Picture of Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

places mentioned

Letter 8, Part 3: South and West Yorkshire

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Two eminent towns, tho' only meer market towns, and one of them no corporation, open the door into the West Riding of Yorkshire; these are Sheffield and Doncaster. It is true, there Is a little market town, at the very first entrance into the county before we come to Doncaster, call'd Bautry, a town bless'd with two great conveniencies which assists to its support, and makes it a very well frequented place.

  1. That it stands upon the great post highway, or road from London to Scotland; and this makes it be full of very good inns and houses of entertainment.
  2. That the little but pleasant River Idle runs through, or rather just by, the side of it, which, contrary to the import of its name, is a full and quick, though not rapid and unsafe stream, with a deep channel, which carries hoys, lighters, barges, or flat-bottom'd vessels, out of its channel into the Trent, which comes within seven miles of it, to a place called Stockwith, and from thence to Burton, and from thence, in fair weather, quite to Hull; but if not, 'tis sufficient to go to Stockwith, where vessels of 200 ton burthen may come up to the town loaden as well as empty.

By this navigation, this town of Bautry becomes the center of all the exportation of this part of the country, especially for heavy goods, which they bring down hither from all the adjacent countries, such as lead, from the lead mines and smelting-houses in Derbyshire, wrought iron and edge-tools, of all sorts, from the forges at Sheffield, and from the country call'd Hallamshire, being adjacent to the towns of Sheffield and Rotherham, where an innumerable number of people are employed; as I shall speak more largely of in its place.

Also millstones and grindstones, in very great quantities, are brought down and shipped off here, and so carry'd by sea to Hull, and to London, and even to Holland also. This makes Bautry Wharf be famous all over the south part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, for it is the place whither all their heavy goods are carried, to be embarked and shipped off.

From hence to Doncaster is a pleasant road, and good ground, and never wants any repair, which is very hard to be said in any part of this lower side of the country.

Doncaster is a noble, large, spacious town, exceeding populous, and a great manufacturing town, principally for knitting; also as it stands upon the great northern post-road, it is very full of great inns; and here we found our landlord at the post-house was mayor of the town as well as post-master, that he kept a pack of hounds, was company for the best gentlemen in the town or in the neighbourhood, and lived as great as any gentleman ordinarily did.

Here we saw the first remains or ruins of the great Roman highway, which, though we could not perceive it before, was eminent and remarkable here, just at the entrance into the town; and soon after appeared again in many places: Here are also two great, lofty, and very strong stone bridges over the Don, and a long causeway also beyond the bridges, which is not a little dangerous to passengers when the waters of the Don are restrained, and swell over its banks, as is sometimes the case.

This town, Mr. Cambden says, was burnt entirely to the ground, anno 759, and is hardly recovered yet; but I must say, it is so well recovered, that I see no ruins appear, and indeed, being almost a thousand years ago, I know not how there should; and besides, the town seems as if it wanted another conflagration, for it looks old again, and many of the houses ready to fall.

I should, before I leave Doncaster, give you the famous epitaph of one Robert Byrk, a famous man of Doncaster, who lies buried in the great church here, who gave a place, call'd Rossington Wood, to the poor. On his grave is this epitaph in Old English:

Howe, howe, who's here,
I, Robin of Doncastere,
And Margaret my fere.
That I spent, that I had;
That I gave, that I have;
That I left, that I lost;

Quoth Robertus Byrks, who in this world did reign threescore years and seven, but liv'd not one.

anno 1579.

Here lies also, under a plain gravestone in St. George's Church, interred, the body of one Thomas Ellis, a very memorable person. He was five times mayor of the town, founded an hospital in the town, called St. Thomas's the Apostle, and endowed it plentifully.

Strange! that of but two several authors writing a description of Yorkshire but very lately, and pretending to speak positively of the places, which they ought not to have done, if they had not been there, both of them should so strangely mistake, as one to say of Doncaster, that there was a large church with a high spire steeple; and the other to say of the cathedral at York, that from the spire of the cathedral at York, you have an unbounded prospect: Whereas neither has the tower of York, or the tower at Doncaster, any spire, unless they will pretend any of the small pinacles at the four corners of the two towers at the west end of the church at York, are to be call'd THE SPIRE of THE cathedral; so fit are such men to write descriptions of a country.

Leaving Doncaster, we turned out of the road a little way to the left, where we had a fair view of that antient whittl-making, cutlering town, called Sheffield; the antiquity, not of the town only, but of the trade also, is established by those famous lines of Geoffry Chaucer on the Miller of Trumpington, which, however they vary from the print in Chaucer, as now extant, I give you as I find it:

At Trumpington, not far from Cambridge,
There dwelt a miller upon a bridge;
With a rizzl'd beard, and a hooked nose,
And a Sheffield whittl in his hose.

This town of Sheffield is very populous and large, the streets narrow, and the houses dark and black, occasioned by the continued smoke of the forges, which are always at work: Here they make all sorts of cutlery-ware, but especially that of edged-tools, knives, razors, axes, &. and nails; and here the only mili of the sort, which was in use in England for some time was set up, (viz.) for turning their grindstones, though now 'tis grown more common.

Here is a very spacious church, with a very handsome and high spire; and the town is said to have at least as many, if not more people in it than the city of York. Whether they have been exactly numbered one against the other, I cannot tell. The manufacture of hard ware, which has been so antient in this town, is not only continued, but much encreased; insomuch that they told us there, the hands employed in it were a prodigious many more than ever dwelt, as well in the town, as in the bounds of that they call Hallamshire; and they talked of 30000 men employed in the whole; but I leave it upon the credit of report.

