Later this group of emigrants lost heart, and nearly all returned to England, and possibly Sir Humphrey may have wondered whether this venture also would have but a flickering existence, and would leave no lasting result of the work on which he had spent his years and his strength and his riches. Or it may be that no doubts troubled him, for he had a 'noble and gallant spirit,' and his dauntless motto was 'Quid non?' The story of his death makes an appropriate ending to his life. He was with his colony in Newfoundland when 'necessaries began to fail,' and he was urged to return home. He started in the Squirrel, a ship of ten tons. When they were far out at sea a violent tempest blew up, and those in the Golden Hind (a larger ship accompanying them) saw with horror the imminent danger that their friends were in. But Sir Humphrey was quite composed, and those in the Golden Hind were near enough to hear him cry 'aloud to his company, in these words: "We are so near to heaven here at sea as at land."' In the height of the storm the little boat was swallowed up by the waves, and all on board perished.
A portrait of Sir Humphrey hung in his grand-nephew's house at Compton, where Prince saw it. 'The one hand holdeth a general's truncheon, and the other is laid on the globe of the world, Virginia is written over; on his breast hangs the golden anchor, with the pearl at the peak; and underneath are these verses, which, tho' none of the best, may here supply the place of an epitaph:
'"Here you may see the portrait of his face, Who for his country's honor oft did trace Along the deep; and made a noble way Unto the growing fame, Virginia. The picture of his mind, if ye do crave it, Look upon Virtue's picture, and ye have it."'
The 'golden anchor' was a jewel which the Queen had given him as a special mark of favour, for she looked on him very graciously, in spite of the fact that his efforts did not then seem as if they would be crowned with success. A song was made about the year 1581, in which he and Sir Francis Drake divide the honours.
'Sir Francis, Sir Francis, Sir Francis is come, Sir William, and eke Sir Robert, his son, And eke the good Earl of Southampton Marcht on his way most gallantly on;
Then came my Lord Chamberlain, with his white staff, And all the people begun for to laugh. And then the Queen begun to speak, "You're welcome home, Sir Francis Drake!"
'THE QUEEN'S SPEECH.
'"Gallants all of British blood, Why do ye not sail in th' ocean flood? I protest ye are not all worth a Philberd Compared with Sir Humphrey Gilberd."
'THE QUEEN'S REASON.
[Probably added in 1584-85.]
'For he walkt forth a rainy day, To the Now-Found-land he took his way, With many a gallant fresh and green. He never came home again, God bless the Queen!'
Notes to this song explain: 'We understand as the three-fold holders of the name, "Sir Francis," three persons; Sir Francis Drake, Knighted by the Queen after his return from circumnavigating the world in 1580: Sir Francis Walsingham, and Sir Francis Vere. Sir William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, and his son, Sir Robert.... The Lord Chamberlain probably meant the despicable Sir James Crofts, who hated and calumniated Drake.'
The song probably reflects the temper of the time.
'They never came back agen. God bless the Queen.'
The lines are very characteristic of the spirit of the age that was bound to conquer. There was sorrow for those who were gone, but no complaint, no grudging those who had perished where the fame or power of the Queen could be furthered. Gloriana's subjects found no price too great, no sacrifice worth counting; a leader might fall, but the great scheme must go on, her rule spread farther and wider, and the hazards and failures overstepped.
Although upon all parts of the South Hams there hovers a spell that is inexplicable, perhaps it is felt more in Dartmouth than in any other place one can think of. Possibly it is the loveliness of sea and land, flowers in the crevices of the cliffs hanging low towards the water's edge, the round tower rising out of the sea, the picturesqueness of the town, with its thronging associations, or just the intangible influences of bygone days. But there is something of enchantment about the tower, especially when it is contemplated from the water. And to fully appreciate the whole, one should slip out of the harbour past the Mew Stone, where the sea-gulls rise like a drift of snowflakes on a sudden gust, into the midst of sliding walls of transparent green water beyond, where—if there is wind enough—glassy hillocks all round, at moments, hide everything else from sight. Besides the fascination of watching waves towering above the boat, and following it as if they would fall over and bury it in their depths, and climbing them, with the sudden plunge into the hollow beyond, it may be, especially if shoals of mackerel are near, that one may have the pleasure of coming upon a flock of gulls, swimming, swooping, flapping about, and all busy fishing. Or perhaps there will be a group of brown divers, floating placidly on the waves, and then suddenly disappearing, one or two at a time or several in a moment. And possibly a great black creature may appear a little way off, tossing and seeming to turn somersaults in the water, and another and another, and one may find oneself among a school of porpoises, and hear the curious puffing sounds they make that are not quite like anything else. From a little distance out, looking back across the changing lights that glance over the water, one gets a quite fresh view of the harbour's mouth, shut in by its high cliffs, half veiled by soft masses of green.
Dartmouth had a great stake in the country's welfare in early days, and was a port of much stir and traffic. From here sailed many of the ships that Richard I gathered together to take the English who were going with him on the Third Crusade. William Rufus started once from this harbour when there was trouble in Normandy, and King John paid the town two visits. In Edward III's time Dartmouth had already become renowned for her shipping and sent six ships for the King's service in a fight in which engaged the combined French, Flemish, and Genoese fleets; and she sent two more a few years later to help in his war against Scotland. Fifty years later this loan was entirely eclipsed by the magnificence of contributing no fewer than thirty-one ships to the siege of Calais.
Chaucer's words have often been quoted:
'A schipman was ther; wonyng far by weste, For ought I woot, he was of Dertemouth.'
As if it were more likely that a typical seaman would come from Dartmouth than anywhere else! In no harbour could that great training-ship the Britannia have been more appropriately moored, nor could a more fitting place be chosen for the long range of buildings on the hill above, the Naval College that has superseded it. Risdon tells us that the town has been 'sundry times subject to the attacks of foreigners,' and particularly mentions one occasion in the reign of Henry III, when the French made such a furious onslaught, that the women turned out by the side of their menkind and hurled flints at the enemy. These found themselves 'courageously resisted by the towns-men and-women, Amazonian-like.'
In 1470 Dartmouth was a step in the retreat of Warwick, 'the King-maker,' when Edward IV pursued him as far as Exeter. Warwick embarked here for France, and his arrival in those unsettled times must have created much bustle and excitement amongst all the gossips of the place. The Earl was 'in danger of being surprized, whereupon leisurely (for his great spirit disdained anything that should look like a Flight) he retired to Exeter, where having dismissed the Remainder of the troops that attended him, he went to Dartmouth, and there, with many ladies in his company and a large Retinue, he took ship and sailed directly to Calais.'
Amongst the celebrities of Dartmouth is a certain John Hawley, a great merchant of immense wealth. A couplet ran of him:
'Blow the wind high, or blow the wind low, It bloweth still to Hawley's hawe'
—that is, to his house. Prince interprets this by saying that Hawley had so many ships all over the world that any wind that blew was of advantage to some of them.
When Leland came here, he remarked on the great ruins of 'Hawley's Haul ... a rich merchant and a noble warrior against the French Men.' Hawley is buried in the beautiful church of St Saviour's, and a large brass represents him as lying between his two wives.
In this church is a most delicately carved screen, and leaves, sprays, and grapes are conspicuous amongst the details of its graceful design. The groined cornice is decorated by exquisite fan-tracery, and various saints and 'doctors of the church' are painted on the panels of the lower part. In the high carved stone pulpit are tabernacled recesses, once enclosing figures, but now containing 'royal badges and devices'; and both screen and pulpit were coloured and gilded, and are rather dimmed by time. The church has many very interesting features, and in the south porch is a most curious wrought-iron door, showing a tree with long, drooping branches and large diamond-shaped leaves, and two wonderful heraldic lions impaled on it.
The Castle was built in the time of Henry VII, on the site of an older one; for when Edward IV reigned, the men of Dartmouth built themselves a castle at the desire of the King, who promised that if they would by this means protect the town—and, further, would guard the harbour by putting a chain across the mouth—they should have L30 yearly from the customs of Dartmouth and Exeter. The chain stretched across to Kingswear, and a hollow in the rock by the ruins of an old guard-house shows where it once passed. The little square castle of Kingswear stands close by, and from certain points of view both Kingswear and the beautiful round tower of Dartmouth Castle seem to be rising straight out of the waves.
In 1685 an agreement very much like the earlier one was made. James II had some cause for uneasiness and for looking closely to his defences, and, as it happened, three years later there landed, only a few miles away, the man who, superseding him, was hailed by the majority as England's Deliverer. But when James came to the throne he had already seen Dartmouth conquered by an enemy's troops; for, although Prince Maurice had secured it in the earlier stages of the war, Fairfax had taken it later. Among the Duke of Somerset's papers are some orders given by a Council of War, at which 'Colonel Edward Seymour, Governor of Dartmouth town and garrison,' was present, providing very minutely for the defence of the town and for the supplies of the garrison. Stories of the Parliamentary troops quartering themselves in churches are sometimes told, with the unfair implication that they alone were guilty of such desecration; for where need was urgent the Royalists took the same course. Here we find orders: 'Captain Haughton ... with forty men shall lie in Townstall church, for the fortifying thereof against the enemy, and that the said captain, his officers and company, shall have their victuals from Mount Boone.' Also that a 'month's provision of victuals be laid into St Petrox church for five hundred men, and the said Major Torner and his select officers shall be keepers thereof.' The Church of St Clement at Townstall was fortified with ten cannon.
