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Full text of "The wild-flowers of Selborne and other papers"

Th e Wild- Flo wers of 
Selborne ^ Other Papers 



5 •^- 







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: >Lw,. 



The IVild-Flowers 

of Selborne 

and other Papers 

by yohn Vaughan^ M.A, 

Rector ofDroxford and Hon. Canon of Winchester 



LIBRARY 

NBW \'ORK 
V --AL 



London : 'John Lane, The Bodley Head 
New York : John Lane Company, mdccccvi 






Printed by Ballantvne, Hanson df Co. 
At the Ballantyne Press 



^*:^> WRK 

PREFACE 

In deference to the wishes of many friends the 
writer has collected the following articles, the out- 
come of a few hours of leisure in a busy life. In 
doing so, he desires to express his obligations to 
the editors of the various magazines in which the 
papers originally appeared for their kind permission 
to reprint them. To the courteous editor of Long- 
mans his thanks are especially due, for the majority 
of the articles were published in the pages of that 
excellent magazine, the recent withdrawal of which he, 
with many others, regrets. He also wishes to offer 

(Ohis acknowledgments to the editors of the Cornhill, 

^ Temple Bar, Chambers's Journal, The Monthly Packet^ 
and The Churchman for like favours. The papers are 
reprinted almost entirely in their original form : it 
seemed best not to attempt to recast them, even if 

^ here and there a slight repetition be discernible. 

I Among the illustrations special interest attaches 

^ to the frontispiece, which represents the design of a 

o 

■^ school which it was proposed to erect at Selborne as 

30 a memorial to Gilbert White. The original sketch 

^ was lately discovered by Mr. John Lane in a cottage 

a_ 

u_i 



viii PREFACE 

at Selborne, and has now been presented by him to 
the British Museum, where it is catalogued under 
Hampshire Topography. 

May the writer, in conclusion, express the hope that 
these essays may please those to whom *' the glamour 
of the earth " is already more than a fancy, and that 
they may lead others to share with him that " fresh 
delight in simple things," which is such an unfailing 
source of happiness to those who possess it. 

Droxford Rectory, 

22.nd January 1 906. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE . . i 

GILBERT WHITE 9 

THE USE OF SIMPLES 17 

POT-HERBS 29 

WILD FRUITS 41 

WALL-FLOWERS 51 

OUR POISONOUS PLANTS 59 

FLOWERS OF THE FIELD -Ji 

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PLANTS ... 87 

SOME ADDITIONS TO OUR NATIVE FLORA 99 

THE FLORA OF HANTS 109 

ESSEX AND THE EARLY BOTANISTS . . 121 

THE ESSEX MARSHES 135 

MARY RICH, COUNTESS OF WARWICK . . 143 
IZAAK WALTON AT DROXFORD . . .157 
AN "ANCIENT MARKET - TOWNE" : TITCH- 

FIELD 173 

A VILLAGE BY THE SEA: PORTCHESTER . 191 

ix ^ 



X CONTENTS 

PAGE 

FRENCH PRISONERS AT PORTCHESTER . 201 

OLD PARISH DOCUMENTS: PORTCHESTER. 217 

JANE AUSTEN AT LYME 227 

THE ISLE OF WIGHT OF LEGH RICHMOND'S 

NARRATIVES 237 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Design for a School proposed to be 


Erected 


AT SeLBORNE as a MEMORIAL OF 


Gilbert 


White 


Frontispiece 


John Gerarde 


To face page 20 


John Ray 


„ » 84 


Title-page to Gerarde's " Herbal " 


,, 124 


Dewlands {burnt down, Sept. 19, 1900) 


» 128 


Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick 


)5 n 146 


Droxford Church 


„ 166 


Ruins of Place House, Titchfield 


M 186 


Portch ester Castle . 


„ „ 204 


The Rev. Legh Richmond . 


. ,, „ 238 



In the centre of the Cover is a reproduction of 
The Morley Sundial 



THE WILD-FLOWERS 
OF SELBORNE 



One hundred years have passed away since Gilbert 
White was laid to rest in Selborne churchyard, and 
those years have been years of considerable progress 
in the study of botany. In White's day botany as a 
science can hardly be said to have existed, and so it is 
not surprising to find that he considered it "needless 
work" to enumerate all the plants of his neighbour- 
hood. However, in the Forty-first Letter to Daines 
Barrington he gives a short list of the rarer and more 
interesting plants, together with the spots where they 
were to be found. It is the purpose of the present 
paper to compare the botany of Selborne as chronicled 
by Gilbert White in 1778 with what we know of it 
to-day. 

The most striking feature in the scenery of the 
parish is undoubtedly the " Hanger," covered now, as 
in White's time, with beeches, " the most beautiful," 
as he thought them, "of forest trees." The zigzag 
path up the face of the hill is still crowned by the 
Wishing-stone, from which, in clear weather, an 
extensive view of the surrounding country may be 
obtained ; the horizon is bounded by the Southdowns, 

A 



2 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

and the waters of Wolmer Pond gleam in the distance. 
In wet seasons, the soil of the zigzag being chalk, the 
path is so slippery as to be almost dangerous. In 
early summer the dog-rose puts forth its delicate 
blossoms, and the long stems of honeysuckle scramble 
over the bushes. Later on the autumnal gentian, or 
fellwort, may be found. 

Down below, a little further along the ridge of the 
hill, may be seen, through a gap made by some winter 
storm in the dense forest of beech-trees, the house in 
which White lived. There it nestles in the valley, 
beneath the shadow of the ** beech-grown hill " ; 
altered, indeed, by the hand of restoration, and en- 
larged considerably beyond its former dimensions, 
but yet, in part at least, just as the old naturalist 
left it. The wing which contained his study and 
bedroom remains untouched. The old staircase is 
still there. You may see the room in which he slept, 
with a heavy beam running across the ceiling, and 
the windows looking out on the Hanger. Outside 
on the lawn stands White's sun-dial, while the brick 
pathway — four bricks wide — still runs out into the 
meadow beyond. This pathway formerly led to a 
summer-house, which unfortunately was allowed to 
go to ruin, and no trace of it now remains. Not far 
off, among the long grass of the meadow, the leaves 
of the wild tulip may at the right season be found, 
but it is many years since a flower has been seen. In 
the summer of 1780 a pair of honey-buzzards built 
their nest upon a tall slender beech near the middle 
of the Hanger, and from the summer-house below 
White could watch them at their work. Here, too, 
the fern-owls or goatsuckers glided about in the even- 
ing twilight ; and one summer a pair of hoopoes 



THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELHORNE 3 

frequented the spot. On the Hanger still flourishes, 
as it flourished a hundred years ago, though not in 
such abundance, the stinking hellebore, or setterwort. 
This handsome plant may often be seen in shrubberies 
and garden-walks, but in a wild state it is not often 
met with. In the good old times it seems to have been 
much sought after by those learned in the properties 
of herbs. "The good women," says White, "give 
the leaves powdered to children troubled with worms ; 
but," he adds, "it is a violent remedy, and ought to 
be administered with caution." As late as 1845 a 
child died at Southampton from the effects of this 
so-called remedy administered by its grandmother. 
The name " setterwort " reveals another curious use 
of this plant. "Husbandmen," says old Gerarde, 
" are used to make a hole, and put a piece of the 
root into the dewlap of their cattle, as a seton^ in cases 
of diseased lungs, and this is called pegging or setter- 
ing." Among the brushwood, on the top of the hill, 
there grew in White's time the Daphne Mezei'cuin. 
This fine shrub, with its pink fragrant flowers, which 
appear in early spring before the leaves, may often 
be seen in gardens in the neighbourhood, but on 
Selborne Hanger it is no longer to be found. The 
last plant has been removed into some cottage garden. 
The spurge laurel, with its evergreen crown of shin- 
ing leaves and dark poisonous berries, is everywhere 
abundant. In the month of August, the sickly-looking 
yellow Monotropa, or bird's nest, may be found in 
plenty under the shady beeches; and about the same 
time, or a little later, that rare orchis, the violet helle- 
borine, will be in flower. This plant is, perhaps, to 
a botanist the most interesting of the Selborne Flora. 
The trade of a truffle-hunter is all but extinct. Now 



4 THE WILD-P^LOWERS OF SELBORNE 

and then a man comes round with truffles for sale, but 
not often. The last of the old race died not long since 
in a hamlet within a few miles of Selborne. A hun- 
dred years ago truffles abounded, White tells us, in 
the Hanger and High Wood, They probably abound 
now at the right seasons, but the supply from France 
having swamped the English market the search for 
them has become no longer profitable. And so the 
profession of truffle-hunting is gone. 

In the churchyard the ancient yew-tree, " probably 
coeval with the church," sheds its pollen in clouds of 
dust every spring. The trunk measured upwards of 
23 feet in circumference in White's time; in 1823 
Cobbett found it to be 23 feet 8 inches ; it has now 
increased to 25 feet 2 inches. This is among the 
largest yew-trees in Hampshire. On the north side 
of the chancel a small head-stone marks the spot 
where the old naturalist lies. His grave is in keeping 
with the beautiful simplicity of his life. No ostenta- 
tious monument covers his last resting-place ; only a 
head and footstone ; on the former, under 2 feet in 
height, is inscribed the letters " G. W.," and the date, 
"June 26, 1793." Between the low hchen-covered 
stones not even a mound is raised, but the grass 
waves above him, and the daisies bloom. 

From the churchyard a path leads down the Lyth, 
towards the old Priory, about a mile distant. The 
Priory was dissolved by Henry VIH., and not a stone 
of it remains. The site is now occupied by a 
modern farmhouse, known as the Priory Farm. In 
the garden a stone coffin may be seen, and a few 
encaustic tiles, but no further trace of the Augus- 
tinian convent meets the eye. The path down the 
valley is most picturesque, and was a favourite walk 



THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 5 

of Gilbert White. In one of his poems he thus 
speaks of it : — 

"Adown the vale, in lone, sequester'd nook, 
Where skirting woods imbrown the dimpHng brook, 
The riiin'd convent lies ; here wont to dwell 
The lazy canon 'midst his cloister'd cell ; 
While Papal darkness brooded o'er the land 
Ere Reformation made her glorious stand : 
Still oft at eve belated shepherd-swains 
See the cowl'd spectre skim the folded plains." 

Now, as when those lines were written, the wild ever- 
lasting pea climbs among the brambles of the hedge- 
row, and in the copse beyond, the small teasel still 
grows in abundance, together with herb-paris, and 
orpine or live-long. Several species of orchis may be 
found in the meadow, including the green -winged 
orchis, so called from the strongly-marked green veins 
of the sepals, and the twayblade. The curious bird's- 
nest orchis, with its tangled mass of short, fleshy 
root-fibres, supposed to resemble a bird's nest, flowers 
in June beside the pathway, while just within the 
shadow of the trees sweet woodruff grows. Later 
on large patches of musk mallow will be out in the 
meadow. One plant, not mentioned by White, but 
now to be found in great abundance in a swampy 
piece of meadow land down the valley, is the bistort 
(twice-twisted) or snake-weed, so called on account 
of its large twisted roots. It is a handsome plant, 
with its cylindrical spike of flesh-coloured flowers, and 
of rare occurrence in Hampshire, and, had it existed 
in its present locality in the eigliteenth century, could 
hardly have escaped White's notice. Another plant 
not mentioned is the snowdrop, which blossoms freely 



6 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

every spring in a wood hard by. In the damper parts 
of the valley near the stream the common soft rush is 
very abundant ; this is the plant which a hundred 
years ago was gathered for the purpose of making 
candles, the process of which is fully described by 
White in one of his letters. Here, too, the red spikes 
of rtiuicx mingle with the white flowers of meadow- 
sweet and the purple blossoms of thistle and self-heal, 
while the air is full of the scent of water-mint. On 
the rising ground, in an open part of the wood which 
overshadows the valley, large patches of French- 
willow are in blossom, and the large rose-coloured 
flowers make a fine show against the dark green back- 
ground. The red thread-like stems of the creeping 
cinquefoil trail all over the ground, and star the 
pathway through the wood with their showy yellow 
flowers. 

The " hollow lanes " present an even more rugged 
appearance than they did in White's time. He then 
described them as " more like watercourses than roads, 
and as bedded with naked rag for furlongs together. 
In many places they are reduced sixteen or eighteen 
feet beneath the level of the fields, and after floods 
and in frosts exhibit very grotesque and wild appear- 
ances." These hollow lanes are no longer used as 
thoroughfares, a new road to Alton having been made 
some years ago. In places it is hardly now possible 
even to walk along them, so overgrown are they with 
rank herbage. Here and there boughs of hazel, ash, 
or maple meet overhead, while coarse umbelliferce and 
the tangled stems of briar and dog-rose obstruct the 
narrow way. In places the perpendicular sides, often 
1 8 feet high, are bare of herbage, and present a naked 
surface of white freestone, broken by the gnarled roots 



THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 7 

of poUard-trces, and split in every direction by the 
winter's frost. Where the sunh'ght can penetrate these 
gloomy hollows, flowers soon open their bright petals, 
and purple foxgloves and the yellow St. John's wort 
lend colour to the scene. In early spring the golden 
saxifrage blooms freely as it did a hundred years ago, 
and on the very spot where Gilbert White found the 
green-hellebore or Bear's-foot the plant still maintains 
a flourishing existence. The tutsan, so precious to 
the old herbalists, may also be found in the rocky 
lanes, and ferns now as then abound. But though 
abundant they are confined comparatively to but few 
species ; and the rare moonwort, which used to grow 
at Selborne, has not been seen for many years. 

The Forest of Wolmcr, three-fifths of which before 
the formation of the parish of Blackmoor lay in the 
parish of Selborne, is full of interest to the naturalist. 
Though now partially enclosed and planted with oak 
and larch trees, snipe and teal continue to breed there 
in considerable numbers ; and occasionally, especially 
in hard winters, rarer wild-fowl are seen. White 
enumerates but few of the forest plants ; he mentions, 
however, four as growing in the bogs of Bin's Pond. 
Of these, the round-leaved and the long-leaved sundew 
still exist in abundance; and the wiry stems of the 
creeping bilberry, with its bright red flowers and small 
evergreen leaves, of which the margins are always 
rolled back, may also be found, but not in any 
quantity ; while the marsh cinquefoil has altogether 
disappeared. The fruit of the creeping bilberry makes 
excellent tarts, and in places where the plant is 
plentiful is much sought after. Whortleberries — first- 
cousins to cranberries — known in the district as 
"whorts," abound on "the dry hillocks of Wolmer 



8 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

Forest/' and are gathered by the gipsies and sold in 
the towns and villages. Hound's-tongue, a stout 
plant with lurid purple flowers, and a strong dis- 
agreeable smell like that of mice, grows in several 
parts of the forest ; and in one particular spot a few 
plants of the rare white horehound, covered, as its 
name suggests, with white woolly down, and strongly 
aromatic — once a famous remedy for coughs — may be 
found, together with a few specimens of motherwort, a 
plant very seldom met with in the neighbourhood. In 
some places a North American plant, with perfoliate 
leaves and small white flowers, called Claytonia, after 
an American botanist, has established itself; and once 
a specimen of dame's-violet was found. In spring the 
pretty little Tcesdalia covers the sandy heath ; and on 
a bank the tower mustard grows, and the uncommon 
— at least about Selborne— hoary cinquefoil. On a 
" hanger " in a neighbouring parish thousands of 
golden daffodils dance and flutter in the breeze every 
spring, and people come for miles round to gather 
them. At the foot of the " Hanger," in a small wet 
copse, the lungwort grows. This particular copse is 
full of it, but you may search every other wood in 
the neighbourhood in vain. The flowers somewhat 
resemble the cowslip, only their colour is purple ; 
indeed, some people call the plant the Jerusalem cow- 
slip. Not far from the copse in which the lungwort 
grows is an old disused chalk-pit, and in this pit 
the deadly nightshade is abundant. It is the most 
dangerous of British poisonous plants. The dark 
purple berries, as large as cherries, are tempting to 
children, and fatal cases of poisoning sometimes occur. 
Fortunately, it is a plant of rare occurrence and is 
mostly found in the neighbourhood of ruins. 



GILBERT WHITE 

The interest in Gilbert White, and in all tliat concerns 
the parochial and natural history of Sel borne, con- 
tinues unabated. New editions of the History are 
constantly appearing ; and lately a life of the naturalist, 
in two large volumes, by his great-grand-nephew, has 
been published. A large mass of correspondence, 
never before made public, has been brought together; 
and many interesting details with regard to the daily 
life of the great naturalist are for the first time given 
to the world. 

It is well known that Gilbert White remained all his 
life a bachelor ; and it has been asserted by some of 
his biographers — including the late Professor Bell of 
Sclborne — that this was due to an unrequited attach- 
ment from whicli the naturalist never recovered. The 
lady in question is said to have been Hester Mulso, 
who afterwards became Mrs. Chaponc, the sister of 
his lifelong friend John Mulso, Rector of Meonstoke 
and Canon of Winchester. This story, Mr. Holt- 
White is at pains to show, has absolutely no founda- 
tion, and it must be admitted that the series of letters 
from Mulso to White, now for the first time published, 
gives no encouragement to the idea; "nor," adds his 
latest biographer, " is any tradition of the disappointed 
affections known among the family of the naturalist, 
who had but one mistress — Selborne." 

9 



lo THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

But though White remained a bachelor, he seems 
to have been a man of unusually affectionate dispo- 
sition. His relations with the members of his family 
were of the most cordial nature ; and one or another 
of his numerous nephews and nieces was generally on 
a visit to Selborne. Indeed, he appears to have been 
seldom alone. Nephews "Jack," or Sam Barker, to 
whom he writes many letters on natural history, come 
to stay with him, or " Niece Molly," for whom he has 
a special affection. One winter " brother and sister 
John" live with him; and after "brother John's" 
death the widow came to Selborne and resided with 
her brother-in-law during the rest of his life. When 
"Nephew Jack" marries, he sets off with his bride for 
Selborne immediately after the ceremony. Gilbert is 
much pleased with his new relation : " she is a nice 
needlewoman," he says, " and also a proficient in 
music, and can shoulder a violin, and in her carriage 
much of a gentlewoman." Other friends too occasion- 
ally visit our naturalist. John Mulso and his wife, 
"a very inactive lady," sometimes braved the journey 
from Meonstoke, some sixteen miles distant, and would 
stay a fortnight. Or Dr. Richard Chandler, the cele- 
brated Greek traveller, would come, and the two lovers 
of antiquity would examine together the ancient docu- 
ments relative to Selborne Priory. Another intimate 
friend was the Rev. Ralph Churton, a Fellow of Brase- 
nose, who seems to have usually spent Christmas at 
Selborne. White was also on terms of the closest 
friendship with his clerical neighbours at the Vicarage 
and at Newton Valence ; and great was his distress 
when within eleven months both Mr. Etty and Mr. 
Yalden died. 

Though College livings now and again fell to his 



GILBERT WHITE ii 

share, White could never reconcile himself to the 
thought of leaving Selbornc. Once, indeed, when the 
provostship of Oriel was vacant, he became a candidate 
for the post, but failed to be elected. After this dis- 
appointment he seems to have finally decided to remain 
atSelborne; though, as his friend Mulso's letters re- 
veal, there was occasionally a flutter of excitement 
when some valuable piece of College preferment fell 
vacant. However, at Selborne he remained, retaining 
his Fellowship and also the College living of Moreton 
Pinkney, in Northamptonshire, which, after the manner 
of the age, was served by a curate ; while White him- 
self took clerical duty in the vicinity of his own home, 
first in the neighbouring village of Farringdon, which 
he served for twenty-five 3'ears, and afterwards in his 
own parish of Selborne. The routine of duty was 
regularly varied by visits to his relatives in Sussex, 
Rutlandshire, and London, and by his annual visit 
to Oxford. These journeys were mostly undertaken 
on horseback — his friend Mulso calls him a " hussar- 
parson" — as it appears White suffered much from 
what was called " stage-coach sickness." 

Man}' are the details of domestic economy that we 
gather from the naturalist's letters, especially from 
those to his "dear niece Molly," only daughter of 
brother Thomas, of South Lambeth. He is constantly 
asking her to do little commissions for him in London 
— a pound of coffee, half-a-pound of soft sealing-wax, 
two or three quires of small writing-paper, or a " pound 
of Mr. Todd's 14s. green tea." Or he asks her to pur- 
chase him " a good large ham," and to send it down 
by coach. The journey to Selborne was not always 
accomplished without danger. " My ham," writes 
Gilbert White, " came safe, but had a great escape ; 



12 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

for in its passage down the waggon was robbed of 
about £^o in value." Again and again he writes to 
Molly for "half a hundred of good salt fish," or "five 
good Iceland codfishes," to be sent down by carrier. 
On one occasion a great calamity occurred. "We 
thank you," he writes, " for the salt fish, which proves 
more white and delicate than usual. Instead of in a 
parcel, the cod came down in a barrel, which, being 
leaky, let the brine out on the kitchen floor. I there- 
fore told Thomas he should carry it into the cellar. 
Thomas, without much thought, took the barrel by 
the hoops and got to the cellar stairs, when off came 
the hoops, down fell the barrel, out flew the head ; 
in short, the stairs from top to bottom became one 
broken, wet scene of barrel-staves and codfish." Other 
household matters sometimes occupy the attention of 
our naturalist. He is busy making catchup from the 
mushrooms gathered in the park below the Hanger; 
or he is superintending the brewing of his strong beer, 
or "bottling out some very fine raisin wine," or "half 
an hogshead of Mrs. Atherley's port," which had, he 
notices, " not quite so good a smell and flavour as 
usual, and seemed always to show a disposition to 
mantle in the glass." His garden is a source of con- 
stant pleasure and attention to him. He writes to 
Molly about his cucumbers, asparagus, the prospect 
of his wall-fruit, or the fine show his tulips are mak- 
ing. We catch a glimpse of Goody Hampton, " the 
weeding-woman," whose services White proposes to 
retain for the summer, " that the garden may be neat 
and tidy" when Molly comes. "This is the person," 
he adds, "that Thomas says he likes as well as a 
man ; and, indeed, excepting that she wears petticoats, 
you would think her a man ! " Various improvements 



GILBERT WHITE 13 

are from time to time carried out on the premises. 
He is engaged in making the Ha-ha wall, " built of 
blue rags," in the garden, which may still be seen ; 
or in erecting his sundial, the column of which, he 
notes, is " very old, and came from Sarson House, 
near Amport, and was hewn from the quarries of 
Chilmarke." The building of the "great parlour" 
engaged his attention one summer, and seems to have 
been a great event in the monotonous life of our 
naturalist. 

It has often been regretted that no portrait of Gilbert 
White exists. Though urged by " brother Thomas " 
to sit for his likeness, it does not appear that any 
picture was ever made of him. He is said by his 
biographer to have been only five feet three inches in 
stature and slender in person, but at the same time to 
have possessed a very upright carriage and a presence 
not without dignity. It is also stated that he was kind 
and courteous in manner, and liberal to his poorer 
neighbours; while he is said to have been specially 
devoted to the attention of his sick parishioners. This 
last particular is fully borne out by the numberless 
allusions in his letters to the sick and aged folk under 
his care at Selborne. His own health appears to have 
been generally good, though now and again we hear 
of attacks of sickness, and for many years before his 
death he was troubled with deafness, which rendered 
conversation irksome, and which apparently caused 
him to resort to an ear-trumpet, one being found 
among his effects at his decease. In one of his letters 
we find him alluding to an infirmity which we should 
hardly have associated with the writer of the Natura- 
list's Journal. " You, in your mild way," he writes to 
Robert Marsham, " complain a little of procrastination ; 



14 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

but I, who have suffered all my life long by that evil 
power, call her the Daemon of Procrastination ; and 
wish that Fuseli, the grotesque painter in London, 
who excells in drawing witches, daemons, incubus's, 
and incantations, was employed in deHneating this 
ugly hag, which fascinates in some measure the most 
determined and resolute of men." 

In White's letters to members of his family we 
occasionally get glimpses of village life as it appeared 
in the old-world days of the eighteenth century. There 
were no good roads to Selborne, and during the winter 
months the village was almost inaccessible except on 
foot or horseback. Under date of March 15, 1756, it 
is noted in T/ie Garden Kalendar as an event worth 
chronicling : " Brought a four-wheel'd post-chaise to 
ye door at this early time of year." John Mulso, 
when he visited his friend at Selborne, regularly asked 
for a guide to meet him *'at the cross-roads," remark- 
ing that the village was as difficult of access as Rosa- 
mond's Bower. One winter a little diversion was 
created by the quartering in the village of the " 26 
High-landers." "These sans-breeches men," says 
White, " made an odd appearance in the village, where, 
though they had nothing in the world to do, have yet 
behaved in a very quiet and inoffensive manner, and 
were never known to steal even a turnip or a cabbage, 
though they lived much on vegetables, and were aston- 
ished at the * dearness of Southern provisions.' " The 
honesty of the soldiers seems to have been the more 
notable in contrast with the doings of some of the 
Selborne labourers. It appears from one of White's 
letters to Molly, that, in consequence of a bad harvest, 
" the poor took to stealing the farmers' corn by night ; 
the losers offered rewards, but in vain." The poor 



GILBERT WHITE 15 

people were beyond question very badly ofT: a few of 
tlie labourers, it appears from the "letters," kept pigs, 
and in years when beech-mast was abundant did fairly 
well ; but, generally speaking, great poverty prevailed. 
They tried, many of them, to make a few shillings by 
keeping bees. "This day," notes Gilbert White, "has 
been at Selborne the honey-market : for a person from 
Chert came over with a cart, to whom all the villagers 
round brought their hives, and sold their contents. 
Combs were sold last year at about 3fd. per pound ; 
this year 3|d.-4d." In addition to the general poverty 
there was little enough to break tlie monotony of daily 
life. Once, indeed, we read of a cricket-match, in 
which " Mr. Woods had his knee-pan dislocated by 
the stroke of a ball ; and at the same time Mr. Webb 
was knocked down and his face and leg much wounded 
by the stroke of a ball." Or a mad dog from " Newton 
great farm " causes intense alarm by biting half the 
dogs in the street and many about the neighbourhood. 
In consequence of this " 17 persons from Newton farm 
went in a waggon to be dipped in the sea, and also an 
horse." Or a strange wedding sets all the village for 
two days in an uproar, when " a young, mad-headed 
farmer out of Berks came to marry farmer Bridger's 
daughter, and brought with him four drunken com- 
panions." But " the common people all agree that the 
bridegroom was the most of a gentleman of any man they 
ever saw." Whether the labourers were accustomed 
to attend their parish church in those days we cannot 
discover from White's letters, but they were not in the 
habit of going to chapel. " For more than a century 
past," writes our parson-naturalist in the year 1788, 
" there does not appear to have been one Papist in 
Selborne, or any Protestant dissenter of any denomina- 



i6 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

tion." And as there were no chapels, so neither was 
there any recognised school. " Selborne," he adds, 
"is not able to maintain a schoolmaster; here are 
only two or three dames, who pick up a small pittance 
by teaching little children to read, knit, and sew." It 
is interesting to know that after White's death it was 
proposed to build a village school as a memorial to the 
historian of Selborne. The scheme was never carried 
out, but a sketch lately found in the village of the 
proposed building forms a fitting frontispiece to the 
present volume. 



THE USE OF SIMPLES 

In the language of the old herbalists, a "simple" was 
the general term for any herb or plant which was 
supposed to possess medicinal properties. According 
to the curious belief of the time, every plant in the 
Materia medica was held to contain its own particular 
virtue, and therefore to constitute a " simple " remedy. 
Hence herbs were simples ; and in the botanical litera- 
ture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries an 
expedition in search of plants was frequently termed 
a " simpling-voyage" or a "simpling-journey," while 
an apothecary skilled in the knowledge of herbs is 
designated by Gerarde " a learned and diligent searcher 
of simples." 

The term has now become obsolete, but it may 
serve to remind us of a curious branch of learning 
which was once identified with the practice of medicine. 
In ancient times "whatever was scientific in the art 
of medicine was centred in the study of herbs, and the 
materials of the healing art were wholly vegetable." 
The mineral and chemical remedies are of compara- 
tively modern introduction, and date mainly from the 
Arabic physicians of the Middle Ages. This priority 
of herbal medicines, as Professor Earle has pointed 
out, has left its trace in the vocabulary of our language. 
The term driig^ he tells us, " is from the Anglo-Saxon 
df'igan., to dry ; and drugs were at first dried herbs. 

'7 B 



i8 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

Thus the study of plants was identified with' medicine 
by inveterate tradition ; and when, in the sixteenth 
century, with the beginnings of modern botany, the 
chief cities of Europe estabhshed gardens for study, 
they were called Physic Gardens." 

The first of these public physic gardens appears to 
have been founded at Padua in the year 1533; this 
was quickly followed by similar institutions at Zurich, 
at Bologna, and at Cologne. In England Dr. William 
Turner, " the Father of British botany," had a physic 
garden at his Deanery at Wells and another at Kew, 
while he also seems to have had the direction of the 
Duke of Somerset's garden at Sion House. Dear old 
Gerarde, whose quaint and curious Herbal is the 
delight alike of the botanist and of the lover of 
English literature, had a fine physic garden at Hol- 
born, where he cultivated " near eleven hundred sorts 
of plants of foreign and domestic growth." Physic 
gardens were also established at Oxford and Edin- 
burgh ; and in the year 1673, owing in a great 
measure to the influence and liberality of Sir Hans 
Sloane, the friend of Ray, the famous garden at 
Chelsea was founded by the Company of Apothe- 
caries. 

These physic gardens were of great utility in pro- 
moting the study of botany and of medicine throughout 
Europe. But as the knowledge of science increased, 
the gulf between the vocation of the physician and of 
the herbalist grew wider. " It was a severance," says 
Professor Earle, in his interesting introduction to 
English Plmit Names, "of the popular from the 
scientific; and it went on widening as botany grew 
stronger and more conscious of its vocation, while the 
herbal sank ever lower in cant and charlatanry. These 



THE USE OF SIMPLES 19 

qualities early manifested themselves in connection 
with herbals. Even in old Gcrarde, favourite and 
almost classic as he is, there is a spice of the mounte- 
bank. It is not that his book is tinged with popular 
error — all the books of the time are that — but his 
book leans to the side of superstition. Its motto 
might be the lines of Spenser in the Faerie Queene : 

" O who can tell 
The hidden powre of herbes and might of Magick spell ?" 

Ignored by the faculty, the herbal became the guide 
of the quack ; and in Ctdpepper s famous Herbal it 
had become a fit companion for the Astrological 
Abnanack!^ 

As an illustration of the ignorance and superstition 
associated with the use of simples, the belief in the 
Doctrine of Signatures may be taken. This belief is 
quaintly expressed by the old herbalist, William Coles, 
in his scarce work on the Art of Simplijtg, published 
in 1656: "Though Sin and Sathan have plunged 
mankinde into an Ocean of Infirmities, yet the mercy 
of God which is over all his workes, maketh Grasse 
to grow upon the Mountaines, and Herbes for the use 
of Men, and hath not only stamped upon them a 
distinct forme, but also given them particular Signa- 
tures, whereby a man may read, even in legible 
characters, the use of them." 

Thus, to take two or three examples, the spotted 
leaves of the Jerusalem cowslip, a plant common in 
cottage gardens, and known in the New Forest as 
"Joseph and Mary," indicate its value in cases of 
tuberculous lungs, and its former use for this purpose 
has given it the name of lungwort. In like manner 
the knotty tubers of the Scrophularia or figwort, 



20 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

frequently found by the side of streams, are the sign 
or signature that the plant is a sovereign remedy for 
scrofulous or knotty glands ; and the hard seeds or 
stony nutlets of the Lithospermwn^ or gromwell, pro- 
claim it to be efficacious in cases of calculus or gravel. 
The scaly pappus of the common scabious again is the 
indication stamped upon it by God that the plant is 
valuable for leprous diseases ; and the red hue of the 
stem and leaves of herb Robert {Geranium Robertia- 
num, L.), so abundant in our hedgerows, is a certain 
sign that the plant is powerful as a " stancher of 
blood." In many of our Hampshire woods the 
elegant plant known as Solomon's seal is found. If 
the rootstock be cut transversely across, some marks 
like unto a seal will be noticed. This was sufficient 
to show the old herbalists that the plant was specially 
created for the express purpose of "sealing" or heal- 
ing wounds. " The root of Solomon's seal," says 
Gerarde, " taketh away in one night, or two at the 
most, any bruise, black or blue spots, gotten by falls, 
or women's wilfulness in stumbling upon their hasty 
husbands' fists." 

In spite, however, of the quackery which was in- 
separably bound up with the profession of the herbalist, 
there can be no doubt that a belief in the virtue of 
simples was very general among all classes in the 
olden times. There is a curious passage in George 
Herbert's Country Parson, in which the saintly poet 
of Bemerton insists on a " knowledge of simples " as 
part of the necessary equipment of a parish priest. 
The parson, except in " ticklish cases," is to be the 
physician of his flock. He is to keep by him "one 
book of physic, one anatomy, and one herbal." He 
is to make the vicarage garden his shop, " for home- 




JOHN (iKKAKl)K 

b. 1545 : d. 1607 



THE USE OF SIMPLES 21 

bred medicines are both more easy for the parson's 
purse, and more famihar for all men's bodies. So, 
when the apothecary useth either for loosing, rhubarb, 
or for binding, bolcarmena, the parson," says Herbert, 
" useth damask or white roses for the one, and plain- 
tain, shepherd's purse, knotgrass for the other, and 
that with better success." So for salves, the parson's 
wife — for the wife, says Herbert, is to be chosen, not 
for her "qualities of the world," but for her "skill in 
healing a wound" — "seeks not the city, but prefers 
her garden and fields before all outlandish gums. 
And surely hyssop, valerian, mercury, adder's tongue, 
yarrow, meliot, and St. John's-wort, made into a salve, 
and elder, camomile, mallows, comphrey, and smallage, 
made into a poultice, have done great and rare cures. 
And in curing of any the parson and his family use 
to premise prayers, for this is to cure like a parson, 
and this raiseth the action from the shop to the 
church." 

And doubtless there was a certain virtue in many 
of these old-world remedies. The use of them would 
hardly have been continued had their efficacy been 
found altogether wanting. And certain it is that 
many of these herbal preparations were regarded with 
favour even by scientific men. John Ray was the 
greatest naturalist of his age, and may be fairly said 
in his Mctliodus P lantarum to have laid the foundation 
of modern scientific botany, yet he not only believed 
in the virtue of plants, but even used herbal remedies 
for his own ailments. Towards the end of his life 
Ray suffered severely from some scrofulous complaint, 
and was greatly troubled with ulcers on the legs. For 
this we find him using a " decoction of elecampane, 
dockroot, and chalk, in whey, and bathing the affected 



22 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

parts therewith " ; while, instead of physic, he is taking 
a "plain diet drink, made of dockroot, watercress, 
brooklime, plaintain, and alder leaves, boiled in wort." 
For a time, he tells Sir Hans Sloane, he received 
some benefit from this treatment, till " the winter 
coming on, and little virtue in the herbs," he was 
forced to give it over. 

In Gilbert White's History of Selborne we learn, 
unfortunately, very little about the use of simples. 
He recommends, indeed, that the botanist should 
direct his attention to the examination of "the powers 
and virtues of efficacious herbs," and should endea- 
vour to " promote their cultivation " ; but he has little 
to tell us about the actual use of them. The only 
instance he gives is with reference to Hellebortis 
faslidus, the stinking hellebore, or setterwort, to which 
we have already alluded. 

But the belief in the efficacy of simples has almost 
entirely disappeared. The last of the old race of herb- 
doctors is gone. One of the last, Dr. Prior tells us, 
was living at Market Lavington, in Wiltshire, at the 
close of the eighteenth century. His name was Dr. 
Batter. He had been brought up very humbly, and 
" lived and dressed as a poor man in a cottage by the 
roadside, where he was born and where his father and 
grandfather had lived before him, and been famous in 
their day as bone-setters. There, if the weather per- 
mitted, he would bring out his chair and table, and 
seat his numerous patients on the hedgebank, and 
prescribe for them out-of-doors. It is said that, being 
well acquainted with every part of the county, he 
would usually add to the names of the plants that he 
ordered, the localities near the home of his visitor 
where they would most readily be found." Still, 



THE USE OF SIMPLES 23 

though the genuine old-fashioned race of herbahsts 
has died out, yet here and there in remote country 
districts there is a lingering belief in the efficacy of 
"harbs." Richard Jcfferics relates that once he met 
a labourer who was deeply depressed because of the 
death of a son. The poor fellow had had every atten- 
tion, but still he regretted one thing. There was a 
herb, which grew in wet places and was known only 
to a few, that was a certain cure for the kind of 
wasting disease which had baffled the skill of the 
doctor. There was an old man, said the rustic, living 
somewhere by a river, fifty miles away, who possessed 
the secret of this herb and by it had accomplished 
marvellous cures. He had heard of him, but could 
not by any inquiry find out his exact whereabouts ; 
and so his son died. Everything possible had been 
done, but still he regretted that the herb had not been 
applied. 

Some years ago there lived in a former parish of 
the writer's a very old woman who in her younger 
days had gained a livelihood by selling flowers in 
a neighbouring town. Sometimes, too, at the right 
season she would tramp the country for miles around 
after watercrcsses and herbs. With regard to the 
herbs it was difficult to get much information. The 
old lady was very reticent on the subject. The names 
of the herbs she would never mention, but she took 
them, she said, to a shop at Portsmouth to a man 
" she knowed." One day, when the old lady was ill, 
she was in a more communicative mood. A strange 
thing happened once ; she hardly liked to speak of it, 
but it was true. She had been out all day in Bere 
Forest after "harbs" — twenty miles she had been 
after 'em — when coming home in the evening, not far 



24 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

from the " monument," near the top of the hill, all of 
a sudden a man she had never seen before stood 
before her — a sharp-featured man he was, in dark 
clothes — and said, " I'll give you a sovereign for them 
harbs." '"A sovereign?' says L 'Yes,' he says, 'a 
sovereign,' and without another word he puts a piece 
of money in my hand, takes the harbs, and was gone. 
I stood there, tremblin' from head to foot, I did, I was 
that frightened ; it were a sovereign right enough — 
there was no mistake about that — but who the man 
might be, and where he had got to — that's what 
frightened me. I kept that sovereign, for years I 
kept it; / didn't dare spend it'' "But, Liza," I 
ventured to ask, "did you never see the man again ? " 
'* Ever see 'im again ? Yes," she said, " I seed 'im 
once again, years afterwards it was, but I know'd 'im ; 
you couldn't mistake them sharp features, and them 
clothes. I was comin' along the road, past Wickham 
Wood, when there, not twenty yards ahead of me, he 
stood ; but almost afore I seed 'im he was gone. No, 
/ didn't dare spend that sovereign.'' When Liza died 
more than six hundred gold pieces were found in two 
leather bags concealed in her mattress. She had done 
well with her flowers and her ** harbs." But she was 
the last of the simple-gatherers of Hampshire. It is 
seldom now that you meet with a cottager who knows 
even by sight the plants which once constituted the 
village remedies. They still grow in their old locali- 
ties, in the meadows and the hedgerows and the woods 
— a few even linger in the cottage gardens; but no 
one comes to gather them. It is not that the labourers 
have ceased to believe in infallible remedies ; but now 
they send on market days to the chemist's shop in the 
town for the quack medicines advertised in the local 



THE USE OF SIMPLES 25 

papers, and in which they believe as firmly as their 
forefathers believed in simples. Times have changed. 
The hellebore still flourishes on Selborne Hill, but the 
good women no longer gather it, and do not so much 
as know of its existence. 

Not so very long ago a decoction of the greater 
celandine, a plant allied to the poppies, and having a 
gamboge-coloured juice, was commonly used in the 
Isle of Wight as a remedy for infantine jaundice. The 
plant may still be seen in considerable plenty between 
Yarmouth and Freshwater, not far from the spot where 
the wild asparagus grows, but the country folk pass it 
by. Among the ruins and in the neighbourhood of 
ancient priories plants may often be found which once 
flourished in the monastic herb-gardens. The Aris- 
tolochia, or birthwort, formerly held to possess great 
medicinal virtue, may perhaps still be seen on the vener- 
able walls of St. Cross at Winchester. In the woods 
near Quarr Abbey, in the Isle of Wight, the lungwort 
is abundant every spring; it may also be found in the 
neighbourhood of Beaulieu Abbey in the New Forest. 
Another medicinal plant still to be found among the 
picturesque ruins of the great Cistercian Abbey is the 
hyssop {Hyssopus officinalis). This plant is probably 
the hyssop of Scripture, and was much valued for its 
healing properties. Gerarde grew it in his garden at 
Holborn, and Spenser spoke of it as " Sharp Isope, 
good for green wounds' remedies." 

The ancient use of hyssop as a simple is indicated 
by its specific name officinalis. This term, as used 
in our British flora, always signifies that the plant so 
named had a recognised place in the Materia medica. 
From twenty to thirty of our British plants carry this 
specific title, and in every instance the term recalls to 



26 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

mind their former use. We have ahcady noticed 
several of these medicinal plants, the lungwort, the 
gromwell, the Solomon's seal. Among others may 
be mentioned such well-known herbs as fennel, and 
borage, and comfrey, and calamint, and barm. The 
anti-scorbutic properties of watercress {Nasturtium 
officinale) and scurvy grass {Cochlearia officinalis) are 
generally admitted, though since the discovery of lime- 
juice they are seldom used medicinally. The root of 
the dandelion still yields a well-known medicine. The 
use of vervain ( Verbena officinalis)^ a plant often found 
in churchyards and waste places, dates back to very 
remote times. It was one of the four sacred plants 
of the Druids, who attributed to it virtues almost 
divine. It was supposed to " vanquish fevers and 
other distempers, to be an antidote to the bite of ser- 
pents, and a charm to cultivate friendship." But of 
all plants used as simples, none perhaps had a greater 
repute among our forefathers than Eiiplirasia offi- 
cinalis, or eyebright. Its praises were sung by 
Spenser and Milton and Thomson. Its efficacy was 
such that, according to the old herbalist, " if the herb 
were as much used as it is neglected, it would half 
spoil the spectacle-maker's trade;" and he adds: "A 
man would think that reason should teach people to 
prefer the preservation of their natural sight before 
artificial spectacles." The belief in the efficacy of 
eyebright has hardly died out yet. Anne Pratt tells 
us that, going into a small shop at Dover, she saw a 
quantity of the plant suspended from the ceiling, and 
was informed that it was gathered and dried as being 
an excellent remedy for bad eyes. Still in rural dis- 
tricts persons are met with who have " heard tell " 



THE USE OF SIMPLES 27 

that the plant is good for weak eyes ; just as now and 
then, though very rarely, a cottager may be seen 
gathering nettles and dandelions for the purpose of 
making tea. This occasional use of "harb-tay " seems 
to be the last vestige of a belief in simples which was 
once universal among our forefathers. 



POT-HERBS 

There is an interesting passage in one of Gilbert 
White's letters, in which, speaking of the disappear- 
ance of the leprosy in England, he attributes it in a 
great measure to the increased use of vegetables. 
"As to the product of a garden," he says, writing in 
1778, "every middle-aged person of observation may 
perceive, within his own memory, both in town and 
country, how vastly the consumption of vegetables is 
increased. Green-stalls in cities now support multi- 
tudes in a comfortable state, while gardeners get 
fortunes. Every decent labourer has his garden, 
which is half his support, as well as his delight. 
Potatoes have prevailed in this little district, by means 
of premiums, within these twenty years only, and are 
much esteemed by the poor, who would scarce have 
ventured to taste them in the last reign." 

In these days, when potatoes form a not inconsider- 
able part of a working man's dinner, and when every 
farm labourer has his garden, or piece of allotment- 
ground, it is difficult to realise the state of things 
when potatoes were unknown and vegetables were 
luxuries. Although, as Lord Bacon reminds us, " God 
Almightie first planted a garden," yet it is evident 
that in this country the cultivation of vegetables has 
only become general in comparatively modern times. 

