'So my British tars, etc.
'The mate, as fine a seaman As could stand on a deck, Had with his noble Captain Escaped from the wreck; No refuge could be found on shore. No good could there be done; He returned on board the deck and died: The poor man lost his son.
'So my British tars, etc.
'This poor man's son was not drown'd, But found dead the next day; Three only of this manly crew Escaped death and sea. Have pity on poor seamen, Kind gentlemen, I beg; The one of them is wounded, The poor man broke his leg.
'So my British tars, etc.
'I've twice myself been shipwreck'd, Twenty-two years at sea, But never saw a gang of thieves Before that very day; Had it not been for Captain Thomas, And his loyal Preventive crew, They'd have stolen the cargo and the deck, The mast and rigging too.
'So my British tars, etc.
'This schooner came from Dublin, To London she was bound; I could not believe such daring thieves Stood on the British ground. The Farmers of the country, That distress ought to relieve, Some of them were stealing butter, While others stole the beef.
'So my British tars, etc.
'Seamen call this place West Barbary. To me it does appear, More of the cargo would have sav'd, Were they wrecked on Algier: The people might as well come in, Rob the market or the fair; But to rob distressed seamen, No one had business there.
'So my British tars, etc.
'Now to complete this shipwreck, And for to end this song, I've told you nothing but the truth, No mortal I have wrong'd. Great praise is due to Pethick. His wife and family brave, That did their best that very time Poor seamen's lives to save.
'So my British tars, etc.'
[Footnote 8: St. Ginnes.]
[Footnote 9: The cottager by the seaside.]
Kingsley remarks that 'an agricultural people is generally as cruel to wrecked seamen as a fishing one is merciful,' and speaks of the many stories he has heard of 'baysmen' on this coast 'risking themselves like very heroes to save strangers' lives, and at the same time beating off the labouring folk who swarmed down for plunder from the inland hills.'
Retracing the way to Northam Burrows, passing through them to their most northerly point, and crossing the Taw, one arrives at a strip of shore—Braunton Burrows—which corresponds to the strip on the southern bank of the river.
'A great chaos of wind-strewn sand-hills,' inhabited by armies of rabbits, and haunted by peewits and gulls, the Burrows are brightened by masses of wild-flowers, from the great mullein—once known as hedge-taper, because of its pale torch of blossoms—to the tiny delicate rose-pink bells of the bog-pimpernel. 'To the left were rich, alluvial marshes, covered with red cattle sleeping in the sun, and laced with creeks and flowing dykes.... Beyond again [looking back to the south] two broad tide-rivers, spotted with white and red-brown sails, gleamed like avenues of silver ... till they vanished among the wooded hills. On the eastern horizon the dark range of Exmoor sank gradually into lower and more broken ridges, which rolled away, woodland beyond woodland, till all outlines were lost in a purple haze; while far beyond the granite peaks of Dartmoor hung like a delicate blue cloud, and enticed the eye away into infinity.'
In the midst of the sand-dunes are the remains of a little, very old chapel, St Anne's Chapel, which is said to have been built by St Brannock. North of the Burrows the land rises into cliffs, on which grew (I hope, grows) the great sea-stock; and Baggy Point, at the southern end of Morte Bay, runs out into the sea. Beyond the Point, the broad yellow line of Woolacombe Sands stretches along the bay towards Morte Point.
Not far off was the manor of the Tracys, Woolacombe Tracy. A curse was brought on this family by William de Tracy, 'first and forwardest of the knights who murdered Thomas a Becket.' For, 'the Pope banning, cursing, and excommunicating,' a 'Miraculous Penance' was imposed on the Tracys, 'that whether they go by Land or Water, the Wind is ever in their faces.' Fuller, who gives this information, concludes dryly: 'If this was so, it was a Favour in a hot Summer to the Females of that Family, and would spare them the use of a Fan.' On William de Tracy himself fell the special curse, that ever after his death he should be compelled to wander at night—some say over Woolacombe Sands, others among Braunton Burrows—till he could make a rope of sand. But, whenever the rope is nearly woven, there comes a black dog, with a ball of fire in his mouth, and breaks it; so the penance is never at an end. Shrieks and wails have been heard by people in cottages near the shore. Sometimes the uneasy spirit haunts the northern landing-place of the ferry from Braunton Burrows to Appledore, and a wild, long-drawn cry of 'Boat ahoy!' comes ringing in the darkness over the waters. No one answers that cry now after dusk, for once, many years ago, the ferryman, who is well remembered among the Appledore people, went over, and no man was there, but the black dog jumped into the boat. The ferryman, not much liking this, put back again as fast as he could, but when Appledore was nearly reached the dog swamped the boat, made his way to shore, and was lost in the shadows of Northam Burrows. 'And the boatman's nerve was so much shaken that soon afterwards he gave up the ferry.
A monument to William de Tracy was wrongly supposed to lie in the church of Morthoe, or Morte, as it is more commonly called, on the north of the bay. The memorial is of another William de Tracy, rector here till his death in 1322. It is an elaborately sculptured altar-tomb, and bears the incised effigy of a priest; on the sides are figures of St Catherine and St Mary Magdalene, to whom jointly the rector founded a chapel in his church. The church is mainly Perpendicular, but it has an Early English chancel.
The northern curve of the bay ends in Morte Point, and here is a cromlech in ruins, for the massive slab of rock which formed the cover-stone has fallen from the upright stones on which it used to lie.
Beyond the point, at the end of the reef, is a huge rock called the Morte Stone, very dangerous on that exposed coast. The Normans are supposed to have given its sinister name, and many since their time have found it a true rock of death. No fewer than five vessels have been lost there in one winter. Rather more than a mile to the north, Bull Point, jutting out into the sea, abruptly ends the coast-line on the north; the cliffs fall back slightly, and stretch away eastward, above 'black fields of shark's-tooth tide-rocks, champing and churning the great green rollers into snow.'
Returning to the Taw, inland, upon the eastern side of the Burrows, one passes Braunton, two or three miles short of the estuary. The most interesting point about this village is its association with its name-saint, St Brannock—for the ancient name was Brannockstown. Old writers rather wildly assert that the saint was the son of a 'King of Calabria,' but Mr Baring-Gould, in a rapid sketch, says that he was the Irish confessor of a King of South Wales, who, not finding happiness in the life he was leading, migrated to North Devon. The legends that sprang up about his name are steeped in a golden haze. When St Brannock arrived, the whole place was 'overspread with brakes and woods. Out of which desert, now named the Borroughs (to tell you some of the marvels of this man), he took harts, which meekly obeyed the yoke,' and made them 'plow to draw timber thence to build a church, which may gain credit if it be true.' The caution of this commendation is delightful. More, alas! we do not learn, for the writer forbears 'to speak of his cow (which being killed, chopped in pieces, and boiling in the kettle, came out whole and sound at his call), his staff, his oak, and his man Abel, which would seem wonders. Yet all these you may see at large, lively represented to you in a fair glass window.' It is very disappointing that the window filled with the further wonders, the very names of which have a charm, should have perished.
St Brannock Church is large, and, like Morte Church, is partly Perpendicular and partly Early English. It has an unusually wide panelled roof, and on one of the panels is carved a sow and some little pigs—an illustration of a legend connecting the saint with the church, for the tradition ran that he had been told in a dream to build his church 'wherever he should first meet a sow and her family.' A similar group is to be seen in the porch of the church at Newton St Cyres. Some of the bench-ends in St Brannock's Church are very beautifully carved.
The road to Barnstaple, bending to the south-east, follows the estuary of the Taw for nearly six miles.
The town is very prettily placed, but it is dominated by modern buildings, and has not the air of antiquity with which its history might have invested it. The river sweeps round a bend of a green and pleasant valley just above the town, and along the strand is a walk shaded with trees, looking over the river to a pastoral country beyond. Nearer the bridge is Queen Anne's Walk, 'an open portico near the river, called the Quay Walk, being an exchange of the merchants, etc.,' renamed when it was rebuilt in Queen Anne's reign. From the bridge westward the scene has an air of peaceful contentedness. Sea-gulls flutter among the sand-banks, from which 'the sea retires itself' at low-tide, leaving only a small, shining stream, which seems 'to creep between shelves and sands.' Beyond are green marshes, and gentle rounded hills behind them lead on one from another. The country is much the same all along the river to the sea.
Bideford is proud of its bridge, which is very high, and has sixteen arches. Several people have been given the credit of building it, and its date is supposed to be some time during the thirteenth century.
The church, dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, is cross-shaped, and the lead steeple looks well against the sky, especially when it is surrounded by a shoal of swallows swooping and darting about it in all directions. The church has been much restored, and altered from the original building; evidently there were once three altars in it; and a piscina still remains in the south aisle, close to the west wall of the transept. A curious monument was erected in 1634 by Martin Blake, the Vicar, to his son and four children who died very young. A heavy and elaborate framework surrounds a severe likeness of a melancholy-looking man, who is resting his head on his hand. On the monument are short detached sentences, numbered:
'1. He was cut off in the flower of his life.
* * * * *
'10. His heart on fire for the love of God.
'11. Martin Blake, the Father, was taken from the Pulpit, and sent to Exeter jail for four years.
'12. The Pulpit empty, and the congregation waiting for him.
'13. He wishes to depart this life, and be at peace with his children.
'14. But it is necessary I should remain in the flesh for the good of my people.
'15. He that shall endure to the end shall have a crown of life.'
