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Copyright, 1891, by Harper & Brothers 

All ri^Jits reserved. 


UR journey opens in Northamptonshire, and in that 
season when the year grows ancient, 

" Not yet on summer's death, nor on the birth 
Of trembling winter." 

In the stubble the crack ! crack ! of a stray gun speaks, now 
and again, of partridge-time. Over the pastures, undulating 
with ridge and furrow, where the black oxen feed, patches of 
gloom and gleam are scurrying as the wind — westerly, with 
a touch of north — chases the light showers under a vivid 
sun. Along the drab road darts a bullfinch, his family after 
him; pauses a moment among the dogrose berries; is off 
again, and lost in the dazzle ahead. 

A high grassy ridge stands up from the plain ; and upon 
it, white and salient against a dark cloud, the spire of a vil- 
lage church. From its belfry, says the sexton, you may spy 
forty parishes: but more important are the few cottages im- 
mediately below. They seem conspicuously inglorious ; yet 
their name is written large in the histories. It speaks of 
a bright June day when along this ridge — then unenclosed 
and scattered with broom and heath flowers — the rattle of 
musketry and outcries of battle rolled from morning to late 
afternoon, by which time was lost a king with his kingdom. 
For the village is Naseby. Here, by the market green, the 


Parliamentarians ranged their baggage. Yonder, on Mill 
Hill and Broad Moor, with just a hollow between, the two 
armies faced each other ; the royalists with bean-stalks in 
their hats, their enemies with badges of white linen. To 
the left, Sulby hedges were lined with Ireton's dragoons. 
And the rest is an old story : Rupert, tardily returning from 
a headlong charge, finds no " cause " left to befriend, no 
foe to fight. While his men were pillaging, Cromwell has 
snatched the day. His Majesty is flying through Market- 
Harborough towards Leicester, and thither along the dusty 
roads his beaten regiments trail after him, with the Ironsides 
at their heels, hewing hip and thigh. 

An obelisk, set about with thorn-bushes and shaded by 



oak and birch, marks the battle-field. It rests on a base 
of rough moss-grown stones, and holds out " a useful lesson 
to British kings never to exceed the bounds of their just pre- 
rogative, and to British subjects never to swerve from the 
allegiance due to their legitimate monarch." And the advice 
is well meant, no doubt ; but, as the Watch asked of Dog- 
berry, " How if they will not ?" 

Naseby, however, has another boast. Here, beside the 
monument, we are standing on the water-shed of England. 
In the fields below rise many little springs, whereof those to 
the south and east unite to form the Ise brook, which runs 
into the Nen, and so find their goal in the North Sea ; those 


to the west form the Avon, and seek the British Channel. 
And it is westward that we turn our faces — we, whom you 
shall briefly know as P. and Q. ; for the business that brings 
us to Naseby is to find here the source of Shakespeare's 
Avon, and so follow its windings downward to the Severn. 

The source is modest enough, being but a well amid the 
"good cabbage" of the inn garden. To-day, a basin of 
mere brick encloses it ; but in 1823, the date of the obelisk, 
some person of refinement would adorn also Avon Well ; 
and procured from Mr. Groggan of London a Swan of Avon 
in plaster ; and Mr. Groggan contrived that the water should 
gush elegantly from her bill, but not for long. For the 
small boy came with stones, after his kind ; and now, sans 
wing, sans head, sans everything, she crouches among the 
cabbages, "a rare bird upon earth." 

From Avon Well the spring flows to the northwest, and 
we follow it through " wide-skirted meads " dotted with rub- 


bing-posts and divided by stiff ox fences (the bullfinches of 
the fox-hunter — for we are in the famous Pytchley country), 
past a broad reservoir fringed with reed and poplars, and so 
through more pastures to Sulby Abbey. And always, as 
we look back, Naseby spire marks our starting-point. About 
three miles down, the runnel has grown to a respectable 
brook, quite large enough to have kept supplied the abbey 

On the site of this abbey — founded circa 1155 by William 
de Wydeville in honor of the Blessed Virgin — now stands a 
red-brick farm-house, passably old, and coated with ivy. Of 
the vanished building it conserves but two relics — a stone 
coffin and the floriated cover of another. The course of 

the stream beside it, and 
for some way below, is 
traced by the thorn-bushes 
under which it winds (in 
springtime how pleasant- 
ly!) until Welford is 
reached — a small brick 
village. Here, after 
rioting awhile in a maze 
of spendthrift channels, it recombines its waters to run 
under its first bridge, and begin a sober life by supplying 
a branch of the Grand Junction Canal. A round-house 
at the canal's head forms, with the bridge, what Mr. Sam- 
uel Ireland, in his Beauties of the Warwickshire Avon 
(1795), calls "an agreeable landscape, giving that sort of 
view which, being simple in itself, seldom fails to con- 
stitute elegance." Rather, to our thinking, the landscape's 
beauty lies in its suggestion, in that here we touch the true 
heart of the country life ; of quiet nights dividing slow, 
familiar days, during which man and man's work grow 
steeped in the soil's complexion, secure of all but 


" the penalty of Adam, 
The season's difference." 

It is enough that we are grateful for it as we pass on down 
the valley where the canal and stream run side by side — the 
canal demurely between straight banks, the stream below 
trying always how many curves it can make in each field, 
until quieted for a while by the dam of a little red-brick 
mill, set clown all alone in the brilliant green. The thorn- 
bushes are giving place to willows — not such as fringe the 
Thames, but gray trees of a smaller leaf, and, by your leave, 
more beautiful. Our walk as we follow the towpath of the 
canal, having the river on our left, is full of peaceful in- 
cidents and subtle revelations of color — a lock, a quaint 

swing-bridge, a swallow 
taking the sunlight on 
his breast as he skims 
between us and the inky 
clouds, a white horse 
emphasizing the mead- 
ow's verdure. The next 
field holds a group of 
sable — a Mock of rooks, 


a pair of black horses, a dozen velvet-black oxen, beside 
whom the thirteenth ox seems consciously indecorous in 
a half-mourning suit of iron-gray. Next, from a hawthorn 
" total gules " with autumn berries, we start six magpies ; 
and so, like Christian, "give three skips and go on sing- 
ing " beneath the spires and towers of this and that small 
village (Welford and North and South Kilworth) that look 
down from the edging hills. 

Below South Kilworth, where a windmill crowns the up- 
land, the valley turns southward, and we leave the canal to 


track the Avon again, that here is choked with rushes. For 
a mile or two we pursue it, now jumping, now crossing by a 
timely pole or hurdle, from Northamptonshire into Leicester- 
shire and back (for the stream divides these counties), un- 
til it enters the grounds of Stanford Hall, and under the 
yellowing chestnuts of the park grows suddenly a dignified 
sheet of water, with real swans. 

Stanford Hall (the seat of Lord Bray) is, according to 
Ireland, " spacious, but wants those pictorial decorations 
that would render it an object of attention to the traveller 
of taste." But to us, who saw it in the waning daylight, the 

comfortable square house seemed full of quiet charm, as 
did the squat perpendicular church, untouched by the re- 
storer, and backed by a grassy mound that rises to the east- 
ern window, and the two bridges (the older one disused) 
under which the Avon leaves the park. A twisted wych- 
elm divides them, its roots set among broad burdock 

Below Stanford the stream contracts again, and again 
meanders among black cattle and green fields to Lilburne. 
Here it winds past a congeries of grassy mounds, dotted 
now with black-faced sheep, that was once a Roman en- 
campment, the Tripontium mentioned by the emperor An- 
toninus in his journey from London to Lincoln. Climbing 
to the eminence of the praetorium and gazing westward, we 
see on the high ground two beech-crowned tumuli side by 
side, clearly an outpost or speculum overlooking Watling 
Street, the Roman road that passes just beyond the ridge 
"from Dover into Chestre." This same high ground is the 


eastern hem of Dunsmore Heath, once so dismally ravaged 
by the Dun Cow of legend, till Guy of Warwick rode out 
and slew her in single combat. The heath, a long ridge of 
lias bordering our river to the south for many miles to come, 
is now enclosed and tilled ; but its straggling cottages, duck 


ponds, and furze clumps still suggest the time when all was 
common land. 

At our feet, close under the encampment, an antique 
bridge crosses Avon. Beside it is hollowed a sheep- 
washing pool, and across the road stands a little church. 
Tempted by its elaborate window mouldings, we poke our 
heads in at the door, but at once withdraw them to cough 
and sneeze. The place is given over to dense smoke and 
a small decent man, who says that a service will be held in 
ten minutes, and what to do with the stove he doesn't know. 
So we leave him, and pass on, trudging towards Catthorpe, 
a mile below. 

A wooden paling, once green, but subdued by years to all 
delicate tints, fronts the village street. Behind, in a garden 
of cypress and lilacs, lies the old vicarage, with deep bow- 
windows sunk level with the turf, a noteworthy house. For 
John Dyer, author of "Grongar Hill" — "Bard of the 
Fleece," as Wordsworth hails him — held Catthorpe living 
for a few years in the last century ; and here, while his 

" in the town, in the busy, gay town, 
Forgot such a man as John Dyer," 

looked out on this gray garden wall, over which the fig-tree 
clambers, and " relished versing." The church stands close 
by, a ragged cedar beside it, an elm drooping before its 
plain tower. We take a long look before descending again 
to the river, like Dyer 

" resolved, this charming day, 
Into the open fields to stray, 
And have no roof above our head 
But that whereon the gods do tread." 

Just below Catthorpe, by a long line of arches called Dow 


(or Dove) Bridge, Watling Street pushes across the river 
with Roman directness. This bridge marks the meeting- 
point of three counties, for beyond it we step into Warwick- 
shire. It is indifferently modern, yet " the scene, though 
simple, aided by a group of cattle then passing, had suf- 
ficient attraction in the meridian of a summer sun to in- 


* ,. *'? 


duce " the egregious Ireland " to attempt a sketch of it as 
a picturesque view," and supply us with a sentence to be 
quoted a thousand times during our voyage, and always with 
ribald appreciation. 

The valley narrows as we draw near Rugby. Clifton on 
Dunsmore, eminent by situation only, stands boldly up on 
the left, and under it, by Clifton mill, the stream runs down 
to Brownsover. Brownsover too has its mill, with a pool 
and cluster of wych-elms below. And hard by we find (as 
we think) Tom Brown's willow, the tree which wouldn't 
" throw out straight hickory shoots twelve feet long, with no 



leaves, worse luck !" where Tom sat aloft, and " Velveteens," 
the keeper, below, through that soft, hazy day in the May- 
fly season, till the sun came slanting through the branches, 
and told of locking-up near at hand. We are hushed as we 
stand before it, and taste the reward of such as " identify." 

And now, just ahead, on the same line of hill as Clifton, 
stands the town of Rugby. No good view of it can be 
found from the river-side, for the middle distance is always 
a straight line of railway sheds or embankments. Perhaps 
the best is to be had from the towpath of the Oxford Canal, 
marked high above our right by a line of larch and poplar, 
where a tall aqueduct carries it over the river Swift. 

This is the stream which, coming from Lutterworth, bore 
down in 1427 the ashes of John Wiclif to the Avon. Forty 
years after his peaceful interment the Council of Constance 
gave orders to exhume and burn his body, to see if it could 
be discerned from those of the faithful. " In obedience 
thereto," says Fuller, " Richard Fleming, bishop of Lincoln, 
diocesan of Lutterworth, sent his officers (vultures with a 

quick sight sent at a dead carcass !) to ungrave him accord- 
ingly. To Lutterworth they come — sumner, commissary, 
official, chancellor, proctors, doctors, and the servants (so 
that the remnant of the body would not hold out a bone 
amongst so many hands), take what is left out of the grave, 
and burn them to ashes, and cast them into Swift, a brook 
running hard by. Thus the brook hath conveyed his ashes 
into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, 
they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wiclif 
are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all 
the world over." 

For aught we know, the upper part of this stream may 
justify its name. 

