence of Eboracum when the garrisons left. 
The civilisation that had been established here, 
certainly since the time of Severus, was instantly 
destroyed, and Caer Evrauc, as it came to be called, 
became a heap of ruins. Then came the Saxons, 
who remodelled the name into Eoferwic, succeeded 
in turn by the Danes, from whose " Jorvic," pronounced 



4 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

with the soft J, we obtain Yorvic, the " Euerwic " of 
Domesday Book, and finally York. But whence the 
original " Eboracum " derived or what it meant is 
purely conjectural. 

Christianity, fulfilling Divine promise, had brought 
" not peace, but a sword " to the Romans, and the 
Saxon king, Edwin of Northumbria, had not long 
been converted and baptized at York, on the site of 
the present Minster, before he was slain in conflict with 
the heathen. It was Paulinus, first Archbishop of 
York, who had baptized Edwin in 625. Sent to 
the North of England by Gregory the Great, as 
Augustine had already been sent for the conversion 
of the South, it was the Pope's intention to establish 
two Archbishoprics ; and thence arose centuries of 
quarrelling between the Archbishops of Canterbury 
and those of York as to who was supreme. York, 
indeed, only claimed equal rights ; but Canterbury 
claimed precedence. In the Synod of 1072 the 
Archbishop of York was declared subordinate to 
Canterbury, but half a century later, in order to 
make peace, Rome adjudged them equal. Even this 
did not still the strife, and Roger Pont 1'Eveque, the 
Archbishop of York, who was contemporary with 
Becket, and aided the king in his struggle with that 
prelate, was especially bitter in the attempt to assert 
in a 1 ! places and at all seasons this equality. He 
renewed the contention with Becket's successor, and 
provoked an absurd scene at the Council of Westminster 
in 1176, when, arriving late and finding the Archbishop 
of Canterbury present and already seated, he sat down 
in his lap. The result was that the Council of West- 
minster immediately resolved itself into a faction 
fight, in which my lord of York was jumped upon and 
kicked, for all the world like a football umpire who has 
given an unpopular decision. Even this did not 
settle either the Archbishop of York or the strife, and 
so at last, in 1354, it was decreed that each should be 
supreme in his own Province, and that the Archbishop 
of Canterbury should be " Primate of All England,'' 



ANCIENT STREETS 5 

while his brother of York should bear the title of 
" Primate of England " ; but whenever an Archbishop 
of York was consecrated he should send to the Primate 
of All England a golden jewel, valued at 40, to be laid 
on the Shrine of St. Thomas. " Thus," says Fuller, 
in his inimitably humorous manner, " when two 
children cry for the same apple, the indulgent father 
divides it between them, yet so that he gives the 
better part to the child which is his darling." Rome 
has long since ceased to have part or lot in the English 
Church, but this solemn farce of nomenclature is still 
retained. 

In such things as these does York retain something 
of its old pride of pla.ce. Even its Mayor is a Lord 
Mayor, which was something to be proud of before 
these latter days, now Lord Mayors are three a penny, 
and every bumptious modern overgrown town is in 
process of obtaining one. The first Lord Mayor of 
York, however, was appointed by Richard the Second, 
and thus the title has an honourable antiquity. 

In its outward aspect, York is varied. It runs the 
whole gamut, from the highest antiquity to the most 
modern of shops and villas ; from the neatest and tidiest 
streets to the most draggle-tailed and out-at-elbowed 
courts and alleys. From Clifton and Knavesmire, 
which is a great deal more respectable and clean than 
its evil-sounding name would lead the stranger to 
suppose, to the Shambles, Fossgate, and Mucky Peg's 
Lane (now purged of offence as Finkle Street) is a further 
social than geographical cry, and they certainly touch 
both extremes. " Mucky Peg " and the knaves of the 
waste lands outside the city are as historic in their way 
as Roman York, which lies nine feet below the present 
level of the streets, and for whose scanty relics one 
must visit the Museum of the Philosophical Society in 
the grounds of the ruined St. Mary's Abbey. In those 
grounds also the only fragment of the Roman walls 
may be seen, in the lower stage of the Multangular 
Tower, once commanding the bank of the river Ouse. 

York is perhaps of all English towns and cities the 



6 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



most difficult place to explore. Its streets branch and 
wind in every direction, without any apparent plan or 
purpose, and thus an exploration of the Walls, of which 

the city is, with 
reason, extreme- 
ly proud, be- 
comes the best 
means of ascer- 
taining its im- 
portance and the 
relative positions 
of Castle and 
Minster. It is 
no short stroll, 
for, by the time 
the whole circuit 
is made, a dis- 
tance of nearly 
three miles has 
been covered. 
These medieval 
walls form, in- 
deed, the most 
delightful pro- 
menade imagin- 
able, being built 
on a grassy ram- 
part and pro- 
vided with a 
paved footpath 
running on the 
inner side of the 
battlements, and 
thus command- 
ing panoramic 
views within and without the city. Endeavour, by 
an effort of the imagination, to see the ground 
outside the walls free from the suburbs that now 
spread far in almost every direction, and you 
have the York of ancient days, little changed ; for from 




OLD YORK : THE SHAMBLES. 



MICKLEGATE BAR 7 

this point of view, looking down upon the clustered 
red roofs of the city, with its gardens and orchards, 
the towering bulk of the Minster, and the broad 
expanse of adjoining lawns, nearly all the signs of 
modern life are hidden. Something of an effort it is 
to imagine the great railway station of York away, 
for it bulks very largely outside the walls near the 
Lendal Bridge ; but the medieval gates of the city 
help the illusion, and hint at the importance of the 
place in those times. Micklegate Bar, the chief of 
them, still bears the heraldic shields sculptured hun- 
dreds of years ago, when kings of England claimed 
also to be kings of France and quartered the seme'e 
of lilies with the lions. There are four arches now 
to this and three to the other bars, instead of but 
the one through which both pedestrian and other 
traffic went in olden times ; but the side arches have 
been so skilfully constructed in the mediaeval style 
that they are not an offence, and are often, indeed, 
taken on trust as old by those unlearned in these 
things. Stone effigies of men-at-arms still appear on 
the battlemented turrets, and take on threatening 
aspects as seen against the skyline by approaching 
travellers. But did they ever achieve their purpose 
and succeed in deceiving an enemy into the belief 
that they were really flesh and blood ? If so, they 
must in those days have been very credulous folk, to be 
imposed upon by such devices. 

Crossing the Ouse by Lendal Bridge, where chains 
stretched across the river from towers on either bank 
formerly completed the circle of defences, Bootham Bar 
is reached, spanning the exit from York along the 
Great North Road. Still a worthy approach to, or exit 
from, the city, it wore a yet more imposing appearance 
until towards the close of the coaching age, when its 
barbican, the outworks with which every one of the 
York bars was provided, was wantonly destroyed. 
Those who would recall the ancient appearance of 
Bootham Bar and its fellows, as viewed from without, 
have only to see Walmgate Bar, whose barbican still 



8 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

remains, the only one left in the march of intellect and 
of " improvements." Then it presented a forbidding 
front to the North, and with the walls, which were 
here at their highest and strongest, disputed the path 
of the Scots. The walls have been broken down and 
demolished between the river and this bar, and modern 
streets driven through, so that something of the grim 
problem presented to a northern enemy is lost to the 
modern beholder ; but the view remains among the 
finest, and comprises the towers of the Minster, peering 
in grandeur from behind this warlike frontal. The 
Scots were here soon after Bannockburn. In 1319 an 
army of 15,000 came down, and York would probably 
have fallen had it not been for these strong defences, the 
finest examples of military architecture in England. 
As it was, they found York too well cared for, and so, 
destroying everything outside the walls and leaving 
it on their left, they endeavoured to pass south by 
Ferrybridge. At Myton-upon-Swale, ' near Borough- 
bridge, they met the English, hastily brought up by 
the Archbishop, and defeated them with the utmost 
ease. But prudence was ever a Scottish characteristic, 
and so, with much booty, they retreated into Scotland, 
instead of following up their advantage. 

The walk along the walls from Bootham Bar to 
Monk Bar is glorious in spring, with the pink and 
white blossoms of apple, pear, and plum-trees, for here 
the well-ordered gardens of the ecclesiastical dignitaries 
are chiefly situated. Midway, the wall makes a return 
in a south-easterly direction. Monk Bar, whose name 
derives from General Monk, Duke 'of Albemarle, was 
once known as Goodramgate, and the street in which it 
stands still bears that name, supposed to be a corruption 
of " Guthram," the name of some forgotten Danish 
chieftain. At some distance beyond it, the wall goes 
off due east, to touch the river Foss at Layerthorpe, 
where that stream and the quagmires that once 
bordered it afforded an excellent defence in themselves, 
without any artificial works. Thus it is that the wall 
ceases entirely until the Red Tower is reached, on the 




'' - ' v^^' ; 

&M ^ 

BFSjjSo^'v* ' 'V ~ 

^ A M : , ^ 




"WHIP-DOG DAY' 11 

outer bank of the Foss, where it recommences and takes 
a bend to the south-west. From this point to 
Walmgate Bar and the Fishergate Postern it is 
particularly slight, the necessary strength being 
provided by the Foss itself, forming a second line of 
defence, with the castle behind it. Thence we come 
to the broad Ouse again, now crossed by the Skeldergate 
Bridge, but once protected, as at Lendal, by chains 
drawn from bank to bank. On the opposite bank, on 
the partly natural elevation of Baile Hill, stood a 
subsidiary castle, and here the wall is carried on a 
very high mound until it rejoins Micklegate Bar. 

There are but few so-called " streets " in York. 
They are mostly " gates," a peculiarity of description 
which is noticeable throughout the Midlands and the 
North. And queerly named some of these " gates " 
are. There is Jubbergate, whose name perpetuates 
the memory of an ancient Jewish quarter established 
here ; Stonegate, the narrow lane leading to the 
Minster, along which went the stone with which 
to build it ; Swinegate, a neighbourhood where the 
unclean beasts were kept, and many more. But most 
curious of all is " Whipmawhopmagate," a continuation 
of Colliergate. This oddly named place is rarely 
brought to the notice of the stranger, because it has 
but two houses ; but, despite its whimsical name, it 
has a real, and indeed a very old, existence. Connected 
with its name is the institution of " Whip Dog Day," a 
celebration once honoured on every St. Luke's Day, 
October 18, by the thrashing of all the dogs met with 
in the city. According to the legend still current, it 
seems that in mediaeval times, while the priest was 
celebrating the sacrament at the neighbouring church 
of St. Crux, he dropped the consecrated pax, which 
was swallowed by a stray dog who had found his way 
into the building. For this crime the animal was 
sentenced to be severely whipped, and an annual day 
was set apart for the indiscriminate thrashing of his 
fellows. A more likely derivation of the name of 
Whipmawhopmagate is from the spot having been the 



12 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

whipping-place of religious penitents, or of merely 
secular misdemeanants. 

II 

THE grim blackened walls of York Castle confront 
the traveller who approaches the city by Fishergate, 
and lend a gloomy air to the entrance ; the more 
gloomy because those heavy piles of sooty masonry 
nowadays encircle a prison for malefactors, rather than 
forming the defences of a garrison, and keep our social 
enemies within, instead of a more chivalric foe without. 
For over two hundred years York Castle has been an 
assize court and a gaol, and the military element no 
longer lends it pure romance. Romance of the sordid 
kind it has, this beetle-browed place of vain regrets 
and expiated crimes, of dismal cells and clanking 
fetters ; but if you would win back to the days of 
military glory which once distinguished it, your 
imaginary journey will be lengthy indeed. These 
battlemented walls, enclosing four acres of ground, 
and with a compass of over eleven hundred yards, were 
completed in 1856, and, with the prison arrangements 
within, cost 200,000. If, as the poet remarks, 
" peace hath her victories, no less renowned than 
war," she also needs defences, as much against the 
villainous centre-bit as against the foreign foe. 

But there is still something left of the York Castle 
of old, although you must win to it past frowning 
portals eloquent of a thousand crimes, great and 
small, guarded by prison warders and decorated with 
notice-boards of Prison Regulations. Clifford's Tower, 
this ancient portion, itself goes no farther back into 
history than the time of Edward the First ; and of 
the buildings that witnessed the appalling massacre of 
the Jews, in March 1190, nothing fortunately remains. 
It cannot be to the advantage of sightseers that the 
blood-stained stones of that aw'ful time should stand. 
History alone, without the aid of sword or shattered 
wall, is more than sufficient to keep the barbarous 



THE JEWS OF YORK 13 

tale alive, of how some five hundred Jews of all ages 
and sexes fled for protection to the Castle keep, and 
were besieged there for days by Christians, thirsting 
for their blood. Their death was sure : only the 
manner of it remained uncertain. The wholesale 
slaughter of Jews at Lynn, Lincoln, and Stamford 
rendered surrender impossible, and rather than die 
slowly in the agonies of starvation they set the Castle 
on fire, husbands and brothers slaying the women and 
children, and then stabbing themselves. Those few 
who feared to die thus opened the gates as morning 
dawned. " Affliction has taught us wisdom," they 
said, " and we long for baptism and for the faith and 
peace of Christ " ; but even as they said it the swords 
and axes of ruthless assassins struck them down. 
Christ was avenged, and, incidentally, many a Christian 
debtor cried quits with his Jewish creditor as he 
dashed out the infidel's brains. It is not often given 
to champions of causes, religious or political, to make 
one blow serve both public and private ends, and 
those Christians were fortunate. At the same time, 
sympathy with the murdered Jews may easily be 
overstrained. They had but sown the wind and 
reaped the whirlwind. Trading and following the 
traditional Jewish occupation of usury, they had 
eaten like a canker into the heart of York. They 
had lived in princely style, and knew how to grind 
the faces of their Christian debtors, whose lives they 
had made miserable, and so simply fell victims to that 
revenge which has been aptly described as " a kind of 
wild justice." 

Clifford's Tower, standing where these scenes were 
enacted, is a roofless shell, standing isolated on its 
mound within the Castle walls, and obtains its name, 
not from its builder, but from Francis Clifford, Earl of 
Cumberland, who made a doorway in it in the time 
of Charles the First. It was ruined by explosion and 
fire in 1684, and so remains, shattered and overgrown 
with trees and grass, a picturesque object that the 
eye loves to linger upon in contrast with the classic 



14 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



buildings that occupy the old Castle wards, and speak 
of crime and its penalties. He who would bring back 
the crimes and ferocities of a hundred and fifty years 
or more to the mind's eye can have his taste gratified 




YORK CASTLE: CLIFFORD'S TOWER, 

and the most vivid pictures conjured up at the sight of 
such choice and thrilling relics as the horn-handled 
knife and fork with which the bodies of rebels captured 
in the '45 were quartered ; the leathern strap that 
Holroyd used for the purpose of hanging his father 
from the boughs of a cherry-tree ; a fragment of the 
skull of Eugene Aram's victim, Daniel Clark ; the 
curiously varied implements used by wives and 
husbands who murdered their yoke-fellows, ranging 
from the unwifely sledge-hammer and razor wielded 
by wives, to the knives and pokers chiefly affected by 
the husbands ; Jonathan Martin the incendiary's 
impromptu flint and steel, and the bell rope by whose 
aid he escaped from the Minster ; and those prime 
curiosities, Dick Turpin's fetters. Even Turpin's cell 



DICK TURPIN 15 

can be seen by those who, after much diligent applica- 
tion to the Prisons Department of the Home Office, 
procure the entree to the Castle ; and in that " stone 
jug," as the criminals of old called their cells, the 
imaginative can reconstruct their Turpin as they will. 
Many a better man than he has occupied this gloomy 
dungeon, but scarce a worse. 



Ill 

ONE of the most notorious of the criminals who were 
haled forth from this condemned hold to end their days 
on Knavesmire was Richard Turpin, who was hanged on 
the 17th of April, 1739. This cruel and mean ruffian, 
around whose sordid career the glamour of countless 
legends of varying degrees of impossibility has gathered, 
was the son of a small innkeeper and farmer at the 
appropriately named village of Hempstead, in Essex. 
The inn, called the " Crown," almost wholly rebuilt, 
however, is in existence to this day, and his baptismal 
record may yet be read in the parish register : 
" 1705, Sept. 21, Richardus, filius Johannis et Mariae 
Turpin." 

Apprenticed to a butcher in Whitechapel, he soon 
set up in business for himself, obtaining his cattle by 
the simple and ready expedient of stealing them. 
He married a girl named Palmer, whose name he 
afterwards took, and after a career of house-breaking 
and cattle-lifting in Essex and parts of Middlesex, 
in which he figured as one of a numerous gang who 
never attacked or plundered unless they were armed 
to the teeth and in a great numerical superiority, 
found the home counties too hot to hold him ; and 
so, after shooting his friend, one of the three brothers 
King, all highwaymen, in the affray at Whitechapel 
in 1737, in which he escaped from the Bow Street 
officers, he fled first into Essex and then into Lincoln- 
shire. Authorities disagree, both as to the particular 



1H THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

King who was shot, and on the question of whether 
Turpin shot him accidentally in aiming at one of the 
officers, or with the purpose of preventing him giving 
evidence disclosing his haunts. The legends make 
Tom King the martyr on this occasion, and represent 
him as bidding Turpin to fly ; but the facts seem to 
point to Matthew being the victim, and to his cursing 
Turpin for a coward, as he died. It is quite certain 
that a Tom King, a highwayman, suffered at Tyburn 
in 1755, eight years later. 

As for Turpin, or Palmer, as he now called himself, 
he settled at Welton, near Beverley, and then at 
Long Sutton, Lincolnshire, as a gentleman horse-dealer. 
He had not long been domiciled in those parts before 
the farmers and others began to lose their stock 
in a most unaccountable manner. The wonder is that 
no one suspected him, and that he could manage, for 
however short a period, to safely sell the many horses he 
stole. He even managed to mix freely in company 
with the yeomen of the district, and despite his 
ill-favoured countenance, made himself not unwelcome. 
But his brutal nature was the cause of his undoing. 
Returning from a shooting excursion, he wantonly 
shot one of his neighbour's fowls, and on being 
remonstrated with, threatened to serve one of his new 
friends the same. He was accordingly summoned at 
the Beverley Petty Sessions, when it appeared that he 
had no friends to find bail for him, and that he was, in 
point of fact, a newcomer to the district, whose habits, 
now investigated for the first time, proved suspicious. 
Eventually he was charged with stealing a black mare, 
blind of the near eye, off Heckington Common, and was 
committed to York Castle. From his dungeon cell he 
wrote a letter to his brother at Hempstead, to cook 
him up a character. The letter was not prepaid, and 
the brother, not recognising the handwriting, refused 
to pay the sixpence demanded by the Post Office. On 
such trivial things do great issues hang ! The village 
postmaster happened to have been the schoolmaster 
who had taught Turpin to write. He recognised the 



EXECUTION OF TURPIN 17 

handwriting and read the letter. He was a man of 
public spirit, and, travelling to York, identified the 
prisoner as the Richard Turpin who had long been 
" wanted " for many crimes. 

After his trial and condemnation the farmers flocked 
in hundreds to see him. His last days in prison were 
as well attended as a levee, and, to do him justice, his 
courage, conspicuously lacking at other times, never 
faltered at the last. He became one of the shows of 
that ancient city for a time, but nothing daunted him. 
He spent his last days in joking, drinking, and telling 
stories, as jovial, merry, and frolicsome as though the 
shadow of the gallows was not impending over him. 
He scouted the Ordinary, and suffered no twinges of 
conscience, but busied himself in preparing a decent 
costume for his last public appearance. Nothing 
would serve him but new clothes and a smart pair of 
pumps to die in. On the morning before the execution, 
he gave the hangman 3. 10s. to be divided among five 
men who were to follow him as mourners, and were to 
be furnished with black hatbands and mourning gloves. 
When the time came and he went in the tumbril to 
be turned off, he bowed to the ladies and flourished 
his cocked hat as though he would presently see them 
again. He certainly, when he had mounted the 
ladder, kept the people waiting for the spectacle they 
had come to see, for he talked with the hangman for 
over half-an-hour. But when the conversation was 
ended, he threw himself off in the most resolute 
fashion, and had the reward of his courage, for he died 
in a moment. 

Thus died the famous Turpin, in the thirty-third 
year of his age. After the execution his body lay in 
state for that day and the succeeding night at the 
" Black Boar " inn in Castlegate. The following 
morning it was buried in the churchyard of St. George's, 
by Fishergate Postern, and the evening afterwards 
it was dug up again by some of the city surgeons, for 
dissection. By this time the mob had apparently 
agreed that this brutal horse-stealer, who according 



18 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

to the contemporary London Magazine, was " so 
mean and stupid a wretch," was really a very fine 
fellow ; and they determined that his remains should 
not be dishonoured. Accordingly they rescued 
the body and reinterred it, in black lime, so as to 
effectually balk any further attempts on the part of 
the surgeons. 

Dick Turpin, although his name bulks so largely in 
the legendary story of the roads, was by no means the 
foremost of his profession. He was brutal, and lacked 
the finer instincts of the artist. It could never, for 
instance, have been in his nature to invite the wife 
of a traveller he had just robbed to dance a coranto 
with him on the Common, as Duval did on Hounslow 
Heath when the distant clocks were sounding the 
hour of midnight. With Turpin it was an oath and 
a blow. Curses and violence, not courtesy, were his 
methods. Therefore, it is with the less compunction 
that we may tear away the romance from Richard 
Turpin and say that, so far from being the hero of 
the Ride to York, he never rode to York at all, except 
on that fatal morning when he progressed to York 
Castle in chains, presently to be convicted and hanged 
for the unromantic crimes of horse, sheep, and cattle 
stealing. He was little better than a vulgar burglar 
and horse-thief. It was Harrison Ainsworth who 
made Turpin a hero from such very unpromising 
material, and he, in fact, invented not only the ride 
to York, but Black Bess as well. According to the 
novelist, Turpin started from Kilburn, and came into 
the Great North Road at Highgate, with three mounted 
officers after him. Thence he turned into Hornsey, 
and so by the Ware route, the mare clearing the 
twelve feet high toll-gate on the way without an effort. 
They always do that in fiction, but the animal that could 
do it in fact does not exist. 

At Tottenham (always according to the novelist, 
of course) the people threw brickbats at the gallant 
Turpin. They " showered thick as hail, and quite as 
harmlessly, around him," and Turpin laughed, as, 



NEVISON 19 

indeed, he had an occasion to do, because the Totten- 
ham people must have been the poorest of marksmen. 
And so pursuers and pursued swept through Edmonton 
and Ware, and quite a number of places which are not 
on our route. At Alconbury Hill he comes into view 
again, and the inconceivable chase proceeds until 
Black Bess expires, at sunrise, within sight of the 
glorious panorama of York's spires and towers. 

There are very many who believe Ainsworth's long 
rigmarole, and take their ideas of that unromantic 
highwayman from his novel, but the dashing, high- 
souled (and at times maudlin) fellow of those pages 
is absolutely fictitious. 



IV 

AIXSWORTII constructed his fictitious hero from a very 
slight basis of fact. What a pity he did not rear his 
narrative on better lines, and give the credit of the 
Ride to York to the man who really did it. For it 
was done, and it was a longer ride by some twenty-six 
miles, at least, than that recounted in the vulgar 
romance of Rookwood. It was, in fact, a better ride, 
by a better man, and at a much earlier period. 

John Nevison was the hero of this exploit. It was 
on a May morning in 1676, at the unconsconable hour 
of four o'clock, that he robbed a traveller on Gad's Hill, 
near Chatham, and, fired with the ambition of 
establishing an alibi, immediately set off to ride to 
York. Crossing the Thames from Gravesend to 
Tilbury, he rode 011 his " blood bay " to Chelmsford, 
where he baited and rested his horse for half-an-hour. 
Thence on to Cambridge and through the town without 
drawing rein, he went through by-lanes to Fenny 
Stanton, Godmanchester, and Huntingdon, where he 
took another half-hour's rest ; continuing, by 
unfrequented ways, until York was reached, the same 
evening. Of course, he must have had several fresh 
horses on the way. Stabling the horse that had brought 



20 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

him into the cathedral city, he hastily removed the 
travel-stains from his person, and strolled casually to 
the nearest bowling-green, where the Mayor of York 
happened to be playing a game with some friends. 
Nevison took the opportunity of asking him the time, 
and received the answer that it was just a quarter^to 
eight. That was sufficient for his purpose. By this 
question and the reply he had fixed the recollection of 
himself and of the time in the Mayor's mind, and had 
his alibi at need. Sure enough, he needed it a little 
later, when he was arrested for another highway 
robbery, and the Gad's Hill traveller happened to be 
the one witness who could swear to him. Nevison 
called his York witnesses, who readily enough deposed 
to his being there on the evening of the day on which 
the traveller swore he had been robbed by him near 
Chatham. This was conclusive. No one conceived 
it possible for a man to have been in two places so 
remote in one day, and he was acquitted. Then, 
when the danger was past, his sporting instincts 
prevailed, and he told the story. He became the hero 
of a brief hour, and Charles the Second, who dearly 
loved a clever rogue, is said to have christened him 
" Swift Nicks." If we roughly analyse this ride we 
shall find that Nevison 's performance amounted to 
about 230 miles in fifteen hours : a rate of over 
fifteen miles an hour. To have done as much was a 
wonderful exploit, even though (as seems certain) he 
had remounts at the houses cf confederates. He 
probably had many such houses of call, for he was 
one of a numerous band of highwaymen whose head- 
quarters were at Newark. 

This escape served him for eight years longer, for 
it was in 1684 that his career came to a close on 
Knavesmire, where he was hanged on the 4th of May. 

There was something of the Robin Hood in Nevison's 
character, if we are to believe the almost legendary 
stories told in Yorkshire of this darling of the Yorkshire 
peasantry. He robbed the rich and gave to the poor, 
and many are the tales still told of his generosity. 



THE REAL HERO 21 

Such an one is the tale that tells of his being at a village 
inn, when the talk turned upon the affairs of an 
unfortunate farmer whose home had been sold up for 
rent. Among those in the place was the bailiff, with 
the proceeds of the sale on him. Nevison contrived to 
relieve him of the cash, and restored it to the farmer. 
Perhaps he was not so well-liked by the cattle-dealers 
along the Great North Road, whom he and his gang 
robbed so regularly that at length they commuted their 
involuntary contributions for a quarterly allowance, 
which at the same time cleared the road for them and 
afforded them protection against any other bands. 
Indeed, Nevison, or Bracy, as his real name appears to 
have been, was in this respect almost a counterpart of 
those old German barons on the Rhine, who levied 
dues on the travellers whose business unfortunately 
led them their way. The parallel goes no greater 
distance, for those picturesque miscreants were 
anything but the idols of the people. Nevison was 
sufficiently popular to have been the hero of a rural 
ballad, still occasionally heard in the neighbourhood of 
his haunts at Knarcsborough, Ferrybridge, York, or 
Newark. Here are two verses of it ; not perhaps 
distinguished by wealth of fancy or resourcefulness 
of rhyme : 

])id you ever hear tell of that hero, 

Bold Nevison, that was his name ? 
He rode about like a bold hero, 

And with that he gain'd great fame. 

HP maintained himself like a gentleman, 

Besides, he was good to the poor ; 
He rode about like a great he-.o, 

And he pain'd himself favour therefore. 

Yorkshire will not willingly let the fame of her 
Nevison die. Is not his Leap shown, and is not the 
inn at Sandal, where he was last captured, still pointed 
out ? Then there is the tale of how he and twenty 
of his gang attacked fifteen butchers who were riding 
to Northallerton Fair, an encounter recounted in a 
pamphlet dated 1674, luridly styled Bloody News 
from Yorkshire. Another memory is of the half 



22 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

dozen men. who at another time attempted to take 
him prisoner. He escaped and shot one of them, 
also a butcher. Nevison and butchers were evidently 
antipathetic. Released once on promising to enter 
the army, he, like Boulter, deserted. That he could 
break prison with the best he demonstrated fully at 
Wakefield ; but his final capture was on a trivial 
charge. It sufficed to do his business, though, for 
the prosecution were now prepared with the fullest 
evidence against him and his associates, and their 
way of life. They had secured Mary Brandon, who 
acted as housekeeper for the gang. According to her 
story, they were John Nevison, of York ; Edmund 
Bracy, of Nottingham ; Thomas Wilbere, of the same 
town ; Thomas Tankard, vaguely described as "of 
Lincolnshire " ; and two men named Bromett and 
Iverson. This last was " commonly at the ' Talbott,' 
in Newarke," which was their headquarters. The 
landlord of that inn was supposed to be cognisant of 
their doings, as also the ostler, one William Anwood, 
" shee haveinge often scene the said partyes give him 
good summs of money, and order him to keepe their 
horses close, and never to water them but in the night 
time." They kept rooms at the " Talbot " all the year 
round, and in them divided their spoil, which in one 
year, as the result of ten great robberies, came to over 
1,500. No other highwaymen can hold a candle to 
this gang, either for their business-like habits or the 
success of their operations. 



THAT once dreaded mid-eighteenth century highway- 
man, Thomas Boulter, junior, of Poulshot in Wiltshire, 
once made acquaintance with York Castle. The 
extent of his depredations was as wide as his indifference 
to danger was great. A West-countryman, his most 
obvious sphere of operations was the country through 
which the Exeter Road passed ; but being greedy and 



BOULTER 23 

insatiable, he soon exhausted those districts, and 
thought it expedient to strike out for roads where the 
name of Boulter was unknown, and along which the 
lieges still dared to carry their watches and their gold. 
He came up to town at the beginning of 1777 from his 
haunts near Devizes, and, refitting in apparel and 
pistols, gaily took the Great North Road. Many 
adventures and much spoil fell to him in and about 
Newark, Leeds, and Doncaster ; but an encounter 
between Sheffield and Ripon proved his undoing. He 
had relieved a gentleman on horseback of purse and 
jewellery, and was ambling negligently away when the 
traveller's man-servant, who had fallen some distance 
behind his master, came galloping up. Thus reinforced, 
the plundered one chased Mr. Boulter, and, running 
him to earth, haled him off to the nearest Justice, 
who, quite unmoved by his story of being an unfor- 
tunate young man in the grocery line, appropriately 
enough named Poore, committed him to York Castle, 
where, at the March assizes, he was duly found guilty 
and sentenced to be hanged within fifteen days. 
Heavily ironed, escape was out of the question, and 
he gave himself up for lost, until, on the morning 
appointed for his execution, the news arrived that he 
might claim a free pardon if he would enter his 
Majesty's service as a soldier, and reform his life. 
His Majesty badly wanted soldiers in A.D. 1777, and 
was not nice as to the character of his recruits ; and 
indeed the British army until the close of the Peninsular 
War was composed of as arrant a set of rascals as ever 
wore out shoe-leather. No wonder the Duke of 
Wellington spoke of his army in Spain as " my black- 
guards." But they could fight. 

This by the way. To return to Mr. Thomas Boulter, 
who, full of moral resolutions and martial ardour, now 
joined the first marching regiment halting at York. 
For four days he toiled and strove in the barrack-yard, 
finding with every hour the burdens of military life 
growing heavier. On the fifth day he determined to 
desert, and on the sixth put that determination into 



24. THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

practice ; for if he had waited until the morrow, when 
his uniform would have been ready, escape would have 
been difficult. Stealing forth at dead of night, without 
mishap, he made across country to Nottingham, and 
so disappears altogether from these pages. The 
further deeds that he did, and the story of his end are 
duly chronicled in the pages of the Exeter Road, to 
which they properly belong. 

The authorities did well to secure their criminal 
prisoners with irons, because escape seems to have 
otherwise been easy enough. In 1761, for instance, 
there were a hundred and twenty-one French prisoners 
of war confined in York Castle, and such captives 
were of course not ironed. Some of them filed through 
the bars of their prison and twenty escaped. Of these, 
six were recaptured, but the rest were never again 
heard of, which seems to be proof that the prison was 
scarcely worthy of the name, and that the city of York 
contained traitors who secretly conveyed the fugitives 
away to the coast. 

The troubles and escapades of military captives 
are all in the course of their career, and provoke 
interested sympathy but not compassion, because we 
know full well that they would do the same to their 
foes, did fortune give the opportunity. Altogether 
different was the position of the unfortunate old 
women who, ill-favoured or crazy, were charged on 
the evidence of ill-looks or silly talk with being witches, 
and thrown into the noisome cells that existed here 
for such. Theirs were sad cases, for the world took 
witchcraft seriously and burnt or strangled those 
alleged practitioners of it who had survived being 
" swum " in the river close by. The humour of that 
old method of trying an alleged witch was grimly 
sardonic. She was simply thrown into the water, and 
if she sank was innocent. If, on the other hand, she 
floated, that a was proof that Satan was protecting his 
own, and she was fished out and barbarously put to 
death. Trials for witchcraft were continued until 
long after the absurdity of the charges became apparent, 



JUDICIAL HUMOUR 25 

and judges simply treated the accusations with humor- 
ous contempt : as when a crazy old woman who 
pretended to supernatural powers was brought before 
Judge Powell. " Do you say you can fly ? " asked 
the Judge, interposing. " Yes, I can," said she. 
" So you may, if you will then," rejoined that dry 
humorist. " I have no law against it." The accused 
did not respond to the invitation. 

So farewell, grim Castle of York, old-time prison of 
such strangely assorted captives as religious pioneers, 
poor debtors, highwaymen, prisoners of war, and 
suspected witches ; and modern gaol whose romance 
is concealed beneath contemporary common-places. 
Blood stains your stones, and persecution is writ large 
on the page of your story. Infidel Jews, Protestants, 
Catholics, and Nonconformists of every shade of 
nonconformity have suffered within your walls in 
greater or less degree, and even now the black flag 
occasionally floats dolorously in the breeze from your 
roofs, in token that the penalty for the crime of Cain 
has been exacted. 



VI 

BEFORE railways came and rendered London the 
chief resort of fashion, county towns, and many lesser 
towns still, were social centres. Only the wealthier 
among the country squires and those interested in 
politics to the extent of having a seat in the House 
visited London ; the rest resorted to their county 
town, in which they had their town-houses and social 
circles. Those times are to be found reflected in the 
pages of Jane Austen and other early novelists, who 
picture for us the snug coteries that then flourished 
and the romances that ran their course within the 
unromantic-looking Georgian mansions now either 
occupied by local professional men or wealthy trades- 
folk, or else divided into tenements. It was the 
era before great suburbs began to spring up around 



26 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

every considerable town, to smother the historic in 
the commonplace ; the time before manufacturing 
industries arose to smirch the countryside and to rot 
the stonework of ancient buildings with smoke and 
acid-laden air ; the days when life was less hurried 
than now. York, two days' journey removed from 
London, had its own society and a very varied one, 
consisting of such elements as the Church, the Army, 
and the Landed Interest, which last must also be 
expressed in capital letters, because in those days to 
be a Landowner was a patent of gentility. Outside 
these elements, excepting the dubious ones of the 
Legal and Medical professions, there was no society. 
Trade rendered the keepers of second-hand clothes- 
shops and wealthy manufacturers equally pariahs 
and put them outside the pale of polite intercourse. 
Society played whist in drawing-rooms ; tradesmen 
played quoits, bowls, or skittles in grounds attached 
to inns, or passed their evenings in convivial bar- 
parlours. Yet York must have been a noted place 
for conviviality, if we are to believe the old poet : 

York, York for my monie, 
Of all the cities that ever I see, 
For merry pastime and companie, 
Except the citie of London. 

And for long after those lines were written they held 
good. Not many other cities had York's advantages 
as a great military headquarters, as well as the head 
of an ecclesiastical Province, and its position as a great 
coaching centre to and from which came and went 
away many other coaches besides those which fared 
the Great North Road was commanding. Cross- 
country coach-routes radiated from the old cathedral 
city in every direction ; just as, in fact, the railways 
do nowadays. It is no part of our business to particu- 
larise them, but the inns they frequented demand a 
notice. Some of these inns were solely devoted to 
posting, which in this broad-acred county of wealthy 
squires was not considered the extravagance that less 
fortunate folks thought it. Chief among these was 



INNS 27 

alas ! that we must say was the " George," which 
stood almost exactly opposite the still extant " Black 
Swan " in Coney Street. A flaunting pile of business 
premises occupied by a firm of drapers now usurps the 
site of that extremely picturesque old house which 
rejoiced in a sixteenth-century frontage, heavily 
gabled and enriched with quaint designs in plaster, and 
a yawning archway, supported on either side by 
curious figures whose lower anatomy ended in scrolls, 
after the manner of the Renaissance. The " George " 
for many years enjoyed an unexampled prosperity, and 
the adjoining houses, of early Georgian date, with 
projecting colonnade, were annexed to it. When it 
went, to make way for new buildings, York lost its 
most picturesque inn, for the York Tavern, now 
Barker's Hotel, though solid, comfortable, and pros- 
perous-looking, with its cleanly stucco front, is not 
interesting, and the " Black Swan " is a typical red- 
brick building of two hundred years ago, square as a 
box, and as little decorative as it could possibly be. 
As for the aristocratic Etteridge's, which stood in 
Lendal, it may be sought in vain in that largely rebuilt 
quarter. Etteridge's not only disdained the ordinary 
coaching business, but also jibbed at the average 
posting people or, perhaps, to put it more correctly, 
even the wealthy squires who flung away their money 
on posting stood aghast at Etteridge's prices. There- 
fore, in those days, when riches and gentility went 
together before the self-made millionaires had risen, 
like scum, to the top Etteridge's entertained the 
most select, who travelled in their own " chariots," 
and were horsed on their almost royal progresses by 
Etteridge and his like. 

From the purely coaching point of view, the " Black 
Swan " is the most interesting of York's hostelries. 
To the York Tavern came the mails, while the " Black 
Swan " did the bulk of the stage-coach business, from 
the beginning of it in 1698 until the end, in 1842. It 
was here that the old " York in Four Days " coaching 
bill of 1706 was discovered some years ago. The house 



28 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

remained one of the very few unaltered inns of coaching 
days, the stableyard the same as it was a hundred years 
or more since, even to the weather-beaten old painted 
oval sign of the " Black Swan," removed from the 
front and nailed over one of the stable-doors. 

York still preserves memories of the old coachmen ; 
some of them very great in their day. Tom Holtby's, 
for instance, is a classic figure, and one that remained 
until long after coaching came to an end. He died 
in June 1863, in his seventy-second year, and was 
therefore, not greatly beyond his prime when he drove 
the Edinburgh mail into York for the last time, in 
1842, on the opening of the railway. That last drive 
was an occasion not to be passed without due ceremony, 
and so when the mail, passing through Selby and 
Riccall, on its way to the city, reached Escrick Park, 
it was driven through, by Lord Wenlock's invitation, 
and accompanied by him on his drag up to the " Black 
Swan " and to the York Tavern. The mail flew a 
black flag from its roof, and Holtby gave up the reins 
to Lord Macdonald. 

" Please to remember the coachman," said my lord 
to Holtby, in imitation of the professional's usual 
formula. " Yes," replied Holtby, " I will, if you'll 
remember the guard." " Right," said that innocent 
nobleman, not thinking for the moment that coach- 
men and guards shared their tips ; "he shall have 
double what you tip me." Holtby accordingly 
handed him a 5. note, so that he reaped a profit 
of 2. 10s. on the business. 

Holtby's career was as varied as many of the old 
coachmen's, but more prosperous. He began as a 
stable-hand at the " Rose and Crown," Easingwold, 
and rose to be a postboy. Thence to the box of a 
cross-country coach was an easy transition, and his 
combined dash and certainty as a whip at last found 
him a place on the London and Edinburgh " High- 
flyer," whence he was transferred to the mail. During 
these years he had saved money, and was a compara- 
tively rich man when coaching ended ; so that although 



TOM HOLTBY 29 

he lost some heavy sums in ill-judged investments, 
still he died worth over 3,000. " Rash Tom," as they 
called him, from his showy style of driving, was 
indeed something of a " Corinthian," and coming into 
contact with the high and mighty of that era, reflected 
their manners and shared their tastes. If the reflection, 
like that of a wavy mirror, was not quite perfect, and 
erred rather in the direction of caricature, that was a 
failing not found in Tom only, and was accordingly 
overlooked. Moreover, Tom was useful. No man 
could break in a horse like him, and nowhere was a 
better tutor in the art of driving. " If," said Old Jerry, 
" Tom Holtby didn't live on potato-skins and worn't 
such a one for lickin' folks' boots, he'd be perfect." 
" Old Jerry," who probably had some professional 
grudge against Holtby, referred to potato-skins as 
well as to boot-licking in a figurative way. He meant 
to satirise Holtby as a saving man and as an intimate 
of those who at the best treated Jerry himself with 
obvious condescension. Jerry himself was one of the 
most famous of postboys, and remained for long years 
in the service of the " Black Swan." The burden of 
his old age was the increasing meanness of the times. 
" Them wor graand toimes for oos ! " he would say, 
in his Yorkshire lingo, talking of the early years of the 
nineteenth century, and so they must have been, for 
that was the tail-end of the era when all England went 
mad over Parliamentary elections, and when Yorkshire, 
the biggest of all the counties, was the maddest. 
Everybody posted, money was spent like water on 
bribery and corruption, and on more reputable items 
of expenditure, and postboys shared in the golden 
shower. 



VII 

THE most exciting of these Homeric election contests 
was the fierce election for Yorkshire in 1807. At that 
time the huge county, larger than any other two 



30 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

counties put together, returned only two representa- 
tives to Parliament, and the City of York was the sole 
voting-place. Yorkshire, roughly measuring eighty 
miles from north to south, and another eighty from 
east to west, must have contained ardent politicians 
if its out-voters appeared at the poll in any strength. 
But if polling-places were to seek and voting the 
occasion of a weary pilgrimage, at least the authorities 
could not be accused of allowing too little time for 
the exercise of that political right. The booths 
remained open for fifteen days. William Wilberforce 
had for years been the senior member, and had hitherto 
held a secure position. On this particular occasion 
the contest lay between the rival houses of Fitzwilliam 
and Lascelles, Whigs and Tories respectively, intent 
upon capturing the junior seat. Lord Milton, the 
eldest son of Earl Fitzwilliam, and the Honourable 
Henry Lascelles, heir to the Earl of Hare wood, 
were the candidates. Lord Harewood expressed his 
intention of expending, if necessary, the whole of his 
Barbados estates, worth 40,000 a year, to secure his 
son's return, and equal determination was shown by 
the other side. With such opponents, it was little 
wonder that Yorkshire was turned into a pandemonium 
for over a fortnight. All kinds of vehicles, from 
military wagons, family chariots, and mourning- 
coaches at one extreme, to sedan-chairs and donkey- 
carts at the other, were pressed into service. Invalids 
and even those in articulo mortis were herded up to 
the poll. 

" No such scene," said a Yorkshire paper, " had been 
witnessed in these islands for a hundred years as the 
greatest county in them presented for fifteen days 
and nights. Repose and rest have been unknown, 
unless exemplified by postboys asleep in the saddle. 
Every day and every night the roads leading to York 
have been covered by vehicles of all kinds loaded with 
voters barouches, curricles, gigs, coaches, landaus, 
dog-carts, flying wagons, mourning-coaches, and 
military cars with eight horses, have left no chance for 



ELECTIONS 31 

the quiet traveller to pursue his humble journey in 
peace, or to find a chair at an inn to sit down upon." 
As a result, Wilberforce kept his place, Viscount 
Milton was elected second, and Lascelles was rejected. 
The figures were : 

Wilberforce . . . 11,806 
Milton .... 11,177 
Lascelles . . . 10,988 

Only some thirty-four thousand voters in the great 
shire ! 

It was said that Earl FitzwiUiam's expenses were 
107,000 and his unsuccessful opponent's 102,000. 
Wilberforce, who in the fray only narrowly kept at 
the head of the poll, was at little expense, a public 
subscription which reached the sum of 64,455 having 
been made on his behalf. A great portion of it was 
afterwards returned by him. He afterwards wrote 
that had he not been defrauded of promised votes, 
his total would have reached 20,000. " However," 
said he, " it is unspeakable cause for thankfulness to 
come out of the battle ruined neither in health, 
character, or fortune." It was in this election that 
a voter who had plumped for Wilberforce and had 
come a long distance for the purpose, boasting that he 
had not spent anything on the journey, was asked 
how he managed it. " Sure enow," said he, " I cam 
all d'way ahint Lord Milton's carriage." 