Mr Blake suffered much during the Civil War, but I can find no record of any imprisonment beyond his being in 1657 'a prisoner at large in Exeter for six weeks.' In 1646 he was petitioned against on account of his Royalist sympathies, 'by one Tooker,' to whom he had shown great kindness, and who intrigued against him in the most abominable manner. Though Sir Hardress Waller wrote to the Committee of sequestrations on his behalf, he was suspended, and as about a year later his suspension was cancelled, the infamous Tooker very hurriedly concocted a petition, ostensibly from Barnstaple, praying that the 'Discharge' might be repealed. Walker comments on the astonishing speed with which Tooker managed this business. 'The Reader ... will certainly think, as I do, that he who walked to and fro in the Earth, helped them to it; tho' not in the Quality of a Courier, but in his other Capacity, that of the Father of Lies.' Mr Blake, however, was allowed to return to his living, but 'not without the cumbrance of a Factious Lecturer,' and was not in full possession till after the Restoration.
Barnstaple asserts that it became a borough at a very early date—in fact, that it 'obtained divers liberties, freedoms, and immunities from King Athelstan'; but whether this were so or not, the inhabitants certainly received a charter from Henry I, and further privileges were added by King John. The barony of Barnstaple, first granted to Judhael de Totnes, passed to the Tracys, then by marriage to the Lords Martin, and again by an heiress to the Lords Audley. The son of this heiress was the 'heroical' Lord Audley who so greatly distinguished himself at the Battle of Poitiers.
Barnstaple sent three ships to join the fleet that met the Armada. Risdon calls it 'the chief town of merchandise next the river's mouth,' and says that the people 'through traffic have much enriched themselves,' although their haven is so shallow 'that it hardly beareth small vessels.' Yet spring-tides sometimes flood the marshes all round, and on one occasion some of the people 'to save their lives were constrained from their upper rooms to take boat and be gone.' Westcote speaks of it as trading especially with 'Spain and the islands,' and till the latter half of the eighteenth century wool for the serge-makers from Ireland and America was brought to this port; but its trade has now almost dwindled away.
Barnstaple Fair is a great institution, and, though not quite the event that it used to be, still keeps up many traditional ceremonies. On the first morning a large stuffed glove is put out on the end of a pole from a window of the Guildhall, and is supposed to be the symbol of welcome to all comers. This sign was adopted long ago, and in the accounts in 1615 and 1622 are two entries: 'Paid for a glove put out at the fair, 4d.,' and 'Paid for a paire of gloves at the faire, 4d.'
In the Guildhall, toast and spiced ale are handed round in loving-cups to all comers, and after two or three speeches the Mayor and Corporation proceed to the High Cross and other places in the borough, and the Town Clerk reads the Proclamation of the Fair. A 'Fair Ball' is still given, but the custom of a stag-hunt on the second day has been dropped.
Barnstaple was a sort of shuttle-cock during the Civil War. Here, as elsewhere, the citizens were not all of one mind; though the merchants and the majority were for the Parliament, and it was taken possession of first by one side and then by the other.
In August, 1643, Barnstaple and Bideford sent a combined force against the royal troops under Colonel Digby at Torrington, but being completely routed, their courage was shaken, and a few days later Barnstaple was surrendered to Prince Maurice. The next year, however, most of the garrison having been drawn away, the inhabitants arose and took possession of the town for the Parliament. Prince Maurice hurriedly sent Colonel Digby to bring them to reason, but with great determination they resisted the Royal troops, who were driven back. During the next three months the fortunes of the Parliament in the West were at a very low ebb, and in September the town was summoned by Lord Goring. The store of ammunition was very low, and as soon as they were blockaded, the townspeople found themselves short of provisions. 'At that time but weakly garrisoned, the town surrendered on terms, and the garrison quitted it on the 17th, leaving 50 pieces of ordnance.'
In the following May the Prince of Wales arrived, for, says Clarendon, 'no place was thought so convenient for his residence as Barnstaple, a pleasant town in the north part of Devonshire, well fortified, with a good garrison in it, under the command of Sir Allen Apsley.' The King sent orders to the Prince, who at this time was little more than fifteen years old, 'by the advice of his council, to manage and improve the business of the West, and provide reinforcements for the army.' The Prince's council had no easy task, for they were harassed by several causes. Lord Goring's jealousy and selfishness were a great hindrance; in consequence of a petition regarding the violence of his horse, the Prince, says Clarendon, 'writ many earnest letters to the Lord Goring.' Another great difficulty to be grappled with here was a fierce quarrel between Sir Richard Grenville and the Commissioners of Devon and Cornwall, who complained of him in such bitter terms, that anyone who judged from their report must have concluded him to be 'the most justly odious to both counties that can be imagined.'
Prince Rupert paid the Prince a visit in June, and not long afterwards Lord Goring's horse arrived in hot disorder, having been chased most of the way from Bridgwater by Fairfax's troops. In the following spring the town was besieged by the Parliament's troops, and the day after the treaty for the surrender of Exeter was completed, Fairfax himself marched to Barnstaple. The Governor, seeing that resistance was hopeless, gave 'the castle and the town ... as a security for surrender of the fort at eight days' end'; and on honourable terms Barnstaple yielded to the enemy. It was the last town in Devonshire to be delivered to the Parliament.
About two miles upstream the river 'Taw vails bonnet to Tawstock, in our ancestors' speech,' says Westcote, and he goes on to describe it as 'a pleasant and delicate seat indeed, in a rich soil, and inhabited by worthy personages.' The modest claim has been put forward that the view here includes 'the most valuable manor, the best mansion, the finest church, and the richest rectory, in the county.' Possibly other parishes may not agree with all the superlatives, but the beautiful features of the valley certainly offer a temptation to use them.
Tawstock Court was once the property of the Earls of Bath, and now belongs to their descendant, Sir Bourchier Wrey. An Elizabethan gateway is all that is left of the old house, which was burnt down, and rebuilt in 1787. The beautiful cruciform church is chiefly Decorated, but parts are of a later date; it is dignified by a fine central embattled tower, crowned by pinnacles. In the church are several altar-tombs to the Bourchiers, Barons Fitzwarine and later Earls of Bath, and to their wives, and there is a very early effigy carved in wood.
Leaving the Taw and crossing the country to the south, and a little to the west, one reaches the Torridge, and Torrington, a town 'built scatteringly, lying at length, as it were, upon the brow of a hill hanging over the river.' It is, perhaps, chiefly known as the scene of a skirmish and an engagement during the Civil War. The skirmish, already mentioned, took place when the Parliament's partisans set out from Barnstaple and Bideford to attack Colonel Digby, who, with a small force, had established himself there. It was indeed a case of fortune favouring the bold, for the Royalists were taken unawares, and had it not been for the daring of 'the Colonel, whose courage and vivacity upon action was very eminent, and commonly very fortunate,' the day might well have been with the other side. Colonel Digby had divided a small number of horse into little parties in different fields, and was waiting for some of his troops to join him before attacking the enemy, when a band of about fifty Parliamentary musketeers came towards the ground where they stood. Realizing that, if these once gained possession of the high banks between the two forces, his party must be driven off, Colonel Digby, with instant decision, took four or five officers with him, and charged with such vigour that the raw country troops, smitten with panic, threw down their arms and ran, 'carrying so infectious a fear with them, that the whole body of troops was seized by it and fled.' Colonel Digby followed, with all the horse at his disposal, 'till,' says Clarendon complacently, 'their swords were blunted with slaughter.' Perhaps the Royalists were more anxious to impress a salutary warning against the sin of rebellion than to kill the fugitives, for Clarendon finishes the account by saying that the rebels 'were scattered and dispersed all over the country, and scarce a man without a cut over the face and head, or some other hurt, that wrought more upon their neighbours towards their conversion, than any sermon could be preached to them.' This affair practically brought about the submission of Barnstaple, Bideford, and Appledore.
The second engagement was of a far more important character, with fatal consequences to the King's cause in the West—already in a hopeless condition. In the early spring of 1646, Lord Hopton marched to Torrington, and was waiting there for the arrival of about half his ammunition and provisions, when he heard that Sir Thomas Fairfax, with a large army, was in the immediate neighbourhood. To the best of his power, he hurriedly made such defences as were possible. His position was excellent, for Torrington stands on a hill almost surrounded by deep valleys, but his force was very inferior in numbers to that of the enemy. It is curious that the second engagement at Torrington began accidentally. Fairfax's army had had a series of encounters with an outlying troop of Royalist dragoons on approaching the town, and by the time they drew near the day was nearly spent. As the Royalists were well prepared for their arrival, the lanes and fields near the town being lined with musketeers, the Parliamentary Generals resolved to stay at a little distance and wait for the morning to attack. The Royalist word for the night was, 'We are with you,' and their sign, that each man had a handkerchief tied round his right arm. The word for the other army was, 'Emmanuel, God with us,' and their signal, a sprig of furze in every hat.
About nine o'clock a noise in the town suddenly awoke the suspicion that the Royalists were retreating, so, says Sprigg, 'that we might get certain knowledge whether they were going off or not, a small party of dragoons were set to fire on the enemy near the barricadoes and hedges; the enemy answered us with a round volley of shot.' Whereupon the engagement became general, and both sides fought 'in the dark for some two hours, till we beat them from the hedges and within their barricadoes, which were very strong, and where some of their men disputed the entrance of our forces with push of pike and butt-end of musket for a long time.' At length the Parliamentary troops prevailed, and their horse 'chased the enemy through the town.' Lord Hopton, bringing up the rear, had his horse shot dead under him in the middle of the town, but, in spite of the fact that he was slightly wounded, he made yet another effort to rally his troops, and they, 'facing about in the street, caused our foot to retreat.' Then a body of horse dashed up with a vehemence that the Royalists could not stand against, and they were obliged to fly; 'one of the officers publicly reporting,' says Clarendon bitterly, 'lest the soldiers should not make haste enough in running away, that he saw their general run through the body with a pike.'
