Alarms, suspense, and occasional ecstasies of triumph followed one another till the final defeat of Napoleon. For several days the Bellerophon actually lay in Plymouth Harbour, to the intense excitement of the townspeople, who circled round the ship as closely as might be in the hope of catching a glimpse of the captive Emperor.
To the north-east of Plymouth lies Saltram, the great house and wide, beautiful grounds that belong to Lord Morley. Saltram is in the parish of Plympton St Mary, once celebrated for the large and important Priory which for some time governed the affairs of Plymouth. Plympton St Mary is neighbour to the parish of Plympton St Maurice and the little town of Plympton Erle. On the north of the town are the ruins of the Norman castle built chiefly by Richard de Redvers, and razed to the ground in the reign of Stephen. It was rebuilt not long afterwards. A fragment of a small keep is all that remains of the stonework, but the Normans' castle was raised upon a fort that was standing when they arrived, and 'the earthworks of the conquered are more enduring than the stone defences of the conqueror.' The mound on which the keep stands, and the banks that enclose a base-court about seven hundred and ten feet long and three hundred and eighty feet wide, have been little harmed or altered and are still in a very perfect condition; but the moat that once surrounded them has been partly filled in.
The father of Sir Joshua Reynolds was master of the Grammar School of Plympton Erle, and here the great painter was born. In the crowded days of his middle life he gave a proof of his interest in his native town by being its Mayor, and on his election presented the town with his own portrait painted by himself. The picture was hung in the Guildhall, and Sir Joshua asked the Recorder of the borough to see that it was hung in a good position. In his reply the Recorder paid a compliment whose full meaning he did not grasp. He explained that 'he had seen to this, and the portrait hung between old pictures of Ourry and Edgecumbe which serve as foils, and set it off to great advantage. This letter greatly amused Sir Joshua, who knew that these old pictures were early works of his own.'
The Tamar and the Tavy
'Tavy creeps upon The western vales of fertile Albion; Here dashes roughly on an aged rock, That his intended passage doth up-lock;... Here digs a cave at some high mountain's foot, There undermines an oak, tears up his root:... As (woo'd by May's delights) I have been borne To take the kind air of a wistful morn Near Tavy's voiceful stream (to whom I owe More strains than from my pipe can ever flow). Here have I heard a sweet bird never lin To chide the river for his clam'rous din;... So numberless the songsters are that sing In the sweet groves of that too-careless spring... Among the rest a shepherd (though but young, Yet hearten'd to his pipe), with all the skill His few years could, began to fit his quill. By Tavy's speedy stream he fed his flock, Where when he sat to sport him on a rock, The water-nymphs would often come unto him, And for a dance with many gay gifts woo him. Now posies of this flower, and then of that; Now with fine shells, then with a rushy hat, With coral or red stones brought from the deep To make him bracelets, or to mark his sheep.'
W. BROWNE: Britannia's Pastorals.
[Footnote 7: Cease.]
Tavistock is a quiet little 'ancient borough,' which at the first glance from the hill to the north-west suggests the early-Victorian word 'embowered,' for it looks as if the rudiments of the town had arisen in the midst of a large wood. The town lies chiefly in a hollow, and the trees that cover the sides surround and encroach upon the streets in the pleasantest way, and their foliage, the hills on every side, and the rushing Tavy through the midst, give an un-townlike air that is charming. But to imagine, from this rustic and very still look, that the place lacked history, would be to make a great mistake. On the contrary, its history starts in such very early days that only a few scattered relics remain to show the wave of human life that passed over the country.
Between A.D. 240 and the latter half of the sixth century, the Irish made many invasions, overran the South and West of England, and settled colonies in parts of Devon and Cornwall, more especially along their northern coasts. Mr Baring-Gould, in a most interesting paper, sketches out the various descents and settlements, and traces them by their stone monuments and by the names of the Irish saints that they left in churches and villages and holy wells. Some of the invaders established themselves near Tavistock, and tokens of them have been found in the neighbourhood in the shape of three stones bearing inscriptions—one in Ogham characters. The stones are now in the Vicarage garden. 'On one, which is over seven feet high, occurs a name, probably of a Sept or tribe in Kerry, where several stones inscribed with the same name are found. On the third are the words: "Dobunii Fabri fili Enabarri...." Dobun was a faber, or smith. In Celtic organizations every tuatha, or tribe, had its chief smith.... Dobunii ... is the Latin for the genitive Douvinias, also a Kerry name.... Here, then, we have written and engraven in stone for our learning the record of an Irish settlement from Kerry in the neighbourhood of Tavistock.'
Mr Baring-Gould further mentions briefly the different tribes and peoples that have invaded and possessed themselves of the land, to be in turn conquered by new-comers, and the eventual, amalgamation of races, and quotes Professor Sullivan to the discomfiture of those who rhapsodize over the 'pure Celt' in Great Britain or Ireland—for, after all, it was Irish colonists and conquerors who 'gave their name to Scotland, and at one time occupied the coast of Wales and 'West Domnonia.'
Professor Sullivan writes: 'The Irish tenants of to-day are composed of the descendants of Firbolgs and other British and Belgic races; Milesians ... Gauls, Norwegians, Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Normans, and English.... This is a fact which should be remembered by those who theorize over the qualities of the "pure Celt," whoever they may be.' There are many amateurs whose views would be less tedious if they could be convinced by Professor Sullivan.
The memory of one Irish saint clung for centuries to Tavistock, for the abbey was dedicated jointly to St Mary the Holy Virgin, and to St Rumon, an Irish missionary who came over to Cornwall. The abbey has unfortunately been totally destroyed, and various buildings now stand on its site. The old chapter-house was pulled down by a certain Saunders, 'of barbarous memory,' 'to make way for a modern house now called the Bedford Hotel.' The refectory is used as a Unitarian chapel, and still keeps its fine pinnacled porch. A ruined tower covered with ivy, called Betsy Grimbal's Tower (a young woman was supposed to have been murdered in it), stands in grounds close by, and the other chief fragments still to be seen are the monks' still-house, a little bit of the abbey church wall, and the remains of a battlemented wall following the line of the river. The north gateway is the most perfect remnant and that has been restored. Of the religious houses in the Diocese of Exeter this monastery was the most important, and it eclipsed them all by 'the extent, convenience, and magnificence of its buildings.' Orgar, Earl of Devon, founded it in 961, and Ordulph, his son, completed it on such a grand scale, that there was room for one thousand inhabitants.
The abbey had only stood for about thirty years, when a frightful blow fell: the Danes burst upon the country, harrying it with fire and sword. They landed in Cornwall, and here Egbert hastened with his army and defeated them at Hingston Down; but a great horde broke away, and crossing the border descended on Tavistock, where the inhabitants in a body rose to meet them and a terrible battle was fought. Its deadly nature is summed up with great directness in an old jingle:
'The blood which flowed down West Street Would heave a stone a pound weight.'
The abbey was robbed and then burned to the ground. No time, however, can have been lost in rebuilding it, for about thirty years later Livingus, the Abbot, was made Bishop of Devonshire, and was specially chosen by King Canute to accompany him on his pilgrimage to Rome.
Tavistock was a Benedictine monastery, over which forty abbots ruled in succession. Some of the later ones were noted for their lack of discipline—even to the point of allowing the monks 'to affect the fashionable costume of the times, adopting the secular buttoned hoods and beaked boots'; but the earlier abbots were both pious and learned, and one of the earliest printing-presses set up in England was owned by the abbey. The first statutes of the stannaries that ever were printed were printed here: a 'Confirmation of the Charter perteynynge to all the tynners wythyn the coūty of Devonshyre wyth their Statutes also made at Crockeryntorre by the whole assēt and cōset of al the sayd tynners'—of the date 1510. In very early days the abbots were 'lessees of the Devonshire stannaries ... and controllers of the issues of royal mines in Devon and part of Cornwall,' says Dr. Oliver.
At the Dissolution the King presented the abbey and most of its estates to the Earl of Bedford. The first trace of this great family in Devonshire that I have been able to find is a lawsuit in regard to certain lands, between John Russell and Rohesia his wife and Henry de Pomeroy, which took place in the reign of King John. But there was a much closer connection with the county in later days. Unfortunately, space makes it impossible to touch on more than a few of the most striking events in the career of John Russell, first Earl of Bedford, to whom the Abbey was granted.
On January 11, 1506, the Archduke Philip of Austria was driven by a violent storm to take shelter at Weymouth, where Sir Thomas Trenchard, Governor of the Coast, hurried to receive him, and to offer such entertainment as he could provide. It so happened that there was staying with Sir Thomas a young cousin lately returned from his travels, who combined great 'skill in foreign languages ... with his sprightly conversation and polite address.' The Archduke was enchanted to find someone better acquainted with his speech and customs than the stay-at-home squires who surrounded him, and when he set out for Windsor he would not leave Mr Russell behind. To the King the Archduke praised his protege in glowing words, and he was given a small post at Court. Nature had favoured him at the start, for he is said to have been of 'a moving beauty that ... exacted a liking if not a love from all that saw him' and to this valuable gift was added that of a 'learned discourse and generous deportment.'