Fairfax attacked in the first days of January, 1646, in exceptionally cold weather. Honourable conditions of surrender had been first offered to the Governor, but were refused, and he prepared to fight to the end. 'In extreme bitter cold weather and snow' the Parliamentary forces moved forward, and, after examining the town as closely as they could, decided to take it by storm. Additional troops were ordered up to strengthen the besiegers, and Sir Thomas Fairfax sent for a squadron to prevent any help reaching the Royalists by sea. On Sunday evening 'the soldiers were all drawn out; about seven at night forlorn hopes were set, the evening very mild, as at midsummer, the frost being newly gone; the word was given: God with us.... About 11 o'clock at night the storm began.'
Three separate attacks were made simultaneously on different parts of the town, and though the besieged fought bravely, they fought in vain, and by the next morning all but the Castle and the little fort above were in the hands of the enemy. Sir Hugh Pollard, the Governor (Sir Edward Seymour was at this time taking part in the defence of Exeter), had been wounded the night before, and, realizing that his position was hopeless, 'after some dispute, 'he surrendered on Fairfax's terms, and yielded himself and his officers prisoners, the common soldiers being set at liberty to repair to their dwellings.'
The fort above Kingswear, commanded by Sir Henry Cary, was protected by strong bulwarks, and the defence being very well carried out, the garrison obtained better terms. 'To save time,' writes Fairfax to the House of Peers, 'I willingly condescended to let Sir Henry Cary march away with the rest, leaving the arms, ordnance, ammunition, with all provisions.'
This was all accomplished on the Monday, and on the evening following the attack the Parliament was in full possession of the town.
Kingsbridge, Salcombe, and the South Hams
'On the ninth day of November, at the dawning in the sky, Ere we sailed away to New York, we at anchor here did lie; O'er the meadows fair of Kingsbridge, then the mist was lying grey; We were bound against the rebels, in the North America. O, so mournful was the parting of the soldiers and their wives, For that none could say for certain they'd return home with their lives. Then the women they were weeping, and they curs'd the cruel day That we sailed against the rebels, in the North America.'
Farewell to Kingsbridge.
Kingsbridge lies in a fold of the hills that rise beyond the head of the creek running inland from Salcombe Harbour, and seen from the water it is very picturesque—the houses clustered together and clinging to the slope, and the spire of St Edmund's Church standing out against the still, green background. Mr Mason has written of 'the mists on the hills, and the gulls crying along the valley,' by Kingsbridge, and this exactly sums up its individuality. It has the peculiar atmosphere of a sea-town, but why, precisely, it is difficult to say.
The Fore Street is steep and winding, and on one side stands a church which, without any very striking feature, is quietly impressive. It is a cruciform building, and a steeple rises from the centre. A chapel, dedicated to St Edmund, King and Martyr, stood on this spot before the year 1250; but it was rebuilt and aisles were added by the Abbot and monks of Buckfast in the beginning of the fifteenth century. In the south transept of the present church are remains of early English work, and the font is Early English. Hagioscopes slant through the chancel walls from the aisle on either side. The very unusual name of a benefactress must be noticed—Tryphena Tobys.
Dodbrooke is joined so closely to Kingsbridge that their streets run into each other, and they are separated only by small streams now partly covered in. It would be almost impossible for a stranger wandering about to say offhand which town he was in. Dodbrooke is really the older of the two. A grant to hold a market was made to Alan Fitz-Roald, in or possibly just before the year 1256. About this time a serious quarrel occurred, when 'Henry Fitz-Alan impleaded Matthew Fitz-John, with forty others, for throwing down a pillory in Dodbrooke. Forty seems a good many against the pillory! But the affair was not one of those cases in which a spark causes a fire, but was rather an outburst of flame in a long-smouldering feud between the Fitz-Alans and the Lords of Stokenham over the manor of Dodbrooke. In the end, the Fitz-Alans triumphed.
Three hundred years later we find the people of Dodbrooke complaining of the heavy contributions that they were called on to make towards furnishing 'ships of war'; for after the Armada had been defeated the means of defence on these coasts were for some years kept up to a very high standard. Mr Richard Champernowne,—who, it must be admitted, from the general tenor of his ways, seems to have been one of those well-meaning but egotistical and meddlesome people who are always being surprised and hurt because their good offices are not better received,—wrote to the local authorities as follows:
'Cousin Cary, and the rest of the Commissioners for the ship causes, I have received some grievous complaints of some poor men who are taxed in Dodbrook to this, more than all their goods are worth.... Surely, as the country must bitterly speak against those [who] are procurors and assistants in this country, so would it be as highly disliked both of her Majesty as of the Lords, if they knew rightly of whom, and on what sort, this tax is levied.'
But, alas! a severe snub was the result of this appeal, and the unhappy Mr Cary must have deeply regretted that he had obligingly forwarded the grievance to the Lords of the Council.
Their answer ran: 'The Court.... The Council to George Carey, J.P....' They learn by his late letter that the county is unwilling to contribute the charges imposed upon it for 'setting out ships etc.' It is paid cheerfully by other counties, and he is desired to return the names of those persons who are obstinate in refusing payment.
There is no building of special interest excepting the church, which is dedicated to St Thomas a Becket. The arches dividing the aisles from the nave are high and rather pointed, giving an impression of loftiness. There is a beautiful carved screen, with painted figures on the panels; and the font is a very early one. Of the infants baptized in it, one at least obtained a rather unenviable celebrity—Dr John Wolcot, better known as 'Peter Pindar.' His bitter satires earned for him a harvest of hatred and abuse, but nobody denied his wit. 'There is a pretty story of the older Pindar that a swarm of bees lighted on his cradle in his infancy and left honey on his lips; but we fear in the case of our hero they were wasps that came, and that they left some of the caustic venom of their stings.' A surgeon's son, he studied medicine himself, but was unpopular with his patients for the reason that his ideas were too far ahead of his time. His opinion that 'a physician can do little more than watch Dame Nature, and give her a shove in the back when he sees her inclined to do right,' was considered a shocking heresy, and, no doubt, a confession of his own ignorance.
Before leaving Dodbrooke, mention must be made of the 'white ale' peculiar to the place—a compound of malt, hops, and flour, fermented with an ingredient called 'grout.' Some of the statements about this ale show the curious tendency of traditions to transfer themselves from points in the nebulous past to points that are just beyond the range of living memory. It is difficult to discover when 'white ale' was first made, but the general idea is that it was invented a very long time ago, though personally I have not been able to find any indisputable reference to it earlier than in the edition of Camden's 'Britannia' published in 1720, where there is a brief notice that the people of Dodbrooke pay tithes in white ale to the Rector. A will dated 1528, however, gives directions in regard to a gift that was to include 'cakes, wine, and ale,' and it has been supposed that the particular kind made in this town would be the ale here referred to. Yet I was told by an inhabitant of the neighbourhood who was a good deal interested in local traditions, that it was introduced by the French doctor of the prisoners of war at Kingsbridge Barracks, for the benefit of those who found themselves ill at ease in this climate—an event that could not possibly have taken place till the very end of the eighteenth century.
There is a charm over all this country, not solely due to its beauty. It is true that it is rather drowsy, that the 'spell of the briar-rose' in part lies over it, but it may be that this adds to the charm. There is an absence of competition, an air of plenty and of kindness, a golden glamour that gives the impression that Nature has told the people theirs is a generous portion, and they may sit still and be content. And they are content.
There is such an overbrimming wealth of bushes and plants and flowers on every side, that the fact of the water in the estuary being salt scarcely seems to prevent their growing in it! Along the bank washed by the flowing tide, and almost touching the masses of tough golden-brown seaweed on the rocks, are multitudes of the daisy-flowers of sea-mayweed, flowering samphire, the stars of sow-thistle, and bright yellow bunches of charlock and straggling spires of wild-mignonette, against a darker background of blackthorn, hawthorn, ivy, and furze, lightly powdered with trails of bramble-blossom. Creeks, edged with low hills, wind away from the estuary. When the tide is low, great stretches of mud and sand lie on either side, and here may be seen black cormorants and crowds and crowds of gulls, here and there a heron, and quantities of smaller birds. The scene changes entirely at the mouth of the creek, for here the banks rise into high rugged cliffs, and the water frets restlessly over sunken rocks.
Salcombe is a tiny little town, with steep, narrow streets and high-walled gardens on each side of the close lane that ends the principal street; and between the gardens the air is fragrant with sweet clematis, that, as well as red valerian, tumbles in clusters over the walls. Salcombe has a very good claim to remembrance, for on a peninsular rock at the mouth of the harbour stand the ruins of a fortress that held out for King Charles later than any other place in Devonshire. It was defended by Sir Edward Fortescue, and surrendered only on May 7, 1646.
On the opposite side of the estuary, high on the cliffs, lies the small village of Portlemouth. The cross-shaped church is dedicated to a Celtic saint, St Winwaloe, locally called St Onolaus. A proverb without much point (probably only the fragment of a more coherent saying) mentions St Winwaloe amongst several saints whose days fall on windy dates.
'First comes David, next comes Chad, And then comes Winneral, as though he were mad, White or black, On old house thack [thatch].'
