Picture of Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

places mentioned

Letter 3, Part 3: From Exeter to Land's End

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From Honiton the country is exceeding pleasant still, and on the road they have a beautiful prospect almost all the way to Exeter, which is twelve miles; on the left hand of this road lyes that part of the county, which they call the South Hams, and which is famous for the best cyder in that part of England; also the town of St. Mary Oterey, commonly call'd St. Mary Autree: They tell us the name is deriv'd from the river Ottery, and that, from the multitude of otters found always in that river, which however to me seems fabulous; nor does there appear to be any such great number of otters in that water, or in the county about, more than is usual in other counties, or in other parts of the county about them; they tell us they send 20000 hogsheds of cyder hence every year to London, and which is still worse, that it is most of it bought there by the merchants to mix with their wines, which if true, is not much to the reputations of the London vintners; but that by the by.

From hence we came to Exeter, a city famous for two things, which we seldom find unite in the same town, (viz.) that 'tis full of gentry, and good company, and yet full of trade and manufactures also; the serge market held here every week is very well worth a strangers seeing, and next to the Brigg-Market at Leeds in Yorkshire, is the greatest in England. The people assur'd me that at this market is generally sold from 60 to 70 to 80, and sometimes a hundred thousand pounds value in serges in a week. I think 'tis kept on Mondays.

They have the river Esk here, a very considerable river, and principal in the whole county; and within three miles, or thereabouts, it receives ships of any ordinary burthen, the port there being call'd Topsham; but now by the application, and at the expence of the citizens, the channel of the river is so widened, deepen'd, and cleans'd from the shoal, which would otherwise interrupt the navigation, that the ships come now quite up to the city, and there with ease both deliver and take in their lading.

This city drives a very great correspondence with Holland, as also directly to Portugal, Spain and Italy; shipping off vast quantities of the woollen-manufactures, especially, to Holland, the Dutch giving very large commissions here for the buying of serges perpetuan's, and such goods; which are made not only in and about Exeter, but at Crediton, Honiton, Culliton, St. Mary Autry, Newton-Bushell, Ashburton and especially at Tiverton, Cullumbton, Bampton, and all the north east part of the county, which part of the county is, as it may be said, fully employed, the people made rich, and the poor that are properly so call'd, well subsisted, and employ'd by it.

Excester is a large rich, beautiful, populous, and was once a very strong city; but as to the last, as the castle, the walls, and all the old works are demolished, so were they standing, the way of managing seiges, and attacks of towns is such now, and so alter'd from what it was in those days, that Excester in the utmost strength it could ever boast, would not now hold out five days open trenches; nay, would hardly put an army to the trouble of opening trenches against it at all. This city was famous in the late civil unnatural war, for its loyalty to the king, and for being a sanctuary to the queen, where her majesty resid'd for sometime, and here she was delivered of a daughter, being the Princess Henrietta Maria, of whom our histories give a particular account, so I need say no more of it here.

The cathedral church of this city is an antient beauty, or as it may be said, it is beautiful for its antiquity; But it has been so fully, and often described that it would look like a meer coppying from others to mention it: There is a good library kept in it, in which are some manuscripts, and particularly an old missal, or mass-book, the leaves of velum, and famous for its most exquisite writing.

This county, and this part of it in particular, has been famous for the birth of several eminent men, as well for learning, as for arts, and for war, as particularly:

  1. Sir William Petre, who the learn'd Dr. Wake, now Archbishop of Canterbury, and author of the Additions to Mr. Cambden, says, was Secretary of State, and Privy Counsellor to King Hen. VIII. Ed. VI. Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth, and seven times sent ambassador into foreign countries.
  2. Sir Thomas Bodley, famous, and of grateful memory to all learned men, and lovers of letters, for his collecting, and establishing, the best library in Britain; which is now at Oxford, and is call'd after his name the Bodleian Library to this day.
  3. Also Sir Francis Drake, born at Plymouth.
  4. Sir Walter Raleigh, of both those I need say nothing: Fame publishes their merit upon every mention of their names.
  5. That great patron of learning --- Hooker, author of the Ecclesiastical Polity , and of several other valuable pieces.
  6. Of Dr. Arthur Duck, a fam'd civilian, and well known by his works among the learned advocates of Doctors Commons.
  7. Dr. John Moreman of Southold, famous for being the first clergyman in England, who ventured to teach his parishoners the Lord's Prayer, Creed, and Ten Commandments in the English tongue; and reading them so publickly in the parish church of Mayenhennet, in this county, of which he was vicar.
  8. Dr. John De Brampton, a man of great learning, who flourished in the reign of Hen. VI. was famous, for being the first that read Aristotle publickly in the University of Cambridge, and for several learned books of his writing, which are now lost.
  9. 9. Peter Blundel, a clothier, who built the free-school at Tiverton, and endowed it very handsomely, of which in its place.
  10. Sir John Glanvill, a noted lawyer, and one of the judges of the Common Pleas.
  11. Sergeant Glanvill his son, as great a lawyer as his father.
  12. Sir John Maynard, an eminent lawyer of later years; one of the Commissioners of the Great Seal under King William III. all these three were born at Tavistock.
  13. Sir Peter King, the present Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and many others.

