Wanderings in Wessex
Edric Holmes

Part 3 out of 6

Dagger" was a polite way of breaking the news that your acquaintance
had been hung! Leland was quite deceived by this old joke, probably
ancient in his time--the sixteenth century, and refers to the dagger
industry in perfect good faith. The arms of the town are three
spinning hooks behind a castle; this proves that the industry is no
modern one and until lately hemp was one of the staple products of the
country immediately around.

Ten pounds only were spent on the defences during the Civil War and
the inhabitants seem to have made as half-hearted an attempt in
opposing the Royalist besiegers as in the preliminaries of warfare.
Charles II arrived here in his flight towards Sussex and rested at the
George Inn, but the identity of this hostelry seems in doubt. There is
a "George" at West Bay that claims the honour of sheltering Charles.
The one in High Street has been pulled down save a small portion
incorporated in a chemist's shop. When leaving, the party of fugitive
Royalists turned northwards down Lee Lane, their pursuers continuing
along the Dorchester road. A memorial stone by the wayside records the
escape of the King, who was in his groom's dress with Mrs. Coningsby
riding pillion behind.

[Illustration: BRIDPORT.]

A skirmish in which the Duke of Monmouth's officers, with the
exception of Colonel Wade, emerged with but small credit to themselves
took place on the morning of June 14, 1685. After marching through the
night from Lyme the unfortunate yokels who made up the Duke's "army"
displayed much coolness and bravery in the fight recorded on a
memorial in the church to "Edward Coker Gent, second son of Robert
Coker of Mapowder, Slayne at the Bull Inn at Bridpurt, June the 14th
An. Do. 1685, by one Venner, who was a Officer under the late Duke of
Monmouth in that Rebellion."

Bridport is first known to history in the year preceding the Conquest
when it had a priory (St. Leonard's) and a mint. These have entirely
disappeared and almost all the medieval structures except the
church--a good Perpendicular building with Early English transepts.
The only monument of interest, except that of Edward Coker, is a
cross-legged effigy of one of the de Chideocks in the north transept.
The handsome pulpit and reredos are modern. An old house in South
Street called "Dungeness" was contemporary with the Priory, and near
by is a fine old Tudor house, once the Castle Inn, but now used as a

The picturesque Town Hall with its clock turret is the best known
feature of Bridport and lends quite a distinctive air to the broad
High Street which has the vista of its west end filled by the
cone-shaped Colmers Hill. South Street leads to West Bay, at the mouth
of the diminutive Bride or Brit. The little town of late, mainly
through the exertions of the Great Western Railway, has made an
attempt to transform itself into a watering place. The coast is
attractive and possibly at some future date the railway and the local
landowner will have their way, but at present West Bay is in a state
of transition. Many who knew the primitive aspect of the tiny port
before the paved front and its shelters came to keep company with the
hideous row of lodging houses that stand parallel with the Bride, will
deplore the change, or hope for the time when that change will be
complete and nothing is left to remind them of the lost
picturesqueness of Bridport Quay.

Burton Cliff is the name of the odd rounded hill on the east that has
been cut neatly in half by the slow wearing of the waves. On the other
side of it is Burton Bradstock, nearly two miles from West Bay
station. This place is unremarkable in itself but must be mentioned
for its beautiful and picturesque situation. It has been found by the
holiday-maker, and houses of the red brick villa type are likely to
increase in number unless the local builder can be prevailed upon to
use local material. The restored cruciform church, Perpendicular in
style, has a modern addition in its clock, a relic of the old building
of Christ's Hospital in the City of London.

[Illustration: PUNCKNOLL.]

Away to the north beyond the small village of Skipton Gorge, is
Skipton Beacon, a hill with a striking and imposing outline. Equally
fine, though on a much smaller scale, is Puncknoll, away to the east
of Swyre. The hill or knoll is usually called Puncknoll Knob by the
country people and, very absurdly, Puncknoll Knoll by some of the
guide books. It commands a perfectly gorgeous view of the sea and
shore as far as Abbotsbury and over West Bay to the hills around Lyme.
The village that takes its name from the hill is behind it to the
north. In the small church is an old Norman font covered with carvings
of interlaced ropes and heads; also some memorials of a local family,
the Napiers, one of which is a refreshing change in regard to its
inscription, which runs:


SR. R.N. (Robert Napier).

Behind the church is a beautiful old manor house, and the village has
some delightful examples of the unspoilt and typical thatched stone
cottage of Dorset.

A lane to the north leads down to the valley of the Bride and the
direct road back to West Bay. A mile to the east is Litton Cheyney
and, a mile farther, Long Bredy up among the hills where the Bride
rises. Turning west from the lane end, the road descends the valley
toward the sea amid beautiful surroundings, and reaches Burton
Bradstock in a short three miles.

Bradpole village is a mile north of Bridport Town station. The rebuilt
church is hardly worth the short journey, but mention must be made of
the monument in the churchyard wall to W.E. Forster, who was born in a
cottage not far away. Another tablet commemorates the flight of
Charles II through the village. Loders, a mile farther, and Uploders,
a continuation on the other side of the Dorchester railway, are worth
a visit. The former was once the seat of a Benedictine priory founded
in the reign of Henry I. The church has a hagioscope and a square
Norman font. A doorway and window of this period in the chancel were
uncovered during restorations. The winding stairway to the chamber
over the porch will be noticed and a representation of the Crucifixion
on the lower stage of the tower.

The road from Bridport to Lyme Regis has been described as the best
and the worst in the south of England. For the occupant of a touring
car the way is a succession of changing views as charming as they are
varied. For a loaded horse the eight and a half miles of switchback
must be a long-drawn-out agony in which the descent of the last hill
into Lyme is worse than the terrible pull to its summit. The writer
knows this road only from the point of view--and pace--of the
pedestrian, and he knows of few more lovely or more tiring. Fanny
Burney described the drive as "the most beautiful to which my
wandering feet have sent me; diversified with all that can compose
luxuriant scenery, and with just as much approach to the sublime as is
in the province of unterrific beauty." The long ascent of "Chiddick"
Hill commences soon after leaving the mill pool just outside Bridport.
To the right, a turning leads to Symondsbury, where there is an old
cruciform church with a central tower and, in the chancel, the tomb of
Bishop Gulston, uncle of Addison. Away to the left and near the sea is
Eype in a delightful combe that ends in the sea at Eype Mouth. On Eype
Down is an ancient earthwork of much interest to archaeologists. It
was from this hill that Powell, the aeronaut, was blown out to sea in
a balloon nearly forty years ago.

[Illustration: CHIDEOCK.]

After a long wind round the side of Chideock Hill the high road
descends towards the village of that name. A stile on the left gives
access to a footpath to the "Seatown" of Chideock. The pedestrian
should enter the meadow to rest and admire the perfect view down the
V-shaped combe to the sea. Away to the left Thurncombe Beacon lifts
its dark summit. The answering height to the right is lordly Golden
Cap. Its well-named crown is more than 600 feet above the waves that
dash against Wear Cliffs below.

Chideock is a clean pleasant street of houses most of whose occupants
let lodgings or cater for the passing traveller in one way or another.
The Perpendicular church was restored in a rather drastic manner about
forty years ago; this brought to light a crude wall painting. At the
east end of the south aisle will be seen a black marble effigy of a
knight in plate armour. This is Sir John Arundell, an ancestor of the
Lords Arundell of Wardour in Wiltshire. The de Chideocks were the
original owners of the countryside and in a field beyond the church to
the north-east is the moat which once surrounded their castle,
dismantled soon after the close of the Civil War as a punishment for
the annoyance it caused the army of the Parliament in interfering with
the communications of Lyme. It changed hands several times during the
war, but while held by the Royalists it seriously compromised their
opponents on the west.

The Manor House is a seat of the Welds, a Roman Catholic family. In
the grounds of the manor is a very ornate church belonging to that
communion and a cemetery that has an interesting chapel, the walls of
which are covered with paintings.

The scenery is now becoming Devonian in character, of the softly
pleasant aspect of the south, lines of hill occasionally rising into
picturesque hummocky outline; wide troughed valleys richly timbered,
with mellow old farmhouses here and there about their slopes,
connected by deep narrow flowery lanes extraordinarily erratic in
direction, or want of it. The cider country is still far off, however;
for Dorset, though the soil and climate are well suited to it, has not
yet looked upon the culture of the apple as an important item in
farming, and orchards of any sort are few and small in size.

The Lyme road climbs up from Chideock round the steep face of Langdon
Hill and reaches its summit level, over 400 feet, about a mile out of
the village. In front, to the right, is Hardown Hill and to the left,
Chardown. Out of sight for the present, but soon to come into view
again, is Golden Cap which may be reached by one of the roundabout
lanes going seawards, with a short stiff climb at the last. The view
from the summit is as glorious as it is wide. In clear weather the
extremities of the great bay--Portland Bill and Start Point--can be
seen, and most of the beautiful coast between them. Passing between
Hardown and Chardown the road drops to Morecombelake, an
uninteresting village in a charming situation. The lane to the right
goes down to Whitchurch Canonicorum in Marshwood Vale. Here is the
interesting church of St. Wita (or St. Candida), Virgin and Martyr.
The chancel, part of the nave and south door are Transitional, about
1175, the transepts being built about twenty-five and the tower two
hundred years later. The chief interest in the church is the so-called
shrine of St. Candida opened twenty years ago during repairs to the
church wall. Within a stone coffin was found a leaden casket
containing a number of bones declared to be those of a small sized
female. Upon one side of the box was the following inscription:

Hic . Reqesct . Relique . sce . Wite

The bones were placed in a new reliquary and again deposited within
the restored shrine. The three openings in the front were made to
receive the offerings of the faithful and pilgrims from afar. There
are several monuments here to the De Mandevilles; John Wadham,
Recorder of Lyme (1584); Sir John Geoffry of Catherstone (1611) and
others. The terrific name of this small village simply indicates that
the canons of Salisbury and Wells claimed the parish tithes. Across
the valley from Whitchurch rise the outstanding eminences--"Coney"
(Conic or King's) Castle and Lambert's Castle, the latter crowned with
a fine clump of trees. The name of the valley seems to have deceived
some old writers into thinking it a region of chills and agues and of
cold sour soil. It has always been famous for its oaks, but perhaps it
may claim a greater fame as a minor Wordsworth country, for on the
north side of the vale is Racedown Farm, the home of the poet for
about two years. Dorothy Wordsworth said it was "the place dearest to
my recollections" and "the first home I had." Perhaps the most
striking view in this part of Dorset is that one from the Axminster
road at the point on Raymond's Hill called Red Cross. At dusk, when
the intervening fields and woods are shrouded in gloom, Golden Cap
takes on a startling shape against the evening sky. The huge truncated
cone and the separate bays on either side--mostly differing entirely
in colour--make the centre of as fine a prospect as any in the south.
This road, Roman for the most part, has the rare feature of a tunnel,
cut to make the steep ascent to Hunter's Lodge Inn practicable for
modern traffic.

[Illustration: CHARMOUTH.]

The Marshwood Vale ends at Charmouth, to which the road from
Morecombelake now descends round the northern slopes of Stonebarrow;
on the far side of this hill is the derelict parish of Stanton St.
Gabriel, with a ruined church and two or three cottages in a superb
situation under the shadow of Golden Cap. Charmouth is one long street
running up the hill on the Lyme side of the Char. It is one of those
pleasantly drowsy places that even the advent of the public motor from
Bridport fails to excite. That its restfulness is appreciated is
evidenced by the number of houses that let apartments. The distance
from the railway at Lyme and Bridport will effectually bar any
"development." Jane Austen's description still holds good:--"Its high
grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and, still more, its sweet
retired bay, backed by dark cliffs where fragments of low rock among
the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide;
for sitting in unwearied contemplation." (_Persuasion._)

The picturesque old George Inn on the right-hand side of the street is
sometimes pointed out as the lodging occupied by Charles II, but this
was at the "Queen's Arms" nearly opposite; it is now a Congregational
Manse. "Everything was in readiness for the departure at midnight, but
Captain Limbry, master of the ship, came ashore just after dark for
his luggage. Questioned by his wife he foolishly admitted that he was
concerned with the safety of a dark gentleman from Worcester. Without
more ado the good woman pushed him into his bedroom and turned the key
upon him." Charles and his friends waited in vain at the inn, the
"dark gentleman" as insouciant as ever, the rest of the party greatly
perturbed. Urgently advised by Ellesdon (organizer of the escape) to
wait no longer, the party took to the Bridport road, and so in the
early morning the fugitives rode up and down the hills these pages
have just traversed, in an endeavour to find sanctuary in a ship, the
only inviolable one, that they were not to gain until far distant
Brighthelmstone was reached.


