Rides on Railways
Part 1 out of 6
This eBook was prepared by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.
RIDES ON RAILWAYS
by Samuel Sidney.
The following pages are an attempt to supply something amusing, instructive,
and suggestive to travellers who, not caring particularly where they go, or
how long they stay at any particular place, may wish to know something of the
towns and districts through which they pass, on their way to Wales, the Lakes
of Cumberland, or the Highlands of Scotland; or to those who, having a brief
vacation, may wish to employ it among pleasant rural scenes, and in
investigating the manufactures, the mines, and other sources of the commerce
and influence of this small island and great country.
In performing this task, I have relied partly on personal observation, partly
on notes and the memory of former journeys; and where needful have used the
historical information to be found in cyclopaedias, and local guide-books.
This must account for, if it does not excuse, the unequal space devoted to
districts with equal claims to attention. But it would take years, if not a
lifetime, to render the manuscript of so discursive a work complete and
I feel that I have been guilty of many faults of commission and omission; but
if the friends of those localities to which I have not done justice will take
the trouble to forward to me any facts or figures of public general interest,
they shall be carefully embodied in any future edition, should the book, as I
hope it will, arrive at such an honour and profit.
LONDON, AUGUST, 1851.
LONDON AND NORTH WESTERN RAILWAY
THE MIXED TRAIN
WOBURN AND BEDFORD
THE BUCKS RAILWAY
RUGBY AND ITS RAILWAYS
ARNOLD AND HIS SCHOOL
COVENTRY TO BIRMINGHAM
WARWICK, LEAMINGTON, KENILWORTH, STRATFORD-ON-AVON
THE BLACK COUNTRY (WALSALL, DUDLEY, WEDNESBURY, DARLASTON)
THE ROAD TO YORKSHIRE
THROUGH LINCOLNSHIRE TO SHEFFIELD
FROM CHESTER TO NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE
LIST OF ENGRAVINGS.
EUSTON SQUARE, LONDON
VIADUCT OVER THE RIVER COLNE, NEAR WATFORD
LOOKING FROM THE HILL ABOVE BOXMOOR STATION TOWARDS BERKHAMSTED
DENBIGH HALL BRIDGE
THE WOLVERTON VIADUCT
BRIDGE IN THE BLISWORTH EMBANKMENT
VIEW FROM TOP OF KILSBY TUNNEL, LOOKING TOWARDS RUGBY
THE SHERBORNE VIADUCT, NEAR COVENTRY
THE AVON VIADUCT
THE ASTON VIADUCT
NEWTON ROAD STATION, NEAR BIRMINGHAM
THE RAILWAY NEAR PENKRIDGE
VIEW NEAR WHITMORE
EXCAVATION AT HARTFORD
VIADUCT OVER THE MERSEY AND MERSEY AND IRWELL CANAL, KINGSTON
THE DUTTON VIADUCT
THE WARRINGTON VIADUCT
LONDON AND NORTH WESTERN RAILWAY.
According to Mr. Punch, one of the greatest authorities of the day on all
such subjects, the nearest way to Euston Station is to take a cab; but those
who are not in a hurry may take advantage of the omnibuses that start from
Gracechurch Street and Charing Cross, traversing the principal thoroughfares
and calling at the George and Blue Boar, Holborn, the Green Man and Still,
Oxford Street, and the Booking Offices in Regent Circus.
Euston, including its dependency, Camden Station, is the greatest railway
port in England, or indeed in the world. It is the principal gate through
which flows and reflows the traffic of a line which has cost more than
twenty-two millions sterling; which annually earns more than two millions and
a-half for the conveyance of passengers, and merchandise, and live stock; and
which directly employs more than ten thousand servants, beside the tens of
thousands to whom, in mills or mines, in ironworks, in steam-boats and
coasters, it gives indirect employment. What London is to the world, Euston
is to Great Britain: there is no part of the country to which railway
communication has extended, with the exception of the Dover and Southampton
lines, which may not be reached by railway conveyance from Euston station.
The Buckinghamshire lines from Bletchley open the way through Oxford to all
the Western counties, only interrupted by the break of gauge. The
Northampton and Peterborough, from Blisworth, proceeds to the Eastern coast
of Norfolk and Lincoln. At Rugby commences one of several roads to the
North, either by Leicester, Nottingham, and Lincoln, or by Derby and
Sheffield; and at Rugby, too, we may either proceed to Stafford by the direct
route of the Trent Valley, a line which is rendered classical by the memory
of Sir Robert Peel, who turned its first sod with a silver spade and honoured
its opening by a celebrated speech; or we may select the old original line
through Coventry, Birmingham, and Wolverhampton, passing through a network of
little railways leading to Warwick and Leamington, the result of unprofitable
competition. A continuation of the Trent Valley line intersects the Pottery
district, where the cheapest Delft and the most exquisite specimens of China
ware are produced with equal success; and thus we reach Liverpool and
Manchester by the straightest possible line.
At Stafford we can turn off to Shrewsbury and Chester, or again following the
original route arrive at Crewe, the great workshop and railway town of the
London and North Western. Crewe affords an ample choice of routes--1st, to
Leeds by Stockport (with a branch to Macclesfield) and Huddersfield, or from
Leeds to York, or to Harrogate, and so on by the East Coast line through
Durham, Newcastle, and Berwick, to Edinburgh; 2dly, direct to Manchester;
3rdly, to Warrington, Newton, Wigan, and the North, through the salt mining
country; and, 4thly, to Chester. At Chester we may either push on to Ireland
by way of the Holyhead Railway, crossing the famous Britannia Tubular Bridge,
or to Birkenhead, the future rival of Liverpool.
At Liverpool steamers for America warranted to reach New York in ten days are
at our command; or, leaving commerce, cotton, and wool, we may ride through
Proud Preston and Lancaster to Kendal and Windermere and the Lake district;
or, pressing forward through "Merry Carlisle," reach Gretna at a pace that
defies the competition of fathers and guardians, and enter Scotland on the
direct road to Glasgow, and, if necessary, ride on to Aberdeen and Perth.
A short line from Camden Station opens a communication with the East and West
India Docks and the coast of Essex, and another, three miles and a half in
length, from Willesden Station, will shortly form a connexion with the South
Western, and thereby with all the South and Western lines from Dover to
The railway system, of which the lines above enumerated form so large a part,
is barely twenty-five years old: in that space of time we have not only
supplied the home market but taught Europe and America to follow our example;
even Egypt and India will soon have their railways, and we now look with no
more surprise on the passage of a locomotive with a few hundred passengers or
tons of goods than on a wheelbarrow or Patent Hansom Cab. Grouse from
Aberdeen, fat cattle from Norfolk, piece goods from Manchester, hardwares
from Sheffield, race horses from Newmarket, coals from Leicestershire, and
schoolboys from Yorkshire, are despatched and received, for the distance of a
few hundred miles, with the most perfect regularity, as a matter of course.
We take a ticket to dine with a friend in Chester or Liverpool, or to meet
the hounds near Bletchley or Rugby, as calmly as we engage a cab to go a
mile; we consider twenty miles an hour disgustingly slow, and grumble awfully
at a delay of five minutes in a journey of a hundred miles. Millions have
been spent in order to save an hour and a half between London and Liverpool;
yet there are plenty of men not much past thirty who remember when all
respectable plain practical common sense men looked upon the project for a
railway between London and Birmingham as something very wild if not very
wicked; and who remember too, that in winter the journey from London to
Liverpool often occupied them twenty-two hours, costing 4 pounds inside and 2
pounds out, besides having to walk up the steepest hills in Derbyshire,--the
same journey which is now completed in six hours at a cost of 2 pounds 5s.,
and in twelve hours for 16s. 9d., by the Parliamentary train in an enclosed
It may be perhaps a useful wholesome lesson to those who are in the habit of
accepting as their just due--without thought, without thankfulness--the last
best results of the industry and ingenuity of centuries, if, before entering
the massive portals of Euston Station, we dig up a few passages of the early
history of railways from dusty Blue Books and forgotten pamphlets.
In 1826, the project of a railway from Liverpool to Manchester came before a
Committee of the House of Commons, and, after a long investigation, the
principle was approved, but the bill thrown out in consequence of defects in
the survey. The promoters rested their case entirely on a goods' traffic, to
be conveyed at the rate of six or seven miles an hour. The engineer was
George Stephenson, the father of the railway system, a man of genius, who,
although he clearly foresaw the ultimate results of his project, had neither
temper nor tact enough to conciliate the ignorant obstinacy of his opponents;
in fact, he was a very bad witness and a very great man. It is curious, in
reading the evidence, to observe the little confidence the counsel for the
bill had in their engineer, and the contempt with which the counsel for the
opposition treated him. The promoters of the railway expected few
passengers, hoped to lower the rates of the canals, and had not made up their
minds whether to employ locomotives or horses; George Stephenson looked
forward confidently at that same period to conveying the greater portion of
the goods and passenger traffic by a complete railway system; but he either
would not or could not explain the grounds of his confidence, and therefore
we find Mr. Harrison, the most eminent Parliamentary counsel of that day,
speaking in the following insolent strain of a man whose genius he and his
friends were unable to appreciate:--
"Every part of this scheme shows that this man (George Stephenson) has
applied himself to a subject of which he has no knowledge, and to which he
has no science to apply. . . . . When we set out with the original
prospectus, we were to gallop at the rate of twelve miles an hour, with the
aid of the devil in the form of a locomotive, sitting as postillion on the
fore horse. But the speed of these locomotives has slackened. The learned
Sergeant would like to go seven, but he will be content with six miles an
hour. I will show that he cannot go six. Practically, or for any useful
purposes, they may go at something more than four miles an hour. The wind
will affect them: any gale of wind which would affect the traffic on the
Mersey, would render it impossible to set off a locomotive engine, either by
poking the fire, or keeping up the pressure of the steam until the boiler
burst. A shower of rain retards a railway, and snow entirely stops it."
In reply, Mr. Adams modestly observed, "I should like my learned friend to
have pointed out any part of the publication in favour of the Liverpool and
Manchester Railway, which justified his statement that we professed that
goods were to be carried at the rate of twelve miles an hour; we have proved
that they can be carried at seven miles an hour, and it was never intended
they should be conveyed at a higher rate."
In the following year the Liverpool and Manchester Bill was carried, and in
1830 the career of the civilizing locomotive commenced, but it took many more
years to convince "Practical men" that the Railway would successfully compete
with the Coach and Canal.
When, in 1831, the scheme of a Railway between London and Birmingham was made
public, a very clever pamphlet appeared under the title of "Beware the
Bubbles," in which we find the following comical prognostications of the
results of Railways:--
"After all, what advantage does the London and Birmingham Railway hold out?
Only one,--celerity of motion; and, after all, the ten miles an hour is
absolutely slower than the coaches, some of which go as fast as eleven or
twelve miles an hour; and, with the length of time that the engine and its
cumbrous train requires ere it can stop, and the other contingencies, there
would be little difference in the time of a twelve miles an hour coach and a
fifteen miles an hour engine, supposing twenty or thirty stoppages, to pick
up little parcels, between London and Birmingham. The conveyance is not so
safe as by coach."
After enumerating a series of theoretical dangers, he proceeds. "Another
consideration, which would deter invalids, ladies, and children from making
use of the Railway, would be want of accommodation along the line, unless the
Directors of the Railway chose to build inns at their own expense. But those
inns the Directors would have, in great part, to support, because they would
be out of the way of any business except that arising from the Railway, and
that would be trifling. Commercial travellers would never, by any chance, go
by the Railroad. The occasional traveller, who went the same route for
pleasure, would go by the coach-road also, because of the cheerful company
and comfortable dinner.