I shall take the north part of this county in my return from Cornwall; so I must now lean to the south, that is to say, to the south coast, for in going on indeed, we go south west. About 22 miles from Excester we go to Totness, on the river Dart. This is a very good town; of some trade, but has more gentlemen in it than tradesmen of note; they have a very fine stone-bridge here over the river, which being within seven or eight miles of the sea, is very large, and the tide flows 10 or 12 foot at the bridge. Here we had the diversion of seeing them catch fish, with the assistance of a dog. The case is this, on the south side of the river, and on a slip, or narrow cut or channel made on purpose for a mill, there stands a corn-mill; the mill tayl, or floor for the water below the wheels is wharft up on either side with stone, above high-water mark, and for above 20 or 30 foot in length below it, on that part of the river towards the sea; at the end of this wharfing is a grating of wood, the cross-bars of which stand bearing inward, sharp at the end, and pointing inward towards one another, as the wyers of a mouse-trap.

When the tide flows up, the fish can with ease go in between the points of these cross-bars, but the mill being shut down they can go no farther upwards; and when the water ebbs again, they are left behind, not being able to pass the points of the grating, as above, outwards; which like a mouse-trap keeps them in, so that they are left at the bottom with about a foot, or a foot and half water. We were carryed hither at low water, where we saw about 50 or 60 small salmon, about 17 to 20 inches long, which the country people call salmon peal, and to catch these, the person who went with us, who was our landlord at a great inn next the bridge, put in a net on a hoop at the end of a pole, the pole going cross the hoop, which we call in this country a shove net: The net being fix'd at one end of the place they put in a dog, who was taught his trade before hand, at the other end of the place, and he drives all the fish into the net, so that only holding the net still in its place, the man took up two or three and thirty salmon peal at the first time.

Of these we took six for our dinner, for which they ask'd a shilling, (viz.) two pence a piece, and for such fish not at all bigger, and not so fresh, I have seen 6s . 6d. each given at a London fish-market, whither they are some time brought from Chichester by land carriage.

This excessive plenty of so good fish, and other provisions being likewise very cheap in proportion, makes the town of Totness a very good place to live in; especially for such as have large families, and but small estates, and many such are said to come into those parts on purpose for saving money, and to live in proportion to their income.

From hence we went still south about seven miles, (all in view of this river) to Dartmouth, a town of note, seated at the mouth of the river Dart, and where it enters into the sea at a very narrow, but safe entrance; The opening into Dartmouth Harbour is not broad, but the channel deep enough for the biggest ship in the royal navy; the sides of the entrance are high mounded with rocks; without which just at the first narrowing of the passage, stands a good strong fort without a platform of guns, which commands the port.

The narrow entrance is not much above half a mile, when it opens and makes a basin, or harbour able to receive 500 sail of ships of any size, and where they may ride with the greatest safety, even as in a mill-pond, or wet-dock: I had the curiosity here with the assistance of a merchant of the town to go out to the mouth of the haven in a boat to see the entrance, and castle, or fort that commands it; and coming back with the tide of flood, I observ'd some small fish to skip, and play upon the surface of the water, upon which I ask'd my friend what fish they were; immediately one of the rowers or seamen starts up in the boat, and throwing his arms abroad, as if he had been betwitch'd, cryes out as loud as he could baul, "a scool, a scool." The word was taken to the shore as hastily as it would have been on land if he had cry'd fire; and by that time we reach'd the keys, the town was all in a kind of an uproar.

The matter was, that a great shoal, or as they call it a scool of pilchards came swimming with the tide of flood directly, out of the sea into the harbour. My friend whose boat we were in, told me this was a surprize which he would have been very glad of, if he could but have had a days or two's warning, for he might have taken 200 tun of them, and the like was the case of other merchants in town; for in short, no body was ready for them, except a small fishing boat, or two; one of which went out into the middle of the harbour, and at two or three hawls, took about forty thousand of them. We sent our servant to the key to buy some, who for a half-penny, brought us seventeen, and if he would have taken them, might have had as many more for the same money; with these we went to dinner; the cook at the inn broil'd them for us, which is their way of dressing them, with pepper and salt, which cost us about a farthing; so that two of us, and a servant din'd, and at a tavern too, for three farthings, dressing and all, and this is the reason of telling the tale; What drink, wine, or beer we had, I do not remember, but whatever it was, that we paid for by it self; but for our food we really din'd for three farthings , and very well too: Our friend treated us the next day with a dish of large lobsters, and I being curious to know the value of such things, and having freedom enough with him to enquire; I found that for 6d. or 8d. they bought as good lobsters there, as would have cost in London 3s . to 3s . 6d. each.

In observing the coming in of those pilchards, as above, we found that out at sea, in the offing, beyond the mouth of the harbour there was a whole army of porpuses, which as they told us pursued the pilchards, and 'tis probable drove them into the harbour, as above. The scool it seems drove up the river a great way, even as high as Totness Bridge, as we heard afterwards; so that the country people who had boats, and nets, catch'd as many as they knew what to do with, and perhaps liv'd upon pilchards for several days; but as to the merchant's and trade, their coming was so suddain, that it was no advantage to them.

Round the west side of this basin, or harbour in a kind of a semicircle, lyes the town of Dartmouth, a very large and populous town, tho' but meanly built, and standing on the side of a steep hill; yet the key is large, and the street before it spacious. Here are some very flourishing merchants, who trade very prosperously, and to the most considerable trading ports of Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the Plantations; but especially, they are great traders to Newfoundland, and from thence to Spain, and Italy with fish, and they drive a good trade also, in their own fishery of pilchards, which is hereabouts carried on with the greatest number of vessels of any port, in the west, except Falmouth.