Charmouth Church is as ugly as one would expect of an erection of the
last year of the Sailor King. Within are preserved some of the
monuments from the old building. It is said that a Roman station was
established somewhere on this hill, and that after fierce fighting in
the bay the Danes captured and held the Char valley for some years. It
is possible that many of the country people have a strain of the wild
northern blood in their veins. Close to the church and the Coach and
Horses Hotel, the unpretentious but comfortable hostelry on the left
of the street, a lane leads to the coastguard station and beach.

The shore can be followed to Lyme, but only at low water. By far the
best way is to keep to the high road, passing through the cutting made
in the hill for the better passage of the coaches, and named by the
more proper "Windy Gap," and by the rest "The Devil's Bellows." In a
storm the wayfarer is likely to be blown back to Charmouth. At the top
of the hill a path turns leftwards to the open cliff and affords the
traveller the most exquisite views of Lyme, the bay and the
surrounding hills. This path eventually rejoins the main road near the
cemetery. Within is a fine Celtic cross erected to commemorate those
who perished in the _Formidable_ in 1915.

It is only during the last twenty years that Lyme has found itself as
a popular resort. It must have been a tragic business to the select
few, that opening of the light railway from Axminster in 1903. Before
that time enthusiasts, among them Whistler and several other famous
artists, braved the six miles of rough road from the nearest station
to reach the picturesque old town on the Buddle, and possibly formed
some sort of league to keep their "find" dark. Happily the place is
still unspoilt and the hand of Jerry has not descended. The visitor
who arrives by the South Western after a delightful trip, all too
short, on the miniature Alpine line that burrows through hillsides and
swerves across valleys, over the last by a highly spectacular viaduct,
is agreeably surprised to find himself at a terminus while apparently
still in the wilds. If the little motor train went down to the seaside
it could never pant back again. But the eye is unoffended in the long
walk down the steep road to the shore, and in these days when the
canons of good taste seem to have some weight with property owners and
builders it is probable that the growth of Lyme will be effected with
circumspection. As it is, the snug little town is almost unaltered,
except for a slight and necessary clearance at the river mouth, from
the days when Louisa Musgrove lived at Captain Harville's house. Every
one who stays at Lyme must buy or borrow a copy of _Persuasion_. It is
wonderful how an old-fashioned tale such as this novel of Jane Austen
will delight and interest the most blase of readers when he or she can
identify the scenes depicted in its pages, and how the early Victorian
atmosphere of the book will seem to descend on the quaint streets that
have altered so little since it was written.

Lyme seems to have started life in the salt boiling line, and to
distinguish it from Uplyme was called Netherlyme-supra-mare. The first
patrons of the industry were the monks of Sherborne Abbey. This was in
the days of Cynwulf of Wessex. Five hundred years later it became
"Regis," a haven and chartered borough under Edward I, and from this
far-off time dates the unique stone pier called the "Cobb," restored
many times since. The town suffered much from French attacks and
revenged itself by sending ships to harry the commerce of the then
arch-enemy. The Cobb had been allowed to fall into such a state of
disrepair in the reign of Elizabeth that that irate lady refused to
renew the borough charter until the townsfolk made good the damage.
This was done and Lyme soon redoubled its importance in the eyes of
the Government, so much so that on the outbreak of the Civil War it
was looked upon as an almost indispensable possession both by
Royalists and Parliamentarians. Its vigorous resistance to the King is
one of the outstanding incidents of the war; Blake, afterwards
Admiral, conducting the marine defence. The beseiged were successful
after two months of the most desperate fighting, and the women of Lyme
proved Amazonian in the help they gave their menfolk. In 1672 the
Dutch gave the English fleet a trouncing within sight of the town.

The most famous event connected with the Cobb was the landing of
Monmouth thereon in June, 1685. The ill-starred prince knelt on the
stones and thanked God "for having preserved the friends of liberty
and pure religion from the perils of the sea." Not many days passed
before some enthusiasts from Lyme who had followed the gallant lad
were brought back to the Cobb and hanged there in sight of their
neighbours. John Tutchin, author of the _Observator_, was sentenced by
Jeffreys to be whipped through Lyme and every other town in the
county, to be imprisoned seven years, and pay a fine of one hundred
marks. He petitioned to be hanged, and was pardoned. But these poor
men were avenged three years later when William of Orange landed a
number of his troops on the same spot. A few days afterwards that
narrow, dull, conscientious, well-intentioned and wholly religious
Roman Catholic, James II, fled from his throne and country.

During early Hanoverian days Lyme seems to have languished.
Privateering; the trade with France and Spain; the industries of the
town, weaving and lace making; all dwindled to vanishing point. Half
the houses became ruinous, and the population had decreased to an
alarming extent when that saviour of half the old coastwise towns of
England--the valetudinarian--came upon the scene about 1770, and by
the commencement of the Victorian era Lyme had embarked upon a time of
modest but steady prosperity which still continues. Its fine air and
superb situation would, if the town were fifty miles nearer London,
result in "developments" that would soon ruin its character.

[Illustration: LYME BAY.]

Lyme church is Perpendicular, though the tower is far older, the
vestry room being part of the ancient church. Of much interest is the
tapestry on the west wall representing the marriage of Henry VII. On
the front of the gallery (1611) and on the Jacobean pulpit (1613) are
inscriptions setting forth the names of their donors and the dates.
The rood-screen is modern but the old double lectern is interesting;
chained to it is a "Breeches" Bible and Erasmus' "Paraphrase." One of
the stained-glass windows is a memorial to that celebrated daughter of
Lyme--Mary Anning, who with the enthusiasm of a greybeard hammered and
chipped at the cliffs around in a most ungirlish style, but to such
good purpose that she unearthed the Ichthyosaurus that now astonishes
the visitor to the Natural History Museum in Kensington.

In Pound Street is an auxiliary church that in 1884 was converted out
of a stable into the present beautiful and uncommon little building.
Of particular merit are the fine tapestries and the altarpiece of
Venetian mosaics. In Church Street stands an old house once belonging
to the Tuckers, merchants and benefactors of the town. It is now named
Tudor House and is really of that date, although its exterior hardly
looks its age. The Assembly Rooms at the end of Broad Street mark the
time when Lyme was starting upon a career of fashion. In the new Town
Hall erected on the old site to commemorate the first Victorian
Jubilee is an ancient door from the men's prison, and a grating from
the women's quarters, let into the wall; in the Old Market stands an
ancient fire engine and the stocks, removed here from the church. Near
by is the "Old Fossil Shop" devoted to the sale of fossils and fish,
as quaint a combination of trades as one could imagine. The old houses
around the Buddle are of dark and mysterious aspect. This part of the
town has always had a romantic air, here and there slightly flavoured
with squalor, though of late, especially about the course of the
river, improvements have effected a change. Curious customs of great
antiquity such as the Saxon Court Leet and the Court of Hustings, a
copy of a London civic institution dating from the first charter of
the town, have continued to present times.

The other famous girl of Lyme, besides Mary Anning, was Jane Austen,
who lived with her parents at Bay Cottage, the white house near the
harbour. Here it is supposed that _Persuasion_ was written. Captain
Coram, the bluff seaman and tender-hearted philanthropist who spent
his small fortune on the Foundling Hospital, and. Sir George Somers,
who colonized the Bermudas, were both local worthies. The latter died
in the West Indies, but his body was brought home to Dorset and buried
at Whitchurch Canonicorum.

The beautiful coast west of the Cobb is described in the next chapter,
but mention must be made of the Landslip Walk. Several falls of the
cliff, here resting on a precarious foundation of sand and blue has
clay, have from time to time occurred and have produced this wide
tract of broken and tumbled ground, only to be equalled in its
picturesque confusion by the better known Undercliff in the Isle of
Wight. The greatest "slip" took place in 1839 on Christmas Day and the
country people were awakened during the night by loud and continuous
noises like the rumble of distant artillery. It was found the next
morning that a chasm nearly a mile long and about 400 feet wide had
been formed parallel with the shore. This subsidence continued for a
couple of days and took with it, without loss of life, several
cottages. The wildly erratic disorder has been covered with a lovely
profusion of flowers and plants in the sheltered valleys and ravines
of this miniature Switzerland, and the whole undercliff as far as
Rousdon and beyond is a wonderland of beauty.

Uplyme, three-quarters of a mile beyond the station, is in Devon. This
may have been one of the pleas put forward a few years ago when
strenuous efforts were made to get Lyme Regis transferred to the
western county. The pretty village is about a mile and a half from
Lyme Esplanade on the Axminster road. The church has been judiciously
restored, but there is nothing of great interest to be seen apart from
the old yew tree in the churchyard. Not far away is a beautiful old
manor house called the "Court Hall"; it is now a farm house. The fine
porch and queer old chimneys make a picture worth turning aside to

[Illustration: OTTERY CHURCH.]



To go from one Dorset or East Devon coast town to another by rail
involves an amount of thought and a consultation of time-tables that
would not be required for a journey from London to Aberystwyth, and
unless the traveller hits on a particularly lucky set of connexions he
will find that he can walk from one town to the other in less time
than by taking the train. From Lyme to Seaton by the Landslip is
barely seven miles; by rail it is fifteen, involving two changes. From
Seaton to Sidmouth is nine miles by road and twenty-four by rail, with
two changes and a possible third. Each of these sections can be
comfortably tramped by the average good walker in a morning or
afternoon with plenty of time for "side issues" and rambling about the
towns themselves in the evening. One word of warning to those who
adopt this method of seeing their own land, the only effective way in
the writer's opinion. Do not be deceived into thinking that a mile on
the map is a mile on the road. In this country of hills and valleys
the distance can be added to considerably by these "folds in the
tablecloth." A contour map in colours such as Bartholomew's "half
inch" is a great help in this matter.

From Lyme the walk westwards by the cliff is, of course, the most
beautiful way. Our present route, by the high road, passes between
Rousdon, _the_ great house of the neighbourhood, and Combpyne, where
there is a station, the only one between Lyme and Axminster. This is a
pleasant place, lost between hills, and quite out of sight from the
railway. It has a church, built about 1250, with a gabled tower and
with a hagioscope in the chancel. The communion plate dates from
before the Reformation and is said to have been in constant use for
more than four hundred years. In the thirteenth century a convent
stood here; part of the buildings are now a farmhouse, but the
villagers still point out the "Nuns' Walk" close by. A series of
lonely and delightful lanes, difficult to follow without a good map
(directions given by a rustic require a super-brain to remember their
intricate details), lead down to the high road just short of the
bridge over the Axe. Here a turn to the right leads to picturesque old
Axmouth. The houses climb up a narrow combe down which tumbles a
bright stream from the side of Hawksdown, the hill which rises to the
north-east and is crowned by an ancient encampment. The church was
originally Norman, but only the north door and south aisle remain of
this period. In the chancel, which is in the Decorated style, is the
effigy of a priest within a recess, and in a chantry chapel a monument
to Lady Erle of Bindon. The curious wall paintings were discovered
during the restoration of the church some years ago. An old standard
measure for corn called the "Lord's Measure" is kept in a recess in
the churchyard wall. Turning to the left from the church are some
ancient cottages. On one of the chimneys will be seen the date 1570
and a motto: "God giveth all." Not far away is the entrance to
Stedcombe, a house designed by Inigo Jones, which replaced an older
building destroyed in the Civil War. Bindon, the home of Sir Walter
Erle, a famous officer of the Parliamentary army, is about a mile from
the village in the direction of the Landslip. It is a fine
sixteenth-century mansion, now a farmhouse, a chapel attached to which
is more than a hundred years older than the original building.


