Picture of Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

places mentioned

Letter 7, Part 1: Cheshire and North-West Midlands

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SIR, — My last from West Chester, gave you a full account of my progress thro' Wales, and my coming to Chester, at the end of that really fatiguing journey: I must confess, I that have seen the Alps, on so many occasions, have gone under so many of the most frightful passes in the country of the Grisons, and in the mountains of Tirol, never believ'd there was any thing in this island of Britain that came near, much less that exceeded those hills, in the terror of their aspect, or in the difficulty of access to them; But certainly, if they are out done any where in the world, it is here: Even Hannibal himself wou'd have found it impossible to have march'd his army over Snowden, or over the rocks of Merioneth and Montgomery Shires; no, not with all the help that fire and vinegar could have yielded, to make way for him.

The only support we had in this heavy journey, was, (1.) That we generally found their provisions very good and cheap, and very good accommodations in the inns. And (2.) That the Welsh gentlemen are very civil, hospitable, and kind; the people very obliging and conversible, and especially to strangers; but when we let them know, we travell'd merely in curiosity to view the country, and be able to speak well of them to strangers, their civility was heightened to such a degree, that nothing could be more friendly, willing to tell us every thing that belong'd to their country, and to show us every thing that we desired to see.

They value themselves much upon their antiquity: The antient race of their houses, and families, and the like; and above all, upon their antient heroes: their King Caractacus, Owen ap Tudor, Prince Lewellin, and the like noblemen and princes of British extraction; and as they believe their country to be the pleasantest and most agreeable in the world, so you cannot oblige them more, than to make them think you believe so too.

The gentlemen of Wales, indeed, justly claim a very antient descent, and have preserv'd their families entire, for many ages: They receive you well into their houses, treat you very handsomely, are very generous; and indeed, nothing is wanting within doors; and which is more than all, they have generally very good estates.

I continued at Chester for some time, except that I made two or three excursions into the neighbouring country, and particularly into that part of Shropshire, which I had not view'd as I went; as also into the north, and north west part of Cheshire.

The first trip I made, was into the Cestria Chersonesus, as I think we may properly call it, (viz.) a piece of the county, which runs out a great way into the Irish Sea, and is bounded by the two great firths, or arms of the sea, the one call'd the mouth of the Dee, and the other of two rivers, the Mersey, and the Wever; this isthmus or neck of land, is about 16 miles long, and about 6 or 7 miles over, and has not one market town in it, tho' 'tis exceeding rich and fertile; the last occasioned possibly by the neighbourhood of two such great towns, or cities rather: I mean Chester and Leverpool.

Going down from Chester, by the Rhoodee, as they call it, that is, the marshes of the River Dee, and coasting the river after it is grown broader than the marshes; the first place of any note which we come to, is Nesson, a long nase or ness of land, which running out into the sea, makes a kind of a key. This is the place where in the late war in Ireland, most of the troops embark'd, when that grand expedition begun; after which, the vessels go away to Highlake, in which as the winds may happen they ride safe in their way, as the ships from London lye in the Downs, till the wind presents for their respective voyages.

From Nesson we cross'd over that fruitful level I mentioned before, and coming to the other water, we ferry'd over to Leverpool. This town is now become so great, so populous, and so rich, that it may be call'd the Bristol of this part of England: It had formerly but one church, but upon the encrease of inhabitants, and of new buildings in so extraordinary a manner, they have built another very fine church in the north part of the town; and they talk of erecting two more.

The first thing we observ'd in this church, was a fine marble font, all of one entire stone, given to the town, or church rather, by the late Robert Heysham Esq; a citizen and very considerable merchant of London; who was many years representative for the town of Lancaster. Here is a very fine new built tower also, and in it a curious ring of eight, very good bells. This part of the town may indeed be call'd New Leverpool, for that, they have built more than another Leverpool that way, in new streets, and fine large houses for their merchants: Besides this, they have made a great wet dock, for laying up their ships, and which they greatly wanted; for tho' the Mersey is a noble harbour, and is able to ride a thousand sail of ships at once, yet those ships that are to be laid up, or lye by the walls all the winter, or longer, as sometimes may be the case; must ride there, as in an open road, or (as the seamen call it,) be haled a shore; neither of which wou'd be practicable in a town of so much trade: And in the time of the late great storm, they suffer'd very much on that account.

This is the only work of its kind in England, except what is in the river of Thames, I mean for the merchants; nor is it many years since there was not one wet dock in England for private use, except Sir Henry Johnson's at Black Wall.