On the accession of Henry VIII, he won the good-will of the young King by the zeal with which he threw himself into 'the dance, the Masque, the pagent, the tourney,' in which Henry himself delighted; and he soon had a chance for distinguishing himself in serious matters. In 1513 he accompanied the King in his campaign in France, and on the march an unusually large cannon was 'overturned in a lagoon.... Impatient to signalise himself by some intrepid exploit, Mr Russell had the boldness to attempt its recovery, in the face of ten thousand French,' and 'with but two hundred and fifty adventurers under him as resolute as himself, he succeeded in the effort.'
In 1517 Mr Russell was appointed Deputy-Governor of Tournay; in 1532 he was knighted after taking part in a descent on the coast of Brittany, and in later years he rose to positions of great and greater importance. When Henry was supporting the Constable de Bourbon against his Sovereign, Francis I, Sir John was entrusted with the dangerous mission of conveying a huge sum of money through a country where many were well affected to the French King.
One of his first steps was to leave his company at a town on the frontier with orders to spread the news that he was ill, whilst he hastened without escort and with the money—Henry had promised the Duke de Bourbon 100,000 crowns a month—to Geneva. Here he heard the comforting news that the Swiss and Frenchmen were so certain of robbing him that they had already 'lotted every of the captains his portion of the said money.' With great speed and secrecy he caused it to be 'packed in bales, trussed with baggage, as oats or old clothes, to make it bulky, and nicked with a merchant's mark.' As a further precaution he begged the help of the Duke of Savoy, who eventually allowed muleteers in his service to hire mules as if for his own use to take it across the mountains, and 'so bruit it to be carried as his stuff unto the Duchess his wife.' Arrived at Chambery, the secret of the bales was allowed to leak a very little, and Sir John, knowing that there were 'divers ambushes and enterprises set for to attrap me,' set out again with his bales towards Geneva. Out of sight of the town he altered his course for Mont Cenis. And this expedient was in itself a blind, for two or three days before Sir John's departure the treasure had been sent very secretly on other mules to Turin, where it arrived safely. He finishes his account with conscious simplicity: 'Which ways was occasion, as I think the said enterprises to fail of their purpose.'
Sir John met with many very exciting adventures, of which perhaps the most interesting is one that happened to him at Bologna, for here he was very skilfully rescued from an unpleasant position by the great Thomas Cromwell, then a practically unknown soldier. Sir John was passing through the town, when he was very treacherously stopped and surrounded in his hotel by the municipal authorities. Cromwell managed to persuade them that he was a Neapolitan acquaintance of Sir John, and that if he might speak to him he would be able to induce the knight to surrender himself into their hands. But what he actually did was to suggest to Sir John that he should change clothes with a servant that Cromwell had brought with him, and in this disguise he helped him to escape from the town.
When Cromwell came to England, it was Sir John who first commended him to Wolsey's notice.
In the reign of Charles I, William, Lord Russell (afterwards Earl of Bedford), and Pym, the great commoner, were returned together as co-members for Tavistock; and when war was declared the Earl of Bedford sided with the Parliament and was appointed to raise the Devonshire Militia for them. He was not personally hostile to the King but thought, like others, that if Charles saw the Parliament in arms against him, he would realize that the nation was resolute in defence of its liberty. The Earl of Bedford, at the head of his recruits, engaged the enemy near Sherborne Castle, and was victorious; and at the battle of Edge Hill he 'was reported by Lord Wharton to have done extraordinary service.' Later he was among those most anxious for a treaty of peace, but he suffered from holding too moderate views. In taking up arms against the King he had offended the Queen too bitterly to be well received when he, in company with some other peers, went to the Court at Oxford, and his sympathy with the King alienated him from the Parliament. Sincerely anxious for peace, he soon saw the hopelessness of all efforts in that direction, and long before the struggle was over he practically withdrew from public affairs.
Tavistock's greatest glory, Sir Francis Drake, has already been spoken of; but among the lesser lights is a Captain fully worthy to have sailed in the company of Queen Elizabeth's illustrious Captains, though he lived in the less triumphant days of Charles I. Captain Richard Peeke, or Peke, or Pike (he signs himself Peeke in his pamphlet, but in a private letter Dr. Meddus, a contemporary, refers to him as Pike), has left no account of his career, only that of his great adventure in Spain.
A local schoolmaster hails him with these flamboyant lines:
'Search whither can be found again the like For noble prowess to our Tav'stock Pike,— In whose renowned, never-dying name Live England's honour and the Spaniard's shame.'
In 1625 Peeke joined the force that King Charles and Queen Henrietta helped to start from Plymouth. Sir Edward Cecil was in command, and, as a result of this expedition, earned for himself the nickname of Sit-Still. Peeke's account is excellent, although he begins by saying that he knows not 'the fine Phrases of Silken Courtiers'; but 'a good Shippe I know and a poore Cabbin and the language of a Cannon ... as my Breeding has bin Rough (scorning Delicacy) so must my Writings be.'
The first attack was made on 'Cales' (Cadiz), and Peeke gives a vivid description of the hot and stubborn fight that took place before the fort of Puntal surrendered. The whole army was then landed, but Peeke did not go with them; 'for I was no Land Soldier, and therefore all that while kept aboard.' As the fate of the expedition has nothing to do with his story, it is enough to say that the men got very much out of hand, the Commander, in great alarm, hurriedly retreated, and, without attempting to follow up his victory on land, set sail in pursuit of a Spanish fleet that he never came up with, and three weeks later returned in disgrace to England.
To return to Richard Peeke. After the army had all landed he thought that 'the late storms had beaten all the Spaniards in' for a time, and that he would go on shore for a little diversion. Meeting some Englishmen coming back to the ships, laden with 'Oranges and Lymons' which they had taken from some gardens not far off, he set off to find some fruit for himself, the men assuring him that there was no danger. Less than a mile away, however, he came, '(for all their talking of no danger), on Three Englishmen starke dead, being slayne, lying in the way,' and another 'not fully dead.... I then resolved (and was about it) for Christian Charities sake, and for Countries sake, to have carried him on my back to our Shippes, farre off though they lay.... But my good intents were prevented; for, on a sodaine, came rushing in vpon me a Spanish Horseman, whose name as afterwards I was informed was Don Juan of Cales, a Knight.... Five or sixe Skirmishes wee had, and for a pretty while fought off and on.' As the fight went on Peeke got the better of Don Juan, who 'fell on his knees and crying out in French to me, Pardone moy, je vous pree. Je suie un buon Chrestien.... Having a Soldier's minde to Rifle him, I searched for jewels, but found only five Pieces of Eight about him.' Here Fortune turned, for 'fourteen Spanish Muskateers, spying me so busy about one of their Countreymen,' came to his rescue, and Peeke was forced to yield himself prisoner. 'True Valour (I see) goes not aluaies in good Cloathes, for Don Juan (when my hands were in a manner bound behind me) ... wounded me through the Face, from Eare to Eare, and had there killed me, had not the fourteen Muskateers rescued me from his Rage.'
Peeke was again severely wounded while being led through the streets of Cadiz, but met with better treatment in prison, though his forebodings were gloomy. And when he was soon afterwards sent for by the Governor to Xeres, he went 'wondrous unwilling ... because I feared I should ther be put to Tortures.' On the day of trial he was brought before a great assembly of nobles, 'my sword lying before them on the table. It was reached to me; I tooke it and embraced it in mine arms, and with teares in my eyes kist the Pommel of it. He [the Duke of Medina] then demanded how many men I had kild with that Weapon? I told him, if I had kild one, I had not bene there now before that Princely Assembly, for when I had him at my foote, begging for mercy, I gave him Life, yet he then very poorely did me a mischiefe. Then they asked Don John (my Prisoner) what Woundes I gave him; He sayd, None: Upon this he was rebuked and told, that if upon our first Encounter, he had run me through, it had been a faire and Noble Triumph; but so to wound me, being in the hands of others, they held it Base.' Peake was now questioned as to the name of his ship, the Captain, and the number of cannon on board. 'I sayd, forty Peices. But the Lords, looking all this while on a Paper which they held in their hands, Duke Medyna sayd, In their note there was but thirty-eight.' He afterwards found that in that paper they had every detail about 'our Shippes, their Burden, Men ... as perfect as wee ourselves had them in England. Of what strength (quoth another Duke) is the Fort of Plymouth? I answered, very Strong. What Ordnance in it? Fifty, sayd I. That is not so, sayd he, there is but seuenteene. How many Soldiers are in the Fort? I answered, Two hundred: That is not so (quoth a Conde), there is but twenty.