A road by the east bank of the Axe leads in a mile to Seaton, which is
at the actual Axe mouth. This is a town almost without a history,
although it still makes the not-proven assertion that it is the site
of Moridunum. Some years ago the townsmen, with the idea that the
label is the principal thing, stuck the word along the Esplanade wall
in letters of black flint. Although the claim is not an impossible
one, the probabilities point to the junction of the two great roads,
the Fosse Way and the Icknield Way, near Honiton, as being the actual
site of the Roman station. The remains of a villa of this period,
together with various relics, pottery and coins, were found sometime
ago at a place called Hannaditches just outside the town, so that the
ubiquitous Latins were at any rate here.

Seaton is quite a different town to Lyme; it has practically no
ancient buildings and the few old cob cottages that made up the
original village have entirely disappeared. A "restoration" of the
church in 1866 destroyed most of the old features, including a
beautiful screen. The main fabric belongs to the Decorated period with
some Perpendicular additions and very scanty remains of the original
Early English building. The hagioscope in the chancel appears as a
window in the outer wall. The Perpendicular tower replaces an older
erection on the south side, of which the base alone remains. A flat
gravestone in the churchyard has the following curious inscription:--


Starre on Hie
Where should a Starre be
But on Hie?
Tho underneath
He now doth lie
Sleepinge in Dust
Yet shall he rise
More glorious than
The Starres in skies


The main streets of the town are pleasant enough, though most of the
houses are small and of the usual lodging-house type. Seaton depends
for its deserved popularity upon its open position, in which it
differs from most Devon and Dorset resorts; its bracing air, due to
the wide expanse of the Axe valley, and above all to the beautiful
surrounding country. Treasure hunts along the beach for garnets and
beryls are among the excitements of a fortnight in Seaton.

The unimposing way in which the Axe enters the sea will be remarked at
once. It is supposed that the Danes made use of the river mouth as a
harbour for their pirate ships and it was without doubt a port of some
importance in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. For the siege
of Calais it provided two ships. But Leland (temp. Henry VIII) remarks
that the silting up of the Axe had made the harbour useless for all
but "small fisschar boates." The river now has great difficulty in
getting to the sea at all through the high bank of shingle.

A good deal of Honiton lace is made both here and at Beer, though this
East Devon industry is slowly dwindling in the several localities in
which it was once an important commercial item.

[Illustration: SEATON HOLE.]

The environs of Seaton are beautiful and interesting. The most popular
excursion is to the Landslip at Dowlands. The nature of the scenery is
so strange and bizarre, as well as beautiful, that it would impress
the most stolid and sophisticated as something quite out of the
common. North of the town are the villages of Colyford and Colyton;
visitors are usually content to view these from the train, but they
are worthy of closer inspection. The first-named is now a small
village two miles from the sea. It is on the high road from Lyme Regis
to Exeter and was once an important borough with a charter dating from
the reign of Edward I. Colyton, a mile farther, is a queer old place
with narrow, crooked streets. Its Perpendicular church is of much
interest, and seems to have been designed by an architect with
original ideas who, however, has not been preeminently successful in
its details. The square battlemented tower with its octagonal lantern
above is poorly executed, but otherwise the uncommon conception
arrests attention and is worthy of praise: The parvise chamber over
the porch, like many others, was for a long period the town school.
The nave, rebuilt about the middle of the eighteenth century, is of no
interest, but the Perpendicular arches between the chancel and aisles
are very elaborate and fine. The Pole chapel is formed out of the
eastern end of the south aisle and separated from the other portions
by a stone screen of elaborate and beautiful workmanship. Within are
the ornate figures of Sir John Pole and his wife. On the other side of
the chancel is the Jacobean mausoleum of the Yonges, a great local
family during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The
Gothic tomb with the recumbent figure of a girl upon it is known
locally as "Little Chokebone." Margaret Courtenay, daughter of an Earl
of Devon, was said to have been suffocated by a fish-bone, but the
tradition has been doubted. From the armorial bearings above the tomb
it would appear that the figure represents one of the daughters, or
possibly the wife, of the sixth Earl of Devon. An interesting
inscription in the south transept perpetuates the name of John
Wilkins, who was minister from 1647 to 1660 when, as a Nonconformist,
he was deprived of the living.

The vicarage was originally built in 1529 by Canon Brerewood, who
erected the stone screen of the Pole chapel. It has been altered and
partly rebuilt, but the porch retains the original inscription placed
there by the Canon--" _Meditatio totum; Peditatio totum_."

Colcombe Castle, half a mile from the town, is now Colcombe Farm. It
was once the seat of the Courtenays and the headquarters of Prince
Maurice during the Civil War. In 1680 the Duke of Monmouth stayed
either here or at the Great House near by, now a farm, but once
occupied by the Yonges. An old stone arch in a field above the castle
covers a spring of clear cold water.

Seaton Hole, the western extremity of Seaton Bay, lies under White
Head, which is not white but brownish grey. Up the steps from the
beach, a path leads from the "Hole" for a mile of steep up and down
walking and then the explorer reaches Beer, famous for its "free
trade" and its memories of a prince of smugglers--Jack Rattenbury;
the 'Arrypay of Seaton Bay. His adventures, though not on the grand
scale of the hero of Poole, were exciting enough, from his capture by
the French, while ship's-boy on a local coaster, to his attempted
arrest by a posse of soldiers in a Beer inn, where his escape was
effected by the women of the village raising the cry "A wreck! a
wreck!" and diverting his captors' attention. Rattenbury died in 1833
after receiving the princely sum of one shilling per week pension
during the last years of his life from Lord Rolle. During this period
he dictated his memoirs for publication in Sidmouth, to an editor who
unconsciously gave the book a delicious touch of humour by putting
into the mouth of this son of a Devon shoemaker the grandiloquent
phrases of an early Victorian divine.

[Illustration: BEER.]

The picturesque and unspoilt little beach and the village street
leading down to the sea are in great contrast to the new houses built
on the hill behind, and the fine new church erected at the instance of
the Lord of the Manor, one of the Rolle family. This replaced an
ancient chapel dedicated to St. Michael, from which two old memorial
tablets were transferred; one is to "Edward Good, late an Industrious
fisherman," who left twenty pounds in trust for the poor of Beer and
Seaton in 1804, and the other to "John, the fifth sonn of William
Starr of Bere, Gent., and Dorothy his wife, which died in the plague
was here bvried 1646." The dwelling of this Starr family was the Tudor
house at the end of the main street which bears on it the design of a
star, the rebus of the one-time owners.

A firm tradition is current among the fishermen, most of whom gain a
livelihood in the summer by boat hire, that their forefathers were
Spaniards shipwrecked in the Cove just after Beer had been depopulated
by the plague, and that they settled in the empty houses,
intermarrying with the maids of Devon left in the village. The story
is certainly made convincing by the remarkably dark and foreign
appearance of the villagers, especially in the case of the older men.

The famous quarries, from which the stone for Exeter Cathedral was
taken, are about a mile from the village. The subterranean quarries
are not now worked. They were used by the Romans and possibly before.
The passages extend for a long distance under the hill and are said to
communicate with the shore. They were no doubt of great value to the
smugglers. It is extremely dangerous to attempt the penetration of the
mysterious passages and caves without a competent guide and a
dependable light. Holes of unknown depth filled with water are met
with in the passages and a fatal accident is possible in any unwary

Bovey House is about a mile to the north. It is chiefly remarkable for
a well about 180 feet deep which has a square chamber, 30 feet down,
undoubtedly built as a hiding place. Another secret chamber in one of
the chimneys is traditionally said to have hidden Charles II, but it
has been proved that he did not pass this way.

[Illustration: THE WAY TO THE SEA, BEER.]

Beer Head is the last outpost of the chalk and is a dazzling contrast
to the prevailing reddish yellow of the Devonian coast. On the other
side of the airy common that crowns the head, and that is known as
South Down, is the delightful village of Branscombe (usually
pronounced "Brahnscoom") built in the three valleys that unite at
Branscombe mouth, the opening to the sea under the shadow of Bury
Camp. The fine cruciform church is mainly Norman but with Early
English and still later additions. It is supposed that the base of the
tower is of Saxon workmanship. A monument (1581) in the transept is to
Joan Tregarthen, her two husbands and nineteen children. One of the
sons of her second marriage was the founder of Wadham College, Oxford.
In the churchyard is a rough pillar usually described as a coffin-lid.
It is probably a "Sarsen," indicating that the church site was used
for worship in prehistoric times or at least that it was a place of
sepulture. There are two headstones of very early date--1579 (?) and
1580, and the tomb of Joseph Braddick (1673) bears the following
curious epitaph:



There are several other curious records here that will repay perusal
by their quaintness and unconscious pathos. One is rather ferocious:


The dedication and the name of the village are in some doubt.
Authorities make claim for St. Brendan as the patron, hence
Branscombe. A chapel was built at Seaton in honour of this traveller

[Illustration: BRANSCOMBE CHURCH.]

The coast at Branscombe is wildly beautiful, and an interesting ramble
may be taken at low tide among the masses of rock that form a sort of
undercliff; the miniature valleys between are carpeted with rare and
beautiful flowers. It is not practicable to continue by the shore
except at the expenditure of much exertion. The road to Sidmouth
should be taken by way of the few houses that constitute Weston, and
then by the highly placed Dunscombe Farm and the picturesque ruin near
it. These winding lanes lead eventually to the lonely little church
hamlet of Salcombe Regis--"King Athelstan's salt-works in the Combe."
This is one of those sweetly-pretty lost villages by the sea which one
hesitates to mention lest a speculator should investigate with the
idea of an elaborate "simple life" hostel in his mind. But Salcombe is
too difficult of approach, even for faddists, although only a nominal
two miles separates it from the South Western terminus on the other
side of the hill. The church dates from 1150, though aisles were added
a hundred years later and the tower in 1450.

We now approach the borders of the older Wessex, the limit for which
for want of definite evidence to the contrary the writer has had to
fix arbitrarily at the mouth of the Otter. The last of the coast towns
in this region is one of the best centres in south-east Devon for a
detailed exploration of the countryside. That is, the best if a coast
town must be chosen. To the writer's mind a better plan is to make a
break from this established usage and get quarters in one of the quiet
old places about eight or ten miles inland, such as Ottery or
Axminster. But Sidmouth is an exceedingly pleasant spot, in which one
need never feel dull or bored, and in which the vulgarities one
associates with the "popular" watering place are entirely absent. The
bright and clean appearance of the stuccoed houses, nearly always
painted white, contrasting with the red of the cliffs and the green
foliage with which the town is embowered, is very effective and even
beautiful. The houses are grouped in a compact and cosy way between
the two hills, although of late years a number of new and, at close
quarters, staring red brick efforts at modernity have been made on the
hillsides. But these are decently covered, in any general view of the
town, in the wealth of trees that climb the lower slopes.

[Illustration: SIDMOUTH.]

Certain quarters of Sidmouth have an air of antique and solid
gentility that is a heritage from those days when it was a select and
fashionable resort before the terraces of Torquay were built on the
lines of its parent--Bath. After Lyme it was the first of the western
coast towns to bid for the custom of the habitues of such inland
resorts as Tunbridge Wells, Cheltenham and the like. The
Victorian-Gothic building known as Royal Glen, originally Woolbrook
Cottage, was for several years the home of the Duke and Duchess of
Kent and the infant Princess Victoria. The Duke died here in 1820 and
Queen Victoria caused a window to be placed to his memory in the
rebuilt parish church.