The two streams unite in that green vale over which Dr. 
Arnold used to gaze in humorous despair. " It is no won- 
der," he said, " we do not like looking that way, when one 
considers that there is nothing fine between us and the 
Ural Mountains ;" and, in a letter to Archbishop Whately, 

" we have no hills, no plains, not a single wood, and 

but one single copse ; no heath, no down, no rock, no river, 


no clear stream, scarcely any flowers — for the lias is partic- 
ularly poor in them — nothing but one endless monotony of 
enclosed fields and hedge-row trees ;" lastly, " I care noth- 
ing for Warwickshire, and am in it like a plant sunk in the 
ground in a pot ; my roots never strike beyond the pot, and 
I could be transplanted at any moment without tearing or 
severing my fibres." And we consent, in part, for the fibres 
of great men lie in their work, not in 
this or that soil. But what fibres — not 
his own — were cracked when Rugby lost 


its great schoolmaster we feel presently as, haunted by his 
son's noble elegy, we stand before the altar of the school 
chapel, where he rests. 

At Rugby our narrative, hitherto smilingly pastoral, 
quickens to epic. So far we had followed Avon afoot, but 
here we meant to launch a Canadian canoe on its waters, 
creating a legend. She lay beside a small river-side tavern, 
her bright basswood sides gleaming in the sunshine. A 
small crowd had gathered, and was being addressed with 
volubility by a high-complexioned man of urbane demeanor. 

He was bareheaded and coatless ; he was shod in blue 
carpet slippers, on each of which a yellow anchor (emblem 
of Hope) was entwined with sprays of the pink convolvulus, 
typifying (according to P., who is a botanist), " I recognize 
your worth, and will sustain it by judicious and tender af- 
fection." As we launched our canoe and placed our sacks 
on board, he turned his discourse on us. It breathed the 
spirit of calm confidence. There were long shallows just 
below (he said), and an uprooted willow blocking the stream, 
and three waterfalls, and fences of barbed wire. He enu- 
merated the perils ; he was sanguine about each ; and ours 
was the first canoe he ever set eyes on. 

We pushed off and waved good-bye. The sun shone in 
our faces ; behind, the voice of confidence shouted us over 
the first shallow. Our canoe swung round a bend beside a 
small willow coppice, and we sighed as the kindly crowd was 
hidden from us. 

We turned at the sound of stertorous breathing. A pair 
of blue slippers came twinkling after us over the meadow. 
Our friend had fetched a circuit round the coppice, and 
soon both craft and crew were as babes in his hands. Was 
it a shallow ? — he hounded us over. Was it a willow fallen 
"ascaunt the brook?" — he drove us under, clambering him- 
self along the trunk, as once Ophelia, and exhorting always. 
At the foot of the first waterfall he took leave of us, and 
turned back singing across the fields. He was a good man, 
but would be obeyed. We learned from him, first, that the 
art of canoeing has no limits ; second, that the " impene- 
trability of matter " is a discredited phrase ; and, after the 
manner of Bunyan, we called him Mr. Win-by-Will. 

By many dense beds of rushes, through which a flock of 
ducks scattered before us, we dropped down to Newbold 
on Avon, a pretty village on the hill-side, with green or- 
chards sloping to the stream. By climbing through them and 

looking due 
south, you may 
see the spire of 
Bilton, where 
Addison lived 
for many years. 
Below Newbold 
the river tum- 
bles over two 
waterfalls, runs 
thence by a line 
of rush beds to 
a railway bridge, 
and so beneath 
Caldecott's fa- 
mous spinney, 
w here To m 
Brown, East, and 
the " Madman " 
sought the kes- 
trel's nest. Many Scotch firs mingle with the beeches of 
the spinney, and just below them the stream divides, en- 
closing a small island, and recombines to hold a southward 
course past Holbrook Court. 

Holbrook Court is a gloomy building that looks down its 



park slope upon a weir, a red-brick mill, and a gloomier 
farm-house of stone. This farm-house has a history, being 
all that is left of Lawford Hall, the scene of the once no- 
torious "Laurel-Water Tragedy." 

The tale is briefly this: In 1780 Sir Theodosius Bough- 
ton, a vicious and sickly boy, was squiring it at Lawford 
Hall, and fast drinking out his puny constitution. " To 
him enter " an evil spirit in the shape of a brother-in-law, 
an Irish adventurer, one Captain Donellan. This graduate 


in vice took the raw scholar in hand, and with the better 
will as being next heir to his estates. But it seems that 
drink and debauchery worked too slowly for the impatient 
captain, for one evening the wretched boy went to bed, 
called for his sleeping-draught, and drank the wrong liquid 
out of the right bottle. And as for Captain Donellan, he 
bungled matters somehow, and was hanged at Warwick in 
the following spring — an elegant, well-mannered man in 
black, who displayed much ceremonious punctilio at as- 
cending the scaffold ahead of the sheriff. Ten years later 

Lawford Hall was pulled down as an accursed thing, and 
the building before us is all that survives of it. To-day the 
Gloire de Dijon rose, the jasmine, and the ivy sprawl up its 
sad-colored walls and over the porch, which still wears the 
date 1604. 

Either at Lawford Hall, or just above, at the old Hol- 
brook Grange, lived, in Elizabeth's time, One - handed 
Boughton, who won an entirely posthumous fame by driving 
a ghostly coach and six about the country-side. His spirit 
was at length caught in a phial by certain of the local 
clergy, corked down, sealed, thrown into a neighboring marl- 
pit, and so laid forever. Therefore his only successes of 
late have been in frightening maid-servants out of their 
situations at the farm. 

Leaving Lawford, we paddle through a land pastorally 
desolate, seeing, often for miles together, neither man's 
face nor woman's. The canoe darts in and out of rush 
beds ; avoids now a shallow, now a snag, a clump of reeds, 
a conglomerate of logs and pendent shrivelled flags, flotsam 
of many floods ; and again is gliding easily between mead- 
ows that hold, in Touchstone's language, " no assembly but 
horn beasts." Our canoe wakes strange emotions in these 
cattle. They lift their heads, snort, fling up their heels, 
and, with rigid tails, come capering after us like so many 
bacchanals. At length a fence stops them, and they oblig- 
ingly watch us out of sight. The next herd repeats the per- 
formance. And always the river is vocal beside us, 

" Giving a gentle kiss to every sedge 
He overtaketh in his pilgrimage ;" 

while ahead the water-rat dives, or the moor-hen splashes 
from one green brim to another ; and around the land is 
slowly changing from the monotonous to the "up-and-down- 
hilly ;" and we, passing through it all, are thankful. 

A small cottage appears beside some lime-pits on the 
right bank. Over its garden gate a blackboard proclaims 
that here are the " Newnham Regis Baths." A certain Wal- 
ter Bailey, M.D., writing in 1587 A Brief Discourse of Certain 
Baths, etc., sings loud praise of these waters, but warns 
drinkers to " consist in a mediocrity, and never to adventure 
to drink above six, or at the utmost eight, pints in one day." 
Also, he " will not rashly counsel any to use them in the leap- 
years." We disregarded this latter warning, but observed the 
former ; yet the plain man who gave us our glassful asserted 
that a friend of his, " all hot and sweaty," drank two quarts 
of the water one summer day, and took no harm. As a 
fact, the springs which here rise from the limestone were 
known and esteemed by the Romans ; the remains of their 
baths were found, and the present one — a pump within a 
square paling — built on the same spot. But their fame has 
not travelled of late. 

We embarked again, and were soon floating down to 
Church Lawford. What shall be said of this spot ? As we 
saw it happily, one slope of green — vivid, yet in shadow — 
swelled up to darker elms and a tall church tower, set high 
against an amber sunset. Beyond, the sky and the river's 
dim reaches melted together, through all delicate yellows, 
mauves, and grays, into twilight. A swan, scurrying down 





stream before us, broke the water into pools of gold. And 
so a bend swept Church Lawford out of our sight and into 
our kindliest memories. 

Nearly opposite lies Nevvnham Regis, about a mile from 
its baths. In Saxon times, they say, a king's palace stood 


here ; and three large fish-ponds, with some mounds, remain 
for a sign of it. Here, beside a pleasant mill, the foot-path 
crosses to Church Lawford. Just below, the stream is 
blocked by an osier bed ; and we struggled there for the 
half of one mortal hour, and mused on the carpet slippers, 
and Hope, and such things ; and " late and at last " were 
out and paddling through the uncertain light under the 
pointed arches of Bretford Bridge. 

Here crosses the second great Roman road, the Fosseway, 

" that tilleth from Toteneys 
From the one end of Cornewaile anon to Cateneys, 
From the South-west to North-est, into Englonde's enrle. 
Fosse men callith thilke way, that by mony town doth wende.'' 



Thenceforward for a mile we move in darkness over 
glimmering waters, until a railway bridge looms ahead, and 
we spy, half a mile away, the lights of a little station. This 
must be Brandon, we decide ; and running in beside the 
bank, begin a quick contention with the echo. 

Voices answer us, male and female, and soon many vil- 
lagers are about us, peering at the canoe. 

" Are we in time for the last train to Coventry ?" 

Chorus answers "Yes;" only one melancholy stripling 
insists that it isn't likely. 

And he is right. We hear a rumble ; a red eye flames 
out ; the last train, with a hot trail of smoke, comes roaring 


over the bridge and shoots into Brandon station. We are 
too late. 


The melancholy one echoes : " Beds ! In Brandon ?" 

" The inn ?" 


"Well, you might try the inn." 

We march up to try the inn. There are forty-four men 
in the bar, as we have leisure to count, and all are drinking 
beer. Clearly we are not wanted. The landlady has eyes 
like beads, black and twinkling, but they will not rest on us. 
The outlook begins to be sombre, when P., who, beneath a 
rugged exterior, hides much aptitude for human affairs, an- 
nounces that he has a way with landladies, and tries it. He 
says : 

" Can we have a horse and trap to take us to Coventry 
to-night ? No ? That's bad. Nor a bed ? Dear me ! 
Then please draw us half a pint of beer." 

The beer is brought. P. tastes it, looks up with a happy 
smile, and begins again : 

" Can we have a horse and trap ?" etc., etc. 

It is astounding, but at the tenth repetition of this formu- 
la the landlady becomes as water, and henceforth we have 
our way with that inn. 

Moreover, we have the landlord's company at supper — a 
deliberate, heavy man, who tells us that he brews his own 
beer, and has twenty-three children. He adds that the for- 
mer distinction has given him many friends, the latter many 
relatives. A niece of his is to be married at Coventry to- 

Q., who ran into Coventry by an early train next morning 
to fetch some letters that awaited us, was fortunate enough 
to catch a glimpse of the bride as she stepped into her 
carriage. He reported her to be pretty, and we wished her 
all happiness. P. meanwhile had strolled up the river to 
Wolston Mill, which we had passed in the darkness, and he 
too had praises to chant of that, and of a grand old Eliza- 
bethan farm-house that he had found outside the village. 

We embarked again by Brandon Castle, the abode once 
of a Roman garrison, and later of an exclusive Norman 


family that kept its own private gallows at Bretford, just 
above. Where the castle stood now thrive the brier, the 
elder, the dogrose, the blackthorn twined with clematis ; 
the outer moat is become a morass, choked with ragwort 
and the flowering rush ; the inner moat is dry, and a secular 
ash sprawls down its side. We left it to glide beneath a 
graceful Georgian bridge ; past a lawn dotted with sleek 
cattle, a small red mill, a row of melancholy anglers, a mile 
of giant alders, and so down to Ryton-on-Uunsmore, the 
western outpost of the great heath. As the heath ended, 
the country's character began to change, and all grew open. 



On either hand broad pastures divided us from the arable 
slopes where a month ago the gleaners were moving amid 

" Summer's green, all girded up in sheaves ;" 

and therefore by Ryton's two mills and Ryton's many alders 
we moved slowly, inviting our souls, careless of Fate, that 
lay in her ambush, soon to harry us. A broad road crossed 
above us, and, alighting, we loitered by the bridge, and dis- 
covered a mile-stone that marks eighty-seven miles from Lon- 
don and three from Coventry. We could descry the three 


mm ml Pi I - ^yfifip 


lovely spires of Lady Godiva's town, mere needle-points 
above the trees to northward. 

It was but shortly after that we came on an agreeable old 
gentleman, who stood a-fishing with a little red float, and 
lied in his teeth, smiling on us and asserting that Bubben- 
hall (where we had a mind to lunch) was but a mile below. 