"Not one of the nobility, the gentry, or those who travel in their own
carriages, would really like to be drawn at the tail of a train of waggons,
in which some hundreds of bars of iron were jingling with a noise that would
drown all the bells of the district, and in momentary apprehension of having
his vehicle broken to pieces, and himself killed or crippled by the collision
of those thirty-two ton masses. Even if a man had no carriage of his own,
what inducement could he have to take so ungainly a conveyance. Three hours
is more than the maximum difference by which the ordinary speed of coaches
could be exceeded; and it is not one traveller in a thousand to whom an
arrival in London and Birmingham three hours sooner would be of the slightest
"Then as to goods. The only goods that require velocity in coming to London,
are ribands from Coventry. Half the luggage room of a coach, on a Saturday
night, is quite adequate to the conveyance of them. The manufacturers of
Coventry will never be such fools as to send their property on an errand by
which it must travel further and fare worse. For heavy goods, the saving by
canal would be as twelve to one, beside the perfect safety. In the canal
boat there is no danger of fracture, even to the most delicate goods;
whereas, if fine China goods were to be brought by the rapid waggons, the
breakage would probably be twenty-five per cent.
"As to the profits of the undertaking let us be extravagantly liberal.
Suppose that the Railway was to get one-third of the goods, as well as one-
third of the passengers, see what they would make of it:--
One-third of the Goods . . . 96,540 pounds
One-third of the Passengers . 30,240
Annual expenses . . . . . 385,000 pounds
Returns. . . . . . . . 126,780
Annual deficiency . . . . 258,220 pounds
To meet an outlay of 7,500,000 pounds.
"But the probability is that canals would reduce their rates one-half; and
thus, competing wholesomely, extinguish the railway. The coach-masters would
do the same thing--run for twelve months at half the present fares, and then
not one man in his senses would risk his bones on the railway. The
innkeepers would follow a course precisely similar, and give nice smoking
dinners, foaming tankards and bottles of beeswing at so cheap a rate, and
meet their customers with so good humoured faces, and do so many of those
kind offices that legions would flock to the hospitable road. And while all
this was going on, and the thousands of men which the authors of this
ridiculous scheme had expected to send upon the parish were thriving, the
solitary stranger who had nobody to tell him better would go swinging at the
tail of the engine, bumping first on the iron plates on this side and then on
the iron plates on that side; and if he escaped being scalded to death by the
bursting of his engine, or having all his bones broken by collision with
another, he would be fain to rest for the night within some four bare walls
and gnaw a mouldy crust which he brought in his pocket, or, as an alternative
of luxury, wade some ten miles through the mire, and feast upon a rasher of
rusty bacon and a tankard of the smallest ale at the nearest hedge alehouse."
All this now sounds inexpressibly droll, and yet this prophet of evil was not
entirely wrong; nay, in some important particulars he was more right than the
railway promoters, whom he so heartily detested. The railway did cost nearly
seven millions instead of four millions as calculated by the projectors, and
the cost of working before the amalgamation with the Grand Junction did
amount to 380,000 pounds per annum: two figure facts which would have
effectually crushed speculation could they have been proved in 1831; but then
the per contra of traffic was equally astounding in its overflow, instead of
one-third of the existing traffic, or 126,780 pounds a-year allowed by the
pamphleteer, the London and Birmingham earned a gross revenue of nearly
900,000 pounds, while still leaving a traffic in heavy goods on the canals
sufficient to pay from 6 to 30 pounds per cent. to the proprietors, in spite
of a reduction of rates of upwards of 50 pounds per cent. Indeed this
traffic actually increased on the Grand Junction Canal, since the opening of
the Birmingham Railway, from 750,000 pounds in 1836, to 1,160,000 pounds in
Perhaps on no point would the expectation of the most sanguine among the
early projectors of railways been more satisfactorily exceeded than in regard
to safety. Swiftness, and cheapness, and power, acute intelligent engineers
foresaw; but that millions of passengers should be whirled along at a speed
varying from twenty to fifty miles an hour with more safety than they could
have secured by walking a-foot, would have seemed an anticipation of the very
wildest character. Yet such is the case. In 1850, upwards of seventy
millions of souls were conveyed by railway; when eleven passengers were
killed and fifty-four injured, or less than one to each million of passengers
Even at the risk of seeming trite, prosy, and common-place, it is right to
remind the young generation who consider the purchase of a railway ticket
gives them a right to grumble at a thousand imaginary defects and
deficiencies in railway management, how great are the advantages in
swiftness, economy, and safety, which they enjoy through the genius,
enterprise, and stubborn perseverance of George Stephenson and his friends
and pupils in 1825.
This station was an after-thought, the result of early experience in railway
traffic. Originally the line was to have ended at Camden Town, but a
favourable opportunity led to the purchase of fifteen acres, which has turned
out most convenient for the public and the proprietors. It is only to be
regretted that it was not possible to bring the station within a few yards of
the New Road, so as to render the stream of omnibuses between Paddington and
the City available, without compelling the passenger to perspire under his
carpet-bag, railway-wrapper, umbrella, and hat-box, all the way from the
platform to the edge of Euston Square.
The great gateway or propylaeum is very imposing, and rather out of place; but
that is not the architect's fault. It cost thirty thousand pounds, and had
he been permitted to carry out his original design, no doubt it would have
introduced us to some classic fane in character with the lofty Titanic
columns: for instance, a temple to Mercury the winged messenger and god of
Mammon. But, as is very common in this country,--for familiar examples see
the London University, the National Gallery, and the Nelson Column,--the
spirit of the proprietors evaporated with the outworks; and the gateway leads
to a square court-yard and a building the exterior of which may be described,
in the language of guide books when referring to something which cannot be
praised, as "a plain, unpretending, stucco structure," with a convenient
wooden shed in front, barely to save passengers from getting wet in rainy
[EUSTON SQUARE, LONDON: ill1.jpg]
As Melrose should be seen by the fair moonlight, so Euston, to be viewed to
advantage, should be visited by the gray light of a summer or spring morning,
about a quarter to six o'clock, three-quarters of an hour before the starting
of the parliamentary train, which every railway, under a wise legislative
enactment, is compelled to run "once a-day from each extremity, with covered
carriages, stopping at every station, travelling at a rate of not less than
fifteen miles an hour, at a charge of one-penny per mile." We say wise,
because the competition of the Railway for goods, as well as passengers,
drove off the road not only all the coaches, on which, when light-loaded,
foot-sore travellers got an occasional lift, but all the variety of vans and
broad-wheeled waggons which afforded a slow but cheap conveyance between our
At the hour mentioned, the Railway passenger-yard is vacant, silent, and as
spotlessly clean as a Dutchman's kitchen; nothing is to be seen but a tall
soldier-like policeman in green, on watch under the wooden shed, and a few
sparrows industriously yet vainly trying to get breakfast from between the
closely packed paving-stones. How different from the fat debauched-looking
sparrows who throve upon the dirt and waste of the old coach yards!
It is so still, so open; the tall columns of the portico entrance look down
on you so grimly; the front of the booking-offices, in their garment of clean
stucco, look so primly respectable that you cannot help feeling ashamed of
yourself,--feeling as uncomfortable as when you have called too early on an
economically genteel couple, and been shown into a handsome drawing-room, on
a frosty day, without a fire. You cannot think of entering into a gossip
with the Railway guardian, for you remember that "sentinels on duty are not
allowed to talk," except to nursery maids.
Presently, hurrying on foot, a few passengers arrive; a servant-maid carrying
a big box, with the assistance of a little girl; a neat punctual-looking man,
probably a banker's clerk on furlough; and a couple of young fellows in
shaggy coats, smoking, who seem, by their red eyes and dirty hands, to have
made sure of being up early by not going to bed. A rattle announces the
first omnibus, with a pile of luggage outside and five inside passengers, two
commercial travellers, two who may be curates or schoolmasters, and a brown
man with a large sea-chest. At the quarter, the scene thickens; there are
few Hansoms, but some night cabs, a vast number of carts of all kinds, from
the costermonger's donkey to the dashing butcher's Whitechapel. There is
very little medium in parliamentary passengers about luggage, either they
have a cart-load or none at all. Children are very plentiful, and the
mothers are accompanied with large escorts of female relations, who keep
kissing and stuffing the children with real Gibraltar rock and gingerbread to
the last moment. Every now and then a well-dressed man hurries past into the
booking-office and takes his ticket with a sheepish air as if he was pawning
his watch. Sailors arrive with their chests and hammocks. The other day we
had the pleasure of meeting a travelling tinker with the instruments of his
craft neatly packed; two gentlemen, whose closely cropped hair and pale plump
complexion betokened a recent residence in some gaol or philanthropic
institution; an economical baronet, of large fortune; a prize fighter, going
down to arrange a little affair which was to come off the next day; a half-
pay officer, with a genteel wife and twelve children, on his way to a cheap
county in the north; a party of seven Irish, father, mother, and five grown-
up sons and daughters, on their way to America, after a successful residence
in London; a tall young woman and a little man, from Stamford, who had been
up to London to buy stone bottles, and carried them back rattling in a box; a
handsome dragoon, with a very pretty girl,--her eyes full of tears,--on his
arm, to see him off; another female was waiting at the door for the same
purpose, when the dragoon bolted, and took refuge in the interior of the
station. In a word, a parliamentary train collects,--besides mechanics in
search of work, sailors going to join a ship, and soldiers on furlough,--all
whose necessities or tastes lead them to travel economically, among which
last class are to be found a good many Quakers. It is pleasing to observe
the attention the poor women, with large families and piles of packages,
receive from the officers of the company, a great contrast to the neglect
which meets the poorly clad in stage-coach travelling, as may still be seen
in those districts where the rail has not yet made way.
We cannot say that we exactly admire the taste of the three baronets whom a
railway superintendent found in one third-class carriage, but we must own
that to those to whom economy is really an object, there is much worse
travelling than by the Parliamentary. Having on one occasion gone down by
first-class, with an Oxford man who had just taken his M.A., an ensign of
infantry in his first uniform, a clerk in Somerset House, and a Manchester
man who had been visiting a Whig Lord,--and returned third-class, with a
tinker, a sailor just returned from Africa, a bird-catcher with his load, and
a gentleman in velveteens, rather greasy, who seemed, probably on a private
mission, to have visited the misdemeanour wards of all the prisons in England
and Scotland; we preferred the return trip, that is to say, vulgar and
amusing to dull and genteel. Among other pieces of information gleaned on
this occasion, we learned that "for a cove as didn't mine a jolly lot of
readin and writin, Readin was prime in winter; plenty of good vittles, and
the cells warmed."
It must be remarked that the character of the Parliamentary varies very much
according to the station from which it starts. The London trains being the
worst, having a large proportion of what are vulgarly called "swells out of
luck." In a rural district the gathering of smock-frocks and rosy-faced
lasses, the rumbling of carts, and the size, number, and shape of the trunks
and parcels, afford a very agreeable and comical scene on a frosty,
moonlight, winter's morning, about Christmas time, when visiting commences,
or at Whitsuntide. No man who has a taste for studying the phases of life
and character should fail to travel at least once by the Parliamentary.
The large cheap load having rumbled off from the south side of the station,
about nine o'clock preparations are commenced for the aristocratic Express,
which, on this line, is composed of first-class carriages alone, in which, at
half the price of the old mail coach fares, the principal stations on the
line are reached at railway speed.
To attend the departure of this train, there arrive not only the republican
omnibi and cabs, from the damp night crawler to the rattling Hansom, but
carriages, with coronets and mitres emblazoned, guarded by the tallest and
most obsequious of footmen, and driven by the fattest and most lordly of
coachmen; also the neatest of broughams, adorned internally with pale pink
and blue butterfly bonnets; dashing dogcarts, with neat grooms behind,
mustached guardsmen driving; and stately cabriolets prance in, under the
guidance of fresh primrose-coloured gloves.
