Picture of Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe


places mentioned

Letter 8, Part 4: Leeds and North Yorkshire

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From Hallifax it is twelve miles to Leeds north east, and about as many to Wakefield; due east, or a little southerly, between Hallifax and Leeds, is a little town called Burstall. Here the kersey and shalloon trade being, as it were, confined to Hallifax, and the towns already named, of Huthersfield and Bradforth, they begin to make broad cloth; I call it broad, in distinction from kersies and druggets, and such things, though the cloths in this country are called narrow, when they are spoken of in London, and compared with the broad cloths made in Wilts, Gloucester, Somerset and Devonshire, of which I have spoken in former letters.

This town is famed for dying, and they make a sort of cloths here in imitation of the Gloucester white cloths, bought for the Dutch and the Turkey trades; and though their cloths here may not be as fine, they told us their colours are as good. But that is not my business to dispute, the west country clothiers deny it; and so I leave it as I find it.

From hence to Leeds, and every way to the right hand and the left, the country appears busy, diligent, and even in a hurry of work, they are not scattered and dispersed as in the vicaridge of Hallifax, where the houses stand one by one; but in villages, those villages large, full of houses, and those houses thronged with people, for the whole country is infinitely populous.

A noble scene of industry and application is spread before you here, and which, joined to the market at Leeds, where it chiefly centers, is such a surprising thing, that they who have pretended to give an account of Yorkshire, and have left this out, must betray an ignorance not to be accounted for, or excused; 'tis what is well worth the curiosity of a stranger to go on purpose to see; and many travellers and gentlemen have come over from Hamburgh, nay, even from Leipsick in Saxony, on purpose to see it.

And this brought me from the villages where this manufacture is wrought, to the market where it is sold, which is at Leeds.

Leeds is a large, wealthy and populous town, it stands on the north bank of the River Aire, or rather on both sides the river, for there is a large suburb or part of the town on the south side of the river, and the whole is joined by a stately and prodigiously strong stone bridge, so large, and so wide, that formerly the cloth market was kept in neither part of the town, but on the very bridge it self; and therefore the refreshment given the clothiers by the inn-keepers, of which I shall speak presently is called the Brigg-shot to this day.

The encrease of the manufacturers and of the trade, soon made the market too great to be confined to the brigg or bridge, and it is now kept in the High-street, beginning from the bridge, and running up north almost to the market-house, where the ordinary market for provisions begins, which also is the greatest of its kind in all the north of England, except Hallifax, of which I have spoken already, nay, the people at Leeds will not allow me to except Hallifax, but say, that theirs is the greatest market, and that not the greatest plenty only, but the best of all kinds of provisions are brought hither.

But this is not the case; it is the cloth market I am now to describe, which is indeed a prodigy of its kind, and is not to be equalled in the world. The market for serges at Exeter is indeed a wonderful thing, and the value sold there is very great; but then the market there is but once a week, here it is twice a week, and the quantity of goods vastly great too.

The market it self is worth describing, tho' no description can come up to the thing it self; however, take a sketch of it with its customs and usages as follows:

The street is a large, broad, fair, and well-built street, beginning, as I have said, at the bridge, and ascending gently to the north.

Early in the morning, there are tressels placed in two rows in the street, sometimes two rows on a side, but always one row at least; then there are boards laid cross those tressels, so that the boards lie like long counters on either side, from one end of the street to the other.

The clothiers come early in the morning with their cloth; and as few clothiers bring more than one piece, the market being so frequent, they go into the inns and publick-houses with it, and there set it down.

At seven a clock in the morning, the clothiers being supposed to be all come by that time, even in the winter, but the hour is varied as the seasons advance (in the summer earlier, in the depth of winter a little later) I take it, at a medium, and as it was when I was there, at six or seven, I say, the market bell rings; it would surprize a stranger to see in how few minutes, without hurry or noise, and not the least disorder, the whole market is fill'd; all the boards upon the tressels are covered with cloth, close to one another as the pieces can lie long ways by one another, and behind every piece of cloth, the clothier standing to sell it.

This indeed is not so difficult, when we consider that the whole quantity is brought into the market as soon as one piece, because as the clothiers stand ready in the inns and shops just behind, and that there is a clothier to every piece, they have no more to do, but, like a regiment drawn up in line, every one takes up his piece, and has about five steps to march to lay it upon the first row of boards, and perhaps ten to the second row; so that upon the market bell ringing, in half a quarter of an hour the whole market is fill'd, the rows of boards cover'd, and the clothiers stand ready.

As soon as the bell has done ringing, the merchants and factors, and buyers of all sorts, come down, and coming along the spaces between the rows of boards, they walk up the rows, and down as their occasions direct. Some of them have their foreign letters of orders, with patterns seal'd on them, in rows, in their hands; and with those they match colours, holding them to the cloths as they think they agree to; when they see any cloths to their colours, or that suit their occasions, they reach over to the clothier and whisper, and in the fewest words imaginable the price is stated; one asks, the other bids; and 'tis agree, or not agree, in a moment.

The merchants and buyers generally walk down and up twice on each side of the rows, and in little more than an hour all the business is done; in less than half an hour you will perceive the cloths begin to move off, the clothier taking it up upon his shoulder to carry it to the merchant's house; and by half an hour after eight a clock the market bell rings again; immediately the buyers disappear, the cloth is all sold, or if here and there a piece happens not to be bought, 'tis carried back into the inn, and, in a quarter of an hour, there is not a piece of cloth to be seen in the market.

