After visiting hundreds of historic places during our summer's pilgrimage, the memory of Ludlow, with its quaint, unsullied, old-world air, its magnificent church, whose melodious chime of bells lingers with us yet, its great ruined castle, redolent with romance, and its surrounding country of unmatched interest and beauty, is still the pleasantest of all. I know that the town has been little visited by Americans, and that in Baedeker, that Holy Writ of tourists, it is accorded a scant paragraph in small type. Nevertheless, our deliberately formed opinion is still that if we could re-visit only one of the English towns it would be Ludlow. Mr. A.G. Bradley, in his delightful book, "In the March and Borderland of Wales," which everyone contemplating a tour of Welsh border towns should read, gives an appreciation of Ludlow which I am glad to reiterate when he styles it "the most beautiful and distinguished country town in England." He says: "There are towns of its size perhaps as quaint and boasting as many ancient buildings, but they do not crown an eminence amid really striking scenery, nor yet again share such distinction of type with one of the finest mediaeval castles in England and one possessed of a military and political history unique in the annals of British castles. It is this combination of natural and architectural charm, with its intense historical interest, that gives Ludlow such peculiar fascination. Other great border fortresses were centers of military activities from the Conquest to the Battle of Bosworth, but when Ludlow laid aside its armour and burst out into graceful Tudor architecture, it became in a sense the capital of fourteen counties, and remained so for nearly two hundred years."
We were indeed fortunate in Ludlow, for everything conspired to give us the best appreciation of the town, and were it not for the opinion of such an authority as I have quoted, I might have concluded that our partiality was due to some extent to the circumstances. We had been directed to a hotel by our host in Shrewsbury, but on inquiring of a police officer—they are everywhere in Britain—on our arrival in Ludlow, he did us a great favor by telling us that "The Feathers" hotel just opposite would please us better. We forthwith drew up in front of the finest old black and white building which we saw anywhere in the Kingdom and were given a room whose diamond-paned windows opened toward church and castle. No modern improvements broke in on our old-time surroundings—candles lighted us when the long twilight had faded away.
The splendid dark-oak paneling that reached to the ceiling of the dining room and the richly carved mantel-piece, they told us, were once in rooms of Ludlow Castle. As we sat at our late dinner, a familiar melody from the sonorous chimes of the church-tower came through the open window to our great delight. "O, what a nuisance those bells are," said the neat waiting maid, "and a bad thing for the town, too. Why, the commercials all keep away from Ludlow. They can't sleep for the noise." "Do the chimes ring in the night?" we asked. "At midnight and at four o'clock in the morning," she said, and I was fearful that we would not awake. But we did, and the melody in the silence of the night, amid the surroundings of the quaint old town, awakened a sentiment in us no doubt quite different from that which vexed the soul of the commercial. But we felt that credit was due the honest people of Ludlow, who preferred the music of the sweet-toned bells to sordid business; and, as the maid said, the bells did not awaken anyone who was used to them—surely a fit reward to the citizens for their high-minded disregard of mere material interests.
I said we were fortunate at Ludlow. The gray, chilly weather and almost continual rain which had followed us for the last few days vanished and the next morning dawned cool and fair, with sky of untainted blue. Our steps were first turned towards the castle, which we soon reached. There was no one to admit us. The custodian's booth was closed, but there was a small gate in the great entrance and we walked in. We had the noble ruin to ourselves, and a place richer in story and more beautiful and majestic in decay we did not find elsewhere. A maze of gray walls rose all around us, but fortunately every part of the ruin bore a printed card telling us just what we wanted to know. The crumbling walls surrounded a beautiful lawn, starred with wild flowers—buttercups and forget-me-nots—and a flock of sheep grazed peacefully in the wide enclosure. We wandered through the deserted, roofless chambers where fireplaces with elaborate stone mantels and odd bits of carving told of the pristine glory of the place. The castle was of great extent, covering the highest point in Ludlow, and before the day of artillery must have been well-nigh impregnable. The walls on the side toward the river rise from a cliff which drops down a sharp incline toward the edge of the water but leaving room for a delightful foot path between rows of fine trees. The stern square tower of the keep, the odd circular chapel with its fine Norman entrance, the great banqueting hall, the elaborate stone fireplaces and the various apartments celebrated in the story of the castle interested us most. From the great tower I saw what I still consider the finest prospect in England, and I had many beautiful views from similar points of vantage. The day was perfectly clear and the wide range of vision covered the fertile valleys and wooded hills interspersed with the villages, the whole country appearing like a vast beautifully kept park. The story of Ludlow Castle is too long to tell here, but no one who delights in the romance of the days of chivalry should fail to familiarize himself with it. The castle was once a royal residence and the two young princes murdered in London Tower by the agents of Richard III dwelt here for many years. In 1636 Milton's "Mask of Comus," suggested by the youthful adventures of the children of the Lord President, was performed in the castle courtyard. The Lord of the castle at one time was Henry Sidney, father of Sir Philip, and his coat-of-arms still remains over one of the entrances. But the story of love and treason, of how in the absence of the owner of the castle, Maid Marion admitted her clandestine lover, who brought a hundred armed men at his back to slay the inmates and capture the fortress, is the saddest and most tragic of all. We saw high up in the wall, frowning over the river, the window of the chamber from which she had thrown herself after slaying her recreant lover in her rage and despair. A weird story it is, but if the luckless maiden still haunts the scene of her blighted love, an observant sojourner who fitly writes of Ludlow in poetic phrase never saw her. "Nearly every midnight for a month," he says, "it fell to me to traverse the quarter of a mile of dark, lonely lane that leads beneath the walls of the castle to the falls of the river, and a spot more calculated to invite the wanderings of a despairing and guilty spirit, I never saw. But though the savage gray towers far above shone betimes in the moonlight and the tall trees below rustled weirdly in the night breeze and the rush of the river over the weir rose and fell as is the wont of falling water in the silence of the night, I looked in vain for the wraith of the hapless maiden of the heath and finally gave up the quest."
When we left the castle, though nearly noon, the custodian was still belated, and we yet owe him sixpence for admittance, which we hope to pay some time in person. A short walk brought us to the church—"the finest parish church in England," declares one well qualified to judge. "Next to the castle," he says, "the glory of Ludlow is its church, which has not only the advantage of a commanding site but, as already mentioned, is held to be one of the finest in the country." It is built of red sandstone and is cruciform in shape, with a lofty and graceful tower, which is a landmark over miles of country and beautiful from any point of view. I have already mentioned the chime of bells which flings its melodies every few hours over the town and which are hung in this tower. The monuments, the stained-glass windows and the imposing architecture are scarcely equalled by any other church outside of the cathedrals.
We had made the most of our stay in Ludlow, but it was all too short. The old town was a revelation to us, as it would be to thousands of our countrymen who never think of including it in their itinerary. But for the motor car, it would have remained undiscovered to us. With the great growth of this method of touring, doubtless thousands of others will visit the place in the same manner, and be no less pleased than we were.
From Ludlow we had a fine run to Worcester, though the road was sprinkled with short, steep hills noted "dangerous" in the road-book. Our fine weather was very transient, for it was raining again when we reached Worcester. We first directed our steps to the cathedral, but when nearly there beheld a large sign, "This way to the Royal Porcelain Works," and the cathedral was forgotten for the time by at least one member of our party. The Royal Porcelain Works it was, then, for hadn't we known of Royal Worcester long before we knew there was any cathedral—or any town, for that matter? It is easy to get to the Royal Porcelain Works: a huge sign every block will keep you from going astray and an intelligent guide will show you every detail of the great establishment for only a sixpence. But it is much harder and more costly to get away from the Royal Worcester Works, and when we finally did we were several guineas poorer and were loaded with a box of fragile ware to excite the suspicions of our amiable customs officials. Nevertheless, the visit was full of interest. Our guide took us through the great plant from the very beginning, showing us the raw materials—clay, chalk and bones—which are ground to a fine powder, mixed to a paste, and deftly turned into a thousand shapes by the skilled potter. We were shown how the bowl or vase was burned, shrinking to nearly half its size in the process. We followed the various steps of manufacture until the finished ware, hand-painted, and burned many times to bring out the colors, was ready for shipment. An extensive museum connected with the works is filled with rare specimens to delight the soul of the admirer of the keramic art. There were samples of the notable sets of tableware manufactured for nearly every one of the crowned heads of Europe during the last century, gorgeous vases of fabulous value, and rare and curious pieces without number.