This is still an encreasing flourishing town, and if they go on in trade, as they have done for some time, 'tis probable it will in a little time be as big as the city of Dublin. The houses here are exceedingly well built, the streets strait, clean, and spacious, and they are now well supplied with water. The merchants here have a very pretty Exchange, standing upon 12 free-stone columns, but it begins to be so much too little, that 'tis thought they must remove or enlarge it. They talk already as I have said above, of building two churches more at Leverpool, and surrounding them with new streets, to the N.E. of the old town, which if they should, Leverpool will soon out do Bristol: In short, 'tis already the next town to Bristol, and in a little time may probably exceed it, both in commerce, and in numbers of people.

We went no farther this way at that time, but came back to Chester, by the same ferry as we went over.

As I am now at Chester, 'tis proper to say something of it, being a city well worth describing: Chester has four things very remarkable in it. I. It's walls, which are very firm, beautiful, and in good repair. 2. The castle, which is also kept up, and has a garrison always in it. 3. The cathedral. 4. The River Dee, and 5. the bridge over it.

It is a very antient city, and to this day, the buildings are very old; nor do the Rows as they call them, add any thing, in my opinion, to the beauty of the city; but just the contrary, they serve to make the city look both old and ugly: These Rows are certain long galleries, up one pair of stairs, which run along the side of the streets, before all the houses, tho' joined to them, and as is pretended, they are to keep the people dry in walking along. This they do indeed effectually, but then they take away all the view of the houses from the street, nor can a stranger, that was to ride thro' Chester, see any shops in the city; besides, they make the shops themselves dark, and the way in them is dark, dirty, and uneven.


The castle of Chester is a good firm building, and strong, tho' not fortify'd, with many out works: There is always a good garrison kept, and here the prisoners taken at Presten, in the late time of Rebellion, were kept a great while, till compassion to their misery, mov'd the clemency of the conqueror to deliver them. They say this castle was built or at least repair'd by Hugh Lupus, the famous Earl of Chester, and brother to William the Conqueror as also was the church.

The great church here is a very magnificent building, but 'tis built of a red, sandy, ill looking stone, which takes much from the beauty of it, and which yielding to the weather, seems to crumble, and suffer by time, which much defaces the building: Here they shew'd us the monument of Henry IV. Emperor of Germany; who they say, resign'd his empire, and liv'd a recluse here, but 'tis all to be taken upon trust, for we find nothing of it in history. We saw no monument of any note, which is partly occasion'd by its remote situation, and partly by its being but a modern bishoprick; for it was formerly a part of the diocess of Litchfield, and was not made a bishop's see till the year 1541; when King Henry VIII. divided it from Litchfield; nor has there ever been above 19 bishops of this see from its foundation. The short account of it is thus. Hugh Lupus gave the old monastery dedicated to St. Werburge, to a society of monks, after which, they say, King Edgar who conquer'd all this part of Britain, and was rowed up the Dee, in his royal barge, by four kings, founded the great church; and Hugh Lupus the great, Earl of Chester, finish'd and endow'd it.

Here is a noble stone bridge over the Dee, very high and strong built, and 'tis needful it should be so, indeed; for the Dee is a most furious stream at some seasons, and brings a vast weight of water with it from the mountains of Wales. Here it was that the first army of King William, design'd for the war in Ireland, and commanded by the great Duke Schomberg, encamp'd, for a considerable time before they embark'd. ann. 1689.

Here according to the Monasticon , the said Hugh Lupus held his parliament for the county palatine of Chester, given him by William the Conqueror, and where he sat in as great state as the king himself. The draught of which, as it is given us from antiquity, take as follows.

There are 11 parishes in this city, and very good churches to them, and it is the largest city in all this side of England that is so remote from London. When I was formerly at this city, about the year 1690, they had no water to supply their ordinary occasions, but what was carried from the River Dee upon horses, in great leather vessels, like a pair of bakers panyers; just the very same for shape and use, as they have to this day in the streets of Constantinople, and at Belgrade, in Hungary; to carry water about the streets to sell, for the people to drink. But at my coming there this time, I found a very good water-house in the river, and the city plentifully supply'd by pipes, just as London is from the Thames; tho' some parts of Chester stands very high from the river.

Tho' this is not an antient bishoprick, 'tis an antient city, and was certainly a frontier of the Roman Empire this way; and its being so afterwards to the English Empire also, has doubtless been the reason of its being so well kept, and the castle continued in repair, when most of the other castles on the frontiers were slighted and demolished.

This county, however remote from London, is one of those which contributes most to its support, as well as to several other parts of England, and that is by its excellent cheese, which they make here in such quantities, and so exceeding good, that as I am told from very good authority, the city of London only take off 14000 ton every year; besides 8000 ton which they say goes every year down the Rivers Severn and Trent, the former to Bristol, and the latter to York; including all the towns on both these large rivers: And besides the quantity ship'd both here, and at Leverpool, to go to Ireland, and Scotland. So that the quantity of cheese made in this country, must be prodigious great. Indeed, the whole county is employ'd in it, and part of its neighbourhood too; for tho' 'tis call'd by the name of Cheshire Cheese, yet great quantities of it are made in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Lancashire, that is to say, in such parts of them as border upon Cheshire.