'Marquesse Alquenezes asked me, of what strength the little Island was before Plymouth. I told him, I know not; Then (quoth he), wee doe.
'Is Plymouth a Walled Towne? Yes, my Lords. And a good Wall? Yes, say I, a very good Wall: True, sayd a Duke, to leape ouer with a Staffe. And hath the Towne, sayd the Duke of Medyna, strong Gates? Yes. But, quoth he, there were neither Wood nor Iron to those Gates, but two dayes before your Fleete came away.' Among many other questions, they asked why 'in all this Brauery of the Fleete the English had not taken Cales as well as Puntal?' To which Peeke, who must have often asked this question of himself, replied boldly that 'the Lord Generall ... was loath to rob an Almeshouse, hauing a better Market to goe to. Cales, I told them, was held Poore, unmanned, unmunitioned. What better market? sayd Medyna. I told him Genoa or Lisbon.'
All around stood the 'Common People,' who made the ordeal still harder by 'many jeerings, mockings, scornes, and bitter jests' against the English, 'which I must not so much as bite my lippe against, but with an inforced patient care stood still.... Amongst many other raproches and spightfull Names, one of the Spaniards called English Men Gallinas (Hennes).' This amused the 'Great Lords,' and one of them asked the prisoner if the Spaniards, when they came to England (in war), would prove such hens as the English. To which Peeke answered, 'somewhat emboldned by his merry countenance,' that they would prove chickens. 'Darst thou then (quoth Duke of Medyna, with a browe half angry) fight with one of these Spanish Pullets? O my Lord! sayd I, I am a Prisoner, and my life at stake, and therefore dare not be so bold as to adventure upon any such Action, ... Yet ... with all told him, he was unworthy of the Name of an English Man, that should refuse to fight with one Man of any Nation whatsoever. Hereupon my Shackells were knockt off and my Iron Ring and Chayne taken from my Neck.'
The first challenger was quickly disposed of. 'I was then demanded, If I durst Fight against an other? I told them my heart was good to adventure; but I humbly requested them to giue me pardon if I refused. For to my selfe I too well knew that the Spaniard is Haughty, Impatient of the least affront: And when he received but a touch of any Dishonour, Disgrace or Blemish (especially in his owne Countrey, and from an English man) his Revenge is implacable, mortall and bloudy.
'Yet being by the Noblemen pressed agen and agen to try my Fortune with an other, I (seeing my Life was in the Lyon's paw, to struggle with whome for safety there was no way but one, and being afrayd to displease them) sayd: That if their Graces and Greatnesses would giue me leave to play at mine owne Countrey Weapon called the Quarter Staffe, I was then ready there an Oposite, against any Commer.' When a 'hansome and well Spirited Spaniard steps foorth, with his Rapier and Poniard,' Peeke explained that he 'made little account of that One to play with, and should shew them no Sport.
'Then a second (Arm'd as before) presents himselfe; I demanded if there would come no more? The Dukes asked, how many I desired? I told them, any number under sixe. Which resolution of mine, they smiling at, in a kind of scorne, held it not Manly ... to worry one Man with a Multitude.
'Now Gentlemen, if here you condemne me for plucking (with mine owne hands) such an assured danger upon mine head: Accept of these Reasons for excuse.
'To dye, I thought it most certaine, but to dye basely, I would not: For Three to kill One had bin to mee no Dishonour; To them (Weapons considered) no Glory: An Honourable Subjection I esteemed better, than an Ignoble conquest.... Only Heaven I had in mine eye, the Honor of my Country in my heart, my Fame at the Stake, my Life on a narrow Bridge, and death before and behind me.'
With a supreme effort Peeke succeeded in killing one of his opponents and disabling the other two. Then for a moment he feared the threatening anger of the crowd, but the nobles showed great generosity in their admiration of his pluck, whether they felt mortified or not, and he was treated with extreme kindness, both then and afterwards. He 'was kept in the Marquesse Alquenezes House, who one day ... desired I would sing. I willing to obey him (whose goodnesse I had tasted), did so, and sung this Psalme: When as we sate in Babylon, etc. The meaning of which being told he saide to me, English Man, comfort thyself, for thou art in no Captivity.'
Peeke was then sent to the King of Spain, who tried to keep him in his service, but with a becoming gratitude for the favours shown to him, Peeke begged to be allowed to return home, 'being a Subject onely to the King of England.' Whereupon the King very magnanimously gave 'one hundred Pistoletts to beare my charges.'
A play has been written called 'Dick of Devonshire,' in which the adventures of 'Dick Pike' are set in the midst of a Spanish tragi-comedy.
Nothing is known of Peeke's life after he came back to his own country, but there are strong reasons for believing that he returned to Tavistock. And if it was himself, and not a namesake, who flourished there, in 1638, our hero might be seen in an entirely new role, for that year Richard Peeke filled the peaceful office of people's churchwarden!
Tavistock's fine church is dedicated to St Eustachius, and it has a high battlemented tower crowned with slender pinnacles. The tower is 'pierced with arches in all four sides, so that it stands on piers. It is thus a true campanile, and was never joined to the church.' There are monuments to several families in the nave and chancel, and stories and memories crowd especially round two of them. One is the tomb of John Fitz of Fitz-ford and his wife, at the back of which their son Sir John kneels at a desk with a book before him.
Fitzford House is close to Tavistock, and with the property came to Sir John's daughter, Lady Howard, round whose name many tales have gathered. In Mrs Bray's time Lady Howard was regarded as 'a female Bluebeard,' but a later verdict is more charitable, and it is now thought that the unhappy lady has been much maligned. Being a great heiress, her hand was disposed of when she was only twelve years old, and she was married to Sir Alan Percy, who died three years afterwards. There is a proverb—
'Winter-time for shoeing, Peascod-time for wooing;'
but Lady Howard must have been wooed at all seasons. One month after her husband's death she escaped from her chaperon, and secretly married Lord Darcy's son, who only survived a few months. When she was hardly sixteen, she found a third husband in Sir Charles Howard, by whose name she is always known, although after his death she married Sir Richard Grenville. Her last 'venture,' as Prince calls it, was a very wretched one; Sir Richard treated her abominably, and she retaliated to the worst of her power. After her death, Mrs Bray says (in that delightful storehouse of local traditions, 'The Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy'), there arose a belief that she was 'doomed to run in the shape of a hound from the gateway of Fitzford to Okehampton Park, between the hours of midnight and cock-crowing, and to return with a single blade of grass in her mouth whence she started; and this she was to do till every blade was picked, when the world would be at an end.'
'Dr Jago, the clergyman of Milton Abbot, however, told me that occasionally she was said to ride in a coach of bones up the West Street towards the Moor.... My husband can remember that, when a boy, it was a common saying with the gentry at a party, "It is growing late; let us be gone, or we shall meet Lady Howard as she starts from Fitzford."'
A still more conspicuous monument in the church is connected with the other tragedy. The family of Glanvills had long been settled near Tavistock, and the figure is of Judge Glanvill in his robes. At his feet kneels a life-size figure of his wife. 'Her buckram waist, like armour, sleeves, ruff, and farthingale are all monstrous; and her double-linked gold chains are grand enough for the Lord Mayor. On the whole she looks so very formidable, that thus seen stationed before the Judge, she might be considered as representing Justice herself, but it would be in her severest mood.'
The mournful story is that of another member of the family, Eulalia Glanvill, who was forced against her will to marry an old man named Page, when she was in love with a young man, George Strangwich. After much misery, she and Strangwich agreed to murder Page, and the story is told in several ballads, in one of which there is a ring of sincerity which makes the 'verses sound better to the brain than to the ear.' It is now thought that the ballad was written by Delaney, but in the early editions the ballad was attributed to Mrs Page herself, and a copy in the Roxburghe Ballads is headed: 'Written with her owne hand, a little before her death.' 'The Lamentation of Master Page's Wife' was sung to the tune of 'Fortune my Foe':
'Unhappy she whom Fortune hath forlorne: Despis'd of grace, that proffered grace did scorne! My lawlesse love hath lucklesse wrought my woe; My discontent content did ov'rthrow.
'In blooming yeares my father's greedy mind, Against my will, a match for me did find; Great wealth there was, yea, gold and silver store; And yet my heart had chosen long before.
'On knees I prayde they would not me constraine, With teares I cride, their purpose to refraine; With sighs and sobs I did them often move. I might not wed, whereas I could not love.
'But all in vaine my speeches still I spent. My Father's will my wishes did prevent; Though wealthy Page possest my outward part, George Strangwidge still was lodged in my heart.
* * * * *
'Lo! here began my downfall and decay! In mind I mus'd to make him straight away, I, that became his discontented wife, Contented was he should be rid of life.
* * * * *
'Well could I wish that Page enjoy'd his life So that he had some other to his wife; But never could I wish, of low or hie, A longer life, and see sweet Strangwidge die.
