Picture of William Cobbett

William Cobbett

places mentioned

Oct. 18th to 26th, 1826: Weston to Kensington

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Oct . 18, 18 26.

I BROKE off abruptly, under this same date, in my last Register, when speaking of William the Conqueror's demolishing of towns and villages to make the New Forest; and I was about to show that all the historians have told us lies the most abominable about this affair of the New Forest; or that the Scotch writers on population, and particularly Chalmers, have been the greatest of fools or the most impudent of impostors. I therefore now resume this matter, it being, in my opinion, a matter of great interest, at a time when, in order to account for the present notoriously bad living of the people of England, it is asserted that they are become greatly more numerous than they formerly were. This would be no defence of the government, even if the fact were so; but, as I have over and over again proved, the fact is false; and to this I challenge denial, that either churches and great mansions and castles were formerly made without hands; or England was, seven hundred years ago, much more populous than it is now. But what has the formation of the New Forest to do with this? A great deal; for the historians tell us that, in order to make this forest, William the Conqueror destroyed "many populous towns and villages, and thirty-six parish churches!" The devil he did! How populous then, good God, must England have been at that time, which was about the year 1090; that is to say, 736 years ago! For the Scotch will hardly contend that the nature of the soil has been changed for the worse since that time, especially as it has not been cultivated. No, no; brassey as they are, they will not do that. Come, then, let us see how this matter stands. This forest has been crawled upon by favourites, and is now much smaller than it used to be. A time may, and will come, for inquiring how George Rose, and others, became owners of some of the very best parts of this once public property; a time for such inquiry must come, before the people of England will ever give their consent to a reduction of the interest of the debt ! But this we know, that the New Forest formerly extended, westward, from the Southampton Water and the river Oux to the river Avon, and northward from Lymington Haven to the borders of Wiltshire. We know that this was its utmost extent; and we know also that the towns of Christchurch, Lymington, Ringwood, and Fordingbridge, and the villages of Bolder, Fawley, Lyndhurst, Dipden, Eling, Minsted, and all the other villages that now have churches; we know, I say (and pray mark it), that all these towns and villages existed before the Norman Conquest: because the Roman names of several of them (all the towns) are in print, and because an account of them all is to be found in Doomsday Book , which was made by this very William the Conqueror. Well then, now, Scotch population-liars, and you Malthusian blasphemers, who contend that God has implanted in man a principle that leads him to starvation ; come, now, and face this history of the New Forest. Cooke, in his Geography of Hampshire , says that the Conqueror destroyed here "many populous towns and villages, and thirty-six parish churches." The same writer says, that in the time of Edward the Confessor (just before the Conqueror came), "two-thirds of the forest was inhabited and cultivated." Guthrie says nearly the same thing. But let us hear the two historians who are now pitted against each other, Hume and Lingard. The former (vol. ii, p. 217) says: "There was one pleasure to which William, as well as all the Normans and ancient Saxons, was extremely addicted, and that was hunting; but this pleasure he indulged more at the expense of his unhappy subjects, whose interests he always disregarded, than to the loss or diminution of his own revenue. Not content with those large forests which former kings possessed in all parts of England, he resolved to make a new forest, near Winchester, the usual place of his residence: and for that purpose he laid waste the county of Hampshire, for an extent of thirty miles, expelled the inhabitants from their houses, seized their property, even demolished churches and convents , and made the sufferers no compensation for the injury." Pretty well for a pensioned Scotchman: and now let us hear Dr. Lingard, to prevent his society from presenting whose work to me , the sincere and pious Samuel Butler was ready to go down upon his marrow bones ; let us hear the good doctor upon this subject. He says (vol. i, pp. 452 and 453), "Though the king possessed sixty-eight forests, besides parks and chases, in different parts of England, he was not yet satisfied, but for the occasional accommodation of his court afforested an extensive tract of country lying between the city of Winchester and the sea coast. The inhabitants were expelled : the cottages and the churches were burnt : and more than thirty square miles of a rich and populous district were withdrawn from cultivation , and converted into a wilderness , to afford sufficient range for the deer and ample space for the royal diversion. The memory of this act of despotism has been perpetuated in the name of the New Forest, which it retains at the present day, after the lapse of seven hundred and fifty years."

The true statement is this: the New Forest, according to its ancient state, was bounded thus: by the line going from the river Oux to the river Avon, and which line there separates Wiltshire from Hampshire; by the river Avon; by the sea from Christchurch to Calshot Castle; by the Southampton Water; and by the river Oux. These are the boundaries; and (as any one may, by scale and compass, ascertain) there are, within these boundaries, about 224 square miles, containing 143,360 acres of land. Within these limits there are now remaining eleven parish churches, all of which were in existence before the time of William the Conqueror; so that if he destroyed thirty-six parish churches, what a populous country this must have been! There must have been forty-seven parish churches; so that there was, over this whole district, one parish church to every four and three quarters square miles! Thus, then, the churches must have stood, on an average, at within one mile and about two hundred yards of each other! And observe, the parishes could, on an average, contain no more, each, than 2966 acres of land! Not a very large farm; so that here was a parish church to every large farm, unless these historians are all fools and liars.