A story is told of a bye-election impending in 
Yorkshire, in which Pitt had particularly interested 
himself. Just upon the eve of the polling he paid 

a visit to the famous Mrs. B , one of the Whig 

queens of the West Riding, and said, banteringly, 
" Well, the election is all right for us. Ten thousand 
guineas for the use of our side go down to Yorkshire 
to-night by a sure hand." 

" The devil they do ! " responded Mrs. B ; and 

that night the bearer of the precious burden was 
stopped by a highwayman on the Great North Road, 



32 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

and the ten thousand guineas procured the return of 
the Whig candidate. The success of that robbery 
was probably owing to the " sure hand " travelling 
alone. Had he gone by mail-coach, the party funds 
would have been safe, if we may rely upon the 
bona fides of the York Post Office notice, dated 
October 30, 1786, which was issued for the reassurance 
of those intending to travel by mail, and says : 
" Ladies and gentlemen may depend on every care and 
attention being paid to their safety. They will be 
guarded all the way by His Majesty's servants, and on 
dark nights a postillion will ride on one of the leaders." 
The notice concluded by saying that the guard was 
well armed. This was no excess of caution, or merely 
issued to still the nerves of timid old ladies, for at this 
period we find " safety " coaches advertised, " lined 
with copper, and secure against bullets " ; and recorded 
encounters with armed highwaymen prove that these 
precautions were not unnecessary. 



VIII 

YORK MINSTER, although so huge and imposing a pile 
when reached, is not glimpsed by the traveller 
approaching the city from the Selby route until well 
within the streets, and only when Knavesmire is 
passed on the Tadcaster route are its three towers 
seen rising far behind the time-worn turrets of 
Micklegate Bar. In bulk, it is in the very front 
rank among English cathedrals, but the flatness of 
its site and the narrow streets that lead to the Minster 
Yard render it quite inconspicuous from any distance, 
except from a few selected points and from the 
commanding eyrie of the City Walls, whence, indeed, 
it is seen at its grandest. " Minster " it has been 
named from time immemorial, but for no apparent 
reason, for York's Chapter was one of secular priests, 
and as the term " minster " derives from " monas- 



YORK MINSTER 35 

terium," this is clearly a misnomer. But as the 
larger churches were those in connection with monastic 
rule, it must have seemed in the popular view that 
this gigantic church was rightly a Minster, no matter 
what its government. 

It lies quite away from the tortuous streets by 
which the traveller proceeds through York for the 
road to the North, and it is only when nearly leaving 
the city by Bootham Bar that glimpses of its grey 
bulk are seen, at the end of some narrow lane like 
Stonegate or Petergate, framed in by old gabled 
houses that lean upon each other in every attitude 
suggesting age and decay, or seem to nod owlishly 
to neighbours just as decrepit across the cobble- 
stoned path. These be ideal surroundings. In the 
ancient shops, too, are things of rarity and price, 
artfully displayed to the gaze of unwary purchasers 
who do not know the secrets of the trade in antiques 
and curiosities, and are quite ignorant of the fact 
that they pay twic? or thrice the value at such places 
as these for the old china, the silver, the chairs, and 
bookcases of quaint design that take their fancy. 
Only a narrow space prevents the stranger from 
butting up against the Minster, at the end of these 
lanes, for here at York we find no such wide and 
grassy Cathedral close as that of Winchester, or those 
of Canterbury, Wells, or Peterborough. Just a paved 
yard, extremely narrow along the whole south side 
and to the east, with a broader paved space at the 
west front, and some mingled lawns and pavements 
to the north, where dwell the Dean, the prebendaries, 
and suchlike : these are the surroundings of the 
Minster, which render it almost impossible to gain 
a comprehensive view of any part save the west front. 

The Minster the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, to 
call it by its proper title is the fifth building on this 
site. First of all in the series was the wooden chapel 
erected for the baptism of Edwin, the Saxon king, 
in A.D. 627, followed by a stone church, begun by him 
in 628 and completed eight years later by King Oswald, 



36 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

who placed the head of Edwin, slain in battle by the 
heathen at Hatfield near Doncaster, here in the chapel 
of St. Gregory. Thirty-five years later this second 
church was found by Wilfrid the Archbishop to be in a 
state of decay, and he accordingly repaired the roofs 
and the walls, which he rendered " whiter than snow 
by means of white lime," as we are told by con- 
temporary chroniclers. In point of fact, he 
whitewashed the cathedral, just as the churchwardens 
of a hundred years ago used to treat our village 
churches, for which conduct we have been reviling them 
for many years past, not knowing that as whitewashes 
they could claim such distinguished kinship. About 
the year 741 this second building was destroyed by 
fire and was replaced by another, completed in 780, 
itself burnt in 1069. The fourth was then begun by 
Thomas of Bayeux, the first Norman archbishop, and 
completed about 1080 ; to ^be in its turn partly 
demolished by Roger Pont 1'Eveque, who about 1170 
rebuilt the choir on a larger scale. Following him came 
Archbishop Gray, who rebuilt the south transept in its 
present form between 1230 and 1241 : the north transept 
and the central tower in its original form being the work 
of John Romanus, sub-dean and treasurer from 1228 to 
1256. To the son of the sub-dean, Archbishop 
Romanus, fell the beginning of a new nave, which 
was commenced by him in 1291, but was not completed 
until 1345, and is the existing one. All these rebuildings 
were on a progressive scale of size and magnificence, 
and so by the time they had been completed it happened 
that Archbishop Roger's Late Norman choir, which had 
replaced the smaller Early Norman one by Thomas of 
Bayeux, was itself regarded as too small and mean, 
and so was pulled down to make room for the existing 
choir, completed about 1400. Thus the earliest 
architectural features of the existing Minster above 
ground are the Early English transepts, and nothing 
remains of those vanished early buildings save some 
dubious Saxon masonry and Norman walling in the 
crypt. 



YORK MINSTER 37 

The first impression gained of the exterior of York 
Minster an impression which becomes only slightly 
modified on further acquaintance is that of a vast, 
rambling, illogical mass of overdone ornament very 
much out of repair and very disappointing to the 
high expectations formed. Nor is the great central 
tower greatly calculated to arouse enthusiasm among 
those who know that of Lincoln. An immense mass, 
whose comparative scale is best seen from a distance, 
its severity of outline borders closely upon clumsiness, 
a defect which is heightened by its obviously unfinished 
condition and the clearly makeshift battlements that 
outrage the skyline with an effect as of an armoured 
champion wearing feminine headgear. It seems clear 
that the intention, either of the original architect of the 
tower, in the Early English period, or of those who 
re-cased it, some two hundred years later, was to carry 
it up another storey. The two western towers belong 
to much the same period, the years from 1433 to 1474, 
and have more than the usual commonplace appearance 
of the Perpendicular style. They form part of the 
most completely logical west front in England and 
almost the least inspired, excepting always that early 
Perpendicular fiasco, the west front of Winchester 
Cathedral. But the redeeming feature of York's west 
front is the beautiful window which, whether regarded 
from without or within, is one of the finest details of the 
building, its tracery of the flowing Decorated period 
narrowly approaching to the French Flamboyant style 
and resembling in its delicacy and complicated parts the 
weblike design seen on the skeleton of a leaf. 

A great portion of the Minster is in the Decorated 
style ; not, however, conceived in the inspired vein of 
the west window. The nave and chapter-house cover 
the period of the sixty years during which Decorated 
Gothic flourished, and making the round of the 
exterior we find its characteristic mouldings and 
traceries repeated in a long range of seven bays, 
interrupted by the beautiful compositions of north 
and south transepts, entirely dissimilar from one 



38 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

another, but individually perfect, and the most 
entirely satisfactory features of the exterior. The 
architects of that period were more fully endowed 
with the artistic sense than those who went before, 
or those who succeeded them, and their works, and 
the more daring and ambitious, but something braggart, 
designs of their successors, remain to prove the 
contention. Eastward, beyond the transepts, extends 
the long, nine-bayed choir, the view of it obscured 
from the north by the protruding octagonal chapter- 
house, but well seen on the south, where the soaring 
ambition of its designers may advantageously be 
compared with the more modest but better ordered art 
of the unknown architect who built the south transept. 
The architects of the choir would seem to have dared 
their utmost to produce the largest windows with the 
smallest proportion of wall-space, and to have at the 
same time been emulative of height. With these 
obvious ambitions, they have succeeded to wonderment 
in rearing a building that is nearly all windows, with an 
apparently dangerously small proportion of walling to 
hold them together, but a building which has already 
survived the storms of five hundred years structurally 
and essentially sturdy and unimpaired. A great 
engineering feat for that time, rather than a masterpiece 
of artistry, as those who stand by and compare south 
transept and choir, visible in one glance, can see. 
That the perceptions of those who built the choir 
were blunted is proved by the almost flat roof their 
ambition for lofty walling has necessitated. With 
their side walls carried up to such a height, abutting 
against the central tower, they could not obtain the 
steep pitch of roof which is seen on the transepts, 
for a higher pitch would have committed the archi- 
tectural solecism of cutting above the sills of the 
great tower windows, into the windows themselves. 
Thus their lofty choir is robbed of half its effect and 
looks square-shouldered and ungraceful by comparison. 
An odd and entirely inexplicable device is found 
outside the four eastern windows of the choir clerestory, 



INTERIOR OF THE MINSTER 39 

north and south, in the placing of the triforium passage 
outside the building, and the screening of it and the 
windows with a great skeleton framework of stone. 
The reason of this whether it was a mistaken idea of 
decoration, or for some structural strengthening 
purpose is still to be sought. But the east end is an 
equally crude and artless piece of work, almost wholly 
given up to the east window ; the small flanking 
windows looking mean and pinched by comparison, and 
the abundant decoration characterised by stupid 
repetition and want of invention. Here we see the 
Perpendicular style at a very low ebb, and thus it is not 
altogether a disadvantage that the road is so narrow 
at this point that a full view of the east end is difficult 
to obtain. 

Criticism is at once disarmed on entering. One 
enters, not by the great portals in the west front, but 
by the south porch, the most impressive entrance, as it 
happens. For this is at once the noblest and the 
earliest portion of the great church, and here, in one 
magnificent view from south to north we obtain one of 
the finest architectural vistas in England. Majesty 
personified, these Early English transepts are in them- 
selves broad and long and lofty enough to furnish a nave 
for many another cathedral. Spaciousness and nobility 
of proportion are the notes of them, and even the 
beautiful nave, with its aisles, light and graceful, loftier 
and broader than almost any other in the land, dwindles 
by comparison. They produce in the surprised 
traveller who first beholds them the rare sensation of 
satisfaction, of expectations more than realised, and 
give an uplifting of spirit as thrilling as that caused by 
some inspiring passage of minstrelsy. To stand at 
the crossing and gaze upwards into that vast tower 
which looks so clumsy to the outward view, is to 
receive an impression of beauty, of combined strength 
and lightness, which is not to be acquired elsewhere, 
for it is the finest of lantern towers, and, open to the 
vaulting of its roof, a hundred and eighty feet above the 
pavement, its great windows on all sides entrap the 



40 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

sunbeams and shed a diffused glory on arcade and pier. 
Perhaps one of the most daring attempts at effect is 
that which confronts the visitor as he enters by the 
south porch. Daring, not from the constructional, but 
from the decorative point of view, the five equal-sized 
lancet windows, the " Five Sisters " that occupy three 
parts of the space in the wall of the north transept, 
might so easily have been as glaring a failure as they 
are a conspicuous success. Their very prominence has 
doubtless given them their name, and caused the legend 
to be invented of their having been the gift of five 
maiden sisters. The beauty of the original Early 
English glass which still remains in these lancets 
has a considerable share in producing this successful 
effect. That the unearthly beauty of that pale green 
glass is preserved to us, together with much more in the 
Minster, is due to Sir Thomas Fairfax, theParliamentary 
general, himself a Yorkshireman, who kept the pious 
but narrow-minded and mischievous soldiery in order, 
who otherwise would have delighted in flinging prayer- 
books and missals through every window in this 
House of God, and have accounted it an act of religious 
fervour. 

We cannot explore the Minster in greater detail, for 
the road yet lies in many a league before us ; nor 
recount how York, city and shire, broke into rebellion 
when the old religion was suppressed by Henry the 
Eighth, and the Minster's treasures, particularly the 
head of St. William, stolen. The Pilgrimage of Grace 
was the result, in which the Yorkshire gentlemen and 
others assembled, with Robert Aske at their head, and 
taking as their badge the Five Wounds of Christ, 
prepared to do battle for their Faith. Aske ended 
on a gallows from the height of Micklegate Bar. The 
same troubles recurred in the time of Elizabeth, and 
Yorkshire, the last resort of Roman Catholicism, was 
again in arms, with the Earls of Northumberland and 
Westmoreland conspiring with the Duke of Norfolk to 
release the captive Queen of Scots and restore the old 
religion. The movement failed, and Northumberland 



DESTRUCTION OF CHURCHES 



41 



was executed on the Pavement, others being put to 
death or deprived of their estates. That was the last 
popular movement in favour of the old faith, and 
although the city had been prelatical and Royalist 
during the first years of Charles the First's reign, public 




ALL SAIXT3' PAVEMENT. 

opinion at last veered completely round, so that 
shortly after the Parliamentary victory of Marston 
Moor in 1644, and the consequent surrender of the 
Royalist garrison of York, the city became as Puritan 
and republican as it had been the opposite. Gifts 
made by Charles to the Minster were torn down and 
dispersed, the very font was thrown out, and dean and 
chapter were replaced by four divines elected by an 
assembly. Many of the York parish churches were 
wrecked by fanatics carrying out an order to destroy 
" superstitious pictures and images," and nearly all 
were without incumbents. When the restoration of the 
monarchy and the church was effected together in 1661, 



42 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

York became " one of the most factious and malignant 
towns in the kingdom," and two years later broke 
into a revolt for which twenty-one rebels were executed. 
The final outburst occurred in 1688, when James the 
Second was suspected of an intention to appoint the 
Roman Catholic Bishop of Callipolis to the vacant see of 
York. The bishop was taking part in a religious 
procession through the streets when an infuriated mob 
set upon him and seized his silver-gilt crozier, which was 
taken as a trophy to the vestry, where it may yet be 
seen. The bishop fled. A few days later James the 
Second ceased to reign, and with that event ended these 
religious contentions. 



IX 

BUT the stirring history of the Minster itself was not 
yet completed, for the final chapter in a long record of 
events was not enacted until the early years of the 
nineteenth century. 

The roads in the neighbourhood of York on 
February 2, 1829, were thronged with excited crowds 
hurrying to the city. Dashing through them came the 
fire-engines of Leeds, and others from Escrick Park. 
Far ahead, a great column of smoke hovered in the cold 
February sky. York Minster was on fire. 

It was no accident that had caused this conflagration, 
but the wild imaginings of one Jonathan Martin, which 
had prompted him to become the incendiary of that 
stately pile. A singular character, compacted of the 
unlovely characteristics of Mawworm and the demented 
prophet, Solomon Eagle, this was the crowning 
act of a life distinguished by religious mania. 
Jonathan Martin was born at Hexham in 1782, and 
apprenticed to a tanner. His parents were poor, 
and he had only the slightest kind of education. 
At the expiration of his apprenticeship he found 
himself in London, and was speedily entrapped by the 
press-gang and sent to serve his Majesty as an able 



JONATHAN MARTIN 43 

seaman. It seems to have been at this period that the 
unbalanced state of his mind first became noticeable. 
He was with the fleet at many places, and often in 
action, from Copenhagen to the Nile. At times he 
would exhibit cowardice, and at others either 
indifference to danger or actual bravery. He would be 
religious, dissolute, industrious, idle, sulky, or cheerful 
by turns : a pretended dreamer of dreams and com- 
municant with angels. " Parson Saxe," his shipmates 
named him ; " but," said one, years afterwards, 
" I always thought him more rogue than fool." 

Martin was paid off in 1810. He settled to work 
for a farmer at Norton, near Durham, and shortly 
afterwards married. He became a member of the 
Wesleyan Methodist body at Norton, and began those 
religious exercises which he claims to have converted 
him and to have emancipated him from the law, being 
" justified by faith " only. How dangerous such views 
of personal irresponsibility can be when held by the 
weak-minded his after-career was only too plainly to 
show. He immediately conceived an abhorrence of the 
Church of England, as a church teaching obedience to 
pastors and masters, and of the clergy for their 
worldliness. In this last respect, indeed, Martin as we 
think now had no little justification, for the Church 
had not then begun to arise from the almost Pagan 
slough of laziness, indifference, and greed of wealth and 
good living which throughout the previous century had 
marked the members of the Establishment, from the 
country parson up to the archbishops. When clergymen 
could find it in them to perform the solemn rite of the 
burial service while in a state of drunkenness ; when, 
under Martin's own observation at Durham, the 
Prince-Bishop of that city enjoyed emoluments and 
perquisites amounting to 30,000 per annum, there is 
little cause for surprise that hatred and contempt of 
the cloth should arise. 

This basis of justification, acting upon a mind already 
diseased, and not rendered more healthy by fasting and 
brooding over the Scriptures, resulted in his attempting 



44 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

to preach from church pulpits, in writing threatening 
letters to the clergy, and eventually to a silly threat 
to shoot the Bishop of Oxford when at Stockport. 
For this he was rightly confined in a lunatic asylum at 
Gateshead. Some months later he managed to escape, 
and after wandering about the country took service 
with his former employer at Norton, the magistrates 
consenting to his remaining at liberty. In 1822 he left 
for Darlington, where he lived until 1827. His wife 
had died while he was in the asylum, and in 1828, Avhile 
engaged in hawking a pamphlet biography of himself 
at Boston, he made the acquaintance of a young woman 
of that town and married her. By this time his 
religious mania .had grown worse, and when, on 
December 26, 1828, he and his wife journeyed to York, 
it would appear that he went there with the design of 
burning the Cathedral already half- formed. He 
haunted the building day by day, leaving denunciatory 
letters from time to time. One, discovered on the iron 
grille of the choir screen, exhorted the clergy to 
" repent and cry For marcey for know is the day of 
vangens and your Cumplet Destruction is at Hand for 
the Lord will not sufer you and the Deveal and your 
blind Hellish Docktren to dseve the works of His Hands 
no longer. . . . Depart you Carsit blind Gides in to 
the Hotest plase of Hell to be tormentid w r ith the 
Deveal and all his Eanguls for Ever and Ever." 

Violent language ! but one may hear harangues very 
like it any day within Hyde Park, by the Marble Arch. 
There are many incendiaries in the making around us 
to-day, and as little attention is paid to them as to 
Martin's ravings. 

Undoubtedly mad, he possessed something of the 
madman's cunning, and with the plan of firing the 
Cathedral fully formed, set out with his wife for Leeds, 
as he gave out, on the 27th of January. At Leeds he 
remained a few days, and was remarkable for his 
unusually quiet and orderly behaviour. He left on 
Saturday morning, ostensibly for Tadcaster, saying he 
should return on the Monday ; but went instead to 




JONATHAN MARTIN, INCENDIARY. 

Drawn in gaol at York Castle by t>ie Rev. ,J. Kilby. 



THE INCIENDIARY 47 

York. Here the madman's cunning broke down, for he 
stayed at a place where he was well known ; at the 
lodgings, in fact, that he had left a few days before. 
He prowled about the Cathedral the whole of the next 
day, Sunday, and attended service there, hiding 
behind a tomb in the north transept ; overheard the 
notes of the organ the finest in England thundering 
and booming and rolling in echoes amid the fretted 
roofs. The sound troubled the brain of the maniac. 
" Buzz, buzz," he whispered ; "I'll teach thee to stop 
thy buzzing," and hid, shivering with religious and 
lunatic ecstasy, in the recess until the building was 
empty. 

The short February day closed, and left the Cathedral 
in darkness ; but he still waited. The ringers paid 
their evening- visit to the belfry, and he watched them 
from his hiding-place. He watched them go and then 
began his work. The ringers had left the belfry 
unlocked. Ascending to it, he cut a length of about 
a hundred feet off the prayer-bell rope, and, with his 
sailor's handiness, made a rough ladder of it, by which 
to escape. Those were the days before lucifer matches. 
He had come provided with a razor, which he used as a 
steel ; a flint, tinder, and a penny candle cut in two. 
Climbing, then, into the choir, he made two piles on the 
floor of prayer-books, curtains, hassocks, and cushions, 
and taking a candle from the altar, cut it up and 
distributed it between the two. Then, setting light to 
them, he set to work to escape. He had taken a pair 
of pincers from the shoemaker with whom he lodged, 
and breaking with them a window in the north transept, 
he hauled his rope through, and descended into the 
Minster Yard, soon after three o'clock in the morning. 

The fire was not discovered until four hours later. 
By that time the stalls were half-consumed, and the 
vestry, where the communion plate was kept, was on 
fire. The plate was melted into an unrecognisable 
mass. By eight o'clock, despite the exertions of many 
willing helpers, the organ-screen was burnt, and the 
organ-pipes fell in thunder to the pavement, to the 



48 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

accompaniment of a furious shower of molten lead from 
the roof, which was now burning. The city fire-engines, 
those of the Cathedral, and others from Leeds and 
Escrick were all playing upon the conflagration that 
day, arid the 7th Dragoon Guards and the Militia helped 
with a will, or kept back the vast crowds which had 
poured into the city from far and near. It was not 
until evening that the fire was quenched, and by that 
time the roof of the choir, over 130 feet in length, had 
been destroyed, and with it the stalls, the Bishop's 
throne, and all the mediaeval enrichments of that part of 
the building. Curiously enough, the great east 
window was but little damaged. The cost of this 
madman's act was put at 100,000. A singular 
coincidence, greatly remarked upon at the time, was 
that on the Sunday following this disaster, one of the 
lessons for the day was the sixty-fourth chapter of 
Isaiah, the Church's prayer to God, of which one verse 
at least was particularly applicable : " Our holy and 
our beautiful house, where our fathers praised Thee, is 
burned with fire ; and all our pleasant things are laid 
waste." 

Martin was, in the first instance, connected with the 
outrage by the evidence of the shoemaker's pincers he 
had left behind him. They were identified by his 
landlord. Meanwhile, the incendiary had fled along 
the Great North Road ; first to Easingwold, thirteen 
miles away, where he drank a pint of ale ; and then 
tramping on to Thirsk. Thence he hurried to North- 
allerton, arriving at three o'clock in the afternoon, 
worn out with thirty-three miles of walking. That 
night he journeyed in a coal-cart to West Auckland, 
and so eventually to a friend near Hexham, in whose 
house he was arrested on the 6th of February. Taken 
to York, he was tried at the sessions at York Castle on 
March 30th. The verdict, given on the following day, 
was " not guilty, on the ground of insanity," and he 
was ordered to be kept in close custody during his 
Majesty's pleasure. Martin was shortly afterwards 
removed from York Castle to St. Luke's Hospital, 



FAREWELL, YORK 51 

London, in which he died in 1838. Two years later, the 
Minster was again on fire, this time as the result of an 
accident, and the western tower was burnt out. 

Insanity in some degree ran through the Martin 
family. His brother John, who died in 1854, was a 
prominent artist, whose unbalanced mind did not give 
way, but led him to paint extraordinary pictures, 
chiefly of Scriptural interest and apocalyptic horrors. 
He was in his day considered a genius, and many of his 
terrific imaginations were engraved and must yet be 
familiar : such pictures as " Belshazzar's Feast," 
" The Eve of the Deluge," " The Last Man," and " The 
Plains of Heaven " : pictures well calculated to give 
children nightmares. 



X 

WE must now leave York for the North. To do 
so, we proceed through Bootham Bar, where the taxis 
linger that ply between the city and the railway 
station. 

Let us glance back upon the picturesque sky-line of 
City and Minster and read, maybe, the modern 
explanatory historical inscription placed on the ancient 
Bar. Thus : 

" Entry from North through Forest of Galtres. In 
old times armed men were stationed here to watch, and to 
conduct travellers through the forest and protect them 
against the wolves. 

" The Royal Arms were taken down in 1650, when 
Cromwell passed through, against Scotland. Heads of 
three rebels exposed here, for attempting to restore 
Commonwealth, 1663. 

" Erected on Roman foundation, probably early in 
13th centy. 

" Interior rebuilt with freestone, 1719. 

" The portcullis remains." 

So, in those ancient times when the Forest of Galtres 
lay immediately before you on passing out of Bootham 



52 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



Bar and going North the forest with wolves and 
bandits you stepped not into a suburb, but came 
directly off the threshold into the wild. 

To-day, outside the walls we come at once into the 
district of Clifton, after Knavesmire the finest suburb of 




York ; the wide road lined with old mansions that 
almost reek of prebendal appointments, J.P.'s, incomes 
of over two thousand a year, and butlers. It is true 
that there are those which cannot be included in this 
category, but they are here on sufferance and as a foil to 
the majesty of their superiors, just as the Lunatic 
Asylum a little farther down the road gives, or should 
give, by contrast a finer flavour to the lives of those who 
have not to live in it. There is another pleasing thing 
at Clifton, in the altogether charming new building of 
the " White Horse " inn, which seems to hint that they 
have at last beffun to recover the lost art in Yorkshire of 



SKELTON 



53 



building houses that are not vulgar or hideous. It is 
full time. 

Would you see a charming village church, a jewel in 
its sort ? Then, when reaching Skelton, three miles 
onward, explore the bye-road at the back of the 
village, over whose clustered few roofs its Early English 
bell-cote peeps. But a moment, please, before we 
reach it. This " bye-road " is the original highway, 
and the " back " of the village street its old front, 
There is a moral application somewhere in these altered 
circumstances for those who have the wit, the 
inclination, and the opportunity to seek it. 

The improved road, a hundred years old, is carried 
straight and level past the rear of the cottages, and the 
rugged old one goes serpentining past the front doors, 
where the entrance to the " Bay Horse " looks out 




SKELTOX CHURCH. 

across a little green to where the church stands, the 
faded old Bay Horse himself wondering where the 
traffic that use to pass this way has all gone to. The 
signs of the " Bay Horse " and the " Yorkshire Grey " 
are, by the way, astonishingly frequent on the Great 
North Road. 



54 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

But the church. It is an unpretending building, 
without a tower, and only a bell-cote rising from its 
broad roof ; but perfect within its limits. Early 
English throughout, with delicately-cut mouldings, 
beautiful triple lancets at the east end, and fine porch, 
the green and grey harmonies of its slate roof and 
well-preserved stonework, complete a rarely satisfying 
picture. A legend, still current, says it was built from 
stone remaining over after the building of the south 
transept of York Cathedral, in 1227. The Church in the 
Wood it was then, for from the gates of York to 
Easingwold, a distance of thirteen miles, stretched 
that great Forest of Galtres, through which, to guide 
wandering travellers, as we have already seen, the 
lantern-tower and burning cresset of All Saints in the 
Pavement, at York, were raised aloft. 

Red deer roamed the Forest of Galtres, and bandits 
not so chivalrous as Robin Hood ; so few dared to 
explore its recesses unarmed and unaccompanied. 
But where in olden times these romantic attendants 
of, or dissuading circumstances from travel existed, 
we have now only occasional trees and an infinity of 
flat roads, past Shipton village to Tollerton Cross Lanes 
and Easingwold. This country is dulness personified. 
The main road is flat and featureless, and the branch 
roads instinct with a melancholy emptiness that hives in 
every ditch and commonplace hedgerow. A deadly 
sameness, a paralysing negation, closes the horizon of 
this sparsely settled district, depopulated in that 
visitation of fire and sword when William the Conqueror 
came, in 1069, and massacred a hundred thousand of 
those who had dared to withstand him. They had 
surrendered on promise of their lives and property being 
respected, but the fierce Norman utterly destroyed the 
city of York and laid waste the whole of the country 
between York 'and Durham. Those who were not slain 
perished miserably of cold and famine. Their pale 
ghosts still haunt the route of the Great North Road 
and afflict it, though more than eight hundred years 
have flown. 



EASINGWOLD 55 

Now comes Easingvvold ; grimly bare and gritty wide 
street, with narrow pavements and broad selvedges of 
cobbles sloping from them down into a roadway filled, 
not with traffic, but with children at noisy play. 
Shabby houses lining this street, houses little better 
than cottages, and ugly at that ; grey, hard-featured, 
forbidding. Imagine half a mile of this, with a large 
church on a knoll away at the northern end, and you 
have Easingwold. One house is interesting. It is easily 
identified, because it is the only one of any architectural 
character in the place. Now a school, it was once the 
chief coaching and posting establishment, under the 
sign of the " Rose and Crown," and in those times kept 
five post boys, and, by consequence, twenty horses, 
others being kept for the " Wellington " and " Express" 
coaches which Lacy, the landlord, used to horse on the 
Easingwold to Thirsk stage. The " New Inn," 
although an inferior house, was the place at which 
the Royal mail and the " Highflyer " changed. 

An old post boy of the " Rose and Crown " survived 
until recent years, in the person of Tommy Hutchinson. 
Originally a tailor, he early forsook the board and the 
needle for the pigskin and the whip. If a tailor be the 
ninth part of a man, certainly the weazened postboys 
(who ever saw a fat one ?) of old were themselves only 
fractions, so far as appearance went ; and accordingly 
Tommy was not badly suited. But a power of 
endurance was contained within that spare frame, and 
he eclipsed John Blagg of Retford's hundred and ten 
miles' day on one occasion, riding post five times from 
Easingwold to York and back, a distance of a hundred 
and thirty miles. Tommy used to express an utter 
contempt for " bilers on wheels," as he called loco- 
motives. " Ah divvent see nowt in 'em," he would 
say ; "ye can't beat a po'shay and good horses." 
Peace be with him ! 

That rare thing on the Great North Road, a rise, 
leads out of Easingwold, past unkempt cottages, to 
"White House Inn," a mile and a half distant, where 
the inn buildings, now farmhouses, but still brilliantly 



56 

whitewashed, stand on either side of the road, in a 
lonely spot near where the Kyle stream, like a flowing 
ditch, oozes beneath Dawnay Bridge. 

The " White House " was the scene of a murder in 
1623. At that time the innkeeper was a certain 
Ralph Raynard, who " kept company " with a girl in 
service at Red House, Thornton Bridge. The lovers 
quarrelled, and in a pique the girl married a farmer 
named Fletcher, of Moor House, Raskelfe. Unhappily, 
she did not love the man she had married, while she 
certainly did retain an affection for her old sweetheart, 
and he for her. Going between Raskelfe and Easing- 
wold on market-days on her horse, she would often 
stop at the " White House," and chat with Ralph 
Raynard ; the ostler, Mark Dunn, minding the horse 
when she dismounted. Raynard's sister kept house 
with him at the inn, and she saw that no good could 
come of these visits, but he would not listen to her 
warnings, and the visits continued. It was not long 
before Fletcher's neighbours began to hint to him 
something of these little flirtations of his wife with her 
old lover ; and one evening he caught the ostler of the 
" White House" in his orchard, where he was waiting 
for an opportunity to deliver a message from Raynard 
to her. The man returned to the inn without having 
fulfilled his mission, and smarting from a thrashing he 
had received at the hands of the indignant farmer. 
Shortly after this, Fletcher had occasion to go a 
journey. Things had not been going well with him 
latterly, and his home was rendered unhappy by the 
evidence of his wife's dislike of him. Little wonder, 
then, that he had dismal forebodings as he set out. 
Before leaving, he wrote on a sheet of paper : 

If I should be missing, or suddenly wanted be, 

Mark Ralph Raynard, Mark Dunn, and mark my wife for me, 

addressing it to his sister. 

No sooner was he gone than Mrs. Fletcher mounted 
her horse and rode to Raskelfe, where, with Raynard 
and Mark Dunn, a murderous plot was contrived for 



MURDER 57 

putting Fletcher out of the way. They were waiting 
for him when he returned at evening, and as he stood 
a moment on Dawnay Bridge, where the little river 
runs beneath the highway, two of them rushed upon 
him and threw him into the water. It would be 
difficult for a man to drown here, but the innkeeper 
and the ostler leapt in after him, and as he lay there 
held his head under water, while his wife seized his feet. 
When the unfortunate man was quite dead they thrust 
his body into a sack, and, carrying their burden with 
them to the inn, buried it in the garden, Raynard 
sowing some mustard-seed over the spot. This took 
place on the 1st of May. On the 7th of July, Raynard 
went to Topcliffe Fair, and put up at the " Angel." 
Going into the stable, he was confronted by the 
apparition of the unhappy Fletcher, glowing with a 
strange light and predicting retribution. He rushed 
out among the booths, and tried to think he had been 
mistaken. Coming to a booth where they sold small 
trinkets, he thought he would buy a present for his 
sweetheart, and, taking up a chain of coral beads, 
asked the stallkeeper how it looked on the neck. 
To his dismay the apparition stood opposite, with a red 
chain round its neck, with its head hanging to one side, 
like that of an executed criminal, while a voice informed 
him that presently he and his accomplices should be 
wearing hempen necklaces. 

When night had fallen he mounted his horse and rode 
for home. On the way, at a spot called the Carr, he 
saw something in the road. It was a figure emerging 
from a sack and shaking the water off it, like a 
Newfoundland dog. With a yell of terror the haunted 
man dug his heels into his horse and galloped madly 
away ; but the figure, irradiated by a phosphorescent 
glimmer and dragging an equally luminous sack after it, 
was gliding in front of him all the while, at an equal 
pace, and so continued until the " White House " was 
reached, where it slid through the garden hedge and 
into the ground where Fletcher's body had been laid. 

Raynard's sister was waiting for him, with supper 



58 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

ready, and with a dish of freshly-cut mustard. She 
did not see the spectre sitting opposite, pointing a 
minatory finger at that dreadful salad, but he did, and 
terrified, confessed to the crime. Sisterly affection 
was not proof against this, and she laid information 
against the three accomplices before a neighbouring 
Justice of the Peace, Sir William Sheffield of Raskelfe 
Park. They were committed to York Castle, tried, and 
hanged on July 28, 1623. The bodies were afterwards 
cut down and taken to the inn, being gibbeted near the 
scene of the crime, on a spot still called Gallows Hill, 
where the bones of the three malefactors were acciden- 
tally ploughed up over a hundred and twenty years ago. 

If its surroundings may be said to fit in with a crime, 
then this seems an ideal spot for the commission of 
dark deeds, this eerie place where an oozy plantation, 
or little wood, is placed beside the road, its trees 
standing in pools or on moss-grown tussocks ; the road 
in either direction a solitude. 

Raskelfe, or " Rascall," as it is generally called, lies 
away from the road. It has a church which still 
possesses a wooden tower, and the local rhyme, 

Wooden church, wooden steeple, 
Rascally church, and rascally people. 

is yet heard in the mouths of depreciatory neighbours. 



XI 

THE Hambleton Hills now come in sight, and close 
in the view on the right hand, at a distance of five 
miles ; running parallel with the road as far as North- 
allerton ; sullen hills, with the outlines of mountains, 
and wanting only altitude to earn the appellation. 
The road, in sympathy with its nearness to them, goes 
up and down in jerky rises and falls, passing the 
outlying houses of Thormanby and the farmsteads of 
Birdforth, which pretends, with its mean little church, 



THIRSK 59 

like a sanctified cow-shed, to be a village and signally 
fails. 

The gates of Thirkleby Park and the " Griffin " inn, 
standing where a toll-gate formerly stood on what was 
once Bagby Common, bring one past a bye-road which 
leads to Coxwold, five miles away, and to the Hambleton 
White Horse, a quite unhistorical imitation, cut in the 
hillside in 1857, of its prehistoric forerunners in 
Berkshire and Wilts. Coxwold is a rarely pretty 
village, famous as having been the living of the 
Reverend Laurence Sterne from 1760 to 1768. The 
house he lived in, now divided into three cottages, is 
the place where Tristram Shandy was finished and the 
Sentimental Journey written. " Shandy Hall " it is 
called, " shandy " being the local dialect- word for 
" crazy." 

Thirsk lies less than three miles ahead. There have 
been those who have called it " picturesque." Let us 
pity them, for those to whom Thirsk shows a picturesque 
side must needs have acquaintance with only the 
sorriest and most commonplace of towns. The place is, 
in fact, a larger Easingwold, with the addition of a 
market-place like that of Selby after the abbey has 
been subtracted from it ! There are Old Thirsk and 
New Thirsk, the new town called into existence by the 
railway, a mile to the west. The " Three Tuns," 
" Crown," and " Fleece " were the three coaching inns 
of Thirsk, and still show their hard-featured faces to the 
grey, gaunt streets. The one pretty " bit " is encoun- 
tered after having left the town behind. Passing the 
church, the road is bordered by the beautiful broad 
sheet of water formed by damming the Caldbeck. 
Looking backwards, the view is charming, with the 
church-tower coming into the composition, a glance to 
the left including the Hambleton Hills. 

The hamlet of Thornton-le-Street, which derives its 
name from standing on an old Roman road, is a tiny 
place with a small church full of large monuments, 
and the remains of a huge old posting establishment, 
once familiar to travellers as the " Spotted Dog," 



60 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



standing on either side of the road. One side appears 
to be empty, and the other is now the post office. 
A graceful clump of poplars now shades the sharp bend 




THE "SPOTTED DOG," THORNTON-LK-STREET. 

where the road descends, past the lodge-gates of the 
Hall, the seat of the Earl of Cathcart. Presently the 
road climbs again to the crest whence Thornton-le-Moor 
may be glimpsed on the left, and thence goes, leaving 
the singularly named Thornton-le-Beans on the right, 
in commonplace fashion to Northallerton. 

As are Easingwold and Thirsk, so is Northallerton. 
Let that suffice for its aspect, and let us to something 
of its story, which practically begins in 1138, at the 
battle of Northallerton, dimly read of in schooldays, 
and still capable of conferring an interest upon the 



NORTHALLERTON 61 

locality, even though the site of that old-time struggle 
on Standard Hill is three miles away to the north on 
Cowton Moor. The position of the townlet, directly 
in the line of march of Scots descending to harry the 
English, and of the English marching to punish those 
hairy-legged Caledonians, led to many plunderings 
and burnings, and to various scenes of retribution, 
enacted in the streets or along the road ; and although 
Northallerton must nowadays confess to a mile-long 
dulness, time cannot have hung heavily with its 
inhabitants when the Scots burnt their houses in 1319 
and again in 1322 ; when the rebel Earls of 1569 were 
executed near the church ; when the Scottish army 
held Charles the First prisoner here in 1647, or when 
last scene in its story the Duke of Cumberland 
encamped on the hillsides in 1745. 

The name of Allerton is said to derive from the 
Anglo-Saxon aelr, an alder tree, and many are the 
Allertons of sorts in Yorkshire. Its central feature 
which, however, is not geographically central, but 
at the northern end of the one long street is the 
church, large and with a certain air of nobility which 
befits the parish church of such a place as Northallerton, 
anciently the capital of a " soke," and still giving a 
name to the " Northallertonshire " district of Yorkshire. 
The old coaching inns of the town, like those of so 
many other northern towns and villages on this road, 
are not impressive to the Southerner, who, the further 
north he progresses, is, with Dr. Johnson, still more 
firmly convinced that he is leaving the finest fruits of 
civilisation behind him. First now, as then, is the 
" Golden Lion," large but not lovely ; the inn referred 
to as the " Black Swan " by Sydney Smith when 
writing to Lady Grey, advising her how to journey 
from London, in the passage, " Do not set off too 
soon, or you wilt be laid up at the ' Black Swan,' 
Northallerton, or the ' Elephant and Castle,' Borough- 
bridge ; and your bill will come to a thousand pounds, 
besides the waiter." The true sportsman who reads 
these lines will put up at the " Golden Lion " to test 



62 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

whether or not the reverend humorist is out of date as 
regards the tariff ; nor will he forget to try the North- 
allerton ale, to determine if Master George Meryon's 
verse, written in the days of James the Second, is 
still topical : 

Northallerton, in Yorkshire, doth excell 
All England, nay, all Europe, for strong yell. 

The " Golden Lion " was, at the close of the coaching 
era, the foremost inn at Northallerton, and at its doors 
the " Wellington " London and Newcastle coach 
changed teams until the railway ran it off the road. 
The Edinburgh mail changed at the " Black Bull," 
which survives as an inn, but only half its original size, 
the other half now being a draper's shop. The " King's 
Head," another coaching-house, has quite retired 
into private life, while the " Old Golden Lion," not 
a very noted coaching establishment, except, perhaps, 
for the bye-roads, remains much the same as ever. 



XII 

AT Northallerton we reach the junction of the 
alternative route, which, branching from the Selby 
and York itinerary, goes over difficult, but much 
more beautiful, country by way of Wetherby and 
Boroughbridge. The ways diverge at the northern 
extremity of Doncaster, and as both can equally claim 
to be an integral part of the Great North Road, it is 
necessary to go back these sixty-three miles to that 
town and explore the route. Beginning at a left- 
hand fork by the flat meadows that border the river 
Don, it comes in a mile to York Bar, a name recalling 
the existence of a turnpike-gate, whose disappearance 
so recently as 1879 seems to bring us strangely near 
old coaching days. The toll-house still stands, and 
with the little inn beyond, backed and surrounded 
by tall trees, forms a pleasant peep down the long 



ROBIN HOOD'S WELL 



63 



flat road. " Red House," nearly three miles onward, 
is plainly indicated by its flaring red-painted walls. 
Now a farmhouse, it was once a small coaching-inn 




YORK BAR. 

principally concerned with the traffic along the Wake- 
field road, which branches off here to the left. Passing 
this, we come in two miles to Robin Hood's Well, a 
group of houses by Skelbrooke Park, where at the 
" New Inn " and the " Robin Hood " many coaches 
changed horses daily, the passengers taking the 
opportunity of drinking from Robin Hood's Well, a 
spring connected with that probably mythical outlaw, 
who is said to have met the Bishop of Hereford travel- 
ling along the road at this spot, and to have not only 
held him to heavy ransom, but to have compelled him 
to dance an undignified jig round an oak in Skelbrooke 
Park, on a spot still called (now the tree itself has 
disappeared) " Bishop's Tree Root." Among famous 



64 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

travellers who have sipped of the crystal spring of 
Robin Hood's Well is Evelyn, who journeyed this way 
in 1654. " Near it," he says, " is a stone chaire; and 
an iron ladle to drink out of, chained to the scat," 




ROBIX HOOD'S WELL. 

Some fifty years later, the very ugly building that now 
covers the spring was erected by Vanbrugh for the 
Earl of Carlisle. It cannot be said to add much to the 
romantic associations of the place, but the efforts of the 
wayfarers, who in two centuries have carved every 
available inch of its surface with their names, render 
it a curious sight. 

Here the road begins a long climb up to the spot 
where five ways meet, the broad left-hand road con- 
ducting into Leeds. This is, or was, Barnsdale Bar, 
where some of the local Leeds coaches branched from 
the Great North Road, the chief ones between London 
and Leeds continuing along this route as far as 
Peckfield Turnpike, five miles to the other side of 
Ferrybridge. Barnsdale Bar is, like all the other 
toll-bars, a thing of the past, but the old toll-house 



WENT BRIDGE 65 

still hides among the trees by the roadside. Beyond 
it the way lies along an exposed road high up on the 
hill-tops ; a lonely stretch of country where it is a 
peculiarly ill mischance to be caught in a storm. 
Thence it plunges suddenly into the deep gorge of 
Went Bridge, where the little river Went goes with 
infantile fury among rocks and mossy boulders along 
a winding course thickly overhung with trees. The 
wooded sides of this narrow valley are picturesque in 
the highest degree, but were probably not highly 
appreciated by timid coach-passengers who, having 
been driven down the precipitous road at one side at 
the peril of their lives, were turned out by the guard 
to ease the toiling horses by walking up the corres- 
ponding ascent at the other. This is the prettiest 
spot in all " merry Barnsdale," and anciently one of 
those most affected by Robin Hood. His very 
degenerate successors, the poachers and cut-throats of 
James the First's time, found it a welcome harbourage 
and foregathered at the predecessor of the Old Blue 
Bell Inn, which was accordingly deprived of its license 
for some time. The old sign, bearing the date of 1633, 
when business was probably resumed, is still kept 
within the house, as the rhymed inscription on the 
modern one outside informs the passer-by : 

The Bl-.ie Bell on Wentbridse Hill, 
The old sign is existing still 
Inside the house. 