There was formerly a very fine castle here, with a noble mansion-house, the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk; but it is now all demolished and decayed, though the estate or mannor remains still in the family. In the great church of this town are several very antient monuments of the family of Talbots, Earls of Shrewsbury, who once had great possessions in this and the next county.

The Queen of Scots was also for a long time detained here as prisoner, not less than sixteen or seventeen years, which was fatal afterward to the house of Norfolk; as is to be seen at large in our English history.

The River Don, with a rapid terrible current, had swelled its banks, and done a prodigious deal of damage the same year that I took this view, having carried away two or three stone bridges, ploughed up some wharfs, and drove away several milis; for this river is of kin to the Derwent for the fierceness of its streams, taking its beginning in the same western mountains, which I mentioned before; and which begin to rise first in the High Peak, and run northward to Blackstone Edge; those mountains pouring down their waters with such fury into these great rivers, their streams are so rapid, that nothing is able to stand in their way.

Here is a fine engine or mill al so for raising water to supply the town, which was done by Mr. Serocoal, the same who fell into the river at the throwing-mill at Derby, as is said in its place: Here is also a very large and strong bridge over the Don, as there is another at Rotherham, a market town six miles lower. Here is also a very fine hospital, with the addition of a good revenue, settled at first by Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury, and confirmed afterwards by the family of Howard, Dukes of Norfolk.

George, the first Earl of Shrewsbury, who died 1538. George the second, grandson to the first, to whose custody the Queen of Scots was committed, who died 1590, and Gilbert his son, who founded the hospital above mentioned, all lie buried here. The gift of this hospital is thus documented :

The Hospital of the Right Hon. GILBERT, Earl
of Shrewsbury, erected and settled by the
Right Hon. HENRY, Earl of Norwich,
Earl Marshal of ENGLAND, great
grandson of the said earl, in pursuance of his last Will and Testament,
An. 1673.

It is in this park that the great oak tree grew, which Mr. Evelyn gives a long account of in his book of Forest Trees ; but as I did not see it, I refer to the said Mr. Evelyn's account. The chesnut tree near Aderclift, which Mr. Cambden's continuator mentions, the body of which could hardly be fathom'd by three men, I suppose was gone; for I could hear nothing of it.

But the remains of the Roman fortification or encampment between Sheffield and Rotherham, is there still, and very plain to be seen, and, I suppose, may remain so to the end of time.

Here is also the famous bank or trench which some call Devil's Bank, others Danes Bank; but 'tis frequent with us to give the honour of such great trenches, which they think was never worth the while for men to dig, to the devil, as if he had more leisure, or that it was less trouble to him than to a whole army of men. This bank, 'tis said, runs five mile in length; in some places 'tis called Kemp Bank, in others Temple's Bank.

Rotherham was the next town of any bulk in which, how- ever, I saw nothing of note, except a fine stone bridge over the Don, which is here encreased by the River Rother, from whence the town, I suppose, took its name, as the famous Bishop Rotherham did his from the town: I will not say he was a foundling child in the streets, and so was sirnamed from the place, as is often suggested in such cases, though if he was so, it did not diminish his character, which was that of a great and good man. He was Archbishop of York, and was a great bene- factor to this town, having founded a college here; but it seems it has been a long while ago.

From Rotherham we turned north west to Wentworth, on purpose to see the old seat of Tankersly, and the park, where I saw the largest red deer that, I believe, are in this part of Europe: One of the hinds, I think, was larger than my horse, and he was not a very small pad of fourteen hands and half high. This was antiently the dwelling of the great Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, beheaded in King Charles the First's time, by a law, ex post facto, voted afterward not to be drawn into a precedent. The body lies interred in Wentworth Church.

Thence over vast moors, I had almost said waste moors, we entred the most populous part of this county, I mean of the West Riding, only passing a town call'd Black Barnsley, eminent still for the working in iron and steel; and indeed the very town looks as black and smoaky as if they were all smiths that lived in it; tho' it is not, I suppose, called Black Barnsley on that account, but for the black hue or colour of the moors, which, being covered with heath, (or heather, as 'tis called in that country) look all black, like Bagshot Heath, near Windsor; after, I say, we had pass'd these moors, we came to a most rich, pleasant and populous country, and the first town of note we came to in it was Wakefield, a large, handsome, rich clothing town, full of people, and full of trade.

The Calder passes through this town under a stately stone bridge of twelve arches, upon which is a famous building, by some called a chapel, by others a castle; the former is the most likely; It was built by Edward IV. in memory of the fatal Battle of Wakefield, wherein his father, Richard, Duke of York, was killed by the Lancastrian army, under the command of Margaret, queen to Henry VI. anno 1460. It was indeed a fatal battle; but as that is not any part of this work, I leave it to the historians to give a fuller account of it; only one thing I must add, namely, that a little on this side of the town, I mean south between Wakefield, and a village called Sandal, they shewed us a little square piece of ground, which was fenced off by it self; and on which, before the late war, stood a large stone cross, in memory of that fatal battle; just upon that spot, the Duke of York fighting desperately, and refusing to yield, tho' surrounded with enemies, was kill'd. The chapel on the bridge at Wakefield, the other monument of this battle, is now made use of for civil affairs; for we do not now pray for the souls of those slain in battle, and so the intent of that building ceases.

Wakefield is a clean, large, well-built town, very populous and very rich; here is a very large church, and well filled it is, for here are very few Dissenters; the steeple is a very fine spire, and by far the highest in all this part of the country, except that at Sheffield. They tell us, there are here more people also than in the city of York, and yet it is no Corporation town; and he highest magistrate, as I understand, was a constable.