Thus, you see, ten or twenty thousand pounds value in cloth, and sometimes much more, bought and sold in little more than an hour, and the laws of the market the most strictly observed as ever I saw done in any market in England; for,

  1. Before the market bell rings, no man shews a piece of cloth, nor can the clothiers sell any but in open market. .
  2. After the market bell rings again, no body stays a moment in the market, but carries his cloth back if it be not sold. .
  3. And that which is most admirable is, 'tis all managed with the most profound silence, and you cannot hear a word spoken in the whole market, I mean, by the persons buying and selling; 'tis all done in whisper.

The reason of this silence, is chiefly because the clothiers stand so near to one another; and 'tis always reasonable that one should not know what another does, for that would be discovering their business, and exposing it to one another.

If a merchant has bidden a clothier a price, and he will not take it, he may go after him to his house, and tell him he has considered of it, and is willing to let him have it but they are not to make any new agreement for it, so as to remove the market from the street to the merchant's house.

By nine a clock the boards are taken down, the tressels are removed, and the street cleared, so that you see no market or goods any more than if there had been nothing to do; and this is done twice a week. By this quick return the clothiers are constantly supplied with money, their workmen are duly paid, and a prodigious sum circulates thro' the county every week.

If you should ask upon all this, where all these goods, as well here as at Wakefield, and at Hallifax, are vented and disposed of? It would require a long treatise of commerce to enter into that part: But that I may not bring you into the labyrinth, and not show you the way out, I shall, in three short heads, describe the consumption, for there are three channels by which it goes:

  1. For the home consumption; their goods being, as I may say, every where made use of, for the cloathing the ordinary people, who cannot go to the price of the fine medley cloths made, as I formerly gave you an account, in the western counties of England. There are for this purpose a set of travelling merchants in Leeds, who go all over England with droves of pack horses, and to all the fairs and market towns over the whole island, I think I may say none excepted. Here they supply not the common people by retail, which would denominate them pedlars indeed, but they supply the shops by wholesale or whole pieces; and not only so, but give large credit too, so that they are really travelling merchants, and as such they sell a very great quantity of goods; 'tis ordinary for one of these men to carry a thousand pounds value of cloth with them at a time, and having sold it at the fairs or towns where they go, they send their horses back for as much more, and this very often in a summer, for they chuse to travel in the summer, and perhaps towards the winter time, tho' as little in winter as they can, because of the badness of the roads.
  2. Another sort of buyers are those who buy to send to London; either by commissions from London, or they give commissions to factors and warehouse-keepers in London to sell for them; and these drive also a very great trade: These factors and warehouse-keepers not only supply all the shop-keepers and wholesale men in London, but sell also very great quantities to the merchants, as well for exportation to the English colonies in America, which take off great quantities of those course goods, especially New England, New York, Virginia, &. as also to the Russia merchants, who send an exceeding quantity to Petersburgh, Riga, Dantzic, Narva, and to Sweden and Pomerania.
  3. The third sort of buyers, and who are not less considerable than the other, are truly merchants, that is to say, such as receive commissions from abroad to buy cloth for the merchants chiefly in Hamburgh, and in Holland, and from several other parts; and these are not only many in number, but some of them are very considerable in their dealings, and correspond as far as Nuremberg, Frankfort, Leipsick, and even to Vienna and Ausburgh, in the farthest provinces of Germany.

On account of this trade it was, that some years ago an Act of Parliament was obtained for making the Rivers Aire and Calder navigable; by which a communication by water was opened from Leeds and Wakefield to Hull, and by which means all the woollen manufactures which those merchants now export by commission, as above, is carried by water to Hull, and there shipped for Holland, Bremen, Hamburgh, and the Baltick. And thus you have a brief account, by what methods this vast manufacture is carried off, and which way they find a vent for it.

There is another trade in this part of the country, which is now become very considerable since the opening the navigation of these rivers, and that is, that from hence they carry coals down from Wakefield (especially) and also from Leeds, at both which they have a very great quantity, and such, as they told me, could never be exhausted. These they carry quite down into the Humber, and then up the Ouse to York, and up the Trent, and other rivers, where there are abundance of large towns, who they supply with coals; with this advantage too, that whereas the Newcastle coals pay four shillings per chaldron duty to the publick; these being only called river borne coal, are exempted, and pay nothing; though, strictly speaking, they are carried on the sea too, for the Humber is properly the sea. But they have been hitherto exempted from the tax, and so they carry on the trade to their very great profit and advantage.

I need not add, that by the same navigation they receive all their heavy goods, as well such as are imported at Hull, as such as come from London, and such as other counties supply, as butter, cheese, lead, iron, salt; all sorts of grocery. as sugars, tobacco, fruit, spice, hops, &. oyl, wine, brandy, spirits, and every sort of heavy or bulky goods.

The town of Leeds is very large, and, as above, there are abundance of wealthy merchants in it. Here are two churches, and two large meeting-houses of Dissenters, and six or seven chapels of ease, besides Dissenters chapels, in the adjacent, depending villages; so that Leeds may not be much inferiour to Hallifax in numbers of people: It is really a surprising thing to see what numbers of people are thronged together in all the villages about these towns, and how busy they all are, being fully employed in this great manufacture.