An old posting-inn, the " Bay Horse," has long since 
reverted to the condition of a private house. 

The road rising out of Went Bridge, runs between 
the jagged rocks of a cutting made in the last years 
of the coaching age to lighten the pull up, but still it 
is a formidable climb. This is followed by a hollow 
where a few outlying houses of Darrington village are 
seen, and then the bleak high tableland is reached 
that has to be traversed before the road drops down 
into the valley of the Aire at Ferrybridge, that now 
dull and grimy town which bears no appearance of 



66 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

having had an historic past. Yet Ferrybridge was 
the scene of the skirmish that heralded the battle of 
Towton, and stands in the midst of that mediaeval 
cockpit of England, wherein for centuries so many rival 
factions contended together. Near by is Pontefract, 
in whose castle Richard the Second met a mysterious 
death, and not far off lies Wakefield. Towton Field 
itself lies along the Tadcaster route to York. In every 
direction blood has been shed, for White Rose or Red, 
for King or Parliament ; but Ferrybridge is anything 
but romantic to the eye, however greatly its associa- 
tions may appeal to the well-stored mind. Coal-mining 
and quarrying industries overlie these things. The 
place-name explains the situation of the townlet 
sufficiently well, and refers to the first building of a 
bridge over the old-time ferry by which wayfarers 
crossed the Aire to Brotherton, on the opposite bank. 
It is quite unknown when the first bridge was built, 
but one existed here in 1461, the year when Towton 
fight was fought. This was succeeded by a wooden 
structure, itself replaced by the present substantial 
stone bridge, built at the beginning of the eighteenth 
century. This was always a troublesome part of the 
road to keep in repair, as we may judge from old 
records. A forty days' indulgence was granted by 
the Bishop of Durham early in the fourteenth century 
to the faithful who would contribute to the repair of the 
road between Ferrybridge and Brotherton, in these 
words : " Persuaded that the minds of the faithful 
are more ready to attach themselves to pious works 
when they have received the salutary encouragement 
of fuller indulgences, trusting in the mercy of God 
Almighty and the merits and prayers of the glorious 
Virgin his Mother, of St. Peter, St. Paul, and of the 
most holy confessor Cuthbert, our patron, and of all 
saints, we remit forty days of the penances imposed 
on all our parishioners and others, sincerely contrite 
and confessed of their sins, who shall help by their 
charitable gifts, or by their bodily labour, in the 
building or in the maintenance of the causeway 



THE "SWAN" 67 

between Brotherton and Ferrybridge, where a great 
many people pass by." 

Let us hope that the pious, thus incited to the 
commission of good works, responded. It was a 
more serious matter, however, in later ages, when 
a great many more people passed by, and when 
road-surveyors, unable to dispense these ghostly 
favours, repaired the roads only at the pecuniary 
expense of the ratepayers. These Yorkshire streams, 
the Aire, the Wharfe, and many others, descending 
from the high moorlands, develop an extraordinary 
force in times of flood, and have often destroyed half 
the communications of these districts. Such was 
the havoc wrought in 1795 that many of the bridges 
were washed away and great holes made in the roads. 
Three bridges on this road between Doncaster and 
Ferrybridge disappeared. With such perils threatened, 
travellers deserved to be comfortably housed when 
they lay by for the night. And comfort was the 
especial feature of these inns. 

The most luxurious inn and posting-house in the 
north of England was held to be the " Swan " at 
Ferrybridge ; "in 1737 and since the best inn upon 
the great northern road," according to Scott. However 
that may have been, certainly the " Angel " at Ferry- 
bridge was the largest. Both, however, have long 
since been given up. The many scattered buildings 
of the " Angel " have become private houses, and the 
" Swan," empty for many years past, is falling into a 
roofless ruin by the riverside. Innkeeping was no 
mean trade in those times, especially when allied with 
the proprietorship of horses and coaches. Thus, in 
the flower of the coaching age, the " Angel " was in 
the hands of a medical man, a certain Dr. Alderson, 
the son of a local clergyman, who actually found time 
to attend properly to his practice and to conduct the 
business of a licensed victualler and coach-proprietor. 
He thought it not derogatory to his social position to 
be " mine host," and he certainly made many friends 
by his enterprise. Ferrybridge, as the branching-off 



68 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

place of yet another Great North Road route the 
Tadcaster route to York was a very busy coaching 
centre, and besides the two inns mentioned there were 
the " Greyhound " and the " Golden Lion." The 
last-named was especially the drovers' house. Drovers 
were a great feature of the road in these old days, 
and their flocks and herds an unmitigated nuisance to 
all other travellers. Uncouth creatures from Scotland, 
they footed it all the way to London with their beasts, 
making their twenty miles a day ; their sheep and 
cattle often numerous enough to occupy a whole mile 
of road, and raising dust-clouds dense enough to choke 
a whole district. It was, at the pace they went, a 
three weeks' journey from the far north to London 
and the fat cattle that started on the four hundred 
miles walk must, with these efforts, have become the 
leanest of kine on arrival at Smithfield. 

The " Old Fox " inn, which still stands on the other 
side of the river at Brotherton, was also a drovers' 
place of call. It stands at the actual fork of the roads, 
eleven miles from Tadcaster, and twenty from York. 
The Edinburgh mail originally ran this way, finally 
changing to the Selby route, while the " Highflyer " 
and " Wellington," London and Edinburgh and 
London and Newcastle, coaches kept on it until the 
end in 1840 ; but it was chiefly crowded with the 
cross-country coach traffic, which was a very heavy one. 

The places are few and uninteresting on these twenty 
miles into York ; Sherburn and Tadcaster that town 
of ales the chief of them ; while the tiny godless 
village of Towton, without a church, on the way, is 
disappointing to the pilgrim, eager to see it for the 
sake of its association with the great battle. The road 
skirts the eastern side of that tragic field, after passing 
the hamlet of Barkston Ash. 



BATTLE OF TOWTON 69 



XIII 

THE battle of Towton, March 29, 1461, was the 
bloodiest ever fought on English ground, the slain 
on both sides in that desperate fight and in the 
skirmishes at Ferrybridge and Dintingdale amounting 
to more than 30,000 men. The events that had pre- 
ceded it were alternately cheering and depressing 
to the hopes of the Yorkists, who had been defeated 
with great slaughter at Wakefield on the last day but 
one of the previous December, had gained the impor- 
tant victory of Mortimer's Cross on the 2nd of February, 
and had been defeated again at the second battle of 
St. Albans on the 17th of the same month ; and 
although on March 4th the young Duke of York had 
entered London and assumed the crown as Edward 
the Fourth, the Lancastrians still held the Midlands 
and, lying at York, interposed a bold front against an 
advance. It was a singular position. The Lancas- 
trians had their headquarters at the city from which 
their opponents took their title, and two kings of 
England, equally matched in power, animated their 
respective adherents with the utmost loyalty. 

After their victory at St. Albans the Lancastrians, 
exhausted, had retired to York, the south being as 
dangerous to a Lancastrian army as the north, loyal to 
the Red Rose, was to the Yorkists. The Yorkists, on 
their part, eager to enter London, did not pursue their 
rivals. Both sides required breathing time, for events 
had marched too rapidly in the past two months for the 
pace to be maintained. Still, the Yorkists were in 
force, three weeks later, at Pontefract, and threatening 
to cross the Aire at Ferrybridge, a strategic point on 
their contemplated line of advance to the city of York. 
It was here, early in the morning of the 28th, that the 
bloody prelude to the battle opened, in a sudden 
Lancastrian attack on the Yorkist outpost. Lord 
Fitzwalter, the Yorkist commander, lay asleep in bed at 



70 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



the time. Seizing a pole-axe at his sudden awakening, 
he was slain almost instantly, but his force, succeeding 
in driving the enemy across the river, took up a position 
at Brotherton, the Lancastrians falling back in disorder 
to Dintingdale, near Barkston Ash, where, later in the 



TATKASTER 




FERRYBRIDGE 



THE BATTLEFIELD OF TOWTON AND 
SURROUNDING COUNTRY. 

day, the Lancastrian, Lord Clifford, was slain by an 
arrow. The advance-guard of the Lancastrian army 
now fell back upon the main body, which took up a 
well-chosen position between the villages of Saxton and 
Towton, lying across a rising road which led out of the 
former place, and having on its right the steeply falling 
meadows leading down into the deep depression of 



MILITARY POSITIONS 



71 



Towton Dale, where the Cock Beck still wanders in 
far-flung loops in the flat lands below. On their left 
the ground stretched away for some distance and then 
fell gently towards the flats of Church Fenton. At their 




SAXTOX. 



rear the road descended steeply again into Towton, 
while Tadcaster lay three miles and York eleven miles 
beyond. It was a position of great strength and one 
that could only possibly be turned from the left. 
The fatal defect of it lay in the chance, in the case of 
defeat, of the beaten army being disorganised by a 
retreat down so steep a road, leading as it did to the 
crossing of a stream swollen with winter rains. 

In visiting this spot, we must bear in mind that the 
broad road from Ferrybridge to Tadcaster and York 
was not then in existence. The way lay across the 
elevated land which, rising from Barkston Ash towards 
Saxton, reaches to a considerable height between that 
village and Towton. From this commanding spot the 
valleys of the Wharfe and Ouse lie plainly unfolded, 



72 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



and the towers of York itself may be seen on the 
skyline, 011 the verge of this wide expanse of meadows 
and woodlands. 

The hedgerows on the way to the battle-field are 
remarkable for the profusion of briar roses that grow 
here in place of the more usual blackberry brambles 
and thorns, and Bloody Meadow, the spot where the 
thickest of the fight took place, was until quite recently 
thickly overgrown with the red and white roses with 




TOWTOX DALE. 

which Nature had from time immemorial planted this 
scene of strife. Latterly they have all been grubbed 
up by farmers, keener on the purity of their grasslands 
than on historic associations. 

The main body of the Yorkists, advancing to Saxton, 
opened the attack on the Lancastrians early in the 
morning of Palm Sunday, the 29th. The centre of the 
fight was in the meadow on the left hand of the road 
leading towards Towton, a short distance beyond 
Towton Dale quarry. The Lancastrians numbered 
60,000 men, the Yorkists 48,600. For ten hours the 
furious encounter raged, " sore fought, for hope of life 



ROUT OF LANCASTRIANS 73 

was set aside on every part." Six years' warfare, from 
1455, when the first battle of St. Albans had been 
fought, had rendered the enemies implacable. Almost 
every combatant had already lost kinsfolk, and intense 
hatred caused the order on both sides that no quarter 
was to be given and no prisoners taken. The day was 
bitterly cold, and snowstorms swept the upland, 
driving in the faces of the Lancastrians with such 
blinding fury that their arrows, shot in reply to the 
Yorkist volleys, could not be properly aimed, and so 
missed their mark. A hand-to-hand encounter with 
swords and battle-axes then followed, obstinately 
fought, but resulting practically in the butchery of the 
Lancastrians, for nearly the half of their whole force 
were slain or met their death either in Towton Dale or at 
the crossing of the stream down the road past Towton 
Hall. The rest fled to Tadcaster and on to York, where 
Henry the Sixth, the Queen, and the young Prince of 
Wales were waiting the result of the fight. They left 
immediately, and the victorious Duke of York entered 
the ancient city. 

Many proud nobles fell that day with the men-at- 
arms ; among others, Lord Dacre, fighting for the 
Red Rose, shot by a boy concealed in what the country 
people call a " bur-tree," that is to say, an elder. He 
lies buried in the churchyard of Saxton, on the north 
side of the church, under a much-mutilated altar-tomb, 
whose inscription refers to him as " verus miles " a 
true knight. Tradition yet tells of his death, in the 
local rhyme : 

The Lori) of Dacres 

Was slain in the North Acres, 

fields still known by that name. Many grave mounds 
remain in Bloody Meadow, where a rude cross leans, 
half hidden under a tangled hedge ; and in 1848, 
during some excavations in Saxton churchyard, a 
stratum of bones, four feet in thickness, was exposed, 
the poor relics of those who fell in the great fight. 
Others still are said to have been buried in the little 



74 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

chapel of Lead, a mile away, by the banks of the Cock, 
whose stream ran red that day. A few stones at the 
back of Towton Hall mark the place where a votive 
chapel was erected, where prayers might be said for the 
souls of the dead, whose numbers on both sides are 
said by one authority to have reached 36,776. Relics 




LEAD CHAPEL. 

have been found on the battle-field. Many years 
ago a wandering antiquary found a farmer's wife 
breaking sugar with a battle-axe discovered in the 
river. She did not know what it was, but he did, and 
secured it. It is now at Alnwick Castle. In 1785 was 
found a gold ring which had belonged to the Earl of 
Northumberland, who was carried mortally wounded 
from the field. It weighs an ounce, and bears the 
Percy Lion, with inscription, " Now ys thus." Another 
interesting and pathetic find was a spur, engraved with 
" En loial amour, tout mon coer," the relic of some 
unknown knight. 

XIV 

IT is a wild, weird kind of country upon which we 
enter, on the way from Brotherton to Aberford and the 
North. Away to the left suddenly opens a wide 



ACROSS THE MOORS 75 

valley, in an almost sheer drop from the road, looking 
out upon illimitable perspectives. Then comes Fair- 
burn, followed by what used to be Peckfield Turnpike, 
where the " Boot and Shoe " inn stands at the fork of 
the roads, and where the Leeds and London " Royal 
Mail," " Rockingham," and " Union Post " coaches 
turned off. Micklefield, two miles beyond, approached 
by a fine avenue of elms, is an abject coal-mining 
village, and hauling-gear, smoke, and the inky blackness 
of the roads emphasise the fact, even if the marshalled 
coal-wagons on the railway did not give it insistence. 
Coming up the craggy rise out of Micklefield and its 
coal, on to Hook Moor, one of the finest stretches of the 
road, qua road, brings the traveller past the lodge-gates 
of Parlington Park and the oddly ecclesiastical-looking 
almshouses beyond, down into the stony old village of 
Aberford, which lies in a depression on the Cock Beck. 
Beyond the village, on journeying towards it, one sees 
the long straight white road ascending the bastioned 
heights of windy Bramham Moor ; and the sight 
clinches any half-formed inclination to rest awhile at 
Aberford before climbing to that airy eminence. 

Aberford still seems to be missing its old posting and 
coaching traffic, and to be awaiting the return of the 
days when the Carlisle and Glasgow mail changed at the 
" Swan," a fine old inn, now much shrunken from its 
original state. Stone-quarrying and the neighbouring 
coal-mines keep the village from absolutely decaying ; 
but it still lives in the past. The picturesque old settles 
and yawning fireplaces of the " Swan," and of that 
oddly-named inn, the " Arabian Horse," eloquent of 
the habits of generations ago, survive to show us what 
was the accommodation those old inns provided. 
If more primitive, it was heartier, and a great deal more 
comfortable than that of modern hotels. 

By the churchyard wall stands part of the old Market 
Cross, discovered by the roadside and set up here in 
1911 ; with the " Plague Stone " in whose water-filled 
hollow purchasers placed their money, so that the 
sellers might not risk infection. 



76 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



A ruined windmill of strange design, perched on the 
hillside road behind the village, is the best point 
whence to gain an idea of the country in midst of which 
Aberford is set. It is boldly undulating country, 
hiding in the folds of its hills many old-world villages. 
Chief among them, two miles off the road, is Barwick-in- 
Elmete i.e. in the elm country with its prehistoric 




RUINED MILL, OVERLOOKING ABERFORD. 

mounds and the modern successor of an ancient 
maypole, set up in the village street by the cross, 
presented in May 1898 by Major-General Gascoigne, of 
Parlington Park. 

The road two miles out of Aberford reaches that 
home of howling winds, that most uncomfortable and 
undesirable place, Bramham Moor. Here, where the 
Bramham Moor inn stands at the crossing of the 
Leeds and York road, a considerable traffic enlivened 
the way until eighty years ago. Since that time the 
broad roadways in either direction have been empty, 
except when the hounds meet here in the hunting 
season, when, for a brief hour, old times seem come 
again. It was along this cross-road that " Nimrod," 



COACHING 



77 



that classic coaching authority, travelled in 1827, his 
eagle eye engaged in criticism of the Yorkshire pro- 
vincial coaches. 

The rustical driver of the Leeds to York stage, 




BARWICK-IN-ELMETE. 

happily, did not know who his passenger was. Let us 
hope he never saw the criticism of himself, his coach and 
horses, and everything that was his, which appeared 
shortly afterwards in the Sporting Magazine. Every- 
thing, says " Nimrod," was inferior. The man who 
drove (he scorns, you see, to call him a coachman) was 



78 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

more like a Welsh drover than anything else. The day 
was cold, but he had neither gloves, boots, nor gaiters. 
However, he conducted the coach only a ten miles' 
stage, and made up with copious libations of gin for the 
lack of warm clothing. On the way he fell to bragging 
with his box-seat passenger of the hair's-breadth 
escapes he had experienced when driving one of the 
Leeds to London opposition coaches ; and " Nimrod," 
complimenting him on the skill he must have shown on 
those occasions, he proceeded to give a taste of his 
quality, which resulted in his getting the reins clubbed 
and a narrow escape from being overturned. 
" Nimrod " soon had enough of it, and at the first 
opportunity pretended to be ill and went inside, as 
being the least dangerous place. Arriving at Tadcaster, 
ten miles from York, the door was opened, and " Please 
to remember the coachman " tingled in the ears of the 
passengers. " What now," asked " Nimrod," " are 
you going no farther ? " " No, sir, but ah's goes back 
at night," was the Yorkshireman's answer. " Then 
you follow some trade here, of course ? " continued the 
great coaching expert. " No, sir," said a bystander, 
" he has got his horses to clean." Fancy a coachman, 
even if only of that inferior kind, who could not be 
called anything better than " the man who drove, "- 
fancy a coachman seeing to his own horses. " Nimrod " 
was properly shocked at this, and with memories of 
coaching nearer London, with stables and yards full of 
ostlers and helpers, and the coachmen, their drinking 
done, flirting with the Hebes of the bar, could only say, 
with a gasp, " Oh ! that's the way your Yorkshire 
coaching is done, is it ? " 

He then saw his fellow-passengers pull out sixpence 
each and give it to the driver, who was not only 
satisfied, but thankful. This also was a novelty. 
Coachmen were, in his experience, tipped with florins 
and half-crowns, nor even then did they exhibit 
symptoms of thankfulness, but took the coin as of 
right. " What am I to do ? " " Nimrod " asked 
himself ; " I never gave a coachman sixpence yet, and 



BRAMHAM 79 

I shall not begin that game to-day." So he " chucked " 
him a " bob," which brought the fellow's hat down to 
the box of the fore-wheel in gratitude. 

With a fresh team and another driver the journey 
was continued to York. About half-way, the coach 
stopped at a public-house, in the old style ; the driver 
got down, the gin bottle was produced, and, looking out 
of the window, "Nimrod" was surprised to see the man 
whom he had thought was left behind at Tadcaster. 
" What, are you here ? " he asked. " Why, yes," 
answered the man ; " 'tis market-day at York, and 
ah's wants to buy a goose or two." " Ah," observed 
" Nimrod," " I thought you were a little in the 
huckstering line." 



XV 

BRAMHAM MOOR leads down into Bramham village, 
past the Park, where a ruined manor-house, destroyed 
by fire, stands amid formal gardens and looks tragical. 
The place wears the aspect of romance, and seems an 
ideal home for the ideal Wicked Squire of Early 
Victorian novels. Lord Bingley, who built it and laid 
out the grounds in the time of Queen Anne, was not 
more wicked than the generality of his contemporaries, 
but here are all the "properties" with which those 
novelists surrounded the cynical deceivers of innocence, 
who stalked in inky cloaks, curly hats, and tasselled 
riding-boots through their gory pages. Here is 
Lord Bingley's Walk, an avenue of gigantic beeches 
where he did not meet the trustful village maiden, as 
he ought to have done, by all the rules ; here also is 
the obelisk at the suggestively named Blackfen, whence 
twelve avenues diverge where no tattered witch ever 
cursed him, so far as can be ascertained. Lord Bingley 
evidently did not live up to the possibilities of the place, 
or of his station, nor did those who came after him, for 
no horrid legend is narrated with bated breath in 
Bramham village, which lies huddled together in the 



80 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



hollow below the park, the world forgetting, and by the 
world forgot, ever since that leap year, 1408, when on 
the 29th of February the Earl of Northumberland, 
rebelling against Henry the Fourth, was defeated and 
slain by Sir Thomas Rokeby at the battle of Bramham 
Moor. 

Rising steeply out of Bramham and coming to the 
crest at Moor End, where the road descends long and 




continuously to Wetherby and the river Wharfe, we 
come to what used to be regarded as the half-way town 
between London and Edinburgh. The exact spot, 
where a milestone told the same tale on either face, is, in 
fact, one mile north, where the " Old Fox " inn stands. 
This was, of course, the most noted landmark on the 
long road, and the drovers who journeyed past it 
never failed to look in at the " Old Fox " and " wet 
their whistles," to celebrate the completion of half their 
task. At Wetherby itself the " Angel " arrogated the 
title of " half-way house," and was the principal 
coaching inn. It still stands, like its rival, the " Swan 



82 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

and Talbot," smaller than of yore, the larger portion of 
its stables now converted into cottages. At the 
" Angel " the down London and Glasgow mail dined, 
with an hour to spare ; the up coach hurrying through 
to its change at Aberford. Wetherby was a change for 
the stage-coaches, which ran the whole seventeen miles 
to Ferrybridge with the same teams ; a cruelly long and 
arduous stretch for the horses. 

This is a hard-featured, stony town ; still, as of old, 
chiefly concerned with cattle-raising and cattle-dealing, 
and crowded on market-days with farmers and drovers 
driving bargains or swearing at the terrified efforts of 
beasts and sheep to find their way into the shops and 
inns. Down on the southern side of the town runs the 
romantic Wharfe, between rocky banks, hurrying in 
swirling eddies towards its confluence with the Ouse, 
below Tadcaster ; and on to the north goes the road, 
through the main street, on past the conspicuous spire 
of Kirk Deighton church, coming in three miles to 
Walshford, where a bridge crosses the rocky, tree- 
embowered Nidd, and that old posting-house, the 
comfortable-looking " Walshford Bridge Inn," stands 
slightly back from the road, looking like a private 
mansion gone diffidently into business. 

Beyond Walshford Bridge the road turns suddenly 
to the left, and, crossing the railway at lonely Allerton 
station, passes a substantial red-brick farmhouse which 
looks as if it has seen very different days. And indeed 
it has, for this was once the " New Inn," a changing- 
place for the mails. Now on the right comes the long 
wall of Allerton Park, and presently there rises ahead 
that strange mound known by the equally strange 
name of Nineveh, a tree-crowned hill, partly artificial, 
girdled with prehistoric earthworks, and honeycombed 
with the graves of the forgotten tribes, to whom it 
was probably at once a castle, a temple, and a cemetery. 
The road onward to Boroughbridge is, indeed, carried 
over a Roman way, which itself probably superseded 
the tracks of those vanished people, and led to what is 
now the village of Aldborough near Boroughbridge, 



BOROUGHBRIDGE 83 

once that great Roman city of Isurium which rivalled 
York itself, and now yields inexhaustible building- 
stones for modern cottages, and relics that bring the 
life of those ancients in very close touch with that of our 
own time : oyster-shells and oyster knives, pomatum- 
pots, pins, and the hundred little articles in daily use 
now and fifteen hundred years ago. 

Boroughbridge was originally the settlement founded 
by the Saxons near the ruined and deserted city of 
Isurium. Afraid of the bodies and evil spirits with 
which their dark superstitions peopled the ruins, they 
dared not live there, but built their abiding-place by 
the river Ure, where the mediaeval, but now modernised, 
village of Boroughbridge stood, and where the bridge 
built by Metcalf, the blind road- and bridge-maker, 
over a century ago spans the weedy stream in useful 
but highly unornamental manner. The battle of 
Boroughbridge, fought in 1322, is almost forgotten, and 
coaching times have left their impress upon the town 
instead. The two chief coaching inns, the " Crown " 
and the " Greyhounds," still face one another in the 
dull street ; the " Greyhounds " a mere ghost of its 
former self, the " Crown " larger, but its stables, where 
a hundred horses found a shelter, now echoing in their 
emptiness to the occasional footfall. Oddly enough a 
medical practitioner, a Dr. Hugh Stott, was landlord 
of the " Crown " for more than fifty years. Probably 
he and the landlord of the " Angel " at Ferrybridge 
were the only two inn-keeping doctors in the kingdom. 
The " Crown " was anciently the home of the Tancreds, 
a county family owning property in the neighbourhood : 
the " Greyhounds " obtains its curious plural from the 
heraldic shield of the Mauleverers, which displays three 
greyhounds, " courant." Hotel accommodation was 
greatly in request at Boroughbridge in the old days ; 
for from this point branched many roads. Here the 
Glasgow coaches turned off, and a number of coaches 
for Knaresborough, Ripon, Harrogate, and the many 
towns of south-west Yorkshire. The " Edinburgh 
Express," which went by way of Glasgow, also passed 



84 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

through. Boroughbridge was a busy coaching town, 
so that ruin, stark, staring, and complete fell upon it 
when railways came. 

The remaining nineteen miles to Northallerton scarce 
call for detailed description. Kirkby Hill, a mile out 
of Boroughbridge, lies to the left, its church-tower just 
within sight. This is followed by the unutterably dull, 
lifeless, and ugly village of Dishforth, leading to the 
hamlet of Asenby, where the road descends to the 
picturesque crossing of the Swale and the Cod Beck, 
with the village of Topcliffe crowning the ridge on the 
other side : a village better looking, but as lifeless as 
the others. Thence flat or gently undulating roads 
conduct in twelve miles to Northallerton, past Busby 
Stoop Inn, the villages of Sand Hutton, Newsham, and 
North and South Otterington. 

South Otterington lives with a black mark in the 
memory of antiquaries as that benighted place where 
the parishioners thought so little of their church 
registers some years ago that they allowed the parish 
clerk to treat all the old ones, dating from before the 
eighteenth century, as so much waste-paper ; some of 
them making an excellent bonfire to singe a goose with. 
They were not singular in this respect, for church- 
wardens of different places have been known to do 
the most extraordinary things with these valuable 
documents. Thoresby, the antiquary, writing of a 
particular register, remarks that " it has not been a 
plaything for young pointers. It has not occupied a 
bacon-cratch or a bread-and-cheese cupboard. It has 
not been scribbled on, within and without," from which 
we infer that that was the common fate, and that others 
had been so treated. 

The junction of the two main routes of the Great 
North Road at Northallerton takes place ignominiously 
outside the goods station at a level-crossing. 



BATTLE OF THE STANDARD 87 



XVI 

THE alternative route now described and North- 
allerton regained by it, we may resume the long journey 
to Edinburgh. It is the completest kind of change 
from the wild ups and downs of the Boroughbridge and 
Wetherby route to the long featureless stretches that 
now lie before us. We will not linger in the town, but 
press onward to where the battle of the Standard, as 
the battle of Northallerton is often known, was fought, 
on the right-hand side of the road, near the still 
unenclosed fragments of Cowton Moor. It was not a 
great struggle, for the Scots fled after a short resistance, 
and the great numbers of their slain met their fate 
rather at the hands of the peasantry, while fleeing 
through a hostile country, than in combat with the 
English army. 

Standing amid the heathy tussocks of Standard Hill, 
looking over the Moor, the wide-spreading hill and dale 
of the Yorkshire landscape fades into a blue or misty 
distance, and must in its solitude look much the same 
as it did in those far distant days. Nothing save the 
name of the hillock and that of the farm called Scot 
Pits, traditionally said to have been the place where 
the Scottish dead were buried, remains to tell of the 
struggle. " Baggamoor," as old chroniclers call the 
battle-field, from the baggage thrown away by the Scots 
in their flight, is traversed by the road, which proceeds 
by way of Oak Tree and Lovesome Hills to Great 
Smeaton, where the mails changed horses on the short 
seven miles' stage between it and Northallerton, or the 
nine miles to Darlington. The "Blacksmith's Arms " 
was in those times the coaching inn here, but it has 
long since been converted into cottages. William 
Tweedie, the last of a succession of three Tweedies who 
kept the " Blacksmith's Arms " and owed their pros- 
perity to the mails changing at their house, was also 
the village postmaster. A God-fearing man and an 
absent-minded, it is recorded of him that during a 



88 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

sermon at the parish church he was surprised in the 
midst of one of his mental absences by hearing the 
preacher enlarge upon the text of " Render unto 
Caesar." " Ay," he said, in a loud voice, when the 
duty of paying the king's taxes and just demands was 
brought home to the congregation, " that puts me in 
mind o't : there's old Granny Metcalf's bin owin' the 
matter o' eightpence on a letter these two months past." 

Now Widow Metcalf had paid that eightpence. She 
was in church, too. The suddenness of the unjust 
accusation made her forget time and place, and she 
retorted with. " William Tweedie, y're a liar ! " 

One has a distinct suspicion that by " Low r sey Hill, 
a small Village contiguous on the Left " (but a place 
so-named would more properly have been "contagious") 
mentioned here by Ogilby, he must have meant what 
is now Lovesome Hill. 

The old coach passengers, driving through, or 
changing at, Great Smeaton must have often wondered, 
seeing the smallness of the place, what size the neigh- 
bouring Little Smeaton, away off to the left, could have 
been. Their inquiries on that head were usually 
answered by the coachmen, who were wags of sorts, 
that Little Smeaton consisted of one dog-kennel and 
two hen-coops. It is a lonely road between North- 
allerton and Darlington, and quips of this kind probably 
tasted better when administered on the spot than they 
do to the armchair traveller. Particularly lonely is 
High Entercommon, where a turnpike-gate stood in the 
days that are done, together with an inn, the " Golden 
Lion," where a fe\v coaches which made a longer stage 
from Northallerton changed. Were it not that 
William Thompson, landlord at the best period in the 
history of coaching, was a highly reputable person, 
and had been coachman to Sir Bellingham Graham 
before he set up as innkeeper, we might point to the 
house and say how suitable a locality for the secret 
roadside crimes of old, of which novelists delight to tell ! 
Roads, and travelling before railways, used to set the 
romancists busily engaged in spinning the most blood- 



TRAVELLERS' TALES 89 

curdling stories of villainous innkeepers who, like 
Bob Acres, kept " churchyards of their own," and 
murderous trap-doors in their guest-rooms giving upon 
Golgothas filled with the bones of their many victims. 
If one might credit these astounding stories, the inns 
that were not murder-shops were few and far between ; 
but happily those writers, anxious only to make your 
blood creep, were as a rule only exercising their 
particularly gory imaginations. 

A story of this order is that of a lady who set out in 
her carriage to visit some friends in Yorkshire. She had 
come to within thirty miles of her destination, when a 
thunderstorm which had been threatening broke 
violently overhead. Struggling against the elements, 
the coachman was glad to espy an old-fashioned 
roadside inn presently visible ahead, and, his mistress 
expressing a wish to alight and rest until the storm 
should abate, he drove up to the door. It was a wild 
and solitary spot (they always are in these stories, and 
it is astonishing how solitary and wild they are, and 
how many such places appeared to exist). The rusty 
sign creaked dismally overhead, and the window- 
shutters flapped violently in the wind on their broken 
hinges ; altogether it was not an inviting spot. But 
any port in a storm, and so the lady alighted. She was 
shown into a large old-fashioned apartment, and the 
horses and carriage were stabled until such time as it 
might be possible to resume the journey. But, instead 
of passing off, the storm grew momentarily worse. 
Calling her servant she asked him if it were possible to 
continue that night, and on his replying in the negative, 
reluctantly resigned herself to staying under a strange 
roof. She had her dinner in solitary state, and then 
found all the evening before her, with nothing to 
occupy the time. She went to the window and looked 
out upon the howling storm, and, tired of that 
uninviting prospect, gazed listlessly about the room. 
It was a large room, ill-furnished, and somewhat out 
of repair, for the inn had seen its best days. Evidences 
of a more prosperous time were left in the shape of 



90 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

some scattered articles of furniture of a superior kind 
and in the presence of a curious piece of ancient 
tapestry facing her on the opposite wall, bearing a 
design of a life-sized Roman warrior wielding a 
truncheon. 

But one cannot spend all the evening in contemplating 
the old chairs and moth-eaten tapestry of a half- 
furnished room, and the storm-bound traveller soon 
wearied of those objects. With nothing else to do, 
she took out her purse and began to count her money 
and to calculate her travelling expenses. Having 
counted the guineas over several times and vainly tried 
to make the total balance properly with her expenditure 
and the amount she had set out with, she chanced 
involuntarily to glance across the room. Her gaze fell 
upon the stern visage of the helmeted Roman, and to 
her horror the lack-lustre tapestry eyes were now 
replaced by living ones, intently regarding her and her 
money. Ninety-nine of every hundred women would 
have screamed or fainted, or have done both ; but our 
traveller was evidently the hundredth. She calmly 
allowed her gaze to wander absent-mindedly away to 
the ceiling, as if still speculating as to the disposition 
of the missing odd guineas : and then, exclaiming, 
" Ah ! I have it," made for the door, to call her 
servant, leaving her purse, apparently disregarded, on 
the table. In the passage outside she met the landlord, 
who desired to know what it might be she wanted. 
" To see my man, with orders for the morning," said 
she. The landlord shuffled away, and her servant 
presently appeared. She told him what she had 
observed, and mounting upon the furniture, he 
examined the tapestry, with the result that he found 
the wall behind it sound enough in all places, with the 
exception of the eyes. On pressing the fabric at those 
points it gave way, disclosing a hole bored through the 
wall and communicating with some other room. This 
discovery of course aroused the worst suspicions ; but 
the storm still raged, it was now late, and to counter- 
mand the accommodation already secured for the night 



EVIL INNS 91 

would be to apprise the landlord of something having 
been discovered. There was nothing for it but to stay 
the night. To sleep was impossible, and so the lady, 
retiring to her bedroom, securely bolting the door, and 
assuring herself that no secret panel or trap-door 
existed, sat wakefully in a chair all night. Doubtless 
the servant did the same, although the story does not 
condescend to details where he is concerned. At length 
morning came, without anything happening, and, 
equally without incident, they set out after breakfast 
from this place of dread, the lady having previously 
ascertained that the room on the other side of the wall 
behind the tapestry was the landlord's private 
apartment. 

These adventures being afterwards recounted, it was 
called to mind that an undue proportion of highway 
robberies had for some time past been occurring in the 
immediate neighbourhood of the inn, and a queer story 
was remembered of a traveller who had stayed there 
overnight being robbed soon after leaving by a 
highwayman, who, without any preliminary parley, 
desired him to instantly take off his right boot the 
boot in which, as a matter of fact, he had stowed away 
his money. The highwayman, who evidently had been 
informed of this secret hiding-place, extracted the 
coin, and, returning the boot, went on his way. It 
afterwards appeared that the traveller had stowed his 
money in his boot while under the impression that he 
was alone in the tapestry-room. He had reckoned 
without the Centurion. 

The inn of course fell into evil repute, and the 
landlord was soon afterwards compelled to give up 
business. But the provoking part of it all, from the 
point of view of the historian, is that the story does 
not descend to topographical particulars, and that the 
description of the place . as being in Yorkshire is 
necessarily of the vaguest, considering the vastness of 
the shire. 



92 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



XVII 

DALTON-UPON-TEES, three miles onward from High 
and Low Entercommon, shows little to the passer-by 
on the Great North Road, who, a mile beyond its 
scattered cottages, looking as though they had lost 
themselves, comes to Croft, to the river Tees, and 
to the end of Yorkshire. It behoves one to speak 
respectfully of Croft and its Spa, for its waters are 
as nasty as those of Harrogate, with that flavour of 
rotten eggs so highly approved by the medical pro- 
fession, and only the vagaries of fashion can be held 
accountable for the comparative neglect of the one 
and the favouring of the other. Sulphur renders 
both equally nauseous and healthful, but Croft finds 
few votaries compared with its great and successful 
rival, and a gentle melancholy marks the spot, where, 
on the Yorkshire bank, the mouldy-looking Croft Spa 
Hotel fronts the road, its closed assembly rooms, 
where once the merry crowds foregathered, given over 
to damp and mildew. 

Croft is in the Hurworth Hunt, and it is claimed 
by local folk that the Hurworth Country was 
indicated by " Handley Cross," where Jorrocks 
and his cronies chased the fox and enjoyed themselves 
so vigorously. The Spa Hotel was then a place of 
extremely high jinks. Every night there would 
be a dinner-party, with much competition as to who 
could drink the most port or champagne. The test 
of the sturdiest fellow was to see who could manage to 
place on his head a champagne or port bottle and lie 
down and stand up with it still in place. Few 
reputations, or bottles, survived that ordeal. 

But Croft is a pretty place, straggling on both the 
Yorkshire and Durham banks of the Tees ; with a fine 
old church commanding the approach from the south. 
It is worth seeing, alike for its architecture ; for a huge 
and preposterous monument of one of the Milbankes 
of Halnaby ; and especially for the extravagantly- 



THE SOCKBURN WORM 



93 



arrogant manorial pew of that family, erected in the 
chancel, and elevated in the likeness of two canopied 
thrones approached by an elaborate staircase and 
over a crimson carpet. This pompous structure dates 
from about 1760. The thing would not be credible, 
did not we know to what extent the pride and pre- 
sumption of the old squirearchy sometimes went. 

A sturdy old Gothic bridge here carries the road 
across the stream into the ancient Palatinate of 




CROFT BRIDGE. 

Durham. It were here that each successive Prince- 
Bishop of that see was met and presented with the 
falchion that slew the Sockburn Worm, one of the three 
mythical monsters that are said to have infested 
Durham and Northumberland. Like the Lambton 
Worm, and the Laidly that is to say, the Loathly - 
Worm of Spindleston Heugh, the Sockburn terror, 
according to mediaeval chroniclers, was a " monstrous 
and poysonous vermine or wyverne, aske or werme 
which overthrew and devoured many people in fight, 
for y fc ye sent of y e poyson was so strong y' noe p'son 
might abyde it." The gallant knight who at some 
undetermined period slew this legendary pest was 
Sir John Conyers, descended from Roger de Conyers, 
Constable of Durham Castle in the time of William 
the Conqueror. The family held the manor of Sock- 



94 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



burn by the curious tenure of presenting the newly 
appointed Bishop Palatine of Durham on his first 
entry into his diocese with the falchion that slew the 
Worm. The presentation was made on Croft Bridge, 
with the words : " My Lord Bishop, I here present 
you with the falchion wherewith the champion Conyers 
slew the worm, dragon, or fiery flying 
serpent which destroyed man, woman 
and child ; in memory of which the 
king then reigning gave him the manor 
of Sockburn, to hold by this tenure, 
that upon the first entrance of every 
bi.shop into the county the falchion 
should be presented." Taking the 
falchion into his hand, the bishop 
immediately returned it, wishing the 
owner of Sockburn health, long life, 
and prosperity, and the ceremony was 
concluded. Sockburn, seven miles 
below Croft, on the Durham shore of 
the Tees, is no longer owned by that 
old heroic family, for the proud stock 
which in its time had mated with the 
noblest in England decayed, and the 
last Conyers, Sir Thomas, died a pauper 
in Chester-le-Street workhouse in 1810. 
The manor-house of Sockburn has 
long since been swept away, and 
the old church is a roofless ruin, 
the estate itself having long since passed to the 
Blackett family, in whose possession the wondrous 
falchion now remains. The bishops of Durham, no 
longer temporal princes, do not now receive it, the last 
presentation having been made to Bishop Van Mildert 
by the steward of Sir Edward Blackett in 1826. 

Croft Bridge, a massive and venerable-looking stone 
structure of seven arches, built in 1676, is itself the 
successor of a much older building, referred to in a 
Royal Brief of 1531 as being " the moste directe and 
sure waye and passage for the King o'er Soveraigne 




SOCKBURN 
FALCHION. 



"HELL'S KETTLES" 95 

Lorde's armie and ordyn'ce to resort and pass over into 
the north p'tes and marches of this his reaulme, for 
the surtie and defence of the same againste the invasion 
of the Scotts and others his enemyes, over which such 
armys and ordyn'ces hathe hertofor always bene 
accostomyed to goo and passe." 

Here we are in Durham, and three miles from 
Darlington. Looking backwards on crossing the 
bridge, the few scattered houses of the hither shore 
are seen beside the way ; one of them, the " Comet " 
hotel, with a weather-beaten picture-sign of the famous 
pedigree bull of that name, and the inscription, 

' Comet,' sold in 1810 for one thousand guineas." 
The Tees goes on its rippling way through the pointed 
arches of the historic bridge, with broad shingly beaches 
over against the rich meadows, the road pursuing its 
course to cross that rival stream, the Skerne, at 
Oxneyfield Bridge, a quarter of a mile ahead. Close 
by, in a grass meadow to the right of the road, are the 
four pools called by the terrific name of " Hell's 
Kettles," which testify by the sulphureous taste of their 
water to the quality of Croft Spa. Of course, they 
have their wonderful legends ; Ogilby in 1676 noted 
that. " At Oxenhall," he says, " are three Pits call'd 
Hell-kettles, whereof the vulgar tell you many fabulous 
stories." They have long been current, then ; the 
first telling how on Christmas Day 1179 the ground 
rose to the height of the highest hills, " higher than the 
spires and towers of the churches, and so remained at 
that height from nine of the morning until sunset. 
At the setting of the sun the earth fell in with so horrid 
a crash that all who saw that strange mound and heard 
its fall were so amazed that for very fear many died, 
for the earth swallowed up that mound, and where it 
stood was a deep pool." This circumstantial story was 
told by an abbot of Jervaulx, but is not sufficiently 
marvellous for the peasantry, who account for the 
pool by a tale of supernatural intervention. According 
to this precious legend, the farmer owning the field 
being about to carry his hay on June 11, St. Barnabas' 



96 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Day, it was pointed out that he had much better 
attend to his religious duties than work on the 
anniversary of the blessed saint, whereupon he 
replied : 

Barnaby yea, Barnaby nay, 

I'll hae my hay, whether God will or nay : 

and, the ground opening, he and his carts and horses 
were instantly swallowed up. The tale goes on to say 
that, given a fine day and clear water, the impious 
farmer and his carts and horses may yet be seen 
floating deep down in these supposedly fathomless 
pools ! De Foe, however, travelling this way in 1724, 
is properly impatient of these tales. " 'Tis evident," 
says he, " they are nothing but old coal-pits, filled with 
water by the river Tees." 



XVIII 

DARLINGTON, to which we now come, is a very busy, 
very prosperous, very much rebuilt town, nursing a 
sub-Metropolitan swagger of architectural pretension in 
its chief streets infinitely unlike anything expected by 
the untravelled in these latitudes. There is a distinctly 
Holloway Road plus Whitechapel Road and 
Kenningtoii Lane air about Darlington which does but 
add to the piquancy of those streets. Tumbledown 
houses of no great age and no conceivable interest are 
shouldered by flaunting shops ; or rather, to speak by 
the card, by " stores " and " emporia " ; these 
alternating with glittering public-houses and 
restaurants. The effect can be paralleled only by 
imagining a typical general servant dressed in a skirt 
and train for a Queen's Drawing Room, with plough- 
boy's boots, a cloth jacket, and ostrich-feathered hat to 
complete the costume. It is a town only now beginning 
to realise that prosperity must make some outward 
show of the fact, and it is accordingly going in for show 
in whole-hearted fashion, and emerging from the grime 
in which James the First found it in 1617. " Darneton !" 



DARLINGTON 97 

he said when told its name ; "I think it's Darneton 
i' th' Dirt." Dirty indeed it must have been for James, 
fresh from his own capital, where they flung their 
sewage from the windows into the streets, to have 
found it remarkable. De Foe, fifty years later, said, 
" Darlington, a post-town, has nothing remarkable in 
it but dirt, and a high bridge over little or no water." 
An odd contemporary commentary upon this seems 
to lurk in the fact that cloth was then brought to 
Darlington from all parts even from Scotland to 
be bleached ! 

