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Art. VI.-The Beauties of England and Wales; or, Delineations,
topographical, historical, and descriptive, of each County. Embellished with Engravings. By John Britton and Edward Wedlake Breyley. Vol. I. 8vo. 135. Boards. Vernor and Hood. 1801.
We have already recommended to the public Mr. Britton's Beauties of Wiltshire ; and the present work rivals the former in the merit of its engravings and the pleasing tenor of its style. The intention of our authors is to form a regular Britannia, or description of the chief objects in each county, alphabetically digested. The volume before us contains Bedfordshire, Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire.
• The subscribers to this work are respectfully informed, that the ardent desire of the editors to render the Introduction as complete as possible, and the time and extensive reading necessary to the full investigation and arrangement of the numerous and complex subjects it involves, have induced them to protract its publication till a more distant period. This delay, the expediency of which cannot be questioned even by those who consider the nature and extent of their design with but partial attention, will afford leisure for that review of British, Roman, and Saxon history, which the editors imagine, will not only prove interesting from
the variety of objects it includes, but will also elucidate the origin of many of the important national regulations, which have stamped a character on this island, given stability to its laws, and extension to its commerce. P. i.
Besides a vignette of Donnington castle, and Leighton Beaudesert cross as a frontispiece, the volume contains the following engravings: 1. Ely cathedral ; 2. Dunstable priory ; 3. Windsor; 4. Windsor castle; 5. Buckingham; 6. Eton; 7. Stowe; 8. Downton castle ; 9. Hampton court; 10. Church of St. Mary Ottery ; 11. Badminton; 12. Chepstow.
We need not much enlarge on the descriptions, which are principally derived from Camden’s Britannia and other authorities, and of course already familiar in a great degree to our readers, though here conveyed in a new and agreeable form. In Bedfordshire, the history of Woburn is one of the most interesting articles, and we shall extract the account of the pit which supplies that valuable substance called fuller’s-earth, the exportation of which is rigorously prohibited. This we the rather select, as we observe that foreign mineralogists, in describing this substance, call it terre de Hampshire; while it is not found in that county, to the best of our information, but priucipally in the neighbourhood of Woburn in Bedfordshire, of Reading in Berkshire, and of Reygate in Surrey, at which last place have lately been discovered crystals of yellow barytes, like amber, interspersed in the fuller's-earth.
• The fuller-earth pits (or rather pit, for there is only one at present) in the vicinity of Woburn, are, according to the invariable assertions of preceding topographers, situated in Bedfordshire : but this is a mistake; the pits are certainly in Buckinghamshire, in the parish of Wavendon, or Wandón, as it is generally called. They are two miles north of Woburn, and about one furlong on the western side of the Northampton road, which, in this part, forms the boundary between the two counties for upwards of a mile. The more ancient pit, it is true, is in the county of Bedford, in the parish of Aspley, which adjoins to that of Wandon : but this has been disused for upwards of a century. It has large trees growing in it; and is become a secure and comfortable residence for the cunning fox, whose sagacity has taught him that he may live here unmolested and free from danger.
As the pit so immediately borders on this county, and as the curious reader, judging from the practice of former writers, will un. doubtedly refer to the neighbourhood of Woburn, when desirous of acquiring information on this subject, we trust that we shall not be char with any impropriety of arrangement if the particulars we have been enabled to obtain concerning the invaluable substance under consideration are inserted in this place. The surface of the earth may be divided with artificial limits; but the interior strata, in this instance, is unquestionably continued in both counties,
• British cloth is chiefly indebted to the cleansing qualities of this celebrated earth, for its great superiority over that manufactured by other nations. In no other country is it found 50 free from foreign admixture ; for this reason, as well as its importance in the woollen trade, several severe laws have been made, at different periods, since the reign of Charles the Second, to prevent its exportation. Nor are these acts of the British legislature without precedent. History informs us, that the fulling business was an object of Roman attention, and that laws were expressly made by that nation to regulate the employment.
