Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Peele Castle

Peele CastleThe Isle of Man derives its name from the ancient British word mon, which means "isolated." Around this singular place there are many rocky islets, also isolated, and upon one of the most picturesque of these, where art and Nature have vied in adding strength to beauty, is built the castle of Peele, off the western coast, overlooking the distant shores of Ireland. This castle is perched upon a huge rock, rising for a great height out of the sea, and completely inaccessible, except by the approach which has been constructed on the side towards the Isle of Man, where the little town of Peele is located.

After crossing the arm of the sea separating the castle from the town, the visitor, landing at the foot of the rock, ascends about sixty steps, cut out of it, to the first wall, which is massive and high, and built of the old red sandstone in which the island abounds; the gates in this wall are of wood, curiously arched and carved, and four little watch-towers on the wall overlook the sea. Having entered, he mounts by another shorter stairway cut out of the rock to the second wall, built like the other, and both of them full of portholes for cannon. Passing through yet a third wall, there is found a broad plain upon the top of the rock, where stands the castle, surrounded by four churches, three almost entirely ruined; the other church (St. Germain's) is kept in some repair because it has within the bishop's chapel, while beneath is a horrible dungeon where the sea runs in and out through hollows of the rock with a continual roar; a steep and narrow stairway descends to the dungeon and burial-vaults, and within are thirteen pillars supporting the chapel above. Beware, if going down, of failing to count the pillars, for we are told that he who neglects this is sure to do something that will occasion his confinement in this dreadful dungeon.

This famous castle of Peele even in its partly-ruined state has several noble apartments, and here were located some of the most interesting scenes of Scott's novel of Peveril of the Peak. It was in former days a state-prison, and in it were at one time confined Warwick the King-maker, and also Gloucester's haughty wife, Eleanor; her discontented spectre was said to haunt the battlements in former years, and stand motionless beside one of the watch-towers, only disappearing when the cock crew or church-bell tolled: another apparition, a shaggy spaniel known as the Manthe Doog, also haunted the castle, particularly the guard-chamber, where the dog came and lay down at candlelight; the soldiers lost much of their terror by the frequency of the sight, but none of them liked to be left alone with him, though he did not molest them. The dog came out by a passage through the church where the soldiers had to go to deliver the keys to their captain, and for moral support they never went that way alone. One of the soldiers, we are told, on a certain night, "being much disguised in liquor" (for spirits of various kinds appear in the Isle of Man, as most other places), insisted upon going with the keys alone, and could not be dissuaded; he said he was determined to discover whether the apparition was dog or devil, and, snatching the keys, departed: soon there was a great noise, but none ventured to ascertain the cause. When the soldier returned he was speechless and horror-stricken, nor would he ever by word or sign tell what had happened to him, but soon died in agony; then the passage was walled up, and the Manthe Doog was never more seen at Castle Peele.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Peak of Derbyshire

Hardwicke Hall, DerbyshireThe river Mersey takes its sources—for it is formed by the union of several smaller streams—in the ranges of high limestone hills east of Liverpool, in North Derbyshire. These hills are an extension of the Pennine range that makes the backbone of England, and in Derbyshire they rise to a height of nearly two thousand feet, giving most picturesque scenery. The broad top of the range at its highest part is called the Kinderscout, or, more familiarly, "The Peak." The mountain-top is a vast moor, abounding in deep holes and water-pools, uninhabited excepting by the stray sportsman or tourist, and dangerous and difficult to cross. Yet, once mounted to the top, there are good views of the wild scenery of the Derbyshire hills, with the villages nestling in the glens, and of the "Kinder Fall," where much of the water from the summit pours down a cataract of some five hundred feet height, while not far away is the "Mermaid's Pool," where, if you go at the midnight hour that ushers in Easter Sunday, and look steadily into the water, you will see a mermaid. The man who ventures upon that treacherous bogland by night certainly deserves to see the best mermaid the Peak can produce. This limestone region is a famous place. In the sheltered valley to the westward of the Kinderscout is the village of Castleton, almost covered in by high hills on all sides. It was here upon a bold cliff to the southward of the village that "Peveril of the Peak" built his renowned castle at the time of the Norman Conquest, of which only the ruins of the keep and part of the outer walls remain. Almost inaccessible, it possessed the extraordinary powers of defence that were necessary in those troublous times, and here its founder gave a grand tournament, to which young knights came from far and near, the successful knight of Lorraine being rewarded by his daughter's hand. In the time of Edward III. this "Castle of the Peak" reverted to the Crown, but now it is held by the Duke of Devonshire. Under the hill on which the ruins stand is the "Cavern of the Peak," with a fine entrance in a gloomy recess formed by a chasm in the rocks. This entrance makes a Gothic arch over one thousand feet wide, above which the rock towers nearly three hundred feet, and it is chequered with colored stones. Within is a vast flat-roofed cavern, at the farther side being a lake over which the visitors are ferried in a boat. Other caverns are within, the entire cave extending nearly a half mile, a little river traversing its full length. There are more and similar caverns in the neighborhood.

One of the great characters of the sixteenth century was Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, familiarly known as "Bess of Hardwicke," where she was born, and who managed to outlive four husbands, thus showing what success is in store for a woman of tact and business talent. She was a penniless bride at fourteen, when she married an opulent gentleman of Derbyshire named Barley, who left her at fifteen a wealthy widow. At the age of thirty she married another rich husband, Sir William Cavendish, the ancestor of the Dukes of Devonshire, who died in 1557, leaving her again a widow, but with large estates, for she had taken good care to look after the proper marriage settlements; and in fact, even in those early days, a pretty good fortune was necessary to provide for the family of eight children Sir William left her. She next married Sir William Loe, who also had large estates and was the captain of the king's guard, the lady's business tact procuring in advance of the wedding the settlement of these estates upon herself and her children—a hard condition, with which, the historian tells us, "the gallant captain, who had a family by a former marriage, felt himself constrained to comply or forego his bride." But in time the captain died, and his estates all went to the thrifty lady, to the exclusion of his own family; and to the blooming widow, thus made for the third time, there came a-courting the Earl of Shrewsbury; the earl had numerous offspring, and therefore could hardly give Bess all his possessions, like her other husbands, but she was clever enough to obtain her object in another way. As a condition precedent to accepting the earl, she made him marry two of his children to two of hers, and after seeing these two weddings solemnized, the earl led her to the altar for the fourth time at the age of fifty; and we are told that all four of these weddings were actual "love-matches." But she did not get on well with the earl, whose correspondence shows she was a little shrewish, though in most quarrels she managed to come off ahead, having by that time acquired experience. When the earl died in 1590, and Bess concluded not again to attempt matrimony, she was immensely rich and was seized with a mania for building, which has left to the present day three memorable houses: Hardwicke Hall, where she lived, Bolsover Castle, and the palace of Chatsworth, which she began, and on which she lavished the enormous sum, for that day, of $400,000. The legend runs that she was told that so long as she kept building her life would be spared—an architect's ruse possibly; and when finally she died it was during a period of hard frost, when the masons could not work.

Hardwicke Hall, near Mansfield, which the renowned Bess has left as one of her monuments, is about three hundred years old, and approached by a noble avenue through a spacious park; it is still among the possessions of the Cavendish family and in the Duke of Devonshire's estates. The old hall where Bess was born almost touches the new one that she built, and which bears the initials of the proud and determined woman in many places outside and in. It was here that Mary Queen of Scots was held in captivity part of the time that she was placed by Queen Elizabeth in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and her statue stands in the hall. There is an extensive picture-gallery containing many historical portraits, and also fine state-apartments. The mansion is a lofty oblong stone structure, with tall square towers at each corner, the architecture being one of the best specimens of the Elizabethan Period; on the side, as viewed from the park, the hall seems all windows, which accounts for the saying of that neighborhood:

"Hardwicke Hall, more glass than wall."

The ruins of the old hall, almost overgrown with ivy, are picturesque, but from everywhere on the ancient or on the modern hall there peer out the initials "E. S.," with which the prudent Bess was so careful to mark all her possessions.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Border Castles, Westmorelandshire

Carlisle CathedralAt Kendal, in Westmorelandshire, are the ruins of Kendal Castle, a relic of the Norman days, but long since gone to decay. Here lived the ancestors of King Henry VIII.'s last wife, Queen Catharine Parr. Opposite it are the ruins of Castle How, and not far away the quaint appendage known as Castle Dairy, replete with heraldic carvings. It was in the town of Kendal that was made the foresters' woollen cloth known as "Kendal green," which was the uniform of Robin Hood's band.

In the northern part of the county, on the military road to Carlisle, are the ruins of Brougham Castle, built six hundred years ago. It was here that the Earl of Cumberland magnificently entertained King James I. for three days on one of his journeys out of Scotland. It is famous as the home of the late Henry, Lord Brougham, whose ancestors held it for many generations. The manor-house, known as Brougham Hall, has such richness, variety, and extent of prospect from its terraces that it is called the "Windsor of the North." Lord Brougham was much attached to his magnificent home, and it was here in 1860 that he finished his comprehensive work on the British Constitution, and wrote its famous dedication to the queen, beginning with the memorable words, "Madame, I presume to lay at Your Majesty's feet a work the 'result of many years' diligent study, much calm reflection, and a long life's experience." In close proximity to the castle is the Roman station Brocavum, founded by Agricola in A.D. 79. Its outline is clearly defined, the camp within the inner ditch measuring almost one thousand feet square. Various Roman roads lead from it, and much of the materials of the outworks were built into the original Brougham Castle.