The town is mentioned in Thackeray's _Pendennis_, and was the home of
the immortal Mrs. Partington, an old acquaintance of Sidney Smith; she
is supposed to have lived in one of the cob cottages that used to be
on the front. Like the Lords with Reform, so was Mrs. Partington with
the Atlantic Ocean, which she tried to keep out of her front door with
a mop. "She was excellent at slop or puddle, but should never have
meddled with a tempest." If she was an actual character the good
dame's house probably stood where now the fine esplanade runs its
straight course between Peak Hill and the Alma Bridge over the Sid. At
the bridge the shingle bank baulks the stream from a clear course into
the sea and usually forces it into an ignominious and green scummed
pool that slowly filters through the stony wall. From the bridge a
path ascends to the Flagstaff, where there is perhaps a better view
than that from the much higher Peak Hill on the west. Torbay, Start
Point, and the south Devon coast are in full but distant view across
the bay, but Teignmouth and Dawlish hide behind the promontory called
Black Head.

The direct Honiton road goes up the valley of the Sid through pleasant
Sidford, which has a fine old farmhouse called Manstone and a number
of picturesque cottages, and through Sidbury, beneath the encampment
called Sidbury Castle. The Early Norman church at Sidbury is
interesting. Alterations at various dates have given the building
thirteenth-century transepts and a roof and aisles dating from two
hundred years later. The fine Norman tower was entirely rebuilt about
forty years ago when the two figures of SS. Peter and Giles were found
and placed on the new west face. A Saxon crypt was discovered under
the chancel when that portion was restored and a trap door gives
access to this chamber from the floor. The church porch has a room
over it known to the villagers as the "Powder Room." It is thought
that this formed a sort of magazine for the troops quartered in the
neighbourhood during the Napoleonic wars.

The "Sid Bury" is the tree-clad hill on the west. Upon its crown is an
encampment with a ditch, its bottom 45 feet from the summit of the
wall. The view, except down the Sid valley to the sea, is restricted,
but in every direction it is beautiful.

About half a mile north of the village is a fine old mansion called
Sand, belonging to the Huish family and erected in the closing years
of the sixteenth century. It is now a farmhouse, but practically
unaltered from its ancient state.

The coast from Sidmouth to the mouth of the Otter bends
south-westwards in a long sweep and encloses within the peninsula thus
formed the small and uninteresting village of Otterton that has on the
other side of the river a station on the line running from Ottery St.
Mary through Budleigh Salterton to Exmouth. The fine Peak Hill has its
western slopes running down to the Otter valley just north of Bicton
Park, where is a magnificent arboretum. The line from Sidmouth climbs
round the northern slopes of the hill and drops into the valley at
Tipton St. John's. The train then follows the waterside as closely as
may be to Ottery St. Mary. This beautifully placed town is as
delightful and convenient to stay in as any in Devon.

Ottery's proud boast is that it has the grandest church, apart from
the great fane at Exeter, in the county. It is said that it owes its
plan and general appearance to the inspiration of the Cathedral, and
there is a striking resemblance on a small scale to that beautiful and
original building. Not that St. Mary's is a small church; for the size
of the town which it dominates it is vast. Erected during the period
when national ecclesiastical art was at its most majestic and
imposing, the Early English style of the greater portion of the
structure is given diversity by certain Decorated additions. The
beautiful stone reredos is at present empty of figures. Behind the
altar the Lady Chapel, which has a stone screen, contains an old
minstrels' gallery. The carving here, and the vaulting throughout the
church, but especially in the chapel on the north side, is deservedly
famous. During the time of Bishop Grandisson, about 1340, the church
was made collegiate. In 1850 a so-called restoration by Butterfield
did much damage, and some of the woodwork then introduced could well
be "scrapped" and the church again restored to something of its
previous simple dignity. The painting of the nave and chancel roofs
has a peculiarly "cheap" and tawdry effect.

Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have lived in the town for a time, and
during the Civil War it was for a month the head-quarters of Fairfax,
who turned the church tower into a temporary fortress. Samuel Taylor
Coleridge was a native of Ottery and the son of one of its vicars. The
poet was only nine when his father died in 1781. He was then placed in
the Bluecoat school and there met his lifelong friend, Charles Lamb.
The theological studies that at first seemed to be his natural bent
were no doubt a consequence of his early environment. Near the church
is a house now occupied by Lord Coleridge. Thackeray spent his school
holidays at Larkbeare, the house of his stepfather, Major Carmichael
Smith, and afterwards used Ottery ("Clavering St. Mary") as the scene
of part of _Pendennis_.

The steep, narrow streets around the church have lost many of their
picturesque old buildings, though a few of the smaller houses remain
in the side turnings. The pleasant aspect of the town is greatly
increased by the beauty of the river and of its banks both above and
below the bridge. The stream is a great favourite with anglers, and
Otter trout have a great reputation.

The great high road from Exeter to London passes a short distance
north of Ottery and follows the river valley on its way to the old
town under the shadow of Dumpdon Hill. Honiton is of world-wide fame
in connexion with the beautiful lace that is still made in the
vicinity. The long and broad High Street is practically all there is
of the town, except for a few shops and smaller houses on the way to
the railway station. Save on market day Honiton sleeps the hours away,
or seems to do so; possibly there is an amount of business done behind
doors, and in a quiet way, to account for the comfortable appearance
of the burgesses (for this is a municipal borough). By reason of its
sheltered position from any breeze that may be blowing aloft and its
open arms to the sun, the town has, on an ordinary summer's day, the
hottest High Street in England; that fact may partly account for its
air of somnolence.

The Perpendicular cruciform church suffered greatly from fire some
years ago, though happily the tower escaped. A beautiful old screen
and several other interesting details were entirely destroyed. The
black marble tomb of Thomas Marwood commemorates a fortunate physician
who cured the Earl of Essex of an illness and was rewarded by Queen
Elizabeth with a house and lands near the town. On the Exeter road is
St. Margaret's Hospital, endowed by Thomas Chard, Abbot of Ford
(1520), for nine old people. It was originally a lazar-house founded
about 1350. The chapel was built by its later benefactor.

A curious custom is kept in Honiton Fair week, usually held the third
week in July. On the first day of the Fair a crier goes about the
streets with a white glove on a long wand crying:

"O yes the Fair is begun
And no man dare be arrested
Until the Fair is done."

It is said that this strange privilege is still respected.

The high road to Axminster climbs up the long ascent of Honiton Hill
(there is an easier way over the fields to the summit for
pedestrians), and with beautiful views on the left keeps to the high
lands almost all the way until the drop into the valley of the Yarty.

Axminster is on a low hill surronded by the softer scenery of typical
Devon. The by-ways near the town are narrow flowery lanes such as are
naturally suggested to one's mind whenever the West Country is
mentioned. Axminster has given its name to an industry that has not
been carried on in the town for over eighty years, though "Axminster"
carpets are still famous for their durability and their fine designs.
The whole period during which the manufacture was carried on in the
town did not cover a century. The carpets were made on hand-looms and
the house, now a hospital, that was used as the factory is opposite
the churchyard.

The church is said to have pre-Norman work beneath the tower. The
building as it stands is mostly Perpendicular, but with certain
Decorated details in the chancel and a Norman door. The sculptured
parapet of the north aisle is interesting. On it are the arms of many
ancient families of the county. The two effigies in the chancel are
supposed to represent Gervase de Prestaller, once vicar here, and Lady
Alice de Mohun. In the churchyard is a tombstone with two crutches;
this is the grave of the father of Frank Buckland, the famous
naturalist, who was born here in 1784.

[Illustration: AXMINSTER.]

The town suffered greatly during the Civil War. It was taken by the
Royalists and used as a head-quarters during the investment of Lyme
Regis. It was the resting-place of William "The Deliverer" on his way
from Lyme northwards. He is said to have stayed at the "Dolphin" while
it was the private residence of the Yonges.

Close to the Axe and to the main line of the railway are the scanty
ruins of Newenham Abbey, once of great renown. Founded in 1245 by the
de Mohuns, it met with the usual fate at the Great Dispersal. A mile
farther, on the Musbury road, is Ashe Farm, which once belonged to the
Drake family. A daughter of the house married one Winstone Churchill,
and here in 1650 was born John, afterwards to become the great Duke of
Marlborough. These Drakes were claimed by Sir Francis as his
relatives, but they rather fiercely repudiated the claim, and this
obscure county family took proceedings against the great Seaman for
using their crest--a red dragon. Gloriana, however, retaliated by
giving her bold Sir Francis an entirely new device showing the dragon
cutting a most undignified caper on the bows of his ship. The effigies
of three of these Drakes, with their wives in humble attitudes beside
them, are to be seen in Musbury church, another mile farther on.

Somewhere in this fertile and beautiful valley, between Axminster and
Colyton, was waged the great battle of Brunanburgh between the men of
Wessex led by Athelstan and the Ethelings, and Anlaf the Dane, an
alien Irish King, who captained the Picts and Scots. Five Kings (of
sorts), seven Earls, and the Bishop of Sherborne were killed, but the
victory was with the defenders. Athelstan founded a college to
commemorate the battle and its result, and caused masses to be said in
Axminster church for ever (!) for the repose of the souls of those of
his friends who fell.

The London road from Honiton runs a beautiful and lonely course of
fourteen miles up hill and down dale to Chard in Somersetshire,
passing, about half way, the wayside village of Stockland. The hills
that here divide the valleys of the Otter and the Yarty are crossed by
the high road and involve several steep "pitches" up and down which
the motorist must perforce go at a pace that enables him for once to
view the landscape o'er and not merely the perspective of hedge in
front of him. The remote little village of Up-Ottery is away to the
left on the infant stream surrounded by the southern bastions of the
Blackdowns. Here is the fine modern seat of Viscount Sidmouth. Beacon
Hill (843 feet), to the north of the village, commands a celebrated
view, as wide as it is lovely.

[Illustration: SHERBORNE.]



Chard is a place which satisfies the aesthetic sense at first sight and
does not pall after close and long acquaintance. The great highway
from Honiton to Yeovil becomes, as it passes through the last town in
South Somerset, a spacious and dignified High Street with two or three
beautiful old houses, among a large number of other picturesque
dwellings which would sustain the reputation of Chard even without
their aid. First is the one-time Court House of the Manor, opposite
the Town Hall. Part of the building is called Waterloo House. It was
built during the last quarter of the sixteenth century. A very
beautiful and spacious room with two mullioned windows and a fine
moulded ceiling graces the interior. This apartment is panelled with
the most delightful carvings of scenes from the Old Testament, and
with birds, animals and heraldic designs above the noble fireplace.
The back of this house is even more charming than the front and the
visitor should pass through the porch and passage-way for the sake of
a glimpse at its old gables and mellow walls. The Choughs Inn at the
west end of the town, not far from the church, is another fine example
of late medieval architecture. Here also one should not be content
with a mere passing glance. The interior is well worth inspection, as
the old woodwork and queer guest rooms of the ancient hostelry have
been jealously preserved. The present Town School was erected in 1671,
but a pipe bears the date 1583, indicating an earlier building on the

The early fifteenth-century church is cruciform if we regard the high
porches as transepts. The whole building, including the tower, is very
low in proportion to its length. The fine gargoyles will be noticed
before entering; equally elaborate is the roof of the chancel, but
perhaps the most striking item is the magnificent tomb of William
Brewer (1641) in the north transept.

As at Honiton, the mile of High Street is undeniably a true section of
the Fosse Way, though at each end the modern road departs from the old
way and shirks the hills. The geographical position of the street is
interesting in that it stands on a "great divide." During rain the
gutters take the water in two directions, to the English Channel and
the Severn Sea. There is no clear evidence of the existence of a Roman
station hereabouts, though it is more than probable that such was the
case. The name of the town proves it to have been a Saxon settlement.
Bishop Joscelyn of Wells made its fortune by his endowments and the
gift of a borough charter. Chard bore its part in the Civil War and
Charles I was obliged to stay here for a week, in his retreat from the
west country, awaiting the commissariat that Somerset had failed to
provide. "Hangcross Tree," a great oak, stood within living memory in
the lower town on the way to the South Western station. This was the
gibbet upon which twelve natives of Chard, followers of Monmouth, paid
the penalty for their rebellion.