Our Saxon forefathers certainly had some sort of 

29 



30 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

cabbage, for they called the month of February Sprout- 
cale, but, as White observes, "long after their days 
the cultivation of vegetables was little attended to." 
In the Middle Ages most of the monasteries and re- 
ligious houses had their herb - gardens, where they 
cultivated " simples " for the sake of the sick, and 
doubtless " pot-herbs " for the use of the brethren, 
but to what extent it is difficult to determine. In the 
few monastic Diet-rolls that have been discovered 
while the consumption of mushrooms, both in summer 
and winter, is shown to have been enormous, there is 
an almost entire silence with regard to vegetables. It 
is possible, however, that the convent garden being 
under the care of the hortulanus, or gardener, this 
item might have appeared in a separate roll. With 
the revival of botanical learning in the sixteenth cen- 
tury, when physic gardens were established, not only 
at the Universities, but also by private personages, a 
great impetus was undoubtedly given to the cultivation 
of vegetables, and many new kinds were introduced 
into the country, yet the movement cannot be said to 
have touched the habits of the poorer people. Still, it 
would be a mistake to suppose that the labourers of 
the olden time were entirely destitute of green food. 
It seems to be beyond dispute that the use of certain 
wild plants as vegetables was general among our fore- 
fathers. A considerable number of our indigenous 
British plants are useful vegetables, and in days when 
large tracts of country were entirely uncultivated must 
have existed in large quantities ; and these plants, 
known as " pot-herbs," took the place of garden-stuff 
in Mediaeval England. We propose to consider in 
this paper some of these indigenous pot-herbs which 
may still be found in their native haunts, and which 



POT-HERBS 31 

once formed the vegetable supply of our popula- 
tion. 

In its strict sense, as used by the early botanists, a 
pot-herb is a " herbe that serves for the potte," and of 
these we have a considerable number in our native 
flora. Amon^ them may be mentioned the wild cab- 
bage, sea-beet, and mercury. The use of the wild 
cabbage or sea colewort is hardly extinct yet. It is 
still gathered by the peasants on the sea cliffs of 
Devonshire in hard winters when garden produce 
is scarce. This plant is the origin of our garden 
varieties, such as savo3^s and brussels-sprouts and 
broccoli and cauliflower, and has been cultivated from 
very early times. The great naturalist, John Ray, 
noticed it growing wild on " Dover Cliffs," where it 
still flourishes in remarkable abundance. Indeed, in 
summer time the white chalk cliffs from Dover to St. 
Margaret's Bay are gay with the pale yellow blossoms 
of this plant. It may also be seen in considerable 
plenty on the picturesque cliffs which command the 
entrance to Dartmouth Harbour, in South Devon, 
In the Isle of Wight it was formerly abundant, espe- 
cially on the Culver Cliffs between Bembridge and 
Sandown ; but for some reason it has disappeared of 
late years. The sea-beet {Beta luaritiina, L.), some- 
times called sea-spinach, the origin of our beetroot 
and mangold-wurtzel, is a common plant near the sea. 
It is mostly abundant in salt marshes, and on banks 
and waste places along the shore. Fifty years ago 
the young leaves were regularly gathered by the 
poorer classes in the Isle of Wight, and "boiled and 
eaten as greens with the pork or bacon which then 
formed so constant an article in the dietary of our 
Hampshire peasantry." Occasionally the plant is so 



32 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

used now, and it certainly forms an excellent sub- 
stitute for spinach. 

In Lincolnshire, Good King Henry or All-good 
(C. Bonus-Henricus, L.), is still cultivated as a pot- 
herb, and in former times was much used. The origin 
of the name " Good King Henry " is unknown, but, 
says Dr. Prior, " it has nothing to do with our Henry 
VIII. and his sore legs." From its general habit and 
appearance the plant is called " wild spinach " in the 
Isle of Wight, where it may often be met with in waste 
places and by roadsides. In other districts it is known 
as " mercury," but the true mercury is Mercurialis 
annua, a plant not infrequently met with as a weed in 
gardens, and which is very abundant about Winchester. 
This plant was among the most famous of the ancient 
pot-herbs. Dr. Turner, in his black-letter herbal, 
pubhshed at Cologne in 1568, gives two excellent 
woodcuts of the plant, and after a description of its 
parts, goes on to say : " By thys description it is 
playn that our forefathers have erred in England 
which hitherto in the most parte of all England have 
used another herbe in the stede of the ryghte mercury. 
Therefore as many as had leuer ete whete than acornes, 
let them use no more theyr old mercury, but thys 
mercury (^M. an7iud) whych Dioscorides describeth. 
The ryght mercury groweth comon in the fields and 
wynyardes of Germany without any settyng or sowyng. 
And it beginneth now to be knowen in London, and in 
gentle mennis places not far from London. I neuer 
saw it grow more plenteously in all my lyfe than about 
Wormes in Germany." The plant used by our fore- 
fathers "in the stede of the ryghte mercury" was 
doubtless the " Good King Henry " referred to above, 
and which is often called by old writers " English 



POT-HERBS 33 

mercury " ; while from Turner's description it would 
appear that the " ryghte mercury," also known as 
" French mercury," was at that time usually seen only 
in gardens in England. This is partly confirmed by 
Gerarde, who says : " French mercury is sowen in 
kitchen gardens among pot-herbs. I found it under 
the dropping of the Bishop's house at Rochester; from 
whence I brought a plant or two into my garden, since 
which time I cannot rid my garden from it." Ray, 
on the other hand, who also calls the plant " French 
mercury," speaks of it as growing " plentifully on the 
sea beach near Ryde, in the Isle of Wight." It is 
curious how a plant once held in such repute as a 
pot-herb should have passed so entirely out of use ; 
and its virtue as a " simple " was only equalled by its 
excellence as a vegetable ; hence the old proverb — 

" Be thou sick or whole, 
Put mercury in thy koole." 

Among other plants once in general use as pot-herbs 
may be mentioned sorrel, scurvy-grass, and the common 
nettle ; while the young shoots of the common hop are 
still regarded, and not without reason, as an excellent 
substitute for asparagus. 

Asparagus has been cultivated as a vegetable since 
the time of the Romans. In its wild state it is still 
found on the coasts of Wales and Cornwall, and in the 
Channel Islands. It is interesting to notice that in 
1667 John Ray found " sparrow-grass " at the Lizard 
Point; and he adds: "said also to be found in the 
marshes near Bristol, about Harwich in Essex, and 
divers other places." Gerarde met with it " in a 
meadow adjoining a mill beyond a village called 
Thorpe"; "likewise," he adds, "it groweth in great 

C 



34 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

plenty near unto Harwich, at a place called Bandamar 
lading." The writer knows of one spot in the Isle of 
Wight where, among the loose sand of the sea-shore, 
the plant has existed for a great number of years, but 
perhaps it can hardly be considered as indigenous. 

Another plant in great repute as a vegetable, and 
which may be found in a wild state at various stations 
on the English coast, is the seakale — Crambe maritima. 
This plant has only been cultivated as a vegetable for 
a little over a century, though it appears to have been 
used in its wild state for a longer period. It abounds 
on the sandy shore by Calshot Castle, near the entrance 
to Southampton Water, where, for a great number of 
years, the fishermen have been accustomed to blanch 
the young shoots by covering them with sand and 
shingle, and afterwards to send them to Cowes or 
Southampton for sale. To William Curtis, the author 
of the Flora Londinensis , belongs the credit of bring- 
ing seakale into general use as a vegetable. Towards 
the end of the eighteenth century he made a con- 
siderable plantation of it in his botanical garden at 
Brompton. At first the experiment met with little 
encouragement, and the first consignment was returned 
from Covent Garden unsold. Curtis, however, perse- 
vered ; he wrote a pamphlet on the culture of seakale, 
and presented a packet of seed with each copy, and 
thus he at length succeeded in bringing the new vege- 
table into notice. It is said, and doubtless with some 
truth, that the wild plant, blanched with sand on its 
native shore, is superior in delicacy of flavour to the 
cultivated vegetable. 

In his tour of Europe, undertaken in the year 
1663, John Ray observes that "The Italians use 
several herbs for sallets which are not yet or have 



POT-HERBS 35 

not been but lately used in England, viz. selleri^ which 
is nothing else but the sweet smallage ; the young 
shoots whereof, with a little of the head of the root 
cut off, they eat raw with oil and pepper." By the 
" sweet smallage " Ray doubtless meant Apiu7n graveo- 
lens, or wild celery, a plant not uncommon in wet 
places, especially near the sea, and which is un- 
doubtedl}' the origin of our garden celery. At that 
time, however, the root of Sinyrnium Olusatruvt, the 
common alexanders, seems to have been used in the 
place of celery, for Gerarde says, ** the roote hereof 
is in our age served to the table raw for a sallade 
herbe." This plant is one of the most ancient of 
vegetables. From the time of Dioscorides it has been 
in use as a pot-herb (as its specific name signifies), 
"boiled and eaten like greens," besides being "served 
raw as a sallade herbe." Its ancient use is now 
entirely abandoned and its very name forgotten, the 
plant being mostly confounded with the "wild celery," 
by which name it is known in the Isle of Wight. It 
is not, however, an uncommon plant, especially in the 
neighbourhood of monastic ruins, where it is doubt- 
less an outcast from the old convent garden. The 
writer has noticed it, among other localities, in the 
" old churchyard " at Dunwich on the coast of Sufiblk ; 
among the ruins of Portchester Castle where there 
was once a priory of Austin Canons ; beside the 
crumbling remains of Southwick Priory ; at Caris- 
brooke in the Isle of Wight ; and in a copse near 
the picturesque ruins of Quarr Abbey. 

The water-cress, so abundant in our streams, and 
now so extensively cultivated for the market, has been 
known for ages as an early and wholesome spring 
salad, and among other native plants once used as 



36 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

" sallet-herbes " may be mentioned lamb's-lettuce or 
corn-salad, a small annual with pale lilac flowers, often 
found in cornfields ; the common dandelion, the young 
leaves of which are excellent in spring ; and Barbarea 
prcEcoXj or winter-cress, a plant supposed to have been 
introduced from America. It is frequent in the Isle 
of Wight, where it is known as land-cress, in contra- 
distinction to water-cress. 

Not so many years ago the gathering of samphire 
for purposes of pickling was a regular occupation on 
various parts of the coast. This trade is a very 
ancient one, and is alluded to by Shakespeare in 
King Lear : — 

" Halfway down, 
Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade ! 
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head." 

This plant still grows abundantly on the white chalk 
cliff known as Shakespeare's Cliff at Dover, though 
the " dreadful trade " has ceased. Fifty years ago, 
however, it was regularly followed in the Isle of Wight. 
" The warm, aromatic pickle prepared with this plant," 
wrote the author of Flora Vectensis, about the year 
1848, "is greatly esteemed and commonly seen at 
table in this island. The herb, minced, is also served 
up with melted butter in lieu of caper-sauce. For the 
purpose of pickling it is annually collected in large 
quantities from the cliffs at Freshwater, and sent up 
to some wholesale houses in London by the clifTsmen, 
who make samphire gathering a part of their summer 
occupation, and for which, when cleaned and sorted, 
they receive 4s. per bushel. It is put up in casks 
with sea water, for its better preservation on the 
journey, and probably also to extract any bitterness 



POT-HERBS 37 

it may contain. For smaller quantities the charge 
for collecting is is, per gallon. The samphire is 
considered in perfection when just about to flower, 
or towards the end of May." The gathering of 
samphire on the precipitous chalk cliffs being a very 
difficult and dangerous occupation, it is not surprising 
to learn that some little fraud was occasionally prac- 
tised by the fishermen in substituting other plants 
of a similar appearance for the true article. For this 
purpose the sea-aster, marsh-samphire, and golden- 
samphire were usually employed, but they are said 
to form for " medicinal and culinary purposes " a very 
poor substitute. 

Another native plant, once extensively used in the 
manufacture of food, is the well-known Arum inacu- 
latum, " Cuckoo-pint " or " Lords-and-ladies." It was 
from the corms of this plant that the famous Portland 
arrowroot or Portland sago was made. The mode of 
manufacture is said to have been as follows : " The 
corms, which are dug up in June, are well washed, 
then bruised, and well stirred in a vessel of water. 
The coarser particles are then strained off, and the 
fecula, after repeated subsidence and washings, is 
finally dried in the sun, and the result is a starch 
well known as being one of the smaller varieties, 
yielding a jelly which, although inferior to Bermuda, 
is superior or equal to ordinary arrowroots." The 
manufacture of arrowroot in the Isle of Portland was 
continued up to the year 1855, or a little later, after 
which time it seems to have entirely ceased. A writer 
in T/ie Phytologist for November 1858, attributes the 
cessation of this trade to improved methods of agri- 
culture. Formerly, it appears, the fields were only 
cropped once in two years, being left fallow the 



38 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

remainder of the term, and were crowded with the 
Bee Orchis and Arum maculatum. But, says our 
writer, Mr. Henry Groves, " the rotation of crops, 
which has at length been adopted in the island, has 
almost destroyed this branch of industry, so that 
instead of being able to procure some pounds of 
arrowroot, one can scarcely get as many ounces at 
the present time. There are only one or two persons 
who make it, and the aggregate quantity is so small 
that we were unable to obtain any for oneself in 
1857." In spite, however, of modern agriculture, the 
Armn continues to flourish in the Isle of Portland, 
and may still be found, writes a correspondent, '' by 
the thousand." 

In conclusion, it may be noted that many of our 
garden herbs, still in common use for purposes of 
seasoning, are in reality British plants. Among them 
may be mentioned mint and marjoram, and thyme and 
calamint, all of which may be found in their native 
haunts. Fennel is abundant on seacliffs in many 
places in the south of England. Wild balm used to 
be found within the ancient walls of Portchester 
Castle. The garden parsley was formerly abundant 
on the shingly beach at Hurst Castle, where it used 
to be gathered for domestic purposes. One native 
herb, however, much in use among our forefathers, 
is now seldom seen in kitchen gardens — we mean 
Tanacetuni vulgare, the common tansy, the dull yellow 
flowers of which are often conspicuous in waste 
places. The young leaves and juice of this plant 
were formerly employed to give colour and flavour 
to puddings, which were known as tansy cakes, or 
tansy puddings. In mediaeval times the use of these 
cakes was specially associated with the season of 



POT-HERBS 39 

Easter; and it is interesting to notice that in the 
Diet-rolls of St. Swithun's Monastery at Winchester, 
which belong to the end of the fifteenth century, we 
come across the entry " tansey-tarte." It has been 
said that the use of tansy cakes at this season was 
to strengthen the digestion after what an old writer 
calls " the idle conceit of eating fish and pulse for 
forty days in Lent"; and it is certain that this was 
the virtue attributed to the plant by the old herbalists. 
"The herb fried with eggs, which is called a Tansy," 
says Culpeper, "helps to digest and carry away those 
bad humours that trouble the stomach." It seems, 
however, more probable that the custom of eating 
tansy-cakes at Easter-time was rather associated with 
the teaching of that festival, the name " tansy " being 
a corruption of a Greek word meaning " immortality." 



WILD FRUITS 



In the olden times, when the conditions of hfe were 
far more simple than they are now, the use made of 
wild plants, as has been already noticed, was con- 
siderably greater. In days when cottage gardens and 
allotment grounds were almost unknown, our fore- 
fathers were accustomed to gather pot-herbs for use as 
vegetables. The leaves of mercury, good-King-Henry, 
and of the wild beetroot were boiled as spinach ; and 
the roots of Sniyrnium olusatrum, or alexanders, were 
used as celery. The wild seakale was bleached with 
sand or shingle on the seashore, and the wild cab- 
bage was gathered on the cliffs. In the place of 
lettuce, watercress from the running brook was exten- 
sively used, together with corn-salad and the leaves 
of dandelion. Before the days of parish doctors and 
of quack medicines, now so widely advertised and so 
largely purchased by our poorer people, the know- 
ledge of " simples " was very considerable among the 
good women in country places. In every village some 
one skilled in the use of herbs was sure to be found 
ready and able to minister to the sick. The gathering 
of simples was a recognised branch of industry in 
those primitive times. Agrimony, and eyebright, and 
scurvy-grass, and lungwort, and Solomon's-seal, and 
many another native plant, was then duly gathered 
and prepared against the time of need. The virtue 



42 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

of many of these herbs seems to be beyond question, 
but they are never used now. They may still be 
found, by those learned in the ways of plants, grow- 
ing in our copses and hedgerows, or along the banks 
of streams, but their very names are forgotten by the 
country people. 

In our native flora there are a goodly number of 
" trees yielding fruit," which in former years were 
highly prized among our forefathers. The use of 
these wild fruits is not now so general as it used to 
be ; in many instances it is altogether obsolete, but 
the subject is one full of interest to all lovers of 
country life. 

In Saxon and mediaeval times, even after the intro- 
duction of wheat and other cereals, there can be little 
doubt that acorns were regularly used by the poorer 
peasants for the purposes of making bread, and not 
only in seasons of scarcity, but as a general article 
of food. Oak trees were then chiefly valued because 
of the acorns which they produced. In the Anglo- 
Saxon Chronicle for the year 1116, which is described 
as "a very calamitous year, the crops being spoiled 
by the heavy rains, which came on just before August 
and lasted till Candlemas," it is expressly recorded as 
an aggravation of the " heavy time " that " mast was 
also so scarce this year that none was to be heard of 
in all this land or in Wales." The days of mast-bread 
are happily gone for ever ; and even barley-bread, in 
common use during severe winters not so many years 
ago, has now everywhere given place to that of " the 
finest wheat flour." The fruit of one member of the 
same order is, however, highly valued. We refer, of 
course, to the hazel, so abundant in our woods and 
hedgerows. To go a-nutting is still as popular a 



WILD FRUITS 43 

pastime as in former years ; but the old customs in 
connection with it are as obsolete as the use of acorn 
bread. No one will now be found, with the good 
Vicar of Wakefield and his honest neighbours, to 
"religiously crack nuts on Michaelmas eve." 

It is to the order RosacecB that most of our wild 
fruits belong. In this large and important tribe are 
included such well-known examples as plums, cherries, 
strawberries, raspberries, apples, and pears, all of 
which may be found in a wild state in Britain. Plums 
are represented in our native flora by three species, 
or sub-species — the common sloe or blackthorn, the 
bullace, and the wild plum. The latter can hardly 
perhaps be pronounced with certainty to be indigenous, 
though it is often found in apparently wild situations, 
but of the other two species there can be no question. 
The sloe-bush or blackthorn is very common in our 
thickets and hedgerows, and the fruit is still gathered 
for the purpose of making sloe-gin. Old Nicholas 
Culpeper says, and truly, that " the fruit ripens after 
all other plums whatsoever, and is not fit to be eaten 
until the autumn frost mellow them." The bullace, 
though less common than the last, is still plentiful in 
many districts, as, for instance, in the Isle of Wight, 
where it was formerly gathered by the country people, 
and taken into market for sale for the purpose of 
making tarts and puddings. " I once," wrote Dr. 
Bromfield of Ryde in the year 1848, " brought home 
a quart or more of these wild bullaces, and had them 
made into a tart, which was one of the best flavoured 
and most juicy I ever partook of." 

A near relation of the bullace is the wild cherry-tree, 
or merry-tree, also known in certain districts as the 
" Gean." This handsome tree is the origin of the 



44 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

Geans, Hearts, and Bigaroon cherries of our gardens, 
and is not uncommon in woods and copses in the 
south of England, where it may be considered indi- 
genous. A dwarf variety of the " Gean," but thought 
by some botanists to be a distinct species, is Prunus 
cerasus, a bush with copious suckers, first discovered 
to be a British plant by Dr. Bromfield in 1839, when 
he found it in ** a wood between Whippingham Street 
and Wootton Church, but nearer to the former, and 
close to a place called Blankets, growing plentifully 
and apparently indigenous." This shrub is the parent 
stock of such well-known varieties as the Morello, 
Duke, and Kentish cherries. 

Of all the genera in the British flora there is none 
so puzzling to the botanist, because of the vast number 
and uncertain character of its varieties, as the rubus, 
or bramble. To this family belong the well-known 
blackberry of our hedgerows, the raspberry, and the 
cloudberry. This latter is an Alpine species, growing 
only some six inches in height, and much prized in the 
north of England and in Scotland for its orange berries, 
which are eaten fresh or preserved. In Norway, we 
are told, the fruit is regularly gathered, packed in 
wooden vessels, and sent to Stockholm, where it is 
served in desserts or made into tarts. The plant is 
so abundant in Lapland that the celebrated traveller, 
Dr. Clarke, observes, " Whenever we walked near the 
river we found whole acres covered with these blush- 
ing berries (at first crimson, afterwards becoming 
yellow), hanging so thick that we could not avoid 
treading upon them." The dewberry is a well-known 
variety of the common bramble, marked by its creeping 
habit and the glaucous bloom which covers its fruit. 
The origin of the name is obscure, but Dr. Prior would 



WILD FRUITS 45 

connect it in some manner with the " Theve-thorn," a 
word which occurs in Wycliffe's Bible, as the rendering 
of rhaninus, in the story of Jotham's parable of the 
Trees. It is not known what species of bramble 
Wycliffe meant by the ** Theve-thorn " ; but monkish 
commentators, doubtless following some ecclesiastical 
tradition, understood the 7'Jiamnus to be the dewberry. 
The wild raspberry, the origin of our garden varieties, 
is common enough in woods, especially in the north 
of England. This plant is commonly called "hind- 
berry" by the early botanists; and it is curious to 
notice that Gerarde remarks that the fruit is " in taste 
not very pleasant." Such, however, was not his 
opinion of the strawberry. As old Izaak Walton 
happily says, quoting one Dr. Boteler, " Doubtless God 
could have made a better berry, but doubtless God 
never did." And the strawberry of those days seems 
to have been only the wild strawberry of the woods, 
probably improved by cultivation. It flourished, as 
we know from Shakespeare, in the Bishop of Ely's 
garden at Holborn, which was equally celebrated for 
its roses and its saffron crocuses. "Wife," says 
Thomas Tusser, the homely farmer-poet of Suffolk, in 
the sixteenth century — 

" Wife, into thy garden, and set me a plot 
With Strawberry rootes of the best to be got : 
Such growing abroade, among Thornes in the wood, 
Wei chosen and picked, prove excellent good." 

And even in the next century, as Mr. Ellacombe 
reminds us. Sir Hugh Plat, in his Garden of Eden, 
says : " Strawberries which grow in woods prosper 
best in gardens." And these wild strawberries, so 
abundant in shady places throughout England, and 



46 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

as far north as the Shetland Isles, are doubtless the 
origin of the cultivated varieties. 

In these days of advanced horticulture the fruit of 
the wild apple {Pyrus inalus), and of the wild pear 
{P. communis), would hardly be regarded as "good 
for food " ; but it is certain that in ancient times they 
were both largely used. In the lake-dwellings of 
Switzerland and Italy great quantities of wild apples 
and a few wild pears have been found. " The in- 
habitants of the terra-mare of Parma, and of the 
palafittes of the lakes of Lombardy, Savoy, and 
Switzerland," says De CandoUe, " made great use of 
apples. They always cut them lengthways, and pre- 
served them dried as a provision for the winter. The 
specimens are often carbonised by fire, but the internal 
structure of the fruit is only the more clearly to be 
distinguished." And from a scientific examination of 
these carbonised specimens it seems to be established 
that many of these ancient apples were almost identical 
with the wild apple of to-day. But even in the six- 
teenth century the crab-apple of our woods was held 
in far higher esteem than it is now. '' Roasted crabs" 
served with hot ale was, as we learn from Shake- 
speare, a favourite dish among our forefathers, especi- 
ally at Christmas time. Another use of the crab-apple 
was in the making of verjuice, of which mention is 
made by Izaak Walton in his Cojnpleat Angler: 
"When next you come this way," says the honest 
milk-woman, " if you will but speak the word I will 
make you a good syllabub of new verjuce, and you 
shall sit down in a haycock and eat it." But we don't 
care for such rustic delicacies now. 

Like the strawberry, the cultivation of currants 
and gooseberries was unknown among the Greeks and 



WILD FRUITS 47 

Romans, and dates only from the sixteenth century. 
It has been a matter of dispute whether these shrubs 
should be considered as genuine natives of Great 
Britain ; but, in the Hght of furtlier research, this claim 
to be indigenous, at least in the north of England, 
will now hardly be denied. In the southern counties, 
though the species are now common enough in woods 
and thickets, it is possible that they may be escapes 
from cultivation. It is interesting to notice that John 
Ray speaks of black currants as " squinancy-berries," 
a name which shows that they were commonly used 
then, as now, in cases of sore-throat. 

The fruit of the wild elder which, says old Culpeper, 
need not be described, " since every boy that plays 
with a pop-gun will not mistake another tree instead 
of elder," is still gathered by country people for the 
purpose of making elderberry wine, which is held to 
possess considerable medicinal virtue. " If," says 
John Evel^^n, " the medicinal properties of the leaves, 
bark, and berries of this tree were thoroughly known, 
I cannot tell what our countrymen could ail for which 
they might not find a remedy from every hedge, either 
for sickness or wound." These so-called natural 
remedies are now seldom employed ; it is therefore 
the more interesting to notice that elderberry wine 
is still frequently used by poor people in country 
places. 

In former years the barberry seems to have been 
far commoner in our hedgerows than it is now. Ray 
mentions this handsome shrub as abundant in his day 
about Saffron Walden, in Essex, where it has now 
entirely disappeared. In Hampshire and the Isle of 
Wight, the district best known botanically to the 
writer, it is a very rare plant ; and its present scarcity 



48 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

is doubtless to be explained by the belief that its 
presence caused mildew in wheat. Hence the bar- 
berry was extirpated in many places, and has now 
become extremely scarce. It was formerly known as 
the Pipperidge-bush, that is, red-pip, a name descrip- 
tive of the colour and character of its berries, which 
were preserved in various ways. It is a curious fact 
that the juniper, so abundant on many of the chalk 
downs of Hampshire, as for instance about Petersfield, 
should be absent from the flora of the Isle of Wight. 
In former years juniper berries were far more commonly 
used than now, especially for the purpose of flavouring 
Hollands or gin. They were also generally employed 
in the curing of hams, but for this purpose they are 
now rarely sought after. 

Several species of the order Ericacece, or Heath 
tribe, produce berries good for food. Of these the 
best known are the bilberry and the cranberry. The 
former, also known as whortleberries, are abundant in 
Scotland and the north of England, and in certain 
districts in the south, as about Hindhead, in Surrey, 
Gilbert White recorded the plant as found on " the 
dry hillocks of Wolmer Forest," where it still flourishes 
in great abundance. The berries, known locally as 
" whorts," make excellent tarts, for which purpose 
they are annually gathered by the gipsies and country 
people and sold in the neighbouring towns and villages. 
The cranberry, a near relative of the whortleberry, is 
found in peat bogs, and is a beautiful plant, with its 
bright red flowers and evergreen leaves, the margins 
of which are always rolled back, and its wiry stems 
creeping over the sphagnum moss. In the south of 
England the plant is rare, but the writer has found 
it " in the bogs of Bin's Pond," near Selborne, where 



WILD FRUITS 49 

Gilbert White noticed it more than a hundred years 
ago. In the hilly districts of the north another member 
of the same tribe, known as cowberry, is also found, 
the berries of which resemble those of the cranberry 
for which they are sometimes sold. 

In conclusion one more plant, belonging to the 
EricacecE, must be mentioned. This is the handsome 
evergreen shrub, Arbutus unedo, the strawberry tree, 
which grows abundantly in a wild state about the 
beautiful lakes of Killarney. The fruit, which re- 
sembles a strawberry in shape and colour, is occasion- 
ally eaten by the Irish peasantry. It is, however, very 
dry and of a somewhat insipid flavour. Indeed, it is 
this characteristic of the fruit which gave to the plant 
its specific name of unedo, " One I eat," as if to imply 
that having tasted one berry no man would care to 
try a second. 



WALL-FLOWERS 

It is curious how some plants love to grow upon old 
walls and ruins. Indeed, there are certain species of 
wild-flowers which are seldom found except in such 
situations. It may be truly said that our ancient 
churches and cathedrals, the ruins of mediaeval castles 
and of monastic houses, the remains of old city walls, 
and such like picturesque localities, support a flora of 
their own. 

The most conspicuous example of this interesting 
flora is the well-known wallflower of our gardens, 
which is never found in a wild state except upon 
walls or ruins. But the wall-gilliflower, as it used 
to be called, is not by any means the only plant 
which deserves the distinguishing name of wall- 
flower. There are many others, of which the snap- 
dragon, the yellow sedum, the wall pennywort, and 
the pretty little Di'aba verna, or whitlow-grass, will 
occur to all. In the west of England almost every 
wayside wall is green with vegetation. The most 
delicate ferns abound — the wall rue, the ceterach, the 
maidenhair spleenwort. Go where you will, you will 
see ferns and flowers growing from the interstices of 
the stones. 

Several of our greatest British rarities belong to the 
wall-flora. The little Holosteum uDibellatuni used to 
grow on old walls at Eye, and Bury, and Norwich, and 



52 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

other places in East Anglia. It is now, alas ! almost, 
if not quite, extinct. The walls have been demolished, 
and the plant is gone. The yellow whitlow-grass 
[Draba aizoides) is only to be found on old walls at 
Pennard Castle, in Wales. The sweet-scented Not- 
tingham catchfly is so called because it was first 
discovered by a friend of the famous naturalist John 
Ray growing on the walls of Nottingham Castle. 
Strange to say, after the burning of the castle in 
1830 the plant for a few years completely overspread 
the ruins, establishing itself on the walls, in the 
crevices between the stones, and in every place where 
it was possible to obtain a footing. It is still there, 
though not nearly in such abundance. It was, how- 
ever, fairly plentiful a few summers ago near the spot 
known as " Mortimer's Hole." On several old walls 
at Oxford a strange kind of yellow ragwort may be 
seen. Its proper home is in the south of Europe, 
but by some means or other it has found its way to 
Oxford, and evidently means to stay there. 

In the county best known botanically to the writer 
many interesting species of our wall-flora may be 
seen. Hampshire possesses several fine ruins, and 
many hundred yards of ancient walls. There is Port- 
chester Castle, and Carisbrooke in the Isle of Wight. 
There are the ruins of the great Cistercian monas- 
teries of Quarr, of Netley, and of Beaulieu in the 
New Forest. There are the remains of Titchfield 
Abbey and Southwick Priory ; and ancient walls may 
be seen at Winchester, at Southampton, and else- 
where. 

It may appear almost superfluous to mention the 
common ivy in connection with walls and ruins. It 
is so intimately associated with such places that " an 



WALL-FLOWERS 53 

ivy-mantled tower " is regarded as a matter of course. 
Sometimes, however, the shrub assumes such huge 
proportions as to call for notice. At Portchester 
Castle, for instance, it covers the northern face of 
the Norman keep to the depth of some six or seven 
feet, and this in spite of the fact that the stems in 
places have been severed above the ground. One 
wonders how the hard Norman masonry can provide 
nourishment for so vast a mass of evergreen. It is 
strange, however, how large species manage to exist 
in barren places. An old print of the castle, dated 
1 76 1, shows several trees growing on the summit of 
the broken battlements, and elder-bushes of consider- 
able size still flourish there. 

The late Lord Chancellor Selborne, who was a keen 
observer of nature, once said that when he was a boy 
at Winchester he well remembered some fine plants 
of the red spur-valerian on the tower of the cathedral. 
It is interesting to know that the plant still flourishes 
there in considerable abundance. On the walls of the 
close, which shut in the canons' gardens, some plants 
of Erigeron acris will be seen, while the beautiful 
little ivy-leaved toad-flax is everywhere. It is curious 
that John Ray is silent as to the occurrence of this 
plant in England, though he mentions it as abounding 
on damp walls and rocks in Italy, and on the v^^alls of 
Bale, in Switzerland. Gerarde, however, who gives a 
very fair woodcut of the plant, says it " growes wilde 
upon walls in Italy, but in gardens with us." But 
Parkinson, a contemporary of Gerarde, states that 
" it groweth naturall}' in divers places of our land, 
although formerly it hath not beene knownc to bee 
but in gardens as about Hatfield and other places that 
are shadie upon the ground." Since then the plant 



54 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

has spread generally throughout England, and is now 
found on most ancient walls. In the Isle of Wight, 
where it is known as " Roving Jenny " and " Roving 
Sailor," it flourishes at Carisbrooke Castle, on the 
ruins at Quarr, and on old walls at Shorwell, Knighton, 
and elsewhere. In America it has acquired the name 
of Kenilworth Ivy, doubtless from its growing on the 
walls of that castle which the genius of Scott has 
made familiar to the world. It abounds on the vener- 
able walls of St. Cross, Winchester, together with the 
hairy rock-cress, or Arabis hirsuta. 

Of the plants which love to blossom on ancient walls 
the most generally distributed is the wallflower. It 
may be found on all the ruins in Hampshire— at 
Wolvesey, Netley, Beaulieu, on the Norman keep at 
Christchurch, where the flowers are of an exception- 
ally pale colour, at Quarr and at Carisbrooke. But 
nowhere is it to be seen in such profusion as at Port- 
chester. The plants begin to flower early in March, 
and by the first week in April are in full bloom. They 
blossom everywhere — on the grey Roman walls, on 
the mighty Norman keep, on the crumbling Plan- 
tagenet ruins. Later on the walls of the great ban- 
queting hall will be gay with the flowers of the red 
valerian, with here and there a gigantic spike of the 
yellow mullein. But the appearance of the castle is 
never so picturesque as when the wallflowers are in 
bloom. 

Another mural plant, nearly allied to the wallflower, 
but easily to be distinguished by its far paler flowers, 
is the wall-rocket {Diplotaxis tenuifolid). It cannot be 
called rare, and the writer remembers seeing it, among 
other places, at Dover Castle, at St. Osyth's Priory 
in Essex, and on the monastic ruins at Dunwich, in 



WALL-FLOWERS 55 

Suffolk. But, strange to say, it is only found in Hamp- 
shire in one locality. Though we should expect to 
find it on most of the ancient walls throughout the 
county, yet, such is the incomprehensible way of 
plants, it only cares to grow at Southampton, and 
there on the old town walls which skirt the western 
shore it blossoms abundantly. 

But perhaps the most interesting species of our 
wall-flora in Hampshire are to be found on the his- 
toric walls of Beaulieu Abbey, and probably date back 
to the days of the Cistercian monks. In early summer 
the grey walls of the ruined cloisters are gay with the 
purple flowers of the wild pink {Dianthus plujiiarius, 
L.). This plant is the origin of our garden pinks, and 
is naturalised in only a few places in England. No- 
where else in Hampshire is it to be found save on the 
cloister walls of the abbey of Beaulieu. In company 
with the wild pink will be seen another plant with an 
interesting history. This is Hyssopus officinalis, pro- 
bably identical with the hyssop of Scripture. In the 
middle ages this plant always had a place in the 
monastic herb-garden, and was much prized for its 
medicinal properties. " Hyssop," says the old Herbal, 
"is a very pretty plant, kept for its virtues. It grows 
two feet high. The flowers are small, and stand in 
long spikes at the tops of the branches ; they are of a 
beautiful blue colour. The whole plant has a strong, 
but not disagreeable, smell." The plant was gathered 
when just beginning to flower, and dried. The infu- 
sion, made in the manner of tea, was " excellent against 
coughs, hoarsenesses, quinseys, and swellings in the 
throat." It also, we are told, " helps to expectorate 
tough phlegm, and is effectual in all cold griefs of the 
chest or lungs." The monastic herb-garden has now 



56 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

entirely disappeared, but the hyssop remains, and is 
as fully established as the pellitory, calamint, and 
other mural plants which flourish on the picturesque 
remains of the once " proud abbaye." 

The pellitory-of-the-wall, a curious plant belonging 
to the nettle and hop tribe, is one of the most gener- 
ally distributed of the wall-flora. A medicinal plant 
of considerable repute in the olden times, it is found 
at Quarr and Carisbrooke, and also on the ledges and 
" greens " which line the almost perpendicular chalk 
cliffs at Freshwater; most luxuriant, too, on the walls 
of Portchester and Beaulieu, and many another relic 
of mediaeval magnificence — 

" Where the mouldering walls are seen 
Hung with pellitory green." 

But few wall-loving ferns are to be found in this 
part of England, and these have a tendency to become 
scarcer. In Gilbert White's time both the ceterach 
and the rue-leaved spleenwort were to be seen on the 
walls of Selborne Church. Both these have entirely 
disappeared, and also Asplenium Trichomanes in 
"Temple Lane." The ceterach only just manages to 
maintain an existence in Hampshire. The writer 
knew of a single plant at Portchester, and it may still 
be found in one or two other localities. The maiden- 
hair spleenwort is commoner, but it is not to be seen 
in any abundance. The rue-leaved spleenwort i^A. 
Ruta muraria, L.) is fairly well distributed both in the 
island and on the mainland. In some localities, as up 
the Meon Valley, it is comparatively common, and 
may be seen on many an old wall, including that of 
the Saxon church of Corhampton. 

One more plant must be mentioned. Every one 



WALL-FLOWERS 57 

knows the yellow biting stonecrop, so common on 
our rockeries and garden walls. This well-known 
plant has a very scarce first-cousin with tliick leaves 
and pure white flowers, which at the beginning of the 
last century flourished on the church walls of one par- 
ticular parish in the Isle of Wight. This church has 
since been restored, outside as well as inside; but it 
is satisfactory and interesting to know that Seduin 
dasyphylhnn still maintains a prosperous existence in 
its old home. 



OUR POISONOUS PLANTS 

The number of poisonous' species in the British flora 
is far greater than is generally supposed. Fortunately 
a few only possess qualities of such a virulent nature 
as hemlock and the deadly nightshade, but a large 
number are highly injurious to man. Hardly a 
summer passes without fatal cases of poisoning by 
British plants being recorded in the newspapers. In 
1899 ^ child died in Gloucestershire from the effect 
of eating privet-berries ; and in the same year an 
inquest was held at Birmingham on the bodies of two 
children who had been poisoned by the fruit of cuckoo- 
pint. And the number of cases in which the sufferers 
recover, and which consequently never find their way 
into print, must be considerable. 

To the eye of an ordinary observer there is nothing 
to distinguish a poisonous berry from a harmless one ; 
and that a large number of our native fruits are not 
only harmless but wholesome is well known to all 
dwellers in the country. We need only mention the 
wild strawberry, the blackberry, the dewberry, and 
the black currant, formerly known as squinancy-berry 
from its use in cases of quinsy and sore throat. 
Elder-berries, too, and the fruit of the blackthorn are 
largely gathered in some districts for the purpose of 
making wine and sloe-gin. Other wild fruits, again, 
if they are not palatable, are at any rate perfectly 



6o THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

innocuous, such as the crab-apple, the wild pear, the 
wild cherry, and the hips and haws of our hedgerows. 
But, on the other hand, many British berries contain 
deleterious properties. The black berries of the 
spurge laurel — a plant frequently found in woods and 
copses, of the privet, of the uncanny-looking herb- 
paris, another denizen of our damp woods, of the 
trailing garden nightshade, are all poisonous ; also 
the scarlet berries of Daphne Mezereum, a rare 
and handsome shrub still to be found growing wild 
in certain Hampshire woods, of the arum or cuckoo- 
pint, commonly known among children as "lords and 
ladies," of the woody nightshade or bittersweet, and 
of the common briony. The bright scarlet fruit of 
the yew-tree contains a seed of dangerous and even 
deadly quality. But of all our native berries the 
large black ones of Atropa Belladonna, the deadly 
nightshade, are the most fatal. Even half a berry 
has been known to cause death within a few hours. 
Other British plants possess acrid properties in the 
juices of the stem and leaves ; while others again 
contain a narcotic or an irritant poison in the roots 
which has proved injurious to man. The poisonous 
nature of many toadstools is well known, but the 
Fungi form so entirely a distinct class of botany by 
themselves that we do not propose to consider them 
in the present paper. 

Now while some orders of plants are remarkable 
for the large number of species they contain which 
are useful and beneficial to man, other families have 
a bad reputation, and most of the members must 
be regarded with suspicion. Among the former the 
Grass family is a conspicuous example. From remote 
antiquity it has formed the principal basis of human 



OUR POISONOUS PLANTS 6i 

food, and it only possesses one species that is known 
to be injurious to man. To the Crucifer family we 
are again indebted for many of our most wholesome 
garden vegetables, including scakale and watercress 
and the various descendants of the wild sea-cabbage. 
On the other hand, the order RanunculacecB, or the 
Buttercup family, must be classed among the danger- 
ous tribes. Nearly all the members of this extensive 
family, including the delicate wood anemone and the 
traveller's joy, possess baneful properties. The juice 
of even the beautiful yellow buttercup of our May 
meadows is sufficiently acrid to blister the hand, and 
the knowledge of this fact has frequently been made 
use of by cunning beggars, who, as Gerarde tells us, 
" do stampe the leaves, and lay it unto their legs and 
arms, which causeth such filthy ulcers as we daily see 
(among such wicked vagabonds) to move the people 
the more to pittie." The following story, related by 
the same authority, evidently refers to some species 
of this order. After speaking of the "hot and hurtfull 
qualities " residing in the juice of certain buttercups, 
our old herbaHst continues, in his quaintest manner : 
"This calleth to my remembrance an history of a 
certain Gentleman, dwelling in Lincolnshire, called 
Mahewe, the true report hereof my very good friend 
Mr. Nicholas Belson, sometime Fellow of King's 
College in Cambridge, hath delivered unto me : Mr. 
Mahewe, dwelling in Boston, a student in ph3'sick, 
having occasion to ride through the fens of Lincoln- 
shire, found a root that the hogs had turned up, which 
seemed unto him very strange and unknown, for that 
it was in the spring before the leaves were out; this 
he tasted, and it so inflamed his mouth, tongue, and 
lips that it caused them to swell very extremely, so 



62 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

that before he could get to the towne of Boston he 
could not speak, and no doubt had lost his life, if that 
the Lord God had not blessed those good remedies 
which presently he procured and used." 

The two hellebores, H.foetidus, L., and H. viridisy 
L., also belong to the Buttercup family, and are both, 
especially the former, narcotic-irritant poisons. These 
handsome plants are but seldom met with in a wild 
state, but, curious to relate, they both flourish, as has 
been already noticed, in the historic parish of Selborne, 
and on the same spots where Gilbert White discovered 
them more than a century and a half ago. The green 
hellebore may be seen in the early spring growing 
abundantly on a steep bank in one of the dark hollow 
lanes which form so characteristic a feature in the 
scenery of Selborne. Its rarer and more striking 
relative, the stinking hellebore, sometimes known as 
bear's-foot and setterwort, also manages to maintain 
a position in its old locality, but with difficulty, per- 
haps owing to its ornamental appearance, which has 
led to its removal to walks and shrubberies. 

But far more deadly than either of the hellebores 
is Acoiiitum Napellus, L., the monk's-hood or wolf's- 
bane, known as friar's cap in Devonshire. This plant 
contains one of the most virulent of vegetable poisons. 
It was known to the ancients for its deadly properties, 
and is mentioned, among other writers, by Virgil and 
Pliny. In Great Britain the aconite as a wild plant 
is rare, but it is indigenous in Wales and in several 
English counties — the specimen in the writer's her- 
barium came from Somerset — while in gardens, from 
its handsome efflorescence, it is frequently met with. 
Among the early herbalists the plant is often alluded 
to because of its poisonous character, or supposed 



OUR POISONOUS PLANTS 63 

medicinal virtue. Dr. Turner, in his Herbal, dated 
1 55 1, says: "This of all poisons is the most hastie 
poison"; and Will Coles, in his Art of Shnplitig, 
speaks of it as " a rank poison reported to prevail 
mightily against the bitings of serpents and vipers." 
And this seems to have been the common belief, for 
Ben Jonson says — 

" I have heard that Aconite, 
Being timely taken, hath a healing might 
Against the scorpion's stroke." 

