Picture of Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

places mentioned

Letter 7, Part 2: East Midlands

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From Daventry we cross'd the country to Northampton, the handsomest and best built town in all this part of England; but here, as at Warwick, the beauty of it is owing to its own disasters, for it was so effectually and suddenly burnt down, that very few houses were left standing, and this, tho' the fire began in the day-time; the flame also spread itself with such fury, and run on with such terrible speed, that they tell us a townsman being at Queen's Cross upon a hill, on the south side of the town, about two miles off, saw the fire at one end of the town then newly begun, and that before he could get to the town it was burning at the remotest end, opposite to that there he first saw it; 'tis now finely rebuilt with brick and stone, and the streets made spacious and wide.

The great new church, the town-hall, the jayl, and all their public buildings, are the finest in any country town in England, being all new built: But he took very little notice of Northampton, or rather had never seen it, who told us of a cathedral, a chapter-house and a cloyster.

The great inn at the George, the corner of the High Street, looks more like a palace than an inn, and cost above 2000l. building; and so generous was the owner, that, as we were told, when he had built it, he gave it to the poor of the town.

This is counted the center of all the horse-markets and horse-fairs in England, there being here no less than four fairs in a year: Here they buy horses of all sorts, as well for the saddle as for the coach and cart, but chiefly for the two latter.

Near this town is the ancient royal house of Holmby, which was formerly in great esteem, and by its situation is capable of being made a royal palace indeed. But the melancholy reflection of the imprisonment of King Charles the First in this house, and his being violently taken hence again by the mutinous rebels, has cast a kind of odium upon the place, so that it has been, as it were, forsaken and uninhabited. The house and estate has been lately purchas'd by the Dutchess of Marlborough; but we do not see that the house is like to be built or repair'd, as was at first discours'd; on the contrary it goes daily to decay.

The Earl of Sunderland's house at Althorp, on the other hand, has within these few years changed its face to the other extreme, and had the late earl liv'd to make some new apartments, which, as we were told, were design'd as two large wings to the buildings, it would have been one of the most magnificent palaces in Europe. The gardens are exquisitely fine, and add, if it be possible, to the natural beauty of the situation.

From hence we went north to Harborough, and in the way, in the midst of the deep dismal roads, the dirtyest and worst in all that part of the country, we saw Boughton, the noble seat of the Duke of Mountague, a house built at the cost and by the fancy of the late duke, very much after the model of the Palace of Versailles; the treble wings projecting and expanded, forming a court or space wider and wider, in proper stades, answerable to the wings, the body of the house closing the whole view.

The pavillions are also after the manner of Versailles; the house itself is very large and magnificent, but the situation facing so beautiful a park adds to the glory of it; the park is wall'd round with brick, and so finely planted with trees, and in such an excellent order, as I saw nothing more beautiful, no not in Italy itself, except that the walks of trees were not orange and limon, and citron, as it is in Naples, and the Abruzzo, and other southern parts of Italy.

Here they shew'd us a petrifying spring, and told us so many stories of its turning every thing that was laid in it into stone, that we began to discredit the tale as fabulous; but I have been assur'd, that the water of this spring does really petrify, and that in such a manner as deserves the observation of the curious.

From hence we went on to Harborough intending to go forward to Leicester; but curiosity turn'd us west a little to see an old town call'd Lutterworth, famous for being the birthplace of honest John Wickliffe, the first preacher of the Reformation in England, whose disciples were afterwards called Lollards; when we came there we saw nothing worth notice, nor did the people, as I could find, so much as know in general, that this great man was born amongst them.

Being thus got a little out of our way, we went on with it, and turning into the great Watling-street way, at High Cross, where the Foss crosses it, and which I suppose occasioned the name, we kept on the street way to Non-Eaton, a manufacturing town on the River Anker, and then to Atherstone, a town famous for a great cheese fair on the 8th of September; from whence the great cheese factors carry the vast quantities of cheese they buy to Sturbridge Fair, which begins about the same time, but holds much longer; and here 'tis sold again for the supply of the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk.

From Atherston we turn'd N. to see Bosworth-Field, famous for the great battle which put an end to the usurpation of Richard III. and to the long and bloody contention between the red rose and the white, or the two royal houses of York and Lancaster, which, as fame tells us, had cost the lives of eleven princes, three and twenty earls and dukes, three thousand noblemen, knights, and gentlemen, and two hundred thousand of the common people: They shew'd us the spot of ground where the battle was fought, and at the town they shew'd us several pieces of swords, heads of lances, barbs of arrows, pieces of pole-axes, and such like instruments of death, which they said were found by the country people in the several grounds near the place of battle, as they had occasion to dig, or trench, or plough up the ground.

Having satisfy'd our curiosity in these points, we turn'd east towards Leicester. The E. of Stamford has a good old hunting seat on this side of the country, call'd Bradgate, and a fine park at Grooby; but they were too much out of our way, so we came on through a fine forest to Leicester.

Leicester is an ancient large and populous town, containing about five parishes, 'tis the capital of the county of Leicester, and stands on the River Soar, which rises not far from that High Cross I mention'd before: They have a considerable manufacture carry'd on here, and in several of the market towns round for weaving of stockings by frames; and one would scarce think it possible so small an article of trade could employ such multitudes of people as it does; for the whole county seems to be employ'd in it: as also Nottingham and Darby, of which hereafter.

Warwickshire and Northamptonshire are not so full of antiquities, large towns, and gentlemens seats, but this county of Leicester is as empty. The whole county seems to be taken up in country business, such as the manufacture above, but particularly in breeding and feeding cattle; the largest sheep and horses in England are found here, and hence it comes to pass too, that they are in consequence a vast magazine of wool for the rest of the nation; even most of the gentlemen are grasiers, and in some places the grasiers are so rich, that they grow gentlemen: 'tis not an uncommon thing for grasiers here to rent farms from 500l . to two thousand pounds a year rent.

The sheep bred in this county and Lincolnshire, which joins to it, are, without comparison, the largest, and bear not only the greatest weight of flesh on their bones, but also the greatest fleeces of wool on their backs of any sheep of England: nor is the fineness of the wool abated for the quantity; but as 'tis the longest staple, (so the clothiers call it) so 'tis the finest wool in the whole island, some few places excepted, such as Lemster in Herefordshire, the South Downs in Sussex, and such little places, where the quantity is small and insignificant, compar'd to this part of the country; for the sheep-breeding country reaches from the River Anker on the border of Warwickshire to the Humber at the farthest end of Lincolnshire, which is near a hundred miles in length, and from the bank of Trent in Lincoln and Leicestershire, to the bank of Ouse bordering Bucks, Bedford, Cambridge, and Huntingdonshires, above sixty miles in breadth.

These are the funds of sheep which furnish the city of London with their large mutton in so incredible a quantity: There are indeed a few sheep of a large breed, which are brought up from Rumney Marsh, and the adjoining low grounds in Kent and Sussex, but they are but few, and indeed scarce worth naming, compar'd to the vast quantity, which are produced in these counties.

