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THE SOMERSET COAST 



WORKS BY CHARLES G. HARPER 



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

of Old. 

The Dover Road : Annals of an Ancient Turnpike. 
The Bath Road : History, Fashion, and Frivolity on an Old 

Highway. 

The Exeter Road : The Story of the West of England Highway. 
The Great North Road : The Old Mail Road to Scotland. Two 

Vols. 

The Norwich Road : An East Anglian Highway. 
The Holyhead Road: The Mail-Coach Road to Dublin. Two 

Vols. 

The Cambridge, Ely, and King's Lynn Road: The Great 

Fenland Highway. 
The Newmarket, Bury, Thetfprd, and Cromer Road : Sport 

and History on an East Anglian Turnpike. 

The Oxford, Gloucester, and Milford Haven Road: The 

Ready Way to South Wales. Two Vols. 
The Brighton Road : Speed, Sport, and History on the Classic 

Highway. 

The Hastings Road and the " Happy Springs of Tunbridge." 
Cycle Rides Round London. 
A Practical Handbook of Drawing for Modern Methods of 

Reproduction. 

Stage Coach and Mail in Days of Yore. Two Vols. 
The IngOldsby Country : Literary Landmarks of "The Ingoldsby 

Legends. ' 

The Hardy Country : Literary Landmarks of the Wessex Novels. 
The Dorset Coast. 
The South Devon Coast. 
The Old Inns of Old England. Two Vols. 

Love in the Harbour : a Longshore Comedy. 
Rural Nooks Round London (Middlesex and Surrey). 
Haunted Houses; Tales of the Supernatural. 
The Manchester and Glasgow Road This way to Gretna 
Green. Two Vols. 

The North Devon Coast. 

Half-Hours with the Highwaymen. Two Vols. 

The Autocar Road Book. 

The Tower Of London : Fortress, Palace, and Prison. 

The Cornish Coast. North. ^ 

The Cornish Coast. South. / [/ " the Press ' 



47017 



O 



THE SOMERSET 
COAST 



BY 



CHARLES G. HARPER 



" Somerset, that pleasant londe which 
rennith to the Severn Se." FULLER. 




LONDON : CHAPMAN tf HALL, LTD. 
1909 










' -2 A 10 



PRINTED AND BOUND BY 

HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD. 

LONDON AND AYLESBURY. 



CONTENTS 
CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

INTRODUCTORY I 

CHAPTER II 

THE RIVER AVON CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE . 6 

CHAPTER III 
ABBOT'S LEIGH TO CLEVEDON . . . . 17 

CHAPTER IV 

CLEVEDON LITERARY ASSOCIATIONS I COLERIDGE . 25 

CHAPTER V 

CLEVEDON (continued) LITERARY ASSOCIATIONS : 

TENNYSON 33 

f CHAPTER VI 

YATTON CONGRESBURY WICK ST. LAWRENCE . 45 

CHAPTER VII 

WORSPRING PRIORY KEWSTOKE .... 56 



vi CONTENTS 

CHAPTER VIII 

PAGE 

WESTON-SUPER-MARE v . ; .... 67 

CHAPTER IX 

WORLEBURY WORLE . - 7& 

CHAPTER X 

STEEP HOLM FLAT HOLM UPHILL BREAN DOWN . 87 

CHAPTER XI 

BLEADON BREAN BRENT KNOLL . . 98 

CHAPTER XII 

BURNHAM - - HIGHBRIDGE BAWDRIP " BATH 

BRICKS" THE RIVER PARRET . . . Ill 

CHAPTER XIII 

BRIDGWATER ADMIRAL BLAKE THE MONMOUTH 

REBELLION . . . . . . 126 

CHAPTER XIV 

CANNINGTON THE QUANTOCKS NETHER STOWEY, 

AND THE COLERIDGE CIRCLE .... 139 

CHAPTER XV 

STEART STOGURSEY THE FOLK-SPEECH OF ZUM- 
MERZET GLATT-HUNTING AT KILVE ST. 
AUDRIES . . , .-. . . . .158 



CONTENTS vii 

CHAPTER XVI 

PAGE 

WILLITON ST. DECUMAN'S AND THE WYNDHAMS 

WATCHET . . . . . . .179 

CHAPTER XVII 

CLEEVE ABBEY OLD CLEEVE BLUE ANCHOR . 189 

CHAPTER XVIII 

DUNSTER 206 

CHAPTER XIX 

MINEHEAD, NEW AND OLD SELWORTHY THE 

HORNER 227 

CHAPTER XX 

PORLOCK BOSSINGTON PORLOCK WEIR . . . 247 

CHAPTER XXI 

CULBONE AND ITS REVELS WHORTLEBERRIES . . 260 

CHAPTER XXII 

THE " LORNA DOONE COUNTRY " . . . . 270 

CHAPTER XXIII 

OARE MALMSMEAD THE BADGWORTHY VALLEY 

THE "DOONE VALLEY " GLENTHORNE . 286 

INDEX . ... 299 

b 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Clifton Bridge . . Frontispiece 

PAGE 

Map of The Somerset Coast ... . Facing i 

Avonmouth, from Pill . .18 

In Portishead Church . . .21 

Coleridge's Cottage, Clevedon .... .28 

Clevedon . . -35 

Clevedon Court . -43 

Kingston Seymour ... . Facing 46 

Yatton Church . . .... Facing 48 

The Rectory, Congresbury ... 51 

Woodspring Priory . . . ... . Facing 58 

Reliquary in Kewstoke Church (Front) .... 63 

Reliquary in Kewstoke Church (Back) .... 65 

Uphill Facing 92 

Bleadon Church 99 

Berrow 102 

Brent Knoll 107 

Brent Knoll 109 

Huntspill 117 

Birthplace of Admiralj_Blake 128 

Bridgwater : St. Mary's Church, and Corn Exchange Facing 132 

Westonzoyland Facing 134 

Cannington ....... Facing 140 

Nether Stowey ; Gazebo at Stowey Court .... 143 

be 



x LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

The Coleridge Cottage, Nether Stowey . 153 

Nether Stowey .155 

The " Mud Horse " .161 

Stolford .163 

Stogursey Castle ... 165 

Kilve Church . i? 1 

Kilve : The Chantry 1/3 

St. Audries ... . Facing 176 

Bench-end, Sampford Brett ; supposed to allude to the 

Legend of Lady Florence Wyndham . . . .184 

Watchet ; Old Town Hall and Lock-up . . . .186 

Watchet . . . ... . . .187 

Entrance to Cleeve Abbey . . . . . . .192 

The Refectory, Cleeve Abbey . . . . .197 

Mysterious Effigy at Old Cleeve 201 

Blue Anchor . ' 203 

Coneygore Tower, and Road into Minehead . . 207 

Dunster Castle . -. . . . . Facing 210 

Dunster ; Castle and Yarn Market . . . Facing 218 
Dunster Church, from the South, showing old Alcove in 

Churchyard Wall for the Stocks 221 

Curious Archway, Dunster Church 223 

The " Nunnery," or " High House," Dunster . . . 225 
Minehead ........ Facing 228 

Seventeenth-Century Mantel, " Luttrell Arms " Inn . .230 

Quirke's Almshouses 236 

Doorway of the Manor Office . . . . . .238 

Minehead Church . . . . . Facing 238 

The Manor Office, Minehead . . . . . .239 

Rood-Loft Turret, Minehead . . . . .241 

The Clock Jack, Minehead Church 243 

Lynch Chapel . 244 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xi 

PAGE 

Packhorse Bridge, Allerford 245 

Bossington .......... 250 

Porlock Church Facing 252 

Inglenook, " Ship " Inn, Porlock ..... 254 

" The Ship " Inn, Porlock . . Facing 254 

Porlock Weir . Facing 258 

The Lodge, Ashley Combe 261 

Culbone Church ......... 263 

Oare Church ......... 287 

Near Robber's Bridge . 288 

Interior of Oare Church . . . . . . . 290 

Malmsmead ......... 293 

Badgworthy Valley ' . . 295 




CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTORY 

ON confiding to personal friends, journalistic 
paragraphists, and other Doubting Thomases, 
professional sceptics, chartered cynics and in- 
different persons, the important and interesting 
literary news that a proposal was afloat to write 
a book on the Somerset Coast, the author was 
assured with an unanimity as remarkable as it was 
disconcerting, that there is no coast of Somerset. 
This singular geographical heresy, although 
totally unsupported by map-makers, who on all 
maps and charts show a very well-defined sea- 
board, seems to be widely distributed ; but it 
is not shared by (among others) the inhabitants 
of Clevedon, of Watchet (where furious seas have 
twice within the last few years demolished the 
harbour), of Weston-super-Mare, Burnham, Mine- 



2 THE SOMERSET COAST 

head, or Porlock. The people of all these places 
think they live on the coast ; and it would be really 
quite absurdly difficult to persuade them that 
they do not, or that they do not live in Somerset. 
This singular illusion, that there is no coast of 
Somerset, is, however, but one among a number of 
current fallacies, among which may be included 
the belief that : 

Essex is a flat county. 

London is dirty. 

The virtuous are necessarily happy; 

The wicked equally of necessity miserable. 

All Irishmen are witty. 

Scotsmen cannot see a joke. 

And so forth. Essex is flat, and London grimy, 
only comparatively. Natives of Huntingdon- 
shire (which is an alternative term for flatness) 
no doubt think of Essex as a place of hills ; and 
although London may seem grimy to the eyes 
of a villager from Devon or Cornwall, it is as a 
City of light and purity to the Sheffielder, the 
inhabitants of Newcastle, and the people of other 
such places of gloom. 

The coast of Somerset, then, to make a be- 
ginning with it, opens with the great port and city 
of Bristol, on the navigable estuary of the river 
Avon, and ends at Glenthorne, where the North 
Devon boundary is met. The distance between 
these two points is sixty miles. Throughout 
the entire length of this coastline, that of South 
Wales is more or less clearly visible ; the Bristol 
Channel being but four and a half miles wide at 



INTRODUCTORY 3 

Avonmouth ; seven and a half miles at Brean 
Down, by Weston-super-Mare, and fifteen miles 
at Glenthorne. 

The foreshore of a great part of this coast 
is more or less muddy ; the Severn, which you 
shall find to be a tea or coffee-coloured river, 
even at Shrewsbury a hundred miles or so up 
along its course, from the particles of earth 
held in suspension, depositing much of this, and 
the even more muddy rivers Avon and Parret 
contributing a larger proportion. The " Severn 
Sea/' as poetical and imaginative writers style 
this estuary, known to matter-of-fact geographers 
as the " Bristol Channel/' is therefore apt to be 
of a grey hue, except under brilliant sunshine. 

But it would be most unjust to infer from these 
remarks, that mud, and only mud, is the cha- 
racteristic of these sixty miles. Indeed, the 
Somerset Coast is singularly varied, and has 
many elements of beauty. Between the noble 
scene of its opening, where the romantic gorge 
of the Avon, set with rugged cliffs and delightful 
woods, is spanned by the airy Suspension Bridge 
of Clifton, and the wood-clad steeps of Glenthorne, 
you will find such beautiful places as Portishead 
and Weston, whose scenery no crowds of vul- 
garians can spoil ; and Dunster, Minehead, and 
Porlock, which need no advertisement from 
this or any other pen. I have purposely omitted 
Clevedon from the list above, for it doesjjnot 
appeal to me. 

Mud you have, naked and unashamed, practi- 



4 THE SOMERSET COAST 

cally only at Pill and the outlet of the Avon, and 
again at Steart and the estuary of the Parret, 
where those surcharged waters precipitate their 
unlovely burden. Elsewhere, the purifying sea 
completely scavenges it away or kindly disguises 
it. Nay, between Weston and Burnham we have 
even a long range of sandhills, as pure as the 
sand-towans of North Cornwall or as the driven 
snow.* 

And further, if we turn our attention to the 
scenery and the churches and castles and ruined 
abbeys, or to the associations, of this countryside, 
we shall find it an engaging succession of districts, 
comparing well with some better-known and 
more generally appreciated seaboards. 

A specious air of eternal midsummer and 
sunshine belongs to the name of Somerset. 
Camden, writing in the first years of the seven- 
teenth century, was not too grave an historian 
and antiquary to notice the fact ; and we find 
him, accordingly, at considerable pains to disabuse 
any one likely to be deceived by it. He says, 
in his great work "Britannia": "Some suppose 
its name was given it for the mildness and, as it 
were, summer temperature of its air. . . . But 
as it may be truly called in summer a summer 
country, so it has as good right to be called a 
winter one in winter, when it is for the most part 
wet, fenny and marshy, to the great inconvenience 
of travellers. I am more inclined to think it 

* But this depends largely upon the neighbourhood in which it 
has been driving. 



INTRODUCTORY 5 

derives from Somerton, anciently the most con- 
siderable town in the whole country." 

True, it did ; for Somerton was until the 
eighth century the capital of the tribe of Britons 
known as Somersaetas. Their kingdom and their 
capital were finally swept away by the victorious 
irresistible advance of the great Saxon kingdom 
of Wessex, in A.D. 710. Hence Somerset, although 
we occasionally hear of " Somersetshire," is not 
really a shire, in the sense of being a more or 
less arbitrarily shorn-off division after the fashion 
of the Midland shires Leicestershire, Northamp- 
tonshire, and many others but is historically 
an individual entity ; the ancient kingdom of 
the Somersaetas, remaining in name, though not 
in fact ; just as Wiltshire, wrongly so-called, is 
the ancient country of the Wilsaetas ; Devon 
the land of the Damnonians, and Cornwall the 
home of the Cornu- Welsh. 



CHAPTER II 

THE RIVER AVON CLIFTON SUSPENSION 
BRIDGE 

BRISTOL, whence one comes most conveniently 
to the coast of Somerset, is among the most 
fortunate of cities. It has a long and interesting 
history, both in the warlike and the commercial 
sorts, and its citizens have ever been public- 
spirited men, of generous impulses. (It is not 
really necessary for the discreet historian to go 
into the story of Bristol's old-time thriving 
business of kidnapping and slave-trading, by 
which her merchants grew wealthy, and so we 
will say nothing about it, nor enlarge upon the 
wealth-producing import of Jamaica rum.) It 
has many noble and interesting buildings, and a 
lovely and striking country-side is at its very 
gates, while the river Avon, to which Bristol owes 
the possibility of its greatness, flows out to sea, 
amid the most romantic river scenery in England, 
at Clifton. 

This immense gorge of the Avon was created, 
according to tradition, A.D. 33, on the day of the 
Crucifixion, in the course of a world- wide earth- 
quake accompanying that event. Then, accord- 



THE RIVER AVON 7 

ing to that strictly unreliable story, the hills 
were rent asunder, and the ancient British camps 
at St. Vincent's and at Borough Walls and Stoke 
Leigh had the newly formed river Avon set be- 
tween them. Geologists know better than this, 
but in the early years of the nineteenth century, 
when Miss Ann Powell sat upon the heights of 
Clifton and, contemplating the scene, was filled 
with great thoughts, which she eventually poured 
forth in the shape of something then thought to 
be poetry, the tradition was not considered to be 
so absurd as it now is. In her "Clifton, a Poem/' 
published in 1821, we learn some things new to 
history, especially as to the year A.D. 33. Then, 
according to Miss Ann Powell, the Romans were 
encamped here, in victorious arrogance, and the 
very day of the Crucifixion chanced to be that 
which the Roman general had fixed for a reception 
of conquered British chiefs : 

Our humbled kings upon his levee wait, 
This day appointed as a day of state. 

Unfortunately for the poem, the Romans were 
not in Britain at the time. They had not been 
here for eighty-seven years, since the last depar- 
ture of Julius Caesar, in B.C. 54, and were not 
to land on these shores again until ten years more 
had passed : in A.D. 43. As a description of an 
earthquake which did not happen, and an account 
of disasters which did not befall people who were 
not here, the poem is a somewhat remarkable 
production. The authoress herself is so over- 



8 THE SOMERSET COAST 

wrought that she mixes past and present tenses. 
Let us see how Romans and Britons behaved under 
the appalling circumstances : 

Now darkness fast the distant hills surround ; 
Beneath their feet, slow trembling, mov'd the ground ; 
High tempests rose that shook the stately roof, 
Nor was the conqu'ror's heart to this quite proof. 
" Sure nature is dissolv'd ! " the Roman cry'd. 
" Sure nature is dissolv'd ! " the guests reply 'd. 

Now awful thunders with majestic sound, 

And vivid lightnings separate the ground ; 

The crash tremendous fiU'd each heart with fear ; 

The sound of gushing waters strikes the ear. 

Ah ! now destruction's hurl'd thro' earth and sky ; 

Men seeking safety know not where to fly ; 

They through the ramparts run to make their way ; 

The guards lay prostrate there with sore dismay. 

The Britons mount their horses fly in haste : 

No time in idle compliments they waste. 

How delicious that last line ! "No time in 
idle compliments they waste." It flings us down 
from the heights of a world in pieces to the 
inanities of the " How d'ye do's " of afternoon 
teas. 

Clifton Suspension Bridge, opened in 1864, 
is a bridge with a romantic history. From the 
early years of the eighteenth century it had 
been proposed to bridge the Avon at or near 
this point, by some means, and thus save the 
descent from Clifton to Rownham Ferry, with 
the uncomfortable and sometimes perilous crossing 
of the Avon and the climb up to Abbot's Leigh. 



CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE 9 

The ferry at Rownham had been the property 
of the abbots of the Augustinian monastery of 
Bristol, from 1148, and was of necessity frequently 
crossed by those dignified churchmen, who in 
course of time, as the size and trade of Bristol 
increased, derived a considerable revenue from 
their rights here, which, at the Reformation, 
passed to their successors, the Dean and Chapter 
of Bristol, who in their turn were succeeded by 
the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. 

At this point was also a ford, practicable at 
low water for horsemen, but, as the tide here 
rises swiftly and to a height of forty-five feet, it 
was generally of a hazardous character, as seems 
to be sufficiently shown by the fact that in 1610 
one Richard George was drowned in thus crossing, 
while on December 27th of the same year the 
eldest son of one Baron Snigge, Recorder of 
Bristol, met a like fate. On the Bristol side 
stands, among other houses on the quay, the 
Rownham Tavern, and on the Somerset shore 
stood a somewhat imposing hostelry called the 
" New Inn." The building of the last-named 
house of entertainment and refreshment remains 
to this day, but it is now a species of tea-garden 
and picnic place, with arbours in which on summer 
days parties may make modestly merry and 
listen to the murmur of Bristol's traffic borne, 
like a subdued roar, across the river. In the 
rear of the old house, the single-track Bristol 
and Portishead branch of the Great Western 
Railway runs at the foot of the cliffs and 

2 



to THE SOMERSET COAST 

presently tunnels under them, below the Sus- 
pension Bridge. 

The first person ever to put into shape the old 
aspirations of Bristol for a bridge across the 
gorge of the Avon at this point was Alderman 
Vick, of Bristol. He died in 1753, leaving by 
his will a sum of 1,000, to be invested until the 
capital sum reached a total of 10,000, a sum 
he imagined would be sufficient to build a stone 
bridge here. For seventy-seven years this gener- 
ous bequest accumulated as he had willed, and 
by 1830 had reached 8,000. It was then felt, 
as engineering had already made great strides, 
and as the suspension principle had been tried 
in various places, successfully and economically, 
that the bridging of this gulf should no longer 
be delayed. It had long been evident that 
10,000 would not nearly suffice to build a bridge 
of any kind here, but it was thought that, if an 
Act of Parliament were obtained for the under- 
taking of the work and a company formed, the 
necessary funds could be found to begin the 
construction forthwith ; the company to be 
recouped by charging tolls. The Parliamentary 
powers were therefore obtained, the company 
formed, capital subscribed, and Telford, the 
foremost engineer of the day, invited to prepare 
plans and estimates. Telford's plan provided 
for a suspension bridge with two iron towers, 
and he estimated the cost at 52,000. Telford 
was an engineer first, a practical, matter-of-fact 
Scotsman, and not by way of being an artist. 



CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE u 

His fine, but not sufficiently grandiose, scheme 
was, therefore, rejected, and that of Brunei, who 
was next invited to prepare plans, accepted, 
although his estimate was 5,000 higher. Brunei's 
success was undoubtedly due to the picturesque 
design he made, and the stress he laid upon the 
fact that the romantic scenery of this spot might 
easily be ruined by a mere utilitarian structure. 
The bridge as we see it completed to-day is in 
essentials his design, but the two great towers 
from which the roadway is suspended are plain 
to severity, instead of being, as he had con- 
templated, richly sculptured. The towers, he 
explained to the committee of selection, were 
on the model of the gateways to the ruins of 
Tentyra, in Egypt, and would harmonise well 
with the rugged cliffs and hanging woods of 
Clifton and Abbot's Leigh. 

In 1831 the foundations of Brunei's bridge 
were laid, amid great local rejoicings. Felicita- 
tions on the occasion were exchanged. Sir Eardley 
Wilmot, first imagining an Elizabethan Bristolian 
returned to earth, and, coming to Rownham 
Ferry, finding the place just the same as he had 
left it three hundred years earlier, then con- 
gratulated all and sundry on this reproach being 
about to vanish, in the proximate completion 
of the works, and all was joy and satisfaction. 

But money grew scarce ; the works were 
more costly than had been anticipated, and the 
furious riots of 1831 in Bristol rendered capital 
shy and fresh funds difficult to obtain. In 1833 



12 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Brunei was desired to reduce the estimates, 
and did reduce -them by 4,000, at the cost 
of sacrificing much of the ornamental work. 
In 1836 another foundation-stone was laid, and 
a communication opened in mid-air across the 
river, by means of an iron bar stretched across. 
Along this the workmen travelled daily, suspended 
in a wicker basket ; a sight that every day drew 
fascinated crowds. A demand to cross in this 
manner at once sprang up among people who 
wanted a new sensation, and the bridge company 
earned an appreciable sum by charging for these 
aerial trips. While the novelty was very new, 
the fare across was five shillings ; it then sank 
by degrees to half a crown, two shillings, and 
one shilling. The total sum thus netted was 



Delays occurred in 1836 owing to the con- 
tractors going bankrupt, but the company itself 
then assumed the work. In 1840 the great 
towers were finished, but by 1843 the bridge was 
still but half finished, although 45,000 had been 
expended. Money was again very scarce and 
work was at last stopped, and in 1853 the half of 
the ironwork and the flooring that had been 
delivered were sold to satisfy creditors. 

Work was again resumed in 1860, an oppor- 
tunity shortly afterwards arising to cheaply 
purchase the ironwork of Hungerford Suspension 
Bridge, which, built by Brunei in 1845 across the 
Thames, from Hungerford Market, at the foot of 
Villiers Street, Strand, to the Lambeth shore, at 



CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE 13 

a cost of 100,000, was about to be removed to 
make way for the iron lattice-girder bridge of the 
South-Eastern Railway, still a feature of that 
spot. 

Meanwhile, the original Act of Parliament for 
the building of Clifton Bridge had expired, and 
it was necessary to obtain new powers, to form 
a new company, and to raise more funds. All 
these things were accomplished, not without 
considerable difficulty. The ironwork of Hunger- 
ford Bridge was purchased for 5,000, and the 
new Act was obtained in 1861. This, however, 
laid an obligation upon the new company to 
compensate the owners of Rownham Ferry for 
any loss. It declared that " persons having a 
right of ferry across the river Avon called Rown- 
ham Ferry may, in some respect, be injured by 
the building and using of the Bridge ; and it is 
fit, in case such Ferry should be injured or de- 
teriorated thereby, that a fair compensation 
should be made/' It is understood that this 
compensation to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, 
on behalf of the Dean and Chapter of Bristol, the 
old owners of the ferry, was estimated at 200 per 
annum. 

At length, in spite of a shortness of funds that 
always accompanied the progress of the enterprise, 
the bridge was opened in September 1864, and 
has, in all the time since then, proved to be a great 
convenience for traffic making for Clevedon and 
adjacent parts of the coast. It has also been a 
favourite resort for persons of suicidal tendencies, 



14 THE SOMERSET COAST 

who have, indeed, often come from great distances 
for the purpose of putting an end to themselves ; 
being unable to screw up a sufficiency of desperate 
courage elsewhere. Indeed, instances have been 
known of apparently sane and contented people, 
finding themselves on this height, suspended in 
mid-air, being unable to resist a sudden impulse 
to fling themselves off, and many others there are 
who, afraid of losing command over themselves, 
have never yet dared face the crossing. 

Mere figures do not suffice to give an idea of 
the majesty and sense of vastness conjured up 
by Clifton Suspension Bridge, viewed either from 
below, or along its lengthy roadway ; the pic- 
turesqueness of the situation has also to be taken 
into account. But they must needs be given. 
The suspended roadway between the two great 
towers is 703 feet in length and some 34 feet 
wide, and hangs 245 feet above the river Avon. 
The towers themselves are 80 feet in height. 
The entire weight of the bridge is 1,500 tons. 
The toll payable by foot-passengers is the modest 
one of one penny each. Motor-cars pay sixpence 
for a single journey, or ninepence returning the 
same day. A curious privilege was secured by 
Sir John Greville Smyth, Bart., of Ashton Court, 
who very appreciably helped on the construction 
by taking 2,500 shares in the company, and by 
a gift of a further 2,500. In consideration of 
his generosity, no tolls were payable by him 
personally, or any of his horses, carriages, or 
servants, or by the owner for the time being of 



CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE 15 

Ashton Court, for a period of thirty years from 
the opening of the bridge. 

Engineers and men of science tell us that 
suspension bridges and the like structures are 
safest when they swing most. There can, there- 
fore, at any rate, be no doubt of the entire safety 
of Clifton Suspension Bridge, which vibrates 
sensibly to a vigorous stamp of the foot ; alarm- 
ingly to those who have not thoroughly assimilated 
that engineering rough formula of stability. That 
there can be too much sway or vibration is evident 
by the traffic across being strictly limited in speed ; 
while the theory of a sudden application of heavy 
weights being likely to snap the chains and rods 
that hold up the roadway is endorsed by com- 
panies of soldiers marching this way being always 
bidden to change step. It should, however, be 
said that not all engineers support this theory. 

The great tower rising massively above the 
Somerset bank of the Avon bears an inscription 
carved prominently upon its stonework : a Latin 
inscription, a belated example of the priggish 
classicism, beloved by pedants in the eighteenth 
century, which set up, all over the country, 
statements wholly unintelligible to ninety-nine 
out of every hundred wayfarers. " Suspensa vix 
via fit," says this monumental line that is to say, 
rendered into English, " With difficulty can a 
roadway be suspended/' The thing is self-evident 
anywhere, and much more so here, when you 
gaze from this suspended roadway down upon 
the gulf, and on to the tall masts of some sailing- 



16 THE SOMERSET COAST 

vessel arriving at, or leaving, the port of Bristol. 
The various attempts made by passers-by at an 
understanding of the Latin sentence are amusing, 
but the toll-taker appears to have arrived at the 
sense of it, by favour, no doubt, of some one 
learned in the dead languages ; for he was observed 
by the present writer to answer the inquiries of 
two ladies in this wise : " Well, you see, it's a 
bit above me ; but I've always been given to 
understand it to mean that this yer bridge was 
made with great difficulty/' 



CHAPTER III 

ABBOT'S LEIGH TO CLEVEDON 

IT is a hilly road that leads from Clifton Bridge to 
Abbot's Leigh, through the noble Leigh Woods. 
Nightingale Valley lies down on the right; a 
beautiful seclusion, well-named from those song- 
sters of early summer. Looking down upon it 
is the ancient camp of Borough Walls. An 
enterprising Land Company has acquired building 
rights here from Sir H. Miles, owner of these woods 
and of Leigh Court, and has recently built a 
number of charming detached residences, irre- 
gularly disposed among the glades ; and far ad- 
vanced, in disposition, in planning, and in archi- 
tectural style, beyond the methods in vogue when 
the suburban villas built nearer the bridge were 
erected, from about 1870 to 1890. 

Three miles, bearing to the right, bring the 
traveller down to the Avon estuary again, at the 
hillside and waterside village of Pill ; a queer 
little place, clinging and huddling closely to the 
steep banks, and ending in a short 'quay, where 
pilots and other strange waterside folk lean and 
sit on walls and look across to Avonmouth, plainly 
visible on the Gloucestershire shore, at the meet- 

* 3 



i8 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



ing of the Avon and the Bristol Channel ; a 
distant congeries of clustered masts, great ware- 
houses, railway signal-posts, and puffs of smoke 
and steam : all signs of the great series of docks 
constructed by the somewhat belated enterprise 
of Bristol, between 1880 and 1908. The delays 
and dangers attending the progress of modern 
shipping up and down the Avon, to and from the 
docks of Bristol city, have long hindered the 




AVONMOUTH, FROM PILL. 



expansion of the port, and have lef ^Bristol behind 
in that race for commercial greatness in which 
Liverpool and Glasgow have emerged foremost ; 
and now it remains to be seen what the expendi- 
ture of millions will be able to effect in recovering 
tonnage and redressing the balance of missed 
opportunities. There is a ferry across to Shire- 
hampton from Pill and those eager for light on 
the subject may readily make the passage into 
Gloucestershire and satisfy themselves on the 



ABBOTS LEIGH TO CLEVEDON 19 

spot of the likelihood of Avonmouth's future 
prosperity. The rise of Avonmouth, at any rate, 
means loss to the pilots of Pill, in the diminished 
call there will be for their services in guiding 
vessels up and down the muddy meanderings 
of the Avon. 

A pleasant land opens out before the traveller 
who wends from Pill through Easton-in-Gordano 
(called for short, " St. George's ") and Portbury, 
to Portishead, where the open coast is first 
reached. 

Portishead is almost wholly delightful. The 
straggling village is surprisingly unspoiled, con- 
sidering its nearness to Bristol and the fact that 
places further removed have been ruined by 
overmuch building in recent times. There are 
docks, with an area of some twelve acres, at 
Portishead, in the level lands below the great 
bluff of Woodhill and Black Nore, and there is a 
single-track railway, with a terminus here ; but 
the brilliant future once prophesied and con- 
fidently expected for Portishead docks has not 
yet been realised ; and now that the great modern 
docks of Avonmouth have been opened, there 
is even less prospect of those of Portishead coming 
into that predicted success. 

Attempts have been made to popularise Portis- 
head, but as the derelict villas on the wooded 
crest of Woodhill sufficiently prove, entirely 
without success, and the beautiful underwoods, 
traversed in every direction by footpaths, and 
commanding fine views over the Channel, are 



20 THE SOMERSET COAST 

as yet unspoiled. There is great beauty in this 
outlook upon the narrow Channel ; great beauty 
alike in the outlook and in the spot whence it is 
obtained. It is not found in the hue of the water, 
which is here coffee-coloured ; but rather in the 
glimpses across the five-mile-wide estuary to 
another land to Monmouthshire where the 
misty levels of Caldicot are relieved by a gleam 
on Goldcliff. 

On this side the estuary are the long levels 
beyond Avonmouth, in Gloucestershire, ending 
in the sudden rise of cliff at Aust, where the Old 
Passage across the dangerous Severn was situated 
in the old coaching days, before railways and the 
Severn Tunnel were thought of. 

This boldly projecting hill of Portishead com- 
mands the entire panorama of the shipping that 
comes to and from the docks at Gloucester and 
Avonmouth ; and every wind that blows beats 
against it, so that the scrub woods are closely 
knitted and compacted together. It is a place of 
piercing cold and howling blasts in winter, and in 
summer the most invigorating spot on the Somer- 
set coast. The ivy-clad, storm-tossed dwarf oaks 
and gnarled thorns reach down to the low, black, 
seaweedy rocks, and here and there are fine houses, 
with gardens and conservatories, perched within 
reach of the spray. 

Woodhill Bay, westward of this windy point, 
is as sheltered as the heights of Woodhill are ex- 
posed. Near by is the imposing new Nautical 
School, which has replaced the old Formidable 



ABBOT'S LEIGH TO CLEVEDON 21 

training-ship that for many years was a familiar 
sight in the anchorage of King Road. 

The rise and fall of the tide at Portishead, 
ranging from 33 feet at neaps to 44 feet at spring- 




IN PORTISHEAD CHURCH. 



tides, is said to be the greatest, not only in England, 
but in Europe. 

The old village of Portishead is quite distinct 
from the modern Portishead just described. A 
broad straggling street, a mile long, connects the 



22 THE SOMERSET COAST 

two. Some very charming old-world houses are 
clustered around this original inland Portishead, 
whose noble pinnacled church-tower, rising in 
four stately stages, is one of the finest in these 
parts of Somerset. The north aisle has towards 
its east end a transverse masonry strainer, built 
in the middle of the fifteenth century to prevent 
the walls collapsing, owing to a subsidence of 
the soil. As in the case of the great stone inverted 
arches inserted to support the central tower of 
Wells Cathedral, a century earlier, the architects 
employed have attempted to mask the merely 
utilitarian addition by decorative treatment. The 
attempt has here met with a greater degree of 
success than was possible at Wells, and although 
the broad arch spanning the north aisle has 
obviously no ecclesiastical use or purport, save 
that of shoring up walls that were in danger of 
falling, it is not the offensive blot it might, with 
less careful treatment, easily have been made. 

At Portishead is the terminus of that quaint 
short railway, some twelve miles in length with 
the long many-jointed name, like some lengthy 
goods-train the Weston, Clevedon, and Portis- 
head Light Railway ; familiarly (for life is short 
and busy) the " W.C. and P.L.R." This is a 
single-track line, of ordinary gauge, originally 
planned for a steam-tramway, when the Parlia- 
mentary powers for its construction, as between 
Weston and Clevedon, were first obtained in 
1887. The Act authorising the extension to 
Portishead was obtained in 1898. 



ABBOTS LEIGH TO CLEVEDON 23 

The first portion, between Weston and 
Clevedon, was opened December ist, 1897. In 
the interval between 1887 and 1897 the Light 
Railways Act had been passed, and the methods 
of construction were modified in accordance. 
This was the first line to be opened under the 
Light Railways Act, and has therefore the interest 
attaching to a pioneer. The W.C. and P.L.R. 
has, in the few years it has been opened, con- 
ferred many benefits upon a district almost 
wholly agricultural and hitherto peculiarly in- 
accessible. 

The coast between Portishead and Clevedon 
is formed principally by the long steeply shelving 
hill-range known for the greater part of its length 
as Walton Down, thickly covered with woods. 
The road on to Clevedon runs in the valley formed 
between the landward dip of these heights and 
the rise of other hills yet further inland, domi- 
nated by the camp-crested summit of Cadbury 
Hill. In the pleasant vale thus formed, runs 
easily the W.C. and P.L.R. aforesaid. 

There are two villages along this road, Weston 
and Walton, both equipped with the " Gordano " 
suffix, lest they should, perhaps, be confounded 
with other Westons and Waltons. They are 
not remarkable villages, and the church at Walton 
has been rebuilt ; so that the place holds no 
particular interest for the stranger. But the 
church of Weston-in-Gordano, a small Perpen- 
dicular building, retains in its porch an unusual 
and very interesting feature : a wooden music- 



24 THE SOMERSET COAST 

gallery over the doorway, approached by a short 
flight of stone steps in the thick side wall of the 
porch itself. This gallery appears to have been 
used by the church choir in olden times, princi- 
pally for the singing of the canticle for Palm 
Sunday, " Gloria Laus et Honor/' and for 
Christmas hymns ; but it has, for centuries past, 
remained unused and is now merely an archaeo- 
logical curiosity. 

As the stranger approaches Clevedon, his 
attention cannot fail to be attracted by a singular 
castle-like group of buildings upon the skyline, 
on the right hand. This is the so-called ' ' Walton 
Castle/' built in the reign of James the First by 
the Paulets, then owners of the surrounding 
lands, as a hunting-lodge. Castle-building after 
the mediaeval style had long been extinct, but 
this lodge was designed, for picturesqueness' sake, 
in that old manner. It is a flimsy and fast- 
decaying sham. 



CHAPTER IV 

CLEVEDON LITERARY ASSOCIATIONS : 
COLERIDGE 

CLEVEDON is now entered by the modern sub- 
urban developments of Walton Park. Suburbs 
and light railways, and all the things they mean, 
do not come into the minds of those who have 
merely read of Clevedon and have not been there. 
Clevedon to these untravelled folk means Coleridge 
and Tennyson and Hallam, a certain " quiet 
cot," a stately Court and a lone church on a 
hilltop, overlooking the Severn Sea. These are 
essentials ; the rest is incidental. But when 
you come at last to Clevedon, you discover, with 
a pained surprise to which you have no sort of 
a right, that the position is altogether reversed : 
these literary landmarks and associations are 
the incidentals, and the essentials well, what 
are they ? It would puzzle even an old-established 
resident of Clevedon to say. Nothing matters 
very much at Clevedon except that half the 
houses are to let ; and that is a matter of moment 
only to the owners of them and to the tradesfolk. 
How do people make shift to pass the time here ? 

25 4 



26 THE SOMERSET COAST 

They don't care for literature : they don't stroll 
the sands, for there are none ; and they don't 
walk, for it is a neighbourhood of atrocious hills, 
except on the way to the railway-station, the 
dust-destructor, and the gas-works. 

What is it, then, they do ? I will tell you. 
They sit upon the rocks, waiting for the next 
mealtime and refusing (rightly) to support the 
miserable creatures who, calling themselves 
" pierrots," infest the front. In the exiguous 
public gardens old ladies of both sexes knit 
impossible and useless articles or pretend to read 
the newspapers, and wonder why they ever came 
to the place. 

The paradoxical tragedy of Clevedon is that 
there is at once too little and too much of it : 
too little sea-front, and a great deal too much of 
the town in these later times built beside it ; but 
the place must indeed have been delightful in 
1795, at the time when Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
brought his bride here from Bristol, where they 
had been married, in the church of St. Mary 
Redcliffe. He was twenty-three, and a visionary 
immersed in German metaphysics and the 
Kantean philosophy ; and had but recently 
been bought out of the I5th Light Dragoons, in 
which in a moment of despair and starvation, he 
had enlisted. Four months of military duties 
untempered with glory, but strongly savoured 
with riding-lessons and stable-fatigue, did not 
make him a more practical man ; and he re- 
mained in all the sixty-two years that made up 



CLEVEDON 27 

his span of life, although the most gifted of all 
the clever Coleridge family, an amiable dreamer. 

The dreams in which he and Southey and 
other friends were at this time immersed were 
concerned with a fantastic kind of Socialism they 
were pleased to style a " Pantisocracy," in which 
ideal state all property was to be held in common, 
and all spare time was to be occupied with litera- 
ture ; a truly terrible prospect ! This ideal 
community was to be established in North 
America, on the Susquehanna river, there to live 
a life of plain living and high thinking, punctuated 
with washing up the domestic dishes, weeding 
the potato-patch, and propagating a new genera- 
tion of prigs. But money was needed for the 
starting of this pretty and pedantic scheme, and 
because " Pantisocracy " (Heavens ! what a name !) 
did not appeal, and was never likely to appeal, 
to any one who was master of any honest coin 
of the realm, it remained a vision. It failed for 
want of money ; and, human nature being what 
it is, it would still have failed disastrously had 
funds been provided. 

So our Pantisocrats remained in England ; 
" Myrtle Cottage," Clevedon, remaining for a 
little while the address of the Coleridges, until 
they removed to Nether Stowey. We may fairly 
suppose that here this wayward genius, a brilliant 
talker, a poet of gorgeous ideas and noble lan- 
guage, but a man constitutionally infirm of 
purpose, and made yet more inconstant by deep 
reading of mystical German philosophy that led 



28 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



to mental blind alleys, lived the happiest time 
of his life. We obtain an early first glimpse of 
him the second day after arrival in his letter 
to Cottle, the amiable and helpful bookseller of 
Bristol, who greatly befriended Coleridge and 
Southey when they needed friendship most : 
To his " dear Cottle " he wrote, October ,6th, 




COLERIDGE'S COTTAGE, CLEVEDON. 

1795 : " Pray send me a riddle, slice, a candle- 
box, two ventilators, two glasses for the wash- 
stand, one tin dust-pan, one small tin tea-kettle, 
one pair of candlesticks, one carpet-brush, one 
flower (? flour) dredge, three tin extinguishers, 
two mats, a pair of slippers, a cheese toaster, two 
large tin spoons, a Bible, a keg of porter, coffee, 
raisins, currants, catsup, nutmegs, allspice, cinna- 
mon, rice, ginger, and rnace." 



CLEVEDON 29 

The imagination readily pictures the essentially 
unpractical Samuel Taylor Coleridge, certainly 
not well versed in domestic economy, taking 
down this list of household small gear from his 
" pensive Sara " ; prepared, with the receipt of 
them, to open his campaign for existence against 
an indifferent world. 

He sang the praises of that early home in no 
uncertain manner : 

Low was our pretty cot ; our tallest rose 
Peeped at the chamber window. We could hear 
At silent noon, and eve, and early morn, 
The sea's faint murmur. In the open air 
Our myrtle blossomed ; and across the porch 
Thick jasmins twined : the little landscape round 
Was green and woody, and refreshed the eye. 
It was a spot which you might aptly call 
The Valley j)f Seclusion ! 

/ ^r-^ 

You might indeed so call it now, if inclined 
to poetry, but you would be wholly wrong. The 
painful fact must be recorded that " Myrtle 
Cottage " stands beside the road, directly on the 
busiest route between the railway-station and 
the sea-front (such as the sea-front is), and that 
flys, " charleybanks," wagonettes, motor-cars, and 
all conceivable traffic come this way. Indeed, 
this cottage and its trim fellow are now almost 
the only vestiges in the road left of the Clevedon 
that Coleridge knew. What little remained of 
the rocky bluff at the back is now being actively 
blasted and quarried away by the local authority, 



30 THE SOMERSET COAST 

in its attempt highly successful, too at match- 
ing the place with the London district of Netting 
Hill. Property owners have already filled Cleve- 
don with stuccoed semi-" Italian " villas on the 
Ladbroke Grove model, that became discredited 
a generation ago ; the kind of property that 
has dismal semi-underground dungeons called 
" breakfast-rooms " (by way of a penitential 
beginning of the day), and long flights of stone 
steps to the front door, alleged to be ornamental, 
and certainly excessively tiring. This is a kind 
of property that never, or rarely, lets nowadays ; 
and Clevedon has many empty villas. 

The white-paled, red-tiled trim cottages 
Coleridge's and another are among the plea- 
santest sights of Clevedon, by reason of their 
unconventional, homely style, and the fine trees 
that surround and overhang them. Tiles, you 
will observe, have replaced the thatch of the 
poet's description ; but the jessamine still twines 
over the porch. Five pounds a year, the landlord 
paying the taxes ; that was the rent of this then 
idyllic spot. 

It should here be added that doubts have 
recently been expressed as to the genuine nature 
of the tradition that makes " Myrtle Cottage " 
the temporary home of Coleridge. And not only 
have these doubts been expressed, but very 
strongly worded statements have been made, to 
the effect that the real Coleridge Cottage was in 
the valley at East Clevedon, adjoining Walton- 
in-Gordano. But the matter is controversial, and 



CLEVEDON 31 

at any rate the legend if, indeed, it be but a 
legend that has attached to the cottage popu- 
larly known as Coleridge's, has had so long a start 
that it will be difficult, if not impossible, ever to 
demolish it. 



CHAPTER V 

CLEVEDON (continued} LITERARY ASSOCIATIONS : 

TENNYSON 

BUT Clevedon has more prominent literary as- 
sociations than that just considered, and has a 
place unforgettable in poetry by reason of Tenny- 
son's " In Memoriam," that lengthy poem written 
by the future laureate to the memory of his 
friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, who, born in 1811, 
died untimely, at the age of twenty-two, in 
September 1833. 