'You Parents fond that greedy-minded be, And seek to graffe upon the golden tree, Consider well, and rightfull Judges be, And give your doome 'twixt Parents' love and me.
'I was their child, and bound for to obey, Yet not to wed where I no love could lay; I married was to much and endless strife, But faith before had made me Strangwidge wife.
'You Denshire Dames and courteous Cornwall Knights That here are come to visit woefull wights, Regard my griefe, and marke my wofull end, And to your children be a better friend.
'And then, my deare, which for my fault must dye, Be not afraid the sting of death to try; Like as we liv'd and lov'd together true, So both at once, we'll bid the world adue.'
'The Lamentation of George Strangwidge' many times lapses into bathos, but as in a way it answers the other ballad, I will quote a few verses:
'O Glanfield! cause of my committed crime, Snared in wealth, as Birds in bush of lime, What cause had thou to beare such wicked spight Against my Love, and eke my hart's delight?
'I would to God thy wisdome had been more, Or that I had not ent'red at the door; Or that thou hadst a kinder Father beene Unto thy Childe, whose yeares are yet but greene.
'Ulalia faire, more bright than summer's sunne, Whose beauty had my heart for ever won, My soule more sobs to thinke of thy disgrace, Than to behold my owne untimely race.
'The deed late done in heart I doe lament, But that I lov'd, I cannot it repent; Thy seemely sight was ever sweet to me. Would God my death could thy excuser be.'
Kilworthy House, which in those days belonged to the Glanvills, is now the property of the Duke of Bedford.
Tavistock seems to have maintained an open mind, or perhaps was forced into keeping open house, during the Civil War; but Fitzford House, then belonging to Sir Richard Grenville, held out resolutely for the King, until overpowered by Lord Essex. The people seem to have been rather indifferent to the cause of the war, and very sensible of its hardships, for it was here suggested that a treaty might be made, 'whereby the peace of those two counties of Cornwall and Devon might be settled and the war removed into other parts.' It was a really excellent method of shifting an unpleasant burden on to other shoulders, but in actual warfare, unfortunately, impracticable, although the treaty was drawn up and for a short time a truce was observed.
At the end of this year (1645) Prince Charles paid a visit to the town, and was so much 'annoyed by wet weather, that ever after, if anybody remarked it was a fine day, he was wont to declare that, however fine it might be elsewhere, he felt quite sure it must be raining at Tavistock.' One cannot help wondering if his courtiers kept to English tradition of perpetually speaking of the weather.
To walk away from Tavistock along the Tavy's bank is to follow the footsteps of that river's special poet, William Browne. His poems are not so well known as they might be, and his most celebrated lines are nearly always attributed to Ben Jonson—I mean the fine epitaph on 'Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother'—though any doubt as to the author of the lines is cleared up by a manuscript in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Not very many details of his life are known, but he had the happiness of being better appreciated by his contemporaries than by posterity, and Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton wrote complimentary verses, as a sort of introduction to volumes of his poems when they were published. Browne's work is very uneven, many of his poems are charming, some diffuse and rather poor; but he had a sincere feeling for Nature, and his nymphs and swains revelled in posies and garlands in the shade of groves full of singing birds.
In the third book of his long poem, 'Britannia's Pastorals,' there is a quaint and pretty song, of which one verse runs:
'So shuts the marigold her leaves At the departure of the sun; So from the honeysuckle sheaves The bee goes when the day is done; So sits the turtle when she is but one, And so all woe, as I, since she is gone.'
A deliciously whimsical touch marks his description of a feast of Oberon:
'The glasses, pure and thinner than we can See from the sea-betroth'd Venetian, Were all of ice, not made to overlast One supper, and betwixt two cowslips cast. A prettier hath not yet been told, So neat the glass was, and so feat the mould. A little spruce elf then (just of the set Of the French dancer or such marionette), Clad in a suit of rush, woven like a mat, A monkshood flow'r then serving for a hat; Under a cloak made of the Spider's loom: This fairy (with them, held a lusty groom) Brought in his bottles; neater were there none; And every bottle was a cherry-stone, To each a seed pearl served for a screw, And most of them were fill'd with early dew.'
Now and again in his verses there peeps out a joyful pride in his county, and his love of the Tavy is deep to his heart's core.
Some way below Tavistock is Buckland Abbey, founded by Amicia, Countess of Devon, in 1278, and for long years the home of Cistercians. At the Dissolution the Abbey was granted for a small sum to Sir Richard Grenville (grandfather of the hero of the Revenge), who altered it into a dwelling-house. Sir Richard, his grandson, sold it to John Hele and Christopher Harrys, who were probably acting for Sir Francis Drake, and he formally bought it of them ten months later. The house was built in the body of the church, and it is still easy to trace its ecclesiastical origin from some of the windows and architecture. In the hall is a fine frieze, with raised figures in high relief and an elaborate background, the subject a knight turned hermit. The knight, wearing a hermit's robe, is sitting beneath spreading boughs, and a skull is lodged in a hollow of the tree-trunk. His charger and his discarded armour lie near him. In the same hall rests the famous drum that went round the world with Drake, the drum referred to in the traditional promise that Mr Newbolt has put into verse:
'Take my drum to England, hang it by the shore; Strike it when the powder's running low; If the Dons sight Devon, I'll quit the port of Heaven, An' drum them up the Channel, as we drummed them long ago.'
A short distance below the Abbey, the Tavy, now broadened into a wide but still shallow stream, ripples and hurries over the pebbles in a deep valley between wooded hills. Returning to Tavistock and going up the river, one arrives at the pretty and very remote village of Peter Tavy. The houses are scattered about in an irregular group, a stream runs through them to join the Tavy, and just above the wide bridge the brook divides, flowing each side of a diamond-shaped patch, green with long grass and cabbages. A steep slope leads up to the little church, which stands back, and a tiny avenue of limes leads up to it from the lichgate. The tower is battlemented, and the church must have been partly rebuilt, for parts of it are early English and the rest late Perpendicular. Within are slender clustered columns, supporting wide arches, and different designs are sculptured on the sides of the granite font.
Close by is a glen, which Mrs Bray says, 'I have ventured to name the Valley of Waterfalls, on account of the vast number of small but exquisitely beautiful falls seen there.' A narrow lane with high hedges leads round the shoulder of the hill to the steep little valley, where the Tavy jostles against obstructive boulders, and a high, narrow, unstable-looking bridge of tarred timber (sometimes called a 'clam' bridge) crosses the stream. Climbing up on the farther side, the road soon reaches the village of Mary Tavy. In reference to these villages a very old joke is told of a Judge unacquainted with these parts who, in trying a case, not unnaturally confused the names with those of witnesses, and ordered that Peter and Mary Tavy be brought into court. Mary Tavy has not the unusual attractiveness of Peter Tavy. It looks barer, and is overshadowed by that peculiarly comfortless air always given by chimneys or machinery of mines. The church stands above the road, and beside it a large old tree, whose lower branches are so abundantly covered with polypody that the fronds hang like long fringes from either side of each branch. The porch has a white groined ceiling, crossed with fragments of the old timber roof, on which are bosses carved in different designs.
From Mary Tavy a road runs nearly parallel to the river. Beyond Horndon the houses are fewer and more scattered, and somehow there is a suggestion that one is coming nearer and nearer to the verge of civilization. The few houses look nice in themselves, with the exception of a farm, so cheerless and neglected-looking, that it was a surprise to find it inhabited; and not far beyond this house the road reaches another and very different farm, looking full of comfort—and goes no farther. This farm has the significant name of Lane End, and one realizes from its solitary, exposed position that the high and substantial wall surrounding it was built for sound reasons. It stands on the moor, and the cultivation is of the roughest kind; the fields, such as they are, being plentifully sprinkled with huge boulders. In winter, when there is much fear of snow, these fields serve as an enclosure for the ponies that are driven-in off the moor—looking like wild animals in their long, hanging, furry coats. The river is heard dashing over the rocks below, and about a mile farther on is Tavy Cleave.
The last time I saw it a vague threat hung over everything, adding a cold fascination to the moor. The hills showed tints of faint green and palest brown, and patches of bracken gave a consoling shade of russet. Hare Tor rose beyond, silent and impressive, covered with snow. The Tavy had a new beauty, for it was almost frozen over, and the dark water, and along whirling scraps of foam, showed between the blocks of ice and snow, and the boulders were each bordered with shining white. The sky was heavy with snow-clouds, and beneath them and in the rifts were stormy red sunset tints, while a cold blue-grey mist was creeping up the valley.
There are some places—the Castle of Elsinore, for instance—that seem to have an amazing and incomprehensible gift of resisting civilization. They may be brought up to date, and trimmed, and filled with inappropriate people, and everything else done that should spoil them, but in spite of it all they do not for a moment look as if any modern extraneous objects had a meaning for them. They belong to their own day and its manner, and to no other.