The root of this dangerous plant is conical and taper- 
ing, and on more than one occasion has been mistaken, 
with fatal effects, for horse-radish. A case of this 
kind occurred at Dingwall in Ross-shire in the year 
1856, whereby three persons lost their lives. 

Another order of plants which contains a number 
of dangerous species is the Uvibelliferce, or Parsley 
tribe. This is an extensive order, numbering some 
sixty species in Great Britain, and including in its 
ranks both useful and injurious plants. While, on 
the one hand, it provides us with wholesome vege- 
tables, such as carrots and parsnips and celery, and 
with culinary herbs, as parsley and fennel and sam- 
phire, it also contains plants of such baneful properties 
as hemlock and cowbane. With the exception of 
aconite and the deadly nightshade, hemlock is pro- 
bably the most poisonous plant in the British flora. 
It is not uncommon, especially in the north of England, 
where it may often be seen on hedgebanks by the 
wayside. Fortunately it can always be distinguished 
from all other members of the Umbelliferous family 
by the appearance of its stems, which are mottled 
and dotted all over with irregular spots and blotches 



64 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

of a red or dull purple colour. In ancient times 
the poison prepared from this plant, now known as 
" conia," is said to have been the state poison of 
Athens, by which Socrates was put to death. It will 
be remembered that the " root of hemlock digg'd i' 
the dark " formed part of the ingredients of the 
witches' caldron in Macbeth — a plant, says our old 
friend Gerarde, " very evill, hurtful, dangerous, poison- 
ous, inasmuch that whosoever taketh of it into his 
body dieth remedilesse." Closely allied to the hem- 
lock, and almost as baneful, is the water-dropwort, 
Qinanthe crocata, L., sometimes called hemlock- 
dropwort. The leaves of this plant, which is abun- 
dant in ditches and marshes throughout Great Britain, 
bear a great resemblance to those of the wild celery, 
while its roots have been sometimes mistaken for 
parsnips with disastrous results. John Ray relates, 
on the authority of one Dr. Francis Vaughan, a learned 
physician in Ireland, how "eight young lads went 
one afternoon a fishing to a brook in the county of 
Tipperary, and there, meeting with a great parcel of 
this plant, did eat a great deal of the roots of them. 
About four or five hours after going home, the eldest 
of them, who was almost of man's stature, without the 
least previous appearing disorder or complaint, on 
a sudden fell down backward, and lay kicking and 
sprawling on the ground. His countenance soon 
became ghastly, and he foamed at the mouth. Soon 
after four more were seized the same way, and they 
all died before morning. Of the other three, one ran 
stark mad, but came to his right reason again next 
morning. Another had his hair and nails fall off, and 
the third (Dr. Vaughan's brother-in-law) alone escaped 
without receiving any harm." Many other instances 



OUR POISONOUS PLANTS 65 

are on record of the poisonous effects of this plant. 
In 1758 a person died at Havant, in Hampshire, 
" from havin/^f taken," says Mr. Watson, " about four 
spoonfuls of the juice of the root, instead of that of 
the water-parsnip." In more recent times the case 
is recorded of a number of convicts, working on the 
banks of the Thames near Woolwich, who finding 
a quantity of this plant, and, believing it to be the 
wild parsnip, partook of it. Shortly afterwards nine 
of the men were seized with convulsions and six of 
them died. In this instance, as in several others 
recorded of poisoning by this plant, all the sufferers 
were affected with tetanus and delirium. 

Another plant that appears to have caused mischief 
in former days by being mistaken for a harmless rela- 
tive is the perennial or dog's mercury. This species, 
which is a very common plant, closely resembles the 
annual mercury which, in days when garden vege- 
tables were scarcer than they are now, was commonly 
used as a pot-herb, and several cases are on record in 
which painful results followed a mistaking of the one 
for the other. Dr. John Hill, in his Family Herbal, 
says, with his usual exaggeration, " there is not a 
more fatal Plant, Native of our Country, than this ; 
many have been known to die by eating it boiled with 
their Food ; and probably many also whom we have 
not heard of." Still Ray relates an instance in which 
a man, his wife, and three children suffered severely 
from eating it fried with bacon; and as late as 1820 
several fatal cases occurred from this cause near Wor- 
cester among a party of Irish vagrants. The plant 
belongs to the Spurge family, which contains several 
other injurious species. 

But by far the most dangerous order in the British 

E 



66 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

flora is the Solanacecs, or Nightshade family. To this 
same order belong, strange to sa}', the potato, first 
brought to England from Virginia by Sir Walter 
Raleigh in 1586, and the tomato-plant. But four 
species of this large and important family can claim 
to be British, although one other, the thorn-apple, has 
found its way over from America, and is now fre- 
quently met with, as at Portchester, in a semi-wild 
state. These four species are the dwale, or deadly 
nightshade; the henbane; and the two common night- 
shades, sometimes distinguished as the woody night- 
shade and the garden nightshade. These last species, 
which are closely allied to each other, though often 
confounded, at least in name, with the deadly night- 
shade, are far less poisonous, and, unlike their more 
dangerous relative, are common plants, being fre- 
quently met with in waste places, by the roadside, 
and as a weed in gardens. In appearance they are 
entirely different from the deadly nightshade, and it 
is strange that they should ever have been con- 
founded. The woody nightshade, or bittersweet, is 
a long, straggling plant, of untidy habit, which may 
be often seen climbing among bushes by the wayside, 
and is well marked by its purple flowers with yellow 
anthers, which are followed by clusters of scarlet 
berries. Its near relation, the black or garden night- 
shade, is a common weed in cultivated ground, having 
small white flowers, resembling those of the last 
species in form and also in the colour of the anthers, 
but succeeded by black berries. The deadly night- 
shade {Atropa Belladonna, L.), on the other hand, is a 
tall and stately plant, often three and even four feet 
in height, with large pubescent, egg-shaped leaves, 
and solitary, drooping, campanulate flowers of a dull 



OUR POISONOUS PLANTS 67 

purple hue. In the place of the flowers "come forth 
great round berries of the bignesse of the black chery, 
green at the first, but when they be ripe of the colour 
of black jet or burnished home, soft, and full of purple 
juice." It is these tempting berries that are "so 
furious and deadly." " To give you an example 
hereof," says our good herbalist, " it shall not be 
amisse : it came to passe that three boies of Wisbich 
in the Isle of Ely did eate of the pleasant and beauti- 
full fruit hereof, two whereof died in lesse than eight 
hours after that they had eaten of them. The third 
child had a quantitie of honey and water mixed together 
given him to drinke, causing him to vomit after: God 
blessed this meanes, & the child recovered. Banish 
therefore," adds this wise " master in chirurgerie," 
" these pernitious plants out of your gardens, and all 
places neere to your houses where children do resort." 
The dwale, or deadly nightshade, is probably " the 
insane root" of Shakespeare, which "takes the reason 
prisoner"; and it is supposed to be the plant which 
occasioned such disastrous consequences to the Roman 
troops when retreating from the Parthians, concerning 
which Plutarch tells us that " those who sought for 
roots and pot-herbs found few that they had been 
accustomed to eat, and in tasting unknown herbs they 
met with one that brought on madness and death. 
He that had eaten of it immediately lost all memory 
and knowledge; but at the same time would busy 
himself in turning and moving every stone he met 
with, as if he was upon some very important pursuit. 
The camp was full of unhappy men bending to the 
ground, and thus digging up and removing stones, till 
at last they were carried off by a bilious vomiting, 
when wine, the only remedy, was not to be had." It 



68 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

is also related by Buchanan that when the Danes 
under Sweno invaded Scotland and gained a victory 
near Perth, the Scots, having arranged a truce, agreed 
to supply the hostile army with food. This they pro- 
ceeded to do, having first mingled with the bread the 
juice of the deadly dwale, which stupefied the in- 
vaders, who were then slain by their treacherous 
oes. 

The deadly nightshade seems to have been formerly 
a far commoner plant than it is now. Gerarde speaks oi 
it as growing plentifully in the Isle of Ely, in Lincoln- 
shire, and in other localities ; and John Ray mentions 
many places where in his day it was to be found, as 
" in the lanes about Fulbourn in Cambridgeshire 
plentifully," at Cuckstone, near Rochester in Kent, 
" where all the Yards and Backsides are over-run with 
it." Less than a hundred years ago, it is noted by 
Thomas Garnier, afterwards Dean oi Winchester, a 
famous Hampshire botanist and horticulturist, that the 
plant "abounded on the roadsides at Otterbourne," a 
village some four miles from the cathedral city, and 
since associated with the names oi Keble and of 
Charlotte Yonge, and he adds, " I mean to procure its 
being rooted up from thence, as a very dangerous 
situation for it." The plant has now disappeared from 
the wayside at Otterbourne, perhaps owing to Mr. 
Garnier's intervention, and indeed it has become a 
great rarity in Hampshire, being only found in one or 
two localities. In the Isle of Wight it is entirely ex- 
tinct, but on the mainland it may still be seen in an 
old disused chalk-pit, not far from Selborne, where it 
doubtless flourished in the da3's of Gilbert White, and 
in another locality known to the writer, where it grows 
in such extraordinary abundance as to call for special 



OUR POISONOUS PLANTS 69 

notice. The name of the place shall not be mentioned : 
it will be sufficient to speak of it as the Warren. A 
desolate and dreary region is this stretch of elevated 
land, far from any human habitation, but the home of 
countless rabbits, and the nesting-place of the great 
Norfolk plover. The soil is parched and arid in the 
extreme, consisting of coarse sand or gravel, with here 
and there a mixture of crumbling chalk. In places the 
surface is absolutely bare, as bare as the sea-shore, but 
for the most part overspread with a scanty covering 
of herbage, with pale moss and sickly lichens, and 
strange abundance of yellow stonecrop. Two deep 
depressions run in a parallel direction across the 
Warren, and, like the rest of this weird and blighted 
wilderness, are entirely destitute of trees, except here 
and there a gnarled and stunted thorn or elder heavily 
laden with grey and shaggy lichens. A veritable 
valley of Hinnom has this Hampshire warren been 
called, where all poisonous and deadly herbs flourish 
as in a witch's garden. Here Atropa Belladonna may 
be seen, not in single plants scattered about here and 
there, but in lavish and incredible abundance. There 
are thousands of lusty plants. The rabbits fatten upon 
the leaves and acquire, it is said, a superior flavour. As 
the summer advances the large bushy plants become 
loaded with their shining black berries, and make a 
show not readily forgotten. And the dwale has other 
deadly plants to keep it company. Its first cousin, the 
henbane, only occasionally met with elsewhere in 
Hampshire, grows plentifully on the Warren. It is 
almost as poisonous as the nightshade, and the whole 
plant, as Nicholas Culpeper remarks, " has a very 
heavy, ill, soporiferous smell, somewhat offensive." 
Here, too, may be seen rank masses of hemlock, and 



70 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

nettles, and gorgeous foxgloves from which the deadly 
drug digitalis is extracted. Scattered along the lonely 
waste are plants of the black mullein, and the stinking 
black horehound, while trailing over the dry and 
naked soil will be seen in wonderful abundance the 
cucumber-like stems of the common or red-berried 
bryony. This again is a plant of ill-repute, and has 
played a conspicuous part among quacks and herbalists. 
The roots are often of immense size, and Will Coles in 
his Art of Si'tnpling tells us that "witches take the 
roots of bryony, which simple folks take for the true 
mandrake, and make thereof an ugly image by which 
they represent the person on whom they intend to 
exercise their witchcraft." Gerarde relates that " the 
Queen's chiefe Surgion, Mr. William Godorous, a very 
curious and learned gentleman, shewed me a root 
herof that waied half a hundred weight, and of the 
bignes of a child of a yeare old." The berries, which 
are of a dull scarlet colour and grow in small clus- 
ters, are highly poisonous, and withal of a most fetid 
and sickening odour. Indeed, wrote a distinguished 
botanist, who visited the Warren some fifty years ago, 
** the smell on a hot summer's day from such a 
multitude of ill-favoured weeds is far from refreshing, 
and quite overpowers the fragrant honeysuckle, the 
only sweet and innocent thing that lives to throw a 
charm over what is else but dead, dreary, and baleful." 
We have not by any means exhausted the number 
of species of British plants which may be regarded as 
dangerous. Many members both of the Daffodil and 
the Lily families, including such beautiful species as 
the Narcissus, the snowflake, the fritillary, the autumn 
crocus, the lily of the valley, contain harmful properties 
in their bulbs ; but instances of poisoning by these 



OUR POISONOUS PLANTS 71 

plants are rare. Far otherwise is the case with some 
of those species treated in this paper. Quite recently 
a sad and fatal case of belladonna poisoning occurred 
on the borders of Sussex. A party of four children, 
in the course of an afternoon's ramble near Ems worth, 
came across several plants of the deadly nightshade 
loaded with fruit. Ignorant of their poisonous pro- 
perties, and naturally attracted by their tempting 
appearance, they ate a number of the dark purple 
berries. On returning home to tea they were all 
seized with the usual symptoms of belladonna poisoning 
— dry throat, a difficulty in swallowing, rapid pulse, 
widely dilated pupils, and delirium. The local surgeon, 
who was quickly summoned, at once realised the 
gravity of the situation, and without delay applied the 
proper remedies. In the case of the three younger 
children his skill and promptitude were rewarded with 
success ; but the fourth sufferer, a lad of eleven who 
had come from Portsmouth to spend a few days in the 
country, never rallied, but passed away early on the 
following morning. 



FLOWERS OF THE FIELD 

It is difficult to define a weed. In popular language 
a large number of plants so designated are of distinct 
beauty and interest. There are flowers of the field, 
as well as of the woods and moorlands and of the sea- 
shore. Some rare and delicate species are to be found 
among what Shakespeare calls " the idle weeds that 
grow among our sustaining corn," and few will venture 
to deny that a large wheatfield overrun with scarlet 
poppies is a splendid sight, or a wide stretch of yellow 
charlock, a veritable " field of the cloth of gold." The 
truth is that the term " weed " has reference rather to 
the locality in which the plant is found than to any 
peculiarity in the species itself. It is a plant growing 
where it is not wanted. It is not any particular plant, 
or species of plants; it is any plant, no matter how 
beautiful or how botanically interesting, which has 
trespassed on cultivated ground and is injurious to 
the growing crop. It is a troublesome intruder: it is 
an agricultural nuisance. 

In ancient times, among our old writers, all corn- 
field plants seem to have been classed together under 
the general names of " cockle " or " darnel." The 
words stood for all hurtful weeds that "choke the 
herbs for want of husbandry." " Under the name of 
Cockle and Darnel^' says old Newton in his Herbal, 
published in 1587, "is comprehended all vicious. 



74 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

noisom, and unprofitable graine, encombring and 
hindring good corne." And in that sense "cockle" 
had been already used by Chaucer. It is further of 
interest to notice that in the Anglo-Saxon version of 
the Parable of the Tares, recorded in the thirteenth 
chapter of St. Matthew's gospel, the strange Greek 
word ^i^dvta, not found in classical literature, and 
simply Latinised in the Vulgate zizania, is translated 
coccel, and this rendering is followed by Wycliff, and 
in other early versions of the New Testament. The 
following is from the Rheims translation, published in 
1582, and so strange does the rendering sound to ears 
accustomed to the Authorised Version that it is worth 
quoting in full. The parable is headed "The sower of 
the cockle," and runs thus: "The kingdom of heaven 
is likened to a man that sowed good seed in his field. 
But while men were asleep his enemy came and over- 
sowed cockle among the wheat, and went his way. 
And when the blade was sprung up and brought forth 
fruit then appeared also the cockle. Then the servants 
of the master of the house came and said to him : 
Master, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field ? 
from whence then hath it cockle ? And he saith to 
them : An enemy hath done this. And the servants 
said to him : Wilt thou then that we go and gather it 
up ? And he said : No ; lest while ye gather up the 
cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. 
Let both grow until the harvest : and in the time of 
the harvest I will say to the reapers : Gather up first 
the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn ; but 
gather the wheat into my barn." We get another 
illustration of the same use in the quaint and vigorous 
sermons of good Bishop Latimer, who exclaims : " Oh, 
that our prelates would bee as diligent to sowe the 



PROWERS OF THE FIELD 75 

come of goode doctrine, as Satlian is to sow Cockel 
and Darnel." And so with Gower, and Spenser, and 
Shakespeare. But if tlie poets and preachers speak 
in general terms, the old herbalists were beginning 
to discriminate between cockle and darnel and other 
weeds. Cockle was becoming restricted to the purple 
corn-cockle {Agi'osttvnjiia Giihago, L.), and darnel to 
the wheat-like grass {Loliuvi temulentum^ L.). Dr. 
Turner notices in his Names of Ilerbes, published 
in 1548, this confusion of terms. "Some," he says, 
"take cockel for lolio, but thei are far decyved as I 
shal declare at large if God wil, in my Latin herbal." 
A few years later the identification of darnel with 
Lolium is clear ; and in his famous Herbal, under a 
fairly good representation of the plant, Gerarde says, 
" Among the hurtfull weeds Darnell is the first," and 
he goes on to describe accurately the species, which 
he identifies, and doubtless rightly, with the zizania 
of Gospel history. 

Darnel is an annual corn-field weed, fortunately 
not generally distributed, at any rate in these days, 
the seeds of which bear a striking resemblance to 
grains of wheat. The injurious properties of the plant 
were well known to the ancients, for Virgil speaks of 
it as infelix lolium. The stem and foliage are inno- 
cuous, and in some countries, as at Malta, where the 
species is abundant, the plant is used as fodder : it is 
the seed only that is poisonous, and many instances 
are on record of its baneful effects, which are said to 
resemble intoxication. This was noticed by Gerarde, 
who says that "the new bread wherein Darnell is, eaten 
hot, causeth drunkennesse; in like manner doth beere 
or ale wherein the seed is fallen, or put into the malt." 
Indeed, in the Middle Ages it seems to have been a 



76 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

not uncommon custom to purposely intermix the seeds 
of darnel with the grain from which the malt was made, 
in order to enhance the intoxicating power of the beer. 
In some parts of the country, as in Dorsetshire and in 
the Isle of Wight, this plant is known as "cheat," from 
its resemblance to the wheat amongst which it grows. 
The seeds of the corn-cockle were also supposed in 
former days to possess qualities highly injurious to 
man. This handsome plant, with its upright downy 
stem and fine purple flowers, is often abundant in 
corn-fields, and it is difficult to prevent its large seeds 
from becoming mixed with the wheat at threshing- 
time. Gerarde, who rightly identifies corn-cockle with 
Githago segetuvt, Desf., quaintly says : " What hurt it 
doth among corne, the spoile of bread, as well in 
colour, taste, and unwholesomnesse, is better knowne 
than desired." It seems doubtful, however, if this 
fine plant deserves so sweeping a condemnation. 

There is yet another plant which bears a bad 
reputation from the same cause. This is the purple 
cow-wheat {Melampyrum arvense, L.), " a gaudy but 
most pernicious weed," with oblong seeds like black 
wheat grains, which, becoming mixed with the corn, 
is said to render the flour dark and unwholesome. 
This plant is very local, but usually abundant where 
it occurs, as in some parts of East Anglia, especially 
of Norfolk, and in the Isle of Wight. In the latter 
station, from Ventnor to St. Lawrence, in the corn- 
fields above the Undercliff, and inland as far as 
Whitwell, this truly splendid "weed" flourishes in 
extraordinary abundance. It is the characteristic 
plant of the locality. Seen for the first time, one is 
amazed at the sight of this strange and showy species 
growing in such remarkable profusion. It flourishes 



FLOWERS OF THE FIELD 77 

not only among the wheat and barley, but also on the 
dry banks and grassy borders of the fields ; it has 
invaded the bushy slopes above Pelham Woods, and 
may be seen all along the upper edge of the cliff. 
How the plant came to find a home in the island it 
is now impossible to discover. It is not mentioned 
as growing there by the early botanists, and its 
presence could not possibly have been overlooked. 
Its long leafy spikes of purple and yellow flowers, 
with beautifully variegated tracts of a bright rose 
colour, render it one of the most conspicuous plants 
in the British Flora. Gerarde, who gives an illustra- 
tion of it in his Herbal, speaks of the species as a 
"stranger in England." John Ray, on the authority 
of one Mr. F. Sherard, gives as its only locality, " In 
the corn on the riglit hand just before you come to 
Lycham, in Norfolk." The Flora Anglica, published 
in 1798, quotes Ray's statement, and adds a few 
additional localities. But the earliest record of it as 
growing in the Isle of Wight occurs in a list of island 
plants published in 1823. A few years later Dr. 
Bromfield, who found it in vast abundance in its 
present locality, carefully investigated its history. 
Local tradition asserted that the plant was imported 
with wheat-seed from " foreign parts " — some said 
Spain, some Jersey, others, with more probability, 
from Norfolk. He learnt that it was the custom at 
harvest time to pull up the weed with the greatest 
care, and carry it off the fields in bags, and to burn it, 
picking up the very seeds from the ground wherever 
they could be perceived lying. The bread, he was 
told, made from the wheat on the farms above the 
Underchff was not so dark coloured and "hot" as it 
used to be, and that the "droll" plant was less plen- 



78 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

tiful than formerl3% Its local name was " Poverty 
weed," with reference, no doubt, not only to the way 
in which it impoverished the soil, but also to the fact 
that the seeds, becoming mixed with the corn, ren- 
dered the latter of small value in the market. It is 
a curious fact that abundant as the weed is on the 
farms it has invaded, it does not appear to have made 
fresh conquests of late years. Indeed, its area was 
almost exactly the same in 1901 as it was in 1838, 
when Dr. Bromfield visited the locality. 

In the British Flora there are some twenty to thirty 
plants which bear the specific name of arvensis, a 
word derived from the Latin arvum, which denotes 
a ploughed field. Of these weeds so specially asso- 
ciated with agriculture the greatest pests are the thistle 
and the charlock. Hooker speaks of the former as 
" the commonest pest of agriculture," and in some 
districts it is extraordinarily abundant. But it is 
not perhaps so generally troublesome as the charlock. 
This yellow-flowered, cruciferous plant, sometimes and 
rightly called " wild mustard," and known in Scotland 
as "skellocks," is truly "an odious weed in tillage land." 
The direct mischief caused by it is not only that it 
overshadows the young growing corn, but, in a dry 
season especially, it sucks up the moisture and good- 
ness of the soil which should have gone to nourish 
the wheat crop. Indirectly, too, it does harm by 
encouraging the turnip "fly" or flea-beetle, and by 
harbouring the slime fungus which specially attacks 
cruciferous crops. Of late years an attempt has 
been made by spraying the young plants with a 
solution of sulphate of copper to destroy this pest in 
its early state, and the experiment is regarded by 
many scientific agriculturists with favour. Among 



FLOWERS OF THE FIELD 79 

other corn-field weeds to vvhicli the term arvcnsis 
has been assigned, from the frequency of their occur- 
rence in arable land, may be mentioned the corn- 
spurry, the field-parsley, the common pimpernel or 
poor-man's weather-glass, the field forget-me-not, the 
field stachys, the corn-mint, fumitory, shepherd's 
purse, and bindweed. These plants, however, with 
the exception of the last, which in some places is a 
most troublesome weed, are comparatively harmless 
to the farmer. There is a passage in Crabbers Village 
in which the poet, who found his main delight in 
botany, gathers together several of these corn-field 
intruders. He is doubtless thinking of the bleak, 
wind-swept land above the cliffs at Aldeburgh, where — 

" Rank weeds, that ever}' art and care defy, 
Reign o'er the land and rob the blighted rye ; 
There thistles stretch their prickly arms afar, 
And to the ragged infant threaten war ; 
There poppies nodding, mock the hope of toil ; 
There the blue bugloss paints the sterile soil ; 
Hardy and high, above the slender sheaf, 
The slimy mallow waves her silky leaf: 
O'er the young shoot the charlock throws a shade, 
And clasping tares cling round the sickly blade ; 
With mingled tints the rocky coasts abound. 
And a sad splendour vainly shines around." 

It is marvellous how rapidly some plants will spread 
themselves over wide stretches of land. The writer 
was struck with the way in which the yellow charlock 
took possession of the line when the Meon Valley rail- 
way was being made a few years ago. The very next 
spring after the embankments were thrown up their 
sides were clothed with this rampant and conspicuous 
crucifer. A line of yellow across the country marked 



8o THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

in many places the course of the railway. Poppies, 
too, for some unknown reason, will occasionally appear 
in strange and wonderful profusion. The striking in- 
stance related by Lord Macaulay may be quoted by 
way of illustration. After the battle of Landen the 
ground, he tells us, " during many months was strewn 
with skulls and bones of men and horses, and with 
fragments of hats and shoes, saddles and holsters. 
The next summer, the soil, fertilised by twenty 
thousand corpses, broke forth into millions of poppies. 
The traveller who, on the road from Saint Tron to 
Tirlemont, saw that vast sheet of rich scarlet spread- 
ing from Landen to Neerwinden, could hardly help 
fancying that the figurative prediction of the Hebrew 
prophet was literally accomplished, that the earth was 
disclosing her blood, and refusing to cover the slain." 
In districts where the land is poor and badly cultivated 
one not infrequently comes across fields almost wholly 
occupied with weeds of cultivation, such as the corn 
marigold, the purple corn-cockle, or the stinking 
Mayweed. Sometimes a more uncommon species has 
taken possession of the soil. In a chalky upland field 
in the neighbourhood of Winchester the writer once 
met with the field chickweed {Cerastium arvense, L.) 
in extraordinary profusion, and it made a striking 
appearance with its large white flowers. In the same 
neighbourhood a grass-sown field that bordered the 
high road near Bishop's Waltham was literally purple, 
to the extent of several acres, with the flowers of the 
early meadow orchis. Gerarde, the herbalist, who 
made many botanical excursions about England in 
the latter part of the sixteenth century, speaks of the 
abundance of the yellow melilot in parts of Essex. 
" About Clare and Heningham " (Castle Hedingham) 



FLOWERS OP^ THE FIELD 8i 

he saw " very many acres overgrown with it, insomuch 
that it doth not oncly spoyle the land, but the corne 
also, as cockle or darnel, and is a weed that generally 
spreadeth over that corner of the shire." 

Sometimes most interesting and delicate plants are 
found among the corn. The beautiful Adonis or 
pheasant's eye will never be forgotten if once seen. 
This striking little annual, with its finely-cut leaves 
and bright scarlet flowers, belongs to the buttercup 
tribe, and is only occasionally met with. Still, in 
places it has firmly established itself, and year after 
year may be found on the same farms. In the chalky 
corn-fields above the UnderclifF in the Isle of Wight 
it has been known for many years, and may be seen 
every summer in company with lamb's lettuce, the 
dainty field madder, and the gaudy cow wheat. But 
in one district in Hampshire it may be regarded, at 
least in some seasons, as plentiful. More than a 
century ago it was found on a farm between Aires- 
ford and Winchester, and there it has remained ever 
since. Year after year it comes up in the wheat and 
barley fields, some summers in considerable profusion. 
The writer once noticed a large bunch of it in a poor 
woman's hand who sat opposite to him in a railway 
carriage. He ventured to ask her where she had 
obtained it ; sure enough it came from the farm above 
alluded to. " There was a wonderful sight of it," the 
good woman said. The modest little mouse-tail is a 
near relative of the pheasant's eye, and, like it, is but 
rarely seen. It is so called from the arrangement of 
the carpets or seed vessels, which form a close slender 
spike, sometimes two inches in length, and resembling, 
says an old botanist, " very notably the taile of a 
mouse." It is most erratic in its habits, suddenly 

F 



82 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

appearing in spots where it had been unknown before. 
Kingsley tells us that for fourteen years he had hunted 
for it in vain at Eversley, while in the fifteenth it 
appeared by dozens upon a new-made bank, which 
had been for at least two hundred years a farmyard 
gateway. Yet another plant of the same genus which 
is occasionally met with among the corn is the beautiful 
field larkspur. Ray mentions it as having been " found 
in great plenty by Mr. F. Sherard amongst the corn in 
Swafham Field in Cambridge-shire" ; and in the same 
district it is still in some seasons not uncommon. 
It is an exceedingly pretty plant with its terminal 
racemes of blue or pink or white flowers. Ray has 
also chronicled several uncommon plants as growing 
in the cornfields near his home at Black Notley in 
Essex. Among these may be specially mentioned the 
common thorow-wax, or " thorow-leafe," a name given 
to the plant now known as Bupleumm rotundifolium, L., 
by Dr. Wm. Turner in the sixteenth century, because, 
as he says, " the stalke waxeth throw the leaves " ; 
and the " small narrow-leaved cudweed, very much 
branched, and full of seed" {jFilago gallica, L.), one of 
the rarest of British plants, which it is satisfactory to 
notice still finds a home in the Essex cornfields. One 
more plant which frequents similar situations calls 
for notice. This is the corn bell-flower {Specularia 
hybrida, D.), known among the older botanists as 
Venus's looking-glasse or codded corn violet. It is a 
distinguished-looking little annual, some eight or ten 
inches in height, with dark-blue flowers. The writer 
has seen it in the sandy fields between Sandown and 
Shanklin in the Isle of Wight, but it is more frequently 
met with in the Eastern Counties. It is not uncommon 
in parts of Essex, and a few years ago it could always 



P^LOWERS OF THE FIELD 83 

be found at the right season on a farm near the pic- 
turesque village of Finchingfield. 

But if weeds be a perennial nuisance to the farmer, 
they are no less a source of constant annoyance to the 
gardener. Gilbert White used to employ a " weeding 
woman " at Selborne, in order, as he tells us, that his 
garden might be neat and tidy against the arrival of 
visitors ; and, indeed, in some years daily attention is 
imperative if the rampant intruders are to be held 
in check. After rain the borders quickly become 
smothered with groundsel and veronica, and in some 
districts with the annual mercury. But more trouble- 
some still, because of the difficulty of eradicating 
them, are the lesser convolvulus and the gout weed, 
whose long, white, creeping roots will continue to 
grow if the smallest particle be left in the soil. The 
former of these truly pestiferous weeds is strangely 
known among the market gardeners near Portsmouth 
as " lilies " ; while the latter, as its name implies, 
was formerly a famous remedy for the gout, and was 
therefore doubtless cultivated in many gardens as a 
medicinal herb. 

Still now and again some interesting plants appear 
as " weeds " in gardens. Canary-grass and buck- 
wheat, and the caper spurge, are not uncommon 
visitors. A few specimens of the very rare finger- 
glass {Digitaria humifusa, Pers.) appeared one year 
in the writer's herbaceous border at Portchester, and 
for several years in succession the almost equally rare 
bristle-grass {Setaria viridis, Beauv.). In another 
garden in the same parish the white goose foot 
{Chenopodiuni ficifoliuin, Sm.) made its appearance 
in 1893: this species had never been noticed in 
Hampshire before; but in the following season it 



84 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

was repeatedly searched for in vain. Another rare 
Hampshire plant is the treacle mustard, sometimes 
from its general habit of growth called wallflower 
mustard. It is not infrequently met with as a corn- 
field weed in parts of East Anglia, but in Hants it 
had merely been noticed in one or two localities, and 
then only single specimens were found. Strange to 
say, it appeared a few seasons ago in abundance in 
an old garden associated with memories of Izaak 
Walton in the Meon Valley. In some gardens in the 
South of England, especially in the Isle of Wight, the 
sweet-scented coltsfoot, or, as it is sometimes called 
from its time of flowering, the winter heliotrope, has 
firmly established itself. It is often in blossom as 
early as January, and with its fragrant flowers is not 
an unwelcomed intruder, except when it strays beyond 
the limits of the shrubbery. " In the garden at Swain- 
ston," consecrated by Tennyson's lines beginning — 

" Nightingales warbled without, 
Within was weeping for thee," 

the plant is remarkably abundant. 

John Ray noted the broad-leaved spurge as "com- 
ing up spontaneously here in my own orchard at 
Black Notley," and a specimen of this uncommon 
plant, gathered by his friend Dr. Dale in " Ray's 
orchard," is preserved in Buddie's Herbarium at the 
South Kensington Museum. A few years ago the 
writer visited Ray's house "on Dewlands," now, alas! 
burnt to the ground, and searched in vain for the 
broad-leaved spurge. The place has been much 
altered since the great naturalist died there in 1705, 
and the orchard has been mostly stubbed up. An 
ancient pear - tree, however, was standing, which 




JDII.N KAV 

(From an old nugra 

b. 1628: d. 17 



'•"S) 



P^LOWERS OF THE FIELD 85 

tradition alleged to have been planted by the botanist 
himself. And beneath its lichen-covered branches 
there was growing among the potatoes a most rare 
and interesting " weed." It was the lovely blue 
pimpernel {Anagallis ccurulea, Sch.). Seldom, indeed, 
is this dainty little annual met with, but once seen its 
beauty will never be forgotten. Old Gerarde and the 
early botanists regarded it as a distinct species, and 
called it " the blew-flowred or female pimpernell," in 
distinction to " the male or scarlet pimpernell," or poor 
man's weather-glass. Once or twice only had the 
writer seen this delicate and lovely variety of the scarlet 
Anagallis ; and there, in one of the most interesting 
of British localities, in the garden of the "house on 
Dewlands" — the home of the celebrated John Ray, 
where he wrote his Synopsis of British Plants, the 
first true English Flora — beneath the venerable pear- 
tree which his own hands had planted, there opened 
to the sunlight the exquisite blue petals o^ Anagallis 
ccBrulea. The fragile little annual was carefully 
secured, and afterwards no less carefully preserved, 
and is now among the most valued specimens in the 
dark oaken cabinet which holds the writer's collection 
of flowers of the field. 



THE DISAPPEARANCE OF 
PLANTS 



It cannot be doubted that the flora of Great Britain 
has considerably changed during the last three hun- 
dred years. On the one hand a goodly number of 
plants, many of them from America, have found their 
way into this country and have become completely 
naturalised. Among these may be mentioned such 
characteristic species as the pretty yellow balsam, 
which lines the banks of the Wey near Guildford and 
of other Surrey streams; the little white Claytonia, 
which may now be found abundantly on the sandy 
heaths of Bagshot and of Wolmer Forest ; and the 
Canadian pond-weed, which since 1847 has spread so 
rapidly through our canals and rivers. But, on the 
other hand, many interesting species of the old Eng- 
lish flora have become exceedingly scarce, while a few 
have altogether disappeared. Some plants, apparently 
common in the days of the early botanists, must now 
be reckoned among our greatest rarities, and will 
never again be found in their old localities. If "Master 
Doctor" Turner, or Gerarde the herbalist, or the illus- 
trious John Ray, could come to life again, they would 
search in vain the ancient haunts of many of their 
most notable species. Many causes have contributed 

to this unfortunate result. The growth of towns con- 

87 



88 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

sequent on the vast increase of our population, the 
draining of the Fens, improved methods of agriculture, 
the rapacity of dealers, the collecting energy of modern 
botanists — all have helped to impoverish the richness 
of the British flora. Still, considering the changed 
condition of the face of the country, it may be a matter 
of surprise that the number of rare plants is not more 
seriously reduced. 

But few species, at any rate, have become absolutely 
extinct in Great Britain. The Alpine cotton-grass is 
gone from the bogs of Forfar, and a sedge from its 
only known locality near Bath. A vetch with " long 
white flowers," formerly found by Ray on Glastonbury 
Tor, is also gone, and a near relation, Vicia IcEvigata, 
which once occupied the Chesil Beach near Wey- 
mouth, and is now extinct, not only in England, but 
in the whole world. That interesting member of the 
Lily group, Simethis bicolor, formerly to be found 
near Bournemouth, was extirpated before the year 
1875 ; and it is to be feared that the little Holosteuin 
unibellatmn will never again be seen on the old walls 
of Norwich, or Bury, or Eye. 

But while few species have become entirely ex- 
tinct as regards Great Britain as a whole, yet a large 
number seem to be on the verge of it. Plants formerly 
not uncommon, and to be found in several counties, 
are now extremely rare and confined to one or two 
localities. This is especially the case with some of 
our orchids; and several species, such as the lizard 
orchis, the coral-root, the lady's slipper, the leafless 
Epipogum, and the Fen orchis, may soon have to be 
reckoned among our extinct species. The sweet- 
scented sea stock, one of the most showy and beautiful 
plants in our native flora, is extinct on the cliffs at 



THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PLANTS 89 

Hastings, and is now only to be found in the Isle of 
Wight, where it flourishes on the perpendicular face 
of the inaccessible chalk cliffs. The exquisite little 
Triconiena, a dwarf member of the Iris family, exists 
only in one locality in South Devon. In former years 
the rugged heights of Portland were clothed with the 
handsome tree-mallow, which also grew " at Hurst 
Castle, over against the Isle of Wight." In both 
these localities, and indeed along the whole of the 
southern coast, except in Devon and Cornwall, this 
splendid plant, so dear to the ancient herbalists, will 
now be sought for in vain. 

In the Isle of Wight, to take a small and well- 
known botanical district, many plants formerl}- existed 
which must now be omitted from the Flora Vectensis. 
To judge from a statement in the works of de I'Obel, the 
sea-colewort or wild cabbage, the parent of our garden 
species, was formerly not uncommon on the Island 
cliffs. As late as the middle of the last century it 
grew plentifully on the crumbled chalk at the foot of 
the Culvers. It had disappeared from that locality 
by the year 1870, and is now lost to the Island. 
About the year 1835 John Stuart Mill, who found his 
only recreation in botany, discovered in Sandown Bay 
a single specimen of the rare purple sponge. This 
specimen is still carefully preserved, but the plant has 
not been met with in the Island since. On the pebbly 
beach of the same bay the seaside everlasting pea 
formerly existed ; this, too, is gone, and also the very 
rare Diotis maritima, or seaside cotton-weed. In the 
rough, broken ground of the Undercliff, especially in 
the neighbourhood of the little church of St. Lawrence, 
once celebrated as the smallest church in England, 
and about the ivy-clad ruins of Wolverton, that hand- 



90 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

some plant, the stinking hellebore or setterwort, for- 
merly grew in some abundance. It was plentiful in 
the year 1839, when the celebrated botanist, Dr. 
Bromfield, visited the spot, when he pronounced it to 
be, in his opinion, "most certainly wild." Since then 
the neighbourhood has been much built over, and a 
good deal of the " rough ground " has been converted 
into private gardens, and it is to be feared that this 
most interesting plant has perished. Near the grand 
old Jacobean manor-house of Knighton, now, alas ! 
pulled down, but of which we have so fine a de- 
scription in Legh Richmond's Dairyman s Daughter, 
there formerly grew the dwale, or deadly nightshade, 
a striking plant both in flower and in fruit. This, like 
the " large and venerable mansion," has disappeared, 
and must now, with other notable species — the proli- 
ferous pink, the grass of Parnassus, the spider orchis, 
the beautiful white helleborine, and the vernal squill — 
be counted as extinct in the Isle of Wight. 

The disappearance of some of these plants is doubt- 
less due to what may be called the sporadic nature 
of certain species. It is the way of some plants to 
suddenly spring up in a strange locality, to remain 
perhaps for a few years, and as mysteriously to dis- 
appear. We have a striking illustration of this in the 
case of Sisymbrium Irio, or the London rocket. The 
plant, as is well known, received its English name 
from the curious fact that after the Great Fire of 
London in 1666 it came up plentifully "among the 
rubbish in the ruines." During the two following 
summers it was abundant, Ray tells us, and even 
established itself " on the Lord Cheney's wall at 
Chelsey," but finally it entirely disappeared. An 
equally striking instance occurred at Aldborough, in 



THE DISAPPEARANCE OP^ PLANTS 91 

Suffolk, in the case of Lathyrus maritimus, the sea- 
side everlasting pea. Old Stow, in his Chronicle, tells 
us that " in the great dearth which happened in the 
year 1555 tlie poor people in this part of the country 
maintained themselves and their children with these 
Pease, which," saith he, " to a miracle sprung up in 
the autumn among the bare stones of their own accord, 
and bore fruit sufficient for thousands of people." 
"That these Pease did spring up miraculously for the 
relief of the poor I believe not," adds John Ray, who 
repeats the story; "neither did they owe their original 
to shipwracks or Pease cast out of ships, as Camden 
hints to be the opinion of the wiser ; but, without 
doubt, sprung up at first spontaneously." Ray speaks 
of the plant as still (1695) growing abundantly on 
" the stone-baich between Orford and Alburgh, called 
the shingle, especially on the further end towards 
Orford." It is now very rare, and has not, we believe, 
been met with on the Suffolk coast for many years. 
This sporadic nature doubtless explains the disappear- 
ance of the same plant from the beach at Sandown, 
as well as of the purple spurge and oi Diotis maritima. 
In former years this latter plant has been recorded 
for many localities along the coast. Gerarde found 
it in Mersea Isle, off the Essex shore; it grew at 
Southwold in Suffolk, and near the ruins of old 
Dunwich Church ; it has been met with near Poole 
and Bridport in Dorsetshire, and at several spots on 
the Cornish coast ; but in all these places it is now 
probably extinct. It is well known that in some 
seasons certain of our orchidaceous plants are far 
more abundant than in others. This is specially the 
case with those species which frequent the downs, 
such as the bee orchis, the frog orchis, and the musk 



92 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

orchis. In the early summer of 1898 the latter 
appeared in extraordinary abundance on a small patch 
of down-land in the writer's parish. There were 
literally hundreds of plants. Not content with occupy- 
ing the down, they invaded the debris of an adjoining 
chalk-pit, and sprang up in every possible situation. 
The following season it required a good deal of 
searching to find so much as a single specimen. 

But if in some few instances the disappearance of 
interesting plants can be thus naturally accounted for, 
in the great majority of cases it is due to the inroads 
of civilisation, with its building operations and scientific 
methods of agriculture. It is very curious to come 
across, in old books, the names of plants and wild 
flowers which in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies were to be seen growing in London and its 
neighbourhood. There are many such notices to be 
found scattered up and down the writings of Gerarde 
and Ray, and others of the early botanists. For 
instance, the little wall-rue fern was to be found on 
" an old stone conduit between Islington and Jack 
Straw's Castle," and the royal Osmunda filourished 
on Hampstead Heath, together with the lily-of-the- 
valley. The mistletoe might be seen growing " on 
some trees at Clarendon House, St. James's." In 
Lambeth Marsh the very rare " frogge-bit " grew, 
" where any that is disposed may see it," and the 
arrow-head in "the Tower ditch," and also "by 
Lambeth Bridge over against the Archbishop of 
Canterbury's Palace." In the "moat that encom- 
passes the seat of the Right Reverend the Bishop of 
London at Fulham " might be seen the sweet-smelling 
flag, and the yellow water-lily, and the scarce Carda- 
'mine impatiens. The sweet - scented camomile was 



THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PLANTS 93 

common at Westminster, and the wild clary in "the 
fields of Holborne neere unto Grayes Inne " ; in "a 
lane against St. Pancras' Church " the wild lettuce 
grew, and the deadly nightshade in a ditch at 
Islington, and the beautiful marsh gentian on Clapham 
Common; while the rare vervaine mallow was to be 
seen "on the ditch sides on the left hand of the place 
of execution by London, called Tyborn." Needless to 
say, these plants have long since disappeared; and what 
has happened in the case of the "all-devouring wen," as 
Cobbett years ago called London, has been repeated in 
a lesser degree in many districts throughout the country. 
But more destructive to all native flora than even 
the growth of towns must be reckoned the vast system 
of drainage which has been carried out in many parts 
of England. In olden times, to take the most striking 
illustration, the great fen district of Cambridgeshire 
and Huntingdon was a grand place to the naturalist. 
Kingsley has painted in glowing colours the ancient 
glories of Whittlesea Mere, where "dark green alders 
and pale green reeds stretched for miles round the 
broad lagoon ; where the coot clanked and the bittern 
boomed, and the sedge-bird, not content with its own 
sweet song, mocked the notes of all the birds around ; 
while high overhead hung, motionless, hawk beyond 
hawk, buzzard beyond buzzard, kite beyond kite, as far 
as eye could see." It is all changed now. The vast 
solitude, the home of some of our rarest wild-flowers, 
the haunt of the great copper butterfly, now lost to the 
whole world, the breeding-place of ruffs and reeves, has 
been converted into enormous cornfields, where — 

" All the land in flowery squares, 
Beneath a broad and equal-blowing wind, 
Smells of the coming summer." 