Scarcely were the Parliamentarians in possession of the town, when a frightful explosion occurred. The church, which unknown to them, Lord Hopton had used as a powder-magazine, was blown up and about two hundred prisoners whom the Roundheads had confined in the church were killed. In his account of the disaster, Sprigg, who was obviously, from passages in his writings, a man of warm feelings, and a clergyman by profession, refers very cheerfully to the fact that 'few were slain besides the enemy's (that were prisoners in the church where the magazine was blown up), and most of our men that guarded them, who were killed and buried in the ruins,' and not for one moment does the melancholy fate of the many victims seem to damp his joy.
The victory was a very important one, and a public thanksgiving was held in consequence—indeed, this was the last real resistance made by the Royalists in the West.
The church has been very unfortunate, for since it was rebuilt in 1651 the tower has been blown down, and it fell through the roof, doing a good deal of damage. An old print shows this tower to have been a wonderful erection of slates and tiles, projecting eaves, and irregular gables, surmounted by a little dome, with a weathercock on the top of all. It was replaced by a slender, tapering, but more conventional spire.
Margaret, Countess of Richmond, and mother of Henry VII, lived here for some time, and left a generous gift, for, 'pitying the long path the pastor had from home to church,' she 'gave to him and his successors the manor-house with lands thereto': and on this site of the manor-house stands the present vicarage. Besides making this gift, 'on every occasion a friend to learning, even in its infancy, she built a room for a library, and furnished it with the most useful books then to be had.'
Torridge Castle, a building of the fourteenth century, stood on the verge of a steep descent to the river. In Risdon's day it was almost gone, the ruins had 'for many years hovered, which, by extreme age, is almost brought to its period;' and in 1780 the chapel, the only part left, was partly pulled down and afterwards turned into a school.
About a mile or so to the east stands Stevenstone—a new house, in the midst of a fine deer-park. For over three centuries Stevenstone was owned by the Rolles, and when Fairfax's troops advanced on Torrington, two hundred dragoons were being entertained by 'Master Rolls,' and the advance was disputed by these dragoons, who, after a long and straggling fight in the narrow and dirty lanes, eventually fell back on the town. Here Fairfax took up his quarters after the town had been taken.
A few miles upstream the Torridge passes Potheridge, the birthplace of General Monk, whose ancestors had owned property here since the reign of Henry III.
The character of George Monk is extraordinarily interesting, a curious point being that, though he was essentially cautious, level-headed, and, as Clarendon says, 'not enthusiastical,' and therefore unlikely to rouse very vivid sentiments in others, as a matter of fact he awoke violent feelings either of glowing enthusiasm or of extreme bitterness. It is easy to understand his unpopularity with keen partisans who looked on their opponents and all their ways with abhorrence, and therefore failed to understand how an honest man could fight for the King, then accept a command from Cromwell, and finally become the prime mover of the Restoration. But—'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer'; and it may well be that the beat that ruled Monk's steps was the peaceable government and welfare of the people, and especially of the army, and to the personal claims and rights of the rulers he was indifferent. The general state of things needed reform badly enough. Monk's acts were never inconsistent, but he had a genius for silence. When war in England broke out, he returned from fighting for the King in Holland, to fight for him at home. When Cromwell offered him his release from the Tower, at the price of helping to subdue the Irish rebels, his accepting the command was to the advantage of this country.
To begin with, Monk was forced to turn soldier with unexpected suddenness. The Under-Sheriff of Exeter publicly affronted Sir Thomas Monk, on which his son, aged sixteen, went to Exeter and gave the offender 'the chastisement he deserved (without any intention of murder).' This step created a good deal of disturbance, and to avoid more, 'our young gentleman' was packed off to 'the School of War in the Low Countries.'
He was taken prisoner early in the Civil War, and after over two years of close imprisonment, agreed to accompany the Lord Deputy Lisle to Munster. After leaving Ireland he gained brilliant successes at sea over the Dutch. Prince tells a tale that is characteristic of him and of Cromwell. The seamen who had served under Monk had been told that they should receive their full pay as soon as the prizes were sold off, but were unreasonably impatient; and while Monk was actually at Whitehall putting their claims before the Protector, news was brought him 'that three or four thousand seamen were come as far as Charing Cross with swords, pistols, and clubs, to demand their pay. General Monk, thinking himself wronged in this, ran down to meet them, drew his sword, and fell upon them; Cromwell following with one or two attendants, cut and hew the seamen, and drove them before him.' Prince finishes the story with applause of the boldness that 'should drive such great numbers of such furious creatures as English seamen.' Later, Monk's command in Scotland resulted in a state of order and quietness then very unusual in that country.
Accusations of dealing unfairly with the Parliament in 1659 may be levelled against him with some justice, but how was loyalty possible to a household so divided against itself as were the rulers of the Kingdom? The Army and the Parliament were in bitter antagonism to each other, and Lambert's soldiers had shut the Parliament out of Westminster. The members of the Rump Parliament, the earlier 'secluded' members, the Presbyterians, the Independents under Lambert, the Royalists, and smaller parties, were all working for their own ends. When Monk marched south, a deputation was sent to meet him from the Council of Officers, ostensibly to make terms between their army and his, but also with the secret object of establishing an understanding between him and Fleetwood that would enable the latter to get rid of his friend and colleague, General Lambert. Meanwhile Lambert, jealous of Fleetwood, sent a private and friendly message to Monk by Major-General Morgan, who not only betrayed his party at Lambert's bidding, but betrayed that patriot as well, for at the same time that he gave the message, he also delivered a secret letter from Lord Fairfax, begging Monk to adopt a course which would have been fatal to Lambert. And the country as a whole was heartily sick of both factions.
Had Monk openly declared himself for the Stuarts, at the time that he first began to prepare for the Restoration, he would probably have imperilled the success of the whole scheme, and most certainly would have plunged the country again into the horrors of Civil War. When he did reveal his negotiations with the exiled Court at Breda, 'London would not have borne many days, or even many hours longer, the extreme tension it was then suffering—the City one way, Westminster the other way; Monk's army between them, and Fleetwood's wolves prowling all round, and ready to pour in.'
Apart from all else, tribute must be paid to Monk's marvellous skill in so ordering affairs that the Restoration was brought about almost without the cost of a drop of blood. During the winter of 1659, a far larger army than his own lay for many weeks a few miles to the south on the Border, sent there with the especial purpose of watching and if necessary attacking him. But Monk knew how to bide his time and to prolong negotiations to suit his convenience till in the end, without a blow being struck, he marched his army south to London. Masterly was the diplomacy and grasp of detail which, on the eve of announcing the Restoration, dispersed over the country all soldiers who would be inclined to stand by the Parliament, making any serious attempt at a revolt on their part impossible.
One failing his most fervent admirer cannot ignore—a strong leaning to avarice. But his popularity was unbounded, and 'it was his singular fortune to win in succession the affection of three very different populations, those of Dublin, Edinburgh, and London.' In Ireland his men were devoted to him. 'A soldier, tho' sick and without shoes, would strive to go out with honest George Monk.' After the death of Cromwell he was offered the crown, but he refused, 'holding it a greater honour to be an honest subject than a great usurper.'
During the frightful visitation of the Plague, the Earl of Craven, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Monk, were the only high officials who stayed at their posts, and exposed themselves perpetually to the 'seeds of death.' So great was the public confidence in him, that at the time of the Great Fire, he being then at sea, 'the people did believe and say: "If he had been there, the city had not been burned."' No idol of the mob could ask a more whole-hearted adoration.
The popular feeling is expressed in a rather limping acrostic on his name, of which I quote only the first quarter. It was called 'England's Heroick Champion, or The ever-renowned General George Monck.' The date is about 1659-60.
'G ood may'st thou be, as thou are great. E ver regarded. O r like Alexander compleat, R ichly rewarded. G ainst thy virtue none dare stand, E xcluded Members now are Back return'd by thy hand.
'M any miles didst thou compass, O nly us to free; N othing by thee too hard was, C ompared to be. K eep us in thy protection! We were all greatly distrest; Bring thou in all the best.
'G reat bonfires then was made, E xpressing joy, O f us that sorrow did invade, R efresh our annoy. G uard us with thy aid, we desire; E xaltation we all will raise Unto heaven in thy praise.
'M uch good hast thou already done, O ver this land; N ow our hearts thou hast quite won: C ommand! Command! K indly we will entertain Those that were excluded, For they have not intruded.'
In later years, as Duke of Albemarle, he returned to the estate of his forefathers, and rebuilt Potheridge in a very magnificent manner. It has since been pulled down.
If the traveller follows the Torridge upstream, he will be led south till he is within two miles of Hatherleigh, and here the river curves away westwards, and then in a northerly direction. In the spring, this clear, rippling stream has a special charm—thousands and thousands of daffodils grow along the banks though only sparingly in the fields beyond, so that, if the river happens to be low and the water not to be seen at a little distance, the windings of the river through the wide green valley are marked by two broad lines of pale, clear yellow.
Hatherleigh Moor was given a bad name very long ago. The saying is double-edged:
'The people are poor, as Hatherleigh Moor, And so they have been for ever and ever.'
But the people of the little town are able to graze their cattle and cut furze for fuel on it. Hatherleigh parish has two holy wells. St John's Well stands on the moor, and there used to be a pretty custom of fetching its water for a baptism. The water of St. Mary's Well was good for the eyes, and within the memory of persons still alive pagan traditions were observed around it on Midsummer Eve. Amidst 'wild scenes of revelry ... fires were lit, feasting and dancing were indulged in.'
For some years, in this part of the country, while he was curate to his father, who had the neighbouring living of Iddesleigh, the renowned 'Jack' Russell preached on Sundays and hunted on weekdays. He was immensely popular, and so many stories are told of him and his hounds that it has been already said, 'Russell is fast becoming mythical.' He was not the ideal of a modern parish priest, but this is the opinion of one who remembers him. The writer begins by speaking of a friend of Russell's as a man who 'seems ... to have been as good a Christian as he was a gentleman; not ecstatic perhaps, but in the sense of leading a godly, righteous and sober life. And,' he goes on, 'the same may with certainty be predicated of Russell ... Russell, like a wise man, got right home to Nature. It was not for nothing that the gipsy chieftain left him his rat-catcher's belt, and begged for burial at his hands in Swymbridge churchyard.'