The soil is extraordinary good, and the grass they say, has a peculiar richness in it, which disposes the creatures to give a great quantity of milk, and that very sweet and good; and this cheese manufacture, for such it is, encreases every day, and greatly enriches all the county; raises the value of the lands, and encourages the farmers to the keeping vast stocks of cows; the very number of the cattle improving and enriching the land.

The east part of the county abounds in salt springs, from which they draw the brine, and boyl it into fine salt; and once it was a very considerable trade, which they carried on with this salt; but since the discovery of the rock salt, which they dig in great quantities, towards Warrington, the other salt is not in so much request.

I now resolv'd to direct my course east, and making the Wever and the Trent, my northern boundary in this circuit; I came forward to view the midland counties of England, I mean such as rnay be said to lye between the Thames and the Trent.

I had taken a little trip into the N.E. parts of Cheshire before, seen a fine old seat of the Lord Delamere's, and which is beyond it all, the fine forest, which bears the name of that noble family; intending to see the salt pits at Northwich, which are odd indeed, but not so very strange as we were made to believe; the thing is, they say, the salt spring is found to be just perpendicularly under the stream or chanel of a fresh water river, namely, the Wever, and it is so, for the spring is very deep indeed in the ground, but that very thing takes off the wonder; for as the earth under the river, is but as a gutter to carry the water, there is no difficulty that it should not penetrate through it, the soil being a strong clay. So we came away not extremely gratify'd in our curiosity.

All the way as we cross'd this part of the county, we see Beeston Castle, an antient castle, giving name to a very antient family in this county. It stands upon a very high hill, over looking the county, like as Beavoir Castle over looks the vale of that name in Leicestershire; or as Harrow on the Hill over looks Middlesex. It was formerly a very strong place, and was re-fortify'd in the late wars, Sir William Beeston being in arms at that unhappy time; but the works are now demolish'd again.

From Northwich we turn'd S. and following the stream of the river by Middle Wich, we cross'd the great London road at Nantwich, or as some write it Namptwych; these are the three salt making towns of this county; there is a fourth which is call'd Droitwych, in Worcestershire; the nature of the thing is this, they boil the brine into fine salt, which is much priz'd for the beauty of its colour, and fineness of the grain, but the salt is not so strong, as what we now make from the rock salt mentioned above, and therefore loses of its value.

Hence we turn'd a little W. to Whitchurch, in Shropshire. But before I leave Cheshire, I must note two things of it. (1.) That there is no part of England, where there are such a great number of families of gentry, and of such antient and noble extraction; Mr. Cambden is very particular in their names, and descents, but that's a work too long for this place, nor does it belong to my present design. (2.) That it is a County Palatine, and has been for so many ages, that its government is distinct from any other and very particular; it is administred by a chamberlain, a judge special, two barons of the exchequer, three sergeants at law, a sheriff, and attorney, and escheator, and all proper and useful subordinate officers; and the jurisdiction of all these offices are kept up, and preserv'd very strictly, only we are to note, that the judge special as he is call'd, tries only civil causes, not criminal, which are left to the ordinary judges of England, who go the circuits here, as in other places.

Whitchurch is a pleasant and populous town, and has a very good church, in which is the famous monument of the great Talbot, first Earl of Shrewsbury, who, perhaps, and not unworthily, was call'd in his time, the English ACHILLES. This is the Talbot so renowned in the antient wars in France, whom no man in France dare to encounter single handed, and who had engraven on his sword, on one side, these words, Sum Talboti , and on the reverse, Pro vincere inimicos meos. His epitaph is as follows:


That is,

Pray for the soul of the right honourable Lord, Lord John Talbott, sometime Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Talbott, Lord Furnivall, Lord Verdon, Lord Strange of Blackmere, and Marshall of France, who dyed in battel, at Burdeaux, VII. of July, MCCCCLIII.

But the most to be said of this town now, is, that they have a good market, and a great many gentry near it, whereof some are Roman Catholicks. They tell us that this town when King Charles I. remov'd his standard from Nottingham to Shrewsbury, raised a whole regiment for the king: Nor has this town lost its old loyal principle, to this time; tho' now it may run a little another way.