[Illustration: FORD ABBEY.]

The excursion _par excellence_ is to Ford Abbey, situated about four
miles away on the banks of the Axe. (Prospective visitors who wish to
see more than the exterior must make preliminary inquiries.) The
situation is beautiful, as was usually the case with those chosen by
the Cistercians. Unlike most of the great abbeys despoiled by the
iconoclasts of the Dispersal, Ford fell into the hands of successive
families who have added to and embellished the great pile without
entirely doing away with its ancient character. A good deal of
alteration was carried out by Inigo Jones who destroyed some of the
older work and inserted certain incongruities more interesting than
pleasing. The imposing appearance of the south front amply atones for
any disappointment the visitor may experience at his first sight of
the buildings from the Chard road. Over the entrance tower is the


The beautiful cloisters are much admired and the magnificent porch is
one of the finest entrances in England. In the "state" apartments the
grandeur of the ceiling in the Banqueting Hall is almost unique. The
great Staircase was designed by Inigo Jones; this leads to the Grand
Saloon in which are five Raphael tapestries, the finest in England;
unsurpassed for the beauty of their colouring. The original cartoons
are in South Kensington Museum. The visitor is conducted through the
Monks' Dormitory to the Transitional Chapel, the resting place of
Adeliza, Viscountess of Devon, who founded the Abbey for some homeless
monks, wayfarers from Waverley in Surrey, who had unsuccessfully
colonized at distant Brightley and were tramping home. This was in
1140. In 1148 the church was completed. The carved screen is
elaborately beautiful and there are several interesting memorials of
the families who have held this splendid pile of buildings, now the
property of the Ropers. The traveller by the Exeter express has a
charming glimpse of the picturesque "back" of the abbey, should he
make his journey in the winter. In summer the jealous greenery hides
all but a stone or two of the battlements.

Chard is surrounded by a number of small and secluded villages. Most
of them are delightfully situated on the sides of wooded heights or
between the encircling arms of the hills. The most charming is perhaps
Cricket St. Thomas on the south of the Crewkerne road. On the other
side of this highway, on the headwaters of the River Isle, is another
beautifully situated hamlet called Dowlish Wake, after the ancient
Somerset family of that name who flourished here in the fourteenth
century. A short distance north is Ilminster, an ancient market town
with a beautiful Perpendicular church crowned with a poem in stone
that is of surpassing loveliness even in this county of lovely towers.
White Staunton, four miles away to the west towards the Blackdown
country, has a church remarkable for the number of interesting details
it contains, though the fabric itself is rather commonplace. Its
treasures include a very early Norman font, curious pewter communion
vessels, a squint having an almost unique axis, some ancient bench
ends and medieval tiles in the chancel. St. Agnes' Well, a spring near
the church, is said to be tepid, and to have healing qualities. Near
by is an old manor house dating from the fifteenth century. In its
grounds are the foundations of a Roman Villa discovered about forty
years ago.

[Illustration: TOWER, ILMINSTER.]

Proceeding along the London road over Windwhistle and St. Rayne's
Hills, and with delightful views by the way, Crewkerne is reached in
eight miles from Chard. This is a pleasant little market town of no
great interest apart from its noble fifteenth-century cruciform church
which has an uncommonly fine west front, with empty niches, alas! but
beautiful nevertheless. The porch is another interesting feature of
its exterior. Here are quaint figures of musicians playing upon
various instruments. At the end of the south transept is a small
chamber, the actual purpose of which is unknown; it may well have been
the cell of an anchorite.

The first impression on entering the church is one of light and
airiness, due to the size and number of the windows, of which that at
the west end is the finest. The wooden groining of the tower is
curious, and the base of the walls show the existence of a former
building that lacked the present aisles. The ancient font belongs to
the older structure. A figure of St. George, that was once outside and
over the west window where the dragon is still _in situ_, two old
chests, and a number of brasses complete the list of interesting
objects within. To the north of the church are the old buildings of
the grammar school, now removed to a site outside the town to the

About two miles to the north is the curious old church of Merriott,
built during several periods. The extraordinary carving over the
vestry door called the "fighting cocks" is in the eyes of the
villagers its chief merit! There are also some interesting gargoyles
and a very ancient crucifix. A mile farther is the pleasant village of
Hinton St. George. The fine village cross, though much mutilated,
still retains enough of its former splendour to make us regret the
many we have lost. The old thatched house known as the "Priory" is a
delightful building. Hinton House is the home of the Pouletts, a
famous family who came originally from the North Somerset sea-lands.
Part of the house dates from the reign of Henry VIII. The family came
into prominence about that time, for a member named Amyas was knighted
after the fight at Newark. He became more famous still perhaps for his
collision with Wolsey when the latter was a young man, for he had the
misfortune to put the future great prelate in the stocks! The family
became pronounced Protestants and one of the grandsons of Amyas was
gaoler of Mary Queen of Scots. These beruffed and torpedoe-bearded
Elizabethans are in Hinton Church, a fine and dignified building that,
like many other Somerset churches, is more imposing outside than

South Petherton is about three miles north. Here is another fine
church with an uncommon octagonal tower placed upon a squat and square
base. Of more interest is the beautiful house, known as "King' Ine's
Palace," which dates from the fifteenth century. It may have been
erected on the site of one of that Saxon monarch's many houses. There
are one or two ancient buildings in this village as also at Martock,
another delightful hamlet still farther north. But we are being
tempted outside our arbitrary boundary and must return to the Yeovil
road that wanders up hill and down again into the charming vales of
the Somerset borderland by way of East Chinnock and West Coker. In the
latter large and rambling village is a church of note for the unique
horn glazing of the small windows in its turret. The Decorated
building has a squat tower out of all proportion to its size. The
manor dates from the fourteenth century and belongs to the Earl of

There is an alluring sound about the name of Yeovil; a name suggestive
of ancient stone-walled houses with roofs clothed in russet moss with,
perhaps, a hoary ruined keep on a guardian mound and a clear swift
moorland stream flowing between encircling hills. But the reality is
very different. Many years ago, when two great railways took the town
into their sphere of influence, factories and streets began to appear
as if by magic and just before the Great War a fresh impetus was given
to Yeovil by the development and extension of certain well-known local
firms. In fact the present appearance of the town is that of an
industrial centre of the smaller and pleasanter sort, but with the
inevitable accompaniment of mean houses and uninviting suburbs. The
main streets of the newer parts are spacious and clean, but are
reminiscent of an ordinary London suburb.

The great glory of Yeovil is its church, the interior of which is one
of the most impressive in Somerset. Its lofty and graceful arches and
wonderful windows belong to a period when the Perpendicular style was
at its best and purest. The crypt beneath the chancel is of much
interest. The single central pillar supports a fine groined roof. The
church has few interesting details, but the magnificent lectern with
its undecipherable inscription and a couple of brasses will be
noticed. There are but few old houses in the centre of the town.

[Ilustration: YEOVIL CHURCH.]

The usual excuse of disastrous fires is offered, and one did occur in
1449 when 117 houses were destroyed, but more probably ruthlessness on
the part of eighteenth-century owners is responsible for this dearth.
In Middle Street is the George Inn, an old half-timbered house, and,
opposite, the still older "Castle," said to have been a chantry house.
The Woborne Almshouses were founded about 1476, but no portion of the
early buildings remain.

One of the most delightful views in South Somerset is that from
Summerhouse Hill, about half a mile away; another, magnificent in its
extent, can be had from the Mudford road that runs in a north-easterly
direction. The great central plain is spread before one with distant
Glastonbury Tor on the horizon. The environs of Yeovil are delightful.
One of the best short excursions is to East Coker, the birthplace of
William Dampier, two miles to the south. The church and Court are
beautifully placed above the old village and a picturesque group of
almshouses line the upward way to them.

Five miles north of Yeovil on the Fosse Way, where a branch road
leaves the ancient Bath-Exeter highway for Dorchester, stands the old
Roman town of Ilchester, or Ivelchester. An unimportant one at that,
for the Romans made but little attempt to build in the wild and remote
country that was to be the home of an obscure Saxon tribe--the
Somersetas. Ilchester to-day is strangely uninteresting and we have to
depend entirely upon the imagination for even a plan of the Roman
town, of which no vestiges remain. Possibly these disappeared during
the Civil War when the town was fortified. The church has an octagonal
tower with the rare feature that its sides are the same form from base
to parapet. The older portions of the building are Early English, but
it has suffered from a good deal of pulling about. This is the only
one remaining of the five churches of which Ilchester could once
boast. A much maltreated market cross stands in the main street with a
sundial stuck on the summit of its shaft. Otherwise there is little to
detain the stranger. Roger Bacon, philosopher and scientist, was a
native of the town or immediate neighbourhood. At Tintinhull, two
miles to the south-west, are some fine old houses, ancient stocks, and
an Early English church of much interest. The church's tower is on the
north side, an unusual position. Bench-ends, brasses and ancient tiles
are among the objects likely to interest the visitor of antiquarian
tastes. Montacute, still farther south and on the road from South
Petherton to Yeovil, should be visited if possible. Here is a
beautiful Elizabethan house, the seat of the Phelipses. Its east front
is decorated with an imposing row of heroic statues; its west front is
almost as magnificent. Taken altogether it is perhaps the grandest
Tudor house in the county. The interior well bears out the sumptuous
appearance of the great pile from the outside. A great gallery, one
hundred and eighty feet long, extends through the whole length of the
building, and the hall is equally grand.

[Illustration: MONTACUTE.]

This great house replaces a one-time Cluniac monastery founded in
1102, though in 1407 the establishment abandoned the foreign rule of
Cluny and became an ordinary English Priory. All that is left of the
ancient buildings is a beautiful gateway with turrets and oriels
dating from the fifteenth century. St. Michael's Hill, or "Mons
Acutus," is remarkably like Glastonbury in outline, and is the scene
of a wonderful legend. Here was found the sacred Rood that was
eventually taken in the days of Canute to distant Waltham in Essex,
where afterwards there arose the great Abbey of the Holy Cross.

Montacute Church is a building that has seen much legitimate
"tinkering," not of the restorer's brand but of the sort that delights
the antiquary. The earliest work is very early Norman. This is seen in
the chancel arch and then we come down through the various stages of
architectural history--Early English transepts, a Decorated window on
the south side and, what is almost inevitable for Somerset, the
Perpendicular nave. The tower is also "Somerset," and very dignified
and beautiful.

From the hill of Hamdon near by we obtain one of those exquisite
prospects of this English countryside that few can look upon unmoved.
The beautiful hills of Somerset and Dorset, fading into the gentlest
tones of soft purple and blue, ring the horizon on every side.
Alfred's tower, built to commemorate the victory over the Danes, is
far away on the Wiltshire border, but appears startlingly close for
some rare moments when winter rain is near. Away to the west are the
distant Quantocks and the hills of "dear Dorset," fold after fold, in
the south. Close under the steep northern face of Hamdon is Stoke,
with a quaint, and delightful inn known as the "Fleur de Lis," and a
beautiful old church with a Norman tympanum, an elaborate chancel arch
of the same date, and many other gracious and interesting details. If
the direct road is taken from Montacute to Yeovil we pass through
Preston Pucknell with its small and over-restored Decorated church. Of
more interest is the fine tithe-barn close by, and a beautiful old
medieval house with delightful porch and elaborate chimney.

Three miles north-east of Yeovil is the interesting church and manor
house at Trent. In the latter the fugitive Charles II was hidden, and
his hiding-place can still be seen. The stone spire of the church is a
rare feature hereabouts and within will be found many interesting
items, including the finely carved screen and bench ends, some bearing
the words "Ave Maria"; the pulpit carved with scenes from the life of
Christ and the chantry chapel and tombs, one of Sir Roger Wyke,
_temp_. Edward III. The very beautiful churchyard contains an old
chantry house built in the reign of Henry VI and the shaft and steps
of an ancient cross.