The horses produced here, or rather fed here, are the largest in England, being generally the great black coach horses and dray horses, of which so great a number are continually brought up to London, that one would think so little a spot as this of Leicestershire could not be able to supply them: Nor indeed are they all bred in this county, the adjoining counties of Northampton and Bedford having of late come into the same business; but the chief supply is from this county, from whence the other counties rather buy them and feed them up, as jockeys and chapmen, than breed them up from their beginning.

In the south west part of the country rise four considerable second rate rivers, which run every one a directly contrary course in a most remarkable manner.

  1. The Avon, which runs by Rugby, and goes away to Warwick; SOUTH WEST.
  2. The Soar, which runs by Leicester, and goes away to the Trent; NORTH EAST.
  3. The Anker, which runs by Nun-Eaton, and goes away to Tamworth; NORTH WEST.
  4. The Welland, which runs by Harborough, and goes away to Stamford; SOUTH WEST.

I should not pass over this just remark of the town, or, as Mr. Cambden calls it, city of Leicester, namely, that as it was formerly a very strong and well fortify'd town, being situated to great advantage for strength, the river compassing it half about, so it was again fortify'd in the late unhappy wars, and being garrison'd by the Parliament forces, was assaulted by the Royalists, and being obstinately defended, was taken sword in hand, with a great slaughter, and not without the loss also of several of the inhabitants, who too rashly concern'd themselves in opposing the conquerors. They preserve here a most remarkable piece of antiquity, being a piece of mosaick work at the bottom of a cellar; 'tis the story of Actæon, and his being kill'd by his own hounds, wrought as a pavement in a most exquisite manner; the stones are small, and of only two colours, white and brown, or chesnut, and very small.

The great Henry Duke of Lancaster, and the earl his father lye both bury'd in this town, in the hospital church, without the south gate, which church and hospital also the said duke was the founder of; but there is no monument to be found that shews the particular place of their interment.

The Foss Way leads us from hence through the eastern and north east part of the county, and particularly through the vale of Belvoir, or, as it is commonly call'd, of Bever, to Newark in Nottinghamshire: In all this long tract we pass a rich and fertile country, fruitful fields, and the noble River Trent, for twenty miles together, often in our view; the towns of Mount Sorrel, Loughborough, Melton Mowbray, and Waltham in the Would, that is to say, on the Downs; all these are market towns, but of no great note.

Belvoir Castle is indeed a noble situation, tho' on a very high precipice; 'tis the antient seat of the Dukes of Rutland, a family risen by just degrees to an immense state both of honour and wealth. I shall mention the house again in my return out of Lincolnshire.

At Newark one can hardly see without regret the ruins of that famous castle, which maintain'd itself through the whole Civil War in England, and keeping a strong garrison there for the king to the last, cut off the greatest pass into the north that is in the whole kingdom; ?or was it ever taken, 'till the king, press'd by the calamity of his affairs, put himself into the hands of the Scots army, which lay before it, and then commanded the governor to deliver it up, after which it was demolish'd, that the great road might lye open and free; and it remains in rubbish to this day. Newark is a very handsome well-built town, the market place a noble square, and the church is large and spacious, with a curious spire, which, were not Grantham so near, might pass for the finest and highest in all this part of England: The Trent divides itself here, and makes an island, and the bridges lead just to the foot of the castle wall; so that while this place was in the hands of any party, there was no travelling but by their leave; But all the travelling into the north at that time was by Nottingham Bridge, of which by itself.

From Newark, still keeping the Foss Way, which lies as strait as a line can mark it out, we went on to Lincoln, having a view of the great church call'd the minster all the way before us, the River Trent on the left, and the downs call'd Lincoln Heath on the right.

Lincoln is an antient, ragged, decay'd, and still decaying city; it is so full of the ruins of monasteries and religious houses, that, in short, the very barns, stables, out-houses, and, as they shew'd me, some of the very hog-styes, were built church-fashion; that is to say, with stone walls and arch'd windows and doors. There are here 13 churches, but the meanest to look on that are any where to be seen; the cathedral indeed and the ruins of the old castle are very venerable pieces of antiquity.

The situation of the city is very particular; one part is on the flat and in a bottom, so that the Wittham, a little river that runs through the town, flows sometimes into the street, the other part lies upon the top of a high hill, where the cathedral stands, and the very steepest part of the ascent of the hill is the best part of the city for trade and business.

Nothing is more troublesome than the communication of the upper and lower town, the street is so steep and so strait, the coaches and horses are oblig'd to fetch a compass another way, as well on one hand as on the other.

The River Wittham, which as I said runs thro' the city, is arch'd over, so that you see nothing of it as you go thro' the main street; but it makes a large lake on the west side, and has a canal, by which it has a communication with the Trent, by which means the navigation of the Trent is made useful for trade to the city; this canal is called the Foss-dike.

There are some very good buildings, and a great deal of very good company, in the upper city, and several families of gentlemen have houses there, besides those of the prebendaries and other clergy belonging to the cathedral.

This cathedral is in itself a very noble structure, and is counted very fine, though I thought it not equal to some that I have already describ'd, particularly not to that at Litchfield: Its situation indeed is infinitely more to advantage, than any cathedral in England, for it is seen far and wide; it stands upon an exceeding high hill, and is seen into five or six counties.

The building in general is very noble, and the church itself is very large; it has a double cross, one in the nave or center on which the great tower stands, and one at the east end of the choir, under which are several antient rnonuments; the length of the church is near 500 foot, the breadth 126; so that it is much larger than that at Litchfield; but the spires on the towers at the angles of the west end are mean, small, and low, and not to be nam'd with those at Litchfield: The tower also is very plain, and has only four very ill-proportion'd spires, or rather pinnacles, at the four corners small and very mean.

As the church is very large, so the revenue of the bishoprick is large also, and was formerly immensely great, as may be seen by the Monasticon , where there is an astonishing account of the wealth of the place.

The church, as it is the seat of the bishoprick, is not antient, the see being remov'd, since the Norman Conquest, from Dorchester, a little town in Oxfordshire, on the River Thames, not far from Tame, of which I have spoken in its place; but the city is antient, and the ruins of it tell us as much; it was certainly a flourishing city in the time of the Romans, and continued so after the fall of their empire.

Mr. Cambden says King Vortimer, that valiant Britain, dy'd here, and was bury'd in the church of the great monastery; but we see nothing of his remains in the cathedral, for that was not built 'till several ages after.

The city was a large and flourishing place at the time of the Norman Conquest, tho' neither the castle or the great church were then built; there were then three and fifty parish churches in it, of which I think only thirteen remain; the chief extent of the city then was from the foot of the hill south, and from the lake or lough which is call'd Swanpool east; and by the Domesday Book they tell us it must be one of the greatest cities in England, whence perhaps that old English proverbial line:

Lincoln was, London is, and York shall be.

It is certain William the Conqueror built the castle, and, as 'tis said, to curb the potent citizens; and the ruins show that it was a most magnificent work, well fortify'd, and capable of receiving a numerous garrison.