When we left the porcelain works it was too late to get into the cathedral, and when we were ready to start in the morning it was too early. So we contented ourselves with driving the car around the noble pile and viewing the exterior from every angle. We took the word of honest Baedeker that the interior is one of the most elaborate and artistic in England but largely the result of modern restoration. The cathedral contains the tomb of King John, who requested that he be buried here, though his life was certainly not such as to merit the distinction. Here, too, is buried the elder brother of King Henry VIII, Prince Arthur, who died at Ludlow Castle in 1502; and had he lived to be king in place of the strenuous Henry, who can say what changes might have been recorded in English history? All these we missed; nor did we satisfy ourselves personally of the correctness of the claim that the original entry of the marriage contract of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway is on file in the diocese office near the gateway of the cathedral. Along with the other notable places of the town mentioned in the guide-book as worthy of a visit is the great factory where the fiery Worcestershire sauce is concocted, but this did not appeal to our imagination as did the porcelain works. Our early start and the fine, nearly level road brought us to Stratford-upon-Avon well before noon. Here we did little more than re-visit the shrines of Shakespeare—the church, the birthplace, the grammar school—all familiar to the English-speaking world. Nor did we forget the Red Horse Inn at luncheon time, finding it much less crowded than on our previous visit, for we were still well in advance of the tourist season. After luncheon we were lured into a shop across the street by the broad assurance made on an exceedingly conspicuous sign that it is the "largest souvenir store on earth." Here we hoped to secure a few mementos of our visit to Stratford by motor car. We fell into a conversation with the proprietor, a genial, white-haired old gentleman, who, we learned, had been Mayor of the town for many years—and is it not a rare distinction to be Mayor of Shakespeare's Stratford? The old gentleman bore his honors lightly indeed, for he said he had insistently declined the office but the people wouldn't take no for an answer.
It is only a few miles to Warwick over winding roads as beautiful as any in England. One of these leads past Charlecote, famous for Shakespeare's deer-stealing episode, but no longer open to the public. We passed through Warwick—which reminded us of Ludlow except for the former's magnificent situation—without pausing, a thing which no one would do who had not visited that quaint old town some time before. In Leamington, three miles farther on, we found a modern city of forty thousand inhabitants, noted as a resort and full of pretentious hotels. After we were located at the Manor House there was still time for a drive to Kenilworth Castle, five miles away, to which a second visit was even more delightful than our previous one. For the next day we had planned a circular tour of Warwickshire, but a driving, all-day rain and, still more, the indisposition of one of our party, confined us to our hotel. Our disappointment was considerable, for within easy reach of Leamington there were many places that we had planned to visit. Ashow Church, Stoneleigh Abbey, George Eliot's birthplace and home near Nuneaton, the cottage of Mary Arden, mother of Shakespeare, Rugby, with its famous school, and Maxstoke Castle—an extensive and picturesque ruin—are all within a few miles of Leamington.
From Leamington to London was nearly an all-day's run, although the distance is only one hundred miles. A repair to the car delayed us and we went several miles astray on the road. It would have been easier to have returned over the Holyhead Road, but our desire to see more of the country led us to take a route nearly parallel to this, averaging about fifteen miles to the southward. Much of the way this ran through narrow byways and the country generally lacked interest. We passed through Banbury, whose cross, famous in nursery rhyme, is only modern. At Waddesdon we saw the most up-to-date and best ordered village we came across in England, with a fine new hotel, the Five Arrows, glittering in fresh paint. We learned that this village was built and practically owned by Baron Rothschild, and just adjoining it was the estate which he had laid out. The gentleman of whom we inquired courteously offered to take us into the great park, and we learned that he was the head landscape gardener. The palace is modern, of Gothic architecture, and crowns an eminence in the park. It contains a picture gallery, with examples of the works of many great masters, which is open to the public on stated days of the week.
On reaching London, we found that our tour of the Midlands had covered a little less than eight hundred miles, which shows how much that distance means in Britain when measured in places of historic and literary importance, of which we really visited only a few of those directly on the route of our journey or lying easily adjacent to it.
LONDON TO LAND'S END
The road from London to Southampton is one of the oldest in the Kingdom and passes many places of historic interest. In early days this highway, leading from one of the main seaports through the ancient Saxon capital, was of great importance. Over this road we began the trip suggested by the Touring Secretary of the Motor Union. As usual, we were late in getting started and it was well after noon when we were clear of the city. At Kingston-on-Thames, practically a suburb, filled with villas of wealthy Londoners, we stopped for lunch at the Griffin Hotel, a fine old inn whose antiquity was not considered sufficient to atone for bad service, which was sometimes the case. Kingston has a history as ancient as that of the capital itself. Its name is peculiar in that it was not derived from King's Town, but from King's Stone; and at the town crossing is the identical stone, so says tradition, upon which the Saxon kings were crowned. It would seem to one that this historic bit of rock would form a more fitting pedestal for the English coronation chair than the old Scottish stone from Dunstafnage Castle.
After a short run from Kingston, we passed down High Street, Guildford, which, a well qualified authority declares, is "one of the most picturesque streets in England." Guildford might well detain for a day or more anyone whose time will permit him to travel more leisurely than ours did. William Cobbett, the author and philosopher, who was born and lived many years near by, declared it "the happiest looking town he ever knew"—just why, I do not know. The street with the huge town clock projecting half way across on one side, the Seventeenth Century Town Hall with its massive Greek portico on the other, and a queerly assorted row of many-gabled buildings following its winding way, looked odd enough, but as to Guildford's happiness, a closer acquaintance would be necessary.
Shortly after leaving the town, the ascent of a two-mile hill brought us to a stretch of upland road which ran for several miles along a tableland lying between pleasantly diversified valleys sloping on either side. From this a long, gradual descent led directly into Farnham, the native town of William Cobbett. The house where he was born and lived as a boy is still standing as "The Jolly Farmers' Inn." One may see the little house which was the birthplace of the Rev. Augustus Toplady, whose hymn, "Rock of Ages," has gained world-wide fame. On the hill overlooking the town is the ancient castle, rebuilt in the Sixteenth Century and from that time one of the palaces of the bishops of Winchester. Here, too, lingers one of the ubiquitous traditions of King Charles I, who stopped at Vernon House in West Street while a prisoner in the hands of the Parliamentarians on their way to London. A silk cap which the king presented to his host is proudly shown by one of the latter's descendants, who is now owner of the house.
One must be well posted on his route when touring Britain or he will pass many things of note in sublime ignorance of their existence. Even the road-book is not an infallible guide, for we first knew that we were passing through Chawton when the postoffice sign, on the main street of a straggling village, arrested our attention. We were thus reminded that in this quiet little place the inimitable Jane Austin had lived and produced her most notable novels, which are far more appreciated now than in the lifetime of the authoress. An old woman of whom we inquired pointed out the house—a large square building with tiled roof, now used as the home of a workingmen's club. Less than two miles from Chawton, though not on the Winchester road, is Selborne, the home of Gilbert White, the naturalist, and famed as one of the quaintest and most retired villages in Hampshire.
But one would linger long on the way if he paused at every landmark on the Southampton road. We had already loitered in the short distance which we had traveled until it was growing late, and with open throttle our car rapidly covered the last twenty miles of the fine road leading into Winchester.
From an historical point of view, no town in the Kingdom surpasses the proud old city of Winchester. The Saxon capital still remembers her ancient splendor and it was with a manifest touch of pride that the old verger who guided us through the cathedral dwelt on the long line of kings who had reigned at Winchester before the Norman conquest. To him, London at best was only an upstart and an usurper. Why,
"When Oxford was shambles And Westminster was brambles, Winchester was in her glory."
And her glory has never departed from her and never will so long as her great cathedral stands intact, guarding its age-long line of proud traditions. The exterior is not altogether pleasing—the length exceeding that of any cathedral in Europe, together with the abbreviated tower, impresses one with a painful sense of lack of completeness and a failure of proper proportion. It has not the splendid site of Durham or Lincoln, the majesty of the massive tower of Canterbury, or the grace of the great spire of Salisbury. But its interior makes full amends. No cathedral in all England can approach it in elaborate carvings and furnishings or in interesting relics and memorials. Here lie the bones of the Saxon King Ethelwulf, father of Alfred the Great; of Canute, whose sturdy common sense silenced his flatterers; and of many others. A scion of the usurping Norman sleeps here too, in the tomb where William Rufus was buried, "with many looking on and few grieving." In the north aisle a memorial stone covers the grave of Jane Austen and a great window to her memory sends its many-colored shafts of light from above. In the south transept rests Ike Walton, prince of fishermen, who, it would seem to us, must have slept more peacefully by some rippling brook. During the Parliamentary wars Winchester was a storm center and the cathedral suffered severely at the hands of the Parliamentarians. Yet fortunately, many of its ancient monuments and furnishings escaped the wrath of the Roundhead iconoclasts. The cathedral is one of the oldest in England, having been mainly built in the Ninth Century. Recently it has been discovered that the foundations are giving away to an extent that makes extensive restoration necessary, but it will be only restored and not altered in any way.