Arthur Hallam, a son of that Henry Hallam 
who is generally alluded to as " the historian " 
although it would puzzle most of those airy, 
allusive folk to name offhand the historical works 
of which he was the author would appear to 
have been in posse an Admirable Crichton. He 
composed poetry and wrote philosophical essays 
at a tender age, thought great and improving 
things, and had already begun to set up as some- 
thing of a paragon, when death rendered impossible 
the fulfilment of this early promise. There were 
at that time some terribly earnest young men, 
ready and willing if not realty able to set the 
world right. Prophets and seers abounded in 

32 



CLEVEDON 33 

that dark first half of the nineteenth century, 
when religion was at odds with the comparatively 
new era of steam and machinery. Each one had 
a panacea for the ills of the age, and each had his 
own little band of devoted admirers, devoted on 
condition that he should in his turn spare a little 
admiration for those who hung upon his words 
and doings. Prigs and prodigies stalked the 
earth, preaching new gospels. They formed 
mutual-admiration societies, wherein each pro- 
tested how vastly endowed with all the virtues 
and all the intellect possible was the other ; and 
before they had outgrown their legal definition 
of " infants " and had come of age and become 
technically men, were ready with criticisms and 
appreciations of Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare, 
and were laying down the laws of conduct in this 
life, with speculations upon what awaits us in 
the next. It was a morbid, unhealthy generation ; 
but at the same time, these sucking philosophers 
were not without the tradesman instinct, and 
zealously combined to advertise one another. 
Thus, the early Tennysonian circle at Cambridge 
was a Society of Mutual Encouragement, with its 
eyes well fixed on publicity. How valuable were 
some of these early friendships may well be 
guessed from the one outstanding fact that it 
was Monckton Milnes, afterwards Lord Houghton, 
one of this circle, who at an early date, when 
Tennyson himself was little more than a hopeful 
promise as a poet, procured by his influence with 
Sir Robert Peel, the then Prime Minister, a pension 

5 



34 THE SOMERSET COAST 

of 200 a year for his friend. It fortunately 
proved a wise selection ; but in the case of Tenny- 
son's over-elaborate post-mortem praise of his 
friend Hallam, we have foisted upon us a very 
high estimate of one who, although engaged to 
the poet's sister, Emily, and thus additionally 
endeared to him, had not yet proved himself 
beyond this narrow circle. He was, therefore, no 
fitting subject for the " rich shrine," as Tennyson 
himself styled it, of "In Memoriam," but should 
have been mourned privately. 

The connection of the Hallams with Clevedon 
was through the mother of Arthur. She was a 
daughter of Sir Abraham Elton, of Clevedon 
Court. Arthur Hallam died in Austria, and 
his body was brought to Clevedon for burial ; 
hence the allusion in the poem, in that metre 
Tennyson fondly imagined himself had origi- 
nated : 

The Danube to the Severn gave 

The darkened heart that beat no more : 
They laid him by the pleasant shore, 

And in the hearing of the wave. 

There twice a day the Severn fills ; 
The salt sea-water passes by 
And hushes half the babbling Wye, 

And makes a silence in the hills. 

The Wye is hushed nor moved along, 
And hushed my deepest grief of all, 
When filled with tears that cannot fall, 

I brim with sorrow drowning song. 



CLEVEDON 35 

The tide flows down, the wave again 

Is vocal in its wooded walls ; 

My deeper anguish also falls, 
And I can speak a little then. 

Clevedon church was selected as the resting- 
place of Arthur Henry Hallam, " not only from 
the connection of kindred, but on account of its 
still and sequestered situation on a lone hill that 
overhangs the Bristol Channel." 




CLEVEDON. 



Much has been altered at Clevedon since 1833, 
when that decision was made. The village has 
become a small town, of some six thousand in- 
habitants, and although the ancient parish church 
is still at the very fringe of modern boarding- 
house and lodging-house developments, yet no 
one could now have the hardihood to describe 
its position as " lone." 

All this, if you do but t consider awhile, is 
entirely in keeping with the change of sentiment 



36 THE SOMERSET COAST 

since that time when the poem was written. 
Everything is more material. We no longer 
examine our souls at frequent intervals, to see 
how they are getting on after the manner of 
children with garden plants. The practice is 
equally injurious to souls and to plants. Yes, 
even in this material age, among those who have 
not forgotten or denied their God there is a better 
spirit than that which characterises the " In 
Memoriam " period. The faith that is demanded 
of the Christian the faith of little children- 
was not in these troubled folk. The assurance we 
have of Divine infinite goodness and mercy was 
not sufficient for them. They must needs enquire 
and speculate, and seek to reason out those 
things that are beyond research and scholar- 
ship. A great deal of mental arrogance is 
wrapped up in these semi-spiritual gropings and 
f umblings towards the light . You see the attitude 
of the consciously Superior Person therein, and 
all these troubles leave you cold and unsym- 
pathetic ; and all the more so when it is borne in 
upon you that they were carefully pieced together 
and prepared for the market during a space of 
sixteen years. 

The inevitable result of the piecemeal and 
laborious methods employed is that the belated 
poem lacks cohesion, and although there are 
gems of thought and expression embedded in the 
mass of verbiage, it must needs be confessed 
that " In Memoriam " is a sprawling and unwieldy 
tribute. The " rich shrine " erected has indeed 



CLEVEDON 37 

a great deal of uninspired journeyman work, and 
is, in fact, not a little ruinous. It is safe to con- 
clude that portions only of it will survive, while 
"Maud," that fine poem of passion, will endure 
so long as English verse is read. 

Probably the most outstanding of all the 
many stanzas of " In Memoriam " is the oft-quoted 

And the stately ships go on 

To their haven under the hill, 

But oh ! for the touch of a vanished hand, 

And the sound of a voice that is still. 

Taken from the context, it wrings the heart- 
strings of those who have loved and lost, but it 
is strained sentiment when applied by one man to 
another, however near their friendship. Also, 
applying the verse to this particular place, as we 
are meant to do, the stately ships do not put in 
at Clevedon, which is not a haven for any but 
the smallest craft. Tennyson visited Clevedon 
only belatedly, and knew so little of the circum- 
stances, although he publicly mourned his friend 
so keenly and at such length, that he was not 
quite sure where they had laid him. We observe 
him trying twice to place the grave, and failing : 

Tis well ; 'tis something ; we may stand 
Where he in English earth is laid, 
And from his ashes may be made 

The violet of his native land. 

Or else, he proceeds to say, if not in the church- 
yard, then in the chancel : 

Where the kneeling hamlet drains 
The chalice of the grapes of God. 



38 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Leaving aside that shockingly infelicitous 
alliterative expression, " the grapes of God," 
intended to convey the meaning of " communion 
wine," we know that neither in the churchyard 
nor in the chancel was the body of Arthur Hallam 
laid, but in the south transept. But he con- 
tinues : 

And in the chancel like a ghost, 
Thy tablet glimmers to the dawn, 

making another bad shot. This, however, was 
remedied in later editions, in which " dark church " 
was substituted for " chancel." But, since 
Clevedon church is not exceptionally dark, why 
not the word " transept," 'which would be 
absolutely correct and certainly more poetic and 
less clumsy than " dark church " ? 

The white marble tablet to the memory of 
Arthur Hallam is fixed, with those to his father 
and others of the family, on the west wall of the 
little transept. Speaking of it, the poet says : 

When on my bed the moonlight falls, 
I know that in thy place of rest 
By that broad water of the west, 

There comes a glory on the walls : 

Thy marble bright in dark appears, 

As slowly steals a silver flame 

Along the letters of thy name 
And o'er the numbers of thy years. 

It is the ghastly morbidness of this that at 
first arrests the reader's attention, and a closer 



CLEVEDON 39 

examination does not by any means impress him ; 
for surely to describe a moonbeam as a " flame," 
moonlight in fact, in appearance, and in the long 
history of poetic thought being notoriously cold 
and the very negation of heat, is a lapse from 
the Tightness of things more characteristic of a 
poetaster seeking at any cost a rhyme to " name " 
than the mark of a great poet. 

It has long been the fashion among those 
who shout with the biggest crowd to point scorn- 
fully at the critic who, discussing " In Memoriam " 
soon after it was published, wrote : " These touch- 
ing lines evidently come from the full heart of 
the widow of a military man." This has been 
termed " inept." Now, if we turn to the diction- 
aries, we shall find the commonly received defini- 
tion of that word to be " unfitting." But was 
it, indeed, unfitting ? The opinion of that critic 
did not actually fit the facts ; but the morbid 
tone of the poem, and the singularly feminine 
ring of such phrases, as "The man I held as 
half-divine," " my Arthur," and the like, seem 
to many a reader to be a perfect justification of 
the aptness of the critic's views ; and remind 
us that none other than Bulwer Lytton once 
referred to Tennyson as " school-miss Alfred." 

My Arthur, whom I shall not see 
Till all my widowed race be run ; 
Dear as the mother to the son, 

More than my brothers are to me. 

There is the critic's ample defence. To a 



40 THE SOMERSET COAST 

healthily constituted mind, that verse is more 
than ordinarily revolting. 

The humble little hilltop church of St. Andrew, 
anciently a fisherman's chapel, has many modern 
rivals in suburbanised Clevedon ; but in it is 
centred all the ecclesiastical interest of the place. 
It is chiefly a Transitional-Norman building, 
with aisleless nave and chancel, north and south 
transepts, and central tower of Perpendicular 
date, but plain to severity. The pointed Transi- 
tional arch is the finest and most elaborate part 
of the building and is richly moulded. Hagio- 
scopes command views from either transept into 
the chancel. Near the chancel arch is a curious 
miniature recumbent effigy, two feet six inches 
in length, in the costume of the sixteenth century, 
representing a woman, of which no particulars 
are known. It is thought to be that of a dwarf. 
The Hallam and Elton monumental tablets are 
on the walls of the south transept ; of plain 
white marble, with characteristically bald monu- 
mental-mason's lettering ; the very ne plus ultra 
of the commonplace and matter-of-fact, and 
very trying indeed to hero-worshipping pilgrims. 
For ornament and display of mosaic and gilding 
the visitor should turn to the reredos, recently 
placed in the chancel. Whether he will delight 
in it, after the severity of the tablets, is a matter 
for individual prejudices ; but he surely will 
not feel delighted by being approached by a 
caretaker with pencil and notebook and a re- 
quest for a gift towards the restoration fund 



CLEVEDON 41 

which doubtless includes the cost of this theatrical 
reredos. It has come to this : that the Tenny- 
sonian association has been made the excuse and 
stalking-horse for badgering the visitor for six- 
pences. The wise visitor, whether he approves 
of elaborate restoration or not, will leave those 
who called the tune to pay the piper, and will 
further leave to the Elton family of Clevedon 
Court, who draw an excellent revenue from 
their property here, the duty and the pleasure 
of footing the bills that may yet be unsatisfied. 

Clevedon Court lies away back on the direct 
Bristol road, over a mile distant from the church 
and the sea, and removed from the modern de- 
velopments of the place, which at one and the 
same time have largely enriched its owners, the 
Elton family, and have rendered the neighbour- 
hood less desirable as a residence to them. Ever, 
with each succeeding phase of Clevedon' s growth, 
the sweetly beautiful valley that runs up hither 
from the sea is further encroached upon by 
houses, until at the present time a few outlying 
blocks are within sight of the Court itself. The 
recently opened light railway also bids fair to 
be the prelude to further building-operations. 

Meanwhile, the grounds of the Court remain 
as beautiful as ever, ascending to a long and 
lofty ridge, heavily wooded. The Court itself, 
of which the interior is not generally shown, 
stands prominently facing the park wall and the 
road, only a few yards away, and is quite easily 
to be seen. It is a long, low mansion, a singular 

6 



vy ..* > 
.CO 

O L 



42 THE SOMERSET COAST 

mass of Gothic gables, chimneys, and terraces, 
dating originally from the early years of the 
fourteenth century, when it was built by the 
De Clyvedons. Court and estates passed with 
an heiress by marriage to one Thomas Hogshaw, 
thence in the same manner to the Lovell family, 
and from them to the Wakes, whose arms and 
allusive motto, " Wake and Pray," are to be 
found in parts of the house altered by them about 
1570. The Wake family sold their possessions 
at Clevedon to Digby, Earl of Bristol ; and 
finally the executors of the third Earl sold them 
to the Elton family in the time of Queen Anne. 

Great destruction was caused to the west 
front of the Court by the fire that broke out in 
November 1882, but the damage has been so 
skilfully repaired that, to any save the closest 
inspection, the building retains the aspect it had 
long presented. The chief feature of the principal 
front, of fourteenth-century date, is the entrance- 
porch, with portcullis, and room over. Here, 
midway along the irregular front, is a very large 
square window, filled with curiously diapered 
tracery. Thackeray, who often visited here, as 
a friend of the Rev. William H. Brookfield and 
his wife, Jane Octavia, sister of Sir Charles 
Elton, then owner of Clevedon Court, has left a 
somewhat striking pencil sketch of the building, 
viewed from this point. The house is the original 
of " Castlewood," in his novel, " Esmond." 

Clevedon Court was largely rearranged in the 
time of Queen Elizabeth, in accordance with the 



CLEVEDON 



43 



ideas of comfort then prevailing, considerably in 
advance of those that ruled when it was originally 
built, in the reign of Edward the Second. But it 
was left to the remarkable people who ruled when 
the nineteenth century was yet young to further 
modernise the ancient residence, and they per- 
petrated strange things : painting and graining 
interior stonework to resemble oak, and the 
like atrocities ; the highest ambition of builders 




CLEVEDON COURT. 



and decorators in that era of shame being to 
treat honest materials as though they were not 
to be shown for what they really were, and to 
make them masquerade as something else. No 
one ever was deceived by the plaster of that age, 
pretending to be stone ; and stone that was given 
two coats of paint and tickled with a grainer's 
comb, and then finished off with varnish, never 
yet made convincing oak, any more than 
"marbled" wall-papers looked or felt like real 
marble ; but those were then conventional treat- 



44 THE SOMERSET COAST 

ments, and were followed and honoured all over 
the land. 

At the same time, the ancient oak roof of the 
hall of Clevedon Court was hidden behind a plaster 
ceiling. 

But the house is not sought out only for its 
antiquity, or for the beauty of its situation, or 
even for its Thackeray associations. After all, 
does any considerable section of the public really 
care for Thackeray landmarks ? Writers of 
literary gossip, of prefaces to new editions, may 
affect to think so, but, in fact, Thackeray does 
not command that intimate sympathy which 
Dickens enjoys. Sentiment does not attach itself 
to the satirist, who, in the odd moments when he, 
too, sentimentalises, is apt to be suspected, quite 
wrongly, of insincerity. It is for its Tennyson 
associations that Clevedon Court is sought by 
most tourists. 






CHAPTER VI 

YATTON CONGRESBURY WICK ST. LAWRENCE 

THE main road from Clevedon to Kingston 
Seymour trends sharply inland, passing the little 
village of Kenn. Seaward the flat and featureless 
lands spread to an oozy shore ; Kenn itself, an 
insignificant village, standing beside a sluggish 
runnel of the same name. From this place 
sprang the Ken family, which numbered among 
its members the celebrated Bishop of Bath and 
Wells, who owed his preferment from a sub- 
ordinate position at Winchester to his having, 
while there, refused to give up his house for the 
accommodation of Nell Gwynne. Charles the 
Second was a true sportsman. He respected those 
who were true to themselves, whether it were an 
unrepentant highwayman, whom he could pardon 
and fit out with a telling nickname ; or a Church 
dignitary whose conscience forbade him to curry 
favour by housing a King's mistress. So, in 1684, 
when a choice was to be made of a new Bishop 
of Bath and Wells, the King declared that no one 
should have it but " the little black fellow that 
refused his lodging to poor Nelly." 

The Ken family finally died out in the seven- 

45 



46 THE SOMERSET COAST 

teenth century, after having been settled here 
over four hundred years. A small mural monu- 
ment to Christopher Ken and his family, 1593, 
remains in the little church, rebuilt in 1861 and 
uninteresting ; but with a pretty feature in the 
unusual design of the pyramidal stone roof of 
its small tower. 

Beyond Kenn, in a lonely situation midway 
between Yatton and the coast at the point where 
the waters of the Yeo estuary glide and creep, 
rather than fall, into the sea, stands the village 
of Kingston Seymour. The country all round 
about is more remarkable for the rich feeding its 
flat pastures afford the cows than for its scenic 
beauties. If it were not for the luxuriant hedge- 
rows and the fine hedgerow trees, it would be 
possible to say, with the utmost sincerity, that 
this corner of Somerset was tame and dull. But 
the dairy-farmers who occupy it so largely draw 
great prosperity from these flat meadows. 

Within the beautiful and delicately graceful 
old church of Kingston Seymour are tablets re- 
cording the floods once possible here, and the 
destruction wrought by two such visitations, in 
1606 and 1703. An epitaph records the odd 
bequest of a certain " J. H., M in bequeathing 
" his remains " to his acquaintance, and their 
still more singular joy at the legacy : 

He was universally beloved in the circle ol 
His acquaintance ; but united 
In his death the esteem of all, 
Namely, by bequeathing his remains, 






YATTON 47 

The centre of this district is Yatton, which now 
draws all surrounding traffic by reason of its 
junction station on the Great Western Railway. 
Here the traveller changes for Clevedon, or for 
Cheddar and Wells, or for Wrington Vale. Yatton 
takes its name from the river Yeo, which oozes 
near by, and itself hides in that form of spelling 
the Celtic word ea, for water, akin to the modern 
French eau. Thus Yatton is really, derivatively, 
the same as Eton, near Windsor, the water-town 
beside the river Thames ; Eaton by Chester, on 
the river Dee, and many other places throughout 
the country with the affix of " ea " or "ay." 
An alternative derivation, as arguable as the first, 
makes Yatton derive from the " gate," or gap, in 
the neighbouring hills, through which the Yeo 
drains on its way from Wrington. The village 
itself stands somewhat high, but overlooks a 
very considerable tract of low-lying country, 
formerly in the nature of a creek, as proved by 
modern discoveries of a Roman boat-house and 
similar waterside relics near by. 

The business brought by the junction-station 
of the Great W 7 estern Railway at Yatton has 
effectually abolished the village-like rustic char- 
acter of the place. It is more by way of a townlet 
of one long street, remarkable for the unpleasing 
prominence of blank walls enclosing the grounds 
of residents whose desire for privacy appears to 
be excessive. 

The great feature of Yatton is, however, its 
fine church. No traveller can have journeyed 



48 THE SOMERSET COAST 

much on the Great Western Railway without 
having noticed, as his train approached Yatton, 
the singular effect produced by the tall tower of 
this fine building, surmounted by a spire that has 
lost the last third part of its original height, and 
has been finished off with small pinnacles. The 
effect is almost uncanny, but by no means un- 
pleasant, and the proposals that have from time 
to time been made to complete the spire are 
altogether to be deprecated. No records remain 
by which it can with certainty be said that the 
spire was ever completed when the church was 
at last finished, after building operations that 
extended from 1486 to 1500 ; but the evidence 
afforded by the Late Perpendicular cresting and 
pinnacles that finish off the incomplete structure, 
and are contemporary with it, seems to point 
to one or other of two hypotheses : that funds 
finally proved insufficient, almost on the eve of 
the works being brought to a conclusion ; or that 
the builders were alarmed by signs of their having 
already placed as much weight upon the tower 
as it could possibly bear. 

It is a noble church, designed in the last 
phase of pure Gothic architecture, with some few 
remains of Early English and Decorated from a 
former building, demolished to make way for 
this larger and more splendid place of worship. 
Here in the De Wyke chantry is the altar-tomb of 
Evelina de Wyke and her husband, c. 1337 ; and 
near by is that of Sir Richard Cradock Newton, 
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, 1448, and 



YATTON 49 

his wife, Emma, or Emmota, Perrott. The re- 
cumbent effigies of the Judge and his lady are 
very fine. He wears the robes of his office and 
a collar with links of " S.S.," mystic letters 
generally considered to signify " Souveraigne," 
and to be a badge of Lancastrian loyalty. This 
example is considered to be the earliest known. 
The "garbs," or wheatsheaves of the Judge's 
coat-of-arms, may still be traced, as also the arms 
of his wife three pendant golden pears on a red 
field, in punning allusion to " Perrott/' 

Here also is the tomb of the Judge's eldest 
son, Sir John Newton, and his wife, Isabel Chedder. 
All these had, in their time, greatly to do with the 
rebuilding and beautifying of Yatton church. 

A curious epitaph in the churchyard, to the 
memory of a gipsy who died in 1827, reads : 

Here lies Merrily Joules, 

a beauty bright, 
Who left Isac Joules, her 

heart's delight. 

Prominent, close by, is the boldly stepped base of 
a churchyard cross, of which the shaft has long 
disappeared. Surviving accounts prove it to 
have been erected at a cost of 18, in 1499. 

Yatton church, as we have seen, has a spire, 
an unusual feature with Somerset churches. 
Here, however, a small group of spires or spirelets 
occurs, including also those of Congresbury, 
Kingston Seymour, Kenn, and Worle. Congres- 
bury spire is the most prominent of all, both 

7 



50 THE SOMERSET COAST 

from its own height and from the position it 
occupies in the vale below Yatton. 

" Coomsbury " for that is the local shibboleth 
is a considerable village, taking its name tradi- 
tionally from " St. Congar," son of some uncertain 
" Emperor of Constantinople." This really very 
autocratic personage endeavoured to marry his 
son to a person whom the young man could not 
love, and he fled his father's Court ; wandering 
in wild and inclement lands, until he came at 
last to this then particularly wild and unwhole- 
some region. We cannot avoid the suspicion 
that the lady must have been a terror of the 
first water ; or, alternatively, that Congar was 
not altogether weather-proof in the upper storey. 
He is said to have founded a hermitage here, 
A.D. 711, and a baptistry at which the heathen 
were admitted to the Church ; and King Ina, we 
are told, became his most powerful patron. At 
last he went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and 
died there ; but his body was conveyed back to 
Congresbury. 

Thus the legend, which has no historical 
foundation whatever, and appears to be an ancient, 
but entirely idle tale : the name of Congresbury 
being really, in its first form, an Anglo-Saxon 
Konigsburg ; or, in modern English, Kingston. 
But " St. Congar," although he finds no place in 
learned hagiologies, is still a belief at " Cooms- 
bury," and the villagers point to the stump of 
an ancient yew-tree as " St. Congar's walking- 
stick." 



! 



CONGRESBURY 51 

The church itself is large and fine, but not so 
fine as that of Yatton. In the churchyard is the 
base of an ancient cross, and in the village itself 
a tall shaft of the fifteenth century, with the 
cross replaced by a ball. 

The rectory was until towards the end of 
the eighteenth century wholly a fifteenth-century 
building ; but the clergy of that time, little dis- 







THE RECTORY. CONGRESBURY. 



posed towards archaeology, and with marked 
leanings towards a certain standard of stately 
comfort and display, procured the building of the 
present large but ugly parsonage, and degraded 
the old building into a kitchen and outhouse. 
The expansive (and expensive) ideas of that time 
have for some generations past proved expensive 
indeed to the incumbents of Congresbury, for 
the large house and great lofty rooms cost much 



52 THE SOMERSET COAST 

to keep in repair, and the ideas of the present- 
day clergy are not so nearly as they were like 
those of the old-fashioned free-handed country 
squires. 

In Congresbury churchyard a lengthy epitaph 
upon a former inhabitant incidentally tells us 
that belated highwaymen still troubled these 
parts in 1830, a period when most other regions 
had long seen the last of those unknightly 
" Knights of the Road " : 

/ In Memory of 

CHARLES CAPELL HARDWICKE 

of this Parish 

died 
July and 1849 

aged 

50 years 

And was buried at Hutton 

His Friends 
Erected this Monument . 

To Record 

their admiration of his 
Character 

and 
their regret at his 

Loss 

A.D. 1871 

He was of such courage that being attacked by a 
highwayman on the heath in this parish, Oct. 2ist, 1830, 
and fearfully wounded by him, he pursued his assailant 
and having overtaken him in the centre of this village, 
he delivered him up to Justice. 

The old rectory, happily still standing, was 

built about 1446. Its chief interest lies in the 
projecting porch ; the doorway surmounted with 



CONGRESBURY 



53 



a sculptured panel enclosing the figure of an odd- 
looking angel with a cross growing out of his head, 
holding in his hands a scroll inscribed " Laus 
Deo." The archway is pointed in the manner 
of an Early English arch, and sculptured with an 
imitation of the " dog-tooth " moulding of that 
period. Stone shields bear the arms of Bishop 
Beckington, and of the Pulteney family. 

From Congresbury it is possible to again 
approach the coast, coming by level roads that 
run through flat alluvial lands to Wick St. 
Lawrence, a small and solitary village standing 
near the banks of the Yeo estuary. 

The writer grows tired of writing, and the 
reader doubtless as weary of reading, of the rich- 
ness of the land in these parts ; but the occasion 
for and the necessity of this continued allusion 
are at least proofs of the fertility of Somerset 
and of the abundance of the good gifts bestowed 
upon this fortunate county, whose soil even 
oozes plentifully out at its river-mouths and in the 
way of muddy deposits conspicuously advertises 
this form of wealth. There can be no possible 
doubt of the great importance the dairying business 
has assumed in these parts. It has already been 
noted at Yatton, and here again the traveller 
by road, who thus sees the country intimately, 
is impressed, not only with the rich pastures, but 
with the beautiful stock he sees in them or driven 
along the road ; and also with the numbers of 
carts he observes, with from one to half a dozen 
milk-churns, driven smartly across country to 



54 THE SOMERSET COAST 

the nearest railway-station, to catch the up 
trains for Bristol or London. 

The road to Wick St. Lawrence i.e. St. 
Lawrence's Creek after crossing the Great 
Western Railway midway between Yatton and 
Puxton, winds extravagantly between high hedges, 
passing only an occasional farmhouse. Rarely 
the stranger in these parts meets any other way- 
farers than farming folk, and the children of Wick 
St. Lawrence at sight of him stand stock-still, 
with fingers in mouths, quaint figures of com- 
bined curiosity and shyness, clad in the old rustic 
way in homely clothes and clean " pinners/' 

The remains of a many-stepped fifteenth- 
century village cross stand opposite the church : 
all steps and not much cross, ever since some 
village Hampdens in the long ago showed their 
hatred of superstition by leaving only about a 
foot and a half of the shaft. The church itself, 
with tall and rather gaunt tower, is a Late Per- 
pendicular building, with elaborate stone pulpit. 
Here is an epitaph which would seem to have its 
warnings for those who might feel disposed to 
extend their explorations to the mud-flats of the 
Yeo estuary at low tide : 

To the memory of JAMES MORSS, of this parish, yeoman, who 
dy'd November ye 25th 1730, aged 38 years. 

Save me, O God, the mighty waters role 

With near Approaches, even to my soul : 

Far from dry ground, mistaken in my course, 

I stick in mire, brought hither by my horse. 

Thus vain I cry'd to God, who only saves : 

In death's cold pit I lay ore whelm' d with waves. 



WICK ST. LAWRENCE 



55 



Beyond the village, the road winds again in 
fantastic loops, and is crossed, without the 
formality of gates by the W. C. and P.L.R. This 
weird concatenation of initials sounds like a 
mass-meeting of household sanitary appliances, 
but those readers who have diligently persevered 
through the earlier pages of this book will under- 
stand that the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead 
Light Railway is meant. Thenceforward, after 
more windings through a thinly peopled district, 
the road wriggles on to Worle ; sending off a 
branch to the left hand for Woodspring, Swallow 
Cliff, and Sand Bay. 



CHAPTER VII 

WORSPRING PRIORY, KEWSTOKE 

THE Augustinian Priory of Worspring, or Wospring, 
now called " Woodspring," stands in a very 
secluded situation in this little-visited nook of 
the coast, projecting abruptly into the Bristol 
Channel north-west of Wick, and terminated in 
that direction by St. Thomas's Head : a pro- 
montory which owes its name directly to the Priory 
itself, partly dedicated to the Blessed St. Thomas 
of Canterbury. The roads of this district are 
perhaps better to be termed lanes ; and they are 
lanes of old Devonian character : narrow, hollow, 
with high banks and hedges, stony and winding. 
The land is purely agricultural. Thus, except 
for a few farmers' carts and waggons, or for 
those more than usually enterprising tourists and 
amateurs of ancient architecture and ecclesiastical 
ruins who spend their energies in seeking out the 
remains of Woodspring Priory, the stranger has 
until now been but rarely seen. A new com- 
plexion has, however, been put upon matters by 
the coming of what is known locally, " for short," 
as the " W. C. and P.L.R." ; i.e. the Weston, 
Clevedon, and Portishead Light Railway, already 

56 



WORSPRING PRIORY 57 

described ; and now learned archaeologists, enthusi- 
astic, but perhaps not always endowed with the 
stamina and endurance of explorers, travel hither 
in the company of picnic parties, to whom any 
ruin in a picturesque setting is a sufficient excuse 
for an afternoon afield. " Hither," however, is 
here a generous term, for the railway does not 
come within a mile and a half of the spot. But 
" every little helps," as the trite proverb tells us. 

The name of " Woodspring " does not appear 
in print before 1791, when it is found in Collinson's 
" History of Somerset." Before that date it was 
always referred to as " Worspring." The name 
has puzzled many, but it is really a simple cor- 
ruption of the original term, " Worle-spring," 
indicating the situation of the Priory on a rill 
that descended to these levels by the sea from 
the neighbourhood of Worle heights. 

The Priory was founded in the first instance 
by Reginald FitzUrse, as a chapel of expiation of 
his share in the murder of Thomas a Becket. It 
was in 1210 refounded on a much larger scale by 
William de Courtenay, grandson, on the maternal 
side, of William Tracy, another of those sacri- 
legious knights. Courtenay endowed it as a home 
of Austin Canons and triply dedicated the estab- 
lishment in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 
the Holy and Undivided Trinity, and St. Thomas 
a Becket ; and it was further enriched by lands 
bequeathed by Maud, the daughter, and Alice, 
the granddaughter, of the third murderer, le Bret 
or Brito : Alice expressing the devout hope that 

8 



58 THE SOMERSET COAST 

the intercession of the blessed martyr might 
always be available for herself and her children. 

The seal of the Priory is curious. In the lower 
portion of the usual vesica-shaped device is an 
allusion to the dedication to St. Thomas of Canter- 
bury, in the form of a representation of his 
martyrdom : Becket being shown falling by 
the altar, on which stands a chalice, at the moment 
of his skull being cleft by Richard le Bret's sword, 
which protrudes, immensely large in proportion 
to the figure of the Archbishop, from the border. 

After more than three hundred and twenty 
years of an almost unruffled existence, this 
obscure religious house was suppressed in common 
with others, and its fabric and possessions con- 
fiscated. It was surrendered on September 27th, 
*536> and the monks turned adrift upon the 
world, perhaps too late in life to set about the 
performance of any honest work ; but by no 
means with that utter indifference as to whether 
they were clothed and fed, or went in rags and 
starved, that the apologists for monkery and 
critics of Henry the Eighth and his Ministers 
of State would have us believe. No : unless they 
had proved contumacious, the rulers and the 
brethren of the disestablished religious houses 
were pensioned. The last Prior of Woodspring, 
Roger Tormenton, who was appointed in 1525, 
received a pension of -12 per annum upon his 
surrendering the Priory in 1536 a sum equal 
to nearly 100 at present values. The Priory 
itself was then leased for twenty-one years to 



WORSPRING PRIORY 59 

Edward Fettiplace, of Donington, Berkshire : 
one of the formerly numerous family of that 
name once settled chiefly in that county and in 
Oxfordshire, but now utterly extinct. Passing 
through many hands, it is now among the pro- 
perties of the Smyth-Pigott family, owners of 
much land hereabouts, including the site of 
Weston -super-Mare. 

There can surely be no farmhouse more 
ecclesiastical in appearance than that of Wood- 
spring Priory. As the traveller approaches it 
across the rough occupation-roads of two large 
pastures, he sees the noble central tower of what 
was the Priory church rising exquisitely from a 
characteristically English rural scene of tall elms, 
profuse hedgerows, and succulent grass. Rude 
wooden field-gates and rutty tracks partly filled 
with straw combed off passing heavy-laden 
farm- waggons by projecting brambles, conduct 
him into a farmyard where porkers grunt from 
their sties and cows low from their linhays in 
a not unmusical orchestration ; the grey and 
lichened stonework of the Priory tithe-barn and 
the tall tower surrounding them with an un- 
wonted halo of romantic association. On that 
spot where, in the olden days of Woodspring's 
pride, the porter slid back his hatch in the gate- 
house, in answer to the stranger's knock, the 
pigs snuffle in their troughs and thrust pink 
snouts through palisades, enquiring curiously 
who comes this way. A fantastic thought pos- 
sibly occurs to the modern pilgrim that they 



60 THE SOMERSET COAST 

might be re-incarnations of those old fat porters 
themselves ; and a glance into those pig-houses 
further discloses fine Berkshires there, as sleek and 
well-larded as any greasy mediaeval Prior. 

The entrance to the farmyard is flanked 
with a somewhat noble effect by heavy sculptured 
stones bearing shields. That on the right hand 
bears the sacred symbols of the five wounds of 
our Lord, with a heart in the centre ; while on 
the left is the heraldic coat of the Dodingtons, 
anciently among the benefactors of the Priory ; 
a chevron between three bugle-horns, stringed, 
two and one ; a crescent for difference. 

Less remains of the Priory church than might 
be at first supposed from the majestic bulk of the 
tower and the tall buildings that once formed 
nave and aisles. The choir has entirely disap- 
peared, and the nave itself, with the north aisle 
of three bays, has been divided into floors for 
the purposes of a dwelling-house. It may thus 
readily be imagined that the interior is as little 
ecclesiastical in appearance as can well be ; 
although it is true that winding stone staircases 
serve instead of ordinary domestic stairs, and 
that here and there some ancient carved corbel, 
fashioned in the likeness of a human head, 
projects from walls otherwise to all appearance 
secular ; its stony countenance seeming to grin 
and gibber in the flickering light of a bedroom 
candle. Clustered stone pillars, too, thrusting 
through upper floors, and ending in capitals and 
sweeping arches, would convince the stranger 



KEWSTOKE 61 

that he had found himself in some farmhouse 
entirely out of the common order. Even the coal- 
cellar, which was once a part of the north aisle, 
has its features, and the coals repose on incised 
slabs and other memorials of the dead. The 
cloisters, also, have disappeared ; and the monks' 
refectory, a detached building on the south side, 
is now a waggon-shed, its windows filled in 
with bricks. A peep within discloses a fine 
open-timbered roof. The only building that yet 
retains its ancient use is the Prior's Barn, still, as 
in bygone centuries, the storehouse of grain, straw, 
and hay. At the east end of it is a doorway, 
now blocked up, formerly leading by nineteen 
steps down to the existing pool called the " Holy 
Well." The " Prior's Pool " is the name of a 
pond in the meadows westward, to which an 
avenue of elms leads. 

Sand Bay, nearly as large as Weston Bay, but 
quite lonely, stretches from St. Thomas's Head 
and Swallow Cliif to Anchor Head, Weston- 
super-Mare. Shingle and sand continue in an 
unbroken semicircular sweep, fringed by pastures, 
to the neighbourhood of Kewstoke, a small village 
situated on a shelf of rock below the craggy 
uplands of Worle Hill, and yet raised above 
the meadows. Nowadays Kewstoke is greatly 
afflicted in summer by brakes and traps, and 
strollers from Weston, for it is but two miles 
from the town, and there are the beautiful Kew- 
stoke woods fringing the road all the way. It 
thus forms an easy and popular morning or after- 



62 THE SOMERSET COAST 

noon trip, in spite of the fact that a small toll 
is payable for the use of it this being really a 
private road cut by a Smyth-Pigott in 1848, and 
used by the public only at the pleasure of those 
all-pervading landowners of this neighbourhood. 
Indeed, were it not for this fine level road through 
the dense woods, Kewstoke would scarcely ever 
be visited, save by young and energetic people, 
prepared to circle round by the rugged old way 
through Worle. 

There are legends of St. Kew at Kewstoke. On 
the rocky crest of Worle Hill, looking down upon 
the village, is an ancient excavation of some 
twenty feet by twelve, popularly known as " St. 
Kew's Cell " ; and the long rude flight of over 
two hundred rocky steps towards it is, of course, 
" St. Kew's Steps." But not the most patient 
archaeologist has ever traced any genuine associa- 
tion with St. Kew here. The place-name has, 
however, a real connection with that so-called 
" cell " on the height, for the excavation was a 
part of the elaborate defensive works constructed 
by ancient peoples on the summit of the Hill : 
a kind of guard-house situated in a difficult 
approach, where a small garrison could easily 
from behind a palisade or stockade hinder the 
advance of many. It is an ascertained fact 
that here, at various periods of strife, throughout 
many centuries, people of widely sundered eras 
have taken up a defensive position. Among the 
many curious finds made in or near this pit was 
an ancient silver fibula, or ring, coeval with the 



KEWSTOKE 63 

Phoenicians who are traditionally said to have 
traded to these coasts three thousand years ago ; 
a Saxon knife ; coarse early pottery ; remains 
of a fifteenth-century spear, and the hilt of a 
seventeenth-century sword. 

Although the sea in those times flowed to the 
very base of this hill, just below where the village 
church now stands, and submerged the site of the 




RELIQUARY IN KEWSTOKE CHURCH (FRONT). 

present broad meadowlands, it seems absolutely 
certain that the name of Kewstoke does not, 
as so often asserted, derive from the Celtic word 
: ' kewch," or boat ; and does not mean ' the 
place of boats." The hilltop guard-house gave 
the name, as may clearly be seen in Domesday 
Book, that valuable sidelight upon place-names, 
as also upon many other things. There we find 
" Chiwestock," the not greatly corrupted version 



64 THE SOMERSET COAST 

from the original form. It appears to mean 
" the stockade on the ridge." 

The church, dedicated to St. Paul, is a small 
building, without aisles. Here is a fine Norman 
south door, but the principal features are Late 
Perpendicular. The elaborate stone pulpit dates 
from about 1500. The old churchwardens' accounts 
abound with curious items, among them that of 
1702. "Item: gave unto 7 poor ship carpenters 
that had their bones broken at Bristoll, o. i. o." 
Doubtless the benevolent churchwardens gave 
this shilling with strict injunctions to the seven 
broken-up carpenters not to be so extravagant 
as to spend it all at once. But whatever they 
did, it is quite certain that the ratepayers of 
Kewstoke admonished the churchwardens against 
this and other reckless charities, and gave them 
to fully understand that any future benevolences 
must come out of their own personal pockets. 

There are no ancient monumental brasses in 
Kewstoke church ; a fact perhaps fully accounted 
for by the following entry in the accounts : 
" 1748. Item : paid for casting the ould brasses, 
23 at 6d. . . ii .6." 

So there we perceive the accumulated monu- 
ments of centuries going in one plunge into the 
melting-pot. 

An interesting discovery was made during 
the restoration of Kewstoke church in 1849. 
A block of stone sculptured with a half-length 
figure, supposed to represent the Virgin Mary, 
built firmly into the north wall under the sill of 



KEWSTOKE 65 

a window, had long been a curious object of the 
interior of the building, and was by some anti- 
quaries considered to be a heart-shrine. The 
greatly defaced figure appeared to be holding a 
shield. To satisfy curiosity, the stone was re- 
moved, disclosing a small arched hollowed-out 
chamber at the back, in which was a greatly 
decayed oak vessel, or cup, partly split open by 




RELIQUARY IN KEWSTOKE CHURCH (BACK) 

warping. At the bottom of this was a dry black 
incrustation, pronounced to be congealed human 
blood. It was supposed, from the circumstances 
of the founding of Woodspring Priory, and from 
the fact of a cup, or chalice, forming a part of 
the Prior's seal, that this relic was nothing less 
than a precious portion of the martyr's blood 
the greatest treasure owned by the Priory. It 
was further thought that the monks, foreseeing 
the troubles of the dissolution of the religious 

9 



66 THE SOMERSET COAST 

houses, caused the relic to be secretly removed 
and placed here, in Kewstoke church. It is now 
in Taunton Museum. 

The Kewstoke woods, largely of scrub-oak, 
closely woven and interlaced and compacted 
together by the winds off the Channel, descend 
in tangled thickets to the water's edge. At 
the end of them, a picturesque toll-gate marks 
the beginning of the modern pleasure-resort of 
Weston-super-Mare. No one need have the re- 
motest shadow of a doubt that he has arrived, 
for the crowds of excursionists here and on that 
Walhalla of noisy enjoyment, Birnbeck Pier, 
make themselves very fully seen and heard. 






CHAPTER VIII 

WESTON-SUPER-MARE 

WESTON-SUPER-MARE has frequently been styled 
the "Western Brighton/' It matters little or 
nothing to those who invent these impossible 
parallels that the places thus compared with 
one another have nothing in common ; and 
certainly Weston (for few there be who give it 
the longer name) is as little like Brighton as 
any place well can be. Weston fringes the bold 
curve of the shallow and sandy Weston or Uphill 
Bay, sandy inshore : a mile-broad expanse of mud 
at low water. Brighton is built on a straight 
coastline, part of the town standing on the cliff- 
tops of Kemp Town, and the narrow beach is 
exclusively shingle. At the back of Brighton 
run the treeless chalk hills of the South Downs ; 
behind Weston stretch the levels that extend 
further inland as far as Sedgemoor. Brighton 
took its rise in the middle Georgian period, about 
1780 ; Weston remained an insignificant village 
until the first quarter of the nineteenth century. 
While it is certainly a mistaken compliment 
to compare the situation of Weston with that 
of Brighton, it is, on the other hand, unfair to 

67 



68 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Brighton to pretend that, as a town, Weston 
approaches it, for size or splendour. But in 
every respect the places are so wholly dissimilar 
that it would be the worst of mistakes to play 
the one off against the other. 

One of the very earliest discoverers of Weston 
was Mrs. Piozzi, the Mrs. Thrale of earlier years, 
friend of Dr. Johnson. Writing hence in 1819, 
she mentions the fine qualities of the air : " The 
breezes here are most salubrious : no land nearer 
than North America when we look down the 
Channel ; and 'tis said that Sebastian Cabot used 
to stand where I now sit, and meditate his future 
discoveries of Newfoundland/' 

The reference to "no land nearer than North 
America," with the cautious proviso, " when 
we look down the Channel," strikes the modern 
observer, who in fine weather distinctly sees the 
busy towns of the South Wales coast and the 
smoke-wreaths of its factory chimneys, not more 
than ten miles distant, as particularly quaint. 
The old county historians have little to say of 
Weston, and what they have to remark is con- 
cerned only with the descent of the manor. 

Even so comparatively recently as 1824 
five years, it will be noted, later than Mrs. Piozzi's 
raptures Weston remained a very small place, 
as shown in an old engraving published at the 
time in Rutter's " Westonian Guide." It consisted, 
it would appear, of the parish church of St. 
John, just rebuilt, and some thirty houses. A 
few trees, of a distinctly Noah's Ark type, 



WESTON-SUPER-MARE 69 

looked upon the sands, occupied by two bathing- 
machines, a shed, a horse and cart, and twelve 
widely distributed people of uncertain but pensive 
character. Such was the old inheritance of the 
Pigott and Smyth-Pigott family, who have owned 
the manor of Weston, with much else in the 
neighbourhood, since 1696. 

But the evidence afforded by the frontispiece 
to " Rutter's Guide," which shows Weston like 
some sparse settlement on a desolate shore, does 
not tally with the statements contained in the 
booklet itself, in whose pages we read : 

" The fishermen's huts have almost disappeared 
and the town now contains about two hundred 
and fifty houses ; a large portion of which are 
respectable residences,* and even some elegant 
mansions ; but notwithstanding this, its general 
appearance is little inviting to the stranger, 
especially in gloomy weather, or when the ebb of 
the spring tides leaves open large tracts of beach. 
But on a fine summer evening, when the tide is 
in, nothing can be more beautiful than the scene 
which it presents : numerous groups walking 
on its smooth and extensive sands, intermingled 
with a variety of carriages, horses, fishermen 
wading with nets, and the villagers enjoying the 
exhilarating breeze after the fatigues of the day." 

The seaside was at that time in process of 
being discovered. At innumerable spots around 
our coasts fisher villages were then being trans- 
formed into elegant resorts, which were saved 

* This is good hearing. 



70 THE SOMERSET COAST 

from becoming vulgar by the sufficient facts that 
the working classes could not afford holidays, and 
that, if they could, the means of transport were 
lacking. When tedious and expensive coach 
journeys were the only methods of being conveyed, 
it is obvious that wage-earners could spare 
neither the time nor the money for what would 
have been to them, under the most favourable 
circumstances, an enterprise. But those classes 
were quite content to do without the week's or 
fortnight's holiday at the seaside which appears 
nowadays to be regarded as the birthright of most 
men, women, and children. They were not then 
educated up to holidays, and were content to work 
week in and week out through the year, never 
questioning the scheme of things that gave to 
the few that leisure they themselves could never 
enjoy. 

It is a little difficult nowadays to realise 
the exclusive Weston that was ; although, to be 
sure, those days when it still posed as exclusive 
are not so far distant but that many old people 
in the town can recollect them perfectly well. 

The beginning of the end of this old-time 
attitude of aloofness may be dated from 1841, 
when the Bristol and Exeter Railway that was 
the Great Western that is was opened to Worle, 
in continuation of the line from Paddington to 
Bristol ; being completed the whole way to 
Exeter in 1844. 