The bishoprick of Lincoln at that time contain'd all that now is contain'd in the diocesses of Ely, Peterborough, and Oxford, besides what is now the diocess of Lincoln: and 'tis still the largest diocess, tho' not of the greatest revenue, in England; containing the several counties of Lincoln, Leicester, Huntingdon, Bedford, Bucks, and part of Hertford; and in them 1255 parishes, whereof 577 are impropriations; and there are in this bounds six archdeacons, viz. Lincoln, Leicester, Bedford, Buckingham, Stow. and Huntington. This see, tho' of no longer date than since the conquest, has produced to the Church and State

Three Saints,
One Cardinal, (namely Wolsey)
Six Lord Chancellors,
One Lord Treasurer,
One Lord Privy Seal,
Four Chancellors of Oxford,
Two ditto, of Cambridge.

Here was the famous battle fought between the friends of the Empress Maud, mother to Henry II. and King Stephen, in which that magnanimous prince was overthrown and taken prisoner.

But all this relates to times past, and is an excursion, which I shall attone for by making no more. Such is the present state of Lincoln, that it is an old dying, decay'd, dirty city; and except that part, which, as above, lies between the castle and the church, on the top of the hill, it is scarce tolerable to call it a city.

Yet it stands in a most rich, pleasant, and agreeable country; for on the north, and again on the south east, the noble plain, call'd Lincoln Heath, extends itself, like the plains about Salisbury, for above fifty miles; namely, from Sleeford and Ancaster south to the bank of the Humber north, tho' not with a breadth equal to the vast stretch'd out length; for the plain is hardly any where above three or four miles broad.

On the west side of this plain, the Trent waters a pleasant and rich valley, running from Newark to Gainsborough, a town of good trade, as well foreign as home trade, thence to Burton, and so into the Humber.

As the middle of the country is all hilly, and the west side low, so the east side is the richest, most fruitful, and best cultivated of any county in England, so far from London; one part is all fen or marsh grounds. and extends itself south to the Isle of Ely, and here it is that so vast a quantity of sheep are fed, as makes this county and that of Leicester an inexhaustible fountain of wool for all the manufacturing counties in England.

There are abundance of very good towns too in this part, especially on the sea coast, as Grimsby, in the utmost point of the county north east, facing the Humber and the ocean, and almost opposite to Hull: a little farther within Humber is Barton, a town noted for nothing that I know of, but an ill-favoured dangerous passage, or ferry, over the Humber to Hull; where in an open boat, in which we had about fifteen horses, and ten or twelve cows, mingled with about seventeen or eighteen passengers, call'd Christians; we were about four hours toss'd about on the Humber, before we could get into the harbour at Hull; whether I was sea-sick or not, is not worth notice, but that we were all sick of the passage, any one may suppose, and particularly I was so uneasy at it, that I chose to go round by York, rather than return to Barton, at least for that time.

Grimsby is a good town, but I think 'tis but an indifferent road for shipping; and in the great storm, (ann. 1703.) it was proved to be so, for almost all the ships that lay in Grimsby road were driven from their anchors, and many of them lost.

Here within land we see Brigg upon the River Ankam, Castor, Louth, Horncastle, Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Wainfleet, and Boston: As these are all, except the last, inland towns, they afford little remarkable, only to intimate that all this country is employ'd in husbandry, in breeding and feeding innumerable droves and flocks of black cattle and sheep: Indeed I should not have said black cattle. I should have call'd them red cattle; for it was remarkable, that almost all their cows for 50 miles together are red, or py'd red and white, and consequently all the cattle raised there, are the same; what they feed which are brought from other counties, (for the fens feed infinite numbers which they buy from other places); that (I say) is another case.

The Fen Country begins about Wainfleet, which is within twenty miles of Grimsby, and extends itself to the Isle of Ely south, and to the grounds opposite to Lynn Regis in Norfolk east.

This part is indeed very properly call'd Holland, for 'tis a flat, level, and often drowned country, like Holland itself; here the very ditches are navigable, and the people pass from town to town in boats, as in Holland: Here we had the uncouth musick of the bittern, a bird formerly counted ominous and presaging, and who, as fame tells us, (but as I believe no body knows) thrusts its bill into a reed, and then gives the dull, heavy groan or sound, like a sigh, which it does so loud, that with a deep base, like the sound of a gun at a great distance, 'tis heard two or three miles, (say the people) but perhaps not quite so far.

Here we first saw Boston, a handsome well-built sea port town, at the mouth of the River Wittham. The tower of this church is, without question, the largest and highest in England; and, as it stands in a country, which (they say) has no bottom, nothing is more strange, than that they should find a foundation for so noble and lofty a structure; it had no ornament, spire, or pinnacle on the top, but it is so very high, that few spires in England, can match it, and is not only beautiful by land, but is very useful at sea to guide pilots into that port, and even into the mouth of the River Ouse; for in clear weather 'tis seen quite out at sea to the entrance of those channels, which they call Lynn Deeps, and Boston Deeps, which are as difficult places as most upon the whole eastern shore of Britain.

The town of Boston is a large, populous, and well-built town, full of good merchants, and has a good share of foreign trade, as well as Lynn. Here is held one of those annual fairs, which preserve the antient title of a Mart, whereof I remember only four in England of any considerable note, viz. Lynn, Gainsborough, Beverly, and Boston.

The country round this place is all fenn and marsh grounds, the land very rich, and which feeds prodigious numbers of large sheep, and also oxen of the largest size, the overplus and best of which goes all to London market; and from this part, as also from the downs or heath above-mentioned, comes the greatest part of the wool, known, as a distinction for its credit, because of its fineness, by the name of Lincolnshire Wool; which is sent in great quantities into Norfolk and Suffolk, for the manufacturers of those counties, and indeed to several other of the most trading counties in England.

These fens are indeed very considerable for their extent, for they reach in length in some places fifty miles, and in breadth above thirty: and as they are so level that there is no interruption to the sight, any building of extraordinary hight is seen a long way; for example, Boston steeple is seen upon Lincoln Heath near thirty miles, Peterborough and Ely minsters are seen almost throughout the whole level, so are the spires of Lynn, Whittlesea, and Crowland, seen at a very great distance, which adds a beauty to the country.

From Boston we came on through the fen country to Spalding, which is another sea port in the level, but standing far within the land on the River Welland. Here was nothing very remarkable to be seen as to antiquity, but the ruins of an old famous monastry, of which the Monasticon gives a particular description. There is a bridge over the Welland, and vessels of about fifty or sixty ton may come up to the town, and that is sufficient for the trade of Spalding, which is chiefly in corn and coal.

We must not pass by Crowland, another place of great religious antiquity, here being once a famous monastry, the remains of which are still to be seen: The monks of Crowland were eminent in history, and a great many stories are told of the devils of Crowland also, and what conversation they had with the monks, which tales are more out of date now, than they were formerly; for they tell us, that in antient times those things were as certainly believ'd for truths, as if they had been done before their faces.

There is one thing here that is curious indeed, and very remarkable, and which is not to be seen in any other place in Britain, if it be in Europe; namely, a triangular bridge: The case is this; The River Welland and another river, or rather branch from the River Nyne, join together just at Crowland, and the bridge being fixed at the very point where they join, stands upon a center in the middle of the united waters, and then parting into two bridges, lands you one to the right upon Thorney, and one to the left upon Holland; and yet they tell us there is a whirlpool, or bottomless pit, in the middle too; but that part I see no reason to give credit to.

