Picture of Celia Fiennes

Celia Fiennes

places mentioned

Tunbridge Wells and Rye

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I being in Kent this year shall Insert something of Tunbridge. The waters I have dranke many years wth great advantage-they are from the Steele and Iron mines, very quick springs Especially one well. There are two wth Large basons of stone fixt in ye Earth wth severall holes in the bottom by wch the springs bubble up and fill it so as it alwayes runns over, notwithstanding the quantety dipp'd up in a morning which is the usual tyme the Company Comes, and the nearer they drink it the spring ye better, it being a spiriteous water that is ready to Evaporate if Carry'd any way, as has been try'd by weighing the water by the well and Carrying them but to ye middle of the walks, it has Lost of ye weight, and much more the End of the whole walke: notwithstanding many has it brought to their Lodgings a mile or two off and drink them in their beds, nay, some have them brought to London wch is near 40 miles. They have the bottles filled and corked in the well under the Water and so seale down the Corks wch they say preserves it. They have made the wells very Comodious by the many good buildings all about it and 2 or 3 mile round which are Lodgings for the Company that drinke ye waters, and they have Encreased their buildings so much that makes them very Cheape. All people buy their own provision at ye market wch is just by ye wells and furnish'd wth great plenty of all sorts. Flesh, fowle and fish and in great plenty is brought from Rhye and Deale &, this being ye road to London, so all the season the water is drank they stop here wch makes it very Cheape, as also the Country people Come wth all their backyard and barne door affords to supply them with, and their gardens and orchards, wch makes ye markets well stored and provision Cheape, wch the Gentry takes as a diversion while drinking the waters to go and buy their dinners; it being Every day's market and runns the whole Length of ye walke, wch is between high trees on the market side for shade, and secured wth a Row of buildings on ye Right side, wch are shopps full of all sorts of toys, silver China, milliners and all sorts of Curious wooden ware wch this place is noted for, (the delicate neate and thin ware of wood both white and Lignum vitae. wood): besides wch there are two Large Coffee houses for tea, Chocolate &, and two Roomes for ye Lottery and hazard board. These are all built wth an arch or pent house beyond ye shops, some of wch are supported by pillars like a peason, wch is paved wth brick and stone for ye drye walking of ye Company in raine; Else they walke wth out wch is a Clay and sand mixt together. They have been intending to make it gravell wch would be much better. All those Conveniency's are added by ye Companyes Contributions Every year-what has been and so what will be. There is at ye Lower End of the walke, wch is a broad space before you Come to ye walls of ye wells, a Large sun-dial set upon severall steps of stone, thence you go straight along to a Chapple wch has been built by ye severall Collections of ye Company Every year; its a pretty place and Cost a great deal of money, and Every year there is Contribution for ye maintenance of a minister. There are severall buildings just about ye well where are severall apothecary's shops, there is also a Room for ye post house. The post Comes Every day and returns Every day all the while the season of drinking ye waters is, from London and to it; Except Mondayes none Comes down from London, so on Satturdayes non goes up to London. You pay a penny Extraordinary for being brought from tunbridge town wch is 4 mile distance, that being a post town, you Likewise have the Conveniency of Coaches every day from London for 8 shillings apiece dureing the whole season, and Carriers twice a weeke.

There are severall bowling greens about ye wells, one just at it on Mount Sion and another up ye hill Called Mount Ephraim where is also a Large Chapple where the presbiterians have preaching: they have a minister wch by ye Collections of ye Company is also maintained all the winter to preach, as is the publick Chapple at the walks. There is severall other Bowling greens at a distance off a mile or two, fitted for Companys Lodging there, as Rust hall and Southbourough; they have all houses to ye greens, so the Gentlemen Bowle, the Ladies dance or walke in ye green in ye afternoones, and if wet dance in the houses, there being Musick maintained by the Company to play in the morning so long while they drink the waters, and in ye afternoon for danceing.

There are severall good taverns at the walks and all about to supply good wine and Brewhouses for beer and Bakers for Bread, but some of them Come from London and spoyle the market by raiseing ye price-so the higlers and Hucksters in a great measure. This whole Country is full of stone and jron, the Earth is Clay and Sand. About 3 mile off there is a good seate of the Lord Lesters Spenshurst wch stands in a very good parke; the house is but old-Large roomes and stone staires and windows, a good hall and gallery full of good old pictures, and other roomes of state; no ffurniture but old tapistry hangings. You have a most pleasant prospect as you go to it and from it, of valeys Cover'd with woods of great Length, and hills beyond on the other side. About 3 or 4 miles off is a seate of the Lord Abergauneys wch is Lord of the manour in a parke and fine woods all about it, the most of the Country is woody. There is 4 or 5 miles off a place they Cast Gunns, there being a great store of oare all over the Country: its a great Charge and Continuall attendance. When they have Lighted ye fire for to Cast bells or guns they must be Cautiously blowing, and ye mettle will be apt to fall down on the nose of ye bellows and harden; that if it be not still Cleared off would quickly damm up the fire and put it out. There are severall good houses all about and a pleasant place to Ride in in ye summer and dry weather, but a sad deep impassable Road when much Raine has fallen. As I was Rideing about I took a view of ye Country in many parts. There is a Little rivulet just by the wells wch divides ye Countys so that ye buildings are some in Kent some in Sussex.