A little to the southward of this town, and to the east of the port, is Torbay, of which I know nothing proper to my observation, more than that it is a very good road for ships, tho' sometimes, especially with a southerly, or S.E. wind, ships have been oblig'd to quit the bay, and put out to sea, or run into Dartmouth for shelter.

I suppose I need not mention, that they had from the hilly part of this town, and especially from the hills opposite to it, the noble prospect, and at that time particularly delightful, of the Prince of Orange's fleet, when he came to that coast, and as they entered into Torbay, to land; the prince and his army being in a fleet of about 600 sail of transport ships, besides 50 sail of men of war of the line, all which with a fair wind, and fine weather came to an anchor there at once.

This town as most of the towns of Devonshire are, is full of Dissenters, and a very large meeting-house they have here; how they act here with respect to the great dispute about the doctrine of the Trinity, which has caus'd such a breach among those people at Excester, and other parts of the county, I cannot give any account of. This town sends two members to Parliament.

From hence we went to Plympton, a poor and thinly inhabited town, tho' blest with the like privilege of sending members to the Parliament; of which I have little more to say, but that from thence the road lyes to Plymouth, distance about six miles.

Plymouth is indeed a town of consideration, and of great importance to the publick. The situation of it between two very large inlets of the sea, and in the bottom of a large bay, which is very remarkable for the advantage of navigation. The Sound, or bay is compass'd on every side with hills, and the shear generally steep and rocky, tho' the anchorage is good, and it is pretty safe riding: In the entrance to this bay, lyes a large and most dangerous rock, which at high-water is covered, but at low-tide lyes bare, where many a good ship has been lost, even in the view of safety, and many a ships crew drown'd in the night, before help could be had for them.

Upon this rock, which was call'd the Edystone, from its situation, the famous Mr. Winstanley undertook to build a light-house for the direction of sailors, and with great art, and expedition finished it; which work considering its height, the magnitude of its building, and the little hold there was, by which it was possible to fasten it to the rock, stood to admiration, and bore out many a bitter storm.

Mr. Winstanly often visited, and frequently strengthened the building, by new works, and was so confident of its firmness, and stability, that he usually said, he only desir'd to be in it when a storm should happen, for many people had told him, it would certainly fall, if it came to blow a little harder than ordinary.

But he happen'd at last to be in it once too often; Namely, when that dreadful tempest blew, Nov. the 27, 1703. This tempest began on the Wednesday before, and blew with such violence, and shook the light-house so much, that as they told me there, Mr. Winstanly would fain have been on shoar, and made signals for help, but no boats durst go off to him; and to finish the tragedy, on the Friday, Nov. 26, when the tempest was so redoubled, that it became a terror to the whole nation; the first sight there seaward, that the people of Plymouth, were presented with in the morning after the storm, was the bare Eddystone, the light-house being gone; in which Mr. Winstanly, and all that were with him perish'd, and were never seen, or heard of since: But that which was a worse loss still, was, that a few days after a merchant's ship call'd the Winchelsea homeward bound from Virginia, not knowing the Eddystone lighthouse was down; for want of the light that should have been seen run foul of the rock it self, and was lost with all her lading, and most of her men, but there is now another light-house built on the same rock.

What other disasters happen'd at the same time, in the Sound, and in the roads about Plymouth, is not my business: They are also publish'd in other books, to which I refer.

One thing, which I was a witness too, on a former journey to this place, I cannot omit: It was the next year after that great storm, and but a little sooner in the year, being in August, I was at Plymouth, and walking on the Hoo, which is a plain on the edge of the sea, looking to the road, I observed the evening so serene, so calm, so bright, and the sea so smooth, that a finer sight, I think, I never saw; there was very little wind, but what was, seem'd to be westerly; and, about an hour after, it blew a little breeze at south west, with which wind there came into the Sound, that night, and the next morning, a fleet of fourteen sail of ships, from Barbadoes; richly loaden, for London: Having been long at sea, most of the captains and passengers came on shore to refresh themselves, as is usual, after such tedious voyages, and the ships rode all in the Sound on that side next to Catwater: As is customary, upon safe arriving to their native country, there was a general joy and rejoycing, both on board and on shore.

The next day the wind began to freshen, especially in the afternoon, and the sea to be disturbed, and very hard it blew at night, but all was well for that time; but the night after it blew a dreadful storm, not much inferior, for the time it lasted, to the storm mentioned above, which blew down the light-house on the Eddy Stone; about midnight the noise indeed was very dreadful, what with the roaring of the sea, and of the wind, intermixed with the firing of guns for help from the ships, the cries of the seamen and people on shore, and, which was worse, the cries of those, which were driven on shore by the tempest, and dash'd in pieces. In a word, all the fleet, except three, or thereabouts, were dash'd to pieces against the rocks, and sunk in the sea, most of the men being drowned: Those three, who were sav'd, received so much damage, that their lading was almost all spoil'd: One ship in the dark of the night, the men not knowing where they were, run into Catwater, and run on shore there, by which she was however sav'd from shipwreck, and the lives of her crew were saved also.

This was a melancholly morning indeed; nothing was to be seen but wrecks of the ships, and a foaming furious sea, hi that very place where they rode all in joy and triumph, but the evening before: The captains, passengers and officers who were, as I have said, gone on shoar, between the joy of saving their lives, and the affliction of having lost their ships, their cargoes, and their friends, were objects indeed worth our compassion and observation; and there was a great variety of the passions to be observed in them: Now lamenting their losses, then giving thanks for their deliverance, many of the passengers had lost their all, and were, as they expressed themselves, utterly undone; they were, I say, now lamenting their losses, with violent excesses of grief; then giving thanks for their lives, and that they should be brought on shore, as it were, on purpose to be sav'd from death; then again in tears for such as were drowned; the various cases were indeed very affecting, and, in many things, very instructing.