I defy any one to say that I make hazardous assertions: I have plainly described the ancient boundaries: there are the maps : any one can, with scale and compass, measure the area as well as I can. I have taken the statements of historians, as they call themselves: I have shown that their histories, as they call them, are fabulous; or (and mind this or) that England was, at one time, and that too, eight hundred years ago, beyond all measure more populous than it is now . For observe, notwithstanding what Dr. Lingard asserts; notwithstanding that he describes this district as "rich ," it is the very poorest in the whole kingdom. Dr. Lingard was, I believe, born and bred at Winchester, and how, then, could he be so careless, or, indeed, so regardless of truth (and I do not see why I am to mince the matter with him), as to describe this as a rich district . Innumerable persons have seen Bagshot Heath ; great numbers have seen the barren heaths between London and Brighton; great numbers also have seen that wide sweep of barrenness which exhibits itself between the Golden Farmer Hill and Blackwater. Nine-tenths of each of these are less barren than four-fifths of the land in the New Forest. Supposing it to be credible that a man so prudent and so wise as William the Conqueror; supposing that such a man should have pitched upon a rich and populous district wherewith to make a chase; supposing, in short, these historians to have spoken the truth, and supposing this barren land to have been all inhabited and cultivated, and the people so numerous and so rich as to be able to build and endow a parish church upon every four and three-quarters square miles upon this extensive district; supposing them to have been so rich in the produce of the soil as to want a priest to be stationed at every mile and 200 yards in order to help them to eat it; supposing, in a word, these historians not to be the most farcical liars that ever put pen upon paper, this country must, at the time of the Norman Conquest, have literally swarmed with people; for there is the land now , and all the land too: neither Hume nor Dr. Lingard can change the nature of that. There it is, an acre of it not having, upon an average, so much of productive capacity in it as one single square rod, taking the average, of Worcestershire; and if I were to say one single square yard I should be right; there is the land; and if that land were, as these historians say it was, covered with people and with churches, what the devil must Worcestershire have been! To this, then, we come at last: having made out what I undertook to show; namely that the historians, as they call themselves, are either the greatest fools or the greatest liars that ever existed, or that England was beyond all measure more populous eight hundred years ago than it is now.

Poor, however, as this district is, and culled about as it has been for the best spots of land by those favourites who have got grants of land or leases or something or other, still there are some spots here and there which would grow trees; but never will it grow trees, or anything else, to the profit of this nation , until it become private property . Public property must, in some cases, be in the hands of public officers; but this is not an affair of that nature. This is too loose a concern; too little controllable by superiors. It is a thing calculated for jobbing above all others; calculated to promote the success of favouritism. Who can imagine that the persons employed about plantations and farms for the public are employed because they are fit for the employment? Supposing the commissioners to hold in abhorrence the idea of paying for services to themselves under the name of paying for services to the public; supposing them never to have heard of such a thing in their lives, can they imagine that nothing of this sort takes place while they are in London eleven months out of twelve in the year? I never feel disposed to cast much censure upon any of the persons engaged in such concerns. The temptation is too great to be resisted. The public must pay for everything ? pois d'or . Therefore, no such thing should be in the hands of the public, or rather of the government; and I hope to live to see this thing completely taken out of the hands of this government.

It was night-fall when we arrived at Eling, that it to say, at the head of the Southampton Water. Our horses were very hungry. We stopped to bait them, and set off just about dusk to come to this place (Weston Grove), stopping at Southampton on our way, and leaving a letter to come to London. Between Southampton and this place we cross a bridge over the Itchen river, and coming up a hill into a common, which is called Town-hill Common, we passed, lying on our right, a little park and house, occupied by the Irish Bible-man, Lord Ashdown, I think they call him, whose real name is French, and whose family are so very well known in the most unfortunate sister-kingdom. Just at the back of his house, in another sort of paddock-place, lives a man, whose name I forget, who was, I believe, a coachmaker in the East Indies, and whose father, or uncle, kept a turnpike gate at Chelsea a few years ago. See the effects of "industry and enterprise "! But even these would be nothing were it not for this wondrous system by which money can be snatched away from the labourer in this very parish, for instance, sent off to the East Indies, there help to make a mass to put into the hands of an adventurer, and then the mass may be brought back in the pockets of the adventurer and cause him to be called a 'squire by the labourer whose earnings were so snatched away! Wondrous system! Pity it cannot last for ever! Pity that it has got a debt of a thousand millions to pay! Pity that it cannot turn paper into gold! Pity that it will make such fools of Prosperity Robinson and his colleagues!

