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Full text of "Thomas Hardy's Dorset"

THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



\x 



THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 



Works by the same Author 

RUDYARD KIPLING: A 
CHARACTER STUDY 

GEORGE BORROW: LORD 
OF THE OPEN ROAD 

WAR AND THE WEIRD 

THE AMBER GIRL 

KIPLING'S SUSSEX 

FRIENDLY SUSSEX. (In the Press) 



%■. 



THOMAS HARDY'S 
DORSET 



BY 



R. THURSTON HOPKINS 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY E. HARRIES 
AND FROM PHOTOGRAPHS 




LONDON 
CECIL PALMER 

OAKLEY HOUSE, BLOOMSBURY STREET, W.C.I 



FIRST 
EDITION 
% 1 9 2 2 
COPY- 
RIGHT 



Printed in Great Britain by the Riverside Press LiMiTECi 

Edinburgh 






CONTENTS 



CHAPTiR PAGE 

I. DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS . . 13 

The Dorset Rustic a Genial Fellow — Unconscious Humour 
— The Jovial Blacksmith — Cider-making — The Poetic 
Tippler — Anglo-Saxon Tongue — Enigmatical Sayings and 
Proverbs — A Dorset Rector and his Ale — Whiplegs — 
Thatch and "Cob'" — A Beautiful Tract between Seaton 
and West Bay— The Devil's Own Card — Thomas Hardy's 
Story of Witchcraft — Conjurer Trendle— The Piskies — 
The Bibulous Farmer and the Piskies — The Cider Mill — 
Happy Days at Hovey's Barn — Marc Bricks — A Game 
of "Hunting" — A Dorset Vicar on Miracles — Akermann's 
Wiltshire G/ossa?'y— William Barnes — "Dorset's good 
enough for me !" — Large Farm Kitchens 

II. BARFORD ST MARTIN TO TISBURY AND 

SHAFTESBURY . . . . .33 

Tisbury — John Lockwood Kipling— The Green Dragon 
at Barford St Martin — The Man who laughed gloriously 
— Points of Perfection in a Greyhound — The Best Dog 
that ever breathed — Shaftesbury and its Traditions — A 
Curious Custom — A Story of Water-carrying Days at 
Shaston — Bimport and Jude (he Obscure — Old Grove's 
Place— Marnhull — Pure Drop Inn 

III. THE VALE OF BLACKMOOR . . .45 

Fortune scowls on me — The Song of the Nightingale — 
A Little Round-Faeed Man — The Hauntings of Woolpit 
House — The Vale of Blackmoor — White-Hart Silver — 
King's Stag Inn — The Length of Life in Animals — Folk- 
Sayings of Blackmoor — The Maidens of Blackmoor — 
Barnes the Poet 

IV. BLANDFORD TO DORCHESTER . . .59 

Blandford — Winterborne Whitchurch — Turberville the 
Poet — Milborne St Andrews — " Welland House " — 
Hardy's Two on. a Tower — Puddletown — The Story 
of Farmer Dribblecombe and the Christmas Ale — The 
Ancient Family of Martins — The Ape of the Martins — 
The Last of the Martins — The Church of Puddletown — 
A Sad Love Story — " Weatherbury Upper Farm " 

7 



1109509 



8 CONTENTS 

CHAI'TKR PACE 

V. DORCHESTER . . . . .69 

Daniel Defoe's Description of Dorchester — Doctor 
Arbuthnot — St Peter's Church — Thomas Hardy of 
Melcombe Regis — William Barnes — Judge JeiJ'reys — 
Maumbury Rings — Mary Channing strangled and burnt 
— Thomas Hardy and Relics of Roman Occupation — 
Maiden Castle — Old Inns — The Grammar School — 
Napper's Mite — Hangman's Cottage— The Bull Stake 
— " Jopp's Cottage " — Priory Ruins — High Place Hall — 
Colyton House — The Mask with a Leer — Thomas Hardy 
and the Habits of Bridge Haunters— Dorchester Ale — 
"Groves" Stingo — The Trumpet Major — Toby F"illpot — 
A Dorchester Butt — Far from the Madding Crowd — 
" Yellowham Wood"— The Brown Owl— The Hedge Pig 
— Fordington — Church of St George — Hardy's 
"Mellstock" — Winterborne Villages — Original Manu- 
script of Mayor of Casterbridge — Wolfeton House — 
Knightly Trenchards — Cerne Abbas and " The Giant " 

VI. A LITERARY NOTE: THOMAS HARDY AND 

WILLIAM BARNES . . . .98 

V- 

Hardy's Grandfather — Hardy as a Poet — Primitive 
Nature Worship — Prose Poem of the Cider-Maker — 
William Barnes — Troublous Days— " Weak Hill " — 
Pathetic Touch 

VII. BERE REGIS AND THE ANCIENT FAMILY OF 

TURBERVILLE ..... 122 

Yellowham Hill—" The Royal Oak" at Bere Regis— My 
Friend the Thatcher — The Complete Guide to Thatching 
— Bere Regis Church — Humorous Norman Carvings — 
Sepulchre of the Turbervilles— Outline of Hardy's Tess — 
A Turberville Tradition— The First of the Turbervilles 
— Bryant's Puddle — The Old Turberville Manor House — 
Descendants of the Illegitimate Turbervilles — A Flagrant 
Poacher — The Tyrant of the Tudor Inn — Hodge the 
eternally efficient — Hardy's Tess and Wellbridge Manor 
House — Tess's Ancestors— Smoke Pence— Superstition 
and Shrewdness mingled in the Rustic — "Old Gover" — 
The Story of the Turberville Coach — Bindon Abbey — 
Tess— A Sinister Old Wood 

VIII. ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH . . 147 

Weymouth and Melcombe Regis — Rivalry of the Old 
Boroughs — George III. — The Sands — Uncle Benjy and 
Inflated Prices — Sandsfoot Castle — Weymouth Localities 
in The Trumpet Major — The Dynasts — The Dorset 
Rustic and Boney — The Girls of Budmouth — The "Naples 
of England " — Mr Harper on the Hardy Country — 
Georgian Houses — The Realest Things — Interesting 



CONTENTS 9 

CHAPTER PAGB 

VIII. ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH — COnt. 

Relics — Preston — Sutton Poyntz — The Trumpet 
Major — Overcombe Mill — To keep Dorset fair — A 
Soldier Poet — Bincombe — Racy Saxon Speech — Hardy 
on Wessex Words— Poxwell—Owermoigne — Lulworth 
Cove — Portisham — Admiral Hardy — Abbotsbury 

IX. POOLE ...... 163 

Poole Harbour — The Quay — An English Buccaneer — 
Brownsea — Lytchett — "To please his Wife" — An 
Enjoyable Coast Ramble 

X. SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE . . . 168 

Kingsley's Description of Swanage — Tilly Whim — 
Thomas Hardy's " Knollsea"— The Quarry Folk— A 
Mediaeval Trades Guild — Old Dorset Family Names — 
Marrying the Land — High Street at Swanage — Quaint 
Houses and a Mill-Pond — St Mary's Church — Newton 
Manor — Studland — The Agglestone — Langton Matravers 
— Kingston — Enckworth Court— Corfe — The Greyhound 
Hotel — An Elizabethan Manor-House — Corfe Church — 
A Brave Good Chest — Curfew — Churchwardens and the 
Degrees of Inebriation ~ Reward for killing a Fox — 
Lonelj' Kingdom of an Inn — Wareham — Wild Life on the 
Frome — Wareham once a Port — The " Blood j'^ Bank " — 
Peter of Pomfret — Meaning of the Name Wareham — 
Bishop Gating — St Mary's Church — "Black Bear "and 
" Red Lion"— Chapel of St Martin 

XI. MY ADVENTURE WITH A MERRY ROGUE . 191 

My Sentimentalism over old Inns, old Ale and old 
Drinking Vessels — Morcombe Lake — "Dorset Knobs" 
— The Lonely Singer — The Leather Black Jack — Sleeping 
with Miss Green — Lyme Regis — The Curiosity Shop — 
"The Spirit of the Artist and the Soul of a Rogue" — 
We are all Rogues ! 

XII. THE DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND . 207 

Stirring Events— Duke of Monmouth — New Inn — Youth 
beckons with Magic Poignancy — Smuggling Days — 
Buddie River Manners — The Cobb — Granny's Teeth — 
Buddie Bridge— Town Hall — Henry Fielding — Church of 
St Michael — Broad Street — The Master Smith of Lyme — 
M'Neill Whistler — Old Songs — Beware of Late Shooting 
— Axminster — George Inn — Musbury — Colytou — 
Knightly Poles—" Little Choke-Bone "—The Courtenays 
— A Rare British Flower — Lambert's Castle — Charmouth 
— Charles II. 



10 CONTENTS 

CHAPTKR FAOE 

Xm. RAMBLES AROUND BRIDPORT . . . 230 

Toller of the Pigs — Noble Windows — Whyford Eagle — A 
Curious Tympanum — A Remarkable Oven — Rampisham 
—"The Tiger's Head "—Cross-in-Hand— Alec D'Urber- 
ville — Batcombe — Conjuring Minterne — The Conjurer of 
Bygone Days — Hardy's Story, "The Withered Arm" 
— Minterne's Tomb — Kipling and a Sussex "Conjurer" 
— Bridport — Charles II. — Hardy's Fellow Toivnsmen 
— "Greyhound Hotel" — A Lover of Horses — " Bucky 
Doo"— "The Bull" and Thomas Hardy— Footpath to 
West Bay— The Chesil Beach— The "Anchor Inn" at 
Seatown 

XIV. ROUND ABOUT BEAMINSTER . . . 244 

Bearainster— Lewson Hill and Pil'son Pen — Blue Vinny 
Cheese — "Trinkrums" on a Church — An Eerie Story — 
Netherbury — Robert Morgan and his " Feeble Hedde " 

A GLOSSARY OF WEST-COUNTRY PROVINCIAL- 
ISMS ...... 249 

Chosen in part from N^otes and Queries ; Akermann's 
Wiltshire Glossary ; The Peasant Speech of Devon, by 
Sarah Hewett ; Crossing's Folk Rhymes of Devon ; The 
Saxon- English, by W. Barnes ; The Works of Thomas 
Hardy ; and many Sources not generally known 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



Birthplace of Thomas Hardy 

Stocks at ToUard Royal 

The Green Dragon at Barford St Martin 

The Giant, Cerne Abbas 

Bingham's Melcombe . 

Hurdle-making at Bere Regis 

Woolbridge House 

Corfe Castle, 1865 

The Famous Tillywhim Caves, 1860 

Corfe Castle, 1860 

The Lonely Singer 

The River Buddie, Lyme Regis 

The Master Smith of Lyme Regis 

Drake Memorial at Musbury 



Frontispiece 



FACING PACK 

34 

38 
92 
100 
126 
136 
160 
170 
176 
194 
202 
218 
222 



11 



THOMAS HARDY'S 
DORSET 

CHAPTER I 

DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 

So to the land our hearts we give 

Till the sure magic strike, 
And Memory, Use, and Love make live 

Us and our fields alike — 
That deeper than our speech and thought 

Beyond our reason's sway. 
Clay of the pit whence we were wrought 

Yearns to its fellow- clay. 

RuDYARD Kipling, 

TO the traveller who takes an interest in the 
place he visits, Dorset will prove one of the 
most highly attractive counties in the kingdom. 
To the book-lover it is a land of grand adventure, 
for here is the centre of the Hardy Country, the 
home of the Wessex Novels. It is in Dorset 
that ancient superstitions and curious old customs 
yet linger, and strange beliefs from ages long ago 
still survive. It is good to find that the kindly 
hospitality, the shrewd wisdom and dry wit, for 
which the peasantry in Thomas Hardy's novels 
are famous, have not been weakened by foolish 
folk who seek to be "up to date." Old drinks 
and dishes that represent those of our forefathers, 
13 



14 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

and the mellow sound of the speech that was so 
dear to Raleigh and Drake, are things that are 
now giving way to the new order of life, alas ! 
but they are dying hard, as behoves things which 
are immemorial and sacramental. The rustics 
are perhaps not quite so witty as they are in 
Hardy's The Return of the Natroe and other 
novels, but they possess the robust forms and 
simple manners of a fine old agricultural people, 
while they show their spirit by the proverb, " I 
will not want when I have, nor, by Gor, when I 
ha'n't, too ! " 

Heavy of gait, stolid of mien, and of indomit- 
able courage, the true Wessex man is a staunch 
friend and a very mild enemy. He is a genial 
fellow and, like Danton, seems to find no use for 
hate. He knows that all things done in hate 
have to be done over again. Imperturbable to 
the last ditch, he is rarely shaken into any ex- 
clamation of surprise or wrath. When he is, 
" Dang-my-ole-wig ! " " Dallee ! " with a strong 
accent on the " ee," or " Aw ! dallybuttons ! " are 
the kind of mild swear-words one hears. But 
when he gets into the towns he forgets these 
strange phrases and his dialect becomes less broad. 

Heavy and stolid the Dorset rustic may be, 
though there is no reason to suppose that he is 
slower than any other rustic, but one is inclined 



DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 15 

to think that the " stupidity " of the countryman 
covers a deep, if only half-realised, philosophy. 
Nevertheless we must admit that Hodge often 
wins through in his slow way. There is a good 
deal of humour in the Dorset rustic, but perhaps 
most of his wit is unconscious. That reminds me 
of the story of a Dorset crier who kept the 
officials of the Town Hall waiting for two hours 
on a certain morning. They were about to open 
the proceedings without him when a boy rushed 
in and handed the Mayor a message. He read 
the message and seemed deeply affected. Then 
he announced : 

"I have just received a message from our crier, 
saying, ' Wife's mother passed away last night. 
Will not be able to cry to-day.' " 

That story may be a very ancient " chestnut," 
but here is a true instance of Hodge's unconscious 
humour. The wife of a blacksmith at an isolated 
forge in Dorset had died rather suddenly, and it 
happened that during one of my rambles I applied 
to the forge for food and lodging for the night. 
The old fellow opened the door to me, and I 
guessed that he was in trouble by the fresh crape 
band round his soft felt hat, which is weekday 
mourning of the rustic. However, the old fellow 
was quite pleased to have me for company, and I 
stayed at his forge for some days. 



16 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

" Her was a clever woman ; her kept my things 
straight," he said to me one night at supper, as he 
looked wistfully at his old jacket full of simple 
rents from hedgerow briars. " But it's no manner 
of use grumbling — I never was a bull-sower lugs 
[a morose fellow]. And thank the Lord she was 
took quick. I went off for the doctor four miles 
away, and when I gets there he was gone off some- 
where else ; so 1 turned, and in tramping back 
along remembered I had a bottle of medicine 
which he did give me last year, so says I, ' That 
will do for the ol' woman' ; so I gave it to her and 
she died." 

The old blacksmith drank his beer and dealt 
with his ham and bread for ten minutes in silence. 
Then he looked into the amber depths of his ale 
and said : " Say, mister — wasn't it a good job I 
didnt take that bottle of physic myself?" 

Dorset is only one of the several cider-making 
counties in Wessex. The good round cider is a 
warming and invigorating drink that is in every 
way equal to a good ale, and sometimes — especi- 
ally if it has been doctored with a little spirit 
and kept in a spirit cask — is considerably stronger, 
and is by no means to be consumed regardless of 
quantity. And one must be cautious in mixing 
drinks when taking cider. But the cider which is 
consumed by the Dorset rustic is, to use a local 



DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 17 

word, rather " ramy " or " ropy " to the palate of a 
person unaccustomed to it. That is to say that 
it is sour and often rather thick. Of course the 
rustic knows nothing, and would care nothing, for 
the so-called cider sold in London which resembles 
champagne in the way it sparkles. Such stuff is 
only manufactured for folk out of Wessex. 

A Dorset rustic, on being reproved by a magis- 
trate for being drunk and disorderly, explained 
that his sad plight was the result of taking his 
liquor the wrong way up ; for, said he, 

" Cyder upon beer is very good cheer, 
Beer 'pon cyder is a dalled bad rider ! " 

The worthy magistrate, not to be vanquished by 
the poetic tippler, told him to remember — 

" When the cyder's in the can 
The sense is in the man ! 
When the cyders in the man 
The sense is in the can." 

" I wish," said an old shepherd to me, with 
regret in his voice, "that you might taste such 
beer as my mother brewed when I was a boy. 
Bread, cheese and ingyens [onions] with a drop of 
beer was parfuse [ample] for a meal in those days, 
'ess fay ! But this beer they sell now is dreiFul 
wishee-washee stuff. I'll be dalled if I'll drink it ; 
'tez water bewitched and malt begridged [be- 
grudged]." In Hodge's uncouth speech are found 



18 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

many words and usages of the Anglo-Saxon 
tongue, though it is not now relished by fastidious 
palates. William Barnes, the Dorset poet, enume- 
rates the chief peculiarities of the Dorset dialect 
in his books on speech lore. He loved the odd 
phrases of children, and it is easy to see why. 
For a child, not knowing the correct method 
of describing a thing and seeking to express its 
meaning, will often go back to the strong old 
Anglo-Saxon definitions. The child can often 
coin very apt phrases. As, for instance, the 
Dorset child who .spoke of honey as "bee-jam." 
Barnes was delighted, too, with the boy "who 
scrope out the ' p ' in ' psalm ' 'cose it didn't spell 
nothen." 

Many of the humours of Arcady have been 
moulded into enigmatical sayings and metaphors 
which may still be heard on the lips of the Dorset 
rustic : 

Tea with a dash of rum is called "milk from 
the brown cow " ; the dead are " put to bed with 
a shovel " ; a noisy old man is a " blaze wig " ; a 
fat and pompous fellow is a " blow-poke " ; the 
thoughts of the flighty girl go a-" bell- wavering " ; 
the gallows is the " black horse foaled by an acorn." 
The Dorset rustic has devised many names for 
the dullard : " billy-buttons," " billy- whiffler," 
"lablolly," "ninnyhammer," and " bluffle-head " 



DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 19 

are some of them. The very sound of such names 
suggests folly. 

" Leer " is a curious word still heard in Dorset 
and Devon. It is used to express the sense of 
craving produced by weakness and long fasting. 
Perhaps Shakespeare used Lem- in a metaphorical 
sense. I remember once hearing a Sussex labourer 
speak of taking his " coager " (cold cheer ?), a meal 
of cold victuals taken at noon, but I am told the 
mouthful of bread and cheese taken at starting in 
the morning by the Dorset rustic rejoices in the 
still more delightful name of " dew-bit." 

" Crowder " (a fiddler) is a genuine British word, 
used up to a few years ago, but I was unable to 
trace anyone using it in Dorset this year. In 
Cornwall the proverb, " If I can't crowdy, they 
won't dance " (meaning, " They will pass me by 
when 1 have no money to feast and entertain my 
friends "), was commonly quoted fifty years ago. 

Another tale regarding unconscious humour is 
told of by a Dorset rector who was holding a Con- 
firmation class. He was one of the old-fashioned 
parsons and made it his solemn duty to call at the 
village inn and drink a pint of ale with his flock 
every evening. One of the candidates for Confir- 
mation was the buxom daughter of the innkeeper, 
and when he came to ask her the usual fixed 
question, " What is your name ? " the girl, holding 



20 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

her head on one side, glanced at him roguishly, 
and said : 

" Now dawntee tell me you don't know. As if 
you diddent come into our place every night and 
say, ' Now, Rubina, my dear, give me a half-pint 
of your best ale in a pint pewter ! ' " 

The story of village sports and the way in which 
the rustic was wont to enjoy himself is always 
interesting. One of the most singular forms of 
contest once in common practice in the west of 
England was whiplegs. The procedure of this pas- 
time consisted of the men standing a yard or so 
apart and lashing each other's legs with long cart 
whips till one cried " Holt ! " The one who begged 
for quarter of course paid for the ale. The rude 
leather gaiters worn by tranters or carters fifty 
years ago would, of course, take much of the 
sting out of the whip cuts. 

Thatch survives in nearly every village, and one 
of the favoured building materials is stone from 
the Dorset quarries. At Corfe the houses are 
built of stone from foundation to roof, and stone 
slabs of immense size are made to take the place 
of tiles and slates. We find " cob " cottages here 
and there, and this perhaps is the most ancient of 
all materials, being a mixture of clay or mud and 
chopped straw. It is piled into walls of immense 
thickness and strength, and then plastered and 



DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 21 

white-washed. The natives in Egypt and Pales- 
tine construct their village homes with the same 
materials, and the result is not only wonderfully 
picturesque, but satisfactory in the more important 
respect of utility. But now the Dorset people 
seldom build their walls of " cob " as of yore, and 
yet such work is very enduring. As an old 
Devonshire proverb has it : " Good cob, a good 
hat, and a good heart last for ever." 

• • • • • • • 

The beautiful tract of coast-line between Seaton 
on the west and West Bay on the east is a region 
of great charm ; for here will be found all the most 
pleasing features of the sister counties, Dorset and 
Devon. The gracious greenery and combes of 
Devon trespass over the border at Lyme Regis 
and so bestow on this nook the wooded charm of 
the true West Country, which is lacking on the 
chalky grass hills of other parts of Dorset. If 
the coast is followed from Lyme Regis we soon 
thread our way into the wild tangles of Devon. 
Things have changed somewhat in these days, but 
still the true son of Devon carries his country 
with him wherever he goes ; he does not forget 
that every little boy and girl born in the West is 
breathed over by the "piskies." But modern 
education has just about killed the " piskies," and 
there are no more ghosts in the old churchyards. 



22 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

There is a reason for the non-appearance of spirits 
at the present day. They have ceased to come 
out of their graves, said an old rustic, " ever since 
there was some alteration made in the burial 
service." A firm belief in ''the very old 'un'' is 
still, however, a most distinctive article of the 
rustic creed. " There was never a good hand at 
cards if the four of clubs was in it," said a rooted 
son of the soil to me. " Why ? " I asked. " Because 
it's an unlucky card ; it's the devil's own card." 
" In what way ? " I urged. " It's the old 'uns 
four-post bedstead," ^as the reply. 

Another rustic remarked in all seriousness that 
he did think wizards " ought to be encouraged, for 
they could tell a man many things he didn't know 
as would be useful to 'un." The belief in witch- 
craft is almost dead, but it is not so many years 
ago that it was firmly held. Thomas Hardy's tale, 
The Withered Arm, it will be recalled, is a story 
of witchcraft. Farmer Lodge brought home a 
young wife, Gertrude. A woman who worked 
on Lodge's farm, Rhoda Brook by name, had a 
son of which the farmer was the father. Rhoda 
naturally resented the marriage, and had a remark- 
able dream in which Gertrude, wrinkled and old, 
had sat on her chest and mocked her. She seized 
the apparition by the left arm and hurled it away 
from her. So life-like was the phantom of her 



DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 23 

brain that it was difficult for her to believe that 
she had not actually struggled with Gertrude 
Lodge in the flesh. Some time afterwards the 
farmer's wife complained that her left arm pained 
her, and the doctors were unable to give her any 
relief. In the end someone suggested that she 
had been " overlooked," and that it was the result 
of a witch's evil influence. She was told to ask 
the advice of a wise man named Conjurer Trendle 
who lived on Egdon Heath. In the days of our 
forefathers the conjurer was an important char- 
acter in the village. He was resorted to by de- 
spairing lovers ; he helped those who were under 
the evil eye to throw off the curse, and disclosed 
the whereabouts of stolen goods. His answers, 
too, were given with a somewhat mystic ambiguity. 
" Own horn eat own corn " would be the kind of 
reply a person would receive on consulting him 
about the disappearance of, say, a few little house- 
hold articles. Well, to continue the story, Rhoda 
Brook accompanied Gertrude to the hut of Con- 
jurer Trendle, who informed the farmer's wife that 
Rhoda had " overlooked " her. Trendle told her 
that the evil spell might be dissolved and a cure 
effected by laying the diseased arm on the neck 
of a newly hanged man. During the absence of 
her husband she arranged with the Casterbridge 
hangman to try this remedy. On the appointed 



24 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

day she arrived at the gaol, and the hangman placed 
her hand upon the neck of the body after the exe- 
cution, and she drew away half fainting with the 
shock. As she turned she saw her husband and 
Rhoda Brook. The dead man was their son, who 
had been hanged for stealing sheep, and they 
harshly accused her of coming to gloat over their 
misfortune. At this the farmer's wife entirely 
collapsed, and only lived for a week or so after. 

Thomas Q. Couch, writing in Notes and Queries, 
26th May 1855, gives a pleasant and light-hearted 
article on the prevailing belief in the existence of 
the piskies in the West Country : 

" Our piskies are little beings standing midway 
between the purely spiritual, and the material, 
suffering a few at least of the ills incident to 
humanity. They have the power of making 
themselves seen, heard, and felt. They interest 
themselves in man's affairs, now doing him a good 
turn, and anon taking offence at a trifle, and 
leading him into all manner of mischief. The rude 
gratitude of the husbandman is construed into an 
insult, and the capricious sprites mislead him on 
the first opportunity, and laugh heartily at his 
misadventures. They are great enemies of sluttery, 
and great encouragers of good husbandry. When 
not singing and dancing, their chief nightly amuse- 
ment is in riding the colts, and plaiting their manes, 



DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 25 

or tangling them with the seed-vessels of the 
burdock. Of a particular field in this neighbour- 
hood it is reported that the farmer never puts his 
horses in it but he finds them in the morning in 
a state of great terror, panting, and covered with 
foam. Their form of government is monarchical, 
as frequent mention is made of the ' king of the 
piskies.' We have a few stories of pisky change- 
lings, the only proof of whose parentage was that 
' they didn't goody ' [thrive]. It would seem that 
fairy children of some growth are occasionally 
entrusted to human care for a time, and recalled ; 
and that mortals are now and then kidnapped, 
and carried off to fairyland ; such, according to 
the nursery rhyme, was the end of Margery 
Daw: 

" ' See-saw, JNIargery Daw 

Sold her bed, and lay upon straw ; 
She sold her straw, and lay upon hay, 
Piskies came and carri'd her away.' 

" A disposition to laughter is a striking trait in 
their character. I have been able to gather little 
about the personalities of these creatures. My old 
friend before mentioned used to describe them as 
about the height of a span, clad in green, and 
having straw hats or little red caps on their heads. 
Two only are known by name, and I have heard 
them addressed in the following rhyme : — 



26 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

" ' Jack o' the lantern ! Joan the wad ! 

Who tickled the maid and made her mad, 
Light me home, the weather's bad.' 

" But times have greatly changed. The old-world 
stories in which our forefathers implicitly believed 
will not stand the light of modern education. The 
pixies have been banished from the West, and 
since their departure the wayward farmer can no 
longer plead being ' pisky-led ' on market nights. 

" ' Pisky-led ! ' exclaimed an old Devon lady to 
her bibulous husband, who had returned home 
very late, pleading h^ had been led astray by the 
piskies. ' Now, dawntee say nort more about 
it' — and with a solemn voice and a shake of her 
bony finger she added : ' Pisky-led is whisky-led. 
That's how it is with you ! ' " 

• ••••• • 

May with its wealth of resurrecting life, its birds' 
songs, its flowers uplifting glad heads, is a beauti- 
ful month in Dorset ; but cider-making time, when 
the trees put on a blaze of yellow and red and the 
spirit of serenity and peace broods over everything, 
is the period that the true son of Dorset loves best. 
Cider-makin' time — what a phrase ! What mem- 
ories ! Why, then, time does indeed blot and blur 
the golden days of youth ! I had almost forgotten 
the sweet smell of pomace and the cider mill — 
things which loomed large in the days when I was 



DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 27 

a boy down Devon way. It is middle age, which 
Stevenson Hkened to the " bear's hug of custom 
squeezing the Hfe out of a man's soul," that has 
robbed me of the power to conjure up those happy 
days from the depths of my consciousness. Cer- 
tainly some virtue within me has departed — what ? 
Well, T do not know, but I cannot recapture the 
delirious joy of the apple harvest in the West. It 
is only a memory. Perhaps it is one of those 
things which will return unexpectedly, and by 
which I shall remember the world at the last. 

Well, then, when I was a boy, cider brewing in 
Hovey's barn was one of the joys of life. A steam- 
engine on four wheels arrived from Exeter, and 
pulleys and beltings were fixed up to work the 
old-fashioned press. Within the barn a rumbling 
machine crushed the apples (which had been grow- 
ing mellow in the loft for a fortnight), and the 
press noisily descended on the racks of pulp and 
sent the liquid into the tubs with a swish like the 
fall of tropical rain. Outside the still October air 
was broken only by the chug — chug — chug of 
the stationary engine and the mellow voices and 
laughter of the farmers who delivered their apples 
and received in exchange barrels of cider. The 
marc from the cider-press was sometimes fed to 
cattle combined with bran, hay and chaff. But I 
suppose that was an old-fashioned idea, and farmers 



28 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

to-day would ridicule such a thing. But Farmer 
Hovey was a keen-eyed man of business — a man 
who could farm his acres successfully in the face 
of any disaster. How I wish that, now grown up, 
I could re-open those records, the book of his 
memory ! But it has long been closed, laid away 
in the tree-shaded churchyard in Fore Street, near 
a flat stone commemorating John Starre : 

JOHN STARRE. 

Starre on Hie 

Where should a Starre be 

But on Hie ? 

Tho underneath 

He now doth lie 

Sleeping in Dust 

Yet shall he rise 

More glorious than 

The Star res in skies. 

1633. 

Making " marc bricks " at Farmer Hovey 's was 
the highest pinnacle of my desire. It was one of 
those peculiarly " plashy " jobs in which any child 
would delight. One could get thoroughly coated 
from head to foot with the apple pulp in about 
half-an-hour. The "marc" was made into bricks 
(about a pound in weight) to preserve it. It was 
first pressed as dry as possible, made into cubes 
with wooden moulds, and stacked in an airy place 
to dry. Hovey liked these bricks for fuel in the 



DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 29 

winter months, and I remember they made a 
wonderfully clear fire. It was while making up 
the apple pulp into bricks that my brothers and 
their friends caught the idea of the game of 
"hunting." The apple pulp was first made up 
into a score of heavy, wet balls. Having drawn lots 
as to who should be the hunter, the winner would 
take charge of the ammunition and retire to the 
barn, which was known as the " hunters' shack," 
while the other boys would shin up the orchard 
trees, or conceal themselves behind walls, ricks and 
bushes. A short start was allowed, and then the 
hunter sallied forth with unrestricted powers to 
bombard with shot and shell anyone within sight. 
The first one who made his way home to the 
" shack " became the next hunter. INIany a satis- 
fying flap on the back of the neck have I "got 
home " with those balls of apple pulp. It was a 
very primitive game, sometimes a very painful 
one, and not infrequently it ended in a general 
hand-to-hand fight. The game was certainly an 
excellent exercise in the art of encountering the 
hard knocks of Hfe with a sunny fortitude. In 
1916 it was my fortune to suffer rather a sharp 
period of shell-fire in Palestine with one of the 
players of this game. My old playmate turned 
to me and yelled : " Hi, there, Bob ! Look out ! 
These coming over are not made of apple pulp ! " 



30 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Then the smell of the cider-press came full and 
strong on the night air of the desert, and England 
and the West Country came back to me in the 
foolishness of dreams, as the Garden of Hesperides 
or any other Valley of Bliss my erring feet had 
trodden in heedless mood. 

There is a story of a Dorset vicar who was 
explaining to his flock the meaning of miracles. 
He saw that his hearers were dull and inattentive, 
and did not seem to grasp what he was saying, so 
he pointed to an old rascal of a villager who always 
lived riotously yet n^ver toiled, and said in a loud 
voice : " I will tell you what a miracle is. Look 
at old Jan Domeny, he hasn't an apple-tree in 
his garden, and yet he made a barrelful of cider 
this October. There's a miracle for you." 

While cycling out of Swanage to Corfe — a back- 
breaking and tortuous succession of hills — I had the 
misfortune to meet a wasp at full speed and receive 
a nasty sting. I asked a little girl if her mother 
lived near, as I wished to get some ammonia for 
it, and was delighted to hear the child call to her 
mother through an open window: "Lukee, mother, 
a wapsy 'ath a stinged this maister 'pon 'is feace." 
Which reminded me of a story in Akerman's Wilt- 
shii^e Glossai^y of a woman who wished to show off 
her lubberly boy to some old dames, and accord- 
ingly called him to say his alphabet. She pointed 



DORSET FOLK AND DORSET WAYS 31 

to the letter " A " and asked Tommy to name it. 
" Dang-my-ole-hat, I dwon't know 'un," said the 
child, scratching his head. His mother passed this 
letter by and moved the point of her scissors to 
the next letter. " What be thuck one, Tommy ? " 
" I knows 'un by zite, but I can't call 'un by's 
neame," replied the boy. " What is that thing 
as goes buzzing about the gearden, Tommy ? " 
The boy put his head on one side and con- 
sidered a moment, then replied, with a sly grin : 
" Wapsy ! " 

William Barnes told a good tale of a West 
Country parson who preached in the rudest ver- 
nacular. A rich and selfish dairyman of his flock 
died, and in place of the customary eulogy at the 

graveside, he said : " Here lies old . He never 

did no good to nobody, and nobody spake no good 
o' he ; put him to bed and let's prache to the 
living." 

And here is a good story related to me by a 
West Country vicar. A lively old lady in his 
parish was very ill, and likely, as it seemed, to die. 
The vicar called on her and talked wath profes- 
sional eloquence of the splendours and joys of 
heaven. But the bright old creature had no fears 
for the future, and indeed was not so ill as they 
supposed. " Yes, sir," she said, " what you say 
may be very true, and heaven may be a bobby- 



32 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

dazzling place ; but I never was one to go a-bell- 
wavering — old Dorset's good enough for me ! " 

Inside the old Dorset farm-houses there is much 
that belongs to other days than these. Many old 
homes have deep porches, with stone seats on each 
side, which lead to the large kitchen. It is large 
because it was built in the days when the farmer 
had labourers to help in the fields, and the mistress 
of the house had women servants to help with the 
spinning and the poultry, and all who lived under 
the same roof had their meals together in this 
room. "^ 

Many of the doors are as large and solid as 
church doors, and one that I saw was studded 
with nails and secured by a great rough wooden 
bar drawn right across it into an iron loop on the 
opposite side at night, and in the day-time thrust 
back into a hole in the thickness of the wall. But 
the majority are more homely than this and have 
only a latch inside raised from outside by a leather 
thong, or by " tirling at the pin," as in the old 
ballad. 



CHAPTER II 

BARFORD ST MARTIN TO TISBURY AND 
SHAFTESBURY 

And she is very small and very green 
And full of little lanes all dense with flowers 
That wind along and lose themselves between 
Mossed farms, and parks, and fields of quiet sheep. 
And in the hamlets, where her stalwarts sleep. 
Low bells chime out from old elm-hidden towers. 

Geoffrey Howard. 