The early history of railways is not yet ancient 
history, but it is already old enough to be obscured 



WESTON-SUPER-MARE 71 

and made romantic by legends, some true, others 
coloured with that passion for the picturesque 
which transfigures history everywhere. Stories 
are told, as they are told everywhere, with a 
great deal of truth in them, of local objections 
to the railway. We hear of the passionate 
opposition offered by the Smyth-Pigotts and by 
the inhabitants of Weston to a proposal to run 
the main line near the town ; with the result 
that it was constructed no closer than a mile 
away inland. The two thousand inhabitants 
who then constituted the town of Weston short- 
sightedly rejoiced at this victory, which was 
very speedily found to be a costly one ; the 
branch tramway laid down from the main line, 
with railway carriages dragged slowly into the 
place, to a shed situated in the rear of the present 
Town Hall, proving an undignified entrance that 
not many visitors cared to experience twice. 
But for ten years this remained the way into the 
town by rail. A proper branch line was after- 
wards built from Worle, but still Weston station 
remained a terminus, until the new loop line 
was made, in 1884, coming through the town 
and rejoining the main at Uphill and Bleadon 
station. 

Another local railway legend, of some interest, 
relates to a forlorn platform that no living person 
ever saw put to any manner of use. It stood 
some distance to the north side of the existing 
station for Uphill and Bleadon, and was popu- 
larly supposed to be a station erected by the 



72 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Company in accordance with the letter (certainly 
not with the spirit) of an agreement entered 
into between the Company and a local land- 
owner through whose land the railway had been 
made, at an extravagant cost, in consequence of 
the high price this freeholder had put upon his 
holding. He, it appears, finally insisted upon 
having a station built for his own personal 
convenience, and the Company agreed. But 
nothing had been said about trains stopping there, 
and so no tickets were ever issued to or from 
this freak building, and no trains ever halted 
at it. 

Nowadays with its twenty-five thousand 
inhabitants, Weston welcomes, instead of re- 
pelling, the visitor. Nay, more : it has arrived 
at that stage of existence to which most other 
seaside towns have come, and lives for and on 
visitors, and when the summer season is over 
ceases to be its characteristic self ; always re- 
membering that in winter its climate is mild and 
inviting to invalids. 

It has long been the fashion in many quarters 
to depreciate Weston-super-Mare, and to style 
it " Weston-super-Mud." Mud there is in plenty, 
far out in this shallow bay, and it is exposed for 
a great distance at the ebb, but it never inter- 
mingles with the fine broad yellow sands that 
form a paradise for children along the entire 
two miles' sweep of the bay, from Anchor Head 
to Uphill, and make a fine track for the donkey 
rides that are so great a feature of the children's 






WESTON-SUPER-MARE 73 

holidays here. The scenery surrounding West on 
is delightful and singularly romantic. Boldly 
placed in mid-Channel are those twin, but strongly 
dissimilar islets, the Steep Holm and Flat Holm, 
the last-named provided with a prominent white 
lighthouse, and both in these latter days the 
site of massive forts presenting an embattled 
front to any possible hostile voyage up the Severn 
Sea. These islets are outlying fragments of 
the Mendip range of hills, which ends south of 
the town in the quarried hills of Bleadon and 
Uphill, and in the almost islanded gigantic bulk 
of Brean Down. Overhanging the town on the 
north is that other outlier of the Mendips, Worle 
Hill. In every direction, therefore, we find hills 
peaking up with a suddenness and an outline 
almost volcanic in appearance. The air, too, 
of Weston is brisk and enjoyable; and if there 
be indeed nothing of interest in the town itself, 
modern creation as it is, the same criticism is 
applicable to many another seaside resort. The 
stranger, therefore, who has for many years 
been familiar with severe and undiscriminating 
criticisms of Weston finds it, when at last fate 
brings him hither, a very much more likeable 
place than he had dared hope. 

It must, however, be said that Weston is 
not select. It is popular, in the sense that 
Yarmouth, Blackpool, and Southport (to name 
none others) are popular. It caters of neces- 
sity for the crowd, for the crowd is at its very 
threshold. Half an hour's railway journey from 

10 



74 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Bristol, and a mere ten miles' steamer voyage 
from Cardiff and other populous Welsh ports, 
would render useless any attempts that might 
be made to keep Weston as a preserve for the 
comparatively few rich, leisured, and cultured 
persons who might give its Parade a better tone, 
but certainly would not do the shopkeeping 
class much good. And to do the people and the 
local authorities of Weston the merest justice, 
they make no such attempts, foredoomed to 
failure as they would be. I do not know what 
the motto of Weston-super-Mare may be, nor even 
indeed if it has one. If not already furnished in 
this respect, it might well be " Let 'em all come." 
And they do already come in very considerable 
numbers. But this, it should be said, is not 
to pretend that Weston is either so large, or 
so besieged with immense crowds of visitors, as 
Blackpool and the other popular resorts already 
mentioned. Still the streets, the long curving 
Parade, and the sands are in July, August, and 
September as densely crowded as any lover of 
humanity in masses could reasonably desire, 
and the place is as fully furnished with strictly 
unintellectual amusements as the average lower 
middle-class holiday-maker could hope for, out- 
side Blackpool and Yarmouth. Here is a pier, 
the " Grand Pier " it is called, thrusting forth 
a long arm from the centre of the Parade into 
the shallow waters of the bay, with a huge concert 
pavilion midway, and a further lengthy arm 
going on and on until it rivals Southend pier 



WESTON-SUPER-MARE 75 

itself, with a total length of 6,600 feet, or some- 
thing like a mile and a quarter ; the intention 
being to enable the excursion steamers to touch 
at the pier-head. An electric railway runs the 
length of this prodigious affair, which entirely 
eclipses the old Birnbeck Pier under Anchor 
Head : really a pier-like bridge connecting the 
rocky isle of Birnbeck with the mainland. From 
the isle itself three pier-arms project in different 
directions, and to these the excursion steamers 
from Bristol, Cardiff and other ports have hitherto 
come. Such dreams of delight await the in- 
coming visitors on this siren isle that many day- 
excursionists to Weston proceed no farther. The 
place abounds with every kind of amusement, 
except the intellectual variety : water-chutes, 
switchback railways, try-your-weight and try- 
your-strength machines, and battalions of other 
penny-in-the-slot mechanisms ; and, above all, 
a damned something that may be espied from 
the shore, like a huge giant's-stride pole with 
baskets whizzing in dizzy fashion around it ; the 
said baskets being filled with people who have 
paid a penny each for the privilege of being given 
a sensation which must be a colourable imitation 
of sea-sickness. The channel called the Stepway, 
which separates Birnbeck from Anchor Head at 
high tide, is readily crossed at low water ; but 
the place has its hidden dangers, in a very swift 
current that sweeps suddenly through when the 
tide again begins to flow ; as may be seen by 
personal observation, and^in the evidence offered by 



76 THE SOMERSET COAST 

a tablet in Clevedon church, which records 
the deaths in 1819 by drowning of Abraham and 
Charles Elton, two sons of Sir Abraham Elton, 
who at the ages of thirteen and fourteen were 
thus cut off : " In crossing from Bearnbeck Isle, 
at Weston-super-Mare, the younger became in- 
volved in the tide, when the elder plunged to his 
rescue. The flood was stronger than their strength, 
though not their love, and as ' they were lovely 
and pleasant in their lives/ so ' in their death 
they were not divided/ ' 

Midway between Birnbeck and the Grand 
Pier is a projecting rock, once an island called 
Knightstone, now connected with the shore and 
made the site of the Knightstone Pavilion and 
Baths. 

Add to these varied delights the presence of 
hundreds of itinerant vendors on Parade and 
sands, and barrows innumerable in the busy 
streets ; and throw in a very plentiful supply of 
teashops, restaurants, and dining-rooms in the 
centre of the town, whose proprietors or their 
agents stand on the pavement and shout for 
custom, and you will have a very fair notion 
of what Weston is like. To these items, how- 
ever, must be added Grove Park, with its mansion, 
the old manor-house of the Smyth-Pigotts, and, 
the Clarence Park, and one other. Finally, con- 
ceive that indispensable feature of a modern 
watering-place, an electric tramway, and there 
you have Weston-super-Mare. 

Everything is very new, and probably the 



WESTON-SUPER-MARE 77 

one ancient object is the chancel of the parish 
church, which seems to have escaped rebuilding, 
but is not, at any rate, of much interest. In the 
church is the following curious epitaph : 

Of two brothers born together, 
Cruel death was so unkind 
As to bring the eldest hither, 
And the younger leave behind. 
May George live long, 
Edgar dy'd young, 
For born he was 
To Master Sam Willan, Rectour 
of this place, and Jane his wife, 
Sep r . 5, 1680, and buryed Feb. 
the eleventh, 1686. The 9th 
did put an end to all his pain, 
And sent him into everlasting gain. 



CHAPTER IX 

WORLEBURY WORLE 

ALL the ebullient modernity of Weston is looked 
down upon by the immemorially old, from that 
overhanging vantage-point, Worle Hill, where the 
ancient camp and fortress of Worlebury, dwelling- 
place and stronghold of many ancient peoples, 
shows traces of occupation by a race who flourished 
some four thousand years since. Worlebury 
passed through many hands, but the last people 
who sheltered there died in ruthless battle thirteen 
centuries ago. 

Worlebury rises to a height of 357 feet above 
Weston, and although modern villas here and 
there impinge upon it, and the spire of Holy 
Trinity Church and the unlovely backs of houses 
are a thought too insistent from these grey 
ramparts of prehistoric times, it is in many ways 
as remote from the seething crowd beneath as 
its height would imply. The camp of twenty 
acres is divided into two unequal parts by a 
ditch. It is conjectured that the larger portion 
was the place of refuge, and the smaller the 
actual fortress, of the race who constructed it. 
The whole is irregularly enclosed by ramparts of 

78 



WORLEBURY 79 

loose pieces of limestone and rocky banks, roughly 
of five successive ranges, but here and there, in 
places thought weakest, of as many as seven. 
On the side facing the sea, where the limestone 
rocks of Worle Hill go precipitously down, and 
artificial defence was not required, there are no 
ramparts. 

This hill-top was until about 1820 a barren 
spot, quite innocent of trees, but the plantations 
made at that time by the Smyth-Pigott of the 
period have by now resulted in a crown of 
beautiful woodlands of larch, oak, and other 
trees. Amid these woods the extraordinary 
ancient ramparts of loose limestone fragments, 
the broadest of these defences about a hundred 
feet across, glimmer greyly, like petrified rivers. 
The flakes and knobs of stone, broken up and 
placed here in such immense quantities and with 
incredible labour, vary in size from about that 
of an ordinary brick to three times those dimen- 
sions, and are as clean and sharp to-day as though 
but recently quarried. 

It is not an easy matter to climb over these 
successive banks and ditches, and it is quite 
evident that those who at different periods stormed 
these defences and slew those who occupied 
them, must have been determined people, little 
daunted by the losses they must needs have 
suffered in the advance. The early defenders 
were men who used the sling for chief weapon 
of defence, and great numbers of slingers' plat- 
forms little flat spaces contrived in strategical 



80 THE SOMERSET COAST 

positions along the sloping sides of the hill 
remain, like so many primitive artillery emplace- 
ments ; while quantities of their ammunition 
pebble-stones that are not in the course of nature 
found on the crests of limestone hills may be 
picked up. 

The first people, it is thought, who seized this 
hill-top, were Belgic tribes from over seas, who, 
landing in the shallow waters that then spread 
where the meadows below Kewstoke are now, or 
in the lakelike bay on whose side Weston now 
stands, fortified the summit and held it as a base 
from which to make further advances. The 
natives of these parts, whose lands those ancient 
raiders coveted, were chiefly lake-dwellers, living 
on the many islets that then studded these marshy 
seas and salt-water lagoons, or housed on pile- 
dwellings ingeniously constructed in the waters 
themselves. Larger communities of them lived 
for safety inside stockades, whose fragments 
have been discovered of recent years at Meare, in 
the neighbourhood of Glastonbury, where evi- 
dence of the conflicts that followed the appear- 
ance of the raiders was found, in charred remains 
of wrecked homes. Evidence was not wanting 
that this was a conflict in which both sides suffered, 
and among the remains of a stockade unearthed 
recently was found the trophy of a woman's 
head, which the science of ethnology proved to 
have been that of a person belonging to the 
raiders' tribes. Thus it appeared that the lake- 
dwellers had seized and murdered one of their 






WORLEBURY 81 

enemies' women, and had fixed the head upon 
a stake of their defences, by way of derision. 

Those who first seized Worle Hill, and made 
the camp of Worlebury, evidently intended to 
stay, for they constructed many well -like dwelling- 
pits in the hilltops. Some of these remain. They 
are about four feet deep, and had originally a 
surrounding wall, about two feet high. A roof 
of boughs and twigs, kept in place by flat slabs of 
stone, completed a specimen dwelling. We know 
so much for a certainty, because in excavating 
examples of these houses the original roof has 
been found, with the boughs and twigs and the 
flat stone slabs that had been especially brought 
from the lias strata of Nailsea by these ancient 
folk. Plentiful signs remained that at some 
period this camp had been rushed and e^ery dwell- 
ing burnt out, for charred barley was found, 
together with remains of burnt logs and wattle- 
work roofing. Under the remains of these roofs 
were pebble-stones, part of the ancient occupants' 
sling ammunition ; and relics of their last meals, 
in the shape of bones of birds and rabbits. 
Some flint arrow-heads also were discovered, and, 
secreted behind a rocky ledge in one of these 
pits, some iron ring-money. So, on some day of 
red ruin, at a date no man can give, the first 
camp of Worlebury was destroyed. 

Centuries passed, and the hilltop apparently 
was given over to solitude, and nature buried 
these relics of a desperate day under moss and grass. 
Whether, as sometimes has been supposed, the 

ii 



82 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Romans at a later age stormed a British camp 
on this height, is at least uncertain. The only 
things Roman ever found here were some coins, 
and they may well have belonged to the Romanised 
Britons who, after the withdrawal of the Roman 
garrisons of Britain, fell a prey to the more virile 
barbarians from the north of Europe, and re- 
treated before them, being driven mercilessly 
from one fortified post to another, and slain in 
many thousands. The last great struggle in 
Worlebury took place at this period. Arthur, 
the half-legendary King Arthur of so many 
romances, the great warrior-king of more than 
three hundred years earlier date than Alfred the 
Great, had been at length slain, in A.D. 542 ; and 
the Saxon onset, checked by his successes, was 
renewed. Ceawlin, the great Bretwalda of the 
powerful and rapidly growing kingdom of Wessex, 
overthrew the Britons at the bloody battle of 
Barbury Hill, near Swindon, in A.D. 556, and 
in A.D. 577, with great slaughter, gained the battle 
of Dyrham, between Bath and Bristol ; all those 
parts we now know as Gloucestershire and Wilt- 
shire, together with parts of Somerset, being 
thereby added to the kingdom of Wessex. Soon 
after the battle of Dyrham, Ceawlin captured 
Worlebury, where the Britons had taken refuge, 
and the evidence of what was then wrought here 
was still visible in 1851, when archaeologists 
systematically excavated and examined the turf 
that covered the ancient pit-dwellings. In one 
pit were found three skeletons, doubled up and 



WORLEBURY 83 

lying across one another, evidently just as they 
had been flung there after the fierce onset of the 
storming party. The skull of one was cleanly 
gashed in two places, as though by a sword ; 
doubtless in this case the " saexe," the short sword 
the Saxons used, and from which, indeed, their 
name derives. Another had a wound in the 
thigh and an iron spear-head was found embedded 
in the spine. Evidently this was the frame- 
work of a warrior who had been taken in the rear 
while engaging in executing a strategical re- 
treat ; or, as we used to say at school, " doing 
a bunk." Unfortunately he had not started 
early enough. The third skeleton was that of 
a bolder man of war, who had stayed to see it out 
and scorned to run, with the result that he re- 
ceived a huge stone in the skull, and his collar- 
bone was driven up into his jaw. It was then 
too late to leave, and in fact his bones remained 
here for close upon thirteen hundred years, with 
these evidences of his ill-advised stand, plain to 
see. But his soul goes marching on. 

Other pit-dwellings contained skeletons, por- 
tions of rusted arms, potsherds of a rude type of 
earthenware vessels, and beads ; many of them 
superimposed upon the infinitely older relics 
of the earlier defenders. Many of them are to 
be seen in the collections of the Somerset Archaeo- 
logical Society at Taunton. There is promi- 
nently displayed the skull of a slaughtered warrior 
with no fewer than seven gashes in it. He must 
have been a bonny fighter, to have attracted all 



84 THE SOMERSET COAST 

this hewing and slashing that at last put him out 
of action ; or else the crowd concentrating their 
efforts on him wasted those energies that might 
with greater advantage have been distributed 
more evenly over the stricken field. We can 
know nothing of who he was. No monument 
was ever raised to his memory. But, although 
it may at first sight seem to be an indignity that 
his shattered skull should be exposed here, yet, 
when you more closely consider the rights and 
the wrongs of it, is this not his best monument 
showing that he fought for all he was worth, and 
was only slain by overpowering odds ? Dulce et 
decorum est pro patria mori / 

Worle (locally " Wurle ") itself is a detestable 
village of vulgar and poverty-stricken shops and 
out-at -elbows cottages, a blot on its surroundings. 
As Weston rose from insignificance, Worle, which 
was anciently its market-town and centre of 
supplies, sank into obscurity, and now the sole 
interest of the place is its pretty church, con- 
taining some good miserere seats. It was of 
old the property of Worspring Priory, and Richard 
Spring, one of its later Priors, was at the same 
time vicar of Worle. He resigned the Priory in 
1525. His initials are found carved on one of 
the misereres. A small stone in the churchyard 
is inscribed : 

A Maiden in Mold 

60 years old 

JOANNA 

1644 



WORLE 85 

The registers contain some curious items, 
among them, under date of 1609, the following 
note : 

" Edward Bustle cruelly murthered by consent 
of his owne wyfe, who, with one Humfry Hawkins, 
and one other of theyre associates, were executed 
for the same murther, and hanged in Irons at a 
place called Shutt Shelf e, neere Axbridge, and 
the body of the said Bustle barberously used, 
viz., his throte cutt, his legs cutt of, and divers 
woundes in his body, and buryed in a stall, was 
taken up and buryed in the church yard at 
Worle, March Xth. A good president (sic} for 
wicked people." 

Apparently the degree of criminality of the 
unhappy Edward Bustle's wife was not great, 
for she not only escaped this hanging which, 
according to the wording of the above note, she 
suffered, but married in the following October a 
certain bold man, by name Nicholas Pitman. 

A violent, but unexplained, local antipathy 
to lawyers was formerly manifested at Worle, by 
the contumelious drumming out of any member 
of the legal profession who chanced to be dis- 
covered in the village. Some embittered page 
of local history is no doubt concerned in this now 
obsolete custom, but this is probably almost as 
far removed in the annals of the place as those 
distant ages when Worle was by way of being a 
seaport. Where the flat meadows now spread, 
maplike below the village, and where the Great 
Western Railway runs, ships in dim bygone aeons 



86 THE SOMERSET COAST 

rode at anchor. Proof of that forgotten fact was 
accidentally discovered of recent years, when, in 
digging the foundation of a new brewery, an 
ancient anchor was unearthed from the sandy 
subsoil. 






CHAPTER X 

STEEP HOLM FLAT HOLM UPHILL BREAN 
DOWN 

IF one might dare so greatly as to make one 
prominent comparison to the disadvantage of 
Brighton and the advantage of Weston, it would 
be this : that the seascape off Brighton beach is 
a mere empty waste of waters. What shipping 
there is to be occasionally seen is observed going 
far away out in the Channel ; there so broad that 
it might be, for all the evidence there is to the 
contrary, the wide ocean itself. Here at Weston, 
on the other hand, where the Bristol Channel is so 
narrow that the coast of South Wales is easily 
to be seen, a constant passage of shipping enlivens 
the outlook. Here also are those picturesque 
islets, Steep Holm and Flat Holm, that have so 
companionable and cheerful a presence. 

The two Holms that stand forth so pic- 
turesquely midway in the Channel deserve some 
detailed description, for they not only form 
prominent objects in every view from Weston, 
but have a curious history. Both are favourite 
places for excursions by sailing skiffs or motor- 



88 THE SOMERSET COAST 

boats, and if there be those persons who cannot 
obtain a sufficiency of sea-bathing on Weston 
shores, Flat Holm affords plenty. The name, 
" Holm J; is Norse for " island," and remains 
evidence of the Danish descent upon these coasts 
in A.D. 882. The Saxon names for the isles, as 
given in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, were " Stepan- 
reolice " ; and " Bradanreolice " ; i.e. " Steep 
Reel Island," and " Broad Reel Island": the 
word " reel " being probably an allusion to their 
supposedly reel-like shape ; Steep Holm a long 
and narrow rock, rising abruptly, with steep and 
jagged limestone cliffs, to a height of 256 feet 
above the sea ; and Flat Holm presenting a broad, 
flat, egg-like form. 

It was oil Steep Holm that Gildas, the bitter 
and melancholy monkish Celtic chronicler of the 
woes that befel Britain after the death of King 
Arthur, wrote his Latin complaint, Liber Querulus 
de Excidio Britannia, telling how the country was 
overrun by the Saxon hordes in the fifth and sixth 
centuries. 

In later centuries the Saxons themselves fell 
upon evil times, and were overcome by stronger 
races, or waged inconclusive defensive wars with 
other oversea marauders. Thus the isles were 
the scene of a hostile descent from Brittany in 
A.D. 918. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us, 
in doleful language, of the miseries of that 
time ; how a numerous fleet, commanded by Earls 
Ohtor and Rhoald, pillaged either shore from 
these fastnesses, and how finally they were defeated 



STEEP HOLM 89 

and Earl Rhoald slain, on the mainland ; when 
" few of them got away, except those alone who 
there swam out to the ships. And then they 
sat down on the island of Bradanreolice, until 
such time as they were quite destitute of food ; 
and many men died of hunger, because they 
could not obtain any food." At length a famished 
remnant at last dispersed to South Wales and 
Ireland, and thus ingloriously faded out of history. 
Seventy years later, that is to say A.D. 988, the 
Danes, ravaging these coasts, made Steep Holm 
a base, and in 1066, after the Battle of Hastings, 
Gytha, mother of the brave but unfortunate 
Harold, took refuge here from the Norman. 

Steep Holm, one and a half miles round, is 
not an easy place to approach, having only two 
landings. It is the nearest of the two from Weston, 
being but three miles offshore, while Flat Holm 
is five and a half miles distant. The area of Steep 
Holm is, roughly, seventy acres. Geographically 
it is situated in the parish of Brean. It is the pro- 
perty of Mr. Kemeys-Tynte, of Cefn Mably, Cardiff, 
and is partly leased to the War Office, which 
maintains six heavy batteries here ; the Gordon, 
Rudder Rock, Split Rock, Laboratory, Summit, 
and Tombstone forts, mounted with modern heavy 
guns, crowning the cliffs. Here also is a Lloyd's 
signalling station, together with an inn, formerly 
a residence built by Mr. Kemeys-Tynte, who at 
one time resided here. 

Steep Holm was formerly known as the home 
of the single peony, a wild flower peculiar to the 

12 



90 THE SOMERSET COAST 

island ; but enthusiastic botanists would appear 
to have by this time collected it so extensively 
from the wild, ivy-hung cliffs that it is not now 
to be found. But wild birds, of aquatic and 
other varieties, still abound. Scanty remains of 
an obscure fourteenth-century priory, in the 
shape of a dilapidated wall with no architectural 
features, are left. A ruined inn, roofless, a 
melancholy sight to thirsty souls, is left on the 
island, relic of the illegitimate enterprise of a 
fugitive publican and sinner, who, fleeing to this 
sanctuary for debtors, outside the ordinary juris- 
diction of the petty courts, imagined himself, 
wrongly as it appeared, also beyond the reach of 
the Inland Revenue. 

Flat Holm is geographically and politically 
in South Wales, is the property of the Marquess of 
Bute, and is situated in the parish of St. Mary, 
Cardiff. Once a year the vicar and curate of St. 
Mary's visit the island and hold service in the 
barracks. Four batteries are situated on the 
island : the Castle Rock, Farm, Lighthouse and 
Well batteries. The tall white lighthouse that 
shows up so prominently from the shore at Weston 
is situated on Flat Holm, and rises to a height 
of a hundred and fifty-six feet. A singular pheno- 
menon obscured the light in February 1902, 
when a shower of sticky whitish-grey mud fell 
and completely covered the lantern. Scientific 
men explained this happening as due to a portion 
of a dust-shower driving from the Sahara, and 
being converted into mud by the Channel mists. 



FLAT HOLM 91 

A day's hard work was necessary before the glass 
was properly cleaned. 

A light was first shown here in 1737, when it 
consisted of a brazier of burning coals ; no very 
effectual beacon on foggy nights. Nor was it 
greatly improved by the early years of the nine- 
teenth century, for it was then still possible for 
such disasters as that of the William and Mary 
to happen. This unfortunate ship was wrecked 
in 1817, between Flat Holm and Lavernock 
Point, which marks the extremity of Brean Down ; 
and sixty lives were then lost. 

The present light, of the occulting variety, 
has a power of 50,000 candles, and is visible for 
eighteen miles. 

The total population of Flat Holm is twenty. 
Here is an inn. There are two fresh-water springs 
on the island. 

There is much charm in the curious islanded 
and semi-islanded features of the Weston outlook. 
Boldly rising from sea-level to the left of the 
long front of the town, are the great hunchbacked 
masses of Brean Down and Uphill. 

Uphill stands romantically at the mouth of 
the Axe, marked from great distances by its 
abrupt hill rising to a hundred feet above the 
plain, but looking much loftier. It is made 
further noticeable by the ruined church that 
stands prominently on its barren summit. The 
seaward side is scarred by limestone quarries 
into the likeness of cliffs, at whose feet the turbid 
waters of the Axe crawl sluggishly to the sea, 



92 THE SOMERSET COAST 

between deep, muddy banks. This was the site 
of a Roman station and port, whence the lead and 
other minerals mined by those strenuous ancients 
on the Mendip hills were shipped. From Old 
Sarum, a distance of fifty-five miles, a Roman 
road has been traced, going by Charterhouse-on- 
Mendip, and ending here. Antiquaries give the 
name of the Roman station as Ad Axium, following 
the lead of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, who himself 
invented the name. Still on the hilltop, near 
the church, may be traced the earthworks that 
once enclosed the Roman fort, and many coins 
of that period have been found here. Down 
below is a limestone cavern accidentally discovered 
in 1826, when it was found to contain bones of 
the hyaena and other animals long extinct in 
Britain : long centuries before ever the Romans 
came. 

In Domesday Book Uphill is found as 
" Opopille," a form which takes the place-name 
almost entirely out of the category of names 
descriptive of the physical features of the spot, 
and places it in that of personal names. For 
" Uphill " is, in short, not what it seems, and 
does by no means refer, in its true form, to the hill. 
It is, reduced to the name first given, " Hubba's 
Pill " ; that is to say, Hubba's Creek, or harbour. 
All creeks, and many small streams on either 
side of the Bristol Channel, are " pills." This 
particular name was first conferred in A.D. 882, 
the year when these Channel coasts in general 
were attacked by Danish raiders under the leader- 



UPHILL 93 

ship of one Hubba, who was slain in battle with 
Alfred the Great, either near Appledore, on the 
North Devon Coast, at a place still known as 
" Bloody Corner," or at Cannington, near the 
river Parret, in the neighbourhood of Bridgwater. 
supposed to be the " Cynuit " of ancient chronicles 
where the " heathenmen " were also utterly 
defeated by the great King. 

Those sea-rovers were naturally attracted by 
the safe harbours afforded by such estuaries as 
these of the Parret and Axe, and laid up their 
piratical craft here. Probably Hubba' s flotilla 
first anchored in the Axe before moving on to final 
disaster at Cynuit ; and the stay, it might be 
supposed, could not have been short, for the 
place to have been given his name. Moreover, 
between Uphill and Bleadon we have the ferry 
known at this day as " Hobbs' s Boat," this name 
itself hiding, in another corrupted form, that of 
the ancient chieftain. 

Here, then, is good news for the Hobbses 
of modern times, writhing perhaps under the 
possession of so ungainly and apparently plebeian 
a name, and wishing they were Mount joys or 
Mauleverers, or something of equally aristocratic 
sound. Any Hobbs may, it is clear, derive from 
Norse berserkers, and who knows but Biggs and 
Triggs also, and their like ! 

Oh ! what a chance of high romance 

Lies hid in names like Hobbs ; 
There's balm therein for all their kin, 

And eke for Squibbs and Dobbs. 



c 



94 THE SOMERSET COAST 

And Viking blood its daring flood 

May pour in veins of Snooks : 
Crusaders' dash with conduct rash 

Inflame the frame of Jukes. 

Per contra, oft a noble name 

Is borne by alien loon, 
And Rosenberg is " Rossiter," 

Cohen becomes " Colquhoun." 
Around Park Lane, with might and main, 

You hear the rumour wag 
That "Gordon" may be Guggenheim, 

And " Mervyn," "Mosenbag." 

Romance we trace in commonplace, 

And fact that custom shocks. 
Thus we come daily face-to-face, 

With cunning paradox. 

Thus again we have, in the undoubted deriva- 
tion of the name of Uphill, another instance of 
that eternal truth : " Things are not always what 
they seem." Yet who, looking at this most 
notable hill, rising so suddenly from the surround- 
ing levels, would doubt, without the evidence of 
ancient forms, that the name was and could be 
nothing else than descriptive of the peculiarly 
striking geography of the spot ? 

The Norman clerks who, travelling from place 
to place, compiled Domesday Book from informa- 
tion received on the spot, very often made a 
singular hash of the place-names they heard from 
the Saxon, who spoke what was to those new- 
comers a difficult language. " Opopille," the best 
those Norman emissaries could make of " Hubba's 



UPHILL 95 

Pill/' sounds very like a sudden and violent 
Norman appearance, and the shaking of some 
unfortunate Saxon churl, with the rough question 
put to him. " Vat is zat which you call zis place 
here, hein ? " and the reply, " Oh, sir ! don't shus- 
shake me like that : 'Ubba-pup-pille, sir." 

The ruined church of St. Nicholas has not 
been in that condition so long as might be sup- 
posed. It was in use until April 5th, 1846. From 
Norman times it had stood here, and the religious 
fervour of many generations had proved easily 
equal to this arduous climb to the hilltop, a very 
real exercise, alike of piety and of the body. But 
hilltop churches must in modern times expect less 
faithful attendance, and must be resigned to com- 
pete, on terms disadvantageous to themselves, with 
dissenting chapels more fortunately situated in the 
levels. Thus, when, in the first half of the nine- 
teenth century, the roofs of the old church of 
Uphill were discovered to be in a highly dilapi- 
dated condition, a long-sought opportunity was 
seized to abandon the building, which was other- 
wise not in any desperate structural condition. A 
new church was accordingly built below, and the 
old building unroofed and left to the winds of 
heaven and the fowls of the air. Even the old 
font was left here to unregarded desecration for 
a number of years. The chancel, it will be 
observed, has been re-roofed to serve as a mortuary 
chapel ; for the churchyard still receives the 
bodies of parishioners. Stoutly the ancient walls 
yet stand, and sharp to this day are the carvings 



96 THE SOMERSET COAST 

of the Norman north porch and the grim, uncanny 
faces of the uncouth gargoyles that look out over 
Weston and the bay. 

Brean Down, that huge, almost islanded hill 
a sort of miniature Gibraltar that rises from the 
Axe marshes and the sand-flats opposite Uphill, 
to a height of 321 feet, looks from Weston, and 
from Uphill itself a place quite easy to arrive 
at, but, as sheer matter of fact, no one can reach 
it by road under nine miles, by way of Bleadon 
and Brean village. In a direct line from Uphill, 
across the river Axe, Brean Down is only about 
a mile and a half away. The readiest method 
of reaching this spot is by the ferry across the 
Axe at the end of Weston sands, a threepenny 
passage, generally, at low water, the matter of 
walking along planks laid in the mud, and a pull 
of three or four boat's lengths. And then you 
have the breezy isolation of all Brean Down 
before you ; and you will have it very much to 
yourself. Wild birds and wild flowers are the 
only habitants of the Down, once you have left 
the farmhouse on the flats behind, but the place 
has been the subject of not a few ambitious 
schemes. The summit was fortified in 1867, but 
suddenly ceased to be so in July 1900, when the 
magazine was blown up by a soldier firing his 
rifle into it. Whether he did this by accident, 
as a novel way of committing suicide, or as an ill- 
advised joke, does not appear, because there was 
nothing left of him from which to seek an explana- 
tion. 



BREAN DOWN 9? 

A grand scheme was formulated in 1864, by 
which a fine harbour was to be built under the lee 
of the Down, with piers, quays, and all the usual 
appurtenances of a steam-packet station, together 
with a railway from the Great Western. The 
huge sum of 365,000 was expended upon the 
pier, but the scheme eventually came to nothing, 
and the derelict works were finally destroyed in 
the storms of December 1872. So those far- 
distant merchants, the pre-Roman Phoenicians, 
who are said to have used this spot as a com- 
mercial port, are not immediately likely to have 
any successors. 



CHAPTER XI 

BLEADON BREAN BRENT KNOLL 

To reach the village of Brean and to come in 
touch again with the coast on leaving Weston- 
super-Mare, Uphill village is passed, with a choice 
of roads then presenting itself : a short road with 
a penny toll to pay, or a slightly longer one, free. 
Either one of these brings you down into the 
flat lands under the scarred and quarried sides of 
Bleadon Hill, some 550 feet high. The hand- 
some Perpendicular tower of Bleadon church 
groups beautifully with a fine fifteenth-century 
village cross. 

Thenceforward, across the flats, now rich 
meadows, through lanes with much fine hedgerow 
timber, the way leads to Lympsham, a village 
rebuilt by the local squire, who happened to be 
also the parson, over half a century ago. Every 
cottage is in a more or less domestic Gothic style, 
as Gothic was then understood, strongly flavoured 
with ecclesiasticism. The manor-house itself is 
Gothic, something after the Strawberry Hill manner 
of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century 
date, and really deplorable, were it not that 
the beautiful and well-wooded grounds, and the 

9 8 



BLEADON 



99 



magnolias that clothe the walls, soften the effect. 
The church of St. Christopher, immediately oppo- 
site, and encircled by beautiful elms and oaks, 




^\- 4T*f*Mvci^ 



BLEADON CHURCH. 



has a fine tower that noticeably leans to the 
west. 

From Lympsham the road turns abruptly 
to the coast at Brean, winding and turning 



TOO THE SOMERSET COAST 

unweariedly this way and that, over the open 
marshes ; with deep dykes, half-filled with water 
and mud, on either side, and willows of every age, 
from saplings like walking-sticks to reverend 
ancients, hollow and riven with age, lining them. 

Thus shall we come at length to Brean, as into 
the end of all things ; for, truly, the spot is deso- 
late. Not, let it be said, with an ugly desolation ; 
for, although as you approach the sea, and the 
good alluvial earth becomes more and more ad- 
mixed with sand, the surroundings become mere 
waste land, these are wastes with their own charm 
and beauty to any but a farmer, to whose eyes 
nothing can be so beautiful as a ripening field of 
good corn when prices are likely to rule high, or 
a healthy field of swedes when he has much stock 
to feed. 

Here a road runs parallel with the coast, 
under the lee of the impending sand hills, so that 
if you would catch the merest glimpse of the sea, 
you must climb to the summits of them and look 
down. 

Brean church lies considerably below the level 
of these surrounding sand-towans, which menace 
it in a manner not a little alarming in the view 
of a stranger. But the sand here, at any rate, 
has done its worst, for although in places across 
the narrow road it stands higher than the church 
tower, it is largely held down at last by a sparse 
growth of coarse grass, and the very height and 
massiveness of these sand-hills act, under the 
circumstances, as a shield against the clouds of 



BREAN 



101 



other sand still blowing in during rough weather 
from the sea. 

The church of St. Bridget is a small blue-grey 
limestone building of the Perpendicular period, 
of rough character, scarcely distinguishable from 
a little distance as a church, and remarkable only 
for having its dwarf tower finished off with a 
saddlebacked roof. It is, as a matter of fact, 
only the remaining portion of the tower, struck 
by lightning and thrown down in 1729. An in- 
scription on it, " John Ginckens, churchwarden, 
Ano Dom 1729," no doubt records the repairs 
effected on that occasion. " Ginckens " appears 
to have been the best local attempt possible at 
spelling " Jenkins/' 

Although it is sand that now more nearly 
threatens Brean, the peculiar dangers of the 
place formerly arose from water. The ancient 
banks, supposed by some to be Roman, that 
kept the low-lying country from being flooded 
by the sea were burst in 1607, and a great stretch 
of land, roughly twenty miles by five, was sub- 
merged for a long time to a depth of from ten to 
twelve feet. A pamphlet published at the time 
says : 

" The parish of Breane is swallowed (for the 
most part) up by the waters. In it stood but 
nine houses, and of those seaven were consumed, 
and with them XXVI persons lost their lives." 

Local farmers are busily employed in the 
making of what is known as " Caerphilly cheese " ; 
sent across Channel to Cardiff and sold there as a 



102 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



Welsh product to the South Wales mining popu- 
lation. 

Blown sand, " allus a-shiften and a-blowen," 
is the most prominent feature of the way from 
this point, all the four miles into Burnham. The 
ragwort " the yallers," as the countryfolk here- 
abouts know it distributes a rich colour by the 
wayside, and confers upon what would otherwise 
be a somewhat dreary waste a specious cheerful- 
ness. But even this hardy wilding, content with 




BERROW. 



the minimum of nutriment, grows scarce and 
disappears as Berrow comes in sight ; Berrow, 
where the sand-hummocks broaden out and 
entirely surround the church that stands there 
in its walled churchyard with a solitary cottage 
for neighbour as though defensively laagered 
against attack in an enemy's country ; as indeed 
it is ; the enemy, these insidious sands. Berrow, 
there can be no doubt whatever, was one of the 
many islets that anciently were scattered about 
Sedgemere, and we have but to glance inland 



BRENT KNOLL 103 

between Brean ancL^Berrow for this aforetime 
character of the surrounding country to be 
abundantly manifest, and for the eye to be im- 
mediately fixed with one of the most outstanding 
features of old time ; the hill of Brent Knoll. 

Travellers to or from the West by the Great 
Western Railway are generally much impressed, 
between Yatton and Bridgwater, by the strange 
solitary hill of Brent Knoll that rises abruptly 
from the plain of Burnham Level, and looks 
oddly like some long-extinct volcano with its 
cone shorn off or fallen in. Fast trains do not 
stop at the little wayside station also called 
" Brent Knoll/' and while passengers are still 
gazing curiously at the hill, they are whirled 
away in midst of other interesting scenery. 

Brent Knoll stands out prominently by virtue 
of its height of 457 feet, as well as by its isolated 
situation in the great alluvial plain through 
which lazily meander the muddy streams of 
Brue and Axe to their outlets at Uphill and 
Highbridge. It is one of those many scattered 
heights that are so strangely disposed about the 
neighbourhood of Sedgemoor, and give so romantic 
an appearance to these wide-spreading levels. 
Of these the most prominent, geographically and 
historically, is the famed Glastonbury Tor, which 
with its volcanic outline, crested with the tall 
tower of the ancient Chapel of St. Michael, is 
prominent for many a misty mile, like some 
Hill of Dream. Then there is^ the Mump at 
Boroughbridge, by the crossing of the Parret 



104 THE SOMERSET COAST 

into the Isle of Athelney ; Borough Hill, near 
Wedmore ; and many smaller, together with 
those scarcely perceptible hillocks amid the 
marshes that are now the sites of villages, whose 
very names of Chedzoy, Middlezoy, Westonzoy- 
land, and Othery, tell us that these, together with 
the larger hills, were all, " once upon a time," 
islands in a shallow sea that stagnated over the 
whole of what is now called " Sedgemoor," but 
is properly " Sedgemere." Centuries of draining, 
of cutting those long, broad and deep dykes 
called " r nines," that cross the moor for many 
miles, in every direction, and so carry away the 
waters, have converted what had become, after 
the sea had retired, an almost impassable morass 
into a fertile plain. The industry of peat-digging 
in the heart of the moor shows the nature of the 
soil in these parts, and modern discoveries of 
prehistoric lake-dwellings at Meare, whose very 
name contains evidence of the mere, or lake that 
once existed, indicate the manner of life these 
ancient inhabitants lived. King Arthur seems 
a dim and distant figure to us, but long before 
his time there lived a race of people on the islands 
of this inland sea ; folk who, although they 
frescoed themselves liberally with red ochre, were 
by no means without a more artistic knowledge 
of decoration than implied by that crude form 
of personal adornment. They certainly made 
earthenware pottery of graceful forms, decorated 
with ornament of excellent design and execution. 
Their other habits were primitive. Largely a 



BRENT KNOLL 105 

fish-eating folk, they often lived, as described 
earlier in these pages, in wattled huts built on 
piles or stakes driven in the waters. These 
forms of dwellings were readily adapted for 
defence, for shelter for their boats, and for fishing. 

In those far-distant days Brent Knoll was 
an island. William of Malmesbury, whose chroni- 
cle of the English kings was written early in 
the twelfth century, and abounds in marvels and 
prodigies, tells us that it was originally named 
" Insula Ranarum," the Isle of Frogs. It had 
been, moreover, he says, in times even then far 
remote, the home of three most famous wicked 
giants, who were put to the sword, after a long 
and evil existence, by one Ider, in the marvellous 
times of King Arthur. 

Excellent roads completely encircle Brent 
Knoll, making the circuit around the base of it in 
some four miles, and a very pleasant and pictur- 
esque miniature circular trip it is on a bicycle 
beneath the great hill, which is thus seen to be 
as it were, roughly, one hill superimposed upon 
another, with a remarkably distinct ledge or broad 
shelf running around it, at half its total height ; 
more noticeable from the north-west, perhaps, 
than from any other direction. The great bulk 
of Brent Knoll forming this base is composed of lias 
rock ; the upper part being of oolite. On the 
summit is an ancient earthwork, the centre of 
it marked by a flagstaff. No hilltop would be 
complete without its ancient fortified camp, 
but the story of that upon Brent Knoll has never 



to6 THE SOMERSET COAST 

been told, nor is now ever likely to be. Roman 
coins, found in almost every old fortified post, 
have been found here also, and down below, in 
the meadows, the name of " Battleborough " re- 
mains, with a tradition of Alfred the Great having 
here fought with and defeated the Danes, or been 
defeated by them ; which, in its vagueness, 
shows how extremely little is known of old times 
here. But the name " Brent "i.e. " Burnt "- 
Knoll is of itself evidence of warlike times, when 
the hilltop flared with beacon-fires. 

There are two villages on Brent Knoll ; South 
and East Brent, both pleasant places ; the first 
with a noble Perpendicular church and stately 
tower ; the second with a church less noble, 
provided with a tall spire that was formerly used 
as a landmark for ships making Burnham, and 
was kept conspicuously whitewashed, that the 
mark might not be overlooked. Since the tall 
lighthouses of Burnham have arisen, the spire 
of East Brent is no longer regularly made white. 

In the South Brent church a fine series of 
carved bench-ends includes satirical representa- 
tions of the story of Reynard the Fox, here 
especially applied to the grasping conduct of the 
mitred Abbots of Glastonbury, who sought to 
seize the temporalities and emoluments of South 
Brent, but were defeated at law. Thus we find 
here a fox, habited as an abbot, preaching to a 
fiock of geese and other fowls ; the fleece of a 
sheep hanging from his crozier sufficiently show- 
ing that his wardenship of flocks does not go 







I'fi 



BRENT KNOLL 109 

unrewarded. Three of his monks, shown as 
cowled swine, peer up at him. A lower panel 
on the same bench-end discloses a pig being 
roasted on a spit, which is turned at one end by 
a monkey and the fire blown with a bellows by 
another monkey at the opposite end. 