Perhaps the following story of him is not quite so well known as many others:
Mr Russell once advertised for a curate: 'Wanted, a curate for Swymbridge: must be a gentleman of moderate and orthodox views.'
Soon after this advertisement had appeared Mr Hooker, Vicar of Buckerell, was standing in a shop door in Barnstaple, 'when he was accosted by Will Chapple, the parish clerk of Swymbridge, who entered the grocer's shop. "Havee got a coorate yet for Swymbridge, Mr Chapple?" inquired the grocer, in Mr Hooker's hearing. "No, not yet, sir," replied the sexton. "Master's nation purticler, and the man must be orthodox." "What does that mean?" inquired the grocer. "Well, I reckon it means he must be a purty good rider."
Here we must leave the Torridge altogether, and go eleven miles south-east to the point where the Taw leaves the uplands of Dartmoor. Almost the first village that the river passes is South Zeal, close to South Tawton, and near South Zeal was the old home of the Oxenhams, the family about whom the well-known legend of the white bird is told. When an Oxenham is about to die, a white bird flaps at the window or flies about the sickroom, and stories of the bird having been seen at such times have been told at intervals, through two centuries. The evidence in some instances seems fairly good, but where an apparition is expected it is not unlikely imagination may play tricks, or a chance event may be interpreted as an omen.
Lysons quotes from Mr Chapple's manuscript collections a case that happened in 1743, the story being given to Mr Chapple by the doctor. Mr William Oxenham was ill, and 'when the bird came into his chamber, he observed upon the tradition as connected with his family, but added he was not sick enough to die, and that he should cheat the bird, and this was a day or two before his death, which took place after a short illness.'
It is necessary to pass over thirteen or fourteen miles, but at Chumleigh one must turn aside to the east, for about six miles in that direction was the ancient home of the Stucleys. Affeton Castle has been for many years altogether in ruins, but in the middle of the last century Sir George Stucley roofed over the old gate-house and made it habitable as a shooting-box. This is the only part of the castle still standing, though the farmhouse close by is no doubt built upon some of the foundations. 'Lusty Stukeley' (the name was spelt in several ways) was far from among the worthiest of his family, but distinctly the most entertaining. His ideas were certainly 'spacious' enough for the great days in which he lived, though he was too crack-brained and full of self to fall into line with his betters, whose deeds still bear rich fruit. 'He was,' says Fuller severely, 'one of good parts, but valued the less by others, because over-prized by himself.'
If it be allowed that the personality of everyone inclines to being drab or flamboyant, his may be compared to fireworks. Thomas Stukely, who was born about 1530, was for a younger brother unusually well endowed, 'but his profluous prodigality soon wasted it; yet then, not anyway dejected in mind, he projected to people Florida, and there in those remote countries to play rex.' He 'blushed not' to tell Queen Elizabeth 'that he preferred rather to be sovereign of a mole-hill than the highest subject to the greatest king in Christendom.' His audacity reached the point of bandying words with the Queen, who seems, from the polite irony of her tone, to have been amused by his vanity.
'I hope,' said the Queen, 'I shall hear from you when you are stated in your Principality?' 'I will write unto you,' quoth Stuckley. 'In what language?' said the Queen. He returned, 'In the stile of Princes, To our dear Sister.'
And on this Stukely departed, but not to Florida, for he met with reverses which dashed his plans, but not his spirits. Westcote quotes 'a ditty made by him, or of him,' apparently at this time:
'Have over the waters to Florida. Farewell good London now; Through long delays on land and seas, I'm brought, I cannot tell how.
'In Plymouth town, in a thread-bare gown. And money never a deal: Hay! trixi trim! go trixi trim! And will not a wallet do well?'
Unfortunately, his career was a great failure. From sunning himself at the Court of Elizabeth, he turned to paths of disloyalty, and became the 'Pope's pensioner.' The Pope created him Marquis of Leinster, and added several minor titles, and then this 'Title-top heavy General' attempted in vain to carry treasonable help to the Irish rebels. Yet he had 'the fortune to die honourably.' Arrived in Lisbon at the moment when the King of Portugal was starting in a campaign to Barbary, Stukely was persuaded to join his army, and fell, fighting gallantly, at the Battle of Alcasar, 1578.
'A Fatal Fight, where in one day was slain Three Kings that were and one that would be fain.'
About five miles to the north, at King's Nympton, the Pollards were settled for some generations, and many of them 'lived to be as proper gentlemen as most in this or any other county.' Sir Hugh Pollard fought in the Civil War, and as Governor of Dartmouth Castle made a brave and resolute though unsuccessful defence. After the Restoration, Charles II appointed him Comptroller of the Household. It was said of Sir Hugh 'that he was very active and venturous for his Majesty in the worst of Times, and very hospitable and noble with him in the best.'
Five miles north of Bishop's Nympton is the old town of South Molton, and the manor was part of the demesne of Edward the Confessor. In the reign of Edward I, Lord Martin held it 'by sergeantry to find a man with a bow and three arrows to attend the Earl of Gloucester when he goeth to Gower [in Wales] to hunt.'
In the spring of 1654, Charles II was proclaimed King in South Molton, for the Wiltshire gentlemen who had risen against the Government, headed by Sir Joseph Wagstaff and led by Colonel Penruddock and Mr Hugh Groves, made their way so far west before they were overpowered. Sir Joseph escaped, but the other two leaders were beheaded at Exeter.
A little to the north of the town, and about eight miles south of Barnstaple, are the wide grounds of Castle Hill—broad lawns and slopes, clear streams, and rich feathery masses of woodland that, shaded and softened by distance, spread far away.
The Fortescues, not long after the Conquest, were granted lands in Devonshire, and in one generation after another they have come forward to take a part in public affairs—often a Samson's share of toil. Sir John Fortescue fought at Agincourt, and was chosen Governor of Meaux by Henry V. Sir Edward Fortescue, when he had surrendered Salcombe Castle, had the consolation of knowing that this fort had been held for the King later than any other place in Devonshire. Sir Faithful and Sir Nicholas Fortescue were distinguished commanders in the same war. In the reign of Henry VI, Sir Henry Fortescue was Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, though his fame is very much eclipsed by the greater brilliancy of his brother.
Sir John Fortescue, Lord Chief Justice, is usually spoken of as Lord Chancellor, though it is doubted whether he ever received a valid appointment; for when the honour was bestowed upon him, Yorkists and Lancastrians were already at war. As the trouble deepened, Sir John laid aside his robe for his sword, and fought bravely for the 'falling cause' in the terrible battle of Palm Sunday. Later, he accompanied the King and Queen in their flight, and while abroad, with courageous optimism, began to instruct the Prince in the 'lawes of his country and the duties of a King of England.' Of Sir John's two celebrated treatises—De Natura Legis Naturae, and De Laudibus Legum Angliae—the latter and most famous was specially compiled for the benefit of the Prince, and Sir Edward Coke has enthusiastically declared it 'worthy to be written in letters of gold for the weight and worthiness thereof.'
A Fortescue of a later generation who 'took to the law,' eventually became Master of the Rolls. He was a great friend of the poet Pope, and from the gentle mockery in some of the long letters of the poet still in existence, it would seem that Mr Fortescue had a proper share of prejudice in favour of his own county. In 1724 Pope writes: 'I am grieved to tell you that there is one Devonshire man not honest; for my man Robert proves a vile fellow, and I have discarded him.' And in another letter, nearly ten years later, in March, 1734-35: 'Twitnam is very cold these easterly winds; but I presume they do not blow in the happy regions of Devonshire.'
Sir John Fortescue, born in 1533, had the honour of being chosen 'Preceptor to the Princess Elizabeth.' Later he was appointed Keeper of the Great Wardrobe; whereupon it was remarked that Sir John Fortescue was one whom the Queen trusted with the ornaments of her soul and body. 'Two men,' Queen Elizabeth would say, 'outdid her expectations,—Fortescue for integrity, and Walsingham for subtlety and officious services.'
Towards the end of the eighteenth century a member of one of the branches of Fortescues who settled in Ireland was created Lord Clermont. He was very much liked by the Prince of Wales, and both Lord and Lady Clermont were a great deal at Court. In Wraxall's 'Posthumous Memoirs' there is an amusing account of an evening spent by Lady Clermont in launching into London society the Count Fersen who was noted for his devotion to Marie Antoinette. Already 'Swedish Envoy at the Court of France,' he had arrived in England, 'bringing letters of introduction from the Duchesse de Polignac to many persons of distinction here, in particular for Lady Clermont. Desirous to present him in the best company, soon after his arrival she conducted him in her own carriage to Lady William Gordon's assembly in Piccadilly. She had scarcely entered the room and made Count Fersen known to the principal individuals of both sexes, when the Prince of Wales was announced. I shall recount the sequel in Lady Clermont's own words to me, only a short time subsequent to the fact. "His Royal Highness took no notice of me on his first arrival, but in a few minutes afterwards, coming up to me: 'Pray, Lady Clermont,' said he, 'is that man whom I see here Count Fersen, the queen's favourite?' 'The gentleman,' answered I, 'to whom your royal highness alludes is Count Fersen; but so far from being a favourite of the queen, he has not yet been presented at Court.' 'D——n!' exclaimed he, 'you don't imagine I mean my mother?' 'Sir,' I replied, 'whenever you are pleased to use the word "queen" without any addition, I shall always understand it to mean my queen. If you speak of any other queen, I must entreat that you will be good enough to say the Queen of France, or of Spain.' The Prince made no reply; but after having walked once or twice round Count Fersen, returning to me: 'He's certainly a very handsome fellow,' observed he. 'Shall I have the honour, sir,' said I, 'to present him to you?' He instantly turned on his heel, without giving me any answer; and I soon afterwards quitted Lady William Gordon's house, carrying Count Fersen with me. We drove to Mrs St John's, only a few doors distant, who had likewise a large party on that evening. When I had introduced him to various persons there, I said to him, 'Count Fersen, I am an old woman and infirm, who always go home to bed at eleven. You will, I hope, amuse yourself. Goodnight.' Having thus done the honours as well as I could to a stranger who had been so highly recommended to me, I withdrew into the ante-chamber and sate down alone in a corner, waiting for my carriage.