About four miles south-east of Yeovil is the village of Yetminster,
with a station on the Weymouth line of the Great Western Railway. To
reach it we may pass through the village of Bradford Abbas, where the
abbots of Sherborne once had a residence. The moated house still
exists as Wyke Farm. A short distance away is a tithe-barn of noble
proportions. The church has one of the finest towers in Dorset (for
here we are again across the border). The west front is remarkable for
its canopied niches. Within is a stone screen and beautifully panelled
roof. Yetminster churchyard is worth the climb thither for the sake of
the lovely view without the added attraction of the beautiful
Perpendicular church, restored about thirty years ago. Within will be
noticed some ancient wooden benches with the Tudor badge at their
ends, spared by the restorer, who has here done his work carefully and
well. On the chancel arch may be seen the gaps left in the stonework
where the old wooden screen once stood, also the stone brackets for
the rood-beam. The ancient colouring, mellowed and softened by long
time, still remains on the beams of the roof. The fine west window
will be noticed and also other windows, small and curiously placed.
The church has a north door, possibly a "Devil's Door," through which
the exorcised spirit passed at the baptismal service. About two miles
south-east of Yetminster is the small village of Leigh, with a
sixteenth-century church and the remains of two ancient crosses. In
the vicinity is a remarkable "maze" or prehistoric "Troy Town."

The Weymouth Railway could be taken from Yeovil to Evershot, nine
miles to the south, among the beautiful hills and valleys of what may
be described, for want of a better name, as the Melbury Downs. The
ridges of these North Dorset highlands are traversed to a large extent
by good roads from which most delightful views may be had, delightful
not only for their great extent but for the exquisite near peeps at
the remote and lost villages and hamlets that sleep in their deep
combes. The western extremity of this particular group of hills is
Cheddington, about three miles from Beaminster, where is, perhaps, the
most extensive view in Dorset. Evershot village is a mile and a half
to the west of the station and within a few minutes' walk of St.
John's Spring, the source of the Frome. The rebuilt church contains an
interesting brass to William Grey (1524), rector, and depicts him in
pre-reformation vestments holding the sacred elements in his raised
hands. A road leads north through the lovely glades of Melbury Park,
Lord Ilchester's seat, to Melbury Sampford. Melbury House is of three
main periods--fifteenth century in the older and hidden portions,
sixteenth century as regards the main building erected by Sir Giles
Strangeways, and late seventeenth century when the Corinthian pillars
were added to the east front. The beautiful sheets of water--feeders
of the Yeo (for we have crossed the "divide") lend an added grace to a
park rich with groves of magnificent trees. One of them, called "Billy
Wilkins," is a famous oak, thirty-seven feet in girth. Sampford church
is a cruciform Decorated building with some interesting monuments to
the Strangeways, the family of Lord Ilchester. The late peer was the
donor of the beautiful modern reredos, and the decoration of the
chancel is due to him. Melbury Bubb stands a mile or more to the east
under the shadow of the imposing Bubb Down. Its diminutive church has
been much restored and has little of interest, except some ancient
glass that has been left in the windows. A glorious walk could be
taken eastwards by lonely little Batcombe with its marvellous legends
of "Conjuring Minterne," whose grave is in the churchyard. Thence the
solitary hill-way goes by the mysterious stone called "Cross in Hand"
along the tops of the hills past High Stoy (860 feet), an outstanding
bastion, Ridge Hill and Buckland Newton.

[Illustration: BATCOMBE.]

The short five miles of road from Yeovil to Sherborne passes over the
curiously named Babylon Hill. A proposal was made at an Academy dinner
a short time ago to label the small towns and villages of Britain with
artistic signs giving the name of the place and denoting pictorially
or otherwise its leading characteristic. The idea is a good one,
though it is capable of being carried to extreme lengths and abused.
In wandering over the English countryside one is often at a loss, even
with a good map in the pocket, to know the name of the hamlet or
village one is entering. It is insulting to the villager and
humiliating to oneself to ask "What place is this?" The well-known
black and yellow signs of the Automobile Association label such
villages as stand on a high road. But the obscure by-way hamlet,
perhaps of more interest, is quite incognito. However, Babylon Hill is
clearly marked on the map if not on the roadside, and we proceed
through a pleasant country quite unlike the district we have just
traversed and partaking more of the character of Leicester and the
"Loamshire" of the novelist than of Somerset. The beautiful Abbey
Church of Sherborne, the town of the "Scir bourn" or Yeo, is not well
seen from the approach on the west, for we are on the wrong side of
the long slope on which it is built. The town itself is attractive and
pleasant, and has several old and beautiful houses to delight the
traveller, but every other interest is dwarfed by its magnificent
Abbey. Originally founded as the Cathedral of the see of Sherborne in
705, it had as its first bishop the great and learned Aldhelm. At this
time the then city was the capital of the new western extension of
Wessex and an important and strategic stronghold in the long and
bitter struggle with the Danes. The earlier bishops were not only
priests but soldiers, and seem to have acquitted themselves well as
leaders in battle and generals in council in the many engagements that
took place between the Channel and the Severn. More than one fell
fighting and one, Bishop Ealhstan, totally defeated the invaders and
did much to keep Wessex for the English. A successor of
his--Asser--reverted to the tradition of learning established by the
first of the Saxon prelates; he was the contemporary of Alfred, and to
him we owe a great deal of our knowledge of the King. During this
period the trade and industry of the city (it had an important
manufactory of cloth) had grown steadily with its rise as a military
and ecclesiastical centre, but when the see was removed to Old Sarum
in 1075, Sherborne received a blow from which it never recovered.

In some respects there is a similarity between the Abbey of Sherborne
and the Cathedral at Winchester. In certain portions of each building
the same extraordinary transformation has taken place in the same
interesting way. The original heavy Norman piers of the nave have been
pared and carved into the soaring lines and panel work of the
Perpendicular period. This alteration was carried out here by Abbot
Ramsam about the year 1500. In the north transept is the organ, a fine
and famous instrument. The ceiling of the south transept was presented
by the last Earl of Bristol and is composed of black Irish oak. The
Earl's monument with his effigy and that of his two wives, stands
beneath. There will be noticed on the south wall a memorial to two
children, the offspring of Lord Digby; the lines of the epitaph were
written by Pope. The window above is a modern work by Pugin. On the
east of this transept is the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. The font is
singular if, as is stated, it was formerly ornamented with brass
plates. They are said to have been fixed within the quatrefoils on
five sides, the remaining three being plain.

The magnificent choir shows the essential beauty of Perpendicular--the
aspiring line--at its very best. The vaulting seems to carry the
upward flow, as it were, of the stonework to the roof centre without
any loss of the soaring effect. The beautiful windows are all modern
but they are entirely in keeping with the old work. The stalls are
original fifteenth-century carving and the miserere seats and canopies
above should be particularly noticed. The reredos contains two modern
designs in alto-relievo. A peculiar russet tint in the stonework near
the roof is said to have been occasioned by a fire which took place
during one of the many quarrels between the monastery and the town,
due mostly to a difference of opinion as to the ownership of the nave.
An arrow with a fiery tail, shot by one of the clergy of the town
church, lodged in the temporary thatched roof of the new choir and
caused the fire which did much damage, even melting the bells in the

Behind the high altar, let into the floor of the old processional
path, is a brass thus inscribed:


In the beautiful Wickham Chapel is the monument to Sir John Horsey,
the temporary owner of the Abbey at the Dissolution. He at once sold
the church to the town for one hundred marks, the equivalent then of
about seventy pounds. St. Katharine's, sometimes called the Leweston
Chapel, contains the Renaissance tomb of John Leweston and his wife.
Bishop Roger's Chapel is on the north of the choir. This is Early
English so far as the walls actually belonging to the chapel are
concerned. It contains the battered effigy of Abbot Clement (1163) and
some others unknown.

Perhaps the most interesting item in the great church is the doorway
on the north side of the west wall, which is said to be an actual
portion of the ancient Saxon cathedral of St. Aldhelm. The extension
of the Abbey westwards of this wall was known as Alhalowes and was the
town church until the break-up of the monastery rendered it
superfluous. It had a tower of its own in which the secular priests
caused a bell to be rung during the devotions of the monks, to the
great annoyance of the latter. The Chapel of Our Lady of Bow and the
portion of the Lady Chapel itself that escaped demolition at the
Dissolution was at that time separated from the Abbey and made part of
the adjoining school buildings. The great tower is one hundred feet in
height and holds a peal of eight bells with two extra--the sanctus and
the fire-bell. The latter is inscribed:


The tenor bell was given by Cardinal Wolsey, once rector of Limington,
eight miles away in Somersetshire, and recast in 1670. Around the rim
runs the following:


The school referred to above is believed to date back to the year 705,
that of the foundation of the Cathedral. Those portions of the
monastery buildings that had fallen into private ownership were handed
over to the school authorities in the middle of the last century. They
comprise the Abbot's Hall, Guest Hall, Kitchen and Abbot's apartments.
The Abbey Conduit at the end of Chepe Street dates back to 1360. It is
a charming survival with groined stone roof and open arcade around,
and it gives a very picturesque and special character to this end of
the street.

The Hospital of SS. John Baptist and John Evangelist was founded on
the site of a much older establishment by Henry VI in 1437. The modern
buildings were erected in 1866. The Chapel, Governor's Room, and some
of the ancient dormitories remain. A fine screen divides the chapel
from the ante-chapel and some beautiful and ancient glass still exists
in the south window. A tryptych, depicting the miracles, that once
stood in the chapel, may be seen in the Governor's Room.

[Illustration: SHERBORNE CASTLE.]

During the Civil War Sherborne decided for the king, and consequently
the old castle, which stood beyond the suburb of Castleton, was
dismantled, and its ruins used for building the present castle, the
home of the Digbys. The original building was erected by Roger of Caen
and had seen some history from the time of its siege in 1139 by King
Stephen. It became for a short period the home of Sir Walter Raleigh.
In the fine park the infant Yeo is dammed and broadened into a
graceful sheet of water. Here also is the eminence known as Jerusalem
Hill and the seat where Raleigh is said to have sat smoking to be
discovered by a scared retainer, who threw a pot of ale over his
master, thinking him on fire. Pope was for a time the guest of one of
his patrons--Lord Digby; and the Prince of Orange stayed here on his
progress from Devon to London. The Gate-house of the old Castle is a
picturesque ruin, Norman in style with inserted Perpendicular windows.

Sherborne is a pleasant and healthy town with many quaint nooks other
than the immediate precincts of the Abbey. Although perhaps not as
central as Yeovil for the exploration of the more interesting villages
of South Somerset, it is a good place in which to stay for a few days
or even longer. Perhaps the most lasting impression made by the town
will be that of hush and silence; not that it is stagnant or utterly
decayed, but even the main streets are saturated with the grave air of
a cathedral close, a fitting atmosphere for a place which retired from
active city life over eight hundred years ago.