[St David's Day, March 1; St Chad's Day, March 2; St Winwaloe's Day, March 3.]
In his church here is a very finely carved screen, and of one of the figures on it Mr Baring-Gould tells an amusing story: 'The sixth is Sir John Schorne, a Buckinghamshire rector, who died in 1308, and was supposed to have conjured the devil into a boot. He was venerated greatly as a patron against ague and the gout. There is a jingle relative to him:
'"To Maister John Schorne, that blessed man born, For the ague to him we apply, Which judgeth with a bote; I beshrew his heart's rote That will trust him, and it be I."'
South of Portlemouth the land ends in the grand headland of Prawle Point, the most southerly point in Devon. Prawle Point is very striking, and is 'principally composed of gneiss rock, which on the western side is weathered like a surface of snow which has been exposed to the sun's rays. It is everywhere broken into crags.' Prawle Point—'Prol in Anglia'—was known to foreigners for many centuries; and Mr R. J. King, in an admirable article on Devonshire, says that it 'is mentioned by an ancient commentator on Adam of Bremen's "Historia Ecclesiastica," as one of the stations at which vessels touched on their voyage from Ripa in Denmark. The passage was made from the "Sincfala," near Bruges, and "the station beyond 'Prol'" is St Matthieu—one day's sail. Adam of Bremen dates about 1070, and his commentator a little later.' St Matthieu is in Brittany.
[Footnote 6: 'Sketches and Studies.']
To the south of Salcombe rise the great cliffs of Bolt Head, and a few miles farther to the west is Bolt Tail. Mr Norway points out that 'no other town in South Devon possesses, nor, indeed, more than one or two on any coast, a headland so high and dark and jagged as the entrance to the harbour. It is wild and rugged like a Cornish headland, and the walk across it to Bolt Tail is the finest between Portland and the Lizard.' A few miles to the west is Thurlestone, and all about here the coast is most dangerous. A ship flung in a storm towards the shore has no chance on the jagged rocks that spur-like, jut out from the cliffs, and the tide races inshore with terrific power, even when it is not driven by a wild south-westerly wind. This part of the coast was naturally a happy hunting-ground for smugglers, and was not altogether innocent of wreckers. A fearful wreck that happened in 1772 is still remembered. A large vessel—the Chantiloupe, from the West Indies—went ashore in Bigbury Bay. All the passengers but one were drowned, and over the death of a lady there hangs a terrible doubt. On realizing the desperate plight of the ship, she had hurriedly dressed herself in her most beautiful clothes and jewels, no doubt hoping that, as they were so close to land, there was a good chance of escape. She was, indeed, thrown up on the beach, but, it is to be hoped, already dead, for, with shocking callousness, the people watching there snatched away all her valuables and left her lying there. An account of the wreck, written in 1874, tells that at that date a lady living near the bay still had a corner of the victim's apron, a very beautifully embroidered bit of fine muslin. The unfortunate passenger's name was never really known, but rumour has always connected her with Edmund Burke; for it is certain that he feared some relatives or friends of his were on that ship, and on hearing of the wreck he came down and investigated the matter of the lady's death himself. But he could get no information. The account of the wreck goes on to quote the views of a man who lived near the spot: 'The old man who seemed to know most about it said: "The lady was a-murdered, he believed; Jan Whiddon's father's dog found this here lady buried in the sand, he scratched up her hand."' The story is quoted at some length, and is characteristic of a Devonshire countryman's combined caution and sense of fate, for it finished: '"'Twas never found out who murdered her ... but all who were concerned in it, or supposed to be [the villagers obviously believed three men to be guilty] came to a bad end."'
In repeating these stories, I feel rather in fault, for I have listened to, and been impressed by, the views of a native of these parts, who was extremely severe on anyone that wrote about wreckers and reflected discredit on this coast, giving the idea that 'we robbed and murdered people.' A little to my surprise, he said he liked reading books about Devonshire, and admired some well-known novels dealing with the county, though he thought them quite inaccurate. 'But,' he added tolerantly, 'they say that, to get at the truth from a guide-book, you must divide what you read in three, and then take away half.' He admitted, all the same, that there had been a certain amount of wrecking in the days of the pirates (smugglers?), and putting lights in the wrong places. When he was a boy, what they liked best was a wreck with a 'general' cargo, so that the men could sell the mineral and the wives could wear the silk; but there were fewer wrecks of any kind nowadays. It is very quiet in the winter (east of Kingsbridge), unless anyone is going to be buried, and the only other chances of any stir are if there is a wedding or a christening, or a wreck in Start Bay.
Thurlestone takes its name from a 'thirled' or pierced rock, on the shore through which the waves have drilled an arch. The rector of Thurlestone has very kindly allowed me to make some extracts from a manuscript history of the parish in his possession, the earlier notes of which have been taken from entries made at the time of the events, in the Bishop of Exeter's registers, and have, therefore, the value of contemporary evidence. They are very interesting, as giving glimpses at the course of events in a remote parish through several centuries.
During part of the fourteenth century the parishioners seem to have been rather turbulent and the history tells of storms. Some while before the first entry, in June, 1328, someone had not only been murdered, but actually done to death within the church. There is no record of the punishment of the culprit or culprits, or of any sign of penitence shown by the parish; but probably some steps had been taken, for at that date Bishop Grandisson commissioned the Archdeacon of Totnes to reconcile the parish church of Thurlestone, 'which had been polluted by the shedding of blood therein. For some reason not given the Archdeacon was excused from performing this duty, and Stephen Abbot of Buckfast was commissioned to officiate.... On the 8th of the Kalends of August, 1328, the Bishop issued his mandate to the Archdeacon of Totnes, informing him that the Abbot, having proceeded to Thurlestone, had reconciled the church, and that he was to require the Parishioners to pay the customary dues within eight days of the serving of this Monition to that effect.' The dues, however, were not forthcoming, and on October 6 the Bishop, who allowed no insubordination, threatened the defaulters with excommunication unless they paid the desired amount within six days. 'This had the desired effect, and on the 20th of October the Bishop sent to the Rector and the parishioners the formal acquittance. On the same day, he commissioned Sir Robert de Pynho, the Rector, to absolve the parishioners and relax the interdict imposed on their Parish Church.'
An unpleasant experience of Sir Henry Benet, priest and Canon of the Church of Crediton, and Rector of Thurlestone, witnesses to the lawlessness of the time in East Devon. He was 'peaceably entering the town of St Mary [Ottery St Mary] on Tuesday (tertia feria) of the then instant Pentecost Sunday,' when 'certain unknown persons, sons of perdition ... under colour of a precept which they falsely asserted they had received from the Sheriff of Devon, rushed on Sir Henry and ... rashly, violently and sacrilegiously laid hands on him and inhumanly forced him into the public prison for thieves and criminals.' A 'Denuntiation of Excommunication' against these 'sons of perdition' in Bishop Grandisson's register is undated, but it follows an entry made in March, 1349-50.
A later rector must have been a pleasant acquaintance and a good friend. The Rev. John Snell 'was a person of firm and unshaken loyalty,' and when 'Fort-Charles' was about to be besieged, he joined the garrison in order to give all the help he could to Sir Edward Fortescue. On the surrender of the fort, amongst the very honourable conditions that Sir Edward obtained was the agreement that Mr Snell 'should be allowed the quiet possession of his Parsonage; but Articles, like oaths, in those days, were only matter of Form, and accordingly (about the year 1646) he was soon after plundered of his cattle and other goods without-doors, and several times forced to fly for his life.' Later, his lot was made still harder by the confiscation of his living, which he did not regain until after the Restoration. In the old parish register is a note, probably interpolated by John Snell when he had returned to his living, and with outraged feelings had been looking at the volume, and reading the entry referring to the appointment of a lay registrar in his parish. The registrars elected in 1653 were not only given charge of the parish registers, but took another office out of the hands of the clergy. No marriage might take place without the registrar's certificate that he had called the banns. The couple then took the certificate to the nearest magistrate, who, after hearing each of them repeat a brief formula, was authorized to declare them legally married.
Mr Snell's exclamation of distress appears under a notice which 'certyfyed John Calder (?) of the parish of Thurelston to bee Register of the sayde Parish,' and was signed by 'Will Bastard,' and dated 'September 20th, 1653.' Above and below the date is written:
'Monstrum horrendum informe. [This is y^e Houre and Y^e] Anno Dom. 1653. [Power of darkness.]'
On Mr Snell's tombstone is a long Latin epitaph, from an English version of which the following lines are taken:
'He was the silent storehouse of the poor, The dear delight of those who needed nought, To all the pattern of a holy life.'
The Thurlestone chronicle records a certain number of beliefs and charms, and on one of them the present rector makes a note of peculiar interest: 'The Bishop of Malborough [Dr Earle, then Vicar of West Alvington and Malborough] tells me that his curate, the Rev. Robert Hole, South Huish, saw this charm used successfully to stop blood on a man called James Pierie.
'A CURE FOR STAUNCHING BLOOD.
'Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The water was wild in the wood, He spake the word and it stood, And so will (—'s —'s) blood,'
'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. 'Used by Betty Edgecombe, white witch of Malborough and West Alvington.'