The Solway and its firth divide England from Scotland, and this borderland has been the scene of many deadly feuds, though happily only in the days long agone. The castle of Carlisle was a noted border stronghold, built of red sandstone by King William Rufus, who rebuilt Carlisle, which had then lain in ruins two hundred years because of the forays of the Danes. Richard III. enlarged the castle, and Henry VIII. built the citadel. Here Mary Queen of Scots was once lodged, but in Elizabeth's time the castle fell into decay. In the town is a fine cathedral, which has been thoroughly restored. In a flat situation north of Carlisle are the ruins of Scaleby Castle, once a fortress of great strength, but almost battered to pieces when it resisted Cromwell's forces. There are several acres enclosed within the moat, intended for the cattle when driven in to escape the forays that came over the border. This venerable castle is now a picturesque ruin. Twelve miles north-east of Carlisle is Naworth Castle, near where the Roman Wall crossed England. This is one of the finest feudal remains in Cumberland, having been the stronghold of the Wardens of the Marches, who guarded the border from Scottish incursions. It stands amid fine scenery, and just to the southward is the Roman Wall, of which many remains are still traced, while upon the high moorland in the neighborhood is the paved Roman Road, twelve feet wide and laid with stone. At Naworth there was always a strong garrison, for the border was rarely at peace, and

"Stern on the angry confines Naworth rose,
In dark woods islanded; its towers looked forth
And frowned defiance on the angry North."

Here lived, with a host of retainers, the famous "belted Will"—Lord William Howard, son of the fourth Duke of Norfolk—who in the early part of the seventeenth century finally brought peace to the border by his judicious exercise for many years of the Warden's powers. It is of this famous soldier and chivalrous knight, whose praises are even yet sung in the borderland, that Scott has written—

"Howard, than whom knight
Was never dubbed more bold in fight,
Nor, when from war and armor free.
More famed for stately courtesy."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Lake Country

Derwentwater, Lake Country, EnglandNorth of Lancashire, in the counties of Westmoreland and Cumberland, is the famous "Lake Country" of England. It does not cover a large area—in fact, a good pedestrian can walk from one extremity of the region to the other in a day—but its compact beauties have a charm of rugged outline and luxuriant detail that in a condensed form reproduce the Alpine lakes of Northern Italy. Derwentwater is conceded to be the finest of these English lakes, but there is also great beauty in Windermere and Ulleswater, Buttermere and Wastwater. The Derwent runs like a thread through the glassy bead of Derwentwater, a magnificent oval lake set among the hills, about three miles long and half that breadth, alongside which rises the frowning Mount Skiddaw with its pair of rounded heads. In entering the Lake Region from the Lancashire side we first come to the pretty Windermere Lake, the largest of these inland sheets of water, about ten miles long and one mile broad in the widest part. From Orrest Head, near the village of Windermere, there is a magnificent view of the lake from end to end, though tourists prefer usually to go to the village of Bowness on the bank, where steamers start at frequent intervals and make the circuit of the pretty lake. From Bowness the route is by Rydal Mount, where the poet Wordsworth lived, to Koswick, about twenty-three miles distant, on Derwentwater.

The attractive Derwent flows down through the Borrowdale Valley past Seathwaite, where for many a year there has been worked a famous mine of plumbago: we use it for lead-pencils, but our English ancestors, while making it valuable for marking their sheep, prized it still more highly as a remedy for colic and other human ills. There are several pencil-mills in the village, which, in addition to other claims for fame, is noted as one of the rainiest spots in England, the annual rainfall at Seathwaite sometimes reaching one hundred and eighty-two inches. The Derwent flows on through a gorge past the isolated pyramidal rock known as Castle Crag, and the famous Bowder Stone, which has fallen into the gorge from the crags above, to the hamlet of Grange, where a picturesque bridge spans the little river. We are told that the inhabitants once built a wall across the narrowest part of this valley: having long noticed the coincident appearance of spring and the cuckoo, they rashly concluded that the latter was the cause of the former, and that if they could only retain the bird their pleasant valley would enjoy perpetual spring; they built the wall as spring lengthened into summer, and with the autumn came the crisis. The wall had risen to a considerable height when the cuckoo with the approach of colder weather was sounding its somewhat asthmatic notes as it moved from tree to tree down the valley; it neared the wall, and as the population held their breath it suddenly flew over, and carried the spring away with it down the Derwent. Judge of the popular disgust when the sages of that region complainingly remarked that, having crossed but a few inches above the topmost stones of the wall, if the builders had only carried it a course or two higher the cuckoo might have been kept at home, and their valley thus have enjoyed a perennial spring.

The Derwent flows on along its gorge, which has been slowly ground out by a glacier in past ages, and enters the lake through the marshy, flat, reedy delta that rather detracts from the appearance of its upper end. Not far away a small waterfall comes tumbling over the crags among the foliage; this miniature Niagara has a fame almost as great as the mighty cataract of the New World, for it is the "Fall of Lodore," about which, in answer to his little boy's question, "How does the water come down at Lodore?" Southey wrote his well-known poem that is such a triumph of versification, and from which this is a quotation:

"Flying and flinging, writhing and wringing,
Eddying and whisking, spouting and frisking,
Turning and twisting
Around and around, with endless rebound,
Smiting and fighting, a sight to delight in,
Confounding, astounding.
Dizzying and deafening the ear with its sound;
All at once, and all o'er, with mighty uproar—
And this way the water conies down at Lodore."

Thus we reach the border of Derwentwater, nestling beneath the fells and crags, as its miniature surrounding mountains are called. Little wooded islets dimple the surface of the lake, in the centre being the largest, St. Herbert's Island, where once that saint lived in a solitary cell: he was the bosom friend of St. Cuthbert, the missionary of Northumberland, and made an annual pilgrimage over the Pennine Hills to visit him; loving each other in life, in death they were not divided, for Wordsworth tells us that

"These holy men both died in the same hour."

Another islet is known as Lord's Island, where now the rooks are in full possession, but where once was the home of the ill-fated Earl of Derwentwater, who was beheaded in 1716 for espousing the Pretender's cause. It is related that before his execution on Tower Hill he closely viewed the block, and finding a rough place which might offend his neck, he bade the headsman chip it off; this done, he cheerfully placed his head upon it, gave the sign, and died: his estates were forfeited and settled by the king on Greenwich Hospital. Castle Hill rises boldly on the shore above Derwent Isle, where there is a pretty residence, and every few years there is added to the other islets on the bosom of the lake the "Floating Island," a mass of vegetable matter that becomes detached from the marsh at the upper end. At Friar's Crag, beneath Castle Hill, the lake begins to narrow, and at Portinscale the Derwent flows out, receives the waters of the Greta coming from Keswick, and, after flowing a short distance through the meadow-land, expands again into Bassenthwaite Lake, a region of somewhat tamer yet still beautiful scenery.

The town of Keswick stands some distance back from the border of Derwentwater, and is noted as having been the residence of Southey. In Greta Hall, an unpretentious house in the town, Southey lived for forty years, dying there in 1843. He was laid to rest in the parish church of Crosthwaite, just outside the town. At the pretty little church there is a marble altar-tomb, the inscription on which to Southey's memory was written by Wordsworth. Greta Hall was also for three years the home of Coleridge, the two families dwelling under the same roof. Behind the modest house rises Skiddaw, the bare crags of the rounded summits being elevated over three thousand feet, and beyond it the hills and moors of the Skiddaw Forest stretch northward to the Solway, with the Scruffel Hill beyond. Upon a slope of the mountain, not far from Keswick, is a Druids' circle, whose builders scores of centuries ago watched the mists on Skiddaw's summit, as the people there do now, to foretell a change of weather as the clouds might rise or fall, for they tell us that

"If Skiddaw hath a cap,
Scruffel wots full well of that."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Furness AbbeyThe irregularly-shaped district of Lancashire partly cut off from the remainder of the county by an arm of the Irish Sea is known as Furness. It is a wild and rugged region, best known from the famous Furness Abbey and its port of Barrow-in-Furness, one of the most remarkable examples in England of quick city growth. Forty years ago this was an insignificant fishing village; now Barrow has magnificent docks and a fine harbor protected by the natural breakwater of Walney Island, great iron-foundries and the largest jute-manufactory in the world; while it has recently also became a favorite port for iron shipbuilding. About two miles distant, and in a romantic glen called the Valley of Deadly Nightshade, not far from the sea, is one of the finest examples of mediæval church-architecture in England, the ruins of Furness Abbey, founded in the twelfth century by King Stephen and Maud, his queen. It was a splendid abbey, standing high in rank and power, its income in the reign of Edward I. being $90,000 a year, an enormous sum for that early day. The ruins are in fine preservation, and effigies of Stephen and Maud are on each side of the great east window. For twelve reigns the charters of sovereigns and bulls of popes confirmed the abbots of Furness in their extraordinary powers, which extended over the district of Furness, while the situation of the abbey made them military chieftains, and they erected a watch-tower on a high hill, from which signals alarmed the coast on the approach of an enemy. The church is three hundred and four feet long, and from the centre rose a tower, three of the massive supporting pillars of which remain, but the tower has fallen and lies a mass of rubbish; the stained glass from the great east window having been removed to Bowness Church, in Westmorelandshire. The abbey enclosure, covering eighty-five acres, was surrounded by a wall, the ruins of which are now covered with thick foliage. This renowned abbey was surrendered and dismantled in Henry VIII.'s reign; the present hotel near the ruins was formerly the abbot's residence.