The moon shone very bright by the time that we mounted the hill; and now, skirting the enclosures upon the edge of the common, we passed several of those cottages which I so well recollected, and in which I had the satisfaction to believe that the inhabitants were sitting comfortably with bellies full by a good fire. It was eight o'clock before we arrived at Mr. Chamberlayne's, whom I had not seen since I think, the year 1816; for in the fall of that year I came to London and I never returned to Botley (which is only about three miles and a half from Weston) to stay there for any length of time. To those who like water-scenes (as nineteen-twentieths of people do) it is the prettiest spot, I believe, in all England. Mr. Chamberlayne built the house about twenty years ago. He has been bringing the place to greater and greater perfection from that time to this. All round about the house is in the neatest possible order. I should think that, altogether, there cannot be so little as ten acres of short grass ; and, when I say that , those who know anything about gardens will form a pretty correct general notion as to the scale on which the thing is carried on. Until of late, Mr. Chamberlayne was owner of only a small part, comparatively, of the lands hereabouts. He is now the owner, I believe, of the whole of the lands that come down to the water's edge and that lie between the ferry over the Itchen at Southampton and the river which goes out from the Southampton Water at Hamble. And now let me describe, as well as I can, what this land and its situation are.

The Southampton Water begins at Portsmouth, and goes up by Southampton to Redbridge, being, upon an average, about two miles wide, having on the one side the New Forest and on the other side, for a great part of the way, this fine and beautiful estate of Mr. Chamberlayne. Both sides of this water have rising lands divided into hill and dale, and very beautifully clothed with trees, the woods and lawns and fields being most advantageously intermixed. It is very curious that, at the back of each of these tracts of land, there are extensive heaths, on this side as well as on the New Forest side. To stand here and look across the water at the New Forest, you would imagine that it was really a country of woods ; for you can see nothing of the heaths from here; those heaths over which we rode, and from which we could see a windmill down among the trees, which windmill is now to be seen just opposite this place. So that the views from this place are the most beautiful that can be imagined. You see up the water and down the water, to Redbridge one way and out to Spithead the other way. Through the trees, to the right, you see the spires of Southampton, and you have only to walk a mile, over a beautiful lawn and through a not less beautiful wood, to find, in a little dell, surrounded with lofty woods, the venerable ruins of Netley Abbey , which make part of Mr. Chamberlayne's estate.

The woods here are chiefly of oak; the ground consists of a series of hill and dale, as you go long-wise from one end of the estate to the other, about six miles in length . Down almost every little valley that divides these hills or hillocks there is more or less of water, making the underwood, in those parts, very thick and dark to go through; and these form the most delightful contrast with the fields and lawns. There are innumerable vessels of various sizes continually upon the water; and to those that delight in water-scenes, this is certainly the very prettiest place that I ever saw in my life. I had seen it many years ago; and as I intended to come here on my way home, I told George before we set out, that I would show him another Weston before we got to London. The parish in which his father's house is, is also called Weston, and a very beautiful spot it certainly is; but I told him I questioned whether I could not show him a still prettier Weston than that. We let him alone for the first day. He sat in the house, and saw great multitudes of pheasants and partridges upon the lawn before the window: he went down to the water-side by himself, and put his foot upon the ground to see the tide rise. He seemed very much delighted. The second morning at breakfast we put it to him which he would rather have; this Weston or the Weston he had left in Herefordshire; but though I introduced the question in a way almost to extort a decision in favour of the Hampshire Weston, he decided instantly and plumped for the other, in a manner very much to the delight of Mr. Chamberlayne and his sister. So true it is, that when people are uncorrupted, they always like home best , be it in itself what it may.

Everything that nature can do has been done here; and money most judiciously employed has come to her assistance. Here are a thousand things to give pleasure to any rational mind; but there is one thing which, in my estimation, surpasses, in pleasure to contemplate, all the lawns and all the groves and all the gardens and all the game and everything else; and that is the real, unaffected goodness of the owner of this estate. He is a member for Southampton; he has other fine estates; he has great talents; he is much admired by all who know him; but he has done more by his justice, by his just way of thinking with regard to the labouring people, than in all other ways put together. This was nothing new to me; for I was well informed of it several years ago, though I had never heard him speak of it in my life. When he came to this place the common wages of day-labouring men were thirteen shillings a week , and the wages of carpenters, bricklayers, and other tradesmen were in proportion. Those wages he has given, from that time to this , without any abatement whatever. With these wages a man can live, having, at the same time, other advantages attending the working for such a man as Mr. Chamberlayne. He has got less money in his bags than he would have had if he had ground men down in their wages; but if his sleep be not sounder than that of the hard-fisted wretch that can walk over grass and gravel, kept in order by a poor creature that is half-starved; if his sleep be not sounder than the sleep of such a wretch, then all that we have been taught is false, and there is no difference between the man who feeds and the man who starves the poor: all the Scripture is a bundle of lies, and instead of being propagated it ought to be flung into the fire.