Here also is a market every Friday for woollen cloaths, after the manner of that at Leeds, tho' not so great; yet as all the cloathing trade is encreasing in this country, so this market too flourishes with the rest; not but that sometimes, as foreign markets receive interruption either by wars, by a glut of the goods, or by any other incident, there are interruptions of the manufacture too, which, when it happen, the clothiers are sure to complain of loss of trade; but when the demand comes again they are not equally forward with their acknowledgments; and this, I observed, was the case every where else, as well as here.

I cannot pass by my former observation here, namely, how evidently all the great rivers take their beginning in the mountains of Blackstone Edge and High Peak, which, as I have said, part the counties of Lancaster and York, and how these rivers take all their course due east. The Don was the first; the next is the Calder, coming now to be a very large river at Wakefield ; and the Aire is the next, which, running another course, of which I shall speak presently, receives the Calder into it.

The River Calder, of which I shall give an account by and by, having trac'd it from its beginning, receiving a mighty confluence of rivers into it, is now, as I have said, become a large river, and the first town it comes near of note is Huthersfield, another large cloathing place; it passes also by Eland, where there is a very fine stone bridge. This was the original seat of the Earls or Marquisses of Hallifax, when the title went in the name of Saville. Huthersfield is one of the five towns which carry on that vast cloathing trade by which the wealth and opulence of this part of the country has been raised to what it now is, and there those woollen manufactures are made in such prodigious quantities, which are known by the name of Yorkshire Kersies. Whether the scandal upon this country be just or not, (viz.) shrinking cloth and sharping k------s, that I will not take upon me to determine; at this town there is a market for kersies every Tuesday.

Nor, as I speak of their manufactures, must I forget that most essential manufacture called Yorkshire Ale, which indeed is in its perfection here, and in all this part of the county; of which I shall speak again in its place.

As the Calder rises in Blackstone Edge, so the Aire, another of the Yorkshire rivers, rises, tho' in the same ridge of hills, yet more particularly at the foot of the mountain Pennigent, on the edge of Lancashire, of which 'tis said proverbially:

Pendle-Hill and Pennigent,
Are the highest hills between Scotland and Trent.

As the Calder runs by Hallifax, Huthersfield, and through Wakefield; so the Aire runs by Skippon, Bradforth and thorough Leeds, and then both join at Castleford Bridge, near Pontefract, so in an united stream forming that useful navigation from this trading part of Yorkshire to Hull; to the infinite advantage of the whole country, and which, as I took a singular satisfaction in visiting and enquiring into, so I believe you will be no less delighted in reading the account of it, which will be many ways both useful and very instructive; and the more so, because none of the pretended travel-writers and journeyers thro' England, have yet thought this most remarkable part of our country worth their speaking of, or knew not how to go about it: Nor have they so much as mentioned this whole part of England, which is, on many accounts, the most considerable of all the northern division of this nation.

It is not easie to take a view of this populous and wealthy part, called the West Riding, at one, no, nor at two journies, unless you should dwell upon it, and go cross the country backward and forward, on purpose to see this or that considerable place. This is perhaps the reason why, as I hinted above, the other writers of journies and travels this way might not see how to go about it. But, as I was resolved to have a perfect knowledge of the most remarkable things, and especially of the manufactures of England, which I take to be as well worth a traveller's notice, as the most curious thing he can meet with, and which is so prodigious great in this quarter, I made no less than three journies into, and thro', this part of the country.

In my first journey I came only west from York to Wakefield, and then, turning south by Barnsley to Doncaster, went away still south to Rotherham, Sheffield, Chesterfield, Chatsworth, and the Peak, all which journey, except York, and the towns about it, and in the way to it, I have mentioned already.

The second journey, I came out of the western part of England, namely, from Cheshire thro' Lancashire, and, passing east over those Andes of England, called Blackstone Edge, and the mountains, which, as I hinted before, part Yorkshire and Lancashire, and reach from the High Peak to Scotland, I came to Hallifax, Bradforth, Huthersfield, Leeds, Wetherby, Pontefract and Burrow Bridge, and so went away into the East Riding, as you have heard.

The third journey, I went from the Peak in Derbyshire again, and, traversing the same country as I returned by the first journey as far as Wakefield, went on again north to Leeds, and thence over Harwood Bridge to Knaresborough Spaw , thence to Rippon, and thro' that old Roman street-way, called Leeming Lane, to Pier's Bridge, thence to Durham, and so into Scotland; of all which in their order.

If, by all these circuits, and traversing the country so many ways, which I name for the reasons above, I am not furnished to give a particular account of the most remarkable things, I must have spent my time very ill, and ought not to let you know how often I went through it.

In my second journey, as above, I came from Lancashire, where you are to note, that all this part of the country is so considerable for its trade, that the Post-Master General had thought fit to establish a cross-post thro' all the western part of England into it, to maintain the correspondence of merchants and men of business, of which all this side of the island is so full; this is a confirmation of what I have so often repeated, and may still repeat many times on farther occasion, of the greatness of the trade carried on in this part of the island. This cross-post begins at Plymouth, in the south west part of England, and, leaving the great western post road of Excester behind, comes away north to Taunton, Bridgwater and Bristol; from thence goes on thro' all the great cities and towns up the Severn; such as Gloucester, Worcester, Bridgenorth and Shrewsbury, thence by West-Chester to Liverpool and Warrington, from whence it turns away east, and passes to Manchester, Bury, Rochdale, Hallifax, Leeds, and York, and ends at Hull.