The river Ribble, which flows into the Irish Sea through a wide estuary, drains the western slopes of the Pennine Hills, which divide Lancashire from Yorkshire. Up in the north-western portion of Lancashire, near the bases of these hills, is a moist region known as the parish of Mitton, where, as the poet tells us,

"The Hodder, the Calder, Ribble, and rain
All meet together in Mitton domain."

In Mitton parish, amid the woods along the Hodder and on the north side of the valley of the Ribble, stands the splendid domed towers of the baronial edifice of Stonyhurst, now the famous Jesuit College of England, where the sons of the Catholic nobility and gentry are educated. The present building is about three hundred years old, and quaint gardens adjoin it, while quite an extensive park surrounds the college. Not far away are Clytheroe Castle and the beautiful ruins of Whalley Abbey. The Stonyhurst gardens are said to remain substantially as their designer, Sir Nicholas Sherburne, left them. A capacious water-basin is located in the centre, with the leaden statue of Regulus in chains standing in the midst of the water. Summer-houses with tall pointed roofs are at each lower extremity of the garden, while an observatory is upon a commanding elevation. Tall screens of clipped yews, cut square ten feet high and five feet thick, divide the beds upon one side of the gardens, so that as you walk among them you are enveloped in a green yet pleasant solitude. Arched doorways are cut through the yews, and in one place, descending by broad and easy steps, there is a solemn, cool, and twilight walk formed by the overarching yews, the very place for religious meditation. Then, reascending, this sombre walk opens into air and sunshine amid delicious flower-gardens. On the opposite side of the gardens are walls hung with fruit, and plantations of kitchen vegetables. This charming place was fixed upon by the Jesuits for their college in 1794, when driven from Liège by the proscriptions of the French Revolution. The old building and the additions then erected enclose a large quadrangular court. In the front of the college, at the southern angle, is a fine little Gothic church, built fifty years ago. The college refectory is a splendid baronial hall. In the Mitton village-church near by are the tombs of the Sherburne family, the most singular monument being that to Sir Richard and his lady, which the villagers point out as "old Fiddle o' God and his wife"—Fiddle o' God being his customary exclamation when angry, which tradition says was not seldom. The figures are kneeling—he in ruff and jerkin, she in black gown and hood, with tan-leather gloves extending up her arms. These figures, being highly colored, as was the fashion in the olden time, have a ludicrous appearance. We are told that when these monuments came from London they were the talk of the whole country round. A stonemason bragged that he could cut out as good a figure in common stone. Taken at his word, he was put to the test, and carved the effigy of a knight in freestone which so pleased the Sherburne family that they gave him one hundred dollars for it, and it is now set in the wall outside the church, near the monuments.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


CHEDDAR, a small town in the Wells parliamentary division of Somersetshire, England, 22 m. S.W. of Bristol by a branch of the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 1975. The town, with its Perpendicular church and its picturesque market-cross, lies below the south-western face of the Mendip Hills, which rise sharply from 600 to 800 ft. To the west stretches the valley of the river Axe, broad, low and flat. A fine gorge opening from the hills immediately upon the site of the town is known as Cheddar cliffs from the sheer walls which flank it; the contrast of its rocks and rich vegetation, and the falls of a small stream traversing it, make up a beautiful scene admired by many visitors. Several stalactitical caverns are also seen, and prehistoric British and Roman relics discovered in and near them are preserved in a small museum. The two caverns most frequently visited are called respectively Cox’s and Gough’s; in each, but especially in the first, there is a remarkable collection of fantastic and beautiful stalactitical forms. There are other caverns of greater extent but less beauty, but their extent is not completely explored. The remains discovered in the caves give evidence of British and Roman settlements at Cheddar (Cedre, Chedare), which was a convenient trade centre. The manor of Cheddar was a royal demesne in Saxon times, and the witenagemot was held there in 966 and 968. It was granted by John in 1204 to Hugh, archdeacon of Wells, who sold it to the bishop of Bath and Wells in 1229, whose successors were overlords until 1553, when the bishop granted it to the king. It is now owned by the marquis of Bath. By a charter of 1231 extensive liberties in the manor of Cheddar were granted to Bishop Joceline, who by a charter of 1235 obtained the right to hold a weekly market and fair. By a charter of Edward III. (1337) Cheddar was removed from the king’s forest of Mendip. The market was discontinued about 1690. Fairs are now held on the 4th of May and the 29th of October under the original grants. The name of Cheddar is given to a well-known species of cheese (see Dairy), the manufacture of which began in the 17th century in the town and neighbourhood.

The Chiltern Hills

CHILTERN HILLS, or The Chilterns, a range of chalk hills in England, extending through part of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. Running from S.W. to N.E., they form a well-marked escarpment north-westward, while the south-eastern slope is long. The name of Chilterns is applied to the hills between the Thames in the neighbourhood of Goring and the headwaters of its tributary the Lea between Dunstable and Hitchin, the crest line between these points being about 55 m. in length. But these hills are part of a larger chalk system, continuing the line of the White Horse Hills from Berkshire, and themselves continued eastward by the East Anglian ridge. The greatest elevation of the Chilterns is found in the centre from Watlington to Tring, where heights from 800 to 850 ft. are frequent. Westward towards the Thames gap the elevation falls away but little, but eastward the East Anglian ridge does not often exceed 500 ft., though it continues the northward escarpment across Hertfordshire. There are several passes through the Chilterns, followed by main roads and railways converging on London, which lies in the basin of which these hills form part of the northern rim. The most remarkable passes are those near Tring, Wendover and Prince’s Risborough, the floors of which are occupied by the gravels of former rivers. The Chilterns were formerly covered with a forest of beech, and there is still a local supply of this wood for the manufacture of chairs and other articles in the neighbourhood of Wycombe.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Royal Exchange, Manchester, EnglandThe chief manufacturing city of England has not a striking effect upon the visitor as he approaches it. It is scattered over a broad surface upon a gently undulating plain, and its suburbs straggle out into the country villages, which it is steadily absorbing in its rapid growth; the Irwell passes in a winding course through the city, receiving a couple of tributaries; this river divides Manchester from Salford, but a dozen bridges unite them. No city in England has had such rapid growth as Manchester in this century; it has increased from about seventy thousand people at the beginning of the century to over half a million now; and this is all the effect of the development of manufacturing industry. Yet Manchester is one of the oldest towns in England, for there was a Roman camp at Mancunium, as the Cæsars called it, in the first century of the Christian era; and we are also told that in the days when giants lived in England it was the scene of a terrific combat between Sir Launcelot of the Lake and the giant Tarquin. A ballad tells the story, but it is easier read in prose: Sir Launcelot was travelling near Manchester when he heard that this giant held in durance vile a number of knights—"threescore and four" in all; a damsel conducts him to the giant's castle-gate, "near Manchester, fair town," where a copper basin hung to do duty as a bell; he strikes it so hard as to break it, when out comes the giant ready for the fray; a terrific combat ensues, and the giant, finding that he has met his match, offers to release the captives, provided his adversary is not a certain knight that slew his brother. Unfortunately, it happens that Sir Launcelot is the very same, and the combat is renewed with such vigor that the giant is slain, "to the great contentment of many persons."

The ancient Mancunium was a little camp and city of about twelve acres, partly bounded by a tributary of the Irwell known as the Medlock. A ditch on the land-side was still visible in the last century, and considerable portions of the old Roman walls also remained within two hundred years. Many Roman relics have been discovered in the city, and at Knott Mill, the site of the giant Tarquin's castle, a fragment of the Roman wall is said to be still visible. The town in the early Tudor days had a college, and then a cathedral, and it was besieged in the Civil Wars, though it steadily grew, and in Charles II.'s time it was described as a busy and opulent place; but it had barely six thousand people. Cotton-spinning had then begun, the cotton coming from Cyprus and Smyrna. In 1700 life in Manchester, as described in a local guide-book, was noted by close application to business; the manufacturers were in their warehouses by six in the morning, breakfasted at seven on bowls of porridge and milk, into which masters and apprentices dipped their spoons indiscriminately, and dined at twelve; the ladies went out visiting at two in the afternoon, and attended church at four. Manchester was conservative in the Jacobite rebellion, and raised a regiment for the Pretender, but the royalist forces defeated it, captured the officers, and beheaded them. Manchester politics then were just the opposite of its present Liberal tendencies, and it was Byrom, a Manchester man, who wrote the quaint epigram regarding the Pretender and his friends which has been so often quoted:

"God bless the King—I mean our faith's defender!
God bless (no harm in blessing) the Pretender!
But who Pretender is, or who is King—
God bless us all!—that's quite another thing."