'"While there the Prince came in, and I naturally expected, after his recent behaviour, that he would rather avoid than accost me. On the contrary, advancing up to me: 'What are you doing here, Lady Clermont?' asked he. 'I am waiting for my coach, sir,' said I, 'in order to go home.' 'Then,' replied he, 'I will put you into it and give you my arm down the stairs.' 'For heaven's sake, sir,' I exclaimed, 'don't attempt it! I am old, very lame, and my sight is imperfect; the consequence of your offering me your arm will be that, in my anxiety not to detain your royal highness, I shall hurry down and probably tumble from the top of the staircase to the foot.' 'Very likely,' answered he, 'but if you tumble, I shall tumble with you. Be assured, however, that I will have the pleasure of assisting you and placing you safely in your carriage.' I saw that he was determined to repair the rudeness with which he had treated me at Lady William Gordon's, and therefore acquiesced. He remained with me till the coach was announced, conversed most agreeably on various topics, and as he took care of me down the stairs, enjoined me at every step not to hurry myself. Nor did he quit me when seated in the carriage, remaining uncovered on the steps of the house till it drove off from the door."'
Lundy, Lynmouth, and the Borders of Exmoor
'Ay, ay, the year's awaking, The fire's among the ling, The beechen hedge is breaking, The curlew's on the wing: Primroses are out, lad, On the high banks of Lee, And the sun stirs the trout, lad, From Brendon to the sea.
'I know what's in your heart, lad,— The mare he used to hunt, And her blue market-cart, lad, With posies tied in front— We miss them from the moor road, They're getting old to roam; The road they're on's a sure road, And nearer, lad, to home.'
H. NEWBOLT: April on Waggon Hill.
The charm of the coast-line of North Devon lies partly in its great irregularity. 'At one spot a headland, some five hundred feet high, rough with furze-clad projections at the top, and falling abruptly to a bay; then, perhaps, masses of a low, dark rock, girding a basin of turf, as at Watermouth; again, a recess and beach, with the mouth of a stream; a headland next in order, and so the dark coast runs whimsically eastward, passing from one shape to another like a Proteus, until it unites with the massive sea-front of Exmoor.' At the eastern ridge of the county, the hill on which Oldbarrow Camp stands rises more than eleven hundred feet straight out of the sea.
Ilfracombe's tiny bay is almost surrounded by rocks, but a pier was built by one of the Bourchiers, Earls of Bath, and his successors—one Sir Bourchier Wrey after another—have improved and enlarged it. Westcote speaks of it as 'a pretty harbour for ships of small burden, but dangerous to come in in some winds, especially for strangers; for whose better security they keep a continual pharos to direct their course.' The lighthouse now stands on the Lantern Rock, at the mouth of the harbour, where once stood a little chapel dedicated to St Nicholas. The dedication explains its position, for St Nicholas was a sea-saint, whose protection used to be specially implored as a defence against shipwreck.
Nowadays Ilfracombe is of no consequence as a port, but six centuries ago it must have been of some importance, for when Edward III was besieging Paris it contributed six ships and eighty-two mariners to a fleet. Although the nucleus of the town is old, and indeed consisted only of one 'scattering street,' its development is very modern, and has happened since it became popular as a watering-place.
The architecture of the church is very varied. The tower is probably Norman, finished by Perpendicular battlements and pinnacles; it is built above the centre of the north aisle, and projects into the church. There are also remains of Transitional work, and in the chancel is a Decorated piscina.
Leading inland from Ilfracombe are 'lovely combes, with their green copses, and ridges of rock, and golden furze, fruit-laden orchards, and slopes of emerald pasture, pitched as steep as house-roofs, where the red long-horns are feeding, with their tails a yard above their heads.' About twenty-two miles to the west, the sea-line is broken by an island, about which there is an indefinable air of romance. Lundy is three and a half miles long, its greatest width is a few yards short of a mile, and it is surrounded by high and dangerous cliffs and rocks—too well known even in the present day by the ships wrecked on them. Perhaps those oftenest heard of are the reefs of the Hen and Chickens, 'fringed with great insular rocks, bristling up amid the sea,' which dashes on them in a never-ceasing cloud of foam on the north, and the fatal Shutter on the south-west. Lundy has been described as a 'lofty table-headed granite rock.... The cliffs and adjacent sea are alive with seabirds, every ledge and jutting rock being alive with them, or they are whirling round in clouds, filling the air with their discordant screams.' Westcote remarked: 'In breeding time, in some places, you shall hardly know where to set your foot but on eggs,' and adds that it affords 'conies plentifully, doves, stares (which Alexander Nectan termeth Ganymede's birds).' Mr Chanter translates 'Ganymede's birds to be gannets, as there were very many of these birds there'; but an older commentator soars higher, and thinks of eagles and ostriches!
A description of Lundy as it was in the middle of the eighteenth century is dimly suggestive of Robinson Crusoe. 'Wild fowl were exceeding plenty, and a vast number of rabbits. The island was overgrown with ferns and heath, which made it almost impossible to go to the extreme of the island. Had it not been for the supply of rabbits and young sea-gulls our tables would have been but poorly furnished, rats being so plenty that they destroyed every night what was left of our repast by day. Lobsters were tolerably plenty, and some other fish we caught. The deer and goats were very wild and difficult to get at. The path to the house was so narrow and steep that it was scarcely possible for a horse to ascend it. The inhabitants by the assistance of a rope climbed up a rock in which were steps cut to place their feet, to a cave or magazine where Mr Benson lodged his goods.' There have been considerable differences of opinion about the name, and Mr Baring-Gould believes: 'Lundy takes its name from the puffins, in Scandinavian Lund, that at all times frequented it; but it had an earlier Celtic name, Caer Sidi, and is spoken of as a mysterious abode in the Welsh Mabinogion.'
Many centuries later it seems to have had the power of inspiring fabulous tales, for Miss Celia Fiennes, who looked at it in her journey from Cornwall, makes a statement almost as wonderful as some of Sir John Mandeville's tales of Barnacle Trees and other marvels. She says: 'I saw the isle of Lundy, which formerly belonged to my Grandfather, William Lord Viscount Say and Seale, which does abound with fish and rabbits and all sorts of ffowles, one bird y^t lives partly in the water and partly out and so may be called an amphibious creature; it's true that one foot is like a turkey, the other a goose's foote; it lays its eggs in a place the sun shines on and sets it so exactly upright on the small end, and there it remaines till taken up, and all the art and skill of persons cannot set it up soe againe to abide.'
Legends apart, Lundy has been the scene of many thrilling adventures, and has had an eventful history. The advantages of its position for watching and falling upon richly laden merchant ships on their way to and from Bristol and other towns, and the great difficulties that met any enemy trying to land, resulted in the island being appropriated by one band of pirates after another, of whom the De Moriscoes were the most celebrated. Henry II, getting tired of their turbulence and lawlessness, granted the island to the Knights Templars, but it does not appear they were ever able to establish themselves there. In 1158 the raids of the Moriscoes became so intolerable that a special tax was imposed in Devon and Cornwall for the defence of their ports, and for furnishing means for an attack on Lundy, but Sir William de Morisco seems to have triumphantly survived the storm. Later he was taken prisoner by the French in a sea-fight, but was eventually released.
Sir William, his son, was charged, upon the evidence of a semi-lunatic, with conspiring to assassinate Henry III, and on the strength of it was condemned to death—a sentence that, as he fled to Lundy, was not carried out for four years, when he was taken by stratagem. Lundy was then seized by the King, but forty years later the Moriscoes once more gained possession of it. Edward II granted the island to one of the Despencers, and in his own distress attempted to take refuge here:
'To Lundy, which in Sabrin's mouth doth stand, Carried with hope (still hoping to find ease), Imagining it were his native land, England itself; Severn, the narrow sea; With this conceit, poor soul! himself doth please. And sith his rule is over-ruled by men, On birds and beasts he'll king it once again.
''Tis treble death a freezing death to feel; For him on whom the sun hath ever shone, Who hath been kneeled unto, can hardly kneel, Nor hardly beg what once hath been his own. A fearful thing to tumble from a throne! Fain would he be king of a little isle; All were his empire bounded in a mile.'
But the winds were against him, and he was driven on to the Welsh coast, into the hands of his enemies.
During the reign of Henry VIII, French pirates seized the island, and plundered and robbed at large, but they were accounted for by the valour of Clovelly fishermen, who made a determined attack, and killed or made prisoners of the whole band. In 1608 a commission was held to consider the grievances of merchants who complained of piracy in the Bristol Channel; and in 1610 'another commission was issued to the Earl of Nottingham to authorize the town of Barnstaple to send out ships for the capture of pirates, and the deposition was taken of one William Young, who had been made prisoner by Captain Salkeld, who entitled himself "King of Lundy," and was a notorious pirate.' Two years later 'the John of Braunton and the Mayflower of Barnstaple caught as notorious Rogues as any in England.' After another thirteen years: 'The Mayor of Bristol reports to the Council that three Turkish pirate vessels had surprised and taken the island of Lundy with the inhabitants, and had threatened to burn Ilfracombe.' During an inquiry following this report, evidence was given that seems very curious when one considers the date, nearly halfway through the seventeenth century: 'From Nicholas Cullen, "That the Turks had taken out of a church in Cornwall about sixty men, and carried them away prisoners."'