The same sort of feeling hovers about Tavy Cleave, and a great sense of the mystery that here more, there less, broods over the moor. But there is no suggestion as to who it is that the moor has most truly and absolutely belonged to, nor even the region of time: only the feeling that the valley is, in a finer than the usual sense, haunted.
As a valley Tavy Cleave is very beautiful, with its steep sides and clear rushing stream and red granite rocks, half in and half out of the river, that have a charm they entirely lose when once away from the water. Mr Widgery shows how admirable they are in their proper place, with their reflections quivering beneath them. Sometimes a kind of black moss grows upon them, and tiny bits of white lichen, giving together a curious tortoiseshell look. Above, the hill-sides are covered with heather and broom and whortleberries among masses of loose rocks, and now and again there is the vivid green of a patch of bog. The great masses of rocks crowning the separate points on the hill-side, like ruined rock-castles, add to the air of mystery.
Looking to the west from above the Cleave, one sees—as from any distance round one sees—the most characteristic height of Brent Tor, with the tiny church on the top. It is not that the tor is so very high, but in some astonishing way it always seems to appear as a landmark, north, south, east, or west, when one imagines it to be absolutely out of range. The sides are steep and rocky, and the church stands 'full bleak and weather-beaten, all-alone as it were, forsaken, whose churchyard doth hardly afford depth of earth to bury the dead; yet doubtless they rest there as securely as in sumptuous St Peter's until the day of Doom.'
The story told of the church is that a man once almost gave himself up for lost—some say in a storm, others in an impenetrable, unending fog—in the Channel, and vowed that, if he ever came safe to shore, he would build a church on the first bit of land he saw. As Brent Tor is far inland, the fog story sounds the more probable, for there is no saying how mist wreaths may drift. The church is dedicated to St Michael de la Rupe, and here another tradition comes in, for it is popularly supposed that, when the building of the church was begun, the devil pulled away all the day's work in the night. At last St Michael came to the rescue, and hurled such an enormous mass of rock upon the devil that he fled away and hindered no more. The building is very tiny, and a countryman told me that as a child he used to be puzzled by the cryptic warning: 'If you get into the second aisle of Brent Tor Church, you will never get out again.' Of course—there is no second aisle.
The beauty of many of the places on the banks of the Tamar is celebrated. Among the exquisite woods and lawns of Endsleigh—through which one Duke of Bedford cut no less than forty miles in rides—the river twists and winds for a long distance at one point, and curves round almost into a ring. A little farther south are Morwell Rocks, which Mr Norway had the good fortune to see in the spring. 'The trees stretch far away along the river, dense and close to the water's edge, a mountain of gold and sunny green, broken in the midst by a high grey crag, which stands up sheer and grey amid the mass of gorgeous colour. This is the first peak of a great range of limestone cliffs, which for the most part, as the hill sweeps round above the village of Morwellham, are hidden in the woods. But when that tiny cluster of cottages and wharves is left behind, the stream creeps closer to the hill, and it is as if the buried rock stirred and flung the coppice off its shoulders, for the limestone precipices rise vertically out of the water to a vast height. The summits are weathered into most fantastic shapes, pinnacles and towers break the skyline, and wherever a crevice in the rock has allowed the lodging of a little earth, some oak-tree roots itself, or a wild tangle of greenery drops down the scarred surface of the cliff.'
A little farther down, the Tamar and the Tavy join, and with the Cornish Lynher form the Hamoaze—a view of land and water that is very admirable. It is not a scene whose dimly realized charm grows gradually stronger, but one whose triumphant beauty is beyond dispute. The innumerable creeks and inlets, the rich abundance of foliage and pasture, and the sweeping sense of spaciousness from the open sea that comes off Plymouth Sound, help to make the grand effect; and the feelings of few can be quite unstirred by the battleships, or perhaps black sinister destroyers, and the multitude of other shipping lying at anchor in that famous haven, and by the thought of all that they mean to us.
The Taw and the Torridge
'Hither from my moorland home, Nymph of Torridge, proud I come; Leaving fen and furzy brake, Haunt of eft and spotted snake ... Nursling of the mountain sky, Leaving Dian's choir on high, Down her cataracts laughing loud, Ockment leapt from crag and cloud, Leading many a nymph, who dwells Where wild deer drink in ferny dells.... Graecia, prize thy parsley crown; Boast thy laurel, Caesar's town; Moorland myrtle still shall be Badge of Devon's Chivalry!'
KINGSLEY: Westward Ho!
'All who have travelled through the delicious scenery of North Devon must needs know the little white town of Bideford, which slopes upwards from its broad tide-river paved with yellow sands, and many-arched old bridge, where salmon wait for autumn floods, toward the pleasant upland in the west. Above the town the hills close in, cushioned with deep oak-woods, through which juts here and there a crag of fern-fringed slate; below they lower and open more and more on softly rounded knolls and fertile squares of red and green, till they sink into the wide expanse of hazy flats, rich salt-marshes, and rolling sand-hills, where Torridge joins her sister Taw, and both together flow quietly toward the broad surges of the bar and the everlasting thunder of the long Atlantic swell.'
It is difficult to imagine that there could be a more fitting description of Bideford than that drawn in the opening words of 'Westward Ho!' Bideford, it has been said, is spoilt by ugly modern houses, but the remark implies a matter-of-fact view, for the ugliness and modernness are only skin-deep, and can easily be ignored. A matter of far greater importance is that there is an old-world essence, a dignity in the whole tone and spirit of the town, that keep it in touch with the glorious past.
Faithful followers of the heroes on the borderland of myth—King Arthur, Charlemagne, Holger Danske—believed that in their country's need these would arise from the shades to lead their people to victory; and at Bideford one feels that, should any 'knight of the sea' return, he would find a town not strange to him, and, if the stress were sharp enough to pierce the thin husk that later civilization has added, a people who would understand and not fail him.
The name comes from By-the-ford, but a ford between East-the-water and the town must have been rather perilous, and only possible at low-tide. In the early part of the fourteenth century some of the chief inhabitants resolved to build a bridge, but several efforts were made in vain, for they were always thwarted by failure to find a firm enough foundation. Then Sir Richard Gurney, priest of the place, was 'admonished by a vision ... to begin that excellent work ... where he should find a stone fixed in the ground.' This dream he thought nothing of, 'until, walking by the river, he espied such a stone or rock there rolled and fixed firmly, which he never remembered to have seen formerly,' and was hereby convinced 'that his dream was no other than an heavenly inspiration.' The whole neighbourhood combined to help, the rich sending money and lending the services of their workmen, and the poor giving such time and labour as they could afford. The bridge, which has since been widened, is a very fine one, of twenty-four arches. Westcote says: 'A bark of 60 tons (without masts) may pass and repass with the tide, which flows near five miles above it.'
Gifts and bequests were made to the bridge, and the funds belonging to it became so large, and the business connected with them so important, that in 1758 a hall was built for the use of the feoffees, and decorated with the royal arms and the arms of the bridge.
St Mary's Church was built about the same date as the bridge, but about forty years ago all but the tower was pulled down and rebuilt. It had suffered considerably from the ravages of the Reformers, whose horror of ritualism reached the point of throwing the font out of doors, whereupon 'one schismatic,' more crazy than the rest, took it, says Watkins, in wrath, 'for the purpose of a trough for his swine to feed out of; and if he had had his deserts, he would have made one of their company.' The font was probably rescued by some pious person, for the one now in the church is a fine Norman one, with cable moulding.
In this church was baptized 'Raleigh,' the Indian brought back by Sir Richard Grenville from Carolina, and called after the great Sir Walter, who was doing much for that country. Sir Richard kept 'Raleigh' in his own house, and the dark stranger must have caused great chattering and excitement among the children and some of their elders in the town, but he did not survive transplantation, and a year later was buried in Bideford Churchyard. In the register he is described as a native of Wynganditoia.
On the south side of the church is the tomb of Thomas Grenville, who lies in armour, with a dog—not, as on most monuments, at his feet, but by his side. On the tomb are various coats of arms, and over it rises an arch ornamented with high stone tracery. A curious screen between the tower and the church has been made from the old carved bench-ends. Most of the subjects are grotesque, and on some of the panels are gnome-like heads, with long beards, big hats, and impudent, leering expressions.
In the churchyard is a tombstone with this epitaph:
'Here lies the body of Mary Sexton, Who pleased many a man, but never vex'd one, Not like the woman who lies under the next stone.'