STARTING from Salisbury, the pilgrim of the 
Hardy country, when he has passed through 
Barford St Martin and Burcome, might think it 
worth while to take the road to Tisbury when 
he arrives at Swallowcliff. The large village of 
Tisbury is situated on the north side of the River 
Nadder, on rising ground, and is about twelve miles 
west of Salisbury. There is much of interest to 
be seen, and the spacious church, in the flat 
land at the bottom of the hill and close to the 
river, is well worth a visit. It contains several 
monuments to the Arundels, and on an iron 
bracket near the easternmost window is a good 
sixteenth-century helmet, which has been gilded 
in places and is ornamented with a small band of 
scroll-work round the edges ; there is an added 
spike for a crest. It is a real helmet, not a funeral 

C 33 



34 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

one ; the rivets for the lining remain inside. 
Tradition says it belonged to the first Lord 
Arundel of Wardour, who died in 1639. All the 
seats are of oak and modern, but against the walls 
is some good linen-fold panelling of the seven- 
teenth century or very late sixteenth century. 
In the sacrarium is a fine brass to Lawrence Hyde 
of West Hatch. He was the great-grandfather 
of Queen Mary, 1689, and Queen Anne, 1702. 
He is represented standing in a church in front of 
his six sons, facing his wife and four daughters. 
The inscription is : ^ 

" Here lyeth Lawrence Hyde of West Hatch 
Esqr. who had issue by Anne his wife six sons 
and four daughters and died in the year of the 
incarnation of Our Lord God 1590. Beati qui 
moriuntur in domino." 

The churchyard is a very large one, and the old 
causeway which was used in times of flood is 
most picturesque. Two massive black grave slabs 
at once arrest the eye. In plain, square lead 
lettering one reads : 

JOHN LOCKWOOD KIPLING 

CLE. 

1837-1911. 

ALICE MACDONALD 

WIFE OF 

JOHN LOCKWOOD KIPLING 
1910 




34 



\v 



BARFORD ST MARTIN TO TISBURY 35 

The village of Tisbury existed in the seventh 
century, the earliest extant spelling of the name 
being " Tissebiri " or " Dysseburg," and there 
was a monastery over which an abbot named 
Wintra ruled about 647. Mr Paley Baildon, F.S.A., 
who has devoted considerable time to the in- 
vestigation of the origin of place names, thinks 
that without doubt Tisbury is derived from 
Tissa's-burgh, Tissa or Tyssa being a personal 
name and owner of the estate ; hence it came to 
be known as Tissa's-burgh. 

It was at Tisbury that Rudyard Kipling wrote 
some of his stories after leaving India, and there 
can be little doubt that after some years of absence 
in the East the return to things desperately dear 
and familiar and intimate exercised a strong effect 
upon his thoughts and writing, and prepared a 
way for his delicately fashioned pictures of the 
Old Country in Puck of Book's Hill and Rewards 
and Fairies. 

At Barford St Martin I had the misfortune to 
burst the back tube and tyre of my motor cycle, 
and that is the real reason I arrived at Tisbury. 
I wheeled my machine to the'^ Green Dragon, 
hoping for a lift to a place where I could get fixed 
up with a new tyre. A large wagon was stand- 
ing outside the inn, and as it bore the name, 
Stephen Weekes, Tisbury, upon it, I penetrated 



36 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

to the bar-parlour, thinking that I might induce 
the driver to take me with the machine into that 
village. 

The owner of the wagon was sitting inside 
with two large bottles of stout before him. He 
was a burly fellow in shirt-sleeves and a broad 
straw hat. I saw he was fifty or thereabouts — 
not a mere wagoner, but a small farmer who 
would have answered to the description of Farmer 
Oak by Thomas Hardy in his opening to Far 
from the Madding Crowd. He was of a more 
jovial type than most Dorset men I have met, 
and after submitting to his fire of questions I 
asked him gently, in jest, if he would require any 
assistance with his two bottles. 

" Aye," he answered, quizzing at me with his 
merry eyes. " I shall require another bottle to 
assist me, I think." 

He looked at me a moment with seriousness 
and then he laughed to the point of holding his 
sides. He slapped his knees, shouted, roared 
and almost rolled with merriment. I looked at 
the farmer, not without a feeling of admiration. 
It was perhaps a very poor jest, you will say. 
But how well a simple jest became the fellow ; 
how gloriously he laughed. Down in my heart 
I knew that no man could laugh as he did and at 
the same time possess a mean mind. He was as 



BARFORD ST MARTIN TO TTSBURY 37 

broad as the earth, and his laughter was just as 
limitless. Talk of good things : there may be 
something finer than a hearty laugh — there may 
be — perhaps . . . 

At this moment he called for two glasses, and 
explained to the landlord that now he would 
drink out of a glass, seeing that he was in 
company. 

" Then tell me," I said, " why do you drink 
out of the bottle when you are alone ? " 

" Why, you don't get no virtue out of the beer 
'thout you drink it out of the bottle. No, fay ! 
Half of the strength is gone like winky when you 
pour it into a glass." 

" I believe you are right," I said, " and I 
especially commend you for drinking beer. Ale 
is a great and generous creature ; it contains 
all health, induces sleep o' nights, titillates the 
digestion and imparts freshness to the palate." 

" 'Tis the only drink that will go with bread 
and cheese and pickling cabbage," dashed in the 
farmer. 

" 'Tis a pity," I said, " that so many workers 
in London take bread and cheese with tea and 
coffee, for there is no staying power in such a 
mixture." 

" It can't be good," he shouted. " It can't be 
healthy." 



38 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

The farmer's name was Mr Weekes — the same 
as it was painted on the wagon outside — and he 
said that he would be veiy glad to take me with 
my machine into Tisbuiy, where there was a 
motor garage. He made an extraordinarily shrill 
noise with his mouth and a fine greyhound that 
had been sleeping beneath the table bounded up. 

" This long-dog," said Mr Weekes, "is a 
wonderfully good dog— the best dog of his kind 
in the world." 

Mr Weekes is never half-hearted about things. 
His enthusiasm is prodigious. He is like a human 
hurricane when he launches upon any of his pet 
subjects. At once he fell to explaining the points 
and final perfection of a perfect greyhound. I 
remember a quaint rhyme he quoted, which is 
perhaps worth repetition here : 

" The shape of a good greyhound is : — 
A head like a snake, a neck like a drake ; 
A back like a beam, a belly like a bream ; 
A foot like a cat, a tail like a rat." 

The farmer, then, I say, was not the kind of 
man to qualify any of his remarks, and he re- 
asserted his claim that, in the concrete, in the 
existent state of things, his dog was the best that 
breathed. 

This he said for the sixth time, drank up his 












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BARFORD ST MARTIN TO TISBURY 39 

stout, and after helping me to lift my machine 
into the wagon, climbed up on to his seat, I by 
his side. He then flicked his horses gently with 
his whip and they began to amble along with 
the wagon. On the way to Tisbury the farmer 
talked with the greatest friendliness, and when 
we arrived at his farm he insisted on bringing me 
in to supper. He showed me his orchard, barns 
and a very fine apple-tree of which he was 
enormously proud, and pulled me an armful of 
the finest apples he could find. 

"Take these apples home," he said, watching 
me with his merry eyes ; " they make the best 
apple pies in the world." 

An armful of apples of prodigious size is not 
exactly the kind of thing one welcomes with a 
broken-down motor cycle two hundred miles 
from home, but I dared not refuse them, and so 
I stuffed them into all my pockets. Finally my 
good friend insisted on keeping me under his roof 
for the night. 

After my machine had been repaired next 
morning I went on my way, thinking what a fine, 
merry, hospitable fellow the Dorset yeoman is — 
if you only approach him with a little caution. 

• • • • • • • 

I left my friend the yeoman farmer with regret, 
regained the main road and soon came into 



40 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Shaftesbury, or Shaston, as it is commonly called. 
This town is very curiously placed, on the narrow 
ridge of a chalk hill which projects into the 
lower country, and rises from it with abruptness. 
Hence an extensive landscape is seen through the 
openings between the houses, and from com- 
manding points the eye ranges over the greater 
part of Dorset and Somerset. To add to the 
beauty of the position, the scarped slope of the 
hill is curved on its southern side. Shaftesbury 
is one of the oldest towns in the kingdom. Its 
traditions go back^ to the time of King Lud, 
who, according to Holinshed, founded it about 
1000 B.C. A more moderate writer refers its origin 
to Cassivellaunus. However, it is certain that 
Alfred, in the year 880, founded here a nunnery, 
which in aftertimes became the richest in England, 
and, as the shrine of St Edward the Martyr — 
whose body was removed to this town from 
Wareham — the favourite resort of pilgrims. 
Asser, who wrote the Life of Alfred, has described 
Shaftesbury as consisting of one street in his time. 
In that of Edward the Confessor it possessed 
three mints, sure evidence of its importance ; and 
shortly after the Conquest it had no less than 
twelve churches, besides chapels and chantries, 
and a Hospital of St John. 
The view from the Castle Hill at the west end 



BARFORl) ST MARTIN TO TISBURY 41 

of the ridge is very extensive, and from all parts 
of the town you come unexpectedly upon narrow 
ravines which go tumbling down to the plain 
below in the most headlong fashion. The chief 
trouble in the olden days was the water supply. 
On this elevated chalk ridge the town was obvi- 
ously far removed from the sources of spring 
water, and the supply of this necessary article 
had been from time out of mind brought on 
horses' backs from the parish of Gillingham. 
Hence arose a curious custom which was annu- 
ally observed here for a great number of years. 
On the Monday before Holy Thursday the mayor 
proceeded to Enmore Green, near Motcombe, 
with a large, fanciful broom, or hyzant, as it was 
called, which he presented as an acknowledgment 
for the water to the steward of the manor, to- 
gether with a calf's head, a pair of gloves, a gallon 
of ale and two penny loaves of wheaten bread. 
This ceremony being concluded, the byzant — 
which was usually hung with jewels and other 
costly ornaments — was returned to the mayor 
and carried back to the town in procession. 

About 1816 the Mayor of Shaftesbury refused 
to carry out the custom, and the people of Enmore 
were so put out by his omission in this respect 
that they filled up the wells. The Shastonians 
paid twopence for a horse-load of water and a 



42 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

halfpenny for a pail "if fetched upon the head." 
I heard a rather amusing story of the water- 
carrying days. A rustic who had been working 
on the land all day in the rain came " slewching " 
up Gold Hill, feeling very unhappy and out of 
temper. At the summit of the hill he passed by the 
crumbling church of St Peter's, but did not pass 
the Sun and Moon Inn. Here he cheered his 
drooping spirits with a measure of old-fashioned 
Shaftesbury XXX stingo, and, thus strengthened, 
he went on his way home, expecting to be wel- 
comed with a warmth savoury supper. But the 
news of his call at the inn had reached his wife 
before he arrived home, and being rather an ill- 
natured person, she decided to punish him for 
loitering on his way. " Oh," she said to him, " as 
you are so wet already, just you take this steyan 
[earthenware pot] and fill it with water at Toute 
Hill spring, and don't go loafing at the Sun and 
Moon again." The rustic took up the pitcher 
without a word, filled it and returned to his sour 
housewife ; but instead of putting the pitcher 
down, he hurled the contents over her, saying: 
" Now you are wet too, so you can go to the spring 
and fetch the water." 

Bimport is a wide and comfortable street which 
skirts the north crest of Castle Hill. It is a street 
of honest stone houses, and readers of Jude the 



BARFORD ST MARTIN TO TISBURY 43 

Obscure will look here for Phillotson's school and 
the " little low drab house in which the wayward 
Sue wrought the wrecking of her life." Their 
house, " old Grove's Place " — now called " Ox 
House "—is not difficult to find. As you come 
up from the Town Hall and Market House to the 
fork of the roads which run to Motcombe and 
East Stower, Bimport turns off to the left, and a 
hundred or so yards down is Grove's Place, with 
a projecting porch and mullioned windows. It 
was here that Sue in a momentary panic jumped 
out of the window to avoid Phillotson. The name 
of the house derives from that of a former in- 
habitant mentioned in an old plan of Shaftesbury. 
Poor, highly strung Sue Bridehead, with her 
neurotic temperament, could not throw off the 
oppressiveness of the old house. " We don't live 
in the school, you know," said she, " but in 
that ancient dwelling across the way, called old 
Grove's Place. It is so antique and dismal that 
it depresses me dreadfully. Such houses are 
very well to visit, but not to live in. I feel 
crushed into the earth by the weight of so 
many previous lives there spent. In a new place 
like these schools there is only your own life to 
support." 

The village of Marnhull is situated in the Vale 
of Blackmoor, six miles from Shaftesbury. It is 



44 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

the " Marlott " of Hardy's novel Tess, the village 
home of the Durbeyfield family. It contains 
little of interest. The Pure Drop Inn, where 
" there's a very pretty brew in tap," may be the 
" Crown." Here John Durbeyfield kept up Tess's 
wedding day " as well as he could, and stood treat 
to everybody in the parish, and John's wife sung 
songs till past eleven o'clock." There is a Pure 
Drop Inn at Wooten Glanville and another at 
Wareham ; one of these most probably suggested 
the name. The fine church is of the eighteenth- 
century Gothic (171^, and it has often been re- 
garded by strangers as being three hundred years 
earlier. The font bowl, late Norman, was un- 
earthed in 1898, also the rood staircase and squint 
and the piscina. Some ancient alabaster effigies, 
ascribed to the middle of the fifteenth century 
and representing a man in armour and two female 
figures, are placed on a cenotaph in the north 
aisle. Some authorities claim that they represent 
Thomas Howard, Lord Bindon, and his wives, and 
are of a later date. Nash Court, a little to the 
north, is a fine Elizabethan mansion, formerly 
the seat of the Husseys. 



CHAPTER III 

THE VALE OF BLACKMOOR 

MY motor cycle had carried me without a 
hitch from London to Melbury Abbas— 
then Fortune scowled on me. With ridiculous 
ease I had rolled along the roads all day, and I 
had been tempted to ride through the warm 
autumnal darkness till I came to the Half Moon 
Inn at Shaftesbury, where the roads fork away 
to Melbury Hill, Blandford and Salisbury. But 
a few hundred yards out of Melbury Abbas, and 
then Fortune's derisive frown. From a deceptive 
twist in the road I dashed into a gully, and 
my machine bumped and rattled and groaned 
like a demon caught in a trap. It performed 
other antics with which this chronicle has no 
concern, and then refused to move an inch 
farther. 

But the song of a nightingale in a grove of 
elms near the road made full amends for my 
ill luck ! It is beautiful to hear his sobbing, 
lulling notes when one is alone on a dark night, 
and Shelley was not far wrong in styling it 

voluptuous. 
45 



46 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 



(( 



I heard the raptured nightingale 
Tell from yon elmy grove his tale 

Of jealousy and love, 
In thronging notes that seem'd to fall 
As faultless and as musical 

As angels' strains above. 
So sweet, they cast on all things round 
A spell of melody profound : 
They charm 'd the river in his flowing, 
They stay'd the night- wind in its blowing. 



55 



I lit a pipe and made myself comfortable on 
the green bank of the roadside. It was simply a 
matter of waiting fo> a carter to give me a lift. 
Soon I heard footsteps approaching me. " Good- 
evening," said a friendly, quavering voice, and a 
little, round-faced gentleman in a grey overcoat 
and straw hat emerged from the shadows. I 
questioned him as to the distance of the nearest 
inn or cottage where I could get a shelter for the 
night, and explained how my machine had failed 



me. 



The nearest inn is two miles away. I'm 
afraid they do not accommodate travellers," he 
replied. 

Is this your home ? " I asked. 

Oh yes ! Woolpit House is just beyond 
those elms. I live there. 1 am not a native of 
these parts. I have only lived there for the last 
six months. I am sorry I came here, for the place 






THE VALE OF BLACKMOOR 47 

does not suit me. Do you care to leave your 
motor cycle ? You are most welcome to a bed 
in my house," he added with cheerful simplicity. 

" I should be greatly indebted to you. But 
shan't I be a bother to your family at this time of 
the night ? " 

" I have none." 

I wheeled my machine through a gate and left 
it the other side of the hedge, where I hoped it 
would be safe till morning. We came to the 
house across a footpath — a small stone- gabled 
sixteenth-century building. A whisp of mist 
from a bubbling stream circled the place and gave 
it an air of isolation. We entered a lit room, 
which was of solemn aspect, and my friend gave 
me a deep-seated chair. 

" Are you serious in saying that you do not like 
Dorset ? " I questioned. 

The little man smiled quietly, sadly. 

" It is not Dorset exactly. But since I came to 
live here I have become a bundle of nerves. It is 
nothing— I think it's nothing." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" I only think — I only wonder " 

" Yes ? " 

" This is such an old house. All sorts of things 
must have happened here. And from the first 
moment I came into the place I had a sudden 



48 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

sensation of there being something unseen and 
unheard near me. There is an essence in this 
house — an influence which stifles all laughter and 
joy. I wonder if you will feel it as I do ! " 

" Bit creepy," I said, and at the same time 1 
came to the conclusion that the old fellow was a 
little eccentric, and this idea of the house being 
on the left side of the sun was merely a foolish 
weakness. 

" Yes, yes," he said, musing; "queer, isn't it? 
But you don't know the queerest." 

He pondered a ^moment, then suddenly he 
wagged his crooked fore-finger at me and said : 
" It is something more than an essence — it is 
stronger. The other evening when it was getting 
dusk I got up from my chair to light the candles, 
and I saw, as I thought, someone about six yards 
from that window — outside on the flagstones. 
It was more than a shadowy shape. So without 
waiting I ran out into the hall and opened the 
front door, feeling sure I should see a tramp or 
someone there. But the drive was quite empty — 
I only looked out into the dusk. But as I looked 
out something that I could not see slipped through 
and passed into the house. The same kind of 
thing has happened a dozen times." 

The little old man passed his hand over his brow. 

" Here," I said rather brusquely, " you're not 



(( 
(( 



THE VALE OF BLACKMOOR 49 

well ; you're just a bundle of nerves. Look here, 
sir, you want a holiday." 

" Yes," he said, wiping his brow. " I try to 
tell myself that it is all rot ... all my fancy. 
But what would you do ? " 
See a doctor," I replied. 

Doctors ? . . . Bah ! I'll tell you," he whis- 
pered. " I want a ghost-doctor to rid me of 
this invisible, pushing thing. It gets stronger 
every time ! At first it just slipped through ; 
just a bit more than a gust of wind. But now 
it's getting compact. To-night it drove me out of 
the house : that was how I came to be wandering 
out on the highroad like a lost soul." 

" But . . . goodness, sir, such a thing out- 
rages reason." 

" You can say what you will, but it is there, 
and it is growing tangible. Last night I could 
distinguish his features as he came up close to 
the window. He smiled at me, but the smile was 
one of inscrutable evil. He resents me being in 
this house. I shall have to abandon it." 

" This little man is either off his head, or 
worse," I said to myself. 

In spite of the warmth of the room, I felt 
myself shiver. 

At that moment I heard the sound of a stealthy 
footstep outside the door. 

D 



50 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

The little old man jumped up. 

" I say," he said in an odd voice, " did you 
hear ? " 

I pretended I had not heard. 

" Ah, you didn't . . . and, of course, you 
didn't feel anything. It must have been my 
imagination." 

A wave of shame ran over me. I knew that I 
had not the courage to listen to the old fellow's 
story any longer. I finished my whisky-and-soda 
and stood up. 

"It is very kind of you, sir, to offer me a 
lodging for the night. I am feeling rather 
weary and would like to go to bed now, if it 
is convenient to you." 

" Come then, sir," he said, with his old-fashioned 
politeness, and he walked towards the door. 

Then I saw the thing. There wasn't a shadow 
of doubt about it. I saw the little old man open 
the door. The next moment he started back. 
Then he thrust forward with his body, and I 
could see him bearing against something. He 
swayed, physically, as a man sways when he is 
wrestling. A second after he was free. 

" Well, you've seen it — what do you think of 
it ? " he said presently, as I followed him into 
the hall. His face had turned cloudy whitish 
grey. 



THE VALE OF BLACKMOOR 51 

I laughed, but the full horror of it had soaked 
into me. 

I followed my host up a series of stairs. He 
carried a candlestick, with his arm extended, so 
as to give me a guiding light. The old house was 
dim and chilly in its barrenness. He stopped at 
a door in a long, narrow corridor and set the 
candlestick down. 

"This is your room." 

With a gentle bow and a kindly smile he 
opened the door for me. 

" Good-night, sir. Can you see your way 
down ? " 1 asked. 

"I have a candle in my pocket." 

He lit it at mine. Another quiet, friendly smile, 
and I watched him out of sight along the corridor. 

I stood perfectly still for a moment just inside. 
Then a curious feeling of something dreadful 
being close at hand was present in my mind. Of 
course it was all humbug, and my nerves were 
deceiving me. But I could not shake myself free 
from the notion that I was not alone. 

There is an essence in all these old dwellings 
that comes out to meet one on a first visit. I 
recognise the truth of that — for how often have 
I noticed how, under one roof, one breathes a 
friendly air, and under another queerness runs 
across the spine like the feet of hurrying mice. 



52 



THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 



In this house there was something sinister and 
unwholesome. I cursed my luck for driving me 
into such a place. A night spent under a hedge 
would have been more desirable. However, I 
turned into bed and passed rather a broken night, 
with stretches of dream-haunted sleep inter- 
spersed with startled awakenings. The old house 
seemed to be full of muffled movements, and once 
(timid fool that I was) I could have sworn that 
the handle of my door turned. It was with a 
considerable qualm, I must confess, I lit my 
candle and opened the door. But the gallery 
was quite empty. I went back to bed and slept 
again, and when next I woke the sun was stream- 
ing into my room, and the sense of trouble that 
had been with me ever since entering the house 
last evening had gone. 

When I arrived at the breakfast-table the little 
old man was seated behind the coffee-pot, and his 
face was quite glowing and wreathed in smiles. 
Morning had brought a flood of hard common sense 
to him, as clear as the crisp sunshine that filled 
the room. He had already begun and was con- 
suming a plateful of eggs and bacon with the most 
prosaic and healthy appetite. 

" Slept well ? " he asked. 

" Moderately," I said, feeling ashamed of my 
timidity in the morning light. 



THE VALE OF BLACKMOOR 53 

" I am afraid I talked rather wildly last night," 
remarked the little man, in a voice pregnant with 
reason. 

" Yes— an amazing quantity of nonsense," I 
consented. " Where did you learn hypnotism ? " 

My host's brow clouded slightly. 

" You see," I continued, " you must have 
thrown a spell over me, for I really believed in 
your ghost story, and now I have come to the 
conclusion that you were joking." 

" Never mind. It doesn't matter." 

But the little man didn't look up from his 
plate. He only shook his head. 

Well (to get on), we finished breakfast. After 
smoking a pipe on the verandah with my host (who 
might have been a wizard for aught I knew, at 
least this was my fantastic thought) I went out 
and looked at my machine, and was fortunate 
enough after an hour's tinkering to get her going 
again. The little man insisted that I should take 
a small glass of some liqueur brandy of which he 
was very proud. Sol took some of the wonderful 
stuff— strong, sufficient, soul-filling, part of the 
good rich earth— and went out into the sunlight, 
and taking a foot-bridge over running water put 
myself out of the little wizard's power. 

• •••••• 

About six months later I was hunting in an old 



54 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

bookseller's shop in Salisbury when by something 
more than a mere coincidence I came across a 
small booklet called Twenty-five Years of Village 
Life, dealing with the district around Shaftes- 
bury, and I read : 

" It is somewhat remarkable that, during the 
last ten years, two vicars of the parish have died 
under somewhat mysterious circumstances at 
Woolpit House. It is not necessary to go into 
details here, but many wild stories about this 
picturesque old house are told around the country- 
side. The country people have an odd way of 
accounting for the ill fortune that has always 
attended Woolpit House. They say that it was 
built by the order of a dissolute old nobleman 
who had sold his soul to the devil, and in order to 
pass bad luck to all his successors who might 
occupy the mansion he caused grave-stones from 

churchyard to be rooted up and built into 

the walls." 



The Vale of Blackmoor or Blackmore, watered 
by the upper part of the Stour, was formerly 
known as the White Hart Forest, but is now a strip 
of pasturage celebrated among farmers as one of 
the richest of grazing lands. Its marshy surface 
is speckled by herds of lazy cattle, and by busier 
droves of pigs, of which this vale supplies to 



THE VALE OF BLACKMOOR 55 

London a larger number than either of the 
counties of Somerset and Devon. Blackmoor is 
also known for the vigorous growth of its oaks, 
which thrive on the tenacious soil. Loudon says 
it was originally called White Hart Forest from 
Henry III. having here hunted a beautiful white 
hart and spared its life ; and Fuller gives the 
sequel to the tale. He says that Thomas de la 
Lynd, a gentleman of fair estate, killed the white 
hart which Henry by express will had reserved 
for his own chase, and that in consequence the 
county — as accessory for not opposing him — was 
mulched for ever in a fine called " White-hart 
Silver." " Myself," continues Fuller sorrowfully, 
'* hath paid a share for the sauce who never 
tasted the meat." Loudon also informs us that 
the vale contained LoseVs Wood, in which stood the 
Haven's Oak mentioned by White in his Natural 
History of Selhorne. 

The Vale of Blackmore stretches westward 
from the Melburys north of Cattistock (Melbury 
Bub, Osmund and Sampford) to Melbury Abbas 
south of Shaftesbury. 

Down beyond Pulham, seven miles south- 
west of Sturminster Newton, on a flat and dismal 
road, stands at the King's Stag Bridge across 
the River Lidden an inn called " King's Stag," 
with a signboard representing a stag with a 



56 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

ring round its neck, and the following lines 
below : — 

" When Julius Caesar reigned here, 
I was then but a little deer ; 
When Julius Caesar reigned king, 
Upon my neck he placed this ring, 
That whoso me might overtake 
Should spare my life for Caesar's sake." 

The belief in the longevity of the stag prevails 
in most countries. Linnaeus {Regnum Animale) 
says of the Cervus Elaphus : " ^tas Bovis tan- 
tum ; fabula est lotigaevitatis cervi." 

From a formula, as old as the hills, relating to 
the length of life of animals and trees we learn 
that — 

" Three old dogs make one horse ; three old 
horses make one old man ; three old men, one old 
red deer ; three old red deer, one old oak ; three old 
oaks, one brent-fir [fir or pine dug out of bogs]." 

If a dog be supposed to be old at eight years, 
this will give : horse, 24 ; man, 72 ; deer, 216 ; 
oak, 648 ; bog fir, or brent fir, 1944 years. 

The proverbs which follow are not folk-sayings, 
but they are given a place here as being quaint 
and curious, and not devoid of a certain interest, 
as they were collected by the author while tramp- 
ing in the Vale of Blackmore during the summer 
of 1921 : — 



THE VALE OF BLACKMOOR 57 



&( 



When the gorse is out of blossom, kissing 
is out of fashion " (i.e. kissing is never out of 
fashion). 

" Trouble ran off him like water off a duck's 
back." 

" If you sing before breakfast, you'll cry before 
night." 

" Turn your money when you hear the cuckoo, 
and you'll have money in your purse till the 
cuckoo comes again." 

" Plenty of lady-birds, plenty of hops." (The 
coccinella feeds upon the aphis that proves so 
destructive to the hop-plant.) 

" March, search ; April, try ; 

May will prove if you live or die." 

" When your salt is damp, you will soon have 
rain." 

" It will be a wet month when there are two 
full moons in it." 

Certainly the maidens of Blackmore have a 
benediction upon them, granted them for their 
homeliness and kindness. Their eyes are quiet 
and yet fearless, and all the maids have something 
wifely about them. William Barnes, the poet 
of the Dorset valley, praising the Blackmoor 
maidens, says : 

" Why, if a man would wive 
An' thrive 'ithout a dow'r, 
Then let en look en out a wife 
In Blackmore by the Stour." 



58 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

William Barnes was not a wild wooex', and he 
found joy and adventure in a smile and a blush 
from a Blackmore milkmaid after having carried 
her pail, and he was satisfied to know that she 
would have bowed when she took it back had it 
not been too heavy. Perhaps — dizzy fancy ! 
— sweet Nan of the Vale would not have refused 
a little kiss ! At all events Barnes knew woman- 
hood in its perfection when he met with it — the 
maid who was " good and true and fair " was his 
preference. 



CHAPTER IV 

BLANDFORD TO DORCHESTER 

If we return, will England be 

Just England still to you and me ? 

The place where we must earn our bread ? — 

We who have walked among the dead, 

And watched the smile of agony, 

And seen the price of Liberty, 

Which we have taken carelessly 

From other hands. Nay, we shall dread. 

If we return. 
Dread lest we hold blood-guiltily 
The thing that men have died to free. 
Oh, English fields shall blossom red 
In all the blood that has been shed, 
By men whose guardians are we. 

If we return. 

F. W. Harvey. 

BLANDFORD, or, to give the town its full 
title, Blandford Forum, gets its name from 
the ancient ford of the Stour, on a bend of 
which river it is pleasingly placed in the midst 
of a bountiful district. It is called '' Shottsford 
Forum " in Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, 
and in The Woodlanders we are told that " Shotts- 
ford is Shottsford still : you can't victual your 
carcass there unless you've got money, and you 
can't buy a cup of genuine there whether or no." 
The long chief street of the town has a bright, 

modern aspect, due to the great fire of 1731 which 

59 



60 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

destroyed all but forty houses in the place. There 
is nothing to detain the pilgrim here, but it 
makes a good centre for any who are exploring 
the country around it. 

Five miles of rather hilly road brings us to 
Winterborne Whitchurch, which has a very in- 
teresting church containing a curious old font dated 
1450 and a fine old pulpit removed from Milton. 
The grandfather of John and Charles Wesley was 
vicar here from 1658 to 1662. Of the poet George 
Turberville, born here about 1530, very little is 
known. He was one' of the "wild" Turbervilles, 
and one would like to learn more about him. 
Anyway, here is a specimen of his verse : 

" Death is not so much to be feared as Daylie 

Diseases are. 
What ? 1st not foUie to dread and stand of Death 

in feare 
That mother is of quiet rest, and grief away does 

weare ? 
Was never none that twist have felt of cruel Death 

the Knife ; 
But other griefes and pining paines doe linger on 

thro life. 
And oftentimes one selfsame corse with furious 

fits molest 
When Death by one dispatch of life doth bring 

the soul to rest." 

When we arrive at Milborne St Andrews we 
are within eight miles of Dorchester. The Manor 



BLANDFORD TO DORCHESTER 61 

House, up a by-road and past the church of St 
Andrew, is the original of " Welland House " in 
Hardy's Two on a Tower. This was once the 
residence of the Mansell-Pleydell family, but 
since 1758 it has been used as a farm-house. The 
village was formerly an important posting-place 
between Blandford and Dorchester, and we are 
reminded of the coaching days by the effigy of a 
white hart on the cornice of the post office, in time 
past a busy inn. 

Puddletown is our next halt on the road. It is 
a considerable village whose church has a chapel 
full of ancient monuments to the Martins of 
Athelhampton. Canon Carter held the living 
here in 1838, and when he first arrived the news 
that he neither shot, hunted nor fished disturbed 
the rustic flock, and they openly expressed their 
contempt for him. Then he replaced the village 
church band with a harmonium, and the story 
gained so much bulk and robustity in travelling, 
as such stories do in the country, that I have no 
doubt he seemed a sort of devastating monster. 

After this he did a most appalling thing : he 
tampered with a very ancient rectorial gift of a 
mince-pie, a loaf of bread and a quart of old ale to 
every individual in the parish, not even excluding 
the babies in arms, and ventured to assert that 
the funds would be better employed in forming a 



62 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

clothing club for the poor. Carter was a very 
worthy man, but somehow I cannot forgive him 
for this. He should have placed himself a little 
nearer to the full current of natural things. In 
the essence the ancient gift was " clothing " — 
solid and straightforward. It was surely in this 
spirit that Bishop John Still penned his famous 
drinking song : 

" No frost nor snow, no wind, I trow, 
Can hurt me if I would, 
I am so wrapt and throughly lapt 
Of jolly good ale and old." 

So at the next tithe-day supper at the Rectory 
a farmer who had in him the Dorset heart and 
blood, a very demi-god amongst the poor of 
Puddletown, arose in his place and asked the 
good Canon Carter if he still held to his purpose 
of converting the Christmas ale into nether gar- 
ments for little boys, and the Canon replied to the 
effect that it was his intention to carry out that 
reform. 

Then the farmer, full of the West, who had not 
come to talk balderdash, shouted : " I ban't 
agwaine tu see the poor folk put upon. I'll be 
blamed ef I du." His voice was very strong and 
echoed in the rafters in an alarming way, for he 
was of the breed that said " good-morning " to a 
friend three fields away without much effort. At 



BLANDFORD TO DORCHESTER 63 

this point certain stuffy people folded their hands, 
and called out " Fie ! " and " Shame ! " for it was 
their purpose to curry favour with the vicar, they 
having many small children in need of nether 
garments. 

But the farmer cried out over them all (and all 
the other farmers cheered him on) : " I tellee what 
tez. I don't care a brass button for you, with all 
your penny-loaf ways. That to ye all ! " And 
with that he snapped his fingers in the face of all 
the company, walked out, mounted his powerful 
horse and turned back to his great, spacious 
farm-house. Here he counted out a great bundle 
of Stuckey's Bank notes, and calling his bailiff 
sent them post-haste to the landlord of the King's 
Arms with word to the effect that they were 
lodged against a quart of Christmas ale for every 
soul who should care to claim it on Christmas Eve. 
That is the story of Farmer Dribblecombe, and may 
we all come out of a trying position as well as he. 

But to return to the church. There are the 
old oak pews of bygone days, a choir gallery with 
the date 1635, an ancient pulpit and a curious 
Norman font shaped like a drinking-bowl. The 
most interesting corner of the church is the 
Athelhampton aisle, which is entered through a 
quaint archway guarded by a tomb on which lies 
an armed knight carved in alabaster. Buried 



64 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

here are the Martins of many generations. They 
once owned the old manor-house, with the great 
barns behind it and the fertile acres spreading far 
on every hand. They once went forth swiftly 
and strongly, on hefty and determined horses, 
and worked hotly, and came in wearied with long 
rides and adventures. Now they rest together, 
" mediae vally recumbent," and when their ghosts 
walk they do not inquire who owns the land where 
they tread. They let the hot world go by, and 
wait with patience the day when all the old 
squires of Athelhampton shall be mustered once 
again. A great company indeed ! The offspring 
of one noble family, who, following each other for 
nearly four hundred years, ruled as lords of their 
little holding in Dorset. The first of the family 
came to Athelhampton in 1250, and the last in 
1595. Everywhere is to be found carved on their 
tombs the dark and menacing motto, beneath 
their monkey crest, "He who looks at Martins' 
Ape, Martins' Ape shall look at him ! " The crest 
is, of course, a play on the word Martin, which is 
an obsolete word for ape. But the menace of 
the motto has lost its power these three hundred 
years, and nothing of the might and affluence of 
the Martins remains but their mutilated effigies. 
I have been wondering to-day how they must 
look out upon us all with our cinematographs, 



BLANDFORD TO DORCHESTER 65 

jazzy-dances, lip-sticks, backless gowns, cigarettes, 
whisky and pick-me-ups, and our immense concern 
over the immeasurably trivial. I don't know 
that I said it aloud — such things need not be said 
aloud — but as I read a touching epitaph which 
urged a little prayer for two of the family, I 
turned almost numbly away, while my whole 
being seemed to cry out : " God rest your souls, 
God rest your souls." 

Here, since we are on the subject, is the touching 
prayer from the lips of one of the ancient house of 
the Martins : 

" Here lyeth the body of Xpofer Martyn Esquyer, 
Sone and heyre unto Syr Wm: Martyn, knight. 
Pray for their souls with harty desyre 
That both may be sure of Eternall Lyght ; 
Calling to Remembrance that evoy wyhgt 
Most nedys dye, and therefore lett us pray 
As others for us may do Another day." 