Netley Abbey ought, it seems, to be called Letley Abbey, the Latin name being L?tus Locus, or Pleasant Place. Letley was made up of an abbreviation of the L?tus and of the Saxon word ley , which meant place, field , or piece of ground . This abbey was founded by Henry III in 1239, for twelve monks of the Benedictine order; and when suppressed, by the wife-killer, its revenues amounted to ?3200 a year of our present money. The possessions of these monks were by the wife-killing founder of the Church of England given away (though they belonged to the public) to one of his court sycophants, Sir William Paulet, a man the most famous in the whole world for sycophancy, time-serving, and for all those qualities which usually distinguish the favourites of kings like the wife-killer. This Paulet changed from the popish to Henry VIII's religion, and was a great actor in punishing the papists: when Edward VI came to the throne, this Paulet turned Protestant, and was a great actor in punishing those who adhered to Henry VIII's religion: when Queen Mary came to the throne, this Paulet turned back to papist, and was one of the great actors in sending Protestants to be burnt in Smithfield: when Old Bess came to the throne, this Paulet turned back to Protestant again, and was, until the day of his death, one of the great actors in persecuting, in fining, in mulcting, and in putting to death those who still had the virtue and the courage to adhere to the religion in which they and he had been born and bred. The head of this family got, at last, to be Earl of Wiltshire, Marquis of Winchester, and Duke of Bolton. This last title is now gone ; or, rather, it is changed to that of "Lord Bolton," which is now borne by a man of the name of Orde, who is the son of a man of that name, who died some years ago, and who married a daughter (I think it was) of the last "Duke of Bolton." Mr. Chamberlayne has caused the ancient fish-ponds , at Netley Abbey, to be "reclaimed," as they call it. What a loss, what a national loss, there has been in this way, and in the article of water fowl! I am quite satisfied that, in these two articles and in that of rabbits , the nation has lost, has had annihilated (within the last 250 years) food sufficient for two days in the week, on an average, taking the year throughout. These are things, too, which cost so little labour! You can see the marks of old fish-ponds in thousands and thousands of places. I have noticed, I dare say, five-hundred, since I left home. A trifling expense would, in most cases, restore them; but, now-a-days, all is looked for at shops: all is to be had by trafficking: scarcely any one thinks of providing for his own wants out of his own land and other his own domestic means. To buy the thing, ready made , is the taste of the day; thousands, who are housekeepers, buy their dinners ready cooked: nothing is so common as to rent breasts for children to suck: a man actually advertised, in the London papers, about two months ago, to supply childless husbands with heirs! In this case, the articles were, of course, to be ready made ; for to make them "to order" would be the devil of a business; though, in desperate cases, even this is, I believe, sometimes resorted to.

Sunday, Oct . 22, 1826.

We left Weston Grove on Friday morning, and came across to Botley, where we remained during the rest of the day, and until after breakfast yesterday. I had not seen "the Botley Parson" for several years, and I wished to have a look at him now, but could not get a sight of him, though we rode close before his house, at much about his breakfast time, and though we gave him the strongest invitation that could be expressed by hallooing and by cracking of whips! The fox was too cunning for us, and do all we could, we could not provoke him to put even his nose out of kennel. From Mr. James Warner's at Botley we went to Mr. Hallett's, at Allington, and had the very great pleasure of seeing him in excellent health. We intended to go back to Botley, and then to go to Titchfield, and in our way to this place over Portsdown Hill, whence I intended to show George the harbour and the fleet, and (of still more importance) the spot on which we signed the "Hampshire Petition," in 1817; that petition which foretold that which the "Norfolk Petition" confirmed; that petition which will be finally acted upon, or . . . ! That petition was the very last thing that I wrote at Botley . I came to London in November 1816; the Power-of-Imprisonment Bill was passed in February 1817; just before it was passed, the meeting took place on Portsdown Hill; and I, in my way to the hill from London, stopped at Botley and wrote the petition. We had one meeting afterwards at Winchester, when I heard parsons swear like troopers, and saw one of them hawk up his spittle, and spit it into Lord Cochrane's poll! Ah! my bucks, we have you now ! You are got nearly to the end of your tether; and, what is more, you know it . Pay off the debt, parsons! It is useless to swear and spit, and to present addresses applauding Power-of-Imprisonment Bills, unless you can pay off the debt! Pay off the debt, parsons! They say you can lay the devil. Lay this devil, then; or confess that he is too many for you; aye, and for Sturges Bourne, or Bourne Sturges (I forget which), at your backs!