The town of Spalding is not large, but pretty well built and well inhabited; but for the healthyness or pleasantness of it, I have no more to say than this, that I was very glad when I got out of it, and out of the rest of the fen country; for 'tis a horrid air for a stranger to breathe in.

The history of the draining those fens, by a set of gentlemen call'd the Adventurers, the several laws for securing and preserving the banks, and dividing the lands; how they were by the extraordinary conflux of waters from all the inland counties of England frequently overflow'd, and sometimes lay under water most part of the year; how all the water in this part of England, which does not run into the Thames, the Trent, or the Severn, falls together into these low grounds, and empty themselves into the sea by those drains, as thro' a sink; and how by the skill of these Adventurers, and, at a prodigious expence, they have cut new channels, and even whole rivers, with particular drains from one river to another, to carry off the great flux of waters, when floods or freshes come down either on one side or on the other; and how notwithstanding all that hands could do, or art contrive, yet sometimes the waters do still prevail, the banks break, and whole levels are overflow'd together; all this, tho' it would be very useful and agreeable to have it fully and geographically describ'd, yet it would take up so much room, and be so tedious here, where you are expecting a summary description of things, rather than the history and reasons of them, that I cannot think of entering any farther into it.

I have only to add, that these fens of Lincolnshire are of the same kind with, and contiguous to those already mentioned in the Isle of Ely, in the counties of Cambridge and Huntingdon, and that here as well as there, we see innumerable numbers of cattle, which are fed up to an extraordinary size by the richness of the soil.

Here are also an infinite number of wild fowl, such as duck and mallard, teal and widgeon, brand geese, wild geese, &. and for the taking of the four first kinds, here are a great number of decoys or duckoys, call them which you please, from all which the vast number of fowls they take are sent up to London; the quantity indeed is incredible, and the accounts which the country people give of the numbers they sometimes take, are such, that one scarce dares to report it from them. But this I can say, of my certain knowledge, that some of these decoys are of so great an extent, and take such great quantities of fowl, that they are let for great sums of money by the year, viz. from l00l , to 3, 4, and 500l . a year rent.

The art of taking the fowls, and especially of breeding up a set of creatures, call'd decoy ducks, to entice and then betray their fellow-ducks into the several decoys, is very admirable indeed, and deserves a description; tho' 'tis not very easy to describe it, take it in as few words as I can.

The decoy ducks are first naturalised to the place, for they are hatch'd and bred up in the decoy ponds: There are in the ponds certain places where they are constantly fed, and where being made tame, they are used to come even to the decoy man's hand for their food.

When they fly abroad, or, as might be said, are sent abroad, they go none knows where; but 'tis believ'd by some they fly quite over the seas in Holland and Germany; There they meet with others of their acquaintance, that is to say, of their own kind, where sorting with them, and observing how poorly they live, how all the rivers are frozen up, and the lands cover'd with snow, and that they are almost starv'd, they fail not to let them know, (in language that they make one another understand) that in England, from whence they came, the case is quite alter'd; that the English ducks live much better than they do in those cold climates; that they have open lakes, and sea shores full of food, the tides flowing freely into every creek; that they have also within the land, large lakes, refreshing springs of water, open ponds, covered and secured from human eyes, with large rows of grown trees and impenetrable groves; that the lands are full of food, the stubbles yielding constant supplies of corn, left by the negligent husbandmen, as it were on purpose for their use, that 'tis not once in a wild duck's age, that they have any long frosts or deep snows, and that when they have, yet the sea is never frozen, or the shores void of food; and that if they will please but to go with them into England, they shall share with them in all these good things.

By these representations, made in their own duck language, (or by whatever other arts which we know not) they draw together a vast number of the fowls, and, in a word, kidnap them from their own country; for being once brought out of their knowlcdge, they follow the decoys, as a dog follows the huntsman; and 'tis frequent to see these subtle creatures return with a vast flight of fowls with them, or at their heels, as we may say, after the said decoy ducks have been absent several weeks together.

When they have brought them over, the first thing they do is to settle with them in the decoy ponds, to which they (the decoy ducks) belong: Here they chatter and gabble to them, in their own language, as if they were telling them, that these are the ponds they told them of, and here they should soon see how well they should live, how secure and how safe a retreat they had here.

When the decoy-men perceive they are come, and that they are gathering and encreasing, they fail not to go secretly to the pond's side, I say secretly, and under the cover which they have made with reeds, so that they cannot be seen, where they throw over the reeds handfuls of corn, in shallow places, such where the decoy ducks are usually fed, and where they are sure to come for it, and to bring their new guests with them for their entertainment.

This they do for two or three days together, and no harm follows, 'till throwing in this bait one time in an open wide place, another time in another open wide place, the third time it is thrown in a narrower place; that is to say, where the trees, which hang over the water and the banks, stand nearer, and then in another yet narrower, where the said trees are overhead like an arbour, though at a good hight from the water.

Here the boughs are so artfully managed, that a large net is spread near the tops of the trees among the branches, and fasten'd to hoops which reach from side to side: This is so high and so wide, and the room is so much below, and the water so open, that the fowls do not perceive the net above them at all.

Here the decoy-man keeping unseen, behind the hedges of reeds, which are made perfectly close, goes forward, throwing corn over the reeds into the water; the decoy ducks greedily fall upon it, and calling their foreign guests, seem to tell them, that now they may find their words good, and how well the ducks live in England; so inviting or rather wheedling them forward, 'till by degrees they are all gotten under the arch or sweep of the net, which is on the trees, and which by degrees, imperceptibly to them, declines lower and lower, and also narrower and narrower, 'till at the farther end it comes to a point like a purse; though this farther end is quite out of sight, and perhaps two or three hundred yards from the first entrance

When the whole quantity are thus greedily following the leading ducks or decoys, and feeding plentifully as they go; and the decoy-man sees they are all within the arch of the net, and so far within as not to be able to escape, on a sudden a dog,

which 'till then he keeps close by him, and who is perfectly taught his business, rushes from behind the reeds, and jumps into the water, swimming directly after the ducks, and (terribly to them) barking as he swims.

Immediately the ducks (frighted to the last degree) rise upon the wing to make their escape, but to their great surprize, are beaten down again by the arched net, which is over their heads: Being then forced into the water, they necessarily swim forward, for fear of that terrible creature the dog; and thus they crowd on, 'till by degrees the net growing lower and narrower, as is said, they are hurried to the very farther end, where another decoy-man stands ready to receive them, and who takes them out alive with his hands.

As for the traytors, that drew the poor ducks into this snare, they are taught to rise but a little way, and so not reaching to the net, they fly back to the ponds, and make their escape; or else, being used to the decoy-man, they go to him fearless, and are taken out as the rest; but instead of being kill'd with them, are strok'd, made much of, and put into a little pond just by him, and fed and made much of for their services.

There are many particulars in the managing and draining these levels, throwing off the water by milis and engines, and cultivating the grounds in an unusual manner, which would be very useful to be describ'd; but the needfu? brevity of this work will not admit of it: yet something may be touch'd at.