An interesting excursion may be made to Cadbury Castle, five miles
north of Sherborne. A round of about fifteen miles, to include the
villages of Marston Magna, West and Queen's Camel, Sparkford (with a
station on the Great Western) North and South Cadbury, Sutton Montis
and Sandford Orcas, would take the explorer through a delightful
countryside dotted with beautiful old houses--some of them fallen from
high estate to the status of comfortable and roomy farmhouse, but
usually with a fabric well cared for--and quaint and ancient churches.
Of these North Cadbury, Marston and Sandford claim the most attention.
The first is a large and dignified Perpendicular building with finely
carved tabernacles in the chancel and several interesting features,
including a curious brass to Lady Magdalen Hastings. Close by is a
beautiful old manor house. Marston is much older than the generality
of Somerset churches and has the scanty remnants of "herring-bone"
work in the outside wall of the chancel. At Sandford is a delightful
manor house with the loveliest of terraces and gardens and an old
gate-house with an upper chamber. The interesting church contains a
curious tablet depicting a knight in white armour and two ladies, one
holding a skull. This is Sir William Knoyl and his two wives, the one
with the skull being his first. The goal of the journey, Cadbury
Castle, is, according to strong local tradition, no less a spot than
Camelot, the palace and castle of the king of romance and hero of the
British--Arthur. It will be remembered that to Camelot came the sword
Excalibur "that was as the light of many candles." In the moonlight,
the twelve knights, led by their prince, ride round the hill on horses
shod with silver and then away through the trees to Glastonbury. As
they disappear, the thin notes of a silver trumpet came back on the
midnight air. Some are of opinion that the hill is hollow, and that
Arthur and his company sleep within, awaiting the day of impending
doom for Britain. Then they will break the chains of slumber and come
to her aid. Some say that of late the Prince and his followers _did_
come forth. Every intelligent native for miles round knows that the
hill is indeed hollow, for this can be proved by calling to your
companion through the opening of Arthur's Well high on the eastern
face of the hill while he stands at St. Anne's Well away on the other
side. Another legend has it that the hill is not full of men but of
gold, the treasure house of the fairies, but this is a belief that
will only appeal to grosser minds.

The marvellous earthworks that crown the hill were undoubtedly
prehistoric in their origin and, like the walls of Maiden Castle, they
have been faced at a later date with stone. There are four lines of
wall and ditch, and they enclose an area of nearly twenty acres. Old
Leland becomes enraptured at the sight: "Good God! what vast ditches!
what high ramparts! what precipices are here!" It will be seen at a
glance how well adapted this eminence was for defence. There is
nothing to the north but the great expanse of the Somerset plain
broken by the isolated Glastonbury Tor. In the wide and beautiful view
from the earthworks the Mendip range runs away toward the Severn Sea
on the right; to the left front are the broken summits of the
Quantocks and to the extreme left the beautiful hills of the
Somerset-Dorset borderland.

The Shaftesbury road passes through pleasant country, with no
particular features but with occasional good views, to Milborne Port,
not quite three miles to the east. A few new buildings on the
outskirts of the little town have failed to rob it of its medieval
air. It can actually boast of a Norman guildhall, or at least the
building has a doorway of that period, which is near enough. The poor
battered and despoiled remains of a market cross stand in the centre
of the street. This mere village once sent two members to Westminster,
and its former importance as a market town and county centre is shown
by its magnificent and ancient church. Although the nave has been
rebuilt and the chancel is not the most perfect form of Perpendicular,
the centre of the church will repay scrutiny, for it is of peculiarly
solid and majestic appearance. It is even thought by some authorities
to be Saxon. The Norman details to be noticed include the fine south
door, the arches of the transepts and the windows in the south arm.
The old font and the piscina in the wall of the nave, as well as other
piscina in the chancel, are noteworthy.

The Shaftesbury road goes by the parklands and early
eighteenth-century mansion of Venn, the seat of the Medlicotts, and
then bears south-east towards the village of Caundle Purse. There are
several Caundles in this part of Dorset, but "Purse" is the only one
of much interest. It lies just off the road to the right, under the
wooded Henover Hill. Its sixteenth-century manor house bears the name
of "King John's House," as do several others over the length and
breadth of England. It is probable that a hunting lodge used by the
Angevin kings once stood hereabouts, as this countryside was in their
time the great forest of the White Hart. The church is small and
over-restored, but it contains a few interesting brasses.

The main road soon forks, the right-hand branch winding over a
two-mile stretch of tableland and then dropping to Stalbridge. The
main route goes directly over Henstridge Down and descends the hill to
the large village of Henstridge on a main cross-country road and with
a station on the Somerset and Dorset Railway, making it a convenient
point from which to take two interesting side excursions--northwards
to the hill-country beyond Wincanton and south to the upper valley of
the Stour. The old Virginia Inn at the cross roads claims to be the
actual scene of the "quenching" of Sir Walter Raleigh. Henstridge
church is much restored, or rather, rebuilt, but still contains the
fine canopied altar tomb of William Carent and his wife.

Proceeding northwards first we may take the road by Templecombe that
was once a preceptory of the Knights Templars and now has a station on
the main line of the South Western Railway, to Wincanton, a small
market town on the Cale ("Wyndcaleton") at the head of the Vale of
Blackmore. Though of high antiquity it does not seem to have had much
place in history, apart from its relation to Sherborne in the Civil
War, when it became a base for operations against the Royalist
garrison there. An old house in South Street is pointed out as the
lodging of the Prince of Orange on his journey towards London. A sharp
fight took place between his followers and a small body of Stuart
cavalry, resulting in the utter rout of the latter. A poor and
uninteresting old church has been altered out of all likeness to the
original (much to the advantage of the building) and there is very
little of antiquity in the town.

The station next to Wincanton is Cole, within easy reach of the old
towns of Castle Cary and Bruton. A public conveyance meets the trains
for the latter, a little over a mile away. The situation of Bruton, in
the picturesque valley of the Brue between Creech and Redlynch Hills,
is extremely pleasant. A goodly number of ancient houses survive and
the church, at one time a minster, is of much beauty and interest. Its
west tower is of great splendour and its nave of the stateliest
Perpendicular. The contrast of the chancel to the rest of the building
is more peculiar than pleasing. At the Dissolution the monks' choir
seems to have been allowed to fall into ruin, and the present
restoration was made in 1743 in a debased classic style. Effigies of
Sir Maurice Berkeley, Constable of the Tower (1585), and his wives are
in a recess. He became the owner of the abbey after the Dissolution. A
portion of a medieval cope is shown in the nave and two chained books
(Erasmus and Jewel). The ancient tomb at the west door is that of
Gilbert, first Abbot after the status of the Priory was raised (1510).
The small north tower, an uncommon feature, is a relic of the older
portion of the Priory, originally founded by William de Mohun in 1142.
All that remains of the conventual buildings are a columbarium or
stone dove-cote on a hillock just outside the town and the Abbey
Court-house on the south side of High Street. On the front will be
seen the arms of de Mohun and the initials of Prior Henton.

[Illustration: BRUTON BOW.]

Close by Bruton Bow, an extremely picturesque medieval bridge over the
Brue, is the school founded by Fitz-James, Bishop of London. It was
suppressed with the abbey and refounded by Edward VI. The Sexey
Hospital was established by a native of Bruton who was penniless when
he left the town and rose to be Auditor of the Household to Queen
Elizabeth and James I. The beautiful Hall-chapel is panelled in black
oak, and the buildings make a quaint and pleasing picture.

Castle Cary, nearly three miles west of Cole station, does not fulfil
the expectations raised by its name. Until 1890 the very site of the
castle had been lost. The lines of the keep are now marked by a row of
pillars in a meadow at the foot of Lodge Hill. A fortress of the
Lovells, it was attacked and taken by Stephen. Soon afterwards it
seems to have been dismantled or destroyed. The church is well placed
on an eminence but has been practically rebuilt and is of little

Ditcheat and Evercreech, respectively two and five miles to the north,
are beautiful and interesting places. The latter has a church with one
of the most glorious towers in Somerset, but here again we are leaving
our arbitrary boundary and wandering too far afield. The road from
Cary to Wincanton runs through Bratton Seymour and keeps to the summit
of a ridge of low hills, commanding here and there lovely views,
especially near "Jack White's Gibbett" at the cross roads above
Bratton. The Bruton-Wincanton road is even more interesting, as it
passes within a short distance of Stavordale Priory. The church, which
is still intact, and also a good portion of the conventual buildings,
are exquisitely situated under the great hill of Penselwood, part of
the line of hills that runs from above Bourton almost to Longleat and
that forms the high boundary of Somerset and Wiltshire. The ridge is
crowned by a number of entrenchments, and prehistoric remains are
frequent. Ballands Castle and Blacklough Castle are succeeded by Jack
Straw's Castle close to "Alfred's Tower" on Kingsettle Hill. This
tower was built by a Mr. Hoare in 1766 and commemorates the historic
spot where in 879 the cross was raised against the pagan Dane.


The eye ranges over a magnificent expanse of western England. If the
tower is ascended one may stand just a thousand feet above the sea.
The door is usually locked, but the key may be obtained from a lodge
near by, down the slope to the east. This walk can with profit be
extended to Long Knoll (945 feet) over two miles north-east; beyond is
Maiden Bradley, an interesting village not far from the confines of
Longleat, the famous and palatial seat of the Marquis of Bath; but
this country must be left for another chapter.

After this long divergence a return must be made to Henstridge, where
a walk of less than two miles takes one over the Dorset border to
Stalbridge, a sleepy old town that is not troubled by the fact that it
has a station on the Somerset and Dorset Railway and that fast
expresses from the north roar down the Blackmore Vale to Bournemouth
and the sea. The church will not detain the visitor, for it was
rebuilt in 1878. The old cross on four steps in the centre of High
Street, with its rough carvings, is of more interest. It dates from
about 1350. Above the town on a hillside is the mansion at one time
inhabited by Sir James Thornhill, and not far away an obelisk erected
by the painter in honour of his patron George II, which used to be
known as "Thornhill Spire."

The Blandford high-road makes a wide loop to the south-west by
Lydlynch. A shorter route following the line of the railway takes us
in less than five miles to Sturminster Newton, where the Blackmore
Vale ends and the Stour flows in a narrow trough between low hills.

[Illustration: MARNHULL.]

Sturminster is a small and ancient town on the eastern bank of the
Stour. "Newton" is on the west side of the river and looks as old as
its neighbour. The two are connected by a medieval bridge of six
arches. Sturminster Church was almost entirely rebuilt, except for the
tower, nearly a hundred years ago. Newton Castle was once a stronghold
of the Kings of Wessex. A few scanty remnants of the fortress can
still be seen close to the road and river. A road to the north passes
by Hinton St. Mary, with a rebuilt church high up on a breezy hill,
and reaches Marnhull, the "Marlott" of Thomas Hardy. The Early English
church has some remains of an early Norman building and some later
insertions. The tower is a landmark for many miles around. A careful
restoration some years ago brought to light several interesting
details that had been hidden for some two hundred years or more;
including a stairs to the rood-loft, a squint, and the piscina. The
alabaster effigies on a cenotaph are believed to represent Lord Bindon
and his wives (about 1450). The following remarkable epitaph on a
former clerk is said to have been written by his rector:


A short distance to the north, through the hamlet of Flanders, is the
fine sixteenth-century mansion called Nash Court.

An alternative road to the Blandford highway follows the river and
rail through Shillingstone, an interesting village that had a year or
two since (and may still have) a maypole; a beautiful village cross;
and a much restored Norman and Early English church containing a
pulpit presented by a Londoner who sought sanctuary from the great
plague. The road then goes by Broad Oak and over Sturminster Common to
Okeford Fitzpaine, Banbury Hill Camp being passed on the right about
half way. Okeford has a church interesting to the antiquary. It has a
Decorated west window that is said to have been turned inside out.
Part of the ancient screen and rood-loft still remain, together with a
piscina in the chancel. It is said that the upper part of the pulpit
was at one time used as a font. The old font, restored, for many years
formed part of the wall of the churchyard. The road continues up the
long tongue of Okeford Hill with wide retrospective views. At the
summit a by-way turns to the right along the ridge, which gradually
increases in height until it reaches its summit three miles away at
Bulbarrow Hill (902 feet) just above Rawlsbury Camp. The magnificent
view up Blackmore Vale and northwestwards toward Yeovil is worth the
journey to see. Rawlsbury is a prehistoric circular entrenchment with
a double wall and ditch. Stoke Wake village is just below and
Mappowder is about two miles away by the fields, but much farther by
road. This last is an old-world hamlet eight miles from a railway,
where curfew is still rung in the winter. In the church is an
interesting miniature effigy that probably marks the shrine of a
crusader's heart.

Continuing over Okeford Hill the road presently drops to Turnworth
House at the head of a long narrow valley leading down to a string of
"Winterborne" villages (or more correctly--Winter_bourne_). The
situation of the mansion and village is very beautiful and very
lonely. Few seem to wish to brave the long ascent of the hill and one
can pass from Okeford to Turnworth many times without meeting a
solitary wayfarer. Turnworth Church is Early English, rebuilt on the
exact lines of the old fabric and retaining the ancient tower.