A mile ! — for a 
crow, perhaps, 
but not for prop- 
er old gentlemen, 
and most sure- 
ly not for Avon. 
The freakish 
stream went 
round and round, 
all meanders 


with never a forthright, narrowing, shallowing, casting up 
here a snag and there a thicket of reeds. And round and 
round for miles our canoe followed it, as a puppy chases 
his own tail ; yet Bubbenhall was not, nor any glimpse of 

Herodotus, if we remember, tells of a village called Is 
beside the Tigris, far above Babylon, at which all voyagers 
down the river must put up on three successive nights, so 
curiously is the channel looped about it. Nor, after twice 
renewing our acquaintance with one particular guelder-rose 
bush, did we see our way to doubt the tale when we re- 
called it that day. 

These windings above Bubbenhall have their compen- 
sations, keeping both hand and eye amusedly alert as our 
canoe tacks to and fro, shooting down the V of two shallows, 
or running along quick water beneath the bank, brushing 
the forget-me-nots (the flower that Henry of Bolingbroke 
wore into exile from the famous lists of Coventry, hard by), 
or parting curtain after curtain of reeds to issue on small 
vistas that are always new. And Bubbenhall is worth the 
pains to find — a tiny village of brick and timber set amid 
elms on a quiet slope, where for ages " bells have knolled 
to church " from the old brick-buttressed tower above. 
Below sleeps a quaint mill, also of brick and timber, and 
from its weir the river wanders northeast, then southeast, 
and runs to Stoneleigh Deer Park. 

A line of swinging deer fences hangs under the bridge, 
the river trailing between their bars. We push cautiously 
under them, and look to right and left in amazement. A 
moment has translated us from a sluggish brook, twisting 
between water-plants and willows, to a pleasant river, steal- 
ing by wide lawns, by slopes of bracken, by gigantic trees — 
oaks, Spanish oaks, and wych-elms, stately firs, sweet chest- 
nuts, and filmy larch coppices. We are in Arden, the land 


of Rosalind and Touchstone, of Jaques and Amiens. Their 
names may be French, English, what you will, but here they 
inhabit, and almost we look to spy the suit of motley and 
listen for its bells, or expect a glimpse of Corin's crook 
moving above the ferns, Orlando's ballads fluttering on a 
chestnut, or the sad-colored cloak of Jaques beneath an oak 
— such an oak as this monster, thirty-nine feet around — 
whose " antique root " writhes over the red-sandstone rock 


down to the water's brim. The very bed of Avon has al- 
tered. He runs now over smooth slabs of rock, and now 
he brawls by a shallow, and now, 

" where his fair course is not hindered, 
He makes sweet music with the enamell'd stones." 

Down to the shallow ahead of us — their accustomed ford — 
a herd of deer comes daintily and splashes across, first the 
bucks, then the does in a body. If they are here, why not 
their masters, the men and women whom we know ? We 
disembark, and letting the canoe drift brightly down stream, 



: $s 

: % 

stroll along the bank beside it, and " Meet the time careless- 
ly," as they did in that golden world. 

Too soon we reach the beautiful sandstone bridge, tinted 
by time and curtained with creepers, that divides the deer 
park from the home park ; and soon, beside an old oak, the 
size of Avon is almost doubled by junction with the Sowe, 
a stream that comes winding past Stoneleigh village on our 
right, and brings for tribute the impurities of Coventry. 
The banks beside us are open no longer ; but for recom- 
pense we have the birds — the whir-r-r of wood-pigeons in 
the nigh willow copse, the heron sailing high, the kingfisher 
sparkling before us, the green woodpecker condensing a 
whole day's brilliance on his one small breast, the wild- 
duck, the splashing moor-hen, and water-fowl of rarer kinds 
— that tell us we are nearing Stoneleigh Abbey. 

The abbey was founded in 1154 by Henry II. for a body 
of Cistercian monks, and endowed with privileges " very 
many and very great, to wit, free warren, infangthef, out- 
fangthef, wayfs, strays, goods of felons and fugitives, tum- 
brel, pillory, sok, sak, tole, team, amercements, murders, 
assize of bread and beer ; with a market and fair in the 
town of Stoneleigh " — a comprehensive list, as it seems. 
There were, says Dugdale, in the manor of Stoneleigh, at 
this time, "sixty-eight villains and two priests; as also four 
bondmen or servants, whereof each held one messuage, and 
one quatrone of land, by the services of making the gallows 
and hanging of thieves ; every one of which bondmen was 
to wear a red clout betwixt his shoulders, upon his upper 
garment." The original building was burnt in 1245. and 
what little old work now remains belongs to a later build- 
ing. The abbey went the way of its fellows under Henry 
VIII.; was granted to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk; 
changed hands once or twice ; and was finally bought by 
Sir Thomas Leigh, alderman of London, in Queen Eliza- 


beth's reign. The present Ionic mansion, now the home of 
Lord Leigh, his descendant, was built towards the close of 
the last century. The river spreads into a lake before it, 
and then, after passing a weir, speeds briskly below a wood- 


ed bank, with tiny rapids, down which our canoe dances 
gayly. As twilight overtakes us we reach Ashow. 

A little weather-stained church stands by Ashow shore — 
a church, a yew-tree, and a narrow graveyard. Close under 
it steals the gray river, whispers by cottage steps where a 
crazy punt lies rotting, by dim willow aits and eel bucks, 
and so passes down to silence and the mists. Seeing all 

■y. . M 


this, we yearn to live here and pass our days in gratuitous 

We revisited Ashow next morning, and were less exact- 
ing. And the reason was, that it rained. Indeed, we were 
soaked to the skin before paddling a mile ; and as for the 

" Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia, 
And therefore I forbid my tears." 

We passed, like Mrs. Haller's infant, " not dead, but very 
wet," under old Chesford Bridge, whereby the road runs to 
Kenilworth, that lies two miles back from the river, and 
shall therefore, for once in its history, escape description ; 
and from Chesford Bridge reached Blakedown Mill and 
another old bridge beside the miller's house. This " simply 


elegant form of landscape" led Samuel Ireland to ask "why 
man should with such eager and restless ambition busy him- 
self so often in the smoke and bustle of populous cities, 
and lose his independence and too often his peace in the 
pursuit of a phantom which almost eludes his grasp, little 
thinking that with the accumulation of wealth he must 


create imaginary wants, under which, perhaps, that wealth 
melts away as certainly as under the more ready inlet of in- 
ordinate passion happiness is sacrificed." We infer that 
Mr. Samuel Ireland was never rained upon hereabouts. 

Just below, on the north bank, rises Blacklow Hill, whith- 
er, on the 19th of June, 13 12, Piers Gaveston, the favorite 
of King Edward II., was marched out from Warwick Castle 
by the barons to meet his doom. His head was struck off, 


and, rolling down into a thicket, was picked up by a " friar 
preacher " and carried off in his hood. On the rock beside 
the scene of that grim revenge this inscription was rudely 
cut: "P. Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, beheaded here 
-|- 13 1 2 ;" and to-day a simple cross also marks the spot. 

Hence, by the only rocks of which Avon can boast — and 
these are of softest sandstone, their asperities worn all away 
by the weather — we wind beneath Milverton village, with its 
odd church tower of wood, to the weir and mill of Guy's 

The beauties of this spot have been bepraised for cen- 
turies. Leland speaks of them ; Drayton sings them. 




" There," says Camden, " have yee a shady little wood, 
cleere and cristal springs, mossie bottoms and caves, med- 
owes alwaies fresh and greene, the river rumbling heere and 
there among the stones with his streame making a milde 
noise and gentle whispering, and, besides all this, solitary 
and still quietness, things most grateful to the Muses." 
Fuller, who knew it well, calls it "a most delicious place, 
so that a man in many miles' riding cannot meet so much 
variety as there one furlong doth afford." The water-mill 
is mentioned in Domesday-book, and has been sketched 
constantly ever since — a low, quaint pile, fronted by a re- 
cessed open gallery, under which the water is forever spark- 
ling and frothing, fresh from its spin over the mill-wheels, 
or tumble down the ledges of the weir. 

And below this mill rises the famous cliff, hollowed with 
many caves, in one of which lived Guy of Warwick, slayer 
of the Dun Cow, of lions, dragons, giants, paynims, and all 
such cattle ; who married the fair Phyllis of Warwick Castle ; 
who afterwards repented of his much bloodshed, and trudged 

on foot to Palestine by way of expiation ; who anon returned 
again on foot to Warwick, where was his home and his 
dear Phyllis. And coming to his own house door, where 
his wife was used to feed every day thirteen poor men with 
her own hand, he stood with the rest, and received bread 
from her for three clays, and she knew him not. So he 
learned that God's wrath was not sated, and betook him to 
a fair rocky place beside the river, a mile and more from 
his town ; where, as his words go in the old ballad, 

" with my hands I hewed a house 
Out of a craggy rock of stone ; 
And lived like a Palmer poore 
Within that Cave myself alone : 

" And daily came to beg my bread 
Of Phyllis at my Castle gate ; 
I ot known unto my loving wife, 
Who daily mourned for her mate. 

" Till at the last I fell sore sicke, 

Yea, sicke so sore that I must die ; 
I sent to her a ring of golde, 

By which she knew me presentlye. 

" So she, repairing to the Cave, 

Before that I gave up the Ghost, 
Herself closed up my dying Eyes — 
My Phyllis fair whom I loved most." 

His statue stands in the little shrine above the cliff; his 
arms lie in Warwick Castle ; and in the cave over our head 
is carved a Saxon inscription, which the learned interpret 
into this : " Cast out, thou Christ, from thy servant this 

We pass on by Rock Mill, haunted of many kingfishers ; 
by Emscote Bridge, where the Avon is joined by the Learn, 
and where Warwick and Leamington have reached out their 


arms to each other till they now join hands ; by little gar- 
dens, each with its punt or home-made boat beside the 
river steps ; by a flat meadow, where the citizens and red- 
coats from Warwick garrison sit all day and wait for the 
fish that never bites ; and suddenly, by the famous one- 
span bridge, see Warwick Castle full ahead, its massy foun- 
dations growing, as it seems, from the living rock, and 
Caesar's glorious tower soaring above the elms where Mill 
Street ends at the water's brink. Here once crossed a 
Gothic bridge, carrying the traffic from Banbury. Its cen- 
tral arches are down now ; but the bastions yet stand, and 
form islets for the brier and ivy, and between them the 
stream swirls fast for the weir and the ancient mill, by which 
it rushes down into the park. We turn our canoe, and with 
many a backward look paddle back to the boat-house at 

Evening has drawn in, and still we are pacing Warwick 
streets. We have seen the castle ; have gazed from the 
armory windows upon the racing waters, steep terraces, and 
gentle park below ; have climbed Guy's Tower and seen 
far beneath us, on the one side, broad cedars and green 
lawns where the peacocks strut ; on the other, the spires, 


towers, sagged roofs, and clustering chimneys of the town ; 
have sauntered down Mill Street ; have marvelled in the 
Beauchamp Chapel as we conned its gorgeous tombs and 



canopies and traceries ; have loitered by Lord Leycester's 
Hospital and under the archway of St. James's Chapel. 
( Hearly we are but two grains of sand in the hour-glass of 


this slow mediaeval town. Our feet, that will to-morrow be 
hurrying on, tread with curious impertinence these ever- 
lasting flints that have rung with the tramp of the King- 
maker's armies, of Royalist and Parliamentarian, horse and 
foot, drum and standard, the stir of royal and episcopal 
visits, of mail-coach, market, and assize. But meanwhile 
our joints are full of pleasant aches and stiffness, our souls 
of lofty imaginings. As our tobacco smoke floats out on 
the moonlight we can dwell, we find, with a quite kingly 
serenity on the transience of man's generations ; nay, as we 
sit down to dinner at our inn we touch the high contem- 
plative, yet careless, mood of the gods themselves. 