The last of the Martins was the Kni'ght Nicholas 
who was buried here in 1595, and the last pass- 
age of his epitaph are the words, " Good-night, 
Nicholas ! " With these appropriate words they 
put Nicholas to rest, like a child who had grown 
sleepy before it was dark. After all, we are all 
children, and when the shadows lengthen and the 
birds get back to the protecting eaves, we too 
grow tired — tired of playing with things much 
too large for us — much too full of meaning. 



66 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

The church of Puddletown, or " Weatherbury," 
brings us to the crowning catastrophe of the sad 
love tale of Francis Troy and Fanny Robin, for it 
is the scene of the sergeant's agony of remorse. 
Having set up a tombstone over the poor girl's 
grave, Troy proceeds to plant the mound beneath 
with flowers. " There were bundles of snowdrops, 
hyacinth and crocus bulbs, violets and double 
daisies, which were to bloom in early spring, and 
of carnations, pinks, picotees, lilies of the valley, 
forget-me-not, summer's farewell, meadow saffron, 
and others, for the later seasons of the year." 
The author minutely describes the planting of 
these by Troy, with his " impassive face," on 
that dark night when the rays from his lantern 
spread into the old yews " with a strange, illum- 
inating power, flickering, as it seemed, up to the 
black ceiling of cloud above." He works till 
midnight and sleeps in the church porch ; and 
then comes the storm and the doings of the gar- 
goyle. The stream of water from the church roof 
spouting through the mouth of this " horrible 
stone entity " rushes savagely into the new-made 
grave, turning the mould into a welter of mud 
and washing away all the flowers so carefully 
planted by Fanny's repentant lover. At the 
sight of the havoc, we are told, Troy " hated 
himself." He stood and meditated, a miserable 



BLANDFORD TO DORCHESTER 67 

human derelict. Where should he turn for 
sanctuary ? But the words that burnt and 
withered his soul could not be banished : " He 
that is accursed, let him be accursed still." 

The ill-named River Piddle— a rippling, tor- 
toiseshell-coloured stream at times —runs through 
the streets. An old thatched house is peculiar 
by reason of the fact that it has broken out into 
a spacious Georgian bow window— a " window 
worthy of a town hall," as Sir Frederick Treves 
has remarked. It is supported by pillars, and 
has a porch-like space beneath devoted to a 
flower-bed. 

" Weatherbury Upper Farm," the home of 
Bathsheba, which she inherited from her uncle, 
is not to be found in Puddletown, but if the 
pilgrim desires to find it he must proceed up the 
valley of the Puddle, in the direction of Piddle- 
hinton. Before reaching the village he will come 
to Lower Walterstone, where a fine Jacobean 
manor-house, bearing the date 1586, will be 
easily recognised as the original which Thomas 
Hardy made to serve as the " Upper Farm " in 
Far from the Madding Crowd. 

In the story the author has placed the farm a 
mile or more from its actual position, and it is 
vividly portrayed : 

" A hoary building, of the Jacobean stage of 



68 TPIOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Classic Renaissance as regards its architecture, 
and of a proportion which told at a glance that, 
as is so frequently the case, it had once been 
the manorial hall upon a small estate around it, 
now altogether effaced as a distinct property, 
and merged in the vast tract of a non-resident 
landlord, which comprised several such modest 
demesnes. Fluted pilasters, worked from the 
solid stone, decorated its front, and above the roof 
pairs of chimneys were here and there linked by 
an arch, some gables and other unmanageable 
features still retaining traces of their Gothic 
extraction. Soft brown mosses, like faded 
velveteen, formed cushions upon the stone tiling, 
and tufts of the house-leek or sengreen sprouted 
from the eaves of the low surrounding buildings. 
A gravel walk leading from the door to the road 
in front was encrusted at the sides with more 
moss — here it was a silver-green variety, the nut- 
brown of the gravel being visible to the width of 
only a foot or two in the centre. This circum- 
stance, and the generally sleepy air of the whole 
prospect here, together with the animated and 
contrasting state of the reverse facade, suggested 
to the imagination that on the adaptation of the 
building for farming purposes the vital principle 
of the house had turned round inside its body to 
face the other way." 



CHAPTER V 

DORCHESTER 

When I am dead, my body shall go back 

To the hills between the Ridgeway and the Sea — 

To the Earthworks and terracing and ancient bridle-track 

To the Dorset hills my heart has held in fee ; 

My limbs that thrived on them shall be their very own, 

I shall live again in little wayside flowers ; 

My flesh and bones and sinew shall give life to mighty trees 

And my spirit shall abide in ancient towers. 

When I am dead, my dust shall mix with clay, 
And " puddle " some lone dew-pond on the hill. 
So every Dorset lad who drinks upon his way 
Will somehow lead me back to Dorset still. 

Anonymous. 

DORCHESTER deserves to be chosen as 
the headquarters of the earliest of a series 
of excursions in Dorset, not only by reason of the 
premier position which it holds in the country, 
but also on account of the multitude of interesting 
surroundings which claim the attention of the 
literary pilgrim, the antiquary and the archaeol- 
ogist. The town is situated on a hill which slopes 
on the one side to the valley of the Frome, and 
extends on the other in an open country, across 
which run the Roman roads, still used as the 
highways. The principal thoroughfares divide 
Dorchester pretty equally, the High Street 
69 



70 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

intersecting it from east to west, the South Street 
and North Market in the opposite direction. On 
the south-west is the suburb of Fordington. The 
principal street — on the line of the Via Iceniana 
— ends abruptly at the fields, and on the south 
and west is the rampart, planted with rows of 
sycamore and chestnut trees as a walk. 

Daniel Defoe, in his whimsical description of 
his pilgrimage From London to Land's End, pub- 
lished in 1724, gives an entertaining survey of the 
town at that period. He says : " Dorchester is 
indeed a pleasant, agreeable town to live in, and 
where I thought the people seemed less divided 
in factions and parties than in other places ; for 
though here are divisions, and the people are not 
all of one mind, either as to religion or politics, 
yet they did not seem to separate with so much 
animosity as in other places. Here I saw the 
Church of England clergyman and the Dissenting 
minister or preacher drinking tea together, and 
conversing with civility and good neighbourhood, 
like Catholic Christians and men of a catholic 
and extensive charity. The town is populous, 
though not large ; the streets broad ; but the build- 
ings old and low. However, there is good com- 
pany, and a good deal of it ; and a man that coveted 
a retreat in this world might as agreeably spend 
his time, and as well, in Dorchester as in any town 



DORCHESTER 71 

I know in England. . . . There are abundance of 
good families and of very ancient lines in the 
neighbourhood of this town of Dorchester, as the 
Napiers, the Courtneys, Strangeways, Seymours, 
Banks, Tregonwells, Sydenhams, and many others, 
some of which have very great estates in the 
county, and in particular Colonel Strangeways 
(ancestor of the present Earl of Ilchester), Napier 
(ancestor of the present Lord Arlington) and 

Courtnev." 

As to the healthiness of Dorchester, the editors 
of Hutchins's second edition wrote : " The 
pleasant and healthy situation of this town 
deserves an encomium. The famous Doctor 
Arbuthnot, coming hither in his early days with 
a view to settle in it, gave as a reason for his 
departure that ' a physician could neither live 
nor die in Dorchester.' " 

St Peter's Church, a venerable edifice, occupies 
a prominent position at the intersection of the 
four streets and rises in its tower to a height of 
ninety feet. It is a well-proportioned building, 
with Norman porch and some monuments, with 
effigies, to Lord Holies of Ifield and to two un- 
known Crusaders, in coats of mail, with their 
legs crossed. 

In the north wall of the chancel is placed an 
altar-tomb, which is supposed to be that of the 



72 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

founder. A mural tablet on the south wall 
commemorates THOMAS HARDY, Esquire, of 
Melcombe Regis, who founded and endowed the 
Free Grammar School. 

There were two brasses, now lost, one on the 
chancel floor, on grey stone, over the effigy of a 
woman kneeling, reading: 

" Miserere mei d's s'dum magnum mi'am tuam." 

The other : 

"Hie jacet Johanna de Sto. Omero, relicta 
Rob'bi More, qui o"biit in vigilia ste. Trinitatis 
sc'do Die mensis Anno D'ni MCCCCXXXVI. 
Cuj". a'ie p'piciet' D. Amen." 

Tradition says that the church was erected by 
" Geoffrey Van, his wife Anne and his maid Nan." 
Two of the six bells are mediaeval. Close to the 
south porch is a bronze statue of William Barnes. 
His learning, his writings and poems in the Dorset 
dialect, his kindliness to his poor and his parish 
made him universally beloved. The pedestal 
bears the simple inscription : " William Barnes. 
1801-1886," and the following lines from his poem, 
Culverdell and the Squire : 



(( 



Zoo now I hope his kindly feace 
Is gone to vind a better pleace. 
But still we' vo'k a-left behind. 
He'll always be a-kept in mind." 



DORCHESTER 73 

On 3rd September 1685 Judge Jeffreys opened 
his Bloody Assize at Dorchester. Lord Macaulay 
says : " By order of the Chief Justice, the court 
was hung with scarlet, and this innovation 
seemed to the multitude to indicate a bloody 
purpose. More than 300 prisoners were to be 
tried. The work seemed heavy, but Jeffreys 
had a contrivance for making it light. He let it 
be understood that the only chance of obtaining 
pardon or respite was to plead guilty. Twenty- 
nine who put themselves on their country, and 
were convicted, were ordered to be tied up with- 
out delay. The remaining prisoners pleaded 
guilty by the score. Two hundred and ninety- 
two received sentence of death." Thirteen were 
executed here on 7th September. The formidable 
judge's chair is preserved in the Town Hall, and 
visitors are shown the picturesque timber house 
in High Street West at which, tradition hath it, 
this brutal judge lodged. 

Dorchester derives its name from the ancient 
Roman name of Durnovaria, and Thomas Hardy 
has transferred part of this Latinity in writing 
of Fordington as " Durnover " in his novels. 
Close to the London and South- Western Railway 
station, on the Weymouth Road, is a field, now 
a municipal pleasure ground, containing what is 
called Maumbury Rings— a large, oval, grassy 



74 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

mound, curved like a horseshoe. This great 
earthen ring, which it is estimated would hold 
10,000 spectators, is supposed to be the work of 
prehistoric man, adapted by the Romans to the 
purposes of an amphitheatre. Extensive excava- 
tions were carried on in the amphitheatre by the 
British Archaeological Association and the Dorset 
Field Club during five summers — 1908, 1909, 
1910, 1912 and 1913 — and among many interest- 
ing finds by the archaeologists' spade must be 
mentioned the oblong cave at the east end, prob- 
ably for the confinement of beasts, prehistoric 
shafts in which picks of red-deer antlers, worked 
flints, etc., were found, sundry human skeletons 
interred, and a well of the Civil War period, dur- 
ing which the symmetrical terraces were appar- 
ently added to the original ancient banks. 

A crowd of 10,000 people is said to have been 
gathered upon it at the execution of Mary Chan- 
ning, the wife of a grocer at Dorchester, who was 
strangled and burnt in the arena for poisoning 
her husband in 1705. 

The Via Iceniana or Icknield Street came out 
of Wiltshire by Blandford to Dorchester and 
strikes on towards the west by Eggerdun Hill, 
about ten miles from the town, where it is clearly 
marked. 

A Roman road went from Dorchester to 



DORCHESTER 75 

Ilchester, by Bradford and Stratton, so called as 
the Stret-tun, the village on the Roman stratum 
or road. 

"It is impossible," writes Mr Hardy, " to dig 
more than a foot or two deep about the town, 
fields and gardens without coming upon some tall 
soldier or other of the Empire, who had lain there 
in his silent, unobtrusive rest for one thousand 
five hundred years. He was mostly found lying 
on his side, in an oval scoop in the chalk, like a 
chicken in its shell, his knees drawn up to his 
chest, sometimes with the remains of his spear 
against his arm, a fibula or brooch of bronze on 
his breast or forehead, an urn at his knees, a jar 
at his throat, a bottle at his mouth, and mystified 
conjecture poring down upon him from the eyes 
of boys and men who had turned to gaze at the 
familiar spectacle as they passed on." 

In the excavations made when Mr Hardy's 
house at Max Gate was commenced graves were 
discovered, of which Mr Hardy wrote : "In two 
of them, and I believe in a third, a body lay on its 
right side, the knees being drawn up to the chest 
and the arm extended downwards, so that the 
hand rested against the ankles. Each body was 
fitted with, one may almost say, perfect accuracy 
into the oval hole, the crown of the head touching 
the maiden chalk at one end and the toes at the 



76 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

other, the tight-fitting situation being strongly 
suggestive of the chicken in the egg-shell." 

Maiden Castle, the Mai Dun or " Hill of 
Strength," one of the finest old camps in England, 
is situated most conspicuously to the right of a 
Roman road (now the Weymouth highway). It 
may astonish the traveller by the scale of its three 
earthen ramparts, the innermost being sixty 
feet in height and a mile or more in circumfer- 
ence. It is about two and a quarter miles south- 
west from the centre of the town, and may be 
reached by continuing on through Cornhill, cross- 
ing the bridge over the Great Western Railway 
and turning to the right just beyond it. Here, 
where the road reaches the open, the left-hand 
track must be followed. On climbing to the 
camp the pilgrim will find that these ramparts 
are as steep as they are lofty, and that they are 
pierced by intricate entrances formed by the 
overlapping ends of the valla and additionally 
strengthened by outworks. The view is com- 
manding, but not remarkable for beauty, the 
principal featui'es being the Roman roads diverg- 
ing from Dorchester and the innumerable barrows 
which dot the hills near the sea. Opinions differ 
as to the origin of this remarkable hill fortress, 
but the weight of authority is in favour of its 
construction by the Britons and its subsequent 



DORCHESTER 77 

occupation as a summer camp by the Roman 
troops stationed at Dorchester. 

The visitor will be interested in the old inns 
of Dorchester. In High Street East stands, just 
as described in The Mayor of Casterbridge, that 
fine and most comfortable of country hotels — the 
King's Arms. From a doorway on the oppo- 
site side of the street Susan and Elizabeth-Jane, 
amid the crowd, witnessed the dinner given to 
the mayor. Through the archway of this inn 
Boldwood carried Bathsheba, fainting at the news 
of her husband's death. From the diary of a 
landowner of the neighbourhood (Mr Richards, 
of Warmwell), written more than a hundred and 
fifty years ago, we find that the King's Arms and 
Antelope were Dorchester inns in his days, as he 
writes that on Saturday, 13th October 1697, he 
"agreed w**" Capt° Sidenham, at the Antelope 
in Dorchest', for 100 great bushells of his choice 
oats, at 6s. 8d. p' sack," and at other times dined 
and transacted other business there ; and at the 
King's Arms bought " choice early pease for seed 
at 3s. 6d. per bushell." 

At the Antelope Hotel, which is in South Street, 
Lucetta, passing through the town on her way to 
Budmouth (Weymouth), appoints to meet Hen- 
chard, but is not on the coach she mentioned. 
The White Hart Tavern stands at the east 



78 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

entrance to the town, close to the bridge. Here 
Troy lay in hiding, planning his surprise return to 
Bathsheba ; we also encounter this inn again in 
The Withered Arm. Gertrude Lodge came here 
on her fatal visit to Casterbridge gaol. 

On the opposite side of the road to the King's 
Arms the pilgrim may still take his ale at the 
Phoenix, the scene of Janny's last dance in 
Wessex Poems. In The Mayor of Casterbridge 
Hardy mentions a low inn in Mixen Lane (Mill 
Lane, Dorchester) frequented by all sorts of 
bad characters. In 'early editions it is called 
"St Peter's Finger," and it would seem that the 
author borrowed this curious name from a genuine 
inn sign at Lychett Minster. The real inn was 
called the King's Head, which has now been 
pulled down. 

The Graynmar School is in South Street, an 
Elizabethan foundation, built in 1569, endowed 
with a small farm at Frome Vauchurch, and some 
houses in the town, by Thomas Hardy, Esq., 
of Melcombe Regis. Additions were made to 
it in 1618, on ground given by Sir Robert 
Napper. 

Close to the school are Napier's Almshouses, 
called Napper 's Mite, founded in 1616 by Sir 
Robert Napier for ten poor men, who have a 
weekly dole and a small section of garden ground. 



DORCHESTER 79 

The front, which opens into a small cloister, bears 
a clock, on a large stone ogee-corbelled bracket, 
a model of one that bears the sign of the old 
George, or Pilgrim's, Inn at Glastonbury. 

The Hangman's Cottage, mentioned in the 
story of The Withered Arm, is still extant. It is 
a small grey cottage in the meadows by the 
Frome, opposite the gaol. It is one of a cluster 
of cottages built of flint and chalk, faced with 
red brick and strengthened with iron ties. 

The Bull Stake and the gaol, both of which 
figure in the novels, are in North Square, near 
St Peter's and the Corn Exchange. Approach- 
ing the Frome, we pass close to the Friary 
Mill (the old mill of the suppressed Franciscan 
Priory), near which was Jopp's cottage, to which 
Henchard retired after his bankruptcy. " Trees, 
which seemed old enough to have been planted 
by the friars, still stood around, and the back hatch 
of the original mill yet formed a cascade which had 
raised its terrific roar for centuries. The cottage 
itself was built of old stones from the long- 
dismantled Priory, scraps of tracery, moulded 
window-jambs and arch-labels being mixed in 
with the rubble of the walls." The remains of 
the Priory ruins were used up as building material 
and no trace is left. The prison was largely built 
from its remains, while in its turn it is said to have 



80 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

been erected from the ruins of a castle built by 
the Chidiocks. 

In South Street we shall find the High Place 
Hall, which was Lucetta's house. It stands at 
the corner of Durngate Street, but the fa9ade has 
been modernised and the lower portion has been 
converted into business premises. The depress- 
ing mask which formed the Keystone of the back 
door was taken from Colyton House, in another 
part of the town. If we go to the bottom of 
South Street and take the turning to the left we 
quickly come to a qiiiet byway on the right near 
the shire hall, called Glydepath Road. On the 
left of this narrow thoroughfare is the early 
eighteenth-century mansion called Colyton House. 
Here will be found the long filled-in archway, 
with the mask as its keystone : " Originally the 
mask had exhibited a comic leer, as could still be 
discerned ; but generations of Casterbridge boys 
had thrown stones at the mask, aiming at its 
open mouth, and the blows thereat had chipped 
off the lips and jaw as if they had been eaten 
away by disease." The building to which the 
archway belongs was formerly the county town 
residence of the Churchills. This is Lucetta's 
house as to character, though not as to situation. 

Just beyond the White Hart we come to the 
first of the two bridges (the second, Grey's Bridge, 



DORCHESTER 81 

being only a few hundred yards farther along) 
which have their parts in The Mayor of Caster- 
bridge. Thomas Hardy has quaintly described 
these bridges and has discoursed upon the habits 
of their frequenters : 

" Two bridges stood near the lower part of 
Casterbridge (Dorchester) town. The first, of 
weather-stained brick, was immediately at the 
end of High Street, where a diverging branch 
from that thoroughfare ran round to the low- 
lying Durnover lanes, so that the precincts of the 
bridge formed the merging-point of respectability 
and indigence. The second bridge, of stone, was 
farther out on the highway— in fact, fairly in the 
meadows, though still within the town boundary. 
. . . Every projection in each was worn down to 
obtuseness, partly by weather, more by friction 
from generations of loungers, whose toes and heels 
had from year to year made restless movements 
against these parapets, as they had stood there 
meditating on the aspect of affairs. 

" To this pair of bridges gravitated all the 
failures of the town. . . . There was a marked 
difference of quality between the personages who 
haunted the near bridge of brick and the person- 
ages who haunted the far one of stone. Those of 
lowest character preferred the former, adjoining 
the town ; they did not mind the glare of the 



82 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

public eye. . . . The miserables who would 
pause on the remoter bridge were of a politer 
stamp." 

Dorchester has now lost its fame for brewing 
beer. But about 1725 the ale of this town 
acquired a very great name. In Byron's manu- 
script journal (since printed by the Chetham 
Society) the following entry appears: — 

"May 18, 1725. I found the effect of last 
night drinking that foolish Dorset, which was 
pleasant enough, but did not at all agree with me, 
for it made me stupid all day." 

A mighty local reputation had " Dorchester 
Ale," and it still commands a local influence, for 
this summer I was advised by the waiter of 
the Phoenix Hotel to try a bottle of " Grove's 
Stingo " made in the town. It is a potent 
beverage — and needs to be treated with respect, 
to be drunk slowly and in judicious moderation. 
Thomas Hardy thus describes this wonderful 
stuff, the " pale-hued Dorchester " in his novel, 
The Trumpet Major : 

" In the liquor line Loveday laid in an ample 
barrel of Dorchester strong beer. ... It was of 
the most beautiful colour that the eye of an 
artist in beer could desire ; full in body, yet 
brisk as a volcano ; piquant, yet without a 
twang ; luminous as an autumn sunset ; free 



DORCHESTER 83 

from streakiness of taste ; but, finally, rather 
heady." 

Francis Fawkes, in his song of the Brown Jug 
(1720-1777), mentions the "Dorchester Butt," 
and perhaps the Dorset reader, with, it may be, 
some tender memories of his own, will fancifully 
identify " sweet Nan of the Vale " with another 
maid down Blackmore Vale way. 

" Dear Tom, this brown jug that now foams with 

mild ale 
(In which I will drink to sweet Nan of the Vale), 
Was once Toby Fillpot, a thirsty old soul 
As e'er drank a bottle or fathom'd a bowl ; 
In boosing about 'twas his praise to excel, 
And among jolly topers he bore off the bell. 

It chanced as in dog-days he sat at his ease 
In his flow'r-woven arbour as gay as you please. 
With a friend and a pipe puffing sorrows away, 
And with honest old stingo was soaking his clay, 
His breath-doors of life on a sudden were shut, 
And he died full as big as a Dorchester butt. 

His body, when long in the ground it had lain. 

And time into clay had resolved it again, 

A potter found out in its covert so snug, 

And with part of fat Toby he form'd this brown 

jug: 
Now sacred to friendship and mirth and mild ale, — 
So here's to my lovely sweet Nan of the Vale ! " 

Far from the Madding Crowd is a novel 
concerned with Dorchester and the immediate 



84 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

neighbourhood, most of the incidents happening 
in " Weatherbury " (Puddletown) and " Caster- 
bridge " (Dorchester). On market day at Dor- 
chester one still meets prosperous farmers, stiffly 
dressed children, lean, tanned, rough - necked 
labourers caged in their Sunday clothes and stout 
horse-dealers in grey gaiters and black hats, and 
it is not difficult to conjure up a picture of the 
hiring fair mentioned by Hardy, where Gabriel 
Oak appeared in search of a situation as bailiff. 
It will be recalled that Bathsheba was in the 
habit of attending the Casterbridge market to sell 
her corn, and here she met William Boldwood, 
who attracted her attention on account of his 
indifference to her. Bathsheba comes vividly 
before us with her " debut in the Forum " in the 
place of her uncle. We can picture her with her 
beautiful black hair and soft, misty eyes attract- 
ing considerable attention as she displayed her 
sample bags, " adopting the professional pour into 
the hand, holding up the grains in her narrow palm 
for inspection in perfect Casterbridge manner." 
There was "an elasticity in her firmness that 
removed it from obstinacy," and "a naivete in 
her cheapening which saved it from meanness." 
In a " Casterbridge shop Bathsheba bought the 
valentine which she sent anonymously to Bold- 
wood to tease him. It was this fatal valentine 



DORCHESTER 85 

that drew his attention to Bathsheba, and caused 
him to fall strongly in love with her, and in the 
end to shoot Sergeant Troy dead. After this 
deed Boldwood travelled over Mellstock Hill and 
Durnover Moor (Fordington Moor) into Caster- 
bridge, and turning into " Bull-Stake Square," 
halted before an archway of heavy stonework 
which was closed by an iron- studded pair of 
doors," and gave himself up for murder. 

The White Hart Tavern at " Casterbridge " 
serves to call to the reader's mind the reappearance 
of Sergeant Troy, in propria persona, after playing 
the part of Turpin in a circus at Greenhill Fair. 

Yellowham Wood, " Yallam " Wood locally, 
and the " Yalbuiy Wood " of Far from the 
Madding Crowd, is about three miles from Dor- 
chester on the road to Puddletown. In a keeper's 
cottage here dwelt sweet Fancy Day, and here it 
was, as told in another novel, that Joseph Poor- 
grass had the experience the recounting of which 
used to put that most bashful of men to the blush. 
" Once he had been working late at Yalbury 
Bottom, and had had a drop of drink, and lost 
his way as he was coming home along through 
Yalbury Wood. . . . And as he was coming along 
in the middle of the night, much afeared, and not 
able to find his way out of the trees nohow, a' 
cried out, ' Man-a-lost ! Man-a-lost ! ' An owl 



86 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

in a tree happened to be crying ' Whoo-whoo 
whoo ! ' as owls do, you know, Shepherd, and 
Joseph, all in a tremble, said, ' Joseph Poorgrass, 
of Weatherbury, sir ! ' ' No, no, now, that's too 
much,' said the timid man. . . . ' I didn't say sir. 
... I never said sir to the bird, knowing very 
well that no man of a gentleman's rank would be 
hollerin' there at that time o' night. " Joseph 
Poorgrass, of Weatherbuiy," that's every word 
I said, and I shouldn't ha' said that if't hadn't 
been for keeper Day's metheglin.' " 

Here, as in many other passages. Hardy shows 
his minute knowledge of nature. He appears to 
know every sight and sound of animal and bird 
life, at all seasons of the year. Some readers have 
perhaps, as they walked in the woods just before 
the thrushes and blackbirds have finished their 
evensong, heard the note of the brown owl — a long 
and somewhat tremulous " Whoo-oo." It is a 
very musical note, and it does not at all resemble 
Shakespeare's " To-whit, tu-whoo," which so 
many other writers have copied. Long may the 
brown owl live to chant his dim song in " Yallam " 
Wood — and long may he escape the gun and trap 
of the gamekeeper ! For, of all the cursed and 
vile things in this world, there is nothing that is 
worse than the trap that snares some beautiful 
wild thing and keeps it prisoner for long hours in 



DORCHESTER 87 

patient suffering, unrelieved of any hope but 
of being torn from the cruel teeth and dashed 
to death against a wall. Yet thousands of 
owls have been destroyed for the sake of a few 
pheasants in the coverts, and after all the mischief 
done by hawks and owls has been greatly exag- 
gerated — it is part of the hereditary ignorance of 
the rustic. Perhaps if we are in ferny glades of 
Yellowham Woods " when light on dark is grow- 
ing" we may hear that curious sound which has 
been compared to the quacking of a duck with 
a sore throat, and after it a sniffing sound not 
unlike a dog might make while scratching at a 
rat-hole. This is a hedgehog taking his constitu- 
tional. The witch in Macbeth says, " Thrice the 
hedgepig whines," but as my acquaintance with 
" hedgepigs " goes, their conversation is limited to 
a "quack " and a " snuff." 

Fordington is a large suburb adjoining Dor- 
chester. The Church of St George is a fine old 
edifice, with a tall battlemented tower which is a 
landmark for those approaching the town by road. 
Within is a stone pulpit dated " 1592, E.R." Over 
the top of a doorway of the south porch there is 
a carving of great antiquity representing a vision 
of St George at the battle of Antioch. The saint, 
mounted, has thrust his spear into the mouth of 
a Saracen soldier with great force and unerring 



88 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

aim. He looks very bored and might be saying : 
" This is very tame sport to one who is accus- 
tomed to slaying dragons." No doubt the semi- 
prone Saracen, who is trying to pull the spear 
out of his mouth, feels very bored too ! 

Away to the east of Fordington is the little 
village of Stinsford, which is reached by leaving 
Dorchester by the road leading east to Puddle- 
town and bearing to the right soon after leav- 
ing the town. This is the " Mellstock " of the 
idyllic tale, Under the Greenwood Tree. In the 
churchyard of the ivy-covered church there are 
tombstones of members of the Hardy family, and 
on the face of the tower there is a bas-relief of 
St Michael. The parish school is one in which 
Fancy Day is introduced as the new teacher at 
Mellstock in Under the Greenwood Tree. "The 
Fiddler of the Reels," Mop Ollamore, whose dia- 
bolical skill with the fiddle produced a " moving 
effect " on people's souls, lived in one of the 
thatched cottages of this village. 

To the south of Dorchester are the Winterborne 
villages, all places of rural content, in the shallow 
valley of a stream which only becomes visible in 
the winter. The church of Winterborne Steeple- 
ton possesses an ancient stone steeple. In the 
porch — a cool grey place on the hottest day — 
there are stone seats and flagstones of hoary 



DORCHESTER 89 

antiquity, and on the outer wall is an angel carved 
in stone which is said to date from before the 
Conquest. The most interesting of the Winter- 
bornes is Came. Barnes, the Dorset poet, was 
rector here for the last twenty-five years of his 
life. The church is a thirteenth-century building, 
hidden in a hollow among flowers, winding paths, 
outbuildings and cottages of an unattractive 
mansion. Barnes is buried beneath a simple 
cross in the churchyard. Herringtone adjoins 
Came, and its chief feature is the old manor- 
house, the seat of the Herring family, and, since 
James I.'s reign, of the Williamses. Winterborne 
Monkton and Winterborne St Martin are both 
contiguous to Maiden Castle. The old church of 
the former has been much restored ; that of the 
latter contains a Norman font and some old stone 
shafts near the altar. 

The pilgrim who shall elect to reach Abbotsbury 
will find a road, which forks by a picturesque 
old pond, about half-an-hour's walk towards 
Winterborne Abbas. 

It will be noticed in some of Hardy's novels that 
the name of a village or town will often crop up 
in the name of a character, as, for instance, 
Jude Fawley living in Marygreen, which may be 
identified with the village of Fawley Magna, in 
Berkshire ; and the name of the schoolmaster of 



90 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Leddenton, really the village of Gillingham, near 
Shaftesbury, is Gillingham. It was at Fawley 
Magna church that Phillotson and Sue were 
married after she had parted from Jude : " A tall 
new building of German Gothic design, unfamiliar 
to English eyes, had been erected on a new piece 
of ground by a certain obliterator of historic 
records who had run down from London and back 
in a day. The site whereon so long had stood the 
ancient temple to the Christian divinities was not 
even recorded on the green and level grass-plot that 
had immemorially be^en the churchyard, the obliter- 
ated graves being commemorated by ninepenny 
cast-iron crosses warranted to last five years." 

The unusual way in which the town of Dor- 
chester met in one line with the open country is 
picturesquely described by Hardy : " The farmer's 
boy could sit under the barley mow and pitch a 
stone into the office window of the town clerk . . . 
the red-robed judge, when he condemned a sheep- 
stealer, pronounced sentence to the tune of Baa, 
that floated in from the remainder of the flock 
browsing hard by ; and at executions the waiting 
crowd stood in a meadow immediate^ before the 
drop out of which the cows had been temporarily 
driven to give the spectators room." 

The intermixture of town and country life is 
again touched upon in a sketch of Fordington : 



DORCHESTER 91 

" Here wheat ricks overhung the old Roman 
street, and thrust then' eaves against the church 
tower ; great thatched barns with doorways^ as 
high as the gates of Solonaon's Temple opened 
directly upon the main thoroughfare. Barns, 
indeed, were so numerous as to alternate with 
every half-dozen houses along the way. Here 
lived burgesses who daily walked the fallow — 
shepherds in an intramural squeeze." 

The original manuscript of The Mayor of Caster- 
bridge, which is described in the Dorchester Guide 
by Harry Pouncy (published by Longman, Corn- 
hill Press, Dorchester), as " an example of rare 
beauty of penmanship and of absorbing interest, 
especially in regard to the alterations " is now in 
the Dorset County Museum. The leaves of the 
manuscript have been bound in book form, and 
Captain Acland, the Curator, informs me the bind- 
ing has resulted in the edges of the paper being 
cut, and the top edges being gilt. Let us hope that 
the marginal notes have not been maimed by the 
binder's guillotine — that is, if any marginal notes 
were added. However, the " absorbingly interest- 
ing alterations " are not yet for the public gaze, 
and Captain Acland was immovable before my 
entreaties to be allowed to make notes on them. 

A most interesting jaunt from Dorchester is 
along the Sherborne Road northward for eight 



92 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

miles to Cerne Abbas. The road from Dorchester 
bears to the left not far from the Great Western 
Railway and follows the River Frome. A mile 
along the road on the right, lying back and sur- 
rounded by trees, is Wolverton House, which 
figures in Hardy's Group of Noble Dames. This 
was formei'ly the seat of the knightly Trenchards, 
and is an interesting fifteenth - century house 
which has obtained a niche in history thus : "In 
this house John Russel, Esq., of Berwick, laid 
the foundation of the honours and fortunes of the 
illustrious family of tlie Duke of Bedford. Having 
resided some years in Spain, he was sent for by 
his relation. Sir Thomas Trenchard, to attend 
and entertain the Arch-Duke of Austria, King of 
Castile, who recommended him to the notice of 
King Henry VII., who took him into favour, and 
appointed him one of the Gentlemen of his Privy 
Chamber ; and afterwards recommended him to 
his son Henry VIII." (Hutchins). The Russels 
were seated at Kingston Russel, where their old 
manor-house still remains. Wolverton was in 
later days the scene of a dread omen recorded 
by credulous Aubrey. The chief feature of the 
hall was a screen carven with the effigies of the 
kings of England ; and " on the third of Nov., 
1640, the day the Long Parliament began to sit, 
the sceptre fell from the figure of King Charles 



i 



DORCHESTER 95 

the First, while the family and a large company 
were at dinner in the parlour." No wonder, when 
the Trenchard of that day proved a sturdy rebel, 
and did yeoman service for the Parliament in the 
county. 

Lady Penelope, in Hardy's A Group of Noble 
Dames, was not an imaginary character, but a 
noble dame in real life. She was a daughter of 
Lord Darcy and in turn married George Trench- 
ard, Sir John Gage and Sir William Hervey. 
She is described in Hardy's story as " a lady of 
noble family and extraordinary beauty. She 
was of the purest descent. . . . She possessed 
no great wealth . . . but was sufficiently en- 
dowed. Her beauty was so perfect, and her 
manner so entrancing, that suitors seemed to 
spring out of the ground wherever she went." 
The three suitors mentioned above would not be 
repulsed, and she jestingly promised to marry all 
three in turn. In the end Fate determined that 
her jest should fall true. First Penelope married 
Sir George Drenghard, who in the course of a few 
months died. A little while after she became 
the wife of Sir John Gale, who treated her rather 
badly. Two or three years after he died and Sir 
William Hervy came forward. In a short time 
she became Hervy's wife, and thus her promise, 
which was made so lightly, became an established 



96 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

fact. But the canker-worm of rumour attributed 
the death of Sir John Gale to poison given him by 
his wife, and Sir William, believing it, went abroad 
and remained there. Penelope divined the cause 
of his departure, and she grieved so much that 
at last nothing— not even Sir William's return — 
availed to save her, and she died broken-hearted. 
Sir William afterwards was assured by the doctor 
who had examined Gale's body that there was no 
ground for the cruel suspicions, and that his death 
resulted from natural causes. 

The road contin\ies through Charminster, a 
large and scattered village, and steadily ascends 
to Godmanston, five miles from Dorchester. 