But, although the passengers by the Express train are, in every respect, a
contrast to those by the Parliamentary, the universal and levelling tendency
of the railway system is not less plainly exhibited.
The earl or duke, whose dignity formerly compelled him to post in a coupe and
four, at a cost of some five or six shillings a mile, and an immense
consumption of horse-flesh, wax-lights, and landladies' curtsies on the road,
now takes his place unnoticed in a first-class carriage next to a gentleman
who travels for a great claret and champagne house, and opposite another
going down express to report a railway meeting at Birmingham for a morning
paper. If you see a lady carefully and courteously escorted to a carriage
marked "engaged," on a blackboard, it is probably not a countess but the wife
of one of the principal officers of the company. A bishop in a greatcoat
creates no sensation; but a tremendous rush of porters and superintendents
towards one carriage, announces that a director or well-known engineer is
about to take his seat. In fact, civility to all, gentle and simple, is the
rule introduced by the English railway system; every porter with a number on
his coat is, for the time, the passenger's servant. Special attention is
bestowed on those who are personally known, and no one can grumble at that.
Some people, who have never visited the continent, or only visited it for
pleasure, travelling at their leisure, make comparisons with the railways of
France and Germany, unfavourable to the English system. Our railways are
dearer than the foreign, so is our government,--we make both ourselves; but
compare the military system of the continental railways; the quarter of an
hour for admission before the starting of the train, during which, if too
early or too late, you are locked out; the weighing of every piece of
baggage; the lordly commanding airs of all the officials if any relaxation of
rules be required; the insouciance with which the few porters move about,
leaving ladies and gentlemen to drag their own luggage;--compare all this with
the rapid manner in which the loads of half-a-dozen cabs, driving up from
some other railway at the last moment, are transferred to the departing
Express; compare the speed, the universal civility, attention, and honesty,
that distinguish our railway travelling, and you cannot fail to come to the
conclusion that for a commercial people to whom time is of value, ours is the
best article, and if we had not been a lawyer-ridden people we might also
have had the cheapest article.
Before starting the Express train, we must not fail to note one new class of
passengers, recruited by the speed of railways, viz., the number of gentlemen
in breeches, boots, and spurs, with their pinks just peeping from under their
rough jackets, who, during the season, get down to Aylesbury, Bletchley, and
even Wolverton, to hunt, and back home again to dinner. But the signal
sounds. The express train moves off; two gentlemen at the last moment are,
in vain, crying out for Punch and the Times, while an unheeded hammering at
the closed door of the booking-office announces that somebody is too late.
There is always some one too late. On this occasion it was a young gentleman
in a pair of light top-boots, and a mamma and papa with half-a-dozen children
and two nursery-maids in a slow capacious fly.
We cannot bestow unqualified praise upon the station arrangements at Euston.
Comfort has been sacrificed to magnificence. The platform arrangements for
departing and arriving trains are good, simple, and comprehensive; but the
waiting-rooms, refreshment stand, and other conveniences are as ill-contrived
as possible; while a vast hall with magnificent roof and scagliola pillars,
appears to have swallowed up all the money and all the light of the
The first-class waiting-room is dull to a fearful degree, and furnished in
the dowdiest style of economy. The second-class room is a dark cavern, with
nothing better than a borrowed light.
The refreshment counters are enclosed in a sort of circular glazed pew, open
to all the drafts of a grand, cold, uncomfortable hall, into which few ladies
A refreshment-room should be the ante-room to the waiting-room, and the two
should be so arranged with reference to the booking-office and cloak-rooms,
that strangers find their way without asking a dozen questions from busy
porters and musing policemen.
Euston Station reminds us of an architect's house, where a magnificent
portico and hall leads to dungeon-like dining-room, and mean drawing-room.
Why are our architects so inferior to our engineers?
On the platform is the door of the telegraph office, which also has offices
for receiving and transmitting messages at all the principal stations.
THE MIXED TRAIN.
The Mixed train on this line holds an intermediate rank between the
Parliamentary and the Express, consisting as it does of first and second-
class carriages, at lower fares than the one and higher than the other,
stopping at fewer stations than the Parliamentary, and at more than the
Express; but worth notice on the present occasion, because it is by these
trains only that horses and carriages are allowed to be conveyed.
Carriages require very careful packing on a truck. At the principal stations
this may be very well left to the practised porters, but at road-side
stations it is a point which should be looked to; for it has not unfrequently
happened that the jogging, lateral motion of the railway has heated the axles
of a carriage or truck, so that at the end of the journey the wheels have
been found as fast as if they had been welded, and quite unfit to travel.
Travelling in a carriage on a truck is by no means safe: some years since
Lady Zetland and her maids were nearly burned to death, sparks from the
engine having set fire to their luggage. The maid threw herself off the
truck, and had an extraordinary escape.
The arrangements of the boxes for carrying horses are now very complete, and
when once a horse, not of a naturally nervous disposition, has been
accustomed to travel by rail, it will often be found better to take him on to
hunt at a distance than to send him overnight to a strange place with all the
disadvantages of change of food, and temptations to neglect in the way of the
groom. It is, however, a class of traffic to which few of the railway
companies have paid much attention; yet, in our opinion, capable of great
development under a system of moderate fares, and day tickets. The rates are
not always stated in the time tables, but on the London and North Western a
day ticket for a horse costs fourteen shillings for thirty miles.
Besides horses, packs of hounds, and even red deer are occasionally sent by
rail. But deer travel in their own private carriages. Hounds are generally
accompanied by the huntsman, or whip, to keep them in order. And on the
Great Western line a few years ago a huntsman was nearly stifled in this way.
The van had been made too snug and close for travelling comfortably with
twenty couple of warm fox-hounds.
If there is the slightest doubt about a horse entering the van quietly, the
best way is to blindfold him before he becomes suspicious. Among other
pursuits, horse racing has been completely revolutionised by the rail. The
posting race-horse van was a luxury in which only the wealthiest could
indulge to a limited extent, but now the owner of a string of thoroughbreds,
or a single plater, can train in the South or the North, and in four and
twenty hours reach any leading course in the kingdom; carrying with him, if
deemed needful, hay, straw, and water.
As we move slowly off toward Camden Station, by the fourth of the eighteen
passenger trains which daily depart from Euston, and emerging with light
whirl along within sight of rows of capital houses, whose gardens descend to
the edge of the cuttings, we are reminded that under the original act for
taking up Euston, it was specially provided, at the instance of Lord
Southampton, that no locomotive should be allowed to proceed further to the
south than Camden Town, lest his building land should remain neglected garden
land for ever. This promise was accepted with little reluctance by the
company, because in 1833 it was popularly considered that the ascent to reach
Camden Town could not be easily overcome by a heavily loaded locomotive.
Consequently a pair of stationary engines were erected at Camden Town, and a
pair of tall chimneys to carry off their smoke and steam.
But the objections in taste, and difficulties in science, have vanished. On
this line, as on all others, tenants are readily found for houses fringing a
cutting; locomotives run up even such ascents as the Bromsgrove Lickey,
between Worcester and Birmingham, with a load of 500 tons. So ten minutes
have been saved in time, and much expense, by doing away with the rope
traction system. The stationary engines have been sold, and are now doing
duty in a flax mill in Russia, and the two tall columns, after slumbering for
several years as monuments of prejudices and obstacles overcome, were swept
away to make room for other improvements.
It is, however, very odd, and not very creditable to human nature, that
whenever a railway is planned, the proprietors are assailed by unreasonable
demands for compensation, in cases where past experience has proved that the
works will be an advantageous, and often an ornamental addition.
In 1846 a Sheffield line was vehemently opposed by a Liverpool gentleman, on
the ground that it would materially injure the prospect from a mansion, which
had been the seat of his ancestors for centuries. The tale was well told,
and seemed most pitiful; an impression was produced on the committee that the
privacy of something like Hatfield, or Knebworth, was about to be infringed
on by the "abominable railway." A stiff cross-examination brought out the
reluctant fact, however, that this "house of my ancestors," this beautiful
Elizabethan mansion had been for many years let as a Lunatic Asylum at 36
pound per annum.
In another instance a railway director sold a pretty country seat, because
the grounds were about to be intersected by a railway embankment; two years
after the completion of the railway he wished to buy it back again, for he
found that his successor, by turfing and planting the slope, had very much
increased the original beauty of the gardens.
But thus gossiping, we have reached Camden Station, and must take advantage
of an unusual halt to look into the arrangements for building waggons and
trucks, and conveying coals, merchandise, goods, and all live stock included
between pigs and bullocks.
Not without difficulty did Mr. Robert Stephenson succeed in inducing the
directors to purchase thirty acres of land here; it was only by urging, that,
if unused, the surplus could be sold at a profit, that he carried out his
views. Genius can foresee results which, to ordinary capacities, are dark
and incomprehensible. Since 1845 it has been found necessary to take in an
additional plot of three more acres, all now fully occupied.
In no respect were the calculations of parties engaged in the construction of
railways more at fault than with regard to the station accommodation needed
for goods traffic, which, on the principal lines, has added full twenty-five
per cent. to the original estimates. George Stephenson calculated the cost
of getting over Chat Moss at 40,000 pounds; his opponent proved that it would
cost four hundred thousand: but it was executed at exactly the sum Stephenson
set down, while the capital involved in providing Station Room for
merchandise at Liverpool and at Manchester, has probably exceeded the
original estimate for the whole line.
On this railway the increase of the goods traffic has been of very recent
date. At a very early period after the opening of the line, the merchandise
department became the monopoly of the great carriers, who found it answer
their purpose to divide the profits afforded by the discount allowed to
carriers by the railway company, without seeking to develop an increase of
occupation. Under this system, while carriers grew rich, the goods traffic
remained stationary. But when the amalgamation with the Grand Junction,
which had always been its own carrier, took place, a great reduction in rates
was made, as well as arrangements for encouraging the conveyance of every
kind of saleable article. The company became a common carrier, but employing
Messrs. Pickford, and Chaplin and Horne to collect goods.
The result was a marvellous increase, which has been progressing ever since.
A regular trade is now carried on between London and the most remote parts of
the kingdom in every conceivable thing that will bear moving. Sheep have
been sent from Perth to London, and Covent Garden has supplied tons of the
finer description of vegetables to the citizens of Glasgow; every Saturday
five tons of the best fish in season are despatched from Billingsgate to
Birmingham, and milk is conveyed in padlocked tins, from and beyond Harrow,
at the rate of about one penny per gallon. In articles which are imported
into both Liverpool and London, there is a constant interchange, according to
the state of the market; thus a penny per pound difference may bring a
hundred chests of congou up, or send as many of hyson down the line. All
graziers within a day of the rail are able to compete in the London market,
the probability of any extraordinary demand increases the number of beasts
arriving weekly at Camden Station from the average of 500 to 2000, and the
sheep from 2000 to 6000; and these animals can be brought from the furthest
grazing grounds in the kingdom without any loss of weight, and in much better
condition than the fat oxen were formerly driven to Smithfield from the rich
pastures round Aylesbury, or the Valley of the Thames.
Camden station, under the alterations effected in 1848-9, has a double line,
for goods waggons only, 2,500 feet in length, entirely clear of the main
line. The length of single lines, exclusive of the main line, exceeds twelve
To describe it in detail would be a very unsatisfactory task; because, in the
first place, it can ill be understood without a map, and in the next, changes
are constantly taking place, and still greater changes will be forced on the
company by the increase of goods traffic, which, great as it is, is only in
its infancy. Even now freights are paid to the London and North Western for
all the way to China. But, as an agricultural implement of commerce, the
locomotive has been comparatively as little used as the stationary engine,
although hundreds of trades of a semi-rural character are drawing toward the
railway lines, and away from the country towns, which were formerly the
centre of rural commerce, because standing on the highways or near canals.