1. That here are some wonderful engines for throwing up water, and such as are not to be seen any where else, whereof one in particular threw up, (as they assur'd us) twelve hundred ton of water in half an hour, and goes by wind-sails, 12 wings or sails to a mili: This I saw the model of, but I must own I did not see it perform.

2. Here are the greatest improvements by planting of hemp, that, I think, is to be seen in England; particularly on the Norfolk and Cambridge side of the Fens, as about Wisbech, Well, and several other places, where we saw many hundred acres of ground bearing great crops of hemp.

3. Here is a particular trade carry'd on with London, which is no where else practis'd in the whole kingdom, that I have met with, or heard of, (viz.) For carrying fish alive by land-carriage; this they do by carrying great buts fill'd with water in waggons, as the carriers draw other goods: The buts have a little square flap, instead of a bung, about ten, twelve, or fourteen inches square, which, being open'd, gives air to the fish, and every night, when they come to the inn, they draw off the water, and let more fresh and sweet water run into them again. In these carriages they chiefly carry tench and pike, pearch and eels, but especially tench and pike, of which here are some of the largest in England.

Whittlesea and Ramsey meres are two lakes, made by the River Nyne or Nene, which runs through them; the first is between five and six miles long, and three or four miles broad, and is indeed full of excellent fish for this trade.

From the Fenns, longing to be deliver'd from fogs and stagnate air, and the water of the colour of brew'd ale, like the rivers of the Peak, we first set foot on dry land, as I call'd it, at Peterborough.

This is a little city, and indeed 'tis the least in England; for Bath, or Wells, or Ely, or Carlisle, which are all call'd cities, are yet much bigger; yet Peterborough is no contemptible place neither; there are some good houses in it, and the streets are fair and well-built; but the glory of Peterborough is the cathedral, which is truly fine and beautiful; the building appears to be more modern, than the story of the raising this pile implies, and it wants only a fine tower steeple, and a spire on the top of it, as St. Paul's at London had, or as Salisbury still has; I say, it wants this only to make it the finest cathedral in Britain, except St. Paul's, which is quite new, and the church of St. Peter at York.

In this church was bury'd the body of the unhappy Mary Queen of Scots, mother to King James the First, who was beheaded not far off in Fotheringay Castle in the same county; but her body was afterwards remov'd by King James the First, her son, into Westminster Abbey, where a monument is erected for her, in King Henry the VIIth's chappel; tho' some do not stick to tell us, that tho' the monument was erected, the body was never remov'd.

Here also lies interred another unhappy queen, namely, the Lady Katherine of Spain, the divorc'd wife of King Henry VIII. and mother to Queen Mary: who reigned immediately after King Edward VI. Her monument is not very magnificent, but 'tis far from mean. Here is an old decay'd monument of Bishop Wulfer, the founder of the church; but this church has so often been burnt and demolish'd, since that time, that 'tis doubtful when they shew it you, whether it be authentick or not.

The chappel here, call'd St. Mary's, is a very curious building, tho' now not in use; the choir has been often repair'd and beautify'd, and is now very fine; but the west end, or great gate, is a prodigy for its beauty and variety: 'Tis remarkable, that as this church, when a monastry, was famous for its great revenues, so now, as reduced, 'tis one of the poorest bishopricks in England, if not the meanest.

Coming to this little city landed us in Northamptonshire; but as great part of Lincolnshire, which is a vastly extended large county, remain'd yet unseen, we were oblig'd to turn north from Peterborough, and take a view of the fens again, though we kept them at some distance too. Here we pass'd the Welland at Market Deeping, an old, ill-built and dirty town; then we went thro' Bourn to Folkingham, near which we saw two pieces of decay'd magnificence; one was the old demolish'd monastry of Sempringham, the seat of the Gilbertine nuns, so famous for austerity, and the severest rules, that any other religious order have yielded to, and the other was the antient house of the Lord Clinton, Queen Elizabeth's admiral, where that great and noble person once liv'd in the utmost splendor and magnificence; the house, tho' in its full decay, shows what it has been, and the plaister of the cielings and walls in some rooms is so fine, so firm, and so entire, that they break it off in large flakes, and it will bear writing on it with a pencil or steel pen, like the leaves of a table book. This sort of plaister I have not seen anywhere so very fine, except in the palace of Nonesuch in Surrey, near Epsom, before it was demolish'd by the Lord Berkeley.

From hence we cross'd part of the great heath mentioned before, and came into the high road again at Ankaster, a small but antient Roman village, and full of remnants of antiquity: This town gives now the title of duke to the ancient family of Lindsey, now Dukes of Ankaster, formerly only Earls of Lindsey, and hereditary Lords Chamberlains of England.

This place and Panton, a village near it, would afford great subject of discourse, if antiquity was my present province, for here are found abundance of Roman coins, urns, and other remains of antiquity, as also in several parts here about; and Mr. Cambden puts it out of doubt, that at this town of Ankaster there was a station or colony settled of Romans, which afterwards swell'd up into a city, but is now sunk again out of knowledge. From hence we came to Grantham, famous for a very fine church and spire steeple, so finely built, and so very high, that I do not know many higher and finer built in Britain. The vulgar opinion, that this steeple stands leaning, is certainly a vulgar error: I had no instrument indeed to judge it by, but, according to the strictest observation, I could not perceive it, or anything like it, and am much of opinion with that excellent poet:

'Tis hight makes Grantham steeple stand awry. This is a neat, pleasant, well-built and populous town, has a good market, and the inhabitants are said to have a very good trade, and are generally rich. There is also a very good free-school here. This town lying on the great northern road is famous, as well as Stamford, for abundance of very good inns, some of them fit to entertain persons of the greatest quality and their retinues, and it is a great advantage to the place.

From a hill, about a mile beyond this town north west, being on the great York road, we had a prospect again into the Vale of Bever, or Belvoir, which I mentioned before; and which spreads itself here into 3 counties, to wit, Lincoln, Leicester, and Rutlandshires: also here we had a distant view of Bever, or Bellevoir Castle, which 'tis supposed took its name from the situation, from whence there is so fine a prospect, or Bellevoir over the country; so that you see from the hill into six counties, namely, into Lincoln, Nottingham, Darby, Leicester, Rutland, and Northampton Shires. The castle or palace (for such it now is) of Bevoir, is now the seat of the noble family of Mannors, Dukes of Rutland, who have also a very noble estate, equal to the demesnes of some sovereign princes, and extending itself into Nottingham and Darbyshire far and wide, and in which estate they have an immense subterranean treasure, never to be exhausted; I mean the lead mines and coal-pits, of which I shall say more in its place.

Turning southward from hence we enter'd Rutlandshire, remarkable for being the least county in England, having but two market towns in it, viz. Okeham and Uppingham, but famous for abundance of fine seats of the gentlemen, and some of the first rank, as particularly the Earls of Gainsborough and Nottingham; the latter has at a very great expence, and some years labour, rebuilt the ancient seat of Burleigh on the Hill, near Okeham, and on the edge of the vale of Cathross. This house would indeed require a volume of itself, to describe the pleasant situation, and magnificent structure, the fine gardens, the perfectly well-finish'd apartments, the curious paintings, and well-stor'd library: all these merit a particular view, and consequently an exact description; but it is not the work of a few pages, and it would be to lessen the fame of this palace, to say any thing by way of abstract, where every part calls for a full account: at present, all I can say of it is, there may be some extraordinary palaces in England, where there are so many fine ones, I say there may be some that excell in this or that particular, but I do not know a house in Britain, which excels all the rest in so many particulars, or that goes so near to excelling them all in every thing. Take something of it in the following lines, part of a poem, written wholly upon the subject, by an anonymous author.