A mile beyond, the road still rising, is Nether 
Cerne, with a tiny church, prettily situated. 
Steadily climbing another two miles, we reach 
Cerne Abbas, an exceedingly interesting little 
place, surrounded by chalk hills, on the River 
Cerne. It derives its distinguishing name from 
an abbey, which was founded in memory of 
Edmund the Martyr, King of East Anglia, who 
met his death at the hands of the Danes 
A.D. 870. It was erected about a hundred years 
later and was a place of some importance. Canute 
plundered the church. Here Margaret of Anjou 
sought refuge on the day following her landing 
at Weymouth, when she received tidings of the 



DORCHESTER 9T 

defeat of her cause at the battle of Barnet, 1471. 
The remains consist of a gate-house, bearing the 
escutcheon of the abbey, and those of the Earl of 
Cornwall, Fitz- James and Beauford ; the abbey- 
barn, a long, buttressed building, and some traces 
of the park and gardens. 

The church, dedicated to St Mary, is of Perpen- 
dicular style and supposed to have been built by 
the abbots. 

Immediately above the town rises a lofty 
eminence, populai'ly called the Gianfs Hill, from 
an uncouth colossal figure cut on its chalky 
surface. It represents a man, 180 feet in height, 
holding in his right hand a club and stretching 
forth the other. " Vulgar tradition," says 
Britton, " makes this figure commemorate the 
destruction of a giant, who, having feasted on 
some sheep in Blackmoor, and laid himself to 
sleep on this hill, was pinioned down, like another 
Gulliver, and killed by the enraged peasants, 
who immediately traced his dimensions for the 
information of posterity." On the summit of 
the hill is an entrenchment called Trendle {i.e. a 
circle, Saxon). The Cerne giant is believed by 
some authorities to be of Phoenician origin and 
to represent Baal, but no one really knows much 
about him, and, it must be also added, the Dorset 
rustic cares very little about the matter. . 

G 



CHAPTER VI 

A LITERARY NOTE: THOMAS HARDY AND 
WILLIAM BARNES 

THOMAS HARDY is a Dorset man both 
by birth and residence. He was born 
on 2nd June 1840, in a pretty, thatched cottage 
in the hamlet of Higher Bockhampton. If one 
takes the London rOad out of Dorchester, a walk 
of a mile and a turn to the right will lead to 
the village of Stinsford ; passing this hamlet 
and keeping to the road which crosses Kingston 
Park, a turn to the left breaks on to Higher 
Bockhampton. The house stands on the edge 
of Thoreycombe Wood, skirting Bockhampton 
Heath, but Hardy has told us that within the last 
fifty years the wood enclosed the house on every 
side. 

Come into this old-world dwelling itself. The 
living-room is grey and white and dim. Ivy 
peers in at the open windows set deep in the thick 
walls. The floor is grey and shining, stone-flagged ; 
the ceiling cross-beamed with rich old oak; the 
fireplace wide and deep, and the whole building 
covered with a fine roof of thatch. Here the 

98 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 99 

earlier years of the novelist were spent, here the 
aroma of the earth and woods invaded his heart 
when it was young. The environment helped to 
feed the long, long thoughts of the boy and gave 
him the image of the beginning of man living in 
the woods in the darkness, outwitting the wolves. 
It was here in the cradle of nature that Hardy 
first gained his minute knowledge of nature, and 
learnt how life and the meaning of life must be 
linked with place and the meaning of place. As 
in old Greek drama the chorus was directed to 
the audience at certain stages, so does Hardy 
turn the place spirit upon the progress of the story 
at certain moments with a vital bearing upon the 
action. He sees, as only the artist can see, how 
all the world is intei'woven, and how the human 
spirit cannot be divorced from the plain course 
of nature without pity and disaster. To Hardy's 
delicate subtlety of mind in perceiving the right 
values of character and environment we owe the 
tremendous effect of certain great scenes : the 
selection of Woolbridge House, the antique and 
dismal old home of the Turbervilles, for the scene 
of Tess's confession ; the thunderstorm during 
which Oak saved his beloved Bathsheba's ricks ; 
the mist that rolled wickedly over the cart con- 
veying Fanny Robin's body from the workhouse, 
and produced the horrible drip —drip —drip on 



100 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

the coffin while the drivers caroused in an inn ; 
the strange scene where Wildeve, " the Rousseau 
of Egdon," and the travelling ruddleman dice for 
Mrs Yeobright's money by the light of glow- 
worms. The delineation of Norcombe Hill at 
the commencement of Far from the Madding 
Crowd sets the key to which the theme of the 
story must always return after many delightful 
changes, and the vivid account of the lonely 
monarchy of the shepherd's night with his sheep, 
and the opulent silence when " the roll of the 
world eastward is "Almost a palpable movement " 
show the power and relentless grip of Hardy's 
work. Incidentally, also, with what fascinating 
detail does he introduce Bathsheba Everdene to 
the reader, so that we at once perceive what a 
curious blend of joyfulness, pride, astuteness and 
irresponsibility she would gradually develop as 
the years pass on — witness the little incident at 
the toll-gate, where, seated on the top of the 
loaded wagon, she x'cfused to concede his rightful 
pence to the aggrieved turnpike-keeper. 

The name of Hardy is very frequently en- 
countered in Dorset, but the novelist's family is 
commonly said to be of the same blood as 
Nelson's Hardy. That Hardy's family possessed 
the sprightliness and resource of the Dorset people 
there can be little doubt, and this fact is 




Bing (xsivn^s Melcomt e 

{Ten iniles north-east of Dorchester) 
A LOVELY DORSET MANOR-HOUSE 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 108 

accentuated by an anecdote concerning Hardy's 
grandfather, told by Mr Alfred Pope, a member of 
the Dorset Field Club, at a meeting of the society. 
About a century ago Mr Hardy's grandfather was 
crossing a lonely heath one midnight in June 
when he discovered he was being followed by two 
footpads. He rolled a furze faggot on to the path, 
sat down on it, took off his hat, stuck two fern 
fronds behind his ears to represent horns, and 
then pretended to read a letter, which he took 
from his pocket, by the light of the glow-worms 
he had picked up and placed round the brim of 
his hat. The men took fright and bolted on see- 
ing him, and a rumour soon got abroad in the 
neighbourhood that the devil had been seen at 
midnight near Greenhill Pond. 

At the age of seventeen Hardy was articled to 
an ecclesiastical architect of Dorchester named 
Hicks, and it was in pursuance of this calling 
that he enjoyed many opportunities of studying 
not only architecture, but also the country folk, 
whose types he has been so successful in de- 
lineating. Architecture has deeply coloured all 
his work, from Desperate Remedies to Jude the 
Obscure. The former of these stories (in which, 
as it will be remembered, three of the characters 
are architects practising the miscellaneous voca- 
tions of stewards, land surveyors and the like. 



104 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

familiar to architects in country towns) appeared 
in 1871, signed only with initials. It was followed 
in the next year by Under the Greenwood Tree, 
and at this date Hardy departed from architec- 
ture (in which he had distinguished himself so far 
as to be a prize-winner at a Royal Society's com- 
petition). In 1873 A Pair of Blue Eyes appeared, 
and in 1874 Far from the Madding Crowd ran 
through the Cornhill. It was the first of his 
books to be published in yellow-backed form, 
which was then a sign that the novel had reached 
the highest point of^popularity. 

His first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, 
was never published, and probably never will be, 
having been suppressed at Hardy's own request, 
although accepted for publication on the advice 
of George Meredith. But it was not long before 
he had finished a second story, Desperate Remedies, 
which first saw the light through the agency of 
Tinsley Brothers in 1871. 

His first published article appeared without 
signature in Chambers's Journal, on 18th March 
1865, entitled, " How I Built Myself a House," 
and was of a semi-humorous character. But 
previous to this Hardy had written a considerable 
amount of verse, all of which, with the exception 
of one poem, The Fire at Tranter Sweatley's, was 
unfortunately destroyed. This Wessex ballad 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 105 

appeared, bowdlerised, in The Gentleman's Maga- 
zine in November 1875. The ballad was first 
reproduced in its original form at the end of Mr 
Lane's bibliography, together with the novelist's 
biographical note on his friend and neighbour, 
the Rev. William Barnes, the Dorset poet, con- 
tributed to The Athenceum in October 1886. Of 
Mr Hardy's remaining contributions to periodical 
literature in other directions than fiction I need, 
perhaps, only mention his paper on " The Dorset 
Labourer," published in Longmans' in July 1893. 

The Trumpet Major was published in 1881, 
and the next novel was A Laodicean, which 
appeared originally in Harper's Magazine. 

" The writing of this tale," says Mr Hardy in 
the new preface to the book, " was rendered 
memorable, to two persons at least, by a tedious 
illness of five months that laid hold of the author 
soon after the story was begun in a well-known 
magazine, during which period the narrative had 
to be strenuously continued by dictation to a pre- 
determined cheerful ending. As some of these 
novels of Wessex life address themselves more 
especially to readers into whose soul the iron has 
entered, and whose years have less pleasure in 
them now than heretofore, so A Laodicean may 
perhaps help to wile away an idle afternoon of 
the comfortable ones whose lines have fallen to 



106 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

them in pleasant places ; above all, of that large 
and happy section of the reading public which 
has not yet reached ripeness of years ; those to 
whom marriage is the pilgrim's Eternal City, and 
not a milestone on the way." 

Hardy's next novel, Two on a Tower, was pub- 
lished in three volumes in 1882. Four years 
elapsed before Mr Hardy's tenth novel, The Mayor 
of Casterbridge, made its appearance, though his 
story of The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid, 
which came out in The Graphic Summer Number 
in 1883, was reprintfed in book form in America 
in 1884. The Woodlanders came next, this time 
through Messrs Macmillan, who published it in 
1887 in three volumes. Wessex Tales, in two 
volumes, appeared in 1888, though the stories 
had been making their appearance in various 
periodicals since 1879. 

In 1891 came Tess of the D^Urbervilles, which 
took the reading and criticising world by surprise. 
Hardy became explicit and charged the collective 
judgment of society with being shallow and con- 
trary to the laws of nature. He dashed aside the 
conventions and proclaimed a " ruined " girl a 
" pure woman," and made definite charges against 
the code of society, which, in the belief that it 
was contending against immorality, was all the 
while destroying some of nature's finest and most 



I 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 107 

sensitive material. Hardy does not preach, but 
there is more than a dramatic situation in Angel 
Clare's confession to Tess on the night of their 
wedding, for he shows the hopelessness of any 
justice coming to the " fallen " girl. Even if Tess 
had been faultless, all her faith, devotion, love 
and essential sweetness would have been given to 
an unjust and sinful man. The whole situation 
is summed up in the conversation which follows 
Angel Clare's confession of an " eight-and-forty 
hours' " dissipation. Hardy shows (and en- 
dorses) that it was quite right that Tess, with 
her natural, unsophisticated intelligence, should 
look upon her loss of virginity out of wedlock 
as a thing to be regretted and also a thing to be 
forgiven — just as the same event in Angel Clare's 
life: 

" Perhaps, although you smile, it is as serious 
as yours or more so." 

" It can hardly be more serious, dearest." 

" It cannot — oh no, it cannot." She jumped 
up joyfully at the hope. " No, it cannot be more 
serious, certainly," she cried, " because 'tis just 
the same ! " 

For life and light and movement it would be 
hard to surpass Chapter XXVIII. of Far from 
the Madding Crowd, where Sergeant Troy's skilful 
and dazzling exhibition with a sword bewilders 



108 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Bathsheba and ends in that unpropitious, fugitive 
kiss. 

It is a curious fact that, although Hardy's 
novels are such a true living influence, there are 
many people who feel that as a poet he has some- 
how just failed to hit the mark. But he himself 
regards his verse as the most important part of 
his work, and a section of his readers look upon it 
as the most distinctive English poetry of the past 
twenty years. In some quarters his poems are 
received with that curiosity which is awarded to 
a man of genius who breaks out freakishly with 
some strange hobby. People might look upon 
Rudyard Kipling with just such curiosity if he 
invited his friends to inspect his latest experiments 
in fretwork. However, to those of us who have 
followed his lyric poems and his supreme achieve- 
ment, The Dynasts, it seems a well-nigh inexplic- 
able phenomenon that much of his poetry should 
have passed into the limbo of forgotten things. 
Is there something wrong with his poems, or un- 
usual about them ? There is certainly a puzzling 
quality in his work. When his Wessex Poems 
were published in 1 899 the reviewers, in a chorus, 
decided that it was " want of form " which 
weakened his verse, and it is interesting to 
read how Literature summed up his position as 
a poet : 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAJVi BARNES 109 

" Here is no example of that positive inability 
to write well in verse which has marked several 
great prose writers, such as in Carlyle and Hume ; 
nor of that still more curious ability to write once 
or twice well, and never to regain the careless 
rapture, as in Berkeley and Chateaubriand. The 
phenomenon is a strongly marked and appropri- 
ate accent of his own, composing (so to speak) 
professionally in verse, able to amuse and move 
us along lines strictly parallel with his prose, and 
yet lacking something. This is not a case like 
George Eliot's, where the essence of the writer's 
style evaporates in the restraint of verse. Never 
was Mr Hardy more intensely and exclusively 
himself than in ' My Cicely.' Yet is this a com- 
plete success ? Much as we admire it, we cannot 
say that it is. 

" ' And by Weatherbury Castle, and therence 
Through Casterbx'idge bore I 
To tomb her whose light, in my deeming, 
Extinguished had He,' 

is not quite satisfactory. Why ? Simply and 
solely because the form is grotesque. Here is the 
colour of poetry but not its sound, its essence but 
not its shape. 

*' It might seem only right that in the face of a 
volume of verse so violent and rugged as Wesseoc 
Poems we should protest that this is not the more 



110 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

excellent way of writing poetry. At the same 
time, every man must preserve his individuality, 
if he has one to preserve, as Mr Hardy assuredly 
has ; and we have no reason to suppose that it is 
the desire of the author of ' The Peasant's Confes- 
sion ' to found a school or issue a propaganda. 
On the contrary, it is far more likely that he has 
put forth his Wessex verses with extreme sim- 
plicity and modesty, not asking himself in what 
relation they stand to other people's poetry. As 
a matter of fact, the Wessea: Poems will probably 
enjoy a double fate. "'They will supply to lovers 
of emotional narrative verse several poetic tales 
which they will lay up in memory among their 
treasures ; and in time to come professors of 
literary history, when observing the retrogression 
of an imaginative period, and when speaking of 
Lydgate, of Donne, of the Spasmodists here, of 
the Symbolists in France, will mention Mr Hardy 
also as a signal example of the temporary success 
of a violent protest against the cultivation of form 
in verse." 

But critics of discrimination are now beginning 
to discover that Thomas Hardy's poems do not 
lack the qualities which give poetic form a true 
balance. He fails to achieve popularity as a poet, 
they argue, because the " concentrated and un- 
palatable expression of his philosophy proves too 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 111 

disagreeable to those who seek relief from life in 
literature," and because the first shock of the 
grinding harshness of his peculiar style "is a 
barrier against the recognition of his merits." 
Certainly he makes no direct appeal to the ear of 
the reader. But on reading his lyric poems a 
second time — some of which, it must be admitted, 
must assuredly offend those who have unbounded 
faith in the human soul, whether from the stand- 
point of the Church or otherwise — the first 
grotesqueness of effect wears off, leaving at times 
a clear-cut and bitter touch that it would seem 
impossible to improve upon. It is true we find 
among the youthful poems some of great gloom 
and sadness, but it is well to bear in mind when 
making an estimate of Hardy's work and person- 
ality that certain natures express their thoughts 
in unusual ways. It is all the time wrong to 
assume that Hardy does not perceive anything 
else in life but a bitter and hopeless procession, 
just because his eloquence is always keener upon 
perceiving tragedy. It is true, he himself has 
confessed, that he shares with Sophocles the con- 
viction that " not to be born is best " ; but at 
the same time the spirit which moves always 
under the surface of his poetry tells us that man, 
being born, must make the best of life, and 
especially do what he can to ease the burdens of 



112 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

his fellow-men. After his moments of depression 
he finds his own consolations. He takes a great 
pleasure in the trivial little objects and customs 
of rustic life — those simple things that are best 
of all, and his poem Afterwards is a good ex- 
ample both of his measured and harmonious 
style, and of his " dark, unconscious instinct of 
primitive nature- worship " ; 

" If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy 

and warm, 
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the 

lawn, "^^ 

One may say, ' He strove that such innocent 

creatures should come to no harm, 
But he could do little for them ; and now he is 

gone.' 

If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, 

they stand at the door, 
Watching the full- starred heavens that Winter sees. 
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my 

face no more, 
' He was one who had an eye for such mysteries ' ? " 

The reader instinctively pictures Hardy as a 
morose, grim, cynical man — but he is really any- 
thing but that. From all accounts Hardy is 
mirrored in the whimsical and deep mirth that is 
so intermixed in the rustic characters in his novels. 
"It is too often assumed," says the capricious 
and tiresome Ethelberta— April-natured Hardy 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 113 

would call her — " that a person's fancy is a 
person's real mind. . . . Some of the lightest of 
rhymes were composed between the deepest fits 
of dismals I have known." 

Some years ago The English Illustrated Maga- 
zine printed an account of a visit paid by a cyclist 
to Hardy at his Dorchester home. Authentic 
pictures of Hardy are so scarce that I venture to 
draw on this interview : 

" The picture he presented was, for the moment 
at least, all- satisfying ; there was more than 
nervousness in the strangely harassed-looking 
face, with the most sensitive features that I had 
ever seen. The deep- set eyes were troubled, but 
there was no mistaking their fearless courage. I 
knew that I was looking at a man whose soul was 
more ravaged than ever his careworn features 
were with the riddle of life and the tragedy of 
it, and yet a soul utterly self-reliant, for all the 
shyness of the outward man. 

" I attempted no compliments, and asked him 
instead why he was so pessimistic a writer, why he 
wrote at once the most beautiful and the most 
dreadful of stories, and why he had not shown us 
far more often than he has done a picture of 
requited love, or of requited love that was not 
victimised at once by some pitiless act of fate. 
Mr Hardy had not sat down himself, but had 

H 



(C 



114 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

stood by the fireplace, with his white hands hold- 
ing the lapels of his old-fashioned tweed coat. 

"We were on better terms in a moment, as 
Mr Hardy replied, his voice curiously halting, but 
not as if he was in any doubt of his sentiments. 
It seemed a mixture of irony and diffidence. 

"'You are a young man,' he said. 'The 
cruelty of fate becomes apparent to people as 
they grow older. At first one may perhaps escape 
contact with it, but if one lives long enough one 
realises that happiness is very ephemeral.' 

" ' But is not optimism a useful and sane 
philosophy ? ' I asked him. 

" There's too much sham optimism, hum- 
bugging and even cruel optimism,' Mr Hardy 
retorted. ' Sham optimism is really a more 
heartless doctrine to preach than even an ex- 
aggerated pessimism — the latter leaves one at 
least on the safe side. There is too much senti- 
ment in most fiction. It is necessary for some- 
body to write a little mercilessly, although, of 
course, it's painful to have to do it.' " 

That is what we must do if we wish to move 
on the higher ideal of philosophical speculation 
as Hardy explains it. He points out that there 
is something in a novel that should transcend 
pessimism, meliorism or optimism, and that is 
the search for truth : 




THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 115 

" So that to say one view is worse than other 
views without proving it erroneous implies the 
possibility of a false view being better or more 
expedient than a true view ; and no pragmatic 
proppings can make that idolurn specus stand on 
its feet, for it postulates a prescience denied to 
humanity." 

Charges of pessimism Hardy dismisses as the 
product of the chubble-headed people who only 
desire to pair all the couples off at the end of 
a novel and leave them with a plentiful supply 
of " simply exquisite " babies, hard cash and 
supreme contentment. 

As I have hinted before, the face and the wealth 
of the earth are a constant joy to Hardy, and he 
has great admiration for the Dorset rustics — 
those sprack-witted, earthy philosophers who 
have won support for his novels even in circles 
where his ideals of life are not in favour. He 
enthusiastically follows the ways and works of 
nature in which man co-operates. One instantly 
calls to mind Winterborne, the travelling cider- 
maker in The Woodlanders, as an instance of this : 
" He looked and smelt like Autumn's very brother, 
his face being sunburnt to wheat colour, his eyes 
blue as cornflowers, his sleeves and leggings dyed 
with fruit stains, his hands clammy with the sweet 
juice of apples, his hat sprinkled with pips, and 



116 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

everywhere about him that atmosphere of cider 
which at its first return each season has such an 
indescribable fascination for those who have been 
born and bi'ed among the orchards." 

The above is a prose-poem which is worthy to 
stand beside Keats' Ode to Autumn. 

• • • • • • • 

William Barnes was born at Rushay, near 
Pentridge, a village about four miles from Cran- 
borne, in the north-east of the county, on the 
Wiltshire border, and in the heart of the Vale of 
Blackmore, the beauties of which he was never 
tired of extolling in his gentle poems enriched 
with his native dialect. His mother was a 
woman of good education and refined tastes, and 
he attended an endowed school at Struminster, 
where the classes were composed of boys and 
girls and conducted in the American way. On 
leaving school he entered a solicitor's office in the 
same town, but at the age of eighteen he removed 
to Dorchester. In 1823 he went to Mere, in 
Somerset, where he worked as a schoolmaster for 
four vears in loneliness. At this time he married 
Miss Julia Miles, and after an additional eight 
years at Mere he returned to Dorchester, where 
teaching was still his profession. One might 
almost say that Dorchester was his spiritual 
birthplace, for here his genius began to attract 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 117 

more than local attention, and here he grew into 
the hearts of the people so deeply that when he 
passed away all wished to preserve his memory 
in the form of a public statue. Barnes was one 
of the secretaries of the Dorset Field Club. His 
most earnest wish was to enter the Church, and 
from St John's College, Cambridge, he was 
ordained by the Bishop of Salisbury in 1847, 
and became pastor of Whitcombe. He fell on 
troublous days and passed through a labyrinth 
of trials — sickness, death and sordid money em- 
barrassments. Only once did he allow his pent- 
up humours of discouragement to break loose. 
One day he came in to his family with a sheaf of 
correspondence in which letters from duns were 
accompanied by others containing warm eulogy 
of the poet. " What a mockery is life ! " he ex- 
claimed ; " they praise me and take away my 
bread ! They might be putting up a statue to 
me some day when I am dead, while all I want 
now is leave to live. I asked for bread and thev 
gave me a stone," he added bitterly. At about 
this time he was awarded a Civil List pension of 
seventy pounds a year, while the gift of the living 
of Came relieved him of the anxiety over money 
matters. The happiest days of his life were 
spent at Came, and here he followed with great 
diligence his one hobby — the Anglicising of the 



118 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 



Latinised English words in our vocabulary, which 
he called speech-lore. 

He wrote two books on this subject, called 
Redecraft and Speechcraft In his preface to 
Speechcraft he announced it as "a small trial 
towards the upholding of our own strong old 
Anglo-Saxon speech and the ready teaching of it 
to purely English minds by their own tongue." 
It was his fancy to replace all foreign and derived 
words with words based on Saxon roots. The 
following are selected from his glossary of Latin- 
ised words, with their Saxon equivalents facing 
them ; — 



Accelerate 

Accent 

Acoustics . 

Aeronaut . 

Alienate . 

Ancestor . 

Aphorisms 

Botany . 

Democracy 

Deteriorate 

Equilibrium 

Equivalent 

Foliate 

Initial 



to on-quicken. 

word-strain. 

sound-lore. 

air-farer. 

to un-friend. 

fore-elder. 

thought-cullings. 

wort-lore. 

folkdom. 

worsen. 

weight-evenness. 

worth-evenness. 

to leafen. 

word-head. 



Thomas Hardy's note on the genius of his dead 
friend is a generous estimate : " Unlike Burns, 
Beranger, and other poets of the people, Barnes 
never assumed the high conventional style, and 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 119 

he entirely leaves alone ambition, pride, despair, 
defiance, and other of the grander passions which 
move mankind, great and small. His rustics 
are as a rule happy people, and very seldom feel 
the sting of the rest of modern mankind — the 
disproportion between the desire for serenity and 
the power of obtaining it. One naturally thinks 
of Crabbe in this connection, but though they 
touch at points, Crabbe goes much further than 
Barnes in questioning the justice of circumstance. 
Their pathos, after all, is the attribute upon 
which the poems must depend for their endur- 
ance ; and the incidents which embody it are 
those of everyday cottage life, tinged throughout 
with that ' light that never was,' which the 
emotional art of the lyrist can project upon the 
commonest things. It is impossible to prophesy, 
but surely much English literature will be for- 
gotten when Woak Hill is still read for its intense 
pathos, Blackmore Maidens for its blitheness, and 
In the Spring for its Arcadian ecstasy." 

In 1896 he published a copy of Early English 
and the Saxon English. In this he traces both 
Angles and Saxons. It was his idea that the 
ancient dykes which cut up so much of our land 
were delved by them to mark their settlements 
rather than to use in the case of warfare. He 
also sturdily asserted that the Britons were 



120 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

accomplished road-makers before the Romans 
came, and that the Romans merely improved 
roads already existing. 

The poem of Woak Hill is based on a Persian 
form of metre called The Pearl, because the 
rhymes are supposed to represent a series of beads 
upon a rosary. The pearl, or sequence of asson- 
ance, is shown in the second word in the last line 
of each stanza : 

" When sycamore- trees were a- spreading 
Green-ruddy in hedges 
Beside the red dust of the ridges 
A-dried at WoalJ Hill, 

I packed up my goods all a- shining 
With long years of handling 
On dusty red wheels of a waggon 
To ride at Woak Hill. 

The brown thatchen roof of the dwelling 
I then were a-leaving 
Had sheltered the sleek head of Mary 
My bride at Woak Hill. 

But now for some years her light footfall 
'S a-lost from the flooring. 
Too soon for my joy and my children 
She died at Woak Hill. 

But still 1 do think that in soul 
She do hover about us 
To ho' for her motherless children, 
Her pride at Woak Hill. 

So lest she should tell me hereafter 
I stole off 'ithout her 



THOMAS HARDY & WILLIAM BARNES 121 

And left her uncalled at house-ridden 
To bide at Woak Hill, 

I call'd her so fondly, with lippens 
All soundless to others, 
And took her with air-reaching hand 
To my side at Woak Hill. 

On the road I did look round, a-talking 
To light at my shoulder, 
And then led her in at the doorway, 
Miles wide from Woak Hill. 

And that's why folk thought, for a season, 
My mind were a- wand 'ring 
With sorrow, when I were so sorely 
A-tried at Woak Hill. 

But no ; that my Mary mid never 
Behold herself slighted 
I wanted to think that I guided 
My guide from Woak Hill." 

Barnes saw the pathos in the joy of utter 
physical weariness of a labourer, and one of his 
finest poems depicts a cottage under a swaying 
poplar : 

"An' hands a-tired by day, were still, 
Wi' moonlight on the door." 

He always has that deep, quiet craving for the 
hearth, the fire, the protecting thatch of a cottage, 
which gives his work a pathetic touch. I think 
sometimes that Barnes must have been nearer to 
being cold, homeless and tired at times than is 
generally understood. 



CHAPTER VII 

BERE REGIS AND THE ANCIENT FAMILY 
OF TURBERVILLE 

We who have passed into the Upper Air 
Thence behold Earth, and know how she is fair. 
More than her sister Stars sweet Earth doth love us : 
She holds our hearts : the Stars are high above us. 
Mother Earth ! Stars are too far and rare ! 

BERE RECxIS, that " blinking little place " 
with a history extending back to Saxon 
times (identified by ' Doctor Stukeley with the 
Roman Ibernium), is a typical little Dorset town 
about seven miles to the north-west of Wareham. 
It makes a capital walk or ride from Dorchester, 
and it was this way I travelled. I left Dorchester 
by High Street East, ascending Yellowham Hill, 
the " Yalbury Hill " of Troy's affecting meeting 
with Fanny Robin, leaving Troy Town to pass 
through Puddletown and Tolpuddle. Evening 
had fallen when I arrived at Bere Regis, and the 
rising wind and flying wrack of clouds above 
seemed to presage a wild night. I was just 
wondering whether, although it looked so 
threatening, I dared ride on to Wareham, when 
my eyes rested on the Royal Oak Inn, with its 
Elizabethan barns, mossed and mouldering red 
tiles and axe-hewn timbers. 

122 



BERE REGIS 123 

" It is at such houses," I thought, " that men 
may stretch out weary legs and taste home-cured 
bacon (I heard the squeak of a pig in the out- 
house), and such places are the homes of adven- 
ture. I will go in and call for ale and a bed." 

So I walked straight into the courtyard, which 
backs upon the church, and found there a large 
man with considerable girth, a square, honest face 
and kindly eyes. He was wearing a cap, and 
wearing it in a fine rakish way too. His appear- 
ance gave me the impression that his wife had 
tossed the cap at him and failed to drop it on his 
head squarely, but had landed it in a lopsided 
manner, and then our friend had walked off with- 
out thinking anything more about it. He was 
singing a song to himself and staring at a pile 
of bundles of straw. He looked up and nodded 
good- humouredly . 

" Looks like rain ! " said I. 

" Aw 'es, tu be sure, now you come to mention 
it. I dawnt think rain's far off." 

" Can you tell me," said I, " if I can get a meal 
and a bed at this inn ? " 

" What you like," returned the man, with a 
quick tilt of his head, which drew my eyes with a 
kind of fascination to his ill-balanced cap, " but 
as I've nothing to do with the place I should ask 
the landlord avore me." 



124 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

" Ah, to be sure," said I. " Sorry to trouble 
you. I thought you might be the landlord." 

The man stopped singing his song to stare at 
me wide-eyed. 

" Well, I beant ; but it's a fine thing to be a 
landlord, with barrels o' beer down 'ouze and 
money in the bank." 

" Then may I ask what trade you follow," said 
I, " and why you study that straw so intently ? " 

" Young fellow," said he, staring, " I follow a 
main-zorry trade in these days. I be a thatcher, 
and thatching to-the-£tuth-of-music is about done 
for. If you look at these thatched cottages about 
Dorset they will tell their own story. Why, the 
reed is just thrown on the roof hugger-mugger. 
They can't thatch no more down this part, I can 
tellee ; they lay it on all of a heap." 

" And is this the straw for thatching ? " I 
inquired. 

" Yes," said he, smiling ; " they call them 
bundles of reed in Dorset — but in my country, 
which is Devon, they call 'em ' nitches o' reed.' " 

*' Then you are not contented with your 
trade ? " 

" Not quite," answered the thatcher, his face 
falling. " It has always been my wish to have 
a little inn — and barrels o' beer down 'ouze and 
money ..." 



BERE REGIS 125 



" Far better be a thatcher," said I. 



II 



I'll be dalled ef I can see why." 
It's an out-of-doors life in the first place," 
said I. 

The thatcher nodded, and his cap looked about 
as perilous as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

" It is a happier life, too, I should say." 

" Aw ! I an't ayerd nort about that," he 
returned. 

" And who ever heard of a starving thatcher ? " 

" Young fellow," he sighed, " there soon will be 
no thatchers to starve. Tez a lost art is thatch- 
ing. I am the last of my family to follow the 
trade, and we can go back three hundred years." 
Then thatch is dying out ? " 
Yes, chiefly on the score of it being hard to 
' dout ' in case of fire." 

" ' Dout ' is a strange old M^ord. It means 
extinguish, I take it," said I. 

"To be sure — extinguished. Maybe you've 
heard the story about the Devon gal who went to 
London as a maid and when she told the mistress 
she had ' douted ' the kitchen fire she was told to 
say ' extinguished ' in future, and not use such 
ill-sounding words. ' Ess, mum,' she said, ' and 
shall I sting-guish the old cat befoi'e I go to 
bed ? ' " 

The thatcher laughed in his deep chest. 






126 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

" But thatch suits us Devon folk middlin' 
well," he continued. " It's warm in winter and 
cool in summer, and will stand more buffeting by 
the wind and rain than all your cheap tiles and 
slates." 

" And thatch is cheap too, perhaps ? " I 
ventured. 

" On the contrary," he answered. " Lukee, 
those nitches of reed cost four shillings each, and 
you want three hundred bundles for a good- sized 
roof. Then there is the best tar twine (which 
comes from Ireland), the spars and the labour 
to be counted in. It takes three weeks on the 
average house, but if the thatch is well laid it 
will last for thirty years, and if I set my heart on 
a job and finish it off with a layer of heath atop, 
well, then, it will last for ever. Ess, fay ! " 

" And what is the way you proceed to thatch 
a roof ? " I asked. 

" Well," he answered, " it's not easy to explain. 
' Lanes ' of reed — wheat straw, you would say — 
are first tied on the eave beams and gable beams ; 
these are called eave locks and gable locks. A 
' lane of reed ' is about as long as a walking-stick 
and a bit thicker than a man's wrist, and a 
thatched roof is composed of these ' lanes ' tied 
on the roof beams, in ridge fashion. Then when 
the reeds are all tied on, overlapping each other. 




CO 

5 
tii 

a. 

w 
o: 

DO 

H 
< 

o 

5 



Q 



126 



BERE REGIS 127 

they are trimmed with a 'paring hook.' The 
reed has to be wet when put up ; that is why 
thatchers wear leather knee-knaps. The best 
thatching reed comes from clay soil out Exeter 
and Credit on way." 

" And where do you think," I asked, " can be 
seen the most perfect examples of thatching in 
England ? " 

" I lay you won't see any better than the 
cottages around Lyme Regis and Axminster. 
But soon Merry England will be done with thatch, 
for the boys of the village are too proud to learn 
how to cut a spar or use a thatcher's hook. Bless 
my soul ! They all want to be clerks or school 
teachers." 

My friend the thatcher had a profound con- 
tempt for " school larning " and he waxed tri- 
umphantly eloquent when he touched upon 
Council School teachers. 

" What poor, mimpsy-pimsy craychers they 
be, them teachers," he remarked. " Fancy them 
trying to larn others, and ha'n't got the brains to 
larn themselves ! " 
• •••••• 

Bere Regis church is the most beautiful little 
building of its size in Dorset. It is the captain 
and chief of all the village churches, and has just 
managed to touch perfection in all the things 



J 



128 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

that a wayside shrine should achieve. There is 
an atmosphere about the old place that is sooth- 
ing and above the pleasure of physical experience. 
The qualities of Bere Regis can only be fully ap- 
preciated with that sixth sense that transcends 
gross sight and touch. Upon entering the build- 
ing one is captivated by the remarkable roof and 
the number of effigies, half life-size, in the dress 
of the period, which are carved on the hammer- 
beams. This magnificent carved and painted 
timber roof is said to have been the gift of Cardinal 
Morton, born at Mifeorne Stileman, in this parish. 
The roof effigies are supposed to represent the 
Twelve Apostles, but they are not easily identified. 
The canopied Skerne tomb possesses a special 
interest for its brasses and verse : 

" I Skerne doe show that all our earthlie trust 
All earthlie favours and goods and sweets are dust 
Look on the worlds inside and look on me 
Her outside is but painted vanity." 