About ffaint 4 or 5 mile off is a house of Lord Abergauny and parkes and much woods about it. Another way by Lakington Green and Groombridge about 4 mile off is an old house in a parck, pretty Large, Called Ashurst wch they say belonged to Alderman Ashurst family, but hurst wch signifyes grove or wood is a name all here about, as Spenshurst Lord Lesters house 4 mile another way in a good Parke and Speldhurst another parish 2 or 3 mile off and Goodhurst about 12 mile off the Wells. I went by Calvery plaine and Woods gate and so to a Little Market town Called Branklye; the way is much thro' Lanes, being an Enclosed Country for the most part, wch is the Cause of these names as is much of Sussex wch joyns to Kent; there are places Called Billingshurst and Medhurst and Pendhurst &. This Goodhurst I went to stands on a great hill and is seen severall miles, 2 mile from ye first ascent wch is at a Little village belonging to it, and to ye top of ye hill wch is ye middle of ye place. Its a pretty Large place-old timber houses, but ye Extent of ye parish is neare ten miles. They are a sort of yeomanry Gentry, about 2 or 3 or 400? a year and Eate and drink well and Live Comfortably and Hospitably.

The old proverb was a yeoman of Kent wth one years rent Could buy out ye Gentlemen of Wales and knight of Sscales and a Lord of ye North Country-his Estate was so much better. All in these parts are the same Minerall waters being much on Iron mines. I returned againe to tunbridge wells the 12 mile, then I went from thence to Sumterhill about 4 or 5 mile off, thro' much woods and lanes and some pleasant shades of Lofty trees. This is a seate of ye last viscount Purbecks-stands on a hill in a good Large parke, built of stone and Lookes in good repaire for ye most part, and good Large Roomes and Staircases and abundance of good sizeable Roomes Leading one out of another in visto's thro' the house, something Like our new way of building and Lofty Enough. Its Capable of being very fine wth visto's of walks Cut through and across a great many, which delights the Rider or walker being so shady wth Lofty trees. There is remains of a bowling green wch is an advanced piece of ground above all the rest and discovers the Country a great Circuite round; then we returned to the wells againe 5 mile.

Then I went from ye wells to Rye 31 miles, by Ambursly 8 mile-this was good way being a drye summer, otherwise its deep being Clay for ye most part. I passed much through Lanes and little villages and near Rye I went thro' a Com on full of Bushes and ffurze and heath; its a pretty steep hill I ascended wch is Called beggars hill and being Bartholomew tide here was a faire wch was Rightly Called beggarhill faire being the saddest faire I ever saw-ragged tatter'd Booths and people-but the musick and danceing Could not be omitted. This hill on the top gave the view of ye sea and a great tract of Land on Each side. That is Choak'd up wth sand wch formerly was a good haven for shipps; the sea does still Come up to Rhye town as yet but its shallow, and ye Castle wch stands a Little distance -a mile-is also left of the sea at least 4 mile. This is Winchelsea Castle but all between it and Winchelsea is nothing but Quagmire and marshes, drained in some places by ditches, and this is at Least 4 miles to the town. I did go to it but first fferry'd over a Little arm of the sea wch still finds a Current up to some of ye Land between Rhye and Winchelsea, then I rode round ye marshes on ye side of a hill in narrow foote paths, and passed over a Bridge Cross another Little arme of ye sea: near it is a gate on ye Bridge and Enters you into the Libertys of ye town wch stands on a pretty high hill. From it Lookes not of any great Circuite of ground by ye first view, being high, but in ye middle you see it has been a fine place for there were 36 Large Squares of building, the remaines of pieces of walls in most places you see, or else a hedge supplys that you see ye streetes were very broad and long and divided these squares, ye Cross streetes ye same. I rode up a middle streete and saw ye others run aCross of Equal breadth. Remaines of Churches and halls are to be seen but Else grass grows now where Winchelsea was as was once said of Troy. There are but a very few houses now, but ye Corporation still Continues and ye major and aldermen wch 13 makes most of ye Inhabitants. Mr Majors house Look'd neate as did ye parsonage. They Elect two Burgesses to it in ye parliament and its ye ancientest Corporation in England, so yt should Lord Major of London meete Mr Major of Winchelsea he must give him place: it was as flourishing place before the sea Left it that was in England, but now lost, as Rhye will be in a Little tyme if the sea Leaves it, wch is in a very faire way to do; and men now apply to quite Drane the marshes for Corn and grass Rather than Endeavour to Cleare ye Channell of the san d wch if it were done would be ye best harbour for shipps as formerly was. There are great vaults in Winchelsea wch was the merchants Cellars, and were houses.

There was some few brass and marble statues in the Church but much demolished as was ye Church. Rhye town is not very bigg-a little Market place-this is famous for fish; from hence all the good turbutt, pearle and Dorea and all sort of sea ffish Comes to supply ye wells and London, but I could get little. Ye faire took up ye ffishermen. Indeed here I dranke Right french white wine and Exceeding good and then returned to ye wells 38 miles. In the Road from thence to London you go either by Fair lane and so Come just by Sr Harry Vaines house (now Lord Barnett), wch Lookes very finely wth ye Rows of trees about it, or Else you go by Sevenoake a sad deep Clay way after wett. You Come in sight of a great house on a hill Called Summerly, looks like a Little town it runs on so much ground, it was the Lord Purbeckes.

You also Come in sight of Nonsuch wch was a great house of the Kings Built by Charles the Second. You pass on to the Riverhead as they Call it' a fine spring of Cleare water yt runs thence in a Little River. this is at the foote of a great hill Called Madam Scott hill so steepe as seldome is Either Rode down or up, and few Coaches but gaines the top of it by a Compass round it wch is steep Enough. This is 15 mile from the wells-thence to Ffarnburough: about 8 mile, thence to Brumley, and to London 15 more.

Celia Fiennes, Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary (London: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press, 1888)

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