By this means the merchants at Hull have immediate advice of their ships which go out of the channel, and come in; by their letters from Plymouth, as readily as the merchants at London, and without the double charge of postage. The shop-keepers and manufacturers can correspond with their dealers at Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol, nay, even with Ireland directly; without the tedious interruption of sending their letters about by London, or employing people at London to forward their packets; and as the trade on this side is exceeding great, this correspondence is a mighty advantage; nor is the encrease of the revenue by it inconsiderable, the quantity of letters which pass and repass this way, being, as I was told, in all places very great.

I follow'd this post-road, from Liverpool to Bury and Rochdale, both manufacturing towns in Lancashire, and the last very considerable, for a sort of course goods, called half-thicks and kersies, and the market for them is very great, tho' otherwise the town is situated so remote, so out of the way, and so at the very foot of the mountains, that we may suppose it would be but little frequented.

Here, for our great encouragement, though we were but at the middle of August, and in some places the harvest was hardly got in, we saw the mountains covered with snow, and felt the cold very acute and piercing; but even here we found, as in all those northern countries is the case, the people had an extraordinary way of mixing the warm and the cold very happily together; for the store of good ale which flows plentifully in the most mountainous part of this country, seems abundantly to make up for all the inclemencies of the season, or difficulties of travelling, adding also the plenty of coals for firing, which all those hills are full of.

We mounted the hills, fortified with the same precaution, early in the morning, and though the snow which had fallen in the night lay a little upon the ground, yet we thought it was not much; and the morning being calm and clear, we had no apprehension of an uneasy passage, neither did the people at Rochdale, who kindly directed us the way, and even offered to guide us over the first mountains, apprehend any difficulty for us; so we complimented our selves out of their assistance, which we afterwards very much wanted.

It was, as I say, calm and clear, and the sun shone when we came out of the town of Rochdale; but when we began to mount the hills, which we did within a mile, or little more of the town, we found the wind began to rise, and the higher we went the more wind; by which I soon perceived that it had blown before, and perhaps all night upon the hills, tho' it was calm below; as we ascended higher it began to snow again, that is to say, we ascended into that part where it was snowing, and had, no doubt, been snowing all night, as we could easily see by the thickness of the snow.

It is not easy to express the consternation we were in when we came up near the top of the mountain; the wind blew exceeding hard, and blew the snow so directly in our faces, and that so thick, that it was impossible to keep our eyes open to see our way. The ground also was so covered with snow, that we could see no track, or when we were in the way, or when out; except when we were shewed it by a frightful precipice on one hand, and uneven ground on the other; even our horses discovered their uneasiness at it; and a poor spaniel dog that was my fellow traveller, and usually diverted us with giving us a mark for our gun, turn'd tail to it and cry'd.

In the middle of this difficulty, and as we began to call to one another to turn back again, not knowing what dangers might still be before us, came a surprizing clap of thunder, the first that ever I heard in a storm of snow, or, I believe, ever shall; nor did we perceive any lightning to precede the thunder, as must naturally be the case; but we supposed the thick falling of the snow might prevent our sight.

I must confess I was very much surprized at this blow; and one of our company would not be persuaded that it was thunder, but that it was some blast of a coal-pit, things which do sometimes happen in the country, where there are many coal mines. But we were all against him in that, and were fully satisfied that it was thunder, and, as we fancy'd, at last we were confirmed in it, by hearing more of it at a distance from us.

Upon this we made a full stop, and coming altogether, for we were then three in company, with two servants, we began to talk seriously of going back again to Rochdale; but just then one of our men called out to us, and said, he was upon the top of the hill, and could see over into Yorkshire, and that there was a plain way down on the other side.

We rode all up to him, and found it as the fellow had said, all but that of a plain way; there was indeed the mark or face of a road on the side of the hill, a little turning to the left north; but it was so narrow, and so deep a hollow place on the right, whence the water descending from the hills made a channel at the bottom, and looked as the beginning of a river, that the depth of the precipice, and the narrowness of the way, look'd horrible to us; after going a little way in it, the way being blinded too by the snow, the hollow on the right appeared deeper and deeper, so we resolved to alight and lead our horses, which we did for about a mile, though the violence of the wind and snow continuing, it was both very troublesome and dangerous.

The only reliefs we had in this track were, (1.) That we perceived some land marks, or tokens, which the honest Rochdale men had given us notice of, by which we believed we were right in the way; for till then we knew nothing where we were, or whether we were right or wrong. And, (2.) that as the road we were in descended apace, for it went very steep down, we found the lower we went the violence of the snow abated, just as on the other side of the hill the higher we went, it had encreased.

At length, to our great joy, we found too the wind abated, as well as the snow, that is to say, the hills being so high behind us, they kept back the wind, as is the case under a high wall, though you are on the windward side of it, yet the wind having no passage through, is not felt, as it would be on the top where the space is open for it to pass.

All this way the hollow on our right continued very deep, and just on the other side of it a parallel hill continued going on east, as that did which we rode on the side of; the main hill which we came down from, which is properly called Blackstone Edge, or, by the country people, the Edge, without any sirname or addition, ran along due north, crossing and shutting up those hollow gulls and vallies between, which were certainly originally formed by the rain and snow water running into them, and forcing its way down, washing the earth gradually along with it, till, by length of time, it wore down the surface to such a depth.

We continued descending still, and as the weather was quieter, so the way seemed to mend and be broader, and, to our great satisfaction, enclining more to the hill on the left; the precipice and hollow part where the water run, as I have said, went a little off from us, and by and by, to our no small comfort, we saw an enclosed piece of ground that is enclosed with a stone wall, and soon after a house, where we asked our way, and found we were right.