Before I go forward from hence, I should tell you, that I took a little trip to see the antient town of Pontefract, with that dismal place called the Castle, a place that was really dismal on many accounts, having been a scene of blood in many several ages; for here Henry, the great Earl of Lancaster, who was at the same time lord of the castle, and whose ancestors had beautified and enlarged it exceedingly, and fortified it too, was beheaded, in King Edward the IId's time, with three or four more of the English barons. Here Richard lid, being deposed and imprisoned, was barbarously murthered, and, if history lies not, in a cruel manner; and here Anthony, Earl Rivers, and Sir Richard Gray, the first uncle, and the last brother-in-law to King Edward the Fifth, were beheaded by that tyrant Richard III. Here, in the late wars, a small party of brave fellows took the castle, by surprise, for the king, and having desperately defended it to the last extremity, and being obliged to yield, five of them attempted to break thro' the besiegers camp, three of whom perished in the attempt.

The town is large and well built, but much smaller than it has been; the castle lies in its ruins, tho' not demolished; within a mile of it is Ferry Bridge, where there is a great stone bridge over the Aire and Calder (then united) and a large stone causeway, above a mile in length, to a town call'd Brotherton, where Queen Margaret, wife of King Edward the First, was delivered of a son, being surprised as she was abroad taking the air, some histories say, a hunting; but, I must confess, it seems not very probable, that queens big with child, and within a few hours of their time, should ride a hunting. Be that as it will, here her majesty was catch'd (as the women call it) and forc'd to take up, and brought forth a son, who was christened Thomas, and sirnamed from the place, De Brotherton; he afterwards was a famous man, and was made Earl of Norfolk, and Earl Marshal of England; which office is hereditary to the title of Norfolk to this day. A little on the south side of this village the road parts, and one way goes on to the right towards Tadcaster, and so to York, of which in its order; the other, being the high-post road for Scotland, goes on to Wetherby, over Bramham Moor, famous for a fight between the Royalists and the fam'd Sir Thomas Fairfax, in which the last was worsted and wounded, but made a retreat, which gain'd him as great reputation as a victory would have done.

Near the road is a noble seat of Benson, Lord Bingly, an antient family, raised to the dignity of a peer in the person of the present Lord Bingly, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the time of the late Queen Anne, and nominated her majesty's Ambassador Extraordinary to the Court of Spain; but the queen dying, that embassy was laid aside. It is a fine, new built, beautiful house, with very curious gardens, tho' not large. Wetherby is a small town, but being a great thoroughfare to the north, has several good inns, and a very lofty stone bridge over the River Wharfe, which comes down from the hills also, as the rest do.

But I must go back to Pontefract, to take notice, that here again the great Roman highway, which I mentioned at Doncaster, and which is visible from thence in several places on the way to Pontefract, though not in the open road, is apparent again, and from Castleford Bridge, which is another bridge over the united rivers of Aire and Calder, it goes on to Abberforth, a small market town famous for pin-making, and so to Tadcaster and York. But I mention it here on this present occasion, for otherwise these remains of antiquity are not my province in this undertaking; I say, 'tis on this occasion.

1. That in some places this causeway being cut into and broken up, the eminent care of the Romans for making firm causeways for the convenience of carriage, and for the passing of travellers, is to be seen there. The layings of different sorts of earth, as clay at the bottom, chalk upon that, then gravel upon the chalk, then stones upon the gravel, and then gravel again; and so of other kinds of earth, where the first was not to be had.

2. In some places between this bridge and the town of Abberforth, the causeway having not been used for the ordinary road, it lies as fair and untouch'd, the surface covered with turf, smooth as at its first making, not so much as the mark of a hoof or of a wheel upon it; so that it is to be seen in its full dimensions and heighth, as if it had been made but the same week; whereas 'tis very probable it had stood so fifteen or sixteen hundred years; and I take notice of it here, because I have not seen any thing like it in any other place in England, and because our people, who are now mending the roads almost every where, might take a pattern from it.

As I made this little excursion to see the town of Pontefract from Leeds, you must suppose me now returned thither, and setting out thence northward. I had no sooner pass'd out of the district of Leeds about four or five miles, and pass'd the Wharfe, at a fine stone bridge of eleven arches at a little pretty town call'd Harwood; I say, I was no sooner gotten hither, but it was easie to see we were out of the manufacturing country. Now the black moorish lands, like Black Barnsley, shew'd dismal again and frightful, the towns were thin, and thin of people too; we saw but little enclosed ground, no tenters with the cloths shining upon them, nor people busied within doors, as before; but, as in the Vicaridge, we saw inhabited mountains, here we saw waste and almost uninhabited vales.

In a word, the country look'd as if all the people were transplanted to Leeds and Hallifax, and that here was only a few just left at home to cultivate the land, manage the plough, and raise corn for the rest.

The River Wharfe seemed very small, and the water low, at Harwood Bridge, so that I was surprised to see so fine a bridge over it, and was thinking of the great bridge at Madrid over the Mansanares, of which a Frenchman of quality looking upon it, said to the Spaniards that were about him, That the King of Spain ought either to buy them some water, or they should sell their bridge. But I was afterwards satisfied that was not the case here; for coming another time this way after a heavy rain, I was convinced the bridge was not at all too big, or too long, the water filling up to the very crown of the arches, and some of the arches not to be seen at all.