94 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

And the rare plants are gone. The fen orchis, Liparis 
Loeselii, the glory of the fen flora, formerly to be 
found in Burwell and Bottisham fens, and elsewhere 
in similar situations in the Eastern counties, is now 
probably extinct ; and the same must be said of the 
well-known rarities of the district, Senecio paludosus, 
S. palustris, and Sonchus pahistris, or the marsh 
sow-thistle. It has been calculated that no less 
than fifty species have been lost to the flora of 
Cambridgeshire, and most of them in consequence 
of the draining of the fens. The same process has 
naturally produced similar results elsewhere. In the 
year 1667 John Goodyer, a famous botanist, discov- 
ered the marsh Isnardia near the great pond on Peters- 
field Heath, in Hampshire, This plant is one of our 
greatest rarities, being only known to exist in one or 
two localities in Great Britain. Up to the middle of 
the last century it maintained its position on Peters- 
field Heath, where, in the summer of 1848, it was seen 
in considerable plenty by Dr. Bromfield, the author of 
the Flora Vectensis. Since then the marshy spots 
where it flourished have been drained, and this inter- 
esting plant has now entirely disappeared from the 
historic locality where, in the middle of the seven- 
teenth century, it was first discovered to be a British 
plant. 

Other changes, too, to the detriment ot our flora 
have passed over the face of the country. Not only 
have bogs been drained, but large tracts of heath 
and downland have come under the plough, and 
what was formerly open country is now enclosed and 
cultivated. The roadside wastes, where in the autumn 
flocks of goldfinches might be seen feeding on the 
thistle-seeds, have in many districts been taken in, 



THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PLANTS 95 

and even the hedgerows have been stubbed up and 
thrown into the fields. The Commons Inclosure Act 
of 1845 li^s been inimical ahke to the fauna and 
flora of the country. In parts of Essex the thick 
hedgerows, beautiful in early summer with honey- 
suckle and dog-roses, have almost entirely disappeared, 
and hardly a bank is left for the violet and the prim- 
rose and the lesser celandine. Not so many years ago 
the rare and beautiful Martagon lily might be seen 
growing plentifully up a green lane, bounded by high 
banks and old copse-like hedges, in the neighbour- 
hood of Saffron Walden. The banks have now been 
levelled and the plant is gone. 

In some few instances the very beauty of a plant 
tends to its destruction. The wild daffodil and the 
wild snowdrop are becoming scarcer every year owing 
to their eradication for purposes of sale. On some of 
the Hampshire hangers, where every spring may be 
seen the truly beautiful sight of 

" A host of golden daffodils 
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze," 

it has become necessary to have a keeper constantly 
on the watch in order to save the plants from total 
extinction. In one parish in the Isle of Wight, for- 
merly noted for the abundance of snowdrops to be 
seen in the copses and hedgerows, the plant has become 
so scarce that the writer could only find a few small 
patches last spring. The flowers had been trans- 
planted into gardens, he was told, or sold in the 
neighbouring town. The same fate has overtaken 
a colony of that most rare and beautiful plant, the 
fritillary, or snake's head, which has almost entirely 
disappeared from a damp meadow where fifty years 



96 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

ago it was plentiful. Another rare plant which has 
suffered from the same cause is the fragrant Daphne 
mezereion. This beautiful shrub, which flowers in 
early spring, often in the month of February, before 
the leaves appear, used not to be uncommon in the 
Hampshire woods, especially about Andover and in 
the neighbourhood of Selborne. In Gilbert White's 
time it grew on the hanger, " among the shrubs at the 
S.E. end, above the cottages." In a former parish of 
the writer's it used often to be found when the under- 
wood was cut. One old woodman remembered having 
seen as many as thirty or forty plants in a single 
copse. Though still frequent in cottage gardens, the 
shrub is now almost extinct in our woods, owing in a 
great measure, to quote a Hampshire writer of fifty 
years ago, to " the avidity with which it has been 
hunted out and dug up for transplanting by the cot- 
tagers, either for their own use or for sale to the 
nurserymen." So, too, with the beautiful Dianthus 
cczsms, or Cheddar pink, which formerly covered the 
romantic limestone cliffs from which it takes its name. 
It is now nearly destroyed in this, its only native 
habitat in Great Britain, through the mercenary habit 
of digging up the plants for sale to visitors. 

And what has happened to many species of our 
rarer and more beautiful flowering plants has taken 
place in a still more lamentable degree in the case of 
our native ferns. All over the country — in Yorkshire, 
in Wales, in Devonshire, in the home counties — they 
have been ruthlessly destroyed for purposes of gain. 
Many of our choicest species are on the verge of 
extinction from this single cause. Our very hedge- 
rows are being denuded of the commoner but not less 
beautiful kinds by lazy tramps, who hawk them 



THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PLANTS 97 

around in towns and villages. When, in January 
1624, Mr. John Goodyer " rode between Rake and 
Headley in Hampshire, ncere Wollmer Forest," he 
saw enough maidenhair splcenwort "to lode an horse 
with " ; it is doubtful if a single specimen of the plant 
could be found to-day. The Tunbridge fern is almost 
extinct at Tunbridge, and the sea spleenwort in the 
Isle of Wight. But it is needless to continue the 
mournful catalogue. The fact is too patent to require 
illustration. It should, however, be borne in mind 
that unless persons were found ready to buy the spoil 
the trade in native plants would quickly cease. The 
time has surely come when all lovers of Nature and 
of countr}' life should use every endeavour to preserve 
what yet remains to us of the flora of Great Britain. 



SOME ADDITIONS TO OUR 
NATIVE FLORA 

In our last paper we considered the question of the 
disappearance of many of our rarer and more interest- 
ing wild-flowers. We saw that many circumstances 
had contributed to tliis unfortunate result. The 
growth of towns ; improved methods of agriculture, 
especially in the way of drainage ; the enclosing of 
commons; the stubbing-up of hedgerows; the cultiva- 
tion of downlands ; the rapacity of dealers ; the trans- 
planting of showy species, like fritillary and Daphne 
mezcreum^ into gardens and nurseries — all have had 
their share in reducing the number of plants in our 
native flora. While only a few species have, it is 
true, become wholly extinct in these islands, many 
have been greatly reduced in numbers, and now only 
flourish in one or two localities, which in former years 
were more generally distributed. And this, unfortu- 
nately, is the case, not so much with our common 
plants, although some, as the primrose and the hedge- 
row ferns, are most grievously persecuted, as with 
many of our choicer species, which seem to be be- 
coming scarcer every year. 

Now while this is beyond question true, yet, on the 
other hand, it must be borne in mind, especially in 
these days of democratic progress, that a large number 

99 



100 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

of foreign plants have established their claim to be 
admitted within the charmed circle of British plants. 
The last edition of The Londoji Catalogue reckons 
no less than 1958 species as now growing wild in 
Great Britain, but this large estimate includes a great 
number of brambles, wild-roses, willows, and hawk- 
weeds, which can only be distinguished by scientific 
botanists. Moreover, it comprehends those alien 
species which have become completely naturalised in 
these islands, and have settled down permanently side 
by side with the older flora. It is often difficult — 
sometimes it is impossible — to absolutely decide 
whether a given plant be really indigenous or other- 
wise, so thoroughly have some of these introductions 
become at home in their new surroundings. Just as 
it is true of England as a nation that Saxon and 
Norman and Dane are we, so is it equally true of our 
flora that it comprises plants of many different types 
and from many foreign lands. 

Some of these introductions date back to a very 
early period in our history. Several are to be as- 
signed to the time of the Roman occupation, as for 
instance the Roman nettle, still to be found about 
towns and villages in the east of England, and pro- 
bably the saffron crocus, formerly cultivated at Saffron 
Walden, and occasionally to be met with in a semi- 
wild state. To a still earlier period, the woad, or 
Isatis tinctoria, probably belongs — the plant of which 
Pliny tells us, in the quaint translation of Philemon 
Holland, that "with the juyce whereof the women of 
Britain, as wel the married wives as yong maidens 
their daughters, anoint and dy their bodies all over, 
resembling by that tincture the color of Moores and 
Ethyopians ; in which manner they use at some 



ADDITIONS TO OUR NATIVE FLORA loi 

solemn feasts and sacrifices to go all naked." This 
famous plant, doubtless the relic of ancient cultivation, 
is still to be found in several parts of England, as in 
the chalk quarries near Guildford, where now, as in 
1 841 when John Stuart Mill noticed it, it grows in 
" prodigious luxuriance." Other plants doubtless owe 
their existence to the old monastic herb-gardens, 
among which may be mentioned the birthwort, the 
masterwort, the wild hyssop, and perhaps the wild 
mercury, formerly used as a pot-herb. The milk or 
Virgin Mary thistle, the leaves of which are beautifully 
veined with white, is supposed to have been brought 
from the East by the Crusaders. The soapwort, 
though known to Gerarde, who says "it groweth 
wilde of itselfe neere to rivers and running brooks in 
sunny places," yet seems to have been an escape from 
cultivation in gardens where, says our herbalist, " it 
is planted for the flouer sake, to the decking up of 
houses, for the which purpose it chiefly serveth," 
The larkspur again has no claim to be considered a 
native plant, although in Ray's time " it was to be 
found in great plenty amongst the corn in Swafham 
Field in Cambridgeshire." 

Many of our mural plants, though now completely 
naturalised on old walls and ruins throughout the 
country, cannot be regarded — as indeed their artificial 
position would lead us to suspect — as indigenous 
members of our British flora. The wallflower, though 
known to Gerarde and Ray, and perhaps dating back 
to the period of Roman occupation, is admitted by all 
botanists to be an alien species. So with the splendid 
red valerian, so conspicuous on the grey walls of 
Winchester Cathedral, of Portchester Castle, and other 
historic buildings ; and the rare Dianthus pluniariuSy 



I02 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

the origin of the garden pinks. The beautiful httle 
ivy-leaved toad-flax, now happily so abundant on 
walls throughout the country, was only known to 
Gerarde as a garden plant, and is supposed to have 
been introduced from Italy. Among other waifs and 
strays from cultivation must doubtless be reckoned 
the yellow corydalis, the purple snapdragon, the 
houseleek, often to be seen on the roofs of cottages, 
and several kinds of sedum or stonecrop. One very 
rare member of a most plain and uninteresting family, 
Senecio squalidus, now to be found growing on vener- 
able walls at Oxford, is said to have originally escaped 
from the botanical garden. 

Weeds have been well called " the tramps of the 
vegetable world " ; and it is most curious how some 
plants seem to accompany man in his movements 
across the globe. The common ribwort plantain is 
known among the North American Indians as the 
" white man's foot," because they say it always springs 
up in places where the colonists have encamped. Sir 
Joseph Hooker tells us that "on one occasion, landing 
on a small uninhabited island, nearly at the Antipodes, 
the first evidence he met with of its having been 
previously visited by man was the English chickweed ; 
and this he traced to a mound that marked the grave 
of a British sailor, and that was covered with the 
plant, doubtless the offspring of seed that had adhered 
to the spade or mattock with which the grave had 
been dug." It is well known that numbers of our 
English wild-flowers are to be found in luxuriant 
abundance in parts of America. The viper's bugloss 
has become a troublesome weed in Virginia; the 
fields along the course of the Hudson river are in 
some places overrun with the bladder campion, in 



ADDITIONS TO OUR NATIVE FLORA 103 

others the soapwort known as "Bouncing Bet" grows 
in extraordinary profusion ; while along the streams 
the beautiful purple loosestrife is abundant. 

On the other hand, within comparatively recent 
times several interesting species have found their way 
here from America, and have comfortably established 
themselves. Among these may be mentioned the 
American wood-sorrel with yellow flowers, and the 
little white Claytonia, now common in Wolmer Forest, 
and as thoroughly at home as the English mouse-ear 
chickwecd. In 1822 John Stuart Mill, who delighted 
in roaming over the country in search of wild-flowers, 
discovered the American balsam, Ivipatiens fiilva, 
growing abundantly on the banks of the Wey near 
Guildford. " At whatever period introduced," he says, 
writing in 1841, "this plant is now so thoroughly 
naturalised, that it would be pedantry any longer to 
refuse it a place in the English Flora. For many 
miles by the side of the Wey, both above and below 
Guildford, it is as abundant as the commonest river- 
side plants. It is equally abundant on the banks of 
the Tillingbourne, that beautiful tributary of the Wey; 
especially at Chilworth, where it grows in boundless 
profusion." Since Mill's time the plant has consider- 
ably increased, and is now frequently met with along 
the banks of the Surrey streams. Another North 
American plant, with ornamental yellow blossoms, 
now occasionally to be met with, is the Muiiuhis^ or 
monkey-flower. This handsome species is not un- 
common in Hampshire, and the writer has met with 
it near the source of the river Wey at Alton, where 
it makes a splendid show, and along the course of 
the Itchen, at Titchborne, Itchen Abbas, Avingdon, 
Winchester, and elsewhere. Beside the tiny stream 



I04 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

that flows down the picturesque valley of the Lyth 
at Selborne, a spot specially sacred to the memory of 
Gilbert White, this plant has now completely estab- 
lished itself in the most luxuriant abundance. In the 
same district the Canadian fleabane or Michaelmas 
daisy may now and again be met with on the grassy 
wastes that border the country lanes; while in the 
neighbourhood of London it is reported as a fairly 
common plant. 

The career of the Canadian pond-weed {Anacharis 
Alsinastrum, Bab.), is interesting because of the extra- 
ordinary rapidity with which it spread itself through- 
out the country. It seems to have been first noticed 
in Great Britain in County Down about the year 
1836; in 1842 it was reported from Berwick-on- 
Tweed ; in 1847 it was discovered by a Miss Kirby 
in the Foxton Locks, near Market Harborough, in 
Leicestershire ; in the same year it was found by 
Mr. Borrer in the pond at Legh Park, near Havant, 
in Hampshire ; two years later it was reported as 
growing abundantly in the river Trent at Burton-on- 
Trent, and afterwards at Cambridge ; and since then 
it has rapidly spread through ponds, and canals, and 
sluggish streams over the whole of Great Britain. Its 
progress is the more remarkable from the fact that 
it seldom or never seeds in this country (the male 
flower having been found in the neighbourhood of 
Edinburgh only), and seems to propagate itself almost 
entirely by means of its floating branches. Another 
American plant which has found its way to England, 
and has become extraordinarily abundant in one 
locality, is the many-spiked cordgrass, or Spartina 
alterniflora. This stout and useful grass, which loves 
the mud-flats and salt creeks of tidal rivers, is common 



ADDITIONS TO OUR NATIVE FLORA 105 

enough throughout America ; but in Europe it is 
apparently confined to two localities, both in the 
neighbourhood of seaports having constant communi- 
cation with the New World — namely, the salt marshes 
that border the river Adour at Bayonne in France, 
and on the mud-flats of the Itchen, and similar spots, 
near Southampton. In the latter locality it is now 
the most conspicuous plant that flourishes on the long 
stretches of mud which at low tide line the banks 
of the Itchen ; and the most casual observer can 
hardly fail to notice it as travelling on the L.S.W. 
Railway he looks out of the carriage window after 
passing St. Denys station. The plant seems to have 
come under the notice of Dr. Bromfield about the 
year 1836, and he speaks of it as then abundant, but 
as having become established within the memory of 
persons then living. " It is regularly cut down," he 
tells us, " by the poorer classes at Southampton, and 
employed by them in lieu of straw or reeds for thatch- 
ing outhouses, cattle-sheds, &c., and more extensively 
for litter, and subsequently for manure. Horses and 
pigs," he adds, "eat it greedily; and for all those 
purposes it is much sought after, so that hardly an 
accessible patch is suffered to remain uncut by the 
end of September." Since the learned author of the 
Flora Vectensis penned these words, the plant has 
considerably increased, and is now to be seen not 
only on the Itchen, and on both sides of Southamp- 
ton Water, but also on the banks of the Hamble, 
and as far as Hill Head at the mouth of the river 
Meon, which empties itself into the Solent over against 
the towers of Osborne House. 

It is curious how occasionally plants will establish 
themselves in a locality where formerly they were 



io6 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

entirely unknown. Several striking instances occur 
in the historic parish of Selborne. We have already 
referred to the American Mimulus^ which now almost 
chokes the little stream that flows down the valley of 
the Lyth. In the swampy meadow hard by another 
plant may be seen, which did not figure in the flora 
of Selborne in the days of Gilbert White. We mean 
the bistort or snakeweed, conspicuous with its pink 
flowers in the month of June, and now growing 
abundantly. In the year 1848 a single specimen of 
this uncommon plant was noticed by Dr. Bromfield, 
and duly chronicled in the pages of The Phytologist ; 
and from this solitary individual the present colony 
has doubtless sprung. Further down the valley, on 
a warm slope facing south, there may be seen in the 
early days of spring large numbers of the common 
snowdrop. Had the plants existed in White's time 
he would undoubtedly have mentioned them in his 
famous botanical letter to Daines Barrington, in which 
he enumerates " the more rare plants of the parish, 
and the spots where they may be found " ; but there 
they are to-day in luxuriant profusion, a beautiful 
addition to the local flora. 

A practice that is not to be commended, but which 
has occasionally been followed even by distinguished 
naturalists, is sometimes answerable for the existence 
of strange plants in unwonted places. We refer to the 
habit of scattering the seeds of rare or interesting wild- 
flowers in localities where the species had not before 
been known to exist. No less an authority than 
Gilbert White was once guilty of this misdemeanour. 
"I wish," he wrote to his "dear niece Anne," "that 
we could say that we had ye Parnassia ; I have 
sowed seeds in our bogs several times, but to no 



ADDITIONS TO OUR NATIVE FLORA 107 

purpose." This beautiful plant, common in the north 
of England, and also to be found in the neighbouring 
counties of Wilts, Dorset, Surrey, and Berks, is un- 
known in Hampshire ; but it is an interesting fact, 
that the late Lord Chancellor Selborne once told the 
writer that about the year 1870 he had found a speci- 
men of Parnassia in the bogs of Oakhanger, which in 
White's time formed part of the parish of Selborne. 
It is not impossible that Gilbert White was more suc- 
cessful than lie imagined, and that Lord Selborne's 
plant was a descendant of the seed scattered by the 
great naturalist a hundred years before. Another 
instance of a similar attempt to assist Nature occurred 
in 1848, when the distinguished author of the Flora 
Vectensis planted some roots of the handsome sea 
spurge in the loose sand of St. Helen's spit in the 
Isle of Wight. Till then this beautiful plant, though 
abundant on the other side of the Solent, had been 
unknown in the island, but Dr. Bromfield's plants 
flourished and established themselves ; and now 
Euphorbia paralias is one of the most conspicuous 
species to be seen growing on the sandy shore of 
Bembridge Harbour. Once again, when last autumn 
the writer visited the historic ruins of Colchester 
Castle, he was surprised to find on the crumbling 
walls of the ancient Norman keep a number of speci- 
mens of Silene Otitcs, or the Spanish catch-fly. The 
plant, though found in Suffolk, was not known to 
exist in Essex ; but there, all along the broken 
masonry at the top of the tower, it was growing 
abundantly. It turned out, however, upon inquiry, 
that some few years ago certain local entomologists 
introduced the plant in order to furnish food for their 
caterpillars. It has now settled comfortably in its 



io8 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

new surroundings, and it is not impossible that in 
years to come, when all memory of its introduction 
is forgotten, the species will be included in the list of 
plants indigenous to the county. Another interesting 
plant, not figuring in the Essex flora, but whose pres- 
ence was not to be attributed to the agency of man, 
was accidentally lighted upon by the writer some ten 
or twelve miles from the castle walls. Riding along 
on his bicycle near the edge of the low-lying cliff that 
overlooks the picturesque estuary of the Colne and the 
wooded shore of Mersea Isle, he got off his machine 
to admire more at ease the calm beauty of the scene, 
when there at his feet, with the tire of the back- 
wheel actually resting upon it, was a beautiful patch 
of Vicia lutea, the single-flowered yellow vetch. He 
had never seen the living plant before, and the vision 
brought with it a surprise and pleasure not soon to 
be forgotten. 



THE FLORA OF HANTS 

Some twenty years ago a Flora of Hampshire, in- 
cluding the Isle of Wight, was brought out by Mr. 
Frederick Townsend, assisted by several well-known 
botanists. A new edition of this work has lately 
appeared, giving a more complete record of the plants 
of the county, with regard both to species and to 
localities. Of new species there are upwards of fifty 
now given, among the most interesting of which are 
the adder's-tongue-Ieaved spearwort, the coral root, 
the beech fern, and the yellow star of Bethlehem ; 
while the number of localities of the rarer species is 
greatly multiplied. " It is sad to think," says Mr. 
Townsend in the Preface, " that our native flora is 
suffering much, even to the extinction of species, by 
building and enclosures in the neighbourhood of our 
larger towns, whereby the localities of many plants 
have been lost entirely. Marshes have also been 
extensively drained, and much land laid out in pleasure 
gardens, market gardens, and for recreation purposes. 
It is the recognition of such facts which renders the 
existence of local floras doubly valuable, not only as 
catalogues and guides to existing localities, but as 
records of the disappearance of many of our native 
plants, the history of which would be lost to science 
were it not for the existence of works like the pre- 
sent." We further hope that the appearance of this 

109 



no THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

second edition is some evidence of a growing interest 
in botany, perhaps of all outdoor pursuits the most 
delightful, and one open to rich and poor persons alike 
who have the good fortune to live in the country. 

That the flora of Hampshire is an exceedingly rich 
one will be evident at once, when we say that Mr. 
Townsend claims for the county no less than 1179 
species of flowering plants. Or if we compare the 
flora of Hampshire with those of the adjoining counties, 
we learn from the comparative tables drawn up by 
the editor, that while Surrey possesses 61 plants 
not found in Hants, Dorset 45, Berkshire 31, and 
Wiltshire 25, yet, on the other hand, Hampshire 
possesses no less than 196 plants not found in 
Wiltshire, 166 plants not found in Berkshire, 1 20 
plants not found in Surrey, and 66 plants not found 
in Dorset. And this comparative wealth is no 
doubt to be accounted for by the varied nature of 
Hampshire soil and scenery, and the large extent 
of its acreage. Hampshire ranks as the eighth 
English county in respect of size, stretching from 
Surrey to Dorset, a distance of over forty miles, and 
from Berkshire to the English Channel, a distance of 
some fifty-five miles, and comprising with the Isle of 
Wight an area of about one million acres, of which, 
roughly speaking, one-half consists of chalk and the 
other of the various tertiary formations. While 
Hampshire cannot boast of any mountain range, yet, 
as Mr. Townsend says, there are few counties in 
which there is more varied and picturesque scenery 
of a truly English character. Its highest hills are the 
well-known North and South Downs — spoken of by 
Gilbert White as a " vast range of mountains " — 
drawn in soft and flowing lines, and clothed with 



THE FLORA OP^ HANTS iii 

short, smooth turf, on which tlie shadows fall un- 
broken. These downs, of which the loftiest are 
Combe Hill, in the north of the county, and Butser 
Hill, near Petersficld, support a flora of their 
own, which is specially rich in species of the orchid 
family. Hampshire, again, accordinj^ to the testimony 
of old Izaak Walton, " exceeds all England for swift, 
shallow, clear, pleasant brooks, and store of trouts," 
of which the principal are the Avon, the Test, and 
the Itchen. There are, however, numerous smaller 
streams, such as the Loddon, the Hamble, the Meon, 
and the Wey, on the banks of which characteristic 
plants will be found. There are also large stretches 
of waste and forest land, the home of many rare and 
interesting species. The New Forest especially is 
favourite ground to the botanist. It still consists of 
nearly one hundred thousand acres, and its vast 
tracts of open heath and bog produce some of our 
choicest English plants. Among these must be 
specially mentioned Isnardia palustris, now to be 
found nowhere else in England ; the delicate orchid 
Spiranthes cestivalis, or summer Lady's Tresses, found 
only here and in Wyre Forest, in Worcestershire; 
and the elegant Gladiolus illyricus, which is not un- 
common in one or two localities. In the enclosed 
parts of the forest the wild columbine and the beauti- 
ful bastard balm are sometimes seen ; while the woods 
about Beaulieu and Boldre produce in abundance the 
narrow-leaved lungwort or blue cowslip, called by the 
forest children "Joseph and Mary." It is interesting 
to notice in the new edition of our flora that the larger 
long-leaved sundew {Drosera anglica, Huds.) has been 
found abundantly of late years in several of the forest 
bogs. 



112 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

In addition to the New Forest, Hampshire possesses 
several other large tracts of forest and moorland, the 
happy hunting-grounds of many naturalists. The 
Forest of Bere, to the north of Portsdown Hill, still 
includes some eleven thousand acres, in one spot of 
which, known perhaps only to the writer, the beautiful 
snowflake may be seen in blossom every spring. In 
Gilbert White's time, " the royal forest of Wolmer 
extended," he tells us, " for about seven miles in 
length by two and a half in breadth, and consisted 
entirely of sand covered with heath and fern, without 
having one standing tree in the whole extent." Since 
then, part of the forest has been enclosed and planted 
with oak, larch, and Scotch fir, which has considerably 
curtailed its former dimensions. Abutting on Wolmer, 
the Forest of Alice Holt still covers over two thousand 
acres; and Harewood Forest, near Andover in the 
north of the county, is about the same extent. Waltham 
Chase, the haunt, in the early years of the eighteenth 
century, of a famous gang of poachers known as the 
" Waltham Blacks," is now enclosed, and broad acres 
of strawberries and fruit-trees now flourish where once 
the wild deer roamed. The county, too, is further 
enriched with a large " littoral " flora, which adds con- 
siderably to the number of its species. Not to include 
the coast of the Isle of Wight — for in this paper we 
are mainly concerned with the plants of the mainland 
of Hampshire — the sea-board stretches from Emsworth 
to Bournemouth, embracing the sandy shores of Hay- 
ling Island, where many a rare plant is to be found ; 
the muddy creeks of Portsmouth Harbour, where, on 
the sea-banks, especially in the neighbourhood of Port- 
chester, the golden samphire will be seen ; the low- 
lying cliffs of Hillhead and Lea-on-the-Solent, and 



THE FLORA OF HANTS 113 

again, beyond the New Forest, the lon^^ reaches of 
mudland on each side of Southampton Water, covered 
with the stout American cord-grass, unknown else- 
where in England. 

When these varied conditions of soil and situation 
are considered, the large total of 1179 species now 
recorded for Hampshire is less remarkable. It will 
not, of course, be claimed that all these plants are 
indigenous to the county. Many have doubtless been 
introduced by human agency. Mr. Townsend gives a 
most interesting list of 258 species, "some of which," 
he says, " have certainly, and others possibly, been 
introduced from other counties." The greater number 
have been long naturalised, and are as common, and 
in some cases commoner, than many native species. 
Among these plants of ancient introduction we may 
mention, as interesting examples, such species as wall- 
flower and the red-spur valerian. Others are known 
to follow the culture of cereals throughout the globe, 
as the yellow charlock, the corn pansy, and the scarlet 
poppy. Others, again, are of more recent introduc- 
tion, having found their way over from America and 
other parts in ships and merchandise, or mixed with 
foreign corn. 

It is again possible that in some instances, though 
not, we believe, in many, plants recorded for the county 
in former years are no longer to be found in Hamp- 
shire. This may be due to the species having become 
extinct within the bounds of the county, or to some 
mistake in identification or locality. Thus the rare 
Alpine enchanter's nightshade, a plant we should not 
expect to find in a southern county, is reported to have 
been once discovered "at Nested, in shady, rocky lanes 
a mile from Petersfield south." But the specimen 

H 



114 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

which is fortunately preserved in Sherard's Herbarium 
at Oxford turns out to be, as we learn from the new 
edition of our flora, not CirccEa alpina, but C. Lutetiana, 
the common enchanter's nightshade. In the year 1841, 
John Stuart Mill reported the grass of Parnassus as 
growing "in various parts of the New Forest." This 
plant has not been found there by other botanists. 
Can it have disappeared, or, as Mr. Townsend suggests, 
did Mr. Mill visit the Forest before it was in flower 
and mistake the leaves of Valeriana dioica for those 
of Parnassia palustris ? In some few instances rare 
species have no doubt become extinct within the limits 
of our flora. The " lesser Burre Docke " has dis- 
appeared, but John Ray tells us he '* once found it 
on the road from Portsmouth to London, some three 
miles from Portsmouth." The rare mountain Tway- 
blade, recorded for "near Bournemouth in 1853," 
has not been seen since then. Several other choice 
orchids must also, we fear, be regarded as lost to the 
county. The lizard orchis is now, we notice, placed 
by Mr. Townsend among the excluded species. The 
early spider orchis has not been found for many years; 
and the green man orchis {Aceras anthropophora, R. 
Br.), reported to grow on Nore Hill, near Selborne, 
has been repeatedly searched for in vain. 

Still, with comparatively few exceptions, the 1179 
species of British plants now recognised as forming 
the flora of Hants may be seen growing at the right 
season in their respective localities. A certain number, 
as we have noticed, have beyond question been intro- 
duced by human agency, yet the great majority may 
be regarded as indigenous to the county, and though 
only identified and recorded in modern times, have 
doubtless flourished in their present haunts for untold 



THE FLORA OF HANTS 115 

centuries. When prehistoric m.in reared his barrows 
or tumuH over the remains of his distinguished dead, 
there is no reason to doubt that then, as now, the 
frog-orchis blossomed on Old Winchester Hill, and 
the autumnal gentian was abundant on Crawley Down. 
When the Druid priest, clothed in white raiment and 
bearing a golden sickle, went forth to cut the mistletoe, 
the Selago flourished on the heath, and the Saniolus 
by the running stream. When the Romans made 
their straight road from Portchcstcr to Winchester, 
through the dense forest of Anderida, the dogwood 
and the spindle tree fell before their axes, and the 
wild daffodil was trampled under their feet. When 
the black boats of the Northmen made their way up 
the Hamble River, the marsh sapphire covered the 
muddy banks, and the sea holly blossomed on the 
shore. Unnoticed and uncared for, the wild flowers, 
then as now, each in their own season throughout the 
changing year, " wasted their sweetness on the desert 
air." As time went on, a knowledge of simples began 
to be cultivated, and more than one Saxon herbal has 
been preserved ; but we wait for long centuries before 
any real record of native plants is met with. It is 
not, indeed, before the revival of learning in the six- 
teenth century that the true history of our flora can 
be said to begin. In the year 1551, the first part of 
Dr. William Turner's Herbal appeared, and it is in 
this work that we find the earliest information with 
regard to the localities of British plants. It will, there- 
fore, be seen that our flora, as we now possess it, 
from a literary and historic standpoint, is the result 
of botanical observation during the last three hundred 
and fifty years. 

The "first records" of British plants are naturally 



ii6 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

of considerable interest, and it is most fascinating 
work searching in old localities for rare species men- 
tioned by our early botanists. The Herbal of Dr. 
Turner, Dean of Wells, enumerates upwards of three 
hundred plants, together with the localities of the 
rarer species. These localities are, however, mainly 
in the county of Northumberland, where he was 
brought up ; about Cambridge, where he was edu- 
cated ; in the neighbourhood of Dover, which he visited 
on his way to the Continent ; and about Wells, in 
Somerset. But one plant only, we believe, is men- 
tioned as growing in Hampshire, and this entry is the 
earliest record of any particular species found in the 
county. It occurs in the second part of the Herbal^ 
published in 1562, and runs as follows: " Rubia \i.e. 
the wild madder] groweth in Germany and also in 
Englande. And the moste that ever I sawe is in the 
Yle of Wyght. But the farest and gretest that ewer 
I sawe groweth in the lane besyde Wynchestre in the 
way to Southampton." After this solitary but inter- 
esting record we pass to the well-known Herbal of 
"Master John Gerarde," published in 1597, before 
meeting with any further information with regard to 
Hampshire plants. In this work, again, but few 
Hampshire localities are mentioned, but among them 
we find the " English scurvie-grasse or spoonwort " 
and the mugwort recorded as growing "at Ports- 
mouth," Solomon's seal " in Odiham Parke," and the 
lady's mantle, or " lion's foote," as Gerarde calls it, 
"in the towne pastures by Andover." At the time, 
however, of the publication of this work, interest in 
British botany was thoroughly awakened, and with 
the beginning of the seventeenth century we find 
several competent observers busily engaged in search- 



THE FLORA OF HANTS 117 

ing after and noting Hampshire plants. To this period 
belong the labours of Matthias de I'Obel, of John 
Parkinson, and of Thomas Johnson, the learned editor 
of Gerarde's Herbal, which he greatly enlarged and 
improved, and which contains man}' new records of 
Hampshire plants. This distinguished botanist, who 
is said to have been " no less eminent in the garrison 
for his valour and conduct as a soldier than famous 
through the kingdom for his excellency as a herbalist 
and physician," unfortunately lost his life in the his- 
toric siege of Basing House, in the north of the county. 
We are told that, "going with a party on September 
14, 1644, to succour certain of the forces belonging to 
that house, which went to the town of Basing to fetch 
provisions thence, but, beaten back by the enemy, 
headed by that notorious rebel, Colonel Richard 
Norton, he received a shot in the shoulder, of which 
he died in a fortnight after." 

Of other early botanists connected with Hampshire 
in the first half of the seventeenth century, two names 
deserve special mention, namely, Mr. John Goodyer 
and Dr. Robert Turner, for they first discovered and 
put on record many rare species of British plants. 
Mr. John Goodyer, who seems to have been a person 
of considerable means, and to have devoted his life to 
the study of botany, lived at Maple Durham, a fine 
old Tudor mansion, now, alas ! destroyed, in the parish 
of Buriton, some two miles from Petersfield. We 
learn from the Preface to Johnson's edition of Gerarde's 
Herbal, published in 1633, that Goodyer largely con- 
tributed to that work ; and, moreover, his observations 
and discoveries are so printed " as they may be dis- 
tinguished from the rest." Some years later, when 
Merrett was preparing his Pinax, the botanical manu- 



ii8 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

scripts of Goodyer were placed in his hands, and it is 
from this work, and from Johnson's edition of Gerarde, 
that we are enabled to estimate our indebtedness to this 
keen and energetic botanist. Among the Hampshire 
plants first recorded by Goodyer, many of which still 
flourish in their old localities, may be mentioned the 
marsh mallow, which grew " plentifully in a close 
called Aldercrofts, near Maple Durham " ; the rare 
round-headed rampion, which flourished then, as now, 
on several of the downs near Petersfield ; the narrow- 
leaved lungwort, which he found, on " May 25, Anno 
1620, flowering in a wood by Holbury House in the 
New Forest in Hampshire"; the maidenhair spleen- 
wort, of which, "in January 1624, he saw enough to 
lode an horse growing on the banks in a lane as 
he rode between Rake and Headley, neere Wollmer 
Forest"; and the Marsh Isnardia, which he discovered 
in " a great ditch near the moor at Petersfield." 

Robert Turner, who belonged to the astrological 
herbalists, published, in 1664, a work he called 
Botanologia^ in which he described " the Nature and 
Vertues of English Plants," with "the places where 
they flourish." Many of these places are in the 
neighbourhood of Holshot, in the north of the county, 
where his father had an estate, and where he was 
doubtless brought up. About his old home Turner 
found many new and interesting plants which he 
duly records in his Herbal. The wild columbine, 
" both the white and the purple, grow wilde," he tells 
us, "in our meadows where the ground is somewhat 
dry, as in a place called Gassenmead, in Holshot." 
In his "father's grounds" the wild broom was 
plentiful, and the couch-grass, we learn, much in- 
fected the garden. " In moist, boggy ditches, as in 



THE FLORA OP^ HANTS 119 

the ditch near the well in Holshot Lane," the Royal 
osmunda fern grew, and the little adder's-tongue in 
the meadow beyond. In " Danemoor Wood " he 
notes the bucktliorn; and in the "Mead" adjoining, 
the devil's-bit scabious and the early purple orchis. 
Figwort grew by ilolshot Bridge ; and the white 
water-lily, "very plentifully in Holshot River in 
Hampshire, my native soil, aU along the river by 
Danmore Mead." One most interesting plant, first 
recorded by Turner as a Hampshire species, he found 
some twenty miles from Holshot. "I have seen," he 
says, " the Dwaie or Deadly nightshade growing in a 
ditch by the highway side near Alton, in Hampshire." 
After the death of Mr. John Goodyer in 1652, and 
the publication of Turner's Botanologia in 1664, a 
long period of comparative silence falls on the story 
of Hampshire botany. We meet, it is true, with 
notices of Hampshire localities and species in the 
writings of Merrett and of John Ray, but these 
statements are mostly dependent on the discoveries 
of de rObel and Goodyer. In the year 1778, however, 
we meet with the famous letter of Gilbert White to 
Daines Harrington, in which he gives what he calls 
a " short list of the more rare plants of Selborne 
and the spots where they are to be found " — a list 
which has already been considered in a separate 
paper. One more authority belonging to the eigh- 
teenth century must be mentioned. In the Annual 
Hampshire Repository for 1799, there appeared what 
the writer calls "the commencement only of a Hamp- 
shire flora, confined at present to some of the rarer 
plants, hereafter to be continued, and to be finally 
extended to a complete flora Hantoniensis." This 
paper, which was published anonymously, proved to 



120 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

be the work of Thomas Garnier, of Rooksbury Park, 
afterwards Dean of Winchester, assisted by the Rev. 
E. Poulter, and deals largely, as we should expect, 
with the plants of the Meon Valley, and those to be 
found in the south of Hampshire. Unfortunately 
the intention of continuing the flora was never carried 
out, but the single catalogue that we possess is valu- 
able as recording for the first time many species 
indigenous to the county. Among these we select 
for special mention the meadow rue, still growing 
where Garnier found it, near Droxford Mill ; the 
beautiful corn-field weed Adonis mitumnalis or 
pheasant's eye, which has maintained its position 
on the same farm since its first discovery; the sea- 
kale, abundant at Calshot Spit ; and many of our 
Hampshire orchids, including the pyramidal orchis, 
the dwarf or burnt orchis, the fragrant orchis, the 
fly orchis, and the musk orchis now, as then, plentiful 
on the same down. A fine plate is given of what is 
called "a new discovered variety" of the bee orchis with 
white instead of pink sepals. It is interesting to know 
that a good many plants of this white variety of Ophrys 
apt/era flowered last summer on the very spot where 
Garnier first met with it over a hundred years ago. 

During the last century a number of able botanists, 
including Dr. Bromfield, the author of the Flora 
Vectensis, have continued the work of Gerarde and 
de rObel, of Goodyer and Turner, of Gilbert White 
and Dean Garnier. The county has been well searched 
in all directions, and a great many new plants, un- 
known to the early botanists, have been added to 
their discoveries, with the gratifying result that the 
new edition of the Flora of Hampshire is perhaps 
the most complete county flora in existence. 



ESSEX AND THE EARLY 
BOTANISTS 



It is sometimes asserted that Essex is a dull county, 
and offers but few attractions to the lover of nature. 
And in comparison with many parts of England it 
will, of course, be admitted that the scenery is tame 
and commonplace. Essex can boast of no hill of a 
higher elevation than four hundred feet above the level 
of the sea ; its rivers — the Blackwater, the Chelmer, 
the Colne, and the Roding are, it is true, the reverse of 
rushing torrents ; while its forests, which in Norman 
times stretched from the Thames to the Stour, have 
almost entirely disappeared. Except towards Walton 
and Harwich the coast is remarkably flat, and bor- 
dered with vast stretches of salterns and marshland 
reclaimed from the sea. The soil, too, is mostly of the 
same geological formation, belonging to that known as 
the London clay ; and though the chalk crops up here 
and there in the north of the county, yet there are no 
elevated downs, such as give charm and character to 
the scenery of Sussex and Hampshire. The county 
is, in short, mainly an agricultural one, devoted chiefly 
to wheat and barley growing, with but little grazing 
land except in the marshes, and mapped out into 
interminable corn-fields, divided by elms and hedge- 
rows. 



122 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

And yet to the naturalist and archaeologist the 
county is far from unattractive. There is a quiet 
charm about it which those only who have lived in it 
can fully appreciate. Colchester alone, not to mention 
the ancient parish churches, the ruined priories, the 
mediaeval halls and manor-houses, will suffice to render 
the county dear to the lover of antiquity. The number 
of sea-fowl, which still haunt the estuaries and the 
salt-marshes, is an unfailing source of interest to the 
ornithologist; while to the botanist the flora of Essex 
is one of peculiar fascination. This is due not only to 
the number of species to which it can lay claim, but 
also, and chiefly, to the fact of its intimate association 
with the early botanists and herbalists. 

English botany, as we have already observed, may 
be said to begin with Dr. William Turner, who was 
Dean of Wells in the reign of Edward VI., and who 
published the first edition of his Herbal in the year 
1 55 1. In this herbal, which is now a very scarce 
book, he describes upwards of three hundred British 
species; and in many instances he gives the exact 
localities in which he had found the plants growing. 
These entries are the earliest records of the kind in 
English literature, and are therefore of exceptional 
interest to the lover of country life. Essex, however, 
was not one of the counties best known to " Master 
Dr. Turner." He states, however, that mistletoe and 
the butcher's broom are to be found in Essex, and 
of one rare plant he gives the exact locality. The 
green hellebore, or " Syterwurt," grows, he says, " in 
greate plentye in a parke besyde Colchester " ; and 
this, it is interesting to remember, is the earliest record 
of the locality of a native plant in the Essex flora. 
Whether it is still to be found in Turner's habitat 



ESSEX AND EARLY BOTANISTS 123 

seems doubtful ; but the plant flourishes in several 
localities in the county, and may be seen in some 
abundance in a small spinney not far from the village 
of Roxwell, once tlic residence of the poet Quarles, 
and where he prepared his Emblems for publication. 

Some thirty years after the death of Dr. Turner 
Gerarde's famous Herbal appeared. The first edition, 
dedicated to his "singular good Lord and Master" 
Sir William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer of England, 
was published in 1597, ^"^ ^^ ^^ ^o '^'^ quaint and 
curious book that the botanist must go in order to 
discover — with the few exceptions already mentioned 
— the earliest localities of Essex plants. This en- 
gaging work, which is " the parent of all succeeding 
books which bear the name of herbal," will ever be 
of peculiar interest to the botanist. Though in the 
main a translation of Dodonaeus's Pemptades, it yet 
contains a large amount of original matter, such as the 
localities of rare plants, and many quaint allusions to 
places and persons now of considerable antiquarian 
interest. Gerarde, who occupied the position of 
" herbarist " to James I., had a large physic-garden at 
Holborn, one of the first of its kind in England, where 
he cultivated, we are told, "near eleven hundred sorts 
of plants"; he also appears to have made frequent 
expeditions into various parts of the country, on what 
were then termed " simpling-voyages," with a view of 
enlarging his knowledge of British plants, and of 
marking the localities of the rarer species. 