IT was a golden morning as we left Warwick, and with 
slow feet followed Avon down through the park towards 
Barford Bridge, where our canoe lay ready for us. The 
light, too generously spread to dazzle, bathed the castle 
towers, lay on the terraces, where the peacocks sunned 
themselves, and on the living rock below them, where the 
river washes. Only on the weir it fell in splashes, scattered 
through the elms' thick foliage. At the water's brim, below 
Mill Street, stood a man with a pitcher — a stranger to us — 
who took our farewells with equable astonishment. The 
stream slackened its hurry, and, keeping pace with our re- 
grets, loitered by the garden slopes, by the great cedars 
that the Crusaders brought from Lebanon, among reeds 
and alder-bushes and under tall trees, to the lake, where a 
small tributary comes tumbling from Chesterton. 

The land, as we went on, was full of morning sounds — 
the ring of a wood-feller's axe, the groaning of a timber- 
wagon through leafy roads, the rustle of partridges, the note 
of a stray blackbird in the hedge, and in valleys unseen the 
tune of hounds cub-hunting — 

' ' matched in mouth like bells, 
Each unto each." 


rMK HM ^ 


At Barford we met the pack returning, and the sight of 
them and the huntsman's red coat in the village street was 
pleasant as a remembered song. 

Barford village has produced a well-known man of our 
time, Mr. Joseph Arch, who here began his efforts to better 
the condition of the agricultural laborer. If without honor, 
he is not without influence in his own country, to judge by 
the neat cottages and trim gardens beside the road. Roses 
love the rich clay, and roses of all kinds thrive here, from 
the Austrian brier to the Gloire de Dijon. It was late in 
the season when we passed, but many clusters lingered un- 
der the cottager's thatch, and field and hedge also spoke of 
past plenty. 

By Barford Bridge, where a dumpy, water -logged punt 
just lifted her stern and her pathetic name (the Dolly Dobs) 
above the surface, we launched our canoe again. The stream 
here is shallow and the current fast, with a knack of swing- 
ing you round a gravelly corner and tilting you at the high 
scooped-out bank on the other side. So many and abrupt 
are these bends that the slim spire of Sherborne across the 
meadows appeared now to right, now to left ; now dodged 
behind us, now stood up straight ahead. Out of the water- 
plants at one corner rose a brace of wild-duck, and sailed 
away with the sun gleaming on their iridescent necks. We 
followed them with our eyes, and grew aware that the coun- 
try was altered. Sometimes, near Warwick, we had longed 
to exchange tall hedge-rows and heavy elms for " an acre of 
barren ground, ling, heath, brown furze, anything," as Gon- 
zalo says. Now we had full air and a horizon. We had 
the flowers, too — the forget-me-not, the willow-herb, and 
meadowsweet (though long past their prime), the bright 
yellow tansy, and the loosestrife, with a stalk growing blood- 
red as its purple bloom dropped away. Just above Wasper- 
ton we came on a young woman in a boat. She had been 

gathering these flowers by the armful, and, having piled the 
bows with them, made a taking sight ; and, being ourselves 
not without a certain savage beauty, we did not hesitate to 
believe our pleasure reciprocated. 

A steep grassy bank runs beside the stream at Wasper- 



ton, concealing the village. Many nut-trees grow upon it, 
and upon it also were ranged six anglers, who caught no fish 
as we passed. No high-road goes through the village above ; 
but, climbing the bank, we found a few old timbered cot- 
tages, and alone, in the middle of a field, a curious dove- 
cote, that must be seen to be believed. It was empty, for 
the pigeons were all down by the river among the gray wil- 
lows on the farther shore, and our canoe stole by too softly 
to disturb their cooing. 

A short way below, Hampton Wood rises on a bold emi- 
nence to the right, where once Fulbroke Castle stood. The 
"steep uphill " is now dotted with elders, and tenanted only 
by "earth-delving conies;" for the castle was destroyed 
and its land disparked in Henry VIII. 's time, the materials 


being carried up to build Compton-Winyates, that beauti- 
ful and quiet mansion in a hollow of the Edge Hills where 
Charles I. slept on the night before Kineton ( Edgehill) bat- 
tle. The park passed in time to a Lucy of Charlcote, and 
the name reminds us that we are in Shakespeare's country. 
In fact, we have reached the very place where Shakespeare 
did not steal the deer. 

To shed a tear in passing this hallowed spot was but a 


natural impulse ; nor, on reading the emotions which Mr. 
Samuel Ireland squandered here, did we grudge the trib- 
ute. "If," he writes, "the story of this youthful frolic is 


founded on truth, as well as that Sir Thomas Lucy's rigor- 
ous conduct subsequent to this supposed outrage really 
proved the cause of our Shakespeare's quitting this his 
native retirement to visit the capital, it will afford us the 
means of contemplating, at least in one instance, with some 
degree of complacency even the imperious dominion of 
our feudal superiors, the tyranny of magistracy, and the 
harshest enforcement of the remnant of our forest laws ; 
since in their consequences they unquestionably called into 
action the energies of that sublime genius, and of those rare 


and matchless endowments which had otherwise perhaps 
been lost in the shade of retirement, and have ' wasted their 
sweetness on the desert air.' " 

The river spread out as it swept round the base of Hamp- 
ton Wood, and took us to Hampton Lucy. Here is a beau- 
tiful modern church, in the worst sense of the words, and 
beside it a village green, where, as we passed, the villagers 
were keeping harvest- home. Lo ! many countrymen in 
wheelbarrows, and others, with loins girded, trundling them 
madly towards a goal, where a couple of brand-new spades 

Wo X C E S T E R. 


*< «f "^<« 





H. 1 Kt 

were to reward the first-comers. Lo ! also, Chloe, Lalage, 
and Amaryllis, emulous for their swains, lifted exhorting 
voices ; and the oldest inhabitants " a-sunning sat " in the 
pick of the seats, and discussed the competitors on their 
merits. It was with regret that we tore ourselves away 
from these Arcadian games. The sounds of merrymaking 
followed us through the trees as we dropped down to Charl- 
cote, just below, 

" Where Avon's Stream, with many a sportive Turn, 
Exhilarates the Meads, and to his Bed 
Hele's gentle current wooes, by Lucy's hand 
In every graceful Ornament attired, 
And worthier, such, to share his liquid Realms." 

So writes the Rev. Richard Jago, M.A., a local poet of 
the last century, in " Edgehill ; or, The Rural Prospect De- 
lineated and Moralized. A Poem in Four Books, printed 
for J. Dodsley in Pall Mall, 1767 ;" and though the bard's 
language is more flowerv than Avon's banks, it shall stand. 


We had amused ourselves on the voyage by choosing and 
rechoosing the spot whither we should some day return and 
pass our declining years. P. (who has high thoughts now 
and then) had been all for Warwick Castle, Q. for Ashow, 
and the merits of each had been hotly wrangled over. But 
we shook hands over Charlcote. 

Less stately than Stoneleigh, less picturesque than Guy's 
Cliffe, less imposing than Warwick Castle, Charlcote is love- 
lier and more human than any. The red-brick Elizabethan 
house stands on the river's brink. From the geranium beds 
on its terrace a flight of steps leads clown to the water, and 
over its graceful balustrade, beside the little leaden statu- 
ettes, you may lean and feed the swans just below. Across 
the stream, over the fern-beds and swelling green turf, are 
dotted the antlers of the Charlcote deer, red and fallow; 
yonder " Hele's gentle current " winds down from the Edge 
Hills; to your right, the trees part and give a glimpse only 
of Hampton Lucy church ; behind you rise the peaked 
gables, turrets, and tall chimneys of the house, projecting 
and receding, so that from whatever quarter the sun may 
strike there is always a bold play of light and shade on the 
soft-colored bricks. 

The house was built by Sir Thomas Lucy in the first 
year of Queen Elizabeth's reign ; and in compliment to his 
queen, who paid Charlcote a visit not long after, the knight 
built on the side which turns from the river an entrance 
porch which, abutting between two wings, gives the form of 
an E. This porch leads to the queer gate-house, whence, 
between an avenue of limes, you reach Charlcote church — 
a sober little pile beside the high-road, and just outside the 
rough-split oak palings of the park. It holds the monu- 
ments of Sir Thomas Lucy and his wife, and in praise of 
the latter an epitaph worth remembering for the tender 
simplicity of its close : 

" Set down by him that best did know 
What hath been written to be true. — Thomas Lucy." 

In the graveyard outside is a plain stone to a lesser pair 
— John Gibbs, aged 81, and his wife, aged 55 — who are 
made to say, somewhat cynically : 

" Farewell, proud, vain, false, treacherous world, we have seen enough 
of thee ; 
We value not what thou canst say of we." 

One marvels how in this sheltered corner John Gibbs 
found the world's breath so rude. 

On the other hand, upon Sir Thomas Lucy the world has 
been hard indeed, identifying him with Justice Shallow. 


His portrait hangs in the hall where Shakespeare was not 
tried for deer-stealing. Isaac Oliver painted it; and though 
men have forgotten Isaac Oliver, yet will we never, for he 
was a master. The knight's embroidered robe is right 
Holbein ; but the knight's subtle, beautiful face is more. 

5 6 5 

It teaches with convincing sincerity what manner of being 
a gentleman was in "the spacious days of great Elizabeth ;" 
and the lesson is the more humiliating because men have 
during three centuries accepted the coarse mask of Justice 
Shallow for the truth. 

The house holds many fine paintings ; notably a Titian, 
"Samson and the Lion," that rests against the yellow silk 
hangings of the drawing-room, and is worth a far pilgrimage 
to see ; and a Velasquez, set (immoderately high) above the 
library book-shelves. So that too soon we were out in the 
sunlight again and paddling down to Alveston. 

We floated by flat meadows, islands of sedge, long lines 
of willows ; by " the high bank called Old Town, where, 
perhaps, men and women, with their joys and sorrows, once 
abided;" but now the rabbits only colonize it, under the 
quiet alders; by Alveston, where we found boats, and a 
boat-house covered with " snowball " berries ; by the mill 
and its weeping-willows ; and below, by devious loops, to 
Hatton Rock, that the picnickers from Stratford know — a 
steep bank of marl covered with hawthorn, hazel, elder, and 
trailing knots of brambles. In June this is a very flowery 
spot. The slope is clothed with creamy elder blossoms, 
and on the river's bank opposite are wild rose-bushes drop- 
ping their petals, pink and white, on forget-me-nots, wild 
blue geranium, and meadow-rue. Over its stony bed the 
current, in omne volubilis aevum, keeps for our dull ears the 
music that it made for Shakespeare, if we could but hear. 
For somewhere along these banks the Stratford boy spied 
the Muse's naked feet moving. 

" O mistress mine, where are you roaming ? 
O stay and hear ; your true love's coming, 
That can sing both high and low." 

And somewhere he came on her, and coaxed the secret of 


her woodland music. But when that meeting was, and how 
that secret was given, like a true lover, he will never tell. 

" Others abide our questions ; thou art free : 
We ask and ask ; thou smilest and art still." 

As we paddled down past Tiddington the willows grew 
closer. Between their stems we could see, far away on our 
left, the blue Edge Hills ; and to the right, above the War- 
wick road, a hill surmounted by an obelisk. This is Wel- 
come, and behind it lies Clopton House, a former owner of 
which, Sir Hugh Clopton, Lord Mayor of London, built in 
the reign of Henry VII. the long stone bridge of fourteen 
Gothic arches just above Stratford. In a minute or two we 
had passed under this bridge and were floating down beside 
the Memorial Theatre, the new Gardens, and the brink of 
Shakespeare's town. 

A man may take pen and ink and write of a place as he 

;6r.v£i' :* 


will, and the page will, likely enough, be a pretty honest 
index to his own temperament. But never will it do for 
another man's reliance. So let it be confessed that for a 
day we searched Stratford streets, and found nothing of the 
Shakespeare that we sought. Neither in the famous birth- 
place in Henley Street — restored " out of all whooping," 
crammed with worthless mementos, and pencilled over with 
inconsiderable names ; nor in the fussy, inept Memorial 
Theatre ; nor in the New Place, where certain holes, pro- 
tected with wire gratings, mark what may have been the 
foundations of Shakespeare's house : in none of these could 
we find him. His name echoed in the market-place, on the 
lips of guide and sightseer, and shone on monuments, shops, 
inns, and banking-houses. His effigies were everywhere — 
in photographs, in statuettes ; now doing duty as a tobacco- 
box (with the bald scalp removable), now as a trade-mark 
for beer. And even while we despised these things the 
fault was ours. All the while the colossus stood high above, 
while we " walked under his huge legs and peep'd about," 
too near to see. 