French pirates made Lundy their headquarters three years later, and in June, 1630, Captain Plumleigh reported that 'Egypt was never more infested with caterpillars than the Channel with Biscayers. On the 23rd instant there came out of St Sebastian twenty sail of sloops; some attempted to land on Lundy, but were repulsed by the inhabitants.'
One of the most conspicuous of all Lundy's owners was a certain Thomas Benson, merchant of Bideford, who, with great sang-froid and considerable humour, combined smuggling and piracy with being a member of Parliament. Unfortunately, his varied occupations after a while brought him to grief. Amongst other charges, it was proved that he had 'entered into a contract with the Government for the exportation of convicts to Virginia and Maryland, and gave the usual bond to the sheriff for so doing. But instead of doing this he shipped them to Lundy, where he employed them in building walls and other work in the island. Every night they were locked up in the old keep of the Mariscoes. He regarded himself as King of Lundy, and ruled with a high hand.' In answering this accusation he offered the ingenious excuse for his breach of contract: 'That he considered Lundy to be quite as much out of the world as these colonies.'
From Ilfracombe, towards Lynton, the road at first follows the edge of the cliff, high above the sea. One tiny bay curves inland till the road seems almost to overhang the water, blue-green with undertones of grey, and the foam splashing on the broken rocks. All around is a sense of wide spaces and freshness. Headland beyond headland rises to the east, the Little Hangman, Great Hangman, and Highveer Point, softened by a transparent grey haze. A little to the right of them are the first ridges of Exmoor, some long, some short, ending in full curves and slopes clearly outlined against the sides of their higher neighbours, and the highest against the sky. In the prettiest of hollows, Watermouth Castle looks down a slope of richest pasture to the sea sparkling below, and a great mass of rock shields it from storms blowing off the water. Clouds of foliage soften the lines of the hill rising behind the Castle.
A short distance inland is the village of Berrynarbour, chiefly to be remembered as the birthplace of John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, 'a perfect rich gem, and true jewel indeed,' over whose virtues Westcote falls into panegyrics. 'If anywhere the observation of Chrysostom be true, that there lies a great hidden treasure in names, surely it may rightly be said to be here; grace in John and eminent perfection in Jewel.'
John Jewel was born in 1522, and when very young was sent to Oxford, where he showed a passion for learning, and before long became famous as a lecturer and preacher. 'His behaviour was so virtuous that his heaviest adversary ... could not notwithstanding forbear to yield this testimony to his commendation: "I should love thee, Jewel, wert thou not a Zuinglian. In thy faith thou art a heretic, but sure in thy life thou art an angel."'
Jewel's friendship with Peter Martyr, and other marks of his Protestant leanings, were the reason of his being expelled, in Queen Mary's days, from Corpus Christi College. But he had 'a little Zoar to fly unto'—Broadgates Hall, now Pembroke College.
As danger became more imminent, he escaped to Switzerland, and did not come back to England until Elizabeth's reign had dawned. Fuller's brief summary is that he 'wrote learnedly, preached painfully, lived piously, died peaceably, Anno Domini 1572.' And his 'memory' (to return to Westcote) was 'a fragrant, sweet-smelling odour, blown abroad not only in that diocese, but generally through the whole kingdom.'
Our author finishes his remarks on Berrynarbour by quoting an epitaph then to be found in the church, a building which has a fine Perpendicular tower with battlement and pinnacles. The memorial was to Nicholas Harper:
'Harper! the music of thy life, So sweet, so free from jar or strife; To crown thy skill hath rais'd thee higher, And plac'd thee in the angels' choir: And though that death hath thrown thee down, In heaven thou hast thy harp and crown.'
A short distance farther on, the road runs down into Combe Martin Bay, following the little creek that narrows and narrows inland between high rock walls till two small houses seem almost to block it, and the road twists round them and runs up the enclosed valley beyond. The village is an odd one, for it is over a mile long, but hardly any houses stand away from the main street, which is made up of cob-walled, thatched cottages, quite large shops, little slate-roofed houses, and villas in their own garden, all jumbled together as if they had been thrown down accidentally. Masses of red valerian, and some of the graceful bright rose-bay willow-herb, give colour to the banks and overhang the walls.
Combe Martin has the rare distinction amongst English parishes of owning mines with veins of silver as well as lead. Camden tells us that the silver-mines 'were first discovered in Edward the First's days, when three hundred and fifty men were brought from the Peak in Derbyshire, to work here.' This statement Fuller amplifies by the note that 'It was forged for the Lady Eleanor Dutchesse of Barr, daughter to the said King, who married the year before.'
In the reign of Edward III the mines yielded the King 'great profits towards carrying on the French war,' and Henry V 'made good use of them,' but after that they were neglected for a long while. In Queen Elizabeth's reign, Adrian Gilbert, Sir Humphrey's brother, began to work them again, and Sir Beavis Bulmer followed with considerable success, 'by whose mineral skill great quantity of silver was landed and refined.'
The Queen presented the Earl of Bath with a rich and fair silver cup made here, bearing this inscription:
'In Martin's-Comb long lay I hid, Obscure, depress'd with grosser soil; Debased much with mixed lead, Till Bulmer came, whose skill and toil Refined me so pure and clean As richer nowhere else is seen.
'And adding yet a farther grace, By fashion he did enable Me worthy for to take a place To serve at any prince's table. Comb-Martin gave the ore alone, Bulmer fining and fashion.'
The mines have been worked at intervals since, and as late as 1845 a smelting-house was built in the valley.
The church is of rose-coloured stone, and has a high battlemented tower, in which are niches with figures in them. There is a good screen, with paintings of the Apostles on the panels. In the south aisle is a monument to the wife of William Hancock, 'an effigy the size of life, exquisitely and elaborately sculptured in white marble. It bears the date 1634. Dame Hancock is represented in the dress of that time, covered with point lace and looped with knots of riband; she has a pearl necklace round her throat and her hair in curls, and bears some resemblance to the portraits of Henrietta Maria, queen of Charles I.'
From Combe Martin the road to Lynton turns inland and makes a deep curve to the south, and two or three miles from its most southerly point, and about ten miles from Ilfracombe, is Arlington Court, the home of one of the many branches of that great North Devon family, the Chichesters. The first of this name were settled at Chichester in Sussex, but by marriage with the daughter and heiress of John de Raleigh, about the middle of the fourteenth century, John Chichester came into the possession of several manors in North Devon. About a hundred and fifty years later, Youlston, with other manors, was granted to 'John Chichester and Margaret his wife and their heirs for ever, at the annual rent of a rose, at the feast of St John the Baptist.'
Sir John Chichester was among the most zealous Protestants in suppressing the rising that broke out in the West in 1549. After the insurrection was crushed, 'it was declared that the rebels used the church bells in every parish to excite the people. The bells were taken down, and all the clappers were made a present to Sir John Chichester, as a reward for having assisted against the rebels. Strype says: "No question he made good benefit thereof."'
Sir John had reason to be proud of his seven sons, for four 'were knights, one created a baron, and one a viscount.' Ireland was the special field of their triumphs, and it is a curious coincidence that four hundred years before one of their ancestors, 'Master Robert de Cicester, ... being a discreet person,' had been specially chosen to go on the King's business to that country.
Prince calls Sir Arthur Chichester, the second son, 'one of the chiefest ornaments of our country.' He received his baptism of fire in France, under the command of Henri IV, and 'for some notable exploit done by him ... was by that puissant prince honoured with knighthood.' He fought in the Armada, and the next year sailed as one of Drake's captains, and then became lieutenant-colonel of a regiment in the West Indies. Fuller speaks of his career in Ireland in the sympathetic tone of his day towards that unhappy country. 'By his valour he was effectually assistant, first to plough and break up that barbarous Nation by Conquest, and then to sow it with seeds of civility when by King James made Lord Deputy of Ireland.' The 'good laws and Provisions' made by former Governors were 'like good lessons set for a Lute out of tune, useless untill the Instrument was fitted for them.' Sir Arthur established new and wider circuits for Justices of Assize, with the most excellent results, for, 'like good Planets in their several spheres, they carried the influence of Justice round about the Kingdom.' And, if Fuller is right, although he governed with a very firm and sometimes heavy hand, he contrived to avoid the unpopularity which it would be imagined must have fallen to his share amongst an oppressed and rebellious people. Indeed, not only did the Irish under his authority seem, for a time, resigned to English rule, but they even showed a passing desire to imitate their fashions; for, 'in conformity to the English Custome, many Irish began to cut their mantles into cloaks.'
In 1612 Sir Arthur was created Lord Chichester of Belfast, and, having resigned his office of Lord Deputy, was called back to it two years later—the same year, his biographer observes, that the Irish harp took its place in the arms of England. His 'administration,' says Leland, 'was active, vigilant, cautious, firm, and suited to a country scarcely emerging to civilization and order.'
A rather florid 'Elegie on the Death of my Lord Chichester' reflects contemporary opinion:
'From Chichester's discent he tooke his name. And in exchange of it, return'd such fame By his brave deeds, as to that race shall be A radiant splendour for eternitie. For fame shall write this Adage. Let it last Like the sweete memorie of my Lord Belfast.'
In Swymbridge Church there is a monument of a youthful Chichester, 'whose portrait is given, and whom the bird of Jove is represented as carrying off to serve Ganymede in heaven. Turning back towards the coast, the thought of Sir Robert Chichester, son of Lord Chichester's eldest brother, is suggested. For tradition says that he is forced to haunt the shore near Martinhoe, weaving traces out of sand (the occupation of aristocratic ghosts in North Devon!), and, having fixed them to his carriage, he must drive up the face of the crag and through a narrow cleft at the top, known as Sir Robert's Road. 'The natives believe that they hear his voice of rage as he labours at his nightly task; and at other times they fancy that they see him scouring over Challacombe Downs, followed by a pack of hounds, whose fiery tails gleam in the gathering darkness.'