In the south porch will be found an interesting 
relic in the shape of some old iron grappling-hooks 
used for pulling the thatch off a cottage in the 
event of fire. An ancient altar- slab on which, 
perchance, sacrifices have been offered has been 
preserved, and there is also a fine old priest's 
chair, the upper arms of which have supported 
the leaning bodies of a great company of Dorset 



BERE REGIS 129 

vicars, for it must be remembered that the priest 
was not allowed to sit on the chair — but "lean- 
ing " was permitted. The Norman pillars in the 
south arcade are striking to the eye, and the 
humorous carvings on their capitals are objects 
of great interest. One of them gives a very good 
picture of a victim in the throes of toothache ; 
apparently the sufferer has just arrived at that 
stage in which the pain is mounting to a cres- 
cendo of agony, for he has inserted his eight fingers 
in his mouth in an attempt to battle with his 
tormentors. The other figure displays some poor 
fellow who is a martyr to headache — perhaps a 
gentle reproof and warning to those who were in- 
clined to tarry overlong in the taverns. But the 
main object of interest is the Turberville window 
in the south aisle, beneath which is the ledger- 
stone covering the last resting-place of this 
wild, land- snatching family, which is lettered as 
follows : — 

" Ostium sepulchri antiquae Famillae Turberville 

24 Junij 1710." 

("The door of the sepulchre of the ancient 
family of the Turbervilles.") 

It was at this vault stone that Tess bent down 
and said : 

" Why am I on the wrong side of this door ! " 

Perhaps it is as well to recite the outline of 



130 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Hardy's story of Tess at this stage of our pilgrim- 
age. Tess Durbeyfield, the daughter of poor and 
feeble-minded parents and descendant of a noble 
but somewhat wild old family, was forcibly 
seduced by a wealthy young loafer whose father 
had taken, with no right to it, Tess's proper name 
of " D'Urberville." A child was born, but died. 
Some years after Tess became betrothed to a 
clergyman's son, Angel Clare. On their wedding 
night Tess confessed to him her past relations 
with Alec D'Urberville, and thereupon Clare, a 
man who was not Vithout sin himself, left her. 
In the end Fate conspired to force Tess back into 
the protection of Alec. Clare, who cannot be 
looked upon as anything but half-baked and in- 
sincere, returns repentant from Canada and finds 
her living with D'Urberville. In order to be free 
to return to Clare, Tess stabbed Alec to the heart, 
for which she was arrested, tried and hanged. 

In this romance Bere Regis figures as " Kings- 
bere," and the church is the subject of many 
references. It was on one of the " canopied, 
altar- shaped " Turberville tombs that poor Tess 
noticed, with a sudden qualm of blank fear, that 
the effigy moved. " As soon as she drew close 
to it she discovered all in a moment that the 
figure was a living person ; and the shock to her 
sense of not having been alone was so violent 



BERE REGIS 131 

that she almost fainted, not, however, till she had 
recognised Alec D'Urberville in the form." 

Here Alec D'Urberville stamped with his heel 
heavily above the stones of the ancient family 
vault, whereupon there arose a hollow echo from 
below, and remarked airily to Tess : "A family 
gathering is it not, with these old fellows under 
us here ? " 

In the south wall a doorway which has been 
long filled in can still be traced. There is nothing 
of special note in this alteration, but a legend has 
been handed down which is worth recording here. 
It is said that one of the Turberville family 
quarrelled with the vicar of Bere Regis and ended 
a stormy meeting by declaring that he would 
never again pass through the old door of the 
church. As time went on the lure of the Turber- 
ville dead in the ancient shrine obsessed him and 
he grew to regret the haste in which he had cut 
himself off from the ancient possessors of his land. 
After some years Fate arranged a chance meeting 
between the vicar and Turberville at a village 
feast, and under the influence of the general good- 
fellowship and merry-making they buried the 
hatchet and fell to discussing old times and 
friends. When time came for the breaking up 
of the entertainment it was only Turberville's 
dogged determination to keep iiis vow which 



132 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

prevented a return to the old happy conditions 
before the breach of friendship. 

" There is one thing I would ask you to do. 
Vicar," said Turberville as he parted. " When 
you attend vespers to-morrow just tell the old 
Turberville squires to sleep soundly in their vault. 
Although I have vowed never to pass through the 
church door while I am alive, I cannot stop 'em 
carrying me through when I am dead — so 1 shall 
sleep with them in the end." 

However, the worthy vicar went to the town 
stone-mason next morning and arranged to cut a 
new doorway in the south wall, and thus it came 
to pass that the independent and stubborn 
Turberville once again was able to worship with 
the shades of his fathers and yet keep to his 
promise never to pass through the old door 
again. 

The first of the family of Turberville was Sir 
Payne de Turberville (de Turba Villa), who came 
over with William the Norman. From Sir Payne 
down to the last descendants of the family who 
form the theme of Thomas Hardy's romance, 
Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the Turbervilles were a 
strange, wild company. It is excusable, too, in 
a way, for it appears that the first of the line, after 
the battle of Hastings, was one of the twelve 
knights who helped Robert FitzHamon, Lord of 



BERE REGIS 138 

Estremaville, in his evil work and returned to 
England when his commander was created Earl 
of Gloucester. In an ancient document of the 
time of Henry III. we come across a striking 
illustration of the unscrupulous ways of this 
family, for it is recorded that John de Turberville 
was then paying an annual fine on some land near 
Bere Regis, which his people before him had 
filched from the estate of the Earl of Hereford. 
The Turbervilles were established in the neigh- 
bourhood in 1297. Bryants Puddle, a very rude 
little hamlet situated on the River Piddle a little 
to the south-west of Bere, receives its title from 
Brian de Turberville, who was lord of the manor 
in the reign of Edward III. The village was 
ancientlv called " Piddle Turberville," but this 
name has been replaced by Bryants Puddle. 

At a later period the Turbervilles came into 
the possession of the manor of Bere Regis at the 
breaking up of Tarent Abbey, and at this time 
the good fortune of the family was at its zenith. 
But with the spoils of the church came a gradual 
and general downfall of the old family, and with 
the increased riches, we may conjecture, the 
Turbervilles went roaring on their way more 
riotously than ever. There is an entry in the 
parish registers of Bere, under the year 1710, of 
the interment of Thomas Turberville, the last of 



134 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

the ancient race. An intermediate stage of the 
house is represented by D'Albigny Turberville, 
the oculist mentioned by Pepys, who died in 1696 
and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral. After 
the year 1710 the old manor-house of the Turber- 
villes, standing near the church, was strangely 
silent. Their time was over and gone, the wine 
had been drunk, the singers had departed. But 
the stories of their carousals and great deeds were 
still a matter for dispute and discussion at the 
village inn, and the eerie old house was especially 
regarded with feelirigs of awe and few cared to 
go near it after dark. It was not what they had 
seen, but what they might see, that caused them 
to shun the old place. I can picture the Dorset 
rustic of that time (and the distance between 
Hodge the " Goodman " of 1710 and Hodge the 
driver of the motor tractor is almost nothing at 
all) shaking his head on being asked his reasons 
for avoiding the house, and saying, with a grin, 
as how he " shouldn't like to go poking about 
such a divered [dead] old hole." 

The ancient manor-house was allowed to lapse 
into ruin, and now nothing at all remains but a 
few crumbling stones : 



(( 



Through broken walls and grey 

The winds blow bleak and shrill ; 
They are all gone away. 



BERE REGIS 185 

Nor is there one to-day 

To speak them good or ill ; 
There is nothing more to say." 

There is reason to believe that the rustics in 
Wilts and Dorset who bear different forms of 
the name Turberville, altered into Tellafield and 
Troublefield, are in truth the descendants of 
illegitimate branches of the family. One ancient 
Dorset rustic with the name of Tollafield, who 
aroused my interest, said to me in all seriousness 
that he would not care to go rummaging into the 
history of the old Turberville people. " You 
depend upon it, they were a bad lot — the parson 
told me so. There is no telling what them folks' 
speerits might not be up to, if so be the old devil 
had got ahold on 'em." This rustic, though an 
old man, had an eye as keen as a hawk's, was a 
man of immensely powerful frame, and would 
sleep under a hedge any night and feel little the 
worse for it. When I looked at his clear, hard 
blue eyes and straight, haughty nose he gave me 
the feeling that the Turberville blood had really 
survived in him. Then I learned that he was a 
flagrant poacher and, like the old earth-stopper 
in Masefield's poem, 

His snares made many a rabbit die. 
On moony nights he found it pleasant 
To stare the woods for roosting pheasants 
Up near the tree-trunk on the bough. 



(( 



186 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

He never trod behind a plough. 
He and his two sons got their food 
From wild things in the field and wood." 

It was my fortune to run into the old fellow 
coming out of the Royal Oak one night with 
his friends. He was very exuberant and arro- 
gant. I heard him offering to fight three men, 
" knock one down, t'other come on " style. 
Then it came over me with a sudden sense of 
largeness and quietude that the game old ruffian 
had his place in the order of things. This tyrant 
of the low Tudor tap-room was perhaps a Turber- 
ville, one of the rightful, immemorial owners of 
the land. If he has not the right to a pheasant 
for his Sunday dinner, then tell me who has. 
Perhaps when we, with our picture palaces and 
styles and jazzy-dances, have passed away our 
hoary friend the poacher will abide, his feet 
among his clods, rooted deep in his native soil. 
And if all this thin veneer of civilisation was 
suddenly ripped away from us, how should we 
emerge ? Hodge would still go on poaching, 
sleeping under hedges, outwitting the wild things 
in the woods and drinking home-brewed ale. He 
would not even feel any temporary inconvenience. 
How old-fashioned and out-of-date we with all our 
new things would feel if we were suddenly brought 
into line with the eternally efficient Hodge ! 




Woolbridge Hottse 



BERE REGIS 139 

From Bere Regis to Wool is a pleasant ride of 
five or six miles. Close to Wool station is the 
manor-house, now a farm, which was once the 
residence of a younger branch of the Turberville 
family, and readers will remember it is the place 
where Tess and Angel Clare came to spend their 
gloomy and tragic honeymoon. In Hardy's Tess 
the house is called Wellbridge Manor House, in 
remembrance of the days when Wool was called 
Welle, on account of the springs which are so 
plentiful in this district. Of course the house is 
named from the five-arched Elizabethan bridge 
which spans the reed-fringed River Frome at 
this point. Each arch of the bridge is divided 
by triangular buttresses, which at the road-level 
form recesses where foot-passengers may take 
refuge from passing motors or carts. The manor- 
house is of about the time of Henry VIII., and has 
been much renovated. Over the doorway a date 
stone proclaims that the building was raised in 
1635 (or 1655), but it has been suggested that this 
is the date of a restoration or addition to the 
building. The two pictures of Tess's ancestors 
mentioned in the novel actually exist, and are to 
be seen on the wall of the staircase : " two life- 
sized portraits on panels built into the wall. As 
all visitors are aware, these paintings represent 
women of middle age, of a date some two hundred 



140 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

years ago, whose lineaments once seen can never 
be forgotten. The long pointed features, narrow 
eye, and smirk of the one, so suggestive of merci- 
less treachery; the bill-hook nose, large teeth, 
and bold eye of the other, suggesting arrogance 
to the point of ferocity, haunt the beholder 
afterwards in his dreams." 

Old records show that in ancient times a curious 
custom was observed on Annual Court Day at 
Wool. It was known as collecting smoke-pence. 
It appears that the head of every house was 
called upon to pa;^ a penny for each of his 
chimneys as a token that the property belonged 
to the manor. The money was collected by the 
constable, who was obliged to bring twenty pence 
into court, or make up the money himself. 

The most characteristic and altogether unique 
feature of this nook of earth around Bere Regis 
is that superstition has not ceased to exist among 
the old people of the land. It is difficult to be- 
lieve that there is a little district in England 
where superstition is still a part — a very obscure 
part, it is true — of the life of the people. But 
here I have noticed the shadow of witchcraft and 
magic thrown across the commonplace things of 
rustic life again and again while talking with old 
cronies over their beer, or along the winding hill 
roads. But it must be understood that the Dorset 



BERE REGIS 141 

man does not talk to any chance wayfarer on such 
matters : the subject of the " Borderland " and 
" spiritual creatures " is strictly set apart for the 
log fire and chimney corner on winter evenings. 
It is when the wooden shutters are up to the 
windows, and the tranquillising clay pipes are send- 
ing up their incense to the oak cross-beams, that 
we may cautiously turn the conversation on to 
such matters. On one such occasion as I watched 
the keen, wrinkled faces, on which common sense, 
shrewdness and long experience had set their 
marks, I wondered if two local farmers had made 
such sinners of their memories as to credit their 
own fancy. But no, I would not believe they 
were in earnest. It was only their quaint humour 
asserting itself. They were surely " piling it on " 
in order to deceive me ! However, that was not 
the solution, for when the time came, somewhere 
about midnight, for one of the farmers to return 
home he stolidly refused to face the dark track- 
way back to his farm, and preferred to spend the 
night in the arm-chair before the fire. But let 
one of the dwellers on Bere Heath tell of his own 
superstitions. Here is old Gover coming over 
the great Elizabethan bridge which spans the 
rushy River Frome at Wool. One glance at his 
cheerful, weather-beaten face will tell you better 
than a whole chapter of a book that he is no 



142 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

" lablolly " (fool), but a man of sound judgment, 
easy notions and general good character, like 
Hardy's Gabriel Oak. Leaning on the ancient 
stonework of the bridge, and smacking his 
vamplets (rough gaiters used by thatchers to 
defend the legs from wet) with a hazel stick, he 
stops to talk. A motor lorry filled with churns 
of milk passes on its way to drop its consignment 
at Wool railway siding. 

" Tellee what 'tis," said Gover to me, pointing 
to the lorry : " 'twill be a poor-come-a-long-o'-'t 
now them motors ar'e taking the place o' horses 
everywhere. Can't get no manure from them 
things, and the land is no good without manure. 
Mr Davis the farmer at Five Mile Bottom hev 
got five Ford cars now where ten horses used to 
feed. He sez to me that he don't want any horse 
manure — chemical manures is good enough for 
him. But he dunnow nort 't-all-'bout-et ! He'll 
eat the heart out of his soil with his chemicals, 
and his farm will be barren in a year or so. Ess, 
by Gor ! You bant agwain to do justice to the 
soil without real manure, and them as thinks they 
can dawnt know A from a 'oss's 'ead." 

Then I asked Gover about the Turberville ghost 
which we are told haunts this lane, and which is 
the subject of an allusion in Hardy's Tess of the 
D'Urbervilles. His keen old face became serious 



BERE REGIS 143 

at once. No ghosts or goblins had troubled him, 
he said, but John Rawles and another chap saw as 
plain as could be a funeral going along from Wool- 
bridge House to Bere Regis, and they heard the 
priest singing in front of the coffin, but they could 
not understand what he did say. There was a 
cattle gate across the road in those days and 
Rawles ran to open it, but before he could get 
there the coffin had passed through the gate and 
it had all vanished ! He had often heard tell of 
people who had seen ghosts, and he would not be 
put about if he did see one himself. 

" So you have not seen the blood-stained family 
coach of the Turbervilles ? " I inquired. 

" No, I never see that," said Cover, shaking 
his head, " nor never heard of it." 

" Then, as it is a tale that every child should 
know," 1 said, " I will tell you now, and you shall 
believe it or no, precisely as you choose. Once 
upon a time there was a Turberville who deserves 
to be remembered and to be called, so to speak, 
the limb of the ' old 'un ' himself, for he spent all 
his days in wickedness, and went roaring to the 
devil as fast as all his vices could send him. I 
have heard it said that he snapped his fingers in the 
face of a good parson who came to see him on his 
death-bed, saying he did not wish to talk balder- 
dash, or to hear it, and bade liim clear out and send 



144 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

up his servant with fighting-cocks and a bottle 
of brandy. Gradually all the drinking and vice, 
which had besieged his soul for so long, swept him 
into a state of temporary madness and he murdered 
a friend while they were riding to Woolbridge 
House in the family coach. The friend he struck 
down had Turberville blood in his veins too, so 
you may be certain the blame was not all on one 
side. Ever since the evil night the coach with 
the demon horses dragging it sways and rocks 
along the road between Wool and Bere, and the 
murderer i^ushes af^ifer it, moaning and wringing 
his hands, but never having the fortune to catch 
it up. The spectacle of the haunted coach can- 
not be seen by the ordinary wayfarer ; it is only 
to be seen by persons in which the blood of the 
Turbervilles is mixed." 

" Ah ! " nodded old Cover, " I don't hold with 
that story. If so be as that 'ere Turberville who 
murdered t'other hev a-gone up above, 'tain't 
likely as how he'll be wishful to go rowstering 
after that ripping great coach on a dalled bad road 
like this." And then he shook his bony finger in 
my face and added : " And if the dowl have a-got 
hold on 'im he won't be able to go gallyvanting 
about— he'll be kept there ! " 

Wool has another attraction in the ruins of 
Bindon Abbey, lying in the thick wood seen from 



BERE REGIS 145 

the station, a few minutes to the south of the line 
towards Wareham. The ruins are very scanty. 
A few slabs and coffins are still preserved, and 
one stone bears the inscription in Lombardic 
characters : 

ABBAS RICARDUS DE MANERS HIC TUMCJLATUR 
APPOENAS TARDUS DEUS HUNG SALVANS 

TUEATUR 

The Abbey is in a wood by the river — a gloomy, 
fearsome, dark place. This is the Wellbridge 
Abbey of Hardy's Tess, and we read that " against 
the north wall of the ruined choir was the empty 
stone coffin of an abbot, in which every tourist 
with a turn for grim humour was accustomed to 
stretch himself." This is, of course, the lidless 
coffin in which Angel Clare, walking in his sleep, 
laid Tess. Woolbridge House is not so near to 
this spot as Thomas Hardy gives one to under- 
stand in the novel. Near the ruin is the old mill 
of Bindon Abbey, situated on the Frome, where 
Angel Clare proposed to learn milling. It is 
called " Wellbridge Mill " in Tess. 

The old Abbey wood is full of shadows and is 
the kind of place that one would write down 
as immemorially old, barren and sinister. The 
singular impressiveness of its ivy-grown walls, 
shadowed by heavy masses of foliage, depresses 

K 



146 



THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 



one dreadfully. The straight footpaths beneath 
the trees have been worn into deep tracks by the 
attrition of feet for many centuries. Under the 
trees are the fish-ponds which played such an 
important part in provisioning the monks' larder. 
They are so concealed from the daylight that they 
take on a shining jet-black surface. A book 
might be written about the place — a book of 
terrible and fateful ghost tales. 



CHAPTER VIII 

ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH 

I walk in the world's great highways, 

In the dusty glare and riot, 
But my heart is in the byways 

That thread across the quiet ; 
By the wild flowers in the coppice. 

There the track like a sleep goes past. 
And paven with peace and poppies, 

Comes down to the sea at last. 

E. G. BUCKERIDGE. 

MODERN Weymouth is made up of two 
distinct townships, Weymouth and Mel- 
combe Regis, which were formerly separate 
boroughs, with their own parliamentary repre- 
sentatives. Of the two Weymouth is probably 
the older, but Melcombe can be traced well-nigh 
back to the Conquest ; and now, although it is 
the name of Weymouth that has obtained the 
prominence, it is to Melcombe that it is commonly 
applied. Many visitors to Weymouth never really 
enter the real, ancient Weymouth, now chiefly 
concerned in the brewing of Dorset ale. The 
pier, town, railway station and residences are all 
in Melcombe Regis. The local conditions are 
something more than peculiar. The little River 

Wey has an estuaiy altogether out of proportion 

147 



148 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

to its tiny stream, called the Blackwater. The 
true original Weymouth stands on the right bank 
of the estuary at its entrance into Weymouth 
Bay. Across the mouth of the estuary, leaving 
a narrow channel only open, stretches a narrow 
spit of land, on which stands Melcombe. The 
Blackwater has thus a lake-like character, and 
its continuation to the sea, the harbour, may 
be likened to a canal. The local annals of the 
kingdom can hardly furnish such another instance 
of jealous rivalry as the strife between the two 
boroughs. Barely ^ stone's-throw apart, they 
were the most quarrelsome of neighbours, and 
for centuries lived the most persistent " cat and 
dog " life. Whatever was advanced by one com- 
munity was certain to be opposed by the other, 
and not even German and English hated each 
other with a more perfect hatred than did the 
burgesses of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis. 
As they would not live happy single, it was 
resolved to try what married life would do, and 
so in 1571 the two corporations were rolled into 
one, the only vestige of the old days retained being 
the power of electing four members to Parliament 
from the joint municipality — a right which was 
exercised until 1832. Not until the union was 
the old-fashioned ferry over the Wey supple- 
mented by a bridge, the predecessor of that which 



ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH 149 

now joins the two divisions of the dual town. The 
union proved to be a success, and in this way 
Weymouth saved both itself and its name from 
becoming merely a shadow and a memory. 

It is to George III. that Weymouth must be 
eternally grateful, for just in the same way as 
George IV. turned Brighthelmstone into Brighton, 
it was George III. who made Weymouth. Of 
course there was a Weymouth long before his 
day, but whatever importance it once possessed 
had long disappeared when he took it up. For 
many years the King spent long summer holidays 
at Gloucester Lodge, a mansion facing the sea, 
and now the sedate Gloucester Hotel. 

Considering its undoubted age, Weymouth is 
remarkably barren in traces of the past, and 
a few Elizabethan houses, for the most part 
modernised, well-nigh exhaust its antiquities. 

Weymouth, which figures as " Budmouth " in 
Hardy's romances, is the subject of many refer- 
ences. Uncle Bengy, in The Trumpet Major, 
found Budmouth a plaguy expensive place, for 
" If you only eat one egg, or even a poor windfall 
of an apple, you've got to pay ; and a bunch of 
radishes is a halfpenny, and a quart o' cider 
tuppence three-farthings at lowest reckoning. 
Nothing without paying ! " 

When George III. and the sun of prosperity 



150 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

shone upon the tradesfolk of Weymouth the spirit 
of pecuniary gain soon became rampant. The 
inflated prices which so roused poor old Uncle 
Bengy even staggered Queen Charlotte, and 
"Peter Pindar" (Dr John Wolcot) criticised her 
household thriftiness in bringing stores and pro- 
visions from Windsor : 

" Bread, cheese, salt, catchup, vinegar and mustard, 
Small beer and bacon, apple pie and custard ; 
All, all from Windsor, greets his frugal Grace, 
For Weymouth is a d d expensive place." 

Sandsfoot Castle, built by Henry VIII., on the 
southern shore of the spit of land called the Nothe, 
Weymouth Bay, is now a mere pile of corroded 
stone. It was built as a fort when England 
feared an invasion prompted by the Pope. The 
old pile plays a prominent part in Hardy's The 
Well-Beloved. The statue of King George, which 
is such an object of ridicule to the writers of 
guide-books, was the meeting-place of Fancy 
Day and Dick Dewy in Under the Greenwood Tree. 

The " Budmouth " localities mentioned in The 
Trumpet Major are : the Quay ; Theatre Royal ; 
Barracks ; Gloucester Lodge ; and the Old Rooms 
Inn in Love Row, once a highly fashionable resort 
which was used for dances and other entertain- 
ments by the ladies and gentlemen who formed 
the Court of George III. It was also the spot 



ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH 151 

where the battle of Trafalgar was discussed in 
The Dynasts. However, the old assembly rooms 
and the theatre have now vanished. Mention of 
Hardy's tremendous drama reminds me that it is 
rarely quoted in topographical works on Dorset, 
and yet it is full of the spirit and atmosphere of 
Wessex. Thus in a few words he tells us what 
" Boney " seemed like to the rustics of Dorset : 

" Woman {in undertones). I can tell you a word 
or two on't. It is about His victuals. They say 
that He lives upon human flesh, and has rashers 
o' baby every morning for breakfast — for all the 
world like the Cernel Giant in old ancient times ! 

"Second Old Man. I only believe half. And 
I only own — such is my challengeful character — 
that perhaps He do eat pagan infants when He's 
in the desert. But not Christian ones at home. 
Oh no — 'tis too much ! 

"Woman. Whether or no, I sometimes — God 
forgi'e me ! —laugh wi' horror at the queerness 
o't, till I am that weak I can hardly go round 
house. He should have the washing of 'em a few 
times ; I warrent 'a wouldn't want to eat babies 
any more ! " 

There are a hundred clean-cut, bright things 
in The Dynasts, and some of the songs are so 
cunningly fashioned that we know the author 
must surely have overheard them so often that 



152 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

they have become part of his life. Does the 
reader remember this from the first volume ? — 

" In the wild October night-time, when the wind 

raved round the land, 
And the Back- sea met the Front- sea, and our 

doors were blocked with sand, 
And we heard the drub of Dead-man's Bay, 

where bones of thousands are, 
We knew not what the day had done for us at 
Trafalgar. 

(All) Had done, 

Had done 
For us at Trafalgar ! 



Or the other ballad sung by a Peninsular sergeant — 

"When we lay where Budmouth Beach is. 
Oh, the girls were fresh as peaches. 
With their tall and tossing figures and their eyes 
of blue and brown ! 
And our hearts would ache with longing 
As we passed from our sing-songing. 
With a smart Clink ! Clink ! up the Esplanade 
and down." 

The principal attraction of Weymouth is its 
magnificent bay, which has caused the town to 
be depicted on the railway posters as the " Naples 
of England " ; but Mr Harper, in his charming 
book, The Hardy Country^ cruelly remarks that 
no one has yet found Naples returning the com- 
pliment and calling itself the " Weymouth of 
Italy." But there is no need for Weymouth to 



ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH 153 

powder and paint herself with fanciful attrac- 
tions, for her old-world glamour is full of en- 
chantment. The pure Georgian houses on the 
Esplanade, with their fine bow windows and red- 
tiled roofs, are very warm and homely, and remind 
one of the glories of the coaching days. They 
are guiltless of taste or elaboration, it is true, but 
they have an honest savour about them which 
is redolent of William Cobbett, pig- skin saddles, 
real ale and baked apples. And those are some 
of the realest things in the world. There is a 
distinct " atmosphere " about the shops near the 
harbour too. They shrink back from the foot- 
path in a most timid way, and each year they 
seem to settle down an inch or so below the street- 
level, with the result that they are often entered 
by awkward steps. 

Near the Church of St Mary is the Market, 
which on Fridays and Tuesdays presents a scene 
of colour and activity. In the Guildhall are 
several interesting relics, the old stocks and 
whipping-posts, a chest captured from the Span- 
ish Armada and a chair from the old house of the 
Dominican friars which was long ago demolished. 

Preston, three miles north-east of W^eymouth, 
is a prettily situated village on the main road to 
Wareham, with interesting old thatched cottages 
and a fifteenth-century church containing an 



154 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

ancient font, a Norman door, holy- water stoups 
and squint. At the foot of the hill a little one- 
arched bridge over the stream was once regarded 
as Roman masonry, but the experts now think it 
is Early Norman work. Adjoining Preston is the 
still prettier village of Sutton Poyntz, hemmed 
in by the Downs, on the side of which, in a con- 
spicuous position, is the famous figure, cut in 
the turf, of King George III. on horseback. He 
looks very impressive, with his cocked hat and 
marshal's baton. Sutton Poyntz is the principal 
locale of Hardy's itory of The Trumpet Major. 
The tale is of a sweet girl, Anne Garland, and two 
brothers Loveday, who loved her ; the " gally- 
bagger " sailor, Robert, who won her, and John, 
the easy-going, gentle soldier, who lost her. The 
Trumpet Major is a mellow, loamy novel, and the 
essence of a century of sunshine has found its 
way into the pages. Even the pensiveness of the 
story — the sadness of love unsatisfied — is mellow. 
The village to-day, with its tree-shaded stream, 
crooked old barns and stone cottages, recalls 
the spirit of the novel with Overcombe Mill as 
a central theme. How vividly the pilgrim can 
recall the Mill, with its pleasant rooms, old-world 
garden, and the stream where the cavalry soldiers 
came down to water their horses ! It was a dearly 
loved corner of England for John Loveday, and 



ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH 155 

if to keep those meadows safe and fair a life was 
required, he was perfectly willing to pay the price 
— nay, more, he was proud and glad to do so. In 
the end John was killed in one of the battles of 
the Peninsular War, and his spirit is echoed by a 
soldier poet who went to his death in 1914 : 

"Mayhap I shall not walk again 

Down Dorset way, down Devon way. 
Nor pick a posy in a lane 

Down Somerset and Sussex way. 

But though my bones, unshriven, rot 
In some far-distant alien spot. 
What soul I have shall rest from care 
To know that meadows still are fair 
Down Dorset way, down Devon way." 

The mill is not the one sketched in the tale, but 
it still grinds corn, and one can still see " the 
smooth mill-pond, over-full, and intruding into 
the hedge and into the road." The real mill is 
actually at Upwey. 

Bincombe, two miles north-east of Upwey, is 
one of the " outstep placen," where the remnants 
of dialect spoken in the days of Wessex kings is 
not quite dead, and as we go in and out among 
the old cottages we come upon many a word 
which has now been classed by annotators as 
"obsolete." "I'd as lief be wooed of a snail," 
says Rosalind in As You Like It of the tardy 
Orlando, and " I'd as lief " or " I'd liefer " is still 



156 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

heard here in Bincombe. There is a large sur- 
vival of pure Saxon in the Wessex speech, and 
Thomas Hardy has made a brave attempt to pre- 
serve the old local words in his novels. He has 
always deplored the fact that schools were driving 
out the racy Saxon words of the West Country, 
and once remarked to a friend : 

" I have no sympathy with the criticism which 
would treat English as a dead language — a thing 
crystallised at an arbitrarily selected stage of its 
existence, and bidden to forget that it has a past 
and deny that it hats a future. Purism, whether 
in grammar or vocabulary, almost always means 
ignorance. Language was made before grammar, 
not grammar before language. And as for the 
people who make it their business to insist on the 
utmost possible impoverishment of our English 
vocabulary, they seem to me to ignore the lessons 
of history, science, and common sense. 

" It has often seemed to me a pity, from many 
points of view — and from the point of view of 
language among the rest — that Winchester did 
not remain, as it once was, the royal, political, 
and social capital of England, leaving London to 
be the commercial capital. The relation between 
them might have been something like that be- 
tween Paris and Marseilles or Havre ; and per- 
haps, in that case, neither of them would have 



ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH 157 

been so monstrously overgrown as London is to- 
day. We should then have had a metropolis free 
from the fogs of the Thames Valley ; situated, 
not on clammy clay, but on chalk hills, the best 
soil in the world for habitation ; and we might 
have preserved in our literary language a larger 
proportion of the racy Saxon of the West Country. 
Don't you think there is something in this ? " 

Returning from Bincombe and passing through 
Sutton to Preston we come in a mile to Osmington. 
A short distance beyond the village a narrow road 
leads off seawards to Osmington Mills. Crossing 
the hills, this narrower road descends to the coast 
and the Picnic Inn — a small hostelry noted for 
"lobster lunches" and "prawn teas." If we 
strike inland from Osmington we come to Pox- 
well, the old manor-house of the Hennings, a 
curiously walled-in building with a very interest- 
ing gate-house. This is the Oxwell Manor of The 
Trumpet Major and the house of Benjamin Derri- 
man — "a wizened old gentleman, in a coat the 
colour of his farmyard, breeches of the same hue, 
unbuttoned at the knees, revealing a bit of leg 
above his stocking and a dazzlingly white shirt- 
frill to compensate for this untidiness below. The 
edge of his skull round his eye-sockets was visible 
through the skin, and he walked with great 
apparent difficulty." 



158 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Pressing onward from this village, we arrive, 
after a two-mile walk, at " Warm 'ell Cross," 
three miles south-west of Moreton station. The 
left road leads to Dorchester, the right one to 
Wareham, and the centre one across the im- 
memorially ancient and changeless " Egdon 
Heath." Here we turn to the right and Ower- 
moigne, the " Nether Mynton " in which the 
events of The Distracted Preacher take place. 
Here indeed is a nook which seems to be a sur- 
vival from another century ; a patch of England 
of a hundred years^ ago set down in the England 
of to-day. The church where Lizzie Newberry 
and her smugglers stored " the stuff " is hidden 
from those who pass on the highroad and is 
reached by a little rutty, crooked lane. The 
body of the church has been rebuilt, but the 
tower where the smugglers looked down upon 
the coastguard officers searching for their casks 
of brandy remains the same. 

The highway leads for two miles along the 
verge of Egdon Heath, and then we come to a 
right-hand turning taking us past Winfrith New- 
burgh and over the crest of the chalk downs 
steeply down to West Lulworth. 

Lul worth Cove is justly considered one of the 
most delightful and picturesque retreats on the 
coast. It is a circular little basin enclosed bv 



ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH 159 

towering cliffs of chalk and sand and entered by 
a narrow opening between two bluffs of Portland 
stone. It exhibits a section of all the beds be- 
tween the chalk and oolite, and owes its peculiar 
form to the unequal resistance of these strata to 
the action of the sea. The perpetually moving 
water, having once pierced the cliff of stone, soon 
worked its way deeply into the softer sand and 
chalk. 

Lul worth is the " Lull stead Cove " of the 
Hardy novels. Here Sergeant Troy was supposed 
to have been drowned; it is one of the landing- 
places chosen by the Distracted Preacher's 
parishioners during their smuggling exploits, and 
in Desperate Remedies it is the first meeting-place 
of Cynthera Graye and Edward Springrove. 

The cove is most conveniently reached from 
Swanage by steamer. By rail the journey is 
made to Wool and thence by bus for five miles 
southward. By road the short way is by Church 
Knowle, Steeple, Tyneham and East Lulworth — 
but the hills are rather teasing ; however, the 
views are wonderful. It is nine miles if one 
takes the Wareham road from Corfe as far as 
Staborough, there turning to the left for East 
Holme, West Holme and East Lulworth. 

The entrance to the cove from the Channel is 
a narrow opening in the cliff, which here rises 



160 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

straight from the sea. Mounted on a summit on 
the eastern side of the breach is a coastguard's 
look-out, while in a hollow on the other side are 
the remains of Little Bindon Abbev. The cove 
is an almost perfect circle, and in summer the 
tide, as it flows in, fills the white cove with a 
shimmering sheet of light blue water. Each 
wave breaks the surface into a huge circle, and 
the effect from the heights is a succession of 
wonderful sparkling rings vanishing into the 
yellow sands. To the east rise the ridges of 
Bindon Hill and \he grey heights of Portland 
stone that terminate seaward in the Mupe Rocks, 
then the towering mass of Ring's Hill, crowned 
by the large oblong entrenchment known as 
Flower's Barrow, which has probably been both 
a British and a Roman camp. 

In the summer steamers call daily at the cove. 
The landing is effected by means of boats or long 
gangways. After having climbed the hill roads 
into Lulworth, the pilgrim will not, I am certain, 
look with any delight upon a return to them, and 
will welcome an alternative trip to Swanage, 
Weymouth or Bournemouth by an excursion 
steamer. 

Portisham, under the bold, furzy hills that rise 
to the commanding height of Blackdown, appears 
in The Trumpet Major as the village to which 




CORFE CASTLE 

From a photograph taken in 1865 

The old-time shepherd stands in the foreground with his dog a shaggy 
ruffian of a now fast-disappearing breed 



i6o 



ROUND AND ABOUT WEYMOUTH 161 

Bob Loveday (who was spasmodically in love 
with Anne Garland) comes to attach himself to 
Admiral Hardy for service in the Royal Navy. 
Notwithstanding the fact that Robert Loveday 
is merely an imaginary character, the admiral 
was a renowned hero in real life, and no less a 
personage than Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy. He 
lived here, in a picturesque old house just outside 
the village, and the chimney-like tower on Black 
Down was erected to his memory. In a garden 
on the opposite side of the road to Hardy's house 
is a sundial, inscribed : 

JOSEPH HARDY, ESQ. 
KINGSTON RUSSELL, LAT. 50^ 45' 

1769 
FUGIO FUGE 

Admiral Hardy was born at Kingston Russell, 
and his old home at Portisham is still in the 
possession of a descendant on the female side. 