Nor until we strolled over the meadows to Ann Hatha- 
way's cottage at Shottery did understanding come with the 
quiet falling of the day. Rarely enough, and never, per- 
haps, but in the while between sunset and twilight, may a 
man hear the sky and earth breathing together, and, draw- 
ing his own small breath ambitiously in tune with them, 
"feel that he is greater than he knows." But here and at 
this hour it happened to us that, our hearts being uplifted, 
we could measure Shakespeare for a moment ; could know 
him for the puissant intelligence that held communion with 
all earth and sky, and all mortal aspirations that rise be- 
tween them ; and knew him also for the Stratford youth 
treading this very foot-path beside this sweet-smelling hedge 

towards those elms a mile away, where the red light lingers, 



and the cottage below them, where already in the window 
Ann Hathaway trims her lamp. You are to believe that 
our feet trod airily across those meadows. And at the 
cottage, old Mrs. Baker, last living descendant of the Hatha- 
ways, was pleased with our reverent behavior, and picked 
for each of us at parting a sprig of rosemary from her gar- 
den for remembrance. May her memory be as green and 
as fragrant ! 

It was easy now to forgive all that before had seemed 


unworthy in Stratford — easy next morning, standing before 
Shakespeare's monument, while the sunshine, colored by the 
eastern window, fell on one particular slab within the chancel 
rails, to live back for a moment to that April morning when 
a Shakespeare had passed from the earth, and earth " must 
mourn therefor;" to follow his coffin on its short journey 


W&l - - - 


from the New Place, between the blossoming limes of the 
Church Walk, out of the sunlight into the lasting shadow, 
up the dim nave to this spot ; and easy to divine, in the 
rugged epitaph so often quoted, the man's passionate dread 
lest his bones might be flung in time to the common char- 
nel-house, the passionate longing to lie here always in this 
dusky corner, close to his friends and kin and the familiar 
voices that meant home— the talk of birds in the near elms, 
the chant of Holy Trinity choir, and, night and day, but a 
stone's-throw from his resting-place, the whisper of Avon 
running perpetually. 

For even the wayfarer finds Stratford a hard place to part 
from. And looking back as we left her, so kindly, so full 
of memories, giving her haunted streets, her elms, and river- 
side to the sunshine, but guarding always as a mother the 
shrine of her great son, I know she will pardon my light 

The river runs beneath the elms of the church-yard to 
Lucy's Mill and the first locks. On the mill wall are 
marked the heights of various great floods. The highest 
is dated at the beginning of this century ; just below is the 
high-water mark of October 25, 1882. Take the level of 
this with your eye, and you will wonder that any of Strat- 


ford is left standing ; and lower down the river the floods arc 
very serious matters to all who live within their reach. If 
you disbelieve me, read " John Halifax." " We don't mind 
them," an old lady told us at Barton, "till the water turns 
red. Then we know the Stour water is coming down, and 
begin to shift our furniture." The Arrow, too, that joins 
the Avon below Bidford, is a great helper of the floods, but 
rushes down its valley more rapidly than the Stour, and so 
its flooding is sooner over. 

The lock at Stratford is now choked with grass and weed, 
and the town no longer (to quote the Rev. Richard Jago) 

" Hails the freighted Barge from Western Shores, 
Rich with the Tribute of a thousand Climes." 

The Avon, from Tewkesbury to Stratford, was made nav- 
igable in 1637 by Mr. William Sandys, of Fladbury, "at his 
own proper cost." But the railways have ruined the water- 
ways for a time, and Mr. Sandys's handiwork lies in sore 
decay. Till Evesham be passed we shall meet with no 
barges, but with shallows, dismantled locks, broken-down 

<$m . 




weirs to be shot, and sound ones to be pulled over that will 
give us excitement enough, and toil too. 

Below the lock we drifted under a hanging copse, the 
Weir Brake, where a pretty foot-path runs for Stratford 
lovers. Below it, by a cluster of willows, the Stour comes 
down ; and a little farther yet stands Luddington, where 

Shakespeare is 
said to have 
been married ; 
but the church 
and its records 
have been de- 
stroyed by fire. 
From Ludding- 
ton you spy Wes- 
in Gloucester- 
shire, across the 
river, the tower of its sturdy perpendicular church peering 
above the elms that hide it from the river-side throughout 
the summer. 

By ^'eston our remembrance keeps a picture — a broken 
lock and weir, an islet or two heavy with purple loosestrife, 
a swan bathing in the channel between. These were of the 
foreground. Beyond them, a line of willows hid the flat 
fields on our right ; but on the left rose a steep green slope, 
topped with poplars and dotted with red cattle ; and ahead 
the red roof of Binton church showed out prettily from the 
hill-side. As we saw the picture we broke into it, shooting 
the weir, scaring the swan, and driving her before us to 
Binton Bridges. By Binton Bridges stands an inn, the 
Four Alls. On its sign-board, in gay colors, are depicted 
four figures — the King, the Priest, the Soldier, and the Yeo- 
man ; and around them runs this chiming legend : 


" Rule all, 
Pray all, 
Fight all, 
Pay all." 

We could not remember a place so utterly God-forsaken 
as this inn beside the bridge, nor a woman so weary of face 
as its once handsome landlady. She spoke of the inn and 
its custom in a low, musical voice that caused Q. to rush 
out into the yard to hide his pity ; and there he found a 
gig, and, sitting down before it, wondered. 

Change and decay fill our literature ; but we have not ex- 
plained either. For instance, here was a gig — a soundly 
built, gayly painted gig. A glance told that it had not been 
driven a dozen times, that nothing was broken, and that it 
had been backed into this heap of nettles years ago to rot. 
It had been rotting ever since. The paint on its sides had 
blistered, the nettles climbed above its wheels and flourished 
over its back seat. Still it was a good gig, and the most 
inexplicable sight that met us on our voyage. Only less 
desolate than Binton Bridges is Black Cliff, below — a bank 
covered with crab-trees and thorns and hummocks of som- 
bre grass. It was here that one Palmer, a wife-murderer, 
drowned his good woman in Avon at the beginning of the 
century ; and the oldest man in Bidford, not far below, re- 
members seeing a gibbet on the hill-side, with chains and a 
few bones and rags dangling — all that was left of him. A 
gate post at the top of the hill on the Evesham road is 
made of this gibbet, and still groans at night, to the horror 
of the passing native. 

Soon we reach Welford, the second and more beautiful 
Welford on the river. It stands behind a stiff slope, where 
now the chestnuts are turning yellow, and the village 
street is worth following. It winds by queer old cottages 
set down in plum and apple orchards ; by a modern May- 


pole ; by a little church of stained buff sandstone, with oak- 
en lych-gate and church-yard wall scarcely containing the 
dead, who already are piled level with its coping ; by more 
queer crazy cottages — and then suddenly melts, ends, dis- 
appears in grass. It is as if the end of the world were 
reached. Of course we wanted to settle down and spend 
our lives here, but were growing used to the desire by this 
time, and dragged each other away without serious resist- 
ance down to the old mill, where our canoe lay waiting. 

Passing the weir and mill, the river runs under a grassy 
hill-side, where the trimmed elms give a French look to the 

SSL _ J./ iT&JtL.. L ■ ;M 


landscape. Within sight, in winter, lie the roofs and dove- 
cotes of Hillborough — "haunted Hillbro'," as Shakespeare 
called it, but nothing definite is known of the ghost. The 
local tale says that the poet and some boon companions 
walked over once to a Whitsun ale at the Falcon Inn, Bid- 
ford (just below us), to try their prowess in drinking against 
the Bidford men. They drank so deeply that night that 


sleep overtook them before they had staggered a mile on 
their homeward way, and, lying down under a crab-tree be- 
side the road, they slept till morning, when they were awak- 
ened by some laborers trudging to their work. His com- 



panions were for returning and renewing the carouse, but 
Shakespeare declined. 

" No," said he ; " I have had enough ; I have drinked 

"Piping Pebworth, dancing Marston, 
Haunted Hillbro', hungry Grafton, 
Dudging Exhall, papist Wixford, 
Beggarly Broom, and drunken Bidford." 

"Of the truth of this story," says Mr. Samuel Ireland, 
"I have little doubt." 

"Of its entire falsehood," says Mr. James Thorne, "I 
have less. A more absurd tale to father upon Shakespeare 
was never invented, even by Mr. Ireland or his son." 


The reader may decide. 

Close by is Bidford Grange, once an important manor- 
house ; and on the left bank of Avon — you may know it by 
the gray stone dove-cotes — stands Barton, where once dwelt 
another famous drinker, " Christophero Sly, old Sly's son of 
Burton heath : by birth a peddler, by education a card- 
maker, by transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present 
profession a tinker. Ask Marian Hacket, the fat ale-wife 
of Wincot, if she know me not : if she say I am not four- 
teen-pence on the score for sheer ale, score me up for the 
lyingest knave in Christendom." And from Barton hamlet 
a foot-path leads across the meadows over the old bridge 
into Bidford. 

You are to notice this bridge, not only because the monks 
of Alcester built it in 14S2, to supersede the ford on the old 
Roman road which crosses the river here, but for a certain 
stone in its parapet, near the inn window. This stone is 
worn hollow by thousands of pocket knives that generations 
of Bidford men have sharpened upon it. For four centuries 
it has supplied in these parts the small excuse that men 



need to club and lounge together ; and of an evening you 
may see a score, perhaps, hanging by this end of the bridge 
and waiting their turn, while the clink, clink of the sharpen- 
ing knife fills the pauses of talk. When at last the stone 


shall wear all away there will be restlessness and possibly 
social convulsions in Bidford, unless its place be quickly 

We lingered only to look at the building that in Shake- 
speare's time was the old Falcon Inn, and soon were pad- 
dling due south from Bidford Bridge. The Avon now runs 
straight through big flat meadows towards a steep hill-side, 
with the hamlet of Marcleeve (or Marlcliff) at its foot. 
This line of hill borders the river on the south for some 
miles, and is the edge of a plateau which begins the ascent 
towards the Cotswold Hills. Seen from the river below, 
this escarpment is full of varying beauty, here showing a 
bare scar of green and red marl, here covered with long 


gray grass and dotted with old thorn and crab trees, here 
clothed with hanging woods of maple, ash, and other trees, 
straggled over and smothered with ivy, wild rose, and clem- 
atis. By Cleeve Mill, where clouds of sweet-smelling flour 
issued from the doorway, we disembarked and climbed up 
between the thorn-trees until upon the ridge we could look 
back upon the green vale of Evesham, and southward across 
ploughed fields, and cottages among orchards and elms, to 
the gray line of the Cotswolds, over which a patch of silver 



hung, as the day fought hard to regain its morning sunshine. 
The narrow footway took us on to Cleeve Priors and through 
its street — a village all sober, gray, and beautiful. The gar- 
den walls, coated with lichen and topped with yellow quinces 
or a flaming branch of barberry ; the tall church tower ; the 


warn ' 

i i 1 


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I' v; 

quaintly elaborate grave-stones below it, their scrolls and 
cherubim overgrown with moss ; the clipped yew-trees that 
abounded in all fantastic shapes ; the pigeons wheeling round 
their dove-cote, and the tall poplar by the manor farm — all 
these were good ; but best of all was the manor farm itself, 
and the arched yew hedge leading to its Jacobean porch, a 
marvel to behold. We hung long about the entrance and 
stared at it. But no living man or woman approached us. 
The village was given up to peace or sleep or death. 

Returning, we paused on the brow of the slope above 
Avon for a longer look. At our feet was spread the vale of 
Evesham ; the river, bordered with meadows as green and 
flat as billiard-tables ; the stream of Arrow to northward, 
which rises in the Lickey Hills, and comes down through 
Alcester to join the Avon here ; the villages of Salford 
Priors and Salford Abbots ; farther to the west, among its 
apple-trees, the roofs and gables of Salford Nunnery, the 
village of Harvington. And all down the stream, and round 
the meadows, and in and out of these 

" low farms, 
Poor pelting villages, sheepcotes, and mills," 

are willows innumerable — some polled last year, and look- 
ing like green mops, others with long curved branches ready 
to be lopped and turned into fence poles next winter, until 
they are lost in the hills round Evesham, where the dim 
towers stand up and the bold outline of Bredon Hill shuts 
out the view of the Severn Valley. 