Not far from Thurlestone was another parson who worked hard to embarrass the besiegers of the Royalists in Salcombe Castle, and who had his share of thrilling adventures. Mr Lane was the rector of Aveton Giffard, a parish at the head of the estuary of the Avon, which opens into Bigbury Bay. When the war broke out he took an active part, in conjunction with several gentlemen in the neighbourhood, in 'raising Succours for his Majesty.' And at the same time he began to make a 'Fort on a Hill' (part of the Glebe), which commanded the bridge over the Avon, crossed by Parliamentary troops marching to the siege of the Castle. Meanwhile, soldiers from Plymouth came up in boats, plundered the house, and took, says Mr Lane's youngest son, 'Two of my brethren, Richard and John, not giving them time to put on their stockings, and forced them to carry what of the Goods they could to Awmar (a creek), where they carried off Stolen Sheep and Plundered Goods with my two eldest brothers. When the war was ended the triumphant Parliamentarians attempted to revenge themselves on their sturdy enemy, and searched the country for 'Bishop Lane, the Traytor,' who was driven to hide in his church tower. For three or four months his people secretly brought him food, and he was then able to make his escape, and in the end reached France in safety.
If the traveller returns to Prawle Point, and then follows the coast towards Dartmouth, he will soon come to the ridge of Start Point, which 'stretches boldly to sea, sloped on each side like the roof of a house, and crowned along its entire length by fanciful crags, strangely weathered and shaggy with moss.' Round the Point at a certain state of every tide there is a formidable tide-race, and always a swell so strong as to make small boats very careful of the weather before they try to sail round the Start. Dartmouth lies almost due north, and the coast-line between is very lovely, though it has not the impressiveness of the cliffs farther west. Slapton Sands are over two miles long, and the hills stand back far enough from the shore to leave room for Slapton Lea, a fresh-water lake, almost smothered with tall, feathery reeds and rushes in the summer, separated from the sea by a barrier of pebbles. The line of these wooded hills is broken by three little valleys, and down each one flows a brook that feeds the Lea. At the southern edge is Tor Cross, a handful of cottages under the shadow of a cliff that shuts away the shore-line to the south. The long stretch of sands is delightful. They are dotted all over with the glaucous leaves and brilliant flowers of the yellow-horned poppy, and bristling blue viper's bugloss, and on the inland edge there is a scattered border of the rest-harrow's pink butterfly blossoms. The short turf beyond is sprinkled with the little white bladder campion and thrift and many other flowers.
At the northern end of the sands the road turns inland, and presently comes to Blackpool, very small, but one of the most perfect of miniature bays. The cliffs are 'of various colours and very lustrous,' and almost on the brink the road winds its way amongst woods of firs and pines that seem to breathe out a peculiarly spice-like sweetness. When I saw it the sea was like molten silver, for the sunlight poured on it from beyond clouds, and the sun itself was not to be seen. But though this bay looks as if it had fallen from a poet's dream, it has been the scene of many stern events and disasters; for ships have mistaken the inlet for Dartmouth Harbour, with lamentable results. Many a time, too, it has been used by those who knew the coast well, but had their own reasons for wishing to land without attracting notice, for it is quite cut off by the shoulder of the hill from Dartmouth, and is near no other town.
In Queen Mary's reign the secret landing of doubtful characters was a danger that had to be diligently guarded against, and the Lords of the Council received an agitated letter from Sir John St Leger on this subject just after the flight of Sir Peter Carew. Sir Peter had a castle and many friends at Dartmouth, and Sir John quotes him as often having said that if he were the King's enemy he could take 'Dartmouth Castle' and 'burne the Towne with fewer than a hundred persons and lett ynto the haven suche as pleased hym. I, also, am creadeably informed the way howe he should be able to do so. That within a myle, or les, of the said Towne, there is a very good open place called Black poole, for the queene's enemyes to lande, and invade, and from thense may come to the saide towne from the back side.'
But when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, and Sir Peter was reinstated and held in great honour, the coast was still far from safe, and there is a letter written by the Queen in 1564 to her 'Right Trustie and wel-beloved' Sir Peter, commissioning him to get ready and arm two ships, that, as the 'cost of Devonshyre and Cornwall is by reput much harted with pyrattes and Rovers,' so he should repress and, as far as possible, capture them. Twenty-four years later a far more serious danger threatened, and the preparations against the Spanish Armada were very elaborate. Masses of the most stringent orders are still preserved amongst the House of Lords manuscripts, and to quote a few will give an idea of their nature and scope.
On July 11, 1588, it was ordered: 'That all persons of what degree soever ... whose armour and furniture shall not be found serviceable, for the first offence shall be put into the stocks one whole day, publicly; and for the second offence to the gaol for ten days' etc. Careful instructions are sent as to the choice of watchmen for the beacons and their duties; and a brief note refers to a letter written by the Council to Sir Walter Raleigh, then Warden of the Stannaries, demanding the muster-rolls of the tinners, both horse and foot, 'who poured to war' as well from Dartmoor's as from 'Mendip's sunless caves.'
After the Armada had been defeated, there were fears of another Spanish invasion, and in January, 1595-96, news came to the Deputy-Lieutenants and Justices of the Peace of Devon that 'The Queen has found it convenient to have her navy and certain companies of Soldiers for land-service in readiness to be victualled' with all possible speed 'for her service ... 400 quarters of wheat, 200 oxen, and 200 flitches of bacon are required from Devonshire.'
There are notices, too, respecting such gentlemen as 'have been charged with light horses and petronels,' and of the particular divisions of coast apportioned to each. For instance, in a certificate dated June 25, 1596, it is stated that 'Mr Seymour's colonelship reacheth from Plymouth to Dartmouth. Mr Cary's from Dartmouth to Exmouth. Sir Thomas Dennis from Exmouth to Axmouth.' And, going into particulars: 'For Salcomb, Mr William Courtenay with the assistance of the constable and other officers there.... Long Sands [Slapton] and Black pool to be defended by Mr Ameredith and Mr Roope.' The notice continues to give an exact list of the places next one another along the coast, the names of the officers and numbers of men appointed to defend each.
In spite of all that was done, in the summer of 1598 the Lords of the Council were dissatisfied, and wrote to the Lord-Lieutenant to complain of 'the number of horse, which we think to be very few in that country in regard to the largeness and wealth of the same.' But the people in the county looked at the matter in a different light, and in the following April, at a meeting in Exeter, it was resolved that a letter should be written to the Lords of the Council to convey 'the desire of the country' to be freed from a certain 'contribution' wherewith they find themselves much burdened and grieved in respect of the manifold impositions daily coming upon them.'
Demands and complaints seem to have been bandied backwards and forwards for some time afterwards, for in 1600 there came this brief but alarming note from the Lords of the Council:
'June 23, Greenwich.—The composition money for Devonshire, though the whole amounts but to L113 6s. 8d., remains partly unpaid; we have therefore sent down a messenger to bring before us all those who remain in arrear.'
Fortunately, the period of acute alarm had now passed away, and the train-bands were dismissed, so that the burden of levying contributions must for a while have been lightened.
The Three Towns
'Upon the British coast what ship yet ever came, That not of Plymouth hears, where those brave navies lie, From cannons thund'ring throats that all the world defy? Which to invasive spoil, when th' English list to draw, Have check'd Iberia's pride, and held her oft in awe: Oft furnishing our dames with India's rar'st devices, And lent us gold and pearl, rich silks and dainty spices.'
'Be patient, I beseech you, I am in a labyrinth, where I find many ways to proceed, but not one to come forth.' Such is Westcote's plea while attempting to describe Plymouth, and it may be echoed from the heart by anyone who is in the same perplexing position. The words so exactly sum up the difficulty. One is bewildered by the multitude of associations thronging on every side in a town in which, unlike other West Country ports, the pulse of life throbs as strongly as it did in the centuries long gone by. 'The sea-front of Plymouth,' says Mr Norway, 'is the most interesting spot within the British Empire, if not also the most beautiful. It is a large claim, but who can deny it?'
No one who has not studied the history of the Three Towns can realize how keenly Plymouth has been affected by every declaration of war or peace that this country has known—at latest, since the reign of Edward I—nor how vividly its victories and disasters have been brought home to the people. The number of fleets that have returned to this port in triumph, or sometimes in humiliation, and the succession of ever-famous expeditions that have sailed from the Sound, must continually have carried their thoughts across the seas, and prevented petty local affairs from bounding their horizon. The old chronicles seem to show that stirring events perpetually followed each other at short intervals, and when no great expedition was occupying men's minds, there were usually plenty of adventurous spirits to provide excitement—privateers, such as those who took service with the Prince of Conde, and searched the Channel for Roman Catholic ships, and others, ready for 'semi-piratical ventures.' There were also moments when Plymouth was the victim, and in dread watched for the Turkish and Algerine pirates who were known to be hovering near, and were making raids in the neighbourhood.
Plymouth seems to keep a peculiarly strong hold on the affections of her sons, no matter how far or wide they wander, and it is said that the city 'has given its name to more towns than any other town or city in the world. There are seventeen Aberdeens outside Scotland. There are twenty-nine Londons, but forty Plymouths.'