From the Wharfe we went directly north, over a continued waste of black, ill looking, desolate moors, over which travellers are guided, like race horses, by posts set up for fear of bogs and holes, to a town call'd Ripley, that stands upon another river called the Nud by some, by others the Nyd, smaller than the Wharfe, but furiously rapid, and very dangerous to pass in many places, especially upon sudden rains. Notwithstanding such lofty, high built bridges as are not to be seen over such small rivers in any other place; and, on this occasion, it may be observed here, once for all, that no part of England, I may say so because I can say I have seen the whole island, a very little excepted, I say, no part can shew such noble, large, lofty, and long stone bridges as this part of England, nor so many of them; nor do I remember to have seen any such thing as a timber bridge in all the northern part of England, no not from the Trent to the Tweed; whereas in the south parts of England there are abundance, as particularly over the great river of Thames at Kingston, Chertsey, Staines, Windsor, Maidenhead, Reading, Henley, Marlow, and other places, and over the River Lea, tho' a navigable river, of thirteen bridges, we see but one built of stone, (viz.) that at Bow.

A little below Ripley, on the same River Nyd, and with a very fine bridge over it also, we saw Knaresborough; known among foreigners by the name of Knaresborough Spaw; in the south of England I have heard it call'd the Yorkshire Spaw. I shall not enter here upon the definition of the word spaw , 'tis enough to speak familiarly, that here is a well of physical or mineral waters, or, to speak more exactly as one viewing the country, here are at the town, and in the adjacent lands, no less than four spaws or mineral waters.

The first thing recommended to me for a wonder, was that four springs, the waters of which are in themselves of so different a quality, should rise in so narrow a compass of ground; but I, who was surfeited with country wonders in my passing the Peak, was not so easily surprized at the wonderful strangeness of this part; and when my landlord at Knaresborough took me short, with a But is it not a strange thing, sir? I answered him with a question, Is it not as strange, sir, said I, that in Derbyshire two springs, one hot, and another cold, should rise within a hand's breadth of one another? Tis certain, that though the eruption of the water may be near, yet the subterranean passages may be as remote as east and west, and the mineral lying in veins may run remote also, so as to take off all the wonder.

2. The springs themselves, and indeed one of them, is nothing extraordinary, namely, that in a little cave a petrifying water drops from the roof of the cavity, which, as they say, turns wood into stone. This indeed I made light of too, because I had already been at Poole's Hole and Castleton in the Peak, and at Harwich.

But now to speak of the other two springs, they are indeed valuable rarities, and not to be equalled in England.

  1. The first is the Sweet Spaw, or a vitriolick water; it was discovered by one Mr. Slingsby, anno 1630. and all physicians acknowledge it to be a very sovereign medicine in several particular distempers. Vid. Dr. Leigh's Nat. Hist. of Lancashire.
  2. The Stinking Spaw, or, if you will, according to the learned, the Sulphur Well. This water is clear as chrystal, but foetid and nauseous to the smell, so that those who drink it are obliged to hold their noses when they drink; yet it is a valuable medicine also in scorbutic, hypochondriac, and especially in hydropic distempers; as to its curing the gout, I take that, as in other cases, ad referendum.

The people formerly, and that for many years, only drank these waters, and used them no otherwise; but are now come into the use of bathing in them as a cold bath, and thus they must necessarily be very good for rheumatic pains, paralitic numbnesses, and many other distempers which afflict mankind.

We were surprised to find a great deal of good company here drinking the waters, and indeed, more than we found afterwards at Scarborough; though this seems to be a most desolate out-of-the-world place, and that men would only retire to it for religious mortifications, and to hate the world, but we found it was quite otherwise.

Those two bridges at Harwood and Ripley are very firm, fine, and, I assure you, very chargeable bridges; and at Rippon there are two stone bridges, whereof one of them has, I think, thirteen arches, or more, over the Eure, and is indeed a very stately and chargeable work. It is true, a bridge over the same river at Burrowbrigg, four mile lower than Rippon, has but four or five arches, but then those arches are near forty foot diameter, and one of the middlemost much more, and high in proportion, and the ends of the bridge continued by high causeways, built of stone, to keep the water in its course; and yet sometimes all is too little.

From the bridges may be observ'd, that however low these waters are in the summer, they are high and furious enough in the winter; and yet the River Aire, tho' its beginning is in the same ridge of mountains as the other, and particularly in the hill called Penigent, which overtops all its neighbours; I say this river is gentle and mild in its stream, when the other are all raging and furious; the only reason I can give for it, which however I think is a very just account, is, that it runs in a thousand windings and turnings more than any other river in those parts; and these reaches and meanders of the river greatly help to check the sharpness of the stream: The next reason is, that after it has descended from the mountains it has a deeper channel; both which, I think, put together, will sufficiently account for the abating the current.

Rippon is a very neat, pleasant, well built town, and has not only an agreeable situation on a rising ground between two rivers, but the market place is the finest and most beautiful square that is to be seen of its kind in England.

In the middle of it stands a curious column of stone, imitating the obelisks of the antients, tho' not so high, but rather like the pillar in the middle of Covent-Garden, or that in Lincoln's Inn, with dials also upon it.

But I must not omit to tell you also, however other pretended travelling writers were pleased not to see it as they went by, that here is a large collegiate church, and tho' it is not a bishoprick but a deanery only, in the diocess of York, yet it is a very handsome, antient and venerable pile of building, and shews it self a great way in the country. Mr. Cambden says, this town of Rippon owes its greatness to religion.