The mound on which we are standing is surmounted by 
the stone socket of an old cross, and beneath the cross are 
said to lie many of those who fell on Evesham battle-field ; 
for the vale below was on August 4th, 1265, the scene of 
one of the bloodiest and most decisive conflicts in English 
history. Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, victor of 

Lewes, and champion of the people's rights, was hastening 
back by forced marches from Wales, having King Henry 
III. in his train, a virtual hostage. He was hurrying to 
meet his son, the young Simon, with reinforcements from 
the southeast ; but young Simon's troops had been surprised 


by Prince Edward at Kenilworth in the early morning and 
massacred in their beds, their leader himself escaping with 
difficulty, almost naked, in a boat across the lake of Kenil- 
worth Castle. Unconscious of their fate, the old earl reached 
Evesham on Monday, August 3d, and, crossing the bridge 
into the town, sealed his own doom. For Evesham is a 
trap. The Avon forms a loop around it, shutting off escape 
on three sides, while the fourth is blocked by an eminence 
called the Green Hill. And while yet Simon and his king 
were feasting and making merry in Evesham Abbey, Ed- 
ward's troops were crossing the river here at Cleeve Ford 
in the darkness, and moving on their sure prey. 

A strange and horrible darkness lay over the land on 
that fatal Tuesday morning, shrouding the sun, and hiding 
their books from the monks of Evesham as they sang in 
the choir. The soldiers at their breakfast could scarcely 

see the meats on the board before them. They were ready 
to start again ; but before the march began, banners and 
lances and moving troops were spied on the crest of the 
Green Hill, coming towards the town. 

" It is my son," cried Simon ; " fear not. But neverthe- 
less look out, lest we be deceived." 

Nicholas, the earl's barber, being expert in the cognizance 
of arms, ascended the bell-tower of the abbey, and soon de- 
tected among the friendly banners, that were, in fact, but 
trophies of the raid at Kenilworth, the " three lions " of 
Prince Edward and the royalists. The alarm was given, 


but it was quickly seen that Simon's army would be utterly 

"By the arm of St. James," cried the old warrior, " they 
come on well ! But it was from me," he added, with a touch 
'of soldierly pride — " it was from me they learned it." A 
glance showed the hopelessness of resisting this array with 
a handful of horse and a mob of wild Welshmen. " Let us 
commend our souls to God," he said to his followers, "for 
our bodies are the foe's." 

And so he went forth ; and while the Welsh fled like 
sheep at the first onset, cut down in standing corn and 


flowery garden, the old warrior of sixty-five hewed his way 
"like an impregnable tower" to the top of the Green Hill, 
until one by one his friends had dropped beside him ; then 
at the summit his horse fell too, and disdaining surrender, 
hemmed in by twelve knights, he was struck down by a 
lance wound. " It is God's will," he said, and died. And 
whilst the butchery went on, and the Welshmen fled home- 
ward through Pershore to Tewkesbury, where the citizens 
cut them down in the streets, and whilst the darkness broke 
in drenching rain and blinding lightning, Simon's head was 
lopped off, and carried on a pole in triumph to Wigmore. 

" Such was the murder of Evesham, for battle none it 
was," sings Robert of Gloucester. And as the sun breaks 
through and turns the gray day to silver, we pass on either 
hand memorials of that massacre. By Harvington mill and 
weir, where the sand-pipers flit before us, and by the spot 
where now stand the Fish and Anchor Inn and a row of 
anglers, Edward's soldiery marched down through the night. 



At Offenham, where now is a Bridge Inn, and where 
tradition says a bridge once stood, they crossed the river 
again. On the opposite bank the slaughter was heaviest, 
and Dead Man Eyot, a small willowy island here, won its 

name on that clay. The sheep are feeding now in that " odd 
angle of the isle " that then was piled high with corpses. 
And so we come to a high railway embankment, and thence 
to a bridge, and the beautiful bell-tower leaps into view, 
soaring above the mills and roofs of Evesham. 


TO remember Evesham is to call up a broad and smil- 
ing vale ; a river looped about a green hill and return- 
ing almost on itself; on the lower slope of the hill, beside 
the river, a little town; and above its mills and roofs, two 
spires and one pre-eminent tower, all set in the same church- 

The vale itself, as we dropped down towards Evesham, 
was insensibly changing. Unawares we left the pastures 
behind, and drifted into a land of orchards and market- 
gardens — no Devonshire orchards, with carpets of vivid 
grass, but stiff regiments of plum-trees, and between their 

9 8 

files asparagus growing, and sage and winter lettuce under 
hand-glasses, and cabbages splashed with mauve and crim- 
son. We had crossed, in fact, the frontier of a fruit-grow- 
ing country that in England has no rival but Kent. The 
beginnings of this prosperous gardening are sometimes as- 
cribed to one Signor Bernardi, a Genoese gentleman who 
settled at Evesham in the middle of the seventeenth century. 


But more probably these orchards grow for the same reason 
that the meadows above are fat and a bell-tower stands in 
Evesham. There is a legend to that effect which is worth 

Egwin, Bishop of Worcester in the year 700 or there- 
abouts, was a saint of shining piety, but unpopular in his 
diocese, which had not long been converted from paganism, 
and retained many " ethnic and uncomely customs." Against 
these the bishop thundered, till the people seized and haled 
him before Ethelred, then King of Mercia, charging him 
with tyranny and many bitter things. The matter was re- 


ferred to the Holy Father at Rome, who commanded Egwin 
to appear before him and answer the charges. Soto Rome 
he went ; but before starting, to show how lowly he account- 
ed himself, he ordered a pair of iron horse-fetters, and hav- 
ing put his feet into them, caused them to be locked and 
the key tossed into the Avon. 'Thus shackled, he went for- 
ward to Hover, took ship, and came to the Hoi)' City; when, 
lo, a miracle! His attendants had gone down to the 'Fiber 
to catch a fish for supper. Scarcely was the line cast when 
a fine salmon took it ami leaped ashore, without a struggle 
to escape. They hurried home with their prize, opened 
him. and found inside the key of the bishop's fetters. 

It is needless to say that the pope, after this, made short 
work o( the charges against Egwin. The accused was load- 
ed with honors, and sent home with particular recommenda- 
tions to King Ethelred, who lost no time in restoring' the 
bishop to his see and appointing him tutor to his own sons. 
Anion- other marks o( friendship the king gave Egwin a 
large tract of land. It was savage, inhospitable, horrid with 
thickets and forest trees. Yet Egwin liked it ; for he kept 
pigs, which found abundance of food there. So. dividing 
the wilderness into four quarters, he appointed a swine-herd 
over each, whose names were Eoves and Ympa, two broth- 
ers •. ami Trottuc and Carnuc, brothers also. Eoves (with 
whom alone we are concerned) had charge over the eastern 
portion, and it happened to him one day that a favorite sow 
strayed off into the thickest of the woods. Eoves spent 
weeks in searching after her. and at length wandered so far 
that he too lost his way. He shouted for succor, but none 
came. Growing appalled, he began to run headlong through 
the undergrowth, when suddenly he stumbled on the lost 
sow, having three young ones with her. She came gladly 
to his call, grunting ami muzzling at his legs: then turned, 
and began to hurry into the deeper forest, the young pigs 

trotting beside her. Eoves followed, and soon, to his won- 
der, reached a glade, open and somewhat steep, where was 
a virgin standing, lovelier than the noonday, and two others 
beside her, celestially robed, having psalteries in their hands 
and singing holy songs. The swine-herd understood noth- 
ing of the vision ; but hurrying back, was lucky enough to 
find an egress from the woods, and returned to his home. 

This matter was reported to Egwin ; and he, being eager 
to see the place with his own eyes, was led thither by Eoves- 
There it was vouchsafed to him to see the same vision, and, 


as it faded, to hear a voice from the chief virgin saying, 
"This place have I chosen." Whereupon he understood 
that he, like .Tineas, had been guided by a sow to the spot 
where he must build ; and soon the Abbey of Evesham, or 
Eovesham, began to rise where the virgins had stood. This 
was in 703, and the building was finished in six years. 

7* IOI 

Such is the legend. A town sprang up around the mon- 
astery ; the thickets were cleared and became pasture-lands 
and orchards ; the country smiled, and the abbey waxed 
rich. It housed sixty-seven monks, five matrons, three poor 
brothers, three clerks, and sixty-five servants to work in 
brew-house, bake-house, kitchen, cellar, infirmary ; to make 
clothes and boots ; to open the great gate ; to till the gar- 
dens, vineyards, and orchards; and to fish for eels in the 
Avon below. When William de Beauchamp, whose castle 
stood at Bengeworth, on the opposite bank, broke into the 
abbey church and plundered it, about 1150 a.d., the abbot 
excommunicated him and his retainers, razed his castle, and 
made a burial-ground of the site. In 1530, under the rule 
of Clement Lichfield, the abbey possessed fifteen manors 

in the county of Worcester 
alone, in Gloucestershire 
six, in Warwickshire three, 
in Northamptonshire two, 
with lands, rents, and ad- 
vowsons far and wide. Out 
of Oxford and Cambridge 
there v» r as no such assem- 
blage of religious buildings 
in England. Then Clem- 
ent Lichfield reared " a 
right sumptuous and high 
square tower of stone ;" 
and almost at once King 
Henry VIII. made his 
swoop on the monasteries. 
The country still smiles ; but to-day of all the conventual 
buildings there survive but a few stones — a sculptured arch 
leading to a kitchen-garden, and this "high square tower" 
of Lichfield's building. This last was designed to be at 


once the abbey's gateway, horologe, and belfry ; but before 
the day of its completion all these uses were nullified. Its 
service since has been monumental merely — to stand over 
the razed foundations and obliterated fish-ponds of Egwin's 
house, and speak to the vale of famous men and the hands 
that made it fertile. 

There are many old houses in Evesham, and especially 
in Bridge Street ; but the bridge at the foot of this street is 
modern, and ascribed " to the public spirit and perseverance 



of Henry Workman, Esq." To him also are due the " Work- 
man Gardens," a strip of pleasure-ground on the river's left 
bank, facing the abbey grounds ; but local sapience has im- 
posed the usual restrictions on their use, and nine times out 
of ten you will find them deserted. 

The day was almost spent as we took to the canoe once 
more, and paddled around the long bend that girdles the 
town. We thought to have left the bell-tower far behind, 
when, a little past Hampton Ferry, its pinnacles reappeared, 

and the twin spires of St. Lawrence and All-Saints, peering 


above a plum orchard almost ahead of us. On our left the 
sun sank in a broad yellow haze ; the hill where Simon fell, 
and where stands the Abbey Manor-house, was soaked in 
it ; and soon, as the channel brought our faces westward 
again, and we drew near Chadbury mill and Chadbury lock 
and weir, the vale was filled with this yellow light, pale and 

" Great Evesham's fertile glebe what tongue hath not extolled ? 
As though to her alone belonged the garb of gold," 

sings Drayton ; and certainly she wore the garb that even- 
ing. As she donned it, the chorus of the birds ceased, and 
with the sudden hush we became aware that their voices 
had been following in our ears all the day through. Above 
and below Evesham every furlong of the river -bank is 
populous, with larks especially, whose song you may hear 
shivering from every point of the sky. In early winter the 
number of nests that the falling leaves disclose is astonish- 
ing. Some, no doubt, have lasted, and will last, for years, 
such as the mud-plastered houses of the blackbird and 
thrush, and the fagot pile which the magpie constructs in 
the top of a tree. But the flimsy nests of the warblers and 





other late-breeding birds, built of a few dried grasses and 
bound together with cobwebs and horse-hair, date from last 
spring, and will disappear before the next. They were not 
made until the leaves were out, and upon the leaves their 
builders relied for concealment, so that in winter they hang 
betrayed. Yet even in winter the banks teem with life and 
color and interest. P., who rowed down here one bright 
December morning when the scarlet hips were out, and dark- 
red haws, and the silver-gray seed of "old man's beard," 
tells of a big meadow from which the flood had just sub- 
sided, and of birds innumerable feeding there — rooks, star- 
lings, pewits in flocks, little white-rumped sandpipers dart- 
ing to and fro and uttering their sharp note, a dozen herons 
solemnly but suspiciously observant of the passing boat, 
and watching for its effect on a cluster of wild-duck out on 
the ruffled stream. You cannot, indeed, pass down Avon 
without receiving the wide-eyed attention of its fauna ; and 
politeness calls on you to return it. 