From hence we went towards Wales again, and cross'd the Dee, at Bangor Bridge; I could not satisfy myself to omit seeing this famous town, which was once so remarkable, but was surpriz'd when I came there, to see there was a stone-bridge over the Dee, and indeed, a very fine one: But as for the town or monastery, scarce any of the ruins were to be seen, and as all the people spoke Welch, we could find no body that could give us any intelligence. So effectually had time in so few years, ras'd the very foundations of the place. I will not say, as some do, that this is miraculous, and that it is the particular judgment of God upon the place, for being the birth-place of that arch heretick Pelagius, who from hence also began to broach his heretical opinions, which afterwards so terribly overspread the Church: I say I will not insist upon this: That Pelagius was a monk of Bungor, or Banchor, is not doubted; but for the rest I leave it where I find it.

The place is now (I say) a poor contemptible village, and has nothing to show but a fine stone bridge over Dee, by which we enter Denbighshire in Wales. From thence we visited Wrexham, having heard much of a fine church there, but we were greatly disappointed: There is indeed a very large tower steeple, if a tower may be call'd a steeple, and 'tis finely adorn'd with imagery; but far from fine: the work is mean, the statues seem all mean and in dejected postures, without any fancy or spirit in the workmanship, and as the stone is of a reddish crumbling kind, like the cathedral at Chester, Time has made it look gross and rough.

There are a great many antient monuments in this church, and in the church-yard also; but none of note, and almost all the inscriptions are in Welch. The church is large; but they must be much mistaken, who tell us 'tis the finest in England, no not among those which are as old as itself.

This town is large, well built and populous, and besides the church there are two large meeting-houses, in one of which we were told they preach in Welch one part of the day, and in English the other. Here is a great market for Welch flannel which the factors buy up of the poor Welch people, who manufacture it; and thence it is sent to London; and it is a very considerable manufacture indeed thro' all this part of the country, by which the poor are very profitably employ'd.

From hence we turn'd south, and passing by Wem, the title given by King James II. to the late Lord Chancellor Jefferies, we saw the house where his father, then but a private gentleman liv'd, and in but middling circumstances. Thence we came to Ellsmere, famous for a great lake or mere, which gives the town its name, and which the people pretend has in some places no bottom. This place is remarkable for good fish. From hence we came the same night to Shrewsbury.

This is indeed a beautiful, large, pleasant, populous, and rich? town; full of gentry and yet full of trade too; for here too, is a great manufacture, as well of flannel, as also of white broadcloth, which enriches all the country round it.

The Severn surrounds this town, just as the Thames does the Isle of Dogs; so that it makes the form of an horse-shoe, over which there are two fine stone bridges, upon one of which is built a very noble gate, and over the arch of the gate the statue of the great Lewellin, the idol of the Welch, and their last Prince of Wales.

This is really a town of mirth and gallantry, something like Bury in Suffolk, or Durham in the north, but much bigger than either of them, or indeed than both together.

Over the market-house is kept a kind of hall for the manufactures, which are sold here weekly in very great quantities; they speak all English in the town, but on a market-day you would think you were in Wales.

Here is the greatest market, the greatest plenty of good provisions, and the cheapest that is to be met with in all the western part of England; the Severn supplies them here with excellent salmon, but 'tis also brought in great plenty from the River Dee, which is not far off, and which abounds with a very good kind, and is generally larger than that in the Severn; As an example of the cheapness of provisions, we paid here, in a publick inn, but a groat a night for hay, and six-pence a peck for oats for our horses, which is cheaper than we found it in the cheapest part of the north of England; all our other provisions were in proportion; and there is no doubt but the cheapness of provisions joined to the pleasantness and healthiness of the place, draws a great many families thither, who love to live within the compass of their estates.

Mr. Cambden calls it a city: Tis at this day, says he, a fine city well-inhabited: But we do not now call it a city, yet 'tis equal to many good cities in England, and superior to some. Near this place was fought the bloody battle between Henry Hotspur and Henry IV. King of England, in which the former was kill'd, and all his army overthrown, and the place is call'd Battlefield to this day.

Here are four very fine churches, whereof two St. Chad's and St. Mary's, are said to be anciently collegiate: There are abundance of ancient monuments in them all, but too many to mention here, my journey being too long, and my bounds too short to enter upon the particulars.

This town will for ever be famous for the reception it gave to King Charles the I. who, after setting up his standard at Nottingham, and finding no encouragement there, remov'd to Shrewsbury, being invited by the gentry of the town and country round, where he was receiv'd with such a general affection, and hearty zeal by all the people, that his majesty recover'd the discouragement of his first step at Nottingham, and raised and compleated a strong army in less time than could be imagin'd; insomuch that to the surprize of the Parliament, and indeed of all the world, he was in the field before them, and advanced upon them so fast, that he met them two thirds onward of his way to London, and gave them battle at Edge-hill near Banbury.

But the fate of the war turning afterward against the king, the weight of it fell heavy upon this town also, and almost ruin'd them.