From Allington we, fearing that it would rain before we could get round by Titchfield, came across the country over Waltham Chase and Soberton Down. The chase was very green and fine; but the down was the very greenest thing that I have seen in the whole country. It is not a large down; perhaps not more than five or six hundred acres; but the land is good, the chalk is at a foot from the surface, or more; the mould is a hazel mould; and when I was upon the opposite hill I could, though I knew the spot very well, hardly believe that it was a down. The green was darker than that of any pasture or even any sainfoin or clover that I had seen throughout the whole of my ride; and I should suppose that there could not have been many less than a thousand sheep in the three flocks that were feeding upon the down when I came across it. I do not speak with anything like positiveness as to the measurement of this down; but I do not believe that it exceeds six hundred and fifty acres. They must have had more rain in this part of the country than in most other parts of it. Indeed, no part of Hampshire seems to have suffered very much from the drought. I found the turnips pretty good, of both sorts, all the way from Andover to Rumsey. Through the New Forest you may as well expect to find loaves of bread growing in fields as turnips, where there are any fields for them to grow in. From Redbridge to Weston we had not light enough to see much about us; but when we came down to Botley, we there found the turnips as good as I had ever seen them in my life, as far as I could judge from the time I had to look at them. Mr Warner has as fine turnip fields as I ever saw him have, swedish turnips and white also; and pretty nearly the same may be said of the whole of that neighbourhood for many miles round. After quitting Soberton Down, we came up a hill leading to Hambledon, and turned off to our left to bring us down to Mr. Goldsmith's at West End, where we now are, at about a mile from the village of Hambledon. A village it now is; but it was formerly a considerable market-town, and it had three fairs in the year. There is now not even the name of market left, I believe; and the fairs amount to little more than a couple or three gingerbread-stalls, with dolls and whistles for children. If you go through the place, you see that it has been a considerable town. The church tells the same story; it is now a tumble-down rubbishy place; it is partaking in the fate of all those places which were formerly a sort of rendezvous for persons who had things to buy and things to sell. Wens have devoured market-towns and villages; and shops have devoured markets and fairs ; and this, too, to the infinite injury of the most numerous classes of the people. Shop-keeping, merely as shop-keeping, is injurious to any community. What are the shop and the shop-keeper for? To receive and distribute the produce of the land. There are other articles, certainly; but the main part is the produce of the land. The shop must be paid for; the shop-keeper must be kept; and the one must be paid for and the other must be kept by the consumer of the produce; or, perhaps, partly by the consumer and partly by the producer. When fairs were very frequent shops were not needed. A manufacturer of shoes, of stockings, of hats; of almost anything that man wants, could manufacture at home in an obscure hamlet, with cheap house-rent, good air, and plenty of room. He need pay no heavy rent for shop; and no disadvantages from confined situation; and then, by attending three or four or five or six fairs in a year, he sold the work of his hands, unloaded with a heavy expense attending the keeping of a shop. He would get more for ten shillings in a booth at a fair or market than he would get in a shop for ten or twenty pounds. Of course he could afford to sell the work of his hands for less; and thus a greater portion of their earnings remained with those who raised the food and the clothing from the land. I had an instance of this in what occurred to myself at Weyhill Fair. When I was at Salisbury, in September, I wanted to buy a whip. It was a common hunting-whip, with a hook to it to pull open gates with, and I could not get it for less than seven shillings and sixpence. This was more than I had made up my mind to give, and I went on with my switch. When we got to Weyhill Fair, George had made shift to lose his whip some time before, and I had made him go without one by way of punishment. But now, having come to the fair, and seeing plenty of whips, I bought him one, just such a one as had been offered me at Salisbury for seven and sixpence, for four and sixpence; and seeing the man with his whips afterwards, I thought I would have one myself; and he let me have it for three shillings. So that here were two whips, precisely of the same kind and quality as the whip at Salisbury, bought for the money which the man at Salisbury asked me for one whip. And yet, far be it from me to accuse the man at Salisbury of an attempt at extortion: he had an expensive shop and a family in a town to support, while my Weyhill fellow had been making his whips in some house in the country, which he rented, probably, for five or six pounds a year, with a good garden to it. Does not every one see, in a minute, how this exchanging of fairs and markets for shops creates idlers and traffickers ; creates those locusts called middlemen who create nothing, who add to the value of nothing, who improve nothing, but who live in idleness, and who live well, too, out of the labour of the producer and the consumer. The fair and the market, those wise institutions of our forefathers, and with regard to the management of which they were so scrupulously careful; the fair and the market bring the producer and the consumer in contact with each other. Whatever is gained is, at any rate, gained by one or the other of these. The fair and the market bring them together, and enable them to act for their mutual interest and convenience. The shop and the trafficker keeps them apart; the shop hides from both producer and consumer the real state of matters. The fair and the market lay everything open: going to either, you see the state of things at once; and the transactions are fair and just, not disfigured, too, by falsehood, and by those attempts at deception which disgrace traffickings in general. Very wise, too, and very just, were the laws against forestalling and regrating . They were laws to prevent the producer and the consumer from being cheated by the trafficker. There are whole bodies of men, indeed, a very large part of the community, who live in idleness in this country in consequence of the whole current of the laws now running in favour of the trafficking monopoly. It has been a great object with all wise governments, in all ages, from the days of Moses to the present day, to confine trafficking, mere trafficking, to as few hands as possible. It seems to be the main object of this government to give all possible encouragement to traffickers of every description, and to make them swarm like the lice of Egypt. There is that numerous sect the Quakers. This sect arose in England: they were engendered by the Jewish system of usury. Till excises and loan-mongering began, these vermin were never heard of in England. They seem to have been hatched by that fraudulent system, as maggots are bred by putrid meat, or as the flounders come in the livers of rotten sheep. The base vermin do not pretend to work: all they talk about is dealing; and the government, in place of making laws that would put them in the stocks, or cause them to be whipped at the cart's tail, really seem anxious to encourage them and to increase their numbers; nay, it is not long since Mr. Brougham had the effrontery to move for leave to bring in a bill to make men liable to be hanged upon the bare word of these vagabonds. This is, with me, something never to be forgotten. But everything tends the same way: all the regulations , all the laws that have been adopted of late years, have a tendency to give encouragement to the trickster and the trafficker, and to take from the labouring classes all the honour and a great part of the food that fairly belonged to them.