Nowadays there is not much foreign trade, although a few vessels with outlandish names may be seen lying stranded at low-water alongside the quay. But Bideford had a full share of the prosperity that Devonshire ports enjoyed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The merchants were encouraged by Sir Richard Grenville, who, fired by the 'gallant and ingenious' Sir Walter Raleigh, ventured first fortune and then himself in commanding an expedition planned by his friend and kinsman. The expedition did not meet with great success in its main object, which was to establish a colony for the settlers, who, finding insurmountable hardships and difficulties, were all brought home later by Sir Francis Drake; but a Spanish treasure-ship of immense wealth was captured on the way back. It was said that in different ventures 'Bideford, in consequence of its lord, had some share, but chiefly with respect to its mariners.' So, after Sir Richard had fought his splendid last fight, and when his immediate influence was gone, independent merchants and mariners went on to fresh enterprises, and commerce continued to increase. Trading with Spain for wool soon became an important branch, but of still greater consequence was the trade with Newfoundland. When William and Mary reigned, Bideford was sending more ships there than any other port in the kingdom but London and—strange to say—Topsham. In the next reign the merchants suffered immense losses from French privateers, who, making the island of Lundy their headquarters, spied almost every ship that passed up and down the Bristol Channel. To them, Bideford or Barnstaple Bay was 'emphatically the Golden Bay, from the great number of valuable prizes which they captured on it.' Traffic with America had, however, greatly declined, before it was killed by the War of Independence.
In the history of Bideford the name of Grenville shines on many occasions. Both Devon and Cornwall claim this eminent family, their 'chiefest habitation' of Stow being in Cornwall, while, according to some authorities, their first dwelling-place in this part of the world was at Bideford.
Richard de Grenville, near the end of the fourteenth century, for his valour and courage in the Welsh wars was awarded the town and county of Neath, in Glamorgan. Being pious as well as brave, he devoted all this wealth to the Church, building and endowing a monastery for Cistercian monks. A quaint 'prophecy' regarding this family was said to have been found many years later in the Abbey of Neeth, where it was kept 'in a most curious box of jett, written in the year 1400.'
'Amongst the trayne of valiant knights That with King William came, Grenvile is great, a Norman borne, Renowned by his fame; His helmet ras'd and first unlac'd Upon the Cambrian shore, Where he in honour of his God The Abbey did decore With costly buildings, ornaments, And gave us spatious lands, As the first-fruits which victory Did give into his hands.'
Watkins refrains from any comment as to the genuineness of the 'prophecy' (of which I have only quoted a small portion), but perhaps the critical would gather from the whole tone, and especially from the closing lines, which have a flattering reference to the reign of a King Charles, that it was written about the date of its discovery.
The dignity and authority, the commanding presence of Sir Richard as a country gentleman, a neighbour, a Justice of the Peace, are admirably suggested in 'Westward Ho!' Apart from warfare on land or sea, he interested himself in a host of affairs at home, and was both member of parliament and High Sheriff for Cornwall. He was also called to serve on Commissions for making inquiries about pirates and strengthening the defences of the coast; and notes show that within six months he was occupied with places as far east and west as Dover and Tintagel.
In 1587 he was appointed by the Queen to review the 'trained bands' in Devon and Cornwall, that nothing of their equipment might be lacking when the expected enemy arrived; and when the shattered remnants of the Armada were straggling down the Irish Channel, Sir Richard had special orders to 'stay all shipping upon the north coast of Devon and Cornwall.' The catalogue alone of the tasks allotted to him shows how greatly the Queen confided in his powers and judgment; yet all the tale of his life is completely overshadowed by the magnificence of his death:
'And he sailed away from Flores till the Spaniard came in sight, With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the weather-bow. "Shall we fight or shall we fly? Good Sir Richard, tell us now, For to fight is but to die! There'll be little of us left by the time this sun be set." And Sir Richard said again: "We be all good Englishmen; Let us bang those dogs of Seville, the children of the devil, For I never turned my back upon Don or devil yet." Sir Richard spoke and he laughed, and we roared a hurrah, and so The little Revenge ran on sheer into the heart of the foe, With her hundred fighters on deck, and her ninety sick below; For half of their fleet to the right and half on the left were seen, And the little Revenge ran on through the long sea-lane between.
* * * * *
And the sun went down and the stars came out far over the summer sea, But never a moment ceased the fight of the one and the fifty-three. Ship after ship, the whole night long, their high-built galleons came, Ship after ship, the whole night long, with her battle-thunder and flame; Ship after ship, the whole night long, drew back with her dead and her shame.'
When the day dawned, 'all the powder of the Revenge to the last barrell was now spent, all her pikes broken, fortie of her best men slaine, and the most part of the rest hurt.' Then Sir Richard 'commanded the maister Gunner, whom he knew to be a most resolute man, to split and sinke the ship; that thereby nothing might remaine of glorious victorie to the Spaniards; seeing in so manie houres fighte with so great a Navie they were not able to take her, having had fifteene houres time, fifteene thousand men, and fifty and three suite of menne of warre to perform it withall.'
The Captain and most of the crew felt that this supreme sacrifice was not required of them, and offered to treat with the Spaniards, who, filled with generous admiration for the amazing courage that had been shown by their adversaries, offered honourable terms of surrender. Sir Richard, who had received several wounds, and who was at the point of death, was carried on board the Spanish Admiral's ship, where his life ebbed away within a few days. 'Here die I, Richard Grenville, with a joyful and quiet mind, for that I have ended my life as a true soldier ought to do that hath fought for his country, Queen, religion, and honour: My soul willingly departing from this body, being behind the lasting fame of having behaved as every valiant soldier is in his duty bound to do.'
Sir Richard's famous grandson, Sir Bevil Grenville, was a brave soldier, but less awe-inspiring; 'the most generally beloved man in Cornwall,' according to Clarendon; and he adds that 'a brighter courage and a gentler disposition were never married together.' When war was declared, volunteers flocked to his standard, and in his first engagement, near Liskeard, he inflicted defeat on the Parliamentary troops, and took twelve hundred soldiers and all the guns.
At Stratton his achievements were even more brilliant, for his troops began at a serious disadvantage. The enemy, with ample supplies and ammunition, were encamped on the top of a hill; 'the Royalist troops, less than half their number, short of ammunition, and so destitute of provisions that the best officers had but a biscuit a day, lay at Launceston.' Undaunted by these discouraging conditions, they determined to attack, and having marched twenty miles, the soldiers arrived at the foot of the hill, weary, footsore, and exhausted from want of food. From dawn till late afternoon the storming-parties were again and again repulsed, till their powder was almost gone; then they scaled the hill in the face of cannon and muskets, to take the position by the force of swords and pikes. Grenville's party was the first to struggle up to the top, and it was almost immediately joined by the other columns, when the enemy broke in confusion and fled.
Sir Bevil met his death at Lansdowne, when, with grim doggedness, the Royalists were again climbing the heights in the face of the enemy's fire. Very many fell, and he among them. 'Young John Grenville, a lad of sixteen, sprang, it is said, into his father's saddle, and led the charge, and the Cornishmen followed with their swords drawn and with tears in their eyes, swearing they would kill a rebel for every hair of Sir Bevil's head.'
It is not possible to follow the careers of others of his family, but a saying in the West Country ran: 'That a Godolphin was never known to want wit, a Trelawney courage, or a Grenville loyalty.' Their love of adventure perhaps descended from an earlier Sir Richard Grenville, who puts forward his views in a poem called
SIR RICHARD GRENVILLE'S FAREWELL.
[Also entitled 'In Praise of Seafaring Men in Hope of Good Fortune, and describing Evil Fortune.']
Who seeks the way to win renown, Or flies with wings of high desert, Who seeks to wear the laurel crown, Or hath the mind that would aspire— Let him his native soil eschew, Let him go range and seek a new.
Each haughty heart is well content With every chance that shall betide— No hap can hinder his intent; He steadfast stands, though fortune slide. The sun, quoth he, doth shine as well Abroad as erst where I did dwell.
* * * * *
To pass the seas some think a toil; Some think it strange abroad to roam; Some think it grief to leave their soil, Their parents, kinsfolk, and their home. Think so who list, I take it not; I must abroad to try my lot.
* * * * *
If Jason of that mind had been, The Grecians, when they came to Troy, Had never so the Trojans fooled, Nor ne'er put them to such annoy; Wherefore, who list to live at home, To purchase fame I will go roam.
Directly, Bideford suffered very little from the Civil War. In the early days the town was for the Parliament, and two forts were built, one on each side of the river; but after a defeat near Torrington, in the autumn of 1643, the citizens surrendered to the royal army. 'Their spirit for rebellion was considerably reduced,' says their special historian; 'they remained perfectly neutral to the dreadful end of that unhappy war.'