Soon after this we came to the bottom, by another very steep descent, where we were obliged to alight again, and lead our horses. At the bottom, we found the hollow part, which I have so often mentioned as a precipice, was come to a level with us, that is to say, we were come down to a level with it, and it turning to the left toward us, we found a brook of water running from it, which cross'd our way to the north, you shall hear of it again presently; when we cross'd this brook, which, by reason of the snow on the hills which melted, was risen about knee deep, and run like a sluice for strength, we found a few poor houses, but saw no people, no not one; till we call'd at a door, to get directions of our way, and then we found, that though there was no body to be seen without doors, they were very full of people within, and so we found it on several occasions afterward, of which we shall speak again.

We thought now we were come into a Christian country again, and that our difficulties were over; but we soon found our selves mistaken in the matter; for we had not gone fifty yards beyond the brook and houses adjacent, but we found the way began to ascend again, and soon after to go up very steep, till in about half a mile we found we had another mountain to ascend, in our apprehansion as bad as the first, and before we came to the top of it, we found it began to snow too, as it had done before.

But, to cut short the tedious day's work, the case was this; the hill was very high, and, in our opinion, not inferior to the Edge which we came just down from; but the sun being higher, and the wind not blowing so hard, what snow fell upon the hill melted as it fell, and so we saw our way plainer, and master'd the hill, though with some labour, yet not any terror or apprehensions of losing our way, falling down precipices, and the like.

But our case was still this; that as soon as we were at the top of every hill, we had it to come down again on the other side; and as soon as we were down we had another to mount, and that immediately; for I do not remember that there was one bottom that had any considerable breadth of plain ground in it, but always a brook in the valley running from those gulls and deeps between the hills, with this remark, that they always cross'd our way in the bottoms from the right-hand to the left, the reason of which you shall see presently.

From Blackstone Edge to Hallifax is eight miles, and all the way, except from Sorby to Hallifax, is thus up hill and down; so that, I suppose, we mounted to the clouds and descended to the water level about eight times, in that little part of the journey.

But now I must observe to you, that after having pass'd the second hill, and come down into the valley again, and so still the nearer we came to Hallifax, we found the houses thicker, and the villages greater in every bottom; and not only so, but the sides of the hills, which were very steep every way, were spread with houses, and that very thick; for the land being divided into small enclosures, that is to say, from two acres to six or seven acres each, seldom more; every three or four pieces of land had a house belonging to it.

Then it was I began to perceive the reason and nature of the thing, and found that this division of the land into small pieces, and scattering of the dwellings, was occasioned by, and done for the convenience of the business which the people were generally employ'd in, and that, as I said before, though we saw no people stirring without doors, yet they were all full within; for, in short, this whole country, however mountainous, and that no sooner we were down one hill but we mounted another, is yet infinitely full of people; those people all full of business; not a beggar, not an idle person to be seen, except here and there an alms-house, where people antient, decrepid, and past labour, might perhaps be found; for it is observable, that the people here, however laborious, generally live to a great age, a certain testimony to the goodness and wholesomness of the country, which is, without doubt, as healthy as any part of England; nor is the health of the people lessen'd, but help'd and establish'd by their being constantly employ'd, and, as we call it, their working hard; so that they find a double advantage by their being always in business.

This business is the clothing trade, for the convenience of which the houses are thus scattered and spread upon the sides of the hills, as above, even from the bottom to the top; the reason is this; such has been the bounty of nature to this otherwise frightful country, that two things essential to the business, as well as to the ease of the people are found here, and that in a situation which I never saw the like of in any part of England; and, I believe, the like is not to be seen so contrived in any part of the world; I mean coals and running water upon the tops of the highest hills: This seems to have been directed by the wise hand of Providence for the very purpose which is now served by it, namely, the manufactures, which otherwise could not be carried on; neither indeed could one fifth part of the inhabitants be supported without them, for the land could not maintain them. After we had mounted the third hill, we found the country, in short, one continued village, tho' mountainous every way, as before; hardly a house standing out of a speaking distance from another, and (which soon told us their business) the day clearing up, and the sun shining, we could see that almost at every house there was a tenter, and almost on every tenter a piece of cloth, or kersie, or shalloon, for they are the three articles of that country's labour; from which the sun glancing, and, as I may say, shining (the white reflecting its rays) to us, I thought it was the most agreeable sight that I ever saw, for the hills, as I say, rising and falling so thick, and the vallies opening sometimes one way, sometimes another, so that sometimes we could see two or three miles this way, sometimes as far another; sometimes like the streets near St. Giles's, called the Seven Dials; we could see through the glades almost every way round us, yet look which way we would, high to the tops, and low to the bottoms, it was all the same; innumerable houses and tenters, and a white piece upon every tenter.

But to return to the reason of dispersing the houses, as above; I found, as our road pass'd among them, for indeed no road could do otherwise, wherever we pass'd any house we found a little rill or gutter of running water, if the house was above the road, it came from it, and cross'd the way to run to another; if the house was below us, it cross'd us from some other distant house above it, and at every considerable house was a manufactury or work-house, and as they could not do their business without water, the little streams were so parted and guided by gutters or pipes, and by turning and dividing the streams, that none of those houses were without a river, if I may call it so, running into and through their work-houses.

Again, as the dying-houses, scouring-shops and places where they used this water, emitted the water again, ting'd with the drugs of the dying fat, and with the oil, the soap, the tallow, and other ingredients used by the clothiers in dressing and scouring, &. which then runs away thro' the lands to the next. the grounds are not only universally watered, how dry soever the season, but that water so ting'd and so fatten'd enriches the lands they run through, that 'tis hardly to be imagined how fertile and rich the soil is made by it.