As, I say, Plymouth lyes in the bottom of this Sound, in the center between the two waters, so there lies against it, in the same position, an island, which they call St. Nicholas, on which there is a castle, which commands the entrance into Ham-Oze, and indeed that also into Catwater in some degree: In this island the famous General Lambert, one of Cromwell's great agents, or officers in the Rebellion was imprison'd for life, and liv'd many years there.

On the shore, over-against this island, is the citadel of Plymouth, a small, but regular fortification, inaccessible by sea, but not exceeding strong by land, except that they say the works are of a stone, hard as marble, and would not soon yield to the batteries of an enemy: But that is a language our modern engineers now laugh at.

The town stands above this, upon the same rock, and lyes sloping on the side of it, towards the east; the inlet of the sea, which is call'd Catwater, and which is a harbour, capable of receiving any number of ships, and of any size, washing the eastern shore of the town, where they have a kind of natural mole, or haven, with a key, and all other conveniencies for bringing in vessels for loading and unloading; nor is the trade carried on here inconsiderable in it self, or the number of merchants small.

The other inlet of the sea, as I term it, is on the other side of the town, and is call'd Ham-Oze, being the mouth of the river Tamar, a considerable river, which parts the two counties of Devon and Cornwall: Here the war with France making it necessary that the ships of war should have a retreat nearer hand than at Portsmouth, the late King William order'd a wet dock, with yards, dry docks, launches, and conveniencies of all kinds for building, and repairing of ships to be built; and with these followed necessarily the building of store-houses and warehouses, for the rigging, sails, naval and military stores, &c. of such ships as may be appointed to be laid up there, as now several are, with very handsome houses for the commissioners, clerks, and officers of all kinds usual in the kings yards, to dwell in: It is in short, now become as compleat an arsenal, or yard, for building and fitting men of war as any of the government are masters of, and perhaps much more convenient than some of them, tho' not so large.

The building of these things, with the addition of rope walks, and mast-yards, &c. as it brought abundance of trades-people, and workmen to the place, so they began by little and little to build houses on the lands adjacent, till at length there appeared a very handsome street, spacious and large, and as well inhabited, and so many houses are since added, that it is become a considerable town, and must of consequence in time draw abundance of people from Plymouth it self.

However, the town of Plymouth is, and will always be a very considerable town, while that excellent harbour makes it such a general port for the receiving all the fleets of merchants ships from the southward, as from Spain, Italy, the West-Indies, &c. who generally make it the first port to put in at for refreshment, or safety, from either weather or enemies.

The town is populous and wealthy, having, as above, several considerable merchants, and abundance of wealthy shop-keepers, whose trade depends upon supplying the sea-faring people, that upon so many occasions put into that port; as for gentlemen, I mean those that are such by family, and birth, and way of living, it cannot be expected to find many such in a town, meerly depending on trade, shipping and sea-faring business, yet I found here some men of value, persons of liberal education, general knowledge, and excellent behaviour, whose society obliges me to say, that a gentleman might find very agreeable company in Plymouth.

From Plymouth we pass the Tamar, over a ferry to Saltash, a little poor shattered town, the first we sat foot on in the county of Cornwall. The Tamar here is very wide, and the ferry boats bad, so that I thought my self well escap'd, when I got safe on shore in Cornwall.

Saltash seems to be the ruins of a larger place, and we saw many houses as it were falling down, and I doubt not but the mice and rats have abandoned many more, as they say they will, when they are likely to fall; yet this town is govern'd by a mayor and aldermen, has many privileges, sends members to Parliament, takes toll of all vessels that pass the river, and have the sole oyster fishing in the whole river, which is considerable. Mr. Carew, author of the Survey of Cornwall , tells us a strange story of a dog in this town, of whom it was observ'd, that if they gave him any large bone, or piece of meat, he immediately went out of doors with it, and after having disappeared for some time, would return again, upon which after some time they watch'd him, when to their great surprise they found that the poor charitable creature carryed what he so got to an old decrip'd mastiff, which lay in a nest that he had made among the brakes a little way out of the town, and was blind; so that he could not help himself, and there this creature fed him; he adds, also, that on Sundays, or hollydays, when he found they made good chear in the house, where he liv'd, he would go out, and bring this old blind dog to the door, and feed him there till he had enough, and then go with him back to his habitation in the country again, and see him safe in; if this story is true, it is very remarkable indeed, and I thought it worth telling, because the author was a person, who they say might be credited.

This town has a kind of jurisdiction upon the river Tamar down to the mouth of the port, so that they claim anchorage of all small ships that enter the river, their coroner sits upon all dead bodies that are found drown'd in the river, and the like, but they make not much profit of them. There is a good market here, and that is the best thing to be said of the town, it is also very much encreased since the number of the inhabitants are encreased at the new town, as I mentioned, as near the dock at the mouth of Ham Oaze, for those people choose rather to go to Saltash to market by water, then to walk to Plymouth by land for their provisions; because, first, as they go in the town boat, the same boat brings home what they buy; so that it is much less trouble, (second,) because provisions are bought much cheaper at Saltash, than at Plymouth: This I say, is like to be a very great advantage to the town of Saltash, and may in time put a new face of wealth upon the place.