It was the rapid growth of manufacturing industry in Manchester that changed its politics, and it was here that was first conspicuously advocated the free-trade agitation in England which triumphed in the repeal of the Corn Laws, so as to admit food free of duty for the operatives, and in the Reform bill that changed the representation in Parliament. That fine building, the "Free-Trade Hall," is a monument of this agitation in which Manchester took such prominent part. As the city has grown in wealth, so has its architectural appearance improved; its school-and college-buildings are very fine, particularly Owens College, munificently endowed by a leading merchant. The Manchester Cathedral is an ancient building overlooking the Irwell which has had to be renewed in so many parts that it has a comparatively modern aspect. Other English cathedrals are more imposing, but this, "the ould paroch church" spoken of by the ancient chroniclers, is highly prized by the townsfolk; the architecture is Perpendicular and of many dates. Until recently this was the only parish church in Manchester, and consequently all the marriages for the city had to be celebrated there; the number was at times very large, especially at Easter, and not a few tales are told of how, in the confusion, the wrong pairs were joined together, and when the mistake was discovered respliced with little ceremony. It was in this Manchester Cathedral that one rector is said to have generally begun the marriage service by instructing the awaiting crowd to "sort yourselves in the vestry."

Some of the public buildings in Manchester are most sumptuous. The Assize Courts are constructed in rich style, with lofty Pointed roofs and a tall tower, and make one of the finest modern buildings in England. The great hall is a grand apartment, and behind the courts is the prison, near which the Fenians in 1867 made the celebrated rescue of the prisoners from the van for which some of the assailants were hanged and others transported. The Royal Exchange is a massive structure in the Italian style, with a fine portico, dome, and towers; the hall within is said to be probably the largest room in England, having a width of ceiling, without supports, of one hundred and twenty feet. Here on cotton-market days assemble the buyers and sellers from all the towns in Lancashire, and they do an enormous traffic. The new Town-Hall is also a fine building, where the departments of the city government are accommodated, and where they have an apartment dear to every Englishman's heart—"a kitchen capable of preparing a banquet for eight hundred persons." The warehouses of Manchester are famous for their size and solidity, and could Arkwright come back and see what his cotton-spinning machinery has produced, he would be amazed. It was in Manchester that the famous Dr. Dalton, the founder of the atomic theory in chemistry, lived; he was a devout Quaker, like so many of the townspeople, but unfortunately was color-blind; he appeared on one occasion in a scarlet waistcoat, and when taken to task declared it seemed to him a very quiet, unobtrusive color, just like his own coat. Several fine parks grace the suburbs of Manchester, and King Cotton has made this thriving community the second city in England, while for miles along the beautifully shaded roads that lead into the suburbs the opulent merchants and manufacturers have built their ornamental villas.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Warrington, Lancashire, UKThe great manufacturing county of England for cotton and woollen spinning and weaving is Lancashire. Liverpool is the seaport for the vast aggregation of manufacturers who own the huge mills of Manchester, Salford, Warrington, Wigan, Oldham, Rochdale, Bolton, Blackburn, Preston, and a score of other towns, whose operatives work into yarns and fabrics the millions of bales of cotton and wool that come into the Mersey. The warehouse and factory, with the spinners' cottages and the manufacturers' villas, make up these towns, almost all of modern growth, and the busy machinery and smoking chimneys leave little chance for romance in Southern Lancashire. It was in this section that trade first compelled the use of modern improvements: here were used the earliest steam-engines; here labored Arkwright to perfect the spinning machinery, and Stephenson to build railways. To meet the necessities of communication between Liverpool and Manchester, the first canal was dug in England, and this was followed afterwards by the first experimental railway; the canal was constructed by Brindley, and was called the "Grand Trunk Canal," being twenty-eight miles long from Manchester to the Mersey River, at Runcorn above Liverpool, and was opened in 1767. The railway was opened in 1830; the odd little engine, the "Rocket," then drew an excursion-train over it, and the opening was marred by an accident which killed Joseph Huskisson, one of the members of Parliament for Liverpool. Let us follow this railway, which now carries an enormous traffic out of Liverpool, eastward along the valley of the Mersey past Warrington, with its quaint old timbered market-house, and then up its tributary, the Irwell, thirty-one miles to Manchester.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Caernarvon and Conway

Caernarvon CastleAs the famous strait widens below the bridges the shores are tamer, and we come to the famous Caernarvon Castle, the scene of many stirring military events, as it held the key to the valleys of Snowdon, and behind it towers that famous peak, the highest mountain in Britain, whose summit rises to a height of 3590 feet. This great castle also commanded the south-western entrance to the strait, and near it the rapid little Sciont River flows into the sea. The ancient Britons had a fort here, and afterwards it was a Roman fortified camp, which gradually developed into the city of Segontium. The British name, from which the present one comes, was Caer-yn-Arvon—"the castle opposite to Mona." Segontium had the honor of being the birthplace of the Emperor Constantine, and many Roman remains still exist there. It was in 1284, however, that Edward I. began building the present castle, and it took thirty-nine years to complete. The castle plan is an irregular oval, with one side overlooking the strait. At the end nearest the sea, where the works come to a blunt point, is the famous Eagle Tower, which has eagles sculptured on the battlements. There are twelve towers altogether, and these, with the light-and dark-hued stone in the walls, give the castle a massive yet graceful aspect as it stands on the low ground at the mouth of the Sciont. Externally, the castle is in good preservation, but the inner buildings are partly destroyed, as is also the Queen's Gate, where Queen Eleanor is said to have entered before the first English Prince of Wales was born. A corridor, with loopholes contrived in the thickness of the walls, runs entirely around the castle, and from this archers could fight an approaching enemy. This great fortress has been called the "boast of North Wales" from its size and excellent position. It was last used for defence during the Civil Wars, having been a military stronghold for nearly four centuries. Although Charles II. issued a warrant for its demolition, this was to a great extent disregarded. Prynne, the sturdy Puritan, was confined here in Charles I.'s time, and the first English Prince of Wales, afterwards the unfortunate Edward II., is said to have been born in a little dark room, only twelve by eight feet, in the Eagle Tower: when seventeen years of age the prince received the homage of the Welsh barons at Chester. The town of Caernarvon, notwithstanding its famous history and the possession of the greatest ruin in Wales, now derives its chief satisfaction from the lucrative but prosaic occupation of trading in slates.

At the northern extremity of Caernarvon county, and projecting into the Irish Sea, is the promontory known as Great Orme's Head, and near it is the mouth of the Conway River. The railway to Holyhead crosses this river on a tubular bridge four hundred feet long, and runs almost under the ruins of Conway Castle, another Welsh stronghold erected by Edward I. We are told that this despotic king, when he had completed the conquest of Wales, came to Conway, the shape of the town being something like a Welsh harp, and he ordered all the native bards to be put to death. Gray founded upon this his ode, "The Bard," beginning—

"On a rock whose lofty brow
Frowns o'er old Conway's foaming flood,
Robed in a sable garb of woe.
With haggard eyes the poet stood."

This ode has so impressed the Conway folk that they have been at great pains to discover the exact spot where the despairing bard plunged into the river, and several enthusiastic persons have discovered the actual site. The castle stands upon a high rock, and its builder soon after its completion was besieged there by the Welsh, but before being starved into submission was relieved by the timely arrival of a fleet with provisions. It was in the hall of Conway Castle that Richard II. signed his abdication. The castle was stormed and taken by Cromwell's troops in the Civil Wars, and we are told that all the Irish found in the garrison were tied in couples, back to back, and thrown into the river. The castle was not dismantled, but the townsfolk in their industrious quarrying of slates have undermined one of the towers, which, though kept up by the solidity of the surrounding masonry, is known as the "Broken Tower." There was none of the "bonus building" of modern times attempted in these ponderous Welsh castles of the great King Edward. The ruins are an oblong square, standing on the edge of a steep rock washed on two sides by the river; the embattled walls, partly covered by ivy, are twelve to fifteen feet thick, and are flanked by eight huge circular towers, each forty feet in diameter; the interior is in partial ruin, but shows traces of its former magnificence; the stately hall is one hundred and thirty feet long. The same architect designed both Caernarvon and Conway. A fine suspension-bridge now crosses the river opposite the castle, its towers being built in harmony with the architecture of the place, so that the structure looks much like a drawbridge for the fortress. Although the Conway River was anciently a celebrated pearl-fishery, slate-making, as at Caernarvon, is now the chief industry of the town.