From Portisham a walk of four miles leads 
to Abbotsbury, situated at the verge of the Vale 
of Wadden and the Chesil Beach. The railway 
station is about ten minutes' walk from the 
ancient village, which consists of a few houses 
picturesquely dotted around the church and 
scattered ruins of the Abbey of St Peter. The 
abbey was originally founded in King Knut's 



162 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

reign by Arius, the " house-carl," or steward, to 
the king, about 1044, in the reign of Edward the 
Confessor. The building at the south-east corner 
of the church is part of the old abbey. It is now 
used as a carpenter's shop, but an old stoup can 
be seen in the corner. At the farther end of this 
building is a cell in which the last abbot is said to 
have been starved to death. 

A gate-house porch and a buttressed granary 
of fourteenth-centurv architecture, still used as a 
barn, and a pond, with a tree-covered island, the 
ancient fish-pond "of the monks, are all that 
remain to remind us of the historic past of this 
spot. 



CHAPTER IX 

POOLE 

THE wide expanse of Poole Harbour is a 
well-known haunt of sportsmen, for in the 
winter it is the home of innumerable wild-fowl, 
and for those who are fond of yachting and 
pottering about with boats it is large enough to 
test their skill and patience in controlling a craft 
in the wind and wave. Here we get a double 
tide, the second rising rather higher than the 
first, and when the tide is in the view is not un- 
like a Dutch landscape. But the ebb lays bare 
acres of mud-banks, which mar the prospect. 
However, the marine emanations from the mud- 
banks are said to be very salubrious. This 
harbour is the only haven between Southampton 
and Weymouth for yachting men. 

Inland from Poole the country is pleasantly 
varied by hills and heaths, through which, on the 
west side of the harbour, the verge of Bourne- 
mouth is reached, and an hour's walk will take 
the pilgrim over the Hampshire boundary. 

Poole Quay, where we smell the smell of tar, 

piled-up teak and reeking pine, is an interesting 
163 



164 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

place for lovers of the picturesque. Here we 
find an old postern gate of Richard III.'s day, 
and the Town Cellar or Wool House. The last 
recalls the days when Poole was part of the manor 
of Canford. The lords of Canford sometimes 
received toll in kind, and the goods handed over 
were stored in this "Town Cellar." It is par- 
ticularly interesting for the way its walls are 
formed, of flint and large, squared pieces of stone. 
The smuggling for which Poole was long 
notorious is handed down to posterity by the 
following doggerel ^ 



" If Poole was a fish-pool, and the men of Poole 
fish. 
There 'd be a pool for the devil, and fish for his 
dish." 

One of the most daring and successful of 
English buccaneers was Harry Page of Poole, or, 
as he was more commonly called, Arripay. His 
enterprises were principally directed against the 
coasts of France and Spain, where he committed 
such havoc that a formidable expedition was 
fitted out in those countries to destroy him. It 
sailed along our southern shores, destroying as 
opportunity offered, until it reached Poole. Here 
it landed, and a battle ensued, in which the in- 
habitants were driven from the town and the 
brother of Arripay killed. 



POOLE 165 

The island of Brownsea or Branksea (it has a 
score of other variations) is the most prominent 
feature in Poole Harbour. It is ovoid in shape, 
about one and a half miles long by one mile broad, 
and lies just within the narrow harbour entrance, 
the main channel sweeping round its eastern side. 
This made the island of considerable importance 
in the defence of the port, and led to the erection 
of Brownsea Castle towards the end of the reign 
of Henry VIII. Prior to this Brownsea had been 
part of the possessions of the Abbey of Cerne. 
The castle was almost wholly destroyed by fire 
in 1896, and in the following year rebuilt. 

Fi-om Poole the pilgrim can cross by the toll- 
bridge to Hamworth and visit Lytchett Minster, 
which is two miles north-west of the lonely rail- 
way junction. Part of the action of The Hand 
of Ethelberta takes place in this neighbourhood. 
The sign of one of the village inns, " St Peter's 
Finger," is one of the most interesting features of 
Lytchett Minster. The sign shows St Peter hold- 
ing up a hand with two extended fingers, and is a 
curious instance of the way in which old terms 
and traditions are exposed to corruption. Sir B. 
Windle explains the matter tersely and clearly: 
"August the 1st, Lammas Day, known in the 
calendar of the Catholic Church as St Peter ad 
Vincula, was one of the days on which praedial 



166 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

service had to be done for the lord of certain 
manors, as a condition of tenure by the occupants. 
Such lands were called St Peter-ad- Vincula lands, 
a term which easily got corrupted into St Peter's 
finger." 

A brief description of Poole —under the Wessex 
name of " Havenpool "—is given in Hardy's " To 
please his Wife," one of the short stories of Life's 
Little Ironies. It is the story of Captain Shad- 
rack Jolliff, who gave up the sea and settled down 
in his native town as a grocer, marrying Joanna 
Phippard. They l^d two sons, but the captain 
did not make much progress in business and his 
wife persuaded him to go to sea again, as they 
were in need of money. He bought a small 
vessel and went into the Newfoundland trade, 
returning home with his makings, which were 
deemed insufficient by his wife. Accordingly he 
resolved to make another voyage, and take his 
sons with him so that his profits might be more 
considerable. From this voyage they never re- 
turned, and Joanna was left penniless. She spent 
the rest of her life expecting the return of her 
husband and sons. 

It is evident that Hardy chose the name of 
Jolliff from his counterpart in real life, an 
honest, deep-hearted son of Poole, Peter Jolliff 
by name, master of the Sea Adventurer. Off 



POOLE 167 

Swanage, in 1694, with only the aid of a small 
boy, he captured a French privateer and made 
its crew prisoners of war. He secured royal 
recognition for this bold act and received a gold 
chain and medal from the hands of the King. 

To the pilgrim who seeks things of antique 
beauty and interest on foot, with staff and wallet, 
in the old way, I cannot recommend a more en- 
joyable route than along the coast from Poole to 
Lyme, which may be covered in a week. But to 
do the thing comfortably ten days would be 
more advisable. Here is the itinerary if a week 
is taken. First day, borders of Poole Harbour 
by Studland to Swanage ; second day, Swanage 
to West Lulworth ; the third, Lulworth by 
Osmington to Weymouth ; the fourth, Wey- 
mouth and Portland ; the fifth, Weymouth by 
Abbotsbury to Bridport ; and the sixth, Brid- 
port to Lyme. Should the walker allow himself 
a few extra days he might give an extra day to 
Purbeck, to visit Corfe Castle, pay a visit to 
Dorchester, and to give himself two days between 
Weymouth and Bridport, halting midway at 
Abbotsbury. 



CHAPTER X 

SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 

SWANAGE is a well-known seaside resort, 
rapidly growing in favour. It nestles in 
the farther corner of a lovely little bay, and 
though in the rapid extension of rows of newly 
arisen houses, consequent upon the development 
of its fame as a watering-place, much of its old- 
time, half-sleepy, half-commercial aspect has 
passed away, Kingsley's still remains the best 
description of this spot — " well worth seeing, 
and when once seen not easily to be forgotten. 
A little semicircular bay, its northern horn 
formed by high cliffs of white chalk {Ballard 
Head), ending in white, isolated stacks and peaks 
{The Pinnacles, Old Harry and his Wife, etc.), 
round whose feet the blue sea ripples for ever. 
In the centre of the bay the softer Wealden beds 
have been worn away, forming an amphitheatre 
of low sand and clay cliffs. The southern horn 
{Peveril Point) is formed by the dark limestone 
beds of the Purbeck marble. A quaint, old- 
world village slopes down to the water over green 
downs, quarried, like some gigantic rabbit- 

168 



SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 169 

burrow, with the stone workings of seven hundred 
years. Land-locked from every breeze, huge elms 
flourish on the dry sea beach, and the gayest and 
tenderest garden flowers bask under the hot stone 
walls." 

Tilly Whim is one of the attractions here. A 
short walk by Peveril Point, Durlston Bay and 
Durlston Head leads to Tilly Whim, which is on 
the eastern side of oddly named Anvil Cove, and 
is the first of a series of cliff quarries opened in 
the Portland-Purbeck beds along the coast. The 
cliff has been tunnelled into a series of gigantic 
chambers, supported by huge pillars of the living 
rock and opening on a platform in the face of 
the precipice, beneath which the waters roar and 
rage almost unceasingly. The boldness of the 
headland, the sombre greys of the rocks, the 
rude, massive columns which support the roof of 
the huge cavity, the restless sea — all are elements 
that heighten the scenic effect of a spot almost 
unique of its kind. Tilly Whim has been com- 
pared to a "huge rock temple" — like those of 
India. 

Thomas Hardy has left us another interesting 
description of the Swanage of bygone days : 
" Knollsea was a seaside village, lying snugly 
within two headlands, as between a finger and 
thumb. Everybody in the parish who was not a 



170 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

boatman was a quarrier, unless he were the 
gentleman who owned half the property and 
had been a quarryman, or the other gentleman 
who owned the other half and had been to sea." 

At the time this was written the steamers were 
moored to a " row of rotten piles," but these have 
long passed away and their place has been taken 
by a substantial pier. But, let there be what 
changes there may, there will always be quarries 
in the town ; it is one of those primeval voca- 
tions which remain unchanged and unchangeable 
in the midst of our changing civilisation. The 
quarry folk were an exceptionally reserved and 
isolated people, and the way their occupation has 
worked in the creation of a peculiar race is, while 
not at all surprising, yet very remarkable. The 
quarries have afforded a singular and most inter- 
esting instance of the survival, in full working 
order, of a mediaeval trades guild of a somewhat 
primitive type, and even in these days no stranger 
is permitted to share in their rights and privileges. 

The right to become a quarryman is inherited 
from one family to another, and the admission 
into the guild is an important ceremony : " The 
quarries and merchants have from time im- 
memorial formed a sort of guild or company, 
whose rules are still enforced, affecting not only 
the prices of work, but determining the whole 




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SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 171 

social position and character of the people. The 
Society calls itself ' The Company of the Marblers 
and Stone-Cutters of the Isle of Purbeck,' and its 
meetings are held annually on Shrove Tuesday 
in the Townhall of Corfe Castle. Here they 
choose wardens and stewards, settle bye-laws 
and other business, and determine any difference 
between members in relation to the trade, or 
punish any infractions of their regulations. At 
these meetings the apprentices, who can only be 
sons of quarrymen, are, when they have attained 
the age of twenty- one, made free members of this 
community, on presenting themselves in ' court ' 
with a fee of six shillings and eightpence, a penny 
loaf in one hand and a pot of beer in the other. 
Another portion of the business consists in a 
visit to the old wharf at Owre, and there renew- 
ing their ancient custom of presenting a pound 
of pepper to the landlord of the little inn there, 
receiving a cake from him, and having a game 
of foot-ball, which, in connection with this com- 
memoration of the ancient acknowledgment for 
rent or use of wharfage, is called the ' Pepper 
Ball.' Seven years after taking up their freedom 
freemen may take apprentices. The widow of 
a freeman may take up her freedom on payment 
of one shilling, and then employ apprentices and 
carry on business. At the annual meeting the 



172 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

sons of freemen are registered, and are not allowed 
to work at any department of the business unless 
duly registered." 

The great majority of the old quarry-owners were 
members of a dozen families only, there being just 
a score of Bowers ; Collinses, Harrises, Haysomes, 
Normans, Phippards and Tomeses averaging half- 
a-dozen each : with Coopers, Corbens, Landers, 
Stricklands and Bonfields not far behind. 

New-comers were much disliked by the quarry- 
men, and the custom of " marrying the land " was 
observed in former ^days and, for aught I know, 
may be observed now. However, we do know 
that " foreigners " were not allowed to hold land 
in the Isle of Portland a hundred years ago, and 
the inhabitants, who claimed to be true descend- 
ants of the Phoenicians who traded with Cornwall 
and Devonshire for tin, kept themselves a distinct 
people. In " marrjdng the land " the contract- 
ing parties met at church, and joining hands the 
one who handed over the property simply said : 
" I, Uncle Tom " (the surname was never used 
by the quarry folk), " give to thee. Cousin An- 
tony, such-and-such land." The clergyman then 
placed his hands over the others, and the contract 
was concluded. 

As I have said, the old-world village of Swanage 
has altered much, and has become a town, and 



SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 173 

since the opening of the branch railway from 
Wareham in the latter end of the eighties of 
the nineteenth century the ancient customs and 
characters of those unhurried, simpler, happier days 
have been swept away. The calming quietude 
of the quaint old stone houses is now disturbed 
by ugly, modern erections of red brick. But the 
quaint cottages, solid in great stone slabs and 
stone tiles, still breathe the true artlessness of the 
quarry folk. They are an instance of provident 
care and sound workmanship defying the neglect 
of a hundred successive tenants. The High 
Street of Old Swanage, which rises uphill from 
the Ship Hotel towards the church, traversing 
the centre of the town from east to west, seems 
saturated with human influence and has a flavour 
all its own. Half-way up the street on the right 
is the Town Hall, with an ornate fa9ade which 
once formed part of the Mercers' Hall in London, 
designed by Sir Christopher Wren. A few yards 
down the side-turning by the hall can be seen, on 
the left, an even greater curiosity, the Old Lock- 
Up, of stone, " erected," as an inscription records, 
" for the prevention of wickedness and vice by 
friends of religion and good order, a.d. 1803." 

On the left is Purbeck House, a low, private 
residence, built by a " local Maecenas," the late 
Mr Burt, the contractor, in 1876. The fish vane. 



174 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

of burnished copper, formerly adorned Billings- 
gate Market, and the wall fronting the street is 
faced with granite chips from the Albert Memorial, 
Hyde Park. 

When we reach the highest point of the main 
street the hill pitches down to the right, and we 
look upon a prospect of the town with a char- 
acter of its own, not unworthy of observation, in 
which the sturdy, square-towered church is a 
striking feature. To the left is a mill-pond, 
which bcfi^ins to wear the airs of history and 
reflects in the imrnffled lustre of its waters the 
inverted images of some very quaint houses built 
of grey stone and almost entirely overspread with 
fungi and moss. The lower walls of stone are 
black and polished with the leaning of innumer- 
able shoulders, and the steps of the external stone 
stairways are worn into gullies by the tread of 
generations. The extraordinary " yards " and 
byways are also worthy of attention. A few 
downward steps will bring the pilgrim to St 
Mary's Church, which was rebuilt in 1859. The 
parish registers date back to 1567, and the tower 
is thought to be Saxon. At this church Ethel - 
berta Petherwin, in The Hand of Ethelberta, is 
secretly married to Lord Mountclere, and her 
father and brother arrive too late to interfere 
with the ceremony. 



SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 175 

A walk along the Herston Road brings us to 
Newton Manor, one of the old Dorset manor- 
houses. The only relics of the ancient building 
are an Elizabethan stone fireplace in the kitchen 
and the barn of the old homestead, with an open 
timber roof, which has been converted into a 
dining-hall. In the latter is a fine carved stone 
chimneypiece brought from a Florentine palace. 

A favourite excursion from Swanage is a trip 
to Studland. Any native will direct the pilgrim 
to the footpath way to the " Rest and be 
Thankful " seat at the top of Ballard Down, 
where one can take a well-beaten track to the 
entrance of the village. At the remains of an old 
cross bear to the right and follow a picturesque 
" water lane " to the shore. Studland is one of 
the most charming villages in England, and the 
church is one of the most notable in Dorset. It 
is an admirable example of intact Norman work, 
and its chief details are perfect— including a 
quaint corbel table in the nave, font, and moulded 
arches with carved capitals. 

The celebrated Agglestone is about a mile away 
on Studland Common. It is a huge fragment of 
the iron-cemented sandstone of the locality, 
raised on a mound above the heath. It has been 
regarded as a Druidical memorial, but though 
that idea may now be considered exploded, 



176 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

associations still attach to it, since we are told 
"the name Agglestone (Saxon, halig-stan = holy 
stone) certainly seems to show that it was erected 
for some superstitious purpose." The country 
people call it the BeviVs Nightcap, and there is a 
tradition that his Satanic Majesty threw it from 
the Isle of Wight, with an intent to demolish 
Corfe Castle, but that it dropped short here ! 
How it comes to be poised here has puzzled the 
archaeologist, but it has been explained as being 
simply a block that has been insulated by process 
of nature, the result of its protecting from the 
rigours of wind and rain the little eminence 
which it caps. 

Corfe is six miles by road from Swanage by way 
of Langton Matravers, a village of sombre stone 
houses, which is occupied by workers in the 
neighbouring stone quarries. The place-name 
" Matravers " is identified with the family of 
Maltravers, one of whom was the unworthy in- 
strument employed by Mortimer and Queen 
Isabella in the murder of Edward II. This 
member of the family having turned out to be 
such a particularly " bad Travers," his descend- 
ants sought to hide their evil reputation by 
dropping the " 1 " out of their name. 

The " Old Malt House," which is now a school, 
is a fine specimen of the old-time stone building, 




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SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 177 

and one can still trace bricked-in windows, where 
the sacks were hoisted in to the malt floors. Pass- 
ing Callow's Gore Cottages we come to Kingston, 
which is two miles from Corfe Castle, and is 
pleasantly situated on an eminence which com- 
mands a good view of the surrounding country. 
Encombe, the seat of the Eldons, is about two 
miles to the south-west and is the Enckworth 
Court (Lychworth Court in early editions) of The 
Hand of Ethelberta. The house lies deep down 
in the beautiful valley of Encombe, which opens 
out to the sea, with fine views in almost every 
direction. This valley is known as the Golden 
Bowl, by reason of the fertility of the soil. A 
short distance from Kingston may be seen the 
remains of the old manor-house of Scowles. 

• •••*•• 

On the morrow, when I stepped out under the 
famous porch chamber of the Greyhound Hotel, 
Corfe wore her bright morning smile. The air was 
soft, warm and redolent with the scent of good 
blue wood smoke. Corfe is one of the pieasantest 
villages in Dorset and has a wonderfully soothing 
effect upon the visitor. I should recommend 
this old-world retreat for those who are weary of 
the traffic and frenzy of the city market-place. 
The prevailing colour of the old houses makes 
the place ever cool-looking and lends the village 

M 



178 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

an air of extreme restfulness. From the humblest 
cottage to the Town House opposite the village 
cross the buildings are of weather-beaten stone, 
and are a delicate symphony in the colour grey, 
the proportions also being exactly satisfying to 
the eye. Stone slabs of immense size form the 
roofs themselves. Look at the roof of the Grey- 
hound Inn ! When these roof stones were put 
down the builder did not put them there for his 
own day, selfishly, but for posterity. This, as 
Hilaire Belloc would say, is a benediction of a 
roof, a roof that physically shelters and spiritu- 
ally sustains, a roof majestic, a roof eternal. A 
walk through the town will reveal Tudor win- 
dows, quaint doorways and several eighteenth- 
century porches, of which that at the Greyhound 
is the best example. The market-place, with the 
Bankes Arms Hotel at one end, the Greyhound 
backing on to the castle and the castle and hills 
peering over the roof tops of the town, gives one 
a mingled pleasure of reminiscence and discovery. 
Standing back a little from the Swanage road 
is the small Elizabethan manor-house of Dack- 
hams or Dacombs, now called Morton House, 
and one of the best manor-houses in the country. 
The ground plan forms the letter E, and it 
has a perfect little paved courtyard full of 
flowers. 



SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 179 

Corfe Church was rebuilt in 1860, but it pre- 
serves some historic continuity in its tower, which 
dates from the end of the fourteenth century. 
The churchwardens' chest in the porch was made 
in the year 1672, and Hy Paulett, who made it, 
was paid the magnificent sum of eight shilUngs. 
And did Hy Paulett go often to the Greyhound 
and allay his thirst in the making of it ? A man 
would require good ale to make such a " brave 
good " chest as this. And can they make such 
chests in these days ? Lord knows ! . . . Any- 
how, there is something in such a piece of work 
which appeals to me — something which seems to 
satisfy the memories in my blood. The clock 
dates from 1539. Curfew is tolled in Corfe daily, 
from October to March, at 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. 
Hutchins, writing at the end of the eighteenth 
century, tells us that the people of Corfe were of 
an indolent disposition, and goes on to say that 
" the appearance of misery in the town is only 
too striking." Perhaps they " mumped " around 
and watched Hy Paulett work laboriously on the 
church chest and became downcast when he only 
received eight shillings for it. However, the 
morality of Corfe should have been high, for the 
churchwardens appear to have been very exact- 
ing in the matter of Sabbath observance. In the 
quaint old church records, which date from 1563, 



180 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

are many interesting references to the offenders 
in this respect : 

" 1629. We do Present William Smith for suffer- 
ing two small Boys to have drink upon the 
Sabbath day during Divine service. 

Item. We do Present John Rawles for being 
drunk on the Sabbath day during the time 
of Divine service. 

Item. We Present the Miller of West Mill for 
grinding on the Sabbath day. 

Item. We do Present John Pushman Anthony 
Vye and James Turner for playing in the 
Churchyard upon the Sabbath day. 

1630. We do Present, William Rawles for sending 
his man to drive upon the Sabbath day. 

Item. We do Present James Turner and George 
Cover for being drinky on the Sabbath day 
during the time of Divine service." 

The reader will note that the churchwardens 
at Corfe were blessed with a very keen sense of 
moral acumen and split hairs over the degrees of 
inebriation. They found it intolerable to write 
a man down as intoxicated who had " half-a-pint 
otherwhile," so they merely entered him in their 
records as " drinky " ; while, on the other hand, 
the man who was vulgarly concerned in liquor 
was described as a plain " drunk." 

According to an old rhyme the man who killed 
a fox was a great benefactor and was considered 
as rendering a service a hundred and sixty times 
more important than the man who killed a rook. 



SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 181 

" A half-penny for a rook, 
A penny for a jay ; 
A noble for a fox, 
And twelve pence for a grey." 

But a noble has not always been the reward 

of the wily rustic who could entrap Reynard, and 

the churchwardens of Corfe were certainly a little 

niggardly in their disbursements : 

s. d. 

*' 1672 Paid Richard Turner for a Pole-Cat . 4 

Paid for three Fox Heads, Is. each . 3 
1691 Margaret White, Son, for a Hedge- 
Hog head . . .10 

Paid for one dozen Sparrow Heads . 2 

1698 June 22nd — 

It was then agreed by the Parishioners 
of Corfe Castle met in the Parish Church 
that no money be paid for the heads of 
any vermin by the Church Wardens un- 
less the said heads be brought into the 
Church yard within one week after they 
are killed and exposed to Public View." 

By the last entry it will be seen that the 
parishioners of Corfe were determined to get their 
money's worth, and the old churchyard must at 
times have contained quite a large collection of 
fur and feather. Speaking of rewards for the 
extermination of the fox, I am reminded of an 
entry in the Holne Churchwardens' accounts for 
1782 which has a tinge of sly humour about it. 



182 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Four shillings and two pence is paid for " running 
a fox to Okehampton." We can imagine the 
good churchwardens of Holne rubbing their hands 
and congratulating themselves on having got rid 
of Reynard, or speculating over future raids on 
domestic fowls in the Okehampton district. But 
the churchwardens were not too hopeful ; they 
were a little doubtful. As " dead men rise up 
never," so a dead fox would not come prowling 
home again. So they talked the matter over and 
decided that half the customary noble would be 
a fitting remuneration to the hunter away of the 
fox. 

I cannot leave Corfe without saying a few words 
in praise of the Greyhound Inn. Here the beams 
of the roof are black oak and squared enormously, 
like the timbers of a mighty ship, and some of the 
odd, low doorways remind one of the hatchways 
in a vessel. Visitors have so often knocked their 
heads against the low doors that it has been 
necessary to paint in large letters above several 
of them, "MIND YOUR HEAD." In the little 
smoke-room at the back one might fancy himself 
on board a ship in strange seas — especially does 
one experience this sensation in the evening 
before the candles are carried in. If it is winter- 
time the impression is more intense — the wind 
howls and worries at the window and the sky is 



SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 188 

swept clean in one broad, even stretch ; then one 
may call for a pint of Romsey ale, fill the pipe 
and enjoy the lonely kingdom of the man at the 
helm of a great vessel. When morning comes 
this same little room is bright and cheerful. The 
window looks out on a narrow courtyard paved 
with mighty stones, and Corfe Castle, which 
thrusts itself into every view of the town, fills 
the background. In the winter the rustics sit 
about the board in this room, but they do not 
come there in summer, being shy of visitors. 
The labourers seldom wear the smocks, made of 
Russian duck, which their fore-elders were so in- 
clined to favour. These smocks were much more 
stout than people would imagine, and the texture 
was so closely woven and waterproof that no rain 
could run through it. 

• •«••• • 

Four miles of a good, comfortable road running 
through a breezy heathland brings the pilgrim 
from Corfe to Wareham. On these heaths large 
quantities of white clay are dug up and run in 
truckloads to fill vessels in Poole Harbour. This 
clay is used for making pipes and in the manu- 
facture of china. The clay pits are a very 
ancient and uninterrupted industry, and they 
have been worked continuously since the Romans 
discovered them. The spade of the Dorsetshire 



184 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

labourer still occasionally turns up fragments of 
Roman pottery made from this identical clay. 
When Stoborough, now a mere village, once an 
antique borough, is reached we come within sight 
of Wareham, which is entered across a long 
causeway over the Frome marshes. More life 
can be seen in an hour here by the Frome than in 
a whole long day upon the hills. I have noticed 
how the birds that fly inland, high above me, will 
follow the river as a blind man feels his way, by 
natural impulse. Over the water-meadows the 
peewits are twisting in eccentric circles, and 
everywhere in the reeds the little grey-brown, 
bright-eyed sedge- warblers are flitting about. 
It seems almost incredible that such a small bird 
as the sedge-warbler can produce such a torrent 
of sound. For a right merry, swaggering song, 
which, without being very musical, is indeed 
exhilarating, commend me to the sedge-warbler. 
He sings all the day long, and often far into the 
night, and even if he wakes up for a few seconds 
when he has once settled down to sleep he always 
obliges with a few lively chirrups. 

The ancient town of Wareham has been alluded 
to somewhat contemptuously by several writers 
as " slumberous " and dull. Perhaps it is, 
although it is brighter in appearance than some 
towns near London that I know. At all events 



SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 185 

its stormy youth — in the days when London itself 
was but a " blinking little town " — has entitled 
it to a peaceful old age. All the scourges against 
which we pray — plague, pestilence, famine, 
battle, murder and sudden death — have been 
endured with great strength of mind and calm- 
ness by the people of the town. Sir Frederick 
Treves tells us that its history is one long, lurid 
account of disaster, so that it would need a 
Jeremiah to tell of all its lamentations. How- 
ever, an indomitable temper and a readiness to 
believe that to-morrow will be brighter than to- 
day is the prevailing spirit of her people, and the 
town has an incredible hold upon life and the 
grassy ramparts which almost encircle it. The 
ramparts, or town walls, are ten centuries old, 
and form three sides of an irregular square, and 
enclose, together with the Frome, an area of a 
hundred acres. Before the silting up of Poole 
Harbour the sea came nearer to its walls than it 
does now and the river was much wider. We 
learn from ancient records that a great swamp 
stretched seawards from the foot of the ridge. 
That Wareham was a port of a kind is probable 
enough, for it furnished Edward HI. with three 
ships and fifty- nine men at the siege of Calais. 
As far back as one can follow the ancient records 
of the town a good number of ships called here, 



186 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

and when one comes out on the ample quay it is 

clearly seen that this place has once been a lively 

and animated wharf, resounding to the clatter of 

sea-boots and the songs of the chanty men. The 

waterside taverns and huge storehouses on the 

boat-station speak of the brave days gone by, 

and I cannot imagine a more pleasant spot to 

linger in on a sunny day. The seats and tables 

outside the Rising Sun and New Inn are very 

inviting, and when I passed this way it gave me 

peculiar pleasure to spend an hour here, looking 

broadly about me. ^As I looked across the quay 

to the grey bridge, meadows and beautiful fertile 

valley the odours and sounds of the country 

cropped up around me. The sun, laying a broad 

hand on the river, had smoothed all the eddies 

out and was sending it between the banks, not 

bubbling loud, but murmuring softly. Yes, the 

river was very sleepy that day. However, the 

Frome has its share of living interests. Here 

one can see the heron as he stands upon the 

shallows waiting till an eel shall move in the mud. 

A melancholy-looking fellow he looks, too, as he 

stands, gaunt and still, brooding some new spell. 

Anon a small bubble rising in the shallows, 

followed by a slight turbidness of the water 

around it, attracts the watcher. A swift step or 

so, a lightning flash of his sharp beak and he has 



SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 187 

secured his eel. One watches him rising with 
labouring wings in a direct upward flight, the eel 
writhing in fruitless efforts to escape. 

The summit of the town wall is used as a 
promenade, and one part of the west rampart, 
looking across the heath to the Purbeck Hills, is 
called the " Bloody Bank." Here were executed, 
by order of Judge Jeffreys, some of Monmouth's 
unfortunate adherents. Their bodies were cut 
up and placed on the bridge, and their heads 
were nailed to a wooden tower in the town on the 
completion of the execution. Here, too, Peter of 
Pomfret was hanged. He was a queer, cranky 
fellow and it appears that he was given to draw- 
ing horoscopes and meddling with secret and 
hidden things. He would have been quite free 
from any trouble had he not ventured to read 
in the scheme of the twelve houses of the Zodiac 
the fortune of King John. He read, " under a 
position of heaven," that the King's reign would 
end on Ascension Day, 23rd May 1213, and this 
prophecy reached the ears of the King, who had 
little faith in the sayings of Peter. However, the 
King made up his mind that Peter's reign should 
end on this date, and he passed the unfortunate 
prophet on to Corfe Castle, where, we may be 
certain, he was carefully looked after. The 23rd 
of May passed the same way as other long-lost 



188 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

May-days and pay-days have passed, but King 
John was still very lively and active, and to con- 
vince Peter of Pomfret that he was a poor sooth- 
sayer he ordered the fellow to be whipped at the 
back of a dung-cart from Corfe to Wareham, 
where a gallows had been erected to welcome 
him. At Wareham Peter was driven through 
the streets, followed by a crowd of yelling, blood- 
thirsty people, and then hanged from the Bloody 
Bank, with the heather-covered moor before his 
eyes and the sky full of birds twittering and flying 
above his head. v 

The name Wareham is Saxon. Wareham = 
W earth- ham — "the dwelling on the 'land be- 
tween two waters ' " (one of the meanings of 
wearth or worth), a name descriptive in the fullest 
sense of the position of the town betwixt the 
Frome and Piddle. Certainly the history and 
importance of Wareham dates back to Saxon 
days. However, on the strength of a stone built 
into the north aisle of St Mary's Church, which 
bears the inscription : " Catug c . . . . (Fi) lius 
Gideo," this foundation has been presumed to be 
of the British period, a bishop bearing the name 
of Cating having been sent from Brittany in or 
about 430. It is concluded that this stone is the 
record of a consecration performed bj^ him. 

Beohrtric, King of Wessex, is said to have been 



SWANAGE AND CORFE CASTLE 189 

buried at Wareham, and here for a time lay the 
body of Edward the Martyr. Wareham was a 
favourite landing-place of the Danes, and despite 
its vicissitudes was important enough to sustain 
two sieges in the wars of Stephen and Maud, to be 
twice taken and once burnt. Wareham w^as once 
the chief port of Poole Harbour ; but while Poole 
flourished Wareham decayed. Unlike other 
Dorset towns it stood by the Cavaliers, but as the 
inhabitants were lacking in martial skill and a 
sufficient body of troops, the town was made 
a kind of shuttlecock by the contending parties. 
The last misfortune of the town was its almost 
total destruction by fire in 1762. All things con- 
sidered, it is little w^onder, therefore, that in spite 
of its age Wareham has so few antiquities. The 
castle has left but a name, the priory little more ; 
but reconstruction has spared the most interest- 
ing feature of St Mary's Church — the Chapel of 
St Edward— which is said to indicate the tem- 
porary burial-place of Edward the Martyr, whose 
marble coffin is now to be seen near the font. 

If we follow the road from where the town is 
entered across the picturesque old bridge we pass 
the Black Bear, a spacious old inn, with an 
excellent effigy of Bruin himself sitting grimly on 
the roof. The Red Lion is the inn mentioned 
by Hardy in The Hand of Ethelberta. The queer 



190 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

ivy-covered little Chapel of St Martin, on the left 
side of the main street, at the top of the rise from 
the Puddle, is visited by antiquaries from all the 
counties of England. It is one hundred and 
seventy years since regular services were held 
here. The roof beams are very ancient and still 
hold their own without any other aid. The in- 
terior is vault-like and eerie, and about the old 
place there hangs an atmosphere which has no 
affinity with the everyday world, but which 
reeks up from long-neglected tombs — a mystic 
vapour, sluggish ^nd faintly discernible. An 
inscription on the north wall is to the memory 
of a surgeon, his wife and four children. The 
surgeon died in 1791, at the age of eighty-one, 
from an "apoplectic fit." It is rather a puzzle 
why the doctor was buried in this church, for in 
1791 no parson had officiated here for fiftj^ years 
or more. The pilgrim will be interested in the 
DeviVs Door, by the altar, a memory of early 
Christian superstition. It was the custom to 
open this door when the church bells were rung, 
to allow the devil to flee. 



CHAPTER XI 

MY ADVENTURE WITH A MERRY ROGUE 

Here 

With my beer 
I sit, 
While golden moments flit. 

Alas! 

They pass 
Unheeded by ; 
And, as they fly, 

I, 

Being dry, 

Sit idly sipping here 

My beer. 

Oh, finer far 

Than fame or riches are 

The graceful smoke-wreaths of this cigar ! 

Why 

Should I 

Weep, wail, or sigh ? 

What if luck has passed me by ? 
What if my hopes are dead, 
My pleasures fled ? 

Have I not still 

My fill 
Of right good cheer, — 
Cigars and beer ? 

I LIKE inns, and I like old ale, and all the old 
curious glasses, mugs and pewters which 
were so dear to our forefathers, and I begin this 
chapter in this way to forestall any possible 

charges of heresy that my narrative may call 

191 



192 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

forth. I would almost go further, and say that 
my affection for such things is wholly a private 
matter concerning only myself, or, at least, no 
more than a few very intimate friends. That, I 
think, is how sentimentalism should be conducted. 
When it is managed otherwise, when it becomes 
a public thing, it becomes a public nuisance, 
besides being contemptible. But, as I have gone 
so far, I might as well go the length of admitting 
that I am addicted to the habit of collecting old 
drinking vessels, and I have allowed the disease 
to get the upper l^nd. I cannot pass a curio 
shop in which willow-pattern mugs, tapering 
glasses and " leather bottels " are displayed 
without a burning longing to possess them. I 
like to have these things about me, not merely as 

ornaments or to drink from, but for Well, 

when I come to think of it, I cannot quite say ; 
there is not sufficient reason. That is enough to 
brand me an incurable curio-hunter. Curios and 
ancient drinking vessels are to me what the sea is 
to a sailor. It is a passion which has become 
interwoven with my blood and fibre, and I can 
never again wholly break loose from it. 