Then, as every clothier must keep a horse, perhaps two, to fetch and carry for the use of his manufacture, (viz.) to fetch home his wooll and his provisions from the market, to carry his yarn to the spinners, his manufacture to the fulling mili, and, when finished, to the market to be sold, and the like; so every manufacturer generally keeps a cow or two, or more, for his family, and this employs the two, or three, or four pieces of enclosed land about his house, for they scarce sow corn enough for their cocks and hens; and this feeding their grounds still adds by the dung of the cattle, to enrich the soil.

But now, to speak of the bounty of nature again, which I but just mentioned; it is to be observed, that these hills are so furnished by nature with springs and mines, that not only on the sides, but even to the very tops, there is scarce a hill but you find, on the highest part of it, a spring of water, and a coal-pit. I doubt not but there are both springs and coal-pits lower in the hills, 'tis enough to say they are at the top; but, as I say, the hills are so full of springs, so the lower coal-pits may perhaps be too full of water, to work without dreins to carry it off, and the coals in the upper pits being easie to come at, they may chuse to work them, because the horses which fetch the coals, go light up the hill, and come loaden down.

Having thus fire and water at every dwelling, there is no need to enquire why they dwell thus dispers'd upon the highest hills, the convenience of the manufactures requiring it. Among the manufacturers houses are likewise scattered an infinite number of cottages or small dwellings, in which dwell the workmen which are employed, the women and children of whom, are always busy carding, spinning, &. so that no hands being unemploy'd, all can gain their bread, even from the youngest to the antient; hardly any thing above four years old, but its hands are sufficient to it self.

This is the reason also why we saw so few people without doors; but if we knock'd at the door of any of the master manufacturers, we presently saw a house full of lusty fellows, some at the dye-fat, some dressing the cloths, some in the loom, some one thing, some another, all hard at work, and full employed upon the manufacture, and all seeming to have sufficient business.

I should not have dwelt so upon this part, if there was not abundance of things subsequent to it, which will be explained by this one description, and which are needful to be understood by any one that desires a full understanding of the manner how the people of England are employed, and do subsist in these remoter parts where they are so numerous; for this is one of the most populous parts of Britain, London and the adjacent parts excepted.

Having thus described the country, and the employment of the people, I am to tell you, that this part of it which I mentioned, is all belonging to and in the parish of Hallifax, and that brings me on towards the town which I shall speak of presently.

I must only say a word or two of the River Calder, to compleat the description of the country I thus pass'd through. I hinted to you, that all the rills or brooks of water which we cross'd, one at least in every bottom, went away to the left or north side of us as we went forward east: I am to add, that following those little brooks with our eye, we could observe, that at some distance to the left there appeared a larger valley than the rest, into which not only all the brooks which we pass'd emptied themselves, but abundance more from the like hollow deep bottoms, among the hills on the north side of it, which emptied this way south, as those on our side run that way north, so that it was natural to conclude, that in this larger valley the waters of all those brooks joining, there must be some pretty large stream which received them all, and ran forward east, parallel to the way we were in.

After some time we found that great opening seemed to bend southward towards us, and that probably it would cross our road, or our road would rather cross the valley; and so it was natural to expect we should pass that larger water, either by a bridge or a ford; but we were soon convinced it was not the latter; for the snow, as is said, having poured down a quantity of water, we soon found at the next opening, that there was a considerable river in the larger valley, which, having received all those little brooks, was risen to a little flood; and at the next village we pass'd it over a stately stone bridge of several great arches. This village is called Sorby or Sowreby; and this was the main River Calder, which I mentioned at Wakefield, where it begins to be navigable, and which, without any spring or fountain, to be called the head or source of it, is formed on the declivity of these mountains, meerly by the continued fall of rains and snows, which the said mountains intercepting the clouds, are seldom free from; and this stream receiving the smaller gulls and hollows, I just now mentioned, like a common-shore, carries all away in the channel of a noble river.

This is the beginning of the Calder; and my reason for dwelling upon it, and giving so particular a description, is, because this may, once for all, shew you how all, or most of the great rivers in the north, take their rise, there being hardly any that has their beginning in any publick springs or lakes, as most of the rivers in the south of England have, as the Thames, for example, near Tring in Hertfordshire, the Vandal at Croydon and Cashalton, the Amewell at Ware, and the like.

As the Calder is thus nothing but a collection of water from the fall of these mountains, so was the Derwent, and the Don, from the High Peak, and the hills of the same range more south of the edge, and so is the Aire, the Wharf, the Swale, the Eure, the Nid, the Tees, and the Were, all in the same county of York; and so the Tyne, the Cockett, the Till, and the Tweed, farther north; and even the like of the Forth, the Tay, the Clyde, the Nyd, in Scotland; also the Mersee, the Ribble, the Rocke and the Lune, the West Calder, the Lowther and the Eden, on the other side of these mountains, in Lancashire, Westmoreland and Cumberland. And thus this description will serve for all the rest.

Having thus, I say, accounted for them all at once; I shall only mention them now as they come in my way; for you will observe, I cross'd one or other of them at every considerable town; for all the rivers as well in England as in Scotland, north of this place, run from the middle of the country where these mountains rise, either east into the German, or west into the Irish sea. None of them run like the Severn, or the Wye, or the rivers in South Wales, or the Exe in Devon, or the Avon in Wilts, or the Arun in Sussex, and others north and south. But I return to the north.