On another bench-end of this series we see 
that the geese have revolted against the fox, 
who is found sitting upright in a penitential 
attitude,Hiis^hind legs in fetters. AXmonkey 




BRENT KNOLL. 



preaches to, or admonishes, the geese, in his 
stead. In the lower panel the fox is seen in the 
stocks, a monkey mounting guard with a halberd. 
An elaborate mural monument to one " John 
Somersett," 1663, and his two wives, occupies 
great space on the south side of the nave ; John 
Somerset himself represented in half -length, with 
a portrait-bust of a wife on either side. There 
are, further, effigies of himself and the two Mrs. 
Somerset praying, accompanied by a chrisom 
child ; ^ together with an alarming effigy starting 



no THE SOMERSET COAST 

up in a coffin and praying earnestly to an angel 
who, armed with a trumpet like a megaphone, 
wallows amid clouds, blowing reassuring messages, 
which issue from the trumpet visibly in lengths, 
not unlike the news from modern tape-machines. 
An elderly angel, with an oily smile of smug satis- 
faction, beams greasily below. The whole curious 
composition has been recently very highly coloured, 
in reproduction of the original scheme. 



CHAPTER XII 

BURNHAM HIGHBRIDGE BAWDRIP " BATH 
BRICKS " THE RIVER PARRET 

THE upstart capital of these levels is Burnham, 
but the supremacy is disputed by Highbridge. 
Now Burnham and Highbridge, although but a 
mile and a half apart, are places very different, 
socially and geographically. The first stands 
amid sands, by the seashore ; the other is situ- 
ated about the distance of a mile from the sea, 
on the muddy, sludgy banks of the river Brue. 
Burnham is a pleasure resort, of sorts, to which 
all the railways of Somerset and Dorset run 
frequent cheap excursions. It is the ideal of the 
average Sunday School manager, seeking a suit- 
able place for the school's annual treat ; for here 
you have sands a little muddy perhaps, but 
eminently safe. It would be possible to get 
drowned only after superhuman exertions in 
finding a sufficient depth of water ; unless in- 
deed one wandered off in the direction of the 
Brue estuary in one direction or the lonely shores 
of Berrow in the other ; where it is easily possible 
to be drowned in the swiftest and most effectual 



H2 THE SOMERSET COAST 

manner ; as demonstrated every summer by 
a few rash and unfortunate bathers, who gener- 
ally prove, strange to say, to be local folk, pre- 
sumably well informed of the risks they run 
and foolishly contemptuous of them. 

Highbridge is not a pleasure resort. Not 
even a Sunday School manager would fall into 
that error. It was once (but a time long enough 
ago) a place inoffensive enough ; a hamlet of no 
particular character, good or ill, beside the river 
Brue, and taking its name from the original 
humpbacked bridge that here spanned the stream ; 
built in that manner for the purpose of allowing 
masted barges and other craft to pass under. 
That was Highbridge. Nowadays, the old bridge 
is replaced by a modern flat iron affair, and there 
are railway sidings and docks, and great sluice- 
gates to the river Brue. Here, too, are the 
engine shops and works of the Somerset and 
Dorset Railway, with a large and offensive, and 
exceptionally blackguardly, colony of railway 
men, Radicals and Socialists to a man, and not 
content with holding their own views, but in- 
sistent upon imposing them upon their neigh- 
bours at election-times, with threats and violence. 
There are railwaymen and railwaymen, but the 
country in general has, as yet, little compre- 
hension of their essentially disaffected, selfish, 
and dangerous character, as a body : the more 
dangerous in that they have largely in their 
power the communications of the land. We 
shall hear more of them some day not far distant, 



BURNHAM 113 

and governments will be obliged to give them a 
sharp lesson in social discipline. 

But enough of Highbridge and its forlorn, 
abject houses, and its paltry modern church with 
red and black tiled spire, apparently designed by 
some infantile architect. Let us return to Burn- 
ham, and contemplate the crowded promenade 
there. 

Weston we have seen to be a children's paradise ; 
but there they are largely mingled with " grown- 
ups." Here they predominate, and the vast 
sand-flats, that at low tide stretch out more or 
less oozily and muddily as you advance, some 
four miles, are converted for a goodly distance 
from the promenade wall into a manufactory 
of sand-castles and mud-pies. The Burnham 
donkeys must feel a blessed relief when the 
season is over, for they are in great request for 
rides, even so far as the straddle-legged lighthouse 
that stands on iron posts to the north of the 
town ; yea, and even unto the sandhills or 
" tots," as the local tongue hath it of Berrow. 

All the eastern ports of the Somerset coast 
are severely afflicted by " trippers," who descend 
in their thousands upon Clevedon, Weston-super- 
Mare, and Burnham, not to mention the neigh- 
bouring villages. Truth to tell, they are effu- 
sively welcomed at these places, at any rate by the 
refreshment caterers and the proprietors of swing- 
boats, donkeys, sailing and rowing-boats, and 
by the " pierrots " ; but the rest of the community 
resent the presence of these hordes of half-day 

15 



H4 THE SOMERSET COAST 

holiday makers, and act the superior person 
towards them. Yet, when you hear, at any of 
these resorts, visitors, obviously present on six- 
teen days' excursion-trip tickets, speaking dis- 
paragingly of " trippers/' you wonder really what 
constitutes such an one. What is that time-limit 
within which a holiday-maker becomes a mere 
" tripper," and when does he become enlarged 
as one of the elect, who do not trip, but make 
holiday ? 

The definition of a tripper, in these parts, is a 
person who comes across the Bristol Channel from 
Barry, Cardiff, Swansea, or any other of the South 
Wales ports, for half a day, and ''brings his 
nosebag with him"; or, if it be a family party 
of trippers, a family handbag with provisions ; 
including a bottle of beer for mother and father, 
and milk for the children. Thousands of these 
family parties came over by cheap steamboat ex- 
cursions on most fine days in summer, and may be 
observed on the sea-front at Weston and other 
favoured resorts, where they are apt to leave an 
offensive residuum of their feasts behind them, 
in the shape of greasy paper and pieces of fat, as 
often as not upon the public seats. Those are 
the trippers. 

The unfortunate person who, clad perhaps in 
a light summer suit (" Gent's West-End* lounge 
suit. This style 255. "), has unwittingly sat upon 
a piece of ham-fat left behind by one of these 
gay irresponsibles, hates the tripper thereafter with 
a baleful intensity. Can we blame him that he 



BURNHAM 115 

does so ? But this is only one of that half -day 
excursionist's deadly sins, of which the fact that 
he brings merely his presence and his nosebag 
and little money into the places he favours is one 
of the deadliest. Another is the circumstance 
that he is a Welshman. The Somerset folk do 
not like the Welsh, who are alien from them in 
every possible way, and it is quite certain that 
the South Wales colliers and dockers are not a 
favourable or pleasing type. Thus triply financi- 
ally, racially and socially the trippers from across 
the Severn Sea are not a success. 

It is all very lively at Burnham, and there is 
a bandstand, and there are lodging-houses and 
boarding-houses innumerable, and tea-shops, and 
a " park " about the area of a moderate-sized 
private garden. No tramways have yet appeared 
at Burnham, but it is possible to travel expedi- 
tiously, if involuntarily and not altogether safely, 
and quite freely on the banana-skins that plenti- 
fully bestrew the streets. But this form of loco- 
motion is not altogether popular. 

There is much motor-boating in these latter 
days off Burnham, and by favour of such a craft, 
or by sailing-skiff, or the comparatively tedious 
method of rowing, you may visit Steart Island, 
off the mouths of the Brue and Parret. But 
there are no attractions on that flat isle, swimming 
in surrounding ooze, except at such times as 
winter, when the wild-fowl congregate greatly 
there, in the mistaken notion that they are safe 
from the sportsman. 



n6 THE SOMERSET COAST 

In midst of the long line of houses that closely 
front upon the sea, stands the ancient parish 
church of Burnham ; considerably below the level 
of the street. The traveller who has come from 
Brean and Berrow will at once perceive that this 
street and this roadway are founded upon the 
blown sand that has placed Brean church in a 
similar hollow. 

Here, at Burnham, the church-tower, of three 
storeys, leans as many times, this way and that, 
and has apparently been long in this condition, 
having been left so at the restoration of 1887. 
In the chancel remains a portion of a huge white 
marble altar-piece designed by Inigo Jones for the 
Chapel Royal, Whitehall, and subsequently erected 
in Westminster Abbey by Sir Christopher Wren. 
At the coronation of George IV. it was removed 
and placed here by Dr. King, Canon of Westminster 
and vicar of Burnham ; and singularly cumbrous 
and out of place it looks still, even though parts 
of it have been removed, to afford much-needed 
room. 

Leaving Burnham behind, and then High- 
bridge, we come to Huntspill Level, with the 
square, massive tower of Huntspill church pro- 
minent against the skyline, on the right hand. 
The road, worn into saucer-shaped holes by excess 
of motor-traffic, goes straight and flat across the 
Level, with pollard willows and stagnant, duck- 
weedy ditches on either side, and so through the 
wayside hamlet of West Huntspill : a naturally 
slovenly, out-at-elbows place, not improved by 



PAWLETT 



117 



being nowadays thickly coated with motor- 
dust. 

And so to Pawlett (locally " Pollitt ") consist- 
ing of an old church and half-a-dozen houses on a 
slight knoll, overlooking miles of flat pasture- 
lands, said to be the very richest in Somerset. 
Proceeding in the direction of Bridgwater, the 
Sedgemoor Drain, chief of the many cuts, large 



. 

, v^ rji^x'-v -, >~N - .-, < M '.',.. '" 




HUNTSPILL. 



and small, that prevent the moor from being 
inundated, is crossed at the point where it falls 
into the river Parret. Here is the level expanse 
known as Horsey Slime. It is not a pretty name. 
Dunball railway-station stands on the left, and 
the distance in that direction is closed by the 
Polden Hills, crowned by a ready-made ruined 
castle, built some sixty years ago, yet looking 
perfectly romantic and baronial, so long as this 
distressing fact of its appalling modernity is not 



n8 THE SOMERSET COAST 

disclosed. Over those strangers and pilgrims from 
far lands who, landing at Plymouth, and travelling 
to Paddington per Great Western Railway for 
the first time, catch a momentary glimpse of this 
fictitious fortalice, before the engine dashes with 
a demoniac yelp into the Dunball Tunnel, there 
comes a feeling that they have at last entered a 
region of romance. They have indeed, but not 
in respect of that castle, at any rate. It is painful 
to be confronted with the necessity for such a 
revelation, but the honest topographer sees his 
duty plain before him and does it, no matter 
the cost ! 

In the levels beneath the hills crowned by 
this sham castle lies Bawdrip, a village of the 
very smallest and most retiring agricultural type, 
with a little Early English cruciform church, 
remarkable for the finely sculptured female heads 
and headdresses of wimple and coif on the capitals 
of the four pillars supporting the central tower. 
Restoration has left the building particularly 
neat and tidy and singularly bare of monuments. 
Bawdrip church, however, contains a monumental 
inscription which includes a mysterious allusion 
that has never yet been properly explained ; and 
probably never will be. The small black marble 
slab setting forth this inscription in the ornate 
Latinity of the seventeenth century might well 
escape the scrutiny of the keenest antiquary, 
for it is -built into the wall in a most unusual 
situation, behind the altar. It is a comprehensive 
epitaph to Edward and Eleanor Lovell and their 



BAWDRIP 119 

two daughters, Eleanor and Mary, erected here 
to their memory by the husband of the daughter 
Eleanor, who, singularly enough, omits his own 
name. Done into English, it runs as follows : 

" Edward Lovell married Eleanor Bradford, 
by whom he had two daughters, Eleanor and 
Mary. Both parents were sprung from Batcombe, 
in this County of Somerset, from a noble family, 
and reflected no less honour on their ancestry 
than they received from it. Eleanor, a most 
devoted mother, as well as a most faithful wife, 
exchanged this life for the heavenly, April 20, 1666. 
Mary followed her, a most obedient daughter, and 
a maiden of notable promise, May u, 1675. 
Edward, the father, M.A. and Fellow of Jesus 
College, Cambridge, also Rector of this Church 
for fourteen years, a most praiseworthy man, 
received the reward of his learning, September i, 
1671. Lastly Eleanor, the daughter, heiress of 
the family honour and estate, died June 14, 1681. 
Her most sorrowing husband mourned her, taken 
away by a sudden and untimely fate at the very 
time of the marriage celebration, and to the honour 
and holy memory of her parents, her sisters, and 
his most amiable wife, wished this monument 
to be put up." 

Tradition associates the sudden death of the 
bride with the story of "The Mistletoe Bough," 
made popular many years ago by Haynes Bayley's 
woeful song of that name, worked up by him from 
ancient legends current in many parts of the 
country. The legend he versified was that of the 



120 THE SOMERSET COAST 

fair young bride of one "Lovel," apparently the 
son of a mediaeval Baron, who, playing hide-and- 
seek in the revels of her wedding-day, hid in an 
ancient chest, and was imprisoned there by a spring 
lock. That it was at Christmas-time we are assured 
by Haynes Bay ley's verses, which tell us that : 

The Baron's retainers were blithe and gay, 
Keeping their Christmas holiday. 

Unavailing search was made for the missing 
bride : 

And young Lovel cried, O ! where dost thou hide ? 
I'm lonely without thee, my own dear bride. 

The spring lock that lay in ambush in the old 
chest imprisoned her there securely, and her 
body was not discovered in the life of Lovel. 
To quote again from Haynes Bayley : 

At length an old chest that had long lain hid 
Was found in the castle they raised the lid ; 
A skeleton form lay mouldering there, 
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair. 
Oh ! sad was her fate ! In sportive jest 
She hid from her lord in that old oak chest. 
It closed with a spring, and her bridal bloom 
Lay withering there in a living tomb. 

But who was the " Baron " and who " Lovel," 
and where they resided, or when they flourished 
we are not informed. Curiously enough, however, 
a Viscount Lovel disappeared in something the 
same manner. This was that Francis, Viscount 
Lovel, who fought ex parte the impostor, Lambert 



U BATH BRICKS" 121 

Simnel, at Stoke, and disappeared after the defeat 
of the pretender's cause on that day. His fate 
remained a mystery until 1708, when, in the course 
of some works in the ruins of what had been his 
ancestral mansion at Minster Lovel, in Oxford- 
shire, a secret underground chamber was dis- 
covered, in which was found the skeleton of a 
man identified with him. It was thought that 
he had taken refuge there, in that locked room, 
and was attended to by a retainer who, possibly, 
betrayed his trust and left his master to starve ; 
or who, perhaps, was himself slain in some affray 
during those troubled times. The repetition of 
the name of Lovell is at any rate curious. 

Now across the levels rise the distant houses 
of Bridgwater town, and the slim spire of its 
church. The long flat road, of undeviating direct- 
ness, points directly towards the place. Hedge- 
row and other trees dispose themselves casually, 
without ordered plan, on either hand, and a railway 
crosses the highway, diagonally, on a bridge 
and embankment. The scene is absolutely nega- 
tive and characterless : neither beautiful nor 
absolutely ugly : the very realisation, one would 
say, of the commonplace. As you proceed, a 
distant grouping of masts and spars proclaims 
the fact of navigable water being near at hand, 
and then groups of factory chimneys, smoking 
vigorously, loom up. These are the most out- 
standing marks of Bridgwater 's only prominent 
manufacture : the manufacture of " Bath bricks." 
Every housewife knows what is meant by "Bath 

16 



122 THE SOMERSET COAST 

brick/' With this article of commerce and 
domestic economy knives are cleaned, brass 
fenders and candlesticks and coppers are scoured, 
and much other metal- work brought to brightness. 
But it is not made at Bath. At only one place in 
the world and that Bridgwater is the so-called 
:< Bath brick "'' brought into being : the reason 
of this monopoly of manufacture lying in the 
fact that the material of which it is made is found 
only here in the mud of the river Parret. But 
only in a stretch of some three miles of that river's 
course is found the peculiarly composed mud of 
which this aid to domestic cleanliness is com- 
pacted. Equally above and below the town, 
within those strictly-defined limits, the rise and 
fall of the tide amalgamates the river mud, and 
the seashore sand in just the right proportions for 
the scouring properties of " Bath brick." At a 
further distance above the town, the mud that 
renders the Parret's banks so unlovely becomes 
merely slime ; while, as the sea is more nearly 
approached, the proportion of sharp sand in it 
destroys the binding character of the mud, and 
would render bricks made of the amalgam there 
found very destructive to cutlery and other ware 
unfortunate enough to be scoured by it. 

Why. these "bricks," made only at Bridg- 
water, should be given the name of " Bath," and 
not that of the town where they originate, is a 
mystery at this lapse of time not likely to be 
solved. The most plausible explanation offered 
is that when these bricks were first made they 



'BATH BRICKS" 123 

were stored and ' handled," as a commercial 
man might say, at Bath. 

The mud from which the bricks are made is 
collected quite simply, but ingeniously, in pens 
carefully constructed along the Parret's banks. 
These " slime-batches," as they are named, are 
brick-built enclosures, so arranged that the mud- 
charged tide flows into them at every flood, the 
mud settling down during the interval of ebb. 
Thus with every recurring tide a new deposit is 
added ; the " batches " being filled in the course 
of two or three months, according to the time 
of year. This accumulation, grown hard in all 
this time, is dug out, generally in the winter, and 
removed to the banks, whence it is taken as 
required to the pug-mills, in which it is mixed 
with water and thus tempered to a putty-like 
consistency. Then it is ready for the moulder, 
that is to say, the actual brickmaker, who, after 
the identical fashion followed by the moulder of 
ordinary bricks, takes his lumps of material, 
throws them into a wooden framework made to 
the gauge of a brick, scrapes off the surplus clay 
from the top and pushes the raw brick aside, 
as one of a rapidly growing row. The rapidity 
with which a moulder does his work is astonish- 
ing to the unaccustomed onlooker. A workman 
of average excellence can thus shape four hundred 
bricks an hour. 

The clammy slabs of clay thus formed are 
then taken by the " bearer-off " and placed in 
the " hacks " that is to say, long stands 



124 THE SOMERSET COAST 

with a slight tile roofing, to dry. The tiled pro- 
tection is to shield the unbaked bricks from being 
partly dissolved by possible rainstorms. 

The final operations are the stacking into 
kilns and the burning, carried out precisely in the 
same manner as the burning of bricks to be used 
in building. 

The river Parret in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 
styled " Pedridan " is in other ways a river 
of considerable importance to North Somerset. 
Like the Avon at Bristol, it runs out towards the 
sea in its last few miles more like a deep and 
muddy gutter at low water than in the likeness 
of a river ; but the Parret mud, as we have 
already seen, is at least useful, and a source of 
wealth to Bridgwater ; and shipping of con- 
siderable tonnage, bringing chiefly coals from 
South Wales, and deals from Norway, comes up 
the estuary to Bridgwater' s quays. 

The Parret is about thirty miles in length, 
rising some two miles within the Dorset border, 
near South Perrot, which, together with the two 
widely sundered small towns, or large villages, 
of North and South Petherton, and perhaps the 
village of Puriton also, takes its name from the 
river. In common with several other streams on 
either side of the Bristol Channel with, of course, 
the river Severn at their head it is subject to 
a tidal wave, known as " the Bore." This is 
caused by the very great ebb and flow of the tide, 
here so much as thirty-six feet at springs. The 
flood tide comes up the deep and narrow estuary 



THE RIVER PARRET 125 

from the outer channel with such swiftness, and 
is so laterally compressed that a gradual rise is 
impossible and the water comes surging up as 
a great and formidable wave, like a wall, from 
five to six feet in height. At such times when 
westerly gales or spring tides prevail, the Bore 
easily rises to nine feet in height. It is always 
an impressive spectacle, seen from the river bank ; 
and viewed from a boat, even when the craft is 
managed by a boatman accustomed to this phe- 
nomenon, is more than a little alarming. It suffi- 
ciently scared the French prisoners of war, con- 
fined by the riverside in an old factory, known 
as the " Glass House " and nowadays a pottery, 
from any serious attempts at escaping by water. 



CHAPTER XIII 

BRIDGWATER ADMIRAL BLAKE THE 
MONMOUTH REBELLION 

THE ancient town of Bridgwater can now produce 
few evidences of its antiquity. The siege of 1645, 
various conflagrations, and the very considerable 
modern prosperity of the place have all been 
contributory causes toward this to the tourist- 
somewhat desolating result. The town straddles 
on either side of the Parret, the hither side 
named appropriately and inevitably " East- 
over." It is the less considerable and important 
portion, the chief buildings of the place being on 
the left bank of the river. A dull, undistinguished, 
heavy Georgian appearance characterised the town 
until quite recently, but a great deal of building 
activity has of late been manifested here, with 
results perhaps as yet a little too recent for 
criticism. At any rate, the old outstanding 
features remain ; the large parish church, with 
curiously squat tower and elongated spire, form- 
ing with the Corn Exchange and Town Hall, the 
one striking group that alone stands in pictures 
recognisably for Bridgwater. 

A great deal of argument has been expended 

126 



BRIDGWATER 127 

upon the name of Bridgwater. The name is 
apparently of the most obvious and elementary 
derivation, for here is the " water " (largely im- 
pregnated, it is true, with mud) in the river 
Parret, and here is the bridge, the modern re- 
presentative of others of different degrees of 
antiquity, erected at the lowest place down the 
estuary where it was possible to fling a bridge 
across. It is evident, then, that it must ever 
have been impossible to enter or leave the town 
in an easterly or westerly direction without 
crossing a bridge or ferry at this point. Other 
place-names in the district, those of Highbridge 
and Boroughbridge, for example, prove the word 
:t bridge " to have been used in the ordinary way, 
when necessary, as an integral, and indeed scarcely 
avoidable, part of a name. Yet the derivation 
of " Bridgwater " has nothing to do, explicitly, 
with water, although " Brugge," i.e. Bridge, the 
name of the place at the time of the Conquest, 
certainly implies water beneath. The manor 
was given, after the Conquest, to one of the Con- 
queror's Norman barons, Walter of Douai, and 
became therefrom known as " Brugie of Walter" 
and by degrees, by a natural elision of letters 
readily dropped in ordinary speech, what it is 
now. 

Of the Castle of Bridgwater, once a strong 
fortress, both by virtue of its own stout walls, 
and by reason of the fine position it held at the 
crossing of the Parret, nothing is left, except 
portions of the Water Gate, on the West Quay, 



128 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



and the cellars of what is now the Custom House. 
The last occasion of its appearance in history 
was the shameful surrender of it to a besieging 
army under Fairfax, on July 23rd, 1645, after 
a two days' assault. It had -been so generally 




BIRTHPLACE OF ADMIRAL BLAKE 



considered impregnable that the wealthy Royalists 
of the countryside, afraid for the safety of their 
jewellery and other valuables, had sent them 
hither from what they thought to be the insecurity 
of their own houses. Thus the taking of the im- 
pregnable castle and the surrender of the in- 



BRIDGWATER 129! 

vincible garrison resulted in exceptionally heavy 
spoils, amounting to 100,000 value. 

Bridgwater boasts one famous son ; Robert 
Blake, the great Admiral, or rather, General-at- 
Sea, of the Commonwealth, who taught foreign 
nations in general, and the Dutch in particular, 
who wanted the lesson badly, the respect due to 
England. His birthplace is still standing in this 
his native town, in a quiet byway, where tall, 
staid eighteenth-century merchants' residences look 
down, as it were with a certain condescension, 
upon the less imposing house in which the hero 
was first introduced to a troubled world, in 1599. 
It is a comfortable, rather than a stately, house ; 
but it was built to last. It is the oldest house 
now remaining in the town, and was probably 
built in the early years of the sixteenth century, 
the interior disclosing a greater antiquity than 
would be suspected from the frontage. Huge, 
roughly squared oak timbers frame the walls and 
cross the ceilings with immense rafters. They 
had been all carefully covered up some generations 
ago, and their existence hidden by plaster and 
wall-papering ; but recent repairs of the house 
have resulted in all this honest construction 
being again disclosed ; and very noble, in the 
rugged old way, it looks. During the progress 
of these repairs and alterations, the plaster on 
the walls of an upper room was found to have 
been liberally scratched and otherwise drawn 
upon at a period contemporary with Admiral 
Blake. Sketches of ships were prominent among 

17 



130 THE SOMERSET COAST 

these rough sgraffiti : ships built and rigged in 
a manner characteristic of the seventeenth century, 
and the words " Rex Carolus " appeared among 
them. It was necessary, for the repair of the 
walls, to cover up most of these sketches, but 
the best have been carefully preserved. 

Robert Blake's father was a merchant, with 
more children (a round dozen of them) than busi- 
ness. His mother came of an old landed family ; 
the Williamses of Planesfield. Robert himself 
was sent to Oxford and was in residence there, 
chiefly at Wadham College, fifteen years, wishful 
of becoming a Fellow, but finally balked of that 
ambition for an easeful life. It is curious to 
contemplate that old possibility of this stout man 
of war having ever become a cloistral butt of 
futile learning, of the peculiar brand of futility 
affected by Oxford. 

His father died, leaving but an insignificant 
sum to be divided among his many children, and 
Robert, with strong Republican views, was re- 
turned to Parliament for his native town of Bridg- 
water. Events were moving rapidly towards 
Civil War, and in the outbreak of that momentous 
struggle many men found at last their vocation. 
Among them was Blake, whose great defence of 
Taunton town against the Royalist siege in 1645 
was one of the most dogged and successful incidents 
of that time. Encompassed by ten thousand 
men and his ammunition all shot away, food 
exhausted, and a breach actually made in the 
walls and the enemy swarming through it ; still 



ADMIRAL BLAKE 131 

he would not yield, and declared he would eat his 
boots first. Fortunately the rumour of Fairfax's 
relieving army at that moment spread among 
the besiegers, and the siege was raised, else Blake 
would have had a full and an unappetising meal 
before him, as any one who contemplates his 
statue here, and trie great thigh-boots he is 
wearing, may judge for himself. 

At the establishment of the Commonwealth, 
Blake was given high command at sea : a military 
man afloat as Admiral ; a thing in our own highly 
specialised times unthinkable. His complete 
success in that new environment is a part of our 
history that need not be recounted here. After 
many inconclusive duels with the Dutch, who, 
under Van Tromp, disputed the sovereignty of the 
seas, and after brilliant services abroad, Blake 
died while yet in what may be termed the prime 
of life, of an intermittent fever, and probably 
also from an exhaustion induced by old wounds, 
on board his flagship, off Plymouth, in 1657. With 
his death disappeared one of the few entirely 
honest Republicans of that time : a man that 
England could then ill spare, as the nation was to 
find but ten years later, when the Dutch fully 
revenged themselves for former reverses by their 
historic raid up the Medway and destruction of 
English ships off Chatham. 

After many years, Bridgwater has at last 
honoured itself and the memory of this great man 
with a statue, placed prominently in front of the 
Corn Exchange. He is represented in the military 



132 THE SOMERSET COAST 

costume of the time, with a short, wind-blown 
cloak flying from his shoulders, pointing into 
space. It is a pose admirably chosen, and every 
line of this fine bronze figure expresses the courage, 
zeal, and bull-dog determination characteristic 
of the man. Bronze panels in relief on the plinth 
represent Blake's fleet off Portland, February 
1653 ; the capture of Santa Cruz, April 20th, 
1657 i an d Blake's body brought into Plymouth 
Sound, August yth, 1657. This appropriate couplet 
from Spenser is added : 

Sleepe after toyle, port after stormy seas, 

Ease after war, death after life, doth greatly please. 

Bridgwater church has its place in history, 
for it was from the battlements of this tower that 
the ill-fated Monmouth looked forth upon the 
plain of Sedgemoor, just before the battle that 
was to decide his fortunes. 

Nothing in the long story of the West so stirs 
the blood as the incidents of the disastrous expe- 
dition captained by this handsome, ambitious, and 
well-liked son of Charles II. It was a generous 
enterprise if at the same time not without its 
great personal reward, if successful to attempt 
the saving of England from the domination of 
Popery that again threatened her ; and it deserved 
a better conclusion than that recorded by history. 

It was three weeks after the landing of Mon- 
mouth at Lyme Regis, on the coast of Dorset, 
that he arrived at Bridgwater. Three thousand 
men had flocked to him on his landing, and by 



THE MONMOUTH REBELLION 133 

the time he had reached Taunton, the enthusiasm 
was such that his forces were more than doubled, 
and numbered seven thousand. But his was 
an undisciplined and untrained mob, rather than 
an army, and a fiery religious fervour, ready to 
dare anything for Protestantism, was an ill equip- 
ment with which to contend against the trained 
troops of James the Second, hastening down to 
oppose their march. This was essentially a 
popular rebellion, for the influential gentry of 
the West, although ill-affected towards the re- 
actionary rule of King James and willing enough 
to end his reign, hesitated to join, and by their 
cowardice lost the day. While they timorously 
waited on events, the peasantry showed a bolder 
front, and chiefly through their sturdy conduct, 
Monmouth's advance through Dorset and 
Somerset had been by no means without incident 
in the warlike sort. His rustics, badly armed 
though they were, and largely with agricultural 
implements instead of weapons of offence, gave 
with their billhooks, their pikes, and scythes, 
an excellent account of themselves against the 
Royalist regulars commanded by Lord Feversham 
in the hotly contested skirmish at Norton St. 
Philip on June 26th. 

It was, perhaps, in some measure the 
unaccustomed weapons used by Monmouth's 
countrymen that alarmed Feversham's soldiers 
and gained that day for the rebel Duke, for even 
men trained to arms lose much of their courage 
when confronted with strange, even though, it 



134 THE SOMERSET COAST 

may be, inferior weapons. But it was still more 
the valour of the Somerset rustics that won 
the day on that occasion for Faith and Freedom. 

Had Monmouth followed up his advantage, 
the wavering sympathies of the West of England 
gentry might have thrown fresh levies into the 
field for his cause ; but he retired upon the then 
defenceless town of Bridgwater, and remained 
inactive. 

Now, there is nothing that more disheartens 
untrained men than a check in their forward 
march. Countermarching to them appears but 
the forerunner of defeat, and the flow of ardour 
in any cause once hindered is difficult to recover. 
With regular troops the chances and changes 
incidental to campaigning inure them to dis- 
appointments, and the retreat of to-day they 
know often to be but the prelude of to-morrow's 
advance. But with Monmouth's men, their leader's 
plan once altered, their fortunes seemed irretriev- 
ably clouded. Monmouth himself grew gloomy 
at the delay the vacillations of himself and his 
lieutenants had caused, and when on the afternoon 
of Sunday, July 5th, he ascended to this point to 
reconnoitre the position his opponents had taken 
up in the midst of the moor, his heart sank. He 
saw the glint of their arms, the colours of the 
regiments drawn up beneath the shadow of the 
tall tower of Westonzoyland, and he well knew 
that a conflict between them and his brave, but 
untaught, peasants could only prove fatal to his 
ambitions. He had, some years before, led those 



THE MONMOUTH REBELLION 135 

very soldiers to victory. " I know those men/' 
said he to his officers, leaning over these parapets 
of St. Mary's; " they will fight ! " 

By a circuitous route, his army left the town 
of Bridgwater when night was come and darkness 
had shrouded the moor. By narrow and rugged 
lanes they went, past Chedzoy, towards the Polden 
Hills. Here they turned, and, led by a guide, 
essayed to thread the maze of deep ditches called, 
in the parlance of the West Country, " Rhines." 

It was not until two o'clock in the morning 
that they had reached within striking distance 
of the Royal troops, crossing safely the Black 
Ditch, and moving along the outer side of the 
Langmoor Rhine, in search of a passage, when a 
pistol was fired, either by accident or treachery. 
" A Dark night," says one who was present, " and 
Thick Fogg covering the Moore." The darkness 
and the sudden alarm caused by the pistol-shot 
threw Monmouth's men into confusion, and the 
Royal forces were at the same time aroused. 
The night attack had failed. 

James II.'s troops challenged the masses of 
men they saw dimly advancing through the mist, 
and were for a time deceived by the answering 
cry of " Albemarle," the name of the Royalist 
commander, who was supposed to be coming to 
the support of Lord Feversham. 

And thus the Monmouth men passed on to the 
Bussex Rhine, where they were simultaneously 
challenged and fired upon by another outpost. 
Dismayed by this volley at close quarters, the 



136 THE SOMERSET COAST 

rebel horse, forming the advance, broke and 
dashed wildly back into the stolid ranks of the 
peasantry. It says much for the stubborn cour- 
age of those ploughmen and hedgers and ditchers 
who formed the bulk of the Duke's ranks, that 
in this confusion they stood fast. 

Then the fight began in earnest, chiefly hand- 
to-hand, beside the broad and stagnant Rhine, 
in whose noisome mud many a stout fellow met 
his death that night. It was not until day dawned 
across the moor that the last band of rustic pike- 
men broke and fled before the King's battalions, 
pouring across the Bussex Rhine. 

Hours before, under cover of the night, the 
rebel Duke had fled the spot with Lord Grey 
and thirty horsemen. It had been a better thing 
had he halted and been cut to pieces with his 
brave followers. His had then been a nobler 
figure in history. 

He had looked with the ill-disguised con- 
tempt of an old campaigner upon his doomed 
rustics. Urged to make a last effort to support 
them, he said bitterly : "All the world cannot stop 
those fellows ; they will run presently " and 
ran himself. The shattered remnants of his raw 
ranks poured confusedly into Bridgwater town, 
soon after daylight was come. At first the towns- 
folk thought them but the wounded stragglers 
from a great victory, and shouted, with caps 
flying in air, for " King Monmouth." Then the 
dreadful truth spread abroad from the lips of 
wounded and dying men, and those who had 



THE MONMOUTH REBELLION 137 

cheered for the flying leader hid themselves, or 
fled on their own account. Three thousand of 
the rebels lay slain upon the field. 

Swift and terrible was the punishment meted 
out to the unhappy victims of Monmouth's ill- 
starred rising. The moorland, the towns and 
villages throughout the counties of Somerset and 
Dorset, were made ghastly with the bodies and 
quarters of the rebels executed and hanged in 
gimmaces, or fixed on posts by the entrances to 
the village churches; and the shocking judicial 
progress of the infamous Judge Jeffreys, is aptly 
commemorated in the popular name of the 
" Bloody Assize." The Duke of Monmouth, cap- 
tured at Woodyates, was beheaded on Tower 
Hill, after an abject appeal for mercy had been 
refused, on July I5th. 

Lost causes always appeal to the imagination 
more eloquently than those that have gained 
their objects, and the Monmouth Rebellion is 
no exception. The enthusiasm aroused by the 
handsome presence and gallant bearing of this 
gay and careless son of Charles II. and Lucy 
Walters, still finds an echo in the West, in the 
sympathy felt for his tragic end and for the tem- 
porary eclipse of the Protestant cause. This 
interest lends itself to the whole of the level 
country behind Bridgwater, the flat, dyke-inter- 
sected, alluvial plain of Sedgemoor. The Bussex 
Rhine, one of the original dykes, has long since 
been filled up, and more modern ditches cut for 
the better draining of the district ; but the spot 

18 



138 THE SOMERSET COAST 

where the battle was fought can still be exactly 
identified. It lies half a mile to the north of 
Westonzoyland, whose rugged church tower over- 
looks the greater part of the moor, topping the 
withies, the poplars, and the apple-orchards of 
the village with grand effect. In that stately 
church five hundred of the rebels were imprisoned 
before trial. A little distance from the site of 
the Bussex Rhine is the Langmoor Rhine, and, 
near by, Brentsfield Bridge, where the Duke's 
men crossed. The village people of Chedzoy 
still show the enquiring stranger that stone in 
the church wall on which the pikes were sharpened 
before the fight, and the plough even now occa- 
sionally turns up rusty sword-hilts, bullets, and 
other eloquent memorials of that futile struggle. 
But the silken banner, worked by the Fair Maids 
of Taunton, where is it, with its proud motto, 
Pro Religione et Libertate ? and where the me- 
morial that should mark this fatal field whereon 
so many stalwart West-countrymen laid down 
their lives for their faith ? 



CHAPTER XIV 

CANNINGTON THE QUANTOCKS NETHER STOWEY, 
AND THE COLERIDGE CIRCLE 

WE leave Bridgwater by St. Mary's church and 
the street called curiously, " Penel Orlieu," whose 
name derives from a combination of Pynel Street 
and Orlewe Street, two thoroughfares that have 
long been conjoined. " Pynel," or " Penelle," was 
the name of a bygone Bridgwater family. 

Up Wembdon Hill, we come out of the town 
by its only residential suburb. Motor-cars have 
absolutely ruined this road out of Bridgwater, 
and on through Cannington and Nether Stowey, 
to Minehead and Porlock. It is a long succession 
of holes, interspersed with bumpy patches, and 
on typical summer days the air is heavy with 
the dust raised by passing cars ; dust that has 
only begun to settle when another comes along, 
generally at an illegal speed, and raises some more. 
The hedges and wayside trees between Bridgwater 
and Nether Stowey are nowadays, from this 
cause, a curious and woeful sight, and the village 
of Nether Stowey itself is, for the same reason, 
made to wear a shameful dragglet ailed appearance. 
The dust off the limestone road is of the whiteness 

139 



CO 



140 THE SOMERSET COAST 

of flour, but looks, as it lies heavily on the foliage, 
singularly like snow. The effect of a landscape 
heavily enshrouded in white, under an intensely 
blue August sky, is unimaginably weird : as though 
the unthinkable a summer snowstorm had oc- 
curred. 

Cannington, whose name seems temptingly 
like that of Kennington Koningtun, the King's 
town in South London, especially as it was once 
the property of Alfred the Great, is really the 
" Cantuctone," i.e. Quantock town, mentioned 
in Alfred's will, in which, inter alia, he gives the 
manor to his son Eadweard. 

The village stands well above the Parret 
valley, and is described by Leland as a " praty 
uplandische " place. A stream that wanders to 
this side and that, and in its incertitude loses its 
way and distributes itself in shallow pools and 
between gravelly banks, over a wide area, is the 
traveller's introduction to Cannington. Here a 
comparatively modern bridge carries the dusty 
highway over the stream, leaving to contemplative 
folk the original packhorse bridge by which in 
olden times the water was crossed when floods 
rendered impracticable the usual practice of 
fording it. The group formed by the tall red 
sandstone tower of the church seen from here, 
amid the trees, with the long rambling buildings 
of the " Anchor " inn below, and the packhorse 
bridge to the left, is charming. The present 
writer said as much to the chauffeur of a motor- 
car, halted here by the roadside. It seemed a 



CANNINGTON 141 

favourable opportunity for testing the attitude of 
such an one towards scenery and these interesting 
vestiges of eld. 

" Bridge, ain't it ? " he asked, jerking a dirty 
finger in that direction. 

" Yes : that is the old packhorse bridge, in 
use before wheeled traffic came much this way." 

" 'Ow did they carry their 'eavy machinery, 
then ? " 

" Our ancestors had none." 

" Then what about the farm-waggons ? ' 

" They went through the stream." 

" Kerridges too ? ' 

" Yes, such as the carriages of those times 
were." 

" 'Eavens," said he, summing up ; " what 
'eathenish times to live in ! ' And he pro- 
ceeded with his work, which turned out, on closer 
inspection, to be that of plentifully oiling the fore 
and aft identification-plates of his car, to the end 
that the dust which so thickly covered the roads 
should adhere to them and obscure alike the 
index-letters and the numbers. He was obviously 
proposing to travel well up to legal limit. 

The church is a noble example of the Perpen- 
dicular period, with an ancient Court House 
adjoining, the property of the Roman Catholic 
Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. It was made the home 
of a French Benedictine sisterhood in 1807 > an d 
is now a Roman Catholic Industrial School for 
boys. The tall, timeworn enclosing walls of its 
grounds form a prominent feature of the village. 



142 THE SOMERSET COAST 

One of the monuments on the walls of the 
church, in the course of a flatulent epitaph upon 
the virtues of various members of the Rogers 
family, of early seventeenth-century date, in- 
dulges in a lamentable pun. The subject under 
consideration is " Amy, daughter of Henry 
Rogers/ 1 "Shee/'we are told, "did Amy-able 
live/' Deplorable ! 

Cannington stands at the entrance to the 
Quantock country, that delightful rural district 
of wooded hills and secluded combes which re- 
mains very much the same as it was just over a 
century ago, when Coleridge and his friends first 
made it known. The Quantock Hills run for some 
twelve miles in a north- westerly direction, from 
Taunton to the sea at West Ouantoxhead ; the 
high road from Bridgwater to Minehead crossing 
the ridge of them at Quantoxhead. The highest 
point of this range is Will's Neck, midway, rising 
to 1262 feet. The capital of the Quantock 
country, although by no means situated on or 
near the ridge, is Nether Stowey. Behind that 
village rises the camp-crowned hill of Danes- 
borough, which, although not itself remarkably 
high, is so situated that it commands an excep- 
tionally fine panoramic view extending over the 
flat lands that border the Parret estuary, and 
over the semicircular sweep of Bridgwater Bay. 

Some wild humorist, surely, that was, who 
pretended to derive the name of the Quantocks 
from a supposititious exclamation by Julius 
Caesar, who is supposed to have exclaimed, 



THE QUANTOCKS 145 

standing on the crest of Danesborough, behind 
Nether Stowey, "Quantum ad hoc!" That is, 
" How much from here ! " in allusion to the view 
from that point. Serious persons, however, tell 
us that the name is the Celtic " Can toe " or 
"Gwantog"; i.e. " full of combes." 

Peculiarly beautiful though the Quantock 
scenery is, it is probable that the especially 
delicate beauty of it would never have attracted 
outside attention, had it not been for the associa- 
tion during a brief space at Nether Stowey of 
Coleridge and his friends. We will spare some time 
to visit Nether Stowey, and see what manner of 
setting was that in which the "Ancient Mariner " 
and other of Coleridge's poetry was wrought. 

The entrance to Stowey from the direction of 
Bridgwater is particularly imposing. You come 
downhill, and then sharply round a bend to the 
right, where a group of Scotch firs introduces 
Stowey Court and the adjoining parish church : 
the view up the road towards the village made 
majestic and old-world by another grouping of 
firs beyond the curious early eighteenth-century 
gazebo that looks out in stately fashion from the 
garden wall of the Court. From this, and from 
similar summerhouse-like buildings, our great- 
great-grandfathers and grandmothers glanced 
from their walled gardens upon the coaches and 
the road-traffic of a bygone age. The roofs and 
gables, and the uppermost mullioned windows 
of the Court are glimpsed over the tall walls. 

Although Stowey Court dated originally from 



146 THE SOMERSET COAST 

the fifteenth century, when it was built by Touchet, 
Lord Audley, and although it formed an outpost 
of the Royalists during the struggles of Charles 
the First with his Parliament, the building is not 
nowadays of much interest, and the church is 
of less, having been rebuilt in 1851, with the 
exception of the tower. 

The romantic promise of this prelude to 
Stowey is scarcely supported by the appearance 
of the village street. It is a long street of houses 
for the most part of suburban appearance, running 
along the main road, with a fork at the further 
end, along the road to Taunton, where stands a 
modern Jubilee clock- tower beside the old village 
lock-up. The clock-tower seems to most people 
a poor exchange for the small but picturesque 
old market-house that until comparatively recent 
years stood in the middle of the street, with a 
streamlet running by. 

To Leland, writing in the reign of Henry the 
Eighth, Stowey was " a poore village. It stondith 
yn a Botom emong Hilles." The situation is cor- 
rectly described, and no doubt the condition of 
Stowey was all that Leland says of it, but no one 
could nowadays describe it truthfully as "-poor/' 
although it would be altogether correct to write 
it down as desperately commonplace. There is 
nothing poetic about the village at this time o' 
day, and its position on a much -travelled main 
road has brought a constant stream of fast- 
travelling motor-cars and waggons, together with 
a frequent service of Great Western Railway 



NETHER STOWEY 147 

motor-omnibuses, with the result that a loath- 
some mingled odour of petrol and fried lubricating 
oil and a choking dust pervade the long street 
all the summer. The local hatred of motor- 
cars a deep-seated and intense detestation of 
them and those who drive them and travel in 
them is, perhaps, surprising to a mere passer-by, 
who may just mention the subject to a villager ; 
but it is only necessary to stay a day and a night 
in Stowey, and then enough will be seen and heard 
and smelt to convert the most mild-mannered 
person to an equal hatred. 