But all this is by the way ; the point is, why 
do I commence this chapter by talking about 
such things? 

For the reason that in this chapter I am going 



ADVENTURE WITH A MERRY ROGUE 193 

to tell of a singular adventure in which a " black 
jack " loomed very solidly. 

It happened at Morcombe Lake. I will not 
write of this place. You must get it out of a 
guide-book, for the village is not a thing for fine 
words ; it stirred me in no way. But it shall 
not be said that Morcombe Lake has not a small 
share of fame, for in this village is produced the 
famous Dorset Knob Biscuit, without which no 
Dorset table is really complete. Mr Moores, who 
" magics " butter, milk and sugar in his small 
bake-house and brings forth these golden-brown 
"Knobs," informs me that his familj^ has been 
busy sending them out in tins for over a hundred 
years. 

I had walked from Bridport, passing through 
Chideock, with its venerable-looking church 
beside the Castle Inn, and coming to Morcombe, 
where there is a deep-eaved, comfortable, ram- 
shackle, go-as-you-please kind of a little inn, I 
could hear somebody singing inside. It was a 
clear, mellow voice, and I listened to the cadences 
of the song with a thrill of pleasure. It was a 
humorous trio, and the lonely singer changed his 
voice for each verse with a largeness and confi- 
dence in his vocal powers that quite carried me 
away. Indeed, it was a song which we all should 
know, which runs ; 

N 



194 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

" A little farm well tilled, 
A little barn well filled, 
A little wife well willed — 
Give me, give me. 

A larger farm well tilled, 
A bigger house well filled, 
A taller wife well willed — 
Give me, give me. 

1 like the farm well tilled. 
And I like the house well filled, 
But no wife at all — 
Give me, give me." 

Entering, I saw X)ne of the kind of men God 
loves. He was of middle age, very honest and 
simple in the face, good-humoured and cheerful. 
He was sitting before a tall, leather black jack 
— one of the finest specimens of the old-fashioned 
leather jugs I have ever seen — quaffing his morn- 
ing ale from it. He paused from his song and 
lifted his wide straw hat in a grandiloquent way. 

" Good marning, sir ! Fine marning's marn- 
ing 1 Tez mortel 'ot ta-day," he said, in a mellow 
voice, and he looked up at me with large, china- 
blue eyes. I passed the time of day with him, 
but the fine leathern flagon had already claimed 
all my attention ; I had no eyes for anything else 
at the moment. I dealt hotly with speculations 
over the ownership of the flagon. Did it belong 
to the rustic or the innkeeper? Did they know 




The Lonely Singer 



ADVENTURE WITH A MERRY ROGUE 197 

its value ? This and a hundred other thoughts 
flashed through my mind. As I stood there I 
dwelt avariciously upon thought of possession. 
I said to myself ; " I must have that flagon. I 
will buy. Beg it. Steal it, if necessary." The 
desire to possess it consumed my soul. 

" Wantee plaize to take a seat ? The cider here 
be a prime sort, I shuree I " said the rustic, 
breaking in upon my thoughts. He spoke very 
slowly and, as I have said, had a nice mellow 
voice, and he did what onlv honest men do — 
looked straight at me when he spoke. 

Surely," I said, and sat down beside him. 

Pray excuse me," I continued, waving my 
hand towards the leather jack, " but that is a 
remarkable old drinking vessel." 

" Thickee there is the ownly wan I ever see 
like it," said he, holding it up and looking at it 
with admiration. " Yes, sir, it be a brave good 
mug, and 1 have taken my cider and ale out of 
he for twenty yeai\ It's just a fancy of mine to 
bring it along with me when I drink. I tellee 
that mug has been with my folk for two hundred 
years. Parson says it is just a ' miracle ' of an 
old thing." 

" Aha ! " said I to myself, " the parson is after 
it too." 

" They tell me," he said, " that it may be 



11 



198 



THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 



worth a pound or two. Well, well ! It is an 
old friend, and I should be loath to part with the 
cheel, but " 



" But," I repeated eagerly. 

" But," he continued, " things have been cruel 
bad with me o' late, and I have thought, what- 
ever is the good o' keeping it when like 'nuff we 
can sell it for a pound or so and buy the chillern 
a few clothes against the winter." 

" True, true ! " I said, trying to keep my ex- 
citement undermost. " But you would only get 
a few shillings for it, I am afraid. Such things 
have no market value." 

" No market value ? " he answered. " Well, 
I suppose I dunnow much 't-al-'bout-et ! " 

He mused for a few moments. I narrowly 
watched him out of half-closed eyes — " Oh, yes ; 
I was playing the old grey wolf, sure enough " 
— and said, very carelessly: "I should hate 
drinking my ale out of a ' leather bottel.' They 
may look picturesque, but I am certain the beer 
would taste vile. I have no sympathy with the 
enthusiast who sang : 

" ' And I wish in heaven his soul may dwell 
That first devised the leather bottel.' 

However, I would not mind giving you a few 
shillings for it." 



ADVENTURE WITH A MERRY ROGUE 199 

I happened to glance up as I said this. He sat 
there looking at me with a troubled expression 
in his blue eyes. 

He then said a number of things in broad 
Dorset, and the " tellees " and " thickees " and 
" dallees " became unintelligible, but he meant 
that I could but be joking when I said " a few 
shillings." 

" Well, I won't disturb your peace of mind any 
more," I said. " We will let the matter drop." 

Then he stepped up close to me, put the black 
jack in my hand, and said, with an appealing note 
in his voice : " Two hundred years in my family, 
maister. Just say what you've a-mind to give 
me ; only let it be a fair price. I would not be 
so anxious to sell it, but my rent is a bit behind, 
and I shall have to sleep with Miss Green " 

" Sleep Avith Miss Green ? " I gasped, somewhat 
shocked. 

" Sleep under the hedge, then," he continued, 
making the expression clear to me. " Now, you 
see the fix I'm in, maister." 

Then I was ashamed. Deep shame covered 
me, and I had a great revulsion of feeling. How 
could I be so niggardly as to beat down this poor 
fellow's price ? Perhaps, after all, it was his 
only possession of any value at all. I turned the 
jack over in my hands. It was strong and black 



200 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

and very highly poHshed with age — and the curves 
and proportions of it were exactly satisfying to 
the eye that looked upon it. It was a benediction 
of a flagon. . . . 

I held it up, and said, " How much ? " 

" Aw ! daily-buttons ! Take it for two pounds," 
he said, " you nidden begridge me that." 

And he added, in passing, that two pounds 
made it a kind of gift to me — just a token to 
signify it had changed hands : it was an act of 
pure charity on his part. 

"Then," I said, v" thirty shillings," and he 
waved his hand about genially, and remarked 
that it " twidden " be worth his while to stretch 
out his hand for such a paltry sum. 

So then I pulled out thirty shillings, and he 
pushed the flagon over to me and took the money. 
Thus the bargain was struck. 

So this being settled, and I eager for a drink of 
ale, called the innkeeper, who was in another 
room. Beer was brought and my friend insisted 
on paying for it. 

I asked him about his wife and children. But 
I could get very little from him, and that little in 
a low voice. I felt sorry for him, for I understood 
that parting with his flagon had x'ather upset him. 
He seemed as different as one could imagine 
from the singer I had seen when I entered. He 



ADVENTURE WITH A MERRY ROGUE 201 

told me that his was a very old family in this 
place, and his name was Ralph Copplestone. He 
also quoted the following adage to strengthen his 
statement : — 

" Crocker, Cruwys and Copplestone, 
When the Conqueror came were all at home." 

Before he left me, however, he had recovered 
his cheerfulness. He set off down the road, and 
as he passed he began singing : 

"Dorset gives us butter and cheese, 

Devonshire gives us cream, 
Zummerzet zyder's zure to please 

And set your hearts a-dream ; 
Cornwall, from her inmost soul, 

Brings tin for the use of man. 
And the four of 'em breed the prettiest girls — 

So damme, beat that if you can ! " 

Finally his voice, still singing, died away in 
the distance. I sat before the flagon with a feel- 
ing of wonder, not unmixed with sadness. The 
fresh breeze dropped, and it seemed as if the 
little inn parlour grew dark and grey. He was 
a strange fellow ! 

It was not till the next day, in the late after- 
noon, when the air was already full of the golden 
dust that comes before the fall of the evening, 
that I came down Broad Street into Lyme Regis. 
In passing, I was attracted by a little curiosity 



202 THOMAS HARDY'S DOESET 

shop. The dusty window was full of all sorts of 
things — red-heeled slippers, old bits of brass, 
quaint, twisted candlesticks, blue enamel snuff- 
boxes, jewellery — value and rubbish being mixed 
in confusion together. And there right in the 
fore-front was an exact counterpart of my black 
jack ! It was truly an amazing coincidence ! I 
looked into the doorway, and saw the owner of 
the shop, a very old gentleman. His face was a 
network of wrinkles, which time so pleasantly 
writes on some old faces that they possess a 
sweetness which e\tn. youth lacks. I made up 
my mind to seek information from him about the 
flagon. He was examining a piece of china with 
a magnifying-glass when I entered. 

" Good evening— good evening ! " he said, 
putting down the glass, and looking up at me 
with a smile. " What can I show you, sir ? " 

The old man drew in his wrinkled lips 
expectingly. 

" The odd black jack in your window," I said 
boldly. 

The old man went to a corner of the window, 
and after much fumbling produced the black jack, 
which he set upon the counter. As I examined 
it he watched me in silence from beneath his pent- 
house brows. It was, indeed, a facsimile of the 
one I had pmchased from the rustic. 




Tfie River Buddie, Lyme Kc^is 



ADVENTURE WITH A MERRY ROGUE 205 



(C 



It is not really antique. It is a very clever 
imitation, not more than a few months old," came 
the old man's voice. He paused, the smile still 
lighting his face. " A genuine specimen like this 
one is not to be found anywhere — outside the 
museums." He lifted his arm with a peculiar 
gesture that seemed to take in the whole world. 

Outwardly I remained calm, swinging my foot 
nonchalantly against the wooden panel of his 
counter. If I had burst out laughing that 
moment I cannot think what the old curio-dealer 
would have thought, but it was with difficulty 
that I restrained myself from doing so. Little 
did he know that I had just picked up a genuine 
black jack for a mere song ! Then I told him, 
with gusto, my adventure with the rustic at the 
inn. 

Suddenly he broke out : 

" What was his name ? " 

" Copplestone — Ralph Copplestone," I replied. 

" Why, he's the very rogue that sold me 
this one," said the old man, shaking his simple 
head. 

" Is that possible ? " I said, and I jumped down 
from the counter where I had perched myself. 
The strangest sensation came over me. I thought 
of the honest, open face and the innocent blue 
eyes of my friend the tavern-haunter. 



206 



THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 



The curio-dealer smiled quietly, sadly. 

" Yes, he imposed upon me, too. He is a very 
clever rogue. A harness-maker by trade, and all 
his people before him for three hundred years have 
been of the same calling. So you see the secret 
of making a black jack has been handed down 
from father to son. It is one of the traditions of 
his family ; a knowledge which is mingled with 
his blood and fibre, so to speak. Such skill is 
older than five thousand years. He has the spirit 
of the artist — ^but the soul of the rogue." 

" Why," I said, 'Sthen if he is a rogue, then I'm 
a rogue too, for I knew I was paying him a paltry 
sum for an article I thought to be worth ten 
pounds — perhaps twenty." 

So I laughed, and I've been laughing gloriously 
ever since — at myself, at the merry rogue in the 
inn, at the silly old hypocritical world. 

As I passed out of the dim old shop and walked 
down to the sea it came over me, with a sudden 
feeling of satisfaction in my soul, that the sun 
shone on Ralph Copplestone just as joyfully as it 
did on me, that the good God had endowed him 
with strong arms and a mighty voice for songs. 

" After all," I said to myself, " we are all rogues 
if we are only scratched deep enough." 



CHAPTER XII 

THE DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 

" How far is it to Babylon ? " 
Ah, far enough, my dear. 
Far, far enough from here — 
Yet you have farther gone ! 
"Can I get there by candlelight?" 
So goes the old refrain. 
I do not know — perchance you might — 
But only, children, hear it right, 
Ah, never to return again ! 
The eternal dawn, beyond a doubt. 
Shall break on hill and plain, 
And put all stars and candles out, 
Ere we be young again. 

"R. L. S." 

THE irregular and old-fashioned little town 
of Lyme Regis — " so crooked 's a ram's 
horn," as the native would say — is situated in a 
most romantic position at the foot of the hills, 
being built in the hollow and on the slopes of a 
deep combe, through which flows the small stream 
of the Lyni to the sea. It is seated on a grand 
coast, which rises to the east in the blackest 
precipices and west in broken crags thickly 
mantled with wood. As a port it is most ancient, 
having furnished ships to Edward III. during his 
siege of Calais. 

Lyme, in its day, has seen a good many stirring 

207 



208 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

events. In the reigns of Henry IV. and V. it was 
twice plundered and burned by the French ; and 
in that of Richard II. nearly swept from the earth 
by a violent gale. During the Rebellion it suc- 
cessfully withstood a siege which was one of the 
most important of the time. In 1644 Prince 
Maurice invested it, established his headquarters 
at Old Colway and Hay House, and his troops 
along the neighbouring hill. Day after day the 
assault continued, more than once by storming 
parties ; but the gallant governor, Colonel Ceeley, 
assisted by Blake, \afterwards so famous as an 
admiral, most courageously repulsed every attack, 
and after a siege of nearly seven weeks was 
relieved by the approach of the Earl of Essex. 
In 1685 the town was again enlivened by the 
bustle of arms, when, in the month of June, the 
Duke of Monmouth here landed, with about 
eighty companions, after running the gauntlet 
through a storm and a fleet of English cruisers 
in his passage from Amsterdam. As he reached 
the sandy shore he fell upon his knees and uttered 
a thanksgiving for his preservation. He re- 
mained here four days, at the George Inn, when, 
having collected about two thousand horse and 
foot, he set forward on his disastrous expedition. 
There can be no doubt that Lyme Regis has 
failed to prove itself anything like a popular 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 209 

watering-place ; yet it has very good bathing, 
with neither currents nor hollows, and has the 
most picturesque front in Dorset. The fine 
scenery should tempt the holiday-maker to suffer 
the somewhat enclosed situation, which makes the 
place very close during the hot summer days. It 
is in winter that Lyme should be popular, for then 
it can boast a remarkably genial climate. 

The quaint old stone pier, called the Cobb, is the 
real lion of Lyme, and is the source of much satis- 
faction to the stout hearts of the town. The 
Cobb, " the oldest arnshuntest bit o' stone-work 
in the land, a thousand years old — and good for 
another thousand, I tellee," as described to the 
present writer by a rustic, was probably first 
constructed in the reign of Edward I. It has been 
frequently washed away, and restored at a great 
price, and was finally renewed and strengthened 
in 1825-1826. It is a semicircular structure, of 
great strength, the thick outer wall rising high 
above the roadway, so as to protect it from the 
wind and sea. 

At Lyme an inn received me : a room full of 
fishermen and agricultural workers, a smell of 
supper preparing, and much drinking of cider. It 
was the New Inn, and I was told that this room 
was only the tap-room and not usually used by 
visitors. I found that one wing of the old 
o 



210 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

building had been specially fitted for travellers, 
and I will gladly name it to all my readers who 
are satisfied with an old-fashioned comfort, a 
good bed and good fare. 

After supper I bought a packet of sailor's shag, 
and went out smoking into the chief street. A 
few steps took me to the Cobb, and I leaned over 
the low wall and contemplated the glorious green 
sea, tumbling and gurgling below me. I always 
think that the union of mighty stone slabs and the 
sea is most satisfying to look upon — there is some- 
thing endlessly goodiand noble about such a thing. 
1 think a building of hewn stone when it dips into 
the water should act as a sedative to the mind, 
should teach one to become calm, slow and strong ; 
to deal generously in rectitudes and essentials. 

It was late in August, and the mellow chimes of 
the parish church had just boomed eight o'clock. 
The great orange moon hung over the bay, and 
the night came creeping over the rich yellow sand 
which crowns the Golden Cap. Then the cliffs 
merged into a fainter confusion. Bats came out 
and flitted about the old houses by the Buddie 
river, and the night became the natural haunt 
of restless spirits. A candle flickering behind 
a leaded casement brought back suddenly the 
memory of a home long passed away and what- 
ever blessings belong to my childhood. And 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 211 

all of a sudden that inexplicable heart-hunger 
for the place of my birth gripped me, and 
Youth (whatever Youth may be), with its sights, 
its undefinable, insistent spell, came back to me 
in one flash — ^Youth came to me from the old 
houses on the sea-wall, borne with the misty 
saltness of the sea air. Go away ; travel the 
length and breadth of the land, visit a hundred 
cities, encounter a hundred new experiences, 
and form a hundred conflicting impressions of 
stranger scenes and places ; go where you will, 
and do what you will ; one day you will have 
seen and done enough, and you will find your 
thoughts turned again to the haunts of Youth. 

At the sight of those ruffianly looking old dwell- 
ings by the riverside my memory was carried 
back to another small seaport town where, long 
enough ago, I played at smuggling. Are we not 
all haunted by certain landscapes which come 
back unbidden, not as topographical facts, but as 
vestures of the soul ? Their enchantment is in 
our blood, and their meaning uncommunicable. 

Here, where one can smell the smell of venerable 
wooden fishing boats and tar, there is a suggestion 
of the good old smuggling days. There is a hint 
of rum, brass-bound sea-chests, trap-doors and 
deep mouldy cellars about the Buddie River 
houses, and the people who inhabit them are of 



212 THOMAS HARDY S DORSET 

very settled habits, and the inconveniences to 
which they have been accustomed seem to them 
preferable to conveniences with which they are 
unfamiliar. To this day, therefore, they empty 
slops out of the windows, burn candles, wind 
up their pot-bellied watches with large keys, 
and attain ripe old age. This curious quarter of 
Lyme Regis was once a smugglers' retreat and 
a favourite spot for their operations. A stranger 
visiting the banks of the Buddie could not fail 
to be struck with the curiously formed streets, 
alleys, and passages^thereabouts, and if he secured 
the good offices of a native to pilot him through 
the mazes he would be still further astonished 
at their intricacy. The houses are connected 
in the most mysterious manner, whether from 
design or accident, or whether to meet the 
exigencies of the smuggling trade, and for the 
more readily disposing of the kegs of spirits, and 
bales of other excisable goods, it is impossible to 
say. The most reasonable conclusion to arrive 
at is that the latter was the case. 

The curious name of Cobb has given rise to much 
discussion. Murray's Handbook to Dorset (1859) 
puts forward the theory that it is of British origin, 
and calls attention to a barrow-crowned knoll 
above Warminster called Cophead, and a long 
embankment on the race-course at Chester, which 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 213 

protects it from the River Dee, which has been 
known from time immemorial as the Cop, The 
length of the Cobb is 870 feet, and height above 
the sea-level 16 feet. It combines in one stone 
causeway the duties of breakwater, double 
promenade and quay. The projecting stone 
steps, which form one of the oldest parts of 
the wall, are known as Granny's Teeth, and are 
described by Jane Austen in Persuasion. The 
beach to the west of the Cobb is known as 
Monmouth's Beach. The Duke landed about a 
hundred yards west of the wall. A local tradition 
states that when the late Lord Tennyson visited 
the town one of his friends was anxious to point 
out the spot where Monmouth landed, but the 
great man impatiently exclaimed : " Don't talk 
to me of Monmouth, but show me the place where 
Louisa Musgrove fell ! " 

The bridge arch in Bridge Street is considered 
to be of an age second only to that of the Parish 
Church, and is well worthy of inspection. The 
Buddie Bridge consists of one arch of large span, 
thought to have been built in the fourteenth 
century, when the bed of the Lym, or Buddie, was 
excavated to an extra depth of eight feet. An 
ancient Pointed arch with dog-tooth moulding 
has recently been unearthed in the basement of a 
house abutting on the bridge. The arch is below 



214 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

the level of the roadway, and it no doubt formed 
part of a bridge of several arches built in the 
twelfth century. It rises from about two feet 
below the ground-floor cellar of this house. The 
arch has been seen by the Rev. C. W. Dicker, of 
the Dorset Field Club, who sent to the editor of 
The Lyme Regis Mirror the following letter : — 

Dear Sir, — I have just received a copy of 
last week's Mirror, containing an account of the 
very interesting archway under Bridge Street, 
which I was kindlj^ invited to inspect. As far 
as I can judge from the result of my one oppor- 
tunity of examining it, the evidence points to the 
assumption that Bridge Street formerly crossed 
the Buddie upon a bridge of several arches, con- 
structed in the twelfth century, and that the 
archway in question was probably the third from 
west to east. The street at this point is (or was) 
obviously supported upon a masonry substruc- 
ture, upon which the houses abut. The masonry of 
the newly found arch is typical of the middle of 
the twelfth century, at which time the manor was 
chiefly in the hands of Roger of Caen, Bishop of 
Sarum and Abbot of Sherborne, a great builder, 
much of whose work is still to be found in Dorset. 
The archway clearly was built to support the 
roadway ; and as its alignment is exactly that of 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 215 

the larger archway (apparently of the fourteenth 

century), under which the river now runs, there 

seems little room for doubt as to its origin. Yours 

faithfully, 

C. W. H. Dicker, 

Vice-Pi'esident and Ho7i. Editor 
Dorset Field Club. 

Pydeltrenthide Vicarage, 
Dorchester. 

The Town Hall, at the farther end of Bridge 
Street, was rebuilt on the site of the old Guildhall. 
The iron-cased door, that once led to the men's 
" lock-up," and the grating of the women's prison, 
have been fixed against the north front wall. 
This wall is pierced by two arches, with a doorway 
to the Old Market, over the gateway of which is a 
cai"ved projecting window. Here are the ancient 
parish stocks, removed from the church. At the 
farther end, facing Church Street, a wide gable 
stands out, lighted by an old but plainer window. 
In the lower part is the passage through to the 
Gun Cliff, with a flight of steps in the wall, leading 
down to the beach. From Church Street there is 
an easy approach to the Drill Hall, which was 
opened in 1894. On the opposite side of the 
street, and directly facing Long Entry, there is 
" Tudoi- House," a large old house possessing much 
fine oak panelling and carving. The interest 



216 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

of Tudor House is twofold, for it is associ- 
ated with the " Father of English Literature," 
Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones. Here 
lived Sarah Andrew, a rich heiress, when Fielding 
became wildly enamoured of her. This love affair 
was opposed by Andrew Tucker, who was Sarah's 
guardian, but Fielding persisted in his suit with 
such energy that Tucker had to appeal to the 
Mayor of Lyme to be protected from the violence 
of Fielding and his men. This is recorded in the 
town journals. 

Fielding lost the rich heiress, but immortalised 
her memory in the supremely beautiful character 
of Sophia, in Tom Jones. 

The Parish Church, dedicated to St Michael, 
contains some interesting relics. A prominent 
feature is the carved Jacobean pulpit and sounding- 
board, bearing in capitals the inscription : " TO 
GOD'S GLORY RICHARD HARVEY MERCER 
AND MERCHANT ADVENTURER THIS 
ANNO, 1613." It was removed from a column 
near the south door and entrance to the vestry 
during the renovation of the church by Dr 
Hodges, in 1833. 

The building dates from the fifteenth century, 
though it is clear from town records that a church 
stood near or on the spot in 1298, and there are 
remains of a Norman arch and pillar in the west 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 217 

porch. Note the two parish chests, one of 
Jacobean workmanship. The following interest- 
ing inscriptions are from six of the bells which 
were set up in 1770 :— 

1. "O Fair Britannia Hail." T.B. f., 1770. 

2. " Harmony in sound and sentiment." T.B. 1770. 

3. "O be joyful in the Lord all ye lands." T.B. f., 

1770. 

4. Re-cast in 1813. Thomas Mears, founder, London. 

Fredk. Parry Hodges, vicar. Robert Hillman, 
Mayor. John Church and George Roberts, 
churchwardens. 

5. "O sea spare me." This peal of bells was erected 

partly by rate and part by subscription in the 
year 1770. 

6. ''Pro Religione, pro Patria, pro Lihertate.'" 1770. 

Mr Tuff and Mr Tucker, C. W. Thomas Bilbie, 
Fecit. 

The curfew is still rung at eight o'clock at 
Lyme Regis. 

Fuller details of the history of the church and 
town will be found in a very comprehensive little 
History of Lyme Regis, by Cameron, which is 
published by Mr Dunster at "The Library" in 
Broad Street. 

Broad Street, leading downwards from the 
station to the sea, is the main thoroughfare, and 
the principal business part of the town. Half-way 
up the street on the eastern side is a small passage 
leading to an ancient forge. It is scarcely to be 



218 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

noticed unless one is expressly seeking for it, but 
once up the narrow court there it is, with its open 
doorway all red inside like a wizard's cave, with 
the hammers ringing on the anvil, and the sparks 
showering out of the big flue. Here Vulcan has 
toiled, moiled and, let us hope, aled for five 
hundred years without a break, and here, in spite 
of cheap machinery, Mr Govier, the master smith 
of Lyme Regis, still seems to enjoy a regular and 
ready custom. The forge has been in Mr Govier's 
family for three hundred years, and it has a great 
weather-beaten wooden-and-tile roof, which is all 
but on the verge of collapse. A long sweep of old 
oak wood controls the bellows, and as you look in 
you will see the hand of Govier himself is on the 
bellows handle. He draws it down and lets it up 
again with the peculiar rhythmic motion of long 
experience, heaping up his fire with a cunning 
little iron rake, singing a most doleful song to 
himself all about " shooting his true love at the 
setting of the sun." But you must not think the 
master smith is a gloomy man, for this song (and 
other still more pathetic ones) is just a tune of 
acquiescence to his labours— a song in sympathy 
with the roar of the bellows and the ascending 
sparks of his fire. 

" Come in, come in," he said, when I told him 
I had come to pay my respects to him. 




2l8 



I 



( 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 219 

He turned from his forge, set his hands on his 
hips and looked at me a moment. Then I realised 
why McNeill Whistler spent so much of his time 
in this forge making sketches of the smith. He 
looked like Vulcan's very brother, his face sun- 
burnt and forge-burnt to wheat-colour, his eyes 
blue as cornflowers, and his hair black and crisp, 
and everywhere about him the atmosphere of the 
blacksmith. There are all kinds of interesting 
things in the old forge, from Roman* horseshoes 
to plates for race-horses, and a pair of old beam- 
scales dated 1560. These scales have been 
hanging up as far back as Govier and his father 
before him could remember. Besides having the 
knowledge of a craftsman, Govier is a singer of 
old songs. 

" That song you were singing when I came in ? " 
I asked. " I know it as well as anyone, but 
somehow it has escaped me." 

" Ah ! " said the master smith. " Well, well ! 
It is years ago now that I first heard it, when the 
ships came inside our walls with coal and took 
away stone. We rarely see a ship in our walls 
now, but when I was a boy my father and I 
frequently went down to the quay to repair 
ironwork aboard the old sailing boats. Those old 
Devon sailors were the fellows for songs. Upon 
my soul, I believe sailors no longer sing as they 



220 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

once did. I find a great difference between the 
old-fashioned chanty man and the modern seaman 
who never sings at his work. The man who sings 
loudly and clearly is in good health, prompt, and 
swift to the point, and his heart is as big as 
parson's barn. The silent sullen fellow may have 
these qualities— he may have 'em, I say; but 
then the chap who sings is the happier man." 

" But there are some miserable fellows who 
reckon to be very happy," I said. 

At this Govier gave a shrug of his ox-like 
shoulders, and wa\^d away all such sorry 
triflers. 

" There are such people," said he ; " but they 
are not entertaining. However, you want to get 
the hang of that song, and though I cannot 
remember the exact words I have the rhythm 
of it in my head right enough, and 1 think it 
runs like this : 



(C c 



Come all you young fellows that carry a gun, 
Beware of late shooting when daylight is done ; 
For 'tis little you reckon what hazards you run, 
I shot my true love at the setting of the sun. 
In a shower of rain, as my darling did hie 
All under the bushes to keep herself dry, 
With her head in her apron, I thought her a 

swan. 
And I shot my true love at the setting of the 

sun. 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 221 

In the night the fair maid as a white swan 

appears : 
She says, O my true love, quick, dry up your 

tears, 
I freely forgive you, I have Paradise won ; 
I was shot by my true love at the setting of the 

sun. ' 

" You should have heard that song as I heard 
it on board an old-time schooner, when the ship's 
company all banged and roared heartily, and 
shouted in enormous voices. When they came 
to ' I was shot by my true love ' the company 
would all join together in a great moan, and wag 
their heads in a most melancholy way. But 
there are no songs like that now. All this com- 
plicated machinery in ships has darkened men's 
minds and shut out the old songs." 

A good many very interesting places may be 
cleared up by just trespassing a few miles into 
Devon when we leave Lyme Regis, and taking 
the main road to Axminster, a parish and market 
town on the River Axe. St Mary's Church is 
of ancient origin, and contains some objects of 
antiquarian interest. The other churches are 
modern. South of the town are the ruins of 
Newenham Abbey ; its history is interesting. 
Seven miles north, Ford Abbey affords another 
attraction. Memburj^ Castle (one mile south) 
and Weycroft are ancient Roman or British 



222 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

fortifications. It is believed that the battle of 
Brunanburgh, a.d. 937, was fought near here. 

The George Inn at Axminster standing in a plot 
formed by George Street, Victoria Place and Lyme 
Street, is a noble old place with a spacious court- 
yard. The barn above the archway at the back 
of the inn is very picturesque, with mouldering 
red and purplish tiles and hand-wrought iron 
cleats. Three miles south of Axminster we come 
to Musbury— it was to see a thatcher at this 
village that I was tempted to make a short 
expedition into De^on. The ancient Church of 
St Michael has been largely rebuilt. It contains 
many interesting old monuments, chiefly to 
members of the family of the Drakes, of Ashe. 
Musbury Castle is a British or Roman camp. 
Ashe House, the former seat of the Drake family, 
is now a farm-house. The New Inn is an odd 
little place, with a grey and shining stone floor, 
and windows set deep in thick walls. 

Cloyton is five miles south-west of Axminster 
in the picturesque valley of the River Coly, and 
three miles from the sea. The Parish Church of 
St Andrew contains much of great interest. The 
porch of the old vicarage house should be seen, 
with the inscription PEDITATIO TOTUM; 
MEDITATIO TOTUM, A.D. 1524, over the 
window. There is an ancient market-house here. 




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222 



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DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 223 

The " Great House " is another old and interest- 
ing building. It was once the home of the Yonge 
family, and was built in the seventeenth century 
by John Yonge, a merchant adventurer who 
settled at Colyton, but it has been partly rebuilt, 
although the portion of the house which remains 
suggests something of the old building and 
contains som^e interesting carving. The Duke of 
Monmouth stayed here in 1680. There are in- 
teresting effigies of the Pole familj'" in their chapel 
in the Church of St Andrew, which is fenced off 
with a stone screen erected by the vicar of Colyton, 
1524-1544. The vicar was also Canon of Exeter, 
and his rebus figures prominently on the screen. 
The great tomb of Sir John Pole, buried in 1658, 
and Elizabeth his wife displays elaborate effigies, 
while the altar-tomb is that of William Pole, 
buried in 1587. Near by is a mural monument 
to his wife, Katherine, and another to Mary, wife 
of Sir William, the historian, and daughter of Sir 
W. Periham of Fulford. Both these ladies have 
their children kneeling round them. The author 
of the well-known Description of Devon is buried in 
the aisle, but there is no monument. When I was 
staying with the headmaster of Colyton Grammar 
School (an ancient building bearing the date 1612) 
some twenty years ago there were representatives 
of the knightly family of Poles among his pupils. 



224 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

In the north aisle is the mausoleum of the 
Yonge family. Another interesting monument 
is an elaborate altar-tomb in the chancel with 
a recumbent female figure popularly known as 
" Little Choke-Bone," referring to Margaret 
Courtenay, daughter of William Earl of Devon, 
and Katherine, his wife, sixth daughter of 
Edward IV. She is said to have been choked by 
a fish-bone at Colcombe Castle in 1512. 

The Courtenays, Earls of Devon, once held all 
the land in this neighbourhood, and their seat 
was at Colcombe %.Castle, hard by, for three 
hundred years, but Henry VIII. quarrelled with 
Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter, and 
deprived him of his estates in 1538. It is a 
curious fact that the parish charities of Colyton 
are still mostly derived from these forfeited 
estates. 

The ruins of Colcombe Castle lie about half- 
a-mile from the town, and are now used as a 
farm-house. Near here grows Lobelia mens, 
the " flower of the Axe," a rare British flower, in 
appearance very like the garden lobelia. Kil- 
mington is said to bear, in the first syllable of its 
name, the trace of the great battle fought in the 
Axe Valley in Saxon times. 

Another interesting excursion from Lyme 
might be taken to Lambert's Castle and Ford 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 225 

Abbey. Ford can be reached by rail to Card 
Junction. The Abbey is about a mile east of 
the station. The first long climb out of Lyme 
by the Axminster road to Hunter's Lodge Inn is 
not encouraging. From this inn the road runs 
straight ahead along the road to Marshwood, 
passing Monkton Wyld Cross, and gradually 
ascending to Lambert's Castle, which is eight 
hundred and forty-two feet above the sea-level. 
The Castle is an important British and Roman 
camp. A fair and horse-races are still held here 
twice a year, and a magnificent view over the 
Char valley is obtained from this point. Pilsdon 
Pen can be reached by the Beaminster Road, 
which can be picked up two miles north-east 
from Lambert's Castle. At Birdsmoor Gate, two 
miles beyond, is the Rose and Crown Inn and 
a crossing of the ways. The road to Ford Abbey 
and Chard swings round to the left, but if the 
pilgrim wishes to view the home of Wordsworth 
and his sister, he must change his route and 
proceed along the Crewkerne road for half-a-mile 
until Racedown Farm is reached. Dorothy 
Wordsworth described it as " the place dearest to 
my recollections upon the whole surface of the 
island; the first home I had"; and she wrote 
with great feeling about the charm and beauty of 
the neighbourhood. 