In coming along yesterday from Waltham Chase to Soberton Down, we passed by a big white house upon a hill that was, when I lived at Botley, occupied by one Goodlad, who was a cock justice of the peace, and who had been a chap of some sort or other in India . There was a man of the name of Singleton who lived in Waltham Chase, and who was deemed to be a great poacher. This man, having been forcibly ousted by the order of this Goodlad and some others from an encroachment that he had made in the forest, threatened revenge. Soon after this, a horse (I forget to whom it belonged) was stabbed or shot in the night-time in a field. Singleton was taken up, tried at Winchester, convicted and transported . I cannot relate exactly what took place. I remember that there were some curious circumstances attending the conviction of this man. The people in that neighbourhood were deeply impressed with these circumstances. Singleton was transported; but Goodlad and his wife were both dead and buried in less, I believe, than three months after the departure of poor Singleton. I do not know that any injustice really was done; but I do know that a great impression was produced, and a very sorrowful impression, too, on the minds of the people in that neighbourhood.

I cannot quit Waltham Chase without observing that I heard, last year, that a bill was about to be petitioned for to enclose that chase! Never was so monstrous a proposition in this world. The Bishop of Winchester is lord of the manor over this chase. If the chase be enclosed the timber must be cut down, young and old; and here are a couple of hundred acres of land, worth ten thousand acres of land in the New Forest. This is as fine timber land as any in the wealds of Surrey, Sussex or Kent. There are two enclosures of about 40 acres each, perhaps, that were simply surrounded by a bank being thrown up about twenty years ago, only twenty years ago, and on the poorest part of the chase, too; and these are now as beautiful plantations of young oak-trees as man ever set his eyes on; many of them as big or bigger round than my thigh! Therefore, besides the sweeping away of two or three hundred cottages; besides plunging into ruin and misery all these numerous families, here is one of the finest pieces of timberland in the whole kingdom, going to be cut up into miserable clay fields, for no earthly purpose but that of gratifying the stupid greediness of those who think that they must gain, if they add to the breadth of their private fields. But if a thing like this be permitted, we must be prettily furnished with commissioners of woods and forests! I do not believe that they will sit in parliament and see a bill like this passed and hold their tongues; but if they were to do it, there is no measure of reproach which they would not merit. Let them go and look at the two plantations of oaks, of which I have just spoken; and then let them give their consent to such a bill if they can.

Monday Evening, October 23.

When I left Weston, my intention was to go from Hambledon to Up Park, thence to Arundel, thence to Brighton, thence to Eastbourne, thence to Wittersham in Kent, and then by Cranbrook, Tunbridge, Godstone and Reigate to London; but when I got to Botley, and particularly when I got to Hambledon, I found my horse's back so much hurt by the saddle that I was afraid to take so long a stretch, and therefore resolved to come away straight to this place, to go hence to Reigate, and so to London. Our way, therefore, this morning, was over Butser Hill to Petersfield, in the first place; then to Lyphook and then to this place, in all about twenty-four miles. Butser Hill belongs to the back chain of the South Downs; and, indeed, it terminates that chain to the westward. It is the highest hill in the whole country. Some think that Hindhead, which is the famous sand-hill over which the Portsmouth road goes at sixteen miles to the north of this great chalk-hill ; some think that Hindhead is the highest hill of the two. Be this as it may, Butser Hill, which is the right-hand hill of the two between which you go at three miles from Petersfield going towards Portsmouth; this Butser Hill is, I say, quite high enough; and was more than high enough for us, for it took us up amongst clouds that wet us very nearly to the skin. In going from Mr. Goldsmith's to the hill, it is all uphill for five miles. Now and then a little stoop; not much; but regularly, with these little exceptions, uphill for these five miles. The hill appears, at a distance, to be a sharp ridge on its top. It is, however, not so. It is, in some parts, half a mile wide or more. The road lies right along the middle of it from west to east, and just when you are at the highest part of the hill, it is very narrow from north to south; not more, I think, than about a hundred or a hundred and thirty yards. This is as interesting a spot, I think, as the foot of man ever was placed upon. Here are two valleys, one to your right and the other to your left, very little less than half a mile down to the bottom of them, and much steeper than a tiled roof of a house. These valleys may be, where they join the hill, three or four hundred yards broad. They get wider as they get farther from the hill. Of a clear day you see all the north of Hampshire; nay, the whole country, together with a great part of Surrey and of Sussex. You see the whole of the South Downs to the eastward as far as your eye can carry you; and, lastly, you see over Portsdown Hill, which lies before you to the south; and there are spread open to your view the isle of Portsea, Porchester, Wimmering, Fareham, Gosport, Portsmouth, the harbour, Spithead, the Isle of Wight and the ocean.