But we may not pause long to tell the story of even Winchester Cathedral in this hasty record of a motor flight through Britain. And, speaking of the motor car, ardent devotee as I am, I could not help feeling a painful sense of the inappropriateness of its presence in Winchester; of its rush through the streets at all hours of the night; of its clatter as it climbed the steep hills in the town; of the blast of its unmusical horn; and of its glaring lights, falling weirdly on the old buildings. It seemed an intruder in the capital of King Alfred.
There is much else in Winchester, though the cathedral and its associations may overshadow everything. The college, one of the earliest educational institutions in the Kingdom, was founded about 1300, and many of the original buildings stand almost unchanged. The abbey has vanished, though the grounds still serve as a public garden; and of Wolvesley Palace, a castle built in 1138, only the keep still stands. How usual this saying, "Only the keep still stands," becomes of English castles,—thanks to the old builders who made the keep strong and high to withstand time, and so difficult to tear down that it escaped the looters of the ages.
A day might well be given to the vicinity of Winchester, which teems with points of literary and historic interest. In any event, one should visit Twyford, only three miles away, often known as the "queen of the Hampshire villages" and famous for the finest yew tree in England. It is of especial interest to Americans, since Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography here while a guest of Dr. Shipley, Vicar of St. Asaph, whose house, a fine Elizabethan mansion, still stands.
To Salisbury by way of Romsey is a fine drive of about thirty miles over good roads and through a very pleasing country. Long before we reached the town there rose into view its great cathedral spire, the loftiest and most graceful in Britain, a striking landmark from the country for miles around. Following the winding road and passing through the narrow gateway entering High Street, we came directly upon this magnificent church, certainly the most harmonious in design of any in the Kingdom. The situation, too, is unique, the cathedral standing entirely separate from any other building, its gray walls and buttresses rising sheer up from velvety turf such as is seen in England alone. It was planned and completed within the space of fifty years, which accounts for its uniformity of style; while the construction of most of the cathedrals ran through the centuries with various architecture in vogue at different periods. The interior, however, lacks interest, and the absence of stained glass gives an air of coldness. It seems almost unbelievable that the original stained windows were deliberately destroyed at the end of the Eighteenth Century by a so-called architect, James Wyatt, who had the restoration of the cathedral in charge. To his everlasting infamy, "Wyatt swept away screens, chapels and porches, desecrated and destroyed the tombs of warriors and prelates, obliterated ancient paintings; flung stained glass by cart loads into the city ditch; and razed to the ground the beautiful old campanile which stood opposite the north porch." That such desecration should be permitted in a civilized country only a century ago indeed seems incredible.
No one who visits Salisbury will forget Stonehenge, the most remarkable relic of prehistoric man to be found in Britain. Nearly everyone is familiar with pictures of this solitary circle of stones standing on an eminence of Salisbury Plain, but one who has not stood in the shadow of these gigantic monoliths can have no idea of their rugged grandeur. Their mystery is deeper than that of Egypt's sphynx, for we know something of early Egyptian history, but the very memory of the men who reared the stones on Salisbury Plain is forgotten. Who they were, why they built this strange temple, or how they brought for long distances these massive rocks that would tax modern resources to transport, we have scarcely a hint. The stones stand in two concentric circles, those of the inner ring being about half the height of the outer ones. Some of the stones are more than twenty feet high and extend several feet into the ground. There are certain signs which seem to indicate that Stonehenge was the temple of some early sun-worshiping race, and Sir Norman Lockyer, who has made a special study of the subject, places the date of construction about 1680 B.C. No similar stone is found in the vicinity; hence it is proof positive that the builders of Stonehenge must have transported the enormous monoliths for many miles. The place lies about eight miles north of Salisbury. We went over a rather lonely and uninteresting road by the way of Amesbury, which is two miles from Stonehenge. We returned by a more picturesque route, following the River Avon to Salisbury and passing through Millston, a quaint little village where Joseph Addison was born in 1672.
A few miles south of Salisbury we entered New Forest, an ancient royal hunting domain covering nearly three hundred square miles and containing much of the most pleasing woodland scenery in England. This is extremely diversified but always beautiful. Glades and reaches of gentle park and meadow and open, heathlike stretches contrast wonderfully with the dark masses of huge oaks and beeches, under some of which daylight never penetrates. We stopped for the night at Lyndhurst, directly in the center of the forest and sometimes called the capital of New Forest. It looks strangely new for an English town, and the large church, built of red brick and white stone, shows its recent origin. In this church is a remarkable altar fresco which was executed by the late Lord Leighton. The fine roads and splendid scenery might occupy at least a day if time permitted; but if, like us, one must hasten onward, a run over the main roads of New Forest will give opportunity to see much of its sylvan beauty.
Our route next day through the narrow byways of Dorsetshire was a meandering one. From Lyndhurst we passed through Christchurch, Blandford and Dorchester and came for the night to Yeovil. We passed through no place of especial note, but no day of our tour afforded us a better idea of the more retired rural sections of England. By the roadside everywhere were the thatched roof cottages with their flower gardens, and here and there was an ancient village which to all appearances might have been standing quite the same when the Conqueror landed in Britain. Oftentimes the byways were wide enough for only one vehicle, but were slightly broadened in places to afford opportunity for passing. Many of the crossings lacked the familiar sign-boards, and the winding byways, with nothing but the map for a guide, were often confusing, and sharp turns between high hedges made careful driving necessary. At times we passed between avenues of tall trees and again unexpectedly dropped into some quiet village nestling in the Dorset hills. One of the quaintest of these, not even mentioned in Baedeker, is Cerne Abbas, a straggling village through which the road twisted along—a little old-world community, seemingly severed from modern conditions by centuries. It rather lacked the cozy picturesqueness of many English villages. It seemed to us that it wanted much of the bloom and shrubbery. Everywhere were the gray stone houses with thatched roofs, sagging walls and odd little windows with square or diamond-shaped panes set in iron casements. Nowhere was there a structure that had the slightest taint of newness. The place is quite unique. I do not recall another village that impressed us in just the same way. Our car seemed strangely out of place as it cautiously followed the crooked main street of the town, and the attention bestowed on it by the smaller natives indicated that a motor was not a common sight in Cerne Abbas. Indeed, we should have missed it ourselves had we not wandered from the main road into a narrow lane that led to the village. While we much enjoyed our day in the Dorset byways, our progress had necessarily been slow.
In Yeovil, we found an old English town apparently without any important history, but a prosperous center for a rich farming country. The place is neat and clean and has a beautifully kept public park—a feature of which the average English town appears more appreciative than the small American city.
From Yeovil to Torquay, through Exeter, with a stop at the latter place, was an unusually good day's run. The road was more hilly than any we had passed over heretofore, not a few of the grades being styled "dangerous," and we had been warned by an English friend that we should find difficult roads and steep hills in Devon and Cornwall. However, to one who had driven over some of our worst American roads, even the "bad" roads of England looked good, and the "dangerous" hills, with their smooth surface and generally uniform grade, were easy for our moderate-powered motor.
Exeter enjoys the distinction of having continuously been the site of a town or city for a longer period than is recorded of any other place in England. During the Roman occupation it was known as a city, and it is believed that the streets, which are more regular than usual and which generally cross each other at right angles, were first laid out by the Romans. It is an important town of about fifty thousand inhabitants, with thriving trade and manufactures, and modern improvements are in evidence everywhere.
The cathedral, though not one of the largest or most imposing, is remarkable for the elaborate carving of the exterior. The west front is literally covered with life-sized statues set in niches in the wall, but the figures are all sadly time-worn, many of them having almost crumbled away. Evidently the Roundheads were considerate of Exeter Cathedral that such a host of effigies escaped destruction at their hands; and they were not very well disposed towards Exeter, either, as it was always a Royalist stronghold. Possibly it was spared because the Cromwellians found it useful as a place of worship, and in order to obtain peace and harmony between the two factions of the army the cathedral was divided into two portions by a high brick wall through the center, the Independents holding forth on one side and the Presbyterians on the other.
The road from Exeter to Torquay follows the coast for some distance, affording many fine views of the ocean. We were now in the "limestone country," and the roads are exceedingly dusty in dry weather. The dust, in the form of a fine white powder, covers the trees and vegetation, giving the country here and there an almost ghostly appearance. No wonder that in this particular section there is considerable prejudice against the motor on account of its great propensity to stir up the dust. So far as we ourselves were concerned, we usually left it behind us, and it troubled us only when some other car got in ahead of us.