Hall, happy fabrick! whose majestick view
First sees the sun, and bids him last adieu;
Seated in majesty, your eye commands
A royal prospect of the richest lands,
Whose better part, by your own lord possess'd,
May well be nam'd the crown of all the rest:
The under-lying vale shews with delight
A thousand beauties, at one charming sight;
No pencil's art can such a landskip feign,
And Nature's self scarce yields the like again:
Few situations may with this compare,
A fertile soil and a salubrious air.
Triumphant structure! while you thus aspire
From the dead ruin of rebellious fire;
Methinks I see the genius of the place
Advance its head, and, with a smiling face,
Say, Kings have on this spot made their abodes,
'Tis fitted now to entertain the Gods.

From hence we came to Stamford; the town is placed in a kind of an angle of the county of Lincoln, just upon the edge of three counties, viz. Lincoln, Northampton, and Rutland: this town boasts greatly too of its antiquity, and indeed it has evident marks of its having been a very great place in former days.

History tells us it was burnt by the Danes above 1500 years ago, being then a flourishing city: Tradition tells us, it was once a university, and that the schools were first erected by Bladud King of the Britains; the same whose figure stands up at the King's Bath in the city of Bath, and who liv'd 300 years before our Saviour's time: But the famous camps and military ways, which still appear at and near this town, are a more visible testimony of its having been a very ancient town, and that it was considerable in the Romans time.

It is at this time a very fair, well-built, considerable and wealthy town, consisting of six parishes, including that of St. Martin in Stamford-Baron; that is to say, in that part of the town which stands over the river, which, tho' it is not a part of the town, critically speaking, being not in the liberty, and in another county, yet 'tis all called Stamford, and is rated with it in the taxes, and the like.

This town is the property, as it may be called, of the Earles of Excester; for the author of the Survey of Stamford , page 15, says, "William Cecil, Baron Burleigh, and afterwards Earl of Excester, obtain'd the fee farm of Queen Elizabeth for himself, in whose posterity it yet remains."

The government of this town is not, it seems, as most towns of such note are, by a mayor and aldermen, but by an alderman, who is chief magistrate, and twelve comburgesses, and twenty four capital burgesses, which, abating their worships titles, is, to me, much the same thing as a mayor, aldermen, and common council.

They boast in this town of very great privileges, especially to their alderman, who is their chief magistrate, and his com-burgesses; such as being freed from the sheriffs jurisdiction, and from being empannel'd on juries out of the town; to have the return of all writs, to be freed from all lords lieutenants, and from their musters, and for having the militia of the town commanded by their own officers, the alderman being the king's Lord Lieutenant, and immediately under his Majesty's command, and to be (within the liberties and jurisdiction of the town) esteem'd the second man in the kingdom; and the grant of those privileges concludes thus; Ut ab antiguo usu fuerunt , as of antient time they had been accustomed: So that this Charter, which was granted by Edward IV. ann. 1461. seems to be only a confirmation of former privileges, not a grant of new ones.

In the church of St. Martin in Stamford-Baron, that is on this side the bridge, at the upper end of the choir, is a very noble monument of William Cecil Lord Burleigh, who lies bury'd there in a large vault just under it; and opposite to it, on the north side, is a more antient (but handsome) monument, tho' not so magnificent as the former, being in memory of Richard Cecil, Esq; and Jane his wife, the father and mother of the said famous Lord Burleigh; also a more modern monument for the great earl who re-edify'd the house, being the last earl but one, and father of the present earl; and for his countess, a sister of the present Duke of Devonshire: This is a finish'd piece, 'tis all of the finest marble, and, they told us, it was made at Florence, and sent over: The said earl dy'd on his travels at Paris.

There is a very fine stone bridge over the River Welland of five arches, and the town-hall is in the upper part of the gate, upon or at the end of the bridge, which is a very handsome building. There are two constant weekly markets here, viz. on Mondays and Fridays, but the last is the chief market: They have also three fairs, viz. St. Simon and Jude, St. James's, and Green-goose Fair, and a great Midlent mart; but the latter is not now so considerable, as it is reported to have formerly been.

But the beauty of Stamford is the neighbourhood of the noble palace of the Earl of Excester, call'd Burleigh House, built by the famous Sir William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, and Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth, the same whose monument I just now mentioned, being in St. Martin's Church at Stamford-Baron, just without the park.

This house, built all of free-stone, looks more like a town than a house, at which avenue soever you come to it; the towers and the pinnacles so high, and placed at such a distance from one another, look like so many distant parish-churches in a great town, and a large spire cover'd with lead, over the great clock in the center, looks like the cathedral, or chief church of the town.

The house stands on an eminence, which rises from the north en trance of the park, coming from Stamford: On the other side, viz. south and west, the country lies on a level with the house, and is a fine plain, with posts and other marks for horse-races; As the entrance looks towards the flat low grounds of Lincolnshire, it gives the house a most extraordinary prospect into the Fens, so that you may see from thence twenty or near thirty miles, without any thing to intercept the sight.

As you mount the hill, you come to a fine esplanade, before the great gate or first entrance of the house, where there is a small but very handsome semi-circle, taken in with an iron balustrade, and from this, rising a few steps, you enter a most noble hall, but made infinitely more noble by the invaluable paintings, with which it is so fill'd, that there is not room to place any thing between them.

The late Earl of Excester, father of his present lordship, had a great genius for painting and architecture, and a superior judgment in both, as every part of this noble structure will testify; for he chang'd the whole face of the building; he pull'd down great part of the front next the garden, and turn'd the old Gothic windows into those spacious sashes which are now seen there; and tho' the founder or first builder, who had an exquisite fancy also, (as the manner of buildings then was) had so well ordered the situation and avenues of the whole fabrick, that nothing was wanting of that kind, and had also contriv'd the house itself in a most magnificent manner; the rooms spacious, well directed, the cielings lofty, and the decorations just, yet the late earl found room for alterations, infinitely to the advantage of the whole; as particularly, a noble stair case, a whole set of fine apartments, with rooms of state, fitting for the entertainment of a prince, especially those on the garden side; tho' at present a little out of repair again.

As this admirable genius, the late earl, lov'd paintings, so he had infinite advantage in procuring them; for he not only travell'd three times into Italy, and stay'd every time a considerable while at Florence, but he was so entertain'd at the Court of Tuscany, and had, by his most princely deportment and excellent accomplishments, so far obtain'd upon the great duke, that he might be said indeed to love him, and his highness shew'd the earl many ways that esteem; and more particularly, in assisting him to purchase many excellent pieces at reasonable prices; and not only so, but his highness presented him with several pieces of great value.