But such a revolution can only be effected slowly.
At Camden will be found a large yard for the reception of the Midland
Counties' coal, the introduction of which has had a considerable effect in
bringing down the price of sea-borne coal.
The cattle pens have lately been altered and enlarged. Just before Christmas
this place is almost as amusing and exciting as a Spanish bull-fight;
although, as a general rule, the silence of a place where, during every
quarter of an hour, of day and night, so enormous a business is being carried
on, is very surprising.
Twenty-four steam waggon horses, or engines, for heavy loads are kept in a
circular engine-house, or stable, 160 feet in diameter, with an iron roof.
This form renders every engine accessible at a moment's notice. The steam
race-horses for the passenger work are kept in an oblong building opposite
the carters. The demand being more regular, there is no need for the
expensive circular arrangement of stables for this class of engines. In a
large boiler-house, boiling water and red-hot coke are kept ready night and
day, so that on the occasion of any sudden demand no time need be lost in
getting up steam. There is besides a waggon-building department, a shop for
executing such trifling repairs in the locomotives as need no reference to
the great workshop at Wolverton. The passenger carriages are most of them
built at Euston station, by Mr. Wright.
The carrying department is very conveniently situated close to the Regent's
Canal, so as to have easy communication with inland as well as sea
navigation. A series of sheds occupy an area of 135,000 superficial feet,
and the platforms to receive goods from railway trucks on one side and from
waggons on the other, occupy 30,000 feet. These platforms and sheds are
provided with 110 cranes, for loading and unloading, with a power varying
from one ton and a half to twenty tons. By these appliances, work of the
most miscellaneous character goes on all day, and part of the night.
The railway trucks and waggons are moved about by horses: it is amusing to
see the activity with which the heavy brutes often bring a waggon up at a
trot, jump out of the way just at the right moment, and allow the waggon to
roll up to the right spot by its own momentum.
The horses are lodged in stables in the underground vaults, which we cannot
commend, as they are dark, damp, full of draughts, and yet ill ventilated;
but it was necessary to use these vaults, and difficult to find stabling for
such a number of horses close at hand.
The carrying department at Camden is very miscellaneous, and moves
everything, from the contents of a nursery ground to a full grown locomotive,
but they do not impress a stranger so much as the arrangements at Manchester
and Liverpool. The annual consumption of gas at Camden exceeds six million
Under the railway system the certainty and rapidity with which merchandise
can be transmitted, changes and simplifies more and more every year the
operations of trade. For instance, Southampton is the great port for that
part of our Indian, South American, and Mediterranean trade which is
conducted by steamers. When a junction has been effected between the London
and North Western and the South Western, costly packages of silk, muslin,
gold tissue, jewellery, may be sent under lock from the Glasgow manufacturers
to the quay alongside at Southampton in a few hours, without sign of damage
or pilferage, and at the last moment before the departure of the steamer. The
communication between the docks on the Thames and Camden Town, will enable a
grocer in Manchester to have a hogshead of sugar or tobacco sent in answer to
a letter by return of post, at a saving in expense which may be imagined from
the fact, that it costs more to cart a butt of sherry from the London Docks
to Camden Town, than to send it by rail all the way to Manchester.
To provide for the enormous and annually increasing traffic in passengers and
merchandise, there are:--
1 State carriage. 260 Horse boxes.
555 Locomotives and tenders. 132 Sheep vans.
494 First-class mails. 7385 Goods waggons.
420 Second-class carriages. 14 Trolleys.
342 Third-class. 1155 Cribb rails.
25 Post-offices. 5150 Sheets.
242 Carriages,--trucks for 162 Cart horses.
letters and newspapers. 41 Parcel carts.
201 Guards' brakes.
Making a grand total rolling stock of 10,663.
The passenger carriages afford eleven miles of seat room, and would
accommodate 40,196 individuals, or the whole population of two such towns as
The loading surface of the goods equals eleven acres, and would convey 40,000
If the tires of all the company's wheels were welded into one ring, they
would form a circle of seventy-two miles.
To keep this rolling stock up in number and efficiency, there are two
establishments, one at Camden Town, and one at Wolverton.
Camden Town is the great coach house of the line, where goods waggons are
built and repaired in one division, where sound locomotives, carriages and
trucks are kept ready for use in another.
The waggon building department of Camden is worth visiting, especially by
Every one is interested in railways being worked economically, for economy
gives low rates and increased profits, which both increase trade and multiply
railways. Hitherto the details of carrying, especially as to the
construction of waggons and trucks, have been much neglected.
On one line running north, it is said that the loss in cheese stolen by the
railway servants, amounts to as much as the whole sum paid for carrying
agricultural produce, and on the line on which we are travelling, breakages
have sometimes amounted to 1,200 pounds a-month.
The fact is, that railway carriers have been content to use rude square boxes
on wheels, covered when loaded, if covered at all, with a tarpaulin, without
any precautions for draining off the wet, to which it was constantly exposed
when out of use,--without "buffers" or other protecting springs, so that the
wear and tear of the waggon and its load, from inevitable shocks, was very
The imperfect protection of a tarpaulin was, and is, a great temptation to
pilferage. These sources of expense, in wear and tear of conveyances, loss
of tarpaulin coverings, each worth 6 pounds 6s., breakage, pilferage of
goods, combine to sum up a formidable discount from the profits of railway
carrying, and, in the case of certain goods, lead the owners to prefer the
slower transit of a canal boat. Even iron suffers in market value from
exposure to the weather; porcelain and glass are liable to perpetual smashes,
on waggons without buffers, in spite of the most careful packing; while tea,
sugar, cheese, and all untraceable eatables are pilfered to an enormous
extent, besides more valuable goods.
It was hoped that railway transit would put an end to the dishonesty which
was carried on wholesale on the canals; but, where open trucks are used, this
expectation has been only partly realised, for the temptation of opportunity
has been too strong, for even the superior class of men employed on railways.
In order to meet these evils, Mr. Henson, who has the charge of the waggon-
building department at Camden, has built and patented a covered waggon with
buffers, which unites with great strength, safety, capacity, and smoothness
of motion. The scientific manner in which these waggons are framed, gives
them strength in proportion to their weight. The buffers with which they are
fitted, and the roof, protecting from the weather, render them altogether
durable, and therefore economical; while the construction, as will be seen
from our vignette, renders pilferage, unless by collusion with the
respectable party who overlooks the unloading, almost impossible.
A diminution of the cost for repairs of rolling stock (on an average equal to
12 pounds per ann.), and of the cost for compensation to customers for
breakage and pilferage, should be a leading object with every sensible
railway director. Indeed these losses, with deadweight, and lawyer's bills,
are the deadly enemies of railway directors.
Further improvements in these waggons have been effected by the use of
corrugated iron, which is light and strong at the same time; and the iron
waggons have been again improved by employing iron covered with a thin
coating of glass, under a new patent, which renders rust impossible and paint
unnecessary. The simple contrivance by which the door and moveable roof is
locked and unlocked by one motion, is worthy of the notice of practical men.
600 of these lock-up waggons, with springs and buffers, are in use on the
London and North Western Railway.
Mr. Henson has also succeeded in establishing a traffic in gunpowder, by
inventing a carriage of sheet iron, lined with wood, in which four-and-a-half
tons of gunpowder can be conveyed without fear of explosion either from
concussion or external combustion.
The shops at Camden have room for building or repairing 100 waggons. They
are to be seen in every stage of progress.
The great object is to combine strength with lightness. If the strength
being the same, the saving of a ton can be effected in a waggon, it will
amount to from thirty to ninety tons in an ordinary goods train. An
important consideration, for deadweight is the great enemy of the railway,
and ninety tons of useless weight is equivalent to a loss of 90 pounds in
sending a goods train a journey to Birmingham. British oak is the favourite
wood for the frames of railway waggons; teak, if of equal quality, is dearer,
and the inferior is heavier, without being so strong. If in any of the many
countries with which we trade a wood can be discovered as good and as cheap
as English oak, the railways which are constantly extending their carrying
stock, can afford a steady demand.
About the passenger carriages, which every one can see and examine for
himself, there is not much to be said. On the Continent, where they cannot
afford to use mahogany, they use sheet-iron and papier-machee for the panels;
in England, mahogany chiefly in the first class. When we began, stage
coaches were imitated; there are some of the old cramped style still to be
seen on the Richmond line; then came enormous cages--pleasant in summer,
fearfully cold in winter, without fires, which have not been introduced in
England, although they are found in the north of Europe and America. A
medium size has now come into favour, of which some fine specimens are to be
seen in the Hyde Park Exhibition.
On the Great Northern line some second-class carriages have been introduced,
varnished, without paint, and very well they look. Economy again, and the
increase of branches, have led to the use of composite carriages for first
and second-class passengers all on one body. These, which were in use years
ago on the northern coal lines, are now revived and improved.
The Camden station has received an entirely new feature by the completion of
the line to the docks and to Fenchurch Street, with stations at Islington,
Hackney, and Bow. Already an immense omnibus traffic has been obtained--a
sort of traffic which produces the same effect on engines as on horses. They
are worn out rapidly by the continual stoppages. But horses show wear and
tear directly, whereas iron and brass cannot speak except through increased
expenses and diminished dividends.
Leaving Camden, at which trains stop only on arriving, we swiftly pass
Kilburn, where an omnibus station is to be established for the benefit of the
rising population of citizens, to Willesden, where the junction line through
Acton to the South Western is to commence. Willesden has been rendered
classic ground, for the Hero-worshippers who take highwaymen within the
circle of their miscellaneous sympathies, by Mr. Harrison Ainsworth's "Jack
Sheppard,"--the "cage" where this ruffian was more than once confined still
remains in its original insecurity.
Sudbury affords nothing to detain us. The next station is within a mile of
Harrow-on-the-Hill, with its beacon-like church spire. Rich pasture lies
around, famous for finishing off bullocks fed in the north. Harrow school is
almost as much one of the institutions of England as Oxford and Cambridge
Universities. It is one of the great public schools, which, if they do not
make the ripest scholars, make "men" of our aristocracy. This school was
founded by one John Lyon, a farmer of the parish, who died in 1592.
Attached to it there are four exhibitions of 20 pounds each, and two
scholarships of 50 pounds each.
The grand celebrity of the school rests upon the education of those who are
not on the foundation. The sons of noblemen and wealthy gentlemen, who in
this as in many other instances, have treated those for whose benefit the
school was founded, as the young cuckoo treats the hedge sparrow. Among its
illustrious scholars Harrow numbers Lord Byron and Sir Robert Peel.
An old saw runs: "Eton fops, Harrow gentlemen, Winchester scholars, and
Since the palmy days when Dr. Drury was master and Byron and Peel were
pupils, Harrow has declined to insignificance, and been by the abilities of
Dr. Wordsworth raised again. The term of Harrow gentlemen still deservedly
survives, Harrow being still the gate through which the rich son of a parvenu
family may most safely pass on his way to Oxford, if his father desires, as
all fathers do in this country, that his son should amalgamate with the
At Pinner, the next station, we pass out of Middlesex into Hertfordshire.
Watford, a principal station, is within a mile of the town of that name, on
the river Colne. Here Henry VI. encamped with his army before the battle of
St. Albans. Cassiobury Park, a favourite spot for picnics, is close to the
station. It was the opposition of the late proprietor, the Earl of Essex,
that forced upon the engineer of the line the formidable tunnel, which was
once considered an astonishing railway work,--now nothing is astonishing in
[VIADUCT OVER THE RIVER COLNE: ill3.jpg]
Near King's Langley we pass the Booksellers' Provident Retreat, erected on
ground given by Mr. Dickenson, the great paper maker, who has seven mills on
the neighbouring streams, and reach Boxmoor, only noticeable as the first
station opened on the line.