They are naturally tolerant people at Stowey, 
and not disposed to be censorious. If you do 
not interfere with their comfort and well-being, 
you are welcome to exist on the face of the earth, 
as far as they are concerned, and joy go with 
you. They even tolerate the notorious Agape- 
moneites of Spaxton, two miles away, the dwellers 
in the Abode of Love ; and are prepared, without 
active resentment, to allow the Rev. Hugh Smyth- 
Pigott to style himself Jesus Christ and to co- 
habit with any lady or any number of ladies 
he pleases, and to style the resultant offspring 
Power, or Glory, or Catawampus, or Fried Fish, 
or anything that may seem good to him, with 
no more than a little mild amusement. " They 
doan' intervere wi' we, and us woan' intervere 
wi' they," is the villctge consensus of expressed 
opinion, greatly to the wrath of certain good 
Bridgwater folk, who come around, raving that 
the Agapemoneites ought to be swept off the 



148 THE SOMERSET COAST 

fair land of the Quantocks, and when none will 
take on the office of broom, denounce all as Lao- 
diceans, neither hot nor cold, and so fit only to 
be spewed out. But it surely rests rather with 
Spaxton and Charlinch to perform the suggested 
expulsion ; and even then, anything of the kind 
would be distinctly illegal, for it is part of the 
law of this free and enlightened and Christian 
country that any man may, if it pleases him to 
do so (and he can find others of the opposite sex 
to join him), set up a harem, and even proclaim 
himself the Messiah, without let or hindrance. 
The law no more regards him as a fit target for 
soot, flour, or antique eggs, or even for tar and 
feathers, than a respectable person. 

The " Abode of Love/' founded in 1845 by 
the notorious " Brother Prince/' a scoundrelly 
clergyman who appears never to have been un- 
frocked, is a mansion maintained in the most 
luxurious style, but completely secluded from 
the highway, upon which it fronts, by substantial 
walls. In the time of " Brother Prince/' the 
flagstaff surmounting the strong, iron-studded 
gateway, and supported by the effigy of a rampant 
lion, was made to fly a flag bearing the Holy 
Lamb, but this practice appears to be now dis- 
continued. 

Many inquisitive people nowadays visit Spaxton 
to view the exterior of the place where these 
notorious blasphemers live. None find entrance, 
for recent happenings have made the inmates 
extremely shy of strangers. It is notorious that 



NETHER STOWEY 149 

a raid was made upon the place one night to- 
wards the close of 1908, and that Pigott, the 
successor of Brother Prince, narrowly escaped 
being tarred and feathered by some adventurous 
spirits, who came down from London and, charter- 
ing a motor-car, drove up from Bridgwater to 
the Abode. Climbing the walls, they" bonneted," 
with a policeman's helmet filled with tarred 
feathers, the first man they met. This, however, 
proved to be only an elderly disciple, and not 
Pigott himself ; and the intruders found them- 
selves presently in custody, and were next day 
brought before the magistrates at Bridgwater, 
and both fined and severely reprimanded. The 
magistrates were bound to observe the law and 
to punish an assault ; but the attempted tarring 
and feathering aroused a great deal of enthusiasm 
at Bridgwater, where the only regret expressed 
was that it had not been successful. 

No one can complain that clerical opinion in 
that town is not freely ventilated. Here is an 
extract from a sermon preached by the vicar of 
St. Mary's: 

" Near to our town for some years past, alas, 
has sprung up one of the most unhappy and 
miserable heresies that the world can show. Of 
course there have been heresies very brilliant 
and very beautiful. But here is a heresy foul, 
horrible, and bad, and a heresy with not one 
single redeeming point in it. A few years ago 
the head of this movement, now living in the 
little village under the shelter of the beautiful 



150 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Ouantocks, made public proclamation in London 
that he was the very Lord Jesus Christ, and that 
he should judge the world. This man escaped 
at the risk of his neck for however lethargic 
some people might be, these Londoners were not 
to the quiet of the country. Here the old 
heresy, with a new name and with new horrible 
details, came into prominence again. It had 
quietly settled down, and men hoped that it 
would have died out, but the events of the past 
six months have revived it all again. None can 
pretend to be ignorant of what has happened, 
and none could pretend to be ignorant of the 
awful and blasphemous claims that have been 
made in the name of a wretched child born into 
a wretched world." 

But although Nether Stowey is tolerant of 
all these things, it is not calm when motor-cars 
are under discussion. It would raise licences to 
50 per annum, reduce speed to ten miles an 
hour on the open roads and three miles in villages 
and towns, and both heavily fine and award 
long terms of imprisonment to any who trans- 
gressed these suggested limits. Also, Nether 
Stowey suggests the reintroduction of turnpike- 
gates ; or, to speak by the card, " tarnpayke- 
geats." By all this, it will be perceived that 
automobiles have become a nuisance, a terror, 
and a source of inj ury to Nether Stowey ; as they 
have to countless other villages similarly circum- 
stanced. 



NETHER STOWEY 151 



THE MOTOR TERROR 

Upon the pleasant country road 

The motor-lorry runs ; 
Its build is huge and clumsy, and 

It weighs some seven tons. 
And when its cylinder backfires, 

It sounds like gatling-guns ! 

Hark ! down the village street there comes 

The motor " charry bong " : 
And, gracious heavens ! how it hums ! 

'Tis tall, and broad, and long ; 
And see its mountain-range of seats, 

Filled with a motley throng. 

Old Giles, who hobbled down our street, 

Now he's in Paradise. 
A Panhard took him in the rear, 

And shattered both his thighs, 
They gave the chauffeur "three months' hard 

When tried at next Assize. 

The motor-bus, with skid and lurch 

And awkward equipoise, 
Now fleets on Sundays past the church, 

With hideous whirr and noise. 
You cannot hear the parson preach; 

It drowns the organ's voice. 

And children from the Sunday School 

Hang on behind, before 
Our little Billy lost his hold : 

Now he's (alas !) no more ! 
They rolled him pretty flat. His soul's 

Gone to the Distant Shore. 



152 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Racing, toot-tooting, slithering, 

The private owner goes ; 
The dust he raises fills the eyes, 

His petrol-reek the nose ; 
His face he hides behind a mask : 

He wears the weirdest clothes. 

Now thanks to thee, thou callous fiend, 
For the lesson thou hast taught : 

Thus hast thou shown us how our lives 
And comfort are as naught, 

So you may, reckless, go your way 
And take your murd'ring sport ! " 

The cottage at Nether Stowey occupied by 
Coleridge, from 1797 to 1800, stands at the further 
end of the village, and is, indeed, the last house 
on the Minehead road. It duly bears an orna- 
mental tablet proclaiming the fact of the poet's 
residence here in those critical years. Sentiment, 
however, is not a little dashed at finding the 
house to be an extremely commonplace one ; 
now, owing to a succession of alterations, enlarged 
and made to look like an exceedingly unattractive 
specimen of a typical suburban (( villa " of the 
first half of the nineteenth century, when stucco 
was rampant and red brick had not come into 
vogue. A scheme appears at the present time to 
be under contemplation by which the house is to 
be purchased and presented to the nation, as a 
memorial of the poet. It is to become something 
in the way of a " Coleridge Reading Room," or 
Village Institute ; but at the moment of writing, 
it is a lodging-house. A few years ago it was the 



NETHER STOWEY 



153 



" Coleridge Cottage " inn. Such have been the 
varied fortunes of this home, for those short four 
years, of " the bright-eyed Mariner," as Words- 
worth calls him. When it is further said that a 
storey has been added to the house, and that the 
thatch of Coleridge's time has been replaced by 




THE COLERIDGE COTTAGE, NETHER STOWEY 

pantiles, it will be considered, perhaps, that the 
value of it as a literary landmark can be but 
small. Coleridge himself had no love for it, as 
may be seen in his later references to Nether 
Stowey, in which he refers to it as a " miserable 
cottage," and " the old hovel." But the years 
he passed in this place were the most productive 
of his career. It was while walking along the 

20 



154 THE SOMERSET COAST 

hills to Watchet, that he composed "The Ancient 
Mariner" and the first part of " Christabel." 
Close at hand, at Alfoxden, was Wordsworth, 
poetising on primroses and the infinitely trivial ; 
and at Stowey itself was the amiable Thomas 
Poole, literary and political dilettante, friend and 
host of this circle in general. Southey sometimes 
came, and friends with visionary schemes for the 
regeneration of the social system, then in some 
danger of being overturned, following upon the 
popular upheaval of the French Revolution, 
severely exercised the conventional minds of the 
local squires and farmers with their unconven- 
tional ways and rash speech. 

The habits of these friends, accustomed to 
discuss and severely criticise the doings of the 
Government, often to dress in a peculiar manner, 
and to take long, apparently aimless walks in 
lonely places, no matter what the weather, when 
honest country folk were cosily within doors, or 
asleep and snoring, presently attracted the notice 
of the neighbours, to the extent that whispers of 
those suspicious doings and this wild talk were 
conveyed to the local magistrates, and the Go- 
vernment eventually thought it worth while to 
send down an emissary to keep a watch. The 
spy chanced to be a person with a long nose. 
He readily enough tracked their movements 
along the hills and dales of Quantock, and over- 
heard much of their talk : probably because the 
friends knew perfectly well that they were under 
suspicion and were being watched, and were 



NETHER STOWEY 



155 



humorously inclined to make the spy's eaves- 
dropping as fruitful as they could of incident. 
Prominent among their jokes was the discussion, 
in his hearing, of Spinosa : that philosopher's 
name being pronounced for the occasion " Spy- 
nosa." This the long-nosed one took to be an 
allusion to himself. Coleridge, he reported to 
his employers to be "a crack-brained talking 




NETHER STOWEY. 



fellow ; but that Wordsworth is either a smuggler 
or a traitor, and means mischief. He never 
speaks to any one, haunts lonely places, walks 
by moonlight, and is always ' booing ' about by 
himself. " The curious notion of the amiable 
Wordsworth being mischievous is distinctly en- 
tertaining. 

The friends were generally gay and light- 
hearted, in spite of philosophising upon ways and 
means of setting the world right by moral suasion ; 



156 THE SOMERSET COAST 

and picnics punctuated the summer days. One 
of these, at Alfoxden, has attained a certain fame. 
There were present on this occasion : Coleridge, 
William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and Cottle ; 
the good-natured, providential Cottle, friend in 
need of literary babes and sucklings. The pro- 
visions consisted of brandy, bread-and-cheese, 
and lettuces. Coleridge, in his clumsy way, 
broke the precious brandy-bottle, the salt was 
spilled, a tramp stole the cheese, and so all that 
remained was bread and lettuces. 

The " Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth/' the 
poet's sister and companion at Alfoxden and 
elsewhere, have been published, but it cannot be 
said that they add greatly to one's intellectual 
appreciation of the society formed by these friends, 
nor do they impress the reader with the mental 
powers of the lady, or with her knowledge of 
country life. Here and there are such passages 
as " saw a glow-worm," or " heard the nightin- 
gale " ; as though such sights and sounds were 
things remarkable in the Quantocks. To have 
been deaf to the nightingale in his season, or not 
to have noticed the glow-worm's glimmer : those 
would have been incidents of an evening's walk 
much better worth remarking for their singularity 
in these still unspoiled hills. 

But let us have a few specimen days from 
Dorothy Wordsworth's diary, to taste her quality. 
March 1798, for example, will serve : 

" 28th. Hung out the linen." 

" ggth. Coleridge dined with us." 



NETHER STOWEY 157 

" 30th. Walked I know not where/' 

"3ist. Walked." 

And then " April ist. Walked by moonlight." 
What utter drivel and self-confessed, inanity ; 
exasperating in its baldness, when an account 
of what Coleridge said on the occasion of his 
driving with them would have given us reading 
the world would now probably be glad enough 
to possess ! 



CHAPTER XV 

STEART STOGURSEY THE FOLK-SPEECH OF ZUM- 
MERZET GLATT-HUNTING AT KILVE ST. 
AUDRIES 

To touch the coast on the left-hand of the Parret 
estuary is to adventure into a little-visited land. 
But although the way is long the distance is 
six miles to Steart Point the road is sufficiently 
easy, being downhill from Cannington to Can- 
nington Park, scene of the battle of Cynuit, and 
to Otterhampton ; and then flat for the remaining 
four miles. At Otterhampton, a village of a few 
farms and cottages, the church contains a memorial 
to a former rector, the Rev. Dr. Jeffery, who 
held the living for no fewer than sixty-seven 
years, from 1804 to 1871. 

The river bends abruptly and nears the road 
at a point a mile and a half out, where the little 
waterside hamlet of Combwich " Cummidge," 
as it is styled locally stands looking on to muddy 
creeks and the broad grey bosom of the Parret 
itself, with a colour like that of a London fog. 
Bridgwater spire is plainly visible, far off to the 
right, across the levels : sailing barges are loading 
the bricks made here from the kilns close at hand, 
and carts rattle and rumble along the few narrow 

158 



STEART 159 

alleys that form the only streets of the place. 
Away across the river, a whitewashed house 
marks the position of a little-used ferry from the 
out-of-the-world district of Pawlett Hams to this 
even more outlandish peninsula of Steart. 

Steart Point thrusts out a long tongue of land 
over against Burnham, whose houses and tall 
white lighthouse seem so near across the levels, 
yet are almost two miles distant, over the river- 
mouth and the mud-flats. The name of " Steart " 
has come down to us little altered from Anglo- 
Saxon times, an " a " replacing the " o " with 
which it appears to have originally been spelled. 
It is the same name as that of the Start in South 
Devon, and signifies a boldly projecting neck of 
land, " starting " out to sea. Otherwise there 
is no likeness between that Devonian promontory 
of cruel, black jagged rocks and this flat, muddy 
and shingly fillet of land. 

The fisher village of Steart is a singular place : 
a fishing village without boats ! The shrimps, 
eels and flounders usually caught here are taken 
in nets set by the men of Steart going down to 
the sea at low water on " mud-horses. " Every- 
thing is conditioned here by the deep mud of the 
foreshore, which may only be crossed by special 
appliances, evolved locally. Chief among these 
is the " mud-horse," which, it may at once be 
guessed, is no zoological freak. If it is related 
to anything else on earth, it may perhaps be set 
down as a hybrid production : a cross between 
a towel-horse and a toboggan sledge. 



160 THE SOMERSET COAST 

When the fishermen of Steart prepare to go 
forth a-fishing, they proceed to undress themselves 
to the extent of taking off their trousers and 
putting on a cut-down pair, very little larger than 
bathing-drawers. Mud-boots clothe their feet. 
Then they bring down their wooden " horses/' 
and, leaning against the upright breast-high 
framework, give a vigorous push, and so go slither- 
ing along the buttery surface of the flats ; the 
nearest approach to that fabulous body of cavalry, 
the " Horse Marines," any one is ever likely to see : 

There was an old fellow of Steart, 
Who went catching eels in the dirt. 
When they asked " Any luck ? " 
" Up to eyes in the muck ! " 
Said that rueful old fellow of Steart. 

The traveller has to pass the little church and 
scattered cottages of Otterhampton on the way 
to Steart ; and on the return, if he wishes to keep 
near the coast, he comes through Stockland Bristol, 
a pretty rustic village, with prosperous-looking 
manor-house and an entirely modern church. 
Beyond it are Upper Cock and Lower Cock farms, 
that take their names from a tumulus down in the 
levels near the estuary known as " Ubberlowe." 

" Upper Cock," in its original form, was 
" Hubba Cock "; " Cock " signifying a heap, 
and comparing with " haycock." " Ubbalowe " 
is properly " Hubbalowe," i.e. " Hubba's heap," 
both names pointing to the probability that here 
was buried the chieftain Hubba, who, as we have 
already seen, fell at Cynuit. 



STEARf 



161 



From this point a succession of winding lanes 
leads down again to the curving shore of Bridg- 
water Bay at Stolford. Here meadows, a farm- 
stead with well-filled rickyards, and a compound 
heavily walled and buttressed against flooding 
from the salt marshes, border upon a raised beach 
of very large blue-grey stones, which replaces the 




THE MUD HORSE. 



mud that gathers round the Parret estuary. 
Here at low spring tides traces may yet be found 
of the submarine forest off-shore. A sample 
of the foreshore taken at Stolford usually suffices 
explorers, and fully satisfies their curiosity ; for 
the clattering loose stones of the heaped-up beach 
form an extremely tiring exercise-ground. 

These level lands of highly productive 

21 



162 THE SOMERSET COAST 

meadows, lying out of the beaten track, below 
the greatly frequented high road that runs out of 
Bridgwater to Nether Stowey, and so on along 
the ridge to Holford and West Quantoxhead, 
are much more extensive than a casual glance 
at the map would convey. They are at one 
point over five miles across. The centre of this 
district is Stogursey, which is, as it were, a kind 
of capital, if a large agricultural village may be 
thus dignified. 

Stogursey is a considerable village, taking 
the second half of its name from the de Courcy 
family, who once owned it, but the thick speech 
of Somerset rendered the place-name into 
" Stogursey " so long ago that even maps have 
adopted the debased form ; some, however, 
inserting a small (stoke Courcy) in brackets, under 
the generally accepted form. The visitor will 
at the same time notice, in the title of the local 
parish magazine, that efforts are being made by 
the clergy to restore the original name. The 
church was built by those old Norman lords, 
but the family died out so very long ago, that no 
memorials of them remain in it ; and the net 
result of all their ancient state and glory is a 
name ! It is a large and fine church, in the 
Norman and Transitional Norman styles ; con- 
sisting of a large and lofty nave without aisles, 
a central tower, north and south transepts, and 
deep chancel. The clustered shafts supporting 
the central tower have elaborately sculptured 
Norman capitals of a distinctly Byzantine 



STOGURSEY 



163 



character. A variant of the place-name is seen 
on a monument to one Peregrine Palmer, where 
it appears as " Stoke Curcy." The Palmer family 
is seen, on another monument, revelling in a 
pun beneath the Palmer coat of arms : in this 
wise, " Palma virtuti." 

But the Verney aisle of this beautiful church 
contains more interesting memorials than those 
of Palmers ; notably two altar-tombs with effigies 
of the Verneys of Fairfield. The earliest is that 




STOLFORD. 



of Sir Ralph Verney, 1352. The other, that of 
Sir John Verney, who died in 1461, is of very 
beautiful workmanship, and displays, among 
other shields of arms, the punning device of the 
family : three ferns " verns," as a rural Somerset 
man would say, in that famous " Zummerzet " 
doric that is not yet wholly extinct. 

No one could justly declare the village of T Sto- 
gursey to be picturesque. Nor is it ugly ; but at 
the radiant close of some summer day, when an 
afterglow remains in the sky, the village takes a 
beautiful colouring that cries aloud for the eiforts 



164 THE SOMERSET COAST 

of some competent water colourist. It is an 
effect, as you look eastward down the long broad 
village street to the church, standing in a low 
situation at the end, of a rich red-yellow, like that 
of a ripening cornfield, on houses, cottages, and 
church alike, with the lead-sheathed spire gleaming 
like oxidised silver against the chilly blue-grey of 
the eastern sky at evening, spangled already, 
before the sun has finally gone to bed, with the 
cold, unimpassioned twinkle of the stars. Day- 
light heavily discounts this romantic effect, for 
then you perceive that the lovely hue on the 
church-tower at evening was the dying sunset's 
transfiguration of the yellow plaster with which the 
tower was faced at some time in the Georgian 
period. 

But Stogursey has a castle, or the remains 
of one, styled by villagers " the Bailey." The 
stranger looks in vain for it in the village street. 

Stogursey Castle stands in a meadow, sur- 
rounded by a stream which in the olden days was 
made, not only to form the moat, but to turn 
the wheels of the Castle mill. The mill-leat still 
runs on one side of the lane branching from the 
main village street ; a lane now smelling violently 
of tanneries, and lined with cottages of a decrepit 
" has been " character ; for it should be said that 
Stogursey is a decaying place. Changes in method 
of agriculture ; changes in methods of com- 
munication, making for swifter and cheaper im- 
port of corn and other products of the soil ; 
changes, in fact, in everything have all conspired 



STOGURSEY 



165 



to injuriously affect the place. The few remaining 
local shops do not look prosperous, and the village 
is^ full^of fprivate houses Jwhose^windows^clearly 
show them to have once been shops, that gave 
up the pretence of business long ago. These 
bay-windowed, many-paned shop-fronts retired 
from business are familiar all over rural England. 




STOGURSEY CASTLE. 



The villagers generally turn them to account as 
conservatories for geraniums and other flowers, 
and a pleasant sight, treated in this way, they 
often are. But there is a future for the Stogursey 
district ; if not for the shopkeepers, certainly for 
the farmers. No light railway yet serves it, but 
the need of such an enterprise is great ; and when 
it comes it will effect great changes in local 
fortunes. 



166 THE SOMERSET COAST 

" Stoke/' as it was styled originally, is a 
place of greater antiquity than any neighbouring 
village, as its name would imply ; indicating as 
it does a stockaded post in a wild and dangerous 
district innocent of settled houses. 

That post was probably on the site of the castle 
whose scanty ruins remain. The de Courcy 
castle was destroyed as early as the time of King 
John, when it passed by the second marriage of 
Alice de Courcy to one Fulke de Breaute, who set 
up here as a robber lord, and issued from this 
stronghold from time to time for the purpose of 
levying involuntary contributions from all who 
passed to and fro on the highway yonder, from 
Bridgwater to Quantoxhead. His castle can 
never have been strong, for its situation forbade 
strength, but the district was remote and little 
known, and people who were plundered on the 
ridgeway road had little inducement to plunge 
down here after this forceful taker of secular 
tithes. But de Breaute's proceedings at length 
grew so scandalous that a strong force was sent 
at the instance of Hubert de Burgh, Chief Justiciar 
of the realm, and this thieves' kitchen was burnt 
and more or less levelled with the ground. The 
subsequent history of the castle is vague, but 
it would appear to have been at some time rebuilt, 
for it was again, and finally, destroyed in 1455. 
A glance at the remains will show that it could 
never have been seriously defended against any 
determined attack. The moat, still in places 
filled with water, was deep as could be made, 



STOGURSEY 167 

for it was the only external defence. Fragments 
of curtain-wall and portions of towers with loop- 
holes for arrows remain ; and the entrance- 
towers may yet be traced, although a modern 
cottage has been built on to them, in all the in- 
congruousness of red brick and rough-cast plaster. 
Such is the modern economical way with the 
shattered walls of this old robber's hold. For 
the rest, the enclosure is a tangled mass of under- 
growth and ivy-clad ruins of walls, and the 
meadow without is uneven with the ancient 
foundations of outworks that disappeared cen- 
turies ago. 

The roads leading back from Stogursey to the 
coast have a distressing lack of signposts, and the 
district is for long distances without habitations, 
so that the way to Lilstock .may well be missed. 
That they are fine roads for the cyclist, with 
never a motor-car about, is not sufficient to re- 
compense the explorer who cannot find his way. 
And Lilstock Little Stock originally ; that is to 
say, some ancient small coastwise stockaded fort 
is, perhaps, not worth finding, after all; for it 
appears to consist solely of a tin tabernacle, by 
way of church, and a lonely cottage amid elms, 
at the end of everything ; a veritable dead-end. 
You climb to the lonely beach and have it all to 
yourself ; the grey sea lazily splashing amid the 
ooze and scattered boulders, and a great empty 
sky above. 

It is all the same beside the sea to Kilve, and 
rough walking too ; the rebuilt church of Kilton 



168 THE SOMERSET COAST 

prominent inland, on the left ; very modern, 
but with a relic of a century ago in the shape of 
a battered old barrel-organ with a set of mechani- 
cal psalm and hymn tunes, that used to be ground 
out every Sunday to the long-suffering congrega- 
tion, who must, by dint of sheer damnable itera- 
tion, have come to loathe this unchanging psalmody 
with a peculiar hatred. 

We come now into the marches of West 
Somerset, where the folk-speech still to some 
extent remains; but the famous broad " Zummer- 
zet n speech of these parts nowadays survives 
in its olden force only in the pages of dialect 
novels. The dialect novel is a thing of conven- 
tion, like the dramatic stage, and is not necessarily 
a direct transcript from life. In novels of rural 
life, in rustic plays, and in illustrated jokes 
in which villagers appear, the countryman still 
wears a smock-frock and talks as his great- 
grandfather was accustomed to talk. Frequently, 
too, he wears a beaver hat, with a nap on it as 
luxuriant as the bristles of a boot-brush ; and he 
is made to smoke " churchwarden " clay pipes 
about a yard long. Real rustics do not do these 
things nowadays. I only wish they did ; for 
then exploring in the byways would be much 
more interesting. Nowadays, the unaccustomed 
Londoner can quite easily understand anything 
a Somersetshire man, even of the most rustic 
type, has to say. 

This, however, is not to be taken as an assertion 
that all the old characteristic words and phrases 



FOLK-SPEECH OF ZUMMERZET 169 

have died out, or that the accent is altogether 
a thing of the past. The Somerset speech is 
really part and parcel of that delightful West of 
England trick of the tongue which still grows 
gradually more noticeable to the stranger as he 
progresses westward. You will not notice this 
in any measure until you have passed an imaginary 
line, which may be drawn from Oxford in the 
north, to Southampton in the south, passing on 
the way such places as Wantage, Newbury, And- 
over, and Winchester. Westward of this frontier- 
line, the West of England, linguistically, com- 
mences. Somerset, by some unexplained acci- 
dent, was notoriously the home of the broadest 
speech ; but recent years have witnessed the 
singular phenomena (singular when taken in 
conjunction) of Somerset folk-speech losing much 
of its old-time character, and that of Devon, 
which had also largely fallen into disuse, re- 
turning in almost its olden strength. 

Much of this old manner of talking has been 
preserved in the publications of the English Dialect 
Society, in which we find embedded, among more 
stolid phrases, amusing scraps of rustic dialogues, 
illustrating the local shibboleths. Here we have, 
for example, a rural domestic quarrel, rendered 
in broad " Zummerzet." It has not been thought 
desirable to reproduce the somewhat pedantic 
inflection-marks given in the Society's publica- 
tions, tending as they do towards the unnecessary 
mystification of those who do not happen to be 
philologists. The spelling has also been altered 

22 



170 THE SOMERSET COAST 

here and there, to bring it more into line with 
the enunciation usually heard by the ordinary 
person. 

The woman in this first specimen says, "Unee- 
baudee mud su waul bee u tooiid uundur u aaruz 
bee u foauz tu leave saeumz aay bee, laung u 
dhee. Tuz skandluz un sheemfeal aew aay bee 
zaard." * 

To this pitiful complaint the husband answers, 
" U uumunz auvees zaard wuul neef uur udn 
aat ubeawt, un dhee aart nuvvur aat ubeawt." f 

Here is another example from the collection 
already quoted from : 

" Taumee, haut bee yue aiteen on ? Spaat 
ut aewt turaaklee ! ' 

Perhaps the reader may be left to translate 
this. But how about the following, spoken by 
a waggoner on a hot day ? " Mudn maek zu 
boalz fax vur koop u zaydur, aay spoiiz ? Aay 
zuuree aay bee dhaat druy, aay kudn spaat zik- 
spuns." J 

Here again is some time-honoured " Zum- 
merzet." "Come, soce ! Yur's yur jolly goed 
health. Drink ut oop tu onct ! " 

" Naw ; daze muy ole buttonz neef aay due ! 
Aay diddn nuvvur hold wi' u-swillen of ut deown 

* " Anybody might so well be a toad under a harrow as be 
forced to live same as I be, long of thee. 'Tis scandalous and 
shameful how I be served." 

f " A woman's always served well if her isn't hit about ; and 
thee art never hit about." 

J " Mustn't make so bold as to ask for a cup of cider, I sup- 
pose ? I assure you I be that dry, I couldn't spit sixpence." 



FOLK-SPEECH OF ZUMMERZET 171 

same uz thaet. Hurry no maen's cattle tul ye've 
got'n ass o' yur aeown ! Hurry, hurry ; 'tuz 
this yur hurryen what tarns everythen arsy- 
varsy 'vor me ! Muy uymurz ! what ood muy oal 
graanfer saay tu th' likes of ut ? Wooden dh'oal 
maen laet aewt ! " 

Among the curious expressions found in this 
last speech, that of " soce " is prominent. The 
word is a familiar expression in these parts. It 




KILVE CHURCH. 



is used between equals, and is equivalent to " my 
boy," " old chap," etc. Philologists generally 
consider it to be a survival from monastic times, 
when itinerant monkish preachers are supposed 
to have been styled, " socii," i.e. " associates," 
or " brethren," or to have themselves used the 
expression in addressing their congregations. 

" This yur," that is to say, reduced to ordinary 
pronunciation, " this here " is, on the other hand, 
equivalent to a strong disapproval of the subject 



172 THE SOMERSET COAST 

under discussion. It means "this new-fangled/' 
unfamiliar, or unpleasant thing. 

The village of Kilve lies down along a lane 
leading to the right from the road just past Hoi- 
ford, and rambles disjointedly down to the rugged 
little church. Church, ruined priory, and a large 
farmhouse stand grouped together in the meadows, 
beside the little brook called Kilve Pill, a quarter 
of a mile from the low blue-lias cliffs of the muddy 
and boulder-strewn lonely shore sung by Words- 
worth, as " Kilve's delightful shore." 

Kilve church is as rude and rugged as some 
old fortress, and probably its tower was originally 
designed with a view to defence, It is con- 
structed of very rudely shaped blocks of blue 
limestone, many of them of great size, mortared 
together in rough fashion. For the rest, it is a 
small aisleless building, chiefly of Norman date, 
with a south transept-chapel of Perpendicular 
character, and a simple Norman bowl-font. 

Giant, widespreading poplar trees adjoin the 
Priory farmhouse and the ruins of the Priory, or 
Kilve Chantry. This was a foundation by one 
Sir Simon de Furneaux, in 1329, to house five 
priests. The particular reasons that induced Sir 
Simon to establish his chantry in this lonely 
spot do not appear, for the history of the place 
is vague ; but whatever they were, they did not 
appeal to Sir Richard Stury, to whom the property 
came, some sixty years later, on his marriage 
with Alice, the last of this branch of^theJFurneaux 
family. He_ abolished the establishment, and 



GLATT-HUNTING AT KILVE 173 

the building stood empty for centuries, or was 
used as a barn by the neighbouring farmer. An- 
other use, not so much spoken of, was as a store- 
house for smuggled goods. A long succession of 
farmers at the Priory farm were, in fact, more 
smugglers than farmers. The church-tower was 
said also to have been used by them. The present 
roofless condition of the buildings is due to a 
fire, many years ago, supposed to^ have^been 




KILVE ; THE CHANTRY. 

caused by a conflagration of these smuggled 
spirits. 

In these latter days, now that many towns- 
folk on holiday seek quiet, secluded spots, there 
are few among the rustic cottages of Kilve that 
do not house visitors, and nowadays the Priory 
farm is in summer as much a boarding-house as 
farmstead ; while amateur geologists may be 
found at low water on the " delightful," if muddy, 
shore, searching for " St. Keyna's serpents " ; 
or, in other words, ammonites, which, with other 



174 THE SOMERSET COAST 

fossils, abound in the blue lias clay. They are 
u St. Keyna's serpents," because the saint, coming 
to Somerset, transformed all the snakes of these 
parts into stone ! 

Kilve, in common with other villages situated 
on this part of the Somerset shore, indulges in a 
curious kind of sport : that of ''hunting the 
conger." It is in the autumn that the unfor- 
tunate conger-eel is taken unawares, through 
the low tides that then generally prevail. The 
conger, known here as the " glatt," is the big 
brother of the ordinary sand-eel, who is dug out 
of the foreshore, all round our coasts. He lives 
in the blue lias mud hereabouts, generally beneath 
the boulders that are sprinkled about the shore 
like currants in a bun ; and is clever enough, in 
the ordinary way, to have his home well below 
low- water mark. But the treacherous spring- 
tides are the undoing of him ; laying bare perhaps 
a hundred and sixty feet more of mud than usual. 
At such times a large proportion of the rustic 
population anywhere near the shore assembles 
and proceeds to the muddy or sandy flats, accom- 
panied by fox-terriers and other dogs, and armed 
with stout six or eight-feet-long sticks, cut from 
the hedges and sharpened at one end to a chisel- 
like edge. If there be by any chance a belated 
visitor in those October days when hunting the 
glatt is usually in full swing he is apt to imagine 
the simple villagers are trying to take a rise out 
of his ignorance of country life, when, in answer 
to his questions, they tell him they are off hunting 



GLATT-HUNTING AT KILVE 175 

conger-eels and with dogs ! But it is simple 
truth. Hunting the wild red deer on Exmoor 
is the aristocratic sport of this country-side, and 
hunting the conger is the democratic ; and where 
in a purely inland district your sporting rustic 
may keep his lurcher, here the rural sportsman 
values his terrier or spaniel in proportion to his 
merits as " a good fish dog/' 

There is not that smartness among the pursuers 
of the glatt which is the mark of the hunting-field 
in the chase of the fox or the deer, and renders a 
fox-hunt or a meet of staghounds so spectacular 
a sight. Smart clothes are not the proper equip- 
ment of the glatt-hunter, whose hunting chiefly 
consists in wading, ankle-deep, through the mud, 
heaving up huge boulders, and mud-whacking 
after the wriggling, writhing congers, while the 
dogs rush frantically among the crowd, scraping 
holes in the mud and essaying the not very easy 
task of seizing the slippery fish. In fact, the 
oldest clothes are not too bad for this sport ; and 
the spectacle of a company of such sportsmen 
as these, properly habited for the occasion, is 
rather that of an assemblage of scarecrows than 
that of a number of self-respecting members of 
the community. That this precaution of wearing 
the oldest possible garments is not an excess of 
caution becomes abundantly evident at the con- 
clusion of a rousing day's sport, when the mud 
has been flying in proportion to the enthusiasm 
of the chase, and every one has become abun- 
dantly splashed, from top to toe. The congers, 



176 THE SOMERSET COAST 

or "glatts," captured on these occasions scale, 
as a rule, about four or five pounds, but occa- 
sionally run to twenty pounds. 

Over the meadows by church-path from Kilve 
to East Quantoxhead, is a pleasant stroll, bringing 
you into the village by the old watermill and the 
village pond. Not, mark you, an ordinary village 
pond with muddy margin and half-submerged 
old superannuated pails and the like discarded 
objects long past use, but a crystal-clear lakelet, 
with stone and turf parapet, well-stocked with 
trout and the fishing preserved too, members 
of that branch of the Luttrell family living in the 
adjoining manor-house coming down occasionally 
to cast a fly. This is not angling in such public 
circumstances as might be supposed, for the 
village is very small and retired, and few strangers 
find their way hither. Indeed, things here are 
so little conventional that you enter the church- 
yard through a farmyard. 

Church and manor-house stand side by side, 
both built of the local blue-grey limestone. In 
the chancel of the little aisleless church, stands a 
Luttrell altar-tomb of alabaster, inscribed to 
Hugh Luttrell, 1522, and his son, Andrew, 1538, 
with shields displaying their arms and those of 
the Wyndhams and other families with whom 
they have intermarried. 

The large, square-shaped manor-house ad- 
joining is the ancient home of the Luttrells, who 
were seated here at East Quantoxhead long 
centuries before they acquired the greater estates 



ST. AUDRIES 177 

of Dunster and Minehead ; being descended on 
the distaff side from that Ralph Paganel who held 
this and other manors from William the Con- 
queror. 

The tall, ugly masonry retaining-wall that 
fringes the hollow road for a long distance as 
you come uphill from East to West Quantoxhead, 
is that of St. Audries, the park of Sir Alexander 
Acland Hood. Where this ends, on the hilltop, 
the lovely park, sloping down to the seashore, is 
disclosed, like a dream of beauty. West Quantox- 
head and St. Audries are convertible terms, the 
parish church being dedicated to St. Etheldreda, 
popularly known in mediaeval times as " St. 
Audrey/' The mansion in the park, the rectory, 
the post-office, and a few scattered cottages con- 
stitute all the village. The church itself is modern, 
having been built by Sir Peregrine Acland Hood 
in 1857. It is far better, architecturally, than 
the mere date of it would suggest ; doubtless 
because the architect relied more upon the tra- 
ditional local style than on his own initiative. 
Although having stood for over half a century, 
the church looks astonishingly new. The mansion 
itself, a happy combination of stateliness and 
domestic comfort, and built of red brick and stone, 
is glimpsed romantically between the fine clumps 
of trees with which the park is studded ; and in 
a cleft you note the blue sea for the Severn Sea 
is not so muddy and so dun-coloured under sunny 
conditions as some would have us suppose. Down 
on the beach, where a waterfall plunges boldly 

23 



178 THE SOMERSET COAST 

over the cliffs of curiously stratified rock, the 
Somerset coast proves itself again to be more 
picturesque than it is generally allowed to be. 
The Devon and Somerset staghounds sometimes 
meet on the lawn, in front of St. Audries House, 
as the Quantock pack were used to do. 






CHAPTER XVI 

WILLITON ST. DECUMAN' s AND THE WYNDHAMS 

WATCHET 

LEAVING St. Audries, one also leaves the Quan- 
tocks behind, coming downhill into Williton, a 
place now by way of being a little town, with a 
railway station, a cattle market, a Union Work- 
house, resembling the residence of some more 
than usually wealthy peer, a Petty Sessions Court, 
and a police station. 

Yet, with all these adjuncts of an up-to-date 
civilisation, Williton does not enjoy the distinction 
of being a real, original, independent parish. It 
stands in the parish of St. Decuman's, a church 
yonder on the hillside, over a mile away, near 
Watchet : the peculiar humour of the thing 
being that St. Decuman's, save for a few rustic 
cottages close by, stands lonely, while Watchet 
and Williton are populous places. Thus we 
observe here the engaging paradox, outraging 
all the problems of Euclid, of the larger being 
contained in the smaller. At the same time, it 
must be allowed that the " chapel-of-ease " at 
Williton, however inferior ecclesiastically and 
architecturally to St. Decuman's, is at any rate 

179 



i8o THE SOMERSET COAST 

of a . respectable antiquity. It originated in a 
chantry chapel founded by Robert FitzUrse, 
brother of that Reginald who bore his share in 
the murder of Thomas a Becket. In a district 
such as this, where churchyard and wayside 
crosses, more or less dilapidated, are common- 
places, it seems hardly worth while to note that 
the base of an ancient cross stands at the east 
end of Williton church, or that fragments of two 
others stand in front of that old white-faced 
coaching inn, the " Egremont Hotel," one of 
them made to support a gaslamp which itself has 
been put out of action by effluxion of time. 

St. Decuman's, the parish church of Watchet, 
stands fully half a mile away from the little town, 
inland, within sight of Williton, on a conspicuous 
knoll. St. Decuman, to whom the church is 
dedicated, was one of those wonderful West 
Country saints for whom, as for Napoleon, the 
word " impossible " did not exist. He flourished 
at the close of the seventh century and the opening 
of the eighth, and came originally from South 
Wales, as a missionary to the heathen of Somerset. 
Crossing the sea on a hurdle, or on his cloak, 
according to the conflicting accounts given, he 
established a hermit's cell on this spot and sub- 
sisted chiefly on berries and the milk of a cow 
which came from nowhere in particular, especially 
for the purpose of sustaining the holy man. The 
heathen, however, resented the hermit's presence, 
and seized and beheaded him here, fondly imagin- 
ing they had thus given him his quietus. But 



ST. DECUMAN'S 181 

they little knew the virile qualities of this hardy 
race of missioners who came from across Channel 
and wrought marvels all along these coasts of 
Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall. St. Decuman 
was beheaded, but that was by no means the 
end of him. He took up his head, washed it in 
a spring that gushed forth upon the spot (for 
he was a cleanly person for a hermit), and placed 
it again on his shoulders : probably remarking, 
in the manner of modern conjurors, " That's how 
it's done ! " But of this we have no record. 
To convert the ungodly after this exhibition of 
his powers was easy. There would appear to 
have been no reason why so remarkable a man 
as this should ever have died, but he passed away 
at last, in A.D. 706. A grim little stone figure 
of him occupies a niche in the tower. 

The existing church is a fine and stately build- 
ing, chiefly of the Perpendicular period ; the, 
exterior remarkable for the extremely hideous 
carvings that decorate (if that be quite the word) 
the dripstones over the windows of the south 
aisle. Most of them are grotesque faces, but 
one is of a somewhat mysterious character and 
appears to be the representation of a little shiver- 
ing nude human figure, threatened by a huge 
bird of the pelican type. 

The interior discloses fine cradle-roofs to nave 
and aisles, with angel corbels and a deeply under- 
cut frieze of conventionalised vine-leaves. The 
third pier from the west, in the north aisle, bears 
tabernacled niches filled with small statues of 



i82 THE SOMERSET COAST 

four bishops, and on that behind the pulpit are 
figures of an abbot and of St. George and the 
Dragon. The Egremont and Wyndham chapels 
are rich in memorials of the Wyndham family, 
formerly of Orchard Wyndham, close by. An 
old funeral helmet, painted and gilt, and sur- 
mounted with the crest of a lion's head and fetter- 
lock, hangs in the south chapel, and two others 
are suspended in the chancel and the north aisle. 

The Wyndhams, who are represented here 
so numerously in sepulchral brasses and marble 
monuments, derived from the Wyndhams of 
Felbrigg, Norfolk, but originally of Wymondham 
in that county ; John, second son of Sir Thomas 
Wyndham, having in the reign of Henry VIII. 
married Elizabeth Sydenham, of Orchard Syden- 
ham, afterwards known as Orchard Wyndham. 
The Norfolk branch of the family in course of 
time replaced the " y " in their name by an " i," 
but the West of England Wyndhams have gene- 
rally (by no means always) adhered to the more 
picturesque fashion of subscribing themselves. 
The last Wyndham here was George, Lord Egre- 
mont, who died in 1845, when the title became 
extinct and the family property here and at 
Sampford Brett was sold. 

The brasses include those of John Wyndham, 
of Kentsford, and his wife Florence, sister and 
co-heir of Nicholas Wadham of Merrifield, Somer- 
set. He died in 1572, and she in 1596, many 
years after the gruesome adventure she experi- 
enced in being nearly buried alive. 



ST. DECUMAN'S 183 

The brasses of this worthy pair, half the size 
of life and most carefully, if at the same time 
coarsely, engraved, with a meticulous care for 
details of armour and costume, face one another 
on a huge stone slab, set against the wall. A 
smaller brass represents them and a third figure, 
intended for Fate, discussing their respective 
ends, with the following dialogue : 

MARITUS. When changeless Fate to death did change my life 
I prayd it to bee gentle to my wife. 

VXOR. But shee who hart and hand to thee did wedd 
Desired nothing more then this thie bedd. 

FATVM. I brought ye soules that linckt were each in either 
To rest above ye Bodies here togeither. 

It was in 1563, the year following her marriage 
with John Wyndham, that Florence Wyndham, 
in the words of Collinson, the historian of Somer- 
set, " having in a sickness lost all appearance of 
life, was placed in her coffin and mourned as one 
dead/' Fortunately, as the sexton was about 
to close the family vault, he imagined he heard 
a noise proceeding from the coffin. Another man 
might have fled in terror, but there are few super- 
stitious fears left to sextons who have been long 
at their work, and this one approached and lis- 
tened more carefully. The noise proceeded from 
the coffin and was that made by the supposedly 
dead woman, who had awakened from what had 
been merely a trance, and was trying to get out. 
Another, and a more scandalous, version tells 
us that it was the act of the sexton, repairing 
secretly to the vault for the purpose of stealing 



184 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



her rings, and 
cutting her finger, 
that restored her 
to consciousness. 
The story is a 
familiar one in 
many localities, 
but as told here, 
of Florence 
Wyndham, is 
more circum- 
stantial than 
others. Happily 
rescued from this 
dreadful situa- 
tion, she soon 
afterwards be- 
came the mother 
of Sir John 
Wyndham, and 
lived happily for 
another thirty- 
three years. The 
old manor-house 
of Kentsford, 
now a farmhouse, 
still stands, three 
fields away from 
the church of St. 
Decuman. Some 
versions of the 
story declare that Florence Wyndham was the 




BENCH-END, SAMPFORD BRETT \ SUPPOSED 
TO ALLUDE TO THE LEGEND OF LADY 
FLORENCE WYNDHAM. 



ST. DECUMAN'S 185 

mother of twins shortly after the narrow escape 
narrated above, and the country-folk point to 
one of the Wyndham monuments on which, 
amid flaming urns, are two conventional marble 
cupids in tears, as proof of the story, but the 
monument in question is at least a hundred 
years later in date than that lady. Three miles 
away in the little church of Sampford Brett, 
formerly on the Wyndham lands, among the 
sixteenth-century carved bench-ends, is an ex- 
ceptionally notable example, both for its large 
size and unusual design, which represents a woman 
surrounded by conventionalised Renaissance fruit 
and flowers : two little cupid-like figures blowing 
trumpets below. This is generally thought to be 
an allusion to this singular incident in the family 
history, and the merely decorative cupids are 
pointed out as the twins. It should be remarked 
that the lady's brain development, as shown on 
the carving, appears to be singularly poor. 