The descent into Parracombe is almost alarming, as the village is at the bottom of a valley with precipitous sides. Driving down-hill, the ground falls away so sharply that just beyond the horses' heads one sees only space. The old and interesting church of St Helen is Early English; it is now used only on rare occasions, and a new church has been built close by. St Helen's keeps its old chancel screen, but it is in a mutilated condition, for the rood-beam was taken away to be cut up into bench-ends!
Over all this valley hovers the charm of an overflowing abundance, which particularly shows itself in the pleasant gardens of fruit and flowers, and the overgrown hedges with their rich decoration of berries, crimson leaves, and purple and golden flowers.
Directly north is the bit of coast that Kingsley so vividly described: 'What a sea-wall they are, those Exmoor hills! Sheer upward from the sea a thousand feet rise the mountains; and as we slide and stagger lazily along before the dying breeze, through the deep water which never leaves the cliff, the eye ranges, almost dizzy, up some five hundred feet of rock, dappled with every hue, from the intense dark of the tide-line; through the warm green and brown rock-shadows, out of which the horizontal cracks of the strata loom black, and the breeding gulls show like lingering snowflakes; up to the middle cliff, where delicate grey fades into pink, pink into red, red into glowing purple; up to where the purple is streaked with glossy ivy wreaths, and black-green yews; up to where all the choir of colours vanishes abruptly on the mid-hill, to give place to one yellowish-grey sheet of upward down, sweeping aloft smooth and unbroken, except by a lonely stone, or knot of clambering sheep, and stopped by one great rounded waving line, sharp-cut against the brilliant blue. The sheep hang like white daisies upon the steep; and a solitary falcon rides, a speck in air, yet far below the crest of that tall hill. Now he sinks to the cliff edge, and hangs quivering, supported, like a kite, by the pressure of his breast and long curved wings, against the breeze.'
About six miles west of Lynmouth is the lovely valley of Heddon's Mouth—that is, 'the Giant's mouth; Etin, A.S., a giant.' It is a very narrow green cleft, shut in by two precipitous cliffs rising eight hundred feet straight out of the sea. Heddon's Mouth Water hurries along the glen, buries itself in a bank of shingle, and flows out again lower down the beach. Huge rocks tumbled together make great barriers that block each side of the cove. On the eastern side, close to the mouth of the valley, part of the towering wall seems to have fallen away, showing bare rocks and soil of a warm light brown tempered by shades of pink. The western side is very steep, but covered with short grass, sea-pinks and thyme, and crowned by a great mass of boulders. The face to the sea is slightly hollowed, suggesting that on this side also part of the cliff has fallen. East and west, one great headland after another is seen, misty but impressive, above a silvery grey sea. Inland the valley changes suddenly from barren cliffs to a profusion of copses and thickets, and several beautiful deeply cleft combes, overbrimming with thick trees, open into the valley. Among the wayside bushes are the pretty purple-crimson flower-heads and thick cool leaves of that not very common wild-flower, livelong.
A road passing through a wood and by a little rushing stream overhung by hazels, leads towards Lynton, and crosses the tiny railway, on whose bank masses of the slender stems of great moon-like evening primroses shine in the grey twilight with an almost weird effect.
The more interesting way to Lynton is along the coast-road, which is soon reached from the valley. Beneath the road the cliffs fall precipitously hundreds of feet to the sea, and a few little horned sheep and some white goats, scrambling on the face of them, seemed to have the same hold as flies on a window-pane. Ravens are often seen even now amongst these almost inaccessible rocks. The road runs through a fir-wood, and as it rises and falls one may catch delicious glimpses of the sea through the ruddy stems and the great dark fans and tasselled ends of the branches; and the scent of pine-needles and of the sea stirring amongst them makes the charm still greater. The road looks down into Wooda Bay, which is also surrounded by woods, and passes to the tinier but very lovely Lee Bay. A little combe leads down to the shore, sheltered by leaves which, luminous from the sunshine above them, shade the glen from the fierce rays, and it is filled with a subdued, mysterious light. Stem beyond stem is partly hidden by the fresh, vigorous green shoots springing round them, or hanging in garlands from branch to branch, and suggests the wonderful fairyland that Richard Doyle saw, and enabled many people to see.
A little stream, breaking into miniature waterfalls and reflecting the foliage in its pools, finally disappears into the shingle, to emerge close to the sea. A few yards away is a tiny dropping-well on the face of the cliff, almost hidden by a green veil of plants that grow at the foot of the rocks or swing from the clefts.
Close to the bay stands Lee Abbey, a comparatively modern house, on the site of the old house of the De Wichehalses—a family who, considering the not very remote date of their history, have been surrounded with a surprising number of fables: Mr Blackmore contributed a share.
The Wichehalses had not a Dutch origin; the daughter of the house called Janifred never existed, and consequently the whole tragic tale of her lover's faithlessness and her sad fate is entirely imaginary. 'The Wichehalses,' says Mr Chanter, who has studied their history with minute care, 'originally took their name from their dwelling-place, a hamlet called Wych, near Chudleigh. Nicholas, a younger son, but founder of the most eminent branch, settled in Barnstaple about 1530, and made a large fortune in the woollen trade, part of which he spent in buying property in North Devon—amongst others, the Manors of Lynton and Countisbury. Here his grandson Hugh Wichehalse removed in 1627, leaving Barnstaple with his wife and children for the double reason that political troubles were already brewing and rumours were afloat that the plague was drawing near.'
Hugh Wichehalse seems to have avoided all strife as far as possible, but his son John threw himself vehemently on to the side of the Parliament, and became notorious for persecuting the Royalist clergy in the country round, whose lot in any case was a sorry one. John sold some of his estates and left a portion to his younger son, so that his eldest son (another John) and his wife, both of whom were extravagant, soon found themselves in difficulties. John Wichehalse made himself justly unpopular by the part he played after Sedgemoor. A Major Wade, in the Duke of Monmouth's army, had escaped from the battle-field and, with two other men, was hidden by a farmer at Farley. A search was made for them, in which Wichehalse joined with one of his servants, whom he had armed. His conduct was particularly odious, because Wade was a great friend of some of his own relations, who had very generously, by gifts, loans, and good counsel, repeatedly helped him out of his difficulties. In course of time they arrived at the right farm, and while they were coming in by the front door, Wade and the others escaped by the back. Babb, Wichehalse's servant, and another of the party saw the men running, and fired, and Wade was shot through the body, so that he was disabled and taken prisoner. Wichehalse's servants also killed another of Monmouth's men, and his body was impaled on a gate near Ley.
'In the neighbourhood,' says Mr Chanter, 'the blame was put on his servant, John Babb, who was said to have incited his master to kill every rebel they could find; and local tradition has it that the Babbs, who had been the favourite retainers at Ley, never prospered after. When their master left Lynton they moved to West Leymouth, as the modern Lynmouth was called then, and employed themselves in the herring-curing industry, which the cottagers said failed because Babb was engaged in it; and years after his granddaughter, Ursula Babb, was pointed out as the last of the race with the curse on it, and, as she was reported to possess the evil eye, became a great object of fear to all around.'
John Wichehalse and his wife went to London, and wasted their goods until he died, when the mortgages were foreclosed, and no property in Lynton was left to the family. The melancholy fate of their daughter Mary may have suggested the more romantic story of Janifred. Mary Wichehalse married, but later returned to Lynton, where, under the care of a faithful servant, she spent her time wandering over the cliffs looking at the lost inheritance. Some say that she fell off the rocks, and others that she was washed away by the tide, but both accounts agree that she was drowned.
The Valley of Rocks is wild, grand, and rather dreary, 'all crags and pinnacles.' Southey was deeply impressed by it: 'Imagine a narrow vale between two ridges of hills somewhat steep; the southern hill turfed; the vale, which runs from east to west, covered with huge stones and fragments of stone among the fern that fills it; the northern ridge completely bare, excoriated of all turf and all soil, the very bones and skeletons of the earth; rock reclining upon rock, stone piled upon stone, a huge terrific mass—a palace of the preAdamite kings, a city of the Anakim, must have appeared so shapeless, and yet so like the ruins of what had been shaped after the waters of the flood had subsided. I ascended with some toil the highest point; two large stones inclining on each other formed a rude portal on the summit. Here I sat down. A little level platform, about two yards long, lay before me, and then the eye immediately fell upon the sea, far, very far below. I never felt the sublimity of solitude before.' Names have been given to the great rock-masses. The Castle Rock looks far over the sea, the Devil's Cheesewring is on the inner side of the valley, and there are many others. A narrow path cut in the deep descent of the cliffs leads from the valley, 'where screes and boulders, red and grey and orange, covered for the most part with lichen or tendrils of ground-ivy, lend splashes of vivid colouring to the hill-side;' and about a mile farther on is Lynton.
Perched on the cliffs nine hundred feet immediately above Lynmouth, Lynton looks down to the inlet, into which two ravines open from the south. Down these ravines rush the East and West Lyns, hidden among the woods; and the two streams join just before they reach the sea-shore. Countisbury Foreland stands high to the east of the harbour and stretches far out into the sea, and between the foreland and the mainland is another long, steep, winding cleft.
I once saw the bay in an exquisite light very early in the morning. Earth and sky and sea were all veiled in the softest grey, and in the sky was one little flush of pale rose pink. But for a sea-gull crying under the cliff, the stillness was absolute.