There are many other historic places in Caernarvonshire, and also splendid bits of rural and coast scenery, while the attractions for the angler as well as the artist are almost limitless. One of the prettiest places for sketching, as well as a spot where the fisherman's skill is often rewarded, is Bettws-y-Coed. This pretty village, which derives its name from a religious establishment—"Bede-house in the Wood"—that was formerly there, but long ago disappeared, is a favorite resort for explorations of the ravines leading down from Mount Snowdon, which towers among the clouds to the southward. Not far away are the attractive Falls of the Conway, and from a rock above them is a good view of the wonderful ravine of Fors Noddyn, through which the river flows. Around it there is a noble assemblage of hills and headlands. Here, joining with the Conway, comes through another ravine the pretty Machno in a succession of sparkling cascades and rapids. Not far away is the wild and lovely valley of the Lledr, another tributary of the Conway, which comes tumbling down a romantic fissure cut into the frowning sides of the mountain. At Dolwyddelan a solitary tower is all that remains of the castle, once commanding from its bold perch on the rocks the narrow pass in the valley. It is at present a little village of slate-quarriers. The Llugwy is yet another attractive tributary of the Conway, which boasts in its course the Rhavadr-y-Wenol, or the Swallow Fall. This, after a spell of rainy weather, is considered the finest cataract in Wales for the breadth and volume of the water that descends, though not for its height. This entire region is full of charming scenery, and of possibly what some may love even better, good trout-fishing. Following the Conway Valley still farther up, and crossing over the border into Denbigh, we come to the little market-town of Llanrwst. It contains two attractive churches, the older one containing many curious monuments and some good carvings, the latter having been brought from Maenant Abbey. But the chief curiosity of this little Welsh settlement is the bridge crossing the Conway. It was constructed by Inigo Jones, and is a three-arched stone bridge, which has the strange peculiarity that by pushing a particular portion of the parapet it can be made to vibrate from one end to the other. Gwydyr House, the seat of Lord Willoughby de Eresby, is in the neighborhood, a small part of the original mansion built in 1555 remaining. Near Trefriw lived Taliesin, the father of Welsh poetry, and a monument erected by that nobleman on the river-bank perpetuates his memory.

The recollection among the Welsh of the life and exploits of the great chieftain of former times, Madoc, is held very dear in Caernarvonshire, and is preserved not only in many legends, but also in the thriving and pleasant little seaport known as Port Madoc, which has grown up out of the slate-trade. Its wharf is a wilderness of slates, and much of the land in the neighborhood has been recovered from the sea. The geology as well as the scenery here is an interesting study. In fact, the whole Caernarvon coast, which stretches away to the south-west in the long peninsula that forms Cardigan Bay, is full of pleasant and attractive locations for student and tourist, and entwined around all are weird legends of the heroes and doings of the mystical days of the dim past, when Briton and Roman contended for the mastery of this historic region.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Menai Strait, Bangor

Menai StraitStill journeying westward, we come to Caernarvonshire, and reach the remarkable estuary dividing the mainland from the island of Anglesea, and known as the Menai Strait. This narrow stream, with its steeply-sloping banks and winding shores, looks more like a river than a strait, and it everywhere discloses evidence of the residence of an almost pre-historic people in relics of nations that inhabited its banks before the invasion of the Romans. There are hill-forts, sepulchral mounds, pillars of stone, rude pottery, weapons of stone and bronze; and in that early day Mona itself, as Anglesea was called, was a sacred island. Here were fierce struggles between Roman and Briton, and Tacitus tells of the invasion of Mona by the Romans and the desperate conflicts that ensued as early as A.D. 60. The history of the strait is a story of almost unending war for centuries, and renowned castles bearing the scars of these conflicts keep watch and ward to this day. Beaumaris, Bangor, Caernarvon, and Conway castles still remain in partial ruin to remind us of the Welsh wars of centuries ago. On the Anglesea shore, at the northern entrance to the strait, is the picturesque ruin of Beaumaris Castle, built by Edward I. at a point where vessels could conveniently land. It stands on the lowlands, and a canal connects its ditch with the sea. It consists of a hexagonal line of outer defences surrounding an inner square. Round towers flanked the outer walls, and the chapel within is quite well preserved. It has not had much place in history, and the neighboring town is now a peaceful watering-place.

Across the strait is Bangor, a rather straggling town, with a cathedral that is not very old. We are told that its bishop once sold its peal of bells, and, going down to the shore to see them shipped away, was stricken blind as a punishment for the sacrilege. Of Bangor Castle, as it originally stood, but insignificant traces remain, but Lord Penrhyn has recently erected in the neighborhood the imposing castle of Penryhn, a massive pile of dark limestone, in which the endeavor is made to combine a Norman feudal castle with a modern dwelling, though with only indifferent success, excepting in the expenditure involved. The roads from the great suspension-bridge across the strait lead on either hand to Bangor and Beaumaris, although the route is rather circuitous. This bridge, crossing at the narrowest and most beautiful part of the strait, was long regarded as the greatest triumph of bridge-engineering. It carried the Holyhead high-road across the strait, and was built by Telford. The bridge is five hundred and seventy-nine feet long, and stands one hundred feet above high-water mark; it cost $600,000. Above the bridge the strait widens, and here, amid the swift-flowing currents, the famous whitebait are caught for the London epicures. Three-quarters of a mile below, at another narrow place, the railway crosses the strait through Stephenson's Britannia tubular bridge, which is more useful than ornamental, the railway passing through two long rectangular iron tubes, supported on plain massive pillars. From a rock in the strait the central tower rises to a height of two hundred and thirty feet, and other towers are built on each shore at a distance of four hundred and sixty feet from the central one. Couchant lions carved in stone guard the bridge-portals at each end, and this famous viaduct cost over $2,500,000. A short distance below the Anglesea Column towers above a dark rock on the northern shore of the strait. It was erected in honor of the first Marquis of Anglesea, the gallant commander of the British light cavalry at Waterloo, where his leg was carried away by one of the last French cannon-shots. For many years after the great victory he lived here, literally with "one foot in the grave." Plas Newydd, one and a half miles below, the Anglesea family residence, where the marquis lived, is a large and unattractive mansion, beautifully situated on the sloping shore. It has in the park two ancient sepulchral monuments of great interest to the antiquarian.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Flint and Denbigh

Let us now journey westward from the Dee into Wales, coming first into Flintshire. The town of Flint, it is conjectured, was originally a Roman camp, from the design and the antiquities found there. Edward I., six hundred years ago, built Flint Castle upon an isolated rock in a marsh near the river, and after a checquered history it was dismantled in the seventeenth century. From the railway between Chester and Holyhead the ruins of this castle are visible on its low freestone rock; it is a square, with round towers at three of the corners, and a massive keep at the other, formed like a double tower and detached from the main castle. This was the "dolorous castle" into which Richard II. was inveigled at the beginning of his imprisonment, which ended with abdication, and finally his death at Pomfret. The story is told that Richard had a fine greyhound at Flint Castle that often caressed him, but when the Duke of Lancaster came there the greyhound suddenly left Richard and caressed the duke, who, not knowing the dog, asked Richard what it meant. "Cousin," replied the king, "it means a great deal for you and very little for me. I understand by it that this greyhound pays his court to you as King of England, which you will surely be, and I shall be deposed, for the natural instinct of the dog shows it to him; keep him, therefore, by your side." Lancaster treasured this, and paid attention to the dog, which would nevermore follow Richard, but kept by the side of the Duke of Lancaster, "as was witnessed," says the chronicler Froissart, "by thirty thousand men."

Rhuddlan Castle, also in Flintshire, is a red sandstone ruin of striking appearance, standing on the Clwyd River. When it was founded no one knows accurately, but it was rebuilt seven hundred years ago, and was dismantled, like many other Welsh castles, in 1646. It was at Rhuddlan that Edward I. promised the Welsh "a native prince who never spoke a word of English, and whose life and conversation no man could impugn;" and this promise he fulfilled to the letter by naming as the first English Prince of Wales his infant son, then just born at Caernarvon Castle. Six massive towers flank the walls of this famous castle, and are in tolerably fair preservation. Not far to the southward is the eminence known by the Welsh as "Yr-Wyddgrug," or "a lofty hill," and which the English call Mold. On this hill was a castle of which little remains now but tracings of the ditches, larches and other trees peacefully growing on the site of the ancient stronghold. Off toward Wrexham are the ruins of another castle, known as Caergwrle, or "the camp of the giant legion." This was of Welsh origin, and commanded the entrance to the Vale of Alen; the English called it Hope Castle.