More akin to those times than these are the names 
of the streets, which, like those of York, are chiefly 
" gates " : High Northgate, Skinnergate, Bondgate, 
Blackwellgate, and Priestgate. 

In vain will the pilgrim seek the " Black Bear," the 
inn at Darlington to which Frank Osbaldistone, in the 
pages of Rob Roy, came. Scott describes the wayfarers 
whom the young squire met on his way from London to 
York and the North as " characters of a uniform and 
uninteresting description," but they are interesting to 
us, belonging as they do to a time long past. " Country 
parsons, jogging homewards after a visitation ; farmers, 
or graziers, returning from a distant market ; clerks of 
traders, travelling to collect what was due to their 
masters in provincial towns ; with now and then an 
officer going down into the country upon recruiting 
service." These persons kept the tapsters and the 
turnpikes busy, and at night time, when they fore- 
gathered at the roadside inns, sandwiched their talk of 
cattle and the solvency of traders with terrifying tales of 
robbers. " At such tales, like children, closing their 
circle round the fire when the ghost-story draws to its 
climax, they drew near to each other, looked before and 
behind them, examined the priming of their pistols, 
and vowed to stand by each other in case of danger ; 
an engagement which, like other offensive and defensive 
alliances, sometimes glided out of remembrance when 
there was an appearance of actual peril." 

This was about 1715. In those days, as Scott says, 



98 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

" journeys of any length being made on horseback, and, 
of course, by brief stages, it was usual always to make 
a halt on the Sunday in some town where the traveller 
might attend divine service, and his horse have the 
benefit of the day of rest. A counterpart to this decent 
practice, and a remnant of old English hospitality, was, 
that the landlord of a principal inn laid aside his 
character of publican on the seventh day and invited 
the guests who chanced to be within his walls to take 
a part of the family beef and pudding." 

The " Black Bear " at Darlington, as pictured by 
Scott, was such a place and the landlord as typical a 
host, and here Frank Osbaldistonc met the first Scot he 
had ever seen, " a decentish hallion as canny a North 
Briton as e'er crossed Berwick Bridge " which was 
high praise from mine host, for innkeepers loved not 
Scottish folk and their thrifty Avays. But, as already 




5- * D- R- N ? I I 825 

" LOCOMOTION." 

remarked, the " Black Bear " at Darlington docs not 
exist, and coaching relics are rare in this town, whose 
modern prosperity derives from railways. It is, 
therefore, with singular appropriateness that 
Stephenson's " Locomotion," the first engine for that 
first of railways, the Stockton and Darlington, long 



RAILWAYS 



99 



since withdrawn from service, has been mounted on 
a pedestal at Darlington Station. In heathen lands 
this ancestor of the modern express locomotive would 
be worshipped as a fetich, and truly it is an ugly and 
uncanny-looking object. 

The Stockton and Darlington Railway Act dates 
from 1821 ; the line to be worked by " men and 
horses, or otherwise," steam not being contemplated. 
The construction was begun in May, 1822, and mean- 
while the Rainhill experiments had proved the 
possibility of locomotive engines. The Act was there- 
fore amended, to authorise the use of them and to 




"THE EXPERIMENT." 

permit the conveyance of passengers ; a kind of traffic 
which, odd though it may seem now, was not con- 
templated by the projectors, whose original idea was a 
railway for the conveyance of coal. It was on 
September 27th, 1825, that the line was opened, a train 
of thirty-eight wagons travelling, as a contemporary 
newspaper breathlessly announced, " with such velocity 
that in some parts the speed was frequently twelve 
miles an hour." Curiously enough, however, the first 
passengers, after the opening ceremony, were conveyed, 
not by steam, but by a rough coach, like a gipsy 
caravan, running on the rails and drawn by a horse. 
This odd contrivance was called the " Experiment," 



100 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

and did the twelve miles in two hours. It was followed 
by other vehicles, consisting of old stage-coach bodies 
mounted on railway wheels, and it was not until some 
months had passed that passengers were intrusted to 
the locomotive. The first passenger train ran a spirited 
race with the coach over the twelve miles' course, 
steam winning by a hundred and twenty yards, amid 
the cheers of excited crowds. After thirty-eight years 
of independent existence, the Stockton and Darlington 
line was, with its branches, finally absorbed into the 
North-Eastern system, in 1863. 

Darlington is thus a place entirely inimical to 
coaching interests and memories. Here, on its 
pedestal, stands the first of the iron monsters that 
killed the coaches, and the town itself largely lives by 
manufacturing railway wagons and iron and steel 
bridges. But coaching had had its day, and did not 
die untimely. A few years longer and the great high- 
roads, already inconveniently crowded, must have 
been widened to accommodate the increased traffic. 
Railways have been beneficent in many directions, 
and they have enabled many hundreds of thousands 
to live in the country who would otherwise have been 
pent in stuffy streets. Imagination fails in the task 
of endeavouring to picture what the roads would have 
been like to-day if road-travel had remained the only 
means of communication. Locomotion would have 
been immensely restricted, of course ; but the mere 
increase of population must have brought huge 
crowds of additional passengers. Figures are com- 
monly said to be dry, but they can occasionally be 
eloquent enough. For instance, when we compare 
the population of the United Kingdom in 1837, when 
the Queen came to the throne, and now, and consider 
the bearing of those figures on this question, they are 
more than eloquent, and are even startling. There 
were twenty-five and a half millions of persons in these 
islands in the first year of Victoria's reign. There are 
now forty-nine millions. Over twenty -three millions of 
persons most of whom would have used the roads, added 



COACHING 103 

in eighty years ! Of course, the opportunities for cheap 
and quick travel have made frequent travellers of those 
who otherwise would never or rarely have stirred from 
their homes ; but railways have wrought greater 
changes than that. What, let us think, would have 
been the present-day position of the city of London 
without railways ? It must needs have remained 
largely what it was when the " short stages " conveyed 
such citizens as did not live in the city to and from their 
residences in the suburbs, which then extended no 
further than Highgate, Chiswick, Norwood, and 
Stock well. A stage-coach commonly held sixteen 
persons, twelve outside and four in ; and allowing for 
those who might manage to walk into the city, how 
many of such coaches should we require nowadays, 
supposing railways suddenly abolished, to convey the 
city's myriad day population ? So many thousands 
that the task would be impossible. The impossibility 
of it gives us at once the measure of the railways' 
might, and raises them from the mere carriers we 
generally think them to the height of all-powerful 
social forces whose effects may be sought in every detail 
of our lives. To them the wide-spreading suburbs 
directly owe their existence, equally as the deserted 
main roads of yester-year owed their loneliness to the 
same cause ; and social scientists have it that they have 
performed what may at first sight seem a miracle : 
that, in fact, they have increased the population. 
If railways had not come to ease the growing pressure 
that began to be felt upon the roads in the early 
" twenties," something else must have appeared to do 
the work of speedy conveyance, and that something 
would have been the Motor Car. Railway competition 
and the restrictive legislation that forbade locomotive 
carriages on highways served to keep motor cars under 
until recently ; but away back to 1787, when the first 
steam-carriage was made, the problem of mechanical 
traction on roads was being grappled with, and many 
very good steam-cars made their appearance between 
1820 and 1830. The caricaturists of the period were 



104 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

kept busily engaged making more or less pertinent fun 
of them ; in itself a testimony to the interest they were 
exciting even then. Here is a typical skit of the period 
which takes a renewed interest now that we are on the 
threshold of an era of horseless traction. 

Few things are more remarkable than the speed with 
which railways were constructed through the length 
and breadth of the country, but it was long before 
through communication between London and 
Edinburgh was established. It was a coach-guard on 
this road who, just before the last coach was run off 
it by the locomotive, sadly remarked that " railways 
were making a gridiron of England." They were ; 
but it was not until 1846 and 1848, twenty-one and 
twenty-three years after the initial success of the 
Stockton and Darlington line, that by the opening of 
the Edinburgh and Berwick Railway, and the building 
of the railway bridge across the Tweed, the last links of 
the railway journey between the two capitals were com- 
pleted. Even now, it requires the united efforts of 
three entirely distinct and independent railway 
companies to convey the through traffic of under four 
hundred miles between the two capitals. The Great 
Northern territory ends at Shaftholme, neat Doncaster, 
whence the North-Eastern's system conducts to the 
Border at Berwick-upon-Tweed, the remaining fifty 
miles belonging to the North British Railway. 

De Quincey, in his rhapsody on the " English Mail 
Coach," says : " The modern modes of travelling cannot 
compare with the old mail-coach system in grandeur 
and power. They boast of more velocity, not, however, 
as a consciousness, but as a fact of our lifeless know- 
ledge, resting upon alien evidence ; as, for instance, 
because somebody says that we have gone fifty miles 
in the hour, though we are far from feeling it as a 
personal experience, or upon the evidence of a result, 
as that actually we find ourselves in York, four hours 
after leaving London. Apart from such an assertion, 
or such a result, I 'my self am little aware of the pace. 
But, seated on the old mail-coach, we needed no 



COACHES v. RAILWAYS 



105 



evidence out of ourselves to indicate the velocity. 
We heard our speed, we saw it, we felt it as a thrilling ; 
and this speed was not the product of blind, insensate 
agencies, that had no sympathy to give, but was 
incarnated in the fiery eyeballs of the noblest amongst 
brutes, in his dilated nostrils, spasmodic muscles, and 
thunder-beating hoofs." 

But, in truth, railways and coaches have each their 
especial variety of the romance of speed. De Quincey 
missed the quickening rush and contact of the air 




THE IRON ROAD TO THE NORTH. 



quite as much as any other of the sights, sounds, and 
sensations he speaks of when travelling by railway ; 
a method of progression which does not admit of outside 
passengers. Nothing in its special way can be more 
exhilarating than travelling by coach as an " outside " ; 
few things so unsatisfactory as the position of an 
" inside " ; and if a well-groomed coach is a thing of 
beauty, there is also a beautiful majesty in a locomotive 
engine that has been equally well looked after. One of 
the deep-chested Great Northern expresses puffing its 
irresistible way past the green eyes of the dropped 



106 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

semaphores of some busy junction at night-time, or 
coming as with the rush and certainty of Fate along the 
level stretches of line that characterise the route of the 
iron road to the North, is a sight calculated to rouse 
enthusiasm quite as much as a coach. Nor are railways 
always hideous objects. It is true that in and around 
the great centres of population where railway lines 
converge and run in filthy tunnels and along smoke- 
begrimed viaducts they sound the last note of squalor, 
but in the country it is a different matter. The 
embankments are in spring often covered with a myriad 
wild flowers ; the viaducts give a human interest to 
coombe and gully. Lovers of the country can certainly 
point to places which, on?e remote and solitary, have 
been populated and spoiled by the readiness of railway 
access ; but the locomotive has rendered more holidays 
possible, and has kept the roads in a decent solitude for 
the cyclist. Imagine, if you please, the Great North 
Road nowadays without the railway. A hundred 
coaches, more or less, raced along it in the last years 
of the coaching age, at all hours of the day and night. 
How many would suffice for the needs of the travelling 
public to-day ? and what chance would be left to the 
tourist, afoot or awheel ? 



XIX 

BEYOND its grand old church, Darlington has nothing 
of great antiquity to show the stranger, save one object 
of very high antiquity indeed, before whose hoary age 
even Norman and Early English architecture is 
comparatively a thing of yesterday. This is the 
Bulmer Stone, a huge boulder of granite, brought by 
glacial action in some far-away ice-age from the heights 
of Shap Fell in distant Westmoreland to the spot on 
which it has ever since rested. Darlington has 
meanwhile risen out of the void and lonely countryside ; 
history has passed by, from the remote times of the 
blue-stained Britons, down to the present era of the 



AYCLIFFE 107 

blue-habited police ; and that old stone remains 
beside the road to the North. Modern pavements 
encircle it, and gas-lamps shame with their modernity 
its inconceivable age, but not with too illuminating a 
ray, and the stranger roaming Darlington after nightfall 
has barked his shins against the unexpected bulk of 
the Bulmer Stone, just as effectually as countless 
generations before him have done. 

The long rise of Harrowgate Hill conducts out of 
Darlington and leads on to Coatham Mundeville, a tiny 
hamlet on the crest of a hill, with an eighteenth- 
century house, a row of cottages, and an inn, making 
together an imposing figure against the sky-line, 
although when reached they are commonplace enough. 
The village of Aycliffe lies beyond, on its height, 
overlooking a scene of quarrying and coal-mining ; an 
outlook which until Cromwell's time was one of dense 
oak-woods. He it was who caused those woods to be 
felled to mend the road on to Durham and make it firm 
enough for his ordnance to pass. Whether the name of 
Aycliffe derives (as some would have it) from " oak 
hill," or whether it was originally " High Cliffe," or 
obtains its name from some forgotten haia, or enclosure 
on this eminence, let us leave for others to fight over : 
it is an equally unprofitable and insoluble discussion. 
As well might one hope to obtain a verbatim report of 
one or other of the two Synods held here in 782 and 789, 
of which two battered Saxon crosses in the churchyard 
are thought to be relics, as to determine this question. 

For the rest, Aycliffe is quite unremarkable. Leaving 
it, and coming downhill over an arched crossing over a 
marsh, dignified by the name of Howden Bridge, we 
reach Traveller's Rest and its two inns, the " Bay 
Horse " and " Gretna Green Wedding Inn." An 
indescribable air of romance dignifies, these two solitary 
inns that confront one another across the highway, and 
form all there is of Traveller's Rest. The " Wedding 
Inn," the more modern of the two, has for its sign the 
picture of a marriage ceremony in that famous Border 
smithy. The " Bay Horse " is the original Traveller's 



108 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



Rest. Dating back far into the old coaching and 
posting times, its stables of that era still remain ; but 
what renders the old house particularly notable is its 




TRAVELLER'S REST. 

sign, the odd figure of a horse within an oval, seen on 
its wall, with the word "Liberty" in company with the 
name of "Traveller's Rest" and the less romantic than 
commercial announcement of " Spirituous Liquors." 
Once, perhaps, painted the correct tint of a " bay " 
horse, the elements have reduced it to an unobtrusive 
brown that bids fair to modestly fade into the obscurity 
of a neutral tint, unless the landlord presently fulfils 
his intention, expressed to the present historian, of 
having it repainted, to render it " more viewly " ; 
which appears to be the North-country phrase for 
making a thing " more presentable." To this old sign 
belongs the legend of a prisoner being escorted to 
Durham Gaol and escaping through the horse ridden by 
his mounted guard throwing its rider near here. Hence 
the word " Liberty." 

Woodham, a mile distant down the road, bears a 
name recalling the times when it was in fact a hamlet 
in those oak woods of which we spoke at Aycliffe. 
It is now just a group of two or three cottages and a 



BOON-COMPANIONS 



109 



humble inn, the " Stag," in a dip of the way. Beyond 
it comes Rushyford Bridge, a pretty scene, where a 
little tributary of the Skerne prattles over its stony 
bed and disappears under the road beside that old-time 
posting-house and inn, the " Wheatsheaf." The old 
house still stands and faces down the road ; but it has 
long since ceased to be an inn, and, remodelled in recent 
taste, is now a private residence. The old drive up to 
the house is now converted into lawns and flower-beds. 
Groups of that graceful tree, the black poplar, overhang 
the scene and shade the little hamlet that straggles 
down a lane to the left hand. The old " Wheatsheaf " 




RUSHYFORD BRIDGE. 

has its memories. It was a favourite resort of Lord 
Eldon's. Holt, the landlord, was a boon companion of 
his. The great lawyer's vacations were for many years 
spent here, and he established a cellar of his own in the 
house, stocked chiefly with " Carbonell's Fine Old 
Military Blackstrap Newcastle Port," of which, 
although they were decidedly not military, he and his 
host used to drink seven bottles a day between them, 
valiant topers that they were. On Saturdays we have 
it on the authority of Sydney Smith they drank eight 
bottles ; the extra one being to fortify themselves 
against the Sunday morning's service. Lord Eldon 
invariably attended church at Rushyford, and com- 
pelled his unwilling host to go with him. In London 
he rarely went, remarking when reproached that he, 



110 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

a buttress of the church, should fail in his devotions, 
that he was "only an outside buttress." 

Lord Eldon was a mean man. It is a defect to be 
noticed in many others who, like him, have acquired 
wealth by great personal efforts ; with him, however, 
it reached a height and quality not frequently met. 
He was not merely " stingy," but mean in the American 
sense of the word. Contemporary with Fox, Pitt, 
Sheridan, and other valiant " four-bottb men " of a 
century ago, and with an almost unlimited capacity for 
other persons' port, his brother, Lord Stowell, aptly said 
of him that " he would take any given quantity." 

With these memories to beguile the way we come to 
Ferryhill, a mining village crowning a ridge looking over 
Spennymoor and the valley of the Wear. To Ferryhill 
came in 1634 three soldiers a captain, a lieutenant, 
and an ensign from Norwich on a tour and in search of 
adventure. These were early days for tours ; days, 
too, when adventures were not far to seek. However, 
risky though their trip may have been, they returned in 
safety, as may be judged from the lieutenant having 
afterwards published an account of their wanderings 
through twenty-six English counties. Clad in Lincoln 
green, like young foresters, they sped the miles with 
jest and observations on the country they passed 
through. Of Ferryhill they remark that " such as 
know it knows it overtops and commands a great part 
of the country." On this Pisgah, then, they unpacked 
their travelling plate and " borrowed a cup of refreshing 
health from a sweet and most pleasant spring " ; by 
which it seems that there were teetotallers in those days 
also. Those were the days before coal-mines and blast- 
furnaces cut up the country, and before Spennymoor, 
away on the left, was converted from a moorland 
into a township ; a sufficiently startling change. 

Seen from down the road looking southwards, 
Ferryhill forms an impressive coronet to . the long 
ridge of hill on which it stands ; its rough, stone- 
built cottages merely commonplace to a nearer 
view taking an unwarranted importance from the 



112 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

bold serrated outlines they present against the sky, 
and looking like the bastioned outworks of some 
Giant Blunderbore's ogreish stronghold. The traveller 
from the south, passing through Ferryhill and looking 
backwards from the depths of the valley road, is 
cheated of a part of this romantic impression ; he 
has explored the arid and commonplace village and 
has lost all possibility of illusion. Let us, therefore, 
envy the pilgrims from the north. It is, indeed, 
a highly interesting view, looking back upon Ferryhill, 
and one touched with romance of both the gentle and 
the terrifying sort. In the first place, to that tall 
embankment seen in the accompanying drawing of the 
scene belongs a story. You perceive that earthwork 
to be unfinished. It sets out from the cutting seen in 
the distant hillside, and, crossing the road w r hich comes 
in a breakneck curve downhill, pursues a straight and 
level course for the corresponding rise on the hither 
side, stopping, incomplete, somewhat short of it. 
" An abandoned railway," thinks the stranger, and so it 
looks to be ; but it is, in fact, a derelict enterprise 
embarked upon at the close of the coaching era by a 
local Highway Board for the purpose of giving a flat 
and straight road across the valley. It begins with a 
long cutting on the southern side of the hill on which 
the village stands, and, going behind the back of the 
houses, emerges as seen in the picture. The tolls 
authorised would have made the undertaking a paying 
one, only road travel ceased before the work was 
finished. Railways came to put an end to the project 
and to inflict upon the projectors a ruinous loss. 

A more darkling romance, however, broods upon the 
scene. Away on the western sky-line stands the 
conspicuous tower of Merrington church, and near it 
the farmhouse where, on January 28, 1685, Andrew 
Mills, a servant of the Brass family, who then farmed 
the adjacent land, murdered the three children in the 
absence of their parents. It is a story of whose 
shuddering horror nothing is lost in contemporary 
accounts, but we will leave it to the imagination. 



AN OLD HORROR 



113 



It is sufficient to say that the assassin, a lad of eighteen 
years of age, seems to have been half-witted, speaking 
of having been instigated to the deed by a demon who 
enjoined him to " Kill kill." To be more or less mad 
was no surety against punishment in those times, and 




MERRINGTOX CHURCH. 

so Andrew Mills was found guilty and hanged. Justice 
seems to have been devilish then, for he was cut down 
and hanged in chains, after the fashion of the time, 
beside the road. The peculiar devilry of the deed 
appears in the fact that he was not quite dead, and 
survived in his iron cage on the gibbet for days. His 
sweetheart brought him food, but he could not eat, for 
every movement of his jaw caused it to be pierced with 
an iron spike. So she brought milk instead, and so 
sustained the wretched creature for some time. Legends 
still recount how he lingered here in agony, his cries 
by day and night scaring the neighbouring cottagers 
from their homes, until the shrieks and groans at length 
ceased, and death came to put an end to his sufferings. 
The site of the gibbet was by the Thinford inn, near the 
head of the embankment. The gibbet-post lasted long. 
Known as " Andrew Mills' Stob," its wood was reputed 
of marvellous efficacy for toothache, rheumatism, 
heartburn, and indeed as wide a range of ailments as are 



114 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

cured by any one of the modern quack medicines that 
fill the advertisement columns of our newspapers in 
this enlightened age. It was a sad day for Ferry hill 
and the neighbourhood when the last splinter of 
Andrew Mills' gibbet was used up, and what the 
warty, scrofulous, ulcerous, and rheumaticky inhabi- 
tants did then the imagination refuses to consider. 



XX 

THE surrounding districts anciently possessed a prime 
horror (which has lost nothing in the accumulated 
legends of centuries) in the " Brawn of Brancepeth." 
This terror of the countryside, resolved into plain 
matter of fact, seems to have been a wild boar. Boars 
were " brawns " in those days, and the adjacent 
" Brancepeth " is just " brawn's path," as Brandon is 
supposed to have been " brawn den." This, to modern 
ideas, not very terrible wild animal, seems to have 
thoroughly alarmed half a county : 

He feared not ye loute with hys staffe, 

Nor yet for ye knyghte in hys mayle, 
He cared no more for ye monke with hys boke, 

Than the fyerdis in c'epe Croix Dale. 

It will be seen by the last line in this verse that the 
author was evidently prepared to back the devil and 
all his works against anything the Church could do. 
But that is a detail. The wild boar was eventually 
slain by Hodge of the Ferry, who ended him by the 
not very heroic process of digging a deep pit in the 
course of his usual path, and when the animal fell in, 
cutting his head off, doubtless from a safe point of 
vantage above. Divested of legendary trappings, 
we can readily picture the facts : the redoubtable 
Hodge hiding in the nearest and tallest tree until the 
wild boar came along and fell into the hole, when the 
champion descended and despatched him in safety. 



CROXDALE 



115 



The traditional scene of this exploit is half a mile to the 
east of Ferryhill, at a farmstead called Cleve's Cross. 

Croixdale, or, as modern times have vulgarised its 
name, Croxdale, lies on our way to Durham, past the 
hills of High and Low Butcher Race. Now a shabby 
roadside village, with a railway station of that name 
on the main line of the North Eastern Railway, this 
neighbourhood has also had its romance. The road 
descends steeply to the river Wear, and in the vicinity 




ROAD, RAIL, AND RIVER : SUNDERLAND BRIDGE. 

is the dark hollow which mediaeval superstition peopled 
with evil spirits, the " fyendis " who, as the ballad says, 
cared nothing for the monk with his book. To evict 
these hardy sprites a cross was erected, hence " Croix- 
dale " ; but with what result is not stated. 

The cross roads here, too, have their story, for Andrew 
Tate, a highwayman, convicted of murdering and 
robbing seven persons near Sunderland Bridge, was 
hanged where they branch off, in 1602, and afterwards 
buried beneath the gallows. Now that no devils or 
highwaymen haunt the lovely woodland borders of the 
Wear at this spot, it is safe to linger by Sunderlatvd 
Bridge, just below Croxdale, where the exceedingly 
picturesque old stone bridge of four arches carrie, the 



116 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

road over the river. Perhaps the distant railway 
viaduct may spoil the sylvan solitude of the place, 
but, on the other hand, it may help to emphasise it. 
Across that viaduct rush and roar the expresses to 
and from London and the North ; while the fisherman 
plys his contemplative craft from the sandy beaches 
below the bridge. Many a wearied coach passenger, 
passing this spot in the old days on summer evenings, 
must have longingly drunk in the beauty of the scene. 
Other passengers by coach had a terrible experience 
here in 1822, when the mail was overturned on the 
bridge and two passengers killed. 

Thoresby, in his Diary, under date of May 1703, 
describes one of his journeys with his usual inaccuracy 
as to the incidence of places, and mentions Sunderland 
Bridge, together with another, close by. This would be 
Browiiey Bridge, to which we come in a quarter of a 
mile nearer Durham ; only Thoresby places it the other 
way, where, on the hillside, such a bridge would be 
impossible. He mentions seeing the legend, " Sockeld's 
Leap, 1692," inscribed on one of the coping-stones, and 
tells how two horsemen, racing on this road, jumped 
on the bridge together with such force that one of 
them, breaking down the battlements of the bridge, 
fell into the stream below, neither he nor his horse 
having any injury. 

Ascending the steep rise beyond Browney Bridge, 
Farewell Hall on the left is passed, the place taking 
its name, according to the commonly received story, 
from the Earl of Derwentwater bidding farewell to 
his friends here when on his way, a captured rebel, 
to London and the scaffold, in 1715. Climbing one 
more ridge, the first view of Durham Cathedral is 
gained on coming down the corresponding descent, 
a long straight run into the outskirts of the city. 
Durham Cathedral appears, majestic against the sky, 
long before any sign of the city itself is noted ; a huge 
bulk dominating the scene and dwarfing the church of 
St. Oswald at the foot of the hill, itself no inconsiderable 
building. To the right hand rises Nine Tree Hill, with 




*w%i' y , 




l ^ 



' 



118 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

the nine trees that stand sponsors to it still weirdly 
conspicuous on its crest, and down beneath it spread 
the grimy and unkempt works of the Old Elvet Colliery. 



XXI 

THE traveller pursuing his northward way comes into 
Durham by the back door, as it were, for the suburb of 
Old Elvet through which the Great North Road con- 
ducts to the ancient city is one of the least prepossessing 
of entrances, and, besides being dirty and shabby, is 
endowed with a cobble-stoned road which, as if its 
native unevenness were not sufficient, may generally be 
found strewed with fragments of hoop-iron, clinkers, 
and other puncturing substances calculated to give 
tragical pauses to the exploring cyclist who essays to 
follow the route whose story is set forth in these pages. 
Old Elvet is in no sense a prepossessing suburb of 
Durham, but its steep and stony street is a true 
exemplar of the city's other highways and byways, 
which are nothing if not breakneck and badly paved, as 
well as being badly kept. But facing Old Elvet's long 
street is still to be found the " Three Tuns," where 
coach passengers in the closing years of that era 
delighted to stay, and where, although the well- 
remembered hostess of the inn has been gathered to 
Abraham's bosom, the guest on entering is still served 
in his bedroom with the welcoming glass of cherry- 
brandy which it has for the best part of a century 
been the pleasing custom of the house to present. 
No other such ambrosial cup as this, rare in itself and 
hallowed by old memories, greets the wayfarer along 
the roads nowadays. 

From here, or other headquarters, let us set forth to 
explore the city, planted on a craggy site looking down 
upon the encompassing Wear that flows deep down 
between rocky banks clothed thickly with woods. 
To enter the city proper from " Old Elvet," one must 



ST. CUTHBERT 119 

needs cross Elvet Bridge, still narrow, although the 
subject of a widening by which its width was doubled 
in 1805. How the earlier coaches crossed it is therefore 
something of a problem. 

It has often been claimed for Durham that it is " the 
most picturesque city in England," and if by that 
contention we are to understand the site of it to be 
meant, the claim must be allowed. Cities are not so 
many that there is much difficulty in estimating their 
comparative charms ; and were it even a question of 
towns, few might be found to have footholds of such 
beauty. 

The Wear and that rocky bluff which it renders 
all but an island, seemed to the distracted monks of 
Lindisfarne, worn out with a century's wandering 
over the north of England in search of safety from 
the marauding heathen Danes who had laid waste the 
coast and their island cathedral, an ideal spot ; and so 
to the harsh necessities of over nine hundred years ago 
we owe both this selection of a site and the building 
upon it of a cathedral which should be an outpost for 
the Lord in the turbulent North and a castle for the 
protection of his servants. It was in the year 995 that, 
after a hundred and twenty years of constant wan- 
dering, the successors of those monks who had fled 
from Lindisfarne with the body of their revered bishop, 
the famous Saint Cuthbert, came here, still bearing his 
hallowed remains. Their last journey had been from 
Ripon. Coming near this spot, the Saint, who though 
by this time dead for over three hundred years, was as 
masterful as he had been in life, manifested his approval 
of the neighbourhood by refusing to be carried any 
further. When the peripatetic bishop and monks 
found that his coffin remained immovable they fasted 
and prayed for three days, after which disciplinary 
exercise, one of their number had a vision wherein it 
was revealed to him that the Saint should be carried to 
Dunholme, where he was to be received into a place of 
rest. So, setting forth again, distressed in mind by not 
knowing where Dunholme lay, but hoping for a 



120 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

supernatural guidance, they came presently to " a place 
surrounded with rocks, where there was a river of 
rapid waves and fishes of various kinds mingling with 
the floods. Great forests grew there, and in deep 
valleys were wild animals of many sorts, and deer 
innumerable." It was when they were come to this 
romantic place that they heard a milkmaid calling to 
her companion, and asking where her cow was. The 
answer, that "she was in Dunholme" was "an happy 
and heavenly sound to the distressed monks, who 
thereby had intelligence that their journey's end was at 
hand, and the Saint's body near its resting-place." 
Pressing onward, they found the cow in Dunholme, and 
here, on the site of the present Cathedral, they raised 
their first " little Church of Wands and Branches." 
The Cathedral and the Castle that they and their 
immediate successors raised have long since been 
replaced ; but the great Norman piles of rugged fane 
and stern battlemented and loopholed fortress crowning 
the same rocky heights prove that those who kept the 
Church anchored here had need to watch as well as 
pray, to fight secular battles as well as wage war 
against the devil and all his works. It was this double 
necessity that made the bishops of Durham until our 
own time bishops-palatine ; princes of the State as well 
as of the Church, and in the old days men of the sword 
as well as of the pastoral staff ; and their cathedral 
shadows forth these conditions of their being in no 
uncertain way. There is no finer pile of Norman 
masonry in this country than this great edifice, whose 
central tower and east end are practically the only 
portions not in that style, and of these that grand and 
massive tower, although of the Perpendicular period, 
is akin to the earlier parts in feeling ; nor is there 
another quite so impressive a tower in England as this, 
either for itself or in its situation, with the sole exception 
of " Boston Stump," that beacon raised against the sky 
for many miles across the Lincolnshire levels. 

Woods and river still surround the Cathedral, as 
Turner shows in his exquisite view from the Prebend's 



A TOWER-TOP CUSTOM 123 

Bridge, one among many other glorious and unexpected 
glimpses which the rugged nature of Durham's site 
provides from all points, but incomparably the best of 
all. It is here that, most appropriately, there has been 
placed a decorative tablet, carved in oak, and bearing 
the quotation from Sir Walter Scott, beginning 

Half House of God, half Castle ; 'gainst the Scot : 

a quotation that gains additional point from the 
circumstance of the battle of Neville's Cross having 
been fought against the invading Scots, October 17th, 
1346, within sight from the Cathedral roofs. This view 
is one of Turner's infrequent topographically accurate 
works. Perhaps even he felt the impossibility of 
improving upon the beauty of the scene. 

Still, annually, after evensong on May 29th, the lay 
clerks and choristers of the Cathedral ascend to the roof 
of the great central tower, in their cassocks and 
surplices, and sing anthems. The first, Farrant's 
" Lord, for Thy tender mercies' sake," is a reference to 
the national crime of the execution of Charles the First, 
and is sung facing south. The second, " Therefore 
with angels and archangels," by V. Novello, expressing 
the pious sentiment that the martyred king shall rest 
in Paradise, in company with those bright beings, is 
sung facing east ; and the third, " Give Peace in our 
time, O Lord," by W. H. Callcott, facing north. 

The origin of this observance was the thanksgiving 
for the victory of Neville's Cross, a famous and a 
complete success, when fifteen thousand Scots were 
slain and David the Second, the Scottish king and many 
of his nobles, captured. It was to the special inter- 
vention of St. Cuthbert, whose sacred banner was 
carried by Prior John Fossor to Maiden Bower, a spot 
overlooking the battlefield, that this signal destruction 
of the enemy was ascribed. The Prior prayed beside it, 
but his monks are said to have offered up their petitions 
from the more distant, and safer, vantage-point of the 
Cathedral towers. Perhaps they had a turn of 



124 

agnosticism in their minds ; but, at any rate, they took 
no risks. 

The original tower-top Te Deum afterwards sung on 
the anniversary seems to have been discontinued at the 
Reformation. The revival came after the King's 
Restoration in 1660, when the day was altered to 
May 29th, to give the celebration the character of a 
rejoicing at the return of Charles the Second. This 
revival itself fell into disuse in the eighteenth century, 
being again restored in 1828, and continued ever since. 

The battlefield of Neville's Cross lies to the west of the 
Cathedral, so no singing takes place on the western side 
of the tower. The popular, but mistaken, idea in 
Durham is that this is because a choir-boy once over- 
balanced on that side and fell from the tower. 

If you would see how Castle and Cathedral are 
situated with regard to the busy modern city, there is 
no such place as the railway station, whence they 
are seen dominating the mass of houses, among the 
smoke-wreaths of commerce, like the martyrs of old 
steadfast amidst their burning faggots. If again, 
reversing the order of precedence as seen in the view 
from Prebend's Bridge, you would have the Castle in 
the forefront and the Cathedral behind, it is from the 
Framwellgate Bridge, carrying the Great North Road 
over the Wear, that another lovely glimpse is seen, 
ranging to Prebend's Bridge itself. 



XXII 

BUT time grows short, and we have not long to linger 
at Durham. Much else might be said of the Cathedral ; 
of Saint Cuthbert's Shrine, and of the vandal Wyatt, 
who " restored " the Cathedral in 1775, cutting away, in 
the process, a depth of four inches from the stonework 
of much of the exterior. The work cost 30,000, and 
resulted in eleven hundred tons weight of stone 
chippings being removed from the building. If that 




THE SANCTUARY KXOCKER. 



126 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

" restorer " had had his way, he would have destroyed 
the beautiful Galilee Chapel that projects from the 
west front, and forms so uniquely interesting a feature 
of Late Norman work. His idea was to drive a carriage 
road round this way. The work of destruction had, 
indeed, already been begun when it was stopped by 
more reverent men. 

A curious relic still remains upon the door of the 
Cathedral's north porch, in the form of a huge knocker, 
dating back to Norman times. Cast in the shape of a 
grinning monster's head, a ring hanging from its jaws, 
it is the identical sanctuary knocker of Saint Cuthbert's 
Sanctuary, which was in use from the foundation of the 
Cathedral until 1524. All fugitives, whatever their 
crimes, who succeeded in escaping to Durham, and 
reaching the bounds of " Saint Cuthbert's Peace," were 
safe from molestation during thirty-seven days. 
A criminal, grasping the ring of this knocker, could not 
be torn from it by his pursuers, under pain of their 
being subjected to excommunication ; and lest there 
should be bold spirits whom even this could not 
affright, there were always two monks stationed, day 
and night, in a room above the porch, to watch for 
fugitives. When admitted, the criminal confessed his 
crime, with every circumstance attending it, his con- 
fession being taken down in writing, in the presence of 
witnesses ; a bell ringing in the Galilee tower all the 
while, giving notice that some one had fled to the 
protection of Saint Cuthbert. After these formalities, 
the fugitive was clothed with a black gown, bearing a 
yellow cross on the left shoulder : the badge of the 
Saint whose protection he had secured. After the 
days of grace had expired, and in the event of no 
pardon being obtained, ceremonies were gone through 
before the Shrine, in which the malefactor solemnly 
forswore his native land for ever. Then, safeguarded 
to the coast, he was shipped out of the kingdom by 
the first vessel sailing after his arrival. 

There must have been many an exciting chase along 
the roads in those times, and many a criminal who richly 



DURHAM MARKET-PLACE 129 

deserved punishment must have escaped it by the very 
skin of his teeth. Many another, no doubt, was seized 
and handed over to justice, or slain, on the threshold of 
safety. Other fugitives still and here Saint Cuthbert 
appears in better guise victims of hatred and 
oppression, private or political, claimed the saintly 
aegis, and so escaped the vengeance of their enemies. 
So, looking upon the ferociously grinning mask of the 
knocker, glaring with eyeless sockets upon Palace Green, 
we can reconstruct the olden times when, at his last 
gasp, the flying wretch seized the ring and so came into 
safety. By night, the scene was more impressive still, 
for there were crystals in those sockets then, and a lamp 
burning behind, so that the fugitive could see his haven 
from afar, and make for it. 

To-day, Saint Cuthbert avails no man, as the 
county gaol and the assize courts sufficiently prove, 
and Durham city is essentially modern, from the 
coal-grit that powders its dirty streets to the awfully 
grotesque effigy of a Marquis of Londonderry that 
lends so diabolical an air to the Market-place, where 
the Statute Fair is held, and where he sits, a coal-black 
effigy across his coal-black horse, towering over the 
steam merry-go-rounds, like Satan amid the revelries 
of a Walpurgis Night. This bronze effigy is probably 
the most grotesque statue in the British Isles, and 
loses nothing of that quality in the noble Marquis being 
represented in a hussar uniform with flying dolman over 
his shoulders, and a busby, many sizes too large for him, 
on his head, in an attitude as though ferociously 
inviting the houses on the other side of the street to 
" come on." 

That diarising Scotswoman, Mrs. Calderwood of 
Coltness, travelling south in 1756, wrote : 

" We dined at Durhame, and I went to see the 
cathedrall ; it is a prodigious bulky building. It was 
on Sunday betwixt services, and in the piazzas there 
were several boys playing at ball. I asked the girl 
that attended me, if it was the custome for the boys to 
play at ball 011 Sunday : she said, ' they play on other 



130 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



days, as well as on Sundays.' She called her mother to 
show me the church ; and I suppose, by my questions, 
the woman took me for a heathen, as I found she did 
not know of any other mode of worship but her own ; 
so, that she might not think the Bishop's chair defiled 
by my sitting down in it, I told her I was a Christian, 
though the way of worship in my country differed from 
hers. In particular, she stared when I asked what the 
things were that they kneeled upon, as they appeared to 
me to be so many Cheshire cheeses." 




liu,. 



FRAMWELLGATE BRIDGE. 

They were hassocks : articles apparently then not 
known to Presbyterians. 

And so she continued southward : 

" Next day, the 7th, we dined none, but baited at 
different places, and betwixt Doncaster and Bautry a 
man rode about in an odd way, whom we suspected 
for a highwayman. Upon his coming near, John 
Rattray pretended to make a quarle with the post boy, 
and let him know that he keept good powder and ball to 
keep such folks as him in order ; upon which the felow 
scampered off cross the common." 

The Great North Road leaves Durham over 



"PITY ME" 131 

Framwellgate Bridge, built by Bishop Flambard in 
Norman times. Although altered and repaired in the 
fifteenth century and later, it is still substantially the 
same bridge. There was once a fortified gateway on it, 
but that was taken down in 1760. Bridge, River, 
Castle, and Cathedral here form a majestic picture. 



XXIII 

AND now to take the open road again. The chief 
features of the road between Durham and Newcastle 
are coal-pits, dismal pit villages, and coal-dust. Not 
at once, however, is the traveller introduced to these, 
and the ascent out of Durham, through the wooded 
banks of Dryburn, is very pretty. It is at Framwell- 
gate Moor, a mile and a half from the city, that the 
presence of coal begins to make itself felt, in the rows of 
unlovely cottages, and in the odd figures of the pitmen, 
who may be seen returning from their work, with grimy 
faces and characteristic miner's dress. Adjoining this 
village, and undistinguishable from it by the stranger, 
is the roadside collection of cottages known as " Pity 
Me," taking its name from the hunted fox in the sign 
of the " Lambton Hounds " inn. 

Framwellgate is scarce left behind before there rises 
up in the far distance, on the summit of one of the many 
hills to the north-east, a hill-top temple resembling the 
Athenian Acropolis, and as you go northward it is the 
constant companion of your journey for some seven or 
eight miles. This is " Penshaw Monument," erected 
on that windy height in 1844, four years after his death, 
to the memory of John George Lambton, first Earl of 
Durham. It cost 6,000, and commemorates the 
championship of the Reform movement in its earlier and 
precarious days by that statesman. Like many 
another monument, impressive at a distance, a near 
approach to it leads to disillusion, for its classic outlines 
are allied to coarse workmanship, and its eighteen great 



132 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



columns are hollow. Penshaw, deriving its name from 
Celtic words, signifying a wooded height, still has its 
woodlands to justify the name given nearly a thousand 
years ago. 

The little town of Chester-le-Street lies three miles 
ahead, past the few cottages of Plawsworth, once the 
site of a turnpike-gate, and by Chester Moor and the 
pretty wooded hollow of Chester Dene, where the 




PENSHAW MONUMENT. 

Con Burn goes rippling through the undergrowth to 
join the river Wear, and a bridge carries the highway 
across the gap. Approaching Chester-le-Street, the 
bright yellow sandstone mass of Lumley Castle, the 
ancient seat of the Earl of Scarborough, is prominent 
in the valley to the right, while beyond it rise the 
woods of Lambton Castle, the Earl of Durham's 
domain. The neighbourhood of Chester-lc-Street yet 
preserves the weird legend of the " Lambton Worm," 
and Worm Hill is still pointed out as the home of that 
fabulous monster who laid the country under con- 
tribution for the satisfying of his voracious appetite, 
and was kept in good humour by being provided with 
the milk of nine cows daily. Many had essayed to slay 
the serpent and had fallen victims instead, until the 
heir of Lambton, returned from the red fields and 
hair's-breadth escapes of foreign wars, set forth to free 
the countryside from the terror. But before he 
started, he was warned (so the legend runs), that unless 



CHESTER-LE-STREET 133 

he vowed, being successful in his enterprise, to slay the 
first living thing he met on his return, the lords of 
Lambton would never, for nine generations to come, 
die in their beds. He took that vow, and, armed with 
his trusty sword and a suit of armour made of razor- 
blades, met and slew the Worm, who coiled himself 
round the knight in order to crush him as he had the 
others, and so was cut in pieces against the keen edges. 
But the victor on returning was met by his father, 
instead of by the favourite dog who had been destined 
for the sacrifice. The sword dropped from his nerveless 
hand, and he broke the vow. What mattered it where 
the future generations died ; in their beds, or, as 
warriors might wish, in their boots ? 

As a matter of fact, the next nine heirs of Lambton 
did die more or less violent deaths ; a circumstance 
which is pointed to in proof of the legend's truth. 
If other proof be wanting, one has only to visit Lambton 
Castle, where the identical trough from which the 
Worm drank his daily allowance of milk is still shown 
the curious tourist ! 

Chester-le-Street bears little in its appearance to hint 
at its great age and interesting history. A very 
up-to-date little town, whose prosperity derives from 
its position as a marketing centre for the surrounding 
pitmen, it supports excellent shops and rejoices in the 
possession of Co-operative Societies, whose objects are 
to provide their subscribers with whatever they want at 
cost price, and to starve the trader, who trades for 
profit, out of existence. That shops and societies exist 
side by side, and that both look prosperous, seems 
remarkable, not to say miraculous. Let the explana- 
tion of these things be left to other hands. 

The name of Chester-le-Street doubly reveals the 
Roman origin of the place from the castle on the road 
which existed here in those distant times, and has 
easily survived the name cf Cunecaster, which the 
Saxons gave it. At Cunecaster the ancient bishopric 
of Bernicia, forerunner of the present See of Durham, 
had its cathedral for a hundred and thirteen years, 



134 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

from A.D. 882 to 995 ; having been removed from the 
Fame Islands on the approach of the heathen Danes, 
the monks carrying the coffin of their sainted bishop, 
St. Cuthbert, with them on their wanderings. The 
dedication of the present church to Saints Mary and 
Cuthbert is a relic of that time, but the building itself 
is not older than the thirteenth century. It preserves 
an ancient anchorites' cell. 