From the Hoe, one point after another that catches the eye suggests a fresh train of ideas. To the east is Sutton Pool, with its coasting vessels and fishing-boats; south, across the Cattewater, lies Mount Batten, whose round tower recalls the long and resolute defence of the town in the Civil War. Still farther south are the high grounds of Plymstock and Bovisand, with their modern fortifications; to the north stretches the town and far in the distance the heights of Dartmoor; and to the south-west, over the Cornish border, lies beautiful Mount Edgcumbe, which 'so affected the Duke of Medina-Sidonia' Fuller tells us,'(though but beholding it at a distance from the Sea), that he resolved it for his own possession in the partage of this kingdom (blame him not if choosing best for himself), which they had preconquered in their hopes and expectation.' Mr Norway sketches the view in rapid touches: 'The Sound lies veiled in a thin blue mist, behind which a hot sun beats, scattering it gradually with the aid of a stiff breeze off the land. But it hangs around Mount Edgcumbe on the right, where the grey towers of the mansion stand in shadow among dark woods, while on the summit of the hill above the green fields catch the sunlight. A little lower, Drake's Island lies impalpable and dim amid the mist which sweeps so softly round the forts and the green grassy slopes as to touch it all with mystery one moment, while the next it is bright again with sunlight, sparkling amid the dazzling sea. Within the breakwater the sea is alive with craft.'
The little island in the Sound has been transferred from patron to patron. Originally called after St Michael, to whom its chapel was dedicated, the name was changed to that of St Nicholas, the patron saint of mariners, and eventually the island was renamed in honour of Plymouth's greatest hero. The chapel had been destroyed before Drake's day at the bidding of the Privy Council, and fortifications were reluctantly built upon it by the Mayor and Corporation, the Council 'mervelinge of their unwillingnesse to proceede in the fortefynge of St Michaell's Chapele to be made a Bulwarke.'
Plymouth is not rich in old buildings. The Citadel was rebuilt in the reign of Charles II, and the new Guildhall is little over thirty years old. St Andrew's, a large Perpendicular building with a fine tower, is the only old church, but it stands on the site of a much older one—the church of the Augustinians of Plympton Priory.
Really, neither Stonehouse nor Devonport has any history. In the reign of Henry III, Stonehouse consisted of the dwelling of Joel de Stonehouse, who at that time owned the manor, and it is only comparatively lately, since it has been transformed into a huge naval storehouse, and the great Marine Barracks have been built, that it has become of importance.
Devonport, looking over the broad glittering waters of Hamoaze, was till the year 1824 known only as Dock, or Plymouth Dock. Charles II planned a dockyard here, but the work of making it was not begun until the reign of William and Mary.
The very early history of Plymouth is not specially interesting to anyone who cares over-much for sober fact; but looking at it in the generous spirit of the ancient chroniclers, and not stickling over probabilities, the story of the first great event in Plymouth is almost as fine as the traditions of Totnes itself. Giants, we all know, flourished in Cornwall, and soon after the arrival of the Trojans—about 1200 B.C.—they made a furious onslaught upon the invaders, but were defeated after a desperate battle. The crowning struggle between Goemagot (the name afterwards turned into Gogmagog), chief of the giants, and Corinaeus the Trojan, took place in Plymouth Hoe, as Drayton's vigorous lines declare:
'Upon that loftie place at Plimmouth called the Hoe, Those mightie Wrastlers met, with many an irefull looke Who threatned, as the one hold of the other tooke: But, grappled, glowing fire shines in their sparkling eyes. And whilst at length of arme one from the other lyes, Their lusty sinewes swell like cables, as they strive: Their feet such trampling make, as though they forc't to drive A thunder out of earth; which staggered with the weight: Thus, either sat most force urg'd to the greatest height.'
A memorial of this terrific conflict, 'the portraiture of two men of the largest volume,' was cut in the turf on the Hoe at an early date, and was only destroyed when the Citadel was built about 1671.
In the Domesday Book Plymouth appears as the Manor of Sutton, and this was later on divided into three separate portions—Sutton Valletort or Vautier, Sutton Prior, and Sutton Raf. The village of Sutton Valletort was 'the germ of ancient Plymouth.' Sutton was given by Henry I to Reginald de Valletort, who bestowed lavish gifts on the monastery at Plympton; and as his example was followed by his successors, the title of the second portion of the manor is easily accounted for. The whole place was dominated by the Valletorts and the Priors, but the power of the monks increased steadily, till, at an inquisition held in 1281, 'it was presented that the Ville of Sutton belonged to the Prior of Plympton, with assize of bread and beer, and this right was allowed.' Sutton was now becoming a flourishing town, and some years later the King made inquiries about his property in it, for the burgesses had petitioned that some waste land might be granted them at a yearly rent. To this 'the Prior and the Valletorts declared that the town was wholly theirs, and none of the King's,' and the dispute was followed by a series of efforts, on the part of the townspeople, to free themselves from the rule of the Priors—efforts which succeeded each other, at no long intervals, through the next hundred and twenty years.
As time went on, the Crown gradually granted rights to the burgesses, and increased their responsibilities, till in 1439 an Act of Parliament was passed incorporating the three Suttons as a free borough, with one Mayor, and the manorial rights of the Priory were ceded to the Mayor and Corporation, who paid to the Priory a fixed yearly sum in compensation. The name Plymouth, which had been used in speaking of the port, was now formally adopted for the whole town.
From the 'mene thing, as an inhabitation for Fischars,' that Leland says it was in the reign of Henry II, the town grew rapidly, and before the end of the thirteenth century it was represented in Parliament. In 1287, for the first time on record, the splendid harbour was officially recognized as a grand rendezvous, and three hundred and twenty-five vessels gathered here before sailing for Guienne under the command of the King's brother. Half a century later, orders were sent that men and ships should be collected at Plymouth to escort Princess Johanna, the King's daughter, to Gascony, and escorts for various Princes had to be provided on several occasions. The Black Prince was kept by contrary winds in the port for forty days, when he was on his way to France to fight the 'glorious battell at Poictiers.' In the early part of the fifteenth century Plymouth suffered severely from the attacks of the French and Bretons, and in 1403 the Bretons, under the Sieur du Chastel, burned six hundred houses in the part since called Briton Side. The name became gradually transformed into 'Burton,' but the memory of the raid survived so far, Mr Worth tells us, as to enable the boys who lived in the Old Town to taunt the 'Burton boys' during the wars with France, by reminding them of the harm that the French had done to their quarter.
On Freedom Day, a 'local Saturnalia kept as such from the earliest times,' one of the features was the fighting between the Old Town and Burton boys for a barrel of beer, provided by the Mayor. Long after this custom had been dropped, the recollection of it was revived by the sign of a public-house, the Burton Boys, though eventually the owner changed the sign to that of the Black Lion, as he 'wished for some more peaceful name'!
Plymouth does not seem to have been much affected by the Wars of the Roses, but Henry VII, as Earl of Richmond, 'while he houered upon the coast,' came ashore at Cawsand, and here 'by stealth refreshed himselfe; but being advertised of streight watch, kept for his surprising at Plymouth, he richly rewarded his hoste, hyed speedily a ship boord, and escaped happily to a better fortune.'
The fisheries of the port are old and important. The earliest grant now to be traced, made by Reginald de Valletort to Plympton Priory, was that of all his fishing rights in Tamar and Lynher—a privilege which Mr Worth thinks was probably bestowed 'not long after the manor passed into the hands of the Valletort family.' In 1384 Parliament decreed that all fish caught in the waters of Sutton, Plymouth, and Tamar should be displayed for sale in Plymouth and Aish [Saltash] only, which sounds as if Plymouth were already jealous of other fish-markets, as was certainly the case later on. During parts of the sixteenth century the industry flagged, and in Henry VIII's reign a royal proclamation ordered abstinence from flesh on Saturdays as well as Fridays, with the frank explanation that this was 'not only for health and discipline, but for the benefit of the Commonwealth, and profit of the fishing trade.' In Queen Elizabeth's reign matters were still worse, for the eating of fish had now come to be a badge of religious opinions, and '"to detest fish" in all shapes and forms had become a note of Protestantism.'
And not only had the demand for fish lessened, but the fisheries had fallen into the hands of foreigners. The Yarmouth waters were 'occupied by Flemings and Frenchmen,' 'the narrow seas by the French,' 'the western fishing for hake and pilchard by a great navy of French within kenning of the English shores,' and Scots and Spaniards fished other parts of the coasts. Cecil, who was anxious for greater reasons, to find 'means to encourage mariners,' set to work to revive the English fishing-trade, and with great difficulty succeeded in carrying a Bill through the House of Commons, making 'the eating of flesh on Fridays and Saturdays a misdemeanour, punishable by a fine of three pounds or three months' imprisonment, and as if this was not enough, adding Wednesday as a subsidiary half-fish day.'