The Wyndhams were ever loyal folk, as their 
monuments in St. Decuman's church clearly 
show, and that they did not always gain by their 
allegiance is shown by the querulous epitaph upon 
one of them, Sir Hugh, of whom it is written : 

Here lies beneath this rugged stone 

One more his prince's than his own, 

And in his martyred father's wars 

Lost fortune, blood, gained nought but scars, 

And for his sufferings as reward 

Had neither countinance or regard ; 

And earth affording no releif 

Has pone to Heaven to ease his grief. 

24 



186 THE SOMERSET COAST 

He was son of the governor of Bridgwater, 
and one of the six hostages demanded by Fairfax 
on the surrender of the town. He died 1671. 
Let us sorrow for the unrecompensed services of 
a Royalist, fighting for Charles I. ; but perhaps 
we may also spare a little consideration for 
Charles II., who, on his restoration, was so beset 
by claimants for honours and rewards on account 




WATCHET ; OLD TOWN HALL AND LOCK-UP. 

of Cavalier sufferings and losses in " his martyred 
father's wars " that not even the most generous 
ideas of compensation would have sufficed to 
satisfy the hungry crowds. 

Watchet, the little town to which this church 
of St. Decuman belongs, is a seaport of a stirring 
history, early and late. Its earliest disaster was 
the destruction and plunder wrought by the 
Danes in A.D. 988 ; the latest the violent succession 



WATCHET 187 

of storms that from September 1903 demolished 
the harbour, and again demolished it, after ex- 
pensive repair. There is much likeability in this 
little unfortunate port of Watchet, if only for the 
fact that it retains, even at this belated time o' 
day, almost every feature of its natural self, and 
has added few alien ones. It is a small place, 
with paper mills and iron-foundries, railway- 
sidings that come down to the waterside, and a 
mineral line descending from the Brendon Hills. 




WATCHET. 



For the convenience of those whose religion is 
not of that after all not very robust kind, which 
will lead them a mile's walk, chiefly uphill, to their 
parish church, a chapel-of-ease has been provided 
on the quay, over the old market-house, which 
has a kind of glory-hole in the basement, formerly 
the local lock-up. 

Watchet shares with the Italian town of 
Magenta the honour of giving a name to a colour ; 
only, while the colour " magenta " is a modern 



i88 THE SOMERSET COAST 

and a horribly inartistic kind of reddish purple, 
introduced soon after 1859, when Louis Napoleon's 
victory over the Austrians at Magenta was popular 
in France, " watch et " is certainly as old as 
Chaucer who, in 1383, in his " Canterbury 
Pilgrims," says : 

In hoses red he went ful fetishly, 
Y-clad he was ful smal and properly 
Al in a kirtel of lyght wachet ; 

the colour " watchet " being a light, or celestial 
blue, as shown in " Hakluyt's Voyages/' in which 
we read of " mariners attired in watchet, or skie- 
coloured clothe." 



CHAPTER XVII 

CLEEVE ABBEY OLD CLEEVE BLUE ANCHOR 

Two miles inland from Watchet lies the Cistercian 
Abbey of St. Mary de Cleeve, or Clive ; that is 
to say, St. Mary of the Cliff the most notable 
ruin in these districts of Somerset. The church, 
the Abbey itself, has quite vanished, and its 
materials centuries ago passed into such com- 
mendably useful purposes as building-stones for 
neighbouring farmsteads, cow-bartons and linhays, 
while the many excellent roads of the neighbour- 
hood doubtless owe their foundations to the same 
source. The very interesting and extensive re- 
mains of the establishment are those of the 
domestic buildings, which have scarce their equal 
elsewhere in England. 

This once proud and beautiful Abbey was 
founded in 1188 by one William de Romare, of 
whom we know little else than that he was of the 
family of the Earls of Lincoln of that period. It 
stands, after the manner of all Cistercian monas- 
teries, in a pleasant fertile vale, watered by a 
never-failing stream ; for the White Monks were, 
next to their religious association, most remark- 
able for their agricultural and stock-breeding 

189 



igo THE SOMERSET COAST 

pursuits. They were not greatly distinguished 
for their learning, as were, for example, the Bene- 
dictines ; but as farmers they were pre-eminent, 
growing corn and breeding sheep and horses more 
scientifically than any secular agriculturists of 
their age. 

The Cistercians, who derived from Citeaux, 
in France, were alternatively styled " Berna- 
dines." They first established themselves in Eng- 
land in 1128 : their first Abbey that of Waverley, 
near Guildford. They stood, originally, for sim- 
plicity, in life and worship. " They spent their 
life," says Peter of Blois, " on slender food, in 
rough vesture, in vigils, confession, discipline, and 
psalms ; in humility, hospitality, obedience, and 
charity. We have also the testimony of St. 
Bernard's words, that " in praying and fast, in 
study of Holy Writ, and hard manual labour " 
they occupied their time. 

They were not so dour and solemn as some 
others of the monastic orders, and typified the 
spiritual joy that filled their hearts by the white 
habits they adopted ; largely, however, as a 
protest against the penitential Benedictines. For 
harmony never did exist between the monks of 
different rules, who were jealous of some and 
despiteful to others, according to circumstances. 
Most orders, however, united in despising and 
ridiculing the Cistercians, who were in this, as in 
the simplicity of their rule, and in the severe, 
unornamental character of their original Abbeys, 
the Plymouth Brethren and the Presbyterians of 



CLEEVE ABBEY 191 

their age. The first type of Cistercian house 
was almost as simple as a Dissenting Chapel of 
our own times. In the churches of other orders 
the Rood was made as ornate, and of as costly 
materials, as possible : often glowing with gold 
and silver and precious stones. The Cistercian 
monks, however, remembering that Our Lord 
died upon a cross of wood, placed a crucifix of 
plain wood in their churches, and throughout the 
whole of the establishment conducted themselves 
as the sanctified farmers they really were : not 
even scrupling to absent themselves from Mass at 
harvest-time. If it be true and it is a noble 
belief that " to labour is to pray/' then the early 
Cistercians prayed well ; for with all their might 
they brought lands under cultivation, and tended 
and improved stock, and helped the world along 
toward the distant ideal. 

But as time went on, and the order grew rich 
by dint of its own farming and wool-growing 
successes, and by a never-failing stream of bene- 
factions, the Abbots and monks by degrees be- 
came arrogant and lazy. They no longer worked 
in their fields ; leaving the practical farming to 
the lay-brothers and the horde of dependents 
they had accumulated. As landowners they were 
even more grasping than secular landlords, and, 
in common with other orders, were extremely 
tenacious of their rights of market and other 
monopolies ; thus earning for themselves a hatred 
which was in course of time to sweep them out of 
existence. The Cistercians were not alone nor 



192 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



perhaps even as prominent as others in these 
worldly ways ; but they shared in the growing 
arrogance and luxury of these bodies originally 
vowed to poverty and practising their vows 
because they did not own the wherewithal to do 
otherwise. Their churches and domestic buildings 
were rebuilt elaborately and their Abbots travelled 




ENTRANCE TO CLEEVE ABBEY. 



en grand seigneur through the country ; persons 
claiming great consideration. 

Cleeve Abbey derives its name from the 
swelling hills in the recesses of this valley of the 
stream, called the Roadwater, i.e. the " Rood- 
water." " Cleeve " indicates, in its old meaning, 
not only a cliff or cleft, but any bold hill. The 
word is found in the place-names of Clevedon, 



CLEEVE ABBEY 193 

near by, and at Clieveden, on the Thames. There 
are no cliffs in this gentle vale nearer than the 
not remarkably large cliffs at Watchet. The 
valley is, indeed, more noted for its quiet pastoral 
beauty than for ruggedness, and was in olden 
times known as Vallis Florida, the " Vale of 
Flowers." 

Although only the ground plan of the monastic 
church remains, showing it to have been a build- 
ing 161 feet in length, and of the transitional 
period between the Norman and the Early English 
styles, the domestic buildings are in very fair 
preservation, considering their use by so many 
generations of farmers as hay, corn, and straw 
lofts. The cloister-garth, now a lawn -like ex- 
panse, was, until Mr. Luttrell cleared it out about 
1865, a typical farm-yard, rich in muck. At the 
same period, the pigsties and various farming 
outbuildings that had been added in the course 
of over three hundred years, were cleared away, 
and the place made more accessible to those 
interested in these relics of the past. The 
Luttrells, however, do not allow the place to be 
seen for nothing, and have indeed at least an 
adequate idea of its worth as a show ; a notice 
confronting the pilgrim to the effect that Cleeve 
Abbey is shown on weekdays at one shilling a 
head : sixpence each for two or more : " special 
arrangements for Parties." 

Cleeve Abbey is not shown on Sundays and 
that traveller who from force of circumstances 
comes to it on the Sabbath must be content 

25 



194 THE SOMERSET COAST 

with a view of its entrance-gateway only. If 
he cannot contain his artistic or antiquarian 
enthusiasm, but must needs peer and quest about 
on the edge of the precincts, then the fury of the 
people who occupy the farm, and are at the 
same time caretakers of and guides to the Abbey 
ruins, and without whose unwelcome company 
you may not see the place at all, at any time, 
is let loose over him. Whether this be a respect 
for the Sabbath, or for the merely secular rules 
imposed by the Luttrells, or whether it is not 
more likely to be the rage aroused by the prospect 
of a stranger seeing for nothing that for which 
a fee is charged, I will not pretend to declare. 
You may come at any time over the ancient 
two-arched Gothic bridge from the road, and so 
through the gatehouse, and through that into 
the outer court, which is now a meadow, without 
being challenged : arriving at the further end 
at the farmhouse, beside which is a wicket-gate 
admitting into the cloister-garth. " Ring the 
Bell," curtly says a notice-board, with a small 
" Please " added, in hesitating manner, for polite- 
ness' sake ; probably by some satirical visitor, 
wishful of imparting a lesson in manners. 

The present explorer was one of those whom 
circumstances conspire to bring hither on Sunday, 
without the prospect of a return in the near future. 
He left a bicycle in the gatehouse and came across 
the meadow, where the base of the old Abbot's 
market-cross stands with a sycamore growing in 
the empty socket of its shaft, to the wicket-gate. 



CLEEVE ABBEY 195 

It being Sunday, he did not ring, but entered and 
sat down there in an ancient archway, in would- 
be peaceful and holy contemplation. What more 
Christian and Sabbath-like spirit than this would 
you have ? Better, I take it, than the occupation 
of most of the villagers at that same moment, 
reading the Sunday newspapers, filled (after the 
manner of the Sunday newspaper) with the raked- 
together garbage of the last seven days. 

But this holy calm was not to continue. It 
was entirely owing to that bicycle. A strategist 
would have concealed it. Its presence under the 
archway of the gatehouse brought the peaceful 
interlude to an abrupt conclusion, as shall pre- 
sently appear. 

Within the space of an all too short minute or 
two there appeared two little girls through the 
wicket-gate, coming home to the farmhouse 
from a walk, or from Sunday school, evidently 
excited by the sight of that machine, and by the 
very obvious deduction that the owner of it must 
be somewhere near. " And very pretty it was," 
as Pepys might have put it, to see them questing 
about everywhere except in the right place, and 
not finding him, sitting there in the grateful shade 
quite close to them, and really easily to be seen, 
you know. And after all, it was the intruder 
himself who revealed his own presence, with the 
remark, " I suppose you are looking for the owner 
of that bicycle ? ' Whereupon they ran away 
and there presently entered upon the scene an 
angry woman, with inflamed visage and furious 



196 THE SOMERSET COAST 

words ; with offensive epithets about " trippers/' 
and the like. Outrageous ! 

Now, to beat a leisurely and dignified retreat 
under such circumstances is difficult. You owe 
it to yourself not to be ignominiously routed in 
disorder, but to draw off your forces from the 
stricken field calmly and collectedly, inflicting 
losses upon the enemy, if possible. And then, you 
know, to be styled a " tripper," and by a fat 
farmer-woman ! Does that not demand retribu- 
tion ? 

Therefore, " Do you presume, woman, to call 
me a tripper ? " seemed the best retort : effective 
and injurious, and at the same time restrained 
and dignified. 

" Woman ! ' : What a deadly offence, what a 
god-addressing-a-blackbeetle effect this has ! It 
produces rage of the foaming, abusive, incoherent 
order, in midst of which, with a cold-drawn, 
blighting smile, you retire, with the consciousness 
that the thing will rankle for days. But the 
incident renders a comparison of old times with 
new in Somerset unfavourable to the present 
age. In the olden days, before every historic spot 
or architectural rarity had become a show-place, 
resorted to by a constant stream of visitors, the 
farmer whose farm happened to be on the site of 
some ruined abbey would, as a rule, make the 
visitor courteously welcome at all times, in his 
homely fashion, and would indeed be pleased to 
see the rare strangers who came his way ; but in 
these times, now that excursionists are every- 



CLEEVE ABBEY 



197 



where, and in great numbers, ruins have acquired 
a certain commercial value, and must be hedged 
about with restrictions. 

But here we are in the twentieth century, 
and it were hopeless and foolish to wish ourselves 
back in the early years of the nineteenth ; for 




THE REFECTORY, CLEEVE ABBEY. 

not the most perfect examples of that old-time 
courtesy could recompense for other incidental 
discomforts. 

Here, then, facing the road, across the little 
Gothic bridge spanning the Roodwater, stands 
the Gatehouse. Let us enter it being week- 
day beneath the ample arch of that mingled 
Decorated and Late Perpendicular building. 
The upper storey, the work of William Dovell, 



ig8 THE SOMERSET COAST 

the last Abbot, bears the hospitable Latin 
welcome : 

Porta patens esto 
Nulli claudaris honesto, 

metrically rendered : 

Gate, open be ; 

To honest men all free. 

but more literally translated, " Gate, be open ; 
and be closed to no honest man." It was a 
favourite threshold invitation with the Cistercians ; 
but the later corruption, avarice, and sloth that 
marked them, in common with other orders, led 
to a double meaning being fastened upon it, both 
in England and in France. The Latin construc- 
tion easily admits of a cynical interpretation, 
figured for us by the still-surviving French 
punning proverb : " Faute d'un point Martin 
perdit son ane ; i.e. By the mistake of a full-stop, 
Martin lost his ass ; j: the original Martin of this 
cryptic saw being the Abbot of Alne, who was 
so unscholarly that in setting up the honoured 
motto, he placed a full-stop after the word "nulli" ; 
thus making the phrase read scandalously, 

Gate opened be to none. 
Closed to the honest man. 

That unfortunate Abbot's lack of learning caused 
the enraged people of the district, headed by 
rival churchmen, to demolish his Abbey. 

But to return to the sea, at Blue Anchor, by 
wav of Old Cleeve. 



OLD CLEEVE 199 

Past Washford i.e. " Watchet-ford "rail- 
way station, and down a leafy lane to the right 
hand, we come in a mile to the village of Old 
Cleeve ; its pleasant rustic, vine-grown cottages 
commanding views of the beautiful bay between 
Blue Anchor and the bold promontory of North 
Hill, Minehead, from their bedroom windows in 
the heavily thatched roofs. 

There is not much of Old Cleeve, but what 
there is, bears the impress of simplicity and in- 
nocence, not at all in unison with the scandalous 
rhyme : 

There was a young fellow of Cleeve 
Who said, "It is pleasant to thieve ! " 

So he spent all his time 

In commission of crime 
Now he's out on a Ticket-of-Leave. 

The church of Old Cleeve is of the usual fine 
Perpendicular character to which we grow accus- 
tomed in these parts ; with the curious individual 
feature of a floor gradually, but most distinctly, 
ascending from the west end of the nave to the 
chancel. Here is an alms-box, dated 1634, and 
inscribed " Tob. 4. Pro. 19. Remember ye 
poore. Bee mercifvll after thy power. He that 
hath pitie vpon ye poore lendeth vnto the 
Lord." 

In a recess contrived in the wall of the nave 
and surmounted by a boldly moulded ogee arch, 
finished off with a finial in the shape of a human 
face wearing a somewhat satanic expression of 



200 THE SOMERSET COAST 

countenance, is a recumbent effigy of a civilian 
of the fifteenth century. This, although blunted 
and damaged by time and ill-usage, was evidently 
a fine work in the days of its prime. The effigy 
has not been identified, and whether it be that 
of a merchant-prince, or some great local land- 
owner, cannot be said ; but the original was, at 
all events, if we may judge from the care evi- 
dently taken by the sculptor with the effigy, a 
person of importance. A peculiarly charming 
and dainty almost a feminine effect is given 
by the decorated fillet that encircles the long 
hair, and by the girdle around the waist ; but 
what will most keenly arouse the interest and the 
speculation of those who examine the figure is 
the very striking little sculptured group, of a 
cat with one paw resting on a mouse, on which 
the feet of the effigy rest. Although the head of 
the cat is somewhat worn down, the group is still 
tolerably perfect, and the cat is seen to be looking 
up at the figure, as though seeking her master's 
approval. 

The question visitors will naturally ask, 
" Has this representation of sculptured cat 
and mouse any particular meaning here ? ' at 
once arises ; but no facts, or legends even, are 
available. It is curious to note, however, that 
Sir Richard Whittington the famous " Dick 
Whittington," the hero of the " Dick Whittington 
and his Cat " story was contemporary, or very 
nearly contemporary, with the unknown man 
represented here. It is not suggested that the 



BLUE ANCHOR 




MYSTERIOUS EFFIGY AT OLD CLEEVE. 

fact is more than a coincidence : but it is a 
curious one. 

In the porch is an ancient, greatly timeworn 

26 



202 THE SOMERSET COAST 

chest, with three locks and a slit in the lid, for 
the reception of " Peter's Pence " and other con- 
tributions. As the chest is about six feet in 
length and proportionably deep, it is evident 
that the expectations were not modest. Let us 
trust the faithful took the hint and contributed 
accordingly. 

And so by delightful lanes to Blue Anchor, 
where the railway runs along the shore and has 
a station of that name. Blue Anchor station 
must in its time have misled many strangers, for 
where a railway station is, there one expects a 
town, or village, also. But here is a void, an 
emptiness, a vacuum. Only a solitary bay is 
disclosed before the astounded stranger's gaze. 
It is a noble bay, it is true, and commands lovely 
views of the great North Hill at Minehead, with 
Dunster nestling midway ; and the sunsets are 
magnificent. But railway companies don't build 
railway stations merely for the convenience of 
those few people who would take a journey es- 
pecially for sake of a view or a sunset ; and it 
certainly seems as though the Great Western 
expected building developments here, long ago, 
and was still awaiting them. In short, all there 
is of Blue Anchor is an old inn of that name, 
not remotely suggesting a past intimately con- 
nected with smuggling, together with a cottage 
or two. 

Unfortunately for the lover of an unspoiled 
sea-shore, a formal sea-wall has recently been 
built, to protect the marshes that here fringe 






BLUE ANCHOR 205 

the bay from being drowned. The Somerset 
County Council built it, at a cost of some 30,000. 
Let us hope the Luttrells are properly grateful 
for this public work that so efficiently protects 
their lands. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

DUNSTER 

THE approach to Dunster from Blue Anchor, and 
through the village of Carhampton, is a progress 
of pleasure. Turner has left a picture of Dunster 
from Blue Anchor, but it is not one of his suc- 
cesses, and the reality is far more romantic than 
his representation. You see before you the 
Castle of Dunster, on its hill, the eighteenth- 
century tower of Coneygore, on its own particular 
eminence, and the great Grabbist Hill, disposing 
themselves in new groupings as you advance, and 
realise that England has not much finer to give. 
Dunster, with much else in these districts, 
from Kilve to Minehead, belongs to the Luttrells, 
whose heraldic shield of a bend sable on a golden 
field, between six martlets a " martlet " being a 
heraldic bird of the swallow species, without feet, 
unknown to ornithologists is in consequence 
frequently to be noticed here. The Luttrell motto 
is Quaesita marte tuenda arte ; that is to say, " What 
has been gained by force of war should by skill 
be guarded." We may here perhaps detect the 
glimmerings of one of those puns of which the 
old heralds were so fond, in the similarity in sound 

206 



DUNSTER 



207 



s 



between " marte " and " martlet " ; but it 
not a favourable example. 

By what feat of arms, then, the traveller 
naturally enquires, did the Luttrells obtain these 
lands ? By none at all, for, as a matter of fact, 
they came to the family by purchase, and when 
the heirs of the vendor sought to prove the sale 




CONEYGORE TOWER, AND ROAD INTO MINEHEAD. 

illegal, it was by an action in a court of law, rather 
than by gage of battle, that they retained what 
they had bought. But it is well known that the 
family now owning the Luttrell lands are only 
Luttrells on the female side, and bear the name 
merely by adoption ; Henry Fownes having in 



2o8 THE SOMERSET COAST 

1746 married Margaret Luttrell, heiress-general of 
these manors. 

The history of Dunster begins with an entry 
in Domesday Book. There we learn that " Torre," 
as it is styled, was owned by a certain Aluric. 
Perhaps it were best to style that Saxon land- 
owner un-certain Aluric, for that is all we hear 
of him. A mere mention by name in Domesday 
Book is, after all, no great thing. Thereafter it 
became chief among the properties of William de 
Mohun, from Moyun in Normandy, one of the 
Conqueror's liegemen in the red field of Hastings. 
The author of the "Roman de Rou " speaks of 
him as : 

Le viel Guillaume de Moion 
Ont avec li maint compagnon. 

He was not, however, so elderly a warrior, 
but is thus described in order to distinguish him 
from his son. He became a very landed man in 
the West, with sixty-seven other far-flung manors 
in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, and Devonshire, 
including that of Tor Mohun, Torquay. But he 
established his headquarters here, and here he 
built the first castle of Torre, which soon after- 
wards is found referred to for the first time as 
" Dunestora," in the deed by which he, in noo, 
gave the advowson of St. George's, Dunster, the 
fisheries of Dunster and Carhampton, the village 
of Alcombe, and the tenth part of his vineyards, 
ploughlands, markets, and flocks to the monks of 
St. Peter's Abbey at Bath. 



DUNSTER 209 

William de Mohun the Second, son of this 
well-rewarded henchman of the Conqueror, played 
a turbulent part in the troubles that beset England 
during the war between Stephen and Queen Maud. 
He fought on behalf of Queen Maud ; and the 
Gesta Stephani, which gives an account of these 
things from the point of view of King Stephen's 
adherents, does not fail to draw a highly un- 
flattering portrait of him, in which he appears 
established, like some robber baron, at Dunster 
Castle, with a strong force of horse and foot ; 
issuing therefrom to devastate the surrounding 
country ; " sweeping it as with a whirlwind." 
The historian of these things proceeds to tell us 
that he was cruel and violent, firing the homes 
and pillaging the goods of the community in- 
discriminately. He appears, indeed, to have been 
one of those restless men of war, not uncommon 
in that era, who wanted trouble for its own sake, 
and when it came, cared little whether it was the 
property of friends or foes that he destroyed. 
" He changed a realm of peace and quiet, of joy 
and merriment, into a scene of strife, rebellion 
weeping, and lamentation," says the chronicler. 

Queen Maud, on whose behalf he wrought so 
busily and with such devastation, created him 
or he styled himself " Earl of Somerset." 

The historian continues : 

' When these things were after a time reported 

to the King, he collected his adherents in great 

numbers and proceeded by forced marches, in 

order to check the ferocity of William. But 

27 



210 THE SOMERSET COAST 

when he halted before the entrance to the Castle, 
and saw the impregnable defences of the place, 
inaccessible on one side where it was washed by 
the sea, and very strongly fortified on the other 
by towers and walls, by a ditch, and outworks, 
he altogether despaired of pressing on the siege, 
and, taking wiser counsel, he surrounded the 
Castle in full sight of the enemy, so that he might 
the better restrain them, and occupy the neigh- 
bouring country in security. He also gave orders 
to Henry de Tracy, a man skilled in war, and 
approved in the events of many different fights, 
that, acting in his stead, as he himself was sum- 
moned to other business, he should with all speed 
and vigour bestir himself against the enemy." 

Henry accordingly, sallying forth from his 
own town of Barnstaple, so wrought with William 
de Mohun and his garrison that, if indeed he could 
not storm the castle, he could at any rate, coop 
within it that bold and fiery spirit, and so protect 
the neighbouring country. Tracy, in fact, did 
more. He captured a hundred and four horse- 
men in a single encounter, during one of those 
sallies from the castle by which de Mohun thought 
to break the force of the leaguer against him. 

And so the claws of this tiger were cut, and 
himself rendered harmless until that time when 
the factious, assured at last that they were too 
well matched ever to bring the struggle . to a 
decisive issue, made peace, and thus sent the 
unruly and restless back to an undesired state 
of order. 



DUNSTER 211 

We read incidentally, in those old accounts, of 
Dunster Castle being washed on one side by the 
sea. That passage places in a yet more picturesque 
setting the picturesque scene even now presented 
to the traveller ; for where the road now goes 
past the level meadows on the way from Car- 
hampton to Minehead, the sea then ebbed and 
flowed in a shallow bay, whose shores reached to 
the foot of the commanding hill on whose crest 
the castle turrets still loom up, majestically. 
Yet, beautiful in its wild original way though it 
may have been in those days, when the castle was 
a sea-fortress and the little town of Dunster some- 
thing in the nature of a port, Dunster Castle in 
our own times, and on some evening of late summer, 
when the sun sets gloriously over the hills and 
irradiates the burnt-up grass to a golden tinge, 
affords a picture of surpassing beauty, viewed 
from the road to Minehead, across those level 
pastures. 

The de Mohuns who succeeded the turbulent 
William of King Stephen's time make little show 
in the history of the place, and even that mid- 
fourteenth century John, Lord Mohun of Dunster, 
who was one of the original Knights of the Garter, 
is more notable to us for the doings of his wife, 
than for any action of his own. He married in 
1350 Joan, daughter of Sir Bartholomew de 
Burghershe. This lady it was who, according to 
a legend, declared by serious antiquaries to have 
no real foundation, obtained from her husband 
the grant of as much common-land for the poor 



212 THE SOMERSET COAST 

of the town as she could walk barefoot : after the 
fashion of that Lady Tichborne who, although 
an invalid, crawled on hands and knees over an 
amazing acreage in one day. 

With this Lord Mohun, the de Mohuns of 
Dunster came to an end, and the West of England 
presently witnessed the entire extinction of the 
family, root and branch ; or its gradual decline 
into obscurity through the growing poverty of 
landless collaterals who became absorbed by the 
middle-class, and survive here and there to this 
day as shopkeepers, and even as agricultural 
labourers, under the plebeian name of " Moon." 
As more peaceful and commercial times succeeded 
the era in which arms decided the fate of noble 
families, the fortunes of those who by any chance 
had lost their lands grew desperate. In the 
altered circumstances, when law and order had 
replaced brute force, the sharp sword was no 
longer a match for sharp wits. Hence the great 
rise in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries of the 
trading class, to wealth, power, and honours. 

But it was not precisely in this manner that 
the de Mohuns became alienated from the land. 
That John Lord Mohun of Dunster, who in 1350 
married Joan Burghershe, had three daughters, 
but no sons. A courtier during the greater part 
of his career, he fell into the extravagant ways of 
those with whom he associated, and lived and 
died heavily in debt, and his widow, doubtless in 
want of ready money, sold Dunster to Lady Eliza- 
beth Luttrell, nee Courtenay, widow of Sir Andrew 



DUNSTER 213 

Luttrell, of Chilton, Devon, for the sum of five 
hundred marks, equal to 3333 6s. 8d., present 
value. The receipt given for this purchase- 
money is still a curious and cherished possession 
of the Luttrells of to-day. The low price at 
which Lady Mohun disposed of the property is 
accounted for by the fact that the purchaser was 
not to come into possession until after the vendor's 
death, which did not occur until 1404, thirty 
years after the date of this transaction. Lady 
Joan retired from the West when this sale was 
completed, and was much at Court, and in Kent 
and Sussex in those thirty years. The curious 
may find her tomb in the undercroft of Canterbury 
Cathedral, and may with some difficulty read 
there the invocation to the piety of the beholder : 
' Pour Dieu priez por Tame Johane Burwasche 
qe fut Dame de Mohun." 

Two of her daughters survived her : Elizabeth 
Countess of Salisbury, and Philippa, married 
thirdly to Edward Plantagenet, Duke of York. 
To her daughter Elizabeth she left a cross, which 
she had promised to the one she loved best, and 
a copy of the Legenda Sanctorum. Philippa had 
merely her blessing, and some choice red wine ; 
but her husband, the Duke of York, became the 
happy recipient, by bequest of his mother-in-law, 
of some improving literature, in the shape of a 
copy of the Legenda, and an illuminated book. 

Lady Elizabeth Luttrell, the purchaser of 
Dunster, did not live to enjoy the property. She 
predeceased Lady Mohun, and the reversion 



214 THE SOMERSET COAST 

went to her son, Sir Hugh Luttrell, a distinguished 
soldier, Lieutenant of Calais, Governor of Harfieur, 
Seneschal of Normandy, and, holder of many other 
distinguished posts, much abroad on the King's 
service all his life. It was one thing to become 
legal owner of Dunster, and quite another to 
obtain actual possession, for the daughters of 
Lady Joan refused to give up the property, on 
the ground that Lady Mohun had no right to 
dispose of it ; and law-suits resulted, in which 
Sir Hugh was at length victorious. It was during 
his lifetime that the castle, by now grown ancient, 
was rebuilt under the supervision of his son, John, 
who occupied Dunster during his father's long 
residence abroad. 

The Luttrells took the Lancastrian side in the 
quarrels of Red Rose and White, and suffered 
severely for that partisanship ; Sir James, who 
had been knighted for valour at the bloody battle 
of Wakefield, being mortally wounded at the battle 
of Barnet, 1471, and his property forfeited to the 
victorious Yorkists, who granted the Luttrell 
acres to the Earls of Pembroke. After the battle 
of Bosworth, however, fourteen years later, they 
obtained their own again, and held it uneventfully 
until the beginning of hostilities between Cavaliers 
and Roundheads, in 1642. Mr. George Luttrell, 
the then owner, garrisoned Dunster Castle for the 
Parliamentary party, and held it for a time suc- 
cessfully against the Marquess of Hertford, the 
Royalist commander in these parts, established 
at Minehead, who was satisfied, in view of the 



DUNSTER 215 

formidable front made by this hilltop stronghold, 
in merely keeping a watch upon it, and preventing 
any offensive movement on the part of the 
garrison : thus to use a modern military ex- 
pression " containing " the enemy. Luttrell, for 
his part, was satisfied at keeping the Royalists 
thus inactive and useless for offence elsewhere ; 
each side thus " containing " the other : a not 
very stirring method of warfare. In the following 
year, in consequence of the sequence of Royalist 
successes in the West, Mr. Luttrell surrendered 
the castle, which was then held for three years for 
the King by Colonel Francis Windham. It was 
at this period that Prince Charles, afterwards 
Charles the Second, stayed here. The bedroom 
he then occupied is still known as " Prince 
Charles's." In those years the fortunes of the 
King declined, and rapidly grew desperate ; until 
at last Dunster Castle became the sole outpost of 
the cause in Somerset. Finally, in 1645, it was 
resolved to reduce this remnant, and in November 
of that year a force was despatched from Taunton 
to besiege the Castle. The investing force was 
commanded by Blake, great on sea and on land, 
and by Sydenham, and a lengthy and stirring 
siege began. Both sides worked vigorously. 
Attack and defence proceeded on engineering 
lines ; Blake's men advancing cautiously by 
trenches, mines, and batteries ; the defenders 
pushing forth to meet them by the same mole- 
like methods. On February 5th, 1646, in midst 
of these laborious operations, when the garrison 



216 THE SOMERSET COAST 

had come near to being starved out, a column 
under Lord Hopton relieved them, and Blake's 
men were forced to retire from beneath the walls. 
He kept watch, however, upon Dunster, arid 
in the meanwhile received reinforcements. At 
length, on April igth, the sturdy Windham, con- 
vinced that, the King having lost everywhere 
else in the West, it would be futile to hold this 
one remaining post, surrendered. The victorious 
Parliament, careful to destroy those places that 
had held out against it, duly ordered the Castle 
of Dunster to be " slighted/' otherwise to be 
blown up ; but the order was not enforced, pro- 
bably for the sufficient reason that the Luttrells, 
as we have seen, were themselves partisans of 
the popular party. The Parliament found Dunster, 
thus preserved, a place useful enough ; for here 
during twelve months, from June 1650, was 
imprisoned that dauntless reformer and pam- 
phleteer of those troubled times, William Prynne, 
who proved himself a scourge to foes and friends. 
He began, absurdly enough, as it seems to us 
in these days, by attacking " love-locks " and 
long hair worn by men, and short hair affected by 
women, with an excursus upon chin-wags and 
lip-whiskers ; and proceeding by easy stages to 
a denunciation of stage-plays, religious con- 
troversy, and political bludgeoning. He was, in 
short, a born controversialist : the Universal 
Provider, so to say, of red-hot pamphlets, and 
generally left his opponents dead, figuratively 
speaking. A very grim person was William Prynne. 



DUNSTER 217 

No one, it is quite safe to say, ever called him 
" Willie," and as for " Bill," that would have 
been an impossible familiarity with the stern- 
faced Puritan, even supposing that vulgar diminu- 
tive to have at that time been invented. By 
the way, have the vulgarian who originated " Bill," 
and the period of its origination, ever been traced ? 
His opponents were not skilled in wordy war- 
fare, but what they lacked in repartee and argu- 
ment they fully made up for with the pillory, the 
whip, and the branding-irons, and they inflicted 
some particularly cutting rejoinders when they 
caused his ears to be shorn off. Thus deprived of 
his face-flaps, many a man would have rested 
from his pamphleteering, but Prynne persisted, 
and earned thereby the particular attention of 
Laud, the High Church Archbishop of Canterbury, 
who procured his branding on the cheeks with 
the letters, " S. L." for " seditious libeller." With 
that iron humour that was all his own, Prynne 
referred to this horrible facial disfigurement as 
" Stigmata Laudis." 

The loss of his aural attachments, together 
with the addition of this undecorative poker- 
work, and a fine of 5,000, so embittered Prynne 
that he for ever after pursued Laud with an un- 
dying hatred, and had a prominent hand in 
hounding the Archbishop to public trial and 
execution, in those days when his fellow-Puritans 
had obtained the upper hand. Can we honestly 
blame that intense malevolence he directed at the 
insidious Romaniser, who would have imprisoned 

28 



2i8 THE SOMERSET COAST 

men's consciences again, and who did not hesitate, 
in procuring these savage mutilations of his 
opponents, thus to disfigure the image of God ! 

The fearless Prynne, imprisoned here awhile, 
passed the time of his captivity in looking over 
and arranging the Luttrell family papers. He 
was himself a Somerset man, and his detention in 
this castle could not have been very unpleasant, 
for it was then as much residence as fortress. 

The fortress built here by the first of the de 
Mohuns ceased to exist when the castle was re- 
built about 1417 by Sir Hugh, the first of the 
Dunster Luttrells. The keep of that Norman 
place of strength was situated on the crest of the 
hill, now clear of buildings and used as a bowling 
green. The spot was once known as St. Stephen's, 
from an Early English chapel dedicated to the 
martyr having stood here. 

Nothing earlier exists in the buildings of 
Dunster Castle than the great inner gatehouse, 
half-way up to the hilltop, now covered, together 
with the massive curtain -walls, with a thick 
growth of ivy. This was the work of Reginald 
Mohun, who died in 1257. The fine outer gateway, 
built during the enlargement under Sir Hugh, 
bears sculptured shields with the arms of Luttrell 
and Courtenay, Sir James Luttrell having, like 
his great-grandfather Andrew, married into that 
family. 

The military works of Sir Hugh were in their 
turn remodelled, for the purpose of converting 
the castle into a residence, rather than a fortress, 



DUNSTER 219 

by George Luttrell, in the first years of the seven- 
teenth century. Much of the Renaissance decora- 
tive plaster- work, particularly that of the Hall, 
belongs to this period. The havoc wrought by the 
siege of 1646 was fully repaired, and the Castle 
yet again remodelled as a residence, by Francis 
Luttrell. The grand staircase, elaborately and 
beautifully carved in oak with representations 
of hunting scenes, is of this period. 

Curiously painted ancient leather hangings, 
ancient furniture, and old paintings that have 
been in the Luttrell family for many generations, 
abound in the castle, which is, it may be added, 
the "Stancy Castle" of Thomas Hardy's "A 
Laodicean," although it should be still further 
added that it is by no means well characterised 
in those pages. 

Additions were again made in 1764 ; but a 
general overhauling and rebuilding under the 
direction of Salvin was undertaken by Mr. George 
Fownes Luttrell in 1854. 

This beautiful and interesting old place is 
generally to be seen by visitors on Saturdays, 
but not without a good many restrictions readily 
to be understood in an historic castle which is at 
the same time a residence. Thus, you are not 
entitled, by the purchase of a sixpenny ticket 
at the confectioner's in the High Street, to wander 
at will through the beautifully wooded grounds. 
A guide meets strangers at the lodge-gates, and 
conducts them. It is not the ideal way, and one 
would fain linger awhile on the south terrace, 



220 THE SOMERSET COAST 

by that fine lemon -tree which climbs the wall and 
brings its lavish crop of fruit to perfect ripeness 
in this soft climate ; or would if possible dwell 
long upon the views in one direction and another ; 
down upon the growing town of Minehead, or 
across to Blue Anchor and the Holms, set in 
mid-Channel, with fleeting glimpses of the Welsh 
mountains. 

The great church of Dunster, whose choir was 
in ruins until Mr. Luttrell undertook its restora- 
tion, about 1856, contains tombs of the Luttrells 
and -others, and a very fine rood-screen. It is 
quite in character with the legendary and often 
muddled character of local history in England 
that the altar-tomb and alabaster effigies of Sir 
Hugh Luttrell and his wife, 1428, the first Lut- 
trells of Dunster, were until recent times always 
shown as those of Sir John and Lady Mohun. 

A curious example of architectural adaptation 
is to be seen here, in a fifteenth-century enlarge- 
ment of an Early English doorway, by which the 
jambs were cut back for some two-thirds of its 
height, leaving the upper part as before. This 
11 shouldered " arch, as architects would techni- 
cally style it, forms a striking object. 

One of the finest views of Dunster church is 
that in which, looking from the south, you get the 
great tower rearing majestically above the church- 
yard, and in the foreground the ancient alcove 
in the churchyard wall, formerly the home of the 
stocks. 

Some sweet chimes play from the old tower, 



DUNSTER 



221 



at one, five and nine p.m., daily ; with a change 
of tune for every day of the week. Sunday, " O, 
Rest in the Lord " ; Monday, " Drink to Me only 
with Thine Eyes"; Tuesday, "Home, Sweet 




DUNSTER CHURCH, FROM THE SOUTH, SHOWING OLD ALCOVE IN 
CHURCHYARD WALL FOR THE STOCKS. 

Home " ; Wednesday, " Disposer Supreme " ; 
Thursday, " The Blue Bells of Scotland " ; Friday, 
" The old ii3th Psalm " ; and Saturday, " Hark, 
hark ! my Soul." 



222 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Not many visitors climb to the belfry chamber 
of Dunster church : the wealth of interest in 
Dunster makes too great a demand upon their 
energies for every corner to be explored ; and as 
a rule, the interior of one belfry is very like that 
of another. There are the usual pendant bell- 
ropes, a few chairs, two or three oil lamps with 
tin reflectors, and various notice-boards of the 
Incorporated Society of Bell-Ringers, setting forth 
the appalling number of " grandsire triples " 
and " bob-majors " rung by those misguided 
persons who are so deaf to music that they consider 
bell-ringing to be harmonious. Education cannot 
be yet very far advanced while the barbarism of 
ringing church-bells for an hour at a stretch can 
be permitted these few fanatics, to the discomfort 
of the many ; and justice and consistency are out- 
raged at the ringing of the perambulating muffin- 
man's tinkling bell being held an illegal nuisance, 
while tons of heavy metal are permitted to be 
set in motion in church-towers, to the misery of 
villagers and townsfolk, who have, apparently, 
no legal remedy. 

The bell-ringers take themselves with an 
absurd seriousness, which has not nowadays the 
least excuse. The exercise may have been ac- 
counted a useful and a pious one when bell-ringing 
was supposed to exorcise devils, or at the very 
least of it, to remind the faithful that the hour 
of prayer was come ; but now that clerical ad- 
vanced critics of the Scriptures themselves deny 
the existence of the Devil himself and all his 



DUNSTER 223 

imps, and impugn the inspired character of the 
Bible, and now that every one can afford a watch 
and ascertain the hour for himself, the greater part 




CURIOUS ARCHWAY, DUNSTER CHURCH. 

of the church bells in this country could be broken 
up and sold for old metal, to the profit of the 
church, and the joy of the laity. 

A battered, and now in parts barely legible, 



224 THE SOMERSET COAST 

old board hangs in the belfry of Dunster church, 
showing how very seriously these ringers have 
always taken themselves. Somewhat similar 
versified rules may be occasionally found in various 
places throughout the country : 

You that in Ringing take delight 
Be pleased to draw near ; 
These Articles you must observe 
If you mean to ring here. 

And first, if any Overturn 

A Bell, as that he may, 

He Forthwith for that only Fault 

In Beer shall Sixpence pay 

If anyone shall Curse or Swear 
When come Within the door, 
He then shall Forfit for that Fault 
As mentioned before. 

If anyone shall wear his Hat 

When he is Ringing here, 

He straightway then shall Sixpence pay 

In Cyder or in Beer. 

If anyone these Articles 

Refuseth to Obey, 

Let him have nine strokes of the Rope, 

And so depart away. 

It will be observed that the fines inflicted were 
applied to the purchase of beer and cider, and no 
doubt the misdemeanours were invented for the 
purpose of providing a constant supply of drink 
to the thirsty ringers. We may, perhaps, dimly 
envisage the wrath of the rest when one of their 
number, having offended, refused to pay his 



DUNSTER 



225 



sixpence. " Nine strokes of the rope " were not 
too bad for him who refused to contribute to- 
wards quenching their thirst ; and they were 
probably laid on with a will ! 

Prominent in the picturesque street of the 
quiet old townlet is the Yarn Market, a stout, 
oak-framed building, quaintly roofed, whose name 
recalls the time when Dunster was a cloth-weaving 




THE " NUNNERY," OR " HIGH HOUSE," DUNSTER. 

town, producing kerseymeres and goods named 
after the place of origin, " Dunsters." It was 
built in 1609, by George Luttrell. The initials of 
another George Luttrell, his nephew, and the date 
1647 are to be seen on the weather-vane ; evidence 
of the repairs effected after the siege of 1646. 

The " Luttrell Arms/' a famous hostelry, 
noted alike for its good cheer and for its interesting 
architectural details, stands opposite the Yarn 

29 



226 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Market. Legends, all too often, but by no means 
always, picturesque lies, have it that this noble 
fifteenth-century building was originally a " town 
house " of the Abbots of Cleeve ; and they may 
in this case well tell us truly, for the massive 
carved-oak windows of the kitchen, looking on to 
the little courtyard, have a distinctly ecclesiastical 
feeling. But whoever it was owned the place, 
he was at pains to make the entrance-porch de- 
fensible, as may yet be seen in the arrow-slits 
contrived in the stonework on either side. 

The so-called " Oak Room " is perhaps less 
clerical in effect, but is nobly timbered, with oak 
hammer-beam roof in three bays. A curious 
early seventeenth-century mantelpiece in plaster- 
work, with hideous figures on either side, displays 
as central feature a medallion relief representing 
the classic story of Actaeon torn to pieces by his 
dogs, or, this being a hunting country, shall we 
say his hounds ? It is a very small and thin 
Actaeon, and they are very large hounds that have 
got him down and are urgently seeking some 
meat on him. 

Dunster, as already hinted, is a place not 
readily exhausted, nor lightly to be hurried 
through. Curious old houses, notably the so- 
called " High House/' await inspection, and 
below the Castle, not always found by hurrying 
visitors, is the rustic old Castle Mill, with an 
overshot and an undershot waterwheel, side by 
side, tucked away from casual observation 
beneath tall trees. 



CHAPTER XIX 

MINEHEAD, NEW AND OLD SELWORTHY 
THE HORNER 

SCARCE two miles distant from Dunster is Mine- 
head, the hamlet of Alcombe lying between the 
two. Minehead, a group of three so-called 
c< towns," Quay Town, Lower Town, and Upper 
Town, occupies a position on the gently curving 
flat shore sheltered on the West by the bold, 
abrupt headland of North Hill, rising to a height 
of 843 feet. North Hill is so striking a feature 
in all views of the town, that one comes uncon- 
sciously to regard it as the only typical outstanding 
feature of the place. It is, so far as pictures go, 
Minehead. A noble hill it is, with the old quay- 
side houses of the original fisher- village and ancient 
little port nestling beneath it. Immemorially a 
swelling green hillside, seamed and lined irregu- 
larly with hedgerows roughly into a chessboard 
pattern, it is distressing nowadays to find it being 
studded with villas and scarred with roads. 