Adjoining Flintshire is Denbigh, with the quiet watering-place of Abergele out on the Irish Sea. About two miles away is St. Asaph, with its famous cathedral, having portions dating from the thirteenth century. The great castle of Denbigh, when in its full glory, had fortifications one and a half miles in circumference. It stood on a steep hill at the county-town, where scanty ruins now remain, consisting chiefly of an immense gateway with remains of flanking towers. Above the entrance is a statue of the Earl of Lincoln, its founder in the thirteenth century. His only son was drowned in the castle-well, which so affected the father that he did not finish the castle. Edward II. gave Denbigh to Despenser; Leicester owned it in Elizabeth's time; Charles II. dismantled it. The ruins impress the visitor with the stupendous strength of the immense walls of this stronghold, while extensive passages and dungeons have been explored beneath the surface for long distances. In one chamber near the entrance-tower, which had been walled up, a large amount of gunpowder was found. At Holywell, now the second town in North Wales, is the shrine to which pilgrims have been going for many centuries. At the foot of a steep hill, from an aperture in the rock, there rushes forth a torrent of water at the rate of eighty-four hogsheads a minute; whether the season be wet or be dry, the sacred stream gushing forth from St. Winifrede's Well varies but little, and around it grows the fragrant moss known as St. Winifrede's Hair. The spring has valuable medicinal virtues, and an elegant dome covering it supports a chapel. The little building is an exquisite Gothic structure built by Henry VII. A second basin is provided, into which bathers may descend. The pilgrims to this holy well have of late years decreased in numbers; James II., who, we are told, "lost three kingdoms for a mass," visited this well in 1686, and "received as a reward the undergarment worn by his great-grandmother, Mary Queen of Scots, on the day of her execution." This miraculous spring gets its name from the pious virgin Winifrede. She having been seen by the Prince of Wales, Caradoc, he was struck by her great beauty and attempted to carry her off; she fled to the church, the prince pursuing, and, overtaking her, he in rage drew his sword and struck off her head; the severed head bounded through the church-door and rolled to the foot of the altar. On the spot where it rested a spring of uncommon size burst forth. The pious priest took up the head, and at his prayer it was united to the body, and the virgin, restored to life, lived in sanctity for fifteen years afterwards: miracles were wrought at her tomb; the spring proved another Pool of Bethesda, and to this day we are told that the votive crutches and chairs left by the cured remain hanging over St. Winifrede's Well.

South of Denbigh, in Montgomeryshire, are the ruins of Montgomery Castle, long a frontier fortress of Wales, around which many hot contests have raged: a fragment of a tower and portions of the walls are all that remain. Powys Castle is at Welsh Pool, and is still preserved—a red sandstone structure on a rocky elevation in a spacious and well-wooded park; Sir Robert Smirke has restored it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The River Dee

The River DeeFrequent reference has been made to the river Dee, the Deva of the Welsh, which is unquestionably one of the finest streams of Britain. It rises in the Arran Fowddwy, one of the chief Welsh mountains, nearly three thousand feet high, and after a winding course of about seventy miles falls into the Irish Sea. This renowned stream has been the theme of many a poet, and after expanding near its source into the beautiful Bala Lake, whose bewitching surroundings are nearly all described in polysyllabic and unpronounceable Welsh names, and are popular among artists and anglers, it flows through Edeirnim Vale, past Corwen. Here a pathway ascends to the eminence known as Glendower's Seat, with which tradition has closely knit the name of the Welsh hero, the close of whose marvellous career marked the termination of Welsh independence. Then the romantic Dee enters the far-famed Valley of Llangollen, where tourists love to roam, and where lived the "Ladies of Llangollen." We are told that these two high-born dames had many lovers, but, rejecting all and enamored only of each other, Lady Butler and Miss Ponsonby, the latter sixteen years the junior of the former, determined on a life of celibacy. They eloped together from Ireland, were overtaken and brought back, and then a second time decamped—on this occasion in masquerade, the elder dressed as a peasant and the younger as a smart groom in top-boots. Escaping pursuit, they settled in Llangollen in 1778 at the quaint little house called Plas Newydd, and lived there together for a half century. Their costume was extraordinary, for they appeared in public in blue riding-habits, men's neckcloths, and high hats, with their hair cropped short. They had antiquarian tastes, which led to the accumulation of a vast lot of old wood-carvings and stained glass, gathered from all parts of the world and worked into the fittings and adornment of their home. They were on excellent terms with all the neighbors, and the elder died in 1829, aged ninety, and the younger two years afterward, aged seventy-six. Their remains lie in Llangollen churchyard.

Within this famous valley are the ruins of Valle-Crucis Abbey, the most picturesque abbey ruin in North Wales. An adjacent stone cross gave it the name six hundred years ago, when it was built by the great Madoc for the Cistercian monks. The ruins in some parts are now availed of for farm-houses. Fine ash trees bend over the ruined arches, ivy climbs the clustered columns, and the lancet windows with their delicate tracery are much admired. The remains consist of the church, abbot's lodgings, refectory, and dormitory. The church was cruciform, and is now nearly roofless, though the east and west ends and the southern transept are tolerably perfect, so that much of the abbey remains. It was occupied by the Cistercians, and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The ancient cross, of which the remains are still standing near by, is Eliseg's Pillar, erected in the seventh century as a memorial of that Welsh prince. It was one of the earliest lettered stones in Britain, standing originally about twelve feet high. From this cross came the name of Valle Crucis, which in the thirteenth century was given to the famous abbey. The great Madoc, who lived in the neighboring castle of Dinas Bran, built this abbey to atone for a life of violence. The ruins of his castle stand on a hill elevated about one thousand feet above the Dee. Bran in Welsh means crow, so that the English know it as Crow Castle. From its ruins there is a beautiful view over the Valley of Llangollen. Farther down the valley is the mansion of Wynnstay, in the midst of a large and richly wooded park, a circle of eight miles enclosing the superb domain, within which are herds of fallow-deer and many noble trees. The old mansion was burnt in 1858, and an imposing structure in Renaissance now occupies the site. Fine paintings adorn the walls by renowned artists, and the Dee foams over its rocky bed in a sequestered dell near the mansion. Memorial columns and tablets in the park mark notable men and events in the Wynn family, the chief being the Waterloo Tower, ninety feet high. Far away down the valley a noble aqueduct by Telford carries the Ellesmere Canal over the Dee—the Pont Cysylltau—supported on eighteen piers of masonry at an elevation of one hundred and twenty-one feet, while a mile below is the still more imposing viaduct carrying the Great Western Railway across.

Not far distant is Chirk Castle, now the home of Mr. R. Myddelton Biddulph, a combination of a feudal fortress and a modern mansion. The ancient portion, still preserved, was built by Roger Mortimer, to whom Edward I. granted the lordship of Chirk. It was a bone of contention during the Civil Wars, and when they were over, $150,000 were spent in repairing the great quadrangular fortress. It stands in a noble situation, and on a clear day portions of seventeen counties can be seen from the summit. Still following down the picturesque river, we come to Bangor-ys-Coed, or "Bangor-in-the-Wood," in Flintshire, once the seat of a famous monastery that disappeared twelve hundred years ago. Here a pretty bridge crosses the river, and a modern church is the most prominent structure in the village. The old monastery is said to have been the home of twenty-four hundred monks, one half of whom were slain in a battle near Chester by the heathen king Ethelfrith, who afterwards sacked the monastery, but the Welsh soon gathered their forces again and took terrible vengeance. Many ancient coffins and Roman remains have been found here. The Dee now runs with swift current past Overton to the ancient town of Holt, whose charter is nearly five hundred years old, but whose importance is now much less than of yore. Holt belongs to the debatable Powisland, the strip of territory over which the English and Welsh fought for centuries. Holt was formerly known as Lyons, and was a Roman outpost of Chester. Edward I. granted it to Earl Warren, who built Holt Castle, of which only a few quaint pictures now exist, though it was a renowned stronghold in its day. It was a five-sided structure with a tower on each corner, enclosing an ample courtyard. After standing several sieges in the Civil Wars of Cromwell's time, the battered castle was dismantled.

The famous Wrexham Church, whose tower is regarded as one of the "seven wonders of Wales," is three miles from Holt, and is four hundred years old. Few churches built as early as the reign of Henry VIII. can compare with this. It is dedicated to St. Giles, and statues of him and of twenty-nine other saints embellish niches in the tower. Alongside of St. Giles is the hind that nourished him in the desert. The bells of Wrexham peal melodiously over the valley, and in the vicarage the good Bishop Heber wrote the favorite hymn, "From Greenland's Icy Mountains." Then the Dee flows on past the ducal palace of Eaton Hall, and encircles Chester, which has its race-course, "The Roodee"—where they hold an annual contest in May for the "Chester Cup"—enclosed by a beautiful semicircle of the river. Then the Dee flows on through a straight channel for six miles to its estuary, which broadens among treacherous sands and flats between Flintshire and Cheshire, till it falls into the Irish Sea. Many are the tales of woe that are told of the "Sands o' Dee," along which the railway from Chester to Holyhead skirts the edge in Flintshire. Many a poor girl, sent for the cattle wandering on these sands, has been lost in the mist that rises from the sea, and drowned by the quickly rushing waters. Kingsley has plaintively told the story in his mournful poem:

"They rowed her in across the rolling foam—
The cruel, crawling foam,
The cruel, hungry foam—
To her grave beside the sea;
But still the boatmen hear her call her cattle home
Across the Sands o' Dee."


A short distance from Chester, in the valley of the Dee, is Eaton Hall, the elaborate palace of the Duke of Westminster and one of the finest seats in England, situated in a park of eight hundred acres that extends to the walls of Chester. This palace has recently been almost entirely rebuilt and modernized, and is now the most spacious and splendid example of Revived Gothic architecture in England. The house contains many works of art—statues by Gibson, paintings by Rubens and others—and is full of the most costly and beautiful decorations and furniture, being essentially one of the show-houses of Britain. In the extensive gardens are a Roman altar found in Chester and a Greek altar brought from Delphi.