About this time Plymouth tried to rid itself of at least one branch of foreign competition by appealing to the Privy Council to forbid 'the exportation of pilchards, save in ships of Devon and Cornwall, because "divers ships and mariners lye idle without employment within our harbour," while foreign ships were continually employed.' Pilchards were a very important item, and many regulations were made in reference to them. One order, dated 1565-66, gives a good example of Plymouth's views of free trade. It ran: 'That no alien should lade or buy fresh pilchards above the number of 1,000 in a day; no man ... being free to buy or sell above 5,000, unless the fish "were in danger of perishing."' The business of curing fish was a large one and very jealously guarded. At the British Museum, among the Lansdowne manuscripts, is a letter to Lord Burghley from Mr Richard Browne, showing that this subject was sometimes the source of friction between the citizens themselves. It begins:
'My honorable good Lord, as I have ben always most bound vnto yor ho., so I humbly besech you to stand my good Lord.' The letter goes on to explain that the writer had been granted a 'pattent for salting, drying, and packing of fishe in the counties of Devon and Cornwall,' but letters from the Privy Council had caused the 'staie thereof.' These letters were apparently inspired by the complaint to the Council of 'marchants,' who were injured because the terms of the 'pattent' laid down 'that the inhabitants should be servid before the marchents, paying nothing unto me for it,' as he adds in a slightly aggrieved manner. The writer begs that these terms may be altered, and the only conditions should be those affecting such fish 'as shuld be transported in consyderacon of the Quene's Majesty's right.' For, he pathetically remarks, he has paid 'a great some of money' for his privileges, and still 'am bound to pay the rent into the exchequer,' although not allowed to reap the benefit therefrom. Besides, great inconvenience is caused by the suspension of his business, and letters of complaint have been addressed to him from Devonshire and Cornwall desiring 'y^t he pforme his offer y^t they may have fishe for their owne provesion frely.'
It was the outburst of ventures of every description, with all their different aims—ventures of soldiers, explorers, privateers, and merchants—in the reign of Queen Elizabeth that brought Plymouth to its greatest glory. In the interval between William Hawkins' first voyage to the South Seas—about 1528—and 1601, when Captain William Parker sailed to Panama and took Porto Bello, Plymouth was the starting-point of forty voyages, every one of which is historical. Mr Worth gives the exact date of each, and the names of the commanders. 'Here,' says Carew, 'mostly have the troops of adventurers made their Rendezvous for attempting new discoueries or inhabitances.' And Westcote, in the reign of James I, writes: 'Whatever show it makes in description, it is far larger in fame, and known to the farthest and most remote parts of the world.' In Camden's opinion, this great reputation was won 'less by the convenience of the harbour, as for the valour and worth of the Inhabitants,' and the worthies of Plymouth are indeed beyond number. Among the comparatively few whose names have not been lost, there stands out conspicuously Sir William Wilford, who after a French invasion returned the charge by swooping down on Brittany, where he 'made them to pay, besides costs and charges, more than sixfold damages.' And Captain Cocke, a 'Cock of the Game indeed,' according to Fuller; 'A Volanteer in his own ship,' he went out against the Armada, and 'lost his life to save his Queen and Countrey.' Then there is Cockrem, who sailed with William Hawkins, and was left alone among the Brazilians as a hostage for one of the 'Savage Kings' Hawkins brought back with him—but, as Mr Norway says, 'Plymouth has too many heroes; in the crowd the faces of all but one or two are blurred.'
For three generations the Hawkinses were 'the master spirits' of Plymouth, and of them all Sir John Hawkins was the most famous. His character was a curious medley of incongruous features, bluff straightforwardness and crooked diplomacy, faithful affection—such as his bold schemes to help his captured comrades proved—balanced by a hard indifference that ignored the misery of the wretched negroes he sold to West Indian planters. Pluck and daring were the only qualities he showed consistently from first to last. His zeal in slave-hunting, repulsive to us, is excused by Froude on the ground that 'negro slavery in theory was an invention of philanthropy.' Labourers were a necessity for the Spanish colonist, 'the proud and melancholy Indian pined like an eagle in captivity, refused to accept his servitude, and died; the more tractable negro would domesticate like the horse or the ass.' Though Hawkins met with much good as well as bad luck, he was one of those who have need to remember that fate does not shower favours on all men, but 'if a man look sharply and attentively, he shall see Fortune; for though she be blind, yet she is not invisible,' and his success was to a very great extent due to his stout heart and quick discernment. These qualities stood him in good stead at San Juan de Ulloa, when his few ships were overwhelmed by a much larger fleet. 'The name of Hawkins was so terrible that the Spaniards dared not give him warning that he was to be attacked;' but mounted their batteries in the dark, and from land and sea 'every gun which could be brought to bear' opened upon the unprepared English. After sinking two Spanish ships and setting a third on fire, Hawkins saw that flight was their only chance, and, gathering his men together in two small tenders, he 'crawled out under the fire of the mole and gained the open sea.' The position of affairs was dispiriting in the extreme. Many men and three good ships were lost, besides treasure worth more than a million pounds, that had been won, by running innumerable dangers, during the past year. His ships were overcrowded, the store of food and water was scanty, and no harbour west of the Atlantic was open to them. Under the weight of adversity, Hawkins offered 'a lesson for all time on the use of bravado, the crowning grace of every leader who does not seek it at the cost of better things.'
'When the Minion stood off,' says Hortop, who wrote the tale on his return to England, 'our generall courageously cheered up his soldiers and gunners, and called to Samuel his page for a cup of beer, who brought it to him in a silver cup. And he, drinking to all the men, willed the gunners to stand to their ordnance lustily like men. He had no sooner set the cup out of his hand, but a demi-culverin shot struck away the cup and a cooper's plane that stood by the mainmast and ran out on the other side of the ship, which nothing dismayed our generall, for he ceased not to encourage us, saying, "Fear nothing: for God who hath preserved me from this shot will also deliver us from these traitors and villains."'
Hawkins is chiefly known by his voyages and enterprises, and all that he did for his country by monotonous hard work is not so often remembered. For twenty-one years he 'toiled terribly' as Treasurer of the Queen's Marine Causes and Comptroller of the Navy, and when the ships were sent out to meet the Armada they were 'in such condition, hull, rigging, spars, and running rope, that they had no match in the world either for speed, safety, or endurance.'
There is no space here to speak of Sir John's father, 'the pioneer of English adventure in the South Seas,' who made three famous voyages to Brazil, and laid a good foundation for future traffic in that he 'behaved wisely' to the natives; nor to do more than glance at the ventures of Sir John's son, Sir Richard Hawkins, the 'Complete Seaman,' whose 'high-spirited actions, had they been all duly recorded (as pity it is, they were not),' says Prince, 'would have made a large volume in themselves.' Sir Richard rediscovered the Falkland Isles, and passed the Straits of Magellan. His fleet was reduced to a single vessel, and he had taken five richly laden ships, when 'the King of Spain's vice-roy in those parts' sent 'eight ships to intercept him. Sir Richard Hawkins held the fight for three days, with but three score and fifteen men and boys, against thirteen hundred of the enemy, and those the choice of Peru.' In the end, being 'dangerously wounded in six several places,' and with many of his crew killed or wounded, he was forced to surrender upon 'honourable articles of life and liberty,' which, however, were not observed, and he was sent to Spain, where for long years he remained a prisoner. Sir Richard left an account of his 'Voyage to the South Sea'—a 'record of misfortune, but of misfortune which did no dishonour to him who sank under it; and there is a melancholy dignity in the style in which Hawkins tells his story, which seems to say that ... he respects himself still for the heart with which he endured a shame which would have broken a smaller man.' A second William Hawkins, Sir John's brother, commanded a Huguenot vessel under the commission of the Prince of Conde; and yet another William of a younger generation went as ambassador of the East India Company to the Great Mogul, and succeeded in setting up a trading station at Surat.
Every Plymouth hero, however, is eclipsed by Sir Francis Drake, who is always counted their chief, though he was born near Tavistock. 'Could my pen as ably describe his worth as my heart prompteth to it, I would make this day-star appear at noon-day as doth the full moon at midnight,' is Risdon's ecstatic exclamation.
When all his grand qualities and successes have been contemplated, it is still rather surprising to find the extraordinary impression he created in that epoch of heroic enterprise. The stories of magic that have clustered round his name witness to his wonderful personality, for naturally they are much more significant than those that have been woven around the older heroes of a more superstitious, less civilized age. These legends must have been handed down to generation after generation, for, writing about 1835, Mrs Bray mentions that the peasantry near Tavistock still talked of the 'old warrior,' as they called him. To choose one or two at random, there is the story that once, after he had been away for a very long time, his wife supposed him to be dead, and thought that she was free to marry again. A spirit whispered the news to Sir Francis, who was at the Antipodes. At once he fired a great cannon-ball, 'so truly aimed that it shot up right through the globe, forced its way into the church, and fell with a loud explosion between the lady and her intended bridegroom. "It is the signal of Drake!" she exclaimed. "He is alive, and I am still a wife. There must be neither troth nor ring between thee and me."' Another story tells that after he had finished the ever-famous game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe, which was interrupted by tidings of the Armada, Sir Francis cut up a block of wood, and flung the chips into the sea, when every ship became a fire-ship, and the enemy's fleet was really destroyed because of the 'irresistable strength of those vessels that he had called up to "flame amazement" on the foes of Elizabeth and of England.'
When the citizens of Plymouth wanted a more abundant supply of water, they appealed to Drake, and he was ready to help them. 'So he called for his horse, mounted, rode to Dartmoor, and hunted about till he found a very fine spring. Having fixed on one that would suit his purpose, he gave a smart lash to his horse's side, pronouncing as he did so some magical words, when off went the animal as fast as he could gallop, and the stream followed his heels all the way into the town.' It is not possible here to pick more legends from the group, excepting one which was certainly told among the people a few years ago. Drake promised, they said, that if ever the country were hard pressed by any foe, and his countrymen should call him by striking his drum, he would hear them, and come back and scatter the enemy.