Lynmouth consists of a tiny quay, a little group of houses, and the ravines beyond. It is impossible to imagine any place where buildings and tourists could more exasperate a true lover of earlier days. Still, they cannot have more than a superficial effect—except at the meeting of the streams, which is quite spoilt by the houses on either side.
The music of the Lyns has been noticed by many comers, and about sixty years ago the Rev. H. Havergal, whilst staying here and listening to the continuous tone of the Lyn at low-water, composed this chant:
As a place for visitors to admire, Lynton was discovered in the beginning of the nineteenth century. The French Revolution and Napoleonic wars obliged those who were in the habit of going abroad for change and amusement to look for it in comparatively unknown parts at home. In 1807 the first hotel—not counting a small and inconvenient village hostelry—was opened; and even at this date there were no wheeled vehicles in either village, ponies and donkeys carrying everything. Until this time Lynton and Lynmouth had been the quietest of little fishing-villages, without even the doings of a resident squire or rector to furnish a subject for a little gossip.
The ecclesiastical history of the little neighbouring parish of Countisbury is very much mixed up with that of Lynton. Mr Chanter prints some of the Countisbury churchwardens' accounts, which, as he observes, are chiefly remarkable for the prominent part that beer played in every event, from killing a fox to the visitation of 'ye Dean Ruler.'
s. d. 'Pd when one fox was killed for beer 2 0 Pd more for beare when one fox was killed 2 6 Pd for bear when two foxes were killed 7 6 Pd for ale for the fox hunters 2 0'
Other entries are for killing 'wild cats, greys [badgers], and hedge hogs ... salaries of dog-whipper ... fox-hunter, etc., and repairs to the base viol.'
Lynmouth and Lyn were noted for the fishery, and especially for their herrings and oysters. The fishery was developed in quite early days by the abbots of Ford Abbey, who claimed the whole coast-line of Lynton and of Countisbury. Cellars and curing-houses, called 'red-herring houses,' were built close to the beach, and were apt to be swept away by any violent storm, for the little harbour has a double reason for dreading bad weather—not only do the breakers surge over their usual limits and wash away or damage all that is in their way, but at the same time the streams come down a roaring, foaming torrent, which rolls along great boulders and hurls itself against all obstacles. In 1607 a whole row of red-herring houses was swept away, and since that date the records of disputes as to repairs to the harbour and petitions from the fishermen tell how greatly they have suffered from this cause. The fishing has dwindled until it is now a very trifling matter indeed.
The small parish of Countisbury is high on the cliffs, on the eastern side of the river, and the road to it from Lynmouth rises at once to a height of eleven hundred feet. A little Perpendicular church with an embattled tower crowned by pinnacles stands at the mercy of every wind that blows.
Farther to the east, and almost on the boundary-line of Somerset, is Oldbarrow Camp, which differing archaeologists have claimed to be British, Roman, and Danish. From this hill the fall to the sea is precipitous, and the descent into Somerset is almost as steep; inland, the ground also sinks away, leaving a magnificent view and a grand sense of space. Even when the light is fading there is a great charm, for looking down into the hollow, one sees a faint blue tinge lying like bloom upon the misty twilight that nils the valley—a sharp contrast to the clear darkness of the evening sky. Countisbury Camp is not far from Oldbarrow, and in Lynton there are two more ancient 'castles,' each consisting of a single fosse and rampart, and other monuments. Several stone circles, 'over forty feet in diameter,' have been wickedly removed from the Valley of Rocks 'for the purpose of selling them as gate-posts!...' Spindle-wheels, or pixie grinding-stones, as the natives call them, have been found in the neighbourhood, as well as arrow-heads and 'a skinning knife with a ground edge of black flint.'
The winding valley of the West Lyn is very beautiful, but not so wild as that of the East Lyn; it lies deep down beneath fir-woods, whose serried spires mount higher and higher on the steep hill-side. A little way from Lynton, along this lovely road, is Barbrook Mill, and close by a cottage covered with purple clematis, among trees loaded with rosy apples.
Following up the East Lyn from Lynton, the fitness of Dean Alford's words is realized:
This onward deepening gloom; this hanging path Over the Lyn that soundeth mightily, Foaming and tumbling on, as if in wrath That might should bar its passage to the sea; These sundered walls of rock, tier upon tier, Built darkly up into the very sky, Hung with thick wood, the native haunt of deer And sheep that browse the dizzy slopes on high.
These 'walls of rock' are now and again cleft by the narrow openings of steep and wild ravines. It is intensely solitary; there is scarcely any sound or movement, but perhaps a buzzard high in the air may hang over the valley for a few moments. About two miles from the harbour is Watersmeet, where the Farley Water rushes into the Lyn. When the leaves are on the trees the stream can hardly be seen from the road, for it lies below a high, steep bank. By the water's edge in the shaded light there is a suggestion of mystery, and the bed of the stream is so shut in that but for the stirring of the leaves, the shifting gleams of sunlight in the waters, and the freshness of the air, one could almost imagine oneself underground. The glossy leaves of festoons of ivy and wild-flowers cover the red rocks. The Farley Water falls over a succession of little waterfalls, swirling and foaming in the pools between, and then slips over little rocky ridges and slopes covered with duck-weed so wide that the 'stream covers it like no more than a thin film of glancing emerald.' Below, the valley opens enough to allow space for a tiny lawn, overhung with oak-trees; and here it is joined by the Lyn, which has raced along the farther side of a steep tongue of land.
The road passes a fir-wood, bright with golden-rod and ragwort and soft blue scabious, and by-and-by turns eastward, and reaches the scattered village of Brendon. Brendon 'church-town' is made up of church, school, parsonage, and a few farms, and can scarcely be called a village. The church stands high on the hill above the river; it is very small, and has been rebuilt comparatively lately; its dedication is the most interesting thing about it. All who ever rejoiced in 'The Water Babies' should remember this Irish saint. 'Did you never hear of the blessed St Brandan, how he preached to the wild Irish, on the wild, wild Kerry coast; he, and five other hermits, till they were weary and longed to rest?... So St Brandan went out to the point of Old Dunmore, and looked over the tide-way roaring round the Blasquets, at the end of all the world, and away into the ocean, and sighed, "Ah that I had wings as a dove!" And far away, before the setting sun, he saw a blue fairy sea, and golden fairy islands, and he said, "Those are the islands of the blest!" Then he and his friends got into a hooker and sailed away and away to the westward, and were never heard of more.'
A little higher up the little river (here known as Brendon Water) is a very old bridge, now unused, and a wide modern bridge, which crosses the two branches of the divided stream just below a little green island. Bushes crowd and overlap each other on the banks, and it is very likely a grey water-wagtail will dart from among the leaves and flit jauntily upstream.
The road all this way follows the water—for some distance the boundary between the counties—and here it is sunk between the barriers of the County Wall separating Devonshire and Somersetshire. A great bare cliff, covered only with short grass, and scanty tufts of heather and furze growing thinly upon it, towers above the road; the other side of the valley is lower, gentler, and wooded. Malmsmead Bridge crosses over the Badgeworthy Water, as the stream—which seems to change its name nearly every half-mile in the most perplexing manner—is here called, a little higher than the point at which it is joined by its tributary, Oare Water. Above the bridge the road becomes a rough track that leads up into the very wild and beautiful valley of Badgeworthy Water, well known by name to all lovers of 'Lorna Doone.' Some of the natives are apt to mislead strangers by wrongly calling this glen the Doone Valley. Further upstream the valley becomes narrower, and the sides steeper, winding in long beautiful curves. The shallow stream is brown, but very bright and clear and pebbled; boggy patches lie here and there by the side, and in one patch the sweet-ferns grow so large and thick that their characteristic 'sharp sweet' scent is strong enough to betray them before one catches sight of the finely-cut fronds. On the east side of Badgeworthy Water is Deer Park, where many deer lie and the fir-woods come down to the water's edge. On the opposite side is Badgeworthy Wood, chiefly of oaks, most of which are not very large, but many of them are gnarled. The number of oak-apples that I have seen in this wood was amazing; on one tree they seemed like cherries on a cherry-tree. Nearly all were scarlet, and they glowed in the sunshine.
'Lorna Doone' has brought so many visitors to the scene that it is no news to say that the account of the water-slide is fictitious. This word is deliberately chosen instead of 'exaggerated,' which is often applied to Mr Blackmore's picture of the fall; for he was not describing scenery—he was setting a scene in his novel, and there was no reason why he should be bound to inches, or even feet! And this argument applies to what he has said of the Doone Valley. At the same time, in his 'Exploration of Exmoor,' Mr Page observes that a true description of the valley of Badgeworthy Water would very nearly represent Mr Blackmore's Glen Doone; and it still seems absolutely apart from the ordinary race and fret of life.
Two long, smooth slopes of rock one below another form the chief part of the water-slide, and the thin stream slipping over them makes one wish to see how the fall would look when the water comes down, a roaring torrent, swollen by heavy rains and melting snow. On one side of the water-slide the ground rises very sharply, but up the other side a tiny path twists through the wood, and opens quite suddenly on a very still valley with steep sides and a broad, open space between. A mountain-ash bearing vividly scarlet bunches of berries hangs over the stream close to the opening; but beyond, only a few stunted thorns grow sparsely amongst an abundance of heather, furze, bracken, and whortleberries. Lorna's bower seems to have been seen to some extent through the author's imagination. In a shallow combe at a little distance are the ruins of what appear to have been the walls of enclosures, but they are very indefinite. These are all that remain of the Doones' houses, but recent research denies that the Doones ever existed!
From the top of the hill above the water-slide there is a very beautiful view of the winding glens opening out of each other, and at this point one is able to follow their curves for a long way before the hills shut them out of sight. With the sun shining through the haziest clouds, and the radiant glow of a diffused light calling out delicate tints on the distant slopes, the whole scene seems most fitly described by the old words of praise, 'a fair country.'