Now Essex being nigh unto Holborn, this good 
" Master in Chirurgerie," in company with other 
friends " skillful in herbary," made many excursions 
into the county. From the entries scattered up and 
down the sixteen hundred folio pages of his Herbal 



124 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

it would appear that he was well acquainted with the 
district north of the Thames, from Ilford to Leigh ; he 
was also familiar with Mersea Isle, and the salt- 
marshes about Walton and Dovercourt ; while inland 
we find him at Chelmsford and Colchester, in the 
neighbourhood of Dunmow and Braintree, and further 
north at Pebmarsh and Castle Hedingham. It is most 
interesting to note the plants which attracted the atten- 
tion of the old herbalist as he went on his "simpling- 
voyages " about the county. Over seventy species he 
mentions as occurring in Essex ; some, as the wild 
clematis, the saw-wort, and the butcher's broom, as 
found " in divers places " ; others, with exact reference 
to the spots where they may be found. The curious 
mousetail, so called because of the arrangement of its 
carpels " resembling very notably the taile of a mouse," 
he found " in Woodford Row, in Waltham Forrest, 
and in the orchard belonging to Mr. Francis Whetstone 
in Essex." The Burnet or Scotch rose he notes as 
growing "very plentifully in a field as you go from a 
village in Essex called Graies (upon the brinke of the 
river Thames) unto Horndon on the hill, insomuch that 
the field is full fraught therewith all over," " Upon 
the church walls of Railey " the little wall-rue fern 
{Asplenium Ruta-nmraria, L.) was abundant in 
Gerarde's days ; and in " a wood hard by a gentle- 
man's house called Mr. Leonard, dwelling upon Dawes 
heath," the golden rod was in flower, and the tutsan 
or parke-leaves, " out of which is pressed a juice, 
not like blacke bloud, but Claret or Gascoigne wine." 
" Neere to Lee in Essex," over against Canvey Island, 
our herbalist found the lily of the valley, and in the 
woods thereabouts the yellow dead-nettle ; while "in 
the greene places by the sea side at Lee among the 




TITI.E-rAGE (JF GEKARU's '"HERBAL' 



ESSEX AND EARLY BOTANISTS 125 

rushes and in sundry other places thereabouts" the 
beautiful meadow saxifrage grew then, as now, abun- 
dantly. On the sea-shore and in the salt-marshes 
which here stretch away for many a mile he noticed 
a number of maritime plants, such as the marsh 
mallow, the sea lavender, and the sea spurge. 

On his herbarising expeditions inland Gcrarde came 
across many interesting species, some of them never 
before recorded as British plants, others already 
noticed by " that excellent, painefull and diligent Phy- 
sition Mr. Doctor Turner of late memorie in his 
Herbal." In many parts of Essex he found the curi- 
ous herb-paris, with its " foure leaves set directly one 
against another in manner of a Burgundian crosse or 
True-love knot," in Chalkney Wood, " neare to wakes 
Coulne seven miles from Colchester," in the parsonage 
orchard at Radwinter, in Bocking parke by Braintree. 
In the latter neighbourhood he noticed the small teasel, 
then apparently a rare plant, for he adds that he never 
found it " in any other place except here and there 
a plant upon the highway from Much-Dunmow to 
London." In the same district, and perhaps on the 
same occasion, he lighted upon a plant which he calls 
Gentiana minor cruciata, or "Crossewoort Gentian," 
growing " in a pasture at the west end of Little Rayne 
on the North side of the way leading from Braintree 
to Much-Dunmow and in the horse way by the same 
close." This entry is of unusual interest, not simply 
on account of the precise manner in which Gerarde 
particularises the locality, but also because of the diffi- 
culty in identifying his species. For what is now 
known as the crosswort gentian is not a British plant, 
and Gerarde's record has never been confirmed. At 
the same time it may be taken as beyond question that 



126 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

at the spot indicated he found a plant which he con- 
sidered worthy of notice and which he took to be an 
unusual form of gentian. Many explanations of the 
difficulty have been offered. It is the writer's belief 
that the plant was Gentiana A^jiarella, L., the autumn 
gentian. At any rate, when searching for simples at 
** little Rayne," and bearing in mind the entry in the 
old Herbal, he once came across, in a green lane or 
" horse-way," not far from, if not actually identical 
with, Gerarde's locality, a small but flourishing colony 
of this pretty plant. Now the autumn gentian is very 
rarely met with in this part of Essex, but there, on 
one spot in the grassy lane, beneath the tall and over- 
hanging hedgerow — for the lane is no longer used 
even as a "horse-way" — were clustered together 
some twenty or thirty plants. It is not impossible 
that these were the descendants of the gentian with 
" flowres of a light blue colour," which attracted the 
notice of Gerarde in the sixteenth century. Con- 
tinuing his journey along Rayne " Street," as the road 
through the village is still termed, recalling the fact 
that here the Roman-way once ran, our herbalist in 
due course arrived at Much-Dunmow, then, as now, 
famous for a curious custom, " that whoever did not 
repent of his marriage, nor quarrell'd with his wife 
within a year and a day, should go to Dunmow and 
have a gamon of Bacon. But the Party was to swear 
to the truth of it, kneeling upon two hard-pointed 
stones set in the Priory Churchyard for that purpose, 
before the Prior and Convent and the whole Town." 
But this, as old Camden says, by the way. In the 
woods thereabouts several interesting plants were to 
be found. Gerarde noticed two species of orchids, 
the common tway-blade, and what he calls the " wilde 



ESSEX AND EARLY BOTANISTS 127 

white Hellebor" or helleborine. He also met with 
the rare Hquorice vetch, which he terms the hquorice 
hatchet fetch, " the leaves whereof hath the taste of 
Liquorice root " ; and this, he adds, he also found in 
other parts of Essex, as " in the townes called Clare 
and Henningham." A few years later, the distin- 
guished botanist, Thomas Johnson, who published 
an enlarged edition of Gerarde's Herbal, found this 
plant at Purfleet, "about the foot of the hill whereon 
the winde-mill stands." 

But a greater name than that of Gerarde is asso- 
ciated with the flora of the county. We refer to the 
illustrious John Ray, the foremost naturalist of his 
age, and the founder of modern scientific botany. He 
was born at Black Notley, near Braintree, some twelve 
years after the death of Gerarde. The entry of his 
baptism may still be made out in the church register 
stained brown with age, and runs in almost illegible 
writing: "John son of Roger and Eliz. Wray bapt. 
June 29, 1628," In later life John Ray (as he came 
afterwards to spell his name) returned to his native 
village and built himself a house " on Dewlands," 
where he died in the year 1705. A melancholy 
interest attaches to this house on Dewlands, which 
was standing till recently in almost exactly the same 
condition as when Ray lived and died there. During 
the afternoon of Wednesday, September 19, 1900, it 
was swiftly and totally destroyed by fire. Its dis- 
appearance will be deeply regretted by all botanists. 
Black Notley has been well called the Mecca of Essex 
naturalists, and now its main object of interest is 
gone. Ray's stately tomb, a pyramidal monument 
some ten feet in height and bearing a lengthy Latin 
inscription, may still be visited in the churchyard, but 



128 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

the old house in which the great naturalist lived for 
five-and-twenty years is now only a memory. There 
was nothing in its outward appearance specially to 
distinguish it from other farmhouses in the neighbour- 
hood. A long, low, narrow building, made of lath 
and plaster set in oaken frames, the great red brick 
chimney-stack standing against the south wall was 
the chief indication of its age. The old seventeenth 
century lattice-windows had been removed from the 
front side of the house some years ago, and this to a 
certain extent had modernised the appearance of the 
building. But inside the arrangement of the house 
was most characteristic of its builder. Cupboards 
were to be met with in every conceivable situation, 
in the parlours and bedrooms, on the landings and 
under the stairs, some as large as pantries, others 
only a few feet square with small openings in the 
walls of the passages and rooms. These cupboards 
were doubtless contrived by the illustrious naturalist 
with a view to the safe custody of his botanical and 
zoological specimens. The woodwork of the cottage 
was entirely of oak, massive oak doors and doorways, 
wide planks of oak flooring, black beams of oak across 
the low ceilings. Ray's study was upstairs, situated 
at the back of the house, over the scullery where the 
fatal fire broke out, and looking across the garden 
towards the west. This seems to have been the one 
warm room of the house, which Ray speaks of in one 
of his letters as " exposed to the north and north-east 
winds," and as "inconvenient to one who is subject to 
colds and whose lungs are apt to be affected." And 
that unpretending chamber, with its sloping ceilings, 
its wide oaken boards, its ancient lattice windows, was 
haunted by the most interesting associations. There 



ESSEX AND EARLY BOTANISTS 129 

the illustrious naturalist accomplished what Linnaeus 
rightly called "his immense labours"; there he exa- 
mined and arranged his specimens ; there he received 
his scientific friends; there he wrote his numerous 
works, including the Synopsis of British plants, 
which may fairly be regarded as the foundation of 
every succeeding English flora. 

During his residence at Notley Ray was fortunate 
in the intimate friendship of his disciple and near 
neighbour, Samuel Dale, an apothecary of Braintree 
and a botanist of very considerable attainments. The 
two friends worked in the closest harmony at their 
favourite pursuit ; and to Dr. Dale Ray was indebted 
for many of the localities of Essex plants mentioned in 
his Syjiopsis. Other distinguished men of science, 
like Sir Hans Sloane, and Compton, Bishop of London, 
sometimes visited the great naturalist; and in 1699 
we find Mr. Petiver and the Rev. Adam Buddie, 
afterwards vicar of North Fambridge, near Maldon, 
at Black Notley. Buddie was the great authority on 
grasses and mosses ; and his herbarium, now in the 
South Kensington Museum, is, with Dr. Dale's, among 
the earliest collections of British plants in existence. 
Most fascinating is the task of examining these early 
specimens, still in a state of excellent preservation, 
and labelled with the utmost care and accuracy. In 
Buddie's collection it is interesting to find a plant of 
the broad-leaved spurge {Euphorbia platyphylla, Koch.), 
gathered by Dr. Dale in "Ray's orchard at Black 
Notley." Of this uncommon plant Ray makes the 
following note : " It grows spontaneously in mine own 
Orchard here, coming up yearly of its own sowing, for 
it is an annual plant." 

Very interesting, too, is a walk about the parish of 

I 



130 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

Black Notley, the general features of which have but 
little changed since Ray lived there. The mediaeval 
church with its low shingle-spire ; the churchyard 
surrounded by rugged elms ; the blacksmith's forge ; 
the wayside inn ; the osier-bed where Ray found " the 
Almone-leaved Willow that casts its bark " ; the ponds 
at the Hall where, as in the seventeenth century, the 
great cat's-tail grows; the little stream below Dew- 
lands, still full of watercress as when the aged natura- 
list gathered it, together with brooklime and plantain, 
to make a " diet-drink " for the benefit of his broken 
health ; the grass lane towards the ancient Priory 
down which he loved to wander — all may be visited ; 
the very plants in the hedgerows remain, with a few 
exceptions, the same as in the seventeenth century. 
Butcher's broom may still be noticed in the thick 
tangled hedges of " Leez Lane," and the linden tree 
"called hereabouts Pry," and herb-paris in a copse 
hard by ; but the writer failed to find " the wild Gar- 
lick in a field called Westfield adjoining to Leez Lane," 
and the musk-orchis " in the greens of a field belong- 
ing to the hall called Wair-field." Here and there on 
the roadside wastes the beautiful crimson grass vetch- 
ling will attract notice ; and the " Stinking Gladdon or 
Gladwyn " {Iris fxtidissima, L.) is abundant " in the 
Hedges by the Road, not far from the Parsonage 
towards Braintree " ; but unfortunately the wild black 
currant, or " squinancy-berries," so called because of 
its use in cases of quinsey and sore throat, has dis- 
appeared from its ancient habitat " by the river-side 
near the bridge called the Hoppet-bridge." Another 
interesting plant which Ray came across in the neigh- 
bourhood of Notley was the London Rocket, which, as 
he says, " after the great Fire of London, in the years 



ESSEX AND EARLY BOTANISTS 131 

1667-68, came up abundantly among the rubbish in 
the Ruines." This he found a few years later, some 
five miles from Dcwlands, on the way to Witham, 
"about the house of his honoured friend, Edward 
Bullock, Esqre., at Faulkbourn Hall." From the 
sporadic nature of this rare plant it is not surprising 
that it has now entirely disappeared, but the record 
is an interesting one. 

Ray tells us that in his day the Crocus sativus, or 
saffron, was cultivated in the fields about Walden, 
thence denominated Saffron Walden. "Of the cul- 
ture whereof," he adds, "I shall say nothing, re- 
ferring the reader to what is written by Camden." 
Turning to Camden's Britannia we find the passage 
of sufficient interest to quote in full. " The fields all 
about," he says, " look very pleasant with saffron. 
For in the month of July every third year, when the 
roots have been taken up, and after twenty days put 
under the turf again, about the end of September they 
shoot forth a bluish flower, out of the midst whereof 
hang three yellow chives of saffron, which are gathered 
in the morning before sunrise, and being taken out of 
the flower are dried by a gentle fire. And so wonder- 
ful is the increase, that from every acre of ground they 
gather eighty or an hundred pounds of wet saffron, 
which, when it is dry, makes about twenty pounds. 
And what is more to be admired, that ground that 
hath born saffron three years together, will bear 
Barley very plentifully eighteen years without dung- 
ing, and then will bear Saffron again." The origin 
of the cultivation of saffron in England is unknown. 
It is commonly said, and the statement is repeated by 
one writer after another, that it was introduced by one 
Sir Thomas Smith into the neighbourhood of Walden 



132 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

in the time of Edward IH. Old Hakluyt, writing in 
1582, says, " It is reported at Saffron Walden that a 
pilgrim, proposing to do good to his countrey, stole 
a head of Saffron, and hid the same in his Palmer's 
staffe, which he had made hollow before of purpose, 
and so he brought the root into this realme with ven- 
ture of his life, for if he had bene taken, by the law of 
the countrey from whence it came, he had died for the 
fact." It is evident from this story that even in the 
sixteenth century saffron had been so long cultivated 
at Walden that the true history of its introduction had 
been lost ; and perhaps the theory of Cole in his Admn 
in Eden, published in 1657, may not be so very far 
wrong when he suggested that for this plant, as for so 
many others, we are indebted to the Romans. The 
cultivation of saffron " about Walden and other places 
thereabouts, as corne in the fields," has long since 
ceased ; but even now, in certain seasons, a few plants 
will occasionally appear. This discontinuance is the 
more to be regretted if w^e may believe our old friend 
Gerarde, that " the moderate use thereof is good for 
the head, and maketh the sences move quicke and 
lively, shaketh off heavy and drowsie sleepe, and 
maketh a man merry." 

Here and there, along the roadside wastes, which of 
late years have been considerably curtailed, some rare 
and interesting plants may occasionally be met with. 
As Gerarde rode along " Colchester highway from 
Londonward " he noticed " very plentifully by the 
wayes side between Esterford and Wittam " the small 
" greene-leaved Hounds' Tongue." Now Esterford 
was the mediaeval name of the parish of Kelvedon ; 
and there, one hundred years later, "on the London 
road between Kelvedon and Witham, but more plenti- 



ESSEX AND EARLY BOTANISTS 133 

fully about Braxted by the wayes-side," John Ray 
noticed the same species. It is a rare plant with dull 
purple flowers, and but seldom met with in Essex; 
but until quite recently, and perhaps even now, a few 
specimens might be found in their ancient habitat. 
Another local plant which attracted the notice of Ray 
"on the banks by the High-wayside, as you go up the 
hill from Lexden to Colchester," was the smooth-tower 
mustard, and one is glad to know that this very 
uncommon plant is still occasionally seen in its old 
locality. 

In Essex, as in many other parts of England, ferns 
seem to have become scarcer of late years, far scarcer, 
at any rate, than when Gerarde noticed the wall-rue 
" upon the church-walls of Railey," and found the 
adder's tongue " in the fields in Waltham Forest." 
The noble royal or flowering-fern grew, he tells us, 
" upon divers bogges on a heath or a common neere 
unto Brentwood, especially neere unto a place there 
that some have digged, to the end to finde a nest or 
mine of gold, but the birds were over fledge and flowne 
away before their wings could be clipped." He even 
found the rare moon wort — never since observed in 
Essex — " in the mines of an old brickc-kilne by Col- 
chester, in the ground of Mr. George Sayer, called 
Miles' end." The ancient walls of Colchester do not 
appear to support many rare species. Wallflowers, 
of course, blossom in abundance as in the days of 
Gerarde and of Ray. Pellitory-of-the-wall, too, will 
be noticed in considerable plenty on the Castle keep, 
together with the beautiful ivy-leaved linaria, and a 
few plants of the viper's bugloss. Not far from the 
Castle will be found the stately remains of the once 
famous Priory of St. Botolph. Vast masses of ivy 



134 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

cling about the splendid ruin ; on the crumbling walls, 
as on the Castle keep, the wild wallflowers grow in 
lavish abundance ; but in still greater profusion will 
be noticed the lesser calamint {C- Nepetd), conspicuous 
in autumn with its delicate lilac flowers; while nest- 
ling here and there among the fallen masonry a few 
plants of the rare soapwort will be seen. 



THE ESSEX MARSHES 

All along the low-lying coast of Essex, from the 
mouth of the Thames at Tilbury Fort to the towns 
of Harwich and Dovercourt, there stretch thousands 
of acres of salt-marshes, the haunt in former days 
of myriads of wild-fowl, and still of considerable in- 
terest to the naturalist. A glance at the ordnance 
map of the county will show the great extent of these 
"marshes" and "salterns," especially near the estu- 
aries of the larger rivers, the Crouch, the Blackwater, 
and the Colne. A " marsh," it should be noted, differs 
from a " saltern," in being a tract of land reclaimed 
from the sea, and protected against the inroads of the 
tide by an artificial bank or sea-wall. These marshes, 
which make valuable grazing-land, are intersected by 
numerous dikes or ditches, known locally as " fleets," 
bordered in many places with dense jungles of reeds 
and rushes. " Saltings," on the other hand, are those 
stretches of marsh and mud land which have not been 
enclosed by a sea-wall, but are more or less flooded 
during the period of high tide. 

To most persons this vast region of marsh-land 
would doubtless seem desolate enough, especially in 
the dreary days of winter when the wind is sighing 
among the recd-beds, and the peewit is uttering its 
mournful cry. But to the lover of nature these same 
marshes, in winter and summer alike, are of the deepest 



136 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

interest and fascination. The tread of civilisation has 
hardly touched them, and as one wanders along the 
sea-banks, clothed with silver Artemisia and the wild 
spinach, it is easy to imagine the days when the early 
botanists went gathering " simples " along the Essex 
shore, when large colonies of black-headed gulls bred 
in the salt-marshes, when kites and buzzards soared 
overhead, and when the raven was a common bird. In 
former years immense numbers of wild-fowl were annu- 
ally taken in the " decoys," of which there were many 
along the coast. During the winter of 1799 no less than 
ten thousand head of widgeon, teal, and wild-duck 
were captured in a single decoy at Tillingham. About 
the same time, at the famous Goldhanger decoy, " as 
many pochards were taken at one drop as filled a 
wagon, so as to require four stout horses to carry 
them away." Even now there are several decoys 
regularly worked in the Essex marshes, and a goodly 
number of birds are annually taken. Widgeon, teal, 
and wild-duck still abound along the coast in winter- 
time, and the rarer sorts of wild-fowl are not uncommon. 
The handsome pintail may occasionally be met with, 
and the pochard and the shoveller are far from rare. 
A few of the latter always remain to breed in the 
marshes, and the nest of the sheldrake may be found 
most seasons in the sand-hills near Dovercourt. Large 
numbers of coots still exist — in former years the gunners 
used to reckon them by the " acre " — and a custard made 
of coots' eggs has only recently ceased to be a regular 
dish at village festivals. A few small colonies of the 
black-headed gull, also known as the peewit gull and 
the cob, may be visited by those who know their haunts, 
but the eggs are no longer collected, nor the young 
birds fatted for the London market. 



THE ESSEX MARSHES 137 

And if those vast stretches of lonely marsh-land, 
where the peregrine and the raven may still occa- 
sionally be seen, have a strong fascination for the 
ornithologist, they are no less dear to the botanist. 
The flora has but little changed since the days of the 
early herbalists, and most of the plants noticed by 
Gerarde and Merrett and John Ray and Adam Buddie 
may be found in their ancient habitats. Now, as then, 
the wild celery is plentiful in the marshes ; the rarer 
form of sea-lavender continues to flourish at Walton, 
and the beautiful marsh-mallow, with its stem and 
leaves thickly clothed with starry down, puts forth 
its pale, rose-coloured flowers every autumn, as when 
in the sixteenth century old Gerarde found it " very 
abundantly" in the salterns " by Tilbury blockhouse." 
There is the same hoary growth of orache and worm- 
wood, the wild beetroot grows as rankly as ever on the 
sea-banks, and the twin-spiked cord-grass {Sparlina 
stricta) remains the characteristic plant of the muddy 
salterns as in the year 1667 when Merrett first recorded 
it as growing at "Crixcy Ferry in Essex." A speci- 
men of this plant, gathered "in August 1703 in the 
marshes about the river Wallfleet, near Fambridge 
Ferry in Dengey-hundred in Essex," may be seen in 
the Buddie herbarium, now preserved in the British 
Museum at South Kensington, which is one of the 
earliest collections of British plants in existence. 

The stretch of country between the beautiful estuary 
of the Blackwater and the mouth of the river Colne is 
one of special interest to the naturalist. In this district 
at least fourteen decoys formerly existed, and one, 
occasionally used in hard winters, remains. In Ray's 
famous Synopsis of British Plants there are many 
references to these marshes, only some twelve miles 



138 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

distant from his home at Notley, where the great 
naturalist found, among other notable plants, the broad- 
leaved pepperwort, the golden samphire, and the deli- 
cate sea-heath. In his day the sea scurvy-grass, " of 
great use in the curing of scurvy," grew so plentifully 
in the marshes about Maldon that the common people, 
he tells us, " gather it and send it about to the markets 
above ten miles distance, where it is sold by measure." 
But, strange to say, one scarce and striking plant, which 
to-day grows on the Essex shore, was overlooked both 
by Gerarde and Ray. This is the shrubby sea-blite, 
or Suceda fruticosa^ which the writer has found in 
abundance at Maldon, St. Osyth, and in Mersea Isle. 
In the last locality the plants were as large as gorse- 
bushes, and could be seen for a considerable distance. 
Ray, indeed, mentions the plant as growing in the Isle 
of Portland, where it still flourishes on the pebble 
beach ; but he is silent as to its existence in Essex. 
It was found, however, a few years after his death by 
his disciple, Samuel Dale ; and it is interesting to know 
that a specimen gathered by him is preserved in the 
South Kensington Museum, and labelled in Dale's 
handwriting, " Western end of marsh bank, Harwich, 
plentifully." 

The Isle of Mersea, situated at the junction of the 
Colne and the Blackwater, is still linked to the main- 
land by the old Roman causeway called the Strood, 
which crosses Pyefleet Creek, and is covered by the 
sea at high water. An additional interest is given 
to this locality as being the scene of Baring-Gould's 
powerful story Mehalah. Standing on the sea-bank 
over against Mersea " city," as a cluster of old wooden 
houses and an ancient inn are somewhat pretentiously 
called, one can see in the distance the cluster of thorn- 



THE ESSEX MARSHES 139 

trees on the " Ray," wiiich sheltered Glory's cottage, 
built of tarred wreckage timber and roofed with pantiles. 
Beyond the " fleet " stretch the salt-marshes of Salcot 
and Virley, where stood until recently the ruffian 
Rebow's lonely farmhouse, built in 1636, and known 
from its appearance as Red Hall. This district, in the 
early days of the last century, was a centre of the 
smuggling trade, and deeds of violence were far from 
rare. According to one story, a whole boat's crew 
were found on Sunken Island, off Mersea, with their 
throats cut, from whence they were transported to the 
churchyard and buried, and their boat turned keel 
upwards over them. It was difficult to realise such 
lawless deeds amid surroundings so calm and peaceful 
as presented themselves to the writer last September. 
Cattle and a few sheep were grazing in the " Ray " 
marshes, and a kestrel hawk was hovering over the 
thorn-trees. On the sea-bank the golden samphire was 
in flower, and hard by the rare dittander ; a couple of 
wild-duck were lazily floating down the Rhyn ; the 
rippling waters of the estuary were dotted here and 
there with the picturesque red sails of tiny fishing- 
craft ; and no sound was to be heard save the rustling 
of the wind among the tall reeds and bulrushes that 
edged the " fleet," and the cry of the sea-birds as they 
settled on the mud-flats left bare by the receding tide. 
It was in Mersea Isle that many interesting plants were 
found by our early herbalists, and most of them still 
grow there. There are several specimens of the sea- 
wormwood, showing its various forms, now preserved 
in the British Museum, which were gathered by Samuel 
Dale in Mersea Isle two hundred years ago. Adam 
Buddie, vicar of North Fambridge, found the rare sea- 
trefoil in " the salt-marshes by the Strood." John Ray 



I40 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

noticed the glaucous form of the bulrush in the " sea- 
ditches at Mersea." Earlier still Gerarde gathered the 
beautiful sea-convolvulus, with its large, pale, rose- 
coloured flowers striped with red, on the sandy shore, 
and the very rare sea-cottonweed or Diotis mari- 
tima. This latter, he says, " groweth at a place called 
Merezey, six miles from Colchester, neere unto the 
sea-side." Unfortunately this exceedingly rare plant, 
which is thickly clothed with white cotton and bears 
small terminal heads of yellow flowers, is now lost on 
Mersea, and is no longer to be found in the county 
of Essex. 

Another locality in the marshes intimately asso- 
ciated with the early history of the Essex flora is 
" Landermere Lading," at the head of Hamford Water. 
The spot, especially at high water, is a very pictur- 
esque one, with its ancient wharf and storehouses of 
black boarding roofed with deep-red tiles, and its 
group of fishermen's cottages, in one of which the 
famous physician Sir William Gull passed his early 
years. Even at low tide the vast stretch of mud-flats 
has a quiet beauty of its own, especially when the sea- 
lavender is in flower. On the sea-banks about Lander- 
mere a rare and striking plant, remarkable for its large 
umbels of yellow flowers, and found only in one or 
two localities in England, is still as plentiful as when 
Gerarde first discovered it in the sixteenth century. 
It is known as sulphurwort, the reason whereof is 
thus given by our famous herbalist : " I have digged 
up roots thereof," he says, " as big as a man's thigh, 
blacke without and white within, of a strong and 
grievous smell, and full of yellow sap or liquor, which 
quickly waxeth hard or dry, smelling not much unlike 
brimstone, called sulpher, which hath induced some to 



THE ESSEX MARSHES 141 

call it sulphurwort." He found it "very plentifully on 
the south side of a wood, belonging to Walton, at the 
Naze in Essex, by the highway side." About a hun- 
dred years later Ray noticed it " in the salt ditches 
near Walton " ; and there it flourishes to-day, the most 
distinguished plant of the Essex marshes. But sul- 
phurwort was not the only plant that attracted the 
notice of John Gerarde at " Landamar Lading." In 
a meadow adjoining " a mill beyond a village called 
Thorp, at a place called Bandamar Lading " — evidently 
the same locality as the above — he found " in great 
plentie " the wild asparagus or sperage, corrupted in 
the language of the marshmen into " sparrow-grass." 
The writer searched in vain last autumn for this ex- 
ceedingly rare plant in the vicinity of " Bandamar 
Lading " ; but it is interesting to know that it still 
exists in the Essex marshes. Another handsome and 
important plant seen by the great herbalist at Lander- 
mere was the sea-holly or Eryngo. Ray thus refers to 
it in his list of rare Essex plants, published in 1695 : 
" This being a plant common enough on sandy shores 
I should not have mentioned, but that Colchester is 
noted for the first inventing and practising the candy- 
ing or conditing of its roots, the manner whereof may 
be seen in Gerarde's Herbal^ The extract from 
Gerarde is too lengthy for quotation, but it is worthy 
of notice that a considerable trade in candied Er3'ngo- 
roots, as a remedy in pulmonary diseases, was at that 
time carried on at Colchester. The chamberlain's ac- 
counts for the borough in the early years of the seven- 
teenth century contain frequent entries with regard to 
the payment for " Eryngoes," which seem to have been 
valued at about four shillings a pound. The trade 
was continued until comparatively recent years, when 



142 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

it appears to have ceased in consequence of the 
difficulty of obtaining a sufficient supply of roots. 

In those days several native plants found in the 
salt-marshes were regularly gathered by the people 
and used as vegetables. In his scarce book on The 
Antiquities of Harwich, Samuel Dale tells us that 
the sea-beet or sea-spinach, so abundant along the 
coast, was commonly used " as a boiled sallet and in 
broths and soups." This good and sensible custom 
has not yet died out, and many a dish of wild spinach 
is gathered every spring in the salt-marshes along the 
coast. One of the commonest plants to be found on 
the mud of the salterns is Salicornia or glasswort, and 
this in the olden times was regularly gathered for pur- 
poses of pickling. It served as a substitute for the 
true samphire, which was not to be met with in the 
Essex marshes. But, strange to say, within the last 
few years a single patch of this species, Crithmum 
maritimum, a plant immortalised by Shakespeare, and 
still to be seen in luxuriant profusion in its historic 
locality on the chalk-cliffs of Dover, has been dis- 
covered in the salt-marshes not far from the Lander- 
mere Lading. Never before had the plant been 
recorded for the county, or, indeed, for the east coast 
of England. But there, on one solitary spot in the 
vast stretch of salterns, it was flourishing in lonely 
splendour. How it came there must be left to others 
to decide. 



MARY RICH, COUNTESS OF 
WARWICK 

Some two or three miles from Felstead Church in 
the county of Essex, hidden away in a wooded hollow, 
and only to be approached by windin.:^ and narrow 
lanes, stands the still beautiful ruin of Leighs Priory. 
The magnificent gateway-tower of rich red brickwork, 
with noble Tudor windows and spiral chimneys of 
curious design, rises in lonely splendour from the 
ancient courtyard, now overgrown with grass and 
herbage. Other remains, dating back to the sixteenth 
century, and including the porter's lodge and a spacious 
hall, may still be seen, clothed with luxuriant ivy, in 
picturesque decay; but of the finer residential parts 
of the mansion not one stone is now left upon another. 
It was here, in this quiet and sequestered spot, past 
which the tiny river Ter winds its way, that early in 
the thirteenth century a little community of Augustine 
canons settled themselves. Around the monastic build- 
ings stretched a well-wooded park or forest in which 
the wild deer roamed. There was grand hunting, we 
are told, in the ** Forest of Felstead " in those days. 
Down the valley, along the course of the little stream, 
the situation of the monastic fishponds may easily be 
traced, and one fine piece of water, the haunt of moor- 
hens and other wild-fowl, still remains. For more than 



144 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

three hundred years the good monks served God and 
man in peace, looking after their rich estate, meditating 
amid their beautiful surroundings, and succouring the 
sick and needy in the villages around. But at the 
time of the dissolution of the monasteries the priory 
shared the fate of similar establishments, and was 
granted by Henry VHL, together with one hundred 
other manors in the neighbourhood, to Robert Rich, 
at that time his Solicitor-General, and afterwards 
Lord Chancellor of England. 

Of Lord Chancellor Rich, old Fuller quaintly says, 
" he was a lesser hammer under Cromwell to knock 
down abbeys; most of the grants of which going 
through his hands, no wonder if some stuck to his 
fingers." But whatever his character and career as a 
politician, he will be gratefully remembered in Essex 
as the founder of Felstead School and of the Rich' 
almshouses ; while the Tudor mansion which he built 
on the site of the Augustine priory must have been one 
of the most magnificent in the county. But a more 
interesting figure than that of the great Lord Chan- 
cellor, whose stately tomb in the south aisle of Felstead 
Church has been a familiar object to successive gene- 
rations of Felstead boys, is associated with the pic- 
turesque ruin of the once splendid home. We refer 
to Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick, wife of Charles 
Rich, fifth baron of that name. 

The father of Mary Rich was the celebrated 
"gentleman adventurer," Richard Boyle, who made 
a huge fortune in Ireland, was created Earl of Cork 
by James L, and lived to see no fewer than four of 
his sons made peers. For Mary, " the great earl " 
designed, as for his other daughters, a brilliant match, 
but the Mr. Hamilton selected, only son of Lord 



MARY RICH, COUNTESS OF WARWICK 145 

Clandeboye, found no favour in Mary's sight, and 
in spite of her father's displeasure she refused to 
marry him. Her heart, it appears, was set on Charles 
Rich, a younger son of the Earl of Warwick and 
Baron of Leeze (as the name was spelt in those days), 
and with small prospect of succeeding to the title. 
Her father's opposition to the match was at length 
" by my Lord Warwick's and my Lord Goreing's 
intercession " overcome, and he told me, writes Mary, 
" that I should be suddenly married." A splendid 
ceremony in London was desired by the great Earl 
for his loving, if wayward, daughter, but this again 
was sorely against Mary's inclinations. She could 
" not endure to be Mrs. Bride in a public wedding." 
And so, she goes on to say, " I was, by that fear and 
Mr. Rich's earnest solicitation, prevailed with, with- 
out my father's knowledge, to be privately married 
at a little village near Hampton Court on July 
21, 1641, called Shepertone ; which, when my father 
knew he was again something displeased at me for 
it, but after I had begged his pardon, and assured 
him I did it only to avoid a public wedding, which 
he knew I had always declared against, his great 
indulgence to me made him forgive me that fault 
also ; and within a few days after I was carried 
down to Lees, my Lord of Warwick's house in the 
country, where I received as kind a welcome as was 
possible from that family, and particularly from my 
good father-in-law." 

And so the youthful bride, " being but fifteen years 
old, and as much as between the 8th of November 
and 2 1 St July," settled down at Leighs Priory, which, 
with the exception of one brief interval, and of occa- 
sional visits to London, was to be her home for seven- 

K 



146 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

and-thirty years. Little did she then dream of what 
the vicissitudes of fortune had in store for her. The 
wife of a younger son, and with only the most distant 
prospect of succeeding to the title, it so came about, 
in those days of premature death, that eighteen years 
later, at the age of thirty-three, she found herself 
Countess of Warwick, and mistress of the Tudor 
mansion and vast estates of Leighs Priory. Though 
married to the man of her choice, her domestic life 
was for many years one of patient endurance, some- 
times of bitter sorrow. For twenty years before his 
death her husband was grievously afflicted with the 
gout, which rendered more ungovernable his pas- 
sionate temper. Her " dear and only " son died of the 
small-pox within a few months of his coming of age; 
and when fourteen years later the Countess herself 
followed him to the tomb in Felstead Chapel, the 
beautiful priory passed to owners of another name. 
When Mary Rich was about twenty-one that change 
occurred which she was wont to regard as her con- 
version, or awakening to spiritual life. Her diary 
indicates very clearly the conflict through which she 
was passing. She is constantly reproaching herself 
for her former love of " curious dressing and fine and 
rich clothes, and spending her precious time in nothing 
else but reading romances, and seeing plays, and in 
going to court and Hyde Parke and Spring Garden." 
She makes promises to God of a new life, but her 
good resolutions are often broken. She fears that 
God will, some way or other, punish her. " At last," 
she says, " it pleased God to send a sudden sickness 
upon my only son, who I then doated on with great 
fondness. My conscience told me it was for my back- 
sliding. Upon this conviction I presently retired to 




MANY RICH, COUNTESS OK WARWICK 
int III the posstssioii of Sir Charles Stuart Kieh, Ha 



MARY RICH, COUNTESS OF WARWICK 147 

God, and by earnest prayer begged of Ilim to restore 
my child, and did then solemnly promise to God, if 
He would hear my prayer, I would become a new 
creature. This prayer of mine God was so gracious 
as to grant ; and of a sudden began to restore my 
child, which made the doctor himself wonder at the 
sudden amendment he saw in him, and filled me then 
with grateful thoughts. After my child's recovery I 
began to find in myself a great desire to go into the 
country, which I never remember before to have had, 
thinking it always the saddest thing that could be 
when we were to remove." When Mary was again 
at Leighs she found great consolation in conversing 
with the household chaplain. Dr. Walker ; and it 
pleased God, she tells us, " by his ministry to work 
exceedingly upon me, he preaching very awakingly 
and warmly the two texts which were, by God's 
mercy, set home to me, ' The wicked shall be 
turned into hell, and all the nations that forget 
God ' ; and the other was, ' Acquaint now thyself 
with Him and be at peace.' By the first," she adds, 
" I was much terrified, but by the last I was much 
allured to come unto God, and to taste of the sweet- 
ness of religion, which he told me was very sweet, 
and which I afterwards experienced to be true." 
Henceforth a life of gaiety and social excitement had 
lost its attraction for Mary Rich, and though she still 
moved in the world of rank and fashion, and after 
the Restoration was not infrequently at Court, she 
yet found her chief stay and happiness in religious 
exercises and in quiet meditation in her beloved 
"wilderness" at Leighs. 

The "wilderness," or wild garden, the most sacred 
spot in connection with the life of Mary Rich, may 



148 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

still be traced on the farther side of the little stream 
which runs past the priory ruins. Here she was 
accustomed, summer and winter alike, to spend two 
hours every morning, as soon as she was up, in 
prayer and meditation. Many are the references in 
her diary to this pious habit, which invests with a 
deep interest the few ancient thorn bushes which 
remain, and the dark clumps of Iris foetidissiina which 
mark the site of the monastic garden. The " wilder- 
ness " was to this Puritan saint as an oratory, where 
she gained strength and consolation in the trials and 
difficulties of life. " If," says Dr. Walker, her *' soul 
father," "she exceeded herself in anything as much 
as she excelled others in most things, it was in medita- 
tion. This was her masterpiece." To be alone with 
God, and alone with God in the " wilderness," this 
was the desire and the secret of her life. " The way 
not to be alone," she wrote to a friend, "is to be 
alone, and you will find yourself never less alone 
than when you are so. For certainly the God that 
makes all others good company must needs be best 
Himself." And so, morning by morning, she retired 
alone into the " wilderness " to meditate. Some- 
times she is " weary and distracted," and grieves 
over her " amazing dulness and wandering thoughts." 
" My mind," she writes, " was discomposed, and I 
had upon me a great lightness and vanity of spirit, 
and could not for a long time bring my mind into any 
serious frame." At other times she rejoices in the 
Lord, and her mind is radiant with " white celestial 
thoughts." " My meditation of God was sweet," she 
enters in her diary; "I had large meditations of the 
great mercy of God in sending the Holy Ghost, and 
found my heart much affected with it." After the 



MARY RICH, COUNTESS OP^ WARWICK 149 

manner of Puritan theology, her mind is much occu- 
pied witli thoughts of death and eternity. " I was 
much comforted," she says, "with thoughts of my 
eternal rest ; " or " God was pleased to awaken my 
heart with the serious thoughts of death and of 
eternity and of the day of judgment." 

Among the volumes of Lady Warwick's manuscripts 
in the British Museum are no less than twelve little 
books of what she calls Occasional Meditations. The 
titles or themes of these compositions, of which nearly 
two hundred remain, reveal in a striking manner her 
appreciation of nature. The sights and sounds of 
country life are to her allegories of things unseen and 
eternal. They furnish her with subjects from which 
she draws the most telling spiritual analogies. A 
" sudden surprising storm," a lark singing, a snail on 
the garden path, a bank of anemones, a hen flying 
undauntedly at a kite, then common in Essex, " that 
came to get the chickens from her " ; the decoy pond 
in the Park, still remaining; her "little bitch" after a 
rabbit, her pet linnets, a dead fisli floating down the 
stream, " My Lady Essex Rich's pet hen," — these and 
similar subjects form the texts of her meditations. 
The most pathetic of these compositions, suggested 
by the cutting down of her beloved " wilderness,'"' 
deserves to be quoted, revealing as it does the great 
sorrow of her life : " This sweet place that I have 
seen ye first sprouting, growth, and flourishing of for 
above twenty years together, and almost daily taken 
delight in, I have also now to my trouble seen by my 
Lord's command ye cutting down of, in order to its 
after growing again thicker and better, tho' I have 
often interceded with him to have it spared longer. 
This brought to my remembrance afresh ye death of 



ISO THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

my only son, whom I had also seen ye first growth of 
in his childhood and ye flourishing of to my unspeak- 
able satisfaction for almost twenty-one years ; and in 
a short space of time, to my unspeakable grief, by 
my great Lord's command cut down by death that 
he might rise again in a better and more flourishing 
condition ; though I often implored, if it were agree- 
able to the Divine will, he might be longer continued 
to me." 

When Mary Rich had so unexpectedly become 
Countess of Warwick she came to Lees, she tells us, 
with "a. design to glorify God what I could, and to 
do what good I could to all my neighbours." This 
noble determination, so faithfully fulfilled, gives the 
keynote of her life. In addition to her morning's 
meditation, it was her constant habit to read several 
times a day in some pious book, of which St. Augus- 
tine's Confessions, Baxter's Sainfs Rest, and Foxe's 
Book of Martyrs were among the favourites. She 
would also, her chaplain tells us, scatter good books 
in all the common rooms and places of waiting, 
that those who waited might not lose their time, but 
have a bait laid to catch them. Household affairs 
occupied a large share of her attention. Many are the 
entries in her diary, which show how faithfully those 
duties were performed. One or two may be quoted : 
" Having this morning heard of some disorders that 
were in my house, I set myself to reprove for them, 
after I had first prayed to God to let me rebuke 
without passion, and by God's blessing I was enabled 
to do my duty without any transporting passion." 
"Spent some time with my servant, Harry Smith, 
who was ill." A few days after he dies, and the 
Countess goes to see his widow. Or Joyce Ceeley, 



MARY RICH, COUNTESS OF WARWICK 151 

the still-house woman, is sick, and requires attention. 
Then "one of the men-cookes " has fits, and though 
it is "a ghastly mortifying sight," the mistress goes 
herself to see what can be done for him. When 
Lawrence the footman is to receive the Sacrament, 
a long time is spent in preparing him. Later on is 
the entry : " Gave counsel to Leonard the coachman ; " 
and again : " Spent a deal of time giving good 
counsel to Boeke, who is going from my Lord's 
service." Nor are the poor women who worked in 
the garden forgotten : " I spent some time of this 
morning in catechising some of the poor weeding- 
women, and in stirring them up to look after their 
souls." Neither are the cottagers neglected. The sick 
and suffering are carefully provided for; old Betty 
Knightbridge and Goody Crow, and other feeble folk, 
are visited in their humble homes ; and a dame's 
school is established in the village. Moreover, the 
affairs of the ejected ministers receive her careful 
attention. After the passing of the Act of Uniformity 
in 1662, a member of Puritan ministers found a true 
friend and protector in Lady Warwick. We find 
them constantly staying at Leighs Priory, and sup- 
ported to a large extent by her bounty. The diary 
has many allusions to the deep and edifying dis- 
courses of these good ministers delivered in the 
private chapel of Leighs. Of sermons our devout 
Countess seems never to weary ; and not satisfied 
with the ministrations of her own chaplains, she was 
wont to attend the services in many of the village 
churches around. 

But engaged as she frequently was in religious 
exercises and in deeds of charity, the Countess was 
no recluse, and seems never to have shunned the 



152 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

duties of society. Indeed, she appears rather to have 
been famed for hospitality, and for *' noble and splendid 
way of living." Her funeral sermon, in the high-flown 
language of the day, tells us that "as a neighbour she 
was so kind and courteous it advanced the rent of the 
adjacent houses to be situated near her"; "and not 
only her house and table, but her countenance and 
very heart was open to all persons of quality in a 
considerable circuit." When at Warwick House in 
London she mixed constantly in the highest society, 
and was in familiar intercourse with the most distin- 
guished persons in the political and the scientific 
world. At Leighs she moved freely among her Essex 
neighbours, and appears to have devoted nearly every 
afternoon to receiving or paying visits. Within a 
radius of ten or twelve miles of Leighs Priory a large 
number of stately houses were to be seen, and the 
Warwick coach seems to have been for ever on the 
roads. There was " my Lady Everard " of Langleys, 
and old Lady Vere of Kirby Hall. At Little Easton 
Lodge, of which parish the saintly Ken was minister, 
lived my Lord and Lady Maynard, the best beloved of 
Mary's friends. Once, on her way thither, an accident 
befell her, which may be told in her own language : 
" 1661, July the 23rd. I was going from Lees to 
Easton to visit my Lady Maynard, and had in my 
coach with me my Lady Anne and my Lady Essex 
Rich; and when I was just out of Dunmow town the 
horses ran with us, and flung out the coachman and 
overthrew us in the coach, in which fall the Lady 
Essex escaped being hurt ; but I was much so, having 
a great blow on my head, and a great and dangerous 
cut in one of my knees. I was, by the great blow in 
my head, so disordered, that for a long time I knew 



MARY RICH, COUNTESS OF WARWICK 153 

not anything; and by the great cut I had in my knee 
I was a long time so very lame that 1 could not go out 
at all, and had like to have been always so if God had 
not mercifully, by His blessing on the use of means, 
restored me to my legs again." Then at Mark's Hall 
lived " my Lady Honeywood," and Sir John Dawes at 
Bocking, Some twelve miles away, in the parish of 
Finchingfield, stood the Tudor mansion of Spains Hall, 
and thither the Countess would sometimes travel to 
pay her compliments to Mistress Kempe. She would 
see the seven fishponds in the well-wooded park which 
commemorated the strange vow of silence which only 
fifty years before " Mr. William Kempe Esqre " had 
imposed upon himself, and she would doubtless visit 
his tomb in the chapel of the grand old Norman 
church, and read with wonder the unique epitaph 
which tells us he was " Pious, just, hospitable, master 
of himself so much that what others scarce doe by 
force and penalties. He did by a voluntary constancy. 
Hold his peace for seven years." And so, troubled 
and perplexed, she would turn home again to her 
beloved Leeze. 