The finest surviving anchorage in England is this of 
Chester-le-Street. It is built against the north wall of 
the tower, and is of two storeys with two rooms on each. 
Two " low-side " windows communicating with the 
churchyard remain, and a smaller opening into the 
church is close by. Through this, food and offerings 
were passed to the anchorite, together with the keys of 
the church treasure-chest, left in his custody by the 
clergy. From this orifice the holy hermit could obtain 
a view all over the building, and an odd hagioscope or 
" squint," pierced through one of the pillars, allowed 
of his seeing the celebration of Mass at a side-chapel, in 
addition to that at the High Altar. This was no damp 
and inconvenient hermitage, for when the anchorite 
was kicked out at the Reformation, and bidden go and 
earn an honest living, his old home was let to three 
widows. Eventually, in 1619, the curate found the 
place so desirable -or, as a house-agent would say, so 
" eligible " that he took up his abode there. 

The church also contains fourteen monumental 
effigies ascribed, without much truth in the ascription, 
to the Lumleys. John, Lord Lumley, collected them 
from ruined abbeys and monasteries in the neighbour- 
hood some three hundred years ago, and called them 
ancestors. He was technically right ; for we all 
descend from Adam, but not quite so right when, 
finding he could not steal a sufficient number of these 
" ancestors," he commissioned the local masons to 
rough-hew him out a few more. They are here 
to this day, and an ill-favoured gang they look, 
too. 

The town of Chester-le-Street found little favour 



THE DURHAM COAL-FIELD 135 

with DC Foe, who, passing through it, found the place 
" an old dirty thoroughfare town." The modern 
traveller cannot say the same, but it is possible that 
if he happened to pass through on Shrove Tuesday, 
he would describe the inhabitants as savages ; for on 
that day the place is given up to a game of football 
played in the streets, the town taking sides, and 
when the ball is not within reach, kicking one another. 
With a proper respect for their shop fronts, the trades- 
folk all close on this day. 

The three miles between Chester-le-Street and 
Birtley afford a wide-spreading panorama of the 
Durham coal-field. Pretty country before its mineral 
wealth began to be developed, its hills and dales reveal 
chimney-shafts and hoisting-gear in every direction, 
and smoke- wreaths, blown across country by the raging 
winds of the north, blacken everything. Birtley is a 
typical pit village and its approaches characteristic of 
the coal country. The paths are black, the hedges and 
trees ragged and sooty, and tramways from the collieries 
cross the road itself, unfenced, the trucks dropping coal 
in the highway. One coal village is as like another as 
are two peas. They are all frankly unornamental ; 
all face the road on either side, each cottage the exact 
replica of its unlovely neighbour, and the footpaths are 
almost invariably unpaved. These are the homes of 
the " Geordies," as the pitmen once were invariably 
called. They were rough in their ways, but very 
different from the more recent sort : the trade-unionist 
miner : the better educated but more discontented 
and unlovable man. But " Geordie," the old-type 
typical pitman, was not a bad fellow, by any 
means. If any man worked, literally, by the sweat of 
his brow, it was he, in his eight hours' shift down in the 
stifling tunne's of the coal-mine. He earned a high 
wage and deserved a higher, for he carried his life in his 
hand, and any day that witnessed his descent half a 
mile or so into the black depths of the pit might also 
have seen an accident w r hich, by the fall of a roof of 
coal, by fire or flood, explosion, or the unseen hut 



136 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

deadly choke-damp, should end his existence, and that 
of hundreds like him. 

The midday aspect of a coal village is singularly 
quiet and empty. Scarce a man or boy is to be seen. 
Half of them are at work down below, in the first day 
shift to which they went at an early hour of the 
morning : and those of the night, who came up when 
the others descended, are enjoying a well-earned repose. 
A coal-miner just come to bank from his coal-hewing, 
looks anything but the respectable fellow he generally is, 
nowadays. With his peaked leathern cap, thick short 
coat, woollen muffler, limp knickerbockers, blue 
worsted stockings, heavy lace-up boots and dirty face, 
he looks like a ha'f-bleached nigger football-player. 
When washed, his is a pallid countenance which the 
stranger, unused to the colourless faces of those who 
work underground, might be excused for thinking that 
of one recovering from an illness. And washing is a 
serious business with " Geordie." Every pitman's 
cottage has its tub wherein he " cleans " himself, as he 
expresses it, while the women-folk crowd the street. 
What the cottages lack in accommodation they make 
up for in cleanliness and display. The pitman's wife 
wages an heroic and never-ending war against dirt and 
grime, and both have an astonishing love of finery and 
bright colours which reveals itself even down to the 
door-step, coloured a brilliant red, yellow, or blue, 
according to individual taste. Nowadays football 
claims " Geordie's " affections before anything else. 
That rowdy game, more than any other, serves to work 
off any superfluous energy, and there are stories, more 
or less true, which tell of pitmen, tired of waiting for 
" t' ball," starting " t' gaame " by kicking one another 
instead ! Coursing, dog-fancying, and the breeding 
of canaries are other favourite pitmen's pastimes, and 
they dearly love a garden. Where an outdoor garden 
is impossible, a window garden is a favourite resource, 
and even the ugliest cottages take on a certain smart- 
ness when to the yellow doorstep are added bright 
green window-shutters and a window full of scarlet 



138 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



geraniums. Very many pitmen are musical. We do 
not in this connection refer to the inevitable American 
organ whose doleful wails wring your very heart-strings 
as you pass the open cottage doors on Sunday after- 
noons, but to the really expert violinists often found in 
the pit villages. 



XXIV 

AT Harlowgreen Lane, where a little wayside inn, 
the " Coach and Horses," stands beside a wooded 
dingle, we have the only pleasant spot before reaching 




A WAYSIDE HALT. 



After Uoirlandson. 



Gateshead. Prettily rural, with an old-world air 
which no doubt gains an additional beauty after the 
ugliness of Birtley, it looks like one of those roadside 
scenes pencilled so deftly by Rowlandson, and might 
well have been one of the roadside stopping-places 
mentioned in that book so eloquent of the Great 
North Road, Smollett's Roderick Random. No other 
work gives us so fine a description of old road travel, 
partly founded, no doubt, upon the author's' own 



SMOLLETT 139 

observation of the wayfaring life of his time. Smollett 
himself travelled from Glasgow to Edinburgh and 
London in 1739, and in the character of Roderick he 
narrates some of his own adventures. For a good 
part of the way Roderick found neither coach, cart, 
nor wagon on the road, and so journeyed with a train 
of pack-carriers so far as Newcastle, sitting on one of 
the horses' pack-saddles. At Newcastle he met Strap, 
the barber's assistant, and they journeyed to London 
together, sometimes afoot ; at other times by stage- 
wagon, a method of travelling which, practised by 
those of small means, was a commonplace of the period 
at which Smollett wrote. It was a method which had 
not changed in the least since the days of James the 
First, and was to continue even into the first years of 
the nineteenth century. Fynes Morrison, who wrote 
an Itinerary and an appallingly dull work it is in the 
reign of the British Solomon, talks of them as " long 
covered wagons, carrying passengers from place to 
place ; but this kind of journeying is so tedious, by 
reason they must take wagon very early and come very 
late to their innes, that none but women and people of 
inferior condition travel in this sort." Hogarth 
pictured these lumbering conveyances, which at their 
best performed fifteen miles a day, and Rowlandson 
and many other artists have employed their pencils 
upon them. 

Smollett is an eighteenth-century robust humorist, 
whose works are somewhat strong meat for our times ; 
but he is a classic, and his works (unlike the usual run 
of " classics," which are aptly said to be books which no 
one ever reads) have, each one, enough humour to 
furnish half a dozen modern authors, and are proof 
against age and change of taste. To the student of 
bygone times and manners, Roderick Random affords 
(oh ! rare conjunction) both instruction and amuse- 
ment. It is, of course, a work of fiction, but fiction 
based on personal experience, and palpitating with the 
life of the times in which it was written. It thus affords 
a splendid view of this great road about 1739, and of the 



140 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

way in which the thrifty Scots youths then commonly 
came up to town. 

Their first night's halt was at a hedgerow alehouse, 
half a mile from the road, to which came also a pedlar. 
The pedlar, for safety's sake, screwed up the door of 
the bedroom in which they all slept. " I slept very 
sound," says Roderick, " until midnight, when I was 
disturbed by a violent motion of the bed, which shook 
under me with a continual tremor. Alarmed at this 
phenomenon, I jogged my companion, whom, to my 
amazement, I found drenched in sweat, and quaking 
through every limb ; he told me, with a low, faltering 
voice, that we were undone, for there was a bloody 
highwayman with loaded pistols in the next room ; 
then, bidding me make as little noise as possible, he 
directed me to a small chink in the board partition, 
through which I could see a thick-set, brawny fellow, 
with a fierce countenance, sitting at a table with our 
young landlady, having a bottle of ale and a brace of 
pistols before him." The highwayman was cursing his 
luck because a confederate, a coachman, had given 
intelligence of a rich coach-load to some other plunderer, 
who had gone off with 400 in cash, together with 
jewels and money. 

" But did you find nothing worth taking which 
escaped the other gentleman of the road ? " asked the 
landlady. 

" Not much," he replied. " I gleaned a few things, 
such as a pair of pops, silver-mounted (here they are) ; 
I took them, loaded, from the charge of the captain 
who had charge of the money the other fellow had 
taken, together with a gold watch which he had 
concealed in his breeches. I likewise found ten 
Portugal pieces in the shoes of a Quaker, whom the 
spirit moved to revile me, with great bitterness and 
devotion ; but what I value myself mostly for is this 
here purchase, a gold snuff-box, my girl, with a picture 
on the inside of the lid, which I untied out of the tail 
of a pretty lady's smock." 

Here the pedlar began to snore so loudly that 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROAD 141 

the highwayman heard him through the partition. 
Alarmed, he asked the landlady who was there, and 
when she told him, travellers, replied, " Spies ! you 
jade ! But no matter, I'll send them all to hell in an 
instant." 

The landlady pacified him by saying that they were 
only three poor Scotchmen ; but Strap by this time 
was under the bed. 

The night was one of alarms. Roderick and Strap 
awakened the pedlar, who, thinking the best course 
was not to wait for the doubtful chance of being 
alive to see the morning dawn, vanished with his 
pack through the window. 

After having paid their score in the morning, the 
two set out again. They had not gone more than 
five miles before a man on horseback overtook them, 
whom they recognised as Mr. Rifle, the highwayman 
of the night before. He asked them if they knew 
who he was. Strap fell on his knees in the road. 
" For heaven's sake, Mr. Rifle," said he, " have mercy 
on us, we know you very well." 

" Oho ! " cried the thief, " you do ! But you shall 
never be evidence against me in this world, you 
dog ! " and so saying, he drew a pistol and fired at 
the unfortunate shaver, who fell flat on the ground, 
without a word. He then turned upon Roderick, but 
the sound of horses' hoofs was heard, and a party of 
travellers galloped up, leaving the highwayman barely 
time to ride off. One of them was the captain who 
had been robbed the day before. He was not, as may 
already have been gathered, a valiant man. He turned 
pale at the sight of Strap. " Gentlemen," said he, 
" here's murder committed ; let us alight." The 
others were for pursuing the highwayman, and the 
captain only escaped accompanying them by making his 
horse rear and snort, and pretending the animal was 
frightened. Fortunately, Strap " had received no 
other wound than what his fear had inflicted " ; and 
after having been bled at an inn half a mile away, they 
were about to resume their journey, when a shouting 



142 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

crowd came down the road, with the highwayman in the 
midst, riding horseback with his hands tied behind him. 
He was being escorted to the nearest Justice of the 
Peace. Halting a while for refreshment, they dis- 
mounted Mr. Rifle and mounted guard, a circle of 
peasants armed with pitchforks round him. When they 
at length reached the magistrate's house, they found 
he was away for the night, and so locked their prisoner 
in a garret, from which, of course, he escaped. 

Roderick and Strap were now free from being 
detained as evidence. For two days they walked on, 
staying on the second night in a public-house of a very 
sorry appearance in a small village. At their entrance, 
the landlord, who seemed a venerable old man, with 
long grey hair, rose from a table placed by a large fire 
in a neat paved kitchen, and, with a cheerful 
countenance, accosted them with the words : " Salvete, 
pueri ; ingredimini." It was astonishing to hear a 
rustic landlord talking Latin, but Roderick, concealing 
his amazement, replied, " Dissolve frigus, ligna super 
foco large reponens." He had no sooner pronounced 
the words than the innkeeper, running towards him, 
shook him by the hands, crying, " Fill mi dilectissime ! 
unde venis ? a super is, ni fallor." In short, finding 
them both read in the classics, he did not know how 
to testify his regard sufficiently ; but ordered his 
daughter, a jolly, rosy-cheeked damsel, who was his 
sole domestic, to bring a bottle of his quadrimum ; 
repeating at the same time from Horace, " Deprome 
quadrimum Sabind, Thaliarche, merum diota" This 
was excellent ale of his own brewing, of which he told 
them he had always an amphora, four years old, for the 
use of himself and friends. 

The innkeeper proved to be a schoolmaster who was 
obliged, by his income being so small, to supplement it 
by turning licensed victualler. He was very inquisitive 
about their affairs, and, while dinner was preparing, 
his talk abounded both with Latin tags and with good 
advice to the inexperienced against the deceits and 
wickedness of the world. They fared sumptuously on 



A RASCALLY INNKEEPER 143 

roast fowl and several bottles of quadrimum, going to 
bed congratulating themselves on the landlord's good- 
humour. Strap was of opinion that they would be 
charged nothing for their lodging and entertainment. 
" Don't you observe," said he, " that he has conceived a 
particular affection for us ; nay, even treated us with 
extraordinary fare, which, to be sure, we should not of 
ourselves have called for ? " 

Roderick was not so sanguine. Rising early in the 
morning, and having breakfasted with their host and 
his daughter on hasty-pudding and ale, they desired 
to know what there was to pay. 

" Biddy will let you know 7 , gentlemen," said the old 
rascal of a tapster, " for I never mind these matters. 
Money-matters are beneath the concern of one who 
lives on the Horatian plan : Crescentem sequitur euro, 
pecuniam." 

Meanwhile, Biddy, having consulted a slate that 
hung in a corner, gave the reckoning as eight shillings 
and sevenpence. 

" Eight shillings and sevenpence ! " cried Strap ; 
' 'tis impossible ! You must be mistaken, young 
woman." 

" Reckon again, child," said the father very 
deliberately ; " perhaps you have miscounted." 

" No, indeed, father," replied she. " I know my 
business better." 

Roderick demanded to know the particulars, on 
which the old man got up, muttering, " Ay, ay, let 
us see the particulars : that's but reasonable " ; and, 
taking pen, ink, and paper, wrote : 

. d. 

To bread and beer, . .06 



To a fowl and sausages, 
To four bottles of quadrim, 
To fire and tobacco, 
To lodging, 
To breakfast, 



2 6 

2 

7 
2 

1 

8 7 



As he had not the appearance of a common publican, 
Roderick could not upbraid him as he deserved, simply 



144 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

remarking that he was sure he had not learned from 
Horace to be an extortioner. To which the landlord 
replied that his only aim was to live cont ent us parvo, and 
keep off importuna pauperies. 

Strap was indignant. He swore their host should 
either take one-third or go without ; but Roderick, 
seeing the daughter go out and return with two stout 
fellows, with whom to frighten them, thought it politic 
to pay what was asked. 

It was a doleful walk they had that day. In the 
evening they overtook the wagon, and it is here, 
and in the following scenes, that we get an ex- 
cellent description of the cheap road travel of 
that era. 

Strap mounted first into the wagon, but retired, 
dismayed, at a tremendous voice which issued from 
its depths, with the words, " Fire and fury ! there 
shall no passengers come here." These words came 
from Captain Weazel, one of the most singular 
characters to be found in Smollett's pages. 

Joey, the wagoner, was not afraid of the captain, 
and called out, with a sneer : " Waunds, coptain, 
whay woan't you soofer the poor wagoneer to meake a 
penny ? Coom, coom, young man, get oop, get oop ; 
never moind the coptain." 

" Blood and thunder ! where's my sword ? " 
exclaimed the man of war, when the two eventually 
fell, rather than climbed, into the wagon's dark 
recesses, and incidentally on to his stomach. 

" What's the matter, my dear ? " asked a female 
voice. 

" The matter ? " replied the captain ; " my guts 
are squeezed into a pancake by that Scotchman's 
hump." The " hump," by the \vay, was poor Strap's 
knapsack. 

" It is our own fault," resumed the feminine voice ; 
" we may thank ourselves for all the inconveniences 
we meet with. I thank God I never travelled so 
before. I am sure, if my lady or Sir John were to 
know where we are, they would not sleep this night 



POOR PASSENGERS 



145 



for vexation. I wish to God we had written for the 
chariot ; I know we shall never be forgiven." 

" Come, come, my dear," replied the captain, " it 
don't signify fretting now ; we shall laugh it over 
as a frolic ; I hope you will not suffer in your health. 
I shall make my lord very merry with our adventures 
in the diligence." 

The unsophisticated lads were greatly impressed by 
this talk. Not so the others. " Some people," broke 




TRAVELLERS ARRIVING AT AN INN. 

After Rowlandson. 

in another woman's voice, " give themselves a great 
many needless airs ; better folks than any here have 
travelled in wagons before now. Some of us have rode 
in coaches and chariots, with three footmen behind 
them, without making so much fuss about it. What 
then ! we are now all on a footing ; therefore let us be 
sociable and merry. What do you say, Isaac ? Is not 
this a good motion, you doting rogue ? Speak, old 
Cent, per cent. ! What desperate debt are you 



146 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

thinking of ? What mortgage are you planning ? 
Well, Isaac, positively you shall never gain my favour 
till you turn over a new leaf, grow honest, and live like a 
gentleman. In the meantime, give me a kiss, you 
old fool." 

The words, accompanied by hearty smack, 
enlivened the person to whom they were addressed to 
such a degree, that he cried, in a transport, though 
with a faltering voice : " Ah, you baggage ! on my 
credit you are a waggish girl he, he, he ! " This 
laugh introduced a fit of coughing which almost 
suffocated the poor usurer for such they afterwards 
found was the profession of their fellow-traveller. 

At their stopping-place for the night they had their 
first opportunity of viewing these passengers. First 
came a brisk, airy girl, about twenty years of age, 
with a silver-laced hat on her head instead of a cap, 
a blue stuff riding-suit, trimmed with silver, very much 
tarnished, and a whip in her hand. After her came, 
limping, an old man, with a worsted night-cap buttoned 
under his chin and a broad-brimmed hat slouched over 
it, an old rusty blue cloak tied about his neck, under 
which appeared a brown surtout that covered a thread- 
bare coat and waistcoat, and a dirty flannel jacket. 
His eyes were hollow, bleared, and gummy ; his face 
shrivelled into a thousand wrinkles, his gums destitute 
of teeth, his nose sharp and drooping, his chin peaked 
and prominent, so that when he mumped or spoke they 
approached one another like a pair of nut-crackers ; 
he supported himself on an ivory-headed cane, and 
his whole figure was a just emblem of winter, famine, 
and avarice. 

The captain was disclosed as a little thin creature, 
about the age of forty, with a long, withered visage 
very much resembling that of a baboon. He wore 
his own hair in a queue that reached to his rump, 
and on it a hat the size and cock of Antient Pistol's. 
He was about five feet and three inches in height, 
sixteen inches of which went to his face and long 
scraggy neck ; his thighs were about six inches in 



CAPTAIN WEAZEL 147 

length ; his legs, resembling two spindles or drum- 
sticks, two feet and a half ; and his body the remainder ; 
so that, on the whole, he appeared like a spider or 
grasshopper erect. His dress consisted of a frock of 
bear-skin, the skirts about half a foot long, a hussar 
waistcoat, scarlet breeches reaching half-way down his 
thighs, worsted stockings rolled up almost to his 
groin, and shoes with wooden heels at least two inches 
high ; he carried a sword very nearly as long as himself 
in one hand, and with the other conducted his lady, 
who seemed to be a woman of his own age, still retaining 
some remains of good looks, but so ridiculously affected 
that any one who was not a novice in the world would 
easily have perceived in her deplorable vanity the 
second-hand airs of a lady's woman. 

This ridiculous couple were Captain and Mrs. Weazel. 
The travellers all assembled in the kitchen of the inn, 
where, according to the custom of the time, such 
impecunious wayfarers were entertained ; but the 
captain desired a room for himself and his wife, so that 
they might sup by themselves, instead of in that 
communal fashion. The innkeeper, however, did not 
much relish this, but would have given way to the 
demand, providing the other passengers made no 
objection. Unhappily for the captain's absurd dignity, 
the others did object ; Miss Jenny, the lady with the 
silver-trimmed hat, in particular, observing that 
" if Captain Weazel and his lady had a mind to sup by 
themselves, they might wait until the others should 
have done." At this hint the captain put on a martial 
frown and looked very big, without speaking ; while 
his yoke-fellow, with a disdainful toss of her nose, 
muttered something about " creature ! " which Miss 
Jenny overhearing, stepped up to her, saying, " None 
of your names, good Mrs. Abigail. Creature ! quotha 
I'll assure you no such creature as you, neither no 
quality-coupler." Here the captain interposed, with 
a " D n me, madam, what do you mean by that ? " 

" Sir, who are you ? " replied Miss Jenny ; " who 
made you a captain, you pitiful, trencher- scraping, 



148 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

pimping curler ? The army is come to a fine pass 
when such fellows as you get commissions. What, 
I suppose you think I don't know you ? You and 
your helpmate are well met : a cast-off mistress and a 
bald valet-de-chambre are well yoked together." 

" Blood and wounds ! " cried Weazel ; " d'ye 
question the honour of my wife, madam ? No man in 
England durst say so much I would flay him, 
carbonado him ! Fury and destruction ! I would have 
his liver for my supper ! " So saying, he drew his 
sword and flourished it, to the great terror of Strap ; 
while Miss Jenny, snapping her fingers, told him she did 
not value his resentment that ! 

We will pass over the Rabelaisian adventures of the 
night, which, amusing enough, are too robust for these 
pages ; and will proceed to the next day's journey. 
Before they started, Weazel had proved himself the 
arrant coward and braggart which the reader has 
already perceived him to be ; but, notwithstanding this 
exposure, he entertained the company in the wagon 
with accounts of his valour : how he had once knocked 
down a soldier who had made game of him ; had 
tweaked a drawer by the nose who had found fault 
with his picking his teeth with a fork ; and had, 
moreover, challenged a cheesemonger who had had the 
presumption to be his rival. 

For five days they travelled in this manner. On the 
sixth day, when they were about to sit down to dinner, 
the innkeeper came and told them that three gentle- 
men, just arrived, had ordered the meal to be sent to 
their apartment, although told that it had been 
bespoken by the passengers in the wagon, to which 
information they had replied : " The passengers in the 

wagon might be d d ; their betters must be served 

before them ; they supposed it would be no hardship 
on such travellers to dine on bread and cheese for 
one day." 

This was a great disappointment to them all, and 
they laid their heads together to remedy it, Miss Jenny 
observing that Captain Weazel, being a soldier by 



MISS JENNY 149 

profession, ought to protect them. The captain 
adroitly excused himself by saying that he would 
not, for all the world, be known to have travelled in a 
wagon ; swearing, at the same time, that, could he 
appear with honour, they should eat his sword sooner 
than his provision. On this declaration, Miss Jenny, 
snatching his weapon, drew it and ran immediately 
into the kitchen, where she threatened to put the cook 
to death if he did not immediately send the victuals 
into their room. The noise she made brought the 
three strangers down, one of whom no sooner perceived 
her than he cried, " Ha ! Jenny Ramper ! what 
brought thee hither ? " 

" My dear Jack Rattle," she replied, running into 
his arms, "is it you ? Then Weazel may go whistle 
for a dinner I shall dine with you." 

They consented with joy to this proposal ; and the 
others were on the point of being reduced to a very 
uncomfortable meal, when Joey, the wagoner, under- 
standing the whole affair, entered the kitchen with a 
pitchfork in his hand, and swore he would be the 
death of any man who should pretend to seize the 
victuals prepared for the wagon. On this, the three 
strangers drew their swords, and, being joined by their 
servants, bloodshed seemed imminent ; when the 
landlord, interposing, offered to part with his own 
dinner, for the sake of peace ; which proposal was 
accepted and all ended happily. 

When the journey was resumed in the afternoon, 
Roderick chose to walk some distance beside the 
wagoner, a merry, good-natured fellow, who informed 
him that Miss Jenny was a common girl of the town, 
who, falling in company with a recruiting officer who 
had carried her down in the stage-coach from London 
to Newcastle, was obliged to return, as her companion 
was now in prison for debt. Weazel had been a 
valet-de-chambre to my Lord Fizzle while he lived 
separate from his lady ; but on their reconciliation 
she insisted on Weazel's being turned off, as well as 
the woman who had lived with him : when his lordship, 



150 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

to get rid of them both with a good grace, proposed 
that Weazel should marry his mistress, when he would 
procure a commission in the army for him. 

Roderick and the wagoner both had a profound 
contempt for Weazel, and resolved to put his courage 
to the test by alarming the passengers with the cry 
of " a highwayman " as soon as a horseman should 
appear. It was dusk when a man on horseback 
approached them. Joey gave the alarm, and a 
general consternation arose ; Strap leaping out of the 
wagon and hiding himself behind a hedge ; the usurer 
exclaiming dolefully and rustling about in the straw, 
as though hiding something ; Mrs. Weazel wringing her 
hands and crying ; and the captain pretending to 
snore. 

This latter artifice did not succeed with Miss Jenny, 
who shook him by the shoulder and bawled out : 
" 'Sdeath ! captain, is this a time to snore when we are 
going to be robbed ? Get up, for shame, and behave 
like a soldier and man of honour." 

Weazel pretended to be in a great passion for being 
disturbed, and swore he would have his nap out if all 
the highwaymen in England surrounded him. " W 7 hat 
are you afraid of ? " continued he ; at the same time 
trembling with such agitation that the whole vehicle 
shook. 

" Plague on your pitiful soul ! " exclaimed Miss 
Jenny ; " you are as arrant a poltroon as was ever 
drummed out of a regiment. Stop the wagon, Joey, 
and if I have rhetoric enough, the thief shall not 
only take your purse, but your skin also." 

By this time the horseman had come up with them, 
and proved to be a gentleman's servant, well known 
to Joey, who told him the plot, and desired him to 
carry it on a little further, by going up to the wagon and 
questioning those within. Accordingly he approached, 
and in a terrible voice demanded, " Who have we got 
here ? " Isaac replied, in a lamentable voice, " Here's 
a poor, miserable sinner, who has got a small family to 
maintain, and nothing in the world but these fifteen 



WEAZEL CONFOUNDED 151 

shillings, which, if you rob me of, we must all starve 
together." 

" Who's that sobbing in the corner ? " continued the 
supposed highwayman. 

" A poor, unfortunate woman," answered Mrs. 
Weazel, " on whom, I beg you, for Christ's sake, to 
have compassion." 

" Are you maid or wife ? " said he. 

" Wife, to my sorrow," said she. 

" Who, or what is your husband ? " continued he. 

" My husband," continued Mrs. Weazel, " is an 
officer in the army, and was left sick at the last inn 
where we dined." 

" You must be mistaken, madam," said he, " for 
I myself saw him get into the wagon this afternoon." 
Here he laid hold of one of Weazel's legs, and pulled 
him out from under his wife's petticoats, where he had 
concealed himself. The trembling captain, detected in 
this inglorious situation, rubbed his eyes, and affecting 
to wake out of sleep, cried, " What's the matter ? " 

" What's the matter ? The matter is not much," 
answered the horseman ; " I only called in to inquire 
after your health, and so adieu, most noble captain." 
So saying, he clapped spurs to his horse, and was out of 
sight in a moment. 

t It was some time before Weazel could recollect 
himself ; but at length, reassuming his big look, he 
said, " 'Sdeath ! why did he ride away before I had 
time to ask him how his lord and his lady do ? Don't 
you remember Tom, my dear ? " addressing his wife. 

" Yes," replied she ; " I think I do remember some- 
thing of the fellow ; but you know I seldom converse 
with people of his station." 

" Hey-day ! " cried Joey ; " do you know the young 
man, coptain ? " 

" Know him ? " cried Weazel ; " many a time has he 
filled a glass of Burgundy for me at my Lord Trippett's 
table." 

> " And what may his neame be, coptain ? " said 
Joey. 



152 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

" His name ! his name," replied Weazel, " is Tom 
Rinser." 

" Waunds ! " cried Joey, " a has changed his own 
neame then ! for I'se lay any wager he was christened 
John Trotter." 

This raised a laugh against the captain, who seemed 
very much disconcerted ; when Isaac broke silence and 
said, " It was no matter who or what he was, as he had 
not proved the robber they suspected. They ought to 
bless God for their narrow escape." 

" Bless God ! " said Weazel, " for what ? Had he 
been a highwayman I should have eaten his blood 
and body before he had robbed me or any one in this 
diligence." 

" Ha, ha, ha ! " cried Miss Jenny ; "I believe you 
Avill eat all you kill, indeed, captain." 

The usurer was so well pleased at the end of this 
adventure that he could not refrain from being severe, 
and took notice that Captain Weazel seemed to be a 
good Christian, for he had armed himself with patience 
and resignation, instead of carnal weapons, and worked 
out his salvation with fear and trembling ; whereupon, 
amidst much laughter, Weazel threatened to cut the 
Jew's throat. The usurer, taking hold of this menace, 
said : " Gentlemen and ladies, I take you all to 
witness, that my life is in danger from this bloody- 
minded officer : I'll have him bound over to the peace." 
This second sneer procured another laugh against the 
captaiij, who remained crestfallen for the rest of the 
journey. 

XXV 

THE remaining miles to Gateshead are made up of 
the shabby village of Low Fell, where the road begins 
to rise, and the uninteresting way over the ridge of 
the Fell itself. By the word " Fell," North of England 
people describe what Southerners call a hill. The 
common land of Gateshead Fell, 675 acres, was enclosed 
under Acts of Parliament, 1809, 1822. 



154 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Many were the gibbets erected in the old days on 
Gateshead Fell. The last was that on which swung 
the body of Robert Hazlett, who on this spot, on the 
evening of August 6th, 1770, robbed a young lady, 
Miss Margaret Benson, who was returning to Newcastle 
in a post-chaise from Durham. On the same night a 
post-boy was relieved of his bags at the same place. 
Hazlett was hanged at Durham, and his body gibbeted 
here, twenty-five feet high. For some time afterwards, 
every day for an hour, an old man was seen to kneel and 
pray at the foot of the gibbet. It was the wretched 
man's father ! A beacon was fixed on the Fell in the 
winter of 1803-4, on an alarm of invasion ; hence this 
height was afterwards known as " Beaccn Hill." 

The present-day aspect of the road does not hint at 
anything so tragical, and is merely commonplace, the 
last touch of vulgarity added by the trams that ply 
along it from Gateshead. 

The place-name of Gateshead seemed to John Ogilby, 
in his book, Britannia Depicta, 1676, to require 
explanation, and he proceeded to say that it was " alias 
Gate-Side, seated on the Banks of the Tine, by the 
Saxons call'd Gates-heved, i.e. Capra? Caput, or Goafs- 
head, perchance from an Inn with such a sign." 

But perchance not. While the Saxon name certainly 
was Gatesheved, it meant " road's head," either in 
allusion to the Roman bridge across the river being 
broken down and passage being possible only by water, 
or else referring to the abruptly-descending land on 
either side, where the road would seem to be coming 
to a sudden end. 

Gateshead is to Newcastle what Southwark is to 
London, and the Tyne which runs between may be 
likened in the same way to the Thames. Comparison 
from any other point of view is impossible. Gateshead 
is nowadays a great deal worse than it was when 
Doctor Johnson called it "a dirty lane leading to 
Newcastle." It may be ranked among the half-dozen 
dirtiest places on earth, and the lane which the Doctor 
saw has sent forth miles of streets as bad as itself, so 



NEWCASTLE 155 

that the geographical distribution of filth and squalor 
has in modern times become very wide. There are 
two ways of entering Newcastle since the High Level 
Bridge across the Tyne has supplemented what used to 
be the old Tyne Bridge, once, and until fifty years ago, 
the only way of crossing the river except by boat. 
When Stephenson flung his High Level Bridge across 
that stream, as yellow, if not as historic, as the Tiber, 
he provided a roadway for general traffic beneath the 
railway, and the old bridge lost its favour, simply for 
the reason that to cross it the steeply descending 
West Street and Bottle Lane had to be taken and the 
just as steeply ascending bank of the river on the 
Newcastle side to be climbed ; while by the High Level 
a flat road was provided. It is true that all traffic, 
pedestrian and wheeled, pays a small toll for the 
privilege, but it is the lesser of the two evils. 

Let those who have no concern with old times take 
their easeful way through the gloomy portals of the 
High Level Bridge, eighty-five feet above high-water 
mark. But let us examine the steep and smelly street, 
paved with vile granite setts and strewn with refuse, 
which conducts to the Tyne Bridge, or the Swing Bridge 
as it is nowadays, since the old structure was removed, 
the channel of the river deepened, and the wonderful 
swinging portion of the remodelled bridge, 281 feet in 
length, and swung open or closed by hydraulic ppwer, 
constructed in 1876. With that work went the last 
fragments of the Roman bridge built by Hadrian 
(Publius Aelius Hadrianus) more than a thousand years 
before ; a bridge which, indeed, gave the Roman camp 
its name of Pom ffLlii. His bridge, long in ruins, was 
replaced in 1248 by a mediaeval structure which was 
destroyed by a flood in 1771. 

This way came the coaches, climbing into Newcastle 
up Sandhill and the Side, whose steep and curving 
roadway remains to prove how difficult were the ways of 
travellers as well as transgressors in the old times. 
Old and new jostle here. The Swing Bridge turns 
silently on its pivot to the touch of a lever in its signal 



156 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

tower, and a force our grandfathers never knew per- 
forms the evolution ; but side by side with this miracle 
still stand the darkling lanes and steep waterside alleys 
of Gateshead and Newcastle that were standing before 
science and commerce, mother and daughter, came 
down upon the Tyne and transformed it. 

A writer in an old-time Northern magazine appears 
to have been jolted into a bad humour respecting 
Newcastle's precipitous old approach : " We have no 
connection whatever with the coal-trade, and were 
never at Newcastle but once, passing through it on the 
top of an exceedingly heavy coach, along with about a 
score of other travellers. But, should we live a 
thousand years, it would not be possible for us to forget 
that transit. We wonder what blockhead first built 
Newcastle ; for before you can get into and out of it, 
you must descend one hill and ascend another, about 
as steep as the sides of a coal-pit. Had the coach been 
upset that day, instead of the night before and the day 
after, there would have been no end and, indeed, no 
beginning, to this magazine. We all clustered as 
thickly together on the roof of the vehicle (it was a sort 
of macvey, or fly) as the good people of Rome did to see 
Great Pompey passing along : but we, on the con- 
trary, saw nothing but a lot of gaping inhabitants, who 
were momentarily expecting to see us brought low. 
We remarked one man fastening his eye upon our legs 
that were dangling from the roof under an iron rail, 
who, we are confident, was a Surgeon. However, we 
kept swinging along, from side to side, as if the macvey 
had been as drunk as an owl, and none of the passengers, 
we have reason to believe, were killed that day it 
was a maiden circuit. But, after all, we love New- 
castle, and wish its coals may burn clear and bright till 
consumed in the last general conflagration." 

High over head goes the High Level, and the smoke 
and rumble of its trains mingle with the clash of 
Newcastle's thousand anvils and the reek of her 
million chimneys ; but there still stands against the 
sky-line most fittingly seen from the Gateshead 



SANDHILL 159 

bank at eventide, when petty details are lost and only 
broad effects remain the coroneted steeple of St. 
Nicholas and the great black form of the Norman keep, 
reminding the contemplative that Monkchester was 
the name of the city before the Conqueror came and 
built that fortress whose fame as the " New Castle " 
has remained to this day to give a title to the place, 
just as the " new work " at Newark has ever since 
stood sponsor for that town. Again, no sooner have 
you crossed the Swing Bridge and come to Quayside 
than other vestiges of old Newcastle are encountered, 
in the remains of the Castle wall and the steps that 
lead upwards to Castle Garth, where shoemakers and 
cobblers of footgear of the most waterside and 
unfashionable character still blink and cobble in their 
half-underground dens, the descendants, probably, of 
those whom a French traveller remarked here in the 
time of Charles the Second. If, instead of climbing 
these stairs, the traveller elects to follow the track 
of the coaches, he will traverse Sandhill, which in 
very early days was an open space by the river, but 
has for centuries past been a street. It was at Sandgate 
close by, according to the ballad, that the lassie was 
heard to sing the well-known refrain of " Weel may the 
keel row, the boat that my love's in," and indeed it is a 
district that breathes romance, commonplace though 
its modern offices may look. Does not the Moot Hall 
look down upon Sandhill ? " Many a heart has broken 
inside those walls," said a passer-by, with unwonted 
picturesqueness, to the present writer, gazing at that 
hall of justice. 

There is a pretty flavour of romance compact, it is 
true, of the most unpromising materials, like the 
voluptuous scents which modern science extracts 
from coal-tar still clinging to Sandhill. Just where 
a group of curious old houses, very old, very tall, and 
nearly all windows, remains, the explorer will perceive 
a memorial tablet let into one of the frontages, setting 
forth that " From one of the windows of this house, 
now marked with a blue pane of glass, Bessie Surtees 



160 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

eloped with John Scott, afterwards Lord Chancellor 
Eldon, November 18th, 1772." John Scott was 
twenty-one years of age at the time, and was at home 
on vacation from Oxford. His father, a successful 
coal-fitter, had sent him, as he had already done his 
elder brother, William, afterwards Lord Stowell, to the 
University. He had already gained a fellowship there, 
which he forfeited on his elopement with, and marriage 
to, his Bessie. She descended from her casement by 
the aid of a ladder hidden by an accomplice in the shop 
below, and they were over the Border and wedded by 
the blacksmith at Blackshields before any one could 
pursue. Bessie's relatives were bitterly opposed to 
the match, and so, nearly without resources, the pair 
had to resort to London and live frugally in Cursitor 
Street while he studied hard at law, instead of, as 
originally intended, for the Church. His first year's 
earnings scarce amounted to enough to live on. 
" Many a time," said he in after years, " have I run 
down from Cursitor Street to Fleet Market, to buy 
sixpenny worth of sprats for our supper." The 
turning-point in his career occurred in a case in which 
he insisted on a legal point against the wishes of his 
clients. The case was decided against him, but was 
reversed on appeal on the point he had contested. 
From that time continued success awaited him, and he 
eventually became Lord Chancellor. The dashing 
Romeo of an earlier day became, however, a very 
different person in after years. Much poring over 
parchments and long-continued professional strife took 
all the generous enthusiasm out of him, and by ways not 
the most scrupulous he amassed one of the greatest 
fortunes ever scraped together by a successful lawyer. 
Bessie, meanwhile, had become quite as much of a 
handful as she had been an armful. 

Romance wanes. As Conservators of the Tyne, the 
Corporation of Newcastle have, for the last four 
centuries, proclaimed their authority by once in every 
five years going in procession on the river, in various 
craft. It was on these occasions the acknowledged 



WESLEY ON NEWCASTLE 161 

custom that, on returning and landing, the Mayor 
should choose the prettiest girl in the crowds of 
spectators and publicly salute her with a civic kiss. 
In acknowledgment of this favour his Worship pre- 
sented her with a new sovereign. But the procession of 
" Barge Day," as it was called, was discontinued after 
May 16th, 1901, and is not likely to be revived. 

From Sandhill the coaches journeyed along the 
Side, which remains as steep and almost as picturesque 
as ever, even if not rendered additionally curious by 
the gigantic railway arch that spans it and clears the 
roofs of its tallest houses. The last mail-coach left 
Newcastle for Berwick and Edinburgh, with the 
Union Jack flying at half-mast, on July 5, 1847, and 
those days are so thoroughly done with that none of 
Newcastle's coaching inns are left. Indeed, the whole 
character of the place has changed since little over a 
century and a half ago, when John Wesley entered the 
opinion in his diary that it was a " lovely place and 
lovely company," and, furthermore, said that "if he 
w r ere not journeying in hope of a better world, here he 
would be content to live and die." Coal had even then 
been shipped for centuries from Newcastle, but miles 
of manufactories had not yet arisen upon the banks of 
" coaly Tyne," and so unprogressive was the town that 
it was still, with gardens and orchards, easily comprised 
within its mediaeval walls ; those walls which had 
many a time withstood the Scots, and even when 
Wesley was here in 1745 were being prepared to resist 
the Pretender. 

Newcastle difficult as it may now be to realise the 
fact was then a very small town, and was governed 
accordingly. Primitive punishments as well as 
primitive government survived until a hundred and 
fifty years ago, when scolds still wore bridles or were 
ducked, and when local tipplers yet perambulated the 
streets in the drunkard's cloak, an ingenious instrument 
of little ease which now reposes in the Museum. 

Far beyond the ancient walls now extend the streets 
of the modern city ; Grey Street chief among them, 



162 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 




THE DRUNKARD'S 
CLOAK." 



classically gloomy and extra-classically grimed to the 
blackness of Erebus ; a heavy Ionic pillar at its 
northern end bearing aloft the 
statue of Earl Grey, the Prime 
Minister who secured the passing of 
the first Reform Bill in 1832. 

Away from the chief business 
streets, many of the curious old 
thoroughfares may be sought, but 
they are nowadays the receptacles 
of inconceivable dirt, and anything 
but desirable. The narrow streets 
called " chares " answer to the 
" wynds " of Edinburgh and the 
" rows " of Yarmouth. Their name 
has been the subject of jokes in- 
numerable, and misunderstandings 
not a few ; as, when a judge, previ- 
ously unacquainted with Newcastle, 
holding an assize here, heard a witness 
say that he'saw " three men come out of the foot of a 
chare," and ordered him out of the witness-box, 
thinking him insane, until the jury of Newcastle men 
explained matters. 

Despite its smoke and untidiness, the folks of this 
grimy Tyncside city have a good conceit of it. To 
them it is " canny Newcastle," an epithet whose 
meaning differs from the Scotch, and here means 
" fine," or " neat." The stranger who fails to find 
those qualities, who perceives instead the defects of dirt 
and a pall of smoke that blackens everything to an inky 
hue, and accordingly thanks Providence that his home 
is elsewhere, is to the Tynesiders a Goth. 

For Newcastle is practical. It has its great news- 
papers, and has produced literary men of note ; but 
the forging of iron and steel, the shrinking of steel 
jackets upon big guns, the making of ships and all 
kinds of munitions of war appeal principally to the 
Novocastrian who may by chance have no especial love 
of that coaling trade which is pre-eminently and 



PRACTICAL NEWCASTLE 163 

historically his. It is therefore quite characteristic 
of Newcastle folks that, in the mid-century, a literary 
man, since become famous, was as a boy solemnly 
warned by a townsman against such a career as he 
was contemplating. " Ah'm sorry," said he, " to hear 
that ye want to go to London, and to take to this 
writing in the papers. It'll bring ye to no good, 
my boy. I mind there was a very decent friend of 
mine, auld Mr. Forster, the butcher in the Side. He 
had a laddie just like you ; and nothing would sarve 
him but he must go away to London to get eddicated, as 
he called it ; and when he had got eddicated, he 
wouldn't come back to his father's shop, though it 
was a first-class business. He would do nothing but 
write, and write, and write ; and at last he went back 
again to London, and left his poor old father all alone ; 
and ah've never heard tell of that laddie since ! " 

Of course he had not. What rumours of literary 
life in London could then have penetrated to the 
shores of the " coaly Tyne." That laddie, however, 
was John Forster, the biographer of Dickens. 