But they are now fully recover'd, and it is at this time one of the most flourishing towns in England: The walls and gates are yet standing, but useless, and the old castle is gone to ruin, as is the case of almost all the old castles in England.

It should not be forgotten here, that notwithstanding the healthyness of the place, one blot lies upon the town of Shrewsbury, and which, tho' nothing can be charg'd on the inhabitants, yet it seems they are the most obliged when 'tis least spoken of; namely, that here broke out first that unaccountable plague, call'd the sweating sickness; which at first baffled all the sons of art, and spread itself through the whole kingdom of England: This happen'd in the year 1551. It afterwards spread itself into Germany, and several countries abroad; But I do not remember that it was ever in Spain or in Italy.

Here is an ancient free-school, the most considerable in this part of England; built and endow'd by Queen Elizabeth, with a very sufficient maintainance for a chief or head-master, and three under-masters or ushers. The buildings are very spacious, and particularly the library is a fine building, and has a great many books in it; but I saw nothing curious or rare among them, and no manuscripts. The school-masters have also very handsome houses to dwell in.

There was a fine school here before, erected by the townspeople, and maintain'd several years by their contribution, and some endowments also it had. But the queen being sensible of the good design of the inhabitants, took the matter into her own hands, and built the whole fabrick new from the ground, endowing it liberally out of her own royal bounty.

Here I was shew'd a very visible and remarkable appearance of the great antient road or way call'd Watling-Street, which comes from London to this town, and goes on from hence to the utmost coast of Wales; where it cross'd the Severn, there are remains of a stone bridge to be seen in the bottom of the river, when the water is low. On this road we set out now for Litchfield in our way towards London; and I would gladly have kept to this old road, if it had been possible, because I knew several remarkable places stood directly upon it. But we were oblig'd to make many excursions, and sometimes quit the street for a great way together: And first we left it to go away south to the edge of Stafford-shire, to see the old house call'd White Ladies, and the royal oak, the famous retreat of King Charles II. after the Battle of Worcester. The tree is surrounded with a palisadoe, to preserve it from the fate which threatned it from curiosity; for almost every body that came to see it

for several years, carry'd away a piece of it, so that the tree was litterally in danger not to dye of age, but to be pull'd limb from limb; but the veneration of that kind is much abated, and as the palisadoes are more decay'd than the tree, the latter seems likely to stand safe without them; as for the house, there is nothing remarkable in it; but it being a house always inhabited by Roman Catholicks, it had and perhaps has still some rooms so private in it, that in those times could not have been discover'd without pulling down the whole buildings.

Entring Stafford-shire we quitted the said Street-way, a little to the left, to see Stafford the county town, and the most considerable except Litchfield in the county. In the way we were surpriz'd in a most agreeable manner, passing thro' a small but ancient town call'd Penkrige, vulgarly Pankrage, where happen'd to be a fair. We expected nothing extraordinary; but was I say surpriz'd to see the prodigious number of horses brought hither, and those not ordinary and common draught-horses, and such kinds as we generally see at country-fairs remote from London: But here were really incredible numbers of the finest and most beautiful horses that can any where be seen; being brought hither from Yorkshire, the bishoprick of Durham, and all the horse-breeding countries: We were told that there were not less than an hundred jockies and horse-kopers, as they call them there, from London, to buy horses for sale. Also an incredible number of gentlemen attended with their grooms to buy gallopers, or race-horses, for their Newmarket sport. In a word, I believe I may mark it for the greatest horse-fair in the world, for horses of value, and especially those we call saddle-horses. There are indeed greater fairs for coach-horses, and draught horses; though here were great numbers of fine large stone horses for coaches, &. too. But for saddle-horses, for the light saddle, hunters, pads, and racers, I believe the world cannot match this fair.

We staid 3 days here to satisfy our curiosity, and indeed the sight was very agreeable, to see what vast stables of horses there were, which never were brought out or shewn in the fair. How dextrous the northern grooms and breeders are in their looking after them, and ordering them: Those fellows take such indefatigable pains with them, that they bring them out like pictures of horses, not a hair amiss in them; they lye constantly in the stables with them, and feed them by weight and measure; keep them so clean, and so fine, I mean in their bodies, as well as their outsides, that, in short, nothing can be more nice. Here were several horses sold for 150 guineas a horse; but then they were such as were famous for the breed, and known by their race, almost as well as the Arabians know the genealogy of their horses.

From hence we came in two hours easy riding to Stafford, on the River Sow; 'tis an old and indeed antient town, and gives name to the county; but we thought to have found something more worth going so much out of the way in it. The town is however neat and well built, and is lately much encreas'd; nay, as some say, grown rich by the cloathing trade, which they have fallen into but within the reach of the present age, and which has not enrich'd this town only, but Tamworth also, and all the country round.