That here was a famous monastery built by Wilfrid, Archbishop of York, and that in the first ages of Christianity, at least in this island, is certain; but this pious gift of the bishop was swallowed up some years after, when the Danes over-running Yorkshire, rifled and burnt it to the ground, as likewise the whole town of Rippon; It afterwards flourished again as a monastery. But those being all given up in the reign of King Henry VIII. the church only was preserved. Mr. Cambden says it was built, which I conceive rather to be form'd into a church, from the ruin of the monastery, by the contribution of the gentry thereabouts.

While it was a monastery, here was a famous sanctuary, a thing however useful in some cases, yet so abused in foreign countries, by making the church a refuge of rogues, thieves and murtherers, that 'tis happy for England it is out of use here. This privilege of sanctuary was, it seems, granted to the church of Rippon by King Athelstan, an.--and with this extraordinary sanction, that whosoever broke the rights of sanctuary of the church of Rippon, and which he extended to a mile on either side the church, should forfeit life and estate; so that, in short, not the church only, but the whole town, and a circle of two miles diameter, was like the Rules of the King's Bench here in Southwark, a refuge for all that fled to it, where they liv'd safe from all manner of molestation, even from the king, or his laws, or any person whatsoever.

Annexed to this monastery was an hospital, the intent and purposes of which are very remarkable, and would be worthy imitation in our days of Protestant charity, when indeed I see nothing come up to it. The house was called the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, where, according to the foundation, were to be maintained two chaplains to perform divine service; and if any begging clergymen, or other needy persons; should happen to travel or stray out of their way, and call at the said hospital, they should be relieved there for one night only, with food and a bed, and to be gone in the morning; and to every poor person that came craving an alms, on St. Mary Magdalen's Day yearly, they should give one loaf, value a half penny, when corn was at the price of five shillings per quarter, and one herring.

Also 'tis recorded, that one branch of this hospital was founded and endowed, and given to a society of religious sisters by a certain Archbishop of York, but the inquisition taken does not find his name, to the intent that they should maintain one chaplain to perform divine service, and to the farther intent that they should maintain all the lepers born and bred in Hipschire, that should come to it for maintenance; and that they should allow to each of them a garment call'd Rak, and two pair of shoes yearly, with every day a loaf fit for a poor man's sustenance, half a pitcher of beer, a sufficient portion of flesh on flesh days, and three herrings on fish days.

After this, other gifts were added to this foundation; also the sisters were removed, and a brotherhood established in their stead, which continued some time; and after that a mastership; and the maintenance of lepers finding no clients, the country proving healthy, that part was turned into a charity, to be dealt out to the poor on St. Mary Magdalen's Day, as above: At length all was demolished together, and the house, with the monastery, suppress'd, as it now stands, a collegiate church being erected on the room of it: Besides, it seems upon another inquisition, and a jury empanelled to give their verdict, it appeared in the 10th of Edward III. that the revenue of one branch of the hospital had been embezzled and squandered away by the master of the hospital, the charities interrupted, and the poor defrauded.

And so in the visitation of the church, for it seems there were frauds and embezzlements in those days, even of the goods of the church, as well as since. Mr. Dugdale, in his Monasticon , gives an account, that William, Archbishop of York, in a visitation of the church of Rippon, anno 1331. found it almost bandoned, notwithstanding much cure of souls depended on it; that there were good revenues belonging to it, but that they were consumed by the absent canons. N.B. There was then also non-residence, and the non-residents too devouring the goods of the church.

Upon this, the good archbishop took order for the future, that all the lands, meadows, revenues, and services (I give you the very words of the archbishop's decree upon his visitation) with the tithes of garbs and hay, of Nyd and Grantilaye, with a pension of twenty shillings due from the Vicar of Nyd, and the spiritual jurisdiction, and the profits of the same, should, for the future, be divided among those who should reside at the church of Rippon, and no other.

There were at that time, in this church, nine chanteries, besides two out-chanteries in the parish, the same which we call now chapels of ease; and besides the chantery of the two priests in the hospital, the out-chanteries were one at Hutton Conyers, and one at Clotheram. N.B. A chantery is any consecrated place where is an oratory, and a priest allowed to sing mass, and therefore call'd a chantery or singing house.

There were in the church at that time

l. s. d.
Three deacons
      
--
5 10 0 each.
Three subdeacons -- 4 10 0
Six choristers
       
--
3 10 0 And 1l. 4s. each for their Livery.
Six tribblers
         
--
2 12 6
The organist
        
--
0 14 4
The grammar school-
  
master
              
--
} 2 0 0

These were noble stipends in those days. How our clergy would serve at this time under such great encouragement, is left to enquiry, especially the organist's salary was notable; from whence I may, I hope without offence, suppose, that he being a layman, might get business in the town, (perhaps he was a dancing-master, or a musick-master, or both) to teach the young ladies of Rippon; and his wife might keep a boarding-school too; and so the grammar school-master might be a writing-master in the town, and the like.

Be that as it will, the church is still standing, tho' the monastery and hospital are suppress'd, and the canons and choir are maintain'd at a much better rate than as above, for they now eat as good beef, and drink as good Yorkshire ale, as their neighbours.

It is an antient building, but firm and strong, the work Gothick, according to the times, and plain; no imagry or statues of any note to be seen about it; there are three homely spires, one on the tower in the middle, and the other two on the angle towers of the west end; they are covered with lead, but not very high or handsome.