Having passed the Calder at Sorby Bridge, I now began to approach the town of Hallifax; in the description of which, and its dependencies, all my account of the commerce will come in, for take Hallifax, with all its dependencies, it is not to be equalled in England. First, the parish or vicaridge, for it is but a vicaridge; is, if not the largest, certainly the most populous in England; in short, it is a monster, I mean, for a country parish, and a parish so far out of the way of foreign trade, Courts, or sea ports.

The extent of the parish, they tell us, is almost circular, and is about twelve miles in diameter. There are in it twelve or thirteen chapels of ease, besides about sixteen meeting-houses, which they call also chapels, and are so, having bells to call the people, and burying grounds to most of them, or else they bury within them. I think they told me, the Quakers meetings, of which there are several too, are not reckoned into the number. In a word, it is some years ago that a reverend clergyman of the town of Hallifax, told me, they reckoned that they had a hundred thousand communicants in the parish, besides children.

History tells us also, that in Queen Elizabeth's time, when the inhabitants of Hallifax addressed the queen for some privileges, which I do not at present remember the particulars of, it was expressed in the petition as a moving argument, why the queen should take them into her royal care, that they were zealous Protestants, and were so loyal to her majesty, as well as so considerable, that no less than twelve thousand young men went out arm'd from this one parish, and, at her majesty's call, joined her troops to fight the Popish army, then in rebellion under the Earl of Westmorland.

If they were so populous at that time, how much must they be encreased since? and especially since the late Revolution, the trade having been prodigiously encouraged and encreased by the great demand of their kersies for clothing the armies abroad, insomuch that it is the opinion of some that know the town, and its bounds very well, that the number of people in the vicaridge of Hallifax, is encreased one fourth, at least, within the last forty years, that is to say, since the late Revolution. Nor is it improbable at all, for besides the number of houses which are encreased, they have entered upon a new manufacture which was never made in those parts before, at least, not in any quantities, I mean, the manufactures of shalloons, of which they now make, if fame does not bely them, a hundred thousand pieces a year in this parish only, and yet do not make much fewer kersies than they did before.

The trade in kersies also was so great, that I was told by very creditable, honest men, when I was there, men not given to gasconading or boasting, and less to lying, that there was one dealer in the vicaridge, who traded, by commission, for three-score thousand pounds a year in kersies only, and all that to Holland and Hamburgh.

But not to enter into particulars, it is evident that the trade must be exceeding great, in that it employs such a very great number of people, and that in this one town only; for, as I shall fully describe in my account of other places, this is not what I may call the eldest son of the cloathing trade in this county; the town of Leeds challenges a pre-eminence, and I believe, merits the dignity it claims, besides the towns of Huthersfield, Bradforth, Wakefield, and others.

But I must not leave Hallifax yet, as the vicaridge is thus far extended, and the extent of it so peopled, what must the market be, and where must this vast number of people be supplied? For, (I.) as to corn, I have observed already, they sow little and hardly enough to feed their poultry, if they were to be corn fed; and as to beef and mutton, they feed little or none; and as they are surrounded with large, populous, manufacturing towns on every side, all of them employed as these are, in the cloathing trade, they must then necessarily have their provisions from other parts of the country.

This then is a subsistence to the other part of the country, and so it is for us, the West Riding is thus taken up, and the lands occupied by the manufacture; the consequence is plain, their corn comes up in great quantities out of Lincoln, Nottingham, and the East Riding, their black cattle and horses from the North Riding, their sheep and mutton from the adjacent counties every way, their butter from the East and North Riding, their cheese out of Cheshire and Warwickshire, more black cattle also from Lancashire. And here the breeders and feeders, the farmers and country people find money flowing in plenty from the manufacturers and commerce; so that at Hallifax, Leeds, and the other great manufacturing towns so often mentioned, and adjacent to these, for the two months of September and October, a prodigious quantity of black cattle is sold.

This demand for beef is occasioned thus; the usage of the people is to buy in at that season beef sufficient for the whole year, which they kill and salt, and hang up in the smoke to dry. This way of curing their beef keeps it all the winter, and they eat this smoak'd beef as a very great rarity.

Upon this foot, 'tis ordinary for a clothier that has a large family, to come to Hallifax on a market-day, and buy two or three large bullocks from eight to ten pounds a piece. These he carries home and kills for his store. And this is the reason that the markets at all those times of the year are thronged with black cattle, as Smithfield is on a Friday; whereas all the rest of the year there is little extraordinary sold there.

Thus this one trading, manufacturing part of the country supports all the countries round it, and the numbers of people settle here as bees about a hive.

As for the town of Hallifax it self, there is nothing extraordinary except on a market-day, and then indeed it is a prodigious thing, by reason of the multitude of people who throng thither, as well to sell their manufactures as to buy provisions; and so great is the confluence of people hither, that, except Leeds and Wakefield, nothing in all the north part of England can come near it.

The church is old, but stately and venerable, and has in it many extraordinary monuments, but most of them of great antiquity. Here is a very good hospital, and a work-house of an antient establishment, and there are several charities, of like sort, in other parts of the parish.

But I must not quit Hallifax, till I give you some account of the famous course of justice antiently executed here, to prevent the stealing of cloth. Modern accounts pretend to say, it was for all sorts of felons; but I am well assured, it was first erected purely, or at least principally, for such thieves as were apprehended stealing cloth from the tenters; and it seems very reasonable to think it was so, because of the conditions of the trial. The case was thus:

The erecting the woollen manufacture here was about the year 1480, when King Henry VII. by giving encouragement to foreigners to settle in England, and to set up woollen manufactures, caused an Act to pass prohibiting the exportation of wooll into foreign parts, unwrought, and to encourage foreign manufacturers to come and settle here, of whom several coming over settled the manufactures of cloths in several parts of the kingdom, as they found the people tractable, and as the country best suited them; as the bays at Colchester, the says at Sudbury, the broad-cloth in Wilts, and other counties; so the trade of kersies and narrow cloth fixed at this place, and other adjacent towns.