They talk of some merchants beginning to trade here, and they have some ships that use the Newfoundland fishery; but I could not hear of any thing considerable they do in it, there is no other considerable town up the Tamar, till we come to Lanceston, the county town, which I shall take in my return, so I turn'd west, keeping the south shore of the county, to the Lands End.

From Saltash I went to Liskard, about 7 miles. This is a considerable town, well built, has people of fashion in it, and a very great market; it also sends two members to Parliament, and is one of the five towns, call'd Stannary Towns, that is to say, where the blocks of TINN are brought to the coinage, of which by it self; this coinage of tinn is an article very much to the advantage of the towns where it is settled, tho' the money paid goes another way.

This town of Liskard was once eminent, had a good castle, and a large house, where the antient Dukes of Cornwall kept their Court in those days; also it enjoy'd several privileges, especially by the favour of the Black Prince, who, as Prince of Wales, and Duke of Cornwall resided here; and in return, they say this town, and the country round it, rais'd a great body of stout young fellows, who entered into his service, and followed his fortunes in his wars in France, as also in Spain; But these buildings are so decay'd, that there are now scarce any of the ruins of the castle, or of the prince's Court remaining.

The only publick edifices they have now to show, are the guild, or town-hall, on which there is a turret with a fine clock; a very good free-school, well provided; a very fine conduit in the market-place; an antient large church, and which is something rare, for the county of Cornwall, a large new built meeting-house for the Dissenters, which I name, because they assur'd me there was but three more, and those very inconsiderable in all the county of Cornwall; whereas in Devonshire, which is the next county, there are reckoned about seventy, some of which are exceeding large and fine.

This town is also remarkable for a very great trade in all manufactures of leather, such as boots, shoes, gloves, purses, breeches, &c. and some spinning of late years is set up here, encourag'd by the woollen manufacturers of Devonshire.

Between these two towns of Saltash and Liskard, is St. Germans, now a village, decay'd, and without any market, but the largest parish in the whole county; in the bounds of which is contained, as they report, 17 villages, and the town of Saltash among them, for Saltash has no parish church, it seems of it self but as a chappel of ease to St. Germans: In the neighbourhood of these towns are many pleasant seats of the Cornish gentry, who are indeed very numerous, tho' their estates may not be so large, as is usual in England; yet neither are they despicable in that part, and in particular this may be said of them, that as they generally live cheap, and are more at home than in other counties, so they live more like gentlemen, and keep more within bounds of their estates than the English generally do, take them altogether.

Add to this, that they are the most sociable, generous, and to one another, the kindest neighbours that are to be found; and as they generally live, as we may say, together, for they are almost always at one anothers houses, so they generally inter-marry among themselves, the gentlemen seldom going out of the county for a wife, or the ladies for a husband, from whence they say, that proverb upon them was rais'd (viz.) That all the Cornish gentlemen are cousins.

On the hills north of Liskard, and in the way between Liskard and Lanceston, there are many tinn mines, and as they told us some of the richest veins of that metal are found there, that are in the whole county; the metal when cast at the blowing houses into blocks, being as above, carry'd to Liskard to be coin'd.

From Liskard, in our course west, we are necessarily carry'd to the sea coast, because of the river Fowey, or Fowath, which empties it self into the sea, at a very large mouth, and hereby this river rising in the middle of the breadth of the county, and running south, and the river Camel rising not far from it, and running north, with a like large channel, the land from Bodmyn to the western part of the county is almost made an island, and in a manner cut off from the eastern part, the peninsula, or neck of land between, being not above twelve miles over.

On this south side we come to Foy, or Fowey, an antient town, and formerly very large; nay, not large only, but powerful and potent, for the Foyens, as they were then call'd, were able to fit out large fleets, not only for merchant's ships, but even of men of war; and with these not only fought with, but several times vanquished, and routed the squadron of the Cinque Port men, who in those days were thought very powerful.

Mr. Cambden observes, that the town of Foy quarters some part of the arms of every one of those Cinque Ports with their own; intimating, that they had at several times trampled over them all; certain it is, they did often beat them, and took their ships, and brought them as good prizes into their haven of Foy, and carry'd it so high, that they fitted out their fleets against the French, and took several of their men of war when they were at war with England, and enrich'd their town by the spoil of their enemies.

Edward IV. favoured them much, and because the French threatened them, to come up their river with a powerful navy to burn their town, he caus'd two forts to be built at the publick charge, for security of the town and river, which forts at least some show of them remain there still, but the same King Edward was some time after so disgusted at the townsmen for officiously falling upon the French after a truce was made, and proclaim'd, that he effectually disarmed them, took away their whole fleet, ships, tackle, apparel and furniture; and since that time we do not read of any of their naval exploits, nor that they ever recover'd, or attempted to recover their strength at sea: However, Foy, at this time, is a very fair town, it lyes extended on the east side of the river for above a mile, the buildings fair; and there are a great many flourishing merchants in it, who have a great share in the fishing trade, especially for pilchards, of which they take a great quantity here abouts. In this town, is also a coinage for the TINN, of which a great quantity is dug up in the country, north and west of the town.

The river Fowey, which is very broad and deep here, was formerly navigable by ships of good burthen as high as Lestwithiel an antient, and once a flourishing, but now a decay'd town, and as to trade and navigation quite destitute, which is occasioned by the river being fill'd up with sands, which some say, the tides drive up in stormy weather from the sea; others say 'tis by sands wash'd from the lead mines in the hills; the last of which, (by the way) I take to be a mistake, the sand from the hills being not of quantity sufficient to fill up the channel of a navigable river, and if it had, might easily have been stopped by the towns people from falling into the river; but that the sea has choak'd up the river with sand, is not only probable but true, and there are other rivers which suffer in the like manner in this same country.