Unfortunately, it is not possible here to dwell upon the delightful minor annals of Bideford, such as the history of that stalwart pamphleteer, Dr Shebbeare, who, for his repeated attacks on the Ministry, was condemned to stand in the pillory at Charing Cross. The sentence was carried out, but not exactly in the usual manner, for 'Mr Beardmore, the under-sheriff, being a friend of the Doctor's, permitted him to stand unconfined on the platform of the pillory, attended by a servant in livery holding an umbrella over him.' It is lamentable that the authorities were sufficiently vindictive and small-minded to visit this act of friendly tolerance on Mr Beardmore with a fine of L50 and two months' imprisonment. Dr. Shebbeare was also imprisoned; but later in life the tide turned, and the King was persuaded to pension him with L200. As Dr Johnson was pensioned about the same time, with the same sum, the joke ran that the King had shown benevolence to a He Bear and a She Bear.
It is also impossible to do more than touch on the tragic episode of 1682—the trial of three unhappy women, Susanna Edwards, Temperance Lloyd, and Mary Trembles, who were accused of having practised witchcraft. Here are a few fragments of the evidence given at the trial. A witness said that, while nursing a sick woman, a magpie fluttered once against the window, and that Temperance admitted that this 'was the black man in the shape of a bird.' Another time 'a grey or braget cat' of rather mysterious movements was an object of suspicion, and Temperance was reported to have confessed that 'she believed it to be the Devil.' The evidence of a dead woman was brought forward, she having 'deposed that the said Temperance had appeared to her in the shape of a red pig.' Susanna Edwards, under strict examination, 'confesseth that the Devil hath appeared to her in the shape of a Lyon, as she supposed.'
Some of the questions put to the wretched 'witches' were simply grotesque, and reflect, as Watkins caustically observes, on the intelligence of the examiner. Temperance was asked:
'Temperance, how did you come in to hurt Mrs Grace Thomas? Did you pass through the key-hole of the door, or was the door open?...
'H. [the examiner]. Did you know any Marriners, that you or your Associates destroyed, by overturning of ships or boats?
'TEMPERANCE. No! I never hurt any ship, bark, or boat in my life.
'H. You say you never hurt ships nor boats; did you never ride over an arm of the sea on a Cow?'
To the north of Bideford is a little peninsula formed by the mouth of the Torridge on the east, the far wider estuary of the Taw on the north, and the open sea on the west. The whole course of the Torridge is very capricious. The source is within four miles of the sea, not far south of Hartland, and, at once turning inland, the stream takes a south-easterly direction till it reaches the first slopes that, rising out of the fertile country, mount gradually as they stretch towards the borders of Dartmoor. At this check the Torridge runs due east till, within a few miles of Okehampton, it turns in a great rounded loop, and flows north and slightly west to the north coast again.
The Taw's course is far more direct. It rises in Dartmoor, and, occasionally bending slightly to east or west, it makes a fairly straight way towards the north till Barnstaple is reached, and then, turning almost at a right angle, runs westward to the sea.
Following the strip of land along the west bank of the Torridge from Bideford, the road passes Northam, and on the north-eastern point, at the meeting of the rivers, stands Appledore. Before reaching Northam, by diverging a little to the west, one arrives at the remains of an ancient castle, Kenwith Castle, known for a long time as Hennaborough or Henny Hill, where about A.D. 877 the Danes were valiantly driven back, after a furious battle, by King Alfred and his son. Hubba, the leader of the Danes, fell, and their magical banner, Reafan—the Raven—was taken. According to one tradition, it was 'wrought in needlework by the daughters of Lothbroc, the Dane, and, as they conceived, it made them invincible.' Another account rather contradicts this, as it declares that the wonderful standard bore a stuffed raven, who 'hung quiet when defeat was at hand, but clapped his wings before victory.' All the legends, however, point to the faith of the Danes in the magical powers of the banner, and their chagrin on losing it must have been very great.
The Danes buried Hubba 'on the shore near his ships, and, according to the manner of northern nations, piled on him a heap of copped stones as a trophy to his memorial, whereof the place took name Hubba-stone.' Risdon speaks of the 'sea's encroaching,' and of the stones having been swept away by it before his day, but the name still clings to the spot where it stood.
A little fort at Appledore was built, it is said—but the authority is not infallible—at the same time that the forts were thrown up at Bideford, and towards the end of July, 1644, it was called on to make a defence. Barnstaple had suddenly rebelled against the Royalists, and the citizens resolved to take possession of the guns that commanded the river's mouth. Sir John Berkeley, writing what must have been an unsatisfactory letter to Colonel Seymour, in answer to a request for more men, speaks of the troops sent to help the defenders: 'Your desire and expectance of supply is most just and reasonable. Having been exhausted of men by the Prince, and having sent to the relief of Appledore, by His Majesty's command, 500 under Colonel Apsley ... I am not able to give you the least assistance at present.' And Sir Hugh Pollard, writing at the same time, mentions that Colonel Apsley's force will meet 'a many of Doddington's horse at Chimleigh, to the relief of the fort at Appledore, which is straitly besieged by those of Barnstaple.'
The garrison consisted of forty Cornishmen, and before the siege was raised they were 'much straitened both for dread and fresh water.' They were particularly badly off because 'a certain colonel, who is stigmatized covertly as "no Cornishman," had been entrusted with the victualling of the fort, but had neglected his duty.'
Close to the sea, on the west, lies Westward Ho!—a tiny (and modern) watering-place, named after Kingsley's famous book. Along the western shore as far as the Taw stretch Northam Burrows, covered for some distance by a fine elastic turf that is far-famed, and by patches of rushes. Beyond the golf-links the ground breaks into sand-hills, all hillocks and hollows of pure sand, soft and yielding, dented by every footstep, set with rushes and spangled with crane's-bill, yellow bedstraw, tiny purple scented thyme-flowers, and a kind of spurge.
Both sand-hills and common are protected from the sea by the well-known Pebble Ridge, which stretches for two miles in a straight line. It is a mass—fifty feet wide and twenty feet high—of large, smooth, rolled slate-stones, some being two feet across, though most of them are smaller.
Turning westwards along the coast, Lundy is often to be seen like a faint blue cloud on the horizon, especially when a softening haze hovers over the land—but on a clear day it is very distinct. And on a fine evening, when the dim blue twilight is creeping up on every side, it has the very air of an enchanted island against the radiant crimson that for a few moments spreads and glows in the west after sundown.
A little distance farther on is Portledge, 'the most antient seat of the name and family of Coffin,' says Prince; and he mentions a boundary deed between Richard Coffin and the Abbot of Tavistock, written 'in the Saxon tongue, which giveth good confirmation thereof.' Sir William Coffin was one of several Devonshire gentlemen who were 'assistants' to Henry VIII in the tournaments of the 'Field of the Cloth of Gold,' being of great courage, and 'expert at feats of arms.' A story which is often told of him gives a good illustration of his strong will. While living on a property that belonged to his wife in Derbyshire, Sir William chanced one day to pass a churchyard, and seeing a group of people standing about, he asked what was happening. Being told that 'they had brought a corps to be buried, but the priest refused to do his office unless they first delivered him the poor man's cow, the only quick goods left,' for a burial fee, he commanded the priest to read the service. But the priest declined to do so until he had received his fee. On this answer, Sir William 'caused the priest to be put into the poor man's grave, and earth to be thrown upon him; and he still persisting in his refusal, there was still more earth thrown in, until the obstinate priest was either altogether or well nigh suffocated.'
Prince is entirely delightful over this story. He goes on: 'Now, thus to handle a priest in those days was a very bold adventure;' as if to bury a priest alive was usually considered a pleasant amusement. Sir William, however, not only lived through the storm that the high-handed action raised, but actually succeeded in moving Parliament to pass an Act regulating the burial fees that might be asked of the poor. So our biographer finishes with the triumphant axiom: 'Evil manners are often the parent of good laws!'
Eleven miles west of Bideford is Clovelly. Here one feels, rather despairingly, that anyone who has seen this wonderful village can listen to no description of it; while to those who have never seen it, no description is of any value.
A road leads towards it through the Hobby, a wood overhanging the sea, which Kingsley describes as 'a forest wall five hundred feet high, of almost semi-tropic luxuriance.' The road was 'banked on one side with crumbling rocks, festooned with heath, and golden hawkweed, and London pride, like velvet cushions covered with pink lace, and beds of white bramble-blossom alive with butterflies; while above my head, and on my right, the delicate cool canopy of oak and birch leaves shrouded me so close that I could have fancied myself miles inland, buried in some glen unknown to any wind of heaven, but that everywhere between green sprays and grey stems gleamed that same boundless ocean blue.'
The village itself lies in a ravine of the rock, and the 'street' is so precipitous that the eaves of one house are on a level with the foundations of its next neighbour above. Kingsley and Dickens have written descriptions that, scarcely overlapping, seem to complete each other.