These practical men of Newcastle have achieved the 
most wonderful things. The home of the Stephensons 
was at Wylam, only nine miles away, and so the town 
can fairly claim the inventor of railways among its 
natives. We need not linger to discuss the wonders of 
the locomotive ; they are sufficiently evident. New- 
castle men have even changed the character of their 
river. There are still those who can recollect the 
Tyne as a shallow stream in which' the laden " keels," 
heaped up with coal, not infrequently grounded. 
Nowadays the largest war-vessels are built up-stream, 
at Elswick, and take their stately way to the sea with 
their heavy armaments, and no mishap occurs. 
Clanging arsenals and factories line the banks for many 
more miles than the historian, anxious for his 
reputation, dare mention. The Armstrong works 
alone are over a mile long, and employ some sixteen 
thousand hands. Lord Armstrong himself was the 
inventor of hydraulic machinery ; and the Swan 



164 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

incandescent electric lamp, which bears the name of its 
inventor, was the work of a Newcastle man. Others of 
whom England is proud were born here, notably 
Admiral Lord Colling wood. To their practicality 
these men of Newcastle add sentiment, for they have 
carefully placed tablets on the houses where their 
celebrated men were born, and they have not only 
erected a monument to Stephenson, but have also 
placed one of his first engines " Puffing Billy " on a 
pedestal beside the High Level Bridge, where the huge 
modern expresses roar past the quaint relic, day and 
night, in startling contrast. Also, they one and 
all have the most astonishingly keen affection for 
their old parish church of St. Nicholas, in these latter 
days become a cathedral. 

If you would touch a Novocastrian on his most 
sensitive spot, praise or criticise the cathedral church 
of St. Nicholas, and he will plume himself or lose his 
temper, as the case may be. That building, and 
especially its tower, with the wonderful stone crown 
supported on ribbed arches and set about with its 
cluster of thirteen pinnacles, is the apple of Newcastle's 
eye. It figures as a stock decorative heading in the 
Newcastle papers, and does duty in a hundred other 
ways. Built toward the close of the sixteenth century, 
that fairy-like corona has had its escapes, as when, 
during the stubborn defence in 1644, under the 
Royalist Sir John Marley, the Scottish general, 
Alexander Leslie, Lord Leven, commanding the 
besieging forces, threatened to batter it down with his 
cannon if the town were not at once surrendered. 
To this Sir John Marley made the very practical 
reply of causing all his Scottish prisoners to be placed 
in the tower, and sent word to the besiegers that they 
might, if they would, destroy it, but that their friends 
should perish at the same time. The " Thief and 
Reiver " bell, a relic of old times when the outlaws of 
Northumberland were given short shrift wherever and 
whenever found, is still rung before the opening of the 
annual fair, and recalls the old custom of giving those 



166 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

gentry immunity from arrest during fair-time ; but it 
would probably not be safe for any one " wanted " by 
the police to rely upon this sentimental survival. 



XXVI 

FOR fully a mile and a half on leaving Newcastle 
the road runs over the Town Moor, a once wild waste of 
common, and even now a bleak and forbidding open 
space whose horizon on every side commands the gaunt 
Northumbrian hills, or is hidden with the reek of 
Newcastle town, or the collieries that render the way 
sordid and ugly. Newcastle's lovely pleasance, 
Jesmond Dene, is hidden away to the right from the 
traveller along the road, who progresses through 
Bulman's Village (now dignified with the new name of 
Gosforth), Salter's Lane, Wide Open and Seaton Burn 
with sinking heart, appalled at the increasing 
wretchedness and desolation brought by the coal- 
mining industry upon the scene. Off to the right lies 
Killingworth, among the collieries, where George 
Stephenson began his career in humble fashion. His 
cottage stands there to this day. At the gates of 
Blagdon Park, eight miles from Newcastle, where the 
white bulls of the Ridleys guard the entrance in 
somewhat spectral fashion, the surroundings improve. 
Here the Ridleys have been seated for centuries, and 
from their wooded domain watched the belching 
smoke of the pits they own, which year by year and 
generation by generation have added to their wealth. 
Lord Ridley is now the representative of these owners 
of mineral wealth, and lord of Blagdon. Midway of the 
long park wall that borders the road on the way to 
Morpeth stand the modern lodge and gates, erected in 
1887 ; with that relic of old Newcastle, the Kale Cross, 
just within the grounds and easily seen from the 
highway. The building is not so much a cross as a 
market-house, and is just a classical pavilion in the 



BLAGDON 



167 



Doric style, open on all sides to the weather. It stood, 
until the middle of the eighteenth century, upon the 
Side at Newcastle, and marked the centre of the 
market then held there. The townfolk presented it to 
the Matthew White Ridley of the period, and here in 
lovelier surroundings than it knew originally, it stands, 
the wreathed urns and couchant lion on its roof 
contrasting finely with a dense background of foliage. 





THE GATES OF BLAGDON PARK 

Beyond the park, the road crosses the Black Dene, 
whence Blagdon derives its name ; one of those 
ravines that now begin to be a feature of the way. 
This expands on the right hand into Hartford Dene, 
to which Newcastle picnic-parties come in summer-time 
for brief respite from the smoke and clangour of their 
unlovely town. Thence, through Stannington, Clifton, 
and Catchburn, and to the long and tortuous descent 
into Morpeth, lying secluded in the gorge of the 
Wansbeck. 

Morpeth is little changed since coaching times, but 
the one very noticeable alteration shows by what 
utter barbarians the town was inhabited towards the 
close of that era. Entering it, the turbulent Wansbeck 
is crossed by a stone bridge, built in 1830, to provide 



168 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

better accommodation for the increased traffic than 
the ancient one, a few yards up stream, afforded. 
For some five years longer the old building was suffered 
to remain, and then, with the exception of its piers, 
it was demolished. No one benefited by its destruction, 
it stood in no one's way, and its utility was such 
that a footbridge, a graceless thing of iron and scantling, 
has been erected across those ancient piers, to continue 
the access still required at this point from one bank to 
the other. It was to our old friends the monks that 
travellers were beholden for that ancient Gothic bridge, 
and their old toll-house still remains, after having 
passed through a varied career as a chapel, a school, 
and a fire-engine house. Turner's view shows the road 
over the bridge, looking south ; with the castle 
gate-house on the hill-top, a great deal nearer than it 
actually is. This, the sole relic of that old stronghold, 
has in later years been restored until it looks almost as 
new as the would-be Gothic of the gaol, which stands 
beside the modern bridge on entering the town and 
deludes the more ignorant into a belief of its genuine 
antiquity. At Morpeth, until the assizes were removed 
to Newcastle, justice was dispensed in this sham 
mediaeval castle, built in 1821, and now, all too vast for 
present needs, used as a police-station. The old town 
gaol, at the other end of the town, facing the market- 
place, is much more interesting. Built in the likeness 
of a church tower, curfew is still rung from its belfry, 
beneath the queer little figures on the roof. Market- 
day brings crowds of drovers and endless droves of 
sheep and cattle to this spot, to say nothing of the pigs, 
singularly plentiful in these parts. " He's driving his 
swine to Morpeth market," is an expression still used 
of a snoring man in the neighbourhood. Always 
excepting market-day, Morpeth is now a curiously 
quiet and dreamy town. The stress of ancient times 
has left its few relics in the mouldering remains of 
strong and defensible walls, and in certain proverbs and 
sayings reflecting discreditably upon the Scottish 
people, but the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 



MORPETH 171 

are more evident in its streets than previous eras. 
To those centuries belong the many old inns with signs 
for the most part redolent of the coaching age : the 
" Nag's Head," the " Grey Nag's Head," the " Queen's 
Head," " Turk's Head," and " Black Bull " ; this last 
with an odd semi-circular front and a beautiful coach- 
entrance displaying some fine Adam decoration. 

That Morpeth folk still cherish old anti-Scottish 
sayings is not at all remarkable ; for old manners, old 
sayings, and ancient hatreds die slowly in such places as 
this, and moreover, the Morpeth of old suffered terribly 
from Scottish raiders. Later times saw a more peaceful 
irruption, when Scottish youths came afoot down the 
great road in quest of fame and fortune in the south. 
People looked askance upon them as Scots, while 
innkeepers hated them for their poverty and their 
canniness. Those licensed victuallers thought, with 
Dr. Johnson, who did not greatly like them either, that 
" the finest prospect for a Scotchman was the high road 
that led him into England." This bitter satire, by the 
way, was in reply to a Mr. Ogilvie, who had been 
contending on behalf of the " great many noble wild 
prospects " which Scotland contained. Smollett, in his 
Humphry Clinker, shows how greatly the Scots were 
misliked along this route about 1766. He says that, 
from Doncaster northwards, all the windows of all 
the inns were scrawled with doggerel rhymes in abuse of 
the Scottish nation. This fact was pointed out to 
that fine Scottish character, Lismahago, and with it a 
particularly scurrilous epigram. He read it with some 
difficulty, the glass being dirty, and with the most 
starched composure. 

" Vara terse and vara poignant," said he ; " but with 
the help of a wat dishclout it might be rendered more 
clear and parspicuous." 

The country between Morpeth and Alnwick is dotted 
with peel-towers and their ruins, built in the wild old 
times when the ancestors of these peaceful Scots came in 
quest of spoil, laying waste the Borders far and wide. 
One had but to turn aside from the road at Warrener's 



172 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

House, two miles beyond Morpeth, and thence proceed 
eastward for a further two, for ten castles to be seen at 
once from the vantage-point of Cockle Park Tower, 
itself a fine relic of a fortress belonging in the fifteenth 
century to the Ogles, situated now on a farm called by 
the hideous name of Blubberymires. 

The peculiar appropriateness of Morpeth's name, 
meaning as it does " moor-path," is fully realised when 
coming up the road, up the well-named High Highlaws 
to where the road to Cockle Park Tower branches off, 
and where an old toll-house stands, with " Warrener's 
House," a deserted red-brick mansion, opposite. 
It is quite worth while to ask any passing countryman 
the name of that house, for then the " Northumbrian 
burr " will be heard in all its richness. As De Foe 
remarked, two hundred years ago, Northumbrians have 
" a Shibboleth upon their Tongues, namely, a difficulty 
in pronouncing the letter R," and in their mouths, 
consequently, the name becomes, grotesquely enough, 
" Wawwener." 

Causey Park Bridge, over a little rivulet, a ruined 
windmill, and the remains of Causey Park Tower are 
the next features of the way before reaching a rise 
where an old road goes scaling a hillside to the right 
hand, surmounted by a farm picturesquely named 
" Helm-on-the-Hill." Thence downhill on to Bocken- 
field Moor, and then precipitously down again through 
West Thirston and across the picturesque bridge that 
spans the lovely Coquet, into Felton : villages bordering 
either bank of the river, w r here the angler finds excellent 
sport, and where the rash cyclist, regardless of the 
danger-boards erected for his guidance on the hill-tops, 
tries involuntary conclusions with the aforesaid bridge 
at the bottom. A mile onward, up the rising road, is 
the park of Swarland Hall, with " Nelson's Monument," 
a time-stained obelisk, seen amid the trees within the 
park fence, and showing against the sky-line as the 
traveller approaches the moorland height of Rushy Cap. 
Alexander Davison, squire of Swarland Hall and friend 
of the Admiral, erected it, " not to commemorate the 



174 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



public virtue and heroic achievements of Nelson, which 
is the duty of England, but to the memory of private 
friendship." Occupying so prominent a position by the 
roadside, it was probably intended to edify the coach- 
passengers of old. So to Newton-on-the-Moor which 
might more fitly be named Newton-on-the-Hill with 
its half a dozen cottages and its coal-pits, and thence by 
a featureless but not unpleasing road into Alnwick. 




FELTOX BRIDGE. 

It is something of a shock to the sentimental pilgrim, 
northward-bound, that the entrance to historic 
Alnwick should be by the gas-works, the railway 
station, the Farmers' Folly (of which more shall 
presently be said), and other unmistakable and 
unromantic evidences of modernity that spread 
beyond the ancient confines of the town to form the 
suburb of Bondgate Without ; but man cannot live 
by medievalism alone. The town itself is gained at 
that point where the heavy blackened mass of Bondgate 



ALNWICK 177 

itself spans the road, just beyond the elaborately 
rebuilt " Old Plough," still exhibiting, however, the 
curious tablet from the old house : 

That which your Father old hath purchased and left 
You to possess, do you dearly 
Hold to show his worthiness. 1714. 



XXVII 

ALNWICK is a town with a great past and a somnolent 
present. There are yawns at every turn, echoes with 
every footfall, and grass growing unbidden in the 
streets. But there are forces of elemental power at 
Alnwick, little though the stranger suspects them. 
There have of late years been periods of storm and 
stress in the columns of the Alnwick Gazette, for 
instance, respecting the local water-supply, which 
have drawn forth inappropriately fiery letters from 
correspondents, together with many mixed metaphors. 
How is this for impassioned writing ? " The retribu- 
tive forces of well-balanced justice have, after a dead 
ebb, returned with a swelling tide, and overtaken the 
arrogative policy of the freeholders." But this is 
nothing to the following striking figure of " the arm 
of scandalous jobbery steeped to the lips in perfidious 
dishonour ; " a delightful literary image unsurpassed in 
Ireland itself ; or " another hydra of expense arising 
phoenix-like from the ashes of misgovernment." Did 
the word " hydrant," we wonder, suggest this last 
period ? Is the dulness of Alnwick due to the decay 
following the corruption hinted at ? Perhaps, for, 
as this publicist next inquires, " How could anything 
symbolical of greatness, wrapped with ropes of sand, 
ever and for aye, flourish like the green bay-tree ? " 
Ah ! how ? It is a difficult question to answer, and 
so we will leave the question at that. 

Alnwick, of course, derives its name from its situation 
on the romantic Aln : the " wick," or village on that 



178 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

river. The name is kin to that of many other " wicks," 
" weeks," and " wykes " in England, and has its 
fellows in such places as High Wycombe ; Wykeham 
(now spelt Wickham) in Hampshire, whence came 
William of Wykeham ; the village of Weeke, near 
Winchester ; and in the town named simply Wick, in 
the north of Scotland. Alnwick in these times is a 
place of a certain grim and lowering picturesqueness. 
Its grey stone houses are at one with the greyness of the 
Northumbrian skies, and a general air of barren 
stoniness impresses the traveller as its chief feature. 
It is an effect of prisons and jailers w r hich reaches its 
height in the open space that fronts the barbican of the 
castle. You look, instinctively, for His Majesty's 
prison regulations on the outer walls, and, approaching 
the gate, expect a warder's figure at the wicket. 

This is no uncongenial aspect of that old fortress. 
It is rather in the Italian drawing-rooms, the picture- 
galleries, and the Renaissance luxuries of the interior 
of the castle that the jarring note is struck and all 
association with feudal times forgotten. Many a Border 
moss-trooper has unwillingly passed through this grim 
barbican, and so left the world for ever ; and many 
more of higher estate have found this old stronghold 
of the Percies a place of lifelong durance, or have 
in its dungeons met a secret end. For chivalry was 
not inconsistent with midnight murder or treachery, 
and the Percies, centred in their fortress like spiders 
in their webs, had all the virtues and the vices of 
chivalric times. Ambitious and powerful, they were 
alike a bulwark against the Scots and a menace to 
successive kings of England, and none in those olden 
times could have approached their castle gate with 
the equable pulsation of the modern tourist. In those 
times, instead of finding a broad level open space here, 
a deep ditch would have been seen and a drawbridge 
must have been lowered before access was possible. 
Then possibly the stone figures in violent attitudes that 
line the battlements, and seem to be casting missiles 
down upon the heads of visitors, may have been 



" WHISKERS " 179 

alarming ; to-day we only wonder if they could ever 
have tricked even the most bat-eyed warrior into a 
belief that they were really living men-at-arms. 

The Percies, whose name attaches more than any 
other to Alnwick, were, strictly speaking, never its 
owners. The first of that name came over to England 
with the Conqueror in the person of William de Percy, 
a younger son of the feudal lord of the village of Percie 
in Normandy, which still exists to point out to the 
curious tourist the spot whence this historic family 
sprang. This William de Percy was nicknamed 
" Als Gernons," or " W T hiskers," whence derives the 
name of Algernon, even now a favourite one with the 
Smithson-Percies. " Whiskers " was present at the 
battle of Hastings, and for his aid was granted manors 
in Hampshire, Lincolnshire, and York, but none in 
Northumberland. He died in 1086, when with the 
Crusaders, near Jerusalem. The Percies never became 
connected in any way with Alnwick, for the family of 
this William de Percy became extinct in 1166, when 
Agnes, an only child of his descendant, married 
Josceline de Lovaine ; and it was not until 1309 that 
the descendant of this Lovaine, who had assumed the 
Percy name, came into wrongful possession of the vast 
estates. Alnwick and sixty other baronies in North- 
umberland had until then been in possession of the 
de Vescis, of whom Yvo de Vesci was the original 
Norman owner. His descendant, William de Vesci, 
who died in 1297, was the last of his line, and appears to 
have been of a peculiarly trusting disposition. He put 
a great (and an unfounded) faith in the honesty of 
churchmen, leaving all his estates to Anthony Bek, 
Prince-Bishop of Durham, in trust for an infant 
illegitimate son, until he should come of age. But Bek 
picked a quarrel with his ward, and in 1309 sold the 
lands to Henry Percy, who thus became the first 
Baron Percy of Alnwick. 

But let us not do an injustice to the Church. Prince- 
Bishops were kittle cattle, an amorphous kind of 
creature. Perhaps his lay half impelled Bek to this 



180 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

knavery, and, following the Scriptural injunction not 
to let the right hand know what is done by the left, 
his clerical moiety remained in ignorance of the 
crime. Heaven be praised, there arc no longer any 
of these Jekyll and Hyde creatures, for the Bishops- 
Palatine of Durham Avere abolished two generations or 
more since. 

There were, in the fulness of time, three Barons Percy 
of Alnwick, and then the Barony was erected into the 
Earldom of Northumberland. The axe and the sword 
took heavy toll of this new line, for the Earls of 
Northumberland seldom died in their beds, and father 
and son often followed one another in a bloody death, 
until at length they became extinct with the death of 
the eleventh and last Earl of Northumberland. Of 
these eleven, only seven died a natural death. There 
\vere Percies \vho fell in battle ; others who, rightly or 
wrongly, met the death of traitors ; one was torn to 
pieces by a mob ; and another was obscurely done to 
death in prison. Nor did only the heads of the family 
end violently ; their sons and other relations led lives as 
turbulent, and finished as suddenly. 

The only child of the eleventh Earl of Northumber- 
land was a daughter, Elizabeth Percy. She married 
firstly the Earl of Ogle ; secondly, Thomas Thynne of 
Longleat, -who was murdered in Pall Mall in 1682 by 
Count Koningsmarck ; and thirdly, the sixth Duke of 
Somerset ; thus bringing the Percy estates into the 
Seymour family, and the Percy red hair as well. 

It was of red-haired Elizabeth Percy, when Duchess 
of Somerset, that Dean Swift wrote the bitter and 
diabolically clever lines that are supposed to have lost 
him all chance of becoming a bishop. He wrote of her 
as " Carrots " : 

Beware of carrots from Northumberland, 
Carrots sown Thynne a deep root may get, 
Tf so be they are in Somer set ; 
Their cunnings mark thou ; for I have been told 
They assassin when young and poison when old. 
Root out those carrots, O thou whose name 
Is backwards and forwards always the same. 

The one whose name was backwards and fonvards alike 



SIR HUGH SMITHSON 181 

was Queen Anne, for Swift's purpose " Anna." It will 
he noticed that Swift not very obscurely hints that 
Elizabeth Percy connived at murder. 

Her eldest son, the seventh Duke of Somerset, had, 
curiously enough, only one child, a daughter. She 
married " the handsomest man of his time," Sir Hugh 
Smithson, in 1740, and thus the property came into the 
hands of the present holders. 

This most fortunate, as well as most handsome, 
fellow was Sir Hugh Smithson, one of a family of 
Yorkshire squires whose ancestor gained a baronetcy, 
created 1660, for his services to the Stuarts. Sir Hugh, 
born 1714, a son of Langdale Smithson, and grandson 
of another Sir Hugh, the third baronet, had little early 
prospect of much position in life. He was a younger 
son, and, like many another such, he went into trade. 
He was an apothecary. Having succeeded as fourth 
baronet to position and wealth, and with what he had 
made in commerce, the " handsomest man " made this 
very handsome marriage. He had the aristocratic 
instinct, and, discarding his old name, took that of 
Percy, to which, of course, he had no sort of 
right, 

For him in 1749 was revived the old title, Earl of 
Northumberland, together with that of Baron Wark- 
worth. In 1766 he became further, Duke of 
Northumberland and Earl Percy, and died 1786. 

The name of Percy is one to conjure with. The 
Lovaines, who had assumed it, made it famous in 
the annals of chivalry, with a thousand deeds of 
derring-do in the debateable lands. Smithson, too, is 
a good name. It at least tells of descent from an 
honest craftsman, and Sir Hugh's knighted ancestor 
had, obviously, done nothing to be ashamed of. 
Unfortunately for Sir Hugh and his successors, this 
unwarranted assumption of an historic name took 
place so well within the historic period that it is never 
likely to be forgotten. George the Third, who also 
had the instinct of aristocracy, kept the fact well in 
mind, and when, sorely against his will, he was obliged 



182 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

to confer the Dukedom of Northumberland upon this 
ex-apothecary, consoled himself by vowing that he 
should never obtain the Order of the Garter. The duke 
personally solicited a blue ribbon from the king, and 
observed that he was " the first Percy who has been 
refused the Garter." " You forget," replied his 
Majesty, " that you are the first Smithson who has ever 
asked for it." 

The huge and historic stronghold of Alnwick had 
by this time become ruinous, and the Smithson duke 
was for a while uncertain whether to reside here or at 
Warkworth. Alnwick, however, found favour with 
him, and he set to work to render it a place worthy of 
one of his quality. To this end he wTought havoc with 
the feudal antiquities of the castle, pulling down the 
ancient chapel and several of the towers, filling up the 
moats, plastering the walls and ceilings, enlarging 
arrow-slits into great windows, and playing the very 
devil with the place. The military history of the 
castle, as expressed in the picturesque irregularity of 
successive alterations and additions during many 
centuries, was swept away by his zeal for uniformity, 
and the interior rooms were remodelled in the taste of 
that age, to serve for a residence, to such an extent that. 
only the outer walls retained even the appearance of a 
castle. When Pennant wrote of it in 1767, he said : 
" You look in vain for any marks of the grandeur of the 
feudal age ; for trophies won by a family eminent in our 
annals for military prowess and deeds of chivalry ; for 
halls hung with helms and hauberks " (good alliteration, 
that ! but rash for Cockney repetition), " or with the 
spoils of the chase ; for extensive forests or for 
venerable oaks. The apartments are large, and lately 
finished with a most incompatible elegance. The 
gardens are equally inconsistent, trim in the highest 
degree, and more adapted to a villa near London than 
to the ancient seat of a great baron." It was to this 
criticism of " trimness " that Bishop Percy objected. 
Discussing Pennant with Dr. Johnson, he could not sit 
quietly and hear him praise a man who had spoken so 



ALNWICK CASTLE 183 

disrespectfully of Alnwick Castle and the Duke's 
pleasure-grounds, and he eagerly opposed the Doctor, 
evidently with some heat, for Johnson said, " He has 
done what he intended ; he has made you very angry." 
To which the Bishop replied, " He has said the garden is 
trim, which is representing it like a citizen's parterre, 
when the truth is, there is a very large extent of fine 
turf and gravel walks." 

" According to your own account, sir," rejoined 
Johnson, " Pennant is right. It is trim. Here is 
grass cut close and gravel rolled smooth. Is not that 
trim ? The extent is nothing against that ; a mile 
may be as trim as a square yard." The Bishop was 
vanquished. 

All the sham Gothic alterations made at a huge 
outlay by the first Duke (with the exception of one 
room, which remains to show how atrocious his style 
was) were swept away by Algernon, the fourth Duke, 
about 1855, and at a still greater cost replaced internally 
with an interminable series of salons in the Italian style. 
Externally, the castle is a mediaeval fortress ; internally 
it is an Italian palace. These works cost over 300,000, 
and serve to show the measure of ducal folly. Make a 
man a duke and give him an income commensurate, and 
he goes mad and builds and rebuilds, burying himself in 
masonry like a maggot in a cheese. But it is good 
for trade ; and perhaps that is why Providence allows 
a duke to be created now and then. 

This magnificence for a long time created its own 
Nemesis, and the Dukes of Northumberland, in their 
gigantic castle, were worse off in one respect than a 
clerk in London suburbs in a six-roomed, nine-inch 
walled, jerry-built " villa " at 30 a year. They could 
never get a hot dinner ! The kitchen is large enough, 
and the fireplace so huge that the fire cannot be made 
up without shovelling on a ton of coals ; but the 
dining-room is so far away, and the communication was 
so bad (involving going across courtyards open to the 
sky) that everything was cold before it reached table. 
This has been remedied, and my lords dukes now have 



184 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

their food sent to them along rails on trolleys just as 
they feed the beasts at the Zoo. 

The Dukes of Northumberland are well titled. 
They are autocrats in that county, owning as they do 
181,616 of its acres, and drawing a rental of 161,874. 
Some of them have been insufferably egotistical. 
The " Brislee " Tower, built on the neighbouring 
height of Brislaw by the first Duke, is evidence sufficient 
to prove that. It is a monument by himself to his own 
doings, and invites the pilgrim, in a long bombastical 
inscription, to " Look around, behold," and marvel at 
the plantations with which he caused the bare hillsides 
to be covered. 

But the most prominent memorial in Alnwick is the 
well-named " Farmers' Folly," erected to the second 
Duke in 1816. Entering or leaving the town, it is a 
most striking object : a pillar 85 feet in height with 
the Percy lion on its summit. What did the second 
Duke do to deserve this ? Did he serve his country in 
war ? Was he a statesman ? Was he benevolent to 
the tenants who erected it ? Not at all. Here is the 
story. 

When the nineteenth century dawned we were at war 
with France, and wheat and all kinds of produce were at 
enormously enhanced prices. The farmers, therefore, 
began to do very well. Their banking-accounts 
swelled, and some of them were on the way to realise 
small fortunes. The Duke saw this and sorrowed 
because they found it possible to do more than exist, 
and accordingly he added to their rents, doubling in 
almost every instance and in many others quadrupling 
them. But when the country entered on the long 
peace that followed Waterloo, and prices fell 
enormously, the unfortunate farmers found it 
impossible to pay their way under these added burdens. 
Mark the ducal generosity ! As they could not pay, he 
reduced the rents by twenty-five per cent. ! Like a 
draper at his annual sale, he effected a " great 
reduction," an " alarming sacrifice," by taking off a 
percentage of what he had already imposed. How 



186 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

noble ! Then the tenants, the grateful fellows, 
subscribed to build the column, which is inscribed : 
" To Hugh, Duke of Northumberland, by a grateful and 
united tenantry." Having done this, they went into 
bankruptcy and the workhouse, or emigrated, or just 
gave up their farms because they could not carry on 
any longer. The money they had subscribed did not 
suffice to complete this testimonial to Duke Hugh's 
benevolence, and so a comic opera touch he 
subscribed the rest, and finished it himself. What 
humorists these Smithsons are ! 



XXVIII 

THE road, leaving Alnwick, plunges down from the 
castle barbican to the black hollow in which the Aln 
flows, overhung with interlacing and overarching trees. 
The river is crossed here by that bridge show r n in 
Turner's picture, the " Lion Bridge " as it is called, 
from the Percy lion, " with tail stretched out as straight 
as a broom-handle," standing on the parapet and 
looking with steadfast gaze to the North. It is an 
addition since Turner's picture was painted, and an 
effective one, too. Also, since that time, the trees have 
encroached and enshrouded the scene most completely ; 
so that the only satisfactory view is that looking 
backwards when one has emerged from the black dell. 
And a most satisfactory view it is, with the i's and t's of 
romance dotted and crossed so emphatically that it 
looks like some theatrical scene, or the optically 
realised home of the wicked hero of one of Grimm's 
fairy tales. If this were not the beginning of the 
twentieth century, one might well think twice before 
venturing down into the inky depths of that over- 
shaded road ; but these are matter-of-fact times, and 
we know well that only the humdrum burgesses of 
Alnwick, in their shops, are beyond ; with, instead 
of a mediaeval duke in the castle, who would think 



THE BLEAK NORTH 187 

nothing of hanging a stray wayfarer or so from his 
battlements, only a very modern peer. 

The road onwards is a weariness and an infliction to 
the cyclist, for it goes on in a heavy three miles' 
continuous rise up to the summit of Heiferlaw Bank, 
whence there is a wide and windy view of uncomfortable 
looking moorlands to the north, with the craggy 
Cheviots, perhaps covered with snow, to the north-west. 
As a literary lady Mrs. Montagu wrote in 1789, when 
on a northern journey, " These moors are not totally 
uninhabited, but they look unblest." How true ! 

The proper antidote to this is the looking back to 
where, deep down in the vale of Aln, lie town and 
castle, perhaps lapt in infrequent sunshine, more 
probably seen through rain, but, in any case, presenting 
a picture of sheltered content, and seeming to be 
protected from the rude buffets of the weather by the 
hill on which we are progressing and b)^ the wooded 
flanks of Brislaw on the other side. " Seeming," 
because those who know Alnwick well could tell a 
different tale of wintry blasts and inclement seasons 
that belie the hint of this hillside prospect for three 
whole quarters round the calendar and a good pro- 
portion of the fourth. In this lies a suggestion of why 
the Percies were so warlike. They and their northern 
foes fought to keep themselves warm ! Nowadays such 
courses would lead to the police-court, and so football 
has become a highly-popular game in these latitudes. 
But the southward glimpse of Alnwick and its 
surroundings from the long rise of Heiferlaw Bank is, 
when sunshine prevails, of a quite incommunicable 
charm. The background of hills, covered with 
Duke Hugh's woods and crowned with his tower, recalls 
in its rich masses of verdure the landscapes of De Wint, 
and if in the Duke's inscription on that tower he seems 
to rank himself in fellowship with the Creator, certainly, 
now he has been dead and gone these hundred and 
twenty years, his saplings, grown into forest trees and 
clothing the formerly barren hillsides, have effected a 
wonderful change. 



188 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



Beside the road are the few remaining stones of 
St. Leonard's Chapel, and, a short distance beyond, on 
the right, in a grove of trees, Malcolm's Cross, marking 
the spot where Malcolm Caenmore, king of Scotland, 




MALCOLM'S CROSS. 

was slain in 1093. It replaces a more ancient cross, 
and was erected by the first Duchess of Northumberland 
in 1774. It was on his seventh foray into Northumber- 
land, besieging Alnwick Castle, that Malcolm was 
killed, in an ambush carefully prepared for him. The 
legend, which tells how he was treacherously slain by a 



THE NORTHUMBRIAN COAST 189 

thrust of a spear in the eye by one of the Percies, who 
was pretending to deliver up the castle keys on the 
spear's point, is untrue, as of course is the popular 
derivation of the family name from " pierce eye." 
Moreover, the Percies, as we have seen, did not own 
Alnwick until more than two hundred years afterwards. 
Heiferlaw, as befits so commanding a hill-top so close 
to the Border, has its watch-tower, looking across the 
marches, whence the outlying defenders of Alnwick, 
ever watchful against Scottish raids, could give timely 
warning to the garrison. It stands to-day a picturesque 
ruin, in cultivated fields that in those fierce old times, 
when men had no leisure for peaceful arts and industries, 
formed a portion of the wild moorland. " Blaw- 
weary," they call one of these fields, and the title is as 
descriptive of this exposed situation as anything in the 
whole range of nomenclature. Beyond this point the 
road descends to a level stretch of country leading to 
North Charlton, where a few farmsteads alone stand for 
a village, together with a prominent hillock covered 
Avith trees and looking as though it had, or ought to 
have, a story to it ; a story which research fails to 
unearth. Opposite, meadows called locally " Comby 
Fields," presumably from a series of ridges seen in them, 
seem to point to some forgotten history. Brownyside, 
adjoining, is an expanse of moorland, covered with 
bracken, followed by Warenford, a pretty hamlet 
in a hollow by a tiny stream, with Twizel Park on the 
left. At Belford, a large wide-streeted village with a 
nowadays all too roomy coaching inn, the " Blue Bell," 
and an old cross with gas-lamps fitted to it by some 
vandal or other, the road draws near the coast ; that 
storied Northumbrian sea-shore where Bambrough 
Castle on its islanded rock, many miles of yellow 
quicksands, and the Fame and Holy Islands are 
threaded out in succession before the gaze. Bambrough, 
the apex of its pyramidical form, just glimpsed above 
an intervening headland, looks in the distance like 
another St. Michael's Mount, and Holy Island, ahead, 
is a miniature fellow to it. The ruined cathedral of 



190 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Holy Island, the ancient Lindisfarne, the spot whence 
the missionary Aidan from lona began the conversion of 
Northumbria in 634, and where he was succeeded by 
that most famous of all northern bishops and saints, the 
woman-hating St. Cuthbert, is the mother-church of the 
north, and became possessed in later times of great 
areas of land through which the road now passes. 
Buckton, Goswick, Swinhoe, Fenwick, Cheswick, were 
all " possessions " of the monastery ; and the old 
ecclesiastical parish of Holy Island, once including all 
these places on the mainland, and constituting then 
an outlying wedge of Durham in the county of 
Northumberland, although now a thing of the past, 
still goes by the local name of Islandshire. Buckton, 
now a few scattered cottages by the roadside, held 
a place in the old rhyme which incidentally shows that 
the monks of Lindisfarne adopted that comforting 
doctrine : 

Who lives a good life is sure to live well. 

Their farms and granges yielded them all that the 
appreciative stomachs of these religious recluses could 
desire, save indeed when the Scots swooped over the 
Tweed and took their produce away. It is a rhyme of 
good living : 

From Goswick we've geese, from Cheswick we've cheese ; 

From Buckton we've venison in store ; 
From Swinhoe we've bacon, but the Scots it have taken, 

And the Prior is longing for more. 

The yellow sands that occupy the levels and reach 
out at low tide to Holy Island are treacherous. With 
the exquisite colouring of sea and sky on a summer day 
blending with them, they look at this distance like the 
shores of fairyland ; but the grim little churchyard of 
Holy Island has many memorials presenting another 
picture a picture of winter storm and shipwreck, for 
which this wild coast has ever been memorable. 
Off Bambrough, where the Fame Islands are scattered 
in the sea, the scene is still recalled of the wreck of the 
Forfarshire and Grace Darling's heroism ; and the 



GRIZEL COCHRANE 191 

monument of that famous girl stands in Bambrough 
churchyard to render the summer pilgrim mindful of 
the danger of this coast. Dangerous not only to those 
on the waters, but also to travellers who formerly took 
the short cut from Berwick across the sands, instead of 
going by the hilly road. The way, clearly marked in 
daylight by a line of poles, has often been mistaken at 
night ; sudden storms, arising when travellers have 
reached midway, have swept them out to sea ; or fogs 
have entangled the footsteps even of those who knew 
the uncharted flats best. Whatever the cause, to be 
lost here was death. The classic instance, still narrated, 
is that of the postboy carrying the mails from 
Edinburgh on the 20th of November, 1725. Neither he 
nor the mail-bags was ever heard of again after leaving 
Berwick, and it was naturally concluded that he was 
lost on the quicksands in a sea-fog. 

Away on the west of the road rise the Kyloe hills, 
like ramparts, and on their tallest ridge the church 
tower of Kyloe, conspicuous for long distances, and 
greatly appreciated by sailors as a landmark. The 
village is not perhaps famous, but certainly notable 
for a former vicar, who apparently aspired to writing a 
personal history of his parish as well as keeping 
a merely formal set of registers. Scattered through 
his official records are some very curious notes, among 
them : " 1696. Buried, Dec. 7, Henry, the son of 
Henry Watson of Fenwick, who lived to the age 
of 36 years, and was so great a fool that he could 
never put on his own close, nor never went a J mile 
off ye house in all this space." 

The road at this point was the scene of Grizel 
Cochrane's famous exploit, in 1685, when at night-fall, 
disguised as a man, and mounted on horseback, 
she waylaid the mail rider, and, holding a pistol to 
his head, robbed him of the warrant he was carrying 
for the execution of her father, Sir John Cochrane, 
taken in rebellion against James the Second. By this 
means she obtained a fortnight's respite, a delay 
which was used by his friends to secure his pardon. 



192 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



Grizel Cochrane has, of course, been ever since the 
heroine of Border song. A clump of trees on a hillock, 
surrounded by a wall, to the right of the road, long bore 
the name of " Grizzy's Clump," but it has recently been 
felled and so much of the landmark destroyed. The 
country folk, possessed of the most invincible ignorance 




BAMBROUGH CASTLE. 

of the subject, know the place only as " Bambrough 
Hill," a title they have given it because from the 
summit an excellent view of Bambrough Castle is 
gained. 

The plantations of Haggertson Castle now begin to 
cover the land sloping down toward the sea, and, after 
passing a deserted building on the left, once a coaching 
inn, the park surrounding the odd-looking modern 
castellated residence is reached. Here, by the entrance 
to the house, the road goes off at an acute angle to the 
left, and, continuing thus for a quarter of a mile, 
turns as sharply to the right. An old manorial pigeon- 
house, still with a vane bearing the initials C.L.H., 
stands by the way, and bears witness to the ownership 



THE SQUIRES 193 

of the estate in other times by the old Haggerston 
family. It was to Sir Carnaby Haggerston that those 
initials belonged, the late eighteenth-century squire 
who destroyed the old Border tower of Haggerston 
Castle, and built a new mansion in its stead, just as so 
many of his contemporaries did. 

Sir Carnaby Haggerston does not appear apart 
from this vandal act of his to have been an especially 
Wicked Squire, although his devastating name launched 
him upon the world ear-marked for commission of all 
the crimes practised by the libertine landowners who 
made so brave a show in a certain class of literature and 
melodrama once popular. His name strikes the ear 
even more dramatically than that of Sir Rupert 
Murgatroyd, the accursed Baronet of Ruddigore in 
Mr. W. S. Gilbert's comic opera, but he never lived up 
to its possibilities. The only things he seems to have 
had in common with the typical squire of old seem to 
have been a love of port and whist, and a passion for 
building houses too large for his needs or means. 

The Wicked Squire who unwillingly sat to the 
novelists who used to write in the pages of Reynolds' 1 
Miscellany and journals of that stamp fifty years ago, 
as the high-born villain of their gory romances, may be 
regretted, because without him the pages of the penny 
novelist are become extremely tame ; but his dis- 
appearance need not be mourned for any other reasons. 

It is to him we owe the many supposedly " classical " 
mansions that, huge and shapeless, like so many 
factories, reformatories, or workhouses, affront the 
green sward, the beautiful gardens, and the noble trees 
of many English parks. To build vast mansions of 
this " palatial " character, the squires often pulled 
down middle-Tudor or Elizabethan, or even earlier 
manor-houses of exquisite beauty, vying with one 
another in the size and extravagance of the new 
buildings, whose original cost and subsequent main- 
tenance have during the past hundred and fifty years 
kept many county families in straitened circumstances, 
and do so still. There was a squire who pulled down a 



194 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

whole series of mediaeval wayside crosses in his district, 
and used the materials as building-stones toward the 
great mansion he was erecting for the purpose of 
outshining a neighbour. Those transcendent squires, 
the noblemen of old, had larger opportunities and made 
the worst use of them. The Duke of Buckingham, 
for example, bought a property, demolished the 
Elizabethan hall that stood on it, and built Stowe there 
in its place ; a building of vast range and classic 
elevation with colonnades and porticoes, and " windows 
that exclude the light and lead to nothing," as some one 
has very happily remarked. Sir Francis Dashwood, 
that hero of the Hell Fire Club, pulled down West 
Wycombe church and built the existing building, that 
looks like a Lancashire cotton-mill, and every one built 
houses a great deal larger than were wanted or they 
could afford ; which, like the Earl of Leicester's seat at 
Holkham were so little like homes that they could 
neither live in their stately apartments nor sleep in 
their vast bedrooms. Like the Earl and Countess of 
Leicester, who were compelled for comfort's sake to 
sleep in one of the servants' bedrooms in the attics, 
they lived as settlers in corners of their cavernous 
and uncomfortable palaces. 

Pity the poor descendant of the Squires ! He 
cannot afford in these days to keep up his huge house ; 
to pull it down would in itself cost a fortune ; and its 
very size frightens the clients of the house-agent in 
whose hands he has had it for letting, these years past. 
All over England this is seen, and the old Yorkshire 
tale would stand true of any other county and of many 
other county magnates of that time. The Marquis of 
Rockingham, according to that story, built a mansion 
at Wentworth big enough for the Prince of Wales ; 
Sir Rowland Winn built one at Nostel Priory fit for the 
Marquis of Rockingham ; and Mr. Wrightson of 
Cusworth built a house fit for Sir Rowland Winn. 
No doubt the farmers carried on the tale of extrava- 
gance down to their stratum of society, and so ad 
infinitum. 



HAGGERSTON 195 

But to return to Haggerston Castle, which now 
belongs to the Leylands. Conspicuous for some 
distance is the tower built of recent years to at one 
and the same time resemble a mediaeval keep and to 
serve a practical purpose as a water-tower, engine- 
room, and look-out. The place, however, is remarkable 
for quite other things than its mock castle, for in the 
beautiful park are kept in pens, or roaming about 
freely, herds of foreign animals which make of it a 
miniature Zoological Gardens. It is, in a sense, 
superior indeed to that well-known place, for if the 
collections do not cover so wide a range, the animals 
are in a state of nature. Emus, Indian cattle, 
kangaroos, and many varieties of wild buck roam 
this " paradise," together with a thriving herd of 
American bison. The bison is almost extinct, even 
in his native country, but here he flourishes exceedingly 
and perpetuates his kind. A bison bull is a startling 
object, come upon unawares, and looks like the 
production of a lunatic artist chosen to illustrate, say, 
the Jabberwock in Alice in Wonderland. He is all out 
of drawing, with huge shaggy forelegs, and head and 
shoulders a size too large for the rest of his body ; 
an eye like a live coal, tufted coat, like a worn-out 
door-mat, and uncomfortable-looking horns : the 
kind of creature that inhabits Nightmare Country, 
popularly supposed to be bred of indigestion and 
lobster mayonnaise. 



XXIX 

BEYOND Haggerston, and up along the rising road 
that leads for six of the seven miles to Berwick, the 
journey is unexpectedly commonplace. The road has 
by this time turned away from the sea, and when it 
has led us through an entirely charming tunnel-like 
avenue of dwarf oaks, ceases to be interesting. 
Always upwards, it passes collieries, the " Cat " inn, 
and the hamlet of Richardson's Stead or Scremerston, 



196 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

whence, arrived at the summit of Scremerston Hill, 
the way down into Tweedmouth and across the Tweed 
into Berwick is clear. 

Tweedmouth sits upon the hither shore of Tweed, 
clad in grime and clinkers. Like a mudlark dabbling 
in the water but not cleansing himself in it, Tweed- 
mouth seems to acquire no inconsiderable portion of 
its dirt from its foreshore. Engineering works and 
coal-shoots are responsible for the rest. Little or 
nothing of antiquity enlivens its mean street that leads 
down to the old bridge and so across the Tweed into 
Scotland. The roofs of Berwick, clustered close 
together and scaling one over the other as the town 
ascends the opposite shore of the river, are seen, with 
the spired Town Hall dominating all at the further 
end of the long, narrow, hump-backed old structure, 
and away to the left that fine viaduct of the North 
Eastern Railway, the Royal Border Bridge. But the 
finest view, and the most educational in local topo- 
graphy, is that gained by exploring the southern 
shore of the Tweed for half a mile in an easterly 
direction. An unlovely waterside road, it is true, a 
maze of railway arches spanning it, and shabby 
houses hiding all but the merest glimpses of Tweed- 
mouth church and its gilded salmon vane, referring 
to the salmon-fishery of the Tweed, but leading to a 
point of view whence the outlook to the north-west 
is really grand. There, across the broad estuary of 
the Tweed, lies Berwick, behind its quays and its 
enclosing defences. Across the river, in the middle 
distance, goes Berwick Bridge, its massive piers and 
arches looking as though carved out of the rock, 
rather than built up of single stones. Beyond it, in 
majestic array, go the tall arches of the Royal Border 
Bridge, and, in the background, are the Scottish hills. 
Tweedmouth, its timber jetty, its docks, and church 
spire, and its waterside lumber are in the forefront. 
This, then, is the situation of Berwick, for centuries 
the best-picked bone of contention between the rival 
countries of England and Scotland ; the Border 



198 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

cockpit, geographically in the northern kingdom, but 
wrested from it by the masterful English seven hundred 
and fifty years ago, and taken and re-taken by or from 
stubborn Scots on a round dozen of occasions after- 
wards. Sieges, assaults, stormings, massacres under 
every condition of atrocity ; these are the merest 
commonplaces of Berwick's story, until the mid- 
sixteenth century ; and the historian who would write 
of its more unusual aspects must needs turn attention 
to the rare and short-lived interludes of peace. 