This town of Lestwithiel, retains however several advantages, which support its figure, as first, that it is one of the Coinage Towns, as I call them, or Stannary Towns, as others call them. (2.) The common gaol for the whole Stannary is here, as are also the county courts for the whole county of Cornwall.

There is a mock cavalcade kept up at this town, which is very remarkable, the particulars, as they are related by Mr. Carew in his Survey of Cornwall , take as follows.

Upon little Easter Sunday, the free-holders of this town and mannoiir by themselves, or their deputies, did there assemble: Amongst whom, one (as it fell to his lot by turn) bravely apparall'd, gallantly mounted, with a crown on his head, a scepter in his hand, and a sword borne before him, and dutifully attended by all the rest also on horseback, rode thro' the principal street to the church: The curate in his best beseen solemnly received him at the churchyard stile, and conducted him to hear divine service: After which, he repaired with the same pomp, to a house provided for that purpose, made a feast to his attendants, kept the tables-end himself, and was served with kneeling assay, and all other rights due to the estate of a prince: With which dinner, the ceremony ended, and every man returned home again. The pedigree of this usage is deriv'd from so many descents of ages that the cause and author out-reach the remembrance: Howbeit, these circumstances afford a conjecture, that it should betoken royalties appertaining to the honour of Cornwal.

Behind Foye, and nearer to the coast at the mouth of a small river, which some call Lowe, tho' without any authority, there stand two towns opposite to one another, bearing the name of the river Loe, that is to say, distinguished by the addition of East Loe, and West Loe. These are both good trading towns, and especially fishing towns and which is very particular, are like Weymouth and Melcomb, in Dorsetshire, seperated only by the creek, or river; and yet each of them send members to Parliaments: These towns are joyn'd together by a very beautiful and stately stone bridge having fifteen arches.

East Loo, was the antienter corporation of the two, and for some ages ago the greater and more considerable town; but now they tell us West Loo is the richest, and has the most ships belonging to it: Were they put together, they would make a very handsome seaport town. They have a great fishing trade here, as well for supply of the country, as for merchandize, and the towns are not dispisable; but as to sending four members to the British Parliament, which is as many as the city of London chooses, that I confess seems a little scandalous, but to who, is none of my business to enquire.

Passing from hence, and ferrying over Foy river, or the river Foweth, call it as ye please, we come into a large country without many towns in it of note, but very well furnished with gentlemen's seats, and a little higher up with tinn works.

The sea making several deep bays here, they who travel by land are obliged to go higher into the country to pass above the water, especially at Trewardreth Bay, which lyes very broad, above ten miles within the country, which passing at Trewardreth, a town of no great note, tho' the bay takes its name from it, the next inlet of the sea, is the famous firth, or inlet, called Falmouth Haven. It is certainly next to Milford Haven in South Wales, the fairest and best road for shipping that is in the whole isle of Britain, when there be considered the depth of water for above twenty miles within land; the safety of riding, shelter'd from all kind of winds or storms, the good anchorage, and the many creeks, all navigable, where ships may run in and be safe, so that the like is no where to be found.

There are six or seven very considerable places upon this haven, and the rivers from it, (viz.) Grampound, Tregony, Truro, Penryn, Falmouth, St. Mawes, and Pendennis. The three first of these send members to Parliament, the town of Falmouth, as big as all the three, and richer than ten of them sends none, which imports no more than this, that Falmouth it self is not of so great antiquity, as to its rising, as those other towns are; and yet the whole haven takes its name from Falmouth too, unless as some think the town took its name from the haven, which however they give no authority to suggest.

St. Mawes and Pendennis are two fortifications placed at the points, or enterance of this haven, opposite to one another, tho' not with a communication, or view; they are very strong; the first principally by sea, having a good plat form of guns, pointing thwart the channel, and planted on a level with the water; but Pendennis Castle is strong by land as well as by water, is regularly fortified, has good out works, and generally a strong garrison; St. Mawes, otherwise call'd St. Mary's has a town annex'd to the castle, and is a borough, sending members to the Parliament. Pendennis is a meer fortress, tho' there are some habitations in it too, and some at a small distance near the sea side, but not of any great consideration.

The town of Falmouth is by much the richest, and best trading town in this county, tho' not so antient as its neighbour town of Truro; and indeed, is in some things oblig'd to acknowledge the seigniorty; Namely, that in the corporation of Truro, the person who they choose to be their mayor of Truro, is also mayor of Falmouth of course. How the jurisdiction is manag'd, is an account too long for this place; the Truro men also receive several duties collected in Falmouth, particularly wharfage for the merchandizes landed, or shipp'd off; but let these advantages be what they will, the town of Falmouth has gotten the trade, at least the best part of it from the other, which is chiefly owing to the situation, for that Falmouth lying upon the sea, but within the entrance, ships of the greatest burthen come up to the very keys, and the whole royal navy might ride safely in the road, whereas the town of Truro lying far within, and at the mouth of two fresh rivers, is not navigable for vessels of above 150 tons, or thereabouts.

Some have suggested that the original of Falmouth, was the having so large a key, and so good a depth of water at it. The merchants of Truro formerly us'd it for the place of lading and unlading their ships, as the merchants of Exceter did at Topsham, and this is the more probable in that, as above, the wharfage of those landing places is still the property of the corporation of Truro.