Torquay is England's Palm Beach—a seacoast-resort town where the temperature rarely falls below forty degrees, thanks to the warm current of the Gulf Stream; and where the sea breezes keep down the summer heat, which seldom rises above sixty degrees. It is especially a winter resort, although the hotels keep open during the year. Most of the town is finely situated on a high promontory overlooking a beautiful harbor, studded with islands and detached rocks that half remind one of Capri. From our hotel window we had a glorious ocean view, made the more interesting for the time being by a dozen of King Edward's men-of-war, supposed to be defending Torquay against "the enemy" of a mimic naval warfare.
On the opposite side of Tor Bay is the quiet little fishing village of Brixham, the landing-place of Prince William of Orange. We reached here early on a fine June day when everything was fresh after heavy showers during the night. The houses rise in terraces up the sharp hillside fronting the harbor, which was literally a forest of fishing-boat masts. A rather crude stone statue of William stands on the quay and a brass foot-print on the shore marks the exact spot where the Dutch prince first set foot in England, accompanied by an army of thirteen thousand men. Our car attracted a number of urchins, who crowded around it and, though we left it unguarded for an hour or more to go out on the sea-wall and look about the town, not one of the fisher lads ventured to touch it or to molest anything—an instance of the law-abiding spirit which we found everywhere in England.
From Brixham, an hour's drive over bad roads brought us to Dartmouth, whither we had been attracted by the enthusiastic language of an English writer who asserts that "There is scarcely a more romantic spot in the whole of England than Dartmouth. Spread out on one of the steep slopes of the Dart, it overlooks the deep-set river toward the sea. Steep wooded banks rising out of the water's edge give the winding of the estuaries a solemn mystery which is wanting in meadows and plough-land. In the midst of scenery of this character—and it must have been richer still a few centuries back—the inhabitants of Dartmouth made its history."
As we approached the town, the road continually grew worse until it was little better than the average unimproved country highway in America, and the sharp loose stones everywhere were ruinous on tires. It finally plunged sharply down to a steamboat ferry, over which we crossed the Dart and landed directly in the town. There are few towns in England more charmingly located than old Dartmouth, and a hundred years ago it was an important seaport, dividing honors about equally with Plymouth.
The road to Dartmouth was unusually trying; the route which we took to Plymouth was by odds the worst of equal distance we found anywhere. We began with a precipitous climb out of the town, up a very steep hill over a mile long, with many sharp turns that made the ascent all the more difficult. We were speedily lost in a network of unmarked byways running through a distressingly poor-looking and apparently quite thinly inhabited country. After a deal of studying the map and the infrequent sign-boards we brought up in a desolate-looking little village, merely a row of gray stone, slate-roofed houses on either side of the way, and devoid of a single touch of the picturesque which so often atones for the poverty of the English cottages. No plot of shrubbery or flower-garden broke the gray monotony of the place. We had seen nothing just like it in England, though some of the Scotch villages which we saw later, matched it very well.
Here a native gave us the cheerful information that we had come over the very road we should not have taken; that just ahead of us was a hill where the infrequent motor cars generally stalled, but he thought that a good strong car could make it all right. Our car tackled the hill bravely enough, but slowed to a stop before reaching the summit; but by unloading everybody except the driver, and with more or less coaxing and adjusting, it was induced to try it again, with a rush that carried it through. The grade, though very steep, was not so much of an obstacle as the deep sand, with which the road was covered. We encountered many steep hills and passed villages nearly as unprepossessing as the first one before we came to the main Plymouth-Exeter road, as excellent a highway as one could wish. It was over this that our route had originally been outlined, but our spirit of adventure led us into the digression I have tried to describe. It was trying at the time, but we saw a phase of England that we otherwise would have missed and have no regrets for the strenuous day in the Devonshire byways.
Plymouth, with the adjoining towns of Devonport and Stonehouse, is one of the most important seaports in the Kingdom, the combined population being about two hundred thousand. The harbor is one of the best and affords safe anchorage for the largest ocean-going vessels. It is protected by a stupendous granite breakwater, costing many millions and affording a delightful promenade on a fine day. Plymouth is the principal government naval port and its ocean commerce is gaining rapidly on that of Liverpool. To Americans it appeals chiefly on account of its connection with the Pilgrim Fathers, who sailed from its harbor on the Mayflower in 1620. A granite block set in the pier near the oldest part of the city is supposed to mark the exact spot of departure of the gallant little ship on the hazardous voyage, whose momentous outcome was not then dreamed of. I could not help thinking what a fine opportunity is offered here for some patriotic American millionaire to erect a suitable memorial to commemorate the sailing of the little ship, fraught with its wonderful destiny. The half day spent about the old city was full of interest; but the places which we missed would make a most discouraging list. It made us feel that one ought to have two or three years to explore Britain instead of a single summer's vacation.
From Plymouth to Penzance through Truro runs the finest road in Cornwall, broad, well kept and with few steep grades. It passes through a beautiful section and is bordered in many places by the immense parks of country estates. In some of these the woods were seemingly left in their natural wild state, though close inspection showed how carefully this appearance was maintained by judicious landscape gardening. In many of the parks, the rhododendrons were in full bloom, and their rich masses of color wonderfully enlivened the scenery. Everything was fresh and bright. It had been raining heavily the night before and the air was free from the dust that had previously annoyed us. It would be hard to imagine anything more inspiring than the vistas which opened to us as we sped along. The road usually followed the hills in gentle curves, but at places it rose to splendid points of vantage from which to view the delightful valleys. Then again it lost itself under great over-arching trees, and as we came too rapidly down a steep hill on entering Bodmin, the road was so heavily shaded that we were near our undoing. The loose sand had been piled up by the rain and the dense shade prevented the road from drying. The car took a frightful skid and by a mere hair's breadth escaped disastrous collision with a stone wall—but we learned something.
After leaving Truro, an ancient town with a recently established cathedral, the road to Penzance, though excellent, is without special interest. It passes through the copper-mining section of Cornwall and the country is dotted with abandoned mines. A few are still operated, but it has come to the point where, as a certain Englishman has said, "Cornwall must go to Nevada for her copper," and there are more Cornish miners in the western states than there are in their native shire.
Penzance is another of the South of England resort towns and is beautifully situated on Mounts Bay. One indeed wonders at the great number of seacoast resorts in Britain, but we must remember that there are forty millions of people in the Kingdom who need breathing places as well as a number of Americans who come to these resorts. The hotels at these places are generally excellent from the English point of view, which differs somewhat from the American. Probably there is no one point on which the difference is greater than the precise temperature that constitutes personal comfort and makes a fire in the room necessary. On a chilly, muggy day when an American shivers and calls for a fire in the generally diminutive grate in his room, the native enjoys himself or even complains of the heat, and is astonished at his thin-skinned cousin, who must have his room—according to the British notion—heated to suffocation. The hotel manager always makes a very adequate charge for fires in guest-rooms and is generally chary about warming the corridors or public parts of the hotel. In one of the large London hotels which actually boasts of steam heat in the hallways, we were amazed on a chilly May day to find the pipes warm and a fine fire blazing in the great fireplace in the lobby. The chambermaid explained the astonishing phenomenon: the week before several Americans had complained frequently of the frigid atmosphere of the place without exciting much sympathy from the management, but after they had left the hotel, it was taken as an evidence of good faith and the heat was turned on. But this digression has taken me so far away from Penzance that I may as well close this chapter with it.
FROM CORNWALL TO SOUTH WALES
In following a five-thousand-mile motor journey through Britain, there will be little to say of Penzance, a pleasant resort town, yet without anything of notable importance. A mile farther down the coast is Newlyn, a fishing-village which has become a noted resort for artists and has given its name to a school of modern painting. A handsome building for a gallery and art institute, and which also serves as headquarters for the artists, has recently been erected by a wealthy benefactor. We walked over to the village, hoping to learn that the fisher-fleet would be in the next morning, but were disappointed. A man of whom we inquired informed us that the fishermen would not bring in their catch until two days later. He seemed to recognize at once that we were strangers—Americans, they all know it intuitively—and left his task to show us about the immense quay where the fishermen dispose of their catch at auction. He conducted us out on the granite wall, built by the Government to enclose the harbor and insuring the safety of the fisher-fleet in fiercest storms. He had been a deep-sea fisherman himself and told us much of the life of these sturdy fellows and the hardships they endure for little pay.