Among the rest, there is. in the great hall, his lordship's picture, on horseback, done by the great duke's principal painter, at his highness's charge, and given to his lordship, as a mark of the great duke's special favour: There is also a fine piece of Seneca bleeding to death in the warm bath, and dictating his last morals to his scholars; the passions are in so lively a manner described in the scholars, their eager attention, their generous regard to their master, their vigilant catching at his words, and some of them taking minutes, that it is indeed admirable and inexpressible. I have been told, that the King of France offer'd the earl 6000 pistoles for it.

It would be endless to give a detail of the fine pieces his lordship brought from Italy. all originals, and by the best masters; 'tis enough to say, they infinitely exceed all that can be seen in England, and are of more value than the house itself, and all the park belonging to it.

His lordship had indeed infinite advantage, join'd to his very good judgment, besides what I have mention'd, at the Court of the grand duke, for the furnishing himself with extraordinary paintings, having made his three journeys into Italy by several routs, and stopt at several Courts of princes; and his collection would doubtless have been still enlarg'd, had he liv'd to finish a fourth tour, which he was taking; but he was surpriz'd with a sudden and violent distemper, and dy'd at Paris (as we were told) of a dysentrie.

Besides the pictures, which, as above, were brought from abroad, the house itself, at least the new apartments may be said to be one entire picture. The stair-case, the cielings of all the fine lodgings, the chapel, the hall, the late earl's closet, are all finely painted by VARRIO, of whose work I need say no more than this, that the earl kept him twelve years in his family, wholly employ'd in painting those cielings and staircases, &. and allow'd him a coach and horses, and equipage, a table, and servants, and a very considerable pension.

N.B. The character this gentleman left behind him at this town, is, that he deserv'd it all for his paintings; but for nothing else; his scandalous life, and his unpaid debts, it seems, causing him to be but very meanly spoken of in the town of Stamford. I might dwell a long while upon this subject, and could do it with great pleasure, Burleigh House being well worth a full and compleat description; but this work will not admit of enlargements.

By the park wall, or, as some think, through the park, adjoining to Burleigh House, pass'd an old Roman highway, beginning at Castor, a little village near Peterborough; but which was anciently a Roman station, or colony, call'd Durobrevum; this way is still to be seen, and is now call'd The 40 Foot Way, passing from Gunworth Ferry (and Peterborough) to Stamford: This was, as the antiquaries are of opinion, the great road into the north, which is since turn'd from Stilton in Huntingdonshire to Wandsworth or Wandsford, where there is a very good bridge over the River Nyne; which coming down from Northampton, as I have observ'd already, passes thence by Peterborough, and so into the Fen country: But if I may straggle a little into antiquity, (which I have studiously avoided) I am of opinion, neither this or Wandsford was the ancient northern road in use by the Romans; for 'tis evident, that the great Roman causway is still seen on the left hand of that road, and passing the Nyne at a place call'd Water Neuton, went directly to Stamford, and pass'd the Welland, just above that town, not in the place where the bridge stands now; and this Roman way is still to be seen, both on the south and the north side of the Welland, stretching itself on to Brig Casterton, a little town upon the River Guash, about three miles beyond Stamford; which was, as all writers agree, another Roman station, and was call'd Guasennæ by the antients, from whence the river is supposed also to take its name; whence it went on to Panton, another very considerable colony, and so to Newark, where it cross'd the Foss.

This Forty Foot Way then must be a cross road from Castor, and by that from the Fen Country, so leading into the great highway at Stamford: as likewise another cross road went out of the said great road at Panton, above-named, to Ankaster, where was a Roman cohort plac'd, and thence join'd the Foss again at Lincoln.

Near this little village of Castor lives the Lord FitzWilliams, of an ancient family, tho' an Irish title, and his lordship has lately built a very fine stone bridge over the River Nyne, near Gunworth, where formerly was the ferry.

I was very much applauding this generous action of my lord's, knowing the inconvenience of the passage there before, especially if the waters of the Nyne were but a little swell'd, and I thought it a piece of publick charity; but my applause was much abated, when coming to pass the bridge (being in a coach) we could not be allow'd to go over it, without paying 2s. 6d. of which I shall only say this, That I think 'tis the only half crown toll that is in Britain, at least that ever I met with.

As we pass by Burleigh Park wall, on the great road, we see on the west side, not above a mile from it, another house, built by the same Lord Burleigh, and which might pass for a very noble seat, were not Burleigh by. This is call'd Wathorp, and stands just on the Great Roman Way, mention'd above; this is the house of which the old earl said he built it to remove to, and to be out of the dust, while Burleigh House was a sweeping. This saying is indeed father'd upon the noble founder, but I must acknowledge, I think it too haughty an expression to come from so wise and great a man.

At Overton, now call'd Cherry Orton, a village near Gunworth Ferry, is an old mansion house, formerly belonging to a very antient and almost forgotten race, or family of great men, call'd Lovetoft, which I nam'd for a particular reason. The estate is now in the heirs of the late Duke of Newcastle, and the house lies neglected. On the other side of the river is a fine new-built house, all of free stone, possess'd by Sir Francis St. John, Bart. which affords a very beautiful prospect to travellers, as they pass from the hill beyond Stilton to Wansford Bridge. This Wansford has obtain'd an idle addition to its name, from a story so firmly believ'd by the country people, that they will hardly allow any room for contradiction; namely, That a great flood coming hastily down the River Nyne, in hay-making-time, a country fellow, having taken up his lodging on a cock of hay in the meadow, was driven down the stream in the night, while he was fast asleep; and the hay swimming, and the fellow sleeping, they drove together towards Wisbech in the Fens, whence he was fairly going on to the sea; when being wakened, he was seen and taken up by some fishermen, almost in the open sea; and being ask'd, who he was? he told them his name; and where he liv'd? he answer'd, at Wansford in England: from this story the town is called Wansford in England; and we see at the great inn, by the south end of the bridge, the sign of a man floating on a cock of hay, and over him written, Wansford in England.

Coming south from hence we pass'd Stilton, a town famous for cheese, which is call'd our English Parmesan, and is brought to table with the mites, or maggots round it, so thick, that they bring a spoon with them for you to eat the mites with, as you do the cheese.

Hence we came through Sautrey Lane, a deep descent between two hills, in which is Stangate Hole, famous for being the most noted robbing-place in all this part of the country. Hence we pass'd to Huntington, the county town, otherwise not considerable; it is full of very good inns, is a strong pass upon the Ouse, and in the late times of rebellion it was esteemed so by both parties.

Here are the most beautiful meadows on the banks of the River Ouse, that I think are to be seen in any part of England; and to see them in the summer season, cover'd with such innumerable stocks of cattle and sheep, is one of the most agreeable sights of its kind in the world.

This town has nothing remarkable in it; 'tis a long continued Street, pretty well built, has three parish churches, and a pretty good market-place; but the bridge, or bridges rather, and causway over the Ouse is a very great ornament to the place. On the west side of this town, and in view of the plain lower side of the county, is a noble, tho' ancient seat, of the Earl of Sandwich; the gardens very fine and well kept; the situation seems a little obscur'd by the town of Huntington. In the same plain we saw Bugden, a small village, in which is remarkable a very pleasant, tho' ancient house or palace, of the Bishops of Lincoln: The house and garden surrounded by a very large and deep moat of water; the house is old, but pleasant, the chappel very pretty, 'tho' small; there is an organ painted against the wall, but in a seeming organ-loft, and so properly placed and well painted, that we at first believed it really to be an organ.