For some years after her husband's death the 
widowed Countess remained mistress of the beautiful 
priory. She had often prayed, " Grant that in the 
evening of life I may have the most serene and quiet 
times, that so I may undisturbedly prepare for my 
change." And after the settlement of her lord's 
affairs, which for a time took her constantly up to 
London, she settled down to the quiet seclusion of her 
Essex home. The old life of peaceful meditation in 
her much-loved "wilderness" went on, together with 
her acts of charity to the poor around. She had often 
expressed the wish " to die praying," and so suddenly 



154 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

and unexpectedly it came about. For some days she 
had been suffering from an " aguish distemper," a 
complaint not uncommon in the damp neighbourhood 
of the priory fishponds, but her condition excited no 
alarm, and she was able to sit up and to discourse 
cheerfully and piously with those around her. " Well, 
ladies," she said, "if I were one hour in heaven, I 
would not be again with you, as well as I love you." 
Then, in the narrative of Dr. Walker, the aged minister 
who three-and-thirty years before had guided her feet 
into the way of peace, and who was with her at the 
end, " having received a kind visit from a neigh- 
bouring lady, she said she would go into her bed, but 
first would desire one of the ministers then in the 
house to go to prayer with her; and asking the 
company which they would have, presently resolved 
herself to have him who was going away, because 
the other would stay and pray with her daily; and 
immediately he (Dr. Walker) being called, and come, 
her ladyship, sitting in her chair, by reason of her 
weakness — for otherwise she always kneeled — holding 
an orange in her hand, to which she smelt, almost at 
the beginning of her prayer she was heard to fetch a 
sigh or groan, which was esteemed devotional, as she 
used to do at other times. But a lady looking up, 
who kneeled by her, saw her look pale, and her hand 
hang down, at which she started up affrighted, and all 
applied themselves to help ; and the most afiflictively 
distressed of them all, if I may so speak, when all 
our sorrows were superlative, catched her right hand, 
which then had lost its pulse and never recovered it 
again." It was on Friday, April 12, 1678, at the 
comparatively early age of fifty-two, that Mary Rich 
died. A few days later the mournful but magnificent 



MARY RICH, COUNTESS OF WARWICK 155 

funeral procession passed beneath the Tudor tower, 
to which the swallows were just returning, and over 
the red-brick bridge which spanned the tiny stream, 
and winding its way past the " wilderness," then 
starred with primroses and anemones, and beside the 
old monastic ponds, it followed the grassy lanes to 
Felstead Church, where, amid the genuine sorrow of 
the simple villagers, the coffin of their good benefac- 
tress was lowered into the family vault beneath the 
imposing effigy of Lord Chancellor Rich. 

No monument to her memory is to be found in 
Felstead Church, and only a few dim and uncertain 
traditions linger in the neighbourhood of the ruined 
priory. A large room in the solitary gateway tower, 
lighted at either end with a noble Tudor window, and 
reached by a winding staircase in the south-east turret, 
is believed to be the one in which the Countess inter- 
viewed her tenants and transacted the business of her 
estate; and "a little white flower" that grows by the 
river is said to be known among the cottage folk as 
"Lady Rich's flower." But the wooded dell beyond 
the stream, with its gnarled and stunted thorns, its 
shining clumps of Iris and Alexander, and its sweet 
forget-me-nots — the site of the beloved " wilderness " 
— is hallowed ground, the most sacred spot in connec- 
tion with the memory of the pious Puritan lady, whose 
one aim and object in life was to " glorify God " and 
to do what good she could to her neighbours in the 
parishes around. 



IZAAK WALTON AT DROXFORD 

The interest in Izaak Walton continues among cul- 
tured people ; indeed, of late years it seems to have 
increased rather than diminished. Books dealing with 
his life are still published, and new editions of The 
Co7npleat Angler are issued from the Press. Among 
other evidences that " meek Walton's heavenly 
memory" is still cherished may be mentioned the 
proposal to fill with stained glass the window in 
Prior Silkstede's chapel above his grave in Win- 
chester Cathedral. Recently, too, a volume entitled 
Izaak Walton and his Friends has been published, in 
which the writer, Mr. Stapleton Martin, endeavours to 
bring out the spiritual side of Walton's character. 

And this interest in " the best of fishermen and 
men " is not to be wondered at. In days of hurry and 
excitement, when " the world is too much with us," it 
is refreshing to turn to the pages of TJie Compleat 
Angler, which breathes in every line the spirit of 
contentment and peace. It is not that the book is of 
any special value as a treatise on fishing or natural 
history, for it is full of the quaintest and most anti- 
quated conceits ; rather it is the repose and tranquillity 
displayed throughout it that renders the Httle volume 
of such enduring value to so many readers. " Among 
all your readings," wrote Charles Lamb to Coleridge, 
"did you ever light upon Walton s Compleat Angler ? 

»57 



158 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

It breathes the very spirit of innocence, purity, and 
simplicity of heart. There are many choice old 
verses interspersed in it ; it would sweeten a man's 
temper at any time to read it ; it would Christianise 
every discordant, angry passion ; pray make your- 
self acquainted with it." And this quality of serenity 
is the more remarkable when we remember the tur- 
bulent age in which it appeared. The King and the 
Archbishop had perished on the scaffold only a few 
years before ; the Long Parliament had just been dis- 
solved by Cromwell with the significant words, "The 
Lord has done with you ; " many of the most devoted 
of the clergy had recently been turned out of their 
livings ; episcopacy was abolished ; and a Royalist, 
such as Walton was, must have felt that his lot had 
indeed fallen on evil days. And yet his writings 
betray no resentment ; not a harsh word, not an un- 
charitable judgment is met with ; only gladness and 
purity and singleness of heart. It is to this aspect 
of his work that Keble refers when, in a well-known 
stanza of The Christian Year, he exclaims : 

" O who can tell how calm and sweet, 
Meek Walton ! shews thy green retreat, 
When, wearied with the tale thy times disclose, 
The eye first finds thee out in thy secure repose ?" 

The good man, as Wordsworth wrote of him upon a 
blank leaf in The Compleat Angler, was " nobly versed 
in simple discipline," and he could thank God for the 
smell of lavender, and the songs of birds, and a 
** good day's fishing " ; for " health and a competence 
and a quiet conscience." " Every misery that I miss 
is a new mercy," he says to his honest scholar, as they 
walk towards Tottenham High Cross, " and therefore 



IZAAK WALTON AT DROXFORD 159 

let us be thankful. What would a blind man give to 
see the pleasant rivers and meadows and flowers that 
we have met with since we met together ; and this, 
and many other like blessings we enjoy daily." 

And The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative 
Man^s Recreation is a mirror of Izaak Walton's life. 
" It is a picture," as he says to the reader, " of my 
own disposition." And it was doubtless this spirit of 
" gladsome piety," this love of " innocent, harmless 
mirth," coupled with a deep vein of "seriousness at 
seasonable times," this power of detachment from the 
noisy movements of the world, this delight in the 
beauties of nature, this quality of " meekness," that 
enabled him to " possess the earth," which endeared 
the "honest fisherman" to the hearts of so many dis- 
tinguished men. Walton, it has been well said, had 
a genius for friendship. Although of comparatively 
humble birth and occupation, he was on terms of the 
closest intimacy with many of the most learned men 
of his day. His circle of friends included such men as 
Archbishops Ussher and Sheldon, as Bishops Morley 
of Winchester, Ward of Sarum, King of Chichester, 
and Sanderson of Lincoln ; as Sir Henry Wotton, 
Provost of Eton, Dr. Donne, the famous Dean of St. 
Paul's, Fuller the historian, the " ever memorable " 
Hales, Dr. Hammond, and William Chillingworth. 

It is therefore all the more disappointing that a man 
of so many and distinguished friendships, who himself 
recorded with considerable detail the lives of no fewer 
than five of his contemporaries, should have left so 
little record of his own career. The details of Walton's 
life, especially of certain periods of it, are exceedingly 
meagre. Though he lived " full ninety years and past," 
the story of the greater portion of his life is an almost 



i6o THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

total blank. For purposes of convenience we may be 
allowed to divide his long life into four periods — his 
early life up to the time of his residence in London ; 
the business period of twenty years, during which he 
lived in Fleet Street, at the corner of Chancery Lane ; 
the period of his second marriage, marked by the pub- 
lication of The Covipleat Angler ; and the period of 
his old age, from the death of his second wife in 1662, 
when Walton was seventy, to his own death twenty 
years later. We may briefly glance, by way of leading 
up to the special purpose of this paper, at these succes- 
sive periods of his life. 

He was born at Stafford on August 9, 1593, and 
baptized in St. Mary's Church on the 21st of the 
following month, when he received the name of 
" Izaak," perhaps, as Dean Stanley suggested, after 
the learned Isaac Casaubon, who appears to have been 
a friend of the family. Of his childhood and youth 
nothing whatever is known. In 161 3, when he was 
twenty years of age, there appeared a poem, " The 
Love of Amos and Laura," which is dedicated by the 
writer, " To my approved and much respected friend, 
Iz. Wa.," which seems to indicate that his mind was 
already drawn towards literature. From 1624 to 1644 
he resided in Fleet Street, where he appears to have 
carried on business as a "sempster" or linen-draper. 
Here he became intimate with Dr. Donne, who was 
rector of the parish and who introduced Walton to 
many distinguished men. His twenty years' residence 
at St. Dunstan's was marked by many a sorrow, 
including the death of his first wife, who was a 
descendant of Archbishop Cranmer's, of both his 
children, and of his intimate friends Wotton and 
Donne. To this period belongs the publication of his 



IZAAK WALTON AT DROXP^ORD i6i 

first work, of which Hales of Eton is reported to have 
said that " he had not seen a Life written with more 
advantage to the subject, or more reputation to the 
writer, than that of Dr. Donne." 

In 1644, at the age of fifty, Walton retired from 
business, and deeming London "a dangerous place 
for honest men to live in," returned, it seems, at any 
rate for a time, to his native town of Stafford. It is 
difficult, however, to trace with any certainty his 
movements during this the third period of his life. 
In 1646 he married his second wife, Anne Ken, half- 
sister to Thomas Ken, afterwards Bishop of Bath and 
Wells, and this happy union doubtless brought him 
into still closer connection with the ecclesiastical 
world. A few years later appeared his Life of Sir 
Henry Wotton, followed in 1653 by The Conipleat 
Angler, the work by which he is now most generally 
known. During this period we may think of him as 
residing for a time at Stafford, and afterwards, it 
appears, at Clerkenwell ; as spending his time partly 
in literary work and partly in fishing, sometimes with 
his friend, Charles Cotton, in Dovedale; and as visit- 
ing his numerous friends in various parts of the 
country. In 1662, probably when on a visit to Bishop 
Morley, who had recently been appointed to Wor- 
cester, the great calamity of Walton's life occurred. 
His second wife died, leaving him a widower at the 
age of seventy, with two children — Anne, aged fifteen, 
who was to be the stay and comfort of his old age, and 
Izaak, aged eleven, afterwards Rector of Poulshot, in 
Wiltshire, and Canon of Salisbury Cathedral. She 
was buried in the Lady Chapel of Worcester Cathe- 
dral, and her epitaph, written by Walton, speaks of 
her as being " A woman of remarkable prudence and 

L 



i62 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

primitive piety, her great and general knowledge being 
adorned with such true humihty, and blest with so 
much Christian meekness, as made her worthy of a 
more memorable monument." 

We now come to what we have ventured to call the 
fourth or last period of Walton's life, and of this 
period, especially of the last seven years of it, little 
beyond conjecture, more or less probable, is to be 
found in his biographies ; and even Mr. Stapleton 
Martin, the latest of his eulogists, has no fresh light 
whatever to throw upon it. It is usually supposed 
that the old man spent most of his time with Bishop 
Morley at Farnham or Winchester, and the belief 
seems to be based on a statement by Dr. Zouch that 
" Walton and his daughter had apartments constantly 
reserved for them in the houses of Dr. Morley, the 
Bishop of Winchester, and of Dr. Ward, Bishop of 
Salisbury." This assertion need not be disputed ; 
there can be little doubt that after the death of his 
wife in 1662 the aged fisherman and his youthful 
daughter frequently visited their friends, especially 
Bishop Morley at Farnham Castle, where he wrote 
his Lives of "Mr. Richard Hooker" and of "Mr. 
George Herbert," and Bishop Ward at Sarum, and 
doubtless Charles Cotton, on the banks of the Dove. 
But in the year 1676, when Izaak Walton had attained 
the great age of eighty-three, his daughter Anne, the 
inseparable companion and comfort of his old age, was 
married to Dr. William Hawkins, usually described as 
a Prebendary of Winchester Cathedral. Now this 
event cannot but have greatly influenced the conditions 
and surroundings of the old man's life, which had still 
some seven years to run. But of these seven years 
his biographers have nothing to tell us. His last visit 



IZAAK WALTON AT DROXFOKD 163 

to Charles Cotton seems to have taken place in the 
year of his daughter's marriage, probably in her com- 
pany, shortly before the ceremony took place. He 
was now becoming too old for his beloved occupation of 
fishing, except in fine weather; and the fatigues of 
travelling were great in those days. The only event 
of any importance which breaks the silence of those 
seven years was the publication of his Life of Dr. 
Robert Sanderson^ which appeared in 1678, and was 
dedicated to his old friend Bishop Morley of Win- 
chester; but there is nothing to show where the book 
was written. In the concluding paragraph of the 
Life the aged author says : " 'Tis now too late to 
wish that my life may be like his, for I am in the 
eighty-fifth year of my age : but I humbly beseech 
Almighty God that my death may; and do as earnestly 
beg of every Reader to say, 'Amen.'" Even of his 
death no particulars remain. We only know that he 
passed away on December 15, 1683, during the great 
frost of that year, at the house of his son-in-law, Dr. 
Hawkins, in the Close at Winchester. 

But it has long seemed to the writer that with re- 
gard to these closing years of Walton's life sufficient 
use has not been made by his biographers of the 
details contained in his will. This most interesting 
document, well known to all his admirers, was begun 
by the old man on his birthday, a few months before 
his death, "being," he says, "in the ninetyeth year 
of my age, and in perfect memory, for which praised 
be God." Now the respect and affection with which, 
in his will, Walton speaks of Dr. Hawkins, "whom," 
he says, " I love as my own son," is most noticeable, 
and lends some support to the contention of the writer 
that these last years were spent, not, as is usually 



i64 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

supposed, in the houses of various friends, but under 
the loving care of his daughter and son-in-law, in 
whose house at Winchester, as we have seen, he 
eventually died. And this surmise, which is obviously 
the natural one, is not without confirmation in other 
directions. The passage in his will will be remem- 
bered — " I also give unto my daughter all my books 
at Winchester and Droxford, and whatever in those 
two places are or I can call mine. To my son 
Isaak I give all my books at Farnham Castell, and 
a deske of prints and pictures, also a cabinett near 
my bed's head, in which are some little things that 
he will value, though of no great worth." It is 
evident from this passage that Izaak Walton in his 
last years had some close connection, not only with 
Farnham and Winchester, but also with Droxford, 
a village in the Meon Valley some fourteen miles 
from the Cathedral city. At Farnham, it is clear, 
he still had his own chamber at the ** Castell," where 
he had written the Lives of Hooker and of Her- 
bert, and where he was always sure of a warm 
welcome from his old friend of forty years' standing. 
At Winchester there was the Canon's house in the 
venerable Close, near to the one occupied by Dr. Ken, 
at that time a Prebendary of the cathedral, where he 
lived peacefully with his daughter and Dr. Hawkins, 
and not, as his biographers have imagined, with 
Bishop Morley, for Wolvesey Palace, on the build- 
ing of which the good bishop was engaged, was not 
finished at the time of Walton's death. But what 
was his connection with Droxford ? To discover 
this connection at once became the object of the 
writer when he was appointed Rector of Droxford 
a few years ago. From the ordinary sources of in- 



IZAAK WALTON AT DROXFORD 165 

formation he could learn nothing. The biographers 
of Izaak Walton, so far as he is aware, pass over 
this mention of Droxford in almost total silence. 
Even Mr. Staplcton Martin makes no reference to 
it. The word " Droxford " does not so much as 
occur in his index. Sir Harris Nicolas does indeed 
suggest that perhaps Walton had a house or apart- 
ments in the village, which from the passage already 
quoted in the will is abundantly evident. Mr, Dewar, 
in his Winchester edition of The Coniphat Angler, 
is the first to hint at the true solution, although he 
admits that he had " not succeeded in finding out 
anything about Walton at Droxford." He states, 
however, that Dr. Hawkins, besides being Prebendary 
of Winchester, was also Rector of Droxford. The 
writer had already met with this bare statement in 
Bowles's Life of Bishop Ken, published about the 
year 1830, but had entirely failed to substantiate it. 
Repeated searches in the episcopal register, alike at 
Winchester and at the Record Office, produced no 
evidence that William Hawkins was ever Rector of 
Droxford. The matter, however, was happily set at 
rest by the writer's discovery in one of the Com- 
position Books at the Record Office of the entry of 
the payments made by "William Hawkins, S.T.P., 
in November 1664," on his institution to the living. 
He followed, it appears, one Dr. Nicholas Preston, 
who had been deprived during the time of the 
Commonwealth, but had been restored to his rights 
on the accession of Charles H., and died in Sep- 
tember 1664. The hving of Droxford Dr. Hawkins 
continued to hold, in conjunction with his canonr}', 
to which he had been appointed two years previousl}', 
until the time of his death, which occurred in 1691. 



i66 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

The fact, then, now fully estabhshed, of his son-in- 
law holding preferment at Droxford as well as at 
Winchester may be taken as the undoubted expla- 
nation of the connection of these two places in the 
will of Izaak Walton. With the exception of an 
occasional visit to Farnham, he passed his closing 
years — 

" serene and bright, 
And calm as is a Lapland night," 

in the loving care of his daughter and her husband, 
sometimes in the Close at Winchester, and sometimes 
in the rambling old rectory on the banks of the Meon 
stream. 

And that these visits to Droxford were of more 
than a mere passing nature may be inferred, not only 
from the way in which he speaks of his library and 
belongings, but also from the fact, lately discovered 
by the writer, that he had more than one intimate 
friend among the residents there. His books, as 
already has been noticed, Walton divided between 
his son and daughter, mentioning, however, one or 
two volumes for which evidently he had a personal 
affection. Thus to Dr. Hawkins he gives Dr. Donne s 
Sermons, which, he adds, " I have heard preacht and 
read with much content." To his son Izaak he gives 
** Dr. Sibbs his Soul's Conflict^^ and to his daughter 
The Bruised Reed, "desiring them to read them so 
as to be well acquainted with them." One other 
individual shares with his children this special mark 
of Walton's esteem. " I give," we read, " to Mr. 
John Darbyshire the Sermons of Mr. Anthony Far- 
ringdon or of Dr. Sanderson, which my executor 
thinks fit." Moreover, among the friends mentioned 



IZAAK WALTON AT DROXFORD 167 

in his will, to whom Walton bequeaths a ring, with 
the motto " A friend's farewell. I. W., obiit," we 
also find the name of '' Mr. John Darbyshire." The 
identity, therefore, of this individual, for whom Walton 
evidently had a great regard, becomes a question of 
distinct interest as throwing light on the friendships 
of his last years. The feeling, therefore, of satisfac- 
tion which the writer experienced when he discovered 
that *' Mr. John Darbyshire " was Dr. Hawkins's 
curate at Droxford will easily be imagined. He was 
evidently a person of some position, for though at 
Droxford he was only curate, yet after the manner 
of the age he held preferment elsewhere. From a 
mural tablet in the north chapel of the church, to 
the memory of his first wife, who died the year 
before his aged friend, we learn that " Mr. John 
Darbyshire was Rector of Portland and Curate of 
Droxford." At Droxford, as seems to be clear from 
the registers, he resided, and the chief events in his 
family history were connected with the place. Walton, 
we may be sure, regularly attended his ministrations 
in the parish church, and took a deep interest in his 
personal affairs, which had been darkened, as the 
burial register reveals, by much sorrow. It must 
therefore have been with feelings of pleasure that, a 
few weeks before his death, the aged fisherman heard 
of his friend's second marriage in Droxford church 
to " Mrs. Frances Uvedale," youngest daughter of 
Sir Richard Uvedale, Kt., whose family, from the 
time of William of Wykeham, had exercised a wide 
influence in the Meon Valley. 

Among the other friends mentioned in his will to 
whom Walton leaves a ring as "a friend's farewell" 
will also be noticed the name of " Mr. Francis Morley." 



i68 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

He too, the writer has discovered, was a resident of 
Droxford, and lies buried in a vault in the north-west 
corner of Droxford church, beneath the floor of the 
baptistery. The Jacobean manor-house in which he 
lived, with its quaint gables and legends of secret 
passages, is still standing over against the rectory, 
and the gateway in the massive red-brick garden wall 
still opens into the orchard, through which "old 
Izaak " and his comparatively youthful friend must 
have often passed together. Francis Morley, as we 
learn from his marble tablet in the church, was a 
nephew of the Bishop of Winchester, and this fact 
doubtless deepened the intimacy between the two 
men. He was also a warm friend of Thomas Ken, 
and when, two years after Walton's death. Ken was 
made Bishop of Bath and Wells, Francis Morley 
supplied him with the necessary cash in hand to 
meet the expenses of his consecration. A most in- 
teresting relic of this Droxford friend of our " honest 
fisherman " is still preserved in the rectory garden. 
In the middle of the undulating lawn, near the lofty 
tulip-tree, at the moment of writing covered with 
thousands of exquisite blossoms, there stands a stone 
pedestal, which supports a sundial, of stately propor- 
tions and design on which is carved two heraldic 
devices. The one coat-of-arms represents the armorial 
bearings of the Morley family impaled with those of 
the Tancreds ; and the other the Morley arms impaled 
with those of the Herberts. The stone pedestal, then, 
it is clear, commemorates the marriages of father and 
son — of Walton's friend, Francis Morley, with Jane 
Tancred, which took place in the year 1652; and of 
Francis Morley's eldest son, Charles, who married 
Magdalene, daughter of Sir Henry Herbert and niece 



IZAAK WALTON AT DROXFORD 169 

of Lord Herbert of Cherbury. The exact date of this 
latter marriage the writer has been unable to discover; 
but inasmuch as Charles Morley died in 1697 at the 
age of forty-five, and Magdalene in 1737 at the age 
of eighty-two — they are both buried in Droxford 
church — they would have been respectively thirty-one 
and twenty-eight at the time of Walton's death. It 
is not, therefore, unreasonable to suppose that they 
were married before that event took place ; and if 
so, it is permissible to believe that the family sun- 
dial was erected in the lifetime, perhaps at the 
instigation, of the old fisherman. 

The old rectory is still standing, although somewhat 
enlarged since the days of Izaak Walton. Part of it, 
however, remains in exactly the same condition as in 
the closing years of the seventeenth century. The 
floors are still boarded with wide planks of oak, and 
the leaden lattice casements remain. One or two rooms 
facing south, for the old man was nearing ninety and 
doubtless felt the cold mists arising from the river, may 
not unnaturally be associated with our friend. On the 
walls would hang one or two " prints and pictures," 
which recalled happy memories of bygone days. There 
he would keep his books, at any rate some of his 
favourites, such as Dr. Donne s Sermons, or The 
Returning Backslider, by Dr. Sibbs (now in the 
Cathedral Library at Salisbury), or the works of 
" holy Mr. Herbert " or of Dr. Sanderson. A copy 
of The Compleat Angler, doubtless of the first 
edition, was, we may be sure, upon the shelves, and 
a collected edition of The Lives. Perhaps in a 
corner of the room stood his fishing-rod and tackle, 
for though age prevented him from visiting his friend 
Cotton in Dovedale, yet in fine weather he would stroll 



I70 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORiNE 

down the glebe meadows where the bee-orchis grows 
and try his hand at " catching trouts " in " the swift, 
shallow, clear, pleasant brook " of the Meon. Some- 
times in cold weather, when the elements kept the old 
man indoors, Mr. John Darbyshire or Squire Morley 
would come over to the rectory for a chat by the fire- 
side. Walton would relate to his friends many anec- 
dotes of the great Churchmen he had known in former 
years, of Sir Henry Wotton, and Hales, and Chilling- 
worth. He would tell, in tones of awe, of " the dread- 
ful vision " which once appeared to Dr. Donne ; or he 
would show the gold signet ring his friend had left 
him, and with which he afterwards signed his will, in 
which was set a bloodstone with the figure of the 
Crucified, not on the cross, but on an anchor, as the 
emblem of hope ; or, in a lighter vein, he would tell of 
the pleasant days long gone by when he " had laid 
aside business, and gone a-fishing with honest Nat 
and R. Roe " ; or perhaps he would play a " game at 
shovel-board " with his friends. Mr. John Darbyshire, 
on his part, would have much to tell of the way in 
which, a few years before he came, the quiet village 
of Droxford was affected by the great rebellion. He 
would repeat the story learnt from the parishioners, 
how " the learned Dr. Preston," " for his eminent 
loyalty," had been shamefully entreated, and how 
grievously the Church had suffered from the icono- 
clasm of the age. He would not forget to speak of the 
stately altar tomb which for four centuries had stood 
in the south chapel to the memory of the mother of 
John de Drokenford, the famous Bishop of Bath and 
Wells and Chancellor of England in the troubled days 
of Edward II., and which had been utterly destroyed, 
and her monumental effigy of Purbeck marble thrust 
out of the church, and buried somewhere in the meadows 



IZAAK WALTON AT DROXFORD 171 

below. Then he would tell of the return of " the 
beloved minister," and how he set himself to repair the 
mischief which had been wrought, panelling the sanc- 
tuary with oak, and fencing it off with stately altar 
rails. These Jacobean altar rails have lately been 
restored to the church, and it is pleasant to think that 
the aged author of The Conipleat Angler must have 
often leaned against them when he received the Holy 
Communion from the hands of Dr. Hawkins or of 
Mr. John Darbyshire. 

Thus the days of the old man at Droxford would 
pass quietly and uneventfully by. In the month of 
May he would listen to the " sweet loud music " of the 
nightingale, which returns every year to the rectory 
garden. Or he would take " a gentle walk to the 
river," perhaps in company with his little grand- 
daughter Anne, and point out to her " the lilies and 
lady-smocks " in the glebe meadows. Beneath " the 
cool shade of the honeysuckle hedge " he would rest 
awhile, and watch the moorhens in " the gliding 
stream," or listen to the notes of the sedge-warbler. 
The old mill is still standing, on the bridge of which 
the aged angler must have often lingered as he watched 
the rush of water making pleasant music beneath his 
feet. Indeed, the village is but little changed since 
the days, now over two hundred years ago, when Dr. 
Hawkins was rector and Mr. John Darbyshire looked 
after the spiritual welfare of the people, and Squire 
Morley presided at the parish meetings. The even 
tenour of life went quietly on, broken only now and 
again by some domestic affliction, or some family 
rejoicing as when, it maj' be, in the presence of the 
rector and Mr. John Darbyshire, and of the revered 
and venerable fisherman, the Morley sundial was 
placed in position on the lawn. 



AN "ANCIENT MARKET-TOWNE" 
TITCHFIELD 

Some two miles from the mouth of the river 
Meon in Hampshire, a low bridge of ancient work- 
manship spans the narrow stream. It is a stone 
structure, dating back to the fourteenth century, and 
with nothing particular to distinguish it save its 
curious triangular " quartering-place," which affords 
safe shelter to the traveller from the wheels of passing 
vehicles. A few plants of the interesting little fern, 
the Ruta-muraria or wall-rue spleenwort, are growing 
between the interstices of the stones, which are 
coloured here and there with the stains of centuries. 
Sitting on the low parapet of the bridge, in the shelter 
of the ancient " quartering - place," one views the 
picturesque remains of what in 1 540 Leland described as 
" Mr. Wriothesley's righte statelie house embatayled, 
and having a goodlie gate, and a conducte castelid in 
the middle of the court of yt, in the very place where 
the late monastery of the Premostratenscs stood, called 
Tichefelde." 

The " righte statelie house " is now in ruins, tenanted 
only by owls and jackdaws, and covered by dense 
masses of ivy in picturesque confusion. The lofty 
grey turrets of the gatehouse still rise from among 
the surrounding trees, together with one or two 
columnar chimneys of red brick, and around these 



174 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

the swifts are sailing and shrieking, as they sailed 
and shrieked of old when the house stood in all its 
ancient glory. For the Mr. Wriothesley who built 
this stately house was the famous Lord Chancellor 
of England in the reign of Henry VIII., best known 
perhaps to the majority of English readers as the 
Lord Chancellor who, with infamous cruelty, racked 
with his own hands the Lady Anne Ascue " till she 
was nigh dead." About half a mile down the stream 
stands the " ancient market-towne of Tytchfyelde," as 
the Lord Chancellor names it in his will, a market- 
town even in the days of the Conqueror, in the parish 
church of which repose the ashes of Wriothesley and 
of his successors, one of whom will be for ever famous 
as the friend and patron of Shakespeare. 

An " ancient towne " indeed, the name of which is 
doubtless of Celtic origin, and carries us back to the 
far-off period when the Meonwaras peopled the fertile 
valley, and fished with bone hooks in the tidal haven, 
and hunted deer and wild boars in the forest around. 
The stone implements of these early inhabitants are 
scattered all along the valley, and are sometimes 
picked up by carters and plough-boys when working 
in the fields. Later on the Romans settled in the 
valley, and left their trace in the form of thin red 
tiles, some of which were utilised ages afterwards 
by Norman builders when erecting the tower of the 
parish church. Then after the Romans came the 
Saxon invasion, when for a time civilisation perished, 
and the neighbouring city of Portchester was reduced 
to ashes. The Jutes settled along the stream, once 
the home of the stone-men and of the bronze-men, 
and in their turn were harassed and plundered by the 
fierce Northmen, whose black boats must have often 



AN "ANCIENT MARKET-TOWNE " 175 

sailed up the tidal haven. In spite, however, of 
the incursions of the Danes the Jutes managed to 
hold their own, and at the time of the Conquest 
" Tichefelde " was one of the very few places in 
Hampshire where markets were regularly held. 

The Premonstratensian Abbey mentioned by John 
Leland was founded by Henry HI. for the sake of the 
souls of the royal house ; and for many years the 
good monks said masses and served God in peace. 
The ghost-like figures of the brethren, in their white 
caps and long white cloaks, were for many generations 
a familiar object to the villagers, as they moved about 
the Abbey grounds, and looked after the fish-ponds, 
which may still, after so many centuries, be traced, 
or hawked up and down the river for herons and 
other wild-fowl. The good abbot too was a man of 
considerable importance; and more than once royal 
persons were entertained with due hospitality. In 
August, 1415, Henry V. stayed at the abbey on his 
way to Portchester, where he embarked for France and 
fought the famous battle of Agincourt. Thirty years 
later a more interesting event took place, for Henry VI. 
and Margaret of Anjou passed in royal state over the 
stone bridge, and were married by the abbot in the 
priory chapel. Thus for three hundred years the 
quiet life of the white canons went evenly on, with 
just now and then an event of more importance to 
break the monotony of existence, till the changing 
times of the Reformation, when Henry VIII. swept 
the priory away. 

A great change must have passed over the lives and 
fortunes of the simple villagers when tlieir white-robed 
friends were to be no more seen. The long reign of 
quiet monotony was broken, and bustle and activity 



176 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

became the order of the day. For the abbey, with 
all its revenues, was granted to Thomas Wriothesley, 
Lord Chancellor of England, and, after the fall of 
Cromwell, the chief minister of the realm. And 
Wriothesley, Catholic though he was, began at once 
to convert the monastic buildings into the " righte 
statelie house " seen by Leland : even the sanctity of 
the priory chapel was not respected, but seems to 
have been turned either into the banqueting-hall, 
or into the range of stables of which the ruins may 
still be seen. 

But Thomas Wriothesley, now created Earl of 
Southampton, was not destined long to enjoy the 
spoils of the priory. On the accession of the Pro- 
testant party to power under Edward VL he was 
deprived of the chancellorship and imprisoned. On 
his liberation he retired into obscurity, perhaps to 
" Tytchfylde " ; and died soon afterwards of a broken 
heart. His magnificent tomb stands in the south 
chapel of the village church, where, carved in alabaster, 
his life-size figure is represented in his robes of state 
as Lord Chancellor of England, and with the collar 
of the Order of the Garter about his neck, and with 
hands uplifted across his breast in prayer. The 
splendour of the Wriothesley altar tomb may in 
some measure be gathered from the fact that a 
sum equivalent to ;^ 12,000 of our money is said to 
have been expended upon its erection. 

But the main interest of the tomb centres, not in its 
costly magnificence, or in the exquisite workmanship 
of its details, or even in the recumbent figure of the 
Lord Chancellor who played so large a part in the 
days of the Reformation, but in the fact that in the 
spacious vault beneath repose the ashes of Henry the 



AN "ANCIENT MARKET-TOWNE " 177 

third Earl, and of Elizabeth Vernon his wife — the true 
" begetters," as some think, of the earher sonnets of 
Shakespeare, and in some sense the originals of Romeo 
and Juliet. Moreover, it is well within the range of 
probability that Shakespeare may have visited his 
friend at "Tytchfylde," and wandered in the old 
garden "circummered with brick," and across the 
ancient bridge, and down the stately avenue of elms 
which led to the village church, where he may have 
gazed upon the reclining effigy of the Lord Chancellor 
upon the lordly tomb. 

Now to enter fully into the vexed question of the 
sonnets would be a task far beyond the scope of the 
present paper ; but the theory advanced by Mr. Gerald 
Massey some forty years ago, that the interpretation 
of the earlier series is to be found in the story of the 
courtship of Henry Wriothesley and Elizabeth Vernon, 
has perhaps as much to recommend it as any other; 
and indications are not wanting that the same lovers 
were in Shakespeare's mind when he wrote the tragedy 
of Romeo and Juliet. For that Shakespeare was on 
terms of the warmest intimacy with Southampton is 
a fact resting on the poet's own testimony. "To 
th^ Right Honourable Henry Wriothesley, Earl of 
Southampton, and Baron of Tichfield," Shakespeare 
dedicates "the first heir of his invention" — Venus 
and Adonis. This was in the year 1593, when the 
poet was twenty-nine, and the earl about twenty. In 
the following year he again dedicates to the " Baron 
of Tichfield," with " love without end," The Rape 
of Lucrece in a short and graceful letter which is 
among the few personal relics of Shakespeare that we 
possess. 

It may have been about this time, when the earlier 

M 



178 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

sonnets were also written, that the poet received from 
his friend and patron the munificent sum of ;^ICXX), 
which he is said to have required in order to complete 
some intended purchase. The sonnets, it is true, were 
not published as a whole before 1609; but we learn 
from one Francis Meres that Shakespeare was already 
known as a sonnet-writer some years earlier. In a 
book entitled Palladis Tamia, and published in 1598, 
he speaks of " hony-tongued Shakespeare," and of 
his Venus and Ado?ns, his Lucrece, and his "sugred 
sonnets among his private friends." And at that 
time, as the dedication to Lucrece sufficiently testifies, 
Southampton was certainly a foremost figure in that 
privileged circle, and may therefore reasonably be 
supposed to have been one of the " private friends " 
for whom the sonnets were intended, and to whom the 
allusions would be clear which have since puzzled the 
students of Shakespeare. Now if Mr. Massey be 
right, and his theory is at least full of interest, the 
key to the interpretation of those allusions is to 
be found in the romantic story of the courtship of 
Southampton and Elizabeth Vernon. 

The story is soon told. The Earl, whose father 
had died when he was a boy of twelve, had not 
been long at Court before he fell in love with 
" faire Mistress Vernon," a beautiful maid-of-honour 
to Queen Elizabeth. The lady was cousin to the 
Earl of Essex, and daughter of Sir John Vernon 
of Hodnet, near Shrewsbury. It is possible that 
Shakespeare was really thinking of his young friend 
when in the Shrewsbury camp scene in i Henry IV. 
he puts the following lines into the mouth of a Sir 
Richard Vernon : — 



AN "ANCIENT MARKET-TOWNE " 179 

" I saw young Harry, with his beaver on, 
His cuisses on his thighs, gallantly arm'd, 
Rise from the ground like feathered Mercury, 
And vaulted with such ease into his seat 
As if an angel dropp'd down from the clouds, 
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus, 
And witch the world with noble horsemanship." 



But Southampton's love for his " faire Elizabeth," 
whom he is reported to have " courted with too much 
familiarity," cost him the favour of the Queen, who, 
after her usual manner, bitterly opposed the marriage. 
At length one Sunday afternoon the lovers waited 
on the Queen to know her resolution in the matter, 
who, after the space of two hours, sent out the curt 
message that she was " sufficiently resolved." The 
Earl was further ordered to leave the Court, and the 
lovers parted in grief and indignation. " My Lord 
of Southampton," writes a Court gossip, "is much 
troubled at her Majesty's strangest usage of him. 
Mr. Secretary hath procured him licence to travel. 
His fair mistress doth wash her fairest face with too 
many tears." After a few years' absence the Earl 
returned, and finding the Queen still implacable, the 
lovers were married secretly, without her Majesty's 
consent. On hearing the news, about a week after 
the event, the Queen, it is needless to add, was furious, 
and threatened them both with the Tower, and even 
appears to have carried her threat into execution. 

Now, turning to the earlier sonnets of Shakespeare, 
we find, first of all, the poet advising his young friend 
to marry : — 

" Who lets so fair a house fall to decay, 
Which husbandry in honour might uphold," 



i8o THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

alluding at the same time to the fact that his father 

was dead : — 

" Dear my love, you know 
You had a father : let your son say so."— xiii. 

Then the " faire EHzabeth " comes across Southamp- 
ton's vision, and the vicissitudes of true love begin. 
The lovers, owing partly to the Earl's imprudence in 
** courting with too much familiarity," but chiefly to 
the enmity of the Queen, are forced to part, and South- 
ampton cries : — 

" Farewell ! thou art too dear for my possessing." 

— Ixxxvii. 
And again : — 

" Let me confess that we two must be twain, 
Although our undivided loves are one."— xxxvi. 

He keenly feels his banishment from Court : — 

" When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, 
I all alone beweep my outcast state." 



He hastens to bed, seeking rest and finding none : — 

" But then begins a journey in my head, 
To work my mind, when body's work's expired ; 
For then my thoughts . . . 
Present thy shadow to my sightless view, 
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night, 
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new. 
Lo ! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind, 
For thee and for myself no quiet find." — xxvii. 

He travels on the Continent with a heavy heart : — 

" How heavy do I journey on my way. 

The beast that bears me, tired with my woe, 
Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me." — 1. 



AN "ANCIENT MARKET-TOWNE " i8i 

And once again : — 

" For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere, 
From me far off, with others all too near." — Ixi. 

At length, in the late autumn of the year 159H, the 
lovers are married, and Shakespeare celebrates the 
glad event in the words of the hundred and sixteenth 
sonnet : — 

" Let me not to the marriage of true minds 
Admit impediments." 

And bearing in mind the interpretation of the earlier 
sonnets an unexpected light is shed upon several 
passages in Romeo and Juliet, which seem unmis- 
takably to sliow that the story of his friend's courtship 
was in Shakespeare's mind when he wrote the tragedy. 
The striking simile employed in the twenty-seventh 
sonnet, where Elizabeth Vernon's beauty is compared 
to "a jewel hung in ghastly night," which "makes 
black night beauteous," is again used in the tragedy, 
where Romeo, on first seeing Juliet, exclaims : — 

" It seems she hangs upon the cheeks of night 
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear ; 
Beauty too rich for use." 

And remembering that Southampton's mother was the 
daughter of " fair Viscount Montague," the question 
of Juliet becomes at once significantly suggestive: — 

" Art thou not Romeo and a Montague ? " 

Again, on the supposition that Southampton is the 
original of Romeo, the following passage, which has 
greatly perplexed commentators, becomes evident : — 

" Nurse. Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with 
a letter } " 

Romeo. Ay, nurse ; what of that .'' Both with an R. 



i82 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

Nurse. Ah, mocker ! that's the dog's name. R. is for the 
dog. No ; I know it begins with soine other letter; and she 
hath the prettiest sententious of it, of you and rosemary, that 
it would do you good to hear it. 

Romeo. Commend me to thy lady." 

The "some other letter," which JuUet plays with 
to the confusion of the garrulous old lady, is evidently 
— if our theory be correct — W., and the "name" is 
Wriothesley. And these allusions, like those in the 
sonnets, would be at once understood and appreciated 
among the "private friends" of the " hony-tongued 
Shakespeare." 

These considerations cannot but give lasting in- 
terest, not only to the magnificent shrine in" which the 
ashes of Romeo and Juliet repose, but also to the 
remains of the " right statelie house " to which, after 
so many vicissitudes, the young Earl brought his 
beautiful bride. Across the ancient bridge the caval- 
cade must have wended its way in single file, and up 
the noble avenue till it entered the precincts of the 
old monastic garden, and passed under the "goodly 
gate " into the " court " beyond, where the " conducte 
castelid " stood ; above, over the muUioned window of 
the gateway, the grinning face of a corbel (still re- 
maining) looked approvingly down, while the " faire 
Elizabeth " was led by Southampton into her stately 
home, which was to be to her, alas ! the scene of 
many sorrows. 

For the Countess was not destined to "feed on the 
roses and to lie in the lilies of life." Within three 
years of her marriage the Earl was arrested and flung 
into the Tower on the charge of high treason in con- 
nection with the rising of Essex. He was even con- 
demned to death, and for some weeks his head was in 



AN "ANCIENT MARKET-TOWNE " 183 

danger. At length the pleading of his friends was so 
far successful that the Queen was induced to commute 
the sentence to imprisonment for life. So in the 
Tower the Earl languished, while his Countess re- 
mained at Titchfield, until the death of Elizabeth, 
when, on the order of James I., Southampton was 
pardoned and liberated. The poets hastened to con- 
gratulate the great patron of literature, while Shake- 
speare greeted his " dear boy " in the words of the 
hundred and seventh sonnet. 

Then a few years later, on "Januarye 5, 161 5," 
the Countess lost her fourth daughter, "ye Ladie 
Mayre Wryotheslie," at the tender age of four years 
and four months, and the parents laid "ye bodie " 
in the spacious vault beside the coffin of the Lord 
Chancellor, and placed in the south wall of the chapel 
an effigy of their little one, who is represented as 
sleeping the sleep of death. As Shakespeare said of 
Juliet: — 

" Death lies on her like an untimely frost 
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field." 