The people of this county have been particularly famous, and more than any other county in England, for good footman-ship, and there have been, and still are among them, some of the fleetest runners in England; which I do not grant to be occasion'd by any particular temperature of the air or soil, so much as to the hardy breed of the inhabitants, especially in the moorlands or northern part of the county, and to their exercising themselves to it from their child-hood; for running foot-races seems to be the general sport or diversion of the country.

Near Stafford we saw Ingestre, where the late Walter Chetwynd, Esq; built or rather rebuilt a very fine church at his own charge, and where the late Lord Chetwynd has with a profusion of expence laid out the finest park and gardens that are in all this part of England, and which, if nothing else was to be seen this way, are very well worth a traveller's curiosity.

I am now at the utmost extent of my limits for this circuit; for Ingestre Parks reach to the very banks of the Trent, which I am not to pass; so I turn'd to the right, and intending for Litchfield, in the way we saw Beaudesert, a famous old seat, said to be built by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester: The name indeed intimates it to be of Norman or French original; at present it is in the honourable family of the Pagets, and the Lord Paget is also Baron of Beaudesert. The park is very fine, and its situation exceeding pleasant, but the house is antient; in the park is a famous piece of antiquity, viz. a large entrench'd camp or fortification, surrounded with a double trench, very large and deep; but the inhabitants can give no account of it, that is worth notice.

From hence 'tis about four or five miles to Litchfield, a city, and the principal, next to Chester, of all the N.W. part of England; neither indeed is there any other, but this and Coventry, in the whole road from London to Carlisle on the edge of Scotland.

Here we came into the great Lancashire and Cheshire road, or the N.W. road from London, which passing thro' this city from Warrington Bridge in Cheshire, falls into the Watling-street road, mention'd before, about three miles S.E. from the town, and crosses another antient causway or road, call'd Ickneild-street, about a mile out of the city; so that Litchfield lies as it were at the joining of all those great roads.

Litchfield is a fine, neat, well-built, and indifferent large city; there is a little lake or lough of water in the middle of it, out of which runs a small stream of water, which soon becomes a little rivulet, and save that it has but 4 or 5 miles to the Trent, would soon become a river; This lake parts Litchfield, as it were, into two cities, one is call'd the town, and the other the close; in the first is the market-place, a fine school, and a very handsome hospital well-endow'd. This part is much the largest and most populous: But the other is the fairest, has the best buildings in it, and, among the rest, the cathedral-church, one of the finest and most beautiful in England, especially for the outside, the form and figure of the building, the carv'd work'd, imagery, and the three beautiful spires; the like of which are not to be seen in one church, no not in Europe.

There are two fine causways which join the city and the close, with sluices to let the water pass, but those were cut thro' in the time of the late intestine wars in England; and the closs, which is wall'd about, and was then fortify'd for the king, was very strong, and stood out several vigorous attacks against Cromwell's men, and was not at last taken without great loss of blood on- both sides, being gallantly defended to the last drop, and taken by storm.

There are in the close, besides the houses of the clergy residentiaries, a great many very well-built houses, and well inhabited too; which makes Litchfield a place of good conversation and good company, above all the towns in this county or the next, I mean Warwickshire or Darbyshire.

The description of this church would take up much time, and requires a very nice observer. The see is very antient, and was once archiepiscopal, and Eadulp the archbishop was metropolitan of all the kingdom of the Mercians and East Angles, but it did not hold it; then it suffer'd another diminution. by having the see of Chester taken away, which was once part of this of Litchfield.

They told us here a long story of St. Chad, formerly bishop of this church, and how he liv'd in a little hovel or cell in the church-yard, instead of a bishop's palace: But the bishops, since that time, have, I suppose, thought better of it, and make shift with a very fine palace in the closs, and the residentiaries live in proportion to it.

They have another legendary story also at Litchfield; namely, that a thousand poor people being instructed in the Christian faith by the care of Offa King of the Mercians, were all martyr'd here in one field by the Pagans, and that in the field where they were so murder'd, King Oswy of Northumberland caused a great church to be built; and from thence the city bears for its device, a landskip, or open field, with mangled carcasses lying dispers'd about in it, as if murder'd and left unburied: But this I take as I find it.

The church I say is indeed a most beautiful building; the west prospect of it is charming, the two spires on the corner towers being in themselves perfect beauties of architect, in the old Gothic way of building, but made still more shining and glorious by a third spire, which rising from the main tower in the body of the church, surmounts the other two, and shews itself exactly between them.

It is not easy to describe the beauty of the west end; you enter by three large doors in the porch or portico, which is as broad as the whole front; the spaces between the doors are fill'd with carv'd work and imagery, no place being void, where (by the rules of architect) any ornament could be plac'd.