Hinchingbrook, another house belonging to a noble family, well known by the same title, shews itself at a small distance from Huntington; and a little way south stands that most nobly situated and pleasant seat of the Duke of Manchester, called Kimbolton, or Kimbolton Castle, where no pains or cost has been spar'd to make the most beautiful situation still more beautiful, and to help nature with art.

Hence we went a little north to see Oundle, being told that the famous drum was to be heard just at that time in the well; but when we came there, they shew'd us indeed the well and the town, but as for the drum, they could only tell us they heard of it, and that it did drum; but we could meet with no person of sufficient credit, that would say seriously they had heard it: so we came away dissatisfy'd.

This town of Oundle is pleasantly seated on the River Nyne, of which I have so often spoken. There are indeed a range of eminent towns upon this river; (viz.) Northampton, Wellingborough, Thrapston, Oundle, Fotheringay, Wandsford, and Peterborough; at all which, except Peterborough, there are very good stone bridges over the river.

Here again there is a most beautiful range of meadows, and perhaps they are not to be equall'd in England for length; they continue uninterrupted for above thirty miles in length, from Peterborough to Northampton, and, in some places, are near two miles in breadth, the land rich, the grass fine and good, and the cattle, which are always feeding on them, hay-time excepted, numberless.

From Oundle we cross'd the county of Northampton into Bedfordshire, and particularly to the town of Bedford, the chief town of the county; for this county has no city in it, tho' even this town is larger and more populous, than several cities in England, having five parish-churches, and a great many, and those wealthy and thriving inhabitants. This is one of the seven counties, which they say lie together, and have not one city among them; namely, Huntington, Bedford, Bucks, Berks, Hertford, Essex, and Suffolk.

But here I must do a piece of justice to the usage of England in denominating of cities, namely, that it is not here as in France, and Flanders, and Holland, where almost all their towns of note are call'd cities, and where the gentry chiefly live in those cities, and the clergy also; I mean the religious houses, of which there are great numbers sometimes in one city, which are enough to make a city, where there was none before. But as we have no authority, but antient usage and custom, for the distinguishing places by the names of towns and cities, so since that ancient usage or authority had the titles of places, 'tis observable some places, formerly of note, are considerably decay'd, and scarce preserve the face of their ancient greatness; as Lincoln, Old Sarum, Carlisle, Verulam, and others; and several towns which in those times scarce deserv'd the name of cities, are now, by the encrease of commerce and numbers of inhabitants, become greater, more populous and wealthy, than others, which are call'd cities.

Nor is this all, but several towns, which Mr. Cambden tells us, were call'd cities in his time, are now sunk from the dignity, and are only call'd towns, and yet still retain a greatness, wealth, and populousness, superior to many cities, such as Colchester, Ipswich, Shrewsbury, Cambridge, Stamford, Leicester, and others, which are without all comparison greater now than Wells, Peterborough, Ely, or Carlisle, and yet have lost the title of cities, which the other retain.

Thus we have at this time the towns of Froom, Taunton, Tiverton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and others in the west, and the towns of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, Hull, and several others in the north, that are much larger, richer, and more populous, than Rochester, Peterborough, Carlisle, Bath, and even than York itself, and yet these retain but the name of towns, nay even of villages, in some of which the chiefest magistrate is but a constable, as in Manchester, for example.

It is remarkable of Bedfordshire, that tho' a great part of the county lies on the north side of the Ouse; that is to say, the two whole hundreds of Stodden and Barford; yet there is not one market town in all that side of the Ouse, but Bedford only. Another thing is scarce to be equall'd in the whole isle of Britain; namely, that tho' the Ouse, by a long and winding course, cuts through the county, and by its long reachings, so as to make above seventy miles between Oulney and St. Neots, tho' not above twenty by land, yet in all that course it receives but one river into it, namely the little River Ivel, which falls into the Ouse a little above Temsford.

Bedford, as I have said, is a large, populous, and thriving town, and a pleasant well-built place; it has five parish churches, a very fine stone bridge over the Ouse, and the High Street, (especially) is a very handsome fair street, and very well-built; and tho' the town is not upon any of the great roads in England, yet it is full of very good inns, and many of them; and in particular we found very good entertainment here.

Here is the best market for all sorts of provisions, that is to be seen at any country town in all these parts of England; and this occasions, that tho' it is so far from London, yet the higglers or carriers buy great quantities of provisions here for London markets; also here is a very good trade down the river to Lynn.

Here is also a great corn market, and great quantities of corn are bought here, and carry'd down by barges and other boats to Lynn, where it is again shipp'd, and carry'd by sea to Holland: The soil hereabouts is exceeding rich and fertile, and particularly produces great quantities of the best wheat in England, which is carry'd by waggons from hence, and from the north part of the county twenty miles beyond this, to the markets of Hitchin and Hertford, and bought again there, and ground and carry'd in the meal (still by land) to London.

Indeed the whole product of this county is corn, that is to say, wheat and malt for London; for here are very few manufactures, except that of straw-hats and bone-lace, of which by itself: There are but ten market towns in the whole county, and yet 'tis not a small county neither: The towns are,


The last of these was almost demolish'd by a terrible fire, which happen'd here just before my writing this account; but as this town has the good luck to belong to a noble family, particularly eminent for being good landlords; that is to say, bountiful and munificent to their poor tenants, I mean the ducal house of Bedford; there is no doubt but that the trustees, tho' his grace the present duke is in his minority, will preserve that good character to the family, and re-edify the town, which is almost all their own.

The duke's house, call'd Wooburn Abbey, is just by the town, a good old house, but very ancient, spacious and convenient rather than fine, but exceedingly pleasant by its situation; and for the great quantity of beach woods which surround the parks and cover the hills, and also for great woods of oak too, as rich and valuable, as they are great and magnificent: The very situation of this house to promise itself another Burleigh or Chatsworth, whenever an heir comes to enjoy the vast estate of this family, who has a genius for building; But at present, as above, the heir is an infant.

Ampthill is grac'd like Wooburn; for tho' in itself, like the other, it is not a considerable town, and has no particular manufacture to enrich it, yet by the neighbourhood of that great and noble family of Bruce Earls of Ailesbury, the very town is made both rich and honourable: It is however the misfortune of this noble family, that the present earl lives abroad, being a Roman; but the next heirs are in view of recovering the grandeur of that ancient family. The old venerable seat of the family is near the town, and is a noble and magnificent palace, tho' not wholly re-built, as is the fortune of many of the seats of our nobility of this age.

From hence, thro' the whole south part of this county, as far as the border of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, the people are taken up with the manufacture of bone-lace, in which they are wonderfully encreas'd and improv'd within these few years past. Also the manufactures of straw-work, especially straw hats, spreads itself from Hertfordshire into this county, and is wonderfully encreased within a few years past.

Having thus viewed this county in all its most considerable towns, we came from Dunstable to St. Albans, and so into London, all which has been spoken of before; I therefore break off this circuit here, and subscribe,

Your most obedient Servant.


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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