Of Drake it has been said that 'his Puritanism went hand-in-hand with his love of adventure. 'To sell negroes to the planters, to kill Spaniards, to sack gold-ships, was in the young seaman's mind the work of "the elect of God"'—a belief that no doubt partly explains how the most desperate circumstances seemed unable to teach him the meaning of fear. It is easy to understand how a leader who combined such glorious courage with great unselfishness could take his men anywhere. On arriving off the coast, on his first independent voyage to America, he found this encouraging greeting—'a plate of lead, fastened to a very great tree,' engraved with a message which began:
'If you fortune to come into this port, make haste away, for the Spaniards which you had with you here last year have betrayed this place.'
The message was signed by Captain Garret of Plymouth. Quite undismayed by the warning, Drake led his company to Nombre de Dios, which they successfully attacked. Here he received a dangerous wound; though he valiantly concealed it a long time, knowing if the general's heart stoops, the men's will fall, and that if so bright an opportunity once setteth, it seldom riseth again.' And he went forward till 'at the public treasury they had discovered ... bars of silver, piled up against the wall, seventy foot in length, ten in breadth, and twelve in height ... withal telling them, "That he had brought them to the mouth of the treasury of the world."' But before much could be done his strength failed and he fainted, when his followers became aware of the wound that he had not mentioned, but from which he was losing 'so much blood as filled his very footsteps in the sands.' They were at once anxious to take him back to his ship; Drake, on recovering consciousness, being the only man who wished them to persevere in their search for gold and jewels. But his men 'added force to their entreaties, and so carried him to his pinnace.'
As soon as he was able, Drake started on fresh enterprises with varying success, and after several months had passed on returning laden with treasure to the point on the coast at which he expected to meet his pinnaces, to his great dismay he found none, but saw seven Spanish ships lying in the distance. The company instantly fell into despair, convinced that their pinnaces had been taken and the crews tortured, and that they themselves were left alone in the midst of the enemy's country, from which they could not escape. Drake's self-possession alone was unshaken, and, after casting about for some way of reaching safety, he noticed trees floating slowly down the river. With 'the most confident and cheerful expression, he asked: "Who would accompany him to sea on the raft he was about to form with those timbers?"' A sail was 'made of a bisket-sack,' and with 'an oar shaped out of a young tree for a rudder,' they set out to sea, in danger of being swamped by every wave, and often waist-deep in water. After about six hours of extreme peril they sighted the pinnaces, and in the end Drake succeeded in reaching them, and was able to carry away the rest of his company and the treasure.
An incident that happened when Drake was taking leave of some friendly negroes showed his generous disposition. 'Pedro, ... an eminent person among the Symerons, and one who had been greatly serviceable to Captain Drake, had a great mind to a rich cymeter the captain had, but was unwilling to ask it, lest he should prize it also: which known, the captain freely presented it to him. Who being willing to make a grateful return, desired him to accept of four wedges of gold, as a pledge of his thanks: whose importunity not being able to avoid, Captain Drake received them courteously, but threw them into the common stock, saying, "That it was just that those who bore part of the charge with him, in setting him to sea, should likewise enjoy their full proportion of the advantage at his return."'
All Drake's voyages and adventures, however, did not prevent him from keeping in touch with Plymouth and local interests. In 1581 he was Mayor; for four years he represented the borough in Parliament, and he certainly did bring the citizens water from Dartmoor, though at greater pains than in the fashion described in the legend. In memory of this great service there is still an annual ceremony called the Fishing Feast. The Mayor and Corporation inspect the leat by which the water is brought to Plymouth, attended by a huge crowd of spectators, and afterwards two toasts are drunk—one in water, to 'The pious memory of Sir Francis Drake,' and the other in wine—'May the descendants of him who brought us water never want wine.'
Plymouth townsfolk had every reason to be glad when the Pelican sailed into the harbour after her voyage round the world, for it was not only a national hero, but their own particular countryman and good friend, that they hurried out to welcome.
Amongst 'Commendations by Principal Persons friendly to the Author or the Work' which preface a book written by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, are some lines by Sir Francis which are very expressive of the views that seem to have guided his life. The book, whose aim must have been to encourage the idea of settling in the new colony, is called 'A true Report of the late Discoveries and Possession taken in the Right of the Crowne of Englande, of the New found Landes.' I do not quote the whole poem:
'Who seekes by gaine and wealth to advance his house and blood, Whose care is great, whose toile no less, whose hope is all for good, If anie one there bee that covettes such a trade, Lo heere the plot for commonwealth, and private gaine is made.
'He that for vertue's sake will venture farre and neere, Whose zeale is strong, whose practize trueth, whose faith is void of feare, If any such there bee, inflamed with holie care,
'Heere may hee finde a readie meane his purpose to declare, So that for each degree this Treatise dooth unfolde The path to fame, the proofe of zeale, and way to purchase golde.'
Drake's audacity was never more amazing than in the expedition of 1587, when he sailed along the Spanish and Portuguese coast, plundering and burning the ships in their own harbours. His fearlessness filled the Spaniards with a very generous admiration. 'So praised was Drake for his valour of them, that were it not that he was a Lutheran, they said, there was not the like man in the world.' Once, when the King invited a lady of the Court to go in his barge on a lake near Madrid, 'the lady said she dared not trust herself in the water even with his Majesty, lest Sir Francis Drake should have her.' His name passed even into nursery songs, and one of them has been translated as follows:
'My brother Don John To England is gone, To kill the Drake, And the Queen to take, And the heretics all to destroy; And he will give me, When he comes back, A Lutheran boy, With a chain on his neck, And our Lady Grandmama shall have To wait upon her a Lutheran slave.'
It was about sixteen months later that Drake, amongst the band of famous captains gathered at Plymouth, watched the long-awaited Armada sailing in a great crescent up the Channel. The English popular view of the invasion is, perhaps, reflected in a ballad which was written soon after the event. It is called 'Sir Francis Drake; or, Eighty-eight.'
'In eyghtye-eyght, ere I was borne, As I can well remember, In August was a fleet prepared, The moneth before September.
'Spayne, with Biscayne, Portugall, Toledo, and Granado, All these did meet, and made a fleet, And called it the Armado.
'When they had gott provision, As mustard, pease, and bacon; Some say two shipps were full of whipps, But I thinke they were mistaken.
'There was a little man of Spaine That shott well in a gunn-a— Don Pedro bright, as good a knight As the knight of the sunn-a.
'King Phillip made him Admiral, And charged him not to stay-a— But to destroy both man and boy, And then to runn away-a.
'The King of Spayne did freet amayne, And to doe yet more harme-a, He sent along to make him strong The famous Prince of Parma.
When they had sayl'd along the seas, And anchored uppon Dover, Our Englishmen did board them then, And cast the Spaniards over.
'Oure Queene was then att Tilbury; What could you more desire-a? For whose sweete sake Sir Francis Drake Did sett them all on fyre-a.
'But let them look about themselfes; For if they come again-a. They shall be served with that same sauce As they were, I know when-a.'
In 1595 Sir Francis and Sir John Hawkins started on that ill-starred expedition to the West Indies, from which neither returned. Sir Francis died, and was buried at sea.
'The waves became his winding-sheet, the waters were his tomb; But, for his fame, the ocean sea was not sufficient room.'
The translation of what Prince calls an 'ingenuous epigram' written in Latin is beneath his portrait in the Guildhall:
'Sir Drake, whom well the world's end knew, Which thou didst compasse round, And whom both poles of Heaven one saw, Which North and South doe bound: The starrs above will make thee known, If men here silent were; The Sunn himself cannot forget His fellow Traveller.'
In 1606 the Plymouth Trading Company was granted its charter. The Company was formed with the aim of planting colonies in America but it was not a great success, and the extortionate claims of the members to a monopoly of very important privileges brought them into violent collision with the more flourishing Massachusetts Company, as well as with owners of certain fishing-vessels, whom they called 'interlopers.' The company was eventually dissolved in 1635.
In 1620 there came into Plymouth Harbour that little band of Puritans known to posterity as the Pilgrim Fathers. For the sake of liberty of conscience they had been living for some years at Leyden, and they had now resolved to take up a new life in America. The start was not auspicious, for after leaving Southampton they were forced to put into Dartmouth for repairs, and were afterwards obliged to stop at Plymouth, where the Speedwell was declared to be unseaworthy. Serious alterations of their plans had to be made, but at last, 'all troubles being blown over,' the travellers were 'compacted together in the one ship,' and on September 6, 1620, 'thirteen years after the first colonization of Virginia, two months before the concession of the grand charter of Plymouth, without any warrant from the sovereign of England, without any useful charter from a corporate body, the passengers in the Mayflower set sail for a New World.'
King Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria paid a visit to the town, to speed a fleet sent, with disastrous results, against Spain. The expedition was in a miserable plight to begin with. For some while before it was able to leave the country, a hungry penniless army had been thrown upon the citizens of Plymouth. An enormous debt had been created in equipping it, and the soldiers' allowances were hopelessly inadequate to provide them with a proper supply of food or clothes. 'A more ragged, ribald, and rebellious herde never gathered on the eve of an important expedition. Mutiny was common in the town, and the ringleaders were tried at Drum-head, and shot in the nearest open space.... Incensed at the disregard of their appeals, the publicans thrust the soldiers to doors; and the outcasts, turning highwaymen, stole cattle and sheep with impunity, slew the animals, and cooked the joints "in the open eye of the world," and sullenly vowed that they would have "meat rather than famish." The fleet returned some weeks later in shame and disgrace, and the state of the men was even more miserable than when they started, for now the plague was raging amongst them. 'There was neither "meat nor drink available"; such provisions as had been doled out were often unfit for food, and "men die after eating them."' Pennington, the Vice-Admiral at Plymouth, sent petition after petition to the authorities for necessary supplies. 'Send the money, or it will break my heart, for I am so followed about and called upon that I know not what to do.' The misery was long drawn out, for when the plague was at an end, and townspeople were able to return to their homes, there was but a short respite before they were again overwhelmed by a great number of undisciplined soldiers, and 'no means of housing, feeding, or clothing them.' Naturally, they helped themselves at the expense of the citizens. 'Haunted by the cries of my soldiers,' Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the Governor, was reduced to distributing among them a cargo of oil that had been captured, with the assertion that it was 'as healthy as butter.'
'Most despair here,' wrote Lord Holland briefly, and 'the distress was so acute that the Mayor raised the standard of revolt. The losses of the town had been calamitous—first at the hands of pirates, next by collapse of trade, and finally by the billeting.'
No doubt Plymouth's consistent hostility to the King's party throughout the war is in part explained by the results of this wretched state of affairs, and by the persecution of their Vice-Admiral, the heroic member for St Germans, Sir John Eliot.
As soon as the war broke out, Plymouth's sympathies were plainly shown, and before long Sir Ralph Hopton made an attack on the town. On December 1, 1642, Royalists and Parliamentarians 'stood upon the Lary for the space of three hours' facing one another, but each too cautious to make the first move and leave a point of vantage. The siege was seriously undertaken three months later, when Hopton concentrated all his forces upon the town. As Plymouth could always be supplied by sea, there was no chance of its being starved into submission, and already it was gravely doubted whether the town would ever be taken. By the beginning of July nearly all the Royalist forces had been drawn off, and Plymouth set to work with great energy to strengthen the defences by building a new wall. Tradition says that even women and children took a share in the work. In August an attack was made by Colonel Digby, but the town was at this time threatened by a greater danger—the treachery of Sir Alexander Carew, commander of the Fort and of Drake's Island. 'He was proved an Apostate,' says a contemporary account, 'and went about to betray that island and the town of Plymouth into the hands of Cornish cavaliers, but was prevented by the fidelity of his honest soldiers.' Sir Alexander was arrested by order of the Mayor, and sent to London, where eventually he was beheaded.
Prince Maurice marched on the town after he had taken Dartmouth, and there followed three weeks of assaults and skirmishes, much hard fighting, and many desperate struggles. In the end the besiegers succeeded in capturing Mount Stamford, a fort on the south of the Cattewater, 'the first and only advantage gained by the Royalists during the protracted and often revived siege.' An invitation to surrender on lenient conditions made the townspeople waver, but the Governor, Colonel Wardlaw, stood firm. All were ordered to take a solemn vow and covenant, which pledged each one to take part in the defence 'to the utmost of my power.' And the town, hitherto 'divided and heartless in its defence, now grew to be united.'
On Sunday, December 3, there fell the Sabbath-day Fight, and the most critical moments of the siege. Prince Maurice and 'all the gallantry of his army' threw their whole force against the garrison, who advanced to meet them. 'The Roundheads were outnumbered ten to one, and driven back in absolute rout for the space of three fields.' Joined by a small number of reinforcements, they rallied after an interval, and charged the enemy, who yielded. The garrison pressed their advantage. 'The retreat, followed up, became a rout,' and the acutest danger was past.
Not long afterwards the siege was raised for a time. The poor people had suffered much from the scarcity of food, though once they had been cheered by a wonderful supply. 'There came an infinite number of pilchards into the harbour within the Barbican, which the people took up with great ease in baskets, which did not only refresh them for the present, but a great deal more were taken, preserved and salted, whereby the poor got much money.' It was not only by endurance that the women had shown their courage, for in the midst of some of the engagements they had brought out provisions 'for the refreshing of our soldiers, though many women were shot through the clothes.'
Assaults, occasional sorties, and intervals of comparative peace followed one another till, in September 1644, the King appeared in person before the town, and tried first by force of arms and then by offering very indulgent terms to bring about its surrender. The answer to the King was not sent till the day after his summons had been received, but 'if not speedy, it was decided—"Never."' A second futile assault was made by the Royalists, and then the King and Prince Maurice with their troops, turned their backs on Plymouth. For four months longer the blockade was continued, and at the end of that time Sir Richard Grenville made a very determined effort, attacking at four points simultaneously. A desperate struggle ensued in which he gained nothing and lost three hundred men killed, and many hundreds wounded. Another twelve months passed without any serious attempt to storm the town, and in January, 1646, on Fairfax's advance upon Dartmouth the siege was finally raised, the Royalists marching away in such haste that guns, arms, and ammunition were left behind.
Charles II paid several visits to the town, and on one occasion he attended the service at St Andrew's Church where a state canopy and throne had been prepared for him and where sufferers were brought to him to be 'touched for the king's evil.' A ridiculous incident marked another visit. The Mayor, rather agitated by the honour of entertaining the King, and anxious to find the best means of giving him pleasure, had the happy inspiration of inviting His Majesty to look at the outworks that had protected Plymouth 'in the time of the late war.' The King's reply was 'on a sudden' to walk to the landing-steps, get into his pinnace, and start for Mount Edgcumbe. The Mayor in great dismay, followed by the Aldermen, who had come in their robes in state to attend on the King, hurried down to the water's edge and taking possession of a wherry, they started off as fast as they could in pursuit. It is satisfactory to know that by the time they succeeded in catching up the King he had quite recovered his usual good-humour.
Plymouth was to some degree affected by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, for it had always been a refuge for the Huguenots—the Rochellers, as they are often called in sixteenth-century chronicles—and now many of them fled to this shelter. The first party of about fifty people crossed the Channel in an open boat, and their flight was followed by a great number of refugees. These settled in the town, and many of their descendants married English people, and the little colony became absorbed into the general population. A curious glimpse of the original refugees is given in a letter written in 1762 by Mr Pentecost Barker, of Plymouth, to the Rev. Samuel Merivale. He says: 'Those, of whom I remember many scores, who came from France in 1685-6, etc., are mostly dead, and their offspring are more English than French, and will go to the English Church, though some few may come to us. What an alteration Time makes! There was ... a French Calvinist Church and a Church of England French Church here, besides a Church at Stonehouse. Many women in wooden shoes—very poor, but very industrious—living on limpets, snails, garlick, and mushrooms.'
In the latter half of the eighteenth century Plymouth vibrated with the excitement of fights and victories at sea, several engagements being fought at a short distance off the coast. Many prizes and some of our own disabled ships were brought into the harbour, 'dismasted and riddled French battleships,' sometimes even with 'their decks blackened with powder and coursed by the blood of the victims.' Unless the local annals are closely studied, it is almost impossible to realize the rapid succession of these events, and the effect they must have produced on the townspeople. A sarcastic picture has been drawn of a student attempting to work in the midst of the bursts of enthusiasm that perpetually thrilled the town. He is first interrupted by 'a shout in the street, and the servant rushed in to announce that the enemy had landed,' and the Volunteers were going out to meet them. The student, having disposed of this report, settles to work again, when 'the strains of a soul-stirring march, with abundant drum, were borne on the air, and the servant again bounded into the room to proclaim the return of the—th Regiment, "with only 200 returned out of 600, sir, colours shot through and through, poor fellows, all looking terribly tanned—here they are, sir, just passing the door." The pageant is witnessed by the student, and as the tumult subsides he resumes his scholarly pursuits. Soon a great gun shakes every window in the house. "What can this mean?" Enter Sam once more. "I beg your pardon, sir, but they say a man-of-war's in the Sound, bringing in two ships of the line, French prizes. All the people are running to the Hoe, sir; I hope you'll let me go." Down goes the book once more, and the student is as mad as his neighbours as the victorious ship and her prizes, with the Jack flying triumphantly over the tricoloured flag, sails majestically into the harbour amid deafening cheers.... Such was the average Plymouth day.'
Several times the town was threatened by a French invasion and badly scared, but the greatest fear was felt in 1779, when for four days the united French and Spanish fleets lay off the Sound. Plymouth had every reason to be afraid; for, had the enemy but known it, there were at that moment but two small armed vessels to defend the harbour. Crowds of women and children left the town in haste and confusion, thousands of country-people tramped to the coast to have a look at the enemy. A few private persons made single-handed efforts to strengthen the defences, and a little later 'the bustle was again revived by the hourly arrival of troops, baggage, waggons, and powder.'
It is said that in Totnes the saying, 'Going to Paignton to meet the French,' is still a synonym for meeting trouble halfway. Amongst endless stories of fears and flights, there is one of delightful imperturbability:
'One old sailor ... had his wits about him, when his daughter shook him out of a deep sleep with the news that the French had landed. Rubbing his eyes, he told her to go and look at the weathercock. She came back, saying the wind was from the north. "I thought so," said he, "and so it was yesterday. The French can't land with this wind." And so the ancient mariner turned round and went to sleep again.'