• This earth is truly a marl, commonly of a greyish ash-coloured brown; yet it greatly varies, and is found of different shades, from the very pale, to the dusky, or almost black ; but always with a tinge of the yellowish green. The pit at Wavendon consists of two tunnels; one with a ladder for the convenience of the labourers; the other to raise the earth up. The descent is very disagreeable, and the inside of the pit very damp. The wood-work on the top and sides of the excavated angles is continually wet, and almost covered with boletus lacrymans (dryrot boletus.) The strata are disposed in the following order.
• From the surface to the depth of six or seven feet are several layers of sand, all of a reddish colour, but of different tints. Beneath is a thin stratum of sand-stone, and under this the fuller's-earth. The upper stratum is about a foot thick; but being generally impure, or mixed with sand, it is thrown aside, and the rest is taken up for use. The earth is disposed in layers (commonly about eighteen inches between one horizontal fissure and another) continued to the depth of eight or ten feet. Between the centrical layers is a thin stratum of matter, of less than an inch, which in taste, colour, and
external appearance, bears a striking resemblance to terra Japonica. Beneath the whole is a bed of rough white free-stone, about two feet thick: this is seldom dug through; when it is, more strata are discovered. The depth of the pit varies, it being from twenty to thirty feet below the surface.
Though fuller's-earth is of the most material service in cleansing cloth, and imbibing the tar, grease, tallow, &c. which, from the operation of many causes, is often mixed with the wool, yet the present price is scarcely sufficient to defray the expenses of raising it ; being only ten shillings a ton, and the quantity sold not amounting to more than thirty tons annually. The labourers are occasionally employed, to the number of five, six, or seven, in proportion as the earth is wanted. The pit belongs to the duke of Bedford; and, as we understand, by a recent purchase. Its situation is nearly opposite to that in the parish of Aspley, which is also on the duke's estate. About twenty years since there was a pit in use on the estate of colonel Moore; but this has been levelled, and the field is now in pasturage. The earth lay about four feet from the surface.
• The few authors who have written on the topography of this county are unanimous in ascribing a petrifying quality to a small spring said to be in the parish just mentioned ; and not only the water, but the surrounding earth also, is reported to partake of the same property. Camden informs us, that those who belonged to the monastery showed “ a wooden ladder, which, after lying some time in the earth, was dug up all stone.” The risible absurdity of this sentence can only be exceeded by the folly of Michael Drayton, poet-laureat to James the First, who inserted the following lines on this subject in his Polyolbion.
The brook which on her bank doth boast that earth alone
'Mongst sundry other things, a wonder of our isle.” • This wonder of the poet, like many more extraordinary circumstances, hath had its nine days of admiration payed by the gaping multitude. The story has now grown into general discredit ; and we are in formed, from the most unquestionable authority, that there is no such spring in the parish : yet we have heard of some bits of the petrified wood, said to have been obtained here, which appeared handsome when polished ; and also, that a pair of buttons has been made of it. But we have said enough on a baseless subject, and, as the stream is wanting whose qualities could alone give the tale credibility, shall dismiss it with the common motto, Ex nihilo, nihil fit.' P. 39.
The catalogues of paintings are rather too long, and the biographical accounts, particularly those of foreigners, are extraneous to the nature of the work. When the author asserts, p. 59, that the forms of all ancient vases are supposed to have been taken from the calyx of the lotus, a celebrated water-plant well known in Upper Asia,' he shows the danger of advancing beyond a man's depth. There is no such country as Upper
Asia : if he mean Siberia, he errs toto cælo; and, in the next place, the forms of the ancient vases are so infinitely diversified, that the idea in the eye of plain sense becomes a mere antiquarian dream. In p. 65 he is equally unfortunate, in assert. ing that the terms honour and barony were synonymous. The honour of Richmond contained, if we mistake not, more than a hundred baronies.
The following circumstance in the description of Biggleswade is, we believe, not generally known.
• On the 25th of February, 1792, a smart shock of an earthquake was felt here, about half past eight in the morning. It lasted seve. ral seconds, threw down some old houses, and much alarmed the inhabitants, though no lives were lost. The shock was felt northwards as far as Doncaster, whence it extended to the sea-coast of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.'
The ridiculous fable of the Thames and the Isis is justly opposed.