The first of the Winterbournes--Strickland, lies a long mile beyond
Hedgend Farm, where we turn sharp to the left and traverse a very
lonely road, sometimes between close woods and rarely in sight of
human habitation until the drop to the Stour brings us to Blandford
Forum, a pleasant, bright and clean town built within a wide loop of
the river that here begins to assume the dignity of a navigable
stream, crawling lazily among the water meadows, with back-waters and
cuts that bring to mind certain sections of the Upper Thames. The two
fine thoroughfares--Salisbury and East Streets--which meet in the wide
market place are lined with buildings, dating from 1732 or later, for
in 1731 a great fire, the last of a series, destroyed almost the whole
of the town and its suburbs. The old town pump, now a drinking
fountain, records that it was "humbly erected ... in grateful
Acknowledgement of the Divine Mercy, That has since raised this Town,
Like the Phoenix from its Ashes, to its present flourishing and
beautiful State." Several lives were lost in this disaster and the
great church of SS. Peter and Paul perished with everything that
previous fires had spared. The present erection is well enough as a
specimen of the Classic Renaissance, but need not detain us. At one
time Blandford was a town of various industries, from lace making to
glass painting, but it is now purely an agricultural centre.

[Illustration: BLANDFORD.]

Blandford St. Mary is the suburb on the west side of the Stour. The
Perpendicular church has a tower and chancel belonging to a much
earlier period. A former rector was an ancestor of the great Pitt, and
one of the family--"Governor" Pitt, is buried in the north aisle. The
family lived at Down House on the hills to the westward. A more
ancient family, the d'Amories, lived at Damory Court near the town.
The famous Damory's Oak is no more. Its hollow trunk served as shelter
for a whole family who were rendered homeless by the great fire. An
old barn not far from the Court is said to have been a chapel
dedicated to St. Leonard; it still retains its ecclesiastical doors
and windows.

[Illustration: MILTON ABBEY.]

The seven miles of undulating and dusty road westwards from Blandford,
that we have partly traversed from Winterbourne Strickland, leads to
Milton Abbas, a charming village surrounded by verdured hills and deep
leafy combes. Here is the famous Abbey founded by King Athelstan for
Benedictines. The monks' refectory, all that remains of the conventual
buildings, indicates the former splendour of the establishment. The
abbey church, built in the twelfth century, was destroyed during a
thunderstorm after standing for about two hundred years; the present
building is therefore a study in Decorated and Perpendicular styles.
It is, after Sherborne and Wimborne, the finest church in Dorset. The
pinnacled tower is much admired, but the shortness of the building
detracts from its effectiveness. It is not certain that the church
ever had a nave, though the omission seems improbable. The interior is
usually shown on Thursdays, when the grounds of the modern "Abbey" are
open to the public. Within the church the fifteenth-century reredos,
the sedilia and stalls, and the pre-Reformation tabernacle for
reserving the consecrated elements (a very rare feature) should be
noticed. Two ancient paintings of unknown age, probably dating from
the early fifteenth century, and several tombs, complete the list of
interesting items. The ancient market town that once surrounded the
Abbey was swept away when the mansion was erected in 1780, so that the
present village is of the "model" variety and was built by the first
Earl of Dorchester soon after his purchase of the property over one
hundred and fifty years ago. Church, almshouses and inn, all date from
the same period. Time has softened the formality of the plan, and
Milton is now a pleasant old-world place enough, somnolent and rarely
visited by the stray tourist, but well worthy of his attention. The
church contains a Purbeck marble font from the abbey, but otherwise is
as uninteresting as one might expect from its appearance. Milton was
originally Middletown from its position in the centre of Dorset.

Three miles down stream from Blandford, near Spettisbury, is the
earthwork called Crawford Castle. An ancient bridge of nine arches
here crosses the Stour to Tarrant Crawford, where was once the Abbey
of a Cistercian nunnery. Scanty traces of the buildings remain in the
vicinity of the early English church. This village is the first of a
long series of "Tarrants" that run up into the remote highlands of
Cranborne Chase. Buzbury Rings is the name of another prehistoric
entrenchment north of the village; it is on the route of an ancient
trackway which runs in a direction that would seem to link Maiden
Castle, near Dorchester, with the distant mysteries of Salisbury

For the traveller who has the time to explore the Tarrant villages a
delightful journey is in store. Although there is nothing among them
of surpassing interest, the twelve or fifteen-mile ramble would be a
further revelation of the unspoilt character and quiet beauty of this
corner of Dorset. Pimperne village, on the Blandford-Salisbury road,
where there is a ruined cross on the village green and a rebuilt
church still retaining its old Norman door, is on the direct way to
Tarrant Hinton, just over four miles from Blandford. Here a lane turns
right and left following the Tarrant-brook that gives its name to the
seven hamlets upon its banks. Hinton Church is beautifully placed on
the left of this by-way which, on its way to Tarrant Gunville,
presently passes Eastbury Park, a mile to the north. Only a fragment
of the once famous house is left. The original building was a
magnificent erection comparable with Blenheim, and built by the same
architect--Vanburgh--for George Dodington, one time Lord of the
Admiralty. The property came to his descendant, the son of a Weymouth
apothecary named Bubb, who had married into the family. George Budd
Dodington became a _persona grata_ at court, lent money to Frederick
Prince of Wales, and finished, at a cost of L140,000, the building his
grandfather had commenced. This wealthy commoner, after a career at
Eastbury as a patron of the arts, was created Lord Melcombe possibly
for his services to the son of George II. At his death the property
passed to Earl Temple who was unable to afford the upkeep and
eventually the greater portion of this "folly" was demolished. The
lane that turns south from the Salisbury high-road goes through
Tarrants Launceston--Monckton--Rawston--Rushton and Keynston and
finishes at Tarrant Crawford that we have just seen is in the valley
of the Stour.

Two roads run northwards to Shaftesbury from Blandford. One, the hill
way, leaves the Salisbury road half a mile from the town and, passing
another earthwork on Pimperne Down, makes for the lonely and beautiful
wooded highlands of Cranborne Chase, with but one village--Melbury
Abbas--in the long ten miles of rough and hilly road. The other, and
main, highway keeps to the river valley as far as Stourpaine, and then
bears round the base of Hod Hill, where there is a genuine Roman camp
inside an older trench. Large quantities of pottery and coins
belonging to the Roman period have been found here and are stored in
various collections. The way is now picturesquely beautiful as it goes
by Steepleton Iwerne, that has a little church lost behind the only
house in the hamlet, and Iwerne Courtenay. The last-named village is
off the main road to the left, but a by-path can be taken which leads
through it. The poorly designed Perpendicular church (with a Decorated
tower) was erected, or rather rebuilt, as late as 1641. The building
is famous as the prison for those guerilla fighters of the Civil War
called "Clubmen," who consisted mostly of better class farmers and
yeomanry. They had assembled on Hambledon Hill, the great entrenched
eminence to the west of the village, and seem to have been officered
by the country clergy. At least they appear to have greatly chagrined
Cromwell, although he spoke of them in a very disparaging way, and
deprecated their fighting qualities. Iwerne Minster, the next village
on the road, possesses a very fine cruciform church of dates varying
from Norman to Perpendicular, though the main structure is in the
later style. The stone spire is rare for Dorset. Iwerne Minster House
is a modern mansion in a very beautiful park and is the residence of
one of the Ismays of steamship fame. Sutton Waldron has a modern
church, but Fontmell Magna, two miles from Iwerne Minster, will
profitably detain the traveller. Here is an actual village maypole,
restored of course, and a beautiful Perpendicular church, also
restored, but unspoilt. The lofty tower forms an exquisite picture
with the mellow roofs of the village, the masses of foliage, and the
surrounding hills. The fine east window is modern and was presented by
Lord Wolverton, a one-time Liberal Whip, who was a predecessor of the
Ismays at Iwerne Minster House. The west window is to his memory.
Compton Abbas, a mile farther, has a rebuilt church. The charm of the
situation, between Elbury Hill and Fontmell Down, will be appreciated
as the traveller climbs up the slope beyond the village toward Melbury
Down (863 feet), another fine view-point. As the road descends to the
head waters of the Stour, glimpses of the old town on St. John's Hill
are occasionally obtained on the left front and, after another stiff
climb, we join the Salisbury road half a mile short of High Street.

Shaftesbury is not only Shaston to Mr. Hardy, but to the natives also,
and, as will be seen presently, it had at least two other names in the
distant past. It is one of the most romantically placed inland towns
in England and would bear comparison with Bridgenorth, were it not
that the absence of a broad river flowing round the base of the hill
entirely alters the character of the situation. According to Geoffrey
of Monmouth it was founded by Hudibras, son of the builder of
Caerleon, and was called Mount Paladur (Palladour). It was without
doubt a Roman town, as the foundations of Roman buildings were
discovered while excavations were being made in High Street about
twenty years ago. Alfred rebuilt the town and founded St. Mary's
Abbey, with his daughter Aethelgiva as first abbess. The removal of
the body of the martyred Edward hither from Wareham, after his murder
at Corfe Castle, gave Shaftesbury a wide renown and caused thousands
of pilgrims to flock to the miracle-working shrine. For a time it was
known as Eadwardstow and the Abbess was a lady of as much secular
importance as a Baron. The magnificent Abbey Church was as imposing as
any we have left to us, but not a vestige remains except the
fragmentary wall on Gold's Hill and the foundations quite recently
uncovered and surveyed. One of the most interesting discoveries is
that of a twisted column in the floor of the crypt that is thought to
be part of the martyr's shrine.


Shaftesbury once had twelve churches, but one only of the old
structures remain. This is a fine Perpendicular building of simple
plan, chancel and nave being one. The tower is noble in its fine
proportions and the north side of the nave aisle is beautifully
ornamented and embattled. Holy Trinity and St. James' are practically
new churches, although rebuilt on the ground plans of the original
structures. On the west side of the first-named is a walk called "The
Park" that would make the fortune of any inland health resort, so
magnificent is the view and so glorious the air. The hill on which the
town is built rises abruptly from the valley in a steep escarpment, so
that the upper end of High Street is 700 feet above the sea. There is
therefore only one practicable entrance, by way of the Salisbury road.
Of actual ancient buildings there are few, although at one time there
was some imposing medieval architecture in this "city set on a hill,"
if we may believe the old writers. It once boasted a castle besides
the Hostel of St. John Baptist and its many churches. It may have been
in this castle that Canute died in 1035.

The station for Shaftesbury is Semley, just over the Wilts border, but
it is proposed to take the longer journey to Gillingham, nearly four
miles north-west, which is the next station on the South Western main
line. This was once the centre of a great Royal "Chase," disforested
by Charles I. It was also the historic scene of the Parliament called
to elect Edward Confessor to the throne, and at "Slaughter Gate," just
outside the town, Edmund Ironside saved Wessex for the Saxons by
defeating Canute in 1016. The foundations of "King's Court Palace,"
between Ham Common and the railway, show the site of the hunting lodge
of Henry III and the Plantagenet kings. Gillingham church was spoilt
by a drastic early nineteenth-century restoration. The chancel belongs
to the Decorated period. There are several interesting tombs and a
memorial of a former vicar over the arch of the tower. He was
dispossessed as a "malignant" during the Commonwealth, but returned at
the Restoration.

Gillingham cannot show many old houses and it has the appearance of a
busy and flourishing manufacturing town of the smaller sort without
any of the sordid accompaniments of such places. Its commercial
activities--pottery and tile-making, breweries and flour mills, linen
and silk manufacture, are mostly modern and have been fostered by the
exceptional railway facilities. In its Grammar school, founded in 1526
by John Grice, it still has a first-rate educational establishment
with the added value of a notable past, for here was educated
Clarendon, the historian of the Great Rebellion, and several other
famous men.





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