But something still more interesting occured to me here in the year 1808 , when I was coming on horseback over the same hill from Botley to London. It was a very beautiful day and in summer. Before I got upon the hill (on which I had never been before), a shepherd told me to keep on in the road in which I was till I came to the London turnpike-road. When I got to within a quarter of a mile of this particular point of the hill, I saw at this point what I thought was a cloud of dust; and speaking to my servant about it, I found that he thought so too; but this cloud of dust disappeared all at once. Soon after there appeared to arise another cloud of dust at the same place, and then that disappeared, and the spot was clear again. As we were trotting along at a pretty smart pace, we soon came to this narrow place, having one valley to our right and the other valley to our left, and there, to my great astonishment, I saw the clouds come one after another, each appearing to be about as big as two or three acres of land, skimming along in the valley on the north side, a great deal below the tops of the hills; and successively, as they arrived at our end of the valley, rising up, crossing the narrow pass, and then descending down into the other valley and going off to the south; so that we who sate there upon our horses, were alternately in clouds and in sunshine. It is a universal rule that if there be a fog in the morning, and that fog go from the valleys to the tops of the hills, there will be rain that day; and if it disappear by sinking in the valley, there will be no rain that day. The truth is, that fogs are clouds, and clouds are fogs. They are more or less full of water; but they are all water; sometimes a sort of stream, and sometimes water that falls in drops. Yesterday morning the fogs had ascended to the tops of the hills; and it was raining on all the hills around us before it began to rain in the valleys. We, as I observed before, got pretty nearly wet to the skin upon the top of Butser Hill; but we had the pluck to come on and let the clothes dry upon our backs.

I must here relate something that appears very interesting to me, and something which, though it must have been seen by every man that has lived in the country, or, at least, in any hilly country, has never been particularly mentioned by anybody as far as I can recollect. We frequently talk of clouds coming from dews ; and we actually see the heavy fogs become clouds. We see them go up to the tops of hills, and taking a swim round, actually come and drop down upon us and wet us through. But I am now going to speak of clouds coming out of the sides of hills in exactly the same manner that you see smoke come out of a tobacco pipe, and rising up, with a wider and wider head, like the smoke from a tobacco-pipe, go to the top of the hill or over the hill, or very much above it, and then come over the valleys in rain. At about a mile's distance from Mr. Palmer's house at Bollitree, in Herefordshire, there is a large, long, beautiful wood, covering the side of a lofty hill, winding round in the form of a crescent, the bend of the crescent being towards Mr. Palmer's house. It was here that I first observed this mode of forming clouds. The first time I noticed it, I pointed it out to Mr. Palmer. We stood and observed cloud after cloud come out from different parts of the side of the hill, and tower up and go over the hill out of sight. He told me that that was a certain sign that it would rain that day, for that these clouds would come back again, and would fall in rain. It rained sure enough; and I found that the country people all round about had this mode of the forming of the clouds as a sign of rain. The hill is called Penyard, and this forming of the clouds they call Old Penyard's smoking his pipe ; and it is a rule that it is sure to rain during the day if Old Penyard smokes his pipe in the morning. These appearances take place especially in warm and sultry weather. It was very warm yesterday morning: it had thundered violently the evening before: we felt it hot even while the rain fell upon us at Butser Hill. Petersfield lies in a pretty broad and very beautiful valley. On three sides of it are very lofty hills, partly downs and partly covered with trees: and as we proceeded on our way from the bottom of Butser Hill to Petersfield, we saw thousands upon thousands of clouds continually coming puffing out from different parts of these hills and towering up to the top of them. I stopped George several times to make him look at them; to see them come puffing out of the chalk downs as well as out of the woodland hills; and bade him remember to tell his father of it when he should get home, to convince him that the hills of Hampshire could smoke their pipes as well as those of Herefordshire. This is a really curious matter. I have never read, in any book, anything to lead me to suppose that the observation has ever found its way into print before. Sometimes you will see only one or two clouds during a whole morning come out of the side of a hill; but we saw thousands upon thousands, bursting out, one after another, in all parts of these immense hills. The first time that I have leisure, when I am in the high countries again, I will have a conversation with some old shepherd about this matter: if he cannot enlighten me upon the subject I am sure that no philosopher can.

We got to this place (Mr. Knowles's of Thursley) about 5 o'clock in the evening, very much delighted with our ride.

Thursday, Oct . 26.

We left Mr. Knowles's on Thursday morning, came through Godalming, stopped at Mr. Rowland's at Chilworth, and then came on through Dorking to Colley Farm, near Reigate, where we slept. I have so often described the country from Hindhead to the foot of Reigate Hill, and from the top of Reigate Hill to the Thames, that I shall not attempt to do it again here. When we got to the river Wey, we crossed it from Godalming Pismarsh to come up to Chilworth. I desired George to look round the country, and asked him if he did not think it was very pretty. I put the same question to him when we got into the beautiful neighbourhood of Dorking, and when we got to Reigate, and especially when we got to the tip-top of Reigate Hill, from which there is one of the finest views in the whole world; but ever after our quitting Mr. Knowles's, George insisted that that was the prettiest country that we had seen in the course of our whole ride, and that he liked Mr. Knowles's place better than any other place that he had seen. I reminded him of Weston Grove; and I reminded him of the beautiful ponds and grass and plantations at Mr. Leach's; but he still persisted in his judgment in favour of Mr. Knowles's place, in which decision, however, the greyhounds and the beagles had manifestly a great deal to do.