Chadbury is twenty miles below Stratford, and here we 
meet the first lock that is kept in repair ; so that for twenty 
miles Mr. William Sandys's work of making Avon navigable 
has gone for nothing. He lived at Fladbury, just below, 
and the money he threw away on his hobby " cannot be 
reckoned at less than twenty thousand pounds." " As 
soon," writes Dr. Nash, in his " Worcestershire," " as he had 
finished his work to Stratford (and, as I have heard, spent 
all his fortune), he immediately delivered up all to Parlia- 
ment, to do what they thought fit therein." And this was 
precisely nothing. 

Consequently there is to-day but little human stir beside 
the Avon. The "freighted barge from distant shores" 
travels this way no longer, or but rarely. Unless by the 
towns — Emscote, Stratford, Evesham, and Tewkesbury — a 
pleasure-boat is hardly to be met, and all the villages seem 


to turn their backs on the stream. At the mills we see a 
few men, whitened with flour ; in summer the mowers and 
haymakers appear for a few days upon the meadows, and 
are soon gone ; in winter a few may return to poll the wil- 
lows, tying their twigs into fagots, and leaving the stems 
standing, with white scarred heads ; occasionally a man and 
a boy will come in one of the native high-prowed punts to 
cut and bind the dark rushes that, when dried, are used for 
matting, chair seats, and calking beer barrels ; or the tops 


of a withy bed will sway erratically as we pass, and tell of 
somebody at work there ; or in autumn flood-time a profes- 
sional fisherman, with his eel nets, is busy at the weirs. 
These represent the industries of Avon. Other human 
forms there are, which angle with rod and line — strange, infi- 
nitely patient men, fishing for eels and other succulent fish, 
catching (it may be) one dace between sunrise and sundown. 
Their ancestors must have had better sport, for Dugdale 


Ife A.- 


constantly speaks of valuable fishing rights on the river, 
and many a farmer paid his rent to the Church in eels. To 
this day every cottage has its punt, and sometimes a seat 
rigged up in some likely spot over the stream. One such we 
marked with particular interest. It was, in fact, the body of 
an old gig ; and therein sat an angler, and a glutton of his 
kind, for he had no less than seven lines baited, and the 
rods radiated from him like the spokes of a wheel. Perhaps 
it was his one holiday for the week, and he had hit on this 
device for cramming the seven clays' sport into one. 

Much might be written of Chadbury mill and weir as we 
saw them in 

"the twilight of such day 
As after sunset fadeth in the west." 

But, again, it is hard to improve upon Ireland, who calls it 
" so rich a landscape that nature seems not to require the 
assistance of art, in the language of modern refinement, 
either to correct her coarse expression by removing a hill or 
docking a tree, or to supply her careless and tasteless omis- 
sions for the purpose of rendering her more completely pict- 

In gathering darkness we dropped down beneath a hill- 
side partly wooded, partly set out in young plum orchards, 
partly turfed, and dotted with old thorns. Here is Cracombe 
House, and beyond it lie two villages — Fladbury on the right 
and Cropthorne on the left, each with its own mill. A ford 
used to join them, but this was superseded by a bridge to 
commemorate the Queen's Jubilee. We did not come to it 
that night, for at Fladbury there stands a parsonage, with a 
lawn sloping between trees to the river, and on this lawn we 
heard the voices and laughter of friends in the dusk. Turn- 
ing our canoe shore-ward, we hailed them. 

If Kenilworth Castle and Evesham Abbey, structures so 

massive, take but a century or so to fall into complete ruin, 
how soon will mere man revert to savagery ? Our host at 
Fladbury parsonage was a painter, one in whom Americans 
take a just pride, and the talk at his table that evening was 
brisk enough, had we but possessed ears for it. Instead, we 


who had journeyed for ten clays from inn to inn, reading no 
newspapers, receiving no letters, conversing with few fellows, 
regarding only the quiet panorama of meadow, wood, and 
stream, sat in a mental haze. We were stupefied with long 
draughts of open air. The dazzle of the river, the rhythmi- 
cal stroke of the paddle, had set our wits to sleep. Once or 
twice we strove to rally them, and listen to the talkers; but 
always the ripple of Avon rose and ran in our ears, confus- 
ing the words, and we sank back into agreeable hebetude. 
The same held us, too, next morning, as we ported our canoe 
over Fladbury weir, and started for Tewkesbury in the teeth 
of a west wind that blew " through the sharp hawthorn " and 
curled the water. The year had aged noticeably in the past 
night, and the country-side wore a forlorn look. None the 
less, the reaches below Cropthorne struck us as singularly 
beautiful. From a fringe of fantastic pollard willows, out 
of whose decayed trunks grew the wild rose and bramble, 

orchards and pastures swelled up to a line of cottages and 
a square-towered church standing against the sky. Crop- 
thorne church is to be visited as well for its beauty as for 
the monuments it contains of the Dingley family, to which 
the manor formerly belonged. There is one to the memory 
of Francis Dingley, Esq., who happily matched with Eliza- 
beth, daughter of Thomas Brigge, Esq., and Mary Hoby, his 
wife, had issue eleven sons and eight daughters, and died in 
peace, anno 1624. The last of the Dingleys, a girl, married 
Edward Goodyeare, of Burghope, and bore him two sons, 
whose history is tragic. The elder, Sir John, was a child- 
less man ; and his brother, Samuel, who followed the sea, 



and had become captain of the Ruby man-of-war, expected 
in time to have the estates. But the two men hated each 
other, and at last a threat of disinheritance so angered the 
captain that he took the desperate resolution of murdering 
the baronet, and carried it out on the 17th of January, 1741. 
Dr. Nash tells the story : " A friend at Bristol, who knew 
their mortal antipathy, had invited them both to dinner, in 
hopes of reconciling them, and they parted in seeming 
friendship. But the captain placed some of his crew in the 
street near College Green, with orders to seize his brother, 
S i'3 

and assisted in hurrying him by violence to his ship, under 
pretence that he was disordered in his senses, where, when 
they arrived, he caused him to be strangled in the cabin by 
White and Mahony, two ruffians of his crew, himself stand- 
ing sentinel at the door while the horrid deed was perpetrat- 
ing." The captain, with his two accomplices, was soon 
taken and hanged. He was a brave sailor, and had dis- 
tinguished himself at St. Sebastian, Ferrol, and San Anto- 
nio, at which last place he burned three men-of-war, the 
magazine, and stores. 

Four miles below Fladbury lies Wyre lock, with Wyre vil- 
lage on the right bank, its cottage gardens planted with cab- 
bages and winter lettuce, or hung with nets drying in the 
wind. Across the river, a few fields back, Wick straggles, 
a long street of timbered cottages, with a little church, and 



«5? <*} ' ' p 

^^A^Cfr •~' l *'*>»s 


before the church a cross. And ahead of us, over its acres 
of plum and pear orchards, the fine tower of Pershore rises. 
Of all the abbeys that once graced the Avon, Tewkes- 
bury alone retains some of its former splendor. Sulby is a 
farm-house ; of Stoneleigh but a gateway is left ; of Evesham 
an arch and a tower ; while Pershore keeps only its tower 
and choir. Oswald, nephew of our old friend Ethelred, 
King of Mercia, founded a house of secular canons here 


a.d. 6S9, who by a charter of King Edgar, two centuries 
later, were superseded by Benedictine monks. Being built 
of wood, both church and convent were thrice destroyed by 
fire, first about the year 1000, then in 1223, and again in 
1288; on this last occasion by the sin of a brother, who 
went a-courting with a lantern within the sacred walls 
(" muliebri consilio infatuatus, in loco illo sacrato ignem 

S* hi 

obtulit alienum "). This fire consumed not only the abbey, 
but the greater part of the town, and the wicked cause of it 
led to a suspension of all religious services until 1299, when 
the Bishop of Llandaff came and "reconciled" the Church. 
All that remains to-day is used as the parish church of the 
Holy Cross, and is a beautiful piece of Early-English work. 
Pershore itself bears all the markings of a quietly prosper- 



ous market town. Its wide street is lined with respectable 
red-brick houses, faced with stone, having pediments over 
their front doors, and square windows, some of them blocked 
ever since the days of the window-tax. Its plums are known 
throughout England ; its pears yield excellent perry ; and 
on pears and plums together it relies for a blameless com- 

We passed Pershore bridge, which the Royalists broke 
down in their retreat from Worcester field ; and Pershore 
water-gate. There was a water-gate at Fladbury also, one 
post of which we were assured was the same that Mr. San- 
dys planted in 1637. For long the chine of Breclon Hill 


had lain ahead of us, closing the view. We had first spied 
yesterday, from the hill-side below Cleeve, and ever since it 
had been with us ; but below Pershore the river so winds 
that whether you row down stream or up, Bredon Hill will 
be found the dominant feature in the landscape. But 
whether a passing cloud paints it purple, or the sun shines 
on it, lighting the grassy slopes, and showing every bush and 
quarry on the sides, it is always a beautiful background for 
the villages that cluster round its foot — Great and Little 
Comberton, Bricklehampton, Elmley Castle, and Norton-by- 
Bredon. As we passed them the day relented for a while, 
and in the pale sunshine their gray church towers stood out, 
bright spots against the hill-side. 


We floated under the steep bank that separates Comber- 
ton and its poplars from the stream, along to the dusty mill 
beside Nafford Lock, and drew close under this hill-side un- 
til the old beacon at its top (called the Summer-house) stood 
right above our heads. At Nafford Lock there is a drop of 
six or eight feet before the river runs on by yet more vil- 
lages — Eckington, Birlingham, and Defford. Here in the 
sombre west ahead of us the Malverns come into view ; and 
here, between Eckington and Defford, a bridge crosses, over 


> I 



which we leaned for a quiet half -hour before going on our 

It was a time, I think, that will pleasantly come back to 
us in days when we shall fear to trust our decrepit limbs 
in a canoe. The bridge, six-arched, with deep buttresses, 



seemed as old as Avon itself. It is built of the red sand- 
stone so common in the neighborhood ; but time has long 
since mellowed and subdued its color to reflect the land- 
scape's mood, which just now was sober and even mournful. 
Rain hung over the Malverns ; down on the flat plain, where 
the river crept into the evening, the poplars were swaying 
gently ; a pair of jays hustled by with a warning squawk. 
Throughout this, the last day of our voyage, we had trav- 
elled dully, scarce exchanging a word, possessed with the 
stupor before alluded to. A small discovery awoke us. As 
we rested our elbows on the parapet, we noticed that many 
deep grooves or notches ran across it. They were marks 
worn in the stone by the tow-ropes of departed barges. 

Those notches spoke to us, as nothing had spoken yet, 
of the true secret of Avon. Kings and their armies have 
trampled its banks from Naseby to Tewkesbury, perform- 
ing great feats of war; castles and monasteries have risen 
over its waters ; yet none of them has left a record so dura- 
ble as are these grooves where the bargemen shifted their 

» 2 S 

ropes in passing the bridge. The fighting reddened the 
river for a day ; the building was reflected there for a cen- 
tury or two ; but the slow toil of man has outlasted them 
both. And, looking westward over the homely landscape, 
we realized the truth that Nature, too, is most in earnest 
when least dramatic ; that her most terrible power is seen 


neither in the whirlwind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the 
fire, but in the catkins budding on the hazel — the still, small 
voice that proves she is not dead, but sleeping lightly, and 
already dreaming of the spring. 

" Sed neque Medorum silvse, ditissima terra — " 

the note of Virgil's praise of Italy was ours for a while, and 



his pride to inherit 
a land of imme- 
morial towns — a 
land made fertile 
by tillage and wa- 
tered by " rivers 
stealing under 
hoary walls." 