But I must not leave Rippon without giving the fam'd tale of St. Wilfrid's Needle. St. Wilfrid was the saint to whom the monastery was dedicated, and this needle was, it seems, for the trial of chastity. There was a dark vault under ground in one part of the monastery, into which there was an easy passage one way, but a narrow long entry, also dark and uneven to come out of it: If any person's chastity was suspected, it does not say whether it was not for men as well as women, but to be sure it was for the latter, they were put into this vault, and the first entrance being closed, they were at liberty to come out by the other, which was called the needle, or the eye of the needle; if they were chaste and untainted, they came out boldly, and without any difficulty; but if faulty, they were stopp'd, and could not get along in the narrow eye or passage, and, as I think the story says, were left there, unable to get out till they had confess'd their fault. Whether the priests had no craft in this case, to put some secret barrier cross the narrow passage in the dark, so to impose upon the poor girls that were put to the trial, that I am not to enquire too far into: However it was, the priests made a miracle of it; and the poor Yorkshire lasses have, no doubt, good reason to be satisfied that St. Wilfrid has left off shewing those miraculous things at this time. In the churchyard of this minster lies a plain monument or gravestone over the remains of a generous soul, who, in charity, gave two thousand pounds to pious uses; the modest epitaph is, however, very important, as follows:

Hic jacet Zacharias Jopson, cujus Ęt. fuit 49. per paucos annos tantum vixit.

To conclude our observations of this church, be pleas'd to take the grant of King Athelstan, mentioned above, of the sanctuary of peace. I suppose all such grants were poetical.

THE CHARTER GRANTED BY KING ATHELSTAN TO ST. WILFRID OF RIPPON

Wyt all that es an es gan,
Yat ik King Adelstan,
As given als frielith as i may,
And to the capital of Seint Wilfrai,
Of my free devotion,
Yak pees ar Rippon
On ylke side the kyrke a mile,
For all ill deedys an ylke agyle,
And within yair kyrke gate.
At ye stan yat Grithstole hate
Within ye kyrke dore, and ye quare,
Yair have pees for less and mare;
Ilkan of yis stedes sal have pees,
Of frod mortel and ill deeds.
Yet yair don is tol and tem,
With iren and with water deme;
And yat ye lond of Seint Wilfrai,
Of alkyn geld fre sal be ay;
Ut na man at langs me to,
In yair herps ac sal have to do.
And for ik wil at yai be save,
I wil, at yai alkyn freedom hav;
And in all thynges be als free
As hert may thynk, or eygh may see:
At ye power of a kynge
Marts make free any thynge.
And my seal have sat yerto,
For I will yat no man it undo.

If you will have this grant speak more modern English, take it thus:

Know all men that are or are to be,1
That I, King Athelstan,
Has given as freely as I am able,
To the body politick2 of St. Wilfrid,
Of my meer bounty3 and good-will,
Their peace who are at Rippon,4
For a mile on every side of the church,
For all ill deeds, and every guile,5
And also within the churchyard gate.6
He that shall stand and do pennance
Within the church door, or in the quire,
Shall be protected, let it be less or more7 ;
All his goods and chattels shall have peace,8
Tho' guilty of mortal feud9 , or any ill deeds.
That I give them also freedom from toll
By land or by water, for themselves, horses and carts;
And that all the lands of the monastery of St. Wilfrid,
Shall be for ever free from all taxes;
So that no man that belongs to me10
Shall have any thing to do with their purse.11
And because 'tis my pleasure they shall be safe,
I will, that they every freedom have,
And in all things be as free
As heart can wish, or eye can see:
So as the power of a king
Can make free to any thing.
And my seal I have set hereto,
Because no man shall it undo.12

A mile from this town, or less, is a stately beautiful seat, built a few years since by Sir Edward Blacket; the park is extended to the bank of the River Eure, and is sometimes in part laid under water by the river, the water of which, they say, coming down from the western mountains, thro' a marly, loamy soil, fructifies the earth, as the River Nile does the Egyptian fields about Grand Cairo, tho' by their leave not quite so much.

As Sir Edward spared no cost in the building, and Sir Christopher Wren laid out the design, as well as chose the ground for him, you may believe me the better, when I add, that nothing can either add to the contrivance or the situation; the building is of brick, the avenues, now the trees are grown, are very fine, and the gardens not only well laid out, but well planted, and as well kept; the statues are neat, the parterre beautiful; but, as they want fine gravel, the walks cannot shew themselves, as in this southern part of England they would. The house has a fine prospect over the country, almost to York, with the river in view most of the way; and it makes it self a very noble appearance to the great north road, which lies within two miles of it, at Burrow-bridge.

As you now begin to come into the North Riding, for the Eure parts the West Riding from it, so you are come into the place noted in the north of England for the best and largest oxen, and the finest galloping horses, I mean swift horses, horses bred, as we call it, for the light saddle, that is to say, for the race, the chace, for running or hunting. Sir Edward was a grazier, and took such delight in the breeding and feeding large siz'd black cattle, that he had two or three times an ox out of his park led about the country for a sight, and shewed as far as Newcastle, and even to Scotland, for the biggest bullock in England; nor was he very often, if ever, over-match'd.

From this town of Rippon, the north road and the Roman highway also, mentioned before, which comes from Castleford Bridge, parting at Abberforth, leads away to a town call'd Bedal, and, in a strait line (leaving Richmond about two miles on the west) call'd Leeming Lane, goes on to Piersbridge on the River Tees, which is the farthest boundary of the county of York.

But before I go forward I should mention Burrow Bridge, which is but three miles below Rippon, upon the same River Eure, and which I must take in my way, that I may not be obliged to go farther out of the way, on the next journey.