[LOOKING FROM THE HILL ABOVE BOX MOOR STATION TOWARDS BERKHAMSTED: ill4.jpg]
The next station is Berkhamsted. Cowper the poet was born here, his father
was rector of the parish. Berkhamsted Castle is part of the hereditary
property of the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall. At this castle William
the Conqueror, after the battle of Hastings, met the Abbot of St. Albans with
a party of chiefs and prelates, who had prepared to oppose the Norman, and
disarmed their hostility by swearing to rule according to the ancient laws
and customs of the country. Having, of course, broken his oath, he bestowed
the castle on his half-brother, Robert Moreton, Earl of Cornwall. King John
strengthened the castle, which was afterwards besieged by the Dauphin of
France. When Edward III. created the Black Prince Duke of Cornwall, the
castle and manor of Berkhamsted were bestowed upon him "to hold to him, and
the heirs of him, and the eldest sons of the kings of England, and the dukes
of the said place;" and under these words through civil wars and revolutions,
and changes from Plantagenet to Tudor, from Tudor to Stuart, with the
interregnum of a republic, an abdication, and the installation of the
Brunswick dynasty. The castle is now vested in Albert Prince of Wales.
[BERKHAMSTED STATION: ill5.jpg]
The Chiltern Hills, including the Chiltern Hundreds, the only office under
the crown always open to the acceptance of all without distinction of
parties, lies within a short distance of Berkhamsted. Ashdridge Park,
formerly the seat of the Duke of Bridgewater, the originator and author, with
the aid of Brindley and Telford, of our great canal system, lies about a mile
to the eastward. The scenery of the park and gardens are fine. The house is
Tring station, a mile and a half from the town, may be reached from London,
31.5 miles, in less than an hour by the express train, and the traveller
arrives in as wild a district as any in England. Three miles north of Tring
lies the town of Ivinghoe, possessing a large cruciform church, worthy of a
visit from the students of "Christian architecture," with an old sculptured
timber roof, and containing a tomb with a Norman French
inscription,--according to some the tomb of Henry de Blois, Bishop of
Winchester, brother of King Stephen. At the Rose and Crown we are informed
venison is to be had in perfection at moderate charges during the season. The
station is the highest point on the line, being 420 feet above the sea, 300
above Camden Town, and 52 above Birmingham.
In the course of the Tring excavation in the gravel deposits above the chalk,
the tusk and teeth of an elephant were found, and in crossing the Icknield or
Roman Way, about thirty-three miles, were sixteen human skeletons, and
several specimens of Roman pottery: two unique urns are now in the possession
of the Antiquarian Society.
Two miles from Tring we pass from Hertfordshire into Buckinghamshire. It
remains a disputed point whether the name of the county is derived from
bucken or boccen, a deer, according to Spelman, or with Lysons, boc, a
charter, or with Camden from bucken, beech trees, which, as in his time,
still abound and flourish. Unfortunately the state of agriculture does not
allow the pastors of the country to take the ease and rest that was enjoyed
by the celebrated Mr. Tityrus before the repeal of the Roman corn laws, an
ease which has cost many an unfortunate schoolboy a flogging.
Our next halt, Cheddington, is noticeable only because it stands on the fork,
of which a short branch, nine miles in length, leads to Aylesbury.
Aylesbury, standing on a hill, in the midst of one of the richest, if not the
richest, tracts of pasture lands in England, is very ancient without being
venerable. The right of returning two members to Parliament is found
periodically profitable to the inhabitants, and these two MP's with a little
lace, constitute its only manufactures. The loss of the coaching trade by
the substitution of the railroad, was a great blow to its local prosperity.
Among other changes, the Aylesbury butchers often go to London to buy meat,
which has passed in the shape of oxen through the town to ride to London.
The Berry field, said to be the best field in England, lies in the Vale of
Aylesbury. The saying of "good land bad farmers," is not belied among the
mass of those who meet in the markets of Aylesbury. With a few exceptions
the farming is as bad as it can be, the farmers miserably poor, and the
labourers ignorant to a degree which is a disgrace to the resident clergy and
gentry. We had some experience of the peasantry during the railway surveys
of 1846, 1847, and found them quite innocent of thinking and reading, with a
timid hatred of their employers, and perfect readiness to do anything not
likely to be found out, for a pot of beer. They get low wages, live low, and
work accordingly. It was round Aylesbury, that for many years, the influence
of the insolvent Duke of Buckingham was paramount.
To city sportsmen, Aylesbury has interest as the centre of Baron Rothschild's
(stag) hunt; to politicians, because of great meetings of the country party
We must not omit to notice the duck trade carried on by the poorer order of
people round the town. They hatch the ducks under hens generally in their
living rooms, often under their beds, and fatten them up early in spring on
garbage, of which horse flesh not unfrequently forms a large part. The ducks
taste none the worse if for the last fortnight they are permitted to have
plenty of clean water and oats, or barleymeal. Most of the Aylesbury ducks
never see water except in a drinking pan. The cheap rate at which the
inferior grain can be bought has been a great advantage to these duck
The many means now open of reaching the best markets of the country will
probably change the style and make the fortunes of a new race of Bucks
farmers. Those of the present generation who have neither capital nor
education can only be made useful by transplantation.
Returning from Aylesbury, and gliding out of the deep cuttings over a fine
open country, we approach the Leighton Buzzard station, and see in the
distance the lofty octagonal spire of the Leighton Buzzard church.
The town is half a mile from the station, and commands the attention of the
church antiquary from its fine church and cross.
The church, says a very competent authority on such matters, "is one of the
most spacious, lightsome, and well-proportioned perpendicular churches,
cruciform, with a handsome stone spire. The roof, stalls, and other wood-
work very perfect. The windows, some ironwork, and other details, full of
The cross stands in an open area in the centre of the market place, and is
twenty-seven feet high above the basement, which is raised by rows of steps
about five feet.
At Leighton Buzzard a branch line of seven miles communicates with DUNSTABLE.
[LEIGHTON BUZZARD: ill6.jpg]
Dunstable is situated in the centre of the Dunstable Chalk Downs, where the
celebrated Dunstable larks are caught which are made mention of in one of
Miss Edgeworth's pretty stories. The manufactures are whiting and straw
hats. Of an ancient priory, founded in 1131, by Henry I., and endowed with
the town, and the privileges of jurisdiction extending to life and death,
nothing remains but the parish church, of which the interior is richly
ornamented. Over the altar-piece is a large painting representing the Lord's
Supper, by Sir James Thornhill, the father-in-law of Hogarth. In a charity
school founded in 1727, forty boys are clothed, educated, and apprenticed. In
twelve almshouses twelve poor widows are lodged, and in six houses near the
church, called the Maidens' Lodge, six unmarried gentlewomen live and enjoy
an income of 120 pounds per ann. With this brief notice we may retrace our
On leaving Leighton, within half a mile we enter a covered tunnel, and we
strongly recommend some artist fond of "strong effects" in landscape to
obtain a seat in a coupe forming the last carriage in an express train, if
such are ever put on now, sitting with your back to the engine, with windows
before and on each side, you are whirled out of sight into twilight and
darkness, and again into twilight and light, in a manner most impressive, yet
which cannot be described. Perhaps the effect is even greater in a slow than
in an express train. But as this tunnel is curved the transition would be
At Bletchley the church (embowered in a grove of yews, planted perhaps when
Henry VIII. issued his decrees for planting the archer's tree) contains an
altar tomb of Lord Grey of Wilton, A.D. 1412. The station has now become
important as from it diverge the Bedford line to the east, and the lines to
Banbury and Oxford to the west.
A branch connects Bletchley with Bedford 16.25 miles in length, with the
FENNY STRATFORD. LIDLINGTON.
WOBURN SANDS. AMPTHILL.
WOBURN AND BEDFORD.
Woburn is one of those dull places, neat, clean, and pretentious in public
buildings, which are forced under the hot-house influence of a great
We pass it to visit Woburn Abbey, the residence of the Russell family, with
its extensive and magnificent gardens, its model farms, its picture gallery,
and other accessories of a great nobleman's country seat.
It was at Woburn that Francis, Duke of Bedford, held his sheep-shearing
feasts, and by patronising, in conjunction with Coke of Norfolk and Mr.
Western, improvements and improvers in agriculture and stock-breeding, did so
much to promote agricultural improvement in this county, and to create that
large class of wealthy educated agriculturists, which confers such great
benefits on this country.
Now that every country gentleman has at least one neighbour who is, or
professes to be, an agricultural improver, it is difficult to give an
adequate idea of the benefit we have derived from the agricultural enthusiasm
of the noblemen and gentlemen who first made the science of cultivating
breeding fashionable, we must be excused the word, among a class which had
previously been exclusively devoted to field sports or to town life. They
founded that finest of all modern characters--the English country gentleman,
educated, yet hearty, a scholar and a sportsman, a good farmer, and an
intelligent, considerate landlord; happy to teach, and ready to learn,
anything connected with a pursuit which he follows with the enthusiasm of a
student and the skill of a practical man.
The other stations have nothing about them to induce a curious traveller to
pause. Not so can we say of BEDFORD.
Bedford has been pauperised by the number and wealth of its charities. A
mechanic, or small tradesman, can send his child if it be sick to a free
hospital; when older to a free school, where even books are provided; when
the boy is apprenticed a fee may be obtained from a charity; at half the time
of apprenticeship, a second fee; on the expiration of the term, a third; on
going to service, a fourth; if he marries he expects to obtain from a charity
fund "a portion" with his wife, also educated at a charity; and if he has not
sufficient industry or prudence to lay by for old age, and those are virtues
which he is not likely to practise, he looks forward with confidence to being
boarded and lodged at one of Bedford's fifty-nine almshouses.
The chief source of the charities of Bedford is derived from an estate of
thirteen acres of land in the parish of St. Andrew, Holborn, London,
bequeathed by Sir William Harpur, an alderman of that city, in the reign of
Edward VI., for founding a free school for instructing the children of the
town in grammar, and good manners. This land, now covered with valuable
houses, produces some 16,000 pounds per annum.
On this fund there are supported, 1st. a Grammar School, with eighty boys on
the foundation, and as many private boarders; a Commercial School, containing
100 to 150 boys; a National School, of 350 boys, where on the half holidays
170 girls are received, a regular Girls' School and an Infant School.
Beside which, the girls in the hospital for poor children, another branch of
the charity, are taught household duties, needlework, reading and writing. In
these schools the children of all resident parishioners of Bedford's five
parishes are entitled to receive gratuitous instruction. In the National
School twenty-five boys are clothed from a fund left by Alderman Newton, of
The Warden and Fellows of New College, Oxford, are visitors, and appoint the
master and second master of the Grammar School. There are four masters,
viz., the head, with two assistant masters; a mathematical master, and a
writing master. The scholars enjoy the advantage of eight exhibitions, of 80
pounds per annum each, six of which must be bestowed on town boys, the
remaining two may go to boarders.
The cheap and good education attainable as a matter of right in this borough,
have rendered it a favourite resort of half-pay officers and unbeneficed
clergymen, blessed with large families.
The church of St. Paul is large, with a nave and a south aisle, divided by
early English piers and arches. A stone pulpit, ornamented with gilt
tracery, on a blue ground, has been removed in favour of an oak one, with the
chancel. The church of St. Peter has an old Norman door, a fine antique
front, and some curious stained glass in the windows.