At Hawarden Castle, seven miles from Chester, is the home of William E. Gladstone, and in its picturesque park are the ruins of the ancient castle, dating from the time of the Tudors, and from the keep of which there is a fine view of the Valley of the Dee. The ruins of Ewloe Castle, six hundred years old, are not far away, but so buried in foliage that they are difficult to find. Two miles from Chester is Hoole House, formerly Lady Broughton's, famous for its rockwork, a lawn of less than an acre exquisitely planted with clipped yews and other trees being surrounded by a rockery over forty feet high. In the Wirral or Western Cheshire are several attractive villages. At Bidston, west of Birkenhead and on the sea-coast, is the ancient house that was once the home of the unfortunate Earl of Derby, whose execution is mentioned above. Congleton, in Eastern Cheshire, stands on the Dane, in a lovely country, and is a good example of an old English country-town. Its Lion Inn is a fine specimen of the ancient black-and-white gabled hostelrie which novelists love so well to describe. At Nantwich is a curious old house with a heavy octagonal bow-window in the upper story overhanging a smaller lower one, telescope-fashion. The noble tower of Nantwich church rises above, and the building is in excellent preservation.

Nearly in the centre of Cheshire is the stately fortress of Beeston Castle, standing on a sandstone rock rising some three hundred and sixty feet from the flat country. It was built nearly seven hundred years ago by an Earl of Cheshire, then just returned from the Crusades. Standing in an irregular court covering about five acres, its thick walls and deep ditch made it a place of much strength. It was ruined prior to the time of Henry VIII., having been long contended for and finally dismantled in the Wars of the Roses. Being then rebuilt, it became a famous fortress in the Civil Wars, having been seized by the Roundheads, then surprised and taken by the Royalists, alternately besieged and defended afterward, and finally starved into surrender by the Parliamentary troops in 1645. This was King Charles's final struggle, though the castle did not succumb till after eighteen weeks' siege, and its defenders were forced to eat cats and rats to satisfy hunger, and were reduced to only sixty. Beeston Castle was then finally dismantled, and its ruins are now an attraction to the tourist. Lea Hall, an ancient and famous timbered mansion, surrounded by a moat, was situated about six miles from Chester, but the moat alone remains to show where it stood. Here lived Sir Hugh Calveley, one of Froissart's heroes, who was governor of Calais when it was held by the English, and is buried under a sumptuous tomb in the church of the neighboring college of Bunbury, which he founded. His armed effigy surmounts the tomb, and the inscription says he died on St. George's Day, 1394.


Chester CathedralNot far from Liverpool, and in the heart of Cheshire, we come to the small but famous river Dee and the old and very interesting city of Chester. It is built in the form of a quadrant, its four walls enclosing a plot about a half mile square. The walls, which form a promenade two miles around, over which every visitor should tramp; the quaint gates and towers; the "Rows," or arcades along the streets, which enable the sidewalks to pass under the upper stories of the houses by cutting away the first-floor front rooms; and the many ancient buildings,—are all attractive. The Chester Cathedral is a venerable building of red sandstone, which comes down to us from the twelfth century, though it has recently been restored. It is constructed in the Perpendicular style of architecture, with a square and turret-surmounted central tower. This is the Cathedral of St. Werburgh, and besides other merits of the attractive interior, the southern transept is most striking from its exceeding length. The choir is richly ornamented with carvings and fine woodwork, the Bishop's Throne having originally been a pedestal for the shrine of St. Werburgh. The cathedral contains several ancient tombs of much interest, and the elaborate Chapter Room, with its Early English windows and pillars, is much admired. In this gorgeous structure the word of God is preached from a Bible whose magnificently-bound cover is inlaid with precious stones and its markers adorned with pearls. The book is the Duke of Westminster's gift, that nobleman being the landlord of much of Chester. In the nave of the cathedral are two English battle-flags that were at Bunker Hill. Chester Castle, now used as a barrack for troops, has only one part of the ancient edifice left, called Julius Cæsar's Tower, near which the Dee is spanned by a fine single-arch bridge.

The quaintest part of this curious old city of Chester is no doubt the "Rows," above referred to. These arcades, which certainly form a capital shelter from the hot sun or rain, were, according to one authority, originally built as a refuge for the people in case of sudden attack by the Welsh; but according to others they originated with the Romans, and were used as the vestibules of the houses; and this seems to be the more popular theory with the townsfolk. Under the "Rows" are shops of all sizes, and some of the buildings are grotesquely attractive, especially the curious one bearing the motto of safety from the plague, "God's providence is mine inheritance," standing on Watergate street, and known as "God's Providence House;" and "Bishop Lloyd's Palace," which is ornamented with quaint wood-carvings. The "Old Lamb Row," where Randall Holme, the Chester antiquary, lived, stood by itself, obeying no rule of regularity, and was regarded as a nuisance two hundred years ago, though later it was highly prized. The city corporation in 1670 ordered that "the nuisance erected by Randall Holme in his new building in Bridge street be taken down, as it annoys his neighbors, and hinders their prospect from their houses." But this law seems to have been enforced no more than many others are on either side of the ocean, for the "nuisance" stood till 1821, when the greater part of it, the timbers having rotted, fell of its own accord. The "Dark Row" is the only one of these strange arcades that is closed from the light, for it forms a kind of tunnel through which the footwalk goes. Not far from this is the famous old "Stanley House," where one unfortunate Earl of Derby spent the last day before his execution in 1657 at Bolton. The carvings on the front of this house are very fine, and there is told in reference to the mournful event that marks its history the following story: Lieutenant Smith came from the governor of Chester to notify the condemned earl to be ready for the journey to Bolton. The earl asked, "When would you have me go?" "To-morrow, about six in the morning," said Smith. "Well," replied the earl, "commend me to the governor, and tell him I shall be ready by that time." Then said Smith, "Doth your lordship know any friend or servant that would do the thing your lordship knows of? It would do well if you had a friend." The earl replied, "What do you mean? to cut off my head?" Smith said, "Yes, my lord, if you could have a friend." The earl answered, "Nay, sir, if those men that would have my head will not find one to cut it off, let it stand where it is."

It is easy in this strange old city to carry back the imagination for centuries, for it preserves its connection with the past better perhaps than any other English town. The city holds the keys of the outlet of the Dee, which winds around it on two sides, and is practically one of the gates into Wales. Naturally, the Romans established a fortress here more than a thousand years ago, and made it the head-quarters of their twentieth legion, who impressed upon the town the formation of a Roman camp, which it bears to this day. The very name of Chester is derived from the Latin word for a camp. Many Roman fragments still remain, the most notable being the Hyptocaust. This was found in Watergate street about a century ago, together with a tessellated pavement. There have also been exhumed Roman altars, tombs, mosaics, pottery and other similar relics. The city is built upon a sandstone rock, and this furnishes much of the building material, so that most of the edifices have their exteriors disintegrated by the elements, particularly the churches—a peculiarity that may have probably partly justified Dean Swift's epigram, written when his bile was stirred because a rainstorm had prevented some of the Chester clergy from dining with him:

"Churches and clergy of this city
Are very much akin:
They're weather-beaten all without,
And empty all within."

The modernized suburbs of Chester, filled with busy factories, are extending beyond the walls over a larger surface than the ancient town itself. At the angles of the old walls stand the famous towers—the Phœnix Tower, Bonwaldesthorne's Tower, Morgan's Mount, the Goblin Tower, and the Water Tower, while the gates in the walls are almost equally famous—the Eastgate, Northgate, Watergate, Bridgegate, Newgate, and Peppergate. The ancient Abbey of St. Mary had its site near the castle, and not far away are the picturesque ruins of St. John's Chapel, outside the walls. According to a local legend, its neighborhood had the honor of sheltering an illustrious fugitive. Harold, the Saxon king, we are told, did not fall at Hastings, but, escaping, spent the remainder of his life as a hermit, dwelling in a cell near this chapel and on a cliff alongside the Dee. The four streets leading from the gates at the middle of each side of the town come together in the centre at a place formerly known as the "Pentise," where was located the bull-ring at which was anciently carried on the refining sport of "bull-baiting" while the mayor and corporation, clad in their gowns of office, looked on approvingly. Prior to this sport beginning, we are told that solemn proclamation was made for "the safety of the king and the mayor of Chester"—that "if any man stands within twenty yards of the bull-ring, let him take what comes." Here stood also the stocks and pillory. Amid so much that is ancient and quaint, the new Town Hall, a beautiful structure recently erected, is naturally most attractive, its dedication to civic uses having been made by the present Prince of Wales, who bears among many titles that of Earl of Chester. But this is about the only modern attraction this interesting city possesses. At an angle of the walls are the "Dee Mills," as old as the Norman Conquest, and famous in song as the place where the "jolly miller once lived on the Dee." Full of attractions within and without, it is difficult to tear one's self away from this quaint city, and therefore we will agree, at least in one sense, with Dr. Johnson's blunt remark to a lady friend: "I have come to Chester, madam, I cannot tell how, and far less can I tell how to get away from it."