When this trade began to settle, nothing was more frequent than for young workmen to leave their cloths out all night upon the tenters, and the idle fellows would come in upon them, and tearing them off without notice, steal the cloth. Now as it was absolutely necessary to preserve the trade in its infancy, this severe law was made, giving the power of life and death so far into the hands of the magistrates of Hallifax, as to see the law executed upon them. As this law was particularly pointed against the stealing of cloth, and no other crime, so no others were capable of being punished by it, and the conditions of the law intimate as much; for the power was not given to the magistrates to give sentence, unless in one of these three plain cases:

  1. Hand napping, that is, to be taken in the very fact, or, as the Scots call it in the case of murther, red hand.
  2. Back bearing, that is, when the cloth was found on the person carrying it off.
  3. Tongue confessing, that part needs no farther explanation.

This being the case, if the criminal was taken, he was brought before the magistrates of the town, who at that time were only a baily and the eoaldermen, how many we do not read, and these were to judge, and sentence, and execute the offender, or clear him, within so many days; I think it was three market days if the offence was committed out of the vicaridge, but within the bounds of the forest then there were frith borges also to judge of the fact, who were to be summoned of the forest holders, as they are called, who were to hold of that frith, that is, of the forest; but those were to be good and sober men, and by the magistrates of the town to be approved as such; if those acquitted him of the fact he was immediately discharged; if those censured him, no body could reprieve him but the town. The country people were, it seems, so terrified at the severity of this proceeding, that hence came that proverbial saying, which was used all over Yorkshire, (viz.)

From Hell, Hull, and Hallifax, Good Lord, deliver us.

How Hull came to be included in this petition, I do not find; for they had no such law there, as I read of.

The manner of execution was very remarkable; the engine indeed is carried away, but the scaffold on which it stood is there to this time, and may continue many ages; being not a frame of wood, but a square building of stone, with stone steps to go up, and the engine it self was made in the following manner.

They tell us of a custom which prevailed here, in the case of a criminal being to be executed, (viz.) that if after his head was laid down, and the signal given to pull out the pin, he could be so nimble as to snatch out his head between the pulling out the pin and the falling down of the ax, and could get up upon his feet, jump off of the scaffold, run down a hill that lies just before it, and get through the river before the executioner could overtake him, and seize upon him, he was to escape; and though the executioner did take him on the other side the river, he was not to bring him back, at least he was not to be executed.

But as they shewed me the form of the scaffold, and the weight of the ax, it was, in my opinion, next to impossible, any man should be so quick-eyed as to see the pulling out the pin, and so quick with his head, as to snatch it out; yet they tell a story of one fellow that did it, and was so bold after he had jumpt off of the scaffold, and was running down the hill, with the executioner at his heels, to turn about and call to the people to give him his hat; that having afterwards jumpt into the river, which is but a little one, and not deep, he stopt, intending to drown the hangman, if he had come up to him; at which the poor fellow stopt too, and was afraid to go into the water to seize him. But this story is said to be too long ago to have any vouchers, though the people indeed all receive it for truth.

The force of this engine is so strong, the head of the ax being loaded with a weight of lead to make it fall heavy, and the execution is so sure, that it takes away all possibility of its failing to cut off the head; and to this purpose, the Hallifax people tell you another story of a country woman, who was riding by upon her doffers or hampers to Hallifax Market, for the execution was always on a market day (the third after the fact) and passing just as the ax was let fall upon the neck of the criminal, it chopt it thro' with such force, that the head jumpt off into one of her hampers, and that the woman not perceiving it, she carry'd it away to the market.

All the use I shall make of this unlikely story, is this, that it seems executions were so frequent, that it was not thought a sight worth the peoples running out to see; that the woman should ride along so close to the scaffold, and that she should go on, and not so much as stop to see the ax fall, or take any notice of it. But those difficulties seem to be much better solved, by saying, that 'tis as reasonable to think the whole tale is a little Yorkshire, which, I suppose, you will understand well enough.

This engine was removed, as we are told, in the year 1620, during the reign of King James the First, and the usage and custom of prosecution abolished, and criminals or felons left to the ordinary course of justice, as it is still; and yet they do not find the stealing cloth from the tenters is so frequent now as it was in those times.

But the manner of execution is preserv'd; for in the reign of the same prince, the Earl Morton, Regent or Prime Minister of Scotland, under King James, passing thro' Hallifax, and seeing one of their executions, was so pleased with the performance, that he caused a model to be taken and carried into Scotland, where it is preserved and constantly made use of for executions to this day. But one thing must not be forgotten in this part of the story, namely, that his lordship's own head was the first that was cut off with it; and it being many years before that happened, the engine was called the Maiden, as not having so long handsell'd, and still retains the name, tho' it has cut off many a head since that.

We quitted Hallifax not without some astonishment at its situation, being so surrounded with hills, and those so high, as (except the entrance by the west) makes the coming in and going out of it exceeding troublesome, and indeed for carriages hardly practicable, and particularly the hill which they go up to come out of the town eastwards towards Leeds, and which the country people call Hallifax Bank, is so steep, so rugged, and sometimes too so slippery, that, to a town of so much business as this is, 'tis exceeding troublesome and dangerous.

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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