The ordinary fishing boat is manned by five or six men and makes two trips each week to the deep-sea fishing "grounds," seventy-five to one hundred miles away. The craft is rude and comfortless in the extreme and so constructed as to be nearly unsinkable if kept off the rocks. The fish are taken by trawling great nets and drawing them aboard with a special tackle. The principal catch of the Newlyn fishermen is herring, which are pickled in the village and exported, mainly to Norway and Sweden. The value of the fish depends on the state of the market, and the price realized is often as low as a shilling per hundred weight. The majority of the population of Cornwall is engaged directly or indirectly in the fisheries, and considering the inferiority of most of the country for agriculture and the extensive coast line with its numerous harbors, it is not strange that so many of the natives should follow this life. In earlier days, smuggling and wrecking constituted the occupation of a large number of the Cornishmen, but under modern conditions these gentle arts can no longer be successfully practiced, and fishing furnishes about the only alternative.
Just across the peninsula is St. Ives, another fishing village, even more picturesque than Newlyn and quite as much in favor with the artists. To reach this town we turned a few miles from the main road on the following day, but missed the fisher-fleet as before. The bay on which St. Ives is situated is the most beautiful on the Cornish coast, and on the day of our visit the bright stretch of water, sleeping placidly under the June skies and dotted with glistening sails, well maintained its reputation for surpassing loveliness. Before we entered the town a man of whom we inquired the way advised us to leave our car and walk down the sharp descent to the coast, where the village mostly lies. The idea of the return trip was not pleasing, and we boldly started down, only to wish we had been more amenable to the friendly advice, for a steeper, narrower, crookeder street we did not find anywhere. In places it was too narrow for vehicles to pass abreast, and sharp turns on a very steep grade, in streets crowded with children, made the descent exceedingly trying. However, we managed to get through safely and came to a stop directly in front of the Fifteenth Century church, an astonishingly imposing structure for a village which showed more evidences of poverty than of anything else. The church was built at a time when the smugglers and wreckers of Cornwall no doubt enjoyed greater prosperity and felt, perhaps, more anxiety for their souls' welfare than do their fisher-folk descendants.
On re-ascending the hill we stopped at the Castle for our noonday luncheon, but the castle in this instance is a fine old mansion built about a hundred years ago as a private residence and since passed into the possession of a railway company, which has converted it into an excellent hotel. Situated as it is, in a fine park on the eminence overlooking the bay, few hostelries at which we paused seemed more inviting for a longer sojourn.
Four miles from Penzance is Marazion, and St. Michael's Mount, lying near at hand, takes its name from the similar but larger and more imposing cathedral-crowned headland off the coast of France. It is a remarkable granite rock, connected with the mainland by a strip of sand, which is clear of the water only four hours of the day. The rock towers to a height of two hundred and fifty feet and is about a mile in circumference. It is not strange that in the days of castle-building such an isolated site should have been seized upon; and on the summit is a many-towered structure built of granite and so carefully adapted to its location as to seem almost a part of the rock itself. When we reached Marazion, the receding tide had left the causeway dry, and as we walked leisurely the mile or so between the town and the mount, the water was already stealthily encroaching on the pathway. We found the castle more of a gentleman's residence than a fortress, and it was evidently never intended for defensive purposes. It has been the residence of the St. Aubyn family since the time of Charles II, and the villagers were all agog over elaborate preparations to celebrate the golden wedding anniversary of the present proprietor. The climb is a wearisome one, and we saw little of the castle, being admitted only to the entrance-hall and the small Gothic chapel, which was undergoing restoration; but the fine view from the battlements alone is worth the effort. The castle never figured in history and is remarkable chiefly for its unique location. By the time of our return the tide had already risen several feet and we were rowed to the mainland in a boat.
On our return to Truro we took the road by which we came, but on leaving there our road roughly followed the Northern Cornish coast, and at intervals we caught glimpses of the ocean. For some distance we ran through a rough moorland country, although the road was comparatively level and straight. We passed Camelford—which some say is the Camelot of the Arthur legends—only five miles distant from the ruins of Tintagel Castle on the coast, and came early to Launceston, where the clean hospitable-looking White Hart Hotel offered strong inducements to stop for the night. A certain weariness of the flesh, resulting from our run over the last long stretch of the moorland road, was an equally important factor in influencing our action.
Launceston was one of the surprises that we frequently came across—a town that we had never heard of before and doubtless one that an American seldom sees. Yet the massive castle, whose circular keep crowns an eminence overlooking the town, was one of the objects that loomed into view long before we reached the place, and its gloomy grandeur, as we wandered through its ruins in the fading twilight, deeply impressed us. A rude stairway led to the top of the great circular tower, rising high above the summit of the hill, which itself dominates the country, and the view stretching away in every direction was far-reaching and varied. The castle has been gradually falling into ruin for the last six hundred years, but in its palmy days it must have been one of the grimmest and most awe-inspiring of the fortresses in the west country. Scarcely another ruin did we see anywhere more imposing in location and more picturesque in decay. Masses of ivy clung to the crumbling walls and all around spread a beautiful park, with soft, velvety turf interspersed with shrubbery and bright dashes of color from numerous well cared-for flower beds.
Not less unique is St. Steven's church, the like of which is not to be found elsewhere in Britain. Its walls are covered with a network of fine carving, vine and flower running riot in stone, and they told us that this was done by English stonecutters, though nearly all such carving on the cathedrals was the work of artisans from the continent. The Launceston church is pointed to as an evidence that English workmen could have done quite as well had they been given the chance. Aside from this wonderful carving, which covers almost every stone of the exterior, the church is an imposing one and has lately been restored to its pristine magnificence. Launceston had its abbey, too, but this has long since disappeared, and all that now remains of it is the finely carved Norman doorway built into the entrance of the White Hart Hotel.
Our next day's run was short, covering only forty-two miles between Launceston and Exeter. For about half the distance the road runs along the edge of Dartmoor, the greatest of English moorlands. A motor trip of two or three days through the moor itself would be time well spent, for it abounds in romantic scenery. The road which we followed is a good one, though broken into numerous steep hills, but a part of the way we might as well have been traveling through a tunnel so far as seeing the country was concerned. A large proportion of the fences are made of earth piled up four or five feet high, and on the top of this ridge are planted the hedges, generally reaching three or four feet higher. There were times when we could catch only an occasional glimpse of the landscape, and if such fences were everywhere in England they would be a serious deterrent upon motoring. Fortunately, they prevail in a comparatively small section, for we did not find them outside of Cornwall and Devon. This experience served to impress on us how much we lost when the English landscapes were hidden—that the vistas which flitted past us as we hurried along were among the pleasantest features of our journey. It was little short of distressing to have mud fences shut from view some of the most fascinating country through which we passed.
The greatest part of the day we spent in Exeter. The Rougemont Hotel, where we stopped for the night, is spacious and comfortable, and a series of stained-glass windows at the head of the great staircase tells the story of Richard Ill's connection with Exeter; how, according to Shakespeare's play, the Rougemont of Exeter recalled to the king's superstitious mind an ancient prophecy of his defeat at the hands of Richmond, later Henry VII.
Leaving Exeter early, we planned to reach Bath in the evening—only eighty-one miles over an almost perfect road—not a very long run so far as actual distance is concerned, but entirely too long considering the places of unusual interest that lie along the way. We passed through the little town of Wellington, noted chiefly for giving his title to the Iron Duke, and it commemorates its great namesake by a lofty column reared on one of the adjacent hills.
No town in Britain has an ecclesiastical history more important than Glastonbury, whose tradition stretches back to the very beginning of Christianity in the Island. Legend has it that St. Joseph of Arimathea, who begged the body of Christ and buried it, came here in the year 63 and was the founder of the abbey. He brought with him, tradition says, the Holy Grail; and a thorn-tree staff which he planted in the abbey grounds became a splendid tree, revered for many centuries as the Holy Thorn. The original tree has vanished, though there is a circumstantial story that it was standing in the time of Cromwell and that a Puritan who undertook to cut it down as savoring of idolatry had an eye put out by a flying chip and was dangerously wounded by his axe-head flying off and striking him. With its awe-inspiring traditions—for which, fortunately, proof was not required—it is not strange that Glastonbury for many centuries was the greatest and most powerful ecclesiastical establishment in the Kingdom. The buildings at one time covered sixty acres, and many hundreds of monks and dignitaries exerted influence on temporal as well as ecclesiastical affairs. It is rather significant that it passed through the Norman Conquest unscathed; not even the greedy conquerors dared invade the sanctity of Glastonbury Abbey. The revenue at that time is said to have been about fifty thousand pounds yearly and the value of a pound then would equal twenty-five to fifty of our American dollars. However much the Normans respected the place, its sanctity had no terrors for the rapacious Henry VIII. The rich revenues appealed too strongly and he made a clean sweep, hanging the mitered abbot and two of his monks on the top of Tor Hill. The Abbey is the traditional burial-place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, and four of the Saxon kings sleep in unmarked graves within its precincts. Considering its once vast extent, the remaining ruins are scanty, although enough is left to show how imposing and elaborate it must have been in its palmy days. And there are few places in the Kingdom where one is so impressed with the spirit of the ancient order of things as when surrounded by the crumbling walls of Glastonbury Abbey.