• The name of this river has occasioned many altercations; and though the general opinion has long been, that it does not receive the appellation of Thames till after its union with the Thame of Oxfordshire, yet this is evidently founded in error; for the former word is found in several charters granted to the abbey of Malmsbury, and likewise in some old deeds belonging to Cricklade, both of which places are in Wiltshire. But the most decisive proof is contained in a charter granted to the abbot Aldheim, where particular mention is made of certain lands upon the east part of the river, “ Cujus vocabulum Temis juxta vadum qui appellatur Summerford;" i.e. whose name is Thames, near the ford called Summerford ; and as this place is in Wiltshire, it is manifest that the river was named Temis, or Tems, in the uppermost part of its course ; and long before its junction with the Thame. This evidence, which is inserted on the authority of Mr. Gough, was unknown to Camden, who imagines the term to be a compound, and has given considerable extracts in his Britannia from a fanciful poem, entitled the Marriage of the Thame and Isis, of which he is said to be the author.' P. 86.
This puerile fable is a disgrace to English topography, and only fit for pedants or school-boys.
In treating of the origin of the order of the garter, our author mentions the story of the countess of Salisbury as an idle tale, and gravely quotes Joshua Barnes and the Phoenicians. We wish Joshựa Barnes and the Phænicians were in his belly-to adopt the language of Falstaf,—and firmly believe in the countess of Salisbury and her garter. The author may look at the motto of Edward IV. for another instance of the intermixture of love and chivalry ; but our wise antiquaries seem often inclined to leave human nature on the left hand. In p. 265 there is a pretty wooden print of that noted tree in Windsor forest called Herne's oak, executed by Mr. Anderson, a most ingenious artist, The account of Frogmore, and the Windsor farms, we shall transcribe, as a novelty.
« The favourite residence of the queen has become celebrated through the elegant fêtes which have been occasionally given here by her majesty. It is situated about half a mile east of Windsor, and occupies part of a very fertile valley, which divides the little park from the forest, whence the many fine old oaks and elms which still decorate the gardens indicate it to have been separated. That it received its present appellation before Shakspeare's time is evident
, from some passages in his comedy of the Merry Wives of Windsor. This estate was formerly in the possession of sir Edward Walpole, and is now the private property of her majesty, by whom it was purchased of the honorable Mrs. Ann Egerton in 1792. Since that period it has not only been considerably enlarged, but most materially improved. An area of thirteen acres is laid out in a beautiful pleasure garden, diversified with a canal winding in different direc, tions ; in one part spreading its waters before the front of the house, and again retiring beneath the thick woods. In this sweetly sequestered spot every thing is serene and pleasant. The devious path, the umbrageous thicket, the dilapidated ruin, and secluded temple, all conspire to render it peculiarly interesting: Exclusive of the variety of indigenous and exotic trees and shrubs which are scattered through the grounds, the garden is ornamented with five buildings, respectively denominated the Gothic Temple, the Ruin, the Hermitage, the Temple of Solitude, and the Barn. The Ruin was erected from a design by Mr. Wyatt ; and being seated on the water's edge, partly immersed in woods, and diversified with the creep. ing ivy and fractured wall, it constitutes a truly picturesque ornament, when seen from many points of view. The Hermitage is a small circular thatched building, situated in the south-west corner of the garden, and completely embowered with lofty trees. It was con structed from a drawing of the princess Elizabeth, whose taste and skill in this polite art are flattering encomiums on her genius and ap plication. The surrounding scenery is judiciously contrived to assimilate with the character of the place the view of every distant object being excluded by trees and underwood. The recent improveinents and alterations made in the gardens are very considerable, and are highly creditable to the taste and judgement of the gentleman who directed the operations.
• The house, though not large, is a neat modern structure, which has been much improved and beautified by Mr. Wyatt. It is partly built with free-stone, and partly cased ; and is decorated with a projecting colonnade towards the south, uniting the principal building with two uniform wings. The apartments are furnished in a plain but peculiarly neat manner. One of them is embellished with the original sketches by Mr. West, and paintings by miss Moser, that were copied to ornament the throne in the castle ; and several others are decorated with paintings, and variety of drawings.
• The Great Park at Windsor reverted to his majesty on the death of the duke of Cumberland, in the year 1791, since which period it has undergone a variety of important alterations. The principal