For to this complexion has Minehead come 
at last ; development into a seaside resort. But 
a few years since, and here you had a scattered, 
unspoiled village. To-day, by favour of the 

227 



228 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Luttrells, who own the land, and because the 
railway is handy, the terminus station being, in 
fact, on the beach, the builder is walking, splay- 
footed, all over it, and hotels have arisen on the 
front, and there is a bandstand, there are seaside 
" entertainers," and there are pickpockets among 
the crowds thus being " entertained " ; with the 
result that numerous visitors have to remain 
in pawn at their lodgings until such time as they 
receive fresh supplies. This it is to be up-to- 
date ! Among other up-to-date doings is the 
covering of the roads with asphalte, so that visi- 
tant motor-cars shall not stir up the dust ; the 
result being that the roads so treated have an 
evilly dirty appearance and a worse stink. They 
look, and probably are, dangerous to health. 

The old scattered Quay Town, Lower Town, 
and Upper Town, with their time-honoured cob- 
walled, whitewashed cottages, are being surely 
enmeshed together in an upstart network of 
new roads and uncharacteristic villas that might 
be in suburban London, rather than in Somerset ; 
and the queer old Custom House, built in like 
manner on the Quay, and a little larger than a 
tool-shed, has been wantonly destroyed to make 
an approach to a pleasure pier, built in an im- 
possible situation, so that visitors are pleased 
not to go upon it. So much and more than 
enough too of modern Minehead. 

History-books tell us of strange doings in the 
old town. Thus in 1265, on a Sunday, the wild 
Welsh, under one William of Berkeley, came 



MINEHEAD, NEW AND OLD 229 

across Channel very numerously and pillaged the 
surrounding country before a force could be 
despatched to deal with them. The reckoning 
was perhaps not a ready one, but it seems to have 
been complete ; the Constable of Dunster, one 
Adam of Gurdon, meeting and defeating them 
and driving them and their captain into the sea, 
wherein those who had not perished by the sword 
were drowned. 

In olden times this was the seat of a not 
inconsiderable trade. Woollens were exported 
hence, and a large business was done in herrings 
sent to Mediterranean ports, which bought an- 
nually some 4,000 barrels. Hence the ancient 
armorial bearings of Minehead ; a sailing ship 
and a woolpack. 

A curious incident in the annals of Minehead 
in days of old is that of the furious onslaught of 
the Church upon an unfortunate lad, a native of 
the place, who, sailing in a ship afterwards cap- 
tured by Turkish pirates, was taken prisoner, and 
his life spared on condition that he embraced 
the Mohammedan religion. The desirability of 
life, and the practical certainty of this youthful 
sailor that one religion was as good as another, 
when a choice was offered between death and the 
acceptance of a new creed, may perhaps be readily 
understood. But the youth's refusal to add 
himself to the noble army of martyrs outraged 
the susceptibilities of the flatulent divines of the 
period, who, when he at last returned home and 
told his story, made so great an affair of it that 



230 



THE SOMERSET COAST 




SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY MANTEL, " LUTTRELL ARMS " INN. 

nothing would properly serve the occasion but 
a public recantation of error. We may, therefore, 



MINEHEAft, NEW AND OLD 23! 

vividly picture to ourselves that scene in Mine- 
head church on Sunday, March i6th, 1627, when 
the more or less penitent, but certainly very 
frightened and astonished, lad was had in front 
of the pulpit, before the whole congregation, and, 
standing there in the Turkish breeches in which 
he had returned home, made to listen to the 
windy discourse of the Reverend Mr. Edward 
Kellet, who preached the sermon afterwards 
printed under the title of A Return from Argier. 
We may presume " Algiers " to be meant ; but 
early seventeenth-century folk were more than a 
little uncertain in these matters. The central, 
harrowing fact of this occasion was, however, the 
length of that homily, which fills seventy-eight 
closely printed pages, and must therefore have 
occupied considerably over an hour in delivery. 
This is the manner of it, as set forth by the printer 
and published and sold in Paternoster Row for 
the edification of the godly : 

" A Return from Argier : A Sermon preached 
at Minhead, in the County of Somerset, the i6th 
of March, 1627, at the re-admission of a Relapsed 
Christian into our Church. By Edward Kellet, 
Doctor of Divinity/' 

For the benefit of purchasers in London and 
elsewhere, who were not acquainted with the 
circumstances, the following explanation was made 
to preface the sermon : 

" A Countryman of ours goinge from the 
Port of Mynhead in Sommerfetfhire, bound for 
the ftreights, was taken by Turkifh Pyrats, and 



232 THE SOMERSET COAST 

made a flave at Argier, and liuing there in ilauerie, 
by frailty and weakneffe, forfooke the Chriftian 
Religion, and turned Turke, and liued fo fome 
yeares ; and in that time feruing in a Turkish 
fhip, which was taken by an Englishman of warre, 
was brought backe againe to Mynhead, where 
being made to vnderftand the grieuoufneffe of 
his Apoftacy, was very penitent for the fame, 
and deiired to be reconciled to the Church, into 
which he was admitted by the authority of the 
Lord Bishop of that Dioces, with aduife of fome 
great and learned Prelates of this Kingdome and 
was enioyned pennance for his Apoftacy : and 
at his admiffion, and performance thereof, thefe 
two Sermons were Preached the third Sunday 
in Lent, Anno 1627, one m the Forenoone, the 
other in the afternoone." 

Jeremy 3. 22. " Return, ye backsliding Chil- 
dren, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, 
we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our 
God." 

The amount of pedantic verbiage in the Rev- 
erend Mr. Reliefs hour-long discourse is really 
appalling. That his congregation comprehended 
even the half of it is not to be supposed, and that 
the " penitent " himself but dimly understood 
what all the trouble was about may easily be 
imagined. But there can, at any rate, be no 
manner of doubt that the Doctor of Divinity 
enjoyed himself very much on this occasion : 
thundering forth denunciations barbed with quo- 
tations from musty theological works and fortified 



MINEHEAD, NEW AND OLD 233 

by apposite texts, which he must most laboriously 
have raked together ; for those were the days 
before Cruden's and other Concordances to the 
Scriptures had come into being. I will be more 
merciful to my readers than was Kellet to his 
congregation, and pretermit the most part of his 
sententious phrases and his excerpts from the 
patriarchs. But let the following stand as a taste 
of his quality. 

" You," said he, pointing a scornful figure 
at the baggy-breeched penitent standing there, 
" you whom God suffered to fall, and yet of His 
infinite mercy vouchsafed graciously to bring 
home, not only to your country and kindred, 
but to the profession of your first faith and to 
the Church of Sacraments again ; let me say 
to you (but in a better hour) as sometime Joshua 
to Achan : ' Give glory to God, sing praises to 
Him who hath delivered your soul from the nether- 
most hell/ When I think upon your Turkish 
attire, that embleme of apostacy and witness of 
your wofull fall, I do remember Adam and his 
figge-leave breeches ; they could neither conceal 
his shame, nor cover his nakedness. I do think 
vpon David clad in Saul's armour and his helmet 
of braffe. ' I cannot goe with thefe,' saith David. 
How could you hope in this unsanctified habit to 
attain Heaven ? How could you clad in this 
vnchriftian weede ; how could you, but with 
horror and aftonifhment thinke on the white 
robe of the innocent Martyrs which you had lost ? 
How could you goe in thefe rewards of iniquity 

30 



234 THE SOMERSET COAST 

and guerdons of apoftacie ? and with what face 
could you behold your felfe and others ? I know 
you were young. So was Daniel and the three 
Children : fo were Diofcurus the Confeffor, and 
Ponticus, the Martyr : adde (if you pleafe) 
English Mekins, who all at fifteen yeares of age 
enured manfully whatfoever the furie of the 
perfecutors pleafed to inflict vpon them." 
The preacher then proceeded to remark : 
" We are bound without failing to resist unto 
the death. You who go down to the sea in ships, 
and occupy your business in great waters, are 
reckoned by Pittacus as neither amongst the 
dead nor the living. The grave is always open 
before your face, and only the thickness of an 
inch exists between you and eternity/' 

If Altogether, the lot of the seafaring com- 
munity was revealed to this Minehead congrega- 
tion in an entirely new light. They had never 
heard of Pittacus before, and had really, you 
know, fancied themselves alive, and not in the 
dreadful tertium quid pictured by that classical 
philosopher. 

Time was also when Minehead possessed a 
ghost, but that was long ago. It is now going on 
for nearly three hundred years since this malig- 
nant spectre was finally discredited, and the up- 
to-date circumstances of the place scarce admit 
the possibility of a successor. Sir Walter Scott, 
in his notes to "Rokeby," tells us about this appari- 
tion, which was (or was reputed to be) that of a 
Mrs. Leakey, an amiable old widow lady of the 



MINEHEAD, NEW AND OLD 235 

little seaport, who died in 1634. She had an 
only son, a shipowner and seafaring man of the 
place, who drove a considerable trade with Water- 
ford and other ports of the South of Ireland. She 
was in life of such a cheery and friendly disposition, 
and so acceptable a companion to her friends 
that they were accustomed to say to her and to 
each other what a pity it was so amiable and 
good-natured a woman must, in the usual course 
nature, be at last lost to an admiring circle 
in particular, and in general to a world in 
which her like was seldom met. To these flatter- 
ing remarks she used to reply that, whatever 
pleasure they might now find in her company, 
they would not greatly like to see her, and to 
converse with her, after death. 

After her inevitable demise, she began to 
appear to various persons, both by day and night : 
sometimes in her house and at others in the fields 
and lanes. She even haunted the sea. The 
cause of this postmortem restlessness appears to 
have been a small matter of a necklace which 
had fallen into hands she had not intended ; 
and her dissatisfaction with this state of affairs 
entirely changed her once suave disposition. 
One of her favourite ghostly fancies was to appear 
upon the quay and call for a boat, much to the 
terror of the waterside folk. Her son, however, 
was the principal mark of her vengeance, for her 
chief delight was to whistle up a wind whenever 
the unfortunate son's ships drew near to port. 
He suffered, in consequence, so greatly from 



236 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



shipwreck that he soon became a ruined man. 
So apparently credible a person as the curate of 
Minehead saw the spook, and believed, as also 
did her daughter-in-law, a servant, and numerous 
others. In fact, Minehead in general placed entire 
confidence in the supernatural nature of " the 
Whistling Ghost " ; and it was not altogether 




QUIRKE'S ALMSHOUSES. 

reassured by the finding of a commission that 
sat to enquire upon the matter, presided over by 
the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The finding was 
" Wee are yet of opinion and doe believe that 
there never was any such apparition at all, but 
that it is an imposture, devise, and fraud for 
some particular ends, but what they are wee 
know not." 

There are still some quaint objects, and odd 



MINEHEAD, NEW AND OLD 237 

nooks and corners in Minehead. Among these 
an alabaster statue of Queen Anne (deceased some 
time since) is prominent in the principal street : 
but the local experts in the art of how not to do 
anything properly have just enshrined it in a 
clumsy stone alcove affair that not only serves 
the intended office of shielding the statue from 
the weather, but also most efficiently obscures it. 
This figure was the work of Bird, author of 
the original statue of Queen Anne in front of 
St. Paul's Cathedral, and was presented by Sir 
Jacob Banks to the town in 1719, as some sort of 
recognition of the honour he had for sixteen 
years enjoyed of representing Minehead in nine 
successive Parliaments, by favour of the powerful 
local Luttrell interest, he having in 1696 married 
the widow of Colonel Francis Luttrell. The 
statue was originally placed in the church, and 
the churchwardens' accounts tell us, in this wise, 
how it was received : 

Ringing when the Queen's effigies was brought to the s. d. 

Church 76 

Paid for beer for the men that brought in the Queen's 

effigies into the Church . . . . . . ..26 

The Quirke almshouses, in Market House 
Lane, form a pretty nook. Their origin is suffi- 
ciently told on the little engraved brass plate 
that is fixed over the central door : 

Robert Qvirck, sonne of James Qvirck 

bvilt this howse ano : 1630 and 
doth give it to the vse of the poore 



238 THE SOMERSET COAST 

of this parish for ever and for better 

maintenance I doe give my two 

inner sellers at the Inner End of the key 

and cvrssed bee that man that shall 

convert it to any other vse then to 

the vse of the poore 1630. 

Then follow the representation of a three- 




DOORWAY OF THE MANOR OFFICE. 



masted, full-rigged ship of the period, and the 
concluding lines : 

God's providence 
Is my Inheritance 
R Q 
E 






MINEHEAD, NEW AND OLD 239 

The shaft of an ancient cross stands at one end of 
this row of cottages. 

In midst of Minehead, now overshadowed by 
tall business premises, painfully like those to be 
seen any day in London, stands a charming old 
building, long past used as the Manor Office. 




THE MANOR OFFICE, MINEHEAD. 

The original use of the building, which appears 
to be of the fifteenth century, is unknown, and 
perhaps hardly even to be guessed at. The 
walls, of red sandstone, are immensely thick and 
stoutly buttressed, with oak-framed windows of 
semi-ecclesiastical design, still displaying traces 
of rich carving. 



240 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Old customs survive at Minehead, in a half- 
hearted way, and not perhaps from any natural 
spontaneous joyousness, but because there is 
something to be made out of them. This does not, 
however, apply to the burning of the ashen faggot 
on the domestic hearth on Christmas Eve, and 
but partially to the " worslers " i.e. " wassailers " 
who every January zyth visit neighbouring 
orchards, and with song and dance invoke a good 
crop of apples in the forthcoming season. But 
weddings at the old parish church still form an 
excuse for levying tribute, and those who have 
attended generally discover their return barred 
until they have rendered the wherewithal for 
drinks round. 

Chief among the town celebrations is that of 
the Hobby Horse, surviving from a remote anti- 
quity. It takes place annually, on the first three 
days of May, and assumes the shape of a gaudily 
caparisoned What-is-It, escorted by fishermen 
and fisher-lads, playing on drum and concertina, 
with an obbligato of money-box rattling. We 
have styled the Hobby Horse as above for the 
sufficient reason that it is not only utterly unlike 
anything equine, but with an equal conclusiveness 
unlike anything else on earth ; being just a 
draped framework, hung with gaily coloured 
ribbons, from the midst of which rises a some- 
thing intended for a capped head. The human 
mechanism that actuates this affair may be guessed 
at from the great boots that ever and again are 
to be seen protruding from it. 



MINEHEAD, NEW AND OLD 241 

This is a survival of more simple times, and 
seems a little out of the picture in the sophisti- 
cated streets of modern Minehead. Rural customs, 




ROOD-LOFT TURRET, MINEHEAD. 

outside the radius of the town, wear a more natural 
appearance. 

The ancient church of Minehead, the parish 
church of St. Michael, stands as do most churches 

31 



242 THE SOMERSET COAST 

dedicated to that saint, on a hilly site. It is in 
Upper Town, half way up North Hill, and quite 
remote, thanks be, from the recent developments 
down below. Here the ancient white-faced 
cottages remain, and the steep steps that form 
the road, and here you feel that you are come 
again into the Somerset of pre-railway times. 
The church is chiefly of the Perpendicular period. 
On the tower, rather too high for their details to 
be easily made out without the aid of glasses, are 
sculptured panels representing St. Michael weigh- 
ing souls, with the Virgin Mary on one side and 
the Devil on the other contending for possession, 
by pressing down the beam of the scales ; and a 
group of God the Father, holding a crucified 
Christ. A rich projecting bay filled with windows 
forms an unusual feature of the south side of the 
church. It is the staircase turret of the rood 
screen, and was designed in this fashion and filled 
with windows, it is said, for the purpose of showing 
a light at night-time for fishermen making the 
harbour. No beacon is shown now, but it is 
stated that fishermen still speak of " picking 
up the church lights " as they make their way 
home. At the same time, it is only right to say 
that, from personal observation, it seems im- 
possible that the windows or the turret could ever 
have been visible from the sea. They look out 
rather in a landward direction, if anything, to- 
wards Dunster. But on the opposite side of the 
church there remains an inscription in Old 
English characters, somewhat decayed, by which 



MINEHEAD, OLD AND NEW 243 

it is evident that the well-being of the neighbour- 
hood was near the hearts of these church folk : 

mt . prep . tor . 3lotm * ann . jftl(arp) 
genti , our nepbuw 0afte 

The interior of the church is very fine, with 
the usual rich rood-screen we come to expect 
in these parts. It is pos- 
sible to ascend the stair- 
case-turret and walk along 
the site of the rood-loft, 
which was indeed until 
1886, when the church was 
restored, occupied during 
service by school- children. 
Here is preserved a queer 
little clock- jack figure, re- 
moved from the tower. The 
entrance to the chapel of 
St. Lawrence from the 
chancel is by an archway 
curiously framed in wood, 
instead of stone. Various 
relics, in the shape of old 
books and Bibles, a carved-oak late fifteenth- 
century chest, and some brasses of the Quirke 
family (among whom one notices the oddly 
named " Izott," wife of John Quirke, mariner, 
1724) reward the visitor. 

This way, uphill, past the old church, is the 
pleasantest exit from Minehead, on the way to 
Porlock, but it is bv no means the usual or the 




THE CLOCK JACK, MINEHEAD 
CHURCH. 



244 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



easiest one, as the stranger will perceive when he 
is reduced to enquiring the proper choice among 
several roads that presently confront him. 

" Y'ant coom up yur to get to Parlock ? ' 
asked an old rustic cottage woman of the present 
writer, with some astonishment. Being reassured 
that one really knew this to be a very indirect 
route, she abandoned the sarcasm she was prepared 
with, and was reduced to satire on visitors in 




LYNCH CHAPEL. 



general. " Some on 'em doan' niver think of 
asking the way. They jest goos arn, an' then 
they goos wrong. I often larfs in me sleeve at 
'em, I do." 

Saucy puss ! 

Yes. I suspect the simple countryfolk enjoy 
many a sly laugh at visitors, quite unsuspected. 

To Selworthy, over North Hill, is a rugged 
way, of narrow woodland lanes. Selworthy, as 
its name sufficiently indicates, is a village amid 



SELWORTHY 245 

the woods ; woods around it, above and below ; 
the woodlands belonging to the Aclands of Holm- 
cote i.e. " Hollen-cot," or holly-cot, that seat 
lying down beside the main road to Porlock. Here 
are ancient oaks and other trees, and more recent 
plantations that have now matured and clothed 
the hillsides with fir and larch. These were 
planted by that Sir Thomas Acland who died, 
aged 89, in 1898. A wild region is that of Sel- 




PACKHORSE BRIDGE, ALLERFORD. 

worthy Beacon, rising to a height of 933 feet, 
above the village. 

The village itself is a small and scattered one, 
with a large and handsome church, neighboured 
by a monastic tithe-barn. A " Peter's Pence " 
chest, hinting, by its size and iron bands and triple 
locks, great expectations, is one of the objects of 
interest here. But tourists from Minehead and 
Porlock do not come chiefly to see the church, 
beautifully restored with the aid of Acland gold 
though it be. It is rather the fame of the pretty 
thatched cottages bordering a village green that 



246 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



attracts them. These owe their origin to the late 
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, who built them as 
homes for servants grown old in his employ, and 
pensioned off by him. 

The road down from Selworthy to Porlock 
passes the little river Horner and commands 
views on the left hand up to the purple hills of 
Exmoor, up to Cloutsham, where the wild red 
deer couch, and the great heights of Dunkery, 
Easter Hill, and Robinow. To the left lies 
the hamlet of Horner, so-called from the river, 
" Hwrnr," = " the Snorer," snoring, as the Anglo- 
Saxons are supposed to have fancifully likened 
the sound of its hoarse purring, over the boulders 
and amid the gravel-stones that strew its shallow 
woodland course. Here, amid the woods, you 
may find, not far from a comparatively modern 
road-bridge, an ancient pack-horse bridge flung 
steeply across the stream. At Allerford is another 
pack-horse bridge. 



CHAPTER XX 

PORLOCK BOSSINGTON PORLOCK WEIR 

A SUDDEN drop into the vale of Porlock tilts the 
traveller neck and crop into the village street. 
You realise, when come to the village, that it 
stands in a flat, low-lying space giving upon a 
distant bay ; a bay distant just upon one mile. 
Once upon a time a time so distant that history 
places no certain date against it the village 
immediately faced the sea, and indeed took its 
name, which means " the enclosed port/' from 
the fact of the harbour running up to this point, 
deeply embayed between the enfolding hills. 
Rich meadows now spread out where the sea once 
rolled ; but the waves might surge there even now 
were it not for the continued existence of that 
great rampart of stones flung up in the long 
ago by the sea, which thus by its own action shut 
itself out from its ancient realm. 

Porlock has for " ever so long " been a show 
place, and, like any other originally modest beauty, 
has at last become a little spoiled by praise, and 
more than a little sophisticated. We do not 

247 



248 THE SOMERSET COAST 

greatly esteem the self-conscious beauty, especi- 
ally when she paints. 

The charm of Porlock has been, and is being, 
still more sadly smirched by expansion and by that 
increasing intercourse with the world which has 
taken the accent off the tongues of the villagers, 
replaced the weirdly cut provincial clothes of an 
earlier era with garments of a more modish style, 
and brought buildings of a distinctly suburban 
type into the once purely rustic street. But 
these newer buildings, although sufficiently odious, 
do not by any means touch the depths of abomi- 
nation plumbed by the local Wesleyan Methodist 
Chapel, built in the '30*5, and fully as bad, in its 
grey stuccoed, would-be classicism, as that date 
would imply. 

The coming of the motor-car has been nothing 
less than a disaster to Porlock. Not only private 
cars, growing ever larger and more productive 
of dust, noise, and stink, rush through the once 
sweet-scented street, regardless of the comfort and 
convenience of villagers or visitors, but " public 
service " vehicles and chars-a-bancs as big as 
houses slam through the place, raising a stifling 
dust that penetrates everywhere. Few sights are 
more distressing, to those who knew Porlock as it 
was, than that of the clustered roses and jessa- 
mines that mantle so many of the houses, thickly 
covered with dust. It is a standing wonder that 
the inhabitants of pretty villages plagued almost 
beyond endurance by motorists do not arise and 
compel County Councils and other authorities to 



PORLOCK 249 

take action. Possibly they know only too well 
that the majority of members of those Councils is 
formed by owners of cars, who are themselves 
among the worst offenders. 

But, in any case, the simple old days of Porlock 
are done. To have seen Porlock with Southey, 
how great that privilege ! Great, not only in the 
literary way, but in a glimpse of it in its unspoiled, 
unconscious beauty, before ever it had become 
notable as a show-place. 

Local connoisseurs of the picturesque prefer 
Bossington, now that Porlock is worn a little 
threadbare and grown so dusty. They are of 
opinion that Bossington is the quainter of the 
two. But to come to judgment in this frame is 
not wholly in order, for the places are of such 
different types, and cannot fairly be compared. 
Porlock is a considerable village, with numerous 
shops ; and Bossington is but a hamlet, without 
a church, and apparently with no shops at all. 
It is a very sequestered place, standing on the 
Horner, about a mile distant, north-eastward, from 
Porlock. The great recommendations of Bossing- 
ton in these latter days are that motor-cars never 
or rarely get there, and that it is by consequence 
quiet and dustless. Porlock is on the main road 
on the way to that Somewhere Else which is 
ever your typical motorist's quest : a quest he 
relinquishes at night, only to resume it the next 
morning. Bossington stands in the way to 
Nowhere in Particular, and the roads that lead 
tc it are less roads than lanes. That they may 

32 



250 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



long continue their narrow, rough, and winding 
character is the wish of those who wish Bos- 
sington well. 

For the rest, it is pre-eminently a hamlet of 
chimneys. The chimneys of Porlock are them- 
selves a remarkable feature of that place, but 
at Bossington they are the feature. They are 
all of a remarkable height. There are coroneted 




BOSSINGTON. 



chimneys ; round chimneys, with pots and with- 
out ; chimneys square, and chimneys finished 
off with slates set up (as wind-breakers) at an 
angle, something like a simple problem in Euclid. 
The next great feature of Bossington is its im- 
mense walnut-tree, whose trunk measures sixteen 
feet in circumference. This is the chieftain of 
all the many walnut-trees that flourish in the 
neighbourhood. 



BOSSINGTON 251 

The modern Wesleyan Chapel of Bossington 
puts its stuccoed brother at Porlock to shame. 
It is a pretty building, designed in good taste, 
built of stone banded with blue brick, and is 
finished off with a quaintly louvred turret. Not 
even the neighbouring restored chapel of Lynch, 
rescued from desecration by the late Sir Thomas 
Dyke Acland, looks more worshipful. 

Bossington street, irregularly fringed with 
rustic cottages, and with the Horner on one side 
fleeting amid its pebbles to the sea, is as uncon- 
ventional as a farmyard, and ends at last on the 
great shingle-bank of Porlock Bay, where two 
or three ruined old houses stand against the 
skyline and look as if they had known stirring 
incidents of shipwreck and smuggling, as indeed 
they probably have, in abundance. 

Smuggling was the chief occupation of Porlock 
and its surroundings, in Southey's time. The 
lonely beach of huge pebbles that stretches be- 
tween Porlock Weir and Bossington, with low- 
lying, marshy meadows giving upon it, was most 
frequently the scene of goods being landed secretly 
and thence dispersed into the surrounding country. 
The Revenue officials knew so well that smuggling 
was carried on largely that it behoved the " free- 
traders " to be at especial pains to baffle them. 
Some of their ingeniously constructed hiding- 
holes have not been unearthed until compara- 
tively recent years. Thus, in so unlikely .a 
situation as the middle of a field, a smugglers' 
store-chamber was found in course of ploughing, 



252 THE SOMERSET COAST 

between Porlock and Bossington. Again, it was 
left to modern times for a smugglers' hiding-hole 
in the picturesque farmhouse of Higher Dover- 
hay to be discovered. This ingenious place of 
concealment for contraband goods had been 
constructed by the simple process of building 
a false outer wall parallel with the real wall of 
the farmhouse, leaving a narrow space between. 
When discovered the shelves with which this 
recess was fitted, for the reception of spirit-kegs, 
were still there ; but the spirits themselves had 
departed. 

The church of Porlock, dedicated to St. Du- 
britius, is generally regarded by visitors as an 
architectural joke. It is the curiously truncated 
shingled broach spire that produces this dero- 
gatory view. It is understood that the local 
clergy, seriously exercised in their minds about 
this attitude of unseemly mirth, would greatly 
like to rebuild tower and spire. But guide- 
books and visitors alike, placing such stress 
upon this alleged grotesqueness, are quite wrong. 
The spire, as it is, has that all-too-rare thing, 
character, and it is a joy to the artist, and some- 
thing on which visitors can exercise their wits. 
In short, Porlock would be a good deal less than 
its old self were it abolished. With the huge and 
dilapidated churchyard yew, and the tall neigh- 
bouring cross, the old church, as a whole, forms 
a striking motif for a sketch. 

The most notable feature of the interior is 
the noble altar-tomb of the fourth Baron Haring- 



PORLOCK 253 

ton of Aldingham, and his wife, Elizabeth Courte- 
nay, daughter of the Earl of Devon, who died 
respectively in 1417 and 1472. She married, 
secondly, Lord Bonvile, of Chewton, but chose to 
lie here ; and here, in finely sculptured effigies, 
they are represented, the noble helmeted and in 
complete armour, and his lady with tall mitre 
headdress and coronet. 

Guide-books tell of the " curious epitaphs " 
at Porlock, but they are not so curious as might 
thus be supposed ; certainly not more so than 
those of the average country churchyard. The 
chief feature of these is their ungrammatical 
character, as where we read of Henry Pulsford 
and Richard Bale, "who was both drownd" at 
" Lymouth," in 1784. Poetry or rather, verse 
that changed, in arbitrary fashion, from first 
person to third, was still possible in 1860, as wit- 
ness these unpleasant lines upon one Thomas Fry : 

For many weeks my friends did see 
Approaching death attending me. 
No favour could his body find, 
Till in the earth it was confined, 

and so forth. 

The "Ship" inn is almost, if not even quite, 
as well known a feature of Porlock as the church, 
and is unaltered since Southey sheltered here 
considerably over a hundred years ago 

By the unwelcome summer rain confined. 

The thatch has, of course, been renewed from 
time to time, but always in the old traditional 



254 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



style, and the white walls are obviously what 
they were a couple of centuries or more ago. 
The oldest part of the inn is probably a curious 
little trefoiled-headed wooden window, of semi- 
ecclesiastical design, under the eaves. 

Southey sat in the little parlour still existing, 




INGLENOOK, " SHIP" INN, PORLOCK. 

and, by the ingle-nook that has fortunately been 
preserved, wrote the oft-quoted lines : 

Porlock, thy verdant vale, so fair to sight, 
Thy lofty hills, which fern and furze embrown, 
Thy waters, that roll musically down 
Thy woody glens, the traveller with delight 
Recalls to memory, and the channel grey 
Circling it, surging in thy level bay. 






PORLOCK 255 

A small window in this chimney-corner com- 
mands a view up the road, just as of old, where 
the famed " Porlock Hill " begins that steep and 
long-continued rise which has made it known, 
far and near, as " the worst hill in the West of 
England." This is a mile-long rise from Porlock 
Vale "to the wild, exposed tableland that stretches, 
for seven miles, to Countisbury, where it descends 
steeply to Lynmouth. The rise of Porlock Hill 
is one thousand feet, but the tableland beyond it 
rises yet another 378 feet by Culbone Hill. The 
gradient of Porlock Hill is in parts as steep as one 
in six, and the surface is always, at all seasons 
of the year, bad in the extreme. A sharp bend 
to the right appears, a little way uphill. In 
summer a mass of red dust six or eight inches 
deep, and plentifully mixed with large stones, it 
is in winter a pudding-like mixture of a clayey 
nature. The spectacle of heavy-laden coaches 
toiling up this fearsome so-called " road " is a 
distressing one for those who love horses, and 
grieve to see them overtaxed. No cyclist could, 
of course, hope to ride up, while none but a mad- 
man would attempt to ride down. 

A private road, however, engineered some 
forty years ago by Colonel Blathwayt through 
his domain of Whitestone Park, ascends the 
hill-sides by a long series of zigzags, and thus 
admits of easy gradients. The distance is twice 
as long, but the ruling gradient is only one in ten, 
and the surface is good. The scenery also the 
" New Road/' as it is called, running through 



256 THE SOMERSET COAST 

woodlands for the most part is much preferable 
to that of the old road. In order to provide 
funds for keeping this " New Road " in repair, 
certain tolls are payable : a penny for a cycle or 
a saddle-horse ; fourpence for carriages, etc., 
with one horse, and threepence for every additional 
horse ; and a shilling for motor-cars. 

But, before leaving Porlock behind, it will 
be well to visit Porlock Weir. Porlock Weir, or 
Quay, as some style it, is the port of Porlock. 
It is not, commercially speaking, much of a port, 
for the basin is neither large nor deep, and only 
the smallest of sailing-vessels may enter it. 

As you come along the mile and a half of 
pretty country road that leads from Porlock to 
Porlock Weir, passing many remarkably pic- 
turesque cob-walled and thatch-roofed cottages 
on the way, you catch glimpses of the kind of 
place this port is. Porlock Bay lies open to the 
view, and is revealed as a two-and-a-quarter mile 
semi-circular sweep of naked pebble-ridge be- 
tween Hurlstone Point and Gore Point. Under 
the last-named wooded bluff, which forms the 
buttress, so to speak, on which rests the romantic 
domain of Ashley Combe, the village and harbour 
of Porlock Weir are snugly placed. " Weir " 
stands, in the minds of most people, for a foaming 
waterfall on a river ; but there is no stream what- 
ever at this place, and the harbour that has been 
given the name is just a natural basin formed 
by a long-continued action of the tides in heaping 
up a great impervious outer bank of pebbles under 



PORLOCK WEIR 257 

this protecting bluff, where the bay finds its 
western termination. Left to itself, the trench- 
like inlet thus formed would fill automatically 
with every flood-tide, and empty again with the 
ebb ; but the mouth of it was closed, perhaps 
three centuries ago, by a wall and sluice-gates, by 
which the water could, at ebb, be kept in the 
harbour so easily constructed. That is Porlock 
Weir, upon whose primitive quays look a few 
picturesquely dilapidated waterside buildings. The 
spot is quiet and delightfully unconventional, and 
is frequented in summer by visitors who ap- 
preciate those qualities and the sea-fishing that 
is to be had off the beach. The old " Ship " inn 
is a counterpart of that hostelry of the same 
name at Porlock, and is generally old-fashioned 
and delightful. You catch a glimpse of copper 
warming-pans as you pass, and are in receipt 
of an impression of that kind of comfort which 
was the last thing in innkeeping life of the late 
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. 

The " Anchor Hotel " is a gabled building, 
obviously built about 1885, when architects found 
salvation in gables, red-brick, rough-cast plaster, 
and a general Queen Annean attitude. Besides 
these, there stands an omnium gatherum shop 
that will supply you at one end of the scale with 
a ton of coals and any reasonable requirement 
in fodder and corn-chandlery, or with a penny- 
worth of acid-drops at the other. The romantic- 
looking old cottages that face the road and have 
quaintly peaked combs to their thatches, display 

33 



258 THE SOMERSET COAST 

luxuriant gardens in front, and the sea on occasion 
clamours for entrance at the back ; for it can be 
very rough here at times, as the pebble-ridge 
heaped up against the stout sea-wall protecting 
the road sufficiently witnesses. 

The little harbour, although apparently so 
derelict, is not altogether a thing of the past, for 
Porlock is some seven miles distant from any 
railway, and it still remains cheaper to bring 
coals into the place by sea than by any other 
method. And this, it would seem, must always 
be the case, for coal comes to Porlock direct from 
the quays of the South Wales coalfields. But, 
except for this class of goods, and for a few other 
miscellaneous and casual items, the harbour of 
Porlock Weir is nowadays practically deserted. 
It forms a curious spectacle. Old vessels lie 
rotting in the ooze, with no one to clear away 
their discredited carcases ; the Caerleon of Bridg- 
water, lying at the quay awaiting a discharge 
of her cargo of coals, the only craft obviously 
in commission. 

Life certainly does not run with a strong 
current at Porlock Weir. Overnight you may 
see jerseyed seafaring men sitting in a row on a 
waterside bench, their backs supported by a 
convenient wall. They are engaged in contem- 
plating nothing in particular. Vacuity of mind is 
set upon their countenances, and expresses itself 
in their very attitudes, hands drooping listlessly 
over knees, heads sunk upon chests. There they 
have sat, with intervals for refreshment, all day, 



PORLOCK WEIR 259 

and there they are sitting as twilight fades away 
into darkness. When the visitor comes down 
to breakfast at the ".Anchor" or the "Ship" 
opposite, they are discovered in the selfsame 
place and in the same attitudes as before. They 
seem to hold constant session, but rarely speak ; 
not because they hold silence to be golden, but for 
the simple reason that all subjects are exhausted. 

This silent companionship is not often broken, 
the chief occasions of the break-up being those 
exciting times when some terrified, panting, hunted 
stag comes fleeting down out of the woods with 
the yelping hounds at his heels. The sea is the 
harried creature's last resort, and in it he is 
generally lassoed and dragged to shore, where the 
hounds tear the unfortunate beast to pieces, amid 
interested crowds of onlookers. Such is " sport." 

But this death of the stag on Porlock beach 
is now very much a thing of the past, since the 
strong line of fencing that runs through the woods 
of Ashley Combe and Culbone, as far as Glen- 
thorne, has come into existence, preventing the 
fugitive stags from taking this last desperate 
refuge. Nowadays, more commonly, they take 
to the water at the eastern end of the beach, 
coming down through the Homer valley to 
Bossington. Here, then, the hunt often ends, 
and spectators are treated to the extraordinary 
sight of huntsmen in scarlet clambering about 
the rocks of Orestone Point, or wading in hunting 
boots in the sea. 



CHAPTER XXI 

CULBONE AND ITS REVELS WHORTLEBERRIES 

THE way parallel with the shore to Culbone lies 
at the back of the " Ship " inn at Porlock Weir, 
steeply up the wooded hillside that looks along 
down to the sea. The recluse situation of Cul- 
bone is shadowed forth, in company with those 
of two other lonely parishes of this neighbour- 
hood, by the old local rhyme, often quoted : 

To Culbone, Oare, and Stoke Pero, 
Parishes three, no parson will go. 

The reason for this old-time clerical distaste 
is found partly in these circumstances of solitude 
in which the opportunities for doing good must 
needs be small ; but chiefly, perhaps, in the fact 
that the pay was not sufficient. The living of 
Culbone is stated by Crockford to be 41 net 
per annum ; that of Oare, 93 ; Stoke Pero, 75. 
Culbone and Oare are, nowadays, held in con- 
junction by one parson, who thus enjoys an in- 
come of 134 if a person may correctly be said 
to " enjoy " these less than clerk's wages. 

The population of Culbone is thirty-four, 
and the spiritual care of them thus costs i 45. id. 

260 



CULBONE AND ITS REVELS 261 

and an infinitesimal fraction of a farthing, per 
annum per head; but the spiritual shepherding 
of Stoke Pero, whose population is thirty-eight, 
comes to nearly 2 per head. 

The only way to Culbone lies past the 
entrance-lodge of the beautiful estate of Ashley 
Combe, the property of the Earl of Lovelace, 




THE LODGE, ASHLEY COMBE. 



but formerly that of Lord Chancellor King. The 
clock-tower of the house, in the likeness of an 
Italian campanile, is seen peering up from amid 
the massed woodlands. Ashley Combe is a place 
beautifully situated and finely appointed, and is 
splendidly situated for stag-hunting with the 
Devon and Somerset hounds. Until recently, 
and for a number of years past, it was rented, 



262 THE SOMERSET COAST 

chiefly for hunting purposes, by the Baroness de 
Tainteignes. 

A narrow wooden gateway in an arch of the 
entrance-lodge to Ashley Combe leads into the 
footpath through the woods that forms the sole 
means of reaching Culbone church. Here is 
nothing to vulgarise the way, and only an occa- 
sional felled tree is evidence of some human being 
having recently been in these wilds. 

A silence that is not that of emptiness and 
desolation, but rather of restfulness and content, 
fills the lovely underwoods that clothe the hill- 
sides of Culbone. " Sur-r-r-r," sighs the summer 
breeze in the grey-green alders, the dwarf oaks, 
and slim ashes. It is like the peace of God. 

Deep down on the right so deep that you do 
but occasionally hear the wash of the waves is 
the dun-coloured Severn Sea, glimpsed more or 
less indistinctly through the massed stems. The 
path winds for a mile through these solitudes, 
mounting and descending steeply, and clothed in 
a few places with slippery pine-needles that render 
walking uphill almost impossible, and the corre- 
sponding descents something in the likeness of 
glissades. 

Culbone church is suddenly disclosed in an 
opening of the woods, standing on a little plateau 
amid the hills, with but two houses in sight, and 
those the cottages of what the country folk call 
" kippurs " : that is to say, keepers. St. Francis 
preached to the birds, and the casual visitor to 
Culbone is apt to think the vicar of Culbone's 



CULBONE AND ITS REVELS 263 

only congregation must be the birds and beasts 
of this wild spot. But a visit paid on some summer 
Sunday would prove that, however few the 
parishioners, the visitors from Porlock, drawn by 
curiosity to take part in the service in what is 
supposed to be the " smallest church in England/' 




CULBONE CHURCH. 



are many. The attendance is then, in fact, often 
more than the little building can accommodate, 
and service is frequently held in the church- 
yard. 

It is a singular little building thus suddenly 
disclosed to the stranger's gaze : a white-walled 
structure of few architectural pretensions, but 
exhibiting examples of rude Early English and 



264 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Perpendicular work. A shingled " extinguisher " 
spirelet rises direct from the west end of the roof : 
own brother (but a very infant brother) to the 
bulgeous, truncated spire of Porlock. The length 
of Culbone church is but thirty-three feet, and the 
breadth twelve feet, but it is quite complete 
within these limits. The nave roof, internally, 
is of the usual West of England " cradle " type, 
of Perpendicular date. It is, of course, an aisleless 
nave ; but here will be found a tiny chancel and 
a chancel-screen, with a font to serve those rare 
occasions when a baptism takes place, and a 
family-pew for the Lovelace family on those rare 
occasions when the Earl is not earning an honest 
addition to his income by letting Ashley Combe. 

A few tombstones, with the usual false rhymes 
" wept," "bereft," are disposed about. On one 
of them you read the strange Christian name of 
" Ilott," for a woman. By the south porch 
stands the base of a fourteenth- or fifteenth- 
century cross, stained with lichens. 

Culbone is found in Domesday Book under 
the name of " Chetenore," and appears in old 
records as " Kitenore," " Kytenore," and 
" Kitnore " : " ore " standing in the Anglo-Saxon 
for " seashore." The present name derives from 
the dedication of the church to " St. Culbone," a 
corruption of " Columban." 

St. Columban, or Columbanus, was an Irish 
saint, born A.D. 543, in Leinster. The author of 
the " Lives of the Saints " says he " seems to have 
been of a respectable family " ; which was an 



CULBONE AND ITS REVELS 265 

advantage not commonly enjoyed by saints, as 
the histories of these holy men show us. The 
greater therefore, the credit due them for qualify- 
ing for saintship. 

Columban, as a student, came very near 
disaster. He was a good-looking young Irishman, 
and, as such, very attractive to the dark-eyed 
colleens of his native land, who interrupted his 
studies in grammar, rhetoric, and divinity so 
seriously with their winning ways that he fled at 
last, on the advice of a mystic old woman, to 
Lough Erne. Thence he repaired to Bangor, in 
Carrickfergus, and placed himself under the rule 
of Abbot Congall. At length, leaving this seclu- 
sion, he set out upon a life of itinerant preaching 
on the Continent, chiefly in Burgundy, whence he 
was expelled for his too plain speech, criticising 
the conduct of the Court. His last years were 
spent in meditation ; and in peace and quiet he 
died at length, on November 2ist, A.D. 615, aged 
seventy-two. 

Solitary places were especially affected by 
St. Columban, who liked nothing better than the 
sole companionship of nature. There is thus a 
peculiar fitness in the church of so retired a place 
as this being dedicated to him. 

But, quiet though it may now always be, 
Culbone was, in the eighteenth century, the scene 
of an annual fair that, for merriment and devil- 
me-care jollity, seems to have been fully abreast 
with other country romps and revels. 

The Reverend Richard Warner, coming to 

34 



266 THE SOMERSET COAST 

Culbone in 1799, in his " Walk through the Western 
Counties," says : 

" Quiet and sequestered as this romantic spot 
at present is, it has heretofore borne an honourable 
name in the annals of rustic revelry. Its rocks 
have echoed to the shouts of multitudinous mirth, 
and its woods rung with the symphonious music 
of all the neighbouring bands : in plain English, 
a revel, or fair, was wont to be held here in times 
of yore." In still plainer English, there used 
formerly to be a fair held in Culbone churchyard. 

Entering upon the meditations of the Reverend 
Richard Warner, striving to write plain English, 
and failing in the attempt, came an old reminiscent, 
ruminating blacksmith, with an artless tale, 
recounted, apparently, by the Reverend Richard 
as a moral anecdote. 