From Thursley to Reigate inclusive, on the chalk-side as well as on the sand-side, the crops of turnips, of both kinds, were pretty nearly as good as I ever saw them in my life. On a farm of Mr. Drummond's at Aldbury, rented by a farmer Peto, I saw a piece of cabbages, of the large kind, which will produce, I should think, not much short of five-and-twenty tons to the acre; and here I must mention (I do not know why I must, by the bye) an instance of my own skill in measuring land by the eye. The cabbages stand upon half a field and on the part of it furthest from the road where we were. We took the liberty to open the gate and ride into the field, in order to get closer to the cabbages to look at them. I intended to notice this piece of cabbages, and I asked George how much ground he thought there was in the piece. He said two acres ; and asked me how much I thought. I said that there were above four acres , and that I should not wonder if there were four acres and a half . Thus divided in judgment, we turned away from the cabbages to go out of the field at another gate, which pointed towards our road. Near this gate we found a man turning a heap of manure. This man, as it happened, had hoed the cabbages by the acre, or had had a hand in it. We asked him how much ground there was in that piece of cabbages, and he told us, four acres and a half! I suppose it will not be difficult to convince the reader that George looked upon me as a sort of conjuror. At Mr. Pym's at Colley Farm, we found one of the very finest pieces of mangel wurzel that I had ever seen in my life. We calculated that there would be little short of forty tons to the acre ; and there being three acres to the piece, Mr. Pym calculates that this mangel wurzel, the produce of these three acres of land, will carry his ten or twelve milch-cows nearly, if not wholly, through the winter. There did not appear to be a spurious plant, and there was not one plant that had gone to seed, in the whole piece. I have never seen a more beautiful mass of vegetation, and I had the satisfaction to learn, after having admired the crop, that the seed came from my own shop, and that it had been saved by myself.

Talking of the shop, I came to it in a very few hours after looking at this mangel wurzel; and I soon found that it was high time for me to get home again; for here had been pretty devils' works going on. Here I found the "Greek cause," and all its appendages, figuring away in grand style. But I must make this matter of separate observation. I have put an end to my ride of August, September, and October, 1826, during which I have travelled five hundred and sixty-eight miles, and have slept in thirty different beds, having written three monthly pamphlets, called the Poor Man's Friend , and have also written (including the present one) eleven Registers . I have been in three cities, in about twenty market towns, in perhaps five hundred villages; and I have seen the people nowhere so well off as in the neighbourhood of Weston Grove, and nowhere so badly off as in the dominions of the Select Vestry of Hurstbourne Tarrant, commonly called Uphusband. During the whole of this ride, I have very rarely been a-bed after daylight; I have drunk neither wine nor spirits. I have eaten no vegetables, and only a very moderate quantity of meat; and it may be useful to my readers to know that the riding of twenty miles was not so fatiguing to me at the end of my tour as the riding of ten miles was at the beginning of it. Some ill-natured fools will call this "egotism ." Why is it egotism? Getting upon a good strong horse, and riding about the country has no merit in it; there is no conjuration in it; it requires neither talents nor virtues of any sort; but health is a very valuable thing; and when a man has had the experience which I have had in this instance, it is his duty to state to the world, and to his own countrymen and neighbours in particular, the happy effects of early rising, sobriety, abstinence and a resolution to be active. It is his duty to do this; and it becomes imperatively his duty when he has seen, in the course of his life, so many men, so many men of excellent hearts and of good talents, rendered prematurely old, cut off ten or twenty years before their time, by a want of that early rising, sobriety abstinence and activity from which he himself has derived so much benefit and such inexpressible pleasure. During this ride I have been several times wet to the skin. At some times of my life, after having indulged for a long while in coddling myself up in the house, these soakings would have frightened me half out of my senses; but I care very little about them: I avoid getting wet if I can; but it is very seldom that rain, come when it would, has prevented me from performing a day's journey that I had laid out beforehand. And this is a very good rule: to stick to your intention whether it be attended with inconveniences or not; to look upon yourself as bound to do it. In the whole of this ride, I have met with no one untoward circumstance, properly so called, except the wounding of the back of my horse, which grieved me much more on his account than on my own. I have a friend who, when he is disappointed in accomplishing anything that he has laid out, says that he has been beaten , which is a very good expression for the thing. I was beaten in my intention to go through Sussex and Kent; but I will retrieve the affair in a very few months' time, or perhaps few weeks. The COLLECTIVE will be here now in a few days; and as soon as I have got the Preston Petition fairly before them, and find (as I dare say I shall) that the petition will not be tried until February, I shall take my horse and set off again to that very spot, in the London turnpike-road, at the foot of Butser Hill, whence I turned off to go to Petersfield, instead of turning the other way to go to Up Park: I shall take my horse and go to this spot, and, with a resolution not to be beaten next time, go along through the whole length of Sussex, and sweep round through Kent and Surrey till I come to Reigate again, and then home to Kensington; for I do not like to be beaten by a horse's sore back, or by anything else; and, besides that, there are several things in Sussex and Kent that I want to see and give an account of. For the present, however, farewell to the country, and now for the Wen and its villainous corruptions.

William Cobbett, Rural Rides (Letchworth: Temple Press, 1932)

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