There is something very singular at this town, and which is not to be found in any other part of England or Scotland, namely, two borough towns in one parish, and each sending two members to Parliament, that is, Borough Brigg and Aldborough.

Borough Brigg, or Bridge, seems to be the modern town risen up out of Aldborough, the very names importing as much, (viz.) that Burrough at the Bridge, and the Old Borough that was before; and this construction I pretend to justify from all the antiquaries of our age, or the last, who place on the side of Aldborough or Old Borough, an antient city and Roman colony, call'd Isurium Brigantum ; the arguments brought to prove the city stood here, where yet at present nothing of a city is to be seen, no not so much as the ruines, especially not above ground, are out of my way for the present; only the digging up coins, urns, vaults, pavements, and the like, may be mentioned, because some of them are very eminent and remarkable ones, of which an account is to be seen at large in Mr. Cambden, and his continuator, to whom I refer. That this Old Burrough is the remain of that city, is then out of doubt, and that the Burrough at the Bridge, is since grown up, and perhaps principally by the confluence of travellers, to pass the great bridge over the Eure there; this seems too out of question by the import of the word. How either of them came to the privilege of sending members to Parliament, whether by charter and incorporation, or meer prescription, that is to say, a claim of age, which we call time out of mind, that remains for the Parliament to be satisfied in. Certain it is, that the youngest of the two, that is, Burrow Bridge, is very old; for here, in the barons wars, was a battle, and on this bridge the great Bohun, Earl of Hereford, was killed by a soldier, who lay concealed under the bridge, and wounded him, by thrusting a spear or pike into his body, as he pass'd the bridge. From whence Mr. Cambden very gravely judges, that it was not a stone bridge as is now, but a bridge of timber, a thing any man might judge without being challenged for a wizard.

I had not the curiosity so much as to go to see the four great stones in the fields on the left-hand, as you go through Burrow Bridge, which the country people, because they wonder how they could come there, will have be brought by the devil, and call them the Devil's Bolts. Mr. Cambden describes them, and they are no more than are frequent; and I have been obliged to speak of such so often, that I need say no more, but refer to other authors to describe the Romans way of setting up trophies for victory, or the dead, or places of sacrifices to their gods, and which soever it may be, the matter is the same.

From the Eure entring the North Riding, and keeping the Roman causeway, as mentioned before, one part of which went by this Isurium Brigantum from York, we come to Bedall, all the way from Hutton, or thereabout, this Roman way is plain to be seen, and is called now Leeming Lane, from Leeming Chapel, a village which it goes through.

I met with nothing at or about Bedall, that comes within the compass of my enquiry but this, that not this town only, but even all this country, is full of jockeys, that is to say, dealers in horses, and breeders of horses, and the breeds of their horses in this and the next country are so well known, that tho' they do not preserve the pedigree of their horses for a succession of ages, as they say they do in Arabia and in Barbary, yet they christen their stallions here, and know them, and will advance the price of a horse according to the reputation of the horse he came of.

They do indeed breed very fine horses here, and perhaps some of the best in the world, for let foreigners boast what they will of barbs and Turkish horses, and, as we know five hundred pounds has been given for a horse brought out of Turkey, and of the Spanish jennets from Cordova, for which also an extravagant price has been given, I do believe that some of the gallopers of this country, and of the bishoprick of Durham, which joins to it, will outdo for speed and strength the swiftest horse that was ever bred in Turkey, or Barbary, take them all together.

My reason for this opinion is founded upon those words altogether; that is to say, take their strength and their speed together; for example; match the two horses, and bring them to the race post, the barb may beat Yorkshire for a mile course, but Yorkshire shall distance him at the end of four miles; the barb shall beat Yorkshire upon a dry, soft carpet ground, but Yorkshire for a deep country; the reason is plain, the English horses have both the speed and the strength; the barb perhaps shall beat Yorkshire, and carry seven stone and a half; but Yorkshire for a twelve to fourteen stone weight; in a word, Yorkshire shall carry the man, and the barb a feather.

The reason is to be seen in the very make of the horses. The barb, or the jennet, is a fine delicate creature, of a beautiful shape, clean limbs, and a soft coat; but then he is long jointed, weak pastured, and under limb'd: Whereas Yorkshire has as light a body, and stronger limbs, short joints, and well bon'd. This gives him not speed only but strength to hold it; and, I believe, I do not boast in their behalf, without good vouchers, when I say, that English horses, take them one with another, will beat all the world.

As this part of the country is so much employed in horses, the young fellows are naturally grooms, bred up in the stable, and used to lie among the horses; so that you cannot fail of a good servant here, for looking after horses is their particular delight; and this is the reason why, whatever part of England you go to, though the farthest counties west and south, and whatever inn you come at, 'tis two to one but the hostler is a Yorkshire man; for as they are bred among horses, 'tis always the first business they recommend themselves to; and if you ask a Yorkshire man, at his first coming up to get a service, what he can do; his answer is, sir, he can look after your horse, for he handles a curry-comb as naturally as a young scrivener does a pen and ink.

Besides their breeding of horses, they are also good grasiers over this whole country, and have a large, noble breed of oxen, as may be seen at North Allerton fairs, where there are an incredible quantity of them bought eight times every year, and brought southward as far as the fens in Lincolnshire, and the Isle of Ely, where, being but, as it were, half fat before, they are fed up to the grossness of fat which we see in London markets. The market whither these north country cattle are generally brought is to St. Ives, a town between Huntingdon and Cambridge, upon the River Ouse, and where there is a very great number of fat cattle every Monday.