At Wells is the cathedral that gives the town an excuse for existence. Although one of the smallest of these great English churches, it is in many respects one of the most symmetrical and beautiful. Its glory is centered chiefly in its west front, with deep buttresses and many sculptured images of kings and saints. We had only an unsatisfactory glimpse of the interior, as services happened to be in progress. The town of Wells is a mere adjunct to the cathedral. It has no history of its own; no great family has ever lived there; and it can claim no glory as the birthplace of distinguished sons. Still it has a distinct charm as a quiet little Somersetshire town which has preserved its antiquity and fascination. Its name is taken from the natural wells still found in the garden of the Bishop's palace.
Bath, though it has the most remarkable Roman relics in the Kingdom, is largely modern. It is now a city of fifty thousand and dates its rise from the patronage of royalty a century and a half ago. It is one of the towns that a motorist could scarcely miss if he wished—so many fine roads lead into it—and I shall not attempt especial comment on a place so well known. Yet, as in our case, it may be a revelation to many who know of it in a general way but have no adequate idea of the real extent of the Roman baths. These date from 50 to 100 A.D. and indicate a degree of civilization which shows that the Roman inhabitants in Britain must have been industrious, intelligent and cleanly.
Excavations have been conducted with great difficulty, since the Roman remains lie directly under an important part of the city covered with valuable buildings. Nearly all of the baths in the vicinity of the springs have been uncovered and found in a surprising state of perfection. In many places the tiling with its mosaic is intact, and parts of the system of piping laid to conduct the water still may be traced. Over the springs has been erected the modern pump-house and many of the Roman baths have been restored to nearly their original state. In the pump-house is a museum with hundreds of relics discovered in course of excavation—sculpture, pottery, jewelry, coin and many other articles that indicate a high degree of civilization. Outside of the Roman remains the most notable thing in Bath is its abbey church, which, in impressive architecture and size, will compare favorably with many of the cathedrals. In fact, it originally was a cathedral, but in an early day the bishopric was transferred to Wells. There is no ruined fortress or castle in Bath, with its regulation lot of legends. Possibly in an effort to remedy the defect, there has been erected on one of the hills that overlook the town a structure which goes by the epithet of the Sham Castle.
On leaving Bath, we followed the fine London road as far as Chippenham, a prosperous agricultural town celebrated for its wool market. To the north of this is Malmesbury, with an abbey church whose history goes back to the Ninth Century. A portion of the nave is still used for services and is remarkable for its massive pillars and Norman doorway, the great arch of which has perhaps a hundred rude carvings illustrating scenes from scripture history. The strong walls of the church caused it to be used at times as a fortress, and it underwent sieges in the different wars that raged over the Kingdom. The verger pointed out to us deep indentations made by Cromwell's cannon and told us that one of the abbey's vicissitudes was its use for some years as a cloth manufacturing establishment.
From Malmesbury we followed the road through Cirencester to Cheltenham, one of the most modern-looking cities which we saw in England. Like Bath, it is famous for its springs, and a large share of its population is made up of retired officers of the army and navy. The main streets are very wide, nearly straight, and bordered in many places with fine trees. However, its beginning dates from only about 1700, and therefore it has little claim on the tourist whose heart is set upon ancient and historic things.
Of much greater interest is its neighbor, Gloucester, about twelve miles away. The two cities are almost of the same size, each having about fifty thousand people. Gloucester can boast of one of the most beautiful of the cathedrals, whether considered from its imposing Gothic exterior or its interior, rich with carvings and lighted by unusually fine stained-glass windows, one of which is declared to be the largest in the world. The cathedral was begun in 1088, but the main tower was not completed until nearly five hundred years later, which gives some idea of the time covered in the construction of many of these great churches. Gloucester boasts of great antiquity, for it is known that the Britons had a fortified town here which they defended against the Roman attacks; and after having become possessed of it, the Romans greatly strengthened it as a defense against incursions from the Welsh tribes. Before the Norman Conquest, it was of such importance that Edward the Confessor held his court in the town for some time. Being in the west country, it naturally was a storm-center in the parliamentary struggle, during which time a great deal of the city was destroyed. But there are many of the old portions still remaining and it has numbers of beautiful half-timbered buildings. One of these was the home of Robert Raikes, known to the world as the founder of the Sunday School. Gloucester is worthy of a longer stay than we were able to make, and in arranging an itinerary one should not fail to provide for a full day in the town.
From Gloucester to Ross runs an excellent highway, though rather devoid of interest. It was thronged with motorists who generally dashed along in sublime disregard of the speed limits. We passed several who were occupied with "roadside troubles" and we were in for an hour or so ourselves, due to a refractory "vibrator." The Welsh farmers who passed joked us good-naturedly and one said he would stick to his horse until he had money to buy a motor—then, he added, he wouldn't buy it, but would live on the income of the money. We told him that he was a man after Solomon's own heart. Suddenly the evil spirit left the car and she sprang away over the beautiful road in mad haste that soon landed us in Ross.
Ross is a pretty village, situated on a green hillside overlooking the Wye, and the tall, graceful spire of its church dominates all views of the town. Although it was growing quite late, we did not stop here, but directed our way to Monmouth, twelve miles farther on, which we reached just as the long twilight was turning into night.
THROUGH BEAUTIFUL WALES
Of no part of our tour does a pleasanter memory linger than of the five or six hundred miles on the highways of Wales. The weather was glorious and no section of Britain surpassed the Welsh landscapes in beauty. A succession of green hills, in places impressive enough to be styled mountains, sloping away into wooded valleys, with here and there a quaint village, a ruined castle or abbey, or an imposing country mansion breaking on the view—all combined to make our journey through Wales one of our most pleasing experiences. Historic spots are not far apart, especially on the border, where for centuries these brave people fought English invaders—and with wonderful success, considering the greatly superior number of the aggressors. I have already written of Ludlow and Shrewsbury on the north, but scarcely less attractive—and quite as important in early days—are the fine old towns of Hereford and Monmouth on the southern border.
We were everywhere favorably impressed with the Welsh people as being thrifty and intelligent. The roadside drinking-houses were not so numerous as in England, for the Welsh are evidently more temperate in this regard than their neighbors. My observation in this particular is borne out by an English writer well qualified to judge. He says: "There is, of a truth, very little drinking now in rural Wales. The farming classes appear to be extremely sober. Even the village parliament, which in England discusses the nation's affairs in the village public house, has no serious parallel in Wales, for the detached cottage-renting laborer, who is the mainstay of such gatherings, scarcely exists, and the farmer has other interests to keep him at home." Evidently the Welsh farmer does attend to his business in an industrious manner, for he generally has a substantial and prosperous appearance. People with whom we engaged in conversation were always courteous and obliging and almost everything conspired to heighten our good opinion of the Welsh. The fusion with England is nearly complete and the Welsh language is comparatively little used except by the older people. King Edward has no more loyal subjects than the Welshmen, but apparently they do not greatly incline towards admitting his claims as their spiritual head. The Church of England in Wales is greatly inferior in numbers and influence to the various nonconformist branches. This is especially true of the more rural sections.
We found Monmouth an unusually interesting town on account of its antiquity and the numerous historic events which transpired within its walls. At the King's Head Hotel, which of course afforded shelter to Charles I when he was "touring" Britain, we were able with difficulty to find accommodation, so crowded was the house with an incursion of English trippers. Monmouth's chief glory and distinction is that it was the birthplace of King Henry V, Shakespeare's Prince Hal, whom William Watson describes as
"The roystering prince that afterward Belied his madcap youth and proved A greatly simple warrior lord Such as our warrior fathers loved."
The scanty ruins of the castle where the prince was born still overlook the town. Thus King Henry became the patron of Monmouth, and in front of the town hall has been erected an inartistic effigy of a knight in full armour, with the inscription, "Henry V, born at Monmouth, August 9, 1387." The old bridge over the river Monnow is unique, with an odd, castellated gateway at one end, probably intended not so much for defense as for collecting tolls.
After dark we wandered about the streets until the church-tower chimes warned us of the lateness of the hour. And even these church bells have their history. When King Henry sailed from a seaport in France on one occasion the inhabitants rang the bells for joy, which so incensed the monarch that he ordered the bells removed and presented them to his native town. We saw too little of Monmouth, for the next morning we were away early, taking the fine road that leads directly south to Tintern and Chepstow.