John Bunyan, author of the "Pilgrim's Progress," was co-pastor in a Baptist
Meeting House, in Mill-lane, from 1671 until his death in 1688. The chair in
which he used to sit is still preserved in the vestry as a relic.
A few miles from Bletchley, is a forgotten, but once celebrated spot, Denbigh
Hall, over which the traveller whirls without notice, yet worthy of
remembrance, because it affords a name and date for tracing the march of
In 1838, a gap in the intended railway from London to Birmingham extended
from an obscure public-house, called Denbigh Hall, to Rugby. At either point
travellers had to exchange the rail for the coach or chaise.
On June 28, 1838, when Queen Victoria was crowned, for days before the
coronation, the coaches for the intermediate space were crammed; the chaises
and post horses were monopolised, and at length, to cover thirty odd miles,
every gig, standing waggon, cart, and donkey cart that could be obtained in
the district, was engaged, and yet many were disappointed of their journey to
On this London and Birmingham line, in addition to, and without disturbing
the ordinary traffic, 2,000 souls have been conveyed in one train, at the
rate of thirty miles an hour.
Truly Queen Victoria can set the railway conquests of her reign against the
glories of the war victories of Queen Anne and her grandfather, King George.
[DENBIGH HALL BRIDGE: ill7.jpg]
THE BUCKS RAILWAY.
A recent extension from Bletchley traverses Buckinghamshire, and by a fork
which commences at Winslow, passes through Buckingham and Brackley to Banbury
by one line, and by Bicester to Oxford by the other. We need not pause at
Brackley or Winslow. Buckingham is notable chiefly as being on the road to
Princely Palatial Stowe, the seat of the Buckingham family, now shorn of its
internal glories in pictures, sculptures, carvings, tapestry, books, and
manuscripts. Its grounds and gardens, executed on a great scale in the
French style, only remain to delight the traveller; these would require, and
have been often described in, illustrated volumes. Here we shall not dwell
upon the melancholy scene of grandeur, power, and wealth frittered away in
Banbury is more celebrated than worth seeing. Commercial travellers consider
it one of the best towns in England, as it is a sort of metropolis to a great
number of thriving villages. Banbury cakes are known wherever English
children are bred, and to them, where not educated in too sensible a manner,
the Homeric ballad of--
"Ride a cock horse
To Banbury Cross,"
is sung. Unfortunately, the Puritans, in the time of Edward VI., pulled this
famous cross down.
They were in great force there; for as Drunken Barnaby, in his tour, tells
"There I found a Puritan one,
Hanging of his cat on Monday
For killing of a rat on Sunday."
At Banbury was fought, after the English fashion, one of the great fights
that preceded the carrying of the Reform Bill. Previous to that change,
sixteen electors had the privilege of sending a member to Parliament.
During the Reform excitement six of these privileged gentlemen seceded from
their usual compact, and determined to set up on their own account. For want
of a better man, they pitched upon Mr. Easthope, of the Morning Chronicle,
since that period, much to his own astonishment no doubt, pitchforked into a
baronetcy. The old original M.P. was Colonel Hutchinson, the companion of
Sir Robert Wilson in carrying off Lavalette. On entering the town, ten
thousand Reformers set up such a howling, that Colonel Hutchinson, thinking
his last hour at hand, drew a dagger. Upon which more groans and shrieks
followed, with such threats as made it prudent for the friends of the Colonel
to compel him to retreat. Under these circumstances, the streets of the town
were crammed full with an excited mob; the poll was opened; the six, amid
tremendous plaudits, voted for Easthope, and Reform; the ten very discreetly
staid at home, and thus, by six votes, a baronetcy was secured to the
It is droll to look back upon the movement which led public opinion to prefer
a stockjobber to a gallant soldier.
Banbury manufactures horse girths and other kinds of webbing, as well as
excellent ale. There are two inns, both good.
The Buckinghamshire Railway has reduced the price of coal to the inhabitants
from 22s. to 15s. per ton, on 150,000 tons per annum.
BICESTER, commonly pronounced Bister, is thirteen miles by the road from
Oxford, a town as ancient as the Heptarchy; famous for a well once sacred and
dedicated to St. Edburgh, for its well attended markets and cattle fairs, and
especially for its excellent ale. It is in the centre of a capital hunting
country. The women make a little bone lace.
Oxford is one of the great gates through which our rich middle classes send
their sons to be amalgamated with the landed and titled aristocracy, who are
all educated either there or at Cambridge.
To say of any one that he is an "Oxford man," at once implies that he is a
gentleman, and when a well-looking, well-mannered, and even moderately
endowed young gentleman has passed respectably through his curriculum at
Christchurch or Magdalen, Balliol, Oriel, University, or any other of the
correct colleges, it rests with himself whether he runs the race of public
life in England on equal terms with the sons of the oldest of the titled and
untitled aristocracy, even though his father were an eminent retired dust
contractor, and his mother laundry maid or factory girl. But money alone
won't do it, and the pretension, the display, the coxcombry permitted in a
peer, must be carefully avoided by a parvenu. Thus Oxford interests classes
who care very little for its educational, antiquarian, or architectural
resources, as one of the institutions of the country by which any capable man
may cut off his plebeian entail, and start according to the continental term
The material beauty of Oxford is great--the situation, in a rich valley
bounded by softly flowing rivers, fine--the domes, and spires, and old grey
towers rising in clusters, prepare the mind of the approaching traveller for
the city where the old colleges and churches, planting out and almost
composing it, afford at every bend of the long streets, at every turn of the
narrow thoroughfares, some grand picture, or charming architectural effect;
even our Quakers are proud of Oxford in England when they travel in America.
Then Oxford is so decorously clean, so spotlessly free from the smoke of
engines and the roar of machinery; the groves and gardens, and trim green
turf seen through richly-carved and corbeled archways, give such a feeling of
calm study, and pleasant leisure, that we will defy the bitterest radical and
the sourest dissenter not to be softened and charmed by his first
To those who arrive prepared to be pleased, stored with associations of the
past, fortunate enough to have leisure and introductions to some affable don
long resident, and proud to display the treasures and glories of his beloved
Alma Mater, Oxford affords for many days a treat such as no other city in the
world can supply to an Englishman.
The best known route from London is by the Great Western Railway, which,
according to the original plan, would have passed close to the city. But all
the University and ecclesiastical dignitaries were up in arms; they saw, in
their mind's eye, the tender, innocent undergraduates flying from the
proctor-guarded precincts, where modesty, virtue, and sobriety ever reign, to
the vice-haunted purlieus of London, at all hours of the night and day. The
proctors and professors triumphed; the railway was obliged to leave a gap of
ten miles of common road between its invading, unhallowed course, and the
sacred city; and great was the rejoicing in the Convocation Chamber, and many
the toasts in the Senior Common Rooms to the health of the faithful sons of
Oxon, who in Parliament had saved the city from this commercial desecration.
But as even Grosvenor-square was at length glad to admit gas after abiding
longest of all in the genteel gloom of oil lamps, so was Oxford in the end
glad to be put on a branch, as it could not be put on a main line; and now,
beside the rail on which we are travelling, Worcester, Banbury, and
Wolverhampton, and two roads to London and Birmingham are open to the
wandering tastes of the callow youth of the University; as may be ascertained
by a statistical return from the railway stations whenever a steeple-chase or
Jenny Lind concert takes place in or near any of the towns enumerated.
The entrance from Bletchley is, perhaps, the finer, as rolling round a
semicircle, we sweep into sight of the dome of Radcliffe Library and the
spire of St. Mary's Church, descend, enter the city by the Cheltenham-road,
and passing through an inferior suburb, reach the head of High-street, of
which a great German art critic declared, "that it had not its equal in the
whole world." Wide, long, and gently curving, approached from either end, it
presents in succession the colleges of Lincoln, Brasenose, University, All
Souls, Queen's, St. Mary's Church, with peeps of gardens with private houses,
and with shops, which do not detract, but rather add, to the dignity and
weight of the grand old buildings.
Having slowly sauntered up and down, and scanned the various characters
peculiar to the City of Universities--as, for instance, an autocrat in the
person of a Dean of Christchurch, a Principal of Balliol, or a Master of
Jesus, a Proctor newly made, but already endowed with something of the
detective police expression; several senior fellows, plump, shy, proud, and
lazy--walking for an appetite, and looking into the fishmongers on their way
to the parks; a "cocky" Master of Arts, just made, and hastening to call on
all his friends and tradesmen to show off his new dignity, and rustle the
sleeves of his new gown; three lads, just entered from a public school (last
month they laid out tip in Mother Brown's tarts), on their way to order three
courses and dessert at the Mitre, where very indifferent fare is provided for
fashionable credit prices; a pale student, after Dr. Pusey's own heart, in
cap and gown, pacing monk-like along, secretly telling his beads; a tuft
(nobleman) lounging out of the shop of a tailor, who, as he follows his
lordship to the door, presents the very picture of a Dean bowing to a Prime
Minister, when a bishop is very sick.
A few ladies are seen, in care of papas in caps and gowns, or mammas, who
look as if they were Doctors of Divinity, or deserved to be. The Oxford
female is only of two kinds--prim and brazen. The latter we will not
describe; the former seem to live in perpetual fear of being winked at, and
From these street scenes, where the ridiculous only is salient, for the quiet
and gentlemanly pass by unnoticed, while pompous dons and coxcombical
undergraduates are as certain of attention as turkeycocks and bantams, we
will turn into the solemn precincts of a few of the colleges.
At the head stands Christchurch in dignity and size, founded by Cardinal
Wolsey, Pope Clement VII. consenting, in 1525, on the revenues of some dozen
minor monasteries, under the title of Cardinal College. The fall of
Wolsey--England's last Cardinal, until by the invitation of modern mediaeval
Oxford, Pius IX. sent us a Wiseman--stopped the works. One of Wolsey's latest
petitions to Henry was, "That his college at Oxford might go on." And by the
King, after some intermediate changes, it was finally established as
The foundation now consists of a dean, eight canons, eight chaplains, a
schoolmaster, an organist, eight choristers, and 101 students, of whom a
considerable number are exhibitioners from Westminster School. It is in
symbolism of these students that the celebrated Great Tom of Christchurch
clangs each evening 101 times. Besides these students, there are generally
nearly 1000 independent members, consisting of noblemen, gentlemen commoners,
and commoners. To be a gentleman commoner of Christchurch, all other
advantages being equal, is the most "correct thing" in the University; none
can compete with them, unless it be the gentlemen commoners of Magdalen. The
Christchurch noblemen, or tufts, are considered the leaders of fashion,
whether it be in mediaeval furniture, or rat hunting, boating, or steeple-
chase riding, old politics or new religions.
Among the illustrious men it claims as pupils are, Sir Philip Sydney and Ben
Jonson, Camden and South, Bolingbroke and Locke, Canning and Sir Robert Peel,
whom Oxford rejected. The front is in Aldate's-street, for which consult Mr.
Spier's pretty guide card, the entrance under the lofty clock tower, whence,
at ten minutes past nine every evening, the mighty tom peals forth his
sonorous summons. The "Tom Gateway" leads into the quadrangle familiarly
termed "quad," 264 feet by 261, the dimensions originally planned by Wolsey;
but the buildings which bound it on three sides were executed after the
destruction of the old edifice in the great civil wars from designs by Sir
Christopher Wren in 1688.
The Hall on the south side is ancient; we ascend to it by a flight of steps
under a handsome groined roof supported by a single pillar. The Hall is 115
feet long, 40 wide, and 50 high. The open roof of oak richly carved,
decorated with the arms of Wolsey and Henry VIII. Other carvings adorn the
fire-place and a fine bay window.
On the sides of the rooms are hung a series of 120 portraits of
ecclesiastics, poets, philosophers (these are few), statesmen, and noblemen,
representing distinguished students of the College.