'I was crawling up the paved stairs, inaccessible to cart or carriage, which are flatteringly denominated Clovelly street; ... behind me a sheer descent, roof below roof, at an angle of 75 deg., to the pier and bay, two hundred feet below and in front of me; another hundred feet above, a green amphitheatre of oak and ash and larch, shutting out all but a narrow slip of sky, across which the low, soft, formless mist was crawling, opening every instant to show some gap of intense dark rainy blue, and send down a hot vaporous gleam of sunshine upon the white cottages, with their grey steaming roofs and bright green railings packed one above another upon the ledges of the cliff; and on the tall tree fuchsias and gaudy dahlias in the little scraps of courtyard; calling the rich faint odour out of the verbenas and jessamines, and, alas! out of the herring heads and tails also, as they lay in the rivulet, and lighting up the wings of the gorgeous butterflies, almost unknown in our colder eastern climate, which fluttered from woodland down to garden, and from garden up to woodland.'
The human element tinges the other sketch more strongly:
'The village was built sheer up the face of a steep and lofty cliff. There was no road in it, there was no wheeled vehicle in it, there was not a level yard in it. From the sea-beach to the cliff-top two irregular rows of white houses, placed opposite to one another and twisting here and there, and there and here, rose like the sides of a long succession of stages of crooked ladders, and you climbed up village or climbed down the village by the staves between, some six feet wide or so, and made up of sharp, irregular stones. The old pack-saddle, long laid aside in most parts of England, as one of the appendages of its infancy, flourished here intact. Strings of pack-horses and pack-donkeys toiled slowly up the staves of the ladders, bearing fish and coal, and such other cargo as was unshipping at the pier from the dancing fleet of village boats and from two or three little coasting traders. As the beasts of burden ascended laden, or descended light, they got so lost at intervals in the floating clouds of village smoke, that they seemed to dive down some of the village chimneys and come to the surface again far off, high above others. No two houses in the village were alike in chimney, size, shape, door, window, gable, roof-tree, anything. The sides of the ladder were musical with water, running clear and bright. The staves were musical with the clattering feet of the pack-horses and pack-donkeys, and the voices of the fishermen urging them up mingled with the voices of the fishermen's wives and their many children.... The red-brown cliffs, richly wooded to their extremest verge, had their softened and beautiful forms reflected in the bluest water, under the clear North Devonshire sky of a November day without a cloud. The village itself was so steeped in autumnal foliage, from the houses joining on the pier to the topmost round of the topmost ladder, that one might have fancied it was out a-bird's-nesting, and was (as indeed it was) a wonderful climber.'
The harbour is very small, but on a cliff-bound, dangerous coast it is one of the very few between Bideford and Padstow. Clovelly's great herring fishery used to be famous, but it is not now so large as it used to be.
Above the village, the beautiful park of Clovelly Court lies along the cliffs, looking over the wide distances of Bideford Bay; and on a fine day the Welsh coast may be seen. Inland, great forest trees tower above a miniature forest of bracken, and at the opening of a glade one may catch glimpses of the deer appearing and vanishing again.
The Carys were in very ancient days settled at St Giles-in-the-Heath, but a branch of them came to Clovelly in the reign of Richard II. They were of the same race as the Carys of Torre Abbey, and the family of whom Lord Falkland is the head. John Cary, who acquired the property, was a distinguished character. As a Judge, 'he scattered the rays of justice about him, with great splendour.' He was called to show firmness and loyalty under the most trying circumstances, but, 'true as steel ... the greatest dangers could not affright him from his duty and loyalty to his distressed master Richard II, unto whom he faithfully adhered when most others had forsaken him.' When the King had been deposed, 'this reverend Judge, unable and unwilling to bow like a willow with every blast of wind, did freely and confidently speak his mind.' So faithfully did he maintain King Richard's cause that, when Henry IV came to the throne, the Judge was banished the kingdom, and his goods and lands were confiscated. These, Sir Robert Cary, his son, recovered literally at the point of the sword, for a 'certain Knight-errand of Arragon,' of great skill in feats of arms, 'arrived here in England, where he challenged any man of his rank and quality.' Sir Robert accepted the challenge, and a 'long and doubtful combat was waged in Smithfield, London.' In the end the 'presumptious Arrogonoise' was vanquished, and Henry V, to whom Sir Robert's gallantry appealed, restored him 'a good part of his father's lands,' and granted him leave to bear 'in a field silver, on a bend sable, three white roses,' the arms of the conquered knight—the arms that the Carys still bear. The Clovelly branch of the family is now extinct.
A little to the south of Clovelly, and on high ground, are Clovelly Dykes, the remains of an old camp, sometimes called British and sometimes Roman. It is large and circular, and the position was strengthened by three great trenches, about eighteen feet deep and three hundred feet long, which lie around it. The camp commands the only old road in the surrounding country.
About seven or eight miles to the west is the grand headland of Hartland Point. It is a narrow ridge that rises precipitously three hundred and fifty feet above the water, projects far out into the sea, and abruptly ends the coast-line to the west. The coast is very fine, but also most dangerous, and the cliffs, cleft here and there by great chasms, fall sheer down to needle-points of hard black slate rock jutting out into the sea.
The name of Herty Point, as it used to be called, was originally, says Camden, 'Hercules's promontory,' and this title has given rise to 'a very formal story that Hercules came into Britain and killed I know not what giants.' Here Camden pauses in his description of the place, to consider whether there ever was a Hercules at all, and, if so, whether there were not really forty-three Hercules; and if this was not so, whether Hercules was perhaps 'a mere fiction to denote the strength of human prudence,' or, again, possibly a myth personifying the sun, and his labours the signs of the zodiac, 'which the sun runs through yearly.' On the whole, he decides that, at any rate, Hercules never came to Britain, but the name might have been given to the point by the Greeks 'out of vanity,' because 'they dedicated everything they found magnificent in any place to the glory of Hercules.'
Four miles south-east of the headland lies Hartland town. It has been briefly described as 'a very quiet street of grey stone cottages and whitewashed houses on a high and windy tableland.' Close by is Hartland Abbey, founded, according to tradition, by Githa, the wife of Earl Godwin, and mother of Harold II, in honour of St Nectan; for she 'highly reverenced the man, and verily believed that through his merits her husband had escaped shipwreck in a dangerous tempest.' In the reign of Henry II, leave was given to Oliver de Dynant to change the community of secular canons into regular canons of St. Augustine's order, and to found a monastery for them. But between the successors of the founder and the canons matters did not always run smoothly; in fact, on one occasion, about a hundred years later, they actually came to blows in the church, as is made clear by an entry in the register of Bishop Bronescombe, for it records that the bishop had reconciled the church, 'which had been polluted by an effusion of blood in an affray between Oliver de Dinham and the canons.'
After the Dissolution the Abbey was bestowed by the King upon the Sergeant of his cellar, a man named Abbott. Parts of the Abbey remained unaltered and in good repair till the end of the eighteenth century, when, in building the present house, the unfortunate taste of the period destroyed the hall, which was over seventy feet long, and a portion of the cloisters, which were then still perfect. Parts of them, however, are still standing. The cloisters had been rebuilt at a very early date, for Dr. Oliver quotes an inscription which was over one of the arches that shows them to be the work of the Abbot John of Exeter, who resigned in 1329. Bishop Stapledon had found many defects in the structure of the Abbey, when he made his visitation in 1319, and had ordered them to be at once remedied. During the alterations made about one hundred and twenty years ago, the monument of a Knight Hospitaller was found, and within the last few years small pieces of carved stone have been dug up—amongst others, a Madonna's head with traces of blue and gold still upon it; a monk kneeling, and a knight and lady hand in hand. The Abbey is now the property of Sir Lewis Stucley.
Nearer the shore, and on high ground, is the church of St Nectan, whose tall pinnacled tower is a landmark to sailors. The tower is Perpendicular, but most of the church is late Decorated, and the north side has a Norman doorway. The great feature is the very beautiful screen which stretches across the whole church; but the cradle roofs are good, and there is other carving. On the pulpit is the figure of a goat with tusks, and the puzzling inscription, 'God save King James. Fines.' The Norman font is curiously sculptured with grotesque faces that look down on to equally quaint faces on the pedestal—an allegory in stone which Mr Hawker of Morwenstow interpreted as the righteous looking down on the wicked.
Three or four miles farther on is the actual border-line, and here one must turn, although, looking south towards Widemouth Bay, it is irresistibly tempting to quote a few verses of rank doggerel, written on a shipwreck which happened there on November 23, 1824. The verses were probably inspired by terrible stress of emotion, and suggest the idea that they were written with a spar rather than with a pen; but no doubt they were for ever the joy and pride of their author.
'Come all you British seamen, That plough the raging main, Who fight for King and Country, And your merchants do maintain.
I'll sing you of a shipwreck That was here the other day, At a place that's called Widemouth, Near Bude, and in that bay.
'So my British tars be steady, And maintain your glorious name; Till you're drowned, killed, or wounded, You must put to sea again.
'The twenty-third of November, That was the very time, A fine and lofty schooner brig, The Happy Return, of Lyme, The bold and noble Captain Escaped from the deep, And died with cold that very night Near to a flock of sheep.