The abbey-builders chose their locations with unerring judgment, always in a beautiful valley near a river or lake, surrounded by fertile fields and charming scenery. Of the score of ruined abbeys which we visited there was not one that did not fulfill this description, and none of them to a greater extent—possibly excepting Fountain's—than Tintern. In the words of an enthusiastic admirer, "Tintern is supremely wonderful for its situation among its scores of rivals. It lies on the very brink of the River Wye, in a hollow of the hills of Monmouth, sheltered from harsh winds, warmed by the breezes of the Channel—a very nook in an earthly Eden. Somehow the winter seems to fall more lightly here, the spring to come earlier, the foliage to take on a deeper green, the grass a greater thickness, and the flowers a more multitudinous variety." Certainly the magnificent church—almost entire except for its fallen roof—standing in the pleasant valley surrounded by forest-clad hills on every side, well merits such enthusiastic language. It is well that this fine ruin is now in the possession of the Crown, for it insures that decay will be arrested and its beauties preserved as an inspiration to art and architecture of later times.
From Tintern to Chepstow we followed an unsurpassed mountain road. For three miles our car gradually climbed to the highest point, winding along the hillside, from which the valley of the Severn, with its broad river, spread out beneath us in all the freshness of June verdure; while on the other hand, for hundreds of feet sheer above us, sloped the hill, with its rich curtain of forest trees, the lighter green of the summer foliage dashed with the somber gloom of the yew. Just at the summit we passed the Wyndcliffe, towering five hundred feet above us, from which one may behold one of the most famous prospects in the Island. Then our car started down a three-mile coast over a smooth and uniform grade until we landed at the brow of the steep hill which drops sharply into Chepstow.
A rude, gloomy fortress Chepstow Castle must have been in its day of might, and time has done little to soften its grim and forbidding aspect. Situated on a high cliff which drops abruptly to the river, it must have been well-nigh invincible in days ere castle walls crumbled away before cannon-shot. It is of great extent, the wails enclosing an area of about four acres, divided into four separate courts. The best-preserved portion is the keep, or tower, in which the caretaker makes his home; but the fine chapel and banqueting hall were complete enough to give a good idea of their old-time state. We were able to follow a pathway around the top of the broad wall, from which was afforded a widely extended view over the mouth of the Severn towards the sea. "This is Martin's Tower," said our guide, "for in the dungeon beneath it the regicide, Henry Martin, spent the last twenty years of his life and died." The man spoke the word "regicide" as though he felt the stigma that it carries with it everywhere in England, even though applied to the judge who condemned to death Charles Stuart, a man who well deserved to die. And when Britain punished the regicides and restored to power the perfidious race of the Stuarts, she was again putting upon herself the yoke of misgovernment and storing up another day of wrath and bloodshed.
From Chepstow it is only a short journey to Raglan, whose ruined castle impressed us in many ways as the most beautiful we saw in Britain. It was far different from the rude fortress at Chepstow. In its best days it combined a military stronghold with the conveniences and artistic effects of a palace. It is fortunately one of the best-preserved of the castellated ruins in the Kingdom. Impressive indeed were the two square towers flanking its great entrance, yet their stern aspect was softened by the heavy masses of ivy that covered them almost to the top. The walls, though roofless, were still standing, so that one could gain a good idea of the original plan of the castle. The fire places, with elaborate mantels still in place, the bits of fine carvings that clung to the walls here and there, the grand staircase, a portion of which still remains, all combined to show that this castle had been planned as a superb residence as well as a fortress. From the Gwent tower there was an unobstructed view stretching away in every direction toward the horizon. The day was perfect, without even a haze to obscure the distance, and save from Ludlow Castle, I saw nothing to equal the prospect which lay beneath me when standing on Raglan Tower.
Raglan's active history ended with its surrender August 15, 1646, to the Parliamentary army under General Fairfax, after a severe siege of more than two months. It was the last fortress in England to hold out for the lost cause of King Charles, and a brave record did its gallant defenders make against an overwhelmingly superior force. The Marquis of Worcester, though eighty-five years of age, held the castle against the Cromwellians until starvation forced him to surrender. The old nobleman was granted honorable terms by his captors, but Parliament did not keep faith, and he died a year later in the Tower of London. On being told a few days before his death that his body would be buried in Windsor Chapel, he cheerfully remarked: "Why, God bless us all, then I shall have a better castle when I am dead than they took from me when I was alive."
After the surrender the castle was dismantled by the soldiers, and the farmers in the vicinity emulated the Parliamentary destroyers in looting the fine edifice. Seventeen of the stone staircases were taken away during the interval and the great hall and chapel were seriously injured. Enough of the massive walls is left to convey a vivid idea of the olden grandeur of the castle. The motto of the time-worn arms inscribed over the entrance speaks eloquently of the past, expressing in Latin the sentiment, "I scorn to change or fear."
A quiet, unpretentious old border town is Hereford, pleasantly located on the banks of the always beautiful Wye. The square tower of the cathedral is the most conspicuous object when the town first comes into view. Though dating in part from the Eleventh Century, work on the cathedral occupied the centuries until 1530, when it was practically completed as it now stands. The vandal Wyatt, who dealt so hardly with Salisbury, had the restoration of the cathedral in hand early in the Eighteenth Century. He destroyed many of its most artistic features, but recently his work was undone and a second restoration was completed in about 1863. The structure as it now stands is mainly Norman in style, built of light-brown stone, and remarkably beautiful and imposing.
Hereford Castle has entirely vanished, though a contemporary writer describes it as "one of the fairest, largest, and strongest castles in England." The site which it occupied is now a public garden, diversified with shrubbery and flowers. An ornamental lake indicates where once was the moat, but the outlines of the walls are shown only by grass-covered ridges. Its history was no doubt as stirring as that of others of the border castles, which more fortunately escaped annihilation.
Despite its present atmosphere of peace and quietude, Hereford saw strenuous times in the fierce warfare which raged between the English and Welsh, though few relics of those days remain. The streets are unusually wide and with few exceptions the buildings are modern. Surrounding the town is a stretch of green, level meadow, upon which graze herds of the red and white cattle whose fame is wider than that of their native shire. No doubt there are many familiar with the sleek Herefords who have no idea from whence they take their name.
Our hotel, the Green Dragon, had recently been re-furnished and brightened throughout, and its excellent service was much better than we often found in towns the size of Hereford. Its well planned motor garage, just completed, showed that its proprietors recognized the growing importance of this method of touring.
Our run from Hereford up the Wye Valley to the sea, we agreed was one of our red-letter days. We passed through greatly varied scenery from the fertile, level country around Hereford to the rough, broken hills near the river's source, but the view was always picturesque in the highest degree. The road runs along the edge of the hills, and the glorious valley with its brawling river spread out before us almost the entire day. At times we ran through forests, which cover the immense parks surrounding the country estates along the river. We saw many fine English country-seats, ranging from old, castellated structures to apparently modern mansions. There are also a number of ruins along the valley, each with its romantic legends. At Hay, on the hill overlooking the town, is the castle, partly in ruins and partly in such state of repair as to be the summer home of the family that owns it. A little farther, upon a knoll directly overhanging the river, are crumbling piles of stone where once stood Clifford Castle, the home of Fair Rosamond, whose melancholy story Tennyson has woven into one of his dramas.
As we advanced farther up the valley, the country grew wilder and more broken and for many miles we ran through the towering hills that pass for mountains in Wales. These were covered with bright-green verdure to their very tops, and the flocks of sheep grazing everywhere lent an additional charm to the picture. At the foot of the hills the road follows the valleys with gentle curves and easy grades. The Wye dwindles to the merest brook, and some miles before we reached the coast, we passed the head waters of the river and followed a brook flowing in an opposite direction.
The road over which we had traveled is not favorable for fast time. Though comparatively level and with splendid surface, it abounds in sharp curves and in many places runs along high embankments. The Motor Union has recommended that eighteen miles per hour be not exceeded on this road. The distance from Hereford to Aberyswith is only ninety miles, yet we occupied the greater part of the day in the trip, and had time permitted, we would gladly have broken the journey at one of the quaint towns along the way. At many points of vantage we stopped to contemplate the beauty of the scene—one would have to be a speed maniac indeed to "scorch" over the Wye Valley road.
Aberyswith is a seaside resort, somewhat similar to Penzance. It is situated on the harbor at the foot of a high bluff, and its principal feature is the long row of hotels fronting on the ocean. Though mostly modern, it is by no means without history, as evidenced by its ruined castle overlooking the sea and vouching for the antiquity of the town.