But let this be as it will, the trade is now in a manner wholly gone to Falmouth, the trade at Truro, being now chiefly if not only for shipping off of block TINN and copper oar, the latter being lately found in large quantities in some of the mountains between Truro, and St. Michaels, and which is much improv'd since the several mills are erected at Bristol, and other parts, for the manufactures of battery ware or, as 'tis call'd, brass, which is made out of English copper, most of it dug in these parts; the oar it self also being found very rich and good.

Falmouth is well built, has abundance of shipping belonging to it, is full of rich merchants, and has a flourishing and encreasing trade. I say encreasing, because by the late setting up the English packets between this port and Lisbon, there is a new commerce between Portugal and this town, carried on to a very great value.

It is true, part of this trade was founded in a clandestine commerce, carried on by the said packets at Lisbon, where being the king's ships, and claiming the privilege of not being searched, or visited by the custom-house officers, they found means to carry off great quantities of British manufactures, which they sold on board to the Portuguese merchants, and they convey'd them on shoar, as 'tis supposed without paying custom.

But the government there, getting intelligence of it, and complaint being made in England also, where it was found to be very prejudicial to the fair merchant, that trade has been effectually stopp'd, but the Falmouth merchants having by this means gotten a taste of the Portuguese trade, have maintain'd it ever since in ships of their own: These packets bring over such vast quantities of gold in specie, either in moidores, which is the Portugal coin, or in bars of gold, that I am very credibly informed the carryer from Falmouth, brought by land from thence to London, at one time, in the month of January, 1722, or near it, eighty thousand moidores in gold, which came from Lisbon in the pacquet boats, for account of the merchants at London, and that it was attended with a guard of 12 horsemen well arm'd, for which the said carryer had half per cent for his hazard.

This is a specimen of the Portugal trade, and how considerable it is in it self, as well as how advantageous to England, but as that is not to the present case, I proceed; the custom-house for all the towns in this port, and the head collector is established at this town, where the duties, including the other ports is very considerable: Here is also a very great fishing for pilchards, and the merchants for Falmouth have the chief stroke in that gainful trade.

Truro is however a very considerable town too; it stands up the water north and by east from Falmouth in the utmost extended branch of the haven, in the middle, between the conflux of two rivers, which tho' not of any long course, have a very good appearance for a port, and make a large wharf between them in the front of the town; and the water here makes a good port for small ships, tho' it be at the influx, but not for ships of burthen. This is the particular town where the lord warden of the Stannaries always holds his famous Parliament of Miners, and for stamping of TINN. The town is well built, but shews that it has been much fuller, both of houses and Inhabitants, than it is now; nor will it probably ever rise, while the town of Falmouth stands where it does, and while the trade is settled in it, as it is. There are at least three churches in it, but no Dissenter's meeting house, that I could hear of.

Tregony, is upon the same water north east from Falmouth, distance about sixteen miles from it, but is a town of very little trade, nor indeed have any of the towns so far within the shoar, notwithstanding the benefit of the water any considerable trade but what is carried on under the merchants of Falmouth, or Truro; the chief thing that is to be said of this town, is, that it sends members to Parliament, as does also Grandpound, a market-town, and burro' about 4 miles farther up the water. This place indeed has a claim to antiquity, and is an appendix to the Dutchy of Cornwall, of which it holds at a fee farm rent, and pays to the Prince of Wales, as duke, 10l . 11s. 1d. per annum; it has no parish church, but only a chappel of ease to an adjacent parish.

Penryn, is up the same branch of the haven, as Falmouth, but stands four miles higher towards the west, yet ships come to it of as great a size, as can come to Truro it self; it is a very pleasant agreeable town, and for that reason has many merchants in it, who would perhaps otherwise live at Falmouth. The chief commerce of these towns, as to their sea affairs, is the pilchards, and Newfoundland fishing, which is very profitable to them all; it had formerly a conventual church, with a chantry, and a religious house, a cel to Kirton, but they are all demolish'd, and scarce the ruins of them distinguishable enough to know one part from another.

Quiting Falmouth Haven from Penryn west, we came to Helsten, about 7 miles, and stands upon the little river Cober, which however admits the sea so into its bosom as to make a tolerable good harbour for ships a little below the town. It is the fifth town, allowed for the coining TINN, and several of the ships call'd "tinn" ships are loaden here.

This town is large and populous, and has four spacious streets, a handsome church, and a good trade: This town also sends members to Parliament. Beyond this is a market town tho' of no resort for trade, call'd Market Jew, it lyes indeed on the sea-side, but has no harbour or safe road for shipping.

At Helford is a small, but good harbour between Falmouth and this port, where many times the TINN ships go in to load for London; also here are a good number of fishing vessels for the pilchard trade, and abundance of skilful fishermen: It was from this town that in the great storm, which happened, Nov. 27, 1703, a ship loaden with tinn, was blown out to sea, and driven to the Isle of Weight, in seven hours, having on board only one man, and two boys; the story is as follows, (viz.)

The beginning of the storm, there lay a ship laden with tinn, in Helford Haven, about two leagues and a half west of Falmouth. The tinn was taken on board at a place call'd Guague Wharf, five or six miles up the river, and the vessel was come down to Helford, in order to pursue her voyage to London.

About 8 a-clock in the evening the commander, whose name was Anthony Jenkins, went on board with his mate to see that every thing was safe, and to give orders, but went both on shoar again, leaving only a man, and two boys on board, not apprehending any danger, they being in safe harbour; however, he ordered them, that if it should blow hard, they should carry out the small bower anchor, and so to moor the ship by two anchors, and then giving what other orders he thought to be needful, he went ashore, as above.