Another sorrow befell the " faire Elizabeth " in 162 1, 
when in consequence of his opposition to the Court, 
and especially to the Duke of Buckingham, Southamp- 
ton was again imprisoned, when we are told that "the 
Countess of Southampton, assisted by some two more 
countesses, got up a petition to the King, that her 
lord might answer before himself, which they say His 
Majesty granted." But the cruellest blow of all fell 
upon the beautiful Countess three years later, when 
her husband and his eldest son both died in Holland 
— poisoned, it was said, by order of the infamous 
Buckingham. Their bodies were embalmed, or per- 



184 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

haps, as local tradition has it, preserved in some 
spirituous liquor, and brought in a small boat to 
England, and landed at Southampton. Then the 
remains were taken by road to Titchfield, about ten 
miles distant, and received by the broken-hearted 
Countess beneath the stately gate-house, where, not 
twenty-five years before, the grinning corbel had 
welcomed her as a bride. A few days later, on Inno- 
cents' Day, December 28, the two coffins, covered, 
it is believed, with crimson cloth, were laid in the 
family vault beneath the splendid monument. 

The Countess survived her lord for many years, 
and continued to reside at Titchfield, where, in 1637, 
a granddaughter was born, and christened " Rachel." 
The child was brought up probably under the care of 
her grandmother at Place House, and played in the old 
walled garden and about the monastic fish-ponds, and 
on Sundays gazed in wonderment at the magnificent 
monument of her ancestors in the parish church, and 
learnt her lessons, it may be, at the knee of the " faire 
Countess," whose face now showed the traces of 
sorrow and of years. This little girl, the grand- 
daughter of Romeo and Juliet, became famous in 
after years as the noble and devoted wife of Lord 
William Russell who was executed by Charles II. 
It is interesting to notice that her celebrated Letters 
contain several allusions to her early home. 

When Rachel was about ten years old an event 
happened which must have engraved itself deeply 
upon her memory. Towards evening one dull Nov- 
ember afternoon, when the fog lay heavily along the 
course of the river Meon, and the drive beneath the 
avenue was thickly strewn with fallen leaves, two 
horsemen were seen to cross the bridge, and to ride 



AN "ANCIENT MARKET-TOWNE" 185 

up to the entrance of the hall. The Earl was away 
from home, but the visitors were immediately ad- 
mitted, and one of them proved to be none other than 
Charles I. 

The King, it appeared, fearing danger, had secretly 
left Hampton Court by a back staircase the evening 
before, and accompanied only by Mr. Ashburnham, 
Sir John Berkley, and Mr. Legge, had ridden through- 
out the stormy night as far as the village of Sutton 
in Hampshire, where at daybreak a relay of horses 
awaited them. Setting off again immediately, for a 
Committee of Roundheads was assembled in the very 
inn at which they alighted, the party proceeded towards 
the coast, till when near Southampton the King called 
a halt to consider the situation. It was finally decided 
that Mr. Ashburnham ^and Sir John Berkley should 
take boat for the Isle of Wight in order to sound 
Colonel Hammond the Governor, while Charles, ac- 
companied by Mr. Legge, should proceed to Titchfield, 
and there await the result of the negotiations. Un- 
fortunately for the King, his friends performed their 
mission unskilfully. They agreed to Hammond's 
"Engagement," that if the King "pleased to put 
himself into his hands, what he could expect from 
a person of honour and honestie. His Majesty should 
have it made good by him," and even allowed the 
Governor, together with the "Captaine of Cowes 
Castle and their two servants " to " embarque " with 
them for the mainland. 

The party landed at the mouth of the river Meon, 
and passing over a bridge, still known as Hammond's 
bridge, " we were together, ' says Ashburnham, " till 
we came to Titchfield Towne, when I desired to go 
before to the Lord of Southampton's, and acquaint 



i86 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

His Majesty with what had happened." In one of 
the lofty rooms of Place House, Charles was anxiously 
awaiting his arrival, and when Ashburnham had told 
his story, the King, " with a very severe and reserved 
countenance, the first of that kinde to me, said that 
notwithstanding the engagement, Hee verily believed 
the Governor would make him a prisoner." At length, 
after " walkeing some few turnes in the Roome," and 
recognising the hopelessness of the situation, he com- 
manded that the Governor should be called up. When 
Hammond appeared, His Majesty accepted the Engage- 
ment, but added that he desired him to remember that 
" Hee was to be judge of what was honourable and 
honest." " After two houres stay more," says Ash- 
burnham, " His Majesty took boate and went to the 
Isle of Wight." 

It was a sad going-away that little Rachel Wriothesley 
witnessed that November day, when Charles I., accom- 
panied by Colonel Hammond and the ** Captaine of 
Cowes Castle," passed beneath the grinning corbel of 
the gate-house, and down the leafless avenue of elms, 
to the lonely spot at the mouth of the Titchfield Haven 
where he " tooke boate for the Isle of Wight." For 
on leaving Titchfield the King was virtually a prisoner, 
and the last act of the long tragedy had begun, which 
ended just fourteen months later, when in the Chapel 
of St. George's, Windsor, the decapitated body of 
Charles I. was secretly laid to rest, in the presence 
of Rachel's father and of three other noblemen. 

In more modern times, after the Southampton family 
had become extinct. Place House passed into the 
possession of strangers ; and in the last century Fox 
and Pitt were more than once entertained there by 
the beautiful Lady Betty Delme, whose celebrated 




RUINS OF M.ACE HoLSK, irrCllKlKl.U 



AN "ANCIENT MARKET-TOWNE " 187 

portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds was sold a few 
years ago for the large sum of eleven thousand 
guineas. 

The " righte statelie house," as we have said, is now 
in ruins ; but the gate-house remains, and the other 
parts of the mansion can quite easily be traced. Two 
sundials still stand forth from the lofty turrets, as in 
the days of Lord Chancellor Wriothesley. Across 
several of the muUioned windows the old iron bars 
remain, and afford resting-places to the multitude of 
starlings and jackdaws which make the ruin their 
home. The garden is still " circummured with brick," 
as Shakespeare has it, but the paths and " alleys " 
and " knots " are gone. It is no longer a ** curious- 
knotted garden " ; not a single flower-bed remains. 
But within those garden walls Edward VI. must have 
walked, when at Place House he tried to recruit his 
ruined health in the summer of 1552. Here, too, 
Queen Elizabeth must have strolled when she visited 
the second Earl in days before Henry Wriothesley 
was born. Within these walls the children and 
grandchildren of Romeo and Juliet played ; and 
Shakespeare, it may be, wandered with his friend 
through the " thick-pleached alleys," and watched 
the woodpeckers at work in the rotten trees, and 
noticed the " crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long- 
purples" blooming in the meadow beyond. Up and 
down the garden Charles I. may have paced on that 
fateful November day when he waited in an agony 
of suspense for the return of Ashburnham from the 
Isle of Wight. All is changed now; purple snap- 
dragons are growing on the crumbling garden walls, 
with yellow stonecrop, and here and there a tuft of 
polypody fern ; while owls and kestrels lay their eggs 



i88 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

in the ivy-mantled towers, and sparrows chirp merrily 
in the ruined hall. 

Such are some of the changes which have passed 
over the "Ancient Market-To wne " in the course of 
centuries. The " heathy ground mixt with feme," 
mentioned by Leland in 1540, when he visited Mr. 
Wriothesley's house, and of which the greater part of 
the parish then consisted, remained in pretty much the 
same condition as he saw it till within recent years, 
when the soil was discovered to be good for the culti- 
vation of strawberries. And now most of the " heathy 
ground " has been broken up and measured out into 
garden-plots ; and where the Royal fern — Osmunda 
Regalis — once abounded, and black game might be 
seen, are acres of strawberry plants. Still much 
rough ground and wild stretches of country remain, 
especially towards the sea, and rare wild-flowers and 
uncommon birds may occasionally be met with. 

In the dense reed-beds that fringe the river the 
beautiful nests of the reed-warbler may be found, sus- 
pended between three or four tall stems, and waving 
in the wind. Numbers of gulls visit the haven, and 
several species of wild-duck, and the common cormo- 
rant, and other sea- fowl. Even the redshank occa- 
sionally laj's its eggs in the thick tussocks of grass 
which abound in the marshes ; while on the seashore, 
among the stones of the beach, the ringed dotterel 
deposits her eggs, and difficult indeed are they to find, 
so exactly do they resemble the pebbles around. Near 
Hammond's Bridge, built, as tradition affirms, with 
materials from the old monastery, a few plants of the 
beautiful " summer snowflake " still remain. Some 
years ago, before people took to transplanting it into 
their gardens, this rare plant was not uncommon along 



AN "ANCIENT MARKET-TOWNE " 189 

the river-banks as far as the priory garden, from which 
possibly it originally escaped. Now it is confined to 
this one spot, where it maintains a precarious existence, 
and will doubtless soon be gone. In this manner our 
rarer and more beautiful wild-flowers become extinct, 
and civilisation converts our "commons" into straw- 
berry beds and potato plots, and drives away the black 
game from the " heathy ground " ; while the haunts of 
the wild-fowl are yearly becoming more encroached 
upon, and before long it may be the weird cry of the 
peewit will be heard no more in the desolate marshes 
which skirt the haven by the sea. 



A VILLAGE BY THE SEA 
PORTCHESTER 

The parish consists of nearly three thousand acres, of 
which about one-half is land and the other half mud or 
water, according to the condition of the tide. The land 
portion is of a strangely diversified character. Sur- 
rounded on three sides by the mud flats of the harbour, 
most of the land lies low, and is only protected from 
inundation during the spring tides by means of artificial 
chalk banks raised some five or six feet above the level 
of the shore. On the east, where the banks are highest 
and where, in spite of every precaution, the marshy pas- 
ture is more or less under water, salterns once ranged, 
and formed a considerable source of profit to the 
villagers. The arable portion of the parish, with the 
exception of two or three small farms, is now divided 
into market-gardens, which produce an immense quan- 
tity of vegetables for the neighbouring town. 

An extensive chalk down, locally known as " the 
hill," rises at the back of the village to the height of 
three hundred feet, and shields the gardens from the 
keen north winds. In the harbour are two small 
islands, Horsea and Pewty, which form part of the 
parish. The parish is also proud in the possession 
of an ancient castle, dating back to Roman times, 
which affords a famous shelter to various kinds of 
birds. The mighty Norman keep, rising one hundred 



192 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

feet above the low marshy ground, is a conspicuous 
object in the landscape, and throws its spell over the 
whole neighbourhood. 

In olden days the appearance of the parish was 
entirely different from what it is now. At the time of 
the Domesday " record " about three hundred acres only 
were under some rough sort of cultivation. As late 
as the sixteenth century the larger part of the parish 
was covered with oak and beech and brushwood, 
where the peasants had free pasture and " pannage " 
for swine. Open marshes, covered with water at 
every high tide, skirted the shore, and sheltered 
thousands of wild-fowl which, in bad weather, con- 
gregated in the harbour. A number of widgeon, called 
" wygones" in an old document, and so many quarters 
of salt from the village salt-pits, were the regular pay- 
ments to the king's treasury. Red-deer roamed in the 
forest, and often descended from the long chalk ridge, 
then covered with gorse and dotted here and there 
with yew-trees, to drink at the clear spring of fresh 
water which still rises in the meadow below. The 
timber has now all disappeared ; not a copse, hardly 
a clump of trees, remains ; the marshes are converted 
into rough pasture ; the wild-fowl, except in very 
severe weather, are seldom seen ; the last of the red- 
deer was killed by the " Waltham Blacks " at the 
beginning of the eighteenth century ; and the poetry 
and romance of the ancient ruin, with its stories of 
royal visitors, of unhappy captives pining in the 
Norman dungeons, of tournaments and falconry, of 
French prisoners and of military deserters, has almost 
entirely disappeared. 

Yet for all lovers of country life, for the botanist 
and the naturalist, the parish is still full of interest. 



A VILLAGE BY THE SEA 193 

A severe winter brings to the shelter of the harbour, 
and the reed-beds and sedges of the marsh, a number 
of strange visitors. The beautiful snow bunting will 
be seen in small flocks along the shore, and bramb- 
lings mix with the sparrows and finches in the farm- 
yard. The harbour will be full of gulls, the common 
gull, the kittiwake, the herring-gull, the greater and 
the lesser black-backed gull, in vast numbers. Flocks 
of duck, becoming wilder and wilder as the gunners 
continue to harass them, will congregate in the harbour; 
and wild geese and perhaps a few wild swans may 
pass over. In addition to the commoner kinds of 
wild-fowl, such as the mallard and the widgeon and 
the beautiful little teal, rarer sorts are occasionally 
met with. Pochards and scoters and tufted ducks 
will be brought in, and perhaps a few sheldrakes and 
golden-eyes. It is not unlikely that a great northern 
diver may visit the harbour, and both the merganser 
and the smew have been seen. In the hard winter of 
1890-91 a splendid specimen of an osprey was shot off 
Horsea Island, in the act of plunging into the water 
after a fish ; and a bittern which had taken refuge in 
the reed-bed of the marsh was unfortunately put up 
and killed. 

During a prolonged frost, especially if there be 
much snow on the ground, the smaller birds suffer 
severely. Hundreds of birds perished during the 
long spell of frost which occurred a few winters 
ago. Within the castle enclosure, among the ruins, 
in crevices of the walls, among the ivy and rank 
herbage, their dead bodies, stiff and frozen, were 
found. In one hole of the Roman masonry six dead 
birds — two starlings, three thrushes, and a redwing 
— lay huddled together. Close by, in another crevice, 

N 



194 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

lay a dead linnet ; and in the coarse grass below, a 
skylark and a hedge-sparrow were picked up, together 
with a wren, and some dozen thrushes and starlings. 
All along under the Roman wall dead birds were 
found, lying in holes and crannies into which they had 
crept for shelter from the icy wind outside. Alto- 
gether more than fifty birds, chiefly thrushes and 
starlings and redwings, were picked up about the 
ancient ruins. 

Many years ago a colony of black-headed gulls had 
their breeding-place in our parish. The spot is still 
known as Peewit or Pewty Island, "peewit" being 
the old name for this species of gull. It appears from 
an old document that the sale of the young birds, then 
accounted a great delicacy, realised as large a sum 
as forty pounds per annum. The "gullery" has of 
course been long since deserted, but it is interesting 
to remember that the parish once numbered among 
its inhabitants a colony of " peewits." On the spot 
where the gulls nested, and along the shore of Horsea 
Island, the eggs of the ringed plover are occasionally 
found. In the coarse herbage that covers the sea- 
banks the grasshopper warbler and the shore-pipit 
build their nests, and every year a pair of red-backed 
shrikes bravely endeavour to rear their young in a tall 
quickset hedge, almost the only one now left in the 
parish. The entire destruction of all hedgerows and 
the uprooting of every tree, which marks the progress 
of market-gardening, is of itself sufficient to explain 
the scarcity of our songsters and smaller birds. 

The number of wild-flowers to be found in the 
parish is remarkable. The chalk down, the gardens, 
the salt marshes, the shore, the "cribs" covered with 
water at every high tide, all yield a separate flora of 



A VILLAGE BY THE SEA 195 

their own. Even the old ruins of the castle produce 
plants which would be sought for in vain elsewhere. 
Every spring the grey walls arc gay with the pale 
yellow blossoms of the wild wallflower, which grows 
in profusion all over the Roman masonry. Later on 
the deep red flowers of the spur valerian make a fine 
show on the top of the broken battlements. A few 
noble spikes of the great yellow mullein will also be 
seen here and there among the ruins. The dark 
sword-shaped leaves of the Iris fcetidissima shoot up 
abundantly beneath the shelter of the Roman wall, 
and in winter the beautiful scarlet seeds are very 
conspicuous. A few plants of the common balm may 
perhaps be noticed on one spot, survivals of the old 
monastic herb-garden. For a monastery once existed 
within the castle walls. The buildings have dis- 
appeared, but the priory church remains, and the 
cloisters may yet be traced. Moreover, one plant still 
flourishes which is probably to be attributed to the 
days of the Austin canons. A large patch of " common 
alexanders " puts up year by year its smooth, shining, 
pale green foliage. The plant was formerly a famous 
pot-herb, known from the colour of its roots as the "black 
pot-herb," and is still found beneath old priory walls. 

It is curious how some plants seem to love the 
neighbourhood of churchyards. Such a species is the 
wild sage or clary, a labiate plant, from one to two feet 
high, and carrying in a spike whorls of dark blue 
flowers. It is common in our churchyard, but not 
a plant is to be found outside the walls. In former 
years it appears to have been the custom to plant 
the wild sage, which was supposed to possess many 
virtues, in churchyards. At any rate, it is worthy of 
notice that Pepys, when on his travels in this part 



196 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

of the country, "observed a little churchyard, where 
the graves are accustomed to be all sowen with sage." 

In the meadow on the other side of the Roman wall 
a host of golden daffodils dance and flutter in the 
breeze every spring, having perhaps originally escaped 
from some cottage garden. Such, however, was not 
the case with a colony of wild tulips which still con- 
tinues to flourish in the parish. The wild plant is 
quite distinct from the garden varieties, and possesses 
a delicious fragrance which may be detected at some 
distance. Almost extinct in the south of England, it 
may still be found in one or two localities. In the 
" park " or meadow below Gilbert White's old house 
at Selborne, the long narrow leaves come up sparingly 
every year, but the bulbs seldom put forth a flower. 
In a chalk-pit not far from Selborne a few flowers 
may be gathered at the right season ; while in our 
parish the bulbs blossom abundantly every year. 

A stroll along the sea-banks in summer, with the 
tide on one hand and the salt marshes on the other, 
is interesting to the naturalist. Wheatears frequent 
the banks, and perhaps a kingfisher may be seen. 
The chatter of the sedgebird will be heard in the 
reed beds, and at any rate some noteworthy plant 
will be met with. Wild beet is abundant all along 
the shore. This plant, known among the villagers as 
wild spinach, is the origin of our garden beetroot and 
of the mangel-wurzel of our fields. The young shoots 
and leaves are often gathered in spring and used as 
a substitute for spinach. On one spot in the parish 
a considerable quantity of the real samphire may be 
found, growing, not, as is usually the case, on rocks 
or cliffs, but »among the shingle on the shore just out 
of reach of the flowing tide. 



A VILLAGE BY THE SEA 197 

In the marshes, at certain seasons of the year bright 
with the beautiful flowers of the sea lavender, not far 
from a dark reedy pool, which in winter-time is a 
favourite haunt of wild-duck, several interesting plants 
have their home. In the swampy pasture beside the 
pool, if diligent search be made exactly at the right 
season, the uncommon little fern known as the adder's- 
tongue will be found. This curious and delicate plant, 
with its simple egg-shaped frond and solitary fruit- 
spike shoots up every year among the rank herbage 
of the marsh, and after a brief sojourn again dis- 
appears. Later on, especially in wet summers, two 
handsome and conspicuous grasses, nearly related to 
each other, appear in considerable plenty beside the 
pool. Their family name is Polypogon or beard grass, 
so called from the nature of their spike-like panicles, 
which are long and silky. And the plants are as rare 
as they are beautiful. Only in our parish, and in a 
salt marsh just beyond its borders, are they found 
within the area of the county. But there on the same 
spot, beside the same sedgy pool, have those two 
grasses flourished for centuries. On the chalk hill 
several species of orchids may be found. In some 
seasons the beautiful bee-orchis is abundant ; and on 
one spot the fly-orchis comes up every May. The 
down in places is covered with the curious trailing 
root-parasite, the bastard toad-flax ; while in a chalk 
pit hard by several noble plants of the dwale or deadly 
nightshade come up every year. 

From the hill a fine view of the parish is obtained. 
How peaceful it looks, with the smoke of cottage 
chimne3's rising up between the trees ! The long 
village street is as old as the days of the Romans, 
whose legions must have often traversed it. Then 



198 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

the Saxons came, and destroyed every vestige of 
civilisation ; not a stone of the Christian basilica was 
left standing, not a square yard of tessellated pavement 
was left intact. Later, the black boats of the North- 
men appeared in the tidal haven, bringing death and 
destruction with them. Later still, Duke Robert 
landed with his Norman knights beside the Roman 
ruin and passed up the village street, and over the 
hill, and through the forest beyond, towards the gates 
of Winchester. And after Duke Robert came other 
Normans, masons and artificers, hewers of timber and 
stone, who built that lofty keep, which for many a 
century overawed the neighbourhood. 

Then, for a brief period, a company of Norman 
monks, with a good prior at their head, said Mass 
daily in the church below for the sinful soul of the 
Red King, and ministered to the sick and dying in 
the mud huts and hovels around. But heartsick at 
the riot and wickedness around them, they built them- 
selves another home over the hill, in the midst of a 
silent wood, beside the murmur of a gentle stream, 
where they could perform their devotions, and catch 
their fish in gladness and singleness of heart. Then 
came the awful days of King Stephen, when, in the 
words of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Castle was 
" filled with devils and evil men " ; after this it became 
a royal residence and was frequently " defiled " by 
the presence of King John. 

In the month of August, 14 15, all the chivalry of 
England passed down our village street when Henry 
V. embarked at the Roman Watergate for France, 
where three months later he gained the victory of 
Agincourt. On the same spot, some thirty years 
afterwards, landed the masterful Margaret of Anjou, 



A VILLAGE BY THE SEA 199 

and with lier splendid retinue passed to the Priory 
of Titchfield, where in the chapel, now in ruins, she 
was married by the Prior to King Henry VL It is 
possible, as tradition asserts, that on one of her roya] 
progresses Queen Elizabeth honoured the Castle with 
her presence, and feasted with her coui tiers in the 
stately banqueting hall, while minstrels played in the 
gallery, as in the old days when the good Philippa 
was queen. 

But with the last strains of the minstrels' music 
a silence falls upon the Castle for many a year, broken 
again in the days of the great war by the arrival of 
hundreds of Dutch and French prisoners. At one 
time several thousand prisoners of war were confined 
there. The village was full of soldiers ; and the 
monotony of country life was broken. Attempts at 
escape on the part of the prisoners were frequent, 
and now and then a public execution took place. 
With the declaration of peace after the battle of 
Waterloo, the prisoners returned to their own country, 
and owls and jackdaws visited the deserted ruin. 

As the great town enlarges its borders it draws 
nearer and nearer to our parish. In another fifty 
years it will probably have reached us. And tlien 
much of the interest of the old place will be gone. 
The walls of Roman masonry will doubtless be left 
standing, and the Norman keep will tower for perhaps 
another century or two above the mud flats and the 
flowing tide. But the glory of the parish will have 
departed. The wild-fowl will no more visit the har- 
bour-shore. In very hard winters when the ponds 
and lakes are ice-bound they will again seek, as their 
ancestors have done for centuries, the open salt water 
of the harbour, but they will only look and pass on. 



200 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

Choice wild-flowers will be searched for in vain ; the 
so-called improvements of town life will drain the last 
patch of marshland where once the teal and widgeon 
congregated in countless numbers, and the beautiful 
beard-grass will be gone. The samphire will go with 
it, and the adder's-tongue; and Dianthus armeria, 
the Deptford pink, will no longer open its beautiful 
crimson petals on the rough stretch of marshy waste 
which borders the vicar's glebe beside the ancient 
mill. 



FRENCH PRISONERS AT 
PORTCHESTER 

In the early part of the last century, when England 
was engaged in a deadly struggle with Napoleon, an 
immense number of French prisoners of war were 
incarcerated in various parts of the country. In the 
year 1811 it is calculated that not less than fifty 
thousand Frenchmen were prisoners in England. Of 
this enormous number the prison at Dartmoor, built 
by the Government in 1809 for their reception, held as 
many as ten thousand unfortunate men, who pined in 
vain for the sunnier climes of France. " For seven 
months in the year," wrote one of them, " it is a vraie 
Sib6rie, covered with unmelting snow. When the 
snows go away, the mists appear. Imagine the 
tyranny of perfide Albion in sending human beings 
to such a place." Others were lodged in Mill Bay 
Prison, near Plymouth, and on board prison-ships 
moored in Hamoaze. Other prison-ships lay in the 
Medway off Chatham, and at other convenient stations 
along the coast. But Hampshire appears to have re- 
ceived the greater number of the foreigners. French 
officers on parole were scattered throughout the 
smaller country towns, such as Odiham, Whitchurch, 
Bishop's Waltham, Andover, and Alresford where in 
the churchyard several tombstones erected to the 



202 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

memory of those who died in captivity may be seen. 
In the neighbourhood of Portsmouth at least twenty 
thousand French prisoners were confined, some at 
Forton, near Gosport, and some, from eight to ten 
thousand, in Portchester Castle ; while a number of 
old hulks, originally warships captured from the 
enemy, and made to accommodate some five or six 
hundred prisoners each, were moored in Portchester 
creek, between the castle walls and the mouth of the 
harbour. 

It is of the French prisoners at Portchester that we 
propose mainly to speak in the present paper. The 
outlines of the ancient castle, as seen from the train 
between Fareham and Cosham, are well known to 
travellers on the London and South- Western Railway. 
The mighty Norman keep, rising one hundred feet 
from the water's edge at high tide, is an imposing 
feature in the prospect. But the extent and grandeur 
of the ruins can only be estimated by a nearer inspec- 
tion. The outside walls, varying from twenty to forty 
feet in height, are beyond question of Roman con- 
struction, and enclose an area of about nine acres. 
In the north-west corner of this enclosure stands the 
lofty keep, around which cluster the remains of Nor- 
man, Plantagenet, and Tudor buildings. In the days 
of its glory the royal castle of Portchester was a place 
of considerable importance. Here kings and queens 
held their court with much feasting, and tilting tour- 
naments took place in the great square, and hawking 
parties rode forth beneath the Norman gateway. 
Here, for a time, dwelt a community of monks whose 
duty it was to say mass daily for the soul of the Red 
King in the priory church, which is still standing 
within its walls. Here, too, in the damp dungeons of 



PRISONERS AT PORTCHESTER 203 

the keep, many a political prisoner lay in darkness 
and despair, and not a few executions took place on 
the green outside. But after the days of Queen 
Elizabeth the castle, being no longer required as a 
military fortress, passed into the hands of private 
owners, and quickly fell into a state of ruinous dilapi- 
dation. It appears to have been entirely unoccupied, 
and for a considerable period an almost total silence 
rests upon the ruins. 

Towards the end of the eighteenth century the 
castle again emerges into the light of history as a 
depot for the safe keeping of prisoners of war. For 
this purpose it possessed many and peculiar advan- 
tages. The investing Roman walls completely en- 
closed the square within, together with the Norman 
and Tudor buildings, and thereby rendered escape 
almost impossible. This square, moreover, was of 
considerable size, consisting, as we have said, of some 
nine acres, while the keep and other buildings could 
easily be made to accommodate a large number of 
men. Situated, too, at the head of Portsmouth har- 
bour, and surrounded on two sides by the flowing 
tide, prisoners could be carried up at high water to 
the very walls of the castle, into which admittance 
was gained through the ancient Roman water-gate. 

The castle was accordingly taken over by the War 
Office, and preparations were hurried forward for the 
reception of French prisoners. Fortunately, there are 
in the writer's possession a collection of old engrav- 
ings which clearly indicate the work done for the 
accommodation of the unhappy captives. Several 
prints, under date "April 1733," depict the castle in 
a state of silent desolation — a solitary horse is feeding 
in the great enclosure, where the rank herbage almost 



204 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

hides from view great blocks of fallen masonry. The 
Norman keep appears in almost exactly the same 
condition as we see it to-day, but the buildings around 
are in a more perfect state of preservation. Turrets 
are standing which have now entirely disappeared, 
while the mullions of several of the decorated windows 
remain. Later prints, engraved respectively in 1761 
and 1782, show the castle in the same deserted con- 
dition, but the buildings are in a state of greater 
decay, and large trees, probably elders, are growing 
from the summit of the broken battlements. Two 
years later, however, a small engraving, dated June 
30, 1784, showing a sentinel on guard outside the 
Roman walls, records the fact that the castle had 
again become a centre of military occupation. 

It was about this time that the Government deter- 
mined to convert the ancient ruin into a military depot 
for prisoners of war. The silence which had long 
settled upon it was now rudely broken. Large quaint- 
looking wooden barracks, as shown in another old 
print, with staircases outside and covered balconies, 
were quickly run up in the great square of the castle ; 
and the Norman keep was converted into sleeping 
quarters for the prisoners. This lofty tower was 
divided into five stories, connected with a wooden 
staircase which ran up one side of it. Until quite 
lately part of the framework in some of these compart- 
ments was remaining, to which the hammocks of 
eighteen hundred prisoners were suspended. " It may 
be understood," says an eye-witness, " that the men's 
sleeping-quarters were not luxurious. Some of them 
had hammocks, but when the press grew thicker straw 
was thrown upon the floor for those to sleep upon for 
whom hammock room could not be found. But hard 




rORTCHKSI KK CAS II. E 
(1799) 



PRISONERS AT PORTCHESTER 205 

as was the lot of the Portchester prisoners, it was 
comfort compared with that of the men immured at 
Forton, where there was hardly room to stand in the 
exercise ground, and they lay at night as thick 
as herrings in a barrel ; or with those who were 
confined on the hulks, which were chiefly used as 
punishment ships, where the refractory and desperate 
were sent, and where half-rations brought them to 
reason and obedience. At Portchester the prisoners 
got at least plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and room to 
walk about." Outside the castle walls, the ancient 
moat, which during long years of neglect had become 
choked with rubbish, was cleared out and filled with 
water, beyond which other barracks were erected for 
the militia regiments on guard. 

The ordinary number of prisoners confined in the 
castle during the French war was about eight thousand, 
while the hulks in the harbour — the Prothee, San 
Dainaso, Sultan, Captivity, Vigilant, Fortanee, and 
others, were crowded with them. In the castle were 
confined, among other prisoners, the French and negro 
garrisons of St. Vincent ; those captured in Lord 
Howe's celebrated victory of " the First of June " ; 
eighteen hundred Dutch seamen taken at the battle 
of Camperdown ; the French galley-slaves who, with 
General Tate, were captured at Fishguard in Wales ; 
together with hundreds of soldiers and seamen captured 
by our cruisers on the coast of Ireland, in the West 
Indies, and elsewhere. A few notable prisoners were 
among them. Tallien, who played so infamous a part 
in the bloody orgies of the French Revolution, was at 
Portchester for a short time; and General d'Hilliers, 
an officer in high favour with Napoleon ; and Fongaret, 
the daring leader of Charette's vanguard ; while among 



2o6 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

the unfortunate captives were the youthful son of the 
Duke de Montmorency, and the French painter, Louis 
Garneray, who spent eight weary years on board the 
prison-ship Prothee before he was released on parole. 

Many were the devices resorted to by the unfortu- 
nate captives in order to while away the tedious time. 
A large number of French names carved on the stone 
walls of the Norman keep still bear eloquent witness 
to the irksomeness of their captivity. Some of the 
prisoners were very expert carvers, and fashioned out 
of beef and mutton bones the most beautiful toys. 
Some of these trinkets, carved only with a penknife, 
are still in existence in the neighbourhood — models 
of ships, even of three-deckers with sails and colours 
flying, windmills, tops, dolls, spinning-wheels, small 
bone playing-cards in bone boxes, dominoes, and 
chessmen, of which the writer has some fine speci- 
mens. Others would make out of the straw supplied 
for their bedding beautiful little boxes and watch- 
cases, and straw mats of geometrical design. Occa- 
sionally, once or twice a week perhaps, a portion of 
the castle enclosure would be thrown open to visitors, 
many of whom were eager to purchase from the 
prisoners their toys and trinkets. On these occasions 
kindly disposed people would bring with them large 
bones and other material for carving, which they 
would pass to these skilful mechanics through the 
wooden palisade which fenced off their quarters. 
Some of the prisoners, too, made large quantities of 
most delicate lace, for which they found a ready 
market among the fair visitors to the castle. Owing, 
however, to some trade jealousy, the authorities en- 
deavoured to stop its manufacture, and issued an 
order that within fourteen days all lace-making imple- 



PRISONERS AT PORTCHESTER 207 

ments were to be given up. It appears, however, that 
the cunning Frenchmen still continued to make it 
clandestinely, either at night after the curfew had 
sounded, or in some secret spot in the great tower, 
which afforded many tempting places of concealment. 
Here, too, as at Forton and Plymouth, forged bank- 
notes may have been manufactured, large numbers of 
which, and of counterfeit seven-shilling pieces, were 
circulated in the neighbourhood, through the medium, 
it was supposed, of soldiers on guard acting in col- 
lusion with the prisoners. One Frenchman, named 
Francois Dutard, was sentenced to death for forging 
notes, but his sentence was commuted to two years' 
imprisonment at Winchester. 

The days when the castle court was thrown open 
to the public were indeed red-letter days in the 
monotonous lives of the prisoners. Many, as we have 
seen, embraced the opportunity of selling their handi- 
work ; others endeavoured, by songs and music and 
juggling exhibitions, to make a few honest pence in 
order to purchase eggs or butter or other luxuries, 
which on these occasions were brought to the castle 
by the country folk around. The presence of visitors 
was, further, a break in the dreary monotony of life, 
hours of which were spent daily by the prisoners in 
draughts and dominoes and backgammon, and some- 
times in more exciting games of chance. Many of the 
Frenchmen were inveterate gamblers, and would even 
stake their food and clothing. One man at least is 
reported to have died of starvation, having gambled 
away eight days' provisions in advance. Theatrical 
entertainments were also occasionally^ arranged by the 
prisoners, and one Borchiampe, formerly a sergeant- 
major in General Dupont's corps, whose hand had 



2o8 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

been disabled in battle, greatly distinguished himself 
in this direction. 

In spite of the precautions taken to prevent the 
escape of the prisoners, such incidents were not 
unknown. We have already pointed out that the 
position of the castle rendered escape exceptionally 
difficult. Then at least one hundred sentries were 
posted every night in and around the castle, while at 
a certain hour the curfew was sounded, when the 
prisoners had to retire to their sleeping quarters, 
and when all lights had to be extinguished. The 
prisoners, moreover, by way of identification, wore 
conspicuous yellow jackets with grey and yellow caps. 
And yet occasionally escapes were effected, as the 
following extracts will show. One Sunday morning, 
just as service had begun in Portchester church, the 
sentry on duty at the water-gate noticed three naval 
officers, in full uniform, coming towards him from the 
churchyard. He naturally concluded that, having 
seen their men safely into church, they were about to 
take a morning walk. So he "presented arms," and 
let them pass through the water-gate to the shore 
outside the castle walls. On the following morning 
three dashing privateer captains, who had been taken 
while cruising against our West Indian trade, were 
found to be missing ! There was one French seaman 
"confined" in the castle, who, for a mere frolic or a 
trifling wager, would scale the walls within a few 
feet of the sentries, and make his way into the 
woodlands to the north of Portsdown Hill, where he 
would ramble at large, until his depredations among 
the cottagers provoked their anger and led to his 
recapture and return to prison. This man's name 
was Fran9ois Dufresne. His term of captivity was 



PRISONERS AT PORTCH ESTER 209 

in all about five years ; but, says one who was living 
in the village at the time, " he was often prowling 
about in the forests around when supposed by his 
keepers to be quietly lodged in the castle. His 
custom when at large was to approach a cottage in 
the morning when its .nale inmates would be in the 
fields ; if he happened to find them at home he would 
ask, with all due humility, for a crust and a drink of 
water; but if the dame only was within, he would 
dash into her larder, pounce upon her bread, cheese, 
and bacon, and scamper off with his prey into the 
cover of the forest. These pranks filled the neighbour- 
hood with a thousand tales of his doings. Provoked 
at last by his predatory larcenies, the peasants would 
assemble in numbers near his haunts, a general hunt 
would ensue, and Dufresne would be brought back 
to the castle maimed with stones, or lacerated with 
buckshot from the guns of his pursuers." The same 
writer tells a story of the attempted escape of eighteen 
Spanish seamen. Beneath one of the towers in the 
inner court a large low irregular vault may still be 
seen. Here on a certain night the desperadoes had 
assembled, armed with sharp daggers, which they 
had made out of horseshoe files, intending in due 
season to sally forth, assassinate the sentries, and 
make their escape over the wall. But, as often hap- 
pened, treachery had been busy among the captives, 
and full inToixiiation had been given to the authorities. 
So, " about midnight, a strong body of prison police, 
bearing lighted torches, and supported by a guard 
with fixed bayonets, crawled on hands and knees into 
the dungeon (which was the only mode of entering it) 
and there discovered the desperadoes in perfect readi- 
ness for the attempt. At sight of their daggers, which 

O 



210 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

they endeavoured to conceal among the rubbish, it 
was with difficulty that the soldiers were restrained 
from putting them to the bayonet. They were im- 
mediately put in irons and sent on board a prison- 
ship, there to atone on half-rations for their intended 
mischief." From these hulks in the harbour attempts 
to escape were, we learn, much more frequent. In 
the year i8o6 "seven French prisoners cut a hole in 
the side of the Crown prison-ship at Portsmouth. Six 
of them were taken at once ; the other supposed 
drowned." On October 8, iSiS, " two French prisoners 
escaped from a prison-ship at Portsmouth at night : 
one was drowned ; the other was found in the mud 
and sent back to the ship from whence he had 
escaped." The last extract is specially interesting, 
as the unfortunate captive was the marine painter, 
Louis Garneray, whose name we have already men- 
tioned, and who was afterwards released on parole, 
and lived for some years at Bishop's Waltham. 

It will be easily understood that among the large 
number of captives confined in the castle and in the 
hulks were many men of dangerous character, and 
acts of savagery were only too frequent among them. 
An informer being discovered on board the Prothee 
in Portsmouth harbour, he was seized by his fellow- 
prisoners, and tattooed on the face with the terrible 
sentence, " This villain betrayed his brethren to the 
EngHsh." Maddened with agony and shame, the poor 
wretch, when released by his tormentors, rushed on 
deck and tried to leap overboard, but fell and broke his 
leg. He afterwards entered the English service, being 
afraid to return to his own country. Here is another 
extract. "In November 1796, the prisoners on board 
the Hero prison-ship detected a thief in their midst. 



PRISONERS AT PORTCHESTER 21 r 

They accordingly tied him down to a ring on the 
deck, and flogged him most unmercifully. They then 
trampled upon him, and the man actually expired 
under their barbarous treatment." 

Duels, as may well be imagined, were not of un- 
common occurrence, and several, with fatal results, 
are known to have taken place within the castle of 
Portchester. The weapons used were of the most 
nondescript character. Nails, or knives, or scissor- 
blades fastened with string to sticks a few feet long, 
or even a wooden foil with a sharpened point, were 
made to serve the purpose with deadly effect. Several 
executions, too, took place within the castle walls. In 
July 1796, a young French seaman, named Vallerie 
Coffre, only twenty-two years of age, was condemned 
to death at Winchester for stabbing a fellow-country- 
man with a large cook's-knife. He is said to have 
heard without concern the dreadful sentence, " that on 
the following Monday morning he was to be taken at 
4 o'clock in a post-chaise to Portchester, and there to 
be executed about 6 A.M., and his body to be afterwards 
dissected." 

Sickness at times was terribly rife among the pri- 
soners. We find, for instance, that at Forton in 1794 
nearly two hundred died in a single month ; while in 
November 18 10, no less than eight hundred men were 
reported as sick. It was the same at Portchester. 
The negroes captured in the West Indies suffered 
the most severely. The winter which followed their 
arrival at the castle proved to be an exceptionally hard 
one, and some hundreds of them perished from the 
cold, while not a few of the survivors were crippled 
for life. It is difficult, however, to estimate the num- 
ber of deaths among the prisoners, as no register of 



212 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

their burials appears to have been kept ; and the parish 
churchyard, situated within the castle walls, was not 
used as their place of interment. The corpses of 
French prisoners seem to have been buried in any 
waste corner of the parish, chiefly — so tradition as- 
serts — on the strip of shore outside the castle walls, 
which is covered at high water by the tide. Skeletons, 
however, have been discovered in various parts of the 
parish, sometimes in considerable numbers, and gene- 
rally without any indication of a coffin. These burials 
were done by contract, and the same coffin, so again 
tradition has it, served to carry numberless bodies to 
their burial. But while the prisoners were buried 
anyhow and anywhere, in the roughest possible 
fashion, and with the least trouble and expense, the 
soldiers on guard who died at Portchester were in- 
terred in the parish churchyard. And among them 
the mortality was great. 

The majority of the prisoners are said to have been 
atheists, and to have openly scoffed at all forms of 
religious belief. It is pleasant, however, to be able to 
add that two French priests, who had taken refuge in 
England from the horrors of the Reign of Terror, and 
who were allowed by the British Government to reside 
at Portchester, succeeded in winning the respect and 
affection of all within the castle walls. Their names 
were respectively Le Bail and Le Lait, and they were 
ever ready, not only to give spiritual help and con- 
solation to those who would accept their ministrations, 
but also to share with the more destitute prisoners 
their miserable pittance of fourteen shillings a week. 

The enormous cost of clothing and feeding the 
French prisoners fell almost entirely, owing to the 
neglect of Napoleon, upon the British Government, 



PRISONERS AT PORTC HESTER 213 

and doubtless the food was not always of the choicest 
description. The Frenchmen are said to have shown 
a great partiaHty lor soup, which they would occa- 
sionally make out of the most unsavoury ingredients. 
An old resident, then drawing near his century, who 
well remembered as a boy the stirring times of the 
French prisoners, once told the writer that some of 
the prisoners would catch with baited hooks the rats 
which swarmed among the old buildings of the castle, 
and boil them down into soup for supper ! In the 
year 1796 an alarming inundation occurred at Port- 
chester, which swept away an immense quantity of 
provisions which had come down from London for 
the use of the prisoners. The account of it is thus 
given in The London Chronicle for February 9-1 1, 
1796. "At Portchester, on the 26th ult., the wind 
blew a hurricane, and gave such power to the tide 
that it rose to a prodigious height, and having driven 
away the great bank between the sea and the marshes, 
it completely deluged the whole village, wherein the 
water stood at the height of many feet, forced open 
the doors of almost all the houses, and carried away 
every article of furniture that floated. The greatest 
sufferers were Mr. Clemmence and Mr. Hubbard, two 
gentlemen belonging to the castle, whose houses, from 
the lowness of their situations, were almost covered 
with water. Moreover, a large quantity of articles, 
which the latter had that morning received from 
London for the use of the French prisoners, were 
totally spoiled. In short, the inundation was such 
as exceeded everything of the kind that had before 
happened at that place." 

After the battle of Waterloo and the abdication of 
Napoleon, the English Ministry, in conjunction with 



214 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

the French Government, agreed to restore the 
prisoners to their country, on the sole condition that 
they would first declare their adherence to the 
Bourbon dynasty, in token of which they were to 
hoist the white flag of France on the summit of 
the castle tower. This proposal was extremely un- 
palatable to the majority of the French officers, 
who, in fact, absolutely refused to agree to it. The 
commissioners who represented the French Embassy 
waited the event with some anxiety from morning 
to evening of a long summer's day. " During that 
period," says an eye-witness, from whose narrative 
we have gathered several interesting incidents, " the 
prisoners in the castle appeared like a vast hive of 
bees about to swarm. Knots of Frenchmen, in their 
short yellow jackets and grey caps, covered the entire 
area of the castle, and argued the question of sub- 
mission with all the vehemence and gesticulation 
common to their nation. At length, as evening ap- 
proached, principle gave place to prudence. The 
Bonapartists made a virtue of necessity, and gave 
way. A loud shout of ' Vive le Roi ! ' proclaimed 
the allegiance of the prisoners to the House of 
Bourbon, and at the same moment the white flag 
of old France rose and floated over the Norman 
keep of Portchester." 

Arrangements were at once hurried forward for 
the liberation of the prisoners, who a few days later 
embarked at the water-gate, amid loud rejoicings, for 
the shores of France, and by the end of June not a 
single Frenchman was left within the walls of Port- 
chester Castle. For twenty years, with the exception 
of a short period which followed the peace of Amiens 
in 1802, the castle had been occupied by prisoners 



PRISONERS AT PORTCHESTER 215 

of war, while at least two thousand men belonging 
to the various regiments on guard had been quartered 
in the village. But with the departure of the prisoners 
in the summer of 18 15 the village quickly returned to 
its former condition of quiet and repose. The militia 
regiments were disbanded, and the barracks which 
they occupied, together with the military hospital, 
were pulled down. The wooden buildings inside the 
castle walls were cleared away, and before long the 
ruin reverted to its former state of silence and de- 
solation. Once more the jackdaws returned to their 
ancient haunts, and owls again occupied the ivy- 
mantled tower, while a pair of kestrels took up 
their quarters in the lofty keep. Once more the 
grass grew rank in the great enclosure, and not a 
sign of the sojourn of the French prisoners remained, 
except the names of some of them carved on the stone 
walls near the summit of the Norman keep. 