The dinner hour, when the dean and chief officers sit in state on the dais,
masters and bachelors at the side tables, and undergraduates at the lower
end, is an impressive sight, recalling feudal times. The feeding is the
worst of any in Oxford, much to the advantage of the taverns and pastrycooks.
When in 1566 Queen Elizabeth visited Oxford, a play was performed before her
in this hall by the students, in the course of which, "a cry of hounds
belonging to themselves" having been counterfeited in the quadrangle, the
students were seized with a sudden transport; whereat her Majesty cried out,
"O excellent! these boys in very truth are ready to leap out of the window to
follow the hounds."
Amid the many changes of taste and opinion since the days of Queen Bess, the
love of hunting still prevails in Christchurch, not one of the least healthy
tastes, in an age of perpetual competing work; and the Christchurch drag is
one of the stock amusements anathematized toward the end and permitted at the
beginning of every hunting term, for the glory of the chief tuft and the
benefit of hard-reading men, who cannot waste their time in trotting from
cover to cover dependent on the vagaries of such an uncertain animal as a
fox, and are therefore content to hunt a "cad" armed with a red herring over
the stiffest country he can pick.
After the Hall, the Kitchen should be visited. It is the most ancient part
of the building, for Wolsey, with a truly ecclesiastical appreciation of the
foundation of all sound learning, began with the kitchen, and it survived
him. Agriculture, gardening, cooking, and confectionery, were among the
civilizing arts brought to great perfection by religious houses and lost for
a long period after the Reformation, which, like other strong medicines,
cleared our heads at the expense of our stomachs.
In Wolsey's kitchen may be seen the huge gridiron on which our ancestors
roasted sheep whole and prepared other barbarous disgusting dishes.
In the Peckwater Quadrangle are to be found the Library and the Guise
collection of pictures, which contains curious specimens of that early school
which the mad mediaevalists are now fond of imitating, and a few examples of
the famous Italian masters who rose on the force of genius, which did not
disdain study but did disdain imitation.
Wickliff was a warden, and Sir Thomas More a student, in Canterbury Hall,
which was amalgamated in Wolsey's College.
The Chapel of Christchurch is the Cathedral of Oxford. The oldest parts
belonged to the church of St. Frideswide's Priory, consecrated A.D. 1180.
Wolsey pulled down fifty feet of the nave and adapted it to the use of his
college. The stained glass windows, without which every Gothic cathedral has
a bare, naked, cold appearance, and which were peculiarly fine, nearly all
fell a sacrifice to puritanical bigotry.
For the many curious and beautiful architectural features we must refer in
this instance, as in all others, to the architectural guides, such as
Parker's, with which every one who feels any interest in the subject will
Leaving Christchurch by the Canterbury Gate up Merton-lane, we pass on one
hand Corpus Christi, founded in the reign of Henry VIII., where Bishop Sewel,
author of "The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity," and Richard Hooker, a
Protestant whom even a Pope praised, were bred; on the other, Oriel, where
studied Walter Raleigh, one of England's greatest men, a poet and
philosopher, soldier and statesman, mariner and historian; not guiltless, yet
worthy of pity in his fall and long imprisonment, and of honour in his brave
and Christian death,--the victim of the ever feeble treacherous Stuarts. What
other line of kings has had the fate to sign away the lives of two such men
as Raleigh and Strafford? Oriel also claims as students Prynne, who, with
his libels and his ears, laid the foundation of our liberty of the press;
Bishop Butler, whose "Analogy" showed how logic and philosophy could be
applied to support the cause of Christian truth; Dr. Arnold, the reformer of
our modern school system, whom Oxford persecuted during life and honoured in
death; and lastly, the clever crotchety Archbishop Whateley, who has not only
proved that Napoleon Bonaparte never existed, but that Mr. Gibbon Wakefield's
bankrupt schemes of colonization were triumphant successes. Next we come to
Merton, the most ancient of all the colleges, founded 7th January 1264. The
oldest of its buildings now standing is the library, the oldest in England,
erected 1377. Wickliff was a student of Merton. University College, which
next falls in our way, claims to date from King Alfred, but has no charters
so ancient as those of Merton. The buildings are not more early than Charles
I., but the chapel contains some of Grinling Gibbons's best carvings, and a
monument by Flaxman of Sir William Jones, who was a fellow of this
University. The modern part, fronting High-street, is from the designs of
Barry, the architect of the Palace of Westminster.
University College has one of the old customs, of which several are retained
in Oxford, called "chopping at the tree." On Easter Sunday a bough is
dressed up with flowers and evergreens, and laid on a turf by the buttery.
After dinner each member, as he leaves the hall, takes up a cleaver and chops
at the tree, and then hands over "largess" to the cook, who stands by with a
plate. The contribution is, for the master half a guinea, the fellows five
shillings, and other members half a crown each. In like manner, at Queen's
College, which stands opposite University, on Christmas day a boar's head is
brought into the hall in procession, while the old carol is sung--
The boar's head in hand bear I
Bedecked with bays and rosemary,
And I pray you, my masters, be merry.
Qui estis in convivio,
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.
While on New Year's day the bursar presents to every member a needle and
thread with the words, "Take this and be thrifty." We have not been able to
obtain a statistical return of the standing of the Queen's men in the books
of the tradesmen of Oxford as compared with members of other colleges, but we
recommend the question to Mr. Newdegate or some other Oxonian figure monger.
This college was founded by Philippa, queen of Edward III. It was directed
by the statutes that there should be twelve fellows and seventy poor
scholars, who were to be summoned to dinner by the sound of a trumpet; when
the fellows, clothed in scarlet robes, were to sit and eat, while the poor
scholars, kneeling in token of humility, were to dispute in philosophy. The
kneeling, disputing, and scarlet robes have been discontinued, but the
trumpet still sounds to dinner. There are usually about 300 members on the
books of this college.
Lower down the High-street is All-Souls, whose two towers are picturesque
centres of most views of Oxford. The buildings are various in character and
merit, and well worth examination. The grand court was designed by Hawksmoor
rather on the principles of a painter than an architect; he wished it to make
a good picture with the existing buildings, and he succeeded. All-Souls is
composed entirely of fellows, who elect from other colleges gentlemen whose
qualification consists in being "bene nati, bene vestiti, et moderater docti
in arte musica."
With so easy a qualification as that of being well born, well dressed, and
able to sing the Old Hundredth Psalm, Old King Cole, or Kilruddery, it may be
imagined that All-Souls has never done anything to disturb the minds of
kings, cabinets, or reviewers, or even of the musical critics. Pleasant
gentlemanly fellows, when they do get into parliament it is usually as the
advocates of deceased opinions. Had Joanna Southcote been genteel, the
fellows of All-Souls and some other colleges would have continued Joanna
Southcotians fifty years after her decease.
All-Souls, too, has its legend and its commemorative ceremony. The diggers
of the foundations found in an old drain a monstrous mallard, a sort of
alderman among wild ducks, thriving and growing fat amid filth. On being
cooked he was found first-rate, and, in memory of this treasure-trove and of
the foundation-day, annually on the 14th January the best mallard that can be
found is brought in in state, all the mallardians chanting--
O the swapping swapping mallard, etc.
From Queen's we proceed to New College, built in the palmiest days of Gothic
architecture by William of Wykeham, also architect of Windsor Castle and of
Winchester Cathedral, of which he was bishop, as well as Chancellor of
England under Edward III. He was indeed a learned, pious, earnest man. "A
worker-out of the glorious dreams he dreamed." According to his plan, a
certain number of poor boys, of origin as humble as his own, were to receive
a training in the best learning of the age; from these, the ablest were to be
selected annually and sent to New College, with the enjoyment of such an
income as would support them while studying philosophy and theology. At
present, after a year's probation, youths at eighteen or nineteen become
actual fellows, in enjoyment of an income varying from 190 to 250 pounds per
annum, until such time as they marry or are provided with a college living.
"Wykeham laid the first stone of his new college on the 5th March 1380. Being
finished, the first warden and fellows took possession of it April 14, 1386,
at three o'clock in the morning." The original buildings consist of the
principal quadrangle, containing the hall, chapel, and library, the
cloisters, and the tower. Additions, quite out of keeping with the rich
simplicity of the original design, were made by Sir Christopher Wren. The
chapel, first shorn of its ancient splendour by puritan zeal, and since
restored in mistaken taste, is still one of the most beautiful edifices of
the kind in England,--perhaps in Europe. Weeks of study will not satisfy or
exhaust the true student of Gothic architecture here. We trust that, sooner
or later, some of the funds now spent on guttling and guzzling will be
devoted to substituting facsimiles of ancient coloured glass for the painted
mistakes of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and restoring the ancient glories of gilt
and colour to the carved work.
If possible, the stranger should attend the service, when he will hear grand
singing and accompanied by a magnificent organ. The silver gilt crozier of
Wykeham, formerly studded with rich gems, is one of the few relics of value
preserved by New College. Charles I. received the greater part of a rich
collection of plate as a contribution to his military chest in the great
civil war. This crozier interests, for, gazing on it, we are carried back
five centuries, when it was not a bauble made in Birmingham, but a symbol of
actual power and superior intelligence. The sceptre of a prince of a church
which then absorbed almost all the intellect and all the learning of the age.
The garden with its archery-ground, and the "Slipe," with its stables and
kennels, complete what was meant to be a temple of sacred learning and active
piety, but which has become a very Castle of Indolence, a sort of Happy
Valley, for single men. Winchester School still retains its ancient
character for scholarship. (It is said to be almost impossible to "pluck" a
Wykehamist); but the foundation has been grossly abused, the elected being
not poor boys but the sons of wealthy clergymen and gentlemen, as indeed they
had need be, for, by another abuse, the parents of boys on the foundation
have to pay about 40 pounds a-year for their board. But, when a boy,
distinguished for diligence and ability among his fellows, has been, at
eighteen or nineteen years, elected to a Fellowship of New College, his work
for life is done,--no more need for exertion,--every incentive to epicurean
rest. Fine rooms, a fine garden, a dinner daily the best in Oxford, served
in a style of profusion and elegance that leaves nothing to be desired, wine
the choicest, New College ale most famous, a retiring-room, where, in
obsequious dignity, a butler waits on his commands, with fresh bottles of the
strong New College port, or ready to compound a variety of delicious drinks,
amid which the New College cyder cup and mint julep can be specially
recommended. Newspapers, magazines, and novels, on the tables of both the
junior and senior common rooms, and a stable for his horse and a kennel for
his dog, form part of this grand club of learned ignorance. And so, in idle
uselessness, he spends life, unless by good fortune he falls in love and
marries; even then, we pity his wife and his cook for the first twelve
months,--or, by reaction, flies into asceticism and becomes a father of St.
Philip Neri or a follower of Saint Pusseycat.
But, after all this virtuous remonstrance on the misdirection of William of
Wykeham's noble endowment, we must own that, of our Oxford acquaintance, none
are more agreeable than those New College fellows of the old school, "who
wore shocking bad hats and asked you to dinner." Much better than the cold-
blooded "monks without mass" who are fast superseding them, just as idle and
From New College we will go on to Magdalen, the finest--the wealthiest of all:
it cannot be described, it must be seen; with its buildings occupying eleven
acres and pleasure-grounds a hundred acres, its tower whereon every May
morning at daybreak a mass used to be and a carol is still sung, and its
deer-park. Here we may say, as of New College, is too much luxury for
The sons of dukes have become mathematicians; we have known an attorney's
clerk, the son of a low publican, become an accomplished linguist in his
leisure hours,--but such men are mental miracles, almost monsters: a fellow of
Magdalen or New College who works as hard as other men deserves to be
We have not space to say anything of the other Colleges. St. John's is noted
for its gardens, Pembroke because Samuel Johnson lodged there for as long a
space as his poverty would permit.