Over the first cornish is a row of statues or images of all the kings which reign'd in Jerusalem from King David to the captivity; but I cannot say that they are all sufficiently distinguish'd one from another: Above there are other images, without number, whose names no account (I could meet with there) could explain.

The great window over the middle door is very large, and the pediment over it finely adorn'd, a large cross finishing the top of it; on either corner of the west front are two very fine towers, not unlike the two towers on the west end of St. Peter's Church at Westminster, only infinitely finer: Even with the battlement of the porch, and adjoining to the towers, are large pinnacles at the outer angles, and on the top of the towers are to each tower eight more, very beautiful and fine; between these pinnacles, on the top of each tower, rises a spire equal in height, in thickness, and in workmanship, but so beautiful no pen can describe them.

The imagery and carv'd work on the front, as above, has suffer'd much in the late unhappy times; and they told us the cross over the west window was frequently shot at by the rude soldiers; but that they could not shoot it down, which however they do not say was miraculous.

The inside of the church also suffer'd very much, but it has been very well repaired since the Restoration, as well by the famous Bishop Hacket, as by the bounty of several noble and generous benefactors.

The Monasticon makes mention of a shrine given here for the holy St. Chad, or St. Cedda, which cost 200000l . but I conceive that to smell as much of the legend, as the miracles of St. Chad himself; since such a gift at that time must be equal to two millions of our money.

They tell us the main spire of this church is, from the ground, 385 foot, and the two spires at the angles of the west end each 260.

From Litchfield we came to Tamworth, a fine pleasant trading town, eminent for good ale and good company, of the middling sort; from whence we came into the great road again at Coleshill in Warwickshire.

This is a small but very handsome market-town; it chiefly, if not wholly belongs to the Lord Digby, who is lord of the mannor, if not real owner of almost all the houses in the town, and as that noble person is at present a little on the wrong side as to the government, not having taken the oaths to King George, so the whole town are so eminently that way too, that they told me there was but one family of Whiggs, as they call'd them, in the whole town, and they hoped to drive them out of the place too very quickly.

The late incumbent of this parish quitted his living, which is very considerable, because he would not take the oaths, and his successor was the famous ----- who, when I was there, was newly proscrib'd by proclamation, and the reward of l000l . order'd to whoever should apprehend him; so their instructors being such, 'tis no wonder the people have follow'd their leader.

From Coles-hill we came to Coventry, the sister city to Litchfield, and join'd in the title of the see, which was for some little time seated here, but afterwards return'd to Litchfield.

It was a very unhappy time when I first came to this city; for their heats and animosities for election of members to serve in Parliament, were carry'd to such a hight, that all manner of method being laid aside, the inhabitants (in short) enraged at one another, met, and fought a pitch'd battle in the middle of the street, where they did not take up the breadth of the street, as two rabbles of people would generally do; in which case no more could engage, but so many as the breadth of the street would admit in the front; but, on the contrary, the two parties meeting in the street, one party kept to one side of the way, and one side to the other, the kennel in the middle only parting them, and so marching as if they intended to pass by one another, 'till the front of one party was come opposite to the reer of the other, and then suddenly facing to one another, and making a long front, where their flanks were before, upon a shout given, as the signal on both sides, they fell on with such fury with clubs and staves, that in an instant the kennel was cover'd with them, not with slain, but with such as were knock'd down on both sides, and, in a word, they fought with such obstinacy that 'tis scarce credible.

Nor were these the scum and rabble of the town, but in short the burgesses and chief inhabitants, nay even magistrates, aldermen, and the like.

Nor was this one skirmish a decision of the quarrel, but it held for several weeks, and they had many such fights; nor is the matter much better among them to this day, only that the occasion does not happen so often.

Coventry is a large and populous city, and drives a very great trade; the manufacture of tammies is their chief employ, and next to that weaving of ribbons of the meanest kind, chiefly black. The buildings are very old, and in some places much decay'd; the city may be taken for the very picture of the city of London, on the south side of Cheapside before the Great Fire; the timber-built houses, projecting forwards and towards one another, till in the narrow streets they were ready to touch one another at the top.

The tale of the Lady Godiva, who rode naked thro' the High Street of the city to purchase her beloved city of Coventry exemption from taxes, is held for so certain a truth, that they will not have it question'd upon any account whatever; and the picture of the poor fellow that peep'd out of window to see her, is still kept up, looking out of a garret in the High Street of the city: But Mr. Cambden says positively no body look'd at her at all

There are eleven churches in this city; but three of them are particular ornaments to it, having fine high spires, after the manner of those at Litchfield, but nothing like them for the beauty of the building. Here is no cathedral, as some have falsly said, neither is the great church, so call'd, either collegiate or conventual.