We left Aberyswith next morning with considerable apprehensions. Our books and maps showed that we would encounter by odds the worst roads of our entire tour. A grade of one in five along the edge of an almost precipitous hill was not an alluring prospect, for we were little inclined toward hill-climbing demonstrations. Shortly after leaving the town we were involved in poorly kept country byways without sign-boards and slippery with heavy rains of the night before. After meandering among the hills and inquiring of the natives for towns the names of which they could not understand when we asked and we could not understand when they answered, we came to Dinas Mowddwy, where there was little else than a handsome hotel. This reminded us that in our wanderings the hour for luncheon had passed. We stopped at the hotel, but found difficulty in locating anybody to minister to our wants; and so deliberate were the movements of the party who finally admitted responsibility that an hour was consumed in obtaining a very unpretentious repast.
The hotelkeeper held out a discouraging prospect in regard to the hills ahead of us. He said that the majority of the motorists who attempted them were stalled and that there had been some serious accidents. We went on our way with considerable uneasiness, as our car had not been working well, and later on trouble was discovered in a broken valve-spring. However, we started over the mountain, which showed on our road-book to be not less than three miles in length. There were many dangerous turns of the road, which ran alongside an almost precipitous incline, where there was every opportunity for the car to roll a mile or more before coming to a standstill if it once should get over the edge. We crawled up the hill until within about fifty yards from the top, and right at this point there was a sharp turn on an exceedingly stiff grade. After several trials at great risk of losing control of the car, I concluded that discretion was (sometimes) the better part of valor, and with great difficulty turned around and gave it up.
We made a detour by way of Welshpool and Oswestry, where we came into the London and Holyhead road, bringing up for the night at Llangollen. We found it necessary to travel about sixty miles to get to the point which we would have reached in one-fourth the distance had we succeeded in climbing the hill. It proved no hardship, as we saw some of the most beautiful country in Wales and traveled over a level road which enabled us to make very good time with the partly crippled car.
Although Llangollen is a delightful town, my recollections of it are anything but pleasant. Through our failure to receive a small repair which I ordered from London, we were delayed at this place for two days, and as it usually chances in such cases, at one of the worst hotels whose hospitality we endured during our trip. It had at one time been quite pretentious, but had degenerated into a rambling, dirty, old inn, principally a headquarters for fishing parties and local "trippers." And yet at this dilapidated old inn there were a number of guests who made great pretensions at style. Women "dressed for dinner" in low-necked gowns with long trains; and the men attired themselves in dress-suits of various degrees of antiquity.
While we were marooned here we visited Vale Crucis Abbey, about a mile distant. The custodian was absent, or in any event could not be aroused by vigorously ringing the cowbell suspended above the gate, and we had to content ourselves with a very unsatisfactory view of the ruin over the stone wall that enclosed it. The environments of Llangollen are charming in a high degree. The flower-bordered lanes lead past cottages and farm houses surrounded by low stone walls and half hidden by brilliantly colored creepers. Bits of woodland are interspersed with bright green sheep pastures and high, almost mountainous, bluffs overhang the valley. On the very summit of one of these is perched a ruined castle, whose inaccessible position discouraged nearer acquaintance.
The country around Llangollen was beautiful, but the memory of the hotel leaves a blight over all. We were happy indeed when our motor started off again with the steady, powerful hum that so delights the soul of the driver, and it seemed fairly to tremble with impatience to make up for its enforced inaction. Though it was eight o'clock in the evening, it was anything to get away from Llangollen, and we left with a view of stopping for the night at Bettws-y-Coed, about thirty miles away.
With our motor car racing like mad over the fine highway—there was no danger of police traps at that hour—we did not stop to inquire about the dog that went under the wheels in the first village we passed. However, the night set in suddenly and a rain began to fall heavily before we had gone half the distance we proposed. We had experienced trouble enough in finding the roads in Wales during the daytime, and the prospect of doing this by night and in a heavy rain was not at all encouraging, and we perforce had to put up at the first place that offered itself. A proposition to stop at one of the so-called inns along the road was received with alarm by the good woman who attended the bar. She could not possibly care for us and she was loud in her praises of the Saracen's Head at Cerrig-y-Druidion, only a little farther on, which she represented as a particular haven for motorists.
The appearance of our car with its rapidly vibrating engine and glaring headlights before the Saracen's Head created considerable commotion among the large family of the host and the numerous guests, who, like Tam-O'-Shanter, were snug and cozy by their inglenook while the storm was raging outside. However, the proprietor was equal to the occasion and told me that he had just come from Liverpool to take charge of the inn and that he hoped to have the patronage of motorists. With commendable enterprise he had fitted up a portion of his barn and had labeled it "Motor Garage" in huge letters. The stable man was also excited over the occasion, and I am sure that our car was the first to occupy the newly created garage, which had no doubt been cut off from the cow-stable at a very recent date.
The shelter of the Saracen's Head was timely and grateful none the less, and no one could have been kindlier or more attentive than our hostess. We had a nicely served lunch in the hotel parlor, which was just across the hallway from the lounging room, where the villagers assembled to indulge in such moderate drinking as Welshmen are addicted to. The public room was a fine old apartment with open-beamed ceiling—not the sham with which we decorate our modern houses, but real open beams that supported the floor—and one end of the room was occupied by a great open fireplace with old-time spits and swinging cranes. Overhead was hung a supply of hams and bacon and on iron hooks above the door were suspended several dressed fowls, on the theory that these improve with age. We were given a small but clean and neat apartment, from which I suspicion the younger members of the landlord's family had been unceremoniously ousted to make room for us. The distressing feature was the abominable beds, but as these prevailed in most of the country hotels at which we stopped we shall not lay this up too strongly against the Saracen's Head. I noticed that on one of the window-panes someone had scribbled with a diamond, "Sept. 4, 1726," which would seem to indicate that the original window was there at that time. The house itself must have been considerably older. If rates had been the sole inducement, we should undoubtedly have become permanent boarders at the Saracen's Head, for I think that the bill for our party was seven shillings for supper, room and breakfast.
We left Cerrig-y-Druidion next morning in a gray, driving rain, with drifting fogs that almost hid the road at times. A few miles brought us to the Conway River, the road closely following the stream through the picturesque scenery on its banks. It was swollen by heavy rains and the usually insignificant river was a wild torrent, dashing in rapids and waterfalls over its rocky bed. The clouds soon broke away and for the remainder of the day the weather was as fine as could possibly be wished for.
Bettws-y-Coed is the most famous of mountain towns in Wales, and its situation is indeed romantic. It is generally reputed to be the chief Welsh honeymoon resort and a paradise for fishermen, but it has little to detain the tourist interested in historic Britain. We evidently should have fared much differently at its splendid hotel from what we did at Cerrig-y-Druidion, but we were never sorry for our enforced sojourn at the Saracen's Head.
The road from Bettws-y-Coed to Carnarvon is a good one, but steep in places, and it passes through some of the finest mountain scenery in Wales. It leads through the Pass of Llanberis and past Snowdon, the king of the Welsh mountains—though tame indeed to one who has seen the Rockies. Snowdon, the highest in the Kingdom, rises not so much as four thousand feet above the sea level.
Carnarvon Castle is conceded from many points of view to be the finest ruin in the Kingdom. It does not occupy an eminence, as did so many castles whose position contributed much to their defense, but it depended more on its lofty watch-towers and the stupendous strength of its outer walls. These are built of solid granite with a thickness of ten feet or more in vital places, and it is doubtful if even the old-time artillery would have made much impression upon them. Its massive construction no doubt accounts for the wonderful preservation of the outer walls, which are almost entire, and Carnarvon Castle, as viewed from the outside, probably appears very much the same as it did when the builders completed the work about 1300. It was built by King Edward I as a royal residence from which to direct his operations against the Welsh, which finally resulted in the conquest of that people by the English invaders. In a little dungeonlike room, tradition declares that Edward II, first Prince of Wales, was born. This is vigorously insisted upon in the local guide-book as an actual historic fact, although it is quite as vigorously disputed by numerous antiquarians, uninfluenced by Carnarvon's interests. The castle is now the property of the town and is well looked after.
Leaving Carnarvon, our next objective was Conway, whose castle is hardly less famous and even more picturesque than that of its neighbor, though in more ruinous condition. The road we followed closely skirts the coast for a great part of the distance, running at times on the verge of the ocean. In places it reminds one of the Axenstrasse of Lake Lucerne, being cut in the side of the cliffs overhanging the sea, with here and there great masses of rock projecting over it; and passes occasionally through a tunnel cut in the stone. A few miles north of Carnarvon we passed through Bangor, one of the most prosperous-looking towns in North Wales and the seat of one of the few Welsh cathedrals—a long, low, though not unpleasing, building. The site of this cathedral had been continuously occupied by a church since the Sixth Century, although the present structure dates from the Thirteenth.