226 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Charmouth is a pleasant walk of two miles from 
Lyme Regis, but the road goes over a very steep 
hill at the top of which is a cutting known as the 
" New Passage," the " Devil's Bellows," where in 
windy weather there is a chance of being carried 
off one's feet. The village consists of one long 
street situated above the mouth of the Char, the 
leading feature of the view being the heights 
which hedge in the valley, particularly those from 
which the road has just descended. It is an 
ancient place, which still preserves the memory 
of two sanguinary battles between the Danes and 
Saxons. In the first the Saxons were commanded 
by Egbert, in the second by Ethelwolf. In both 
the Danes were victorious, but so crippled in the 
fight that they were obliged to retreat to their 
ships. At Charmouth, too, in the attempted 
escape of Charles II. to France, occurred the 
incident which so nearly led to the discovery of 
the fugitive. A plan had been concerted with 
the captain of a merchantman trading to Lyme 
that a boat at a particular hour of the night 
should be sent to the beach at Charmouth. 
Charles rode hither under the guidance of Lord 
Wilmot and Colonel Wyndham and rested at 
the little inn to await the appointed time. The 
vessel, however, from unforeseen circumstances, 
was unable to leave the harbour, and the fugitive 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 227 

was obliged to give up the enterprise and to pass 
the night in the village. The next morning it 
was found that his horse had cast a shoe, and the 
village blacksmith was summoned to repair the 
loss. This was a curious fellow, whose suspicions 
were aroused on observing that the old shoes 
were fastened in a manner peculiar to the north 
of England. The hostler, who was a Republican 
soldier, carried the information to the Puritan 
minister. From the minister it went to the 
magistrate, and from the magistrate to the 
captain of a troop of horse, who soon galloped 
with his men in pursuit. Fortunately for the 
king, they took the wrong road, and he escaped. 
The inn at which Charles rested is still standing. 
Part of it is now the Congregational Manse. The 
front of the house has now been entirely modern- 
ised, but the interior has retained all the quaint 
features of the Carolean period, and here one may 
still see heavy ceilings and fine oak-panellings. 
In the portion which is now a cottage a large 
chimney (which is said to have served as a hiding- 
place) and the " king's bedroom " are still pointed 
out to visitors. Until comparatively recent 
times the inn was still providing ale to thirsty 
rustics and was called the " Queen's Head," and 
several old natives can remember when the land- 
lord displayed a sign on which was inscribed : 



\ 



228 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

" Here in this house was lodged King Charles, 
Come in, sirs, you may venture ; 
For here is entertainment good 
For churchman or dissenter." 

In 1902 a commemoration tablet was placed 
on the house. Similar tablets have been placed 
on Ellesdon Farm, the George Inn (now a shop), 
Bridport, and on the George Inn, Broadwindsor, 
at each of which Charles II. took refreshment or 
a night's lodgment during his passage through 
Dorset. 

Two lanes, one tui'ning off near the top of the 
straight descent, and one just below the church, 
lead in a few minutes to the sea. The beach is 
sand, shingle and rock, and supports a coast- 
guard station, bathing machines and a few 
fishing-boats which are launched from the beach. 
There are cliffs on each side of the bay, and here 
the Char, " a small, irregular, alder-fringed, play- 
ful river, full of strange fish such as inland streams 
yield not," mingles very modestly with the sea. 
The river rises under Lewesdon and Pilesdon, 
about six miles distant in a direct line. Three 
miles north of Charmouth is Corrie Castle (King's 
Castle), supposed to have been the camp of Egbert 
when he fought with the Danes. 

The cliffs at Charmouth exhibit a fine section 
of the strata and abound in interesting fossil 



DEVON AND DORSET BORDERLAND 229 

remains. These include the bones of those 
colossal reptiles the ichthyosaurus and plesio- 
saurus, of the pterodactyl, and numerous fish ; 
and, among other shells, those of the ammonite 
and belemnite, which are found in great quantities 
on Golden Cap. The lias contains much bitu- 
minous matter and iron pyrites, which have 
frequently taken fire after heavy rains. At a 
bed of gravel near the mouth of the river the 
remains of an elephant and rhinoceros have been 
discovered. 

The tourist must look for the relic of the 
" Queen's Head " next above a chapel and 
opposite the picturesque George Inn. I think 
that the quiet folk who occupy the genuine inn 
where the king stopped must often breathe mild 
maledictions over the heads of inquisitive pilgrims 
who peep and peer into their windows, and I 
suspect that they have begged mine host of the 
George to claim for his house the honour of 
sheltering Charles Stuart from the troops. At all 
events the George is pointed out to the visitor 
as the great historical attraction, in spite of the 
fact that it was built long after the time King 
Charles was in hiding in Dorset. 



CHAPTER XIII 

RAMBLES AROUND BRIDPORT 

I, who am a pagan child, 
Who know how dying Plato smiled, 
And how Confucius lessoned kings, 
And of the Buddha's wanderings, 
Find God in very usual things. 

TOLLER PORCORUM (Toller of the Swine) 
has a railway station on the Bridport 
branch line and is two miles from Maiden Newton. 
The name is explanatory, and great herds of 
swine were once bred here. The affix serves to 
distinguish this Toller from its next neighbour, 
Toller Fratrum (Toller of the Brethren, i.e. monks), 
which is one mile from Maiden Newton station. 
The mansion of Sir Thomas Fulford still stands 
and is a fine instance of early seventeenth- century 
domestic architecture. The very first things I 
noticed about this house were the tall, narrow, 
thick windows — windows that any man might 
look upon with covetous eyes. Such tall stone- 
mullioned windows are an enchantment, and, as 
Hilaire Belloc says, it is the duty of every man to 
keep up the high worship of noble windows till he 
comes down to the windowless grave. A building 

230 



RMIBLES AROUND BRIDPORT 231 

with a thatched roof near the house is a refectory, 
and appropriately cut in stone on the wall will be 
noticed a monk eating bread. 

At Wynford Eagle, two miles south, the church 
still preserves a curious tympanum of a Norman 
door. It shows two ferocious and unspeakable- 
looking beasts, who are about to fight. They are 
said to be wyverns — which are heraldic monsters 
with two wings, two legs and tapering bodies. 
The most remarkable discovery ever made in the 
vicinity of Wynford Eagle was recorded by Aubrey 
in connection with the opening of a barrow at 
Ferndown. The diggers came upon '' a place 
like an Oven, curiously clay'd round ; and in the 
midst of it a fair Urn full of very firm bones, with a 
great quantity of black ashes under it. And what 
is most remarkable ; one of the diggers putting 
his hand into the Oven when first open'd, pull'd it 
back hastily, not being able to endure the heat ; 
and several others doing the like, affirmed it to be 
hot enough to bake bread. . . . Digging further 
they met with sixteen Urns more, but not in 
Ovens ; and in the middle one with ears ; they 
were all full of some bones and black ashes." 

The house of the Sydenhams still stands at 
Wynford Eagle. On the highest point of the 
central gable a fierce-looking stone eagle arrests 
our attention, and under it is carved the date 1630. 



232 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Rampisham is three miles south of Evershot, 
and the churchyard contains an ancient stone 
cross, the decayed condition of which will test 
the patience and ingenuity of those who desire 
to satisfy themselves of the accuracy of Britton's 
description of the sculpture — namely, that it 
represents " the stoning of St Stephen, the 
Martyrdom of St Edmund, the Martyrdom of 
St Thomas a Becket, and two crowned figures 
sitting at a long table, to whom a man kneels on 
one knee." 

The inn called the^" Tiger's Head " is of great 
antiquity ; it has stooped and settled down with 
age, and, within, the low-ceiled rooms seem 
saturated with influence, and weighty with the 
wearing of men's lives. 

Cross-in-Hand stands on the verge of the down, 
which breaks away precipitously to the vale 
where Yetminster lies. A bleached and desolate 
upland, it took its name from a stone pillar 
which stood there, a strange, rude monolith, from 
a stratum unknown in any local quarry, on which 
was roughly carved a human hand. Differing 
accounts were given of its history and purport. 
Some authorities stated that a devotional cross 
had once formed the complete erection thereon, 
of which the present relic was but the stump ; 
others that the stone as it stood was entire, and 



RAMBLES AROUND BRIDPORT 233 

that it had been fixed there to mark a boundary 
or place of meeting." 

It was on this stone that Alec D'Urberville 
made Tess swear not to tempt him by her charms. 
" This was once a holy cross," said he. " Relics 
are not in my creed, but I fear you at moments." 
It was with a sense of painful dread that Tess, 
after leaving this spot, learned from a rustic that 
the stone was not a holy cross. "Cross — no; 
'twere not a cross ! 'Tis a thing of ill- omen, miss. 
It was put up in wuld times by the relations of 
a malefactor, who was tortured there by nailing 
his hands to a post and afterwards hung. The 
bones lie underneath. They say he sold his soul 
to the devil, and that he walks at times." 

Deep down below is the sequestered village of 
Batcombe. An uncanny story attaches itself to 
a battered old Gothic tomb in Batcombe church- 
yard. The tomb stands near the north wall of 
the church, and it is said to be the resting-place 
of one Conjuring Minterne, who Hardy in one of 
his novels tells us left directions, after having 
quarrelled with his vicar, that he was to be buried 
" neither in the church nor out of it." It is said 
that this eccentric injunction was complied with, 
but the tomb has since been moved. What deed 
Minterne had committed that prevented him 
from lying quietly in the usual grave like the other 



234. THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

good folk of Batcombe who had departed this 
life no man can tell. All the rustics could tell me 
was they had heard he had sold himself to Old 
Nick, and that his request to be buried in such a 
unique manner was a ruse to prevent his master 
"the old 'un " from getting him when he died. 

In bygone days the " conjurer " was an im- 
portant character in the Dorset village, and he 
was generally of good reputation, and supposed 
to be gifted with supernatural power, which he 
exercised for good. By his incantations and 
ceremonies he curedi.anything from inflamed eyes 
to lung disease. A Wessex dealer in magic and 
spells is mentioned in Hardy's story. The Withered 
Arm. He lived in a valley in the remotest part 
of Egdon Heath : 

" He did not profess his remedial practices 
openly, or care anything about their continuance, 
his direct interests being those of a dealer in 
furze, turf, ' sharp sand,' and other local products. 
Indeed, he affected not to believe largely in his 
own powers, and when warts that had been shown 
him for cure miraculously disappeared — which it 
must be owned they infallibly did — he would say 
lightly, ' Oh, I only drink a glass of grog upon 
'em — perhaps it's all chance,' and immediately 
turn the subject." 

But to return to Minterne. The present vicar 



RAMBLES AROUND BRIDPORT 235 

of Batcombe church— Rev. Joseph Pulliblank — 
thinks the fore- shortened stone of Minterne's 
tomb, which is square instead of the usual oblong, 
gives some support to the story of the " conjurer " 
being buried with his feet under the masonry of 
the church wall. The following paragraph is 
also from some notes kindly sent to me by the 
Rev. Joseph Pulliblank : — 

" Batcombe Church, originally Saxon, has only 
two points which testify to the fact — (1) A Saxon 
font inside, (2) a small portion of Saxon masonry 
worked into the outside south wall. 

" In modern times Batcombe was the seat of 
* the Little Commonwealth ' settlement founded 
by the Earl of Sandwich and run on the lines of 
the ' George Junior Republic ' in America — 
owinff to financial and other difficulties it came 
to an end during the war." 

In the church are wall tablets to the Minterne 
family : one to a John Minterne who died in 
1716, as well as a John Minterne who was buried 
in 1592. There is a monument to Bridget Min- 
terne in Yetminster church, who was the wife of 
John Minterne of Batcombe. The inscription 
runs : 

" Here lyeth y body of Bridgett Minterne wife 
of John Minterne of Batcombe esq., second 
daughter of Sir .John Brown of Frampton Kt. 
who died y 19tli July Ano Domini 1649." 



236 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Which of the ancient possessors of Batcombe 
can claim the honour of being the famous Con- 
juring Minterne I was unable to discover. Little 
remains of his history. We only know that he was 
always kind, and knew how to ride well, for he once 
jumped his horse from the crest of the down into 
the village, knocking one of the pinnacles off the 
church tower on his way. He would not talk 
much about wizardry, but would rather sing 
songs. No doubt Minterne was a very lovable 
fellow ! 

In Rudyard KipJing's "Marklake Witches" 
(Rewards and Fairies) the Sussex " conjurer " is 
represented by Jerry Gamm the witchmaster, 
and he is one of the most striking examples in 
literature of the rustic astrologer and doctor. 
The following charm — a very excellent one, too 
— ^was Jerry Gamm's charm against a disease of 
an obstinate and deadly character : 

" You know the names of the Twelve Apostles, 
dearie ? You say them names, one by one, be- 
fore your open window, rain or storm, wet or 
shine, five times a day fasting. But mind you, 
'twixt every name you draw in your breath 
through your nose, right down to your pretty 
toes, as long and as deep as you can, and let it out 
slow through your pretty little mouth. There's 
vktue for your cough in those names spoke that 



RAMBLES AROUND BRIDPORT 237 

way. And I'll give you something you can see, 
moreover. Here's a stick of maple which is the 
warmest tree in the wood. It's cut one inch long 
for you every year," Jerry said. " That's sixteen 
inches. You set it in your window so that it 
holds up the sash, and thus you keep it, rain or 
shine, or wet or fine, day and night. I've said 
words over it which will have virtue on your 
complaints." 

Bridport lies two miles inland from the sea 
and its unheard-of harbour of West Bay. We 
first hear of the town in the reign of Edward the 
Confessor, when it could boast a mint, a priory of 
monks and two hundred houses. In Saxon days 
it was probably a place of some importance, owing 
to the fact of it being the port to the River Brit, 
but its early history is without any distinctive 
mark or important event. When Charles II. ar- 
rived at Bridport in his hasty flight from Char- 
mouth the town was full of soldiers, but the royal 
party went boldly to an inn (the George, now a 
shop, incorporating part of the old building 
opposite the Town Hall) and mixed with the 
company. Every stranger was mistrusted by the 
troops, however, and Charles and his suite quitted 
the town after a hasty meal. They retired by 
the main Dorchester road and took a lane leading 
to Broadwindsor and so escaped. Lee Lane, a 



238 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

mile to the east of Bridport, is said to be the 
actual scene where the royal party retreated to 
security. 

The first thing the pilgrim will notice when 
entering Bridport is the generous width of the 
streets, and it is a curious fact that the local in- 
dustries have left their stamp on the town in this 
way. The town was always famed for its hempen 
manufactures, and it furnished most of the cord- 
age for the royal fleet in the good old times of 
" wooden walls." It was for this reason the roads 
were made wider — t^o allow each house to have 
a "rope walk/' At one time the town enjoyed 
almost a monopoly in the manufacture of cordage. 
Gallows' ropes also were made here, hence the 
grim retort often heard in Wessex: "You'll live 
to be stabbed with a Bridport dagger ! " 

George Barnet, " a gentleman-burgher of Port 
Bredy," in Hardy's Fellow Townsmen, was de- 
scended from the hemp and rope merchants of 
Bridport. 

The church is fifteenth-century and contains a 
cross-legged effigy of a mail-clad knight, probably 
one of the De Chideocks. The old building was 
restored in 1860, when two bays were added to 
the nave. Thomas Hardy waxes bitterly jocular 
over this piece of restoration : " The church had 
had such a tremendous joke played upon it by 



RAMBLES AROUND BRIDPORT 239 

some facetious restorer or other as to be scarce 
recognisable by its dearest old friends." 

West Bay and Bridport are scenes in Hardy's 
tale, Fellow Townsmen, where they are dealt with 
under the name of " Port Bredy," from the name 
of the little River Bredy, which here flows into 
the sea. The town mainly consists of one long 
highway, divided at West Street and East Street 
by the clock tower of the Town Hall, which forms 
the very hub of commercial liveliness, with the fine 
old inns and quaint shops about it. The Grey- 
hound Hotel is a place very much favoured by 
travellers, and for old-fashioned fare and comfort 
there is no inn in England which could better it. 
Mr Trump, the broad-shouldered landlord, is one of 
the old school, a man of genial humour and generous 
strength, and his popularity reaches well over the 
borders of Dorset. He is a great lover of horses, 
and I stood by his side as he surveyed a manifesta- 
tion of Divine Energy in the form of a horse of 
spirit and tremendous power owned by a local 
farmer. "Walter " Trump took off his hat to the 
fine animal and turned to me, saying : " If there 
are no horses in heaven I don't want to go there." 

South Street turns down to the quay near the 
Greyhound, and in the summer traps will be 
usually found at this corner to take one down to 
the sea. 



240 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

The Literary and Scientific Institute, in East 
Street, opposite the Bull Hotel, contains a number 
of coins and some natural history exhibits, as well 
as a library. 

The Conservative Club has been established in 
a fine old Tudor building in South Street, on the 
opposite side of which is another ancient house 
called Dungeness. At the back of a house on the 
south side of the East Bridge is a portion of 
the old Hospital of St John. The Bull has been 
modernised, but it is the Black Bull where 
George Barnet put -^p on his return to his native 
town, in Fellow Townsmen. 

Between the Town Hall and the Greyhound 
is a passage known as Bucky Doo, which the 
Rev. R. Grosvenor Bartelot traces to "Bocardo," 
" originally a syllogism in logic, which was here, 
as at Oxford, applied to the prison, because, just 
as a Bocardo syllogism always ended in a final 
negative, so did a compulsoiy visit to the Bocardo 
lock-up generally mean a closer acquaintance 
with the disciplinary use of ' the Bridport dagger ' 
and a final negative to the drama of life." 

If the pilgrim wishes to make a pleasant excur- 
sion on foot to West Bav he must take a track 
that goes round the churchyard and follow the 
riverside footpath on the right bank of the 
stream. Thus we arrive at Bridport Quay and 



RAMBLES AROUND BRIDPORT 241 

West Bay. The harbour never became of any im- 
portance owing to the microscopic shingle which 
has always obstructed and choked its mouth. 
Everywhere the pilgrim turns he sees hillocks of 
this waste sand which has prevented a willing 
port from serving its country. The fact that 
Bridport was not called upon to provide any 
ships either for the siege of Calais in 1347 or for 
the fleet to oppose the Spanish Armada may be 
accepted as proof that the burgesses of the town 
possessed no vessels large enough for fighting pur- 
poses. So the little harbour fell into indolence 
and sluggishness, thus bearing out the truth of 
the old saying : " That which does not serve 
dies." 

The place is picturesque in an odd and casual 
way, and a scattering of quaint old dwellings 
contrast with a row of new lodging-houses which 
are very showy (rory-tory the Dorset rustic 
would style them !) in spite of their affectation 
of the dandy-go-rusty tiles of antiquity. A little 
group of fishermen may always be seen loafing 
and smoking by the thatched Bridport Arms 
Hotel, and the only time these good fellows ever 
show any quickening to life is when some barque, 
taking unusual risks, allows itself to be towed 
and winched between the narrow pier-heads. At 
such times the spirit of ships and men departed 
Q 



242 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

seems to enter into them, and they shout and 
heave and sing randy-dandy deep-sea songs, and 
use much profanity. 

The shingle is part of one of the remarkable 
features of the Dorset coast — the Chesil Beach or 
Chesil Bank, which runs as far as Portland. 
Chesil is Old English for pebble, the old word 
being found in Chesilton in Dorset and Chisle- 
hurst in Kent. The pebbles gradually grow 
coarser as one progresses in a south-easterly direc- 
tion, so that in olden days the smugglers, running 
their " tubs " ashore, at venture, in the fog or 
during the night, knew the exact stretch of bank 
they had arrived on by taking a handful of shingle 
to examine. The attractions of West Bay are 
good bathing, good sea fishing and good boating, 
for the curious little harbour is a particularly 
pleasing haunt for amateur sailors. 

There are many pleasant short walks in the 
neighbourhood of Bridport and West Bay. Eype 
is reached from Bridport by field paths passing 
through AUington and the Lovers' Grove. A 
bridle- way takes one to Eype church, standing on 
the ridge, whence it leads through the village down 
a deep hollow to the beach. Continuing over 
Thorncombe Beacon, we reach Seatown, which 
is a seaside branch of Chideock. " Chiddick," 
as any Wessex man of the soil will pronounce 



RAMBLES AROUND BRIDPORT 243 

the name, is a little less than a mile inland 
on the Lyme Regis road. The Anchor Inn 
at Seatown is an old place of entertainment I 
have not personally visited, but a man who knows 
his Dorset informs me that it is a place where the 
centuries mingle ; with black beams in the ceiling, 
oak settles, shining with long usage, and ironwork 
full of the rough simplicity of the Elizabethan 
forge. I shall call there next time I fare Dorset 
way, if only to stand in the great bay window 
which looks out to the sea. Such buildings 
remind one, not of decay but of immutableness. 
Perhaps even the summons of the dark Reaper 
would not sound quite so sharp in an ancient inn. 
There are less perfect places one might die in, and 
if I had my wish I would choose to pass away in 
an inn, where all my regrets would be arrested by 
the stamping of feet on the sanded floor beneath, 
and the ancient and untutored voices of farm- 
hands and ploughmen singing some lively song. 



CHAPTER XIV 

ROUND ABOUT BEAMINSTER 

BEAMINSTER is six miles to the north of 
Bridport, and is reached by a pleasant 
walk, passing on the way the little village of 
Melplash. 

It is a sleepy country town, deeply seated 
among hills, near the head-waters of the Birt, 
which flows throu^ it. It is a place of some 
antiquity, but not remarkable for much, if we 
except its sufferings by fire. In 1644, when 
Prince Maurice was ^quartered here, it was burnt 
completely to the ground, having been fired by 
a drunken soldier. The greater part of it was 
a second time destroyed in 1684, and again in 
1788. 

Very prominent landmarks of the Beaminster 
district are Pilsdon Pen and Lewesdon Hill, two 
eminences of green sand remarkable for their 
likeness to one another. The singularity of their 
appearance has naturally excited much attention. 
Sailors, whom they serve as a landmark, call them 
the Cow and the Calf; the Rev. William Crowe 
has sung the praises of Lewesdon in a descriptive 

poem, and the two hills together have given 

244 



ROUND ABOUT BEAMINSTER 245 

rise to a proverbial saying current in this coun- 
try and applied to neighbours who are not 
acquainted : 

" . . .as much akin 
As Lew'son Hill to Pil'son Pen." 

These hills command a charming prospect, and 
Pilsdon is further interesting as the site of an 
ancient camp, of oval form, encompassed by 
three strong ramparts and ditches. It is the 
highest point in the county, nine hundred and 
thirty-four feet above the sea. Crowe's Lewes- 
don Hill was much admired by Rogers, who says 
in his Table Talk : " When travelling in Italy 
I made two authors my constant study for 
versification, Milton and Crowe." 

Beaminster is in a centre of a district famous 
for its great dairies, flowers, bees and rural in- 
dustries, and here is produced the famous Double 
Dorset and Blue Vinny cheese which has always 
a place on the table of the true Dorset family. 
The word " vinny " means mouldy ; thus when 
the rustic thinks his cheese is in a fine ripe con- 
dition he will be likely to remark : " This yer 
cheese is butvul now ; tez vinnied through and 
through." The same word is also used in Devon- 
shire for " bad-tempered," thus, " You vinnied 
little muliybrub, git out of my sight this minut ! " 



246 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

The large dairies where the cheeses are made are 
called " soap factories " by the facetious natives, 
and one frequently meets motor lorries grinding 
up the sharp hills beneath the burden of a hundred 
or so freshly pressed rounds of cheese. 

In spite of the town's sufferings by fire the 
grand old church has fortunately always escaped. 
It is approached by a lane at the corner of the 
market-place. The pride of Beaminster is the old 
church tower, which was built in 1520. A native 
said to me : " Didee ever see zich a comfortable- 
looking old tower ^ as that be, and I knaws 
you won't see more trinkrums on any church in 
the county." By "trinkrums" I suppose he 
meant the gargoyles, pinnacles and profusion of 
delicate carvings for which the gracious amber- 
coloured tower is justly famous. The church 
itself cannot vie with the tower for elegance or 
magnificence. Indeed the church is quite a dull- 
looking place. However, the nave, arcade and a 
squint from the south aisle into the chancel are 
Early English. The pulpit is Jacobean. There 
are two handsome monuments to members of 
the Strode family and some memorial windows 
to the Oglanders and other benefactors. Af- 
fixed to the pavement of the south aisle is an 
early brass, with this inscription in Old English 
characters : 



ROUND ABOUT BEAMINSTER 247 

"Pray for the soule of Sr. John Tone whos 
body lyth berid under this tombe on whos 
soule Jhu have mercy a pat' nost' & ave." 

Sir John was a priest, and probably a Knight of 
Malta, who died in Beaminster while he was on a 
pilgrimage through Dorset. 

The church is the scene of a "well-authenticated" 
apparition. Down to the year 1748 the free school 
(of which the Rev. Samuel Hood, father of Ad- 
mirals Viscount Hood and Lord Bridport, was at 
one time master) was held in one of the galleries, 
and there, on " Saturday, June 22, 1728," did one 
John Daniel appear at full noonday to five of 
his school-fellows, " between three weeks and a 
month after his burial." The reason was plain 
when his body was dug up and duly examined, 
for it was found that he had been strangled. 

Letherbury, about a mile south of Beaminster, 
is a pleasant walk down the Brit valley, by the 
river- side. On the road is Parnham, a noble 
mansion of the Tudor period standing in a well 
wooded and watered demesne. From the Parn- 
hams this estate came to the Strodes, passing 
thence in 1764 to the Oglanders. Other old 
houses in the neighbourhood of Beaminster are 
Strode, Melplash and Mapperton, and the whole 
district bears the marks of long and prosperous 
agricultural occupation in the old-fashioned days 



248 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

when " squire " and tenant lived and died in 
semi feudal relationship on the estate which the 
one owned and the other rented. 

Mapperton House belongs to the time of 
Henry VIII. In the reign of that sovereign the 
lord of the manor was Robert Morgan, who had 
the following patent granted to him : — " Foras- 
moche as we bee credibly informed that our wel- 
biloved Robert Morgan Esquier, for diverse 
infirmities which he hathe in his hedde, cannot 
convenyently, without his grete danngier, be dis- 
covered of the same«^ Whereupon wee in tendre 
consideration thereof have by these presents 
licensed him to use and wear his bonnet on his 
hed at all tymys, as wel in our presence as else- 
wher at his libertie." 

Poor old Robert ! Perhaps his Dorset stub- 
bornness had as much to do with his wearing 
a "bonnet at all tymys" as the "infirmities in 
his hedde." But he was well able to take care of 
himself, for he built this beautiful manor-house 
and recorded the fact in the great hall : 

" Robt. Morgan and Mary his wife built this 
house in their own lifetime, at their own charge 
and cost. 

What they spent, that they lent : 
What they gave, that they have ; 
What they left, that they lost." 



A GLOSSARY OF WEST COUNTRY 
PROVINCIALISMS 

Abide. Cannot abide a thing is, not able to suffer or put 
up with it. 

Addle. Attle is a term used in mining, and signifies the 
rejected and useless rubbish. Hence an addled egg 
is an egg unfit for use. 

Aft, now only used as a sea term, but anciently with 
degrees of comparison, as " after, aftest." 

Agate, open-mouthed attention ; hearkening with eager- 
ness. " He was all agate, "^ eager to hear what was 
said. 

Alare, a short time ago : in common use. 

Anan. A Shakespearean expression formerly used by the 
Dorset rustics when they wished to have a repetition 
of what had been said ; but no one now uses it. 

Backalong, homeward. 

Ballyrag, to scold. 

Banging- gert, very large. 

Barken, an enclosed place, as a rick-barken, a rick-yard. 
In Sussex a yard or enclosure near a house is called a 
" barton," from barley ; and tun, an enclosure. 

Barm, yeast. 

Bayte, to beat, or thrash. 

" A wumman, 
A spenyel. 
And a walnut-tree, 
The oftener yu bayte 'em 
Better they'll be." 

Blare, to shout loudly. 

"Chillern pick up words as pigeons pease. 
And blare them again as God shall please." 
249 



250 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Brath, the ancient Cornish name for a mastijff dog. 
Perhaps this accounts for the common expression, 
" a broth of a boy," meaning " a stout dog of a boy " 
— a sturdy fellow. 

Buck, that pecuHar infection which in summer sometimes 
gets into a dairy and spoils the cream and butter ; a 
sign of gross negligence and want of skill, and not 
easily to be eradicated. 

Bumpkin, a common term for a clumsy, uncouth man. 
But whence the word ? — for it is also applied to a part 
of a ship where the foretack is fastened down. The 
word hump means a protuberance, a prominence : 
to hump against a thing is a local term for striking 
oneself clumsily against it. 

Butt, a straw beehive. . 

"A butt of bees in May 
Is worth a guinea any day ; 
A butt of bees in June 
Is worth a silver spoon ; 
A butt of bees in July 
Isn't worth a fly." 

Chitter, thin, folded up. It is applied to a thin and fur- 
rowed face, by way of ridicule. Such a one is said to 
be "chitter-faced." The long and folded milts or testes 
of some fishes are called "chitterlins," as were the frills 
at the bosom of shirts when they were so worn. The 
entrails of a pig cleaned and boiled are common food 
in Wiltshire, and the dish is called " chitterlings." 

Churer, an occasional workman. Char, to do household 
work in the absence of a domestic servant as a char- 
woman. In Dorset they say " one good choor 
deserves another," instead of one good turn, etc. 

Click-handed, left-handed. 

Cloam, common earthenware. 

Clush, to lie down close to the ground, to stoop low down. 



A GLOSSARY OF PROVINCIALISMS 251 

Clusty, close and heavy ; particularly applied to bread 
not well fermented, and therefore closely set. Also 
applied to a potato that is not mealy. 

Coccabelles, icicles. 

Condididdle, to filch away, to convey anything away by 
trickery. 

Craking, complaining. 

" I, Anthony James Pye MoUey, 
Can burn, take, sink, and destroy ; 
There's only one thing I can't do, on my life ! 
And that is, to stop the craking tongue of my wife." 

Crummy, fat, corpulent. " A fine crummy old fellow." 

Daddick, rotten wood. 

Dew-bit, breakfast. 

Dout, to extinguish. 

Downargle, to argue in an overbearing manner. 

Drattle you! A corruption of the irreverent oath, "God 

throttle you." 
Dubbin o' drenk, a pot of ale. 
Durns, door-posts. 

Ebbet, the common lizard, commonly called the " eft," 
which may be a corruption of this word. The word 
eft signifies speedy or quick. 

Escaped. A person is said to be just escaped when his 
understanding is only just enough to warrant his 
being free from constraint of the tutelage of his 
friends. 

Ether or Edder, a hedge ; also the twisted wands with 
which a " stake hedge " is made. They have a 
rhyme in Dorset on the durability of a " stake ether " : 

" An elder stake and black- thorn ether 
Will make a hedge to last for ever." 

Fags ! or, Aw Fegs ! An interjection. Indeed ! Trul}- ! 



252 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

Fenigy, to run away secretly, or so slip off as to deceive 
expectation ; deceitfully to fail in a promise. It is 
most frequently applied to cases where a man has 
shown appearances of courtship to a woman, and 
then has left her without any apparent reason, and 
without any open quarrel. 

Fess, proud, vain. " Lukee her agot a new bonnet. Why, 
her's as fess as a paycock." Mrs Durbeyfield uses 
this word in Hardy's Tess. 

Flaymerry, a merry-making, or what is now vulgarly 
called " a spree," but with an innocent meaning, an 
excursion for amusement. 

Gahhern. Gloomy, comfortless rooms and houses are 

" gabbern." ^ 

Galley-bagger, a person fond of gadding about. 
Gallied, scared. Jonathan Kail the farm-hand at Tal- 

bothay's uses this word (see Hardy's Tess). 
Gallyvanting, going from home. 

" Then for these flagons of silver fine. 
Even they shall have no praise of mine ; 
For when my lord or lady be going to dine. 
He sends them out to be filled with wine. 
But his man goes gallyvanting away, 
Because they are precious, and fine, and gay ; 
But if the wine had been order'd in a leather bottel. 
The man would have come back, and all been well." 

Gigglet, a merry young girl, one who shows her folly by a 
disposition to grin and laugh for no cause. It is used 
as a term of slight and contempt, and commonly 
to a young girl. Gigglet-market, a hiring-place for 
servants. From time immemorial, to within the last 
sixty years, on Lady Day young girls in Dorset and 
Devon were accustomed to stand in the market-place 
awaiting a chance of being hired as servants. 



A GLOSSARY OF PROVINCIALISMS 253 

Gu-ku, cuckoo. 

" The gu-ku is a merry bird, 

She sings as she flies ; 
She brings us good tidings, 

She tells us no lies. 
She sucks little birds' eggs 

To make her voice clear ; 
And when she sings ' gu-ku ' 

The summer is near." 

Hadge, hedge. 

" Love thy neighbour — but dawnt pull down thy hadge." 

Holt, hold. 

"When you are an anvil, holt you still. 
When you are a hammer, strike your fill." 

Hozeburd, a person of bad character. "Jack Dollop, a 
'hore's bird of a fellow," is the hero of a story related 
by Dairyman Crick in Hardy's Tess. 

Klip, a sudden smart blow, but not a heavy one. It is 
most usually applied to a " klip under the ear." Of 
late the word klipper is grown into use to describe 
a smart-sailing vessel, one that sails very swiftly, 
with some distant reference to the same idea. 

Knap, prominent. It is sometimes applied to the pro- 
minent part of a hill ; but it is more frequently used 
as significant of the form of a person's knees when 
they are distorted towards each other, and which 
some people have chosen to term knock-kneed. 

Lasher, a large thing, of any sort. The meaning sought 
to be conveyed appears to be that this thing beats 
or excels every other. The opinion that any object 
which excels another is able to beat, lash or inflict 
violence on that other is a strange but not micommon 
vulgar one. 



254 THOMAS HARDY'S DORSET 

LoJ\ unwilling. 

"Dawntee be like old Solomon Wise — 
' Lof tu go tu beyd 
And lof to rise.' 
Cuz then you'll soon be 
' Out tu elbaws, 
Out tu toes, 
Out ov money, 
An out ov cloase.' " 

Main, very. I remember once hearing a Dorset thatcher 

say: 
" I be main fammled. I be so hungry I could welly 

eat the barn tiles." 
Mommet, a scarecrow. See Tess of the D^Urhervilles : 

" Had it anything to do with father's making such a 

mommet of himself in thik carriage ? " 

Nitch, a bundle of reed, straw or wood. "He's got a 
nitch " — he is drunk. 

Peg, pig. " Tez time tu watch out when you're getting 
all you want. Fattening pegs ain't 'ardly in luck ! 

At a tithe dinner a farmer in giving the Royal toast 
said : 

" The King, God bless him ! May he be plaized to 
send us more pegs and less parsons." 

Stubberds, delicious apples. 

" Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess ? " 

" Yes." 

" All like ours ? " 

" I don't know ; but I think so. They sometimes 
seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. 
Most of them splendid and sound — a few blighted." 

" Which do we live on — a splendid one or a blighted 
one ? " 

" A bhghted one." (See Thomas Hardy's Tess.) 



A GLOSSARY OF PROVINCIALISMS 255 

Slugged, stuck in the mud. 

"He that will not merry be 
With a pretty girl by the fire, 
I wish he was a-top o' Dartmoor 
A-stugged in the mire." 

Squab pie, a pie in favour in Devon and Dorset : 

"Mutton, onions, apples and dough 
Make a good pie as any I know." 

Ingredients. — 3 lb. mutton or pork cutlets, 6 large 
apples sliced, 2 large onions, ^ lb. salt fat bacon cut 
small, 2 oz. castor sugar, | pint of mutton broth, pepper 
and salt to taste. Place these in layers in a deep pie- 
dish, cover with rich paste and bake for an hour and a 
half, or place the whole in a crock and stew an hour 
and a half. Serve piping hot. I have seen clotted 
cream served and eaten with this " delicacy." 
Squab, the youngest or weakest pig of the litter. The 
London costermonger speaks of the youngest member 
of his family as the " squab." 

Withwind, the wild convolvulus. 

Withy, the willow- tree. They say in Wiltshire, in refer- 
ence to the very rapid growth of the willow, that " a 
withy tree will buy a horse before an oak will buy 
a bridle and saddle." The willow will often grow 
twelve feet in a season. 

Wizzened, shrivelled, withered: as "a wizzened apple," 
" a wizzened-faced woman." 

Wosbird. A term of reproach, the meaning of which 
appears to be unknown to those who use it. It is 
evidently a corruption of whore's-bird. 



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