OLD PARISH DOCUMENTS 

PORTCHESTER 

An examination of church registers and old parish 
documents — vestry books, churchwardens' accounts, 
and ancient maps — often yields much interesting in- 
formation, and throws a flood of light upon the ways 
and doings of our forefathers in the olden times. We 
propose in the present paper to lay before our readers 
the result of much careful and diligent searching 
among a mass of old parish documents stowed away in 
an ancient oak chest in the vestry of a Norman church. 
The church itself originally belonged to a priory of 
Austin canons founded at the beginning of the twelfth 
century. The priory has disappeared, but the cloisters 
against the south wall of the long and lofty nave of 
the church may still be traced, and the foundations of 
the monastic buildings often trouble the old sexton 
when digging graves in the churchyard. 

The oldest document in the chest dates back to the 
reign of Queen Elizabeth, and is a survey of the parish 
in the year 1567. Great have been the changes since 
then; the very names of the village streets are different. 
In the good old times a large part of the parish was 
forest and common land, where the tenants had " free 
pasture " for " all sorts of animals," and pannage for 
their swine, " whether it be mast season or not." A 
certain oak tree, " anciently called Portchester oak," 



2i8 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

was the boundary of the common land in one direction, 
while a spot " where once a cross stood " marked it 
in another. The cross had disappeared in the days 
of Queen Elizabeth, but the ancient oak was a well- 
known landmark, and was doubtless some giant of the 
forest. 

The parish registers date from the year 1608, but 
throughout the whole of the seventeenth century they 
are very fragmentary, though here and there items 
of interest may be picked up. The early marriage 
formula is usually the quaint phrase " were marry'd 
together " ; while in the case of baptisms the hour of 
birth is always carefully inserted. But the most 
noticeable point in these early registers — of the time 
of James L — is the strange custom of burying persons 
on the same day as that on which they died. Over 
and over again the entry occurs — " burryed ye same 
day," or " day following." The exact hour of death 
is always stated, and according as it occurred before 
or after midnight, so did the burial take place the day 
following or the same day. If, for instance, a death 
occurred in the evening the corpse would of necessity 
be buried on the following day, but otherwise the 
entry is invariably, " burryed ye same day." There 
is no mention of any plague or sickness, such as we 
sometimes find, *' dy'd of the small pox " or " feaver " : 
it was evidently the usual custom. The question 
suggests itself, what about the use of coffins in those 
days of hasty burial ? The answer probably is that 
no coffins were used, but that the corpse was buried 
simply in a winding-sheet. In the rubrics of our 
Burial Service a total silence will be observed as 
regards coffins ; they speak of the " corpse " and the 
" body," but never of the coffin ; and when the rubrics 



OLD PARISH DOCUMENTS 219 

were written it is probable that coffins were not 
generally in use. This probability is greatly streng- 
thened by the fact that in some ancient registers the 
entry occurs, " burryed in a coffin," which, had coffins 
been general, would have been a superfluous remark; 
and further by an old comment on the rubric, " while 
the corpse is made ready to be laid into the earth," 
which is explained as meaning while the body is 
stripped of the outer shroud or winding-sheet. And 
this doubtless was the usual custom in pre-Reforma- 
tion days, and even as late — as the above entries seem 
to indicate — as the time of James I. In the days of 
ignorance, when aged people seldom knew their exact 
age, our burial register often has the following entry — 
" an ancient man." When death had been due to 
misadventure, the nature of the accident is mostly 
stated. Thus : " William Diddemas was kill'd by 
the Timber carriage ; " and Thomas Deadman " by 
falling under the wheels of a wagon"; and "Edmund 
Maggrige, a sojourner here, receiv'd his death's wound 
by overstraining himself in lifting a piece of timber for 
a foolish wager"; and "Nathaniel Miller fell under 
the wheels of a loaded waggon and Broak Boath 
his legs." 

The large oak chest in the vestry also contained 
several odd volumes of churchwardens' accounts in 
the days when those officials managed the parochial 
as well as the ecclesiastical affairs ; and they reveal, 
in a vivid manner, the complete change which has 
passed over this country since the introduction of the 
modern Poor Law system. In the olden time each 
parish had its own " poor-house " where the very 
aged and helpless were cared for. Each parish, more- 
over, provided for its own paupers, clothed them, made 



220 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

them a small weekly allowance, and gave them little 
extras in time of sickness. Hence in these " accounts " 
of the eighteenth century we often meet with such 
entries as these : — " Leather breeches, 2s. 6d. ; " "a 
pair of pattens;" "a handkerchief for Geo. Glinn, 
IS. ; " " bodying a gown ; " " round frocks ; " " caps for 
Sundays ; " " stays and hat for ye Wd. White." But 
the most frequent entry, in the way of clothing for the 
paupers, is of stuff called " Dowlas," which in 1764 
cost IS. 2d. an ell. We imagine that few people will 
know what "dowlas" is, and yet the word occurs in 
Shakespeare. In the scene at the Boar's Head Tavern, 
Eastcheap (i Hemy IV.y iii. 3), between Sir John 
Falstaff and Mistress Quickly, the latter says, " I 
know you, Sir John ; you owe me money, Sir John ; 
and now you pick a quarrel to beguile me of it; I 
bought you a dozen of shirts to your back." "Dowlas," 
cries Falstaff, "filthy dowlas; I have given them away 
to bakers' wives, and they have made them bolters 
(sieves) of them." " Now, as I am a true woman," 
replies the hostess, " holland of eight shillings an ell." 
This dowlas was a coarse sort of sacking, and was 
bought in large quantities by the churchwardens to 
make " shifts " and underclothing for the paupers 
under their care. 

In times of sickness the paupers seem to have been 
treated with every consideration. Such entries as 
the following frequently occur : " Wine and beer for 
Dydemus when ill ; " "a fowl in her sickness ; " "a 
piece of veal ; " " wine and spirits for Clery when sick ; " 
"a fowl for sick paupers;" "tea and sugar for the 
sick in Poorhouse." In the early part of the eighteenth 
century we find among the paupers an aged French- 
man, who, in all probability, was originally a prisoner 



OLD PARISH DOCUMENTS 221 

of war, and who remained behind, when, after the Peace 
of Amiens, his countrymen returned to France. He 
first appears in the " Accounts " as " John the French- 
man," but is afterwards always spoken of as " French 
John." The parish treated him with great kindness 
and consideration. Besides granting him a Hberal 
weekly allowance he had many small luxuries in his 
sickness. " Honey for French John," and " gin for 
French John," frequently occur, and sometimes the 
quaint entry, " English gin for French John." But 
even "English gin" could not keep " French John" 
alive ; after about a year's sickness, we come across 
the final entry, " For the laying out of French John, 
4s. 6d." 

The expenses for pauper funerals contain one or 
two curious items. In the latter half of the eighteenth 
century a parish coffin cost 9s. ; but this was by no 
means the only, or the most serious, expenditure. A 
shroud, probably a survival or the times when no coffin 
was used, was always bought, and cost four or five 
shillings. The "oath" or "affedevy" was is.; the 
clerk's fee, 2s. 6d. ; and the black cloth, is. ; while the 
women's expenses were considerable. For " washing 
old master Clery and laying him out, 6s. " ; to say 
nothin^^ of the " bred, chees, and beer," or " vine and 
brandy," which sometimes came to six shillings more. 
But though the wardens and overseers were willing 
to pay for " shroudes " and " black cloths," and were 
liberal in the way of beer and brandy for the good 
woman who laid the paupers out, yet with practical 
good sense they were not going to be imposed upon. 
If the parish helped the paupers, the paupers must 
help one another. On one occasion we read of " the 
improper conduct of some of the paupers in refusing to 



222 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

attend on some of their fellow paupers in sickness and 
distress." The matter was reported to the vestry, 
which quickly brought the refractory paupers to their 
senses by stopping their pay. On another occasion 
the following resolution was unanimously passed by 
the Vestry: "It was decidedly resolved that in future 
all description of relief whatever should be withheld 
and refused to be granted to all persons who may 
stand in need of parish relief, when the party so apply- 
ing for assistance shall be in the habit of frequenting 
public houses, or maintaining any description or sort 
of dog whatever." 

In the year that followed the close of the great 
French war, the country thickly swarmed with desti- 
tute persons, passing along the high roads from village 
to village. The relief of these crowds of paupers, many 
of them discharged soldiers and mariners, was a serious 
drain on many parishes. Some of these indigent 
persons were provided with " passes," which entitled 
them to some small relief, usually twopence, from the 
various parishes through which they passed on their 
way to their "place of settlement." Some idea of the 
number of these people may be gathered from the 
entries in the Churchwardens' Book, which reveal the 
fact that in the month of May, i8i6, over 150 persons 
with passes were thus relieved. Later on, one winter's 
night near Christmas, " 88 people with and without 
passes " were relieved, " some very badly off," and 
"some with sickness," to whom the churchwardens 
gave 5s. id. During the winter months of 1817-18, 
more than six hundred persons "with passes" passed 
through the village and were relieved by the church- 
wardens, who added the remark — •" a great many more 
than ought to be." 



OLD PARISH DOCUMENTS 223 

In addition to the care of the poor, and the super- 
vision of church affairs, various other duties devolved 
upon the churclivvardens in the olden times. They 
had the care of the village stocks, and were bound 
to keep them in repair. In 1774, we learn from our 
documents in the oak chest that new stocks were 
required, and were duly erected at a cost o[ £2, 6s. 
for the woodwork, and I2s. 2d. for the ironwork. 
These stocks lasted for fifty years, when in 18 19 one 
"Joseph Crimble was paid for putting up new stocks, 
;^5, IS. 7d. The handwork of Joseph Crimble has 
now entirely disappeared, but the spot where the 
stocks stood is pointed out, and in one or two parishes 
in Hampshire, as at Odiham, and at Brading in the 
Isle of Wight, they are still remaining, to remind a 
weaker generation of the manner in which a sterner 
age treated its rogues and vagabonds. In addition to 
taking an interest in the stocks, the churchwardens 
kept a watchful eye on the vermin in the parish. 
Foxes they paid for at the rate of a shilling a head, 
and sparrows at threepence a dozen ; and once we 
find a single entry of no less than " I13 dozen of 
sparrow heads." One thousand three hundred and 
fifty-six sparrow heads ! This, of course, included 
all kinds of small birds, which were caught in nets, 
and slaughtered indiscriminately by the lads and 
loafers of the village. A molecatcher — one William 
Broncher — was also employed by the Vestry, at a 
yearly salary of 13s., to be paid at Easter, Hedge- 
hogs, too, were included in the list of vermin, and 
were duly paid for as late as the beginning of the 
last century. But in the Vestry Book, under date 
"24 Ap., 1832," we find this resolution: "It was 
agreed that in future no Hedge Hogs are to be 



224 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

purchased by the succeeding churchwardens." Hence- 
forth we may hope that not only the hedgehogs but 
also the small birds were free from such short-sighted 
and ignorant persecution. 

In these days of ecclesiastical decency and order, 
when every corner of God's house is reverently 
cared for, it is difficult to realise the condition of 
some of the country churches in the olden times. 
When Queen Anne came to the throne our old Norman 
fabric was in such a deplorable and dilapidated con- 
dition, that she issued a Treasury Warrant for its 
restoration, and ^^400 seems to have been raised for 
the purpose by the sale of timber in Windsor Forest. 
An account of this expenditure is to be found in the 
ancient chest, from which it appears that the re- 
opening of the church was celebrated amid much 
rejoicing. The preacher received £2 for his " exelent 
sermon " ; the Queen's own organist composed the 
" misick," and received, together with " eleven 
musitians, vocal and instrumental," the handsome 
sum of ;^20 ; while the villagers had a " hogshead 
of strong beer in which to drink the Queen's health," 
at the cost of ;^3, lOs. In the early part of the last 
century, the Vestry Book often reveals the current 
ideas as to church decoration and improvement. In 
181 2, at a special meeting of the parishioners, it was 
ordered that " the churchwardens do immediately cause 
the church walls to be cleaned and whitewashed " ; 
and the rich Norman mouldings on the arches and 
capitals were accordingly buried beneath a thick coat- 
ing of lime ! Shortly afterwards a gallery was erected 
at the west end of the church, when portions of the 
splendid Norman arch were chipped away by the 
workmen! This gallery was to consist of "thirteen 



OLD PARISH DOCUMENTS 225 

pews, and each party subscribing, to have one, to be 
determined by lot." The next entry is as follows : 
" The pews and pulpit to be painted ; and that the 
churchwardens be requested to get it done in the 
cheapest way in their power." This they accordingly 
did, by employing some of the French prisoners of 
war, at that time confined in the castle, who painted 
the framework of the pews white and the panels blue. 
In 1824 another gallery was erected, this time at the 
east end of the nave, for the use of the choir, who, 
with fiddle and flute, led the singing of a Sunday. 
It was not uncommon in those happy days for one 
parishioner to make over to another his pew in the 
parish church, and the Vestry Book, when recording 
such transactions, usually adds, "for a certain con- 
sideration, mutually agreed upon " ! 

Such arc some of the items of interest contained in 
the old parish documents stowed away in the vestry- 
chest. The documents, many of them, are ancient ; 
the chest, doubtless, is more ancient still. It is 
believed to have been carved in the time of King 
Edward VI., and the original key, of curious design, 
is still in use. But what are three hundred and fifty 
years amid such old-world surroundings ! The church 
has stood for over seven centuries; and the church is 
modern in comparison with the Roman walls outside. 
Still, the term " old " is, after all, a relative one, and a 
glance at the ways of our forefathers during recent 
centuries should not be without interest to students of 
parochial history. 



JANE AUSTEN AT LYME 

The love of beautiful scenery was not so general a 
hundred years ago as it is now. Indeed, it is true, 
as the great Humboldt has pointed out, that what 
is known as "the sentimental love of Nature," is a 
modern rather than an ancient feeling. Socrates was 
accused of being unacquainted with even the neigh- 
bourhood of Athens, " I am very anxious to learn," 
he replied, "and from fields and trees I can learn 
nothing." The Apostle Paul, though he must have 
been familiar with some of the most enchanting scenery 
in Europe and Asia Minor, seems to have been un- 
moved by the beauties of Nature. There is hardly a 
word in his thirteen epistles which shows that he had 
the smallest susceptibility for beautiful scenery. St. 
Bernard, having spent a day in riding along the lovely 
shore of Lake Geneva, is said to have asked in the 
evening where it was. There is not the slightest 
allusion in any of Whitefield's sermons to his thirteen 
vo3'ages across the Atlantic. Dr. Johnson is another 
example of the same strange indifference. " Sir," he 
said, " when you have seen one green field, you have 
seen all green fields. Let us walk down Cheapside." 

The foregoing remarks apply to a very great extent 
to the novels of Jane Austen. They are singularly 
silent on the subject of natural scenery. That Jane 

Austen herself was a lover of the beautiful in Nature 

237 



228 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

is abundantly evident from her published letters. Her 
novels, on the other hand, are remarkable for the 
almost entire absence of any description of beautiful 
country. Here and there, scattered throughout her 
writings, there may be some slight reference to the 
natural features of the neighbourhood, as to the 
coombes and downs near Exeter in Sense and Sensi- 
bility, to Spithead and the Isle of Wight in Mansfield 
Park, and to Beechen Cliff" in Northanger Abbey ; but 
the allusions are always of the slightest description. 
There is, however, one notable exception. We refer 
to the faithful and graphic picture of .Lyme Regis and 
its neighbourhood in Persuasion. The passage is not 
too long for quotation : — 

"After securing accommodations and ordering a 
dinner at one of the inns, the next thing to be done 
was unquestionably to walk directly down to the sea. 
They were come too late in the year for any amuse- 
ment or variety which Lyme as a public place might 
offer. The rooms were shut up, the lodgers almost 
all gone, scarcely any family but of residents left ; and 
as there is nothing to admire in the buildings them- 
selves, the remarkable situation of the town, the prin- 
cipal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk 
to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay? 
which in the season is animated with bathing-machines 
and company ; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and 
new improvements, with the very beautiful line of 
cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what 
the stranger's eye will seek ; and a very strange 
stranger it must be who does not see charms in the 
immediate environs of Lyme to make him wish to 
know it better. The scenes in the neighbourhood, 
Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive 



JANE AUSTEN AT LYME 229 

sweeps of country, and still more its sweet retired 
bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low 
rock among the sands make it the happiest spot for 
watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied 
contemplation ; the woody varieties of the cheerful 
village of Up Lyme, and, above all, Pinny with its 
green chasms between romantic rocks, where the scat- 
tered forest trees and orchards of luxuriant growth 
declare that many a generation must have passed away 
since the first partial falling of the cliff prepared the 
ground for such a state, where a scene so wonderful 
and so lovely is exhibited, as may more than equal 
any of the resembling scenes in the far-famed Isle of 
Wight: these places must be visited and visited again 
to make the worth of Lyme better understood." 

It was in the autumn of 1804 — thirteen years before 
Persuasion was finished — that Jane Austen spent a 
few weeks with her father and mother at Lyme, and 
it is to the strong impression then received that we 
owe the above graphic description. We venture to 
offer the present paper as a simple, but not, we trust, 
uninteresting commentary on this unique passage in 
her writings. 

Lyme Regis still remains an old-world town, quaint 
and picturesque ; changed, indeed, since the visit of 
Jane Austen, but not yet vulgarised by modern improve- 
ments. Now, as then, the principal street of the little 
town almost hurries into the water, while the walk to 
the Cobb, " skirting round the pleasant little bay," is 
as picturesque as when the party from Uppercross 
strolled along it that late autumn afternoon. The 
cliffs above are yellow in summer-time with wild 
brassica and melilot, and the beach below is animated 
as in 1804 with bathing-machines and company. The 



230 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

" rooms " which are several times referred to in Per- 
suasion may still be seen; but the Cups — the "inn" 
at which Mr. Musgrove's party stayed — was burnt in 
the disastrous fire of 1844, which also destroyed the 
old Custom-house and the " George Hotel," celebrated 
as the resting-place of the Duke of Monmouth when 
he landed at Lyme in 1685. The Cobb, as the semi- 
circular stone pier or breakwater is called — the scene 
of the celebrated accident in Persuasion — was partly 
rebuilt after a tremendous hurricane in 1824; but the 
" steep flight " of stone steps which connect the Upper 
and Lower Cobb, and down which Louisa Musgrove 
fell, remain as when the famous passage was written. 
Lord Tennyson, we know, placed the writings of Jane 
Austen next to those of Shakespeare, and so the fol- 
lowing story is not without some semblance of pro- 
bability. It is said that when the great poet visited 
Lyme, his friends were anxious to point out to him 
the reputed landing-place of the Duke of Monmouth. 
Tennyson waxed indignant. " Don't talk to me," he 
cried, "of the Duke of Monmouth. Show me the 
exact spot where Louisa Musgrove fell ! " 

From the end of the Cobb a splendid view may be 
obtained of " the very beautiful line of cliffs, stretch- 
ing out to the east of the town," past Charmouth and 
Bridport and the swannery of Abbotsbury, and which 
on a clear day may be traced as far as the white rocky 
peninsula of the isle of Portland. The cliffs between 
Lyme and Charmouth have become celebrated since 
Jane Austen's eulogy by the discovery in certain strata 
of the Lias formation of the gigantic remains of extinct 
Saurian reptiles. The story of the discovery of these 
giant fossils is worth telling, if for no other reason 
than that it introduces us to one of the celebrities of 



JANE AUSTEN AT LYME 231 

Lyme — Mary Anning, the fossilist. In the month of 
August, 1800, four years before the visit of Jane 
Austen, a party of equestrians were performing in a 
meadow, since icnown as " wreck-field," situated at 
the back of Church Street, when a terrific thunder- 
storm burst over the town. The spectators fled for 
the nearest shelter. Three women, one of them carry- 
ing a baby, took refuge under an elm-tree. A flash of 
lightning spHt the tree, and laid the three women dead 
upon the sward. Strange to say, the infant was un- 
injured, and from having been a dull and heavy child 
she became from that moment, we are told, light and 
intelligent. That infant was Mary Anning. Her 
father was a mechanic — a stonemason or carpenter 
— one Richard Anning, who was also a vendor of 
curiosities. 

His little shop, with shells and ammonites in the 
window, was situated in Broad Street, and Jane 
Austen must have often passed that way. In search- 
ing for fossils he seems to have fallen down the chffs, 
and to have badly injured himself. He died in 1810, 
leaving his family in a state bordering on destitution. 
One Sunday morning, shortly after the funeral, Mary 
strolled along the shore seeking for " curiosities." She 
picked up an ammonite, which the night's storm had 
washed out of the cliff, and this she afterwards sold to 
a lady for half-a-crown. Delighted with her success 
Mary spent most of her time hunting for fossils be- 
neath the weather-beaten cliffs. Four months later — 
she was now of the mature age of eleven — she dis- 
covered the first remains of the great Saurian reptiles. 
This splendid skeleton, which may now be seen in the 
British Museum, was sold for ;{^23, and Mary's career 
in life was finally determined. 



232 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

From this time until her death, thirty-five years 
later, she was constantly making fresh discoveries, 
and bringing to light unknown species of extinct fishes 
and reptiles, which have made the cliff's of Lyme Regis 
famous in the scientific world. She is said to have 
possessed a sort of intuitive knowledge as to where 
the fossils lay embedded in the cliff's ; and certain it 
is that she made the most marvellous discoveries. 
Several species of Ichthyosauri and Plesiosauri she 
unearthed from the Lias beds, and the remains of a 
flying lizard, now known as the Pterodactyl. These 
" finds " were examined by such eminent scientists as 
Professor Buckland and Conybeare and Cuvier, who 
were able, from the fragments of bone submitted to 
them, to form an ideal restoration of the osteology 
of these mighty reptiles. One skeleton, which Mary 
Anning found entire, measured more than twenty-four 
feet in length. This monster is described by Cuvier 
as having the snout of a dolphin, the teeth of a croco- 
dile, the head of a lizard, the extremities of a cetacean, 
and the vertebrae of a fish. The Plesiosaurus differs 
from the Ichthyosaurus in having a long neck, like the 
body of a serpent. More curious still is the Ptero- 
dactyl, or flying lizard. The specimen described by 
Professor Buckland was about the size of a raven ; 
in shape somewhat like a bat, with the bill of a wood- 
cock, and the teeth of a crocodile, and covered with 
scaly armour, like the dragons of romance. It is 
needless to say that the unpretending little shop in 
Broad Street, with the notice, " Anning's Fossil Depot," 
written on a small white board over the doorway, was 
well known to many of the most distinguished men of 
science of the day. 

The Undercliff towards Pinny and beyond it, "with 



JANE AUSTEN AT LYME 233 

its green chasms between romantic rocks," which Jane 
Austen compares to " the resembling scenes of the 
far-famed Isle of Wight," is even more " lovely and 
wonderful " than when she saw it. Thirty-five years 
after her September visit a further landslip occurred, 
which produced a scene perhaps without parallel in 
the British Isles. It took place on Christmas Day, 
1839, when over forty acres of cultivated land slowly 
and silently slipped away to a far lower level. Two 
cottages were removed, and deposited with shattered 
walls at a considerable distance below the cliffs, while 
an orchard, which still continues to bear fruit, was 
transplanted as it stood. The whole landslip is now 
green with vegetation, and the scene from below, sixty 
years after the disturbance, is most striking. High 
above, the white chalk-cliffs stand out in turrets and 
pinnacles. All around are irregular mounds and 
chasms covered witli herbage and brushwood. Chaos 
is clothed with verdure. Vegetation runs riot among 
the broken hillocks. Thickets of briar and clematis 
form impenetrable jungles about the growing trees. 
The stinking Iris, with its shining sword-shaped leaves 
and knobs of scarlet berries, covers the more open 
spaces of the Undercliff, which in summer are one 
blaze of brilliant blue, with the blossoms of the viper's 
bugloss. Here and there, even in late September, the 
perfoliate chlora opens its orange-yellow petals to the 
sun, while all along the Pinny landslip the hound's- 
tongue is unusually abundant. You cannot mistake 
this stout and curious plant. Its large, soft, downy 
leaves and lurid-purple flowers are striking; its seed- 
vessels, covered with barbed prickles, will stick to 
your clothes like burs, and the whole plant smells 
strongly of mice. The old herbalists fancied that " it 



234 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

will tye the Tongues of Houndes, so that they shall 
not bark at you, if it be laid under the bottom of your 
feet, as Miraldus writeth," The name, however, was 
probably given because of the shape and soft surface of 
the leaves, in contradistinction to those of the bristly 
ox-tongue. Other flowers may be found, although it 
is autumn. The beautiful white-veined leaves of the 
virgin thistle stand out boldly against the dark under- 
growth. The little eye- bright, once a famous remedy 
for ophthalmia, is everywhere, and so are such coarser 
plants as hawkweed and ragwort and fleabane. Here 
and there a bushy plant of gromwell, or grey millet, 
may be seen. Its scientific name of Lithospermum 
well describes the stone-like seeds, which show white 
and polished in the sunlight. In one hollow, formed 
by the peculiar conformation of the ground, a dark 
pool of water is hemmed in by rushes, and pink 
persicaria, and the red spikes of rumex ; the air is 
fragrant with the scent of wild-mint, while in the tiny 
stream, which flows from the pool, water-cress, still 
in flower, grows in abundance. 

When, in Persuasion, Jane Austen writes of " the 
fine country about Lyme," she is only speaking the 
literal truth. The walk up the valley of the Lynn to 
" the cheerful village of Up Lyme " is full of interest 
and beauty. Several disused mills and factories are 
passed in picturesque decay. A pair of water-ousels 
may mostly be seen wading in the swift stream. 
Colway Farm, the headquarters of Prince Maurice 
during the famous siege of Lyme in 1644, is noticed 
on the right, now a simple farmhouse, but the broad 
drive, bordered with ancient elms leading up to the 
Tudor doorway, speaks of former magnificence. Tradi- 
tion says that numbers of soldiers killed during the 
siege were buried in their armour in the meadow 



JANE AUSTEN AT LYME 235 

below the garden. In some of the valleys near Up 
Lyme black rabbits may be seen scuttling about in 
every direction. Pheasants, too, strut along the hedge- 
rows and about the copses where the acorns fall. In 
some meadows mushrooms are so plentiful in Septem- 
ber as to give the appearance at a distance of chalk 
scattered over the surface of the field. Now and then 
a beautiful or uncommon plant delights the eye of 
the botanist. On one particular spot the lovel}' wood- 
vetch, with its pure white flowers streaked with bluish 
veins, trails luxuriantly all over the tangled brush- 
wood. Not far distant the curious tooth-wort, a 
parasite on the roots of hazel, comes up abundantly 
every spring, while on the hill that overlooks the 
valley the autumnal orchid, known as lady's tresses, 
grows. " The extensive sweeps of country about 
Charmouth " will well repay the research of a natura- 
list. In a damp meadow, yellow with fleabane and 
surrounded by glorious woods, the haunt of several 
pairs of green woodpeckers and of jays and magpies 
without number, a large patch of purple colchicum, or 
meadow saffron — the flower differs from a crocus in 
having six stamens instead of three — shines in the 
autumn sunlight. It is a sight worth walking many 
miles to see. Not far distant the rare Helenium, or 
elecampane, grows in abundance. One corner of the 
rough meadow is covered with it. This splendid 
plant is dedicated to Helen of Troy, "of which herbe," 
says old Gerarde, " she had her hands full when she 
was carried off." On another spot in the neighbour- 
hood the elecampane may also be found ; and in the 
opinion of those who ought to know there are strong 
claims for regarding it as indigenous. 



THE ISLE OF WIGHT OF LEGH 
RICHMOND'S NARRATIVES 

The Victoria History of the counties of England 
mentions four clergymen, closely connected with 
Hampshire during the nineteenth century, whose 
writings exercised an influence far beyond the range 
of the Diocese of Winchester.. These four are John 
Keble, Charles Kingsley, Richard Chevenix Trench, 
and Legh Richmond, whose narratives of The Dairy- 
man's Daughter and The Young Cottager were, it 
rightly says, " at one time the most popular religious 
works in England." Indeed, it is difficult to exagger- 
ate the favour with which these works were received. 
With the Bible and the Pilgrim^s Progress they 
became the Sunday reading of numberless Christian 
households. Appearing originally in the columns of 
the Christian Guardian during the years 1809-1811, 
they were afterwards published separately in the 
form of tracts, and finally issued, together with The 
Negro Servant^ in one small volume under the appro- 
priate title, taken from Gray's Elegy, of The Annals 
of the Poor. The little book at once became immensely 
popular. Within a few 3'ears it was translated into 
almost all the European languages, and successive 
editions were published in America. Altogether it 
has been estimated that millions of copies have been 



238 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

sold, and it has found its way alike into the hut of 
the Red Indian and into the palaces of kings. And, 
curious though it may seem, the interest excited by 
the narratives still continues ; new editions are fre- 
quently published, and every year numbers of visitors, 
including many Americans, make a pilgrimage to the 
cottages of Little Jane and of the Dairyman's daughter, 
and gaze on their respective tombstones in Brading 
and in Arreton churchyards. 

These facts present a literary problem of consider- 
able interest. After all, the Amials are only tracts, 
and of a religious complexion no longer so predomi- 
nant among Christian people as was the case a hun- 
dred years ago. But in one important particular they 
differ from the great bulk of Evangelical writings once 
eagerly read and now totally forgotten. We allude 
to their deep sympathy with Nature, and to the 
beautiful descriptions of local scenery which they 
contain ; and it is this recognition of " delightful 
scenery" which separates the writings of Legh Rich- 
mond from those of contemporary Evangelicals whose 
works are now buried in oblivion. 

For some eight years only did Legh Richmond 
reside in the Isle of Wight, but short though his 
ministry was, it left an abiding impression on the 
neighbourhood. Every detail of his work is now 
regarded with interest, and the spots connected with 
his narratives are sacred ground. It was in the year 
1797 that he was ordained to the curacy of Brading, 
which at that time included within its bounds what 
were then the obscure fishing hamlets of Bembridge 
and Sandown. He also had charge of the small 
parish of Yaverland, with its beautiful little Norman 
church delightfully situated on rising ground about 




THE REV. I.EGH KICII.MOND 
(From an old Etl^ya-tiitj;. i 



THE ISLE OF WIGHT 239 

two miles distant. His vicar, one Miles Popple, 
being after the manner of the age non-resident, the 
curate took up his abode in the old Vicarage, a small 
and inconvenient house which has been since pulled 
down. A print of it, however, hangs in the vestry of 
the parish church, while a companion picture shows 
the interior of the church as it was before restoration 
in 1864. There is the eighteenth - century "three- 
decker" — now rightly removed — from which Legh 
Richmond delivered his gospel to the poor. An un- 
sightly gallery will be noticed stretching across the 
west end of the building. The Early English nave 
is crowded with high-backed square pews, and the 
Oglander chapel is boarded up. In this chapel, now 
beautifully restored, are preserved the Communion 
chair and the Church Office-Book which Legh Rich- 
mond used, and within the chancel rails will be noticed 
the small font which in his time stood in the church, 
and at which he baptized the village children. 

A tablet has lately been placed on the south wall 
of the church by the grandchildren of Legh Richmond, 
to commemorate his ministry at Brading; and it is 
worth remarking that the inscription, after duly men- 
tioning his Christian virtues, speaks of "his graceful 
descriptions of the beautiful scenery of the Isle of 
Wight." These descriptions are chiefly confined to 
the corner of the island in which his ministry was 
cast. The Annals contain no mention of the romantic 
scenery of the Undercliff, nor of the magnificent chalk 
chffs of Freshwater. The beauties of Bonchurch are 
not alluded to, nor the quiet charm of the old village 
of Shanklin. But ever}' detail of the country around 
Brading was familiar to our author, and finds expres- 
sion in his writings. Little Jane's cottage is situated 



240 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

in the village itself, and the lane past it leads to Ashey 
Down, which he named his " Mount of Contemplation." 
The picturesque approach to the church of Yaverland, 
where he learnt to preach extempore, is more than 
once noticed, and the fine old Jacobean mansion close 
to the churchyard. Brading Harbour and the view 
from the Culver cliffs are graphically described ; and 
in The Dairyman s Dazighter we are introduced to 
the neighbouring village of Arreton, and to the pleasant 
country beneath the south slope of Ashey Down. 

There have been many changes in the Island since 
the time of Legh Richmond. Steamboats and rail- 
ways have rendered it easy of access, and considerable 
towns now flourish where only a few fishermen's huts 
were to be seen at the close of the eighteenth century. 
In those days, so we learn from John Wilkes of North 
Briton fame, who had a little " villakin " in Sandham 
Bay, it not infrequently took two hours to cross the 
Solent from Portsmouth to Ryde. The latter place 
was then a hamlet within the bounds of the parish of 
Newchurch. The towns of Ventnor and Sandown did 
not exist. Shanklin and Bonchurch together contained 
only thirty-two houses. Bembridge, now a flourishing 
little seaside resort, consisted of a cluster of cottages 
at the entrance of the haven which then stretched for 
three miles, almost as far as Brading church. But in 
spite of the railways which now traverse the island in 
every direction, and the upgrowth of towns consequent 
upon the increase of population, the beauty of the 
landscape is but little impaired. Now, as when Legh 
Richmond reclined upon the turf beneath the " trian- 
gular pyramid " on Ashey Down, a delightful panorama 
meets the eye from that " lovely mount of observa- 
tion." To the north " the sea appears like a noble 



THE ISLE OF WIGHT 241 

river," with the distant towns of Gosport and Ports- 
mouth on the opposite shore and the Portsdown hills 
beyond. Eastward is "the open ocean bounded only 
by the horizon." Southward, now as then, a rich 
and fruitful valley lies immediately beneath. "A fine 
range of opposite hills, covered with grazing flocks, 
terminate with a bold sweep into the ocean, whose 
blue waves appear at a distance beyond. Several 
villages, hamlets, and churches are scattered in the 
valley. The noble mansions of the rich and the lowly 
cottages of the poor add their respective features to 
the landscape." The parish church of Godshill is 
seen crowning a little eminence which rises out of 
the valley ; while to the south-west, some ten miles 
away, is dimly discerned the remains of an ancient 
chantry, once occupied by a solitary hermit, on the 
summit of St. Catherine's Down. 

Little Jane's cottage, which is annually visited by 
large numbers of persons, is still in the same condition 
as when she died there in the summer of 1799. For 
many years it was owned by a pious and cultured 
lady, lately deceased, who venerated the name and 
teaching of Legh Richmond, and who regarded its 
possession as a sacred trust. She would allow no 
alterations to be made, no modern " improvements " 
to be carried out. The cottage is still thatched with 
straw, and the original lead casements of the lattice- 
windows remain. Inside, upstairs and downstairs 
alike, nothing has been changed ; and the " mean 
despised chamber," with its "sloping roof" and 
" uneven floor," remain as when the good pastor 
administered the Holy Communion to the dying child 
more than a hundred years ago. The little garden, 
too, is practically unchanged. A high bank, starred 

Q 



242 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBOKNE 

with celandines in early spring, still faces it, and the 
cottage is covered with yellow jasmine and fragrant 
honeysuckle, while a large shrub of Lyciuni barbarum, 
or the tea-plant, forms an evergreen porch over the 
doorway. Last summer several tall hollyhocks were 
blooming in the cottage garden, and the little bed in 
front of the parlour window was filled with Sedum 
Telephium, or livelong, a plant which still grows wild 
in the neighbourhood. 

In the days when " Little Jane " and the village 
children, under the guidance of their loving teacher, 
were wont to learn the epitaphs on the tombstones 
in Brading churchyard, the haven extended almost as 
far as the parish church. Legh Richmond speaks of 
it as "a large arm of the sea which at high tide 
formed a broad lake or haven of three miles in 
length." This estuary in former years was a famous 
haunt of wildfowl, and back in the sixteenth century 
we are told that Sir William Oglander "when itt wase 
froste & snowe woolde goe downe to Bradinge Havan 
a shootinge, where he woolde kill 40 coupell of fowle 
in a nyght, hee & his man." The haven has now, 
after many failures, been reclaimed, and large numbers 
of cattle feed on the rank herbage. At the extreme 
end of what was once " a large river or lake of sea 
water" there still stands, "close to the edge of the sea 
itself, the remains of the tower of an ancient church, 
now preserved as a sea mark." This is the tower of 
the old parish church of St. Helen's, the nave of which 
has fallen a victim to the encroachment of the sea. 
It is to be regretted that Legh Richmond was not a 
scientific botanist, for the sandy spit of land on which 
the tower stands is remarkable for its wealth of wild- 
flowers. Though not exceeding forty or fifty acres in 



THE ISLE OF WIGHT 243 

extent, it is said to yield some two hundred and fifty 
species of British plants. Most of these the writer 
has himself identified. Perhaps the most beautiful 
and interesting is Scilla autumnalis, L., the autumnal 
squill, which in tens of thousands stars the sandy turf 
with its exquisite blue flowers every August and Sep- 
tember. And, strange to say, this plant is nowhere 
else to be found in the county of Hampshire. But 
though there is notiiing in his writings to show that 
Legh Richmond was acquainted witli the rarer plants 
of the Island, yet he frequently alludes to the extra- 
ordinary number of wayside flowers. In one instance 
only, so far as we remember, does he mention an 
uncommon plant by name. In his description of the 
"stupendously lofty" Culver cliff's, he adds that their 
"whiteness was occasionally chequered with dark- 
green masses of samphire which grew there." It is 
interesting to note that when the writer visited the 
spot a few summers ago, one large mass of samphire 
was conspicuous against the white chalk about half- 
way up the "tremendous perpendicular cliff"." 

The cottage of The Dairyman s Daughter — perhaps 
the most popular of Legh Richmond's narratives — is 
still standing beside the highroad that runs between 
Apse Heath and the village of Arreton. It lies back 
a little from the road, and is approached, now as then, 
through " a neat little garden " full of old-fashioned 
flowers, though the " two large elm-trees " which 
formerly overshadowed it have disappeared. Since 
Legh Richmond's time the cottage has been roofed 
with slate and slightly enlarged, and this unfortunately 
has given it a somewhat modern appearance. But 
otherwise the fabric is but little changed. The grey 
stone walls are covered with ivy and other creepers. 



244 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

and " the branches of a vine " still trail above the 
parlour window. The interior of the cottage remains 
in almost the same condition as when the " good 
dairyman " lived there. The two corner cupboards 
occupy their old position in the parlour, and the door 
of the dairy with the original open lattice-work still 
swings on its ancient hinges. Upstairs, the room in 
which the daughter died, with the great brick chimney- 
stack standing out against the wall, is but slightly 
altered since the early summer of 1801. The present 
occupier of the cottage shows with pride a length of 
iron chain which formerly belonged to old Wallbridge, 
and the original chimney-rack from which his bacon 
was suspended. Hard by the cottage a Wesleyan 
Methodist church, known as "The Dairyman's 
Daughter's Memorial Chapel," now stands, built — in 
part, at least — with the offerings of strangers, whose 
interest in Legh Richmond's story had led them to 
make a pilgrimage to the cottage. Numbers of 
persons still continue to visit the grave of the dairy- 
man's daughter in Arreton churchyard, marked by a 
headstone bearing an epitaph of much simple beauty 
from the pen of her pious biographer. Legh Rich- 
mond himself officiated at her funeral, and as the 
procession filed into the church, he mentions that, 
looking upwards, he observed a dial — one of the few 
ancient sundials now remaining in the Isle of Wight — 
on the church wall, which brought to his mind the 
Psalmist's words, " Our days on the earth are as a 
shadow, and there is none abiding." 

Some two miles from the cottage there stood in 
Legh Richmond's time " a large and venerable 
mansion, situated in a beautiful valley at the foot 
of a high hill." This was Knighton, the house where 



THE ISLE OF WIGHT 245 

he first met Elizabeth Wallbridge, " the dairyman's 
daughter." It is much to be regretted that this fine 
old Jacobean manor-liouse, " the most considerable 
and beautiful of the ancient mansions of the Island," 
was pulled down in the year 1820. Standing on an 
elevated terrace beneath the south slope of Ashey 
Down, it occupied a position of great charm and 
beauty. Close by, in a wooded dell, on the margin 
of a pool of clear water, were to be seen the remains 
of a medieval chapel, dating back to the time of 
Edward III. The mansion possessed a massive 
square tower of great antiquity, and several rooms 
of considerable dimensions adorned with oak panel- 
ling and carved mantelpieces. In the long gallery 
beneath the roof there stood " a very large oaken 
chest, covered with rich niche-work and tracery, of 
the time, probably, of Henry IV., and possessing the 
original lock with tracery carved in iron." Nothing 
now remains of the ancient structure, save a few 
dilapidated outbuildings, and the massive piers of 
grey stone some fifteen feet in height which mark 
the entrance from the road. A portion, too, of the 
garden wall remains, with its ancient coping of red 
brick, on which the beautiful ivy-leaved Linaria grows 
abundantly, with here and there a delicate wall-fern, 
or a plant of the greater yellow celandine, or the 
ploughman's spikenard. The spot beside the pool 
where the chapel stood is now covered with the 
buildings of the Ryde Waterworks, and a farmyard 
occupies the site of the Jacobean mansion. One 
wonders what became of the ancient chest of curious 
design, and the dignified oak panelling which en- 
riched the rooms. Some of the latter seems to have 
found its way to a cottage in the village of Brading, 



246 THE WILD-FLOWERS OF SELBORNE 

where a room may be seen panelled with ancient oak 
and with a stately Jacobean mantelpiece, which tra- 
dition associates with the dismantled manor-house of 
Knighton. Nothing could exceed the quiet beauty of 
the scene when the writer visited the deserted site 
a few summers ago. From one of the gables of the 
farm-buildings a female kestrel-hawk was calmly sur- 
veying the surrounding stubble. Scores of rabbits 
were feeding and scuttling about at the foot of the 
noble down. A squirrel was playing in the branches 
of a magnificent elm-tree. Swallows were skimming 
over the pool, in which, according to tradition, a 
former owner of the property, overwhelmed with 
grief at the sudden loss of his wife and children, 
committed suicide. In the copse beside the stream 
which issued from the haunted pool the rare marsh- 
fern {N. thelypteris^ Desv.) was growing abundantly, 
and splendid specimens of purple foxglove covered 
the rising ground. Not a sound was to be heard, 
save the murmur of innumerable insects, and the 
notes of a willow-wren in the coppice beyond. 

In the quiet beauty of the parish of Brading Legh 
Richmond found a constant source of refreshment 
and delight. The wide open downs were dear to 
him, and the chalk cliffs and the seashore. On his 
frequent rounds of pastoral visitation, often to distant 
parts of the parish, his mind would be occupied with 
the contemplation of nature. " How much do they 
lose," he exclaims in one of his narratives, " who 
are strangers to serious meditation on the wonders 
and beauties of nature ! " To his mind " the behever 
possessed a right to the enjoyment of nature, as well 
as to the privileges of grace." And this feeling, which 
shows itself in his graceful descriptions of local scenery, 



THE ISLE OF WIGHT 247 

still gives interest to The Annals of the Poor. The 
attitude of Lcgh Richmond towards nature finds exact 
expression in the beautiful lines of Covvper's Task, 
with which doubtless he was acquainted : — 

" He looks abroad into the varied field 
Of nature, and though poor, perhaps, compared 
With those \\ hose mansions glitter in his sight, 
Calls the delightful scenery all his own. 
His are the mountains, and the valleys his, 
And the resplendent rivers. His to enjoy 
With a propriety that none can feel 
But who, with filial confidence inspired, 
Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye. 
And, smiling, say, ' My Father made them all.'" 



THE END 



G. 






UKS7 .V38 

Vaughan, John/Thi 



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