The Colleges visited, we proceed to "The Schools," which contain the Bodleian
Library, founded by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1573, and by bequests, gifts from
private individuals, by the expenditure of a sum for the last seventy years
out of the University chest, and the privilege of a copy of every new British
publication, has become one of the finest collections in Europe; especially
rich in Oriental literature. The books are freely open to the use of all
literary men properly introduced, and the public are permitted to view the
rooms three times a week.
The Picture Gallery contains a collection of portraits of illustrious
individuals connected with the University, by Holbein, Vandyke, Kneller,
Reynolds, Wilkie, and others. Among these are Henry VIII., the Earl of
Surrey, and Sir Thomas More, by Holbein. Among the sculptures are a bust of
the Duke of Wellington by Chantrey, and a brass statue of the Earl of
Pembroke, Chancellor of the University from 1616 to 1630, which is said to
have been executed from a design by Rubens.
There is also a chair made from timber of the ship in which Drake sailed
round the world, and the lantern of Guy Fawkes.
On the ground floor are the Arundel marbles, brought from Smyrna in the
seventeenth century by the earl of that name.
The Theatre, close at hand, built by Sir Christopher Wren, will contain three
thousand persons, and should be seen to be appreciated when crowded by the
elite of the University and of England, on the occasion of some of the great
Oxford festivals, when the rich costumes of the University, scarlet, purple,
and gold, are set off by the addition of England's beauty not unadorned; as,
for instance, on the last visit of the Queen and Prince Albert.
The Clarendon Press, built from designs of Vanbrugh out of the profits of the
University (garbled) edition of "Clarendon's History of the Great Rebellion,"
and the Ashmolean Museum, where may be seen the head of the dodo, that
extinct and deeply to be regretted bird, are close at hand, as also the
Radcliffe Library, from the dome of which an excellent view of the city may
The University Galleries, which present an imposing front to St. Giles-
street, contain, beside antique sculpture, the original models of all
Chantrey's busts, and a collection of original drawings of Michael Angelo and
Raffaelle, made by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and purchased after his death by the
University, the present Earl of Eldon contributing two-thirds of the
CONSTITUTION AND COSTUME OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.
The University is a corporate body, under the style of "The Chancellor,
Masters, and Scholars of the University of Oxford." It includes nineteen
Colleges and five Halls, each of which is a corporate body, governed by its
own head and statutes respectively.
The business of the University, as such, is carried on in the two Houses of
Convocation and of Congregation; the first being the House of Lords, and the
other, which includes all of and above the rank of Masters of Arts, the House
The Chancellor--elected by Convocation, for life--never, according to
etiquette, sets his foot in the University, excepting on occasions of his
installation, or when accompanying Royal visitors. He nominates as his
representative a Vice Chancellor from the heads of colleges, annually, in
turn, each of whom holds his office for four years.
The Vice Chancellor is the individual who may occasionally be seen walking
about in state, preceded by a number of beadles carrying maces, or, as they
are profanely called, "pokers."
The two proctors are next in authority to the Vice Chancellor. Their costume
is a full dress gown, with velvet sleeves, and band-encircled neck. They are
assisted by two deputies, or pro-proctors, who have a strip of velvet on each
side of the gown front, and wear bands. The proctors have certain
legislative powers; but are most conspicuous as a detective police force,
supported by "bulldogs," i.e., constables. A proctor is regarded by an
undergraduate, especially by a fast man, with the same affection that a
costermonger looks on a policeman. In the evenings, it is their duty to
prowl round, and search, if necessary, any house within three miles, for so
far does their authority extend. The dread of the proctor compels tandem
drivers to send their leaders a distance out of town; and many an excited
youth, on the day of a neighbouring steeplechase, is stopped, when driving
out of the city, with--"Your name, sir, and of what college?"
"Lord R. Christchurch."
"Go back to your rooms, my lord, and call on me in an hour at Worcester."
The members of the University are divided into those who are on the
foundation and those who are not. Those on the foundation are the dean,
president, master, warden, according to the charter of the College; the
fellows, scholars, called demies at Magdalene, and post-masters at Merton;
chaplains, bible-clerks, servitors, at Christchurch and Jesus. The
qualifications for these advantages vary; but leading colleges--Oriel and
Balliol--have set an example likely to be followed of throwing fellowships and
scholarships open to the competition of the whole university, so that the
best man may win. The disadvantage of the system lies in the fact, that
having won, the incentives are all in the direction of idleness.
The degree was formerly obtained by passing first through a preliminary
examination termed a "little go," and afterwards through the "great go." The
latter, successfully performed, entitles, at choice, to the title of B.A.
(Bachelor of Arts), or S.C.L. (Student of Civil Law). With time and money,
the degrees of M.A. or B.C.L., and eventually D.C.L., may be obtained,
without farther examination. But very recently an intermediate examination
has been imposed.
A candidate for a degree in music has only to perform an exercise previously
approved by the professor of music in the music schools.
Doctors of Divinity and Masters of Arts wear a stuff gown, with two long
sleeves, terminating in a semicircle. The full dress of Doctors of Divinity
is scarlet, with sleeves of black velvet--pink silk for Doctors of Law and
Bachelors wear a black stuff gown, with long sleeves tapering to a point, and
buttoned at the elbow; noblemen undergraduates a black silk gown, with full
sleeves, "couped" at the elbows, and a velvet cap with gold tassel; scholars
the same shaped gown, of a common stuff, with ordinary cloth cap; gentlemen
commoners a silk gown with plaited sleeves, and velvet cap; if commoners, a
plain black gown without sleeves, which is so hideous that they generally
carry it on their arm.
The expense of maintaining a son at the University may be fixed at from 200
pounds, as a minimum, to 300 pounds a-year; the latter being the utmost
needful. But a fool may spend any amount, and get nothing for it. The
fashion of drinking has gone out to a great extent; and the present race of
undergraduates are not more random and extravagant than any set of young men
of the same age and number would be if thrown together for two or three
At the same time, it is not the place to which a father to whom economy is an
object should send a son, least of all one previously educated on the milk
and water stay-at-home principle.
As a general rule, it is not among the nobility, and sons of the wealthy
gentry, that much excess is found to prevail; but among those who at the
University find themselves for the first time without control, with money and
with credit at command.
In a summer or autumnal visit, Christchurch Meadow, and some of the many
beautiful walks round Oxford, should be sought out and visited alone; on such
occasions, on no account be tormented with one of the abominable parrot-like
guides. These horrid fellows consider it their duty to chatter. We have
often thought that a dumb guide, with a book for answering questions, would
make a great success.
In winter, when the flooded meadows are frozen over, those who love to see an
army of first-class skaters will find an Oxford day ticket well worth the
money--youth, health, strength, grace, and manly beauty, in hundreds, cutting
round and round, with less of drawback from the admixture of a squalid mob
than in any other locality.
And then again in the hunting season, take the ugliest road out of Oxford, by
the seven bridges, because there you may see farthest along the straight
highway from the crown of the bridges, and number the ingenuous youth as on
hunters they pace, or in hack or in dogcart or tandem they dash along to the
"Meet." Arrived there, if the fox does get away--if no ambitious youngster
heads him back--if no steeplechasing lot ride over the scent and before the
hounds, to the destruction of sport and the master's temper--why then you will
see a fiery charge at fences that will do your heart good. There is not such
raw material for cavalry in any other city in Europe, and there is no part of
our social life so entirely novel, and so well worth exhibiting to a
foreigner, as a "Meet" near Oxford, where in scarlet and in black, in hats
and in velvet caps, in top-boots and black-jacks, on twenty pound hacks and
two hundred guinea hunters, finest specimens of Young England are to be seen.
On returning, if the sport has been good, you may venture to open a chat with
a well-splashed fellow traveller on a beaten horse, but in going not--for an
Oxford man in his normal state never speaks unless he has been introduced.
The only local manufactures of Oxford, except gentlemen, are boots, leather-
breeches, and boats; these last in great perfection. The regattas and
rowing-matches on the Isis are very exciting affairs. From the narrowness of
the stream, they are rather chases than races; the winners cannot pass, but
must pursue and bump their competitors. The many silent, solitary wherries,
urged by vigorous skilful arms, give, on a summer evening, a pleasing life to
river-side walks, although that graceful flower, the pretty pink bonnet and
parasol, peculiar to the waters of Richmond and Hampton, is not often found
growing in the Oxford wherry. Comedies, in the shape of slanging matches
with the barges, are less frequent than formerly, and melodramatic fistic
combats still less frequent.
But old boatmen still love to relate to their peaceable and admiring pupils
how that pocket Hercules, the Honourable S--- C---, now a pious clergyman,
had a single combat with a saucy six foot bargee, "all alone by they two
selves," bunged up both his eyes, and left him all but dead to time, ignorant
then, and for months after, of the name of his victor.
Oxford sometimes contends with Cambridge on neutral waters in an eight-oared
cutter match, but is generally defeated, for a very characteristic
reason--Cambridge picks a crew of the best men from the whole University;
Oxford, more exclusive, gives a preference to certain colleges over men.
Christchurch, Magdalene, and a few others, will take the lead in all
arrangements, and will not, if they can help it, admit oarsmen from the
unfashionable colleges of Jesus, Lincoln, or Worcester!
It is worth knowing that in the long vacation, commencing on July 6, there is
no place like Oxford for purchasing good dogs and useful horses. Oxford
hacks have long been famous, and not without reason. Nothing slow would be
of any use, whether for saddle or harness; and although the proportion of
high-priced sound unblemished animals may be small, the number of quick
runners is large. There is an establishment in Holywell Street which is
quite one of the Oxford sights. There, early in winter mornings, more than a
hundred stalls are to be found, full of blood cattle, in tip-top condition,
and on summer afternoons no barracks of a cavalry regiment changing quarters
are more busy.
We must not leave Oxford without visiting Blenheim, the monument of one of
our greatest captains and statesmen, with whom, perhaps, in genius and
fortune, none can rank except Clive and Wellington. Blenheim should be seen
when the leaves are on the trees. The House is only open between eleven
o'clock and one. The better plan is to hire a conveyance, of which there are
plenty and excellent to be had in the city, at reasonable charges. When we
remember this splendid pile--voted by acclamation, but paid for by grudging
and insufficient instalments by the English Parliament--was finished under the
superintendence of that beautiful fiery termagant, Sarah Duchess of
Marlborough, who was at once the plague and the delight of the great Duke's
life, every stone and every tree must be viewed with interest. We should
advise you, before passing a day at Blenheim, to refresh your memory with the
correspondence of the age of Queen Anne and her successors, including Swift,
Bolingbroke, Pope, and Walpole; not forgetting the letters of Duchess Sarah
herself, and Disraeli's "Curiosities of Literature," for the history of the
building of Blenheim, and how the Duchess worried the unfortunate architect,
Blenheim contains a large number of first class paintings, including an
altar-piece by Raffaelle, several good Titians, a very fine collection of
Rubens, choice specimens of Vandyke and Sir Joshua Reynolds. After returning
to Bletchley our next halt is at Wolverton station.
Wolverton, the first specimen of a railway town built on a plan to order, is
the central manufacturing and repairing shop for the locomotives north of
The population entirely consists of men employed in the Company's service, as
mechanics, guards, enginemen, stokers, porters, labourers, their wives and
children, their superintendents, a clergyman, schoolmasters and
schoolmistresses, the ladies engaged on the refreshment establishment, and
the tradesmen attracted to Wolverton by the demand of the population.
This railway colony is well worth the attention of those who devote
themselves to an investigation of the social condition of the labouring
We have here a body of mechanics of intelligence above average, regularly
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