About 9 o'clock, the wind beginning to blow harder, they carryed out the anchor according to the master's order; but the wind encreasing about 10, the ship began to drive, so they carry'd out their best bower, which having a good new cable, brought lie ship up. The storm still encreasing they let go the kedge anchor; so that they then rode by four anchors a head, which were all they had.

But between n and 12 o'clock, the wind came about west and by south, and blew in so violent and terrible a manner, that tho' they rid under the lee of a high shore, yet the ship was driven from all her anchors, and about midnight drove quite out of the harbour (the opening of the harbour lying due east and west) into the open sea, the men having neither anchor or cable, or boat to help themselves.

In this dreadful condition, they driving, I say, out of the harbour: Their first and chief care was to go clear of the rocks, which lye on either side the harbour's mouth, and which they perform'd pretty well; then, seeing no remedy, they consulted what to do next. They cou'd carry no sail at first, no not a knot, nor do any thing but run away afore it: The only thing they had to think on, was to keep her out at sea as far as they could, for fear of a point of land, call'd The Dead Man's Head, which lyes to the eastward of Falmouth Haven, and then if they could escape the land, thought to run in for Plymouth, next morning, so if possible, to save their lives.

In this frighted condition they drove away at a prodigious rate, having sometimes the bonnet of their foresail a little out, but the yard lower'd almost to the deck; sometimes the ship almost under water, and sometimes above, keeping still in the offing, for fear of the land, till they might see daylight; but when the day brake they found they were to think no more of Plymouth, for they were far enough beyond it, and the first land they made was Peverel Point, being the southernmost land of the Isle of Purbeck, in Dorsetshire, and a little to the westward of the Isle of Weight; so that now they were in a terrible consternation, and driving still at a prodigious rate, by seven a clock they found themselves broad side of the Isle of Weight.

Here they consulted again what to do to save their lives; one of the boys was for running her into the Downs, but the man objected, that having no anchor or cable, nor boat to go on shore with, and the storm blowing off shore, in the Downs, they should be inevitably blown off, and lost upon the unfortunate Goodwin, which it seems the man had been on once before, and narrowly escaped.

Now came the last consultation for their lives; the other of the boys said, he had been in a certain creek in the Isle of Weight, where between the rocks he knew there was room to run the ship in, and at least to save their lives, and that he saw the place just that moment; so he desir'd the man to let him have the helm, and he would do his best, and venture it. The man gave him the helm, and he stood directly in among the rocks, the people standing on the shore, thinking they were mad, and that they would in a few minutes be dashed in a thousand pieces.

But when they came nearer, and the people found they steer'd as if they knew the place, they made signals to them to direct them, as well as they could, and the young bold fellow run her into a small cove, where she stuck fast, as it were, between the rocks on both sides, there being but just room enough for the breadth of the ship; the ship indeed giving two or three knocks stav'd, and sunk, but the man and the two youths jump't a shore, and were safe, and the lading being tinn was afterwards secur'd. N.B. The merchants very well rewarded the three sailors, especially the lad that ran her into that place.

Pensance is the farthest town of any note west, being 254 miles from London, and within about ten miles of the promontory, call'd the Lands End; so that this promontory is from London 264 miles, or thereabouts: This town of Pensance is a place of good business, well built and populous, has a good trade, and a great many ships belonging to it, notwithstanding it is so remote. Here are also a great many good families of gentlemen, tho' in this utmost angle of the nation; and, which is yet more strange, the veins of lead, tinn, and copper oar, are said to be seen, even to the utmost extent of land at low water mark, and in the very sea; so rich, so valuable a treasure is contained in these parts of Great Britain, tho' they are supposed to be so poor, because so very remote from London, which is the center of our wealth.

Between this town and St. Burien, a town midway between it and the Land's End, stands a circle of great stones, not unlike those at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, with one bigger than the rest in the middle; they stand about 12 foot asunder, but have no inscription, neither does tradition offer to leave any part of their history upon record; as whether it was a trophy, or a monument of burial, or an altar for worship, or what else; so that all that can be learn'd of them, is, That here they are: The parish where they stand is call'd Boscawone, from whence the ancient and honourable family of Boscawen derive their names.

Near Pensance, but open to the sea, is that gulph they call Mounts Bay, nam'd so from a high hill standing in the water, which they call St. Michael's Mount; the seamen call it only, the Cornish Mount; It has been fortify'd, tho' the situation of it makes it so difficult of access, that like the Bass in Scotland, there needs no fortification; like the Bass too, it was once made a prison for prisoners of State, but now it is wholly neglected; there is a very good road here for shipping, which makes the town of Pensance be a place of good resort.

A little up in the county towards the north west is Godolchan, which tho' a hill, rather than a town, gives name to the noble and ancient family of Godolphin; and nearer on the northern coast is Royalton, which since the late Sydney Godolphin, Esq; a younger brother of the family, was created Earl of Godolphin, gave title of lord to his eldest son, who was call'd Lord Royalton during the life of his father. This place also is infinitely rich in tinn mines.

I am now at my journey's end; As to the islands of Scilly, which lye beyond the Land's End, I shall say something of them presently: I must now return sur mes pas , as the French call it; tho' not literally so, for I shall not come back the same way I went; but as I have coasted the south shore to the Land's End, I shall come back by the north coast, and my observations in my return will furnish very well materials for a fourth letter. I am, &c.


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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