A little below 
the bridge Avon is 
joined by the Def- 
ford (or, as it was 
once called, Depe- 
ford) Brook, its last 
considerable trib- 
utary, which rises 
on the west of the 
Lickey Hills ; and 
a little farther on 
we turn a sharp 
bend where, above 
the old willows on 
our right, a field of 
rank grass rises 
steeply to Strens- 
ham church and 
vicarage. Behind 
the stumpy tower lies Strensham village, not to be seen from 
the river. Here, in 1612, Samuel Butler was born, the au- 
thor of " Hudibras," and a monument stands to his memory 
within the church, beside other fine ones belonging to the 
Russell family. He was born in obscurity, and died a pau- 
per — a poet (to use the words which Dennis wrote for his 
other monument in Westminster Abbey) who " was a whole 
9 1-9 


species of poets in one ; admirable in a manner in which no 
one else has been tolerable — a manner in which he knew no 
guide, and has found no follower." Very few can read that 
epitaph without recalling the more famous epigram upon it : 

" The poet's fate is here in emblem shown ; 
He asked for bread, and he received a stone." 

Below Strensham we pass a lock — the last before reach- 
ing Tewkesbury — and two mills, the first and larger and 
more modern one deserted. Mr. Sandys's task was here 
not difficult, for the Avon Valley is so level that only two 
locks are required in the fifteen miles from Pershore. We 
have scarcely left the lock when the sharp steeple of Bredon, 



at the western extremity of Bredon Hill, points out the direc- 
tion of the river. To this village, during the civil war, Bish- 
op Prideaux, of Worcester, retired on a stipend of four shil- 
lings and sixpence a week. " This reverse of fortune," says 
Ireland, " he bore with much cheerfulness, although obliged 
to sell his books and furniture to procure subsistence. One 
day, being asked by a neighbor, as he passed through the 
village with something under his gown, what had he got 
there ? — he replied he was become an ostrich, and forced to 
live upon iron — showing some old iron which he was going 
to sell at the blacksmith's to enable him to purchase a din- 
ner." The living of Bredon was, in more peaceful times, 
one of the fattest in the bishop's diocese, as is hinted by a 
huge tithe-barn on the slope above us, with a chamber over 
its doorway, doubtless for the accountant. 

From Bredon we came to Twining Ferry, three miles be- 
low Strensham, and the flat meadows beyond it, over which 
the tower of Tewkesbury Abbey and the tall chimneys of its 
mills now began to loom through a rainy sky upon which 
night was fast closing. It is just before the town is reached 
that the Avon parts to join the Severn in four streams — one 
over a weir, another through a lock, the remaining two after 
working mills. Being by this both wet and hungry, we dis- 
embarked at the boat-yard beside Mythe Bridge, and walked 
up to our inn beneath the dark, irregular gables of High 
Street, resolved to explore the town next day. 

Tewkesbury lies along the southern bank of Mill Avon, 
the longest branch of our divided river, which, flowing un- 
der Mythe Bridge, washes on its left the slums and back 
gardens of the town before it passes down to work the Abbey 
Mill. One of these gardens — that of the Bell and Bowling- 
Green Inn — will be recognized by all readers of "John Hal- 
ifax, Gentleman," and the view from the yew-hedged bowl- 
ing-green itself shall be painted in Mrs. Craik's own words : 

9* J 33 

" At the end of the arbor the wall which enclosed us on the 
riverward side was cut down — my father had done it at my 
asking — so as to make a seat, something after the fashion of 
Queen Mary's seat at Stirling, of which I had read. Thence 
one could see a goodly sweep of country. First, close be- 
low, flowed the Avon — Shakespeare's Avon — here a nar- 
row, sluggish stream, but capable, as we sometimes knew 
to our cost, of being roused into fierceness and foam. Now 
it slipped on quietly enough, contenting itself with turning 
a flour-mill hard by, the lazy whir of which made a sleepy, 
incessant monotone which I was fond of hearing. From 
the opposite bank stretched a wide green level called the 
Ham, dotted with pasturing cattle of all sorts. Beyond it 





was a second river, forming an arc of a circle round the 
verdant flat. But the stream itself lay so low as to be in- 
visible from where we sat ; you could only trace the line of 
its course by the small white sails that glided in and out, 
oddly enough, from behind clumps of trees and across 

This second stream is, of course, the Severn, sweeping 
broadly by the base of Mythe Hill. An advertisement that 
we saw posted in Tewkesbury streets gave us the size of the 
intervening meadow ; it announced that the after or latter 
math of the Severn Ham was to be sold by order of the 
trustees — 172 acres, 2 roods, 28 perches of grass in all. The 
Ham is let by auction, and the money divided among the 
inhabitants of certain streets. 

We lingered to observe the yew hedge, " fifteen feet high 
and as many thick," and talk to a waiter who now appeared 
at the back door of the inn. He seemed to feel his black suit 

and white shirt-front incongruous with their surroundings, 
and explained the cause of their presence. The Tewkesbury 
Bowling Club had held its annual dinner there the night be- 
fore. He showed us the empty bottles. 

" Evidently a very large club," we said. 

" No, sirs ; thirsty." 

The Abbey Mill, which droned so pleasantly in Phineas 
Fletcher's ears, stands close by, under the shadow of the 
Abbey Church, its hours of work and rest marked by the 
clock and peal of eight sweet-toned bells in the Abbey 

It is well that this tower should stand where it does. If 
to one who follows the windings of Avon the recurrent sus:- 


gestion of its scenery be that of permanence, here fitly, at 
his journey's end, he finds that permanence embodied mon- 
umentally in stone. No building that I know in England — 
not Westminster Abbey, with all its sleeping generations — 
conveys the impression of durability in the same degree as 
does this Norman tower, which, for eight centuries, has 
stood foursquare to the storms of heaven and the frenzy of 
men. Though it rises one hundred and thirty-two feet from 
the ground to the coping of its battlements, and though its 
upper stages contain much exquisite carving, there is no 


lightness on its scarred, indomitable face, but only strength. 
The same strength is repeated within the church by the 
fourteen huge cylindrical columns from which the arches 
spring to bear the heavy 
roof of the nave. In spite 
of the groining and elab- 
orate traceries above, the 
rich eastern windows, the 
luxuriant decoration of 
the chantry chapels and 
their monuments, these 
fourteen columns give the 
note of the edifice. To 
them we return, and, 
standing beside them, are 
able to ignore the mutila- 
tions of years, and see the 
old church as it was on a 
certain spring day in 1471, 
when its painted windows 
colored the white faces, 
and its ceilings echoed 
the cries, of the beaten 
Lancastrians that clung to 
its altar for sanctuary. 

For "in the field by 
Tewkesbury," a little to 
the south, beside the high- 
way that runs to Glouces- 
ter and Cheltenham, the 

crown of England has been won and lost. There, on the 
4th of May, 1 47 1, the troops of Queen Margaret and the 
young Prince Edward, led by the Duke of Somerset from 
Exeter to join another army that the Earl of Pembroke 


was raising in Wales, were overtaken by Edward IV., 
who had hurried out from Windsor to intercept them. 
Footsore and bedraggled, they had reached Tewkesbury 
on the 3d, and " pight their field in a close euen hard at 
the towne's end, hairing the towne and abbeie at their 
backes ; and directlie before them, and upon each side of 
them, they were defended with cumbersome lanes, deepe 
ditches, and manie hedges, besides hils and dales, so as 
the place seemed as noisome as might be to approach unto." 
From this secure position they were drawn by a ruse of the 
Crookback's, and slaughtered like sheep. Many, we know, 
fled to the abbey, were seized there and executed by doz- 
ens at Tewkesbury Cross, where High Street and Burton 
Street divide. Others were chased into the river by the 
Abbey Mill and drowned. A house in Church Street is 
pointed out as the place where Edward, Prince of Wales, 
was slain, and some stains in the floor boards of one of the 
upper rooms are still held to be his blood-marks. Tradi- 
tion has marked his burial-place in the Abbey Church, and 
written above it, " Eheu, hominum furor : matris tu sola lux 
es, et gregis ultima spes." The dust of his enemy Clar- 
ence — "false, fleeting, perjured Clarence" — lies but a little 
way off, behind the altar-screen. 

There is a narrow field, one of the last that Avon washes, 
down the centre of which runs a narrow, withy-bordered 
watercourse. It is called the " Bloody Meadow," after the 
carnage of that day, when, as the story goes, blood enough 
lay at its foot to float a boat ; and just beyond our river is 
gathered to the greater Severn. 


Ann Hathaway's Cottage, 73. 
Arrow-heads, near Tewkesbury, 

Ashow, 41. 
Avon from Nasebyfield to Wolston, 

The, facing 10. 
Avon Inn, Rugby, 22. 

Barford Bridge, 54. 
Bidford Bridge, 84. 
Blakedovvn Mill, 44. 
Bowling-green, Tewkesbury, The, 

Bredon, 125. 
Bretford, 29. 
Bubbenhall, 37. 

Ciesar's Tower, Warwick Castle, 

Catthorpe Church, 19. 
Chadbury Mill, 104. 
Chadbury Weir, 105. 
Charlcote, 63. 
Chesford Bridge, 43. 
Church Lawford, 27. 
Cleeve Mill — An Autumn Flood, 

Clopton Bridge, Stratford - upon- 

Avon, 69. 
Cropthorne Mill, 112. 

Dove-cote, Wasperton, 60. 

Dow Bridge on Watling Street, 20. 

Eckington Bridge, 122. 
Eckington, Near, 127. 

Elms by Bidford Grange, 81. 
Evesham Bell-tower and Old Abbey 

Gateway, 102. 
Evesham, from the River, 96. 

Fladbury Mill, 108. 

Gig Seat, The, 109. 
Gleaners, 33. 
Great Comberton, 121, 
Guy's Cliffe, 47. 
Guy's Cliffe Mill, 45. 

Hampton Ferry, 103. 

Hampton Lucy, from the Meadows, 

Hampton Lucy to Harvington, 

From, facing 60. 
Harvington Weir, 92. 
Hillborough, 83. 
Holbrook Court, 24. 
Hospital of Robert Earl of Leyces- 

ter in Warwick, 51. 

Lawford Mill. 25. 

Lock and Church, The, 75. 

Market-garden near Evesham, A, 

Meadows by the Avon, 89. 
Meadowsweet, 65. 
Mill Street, Tewkesbury, 139. 
Mouth of the Stour, The, 74. 
Mythe Bridge, Tewkesbury, 134. 

Nafford Mill, 122. 

Naseby Monument, 10. 
Nets Drying at Wyre, 117. 
Newbold-upon-Avon, 24. 

Offenham, Near, 95. 

Offenham to Tewkesbury, From, 

facing 96. 
Old Bridge, Warwick, 49. 
(Did House, Tewkesbury, 141. 
Old Pear-Trees at Pershore, 115 
Old Thorns, Marcleeve Hill, S5. 

Pershore Bridge, IT 9. 
Pershore Water-gate, 123. 

Reed-cutters, 101. 
Roman Camp, Lilburne, 15. 
Rugby, from Brownsover Mill, 21. 
Ruins of Newnham Regis Church, 

Ryton-on-Dunsmore, 32. 

Sherborne, 58. 

Site of Brandon Castle, 31. 

Standford Church, 17. 

Standford Hall, 14. 

Stoneleigh Abbey, Oct. 15, 1S84, 

Stoneleigh Deer Park, In, 36. 
Stratford Church, 71. 

Strensham Church, 129. 
Strensham Mill, 130. 
Sulby Abbey, 11. 
Summer-house on Bredon Hill, 

The, 11S. 
Swing-Bridge near Welford, 13. 

Tewkesbury, from the Severn, 13S. 
Tithe Barn, Bredon, 126. 

Twining Ferry, 135. 

Under the Willows, 67. 

Warwick Castle, from the Park, 


Wasperton, At, 59. 

Weir Brake, 77. 

Welford Canal House, 12. 

Welford Weir and Church, So. 

Weston-upon-Avon, 78. 

Willows by Cropthorne, 1 13. 

Willow Pollarding, 93. 

Wolston Priory, 32. 

Wolston to Wasperton, From, fac- 
ing 28. 

Wyre, At, 1 14. 

Wyre Dock, 117. 

Yew Hedge, The- 
Manordiouse, 88. 

■ Cleeve Trior 





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