It was indeed a monastry or priory, and, as has been said, the bishop's see was remov'd from Chester hither, but no cathedral was built, for the change was not continued, and the see was soon remov'd to Litchfield, where it continues to this day. Yet this city contended a great while for it indeed, but could not carry it. In King Henry 8th's time, the priory being dissolv'd, the church which they would have call'd a cathedral, was reduc'd to a private parish-church, and continues so to this day; 'tis an archdeaconry indeed, and the bishop is stiled Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry.

From Coventry we could by no means pass the town of Warwick, the distance too being but about six miles, and a very pleasant way on the banks of the River Avon: Tis famous for being the residence of the great Guy Earl of Warwick, known now only by fame, which also has said so much more than the truth of him, that even what was true is become a kind of romance, and the real history of his actions is quite lost to the world.

That there was such a man, no body (I find) makes a question, any more than they do that half of what is said of him is fable and fiction; but be that as it will, they show us here his castle, his helmet, his sword, and tell abundance of things of him, which have some appearance of history, tho' not much authority to support them; so I leave that part to the curious searchers into antiquity, who may consult Mr. Cambden, Rous, Dugdale, and other antiquaries on that subject, who tell us the castle was built before our Saviour's time, and has been a place of great consideration ever since.

As to the town of Warwick, it is really a fine town, pleasantly situated on the bank of the Avon, over which there is a large and stately bridge, the Avon being now grown a pretty large river, Warwick was ever esteem'd a handsome, well-built town, and there were several good houses in it, but the face of it is now quite alter'd; for having been almost wholly reduc'd to a heap of rubbish, by a terrible fire about two and twenty years ago, it is now rebuilt in so noble and so beautiful a manner, that few towns in England make so fine an appearance. The new church also is a fine building, but all the old monuments, which were very many, are entirely defac'd, and lost by the fire: However the memory and even the figure of 'em are eminently preserv'd by Mr. Dugdale, in his Antiquities of this county, to which I refer.

The castle is a fine building, beautiful both by situation and its decoration; it stands on a solid rock of free-stone, from whose bowels it may be said to be built, as likewise is the whole town; the terrass of the castle, like that of Windsor, overlooks a beautiful country, and sees the Avon running at the foot of the precipice, at above 50 foot perpendicular hight: the building is old, but several times repair'd and beautify'd by its several owners, and 'tis now a very agreeable place both within and without: the apartments are very nicely contrived, and the communication of the remotest parts of the building, one with another, are so well preserved by galleries, and by the great hall, which is very magnificent, that one finds no irregularity in the whole place, notwithstanding its ancient plan, as it was a castle not a palace, and built for strength rather than pleasure.

The possession of this castle is now in the family of Grevil Lord Brook, but the honour and possession is separated, and has been for some time; the ancient family of Beauchamp, or Bello Campo, E. of Warwick, held it for many ages, from whom 'tis now descended to the Earls of Holland, who are Earls of Holland and also of Warwick. But this by the way.

Here we saw the antient cell or hermitage, where they say the famous Guy Earl of Warwick ended his days in a private retreat for his devotion, and is from him call'd Guy Clift, by others Gibclift; 'tis now, as Mr. Cambden gives an account, which Mr. Dugdale also confirms, the pleasant seat of an antient Norman family of the name of De Beau-foe, whose posterity remain there, and in several other parts of the county, retaining the latter part of their sirname, but without the former to this day. Mr. Dugdale gives the monuments of them, and it appears they removed hither, on account of some marriage, from Seyton in Rutlandshire, where they were lords of the mannor, and patrons of the church, and where several of the name also still remain.

Being at Warwick, I took a short circuit thro' the S.E. part of the county, resolving after viewing a little the places of note, that lay something out of my intended rout, to come back to the same place.

Three miles from Warwick we pass'd over the Foss Way, which goes on to Leicester; then we came by Southam to Daventry, a considerable market town, but which subsists chiefly by the great concourse of travellers on the old Watling-street way, which lies near it; and the road being turned by modern usage, lies now thro' the town itself, then runs on to Dunsmore Heath, where it crosses the Foss, and one branch goes on to Coventry, the other joins the Foss, and goes on to a place call'd High-Cross, where it falls into the old Watling-street again, and both meet again near Litchfield.

It is a most pleasant curiosity to observe the course of these old famous highways; the Icknild Way, the Watling-street, and the Foss, in which one sees so lively a representation of the antient British, Roman and Saxon governments, that one cannot help realizing those times to the imagination; and tho' I avoid meddling with antiquity as much as possible in this work, yet in this case a circuit or tour thro' England would be very imperfect, if I should take no notice of these ways, seeing in tracing them we necessarily come to the principal towns, either that are or have been in every county.

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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