" About forty-five years agone, sir," said 
the blacksmith, '" I was at a noble revel in this 
spot ; three hundred people at least were collected 
together, and rare fun, to be sure, was going for- 
ward. A little warmed with dancing, and some- 
what flustered with ale (for certainly Dame 
Mathews did sell stinging good stuff !) I deter- 
mined to have a touch at skittles, and sport away 
a sixpence or shilling, which I could do without 
much danger, as I had a golden half-guinea in 
my pocket. To play, therefore, I went ; but, the 
liquor getting into my head, I could not throw 
the bowl straight, and quickly lost the game, 
and two shillings and ninepence to boot. Not 
liking to get rid of so much money in so foolish 



CULBONE AND ITS REVELS 267 

a manner, and not thinking the fault was in my- 
self for too much ale, you know, sir, is apt to 
make one over-wise I resolved to win back the 
two and ninepence, and then leave off ; and 
accordingly set to play a second time. The same 
ill-luck followed me, and in an hour and a half 
I had not only lost the remainder of my money 
but about sixteen shillings more out of a guinea 
I borrowed of a friend. This terrible stroke 
quite sobered me. I could not help thinking 
what a wicked scoundrel I must be, to go and 
run into ruin, and deprive my wife and child of 
food, merely to indulge myself in a game, which, 
instead of being an amusement had put me in a 
terrible passion, and made me curse and swear 
more than ever I did in my life. Desperately 
vexed at my folly, I went into the wood hard by, 
and sat down by the side of the waterfall to 
reflect on the situation. I could plainly hear the 
singing and laughing of the revel, but it was now 
gall and wormwood to me, and I had almost 
resolved to escape from my own reproaches and 
the distress of my wife by throwing myself down 
the cliff, upon the shore, when Providence was 
so good as to preserve me from this additional 
wickedness, and to put a thought into my head 
which saved me from the consequences of despair. 
Cool and sober, for I had washed myself in the 
stream and drank pretty largely of it, it struck 
me that if I went back to the skittle-ground and 
ventured the remaining five shillings, I should 
have a good chance of winning back my money 



268 THE SOMERSET COAST 

from those who had beaten me before, as / was 
now fresh, and they all overcome with ale. Ac- 
cordingly I returned to the churchyard and took 
up the bowl, though pretty much jeered at by 
the lads who had been winners. The case, 
however, was altered. I had now the advantage ; 
could throw the bowl straight ; took every time 
a good aim, and more than once knocked down 
all nine pins. To make short my story, sir, it 
was only night that put an end to my good luck ; 
and when I left off play, I found I had got back 
my own half-guinea, the guinea I had borrowed, 
and fifteen shillings in good silver." The black- 
smith's cleverness at getting back his own, and 
incidentally a proportion of other people's money 
is amusing enough ; and so is the attitude of the 
Reverend Richard Warner, amiably finding a 
moral in it. There is an obvious enough lesson 
here, but not an improving one, of the blameless 
copybook kind. 

The neighbourhood of Porlock and Culbone, 
and, in fact, all the district on to Lynmouth, is 
noted for its whortleberries ; " urts," as the country 
people call them. Up the Horner valley, and on 
the wild widespread commons that stretch away 
a glorious expanse of furze, bracken, and gorse 
to Countisbury, the whortleberry bushes grow in 
profusion. But " Bushes " is a term that, with- 
out explanation, is apt to be misleading, for here 
the whortleberry plant grows only to a height of 
from six to nine inches. The whortleberry, in 
other parts of the country called bilberry, whin- 



WHORTLEBERRIES 269 

berry, and blueberry, is a familiar many- 
branched little plant with small ovate leaves that 
range in colour from a light yellow-green to that 
of burnished copper. Its fruit is perfectly round, 
about the size of a large pea, and of a dark-blue 
colour, with a slightly lighter bloom upon it, 
resembling the bloom on a plum. The berries 
ripen in July and August, and are sweet, with a 
sub-acid flavour. They form a very favourite 
dish in these parts, stewed, or made into tarts 
and puddings, and in such cases strongly resemble 
black-currants. Whortleberries generally com- 
mand eightpence a quart in the shops ; but they 
are also largely picked for the use of dyers, who 
use them for the production of a purple dye. 
It is understood that large quantities of them 
are thus sent to Liverpool. The whortleberry 
harvest being in full swing during the schools' 
summer holidays, the boys and girls of Porlock 
and round about are generally to be found on the 
commons and the moors, busily engaged, with all 
the baskets they can manage to commandeer, in the 
picking. Four or five quarts can readily be gathered 
by one of these experts in the course of a day. 

To this prime habitat of the whortleberry we 
come, by old road or new, passing one or other of 
the coaches that in summer ply a busy trade in 
carrying pleasure-seekers through a district inno- 
cent of railways. At the crest of the moorland, 
where a weatherworn, wizened signpost says 
simply "To Oare," we enter upon a much-dis- 
cussed districtc 



CHAPTER XXII 

THE "LORNA DOONE COUNTRY" 

WE have here come into the very centre of what 
has in these later years become known as the 
" Lorna Doone Country " ; the neighbourhood of 
Oare and the so-called " Doone Valley." Oare 
lies in a profound valley, giving upon Exmoor, on 
the left hand, and to it we must needs go, for to 
write upon these parts of Somerset, where they 
march with Devon, and not to enter upon the 
subject of the Doones, would in these times be 
impossible, if the resultant book is to be at all 
representative. 

No one who travels through North Devon and 
Somerset can escape " Lorna Doone." Nor, indeed, 
should they greatly wish to do so, for it is a stirring 
romance. Since 1871, when the story first be- 
came popularised, it has pervaded the whole 
countryside, much to the combined profit and 
astonishment of the natives, who accept the 
good gifts it has brought, chiefly in the. shape 
of greatly increased numbers of tourists, but at 
the same time they do not profess to understand 
it all, and have not been generally at pains to 

270 



THE "LORNA DOONE COUNTRY 1 271 

inform themselves as to whom all these develop- 
ments are due. 

" A Lunnon gennelman I doan't rightly 
knaw th' name of 'en wrote all about thesyer 
Doones there is so much tark of, an' put'n into 
a book, yurs since. Read it ? Not I, but my 
darter, she hev, an' she do say that Lorna Doone 
was a proper fine gell ; not that I b'lieve much 
on't ; although, mark you, it's my idea that if so 
be them ' Doone ' houses they do let on so much 
about wer' tarned auver an' dug up, ther'd be a 
deal o' gold found there. There was some mighty 
queer folk lived up to Badgery in wold times." 
Such are the somewhat contradictory opinions 
to be heard between Oare and Malmsmead. 

Richard Doddridge Blackmore, author of the 
novel, " Lorna Doone," came of a North Devon and 
Exmoor ancestry, and so was, as it were, the pre- 
destined author for these regions. He was born 
in 1825 an d educated largely at Blundell's school, 
Tiverton, where Jan Ridd, hero of the novel, got 
his schooling. Blackmore afterwards went up to 
Oxford, and imbibed there a certain fondness for 
classical studies and a love of literature that never 
left him ; although a great part of his life, from 
1858, was devoted to the cultivation of choice fruit 
at his residence at Teddington, beside the Thames. 
The public, however, that knew of Blackmore 
the novelist never heard of Blackmore the grower 
of choice pears and plums for the London market, 
on his eleven Middlesex acres. 

His first book was " Poems by Melanter," pub- 



272 THE SOMERSET COAST 

lished in 1835 and heard of no more. In 1855 
the Crimean War stirred him to authorship again, 
with "The Bugle on the Black Sea," and 1864 
saw his first novel, " Clara Vaughan," published 
anonymously. It was not a success, nor was 
" Cradock Nowell," in 1866, more fortunate. 

In March 1869 was published " Lorna Doone," 
with the same dispiriting want of success. The 
first edition was still hanging on hand in 1871, 
and seemed likely to go the unhonoured way of 
all completely unsuccessful books, when a strange 
reversal of fortune befel it. In the preface to the 
twentieth edition, years afterwards, Blackmore 
tells us vividly of this. One clearly perceives, in 
the manner of apostrophe to a personified " Lorna " 
he adopts, that he was, at the time of writing this 
preface, still entirely amazed at the abounding 
success that had at last come, but in a wholly 
mistaken fashion. He says : 

" What a lucky maid you are, my Lorna ! 
When first you came from the Western moors 
nobody cared to look at you ; the ' leaders of the 
public taste ' led none of it to make test of you. 
Having struggled to the light of day through 
obstruction and repulses, for a year and a half 
you shivered in a cold corner without a sunray. 
Your native land disdained your voice, and 
America answered, ' No child of mine ! ' Still, 
a certain brave man, your publisher, felt con- 
vinced that there was good in you, and standing 
by his convictions as the English manner used 
to be ' She shall have another chance/ he said ; 



THE "LORN A DOONE COUNTRY ' 273 

' we have lost a lot of money by her ; I don't 
care if we lose some more.' Accordingly, forth 
you came, poor Lorna, in a simple, pretty dress, 
small in compass, small in figure, smaller still 
in hope of life. But, oh let none of her many 
fairer ones who fail despond a certain auspicious 
event occurred just then, and gave you golden 
wings. The literary public found your name akin 
to one which filled the air, and, as graciously as 
royalty itself, endowed you with imaginary virtues. 
So grand is the luck of time and name failing 
which more solid beings melt into oblivion's 
depth." In short, the dear, dunderheaded add- 
two-together-and-make-them-five British public 
came to the wholly erroneous conclusion that 
" Lorna Doone " was in some way connected with 
the marriage of Queen Victoria's fourth daughter 
the Princess Louise with the Marquess of Lome ; 
an event which took place in 1871. The times 
were remarkable for the strong wave of anti- 
monarchical feeling then rising, in consequence of 
the recluse life led by the Queen in her widow- 
hood ; and there can be no doubt that "Lorna 
Doone" was, in the first instance, purchased so 
freely because it was suspected of being one of 
the many scandalous satires then issued in plenty 
and bought eagerly. 

Books have strange fortunes. Their careers 
hang upon a hair. Many nowadays live but a 
season : others may be said never to have lived 
at all. Others yet enjoy a furious, but short, 
vogue, and then die as utterly as those that never 

35 



274 THE SOMERSET COAST 

enjoyed real life. The public originally purchased 
"Lorna Doone " under a misapprehension that 
was, perhaps, not very creditable, and then read the 
book and continued to buy it for its own merits. 
And so it continues to run ever into new editions, 
and has made the fortune of the Exmoor and 
North Devon districts, and the adjoining parts 
of Somerset. Here it should be noted that, 
although the public persists in regarding "Lorna 
Doone " as essentially a Devonshire book, it is 
really chiefly concerned with Somerset. 

Written in the first person singular, as the 
memoirs and experiences of John Ridd, a seven- 
teenth-century yeoman of Oare, the book, it will 
be seen, is cast in a fashion not easy to make con- 
vincing reading, but it successfully surmounts 
the difficulties of armchair expressions, and the 
strong story carries the reader over many a passage 
otherwise dangerously weak. But it is not great 
art. It does not compare with Stevenson's novels 
in the same manner, written nearly twenty years 
later. 

Still, such as it is, it is Blackmore's best, and 
although he wrote many other novels, he never 
again approached " Lorna Doone," either in sheer 
writing, or in commercial success. Booksellers 
stocked, and the public bought, or borrowed from 
the libraries, his later works, because they were 
by the author of " Lorna Doone," and not for their 
intrinsic merits. For Blackmore always just 
failed to convince, and never quite dispelled an 
unreal kind of atmosphere that took his novels 



THE "LORNA DOONE COUNTRY ' 275 

quite out of the experiences of actual life, and 
made his characters so many j umping-j acks, 
obviously actuated by strings. 

The origin of " Lorna Doone " demands some 
notice. Blackmore freely acknowledged that he 
was led to contemplate a romance on the subject 
of the legendary wild squatters of these parts by 
reading a story published in the Leisure Hour 
during 1863, entitled " The Doones of Exmoor/' a 
very poor piece of work, loosely strung together 
from recollections of the Wichehalse and Doone 
legends that had long been floating about the 
West Country. He rightly conceived he could 
do better, and set to work upon his own early 
recollections of those legends, and, moreover, 
revisited Porlock and Oare and other places, for 
the purpose of acquiring more local colour, before 
beginning to write. 

The question, Had the Doones ever a real 
existence ? was debated somewhat half-heartedly 
in the lifetime of Blackmore, but has since his 
death been more and more keenly continued ; 
until the literature written around the subject, 
for and against the credibility of such a band of 
outlaws having really made Exmoor their home, 
has assumed considerable dimensions. 

An examination of the evidence available 
appears to conclusively establish the fact that 
no unassailably genuine documents have ever 
been produced by which the existence of the 
Doones can be proved. No one has ever traced 
legal documents, baptismal or other registers, 



276 THE SOMERSET COAST 

or even records of sessional proceedings in which 
the name Doone appears in Somerset or Devon. 
Outlaws such as these, illiterate and half-savage, 
would not, on the face of it, be likely to find a 
place in church registers ; but they would, on the 
other hand, it is fairly arguable, easily have found 
mention in the records of punishments, great or 
small, inflicted upon criminals or petty evil-doers. 
The inference that they, as Doones, never existed 
here, is therefore well-nigh irresistible. 

But the legendary belief in them in all this 
countryside is strong, and dates far back beyond 
the appearance of Blackmore upon the scene with 
his "Lorna Doone." Aged people who lived at 
Porlock, and in all the districts affected by legends 
of these robbers, and whose memories carried 
them back to the early years of the nineteenth 
century, have given testimony, not only to their 
having heard abundantly of " Doones " on Ex- 
moor, but to their having received the legends 
from their parents. The long-lived fishermen of 
Porlock Weir, confronted with pamphlets written 
and published, elaborately arguing against the 
existence of those people, indignantly declared 
that one might as well pretend there were never 
Aclands of Holnicote. They were not in the 
least concerned with Blackmore' s story ; for they 
had never read it, and did not carry the author's 
name in their minds. A curious thing is that so 
few people of these districts have ever read " Lorna 
Doone." But the fishermen, in common with 
others, knew the usual run of the stories ; al- 



THE "LORNA DOONE COUNTRY' 277 

though, to be sure, they believed that the Doones 
were almost extinguished by the Reds of Culbone, 
and knew little or nothing of the Ridds of Oare. 

We are met with several theories as to the 
origin of these floating legends, and the name of 
Doone. A favourite theory is that which dis- 
misses these stories by contending that the name 
is a corruption of " Danes," and that these more 
or less mysterious outcasts were really belated 
memories of those Danish sea-rovers who made 
such fierce havoc along all these shores in the 
ninth and tenth centuries. 

A second belief, strangely supported by the 
undoubted existence in South Wales of a family, 
or band, of Dwns (the pronunciation is exactly 
that of " Doone ") in the time of Queen Elizabeth, 
is that a number of Welsh outlaws, fleeing from 
j ustice, came across the Channel from Carmarthen- 
shire and became the Exmoor Doones. These 
Dwns were very objectionable people in their own 
country, and were largely intermarried, strange 
to say, with Ryds. 

A third guess at the origin of the Doones is 
found in the belief, sometimes held, that they 
were originally fugitives from Sedgemoor fight, 
hiding from the retribution of the Government 
in what were then the fastnesses of the moor ; 
but the obvious criticism of this view is that all 
danger would have been past after the revolution 
of 1688, and they would then no longer have 
needed to hide. 

The fourth theory, and one stated to have 



278 THE SOMERSET COAST 

been shared by Blackmore himself (although he 
was not necessarily a prime expert in the matter) 
is that the Doones were Scottish exiles. We 
have but to spell the name " Doune " for it to be 
at once recognised as Scottish. Certainly it is no 
West of England patronymic. At what period 
this view of the puzzle holds those supposititious 
Dounes to have come from Scotland does not 
appear. Scottish history may, if necessary, be 
made to afford many likely junctures at which 
various people would find it advisable to seek a 
sanctuary abroad. Of recent years an odd claim 
to relationship with the Doones, involving an 
attempt to connect them with Scottish exiles, 
has been made by the owner of a curiosity-shop 
at Hunstanton, Norfolk. This person, Beeton 
by name, and his niece, one Ida M. Browne, who 
has adopted the pseudonym " Audrie Doon " 
for literary purposes, have since 1901 produced 
what purport to be old family portraits, relics, 
and documents, taking their history back to the 
seventeenth century and connecting them and 
the Doones with the Earl of Moray of the early 
years of that century. According to this story, 
a brother of the Earl of Moray assumed the name 
of Doune, and after much persecution in the 
course of family disputes over property, was 
obliged in 1620 to leave Scotland. This " Sir 
Ensor Doune," as the claim has it, settled in this 
neighbourhood, where he and his "were more 
or less hated and feared by the countryside until 
their return to Perthshire in 1699." 



THE -LORN A DOONE COUNTRY ' 279 

Thus Miss Ida M. Browne. 

From this Sir Ensor Doune was descended 
(always according to this showing) long lines of 
Dounes, or Doones. 

Among the " family relics " is an old oil- 
painting, inscribed " Sir Ensor Doune, 1679 " ; 
an ill-drawn daub representing an elderly man 
with small crumb-brush whiskers, and an ex- 
pression which leaves the beholder in doubt as 
to whether he is half-drunk or half-mad : both 
Doone characteristics, if we have followed the 
legends at all attentively. Another item is an 
old flint-lock pistol inscribed on the barrel " C. 
Doone, 1681, Porlok," and furnished further with 
a representation of skull and cross-bones. These, 
with a genealogy drawn up by one " Charles 
Doone of Braemar," bringing the family down 
from 1561 to 1804, are "the evidences adduced ; 
together with what is put forward as the diary 
of a " Rupert Doune," stated to have been a 
fugitive from Scotland after the rebellion of 1745. 
He, it appears, found his way at last to North 
Devon and Somerset ; to the districts in which 
his seventeenth-century forbears had settled. 
Here are extracts from his journal : 

" Sept. 3rd, 1747. Went to Barum on my 
way to the place they call Oare, where our 
people came after their cruel treatment at the 
hands of Earl Moray." 

" September 3rd, 1747. Got to Oare and then 
to the valley of the Lyn ; the scenery very bonny, 
like our own land, but the part extremely wild 



280 THE SOMERSET COAST 

and lonely. Wandered about and thought of 
the doings of the family when here, which I gather 
were not peaceable/' 

How very precious is that last phrase and 
how entirely unconvincing ! It would, in short, 
were any claim to material things attached to 
these pretensions, be impossible to establish it 
on such slight foundations. 

The first printed collection of Doone legends 
is that to be found in Cooper's " Guide to Lynton," 
published in 1853. It is derived from local folk- 
lore and from a manuscript collection of stories 
made for the Reverend J. R. Chanter in 1839. 
Among these legends, besides those of the Doones, 
we have the wild tales of Tom Faggus, the North 
Devon and Somerset highwayman, and his " en- 
chanted strawberry horse," and the fantastic 
and particularly stupid " legend of the de 
Wichehalse family,* utterly without foundation. 

Caution is therefore evidently to be exercised 
before accepting anything in the way of these 
folk-tales, which tell of a fierce and utterly lawless 
band of Doones who dwelt up the Badgworthy 
Valley, from about the time of the Commonwealth, 
in a collection of some eleven rude stone-built 
huts, and lived by raiding the houses and stock- 
yards of the neighbouring farmers. One of these 
stories tells us how the band was at length exter- 
minated by the long-suffering countryside. One 

* See The North Devon Coast, pp. 25-33 f r a complete ex- 
posure of the lying " de Wichehalse" legend, which contains no 
particle of truth. 



THE "LORNA DOONE COUNTRY 1 281 

winter's night, it appears, when snow was lying 
upon the ground, they made a raid upon Yen- 
worthy Farm, a lonely farmstead, which still 
stands, although since those times rebuilt, in a 
deep valley between the high-road near County 
Gate and Culbone. Here they were received with 
an unexpectedly bold front. Arma virumque cano ; 
only in this instance it is of arms and the woman 
one must sing. It was, in short, the farmer's 
wife who stood at an open window and opened 
fire upon them with a long duck-gun that is to 
this day preserved in the house. This scattering 
discharge appears to have severely wounded one, 
or several, of the raiders, for blood-tracks were 
traced in the snow, leading in the direction of 
Badgworthy. That same night the same party 
(or perhaps really another part of the numerous 
band) appeared at Exford, in midst of Exmoor, 
and attacked a farmhouse, in which were only a 
servant girl and a child. The servant hid in 
the oven, leaving the child in the kitchen. The 
robbers, the legend goes on to declare, killed 
the infant, and went off, with the mocking 
lines, 

If any one asks who 'twas killed thee, 
Tell 'em the Doones of Badgery. 

This outrage formed the breaking-point of 
the rustic endurance of the Doones, who were 
tracked to their lair by large bodies of country- 
folk and slain, and their stone huts demolished. 
The incident of the killing of the infant is told, 

36 



282 THE SOMERSET COAST 

with variations, by Blackmore, in "Lorna Doone " ; 
a footnote declaring the author's belief in the 
truthfulness of the legends regarding the raid, 
but holding that the Doones did not wilfully kill 
the child, which was fatally injured by being 
tossed playfully to the ceiling, and accidentally 
let fall. 

Variations of the final ending of the Doones 
place the scene at Robber's Bridge, on the Weir 
Water, and tell how the Ridds were chiefly instru- 
mental in bringing on the fight. 

Yenworthy Farm, formerly the property of 
the Snow family, was sold to the late Reverend 
W. S. Halliday of Glenthorne, by the late Mr. 
Nicholas Snow. Mr. Halliday also purchased the 
duck-gun traditionally said to have wounded the 
Doones. It is to remain always here, as a relic 
of the lawless old times. 

We may perhaps find in the name of Snow a 
significant clue to the evolutionary processes of 
these old stories told in past generations around 
local firesides on winter's nights in those times 
when few could read, and when, if they owned 
that accomplishment, literature of any sort was 
scarce and dear. In tales repeated from mouth 
to mouth, all kinds of accretions are to be ex- 
pected ; and it will already have been noted 
how many are the variants of these Doone and 
other stories. The patient and contemplative 
seeker after truth may easily find in the name of 
Snow the origin of the snowy night on which the 
Doones attacked Yenworthy Farm, the owner of 



THE "LORNA DOONE COUNTRY 1 283 

the property being gradually brought into the 
tale by the mishearings incidental to repetition. 

The last two surviving Doones are said, in 
legends current some years ago, and related by 
the Rev. W. H. Thornton, many years since 
curate at Countisbury, within the North Devon 
border, near Lynmouth, to have perished about 
the year 1800. They were an old man and his 
granddaughter, who for a long time had been used 
to roam the country, singing carols at Christmas- 
tide. They were said to have been found together 
in the snow, frozen to death, on the road between 
Simonsbath and Challacombe. 

The conclusion of the whole matter appears 
to be that there was really a band of semi-savage 
hut-dwellers established on Exmoor in the middle 
of the seventeenth century, and that they con- 
tinued to be a nuisance to the neighbourhood, in 
the sheep-stealing and petty-pilfering way, until 
perhaps the first few years of the next era. But 
that they were ever the terrible marauders of 
legend is not for a moment to be credited. They 
were probably, like the old type of gipsy, only 
too glad to be able to sneak necessaries covertly, 
and then to make off, and to be let alone ; and 
were never bold enough to make raids. The 
duck-gun at Yenworthy was not used necessarily 
against a Doone : for lonely farmhouses were 
of old, all over the country, not unlikely to be the 
objects of attack. For a striking instance of this 
truth reference may be made to Tangley Farm, 
or " Lone Farm/' as it is often called, in the 



284 THE SOMERSET COAST 

neighbourhood of Burford, Oxfordshire, which 
was attacked boldly by the " Dunsdon Gang " 
one night about 1784.* 

It may here be not altogether out of place to 
remark that anything with which the late Rev. 
W. S. Halliday was associated is to be examined 
closely and suspiciously, for he was a person of a 
saturnine turn of humour, delighting to send 
antiquaries and others upon false scents. His 
ancient habit of burying Roman coins in the 
neighbourhood of his residence at Glenthorne, 
with the singular object of deluding future genera- 
tions of archaeologists into the belief that they 
have come upon plentiful evidence of Roman 
civilisation in these parts, is well known ; and 
being well known (doubtless to the distress of his 
tricksy spirit) is not now likely to deceive any one. 

It must remain an open question as to how 
the outlaws of Badgworthy, in whom, with the 
reservations made above, we are prepared to 
believe, came by the name of Doone. The pro- 
babilities and theories have already been given, 
and the matter must rest there. 

The undoubted existence of old of other 
Devonshire semi -savage bands is itself a strong 
presumption of a like tribe here. The Gubbins 
band, in the neighbourhood of Lydford, " living 
in holes, like swine," was well known in the six- 
teenth and seventeenth centuries, and is made 
the subject of a reference by so serious a writer as 

* See The Oxford, Gloucester, and Milford Haven Road, Vol. I,, 
pp. 248-252, 



THE "LORNA DOONE COUNTRY' 285 

Thomas Fuller, 1660. " Their wealth," he says, 
" consisteth in other men's goods : they live by 
stealing the sheep on the moors. Such is their 
fleetness, they will outrun many horses : vivacious- 
ness, they outlive most men. They hold together 
like bees : offend one, and all will revenge his 
quarrell." 

The Gubbins also have found their way into 
fiction, in " Westward Ho ! " The Cheritons, on the 
other hand, who also lived on the borders of 
Dartmoor, at Nymet Rowland, have not found 
their apotheosis in literature. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

OARE MALMSMEAD THE BADGWORTHY VALLEY 
THE " DOONE VALLEY " GLENTHORNE 

AND now, after having fully considered the evi- 
dence for and against the much-debated existence 
of these old reprobates and masterless men, let 
us advance into their country, and into that of 
the romantic Lorna, who was, of course, an adopted 
Doone merely. 

The way to Oare, branching off to the left, 
plunges immediately down into the profound 
valley of the Oare Water. " Hookway Hill " is 
the name of this abominable road, bad enough 
in its own native vileness, but rendered worse by 
the strange humour of the local road-repairing 
authority, always at pains to deposit cartloads 
of stones on it in the summer, so that there shall 
be plenty of opportunity for the tourist traffic 
to roll this loose material in by the autumn. Thus 
the literary pilgrim to the scenes of "Lorna Doone " 
is made to earn that title, eloquent as it is of 
suffering and difficulties encountered, wrestled 
with, and overcome. Long is the way and steep 
and winding, and he who, cycling, would seek 
to avoid the prodigious stones by tracking to the 



DARE 



287 



side, must make his account with the"yard-long 
projecting blackberry brambles, armed with mon- 
strous thorns, that curry-comb the face, clutch 
off the cap, or take one by the arm in a confi- 
dential grip, like some old friend who would bid 




OARE CHURCH. 



you " wait a bit/' Later on in the year, possibly, 
hedgers will be at work with their " riphooks," 
slashing off these terrors of the way, and then 
woe to the cyclist's tyres ! It is a nice point, 
where and when the blackberry bramble is most 
offensive ; when it is in a position to scarify the 



288 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



traveller's person, or when, shorn off and lying 
in the road, its thorns play havoc with india- 
rubber. 

At the foot of Hookway Hill, the peaty little 
Oare, or Weir, water, rushing over a pebbly bed 
is crossed by Robber's Bridge, and thenceforward 
the road runs level, past Oareford, and then as 




NEAR ROBBER S BRIDGE. 



an exceedingly narrow lane, to Oare ; passing 
two or three solitary farms that in these latter 
days provide for summer visitors whose humour 
is for a fortnight or a month in the wilds. One 
of these is identified, more or less accurately, 
with the " Plovers Barrows' Farm " of the novel. 
Presently Oare church appears, on the left 
hand, almost wholly hidden in a circle of tall, 
spindly trees, and neighboured only by one farm. 



OARE 289 

It is a grey, sad-toned building, this centre of 
interest in Lorna's tragedy. Chiefly in the 
Perpendicular style, it consists of an embattled 
western tower and a nave without aisles. The 
chancel is a modern addition. All day and every 
day in the summer an old man sits in the little 
north porch, with the key of the church on a 
bench beside him, and if, not seeing the key, you 
try the door, and, finding it locked, ask him, 
he will give it you, and leave you to let yourself 
in : mutely remaining there, a living hint for a 
tip. " Lorna Doone" has done this. " Parish clerk, 
he be, an' used to be saxon," remarked an old 
road-mender. " He do mek' a dale o' money," 
is the rustic opinion ; but what amount may be 
represented by "a deal of money " in this es- 
timate does not appear. Also, " Dree an' saxpunz 
a wik," he gets from the parish : so there is no 
old age pension for him ; and unless the parish 
of Oare, in a fit of wild extravagance, springs 
another eighteenpence, he will be a loser. 

The interior of Oare church is, truth to tell, 
lamentably uninteresting, and architecturally 
deplorable. A something wooden, that does duty 
for chancel screen, divides nave from sanctuary, 
and a few characterless marble and slate tablets 
are affixed to the walls : one of them to the 
memory of a Nicholas Snow, 1791. A tablet to 
various members of the Spurryer family exhibits 
a curious uncertainty as to how the name should 
be spelled. " Spurre " and "'Spurry " are the two 
other versions given. The name of " Peter 

37 



THE SOMERSET COAST 



Spurryer, Warden, 1717," appears under one of a 
couple of fearsome paintings in the tower, repre- 
senting Moses and Aaron ; the work of one " Mer- 
vine Cooke, Painter." 

Under a deplorable representation of the 
triple Prince of Wales' feathers, placed on the 




INTERIOR OF OARE CHURCH. 



wall near the pulpit, to commemorate a visit of 
the Prince of Wales in 1863 will be found the only 
interesting object in the church : a rudely carved 
stone bracket supporting what was once a piscina. 
Shaped in the form of a head, the expressionless 
face is flanked by two hands. Very few visitors 
can have any notion of the meaning of this gro- 



OARE 291 

tesque object, and most people set it down as a 
mere fantasy ; but the thing is symbolical, and 
really typifies the Divine gift of speech. Other 
examples are found throughout England : notably 
in the churches of Bere Regis, in Dorsetshire, 
and Gotham, Nottinghamshire.* This carving is 
by far the oldest thing in Oare church, and is 
probably a relic from some earlier building. 

From Oare we come directly to Malmsmead 
where the Badgworthy Water divides Somerset 
and Devon, and is spanned by a grey, timeworn, 
two-arched bridge. 

The scene is sweet and idyllic. Here the 
bridge, grown thickly with ferns and moss, and 
stained red, brown, and orange with lichens, 
spans the water in hump-backed fashion, and 
on the opposite that is to say, the Devonshire- 
shore, the three farmsteads of Malmsmead, Lorna 
Doone, and Badgworthy Farms stand side by 
side in seeming content, sheltered beneath swelling 
hills. Day by day in summer a long succession 
of brakes and flys bring visitors from Lynton and 
Lynmouth and set them down here for an after- 
noon's exploration of the Badgworthy Valley, or 
drive them on to Oare. 

To see one of these brake-drivers take the 
steep rise of the narrow bridge of Malmsmead at 
full speed, and so continue his reckless way along 
the narrow lanes, is to realise that death possibly 
awaits the cyclist who descends hills and rounds 

* See The Manchester and Glasgow Road, Vol. I., pp. 265-6; 
and The Hardy Country, p. 143. 



292 THE SOMERSET COAST 

the sharp corners of these lanes at high speed at 
such times when these vehicles are about. 

For the comfort and refreshment of these 
" Lorna Doone " pilgrims, the three farms, that 
were nothing but humble farmsteads in the days 
before Blackmore wrote that popular romance, have 
now become rustic restaurants, doing a very thriv- 
ing and remunerative business, at prices which, 
calculated on the basis of their charge of twopence 
for a small glass of milk, must be rapidly earning a 
more than modest competence for these simple 
folk. Simple, did I say ? Well, that, perhaps, is 
hardly the word. Nor is the content that seems 
to be pictured here, in every circumstance of 
running water, moss-grown bridge, and bird- 
haunted trees, more than a hollow mockery. Come 
with me over the bridge, into Devon, and I shall 
show you evidence of keen commercial rivalry, 
in the notice-board displayed from the hedge of 
Malmsmead Farm, which says " No connection 
with Lorna Doone and Badgworthy Farm." 
Now it is a curious fact that the names of these 
rival rustic refreshment-providers are the same- 
French but that does not by any means explain 
the hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness that 
are displayed between these neighbours ; for few 
must be the pilgrims in these parts who acquire 
such trivial facts. The stranger coming from the 
direction of Oare and halting awhile on the bridge, 
to admire the beauty of the scene, will soon find 
himself invited, by one or other of these people, 
to patronise his establishment, and will thereby 



MALMSMEAD 



293 



learn something not to the advantage of the rival. 
Hearing the tale of one, you are shocked at the 
depth of infamy with which the other is charged, 
but the people of the neighbourhood take it all 
philosophically enough. ' I 'xpec' they do saay 
'most as bad o' he/' is the general remark. 




MALMSMEAD. 



On a busy day, as many as twenty-seven 
waggonettes and other vehicles may be found at 
Malmsmead, drawn up empty, awaiting the 
return of the "Lorna Doone " sightseers from the 
Badgworthy Valley and the Doone Valley, or 
Oare. Constant repetition of the trip, day by day 
in the season, for many years, has rendered the 
drivers indifferent. Some you may observe 
asleep, others playing cards, and all those who 



294 THE SOMERSET COAST 

are awake swearing. Meanwhile, the pilgrims in 
search of the Doone Valley and the homes of those 
entirely fabulous people have tailed away along 
the footpaths beside the Badgworthy Water, 
in search of literary landmarks. Few, however, 
get as far as the so-called " Doone Valley," for 
it is a very considerable walk ; and most people 
have by this time sadly realised that Blackmore's 
fervid descriptions of places are, as a rule, remark- 
able for their shameless exaggeration. In sober 
truth, the Badgworthy Valley, that opens out of 
Malmsmead, forms a much more striking scene 
than the supposed stronghold of the Doones. 
It is a typical moorland vale, with the Badgworthy 
Water or the " Badgery "' as they style it in 
these parts pouring down out of the sullen 
Exmoor hills, gliding with an oily smoothness over 
waterslides, foaming over stickles, or splashing 
like very miniature Niagaras over great moss- 
grown boulders. 

The valley is not nowadays so lonely as Black- 
moor pictures it : in fact, the terrible "Badgery 
Valley," as described by him, never existed, and 
almost the entire thing is a delusion and a snare. 
Plantations of fir and larch partly clothe the 
rounded hills on the left hand, and a farm-house 
(since the publication of " Lorna Doone" named 
" Lorna' s Bower," in big letters that, painted on 
its whitewashed garden-wall, stare across the 
stream) is perched comfortably half-way up the 
hillside. 

The footpath that winds ribbon-like beside 



THE BADGWORTHY VALLEY 295 

the stream comes presently to Badgworthy Wood, 
a wood of stunted oaks, whose limbs are bearded 
with a grey-green moss that tells sufficiently of 
the humid atmosphere and the mists that drift 
from Exmoor. Parson Jack Russell believed 
Badgworthy Wood to have been a Druid's grave ; 
but we may, perhaps, with safety decline to 
accept him as an authority on the subject. Now, 




BADGWORTHY VALLEY. 



had he expressed an opinion on horse-coping and 
sharp practice generally in horsey matters, his 
views would carry all the weight due to such an 
acknowledged authority. 

Here the foxglove grows in the shade, and 
hart's-tongue ferns come to an unusual size. The 
whortleberry plant, too, flourishes in this moist 
spot to a height prodigious for whortleberries. 
Some of them must run up to eighteen inches ; but 
the berries have not the sweetness of those that 



THE SOMERSET COAST 

grow on the dwarfed plants of the sun-scorched, 
rain-furrowed, and wind-lashed downs. 

Save for the passing of groups of " Lorna 
Doone " pilgrims, the place is very solitary. The 
hills that look down upon the valley here rise 
higher, and draw closer in, swooping down in 
naked round outlines in the foreground, and filling 
in the distance with dense blue-black plantations of 
larch. The bald outlines of those near at hand 
are sharply accented by a wind-swept lone thorn- 
tree that stands out curiously against the sky. 
Below it, stretching down the hillside is an ancient 
earthwork, in shape roughly like the letter Y ; and 
down below this again, the Badgworthy Water 
foams and slides amidst its boulders. 

Quietly walking through the little wood, and 
then silently along the grassy paths through the 
almost breast-high bracken beyond, I started 
a fox from his summer afternoon sleep on a 
sun-warmed boulder ; a fine, but gaunt fellow of 
crimson hue, and with a magnificent brush. Not 
one of your full-fed Midland foxes, plump with a 
long career of raids on poultry-runs, but one 
accustomed to picking up a mere living by sheer 
hard work in these wilds. He loped leisurely 
away into the woods, with an easy swinging gait 
that looked deceptively slow. Up along there, 
where he disappeared amid the tangled branches, 
a monstrous square mass of rock stands half- 
revealed, remarkably like some ancient stone- 
built house ; a veritable Mockbeggar Hall, that, 
on a near approach, is found to be no habitation 



THE "DOONE VALLEY' 297 

of man, but a crannied, cliff -like place, partly 
draped with ivy ; the home of jackdaws, and 
tunnelled about the base of it with the runs of 
hares and rabbits. 

And thus, at length one comes to the terrible 
" Doone Valley/' or, as it is better, and correctly 
known, Lankcombe ; a pretty vale branching to 
the right, not in the least terrible, you know, and 
in fact rather dull and commonplace, after the 
beauties of Badgworthy. Perhaps the enthusi- 
astic Lorna Dooneite, if he would keep his 
enthusiasm, had better not adventure thus far ; 
for though he may indeed see some problematic 
ruins and doubtful foundations of houses, he will 
assuredly be keenly disappointed. A common- 
place shepherd's hut looks down upon the scene, 
young plantations mantle the quite unremarkable 
hills, and romance fails to keep the expected 
tryst. 

But if so be the pilgrim resents being cheated 
of scenic delights, let him then retrace his steps, 
cross Malmsmead Bridge into Devon, and so 
proceed a distance of some six miles down the 
enchanting gorge of the Lyn, to Lynmouth. No 
novelist has flung the spells of romance upon that 
delightful scenery, which is indeed sufficient in 
itself to enchant the stranger, without such 
extraneous aid. Or, if it be desired to return to 
Porlock, let the stranger proceed to Brendon, and 
then descend the hill at Combe Park, coming thus 
again to the ridge of moorland that runs between 
Porlock and Lynmouth. Here turning eastward 

38 



298 THE SOMERSET COAST 

he will come to Glenthorne, where the wooded 
cliffs plunge daringly to the sea, and where the 
boundary line passes that divides Devon and 
Somerset. The name of Glenthorne clearly in- 
vites irresponsible and foolish rhyme, and so, 
responding to so obvious an invitation, these 
pages shall conclude with such : 

There was an old man of Glenthorne, 
Who played " tootle-oo " on the horn. 

He blew night and day 

To his neighbours, till they 
Said, *' Stop it ! you giddy old prawn : * 
Oh ! why don't you place it in pawn ? 

You tootle all night, 

You malicious old sprite. 
We wish you had never been born." 

* " No class " people, these neighbours, obviously. 



INDEX 



ABBOT'S LEIGH, 8, n, 17 
" Abode of Love," 147-50 
Ad Axium (Uphill), 92 
Agapemone, The, 147-50 
Allerford, 246 
Anchor Head, 61, 72 
Ashley Combe, 256, 259 
Avon, River, 2, 4, 6-19, 124 
Avonmouth, 3, 17-19, 20 
Axe, River, 91-3, 96 

BADGWORTHY VALLEY, 280, 

281, 291-7 
-Water, 291, 294 
" Bath Bricks," 121-4 
Bawdrip, 118-21 
Berrow, 102, in, 113, 116 
Blackmore, Richard Doddridge 

271-8 

Blake, Admiral, 128-32, 215 
Bleadon, 71, 73, 93, 98 
Blue Anchor, 198, 199, 202-6 
Bossington, 249-51, 259 
Brean, 89, 98-102, 116 

Down, 3, 73, 91, 96 
Brent Knoll, 103-10 
Brentsfield Bridge, 138 
Bridgwater, 93, 117, 121, 126- 

39, 142, 150, 1 86 
Bristol, 2, 6, 1 8 
Channel, 2, 3, 18, 56, 87, 

92, 124 

Brue, River, in 
Burnham, i, 4, 102, in, 113- 

16, 159 
Bussex Rhine, 135, 136, 138 



CANNINGTON, 93, 139-42, 158 

Charlinch, 148 

Chedzoy, 135 

Cleeve Abbey, 189-98 

Clevedon, i, 13, 22, 23, 24-45, 

76, 113, 192 

Court, 34, 41-4 

Clifton, 6-8 
Suspension Bridge, 3, 

8-17 
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 26- 

31, 142, 152-7 
Combwich, 158 
Congresbury, 49-53 
County Gate, 28 1 
Culbone, 260-68, 281 
Cynuit, Battle of, 93, 158, 160 

DANESBOROUGH, 142 

Doones, The, 270-98 

" Doone Valley," 270, 293, 297 

Dunball, 117 

Dunster, 3, 177, 202, 206-27 



EAST BRENT, 106 
East Quantoxhead, 176 
Easton - in - Gordano 

George's), 19 
Exford, 281 



(St. 



FLAT HOLM, 73, 87-91 
Folk-speech of Somerset, 168- 
72 

GLATT-HUNTING, 174-6 
Glenthorne, 2, 3, 259, 282, 298 



299 



300 



INDEX 



Gore Point, 256 

HALLAM, ARTHUR HENRY, 25, 

32-40 

Highbridge, 111-13 
Hobbs's Boat, 93 
Holnicote, 245, 276 
Hookway Hill, 286, 288 
Homer, The, 246, 251, 259 
Horsey Slime, 117 
Hubba Cock, 160 

Lowe, 1 60 

Pill, 92 

Huntspill, 116 
Hurlstone Point, 256 

In Memoriam, 32, 34-40 

KENN, 45, 40 
Kentsford, 184 
Kewstoke, 61-6 
Kilton, 167 
Kilve, 167, 171-6 
Kingston Seymour, 45, 49 

LANGMOOR RHINE, 135, 138 
Lankcombe, 297 
Lavernock Point, 91 
Lilstock, 167 
" Lorna Doone," 270-98 
Luttrell family, 176, 194, 205, 

206-8, 212-16, 218-20, 225, 

228, 237 
Lympsham, 98 
Lynch Chapel, 244, 251 

MALMSMEAD, 291-4, 297 
Minehead, i, 3, 139, 142, 177, 

i 199, 202, 227 

Mohun family, 208-43 
Monmouth Rebellion, 132-8 
" Mud-horse," The, 159 

NAILSEA, 81 

Nether Stowey, 27, 139, 142-54 

OARE, 260, 269, 277, 279, 
286-93 



Care Water, 286, 288 
Oareford, 288 
Old Cleeve, 198-202 
Orestone Point, 259 
Otterhampton, 158, 160 

PARRET, RIVER, 4, 93, 103, 117, 
122-5, 126, 127, 140, 142, 161 

Pawlett, 117, 159 

Pill, 4, 17-19 

Polden Hills, 117, 135 

Porlock, 2, 3, 139, 244, 246, 
247-56, 263, 268, 297 

Weir, 256-61, 276 

Portbury, 19 

Portishead, 3, 19-23 

Prynne, William, 216-18 

Puxton, 54 

QUANTOCK HILLS, THE, 142-5, 
i54-7> 179 

ROADWATER (ROODWATER), 

THE, 192, 197 
Robber's Bridge, 282, 288 
Rownham Ferry, 8, 9, n, 13 

ST. AUDRIES (WEST QUANT- 

OXHEAD), 142, 177-9 
St. Decuman's, 179-86 
St. George's (Easton-in- 

Gordano), 19 

St. Thomas's Head, 56, 61 
Sampford Brett, 185 
Sand Bay, 55, 6 1 
Sedgemoor (" Sedgemere "), 

102-5, 117, 132, 135-7, 277 
Selworthy, 244 
South Brent, 106-10 
Spaxton, 147-50 
Steart, 4, 158-60 
Steep Holm, 73, 87-90 
Stogursey, 162-7 
Stoke Pero, 260 
Stolford, 16 1 
Swallow Cliff, 55, 6 1 

TENNYSON, LORD, 25, 32-40 



INDEX 



301 



UBBALOWE, 160 
Uphill, 71, 72, 73, 91-6 

WALTON-IN-GORDANO, 23, 30 

Wash ford, 199 

Watchet, i. 154, 179, 186-8 

Wembdon, 139 

West Huntspill, 116 

Quantoxhead, 142, 177-9 
Weston Bay, 61 
Weston, Clevedon, and Portis- 

head Light Railway, 22, 55 
Weston-in-Gordano, 23 
Weston-super-Mare, i, 3, 59, 

61, 66-78, 113 
Weston zoyland, 134, 138 



Wick St. Lawrence, 53, 54 

Williton, 179 

Woodspring (or Worspring) 

Priory, 55, 56-61, 84 
Wordsworth, William, 153-7 
Worle, 49, 55, 71, 84-6 

Hill, 61, 62, 73, 78-84 
Worlebury, 78-84 
Wyndham (or Windham ) 

family, 182-6, 215 
Lady Florence, 183-5 



YATTON, 46-50, 53, 54 

Yenworthy, 281-3 

Yeo, River, 46, 47, 53, 54 



PRINTED AND BOUND BY 

HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD., 

LONDON AND AYLESBURY. 



DATE DUE 



-J 



CAT NO MS?