It was in 1550, during the short reign of Edward 
the Sixth, that the existing fortifications enclosing the 
town were begun, whose river-fronting walls are so 
conspicuous from Tweedmouth. The old bridge, built 
by James the First, was the first peaceful enterprise 
between the two kingdoms, for, although Berwick had 
for over a century been recognised as a neutral or 
" buffer " state, peace went armed for fear of accidents, 
and easy communication across the Tweed was not 
encouraged. There is food for reflection in comparison 
between that bridge and the infinitely greater work of 
the railway viaduct. The first, 1,164 feet in length, 
with only 17 feet breadth between the parapets, 
bridging the river with fifteen arches, cost 17,000, 
and took twenty-four years to build ; the railway 
bridge of twenty-eight giant arches, each of 61 i feet 
span, and straddling the Tweed at a height of 129 feet, 
was built in three years, at a cost of 120,000. The 
" Royal Border Bridge," as it was christened at its 
opening by the Queen, has precisely the appearance 
of a Roman aqueduct and belongs to the Stone and 
Brick Age of railways. Were it to do over again, 
there can be no doubt that, instead of a long array of 
graceful arches, half a dozen lengths of steel lattice 
girders would span the tide. It was at a huge cost 
that England and Scotland were thus joined by rail ; 
bridge and approaches swallowing up the sum of 
253,000. The first passenger train crossed over, 
October 15, 1848, but the works were not finally 
completed until 1850. In the August of that year the 



BERWICK 199 

Queen formally opened it, nearly two years after it was 
actually opened ; a fine object-lesson for satirists. 
How we laugh at ceremonials less absurd than this 
when they take place in China and Japan. 

Berwick town is seen, on entering its streets, to 
be unexpectedly modern and matter-of-fact. The 
classically steepled building that bulks commandingly 
in the main thoroughfare and looks like a church is the 
Town Hall, and displays the arms of Berwick pro- 
minently, the municipal escutcheon supported on either 
side by a sculptured bear sitting on his rump and 
surrounded by trees. It is thus that one of the 
disputed derivations of Berwick's name is alluded to. 
At few towns has the origin of a place-name been so 
contested as at Berwick ; and, for all the pother about 
it, the question is still, and must remain, unanswered. 
It might as reasonably have come from aberwic, the 
mouth of a river, as from bergwic, the hillside village, 
and much more reasonably than from the fanciful 
"bar" prefix alluding to the bareness of the country ; 
while of course the legend that gives the lie to that last 
variant, and seeks an origin in imaginary bears 
populating mythical woods, is merely infantile. 

The church-like Town Hall, which is also a market- 
house and the town gaol, does indeed perform one of 
the functions of a church, for the ugly Puritan parish 
church of the town has no tower, and so the steeple of 
the Town Hall rings for it. 

In the broad High Street running northward from 
this commanding building are all the prominent inns 
of the town, to and from which the coaches came 
and went until the opening of the Edinburgh and 
Berwick Railway in 1846. Some of the short stages 
appear to have been misery-boxes, according to Dean 
Ramsay, who used to tell an amusing anecdote of 
one of them. On one occasion a fellow-traveller at 
Berwick complained of the rivulets of rain-water 
falling down his neck from the cracked roof. He 
drew the coachman's attention to it on the first 
opportunity, but all the answer he got was the matter- 



200 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

of-fact remark, " Ay, mony a ane has complained 
o' that hole." 

The mail-coaches leaving Berwick on their journey 
north were allowed to take an extra a fourth outside 
passenger. Mail-coaches running in England were, 
until 1834, strictly limited to four inside and three 
outside. Of these last, one sat on the box, beside the 
coachman, while the other two were seated immediately 
behind, on the fore part of the roof, with their backs 
to the guard. This was a rule originally very strictly 
enforced, and had its origin in the fear that, if more 
were allowed, it would be an easy matter for 
desperadoes to occupy the seats as passengers and to 
suddenly overpower both coachman and guard. The 
guard in his solitary perch at the back, with his sword- 
case and blunderbuss ready to hand, could have shot 
or slashed at those in front, on his observing any 
suspicious movement, and it is somewhat surprising 
that no nervous guard ever did wound some innocent 
passenger who may have turned round to ask him a 
question. The concession of an extra seat on the 
outside of coaches entering Scotland was granted to 
the mail-contractors in view of the more widely 
scattered population of Scotland, and of the com- 
parative scarcity of chance passengers on the way. 

But there is very great uncertainty as to the number 
of passengers allowed on the mails in later years. 
Moses Nobbs, one of the last of the old mail-guards, 
states that no fewer than eight passengers were 
allowed outside at the end of the coaching age. 
Doubtless this was owing both to the complaints of 
the contractors that with the smaller complement they 
could not make the business pay, and to the growing 
security of the roads. 

Royal proclamations used, until recent times, to 
specifically mention " our town of Berwick-upon- 
Tweed " when promulgating decrees, for as by treaty 
an independent State, neither in England nor Scotland, 
laws and ordinances affecting Great Britain and 
Ireland could not legally be said to have been extended 



THE RAMPARTS 201 

to Berwick without the especial mention of " our 
town." A state whose boundaries north and south 
were Lamberton Toll and the Tweed, a distance of 
not more than four miles, with a corresponding extent 
from east to west, it was thus on a par with many a 
petty German principality. Nearly three-quarters of 
the land comprised within " Berwick Bounds " is the 
property of the Corporation, having been granted by 
James the First when, overjoyed at his good fortune 
in succeeding to the English crown and thus uniting 
those of the two countries, he entered upon his heritage. 
Lucky Berwick ! Its freehold property brings in a 
revenue of 18,000 a year, in relief of rates. 

If the streets of Berwick are disappointing in so 
historic a place, then let the pilgrim make the circuit 
of the town on the ramparts. These, at least, tell of 
martial times, as also do the fragmentary towers of the 
old castle, the few poor relics left of that stronghold 
by the modern railway station overhanging a deep cleft. 
Then, away in advance of the ramparts, still thrusting 
its tubby, telescopic, three-storied form forward, is the 
old Bell Tower, where, in this advanced post, the 
vigilant garrison kept eyes upon the north, whence 
sudden Scottish raids might be developed at any time. 

Grass covers the ramparts and sprouts in tufts upon 
the gun-platforms contrived in early Victorian days 
upon them, and almost every variety of obsolete cannon, 
short of the demi-culverins with which Drake searched 
the Spanish Main, go to make up what Heaven 
help them and us ! War Office officials call batteries. 
Guns bristle thickly upon the waterside batteries 
overlooking the harbour, but not one of them is 
modern. All are muzzle-loading pieces, fit for an 
artillerist's museum, and their carriages where they 
are mounted at all are in bewildering variety, 
principally, however, of rotting wood. The most 
recent piece, an Armstrong gun not less than fifty 
years old, lies derelict in the long grass, and children 
amuse themselves by filling its hungry-looking maw 
with clods. Pot-bellied like all the_old Armstrongs, 



202 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

it has a look as though it had grown fat and lazy with 
that diet and lain down in the long grass to sleep. 
Perhaps to guard its slumbers, a War Office notice 
beside the prostrate gun vainly forbids trespassing ! 

Down in a ditch of the fortifications a soldier in his 
shirt sleeves, his braces dangling about his legs, is 
tending early peas with all the tenderness of a mother 
for an invalid child ; for, look you, early peas in these 
latitudes have a hard fight for it ; and the fight of those 
vegetables for existence against the nipping blasts that 
sweep from off the North Sea is the only sign of warfare 
the place has to show. Taken as a whole, and looked at 
whichever way you will, the " defences " of Berwick- 
upon-Tweed show a trustfulness in Providence and in 
the astounding luck of the British Empire which argues 
much for the piety or the folly of our rulers. And so, 
with the varied reflections these things call forth, let us 
away up the High Street, and, passing under the 
archway of the Scotch Gate, spanning its northern 
extremity, leave Berwick on the way to Scotland. 



XXX 

" SEEING Scotland, Madam," said Dr. Johnson, in 
answer to Mrs. Thrale's expressed wish to visit that 
country, " is only seeing a worse England. It is 
seeing the flower gradually fade away to the naked 
stalk." This bitter saying of the Doctor's comes 
vividly to mind when leaving Berwick on the way to 
Edinburgh. Passing the outskirts of the town at a 
point marked on the Ordnance map with the 
unexplained name of " Conundrum," the country 
grows bare and treeless on approaching the sea, and 
at Lamberton Toll, three miles north, where " Berwick 
Bounds " are reached and Scotland entered, the scene 
is desolate in the extreme. The cottage to the left of 
the road at this point, formerly the toll-house of the 
turnpike-gate that stood here, is a famous place, 



SCOTS LAW 



203 



rivalling Gretna Green for the runaway matches, 
legalised at the gate until 1856, when changes in the 
law rendered a part of the once-familiar notice in the 
window out-of-date. It ran, " Ginger-beer sold here, 
and marriages performed on the most reasonable 
terms " ; an announcement which for combination of 
the trivial and the tremendous it would be difficult 
to beat. 

Geographically in Scotland when across the Tweed, 
we are not politically in that country until past this 




LAMBERTOX TOLL. 

cottage. Then indeed we are, in many ways, in a 
foreign country. 

Scots law is a fearful and wonderful variant from 
English. Even its terminology is strange to the English 
ear, which finds hey, presto ! on passing Berwick 
Bounds, a barrister changed into an " advocate," 
a solicitor converted into a " Writer to the Signet," 
and a prosecutor masquerading under the thrilling and 
descriptive alias of " pursuer." It was the laxity of 
Scots law that made, not only Gretna Green, but any 
other place over the Border from England, a resort 
of those about to marry and impatient of constraints, 
legal or family, at any period between 1753 and 1856. 
Gretna Green and its neighbour, Springfield, in especial, 
and in no small degree Lamberton Toll, were the scenes 
of much hasty marrying during that space of time. 
Marrying, bien entendu, and not giving in marriage, for 



204 

these were runaway matches, and those whose position 
it was to give, and who withheld their consent, 
generally came posting up to the toll-gate in pursuit 
just in time to hear the last words of the simple but 
effective ritual of the toll-keeper who had witnessed the 
declaration of the truants that, " This is my wife," and 
" This is my husband," a simple form of words which, 
uttered in the presence of a witness, was all that the 
beneficent legal system of Scotland required as marriage 
ceremony. This form completed, and for satisfaction's 
sake a rough register subscribed, the indignant parent, 
who possibly had been battering on the outside of the 
door, was admitted and introduced to his son-in-law. 

It was a century of licence (not marriage licence), that 
prevailed on the Border from the passing of Lord 
Hardwicke's Clandestine Marriage Act in 1753 until 
that of Lord Brougham in 1856, which put a stop to 
this " over the Border " marrying by rendering 
unions illegal on the part of those not domiciled in 
Scotland, which had not been preceded by a residence 
in that kingdom of not less than twenty-one days by 
one or other of the contracting parties. 

There was no special virtue in the first place across 
the Border-line at any point, nor did it matter who 
" officiated," the person who " performed the cere- 
mony " being only a witness and in no sense a 
clergyman ; but it was obviously, with these legal 
facilities, the prime object of runaway couples pressed 
for time, and with hurrying parents and guardians 
after them, to seize their opportunity at the first place, 
and at the hands of the first person in that liberal 
minded land. Not that the Kirk looked benevolently 
upon this. It fined them, for discipline's sake, and the 
happy couples cheerfully paid, for by doing so they 
acquired the last touch of validity, which, on the face 
of it, could not be called into dispute. 

One of this long line of Hymen's secular priesthood 
at Lamberton Toll had, early in the nineteenth century, 
an unhappy time of it, owing to an error of judgment 
and an ignorance of the law scarcely credible. Joseph 



HALIDON HILL 207 

Atkinson, the toll-keeper, was away one day at 
Berwick when a runaway pair arrived at the gate. 
His wife, or another, sent them after him, and in 
Berwick the ceremony, such as it was, was performed. 
Now Berwick is a county of itself, and the inhabitants 
boast, or used to, that their town belongs to neither 
England nor Scotland. It is hinted (by those who do 
not belong to Berwick) that it belongs instead to the 
devil, which possibly is a reminiscence of the townsfolk's 
smuggling days, on the part of those who duly render 
unto Caesar. This by the way. Unhappily for 
Mr. Joseph Atkinson, Berwick owes allegiance to 
English law, as he found when his ceremony was 
declared null and void, and he was duly sentenced to 
seven years transportation for having contravened the 
Marriage Act of 1753. 

Halidon Hill, where the English avenged Bannock- 
burn upon the Scots in 1333, is on the crest of the 
upland to the west of Lamberton Toll. Now the road 
runs upon the edge of the black cliffs that plunge down 
into the North Sea, commanding bold views of a stern 
and iron-bound coast. Horses, coachmen, guards, and 
passengers alike quailed before the storms that swept 
these exposed miles, and even the highwaymen sought 
other and more sheltered spots. Macready, on tour 
in the north, was snowed up here, in the severe winter 
of 1813-14. Coming south through the deep and still 
falling snow, he travelled in a cutting made in the drifts 
for miles between Ross Inn and Berwick-on-Tweed. 
" We did not reach Newcastle," he says, " until nearly 
two hours after midnight : and fortunate was it for the 
theatre and ourselves that we had not delayed our 
journey, for the next day the mails were stopped ; nor 
for more than six weeks was there any conveyance by 
carriage between Edinburgh and Newcastle. After 
some weeks, a passage was cut through the snow for 
the guards to carry the mails on horseback, but for a 
length of time the communications every way were very 
irregular." 

Where the little Flemington Inn stands solitary at 



208 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

a fork of the road, close by a tremendous gap in the 
cliffs, is placed Burnmouth station, on the main 
line, wedged in a scanty foothold, hundreds of feet 
above the sea. Day or night it is a picturesque place, 
but more especially in the afterglow of sunset, when the 
inky blackness of the rift in the cliffs can still be set off 
against the gleam of the sea, caught in a notch of the 
rocks, and when the lighted signal-lamps of the little 
junction glow redly against the sky on their tall masts, 
like demon eyes. A fishlike, if not an ancient, smell 
lingers here, for Burnmouth station is constantly in 
receipt of the catches made down below by the hardy 
fishers of the three hamlets of Burnmouth, Partinghal, 
and Ross, queer fishing villages of white- washed stone 
cottages that line the rocky shore unsuspected by 
ninety-nine among every hundred travellers along the 
road above. Herrings caught in the North Sea are 
cured here, packed in barrels, and sent by rail to 
distant markets. 

Ayton, two miles onward, away from the sea, is 
entered in perplexing fashion, downhill and by a sharp 
turn to the right over a bridge spanning the Eye Water, 
instead of continuing straight ahead along a road that 
makes spacious pretence of being the proper way. 
Ayton itself, beyond being a large village, with a modern 
castellated residence in the Scottish baronial style and 
vivid red sandstone at its entrance, is not remarkable. 

Leaving Ayton, the road enters a secluded valley 
whose solitudes of woodland, water, and meadows 
are not imperilled, but only intensified, by the railway, 
which goes unobtrusively within hail of this old 
coaching highway. On the right rise the gently 
swelling sides of a range of hills sloping upwards 
from the very margin of the road and covered with 
woods of dwarf oak, through whose branches the 
sunlight filters and lies on the ferns below in twinkling 
patches of gold. Here stood the old Houndwood Inn, 
and the building yet remains, converted good w r ord in 
such a connection into a manse for the Free Church 
near by, itself a building calculated to make angels 



GRANT'S HOUSE 209 

weep ; if angels have appreciations in architecture. 
Another, and a humbler, building carries on the 
licensed victualling trade, and calls itself, prettily 
enough, the " Greenwood Inn." It is, in fact, a stretch 
of country that makes for inspiration in the rustic sort. 
If there were a sign of the " Robin Hood " here we 
should acclaim it romantic and appropriate, even 
though tradition tells not of that mythical outlaw in 
these marches. If not Robin, then some other 
chivalric outlaw surely should have pervaded the glades 
of Hound wood, open as they are, with never a fence, 
a hedge, or a ditch to the road, just as though these 
were still the fine free days of old, before barbed-wire 
fences were dreamed of, or notices to trespassers set up, 
threatening vague penalties to be enforced " with all 
the rigour of the law," as the phrase generally runs. 

It is a valley of whose delights one must needs 
chatter, although with but dim hopes of communicating 
much of its charm. Through it that little stream 
called by the medicinally sounding name, the Eye 
Water, wanders with a feminine hesitancy and 
inconstancy of purpose. It flows all ways by turns 
and never long in any direction, and with so many 
amazing loops and doublings, that it might well 
defy the precision of the Ordnance chartographers 
themselves. We bid farewell to this fickle stream at 
Grant's House, and scrape acquaintance with another, 
the Pease Burn, flowing in another direction. For 
Grant's House stands on the watershed which orders the 
going of several watercourses. It is also the summit 
level of this railway route to the North. Here, quite 
close to the road, is Grant's House station, and here, 
bordering the road itself, are the houses that form 
Grant's House itself. This sounds like speaking in 
paradox, but the place is a village, or rather a scattered 
collection of pretty cottages that have gathered around 
the one inn which was the home of the original Grant. 
The place-name seems to hint of other and less- 
travelled times, when these Borders were sparsely 
settled and wayfarers few ; when but one house served 



210 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

to take the edge off the solitude, and that an inn kept by 
one Grant. The imagination, thus uninstructed, 
weaves cocoons of speculation around these premises 
and conceives him to have been a host of abounding 
personality, thus to hand his name down to posterity, 
preserved in a place-name, like a fly in amber. But all 
speculations that start upon this innkeeping basis 
would be incorrect, for this sponsorial Grant was the 
contractor who made the road from Berwick to 
Edinburgh, building a cottage for himself in this then 
lonely spot, which only in later years became the 
Grant's House inn. 

More streams and woods beyond this point, and then 
comes the long and toilsome rise up to Cockburns- 
path, past Pease Burn, where the road takes a double 
S curve on the hillside, and other tall hills, to right 
and left and ahead, largely covered with firs and 
larches, seem to look on with a gloomy anticipation 
of some one, less cautious than his fellows, breaking 
his neck. Where there are no hillside woods there 
are grass meadows in which, if it be June or July, 
the haymakers can be seen from the road, haymaking, 
with attendant horses and carts, at a perilous angle. 
The Pease Burn, flowing deep down in its Dene, is 
spanned at a height of 127 feet, half a mile down 
stream, by a four-arched bridge, built in 1786. 



XXXI 

SET in midst of these steep and twisting roads and 
above these watery ravines is Cockburnspath Tower, 
a ruined Border castle of rust-red stone that frowns 
down upon the road on the edge of a tremendous 
gully. It was never more than a peel-tower, but 
strongly placed and solidly built, a fitting refuge for 
those who took part in the ups and downs of Border 
forays. In the days when Co 'path Tower (local 
pronunciation) was built, every one's house was more or 



THE REIVERS 211 

less a defensible building. " An Englishman's house 
is his castle " is a figurative expression commonly used 
to prefigure the inviolate character of the law-abiding 
citizen's domicile, but it might have been said literally 
of dwellers in these debateable lands. The more 
property he possessed, the stronger was the Border 
farmer's tower. When the moss-troopers and mediaeval 
scoundrels of every description were on the warpath, 
or merely out on a cattle-lifting expedition, these 
embattled agriculturists shut themselves up in their 
safe retreats. The lower floor, on a level with the 
ground, received the live stock ; the floor above, the 
servants ; and to the topmost story, as the safest 
situation, the family retired. The gate below was of 
iron, for your Border reiver was no squeamish sort, and 
would burn these domestic garrisons alive without 
hesitation. Therefore in the most approved type of 
fortress there was nothing inflammable. Sympathy, 
however, would be wasted on those old-time cultivators, 
for they all took a turn at armed cattle-lifting as 
occasion offered, and found the readiest way of stocking 
their farms with every requisite to be that of stealing 
what they required. 

For why ? Because the good old rule 

Sufflceth them : the simple plan 
That they should take who have the power, 

And they should keep who can. 

Short and sudden forays were characteristic of this kind 
of life. The Border cattle-lifter came and went in the 
twinkling of an eye, and drove the captured flocks and 
herds away with him at a rate no merely honest drover 
ever marshalled his sheep and heifers to market. 
There must have been many highly desirable, but 
inanimate and not easily portable, things which the 
raiders were obliged to leave behind, as one of this 
kidney regretted in casting a last glance at a hayrick he 
had no means of lifting. " Had ye but four feet, ye 
suld no stand lang there," said he, as he turned to go. 
The mouldering old tower here at Cockburnspath 
belonged to the Earls of Home. Beautifully situated 



212 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

for preying upon occasional travellers, the glen and 
the foaming torrent below have no doubt received the 
bodies of many a one who in the old days was rash 
enough to pass within sight of the old tower. The 
comparatively modern bridge that takes a flying leap 
across the ravine is the successor of an ancient one of 
narrower span that still, covered with moss and ferns, 
arches over the water, deep down in the hollow, and is 
popularly supposed to be the oldest bridge in Scotland. 
A dense tangle of red-berried rowan-trees, firs, and oaks 
overhangs the gorge. Altogether a place that calls 
insistently to be sketched and painted, but a place, 
from the military point of view, to be wary of ; being 
a position, as Cromwell in one of his despatches says, 
" where one man to hinder is better than twelve to 
make way." It was at the " strait pass at Coppers- 
path," as he calls it, that the great general, writing 
after the battle of Dunbar, found plenty to hinder. 

If ever general profited more by the mistakes of the 
enemy than by his own tactical ability, it was Cromwell 
at this juncture. The Scots under Leslie had cooped 
him up at Dunbar, and, surrounded by the enemy, 
who occupied the heights and closed every defile that 
led to a possible line of retreat, he must, diseased and 
famishing as were his forces, have capitulated, for the 
sea was at his back, and no help possible from that 
direction. It was then that Leslie made his disastrous 
move from the hills, and came down upon the English 
in the levels of Broxburn, to the south of Dunbar town, 
where Cromwell had his headquarters ; and it was then 
that Cromwell, seizing the moment when the enemy, 
coming down in a dense mass upon a circumscribed 
space by Broxburn Glen, retrieved the situation, and, 
directing a cavalry movement upon Leslie's forces, 
had the supreme relief of seeing them broken up and 
stamped into the earth by the furious charge of his 
horsemen. The fragments of the Scottish army, routed 
with a slaughter of three thousand, and ten thousand 
prisoners, fled, and Cromwell's contemplated retreat 
to Berwick was no longer a necessity. Indeed, the 



214 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

whole of the Lowlands of Scotland now lay open before 
him, and he entered Edinburgh with little opposition. 

It is a distance of nine miles between the village of 
Cockburnspath and Dunbar, the road going parallel 
with the sea all the way. First it goes dizzily over the 
profound rift of Dunglass Dene, spanned at a height 
of a hundred and twenty-five feet above the rocky bed 
of a mountain stream by the bold arch of the railway 
viaduct and by the road bridge itself. It is a scene of 
rare beauty, and the walk by the zigzagging path 
among the thickets and the trees, down to where the 
sea comes pounding furiously into a little cove, a 
quarter of a mile below, wholly charming. Away out 
to sea is the lowering bulk of the Bass Rock, a constant 
companion in the view approaching Dunbar. 

The direct road for Edinburgh avoids Dunbar 
altogether, forking to the left at Broxburn where 
the battlefield lay, where the burn still flows across 
the road as it did on the day of " Dunbar Drove," as 
Carlyle calls that dreadful rout. Here "the great 
road then as now crosses the Burn of Brock. . . . 
Yes, my travelling friends, vehiculating in gigs or 
otherwise over that piece of London road, you may 
say to yourselves, Here, without monument, is the 
grave of a valiant thing which was done under the 
Sun ; the footprint of a Hero, not yet quite undis- 
tinguishable, is here ! " 

Ahead, with its great red church on a hillock, still 
somewhat apart of the south end of the town, is Dunbar, 
the first characteristically Scottish place to which we 
come. It is not possible to compete with Carlyle's 
masterly word-picture of it, which presents the place 
before you with so marvellous a fidelity to its spirit and 
appearance : " The small town of Dunbar stands high 
and windy, looking down over its herring-boats, over 
its grim old castle, now much honeycombed, on one of 
those projecting rock-promontories with which that 
shore of the Firth of Forth is niched and vandyked as 
far as the eye can reach. A beautiful sea ; good land 
too, now that the plougher understands his trade ; 



DUNBAR 



215 



a grim niched barrier of whinstone sheltering it from the 
chafings and tumblings of the big blue German Ocean." 
There you have Dunbar. 

Let us add some few details to the master's fine 
broad handling ; such as the fact that its streets are 




THE TOLBOOTH, DUNBAR. 



wondrously cobble-stoned, that those whinsfeoneTrocks 
are red and give a dull, blood-like coloration to the 
scene, and that the curious old whitewashed Tolbooth 
in the High Street is the fullest exemplar of the 
Scottish architectural style. Windy it is, as Carlyle 



216 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

says, and with a rawness in its air that calls forth 
shivers from the Southron even in midsummer. 
Here the stranger new to Scotland is apt to see for the 
first time the sturdy fishwives and lasses who, still often 
with bare feet, go along the streets carrying prodigiously 
weighty baskets of fish on their backs, sometimes 
secured by a leather strap that goes from the basket 
around the head and forehead ! 

One leaves Dunbar by wriggly and exiguous streets, 
coming through the fisher villages of Belhaven and 
West Barns to where the main avoiding route rejoins at 
Beltonford. The Scottish Tyne winds through the 
flat meadows on the right at such fortunate times, 
that is to say, as when it does not pretend to be an 
inland sea and take the meadows, the road, and the 
railway for its province. The road, too, is flat, and the 
railway, which hugs it closely, the same. A good road, 
too, and beautiful. Midway of it, towards East Linton, 
are the farmsteads and ricks of Phantassie, at which 
spot Rennie, the engineer who built London Bridge, and 
heaven and Dr. Smiles alone know how many harbours, 
was born in 1761. " Phantassie " is a name that sorely 
piques one's curiosity, so odd is it ; but the group of 
farm-buildings is commonplace enough, if more than 
commonly substantial. No fantasy in their design, 
at any rate. 

At East Linton we cross the Tyne which, crawling 
through the meadows, plunges here in cascades under 
the road bridge, amid confused rocks. The railway 
crosses it too, close by, and spans the road beyond ; 
and the village huddles together at an angle of the way. 
A long ascent out of it commands wide views of 
agricultural Haddingtonshire, and of that surprising 
mountainous hill, Traprain Law, rising out of the plain 
to a height of over seven hundred feet. 

Not merely a surprising hill, but one with an 
astonishing story. It had always been thought that 
treasure was buried there, among the traces of ancient 
buildings ; and accordingly, with the the permission of 
Right Honourable A. J. Balfour, on whose land the 



TRAPRAIN LAW 217 

hill is situated, excavations were begun in 1919. 
It was found that the hill-to,) had been inhabited 
intermittently over remote periods, and diggings were 
made into successive strata of hearths and floorings. 
At first the " finds " were of minor articles : bronze 
ornaments, glass and pottery, fragments of iron, mostly 
of Celtic origin, but some Roman. The great discovery 
was made on May 12th, 1919, when a workman, driving 
a pick through a floor, brought up a silver bowl on the 
point of it. A deep recess was then discovered, filled 
with treasure : bowls, spoons, cups, saucers, and a 
miscellaneous collection of plate, mostly cut to pieces 
in strips folded over and hammered down into packets 
of silver. Although it was grievous to look upon that 
destruction, a good many of the fragments retained their 
original decoration. They appear to be partly of 
Romano-Christian origin, for the sacred symbol occurs 
among them, and on one piece is the inscription 
" Jesus Christus." Other pieces are almost as certainly 
pagan, bearing as they do figures of Pan and Hercules. 
Among them were four coins : the earliest of the 
Emperor Valerius, whose reign began A.D. 364, and the 
latest of Honorius, who died A.D. 463. A metal belt of 
Saxon character was among this treasure-trove. 

It appeared, therefore, that this hoard was a relic of 
one of the sea-rovers' raids on this coast in the fifth or 
sixth century, and that the spoils had in some cases 
come from plundered religious houses. The raiders 
were perhaps disturbed in their activities, and buried 
their loot in the expectation of returning for it at some 
more suitable time. 

But they never returned. What happened to them is 
a vain conjecture. They may have been found here and 
slain by some stronger force, and perhaps they were 
lost at sea. In any case, their hoard lay here for close 
upon one thousand five hundred years. What they 
had hoped to carry away is now an exhibit in the 
Scottish National Museum at Edinburgh. 

To the north-going cyclist the road presently makes 
ample amends for the mile-long rise, for, once topping it, 



218 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

a gentle but continuous descent of four miles leads into 
Haddington, down a road that for the most part could 
scarce be bettered, so excellent its surface, so straight 
its course, and so beautifully sylvan its surroundings. 
Hailes Castle is finely seen on the left during this 
descent, its ruined walls and ivy-covered towers 
wrapped three parts round with the thick woodlands 
that clothe the lower slopes of Traprain Law. Mary, 
Queen of Scots, and her evil spirit, the sinister Both well, 
had Hailes Castle for their bower of love, and Wishart 
the martyr had a cell in it for a prison, so that its 
present beauty of decay lacks nothing of historic 
interest. 

Nor does the fine mansion of Amisfield, through 
whose park-like lands the road now descends. Amisfield 
has lurid associations. Under the name of New Mills, 
it was in 1687 the scene of a dreadful parricide, and 
was at a later period purchased by the infamous 
Colonel Francis Charteris, who might aptly be termed 
(in Mr. Stead's phrase), the Minotaur of his day. It was 
he who renamed it after the home of his family in 
Nithsdale. As his exploits belong chiefly to London, 
we, fortunately, need not enlarge upon them here. 
The parricide already referred to was the murder of his 
father by Philip Standsfield. Sir James Standsfield 
had set up a cloth factory here, on the banks of the 
Tyne, and had done remarkably well. He had two 
sons, Philip and John. The eldest had been a scape- 
grace ever since that day when, as a student at St. 
Andrews, he had gone to a meeting-house and flung a 
loaf at the preacher. It took the astonished divine on 
the side of the head and aroused within him the spirit of 
prophecy. Addressing the crowded chapel at large 
(for the loaf had been thrown unseen from some dark 
corner), he saw in a vision the death of the culprit, at 
whose end there would be more present than were 
hearing him that day ; " and the multitude then 
present," adds the chronicler, " was not small." 

Philip had a short and ignominious military career 
on the Continent, and returned home to prey upon his 



HADDINGTON 219 

father ; who, for sufficient reasons, disinherited him in 
favour of his younger brother. In the end, aided by 
some servants, he strangled the old man and threw the 
body in the river. For this he was hanged at 
Edinburgh, and as the hanging was not effectual, the 
executioner had to finish by strangling him, in which 
public opinion of that time saw the neat handiwork of 
Providence. 



XXXII 

HERE begins Haddington, and here end good roads 
for the space of a mile ; and not until the burgh is left 
behind do they recommence. The traveller who might 
set out in quest of bad roads and vile paving would 
without difficulty discover the objects of his search at 
Haddington. He might conceivably find as bad 
elsewhere, but worse examples would be miraculous 
indeed. We have encountered many stretches of road, 
thus far, of a mediaeval quality, but the long road to the 
North boasts, or blushes for, nothing nearly so craggy 
as are the cobble-stoned thoroughfares of this " royal 
burgh." The entrance to the town from the south 
resembles, in its picturesque squalor, that to one of the 
decayed towns of Brittany. Unswept, tatterdemalion 
as it is, it still remains a fitting subject for the artist's 
pencil, for here beside the narrow street stands the 
rugged mass of Bothwell Castle, patched and clouted 
from time to time, but happily as yet unrestored. 
Over the lintels of old houses adjoining, still remain the 
pious invocations and quaint devices originally sculp- 
tured there for the purpose of averting the baleful 
glance of the Evil Eye. 

The initial letter in the name of Haddington is a 
superfluity and a misuse of the letter H, the name 
deriving from that of Ada, Countess of Northumberland 
and ancestress of Scottish monarchs ; foundress also 
of a nunnery here which has long gone the way of such 
mediaeval things. The Tyne borders this town, and 



220 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



sometimes floods it, as may be readily seen by an 
inscription on the wall of a house in High Street, 
which tells how the water on October 4, 1775, suddenly 
rose eight feet and three quarters. A curious legend, 
too, still survives, recording a flood in 1358, when a nun 
of the pious Ada's old foundation, seizing a statue of the 
Virgin out of its niche, waded into the torrent and 




BOTHWELL CASTLF. 

threatened to throw it in unless the Blessed Mary 
instantly caused the waters to subside. That they 
immediately did so appears to have been taken as 
evidence of the effective moral suasion thus applied. 

Haddington Abbey, the successor of earlier buildings, 
and now itself partly ruined, stands by the inconstant 
river, the nave, now the parish church, and the choir 
roofless, open to the sky. It is here within these grass- 
grown walls that " Jane Welsh Carlyle, spouse of 
Thomas Carlyle, Chelsea, London," lies, as the remorse- 
ful epitaph says, " suddenly snatched away from him, 
and the light of his life as if gone out." The spot where 
the Abbey stands, by the dishevelled and tumbledown 
quarter of Nungate, is the more abject now in that it 



THE "LAMP OF LOTHIAN 



221 



still possesses old mansions that tell of a more pros- 
perous past. Here, on the river-bank, neglected and 
forlorn like everything around, is the fine old screen of 
the Bowling Green, where no one has, for a century 
past, played bowls, unless indeed the wraiths of bygone 
Scottish notables haunt the spot o' nights and play 
ghostly games, like the Kaatskill gnomes in Rip Van 
\\ inkle. It is from the other side of the river that the 




HADDIXGTOX ABBEY, FROM NUXGATE. 

Abbey is best seen, its roofless central tower, the 
Lucernia Laudoniae, or " Lamp of Lothian," still 
showing those triple lancets in every face which, 
according to the legend, obtained for it that title. 
To obtain this view, the Abbey bridge is crossed, 
which even now vividly illustrates on its wall the ready 
way the old burgh had with malefactors. From it 
projects a great hook, rusty for long want of usage, 
from which were hanged the reivers, the horse-thieves, 
and casual evildoers, with jurisdiction of the most 
summary kind. No Calcraft science with it either, 
with neck broken in decent fashion, but just a hauling 
up of the rope and a tying of it to some handy stanchion, 
and the unhappy malefactor left to throttle by slow 
degrees. No other such picturesque hanging-place as 



222 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

this, but what is scenery to a criminal about to be 
hanged like a tom-cat caught killing chickens. 

The crest, arms, trade-mark or badge of Haddington 
is a goat. There is no doubt about that, for Billy 
(or is it a Nanny ?) has his (or her) effigy on many 
of the old buildings. Only by comparison and by 
slow degrees is it that the stranger arrives at the 
conclusion that it is a goat, for the drawing of many 
of these representations leaves much to be desired. 
Some resemble an elephant, others a horse, others yet 
what " the mind's eye, Horatio " might conceive a 
Boojum to be like ; but in the open space where 
High Street and Market Street join, the modern Market 
Cross, surmounted by a more carefully executed 
carving, determines the species. 

This is the centre of the town and neater than its 
entrance from the south. The steepled classic building 
close by is not a church but the Town House, mas- 
querading in ecclesiastical disguise, very much as 
Berwick's Town Hall does. From this point it is only 
seventeen miles into Edinburgh ; but in 1750 and for 
long after the coach journey employed the best efforts 
of the local stage during the whole day. Musselburgh, 
little more than eleven miles away, was reached in time 
for dinner, and only when evening was come did the 
lumbering vehicle lurch into its destination in Auld 
Reekie, when every one went to bed, bruised and weary 
with the toils of the expedition. The road at that time 
must have resembled the specimen of roadway still 
adorning the south entrance to Haddington. 

To-day, happily, it is in good condition as far as 
Levenhall, seven miles short of our journey's end, 
whence it is bad beyond the credibility of those who 
have not seen it. Gladsmuir, Macmerry, and Tranent 
are interposed between ; places that sink their memories 
of the battle of Prestonpans in ironfounding and coal- 
digging and suchlike, disregarding the futilities of the 
Stuarts. As for Macmerry, whose name prefigures 
orgies at the most of it, or sober revelry at the very 
least, it is odds against your finding as depressing a place 



224 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

within a hundred miles. If place-names were made 
to fit, why, then, Macdolour might suit it to a marvel. 
Why ? Just because it stands at the crest of a barren 
knowe ; an ugly row of cottages on either side, with 
cinders and dust, clinkers and mud in front of them, and 
some gaunt works within eyeshot. God knows who 
christened the place, or if the name signified 
merriment, but, if it did, either the scene has changed 
wholly since then, or else he was a humorist of the 
sardonic sort who so dubbed it. Tranent, too, a 
townlet subsisting upon collieries : how grimly 
commonplace ! But it at least has this advantage, that 
from its elevated foothold it looks down upon the 
Firth of Forth, that noble frith which Victor Hugo 
blundered over so whimsically in rendering it as 
" la Premiere de la Quatrieme." Seen under the 
summer sun, how glorious that seaward view, with the 
villages of Preston and Cockenzie, half hidden by their 
woodlands, by the level shores. Half-way down from 
Tranent's hillside you see a fine panorama : Arthur's 
Seat in front, Calton Hill and its Nelson's column, 
peering from behind, and the distant shores of Fife, 
with blowing smoke-clouds, many miles away. Between 
Arthur's Seat and the Calton, Edinburgh is hid, nine 
miles from this point. Down in the levels in the 
mid-distance there are hints of Musselburgh in smoke- 
wreaths and peeping towers ; and mayhap, while you 
gaze, the southward-bound train, with its white puff 
of steam, is seen setting forth on its long journey. 
London wards. In these levels was fought the battle 
of Prestonpans, Sunday, September 21, 1745, around 
that village of Preston and those briny meads where the 
salt-pans used to be and are no longer. 

Preston formerly Priest's Town got its name at 
the time when it was part of the celebrated Abbey of 
Newbattle. The monks of that religious house were 
the first discoverers of coal in Scotland, and also, in the 
twelfth century, made this district the seat of a manu- 
facture of salt. Prestonpans, indeed, at one time 
supplied the whole of the East Coast with salt, and it 



PRESTONPANS 225 

was only on the repeal of the Salt Duty that this old 
town fell into decay. Women, known as salt-wives, 
a class almost as picturesque as the fish- wives 
of Newhaven, used to carry the salt in creels 
on their backs, to sell in Edinburgh and other 
towns. 

In an orchard stands what was once the ancient 
village cross, erected in 1617, in place of an earlier. 
Well-known as the " Chapmen's Cross," it was the 
meeting-place of the chapmen, packmen, or pedlars of 
the Lothians. They gathered early in July, transacted 
the business of their guild and elected their " King " 
and his " Lord Deputy " for the ensuing year. The 
" ink-bottle," cut in stone, into which they dipped their 
pens, is still visible on the base of the cross. The 
Bannatyne Club saved it from utter destruction, and 
instituted a convivial guild, the " Society of Chapmen 
of the Lothians," visiting the cross every year, with 
Sir Walter Scott as one of their members. 

The world has vastly changed since " the Forty- 
five." It has, as a small detail, ceased to produce its 
salt by evaporation of sea water ; and, a larger and 
more significant matter, no longer wages war for sake 
of dynasties. The Highlanders who fought and gained 
this fleeting victory for Prince Charlie were the last who 
drew the sword for Romance and Right Divine. Prince 
Charlie had moved out of his loyal Edinburgh at the 
approach of the English under Sir John Cope, who, of 
course, in that fine foolish manner of British officers, 
which will survive as long as the officers themselves, 
wholly underrated his enemy. He was defeated easily, 
with every circumstance of indignity, his soldiers 
fleeing in abject terror before the impetuous charge of 
the ferocious hairy-legged Highlanders, emerging, 
figures of grotesque horror, out of the mists slowly 
dispersing off the swampy fields in the laggard Septem- 
ber sunrise. 

The English numbered 2100 against the 1400 under 
Prince Charlie ; but only four minutes passed between 
the attack and the flight. In that short space of time 



223 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

the field was deserted and the clansmen, pursuing the 
terror-stricken rabble which just before had been a 
disciplined force, slew nearly four hundred of them. 
The total loss of the Highlanders in slain was thirty, 
nearly the whole of them falling in the first discharge of 
musketry. Almost incredible, but well-authenticated, 
stories are told of the cowardice of Cope's regiments. 
Cope himself was swept away in the wild rush, vainly 
endeavouring to stem it, and it was not until they were 
two miles from the field, at St. Clement's Wells, that he 
could bring them to a halt. Even then, the accidental 
discharge of a pistol scared them off again, and although 
no one pursued, they rode off with redoubled energy. 
This precipitate retreat of mounted troops over miles 
of country, from an unmounted enemy who were not 
pursuing them, is perhaps the most disgraceful incident 
in the military history of the country. 

The flying infantry were in far worse case. In 
endeavouring to escape by climbing the park walls of 
Preston, they were cut down in great numbers by the 
terrible broadswords of the Highlanders. Colonel 
Gardiner and a brave few were cut down defending 
themselves on the field of battle. One story, of a piece 
with many others, relates how a Highlander, pursuing 
alone a party of ten soldiers, struck down the hinder- 
most with his sword, and shouting, " Down with your 
arms ! " called upon the others to surrender. They 
threw their weapons away without looking behind them, 
and the Highlander, his sword in one hand and a 
pistol in the other, drove them nine of them ! 
prisoners into camp. Everywhere Cope, so helter- 
skelter was his flight, himself brought the first news of 
his defeat. He reached Coldstream that night, and 
did not rest until the next day he was within the 
sheltering fortifications of Berwick. 

We will^not further pursue the fortunes of the 
Young Pretender, but hurry on into Levenhall. 

Where that battle was fought, there is to-day the 
most extensive cabbage-plant cultivation in Scotland. 
It is a usual thing in the early part of the year for 



MUSSELBURGH 227 

almost daily special cabbage trains to be despatched to 
all parts of Britain. 

And so downhill, and then over the awful cobbles into 
the accursed town of Musselburgh. " Accursed," not 
by reason of those self-same cobbles, but for the 
sacrilegious doings of its magistrates who rebuilt their 
Tolbooth, burnt after the battle of Pinkie, with stones 
from the Chapel of Loretto. Now that chapel, which 
stood at the entrance to the town, was the place of 
business of one of those roadside hermits of whom we 
have in these pages heard so much (would that he had a 
successor in these times, for then the road would 
perhaps be in better condition), and the Pope, indignant 
at the injury done to the wayside shrine, solemnly 
anathematised town and inhabitants in sleeping or 
waking, eating and drinking, at every conceivable time 
and every imaginable function. No Pope since that 
period seems to have removed the curse, and no one is 
particularly anxious that it should be removed, 
Musselburgh being rather proud of it than otherwise. 
When it begins to take effect will be quite time enough. 
There were those who at the close of the coaching days 
perceived the beginning of it, although then three 
hundred years overdue, but as the town has rather 
increased in prosperity since that period, the time 
evidently is not yet. Nor do the burghers anticipate 
it, for they still repeat the brave old rhyme : 

Mussetburgh was a burgh 

When Edinburgh was nane ; 
And Musselburgh shall be a burgh 

When Edinburgh is gane. 