Richmond, which, as I said, is two or three mile wide of the Leeming Lane, is a large market town, and gives name to this part of the country, which is called after it Richmondshire, as another part of it east of this is call'd North Allertonshire. Here you begin to find a manufacture on foot again, and, as before, all was cloathing, and all the people clothiers, here you see all the people, great and small, a knitting; and at Richmond you have a market for woollen or yarn stockings, which they make very coarse and ordinary, and they are sold accordingly; for the smallest siz'd stockings for children are here sold for eighteen pence per dozen, or three half pence a pair, somctimes less.

This trade extends itself also into Westmoreland, or rather comes from Westmoreland, extending itself hither, for at Kendal, Kirkby Stephen, and such other places in this county as border upon Yorkshire; the chief manufacture of yarn stockings is carried on; it is indeed a very considerable manufacture in it self, and of late mightily encreased too, as all the manufactures of England indeed are.

This town of Richmond (Cambden calls it a city) is wall'd, and had a strong castle; but as those things are now all slighted, so really the account of them is of small consequence, and needless; old fortifications being, if fortification was wanted, of very little signification; the River Swale runs under the wall of this castle, and has some unevenness at its bottom, by reason of rocks which intercept its passage, so that it falls like a cataract, but not with so great a noise.

The Swale is a noted river, though not extraordinary large, for giving name to the lands which it runs through for some length, which are called Swale Dale, and to an antient family of that name, one of whom had the vanity, as I have heard, to boast, that his family was so antient as not to receive that name from, but to give name to the river it self. One of the worthless successors of this line, who had brought himself to the dignity of what they call in London, a Fleeter, used to write himself , in his abundant vanity, Sir Solomon Swale, of Swale Hall, in Swale Dale, in the county of Swale in the North Riding of York.

This addition of dale , first given here to the low lands about the head of the Swale, is grown up into a custom or usage from all the rivers which rise in those western hills north of this, quite to and into Scotland; for example,

Teesdale for the River Tees.
Wierdale for the Wier, which runs through Durham.
Tine Dale for the Tine, which runs to Newcastle.
Tweedale for the Tweed, which passeth by Berwick.
Clydsdale, Nydsdale, and many others.

Leaving Richmond, we continue through this long Leeming Lane, which holds for about the length of six mile to the bank of Tees, where we pass'd over the River Tees at Piersbridge; the Tees is a most terrible river, so rapid, that they tell us a story of a man who coming to the ferry place in the road to Darlington, and finding the water low began to pull off his hose and shoes to wade thro', the water not being deep enough to reach to his knees, but that while he was going over, the stream swell'd so fast as to carry him away and drown him.

This bridge leads into the bishoprick of Durham, and the road soon after turns into the great post road leading to the city of Durham. I shall dwell no longer upon the particulars found on this side except Barnard Castle, which is about four miles distant from the Tees bank west, and there I may speak of it again; as all the country round here are grooms, as is noted before; so here and hereabouts they have an excellent knack at dressing horses hides into leather, and thinking or making us think it is invulnerable, that is to say, that it will never wear out; in a word, they make the best bridle reins, belts broad or narrow, and all accoutrements for a compleat horse-master, as they do at Rippon for spurs and stirrups.

Barnard's Castle stands on the north side of the Tees, and so is in the bishoprick of Durham. 'Tis an antient town, and pretty well built, but not large; the manufacture of yarn stockings continues thus far, but not much farther; but the jockeys multiply that way; and here we saw some very fine horses indeed; but as they wanted no goodness, so they wanted no price, being valued for the stallion they came of, and the merit of the breed. One very beautiful stone-horse which they here kept, they asked two hundred guineas for; but, as I heard afterwards, tho' they carried him to London, which was no small addition to the charge of him, they sold him for much less money.

The length of the late war, it seems, caused the breeders here to run into a race or kind of horses, differing much from what they were used to raise, that is to say, from fine fleet horses for galloping and hunting, to a larger breed of charging horses, for the use of the general officers, and colonels of horse, aids du camp, and the like, whose service required strong charging horses, and yet if they were fleet horses too, they had a vast advantage of the enemy; for that if the rider was conquered and forced to fly, there was no overtaking him; and if his enemies fled they could never get away from him. I saw some of this breed, and very noble creatures they were, fit for any business whatever; strong enough for charging, fleet enough for hunting, tempered enough for travelling; and indeed, there is one thing to be said for the horse breeders in this country, their horses are all well broke, perfectly brought to hand, and to be under command, which is a thing absolutely necessary in the army, and in the hunting field also.

I was come now to the extent of the county of York northward. But as I have kept all along to the west side of the county, even from the Peak of Derby hither; and that I have all the East Riding and the eastern part of the North and West Riding to go over, I shall break off here, and conclude my first circuit; and am, with due respect,

SIR,
Your most humble servant.

THE END OF THE EIGHTH LETTER


Footnotes:

1 Present and to come.

2 Or public stock.

3 Devotion here does not mean piety but charity .

4 A place of peace or sanctuary.

5 Every cheat or fraud.

6 The church hatch.

7 Be his fault what it will.

8 His horses and cattle shall not be seized.

9 Some think this word frod mortel extended to murther.

10 None of the king's officers.

11 Snapsack.

12 Or that no man may dare to contradict it.

Daniel Defoe, A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journies (London: JM Dent and Co, 1927)

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