Knowsley Hall

A few miles out of Liverpool is the village of Prescot, where Kemble the tragedian was born, and where the people at the present time are largely engaged in watchmaking. Not far from Prescot is one of the famous homes of England—Knowsley Hall, the seat of the Stanleys and of the Earls of Derby for five hundred years. The park covers two thousand acres and is almost ten miles in circumference. The greater portion of the famous house was built in the time of George II. It is an extensive and magnificent structure, and contains many art-treasures in its picture-gallery by Rembrandt, Rubens, Correggio, Teniers, Vandyke, Salvator Rosa, and others.

The Stanleys are one of the governing families of England, the last Earl of Derby having been premier in 1866, and the present earl having also been a cabinet minister. The crest of the Stanleys represents the Eagle and the Child, and is derived from the story of a remote ancestor who, cherishing an ardent desire for a male heir, and having only a daughter, contrived to have an infant conveyed to the foot of a tree in the park frequented by an eagle. Here he and his lady, taking a walk, found the child as if by accident, and the lady, considering it a gift from Heaven brought by the eagle and miraculously preserved, adopted the boy as her heir. From this time the crest was assumed, but we are told that the old knight's conscience smote him at the trick, and on his deathbed he bequeathed the chief part of his fortune to the daughter, from whom are descended the present family.


The American transatlantic tourist, after a week or more spent upon the ocean, is usually glad to again see the land. After skirting the bold Irish coast, and peeping into the pretty cove of Cork, with Queenstown in the background, and passing the rocky headlands of Wales, the steamer that brings him from America carefully enters the Mersey River. The shores are low but picturesque as the tourist moves along the estuary between the coasts of Lancashire and Cheshire, and passes the great beacon standing up solitary and alone amid the waste of waters, the Perch Rock Light off New Brighton on the Cheshire side. Thus he comes to the world's greatest seaport—Liverpool—and the steamer finally drops her anchor between the miles of docks that front the two cities, Liverpool on the left and Birkenhead on the right. Forests of masts loom up behind the great dock-walls, stretching far away on either bank, while a fleet of arriving or departing steamers is anchored in a long line in mid-channel. Odd-looking, low, black tugs, pouring out thick smoke from double funnels, move over the water, and one of them takes the passengers alongside the capacious structure a half mile long, built on pontoons, so it can rise and fall with the tides, and known as the Prince's Landing-Stage, where the customs officers perform their brief formalities and quickly let the visitor go ashore over the fine floating bridge into the city.

At Liverpool most American travellers begin their view of England. It is the great city of ships and sailors and all that appertains to the sea, and its 550,000 population are mainly employed in mercantile life and the myriad trades that serve the ship or deal in its cargo, for fifteen thousand to twenty thousand of the largest vessels of modern commerce will enter the Liverpool docks in a year, and its merchants own 7,000,000 tonnage. Fronting these docks on the Liverpool side of the Mersey is the great sea-wall, over five miles long, behind which are enclosed 400 acres of water-surface in the various docks, that are bordered by sixteen miles' length of quays. On the Birkenhead side of the river there are ten miles of quays in the docks that extend for over two miles along the bank. These docks, which are made necessary to accommodate the enormous commerce, have cost over $50,000,000, and are the crowning glory of Liverpool. They are filled with the ships of all nations, and huge storehouses line the quays, containing products from all parts of the globe, yet chiefly the grain and cotton, provisions, tobacco, and lumber of America. Railways run along the inner border of the docks on a street between them and the town, and along their tracks horses draw the freight-cars, while double-decked passenger-cars also run upon them with broad wheels fitting the rails, yet capable of being run off whenever the driver wishes to get ahead of the slowly-moving freight-cars. Ordinary wagons move upon Strand street alongside, with horses of the largest size drawing them, the huge growth of the Liverpool horses being commensurate with the immense trucks and vans to which these magnificent animals are harnessed.

Liverpool is of great antiquity, but in the time of William the Conqueror was only a fishing-village. Liverpool Castle, long since demolished, was a fortress eight hundred years ago, and afterward the rival families of Molineux and Stanley contended for the mastery of the place. It was a town of slow growth, however, and did not attain full civic dignity till the time of Charles I. It was within two hundred years that it became a seaport of any note. The first dock was opened in 1699, and strangely enough it was the African slave-trade that gave the Liverpool merchants their original start. The port sent out its first slave-ship in 1709, and in 1753 had eighty-eight ships engaged in the slave-trade, which carried over twenty-five thousand slaves from Africa to the New World that year. Slave-auctions were frequent in Liverpool, and one of the streets where these sales were effected was nicknamed "Negro street." The agitation for the abolition of the trade was carried on a long time before Liverpool submitted, and then privateering came prominently out as the lucrative business a hundred years ago during the French wars, that brought Liverpool great wealth. Next followed the development of trade with the East Indies, and finally the trade with America has grown to such enormous proportions in the present century as to eclipse all other special branches of Liverpool commerce, large as some of them are. This has made many princely fortunes for the merchants and shipowners, and their wealth has been liberally expended in beautifying their city. It has in recent years had very rapid growth, and has greatly increased its architectural adornments. Most amazing has been this advancement since the time in the last century when the mayor and corporation entertained Prince William of Gloucester at dinner, and, pleased at the appetite he developed, one of them called out, "Eat away, Your Royal Highness; there's plenty more in the kitchen!" The mayor was Jonas Bold, and afterwards, taking the prince to church, they were astonished to find that the preacher had taken for his text the words, "Behold, a greater than Jonas is here."

Liverpool has several fine buildings. Its Custom House is a large Ionic structure of chaste design, with a tall dome that can be seen from afar, and richly decorated within. The Town Hall and the Exchange buildings make up the four sides of an enclosed quadrangle paved with broad flagstones. Here, around the attractive Nelson monument in the centre, the merchants meet and transact their business. The chief public building is St. George's Hall, an imposing edifice, surrounded with columns and raised high above one side of an open square, and costing $2,000,000 to build. It is a Corinthian building, having at one end the Great Hall, one hundred and sixty-nine feet long, where public meetings are held, and court-rooms at the other end. Statues of Robert Peel, Gladstone, and Stephenson, with other great men, adorn the Hall. Sir William Brown, who amassed a princely fortune in Liverpool, has presented the city with a splendid free library and museum, which stands in a magnificent position on Shaw's Brow. Many of the streets are lined with stately edifices, public and private, and most of these avenues diverge from the square fronting St. George's Hall, opposite which is the fine station of the London and North-western Railway, which, as is the railroad custom in England, is also a large hotel. The suburbs of Liverpool are filled for a wide circuit with elegant rural homes and surrounding ornamental grounds, where the opulent merchants live. They are generally bordered with high stone walls, interfering with the view, and impressing the visitor strongly with the idea that an Englishman's house is his castle. Several pretty parks with ornamental lakes among their hills are also in the suburbs. Yet it is the vast trade that is the glory of Liverpool, for it is but an epitome of England's commercial greatness, and is of comparatively modern growth. "All this," not long ago said Lord Erskine, speaking of the rapid advancement of Liverpool, "has been created by the industry and well-disciplined management of a handful of men since I was a boy."


Excerpted from "England, Picturesque and Descriptive; A Reminiscence of Foreign Travel" by Joel Cook, 1882

No land possesses greater attractions for the American tourist than England. It was the home of his forefathers; its history is to a great extent the history of his own country; and he is bound to it by the powerful ties of consanguinity, language, laws, and customs. When the American treads the busy London streets, threads the intricacies of the Liverpool docks and shipping, wanders along the green lanes of Devonshire, climbs Alnwick's castellated walls, or floats upon the placid bosom of the picturesque Wye, he seems almost as much at home as in his native land. But, apart from these considerations of common Anglo-Saxon paternity, no country in the world is more interesting to the intelligent traveller than England. The British system of entail, whatever may be our opinion of its political and economic merits, has built up vast estates and preserved the stately homes, renowned castles, and ivy-clad ruins of ancient and celebrated structures, to an extent and variety that no other land can show. The remains of the abbeys, castles, churches, and ancient fortresses in England and Wales that war and time together have crumbled and scarred tell the history of centuries, while countless legends of the olden time are revived as the tourist passes them in review. England, too, has other charms than these. British scenery, though not always equal in sublimity and grandeur to that displayed in many parts of our own country, is exceedingly beautiful, and has always been a fruitful theme of song and story.

"The splendor falls on castle-walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes.
And the wild cataract leaps in glory."

Yet there are few satisfactory and comprehensive books about this land that is so full of renowned memorials of the past and so generously gifted by Nature. Such books as there are either cover a few counties or are devoted only to local description, or else are merely guide-books. The present work is believed to be the first attempt to give in attractive form a book which will serve not only as a guide to those about visiting England and Wales, but also as an agreeable reminiscence to others, who will find that its pages treat of familiar scenes. It would be impossible to describe everything within the brief compass of a single book, but it is believed that nearly all the more prominent places in England and Wales are included, with enough of their history and legend to make the description interesting. The artist's pencil has also been called into requisition, and the four hundred and eighty-seven illustrations will give an idea, such as no words can convey, of the attractions England presents to the tourist.

Philadelphia, July, 1882.