This, however, is a quibble, for Musselburgh derived 
its name from the " broch," or bed, of mussels at the 
mouth of the river Esk. Looked at in this light, the 
statement is true enough and the prophecy a not 
particularly rash one. The sponsorial shell-fish have 
an honoured place in the town arms, in which three 
mussels are seen in company with three anchors : the 
motto " Honesty " writ large below. This was 



228 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



probably adopted at some period later than the 
purloining of the stones of the Loretto Chapel. 

The Town Hall, with that tower whose building 
brought about the curse, forms the centre of Mussel- 
burgh, a fishy, stony, picturesque place with four 
bridges over the Esk, leading to the western bank, 




MUSSELBURGH. 

where the fisher quarter of Fisherrow straggles towards 
Joppa, two miles distant. Joppa Pans are gone now, 
just as those other pans at Preston, but factories of 
sorts, with clustered chimney-stacks, are still grouped 
about the melancholy sea-shore, where gales set the 
very high-road awash on occasion. Not vulgar, 
modern factories, but of a certain age ; old enough and 
grim enough to look like the scene of some thrilling 
story that yet awaits the telling. Somewhat thrilling 
is the report as to the condition of the road here in 1680, 
a complaint laid before the Privy Council stating that, 
four miles on the London side of Edinburgh, travelling 
was dangerous, and travellers to be pitied, " either by 
their coaches overturning, their horses falling, their 
carts breaking, their loads casting, or horses stumbling, 
and the poor people with burdens on their backs sorely 
discouraged ; moreover, strangers do often exclaim 
thereat." All this reads with a very modern touch to 



PORTOBELLO 229 

those who know the road to-day, for it is as bad now as it 
could have been then, and so continues, in different 
kinds of badness, through adjoining Portobello into 
Edinburgh itself. Here seas of slimy mud, there 
precipitous setts, here again profound holes in the 
macadam, or tramway rails projecting above the road 
level, make these last miles wretched. Portobello, 
that suburban seaside resort of Edinburgh, fares in 
this respect no better than the rest of the way, and the 
original road across Figgate Whins, the lonely moor 
that was here before the first house of Portobello was 
built, could have been no worse. That house was the 
creation of a retired sailor who had been at the capture 
of Portobello in Central America by Admiral Vernon in 
1739. He named it after that town, and when the 
present seaside resort began to spring up, it took the 
title. Now it has a promenade, a pier, hotels, and 
crowds of visitors in summer upon the sands, and calls 
itself " the Brighton of Scotland." Observe that 
Brighton does not return the compliment, and has not 
yet begun to style itself " the Portobello of England." 



XXXIII 

LEAVING the " Brighton of Scotland " behind, we 
come to the flat lands of Craigentinny, stretching 
away from the now suburban highway down to the 
wind-swept and desolate seashore, where the whaups 
and the sandpipers make mournful concerts in a minor 
key, to the accompaniment of the noise of the sullen 
breakers and the soughing of the wind amid the 
rustling bents. Overlooking the road, within sight and 
sound of the tinkling tramcars passing between Joppa, 
Portobello, and Edinburgh, is that singular monument, 
" Miller's Tomb." 

William Henry Miller, whose remains lie beneath this 
pile of classic architecture, was an antiquary and 
bibliophile, and obtained his nickname of " Measure 



230 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Miller " from his habit of measuring the margins of 
the " tall copies " of the scarce books he bought. His 
beardless face and shrill voice led to the lifelong belief 
the he was really a woman. The tomb is elaborately 
decorated with a carved marble frieze representing the 
Song of Miriam and the destruction of the Egyptians in 
.the Red Sea. Miller and his father were both Quakers, 
and the wealth of which .they were possessed derived 
from a prosperous seedsman's business in Canongate, 
Edinburgh. To the father came an adventure which 
does not fall to many men. He was married in 1789 for 
the third time, when nearly seventy years of age, to an 
Englishwoman, who conveyed him against his will in a 
post-chaise from Edinburgh to London. 

Passing Craigentinny and Jock's Lodge we are, in the 
words of the old song, " Within a mile of Edinburgh 
town." The more modern and acceptable name of 
Jock's Lodge is Piershill, but it has been known by the 
other for over two hundred and seventy years. Who 
the original Jock was seems open to doubt, but he is 
supposed to have been a beggar who built himself a hut 
on this then lonely road leading to Figgate Whins. 
Even in 1650, when Cromwell besieged Edinburgh, the 
spot had obtained its name, and is referred to as 
" that place called Jockis Lodge.' 1 Towards the close 
of the eighteenth century a Colonel Piers had a villa 
here, pulled down in 1793, when barracks known as 
Piershill Barracks were built on the site. It is a 
district slowly emerging from the reproach of a dis- 
reputable past, when footpads and murderers haunted 
the muddy roads, or took refuge amid the towering 
rocks of Arthur's Seat, Crow Hill, or Salisbury Craigs, or 
hid in the congenial sloughs of the Hunter's Bog. 
Close by the road, at the entrance to the Queen's 
Park of Holyrood, is Muschat's Cairn, the place where 
Scott makes Jeanie Deans meet the outlaw Robertson. 
This heap of stones marks the spot where Nicol Muschat 
of Boghall, a surgeon, a man of infamous character, 
murdered his wife by cutting her throat in 1720, a 
crime which, with Scottish old-time mysticism, he said 



TO EDINBURGH 231 

was committed by direct personal instigation of the 
devil. All the same, they hanged him for it in the 
Grassmarket, where martyrs " testified " of old and the 
criminals of " Auld Reekie " expiated their crimes. 

Of course the approach to Edinburgh has, from the 
picturesque standpoint, been spoiled. Ranges of grim 
stone houses and sprawling suburbs now hem in the road 
and hide the view of Arthur's Seat and its neighbouring 
eminences ; but a few steps to the left serve to disclose 
them, the little loch of St. Margaret, and the ruined 
walls of St. Anthony's Chapel on the hillside, once 
guarding the holy well. St. Anthony's Chapel, within 
the rule of the Abbey of Holyrood, served another turn, 
for from its tower glimmered a beacon which in the old 
days guided mariners safely up the Forth, a service 
paid for out of the harbour dues. 

The so-called " London " and " Regent " Roads that 
now lead directly into the New Town of Edinburgh are 
modem improvements upon the old approach through 
Canongate into the Old Town. If steep, rugged, and 
winding, the old w r ay was at least more impressive, for it 
lay within sight of Holyrood Palace and brought the 
wayfarer into the very heart of Scott's " own romantic 
town," to where the smells and the dirt, the crazy 
tenement-houses and the ragged clouts hanging from 
dizzy tiers of windows, showed " Scotia's darling seat " 
in its most characteristic aspects. 

As Alexander Smith puts it, Scott discovered the city 
was beautiful, sang its praises to the world, " and he has 
put more coin into the pockets of its inhabitants than 
if he had established a branch of manufacture of which 
they had the monopoly." 

The distant view of Edinburgh is magnificent. The 
peaked and jagged masses of Arthur's Seat and 
Salisbury Craigs, the monument-cumbered Calton Hill, 
the Castle Rock all these combine to make the 
traveller eager to reach so picturesque a spot. 
Approaching it and seeing the smoke-cloud drifting 
with the breeze away from the hollow from which 
Edinburgh's million chimneys are seen peering, one 



232 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



instantly notes the peculiar appropriateness of the 
Scots endearing epithet, " Auld Reekie." But it was 
not only if indeed at all an admiration of the 
picturesque that made the sight of Edinburgh so 
welcome to old-time travellers. It was rather the 
prospect of coming to the end of their journey, and 
almost in sight of a comfortable hotel, that rendered 




CALTON HILL. 



the view so welcome to those who in the last thirty 
years or so of the coaching era made this trip of 
almost four hundred miles ; but those who had come 
this way at an earlier period had no such comfortable 
prospect before them. Instead of putting up at some 
fine hospitable inn, such as they were used to even 
in the smaller English towns, they were set down at 
a " stabler's," the premises of one whose first business 
was to horse the coaches and to let saddle-horses, and 
who, as in some sort of an after-thought, lodged those 
who were obliged to journey about the country. 



THE "BEST INN" 233 

A traveller arriving at Edinburgh in 1774, for 
instance, had indeed little comfort awaiting him. 
" One can scarcely form in imagination the distress 
of a miserable stranger on his first entrance into this 
city," says one writing at this period. No inn better 
than an alehouse, no decent or cleanly accommodation, 
nor in fact anything fit for a gentleman. " On my 
first arrival," says this traveller, " my companion 
and self, after the fatigue of a long day's journey, were 
landed at one of these stable-keepers' (for they have 
modesty to give themselves no higher denomination) in 
a part of the town which is called the Pleasance ; and 
on entering the house we were conducted by a poor girl 
without shoes or stockings, and with only a single 
linsey-woolsey petticoat which just reached half-way to 
her ankles, into a room where about twenty Scotch 
drovers had been regaling themselves with whisky and 
potatoes. You may guess our amazement when we 
were informed that this was the best inn in the metro- 
polis, and that we could have no beds unless we had an 
inclination to sleep together, and in the same room with 
the company which a stage-coach had that moment 
discharged. ' Well,' said I to my friend, ' there is 
nothing like seeing men and manners ; perhaps we 
may be able to repose ourselves at some coffee-house.' 
Accordingly, on inquiry, we discovered that there was 
a good dame by the Cross who acted in the double 
capacity of pouring out coffee and letting lodgings to 
strangers, as we were. She was easily to be found out, 
and, with all the conciliating complaisance of a 
Maitresse d'Hotel, conducted us to our destined apart- 
ments, which were indeed six stories high, but so 
infernal in appearance that you would have thought 
youserlf in the regions of Erebus. The truth is, I will 
venture to say, you will make no scruple to believe 
when I tell you that in the whole we had only two 
windows, which looked into an alley five feet wide, 
where the houses were at least ten stories high and the 
alley itself was so sombre in the brightest sunshine that 
it was impossible to see any object distinctly." 



234 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Private lodgings, just as those described above, 
were the resort of those who had neither friends nor 
acquaintance in Edinburgh at that time ; but travellers 
in Scotland were nearly always exercising their 
ingenuity to come, at the end of their day's journey, to 
the house of some friend or some friend's friend, to 
whom before starting they had been careful to obtain 
letters of introduction. So old and so widespread a 
custom was this that, so far back as 1425, we find an 
Act of James the First of Scotland actually forbidding 
all travellers resorting to burgh towns to lodge with 
friends or acquaintances, or in any place but the 
" hostillaries," unless indeed he was a personage of 
consequence, with a great retinue, in which case he 
might accept a friend's hospitality, provided that his 
" horse and meinze " were sent to the inns. 

Of course such an Act was doomed to fall into 
neglect, but the innkeepers, equally of course during a 
long series of years, almost ceased to exist. A few 
" stablers' " establishments became known as " inns " 
at about the period of Doctor Johnson's visit to 
Edinburgh. They were chiefly situated in the Pleas- 
ance, or in that continuation of it, St. Mary's Wynd 
(now St. Mary Street). These inns, such as they were, 
burst upon the by no means delighted gaze of the 
wayfarer from England as he entered the historic town 
of Edinburgh, and when he saw them he generally lifted 
up his voice and cursed the fate that had sent him so 
far from home and into so barbarous a country. 

The Pleasance was largely in receipt of the traffic to 
and from the south until the construction of the 
North and South Bridges, opened in 1769 and 1788, 
diverted it to a higher level. We may look in vain 
nowadays in the Pleasance for the inns of that day. 
They are demolished and altered so greatly as to be 
unrecognisable ; but the " White Horse," which stands 
in a court away down Canongate, will give us an 
idea of the kind of place. Situated in " White Horse," 
or Davison's Close in Canongate, and reached from 
that street by a low-browed archway, it remains a 



THE "WHITE HORSE" 



235 



perfect example of the Edinburgh inn of nearly three 
hundred years ago. An inn no longer, but occupied 
in tenements, the internal arrangements are somewhat 
altered, but the time when the house extended a 




THE " WHITE HORSE " IXX. 

primitive hospitality to travellers is not difficult to 
reconstruct in the imagination. To it, at the end 
of their journeys, came those wearied ones, to find 
accommodation of the most intimate and domestic 
kind. Kitchen and dining-room were one, and it 
was scarce possible for a guest to obtain a bedroom 
to himself. Dirt was accepted as inevitable. In 
fact, the modern " dosser " is better and more decently 
housed. To the " White Horse " came others those 
about to set out upon their travels. Booted and 
spurred, wills made and saddle-bags packed, they 
resorted hither to hire horses for their journeys, and 
it is not unlikely that the old house saw in early 
times many a quaking laird, badly wanted by the 



236 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Government, slinking through the archway from the 
Canongate, to secure trusty mounts for instant flight. 
Scott, indeed, has made it the scene of strange doings 
in his Waverley. 

This is the oldest house in Edinburgh ever used as 
an inn, but must not be confused with that other 
" White Horse," long since demolished, made famous 
by Doctor Johnson. 

It was in 1773 that Johnson reached Edinburgh. 
He put up at the " White Horse " in Boyd's Close, 
called, even in those uncleanly times, " that dirty and 
dismal " inn, kept by James Boyd. The great man 
immediately notified his arrival to Bos well in this 
short note : 

" Saturday night. Mr. Johnson sends his compli- 
ments to Mr. Boswell, being just arrived at Boyd's." 

When Boswell arrived, falling over himself in his 
eagerness, he found the Doctor furiously angry. 
Doubtless he had been conducted to his room, as 
was not unusually the case, by some dirty sunburnt 
wench, without shoes or stockings, a fit object for 
dislike ; but the chief cause of his anger was the 
waiter, who had sweetened his lemonade without the 
ceremony of using the sugar-tongs. He threw the 
lemonade out of window, and seemed inclined to throw 
the waiter after it. 

" Peter Ramsay's " was a famous inn, situated at 
the foot of St. Mary's Wynd, next the Cowgate Port. 
To it came travellers along both the east and the 
south roads. Ramsay advertised it in 1776 as being 
" a good house for entertainment, good stables for 
above one hundred horses, and sheds for about twenty 
carriages." In 1790, he retired with a fortune of 
10,000. But in the best of these old Edinburgh 
inns the beds well merited a description given of them 
as " dish-clouts stretched on grid-irons." 

First among the innkeepers of this unsanctified 
quarter to remove from it into the New Town was 
James Dun. He was a man notable among his kind, 
having not only been the first to call himself an 



THE FIRST "HOTEL" 237 

" innkeeper " instead of a " stabler," but the greatly 
daring person who first used the outlandish word 
" Hotel " in Edinburgh. He began " hotel "-keeping 
in the flats above the haberdashery shop of John Neale, 
who, two years before, in 1774, had built the first 
house in the New Town. Neale himself was a pioneer of 
considerable nerve, for although the New Town had 
been projected and building-sites laid out on what is 
now the chief ornament of it, Princes Street, prospective 
tenants were shy of so bleak and exposed a situation as 
this then was. They preferred to live in the dirty 
cosiness of the old wynds and closes, and so the New 
Town seemed likely to be a paper project for years to 
come. At this juncture the Town Council made a 
sporting offer of exemption from all local taxes for the 
first who would build a house there. Neale was this 
pioneer, and he built the house that still stands next the 
Register House, the most easterly house in Princes 
Street. 

Dun, to whom he had let the upper part, immediately 
displayed a great gilded sign, " Dun's Hotel," where- 
upon the Lord Provost, representing public feeling, 
wrote objecting to the foreign word " Hotel," saying 
that, whatever might be the real character of his 
establishment, he might at least avoid the scandalous 
indecency of publicly proclaiming it ! 



XXXIV 

THESE concluding pages of a book on the road to 
Edinburgh form no fitting place to attempt the 
description or history of so ancient and historic a town. 
Our business is to reach the northern capital, leaving 
the story of Edwin's Burgh to be told by others. 
Yet we cannot leave it thus without some brief survey. 
The modern traveller by road, coming in by the 
London Road, Greensicle, Leith Street, and Princes 
Street, comes in by the New Town, and sees on his 



238 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 




SQUALOR AND MCTCKESQCEXESS." 



left, across a deep 
ravine, partly occupied 
by a huge railway 
station and partly by 
beautiful public 
gardens, the dark mass 
of the Castle and the 
Old Town crowning the 
opposite heights, grey 
and stern, in effect ive 
contrast with the gay 
f 1 o w e r - b e d s down 
below, the old houses 
huddling together on 
the scanty foothold of 
the ridge and rising to 
sheer heights. That is 
the original historic 
town : this, to which 
the modern traveller 
comes by road, the 
new. Little more than 
a hundred years ago 
this New Town was 
not thought of : its site 
the meadows and 
wastes that sloped 
down to the Firth of 
Forth and the sea, and 
the site of the railway 
station and the Princes 
Street Gardens covered 
with the dark waters 
of the Nor' Loch. 

Old-time arrivals in 
Edinburgh, coming in 
by Canongate, found 
themselves in midst of 
squalor and pictur- 
esqueness; and 



SQUALOR 



239 



although much of the picturesque is gone, it is still 
a quaint street and the squalor survives. The 
poor who live here " hang forth their banners from 
the outward walls," in the shape of their domestic 




CANOXGATE. 

washing, fluttering in the breeze from every window, 
at the end of long poles, and how poor they are 
may be judged from the condition of the clothes 
they consider worth keeping. That sometime prison, 
the Canongate Tolbooth, facing the long street, remains 
one of the most curious relics of Edinburgh's past. 



240 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Not a very ancient past, for it was only " biggit " in 
1591, but old enough to be regarded with reverence, and 
quaint to admiration, with its spired tower and 
tourelles, so eminently Scotch of that period when the 
French influence in architecture was yet strong. You 
can match those curious spires time and time again 
among the old chateaux of the Loire, and in Brittany ; 
just as in the old Norman town of Coutances one can 
find the counterpart of the old theatre in Playhouse 
Close, near by. 

From here, those travellers saw the Old Town ahead 
and, progressing up High Street, came successively to 
the Tron Church, the Market Cross, St. Giles's 
Cathedral, and, before 1817 when it was pulled 
down to the Old Tolbooth. Beyond this, the 
Lawnmarket conducted to the Castle, which then 
marked the end of the town. In this progress the 
tall and crowded houses and darkening wynds and 
closes stood to right and left. Later years have seen 
the disappearance of many of these places, where in 
old times the ferocious Scots nobles lived, poor and 
proud, bloodthirsty and superstitious, but those that 
are left are very grim, dark, and dirty, and the ten- 
and eleven-storied houses of such a height that only 
by great exertions is it possible to crane the neck and 
lift the eyes to the skyline, against which the belching 
chimneys of the piled-up " lands " are projecting 
the smoke of domestic hearths and eternally justifying 
the old Scots term of endearment for Edinburgh. 
The nobles are gone, lang syne, their old dens occupied 
now by the very poorest of Edinburgh's poor ; but 
sanitary conditions, even with the present occupants, 
are not so degraded as they were when the flower of 
Scotland's nobility dwelt here ; when pigs and fowls 
were herded in the basements, or ran unheeded in the 
alleys, and wayfarers skulked under the walls at the 
sound of voices above, calling " gardy-loo " a call 
which accompanied a discharge of overflowing house- 
hold utensils from inconceivable heights into the 
gutters below. " Gardy-loo " was a term which, with 



SUPERSTITION 



241 



this dreadfully unclean custom, derived from France, 
having been originally gardez-Veau ; just as the cakes 
sold at Craigmillar, called " petticoat tails " were 
originally petits gateaux. 

Still, the Old Town is sufficiently grimy and huddled 
yet to fitly illustrate the Scottish saying " The clartier 
(i.e. the dirtier) the cosier." 

Nothing is more characteristic of the Old Town than 
the religious texts carved upon the stone door lintels of 
these ancient houses. Few are without them. To a 
stranger they would seem to tell of a fervent piety, but 
they meant more than that. They were always 




OLD INSCRIPTION, LADY STAIR'S HOUSE. 

accompanied with a date and with the initials some- 
times also the arms of their owners ; as in the 
beautiful example still remaining in Lady Stair's Close, 
and represented both pride and a fearful superstition. 
Superstition, because the improving texts and pious 
ejaculations meant little beyond talismanic protection 
against " Auld Hornie," wizards, and warlocks, wehr- 
wolves, and all those frightful inhabitants of Satan's 
invisible world in which the Scotch most fervently 
believed, from king to peasant. Thus when we read 
over one of these old doorways the queerly spelled 

Blissit be God in all His giftis, 

we know that this was little less than an incantation, 
and marked a lively sense of favours to come ; and 
when our eye lights upon the inscription next door, 

iPax intrantibus : Sains exevntibvs, 



242 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



we know that the good feeling thus prominently 
displayed would by no means have prevented the 
fierce lord of the house from stabbing his guest in 
a dark corner, if he had a mind to it. 

A highly interesting book might' be written on 
these old sculptured stones alone. Nor are they in 
every instance old. Some modern ones exist, and 
the entirely laudable passion for commemoration has 
caused interesting tablets to be set up, marking many 
of Edinburgh's famous spots. A curious modern 
piece of sculpture decorates more or less artistically 
the archway leading from the High Street into 

Paisley Close, sup- 
porting a tall building 
erected in 1862. It 
represents the bust of 
a k boy, and includes 
an inscribed label. It 
seems that the old 
building standing on 
this site suddenly col- 
lapsed on a Sunday 
morning in 1861, and 
buried a number of 

people in the ruins, thirty-five actually dying from their 
injuries. Some were fortunate enough to be screened 
from the heavy masses of stone and brick by timbers 
which in falling had imprisoned them. Among these was 
the lad whose face is represented in the carving. The 
rescuers who came with pick and shovel to dig out the 
survivors had succoured many, and were turning back 
when they heard the muffled cry, '' Heave awa, lads, 
I'm no' deid yet," and redoubling their efforts, extri- 
cated the author of it. 

No relic now remains upon the door-posts of these 
old houses of the curious contrivance which preceded 
the door-knocker, and for the sight of a "tirle-pin" the 
stranger must needs go to the museum of the Royal 
Scottish Society of Antiquaries, to which the last 




THE "HEAVE AWA " SIGX. 



THE "TIRLE-PIN" 243 

example was long since removed, from an old house 
in the Canongate. 

The tirle-pin had a variety of names. Sometimes it 
would be called a " risp " or a " ringle," and there 
were those who knew it as a " craw " ; that is to say, 
a crow, from the harsh crow-like sound produced by 
its use. A tirle-pin was just a rasping contrivance 
made of a twisted bar of iron fixed against the 
door post with an iron ring hanging loosely 
from it, as in the accompanying sketch. 
Instead of knocking, one who desired 
admittance would seize the ring and rasp 
it up and down the twisted iron, producing 
a noise which could be distinctly heard 
within. 

The origin of the tirle-pin, like that of many 
another Scottish custom, was French. It 
originated in France in the times of the 
Valois, in days when it was not etiquette to 
knock at the doors of royal personages. In 
face of this, courtiers were reduced to scratching 
with the finger-nails a disagreeable sensation 
when practised upon wood, as any one who 
tries it may readily discover for himself. 
Perhaps from this cause, or because the 
scratching was not loud enough (or, perhaps, 
even because the polish began to disappear 
from the royal portals) this mechanical 
scratcher was invented. The fashion spread A 
from France to Scotland in times when the TIRLB - 

"PT"\" 

two countries were linked in close ties of 
friendship. From the palace it spread down to 
the mansions of the nobles and the houses of the 
merchants, finally coming into general use. It was 
never acclimatised in England, although another kind 
of scratching was, if we may believe the satirists, who 
say that James the First and his Scottish followers 
imported the itch. 

However, the tirle-pin is obsolete, but it did not 
disappear without leaving a trace of its existence in 



244 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

old Scots ballads ; as, for instance, that of Sweet 
William's Ghaist : 

There cam a ghaist to Margaret's door, 

Wi' mony a grievous groan ; 
And aye he tirled upon the pinne, 

But answer made she nane. 

Is that my father Philip ? 

Or is't my brother John, 
Or is't my true love Willie 

To Scotland now come hame ? 



XXXV 

A GRIM old town, Edinburgh, dominated by the 
ancient castle from its rock, bodeful with the story of 
a thousand years. Newer new towns have sprung up 
around it to south and west, and hem the old fortress 
in with a bordure of unhistoric suburbs, so that from 
the topmost battlements you see how small the original 
Edinburgh is, compared with its surroundings. Places 
of pilgrimage are not lacking in the old streets. There 
are John Knox's house, one of the queerest, three- 
storied, and gabled, the very ideal of rugged strength ; 
and the Parliament Square, once St. Giles's churchyard, 
where "IK 1572," on a stone in the pavement, marks 
the site of Knox's grave. Passers-by walk over it, 
curiously fulfilling Johnson's aspiration, made years 
before the churchyard was destroyed, by which he 
hoped that the dour Presbyterian was buried on a 
highway. While we are on the subject of tombs, let 
us mention that other place of pilgrimage, Greyfriars 
churchyard, that grisly place where Robert Louis 
Stevenson was accustomed in his youth to make 
assignations with parlour-maids. Few places so grim 
as a Scottish burial-ground, and Greyfriars is of these 
the grimmest. Dishevelled backs of houses look down 
upon the mouldering tombs, and kitchens and living- 
rooms open into the houses of the dead. Rusty iron 
railings, bolts and bars, guard the blackened and 
broken mausoleums and give the pilgrim the weird 



GREYFRIARS 



245 



idea that the living have taken extraordinary pre- 
cautions to imprison those who are never likely to break 




GREYFRIARS. 



out. The only living things here are the foul grass 
that grows within the sepulchral enclosures, and the 



246 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

demon cats of an heraldic slimness that haunt the 
churchyard in incredible numbers, and stealing victuals 
from the neighbouring houses, gnaw them within the 
tombs. Many martyrs for religion have their resting- 
place here, together with those who martyred them. 
Persecutors and persecuted alike rest here now. 

Sympathies will ever be divided between the 
Covenanters and their oppressors. As you read how 
they upheld their faith and signed their names to the 
Covenant in this gruesome yard of Greyfriars, so 
ominously on that flat tombstone which even now 
remains, you are fired with an enthusiasm for those 
rejecters of a liturgy alien from their convictions, and 
can curse " Claverse " with the best of those who do 
not forget the heavy ways of " bonnie Dundee " with 
them. But the Covenanters were as intolerant with 
those when they came to rule. The men of both sides 
were men of blood. The strain of intolerance remains, 
and the tomb of that other persecutor of the Covenan- 
ters, Sir George Mackenzie, has always been, and still 
is, with the people " bloody Mackenzie's." 

Old Edinburgh life centred at the Market Cross, 
happily restored in 1885 by Mr. Gladstone. The Cross 
has had a troubled history. Reconstructed from a 
much older one in 1617, it remained here until 1756, 
when the " improving " fanatics of that time swept 
the historic structure away, without a thought of the 
associations belonging to it. They were associations 
of every kind. Kings had been proclaimed at it by 
heralds with fanfare of trumpet ; patriots and traitors 
with equal contumely had been done to death beside 
it ; and the continual round of punishments which 
gave the common hangman a busy time were inflicted 
here. In fact, were a rogue to be pilloried or a king's 
birthday to be kept with becoming ceremony, the Cross 
was the place. Let us see what those punishments were 
like, from one example illustrative of the general run 
of them. Here is what they did in 1655 to " Mr. Patrik 
Maxwell, ane arrant decevar." They brought him here 
" quhair a pillorie wes erectit, gairdit and convoyed 



PUNISHMENTS 



247 



with a company of sodgeris ; and their, eftir ane full 
houris standing on that pillorie, with his heid and 
handis lyand out and hoilis cuttit out for that end, 
his rycht lug was cuttit af ; and thaireftir careyit over 
to the town of St. Johnnestoun, quhair ane uther 
pillorie wes erectit, on the quhilk the uther left lug 
wes cuttit af him. The caus heirof wes this ; that he 
haid gevin out fals calumneis and leyis aganes Collonell 
Daniell, governour of Peirth. Bot the treuth is, he was 
ane notorious decevar and ane intelligencer, sumtyme 
for the Englesches, 
uther tymes for 
the Scottis, and 
decevand both of 
thame : besyde 
mony prankis 
quhilk wer tedious 
to writt." Quite 
so ; but if all de- 
ceivers had their 
ears cut off, how 
few would retain 
them! A ferocious 
folk, those old 
Scots, and petty 
delinquents supped sorrow at their hands with a big 
spoon. Sorry the lot of scandal-mongers and the like, 
seated on a wooden horse with hands and legs tied, and 
permission freely accorded to all for the throwing of 
missiles. Ferocity, however, should go hand in hand 
with courage a quality apparently not possessed by 
the citizens of Edinburgh when Prince Charlie and his 
Highlanders came, in 1745. Incredulous of the wild 
clansmen ever daring to attack the town, they laughed 
at the very idea ; but when they heard of his small 
force having eluded the force of Johnny Cope, sent to 
intercept them, and advancing in earnest, things took 
a very different colour. Those who were loyal to the 
House of Hanover were quaking in their shoes, and the 
Jacobites rejoicing. The city armed, even to the 




THE WOODEX HORSE. 



248 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

clergymen, who, on the Sunday before the surrender, 
preached in the churches with swords and daggers 
buckled on under their gowns. Bands of volunteers 
were raised, and on the report that the Pretender was 
near, were marched outside the walls to dispute his 
entry, despite their murmurs that they had volunteered 
to defend the city from the inside, and were not prepared 
to go out to be cut to pieces with the invaders' 
claymores. Captain ex-Provost Drummond marched 
with his company down the West Bow towards the 
West Port. Looking round when he had reached it, 
he to his astonishment found himself alone. The 
volunteers had vanished down the back lanes or closes ! 
But the dragoons were as bad. Coming near the 
enemy at Corstorphine, two miles out, they bolted 
without firing a shot, and so back into Edinburgh and 
through it and out at the other end. It was the 
ferocious appearance of the Highlanders that caused 
this terror. They were comparatively few ; ill -armed, 
ragged, and ill-fed. But their strange dress, their 
wild looks, shaggy locks, and generally outlandish 
appearance, frightened the good Lowlanders, who knew 
almost as little of these Gaelic tribes as Londoners 
themselves. The old-time warfare of the Japanese 
and the Chinese, with their hideous masks ; the 
dismal tom-toming of the African savage ; the war- 
paint of the Red Indian, are justified of their existence, 
for the strange and hideous in warfare is very effective 
in striking a paralysing terror into an enemy. Accord- 
ingly, the tartans, the naked legs and arms, and the 
uncombed locks of the lairds' uncivilised levies captured 
Edinburgh for Prince Charlie, who, a few days later, 
September 17, caused his father, the Old Pretender, to 
be proclaimed king, by the title of James the Third, 
at the Cross. 

With the suppression of " the Forty-five," the stir- 
ring warlike story of Edinburgh came to an end ; but 
not until 1807, when the Edinburgh police came into 
existence, was the semi-military Town Guard, raised 
in 1682, abolished. The Town Guard and the towns- 



250 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

people were always at odds, and hated one another 
cordially. Recruited from the army, and armed with 
the formidable weapons called " Jeddart axes," it was 
originally a fine body, designed 
rather to keep the town in order 
than to protect it, and its members 
never lost sight of that fact. In its 
last years, however, the Town Guard 
declined in importance and in 
numbers, and, coming to be regarded 
as a refuge for old pensioners who 
could scarcely manage to crawl 
about, became an object of derision. 
Then the sins of their forerunners 
were visited upon the heads of those 
unhappy old men, and it became a 
common sight to see them baited by 
mischievous small boys. The last of 
the Town Guard tottered about 
Parliament Square in his queer 
uniform and three-cornered hat, 
hardly able to shoulder his axe, 
and regarded by the inhabitants as 
one of their most genuine antiquities, 
THE LAST or THE until he too followed his comrades 
TOWN GUARD. to the tomb. 



XXXVI 

ONE must needs admire Edinburgh. You may have 
seen the noblest cities of the world ; have stood upon 
the Acropolis at Athens, on the Heights of Abraham 
at Quebec ; have viewed Rome and her seven hills, or 
Constantinople from the Goldern Horn ; but Edinburgh 
still retains her pride of place, even in the eyes of the 
much travelled. You need not be Scottish to feel the 
charm of her, and can readily understand why she 
means so much to the Scot ; but your gorge rises at 
the immemorial dirt of the Old Town, simultaneously 




PRINCE'S STREET 253 

with your admiration of its wondrous picturesqueness, 
and stately Princes Street seems to you a revelation 
of magnificence even while the bulk of the New Town 
appears grey, formal, and forbidding. The great gulf 
fixed between Old Town and New, that ravine in which 
the railway burrows, and on whose banks the Princes 
Street Gardens run, renders that thoroughfare, with 
its one side of grass and trees and the other of fine 
shops and towering houses, reminiscent to the Londoner 
of Piccadilly. But Piccadilly has not a towering Castle 
on one side of it, nor a Calton Hill at the end ; nor, on 
the other hand, does Piccadilly know such easterly 
blasts as those that sweep down the long length of 
Princes Street and freeze the very marrow of the 
Southerner. 

" The same isothermal line," wrote Robert Chambers, 
" passes through Edinburgh and London." " Still," 
James Payn used to say, " I never knew of a four- 
wheeled cab being blown over by an east wind in 
London, as has just happened in Edinburgh," and 
R.L.S. tells us frankly that his native city has " the 
vilest climate under heaven." 

Princes Street is perhaps even more like the Brighton 
Front in its well-dressed crowds and fine shops. With 
the sea in place of the Gardens and the Castle, the 
resemblance would be singularly close. 

As for Calton Hill, that neo-classic eminence, gives 
form and substance to Edinburgh's claim to be the 
" Modern Athens." Learning had not been unknown 
in the Old Town, where Hume and Boswell wrote ; 
but, given air and elbow-room, it expanded vastly 
when the New Town was planned, and with the 
dawn of the nineteenth century, literature flourished 
exceedingly. This seems to have inspired the idea 
of emulating the capital of Greece, to the eye as well 
as to the mind. Accordingly a copy of the Parthenon 
was begun on the crest of Calton Hill, as a monument 
to the Scots soldiers who fell in the campaigns against 
Napoleon. It cost a huge sum and has never been 
completed, and so it has familiarly been called 



254 THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

" Scotland's Folly " and " Scotland's Shame " ; but 
doubtless looks a great deal more impressive in its 
unfinished state, in the semblance of a ruin, than it 
would were it ever finished. A variety of other freak 
buildings keep it company : the Nelson Monument, 
memorials to Burns, to Dugald Stewart, and to 
Professor Playfair, together with what the many 
" guides," who by some phenomenal instinct scent the 
stranger from afar, call an " obsairvatory." 

Coaching days at Edinburgh ceased in 1846, when 
that sole surviving relic of the coaches between London 
and the North the Edinburgh and Berwick coach 
was discontinued on the opening of the Edinburgh and 
Berwick Company, completing the series of lines that 
connect the two capitals. It is true that passengers 
could not yet travel through without changing, for the 
great bridges that cross the Tyne at Newcastle and 
the Tweed at Berwick were not opened until four years 
later ; but it was possible, with these exceptions, to 
journey the whole distance by train. The opening of 
the railway meant as great a change for Edinburgh 
as did the beginning of the New Town seventy years 
before. Just what it was like then we may judge from 
the drawing made from the Castle by David Roberts 
in 1847. The point of view he has chosen is that from 
the Mons Meg Battery, and the direction of his glance, 
omitting the Old Town on the right, is to the north- 
east. Changes in detail have come about since then, 
but, as a whole, it is the Edinburgh we all know : the 
Calton Hill, with its cluster of weird monuments, 
prominent ; the New Town, stretching away vaguely 
to the water-side ; while in the distance, on the right, 
is seen the shore curving to Portobello ; the twin 
masses of the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law on 
the horizon. Down in the New Town itself the changes 
are evident. Where the toy train with its old-fashioned 
locomotive is crawling out of the tunnel under the 
Mound, and where the old Waverley Station is seen, 
alterations have been plenty. The old North Bridge 
pictured here has given place to a new, spanning the 



THE END 



ravine in three spans of steel. Beyond it are still seen 
the smoked-grimed modern Gothic battlements of the 
Calton Gaol, but the huge new hotel of the North 
British Railway has replaced the buildings that rose 
on that side of the old bridge, while the towering 
offices of the Scotsman occupy the other, all in that 
florid French Renaissance that is the keynote of 
modern Edinburgh's architectural style. The Scott 
Monument stands where it did, not, as David Roberts's 
drawing shows us, among grounds but little cared for, 
but amid gay parterres and velvet lawns. The Bank 
of Scotland has been rebuilt and all the vacant sites 
long built upon ; evidences these of half a century's 
progress, the direct outcome of those railways that two 
generations ago wrote " Finis " to the last chapter in 
the romantic story of the Great North Road. 




SKYLINE OF THE OLD TOWN. 



INDEX 



Aberford 74-76, 82 

Alnwick: 174,186 

" Andrew Mills' Stab " 113 

Asenby > 84 

Aycliffe 107 

Ayton 208 

Bagby Common 59 

Bambrough Castle 190, 192 

Barkston Ash 68, 71 

Barwick-in-Elmete 76 

Belford 189 

Belhaven .216 

Beltonford 216 

Berwick-upon-Tweed 1 91 , 196-202 

Birdforth 58 

Birtley 135 

Blagdon 166 

Boroughbridge 82 

Bramham 79 

Bramham Moor 76, 79 

Brotherton 66-68, 74 

Browney Bridge 116 

Brownyside 189 

Broxburn 212 

Burnmouth 208 

Causey Park Bridge 172 

Chester -le-Street 133-135 

Clifton, Yorks 52 j 

Clifton , Northumberland 00 

Coaches 

Edinburgh Mails 55, 68 

Edinburgh Express 55, 83 

Glasgow and Carlisle Mail 82 

S 



Coaches eon. PAGE 

" High-flyer," London, York 

and Edinburgh 28, 55, 68 

Leeds Mail 75 

Leeds and York Stage Coach 77 

" Rockingham," Leeds 75 

" Union," Leeds 75 

" Wellington," London and 

Newcastle 55, 62, 68 

Coaching Accident 116 

Coaching Notabilities : 

Alderson, Dr. S7 

Holtby. Tom 28 

" Nimrod " 76-79 

Coatham Mundeville 107 

Cockburnspath 210-212 

" Conundrum " 202 

Coxwold 59 

Craigentinny 230 

Croft 92-95 

Cromwell, Oliver 107, 212 

Croxdale 115 

Cunecaster 133 

Cuthbert, Saint ...66, 119, 124, 126, 190 

Dalton-upon-Tees. . . ^ 92 

Darling, Grace 190 

Darlington 96-107 

Darrington 65 

De Quincey, Thomas 104 

Dintingdale 69, 70 

Dishforth 84 

Doncaster 62 

Dunbar 212-216 

Dunglass Dene 214 

Durham 118-131 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 



Easingwold 54-56 

East Linton 216 

Edinburgh 231-255 

Elections 29-32 

Fairburn 75 

" Farmers' Folly," The, Alnwick, 

174, 184, 186 

Felton 172 

Ferrybridge ....65-67 

Ferryhill 110-112 

Fisherrow 228 

Flemington 207 

Framwellgate, Durham 130 

Framwellgate Moor 131 

Galtres, Forest of 51, 51 

Gateshead 152, 151-156 

Gladsnuir 222 

Gosforth 166 

Grant's House 209 

Great Smeaton 88 

Grizzy's Clump 191 



Haddington 219-222 

Haggerston Castle 192-195 

HalidonHill 207 

Hambleton Hills 58, 59 

Harlowgreen Lane 138 

Heiferlaw Bank 187 

Hell's Kettles 85 

High Butcher Race 115 

High Entercommon 88 

Highwaymen : 

Boulter, Thomas 22-24 

Hazlett, Robert ; 154 

King, Tom 16 

Nevison, John 19-22 

Tate, Andrew 115 

Turpin, Dick 14-19 

Holy Island 189-191 

Hook Moor 75 

Houndwood , ....208 



Inns (mentioned at length) : 

" Angel," Ferrybridge 67 

" Angel," Wetherby 80 

" Arabian House," Aberford 75 

" Bay Horse," Skelton 53 

" Bay Horse," Traveller's Rest ....108 

" Black Swan," York 27, 28, 29 

" Blue Bell," Went Bridge 65 

" Comet," Croft 95 

"Crown," Boroughbridge 83 

" Etteridge's," York 27 

" George," York 27 

" Golden Lion," Ferrybridge 68 

" Golden Lion," Northallerton 61 

" Grant's House " 210 

" Gretna Green Wedding," 

" Traveller's Rest " 107 

" Greyhounds," Boroughbridge 83 

" New Inn," Allerton 82 

" New Inn," Easingwold 55 

" Old Fox," Brotherton 68 

" Old Fox," Wetherby 80 

" Plough," Alnwick 177 

" Red House," near Doncaster 63 

" Rose and Crown," Easingwold 55 

"Spa Hotel," Croft 92 

" Spotted Dog," Thornton-le-Street 59 

" Swan," Aberford 75 

" Swan," Ferrybridge 67 

" Walshford Bridge Inn " 82 

" Wheatsheaf," Rushyford Bridge 109 
" White Horse," Edinburgh ...234-236 
" White House," ur. Easingwold.. 55-58 
" York Tavern," York 27 

Jock's Lodge 230 

Joppa 228 

Kirk Deighton 82 

Knavesmire, York 15, 32, 52 

Kyloe ...191 



Lamberton Toll 

" Lambtou Worm," The 



202-207 

,...132 



INDEX 



PAGE 

Leven hall 22: 

Little Smeaton 89 

Lovesome Hill 88 

Low Butcher Race 115 

Macmerry . 222 

Malcolm's Cross 188 

Martin, Jonathan 14, 42-51 

Merrington 112-114 

Metcalf, John v 83 

Micklefield 75 

Morpeth 167-173 

Musselburgh 227 

Neville's Cross, Battle of 123 

Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1 54-166 

Newsham 84 

Newton-on-the-Moor 1 74 

" Nineveh," or Claro Hill 82 

Northallerton 59-62, 84 

North Charlton 189 

North Otterington 84 

Old-Time Travellers : 

Calderwood of Coltness, Mrs 129 

Defoe, Daniel 172 

Derwentwater, Earl of 116 

Eldon, Earl of 109, 160 

Evelyn, John 63 

James the First 96 

J eanie Deans 230 

Johnson, Dr 61, 202 

Macready, W. J 207 

Montagu, Mrs 187 

Sterne, Rev. Laurence 59 

Thoresby, Ralph 84, 116 

Old-Time Travelling 77-79, 88-91, 97-103 
155, 199, 232-237 

Partinghal 208 

Penshaw Monument 131 

Percys, the Dukes of Northumberland, 

178-186, 138-152 



PAGE 

Phantassie 216 

Piershill 230 

" Pity Me " 132 

Plawsworth 132 

Portobello 229 

Prestonpans, Battle of 222, 224-226 

Railways : 

Edinburgh and Berwick 104, 199, 254 

Great, Northern 104 

North British 104, 255 

North-Eastern 104, 115, 196 

Stockton and Darlington 98-100 

Rashelfe 58 

Richardson's Stead 195 

Robin Hood's Well 63 

Rob Roy 97 

Roderick Random 138-152 

Ross 208 

Runaway Marriages 203 207 

Rushy Cap 172 

Rushy-ford Bridge 109 

Sand Hntton 84 

Saxton 70, 72 

Scott, Sir Walter 97, 123 

Scremerston 195 

Seaton Burn 166 

Shaftholme Junction 104 

Shipton 54 

Skelton 53 

" Sockburn Worm," The 93 

" Sockeld's Leap " 116 

South Otterington 84 

Sunderland Bridge 115 

Standard, Battle of the 87 

Tadcaster 68,71 

Thirkleby Park 59 

Thirsk 59 

Thormanby 59 

Thornton-le-Street 59 

Tollerton Cross-Lanes 54