We have seen better days,
And have with holy bell been knolled to church.
ANOTHER fine May
morning dawned upon old Antwerp,—hot, bright, and cloudless again.
It was Whit-Sunday, too,—a great Catholic festival, and chimes and
booming calls to prayer rang out from the steeples of the city on
There was a Sunday feeling on everything; but the hum of
Antwerp was not so much subdued, as it was changed in character.
The bustle of week-day business was succeeded by the bustle of a
holiday, in which some of the milder features of a country fair were
visible here and there. The rattle of carts had left the
streets; but the square in front of the hotel swarmed with people in
their best clothes; the restaurants were all open, and the chairs
and tables under the white awnings, in front of them, were filled
with gay-looking occupants, drinking in a mild way, and smoking a
good deal. The favourite drink seemed to be the light, brisk
Bavarian beer, which is not very intoxicating. The crowd was
altogether sober, and orderly, and cheery-looking; their behaviour
to one another was marked by natural politeness; and their
attentions to strangers were courteous. In such a mixed crowd,
in England, we should meet with a good deal of studied supercilious
stolidity, or else with downright rudeness. Altogether the
scene in the square of Antwerp on that bright May day,—although
touched with something of human cheerfulness,—contrasts favourably
with the gin-shop and ale-house scenes in our own English cities on
a Sunday. As to the observance of the Sabbath,—Belgium is a
Catholic country, and the Roman Catholic religion does not interfere
so much with the use of Sunday as other religions do. A mild
religious observance of the fore part of the day seems to be all
that it really exacts,—after forenoon mass the people seem to be
left to do very much as they like, either in the shape of work or
Entering the breakfast-room of the hotel, about nine o'clock,
we found "Camomile " and Sam up in a corner, the centre of a knot of
admiring waiters. One of these waiters, who could speak a
little English, had been making excuses for "Camomile's"
extraordinary efforts, by saying that "the gentleman could not be
expected to understand Belgian, as he was a foreigner." This
happened just as we were entering the room.
"Me a foreigner!" exclaimed "Camomile," as we walked in; "me
a foreigner! Nought o'th sort! I'm an Englishman!
It's thee at's a foreigner, mon! . . . . Doesto yer that, Sam?
He says I'm a foreigner! Me! An Englishman,—an' born i'
Lancashire, too! I'm noan beawn to ston that, noather;" and
then, seeing us enter the room, he cried out, "Heigh! Done yo
yer this? He says I'm a foreigner! I co' that a good un!
An' me born i' Englan', too! By the mass, I've met wi' nought
else but foreigners sin' I coom to this country! I say, just
tell 'em wheer I come fro', wi'n yo! They talken nought but
French here—childer an' o'."
After breakfast we entered the Cathedral. High mass had
just began; and, certainly, the scene altogether was solemnly
striking. The great nave of the Cathedral was crowded with
rapt devotees; and the glittering altar, all rich in flowers and
jewels, where a crowd of priests, in gorgeous robes, were performing
the ancient, imposing ceremonial of high mass, was the centre point
of every eye. The vast interior of that grand old building,
with its wonderful cross-lights; the glittering altars, and shrines,
and side-chapels; the stolid priests; the clouds of incense; the
silver bells, tinkling weirdly in the silence of the rapt multitude;
the grand bursts of sacred music from the choir; the awful
associations crowding upon the mind,—altogether it was a scene not
to be forgotten. When the service was over, we lingered awhile
amongst a crowd, gazing on the two great master-pieces by
Rubens,—the "Descent from the Cross," and the "Elevation of the
Cross;" and many of the people crossed themselves before the
pictures as before the great symbolic altars of their faith.
We lingered about an hour in the Cathedral, after service was
over, gazing at the grand old pictures, and wandering from chapel to
chapel, and from altar to altar, amongst a company of other
sauntering sight-seers; and when we came forth into the blazing
sunshine again, we found the scene gradually becoming more and more
lively. The company in the square was fast
increasing,—especially at the little tables, under the awnings, in
front of the restaurant. The majority of these had been to
high mass; and many of them had evidently come from a long distance.
The varied costumes of the crowd,—amongst which there was a great
variety of smart-looking soldiers in different styles of
uniform,—gave a picturesque appearance to the scene.
The service had been a long one; it was dinnertime with the
church-goers; and the thoughts of men,—especially those who had
tramped in through the dusty sunshine from the outlying
country,—were returning to the flesh-pots. And yet, in spite
of the increasing crowd, all was clean, and remarkably orderly, and
sweet-looking,—and one could feel that it was Sunday still.
Black-robed priests, in a kind of glossy-black cocked hat and
buckled shoes, were flitting to and fro; and old people and
quiet-looking women were wending homeward with prayer-books in their
hands, and children by their sides, or timidly taking their seats at
the al fresco tables. Here and there some antique style
of dress,—especially of head-dress,—came wandering through the more
modern crowd, like a figure from some mediæval picture, which was
As we sat there, under the awning, there came lounging across
the square, a sturdy, brown-faced, simple-looking country lass, girt
about by her five stalwart brothers, all strong-built, hardy lads,
and as tanned as gipsies. It was evident, at a glance, that
they were the girl's brothers, and that they came from the green
country, and were workers in the land. That girl's head-dress
was the most singular thing of the kind I met with. It was a
kind of crown, of open, twisted, gilt wire, with large ornaments of
the same kind hanging below the ears. Nobody seemed to take
any notice of the thing but ourselves; but if that girl had appeared
in the open streets of Manchester, she would have been followed
about by thousands, as if she had been a barbarian queen.
Amongst other things that came by, there was a funeral,
reminding one, in the midst of the lively scene, that it is "all
change here,"—as they say at the railway stations. The coffin
was borne in a kind of hammock, slung by poles upon men's shoulders,
and was thickly strewn with flowers. A company of young people
walked in front of the body, with flowers in their hands, and as the
procession went slowly along the street, the mourners broke out, by
fits, into a low, plaintive song.
We spent the last two hours of our stay in Antwerp in the
square. At five o'clock in the afternoon we left the hotel to
catch the train to Cologne, just as the strains of a fiddle struck
up in front of one of the restaurants near the Cathedral.
THE chimes of
Antwerp softened upon the ear in silvery cadence as we rode away to
the station for Cologne. The sun was still high in the
heavens; there was not a breath of air stirring; and we were glad to
creep into the shade of the railway carriages, though they were as
hot as bakers' ovens.
The first place of importance on our route was the ancient
city of Malines, which is about fourteen miles beyond Antwerp; or,
as the guidebook vaguely says, "22 to 40 minutes,"—as if they were
not sure of the distance, and were very doubtful about the
punctuality of the trains. And I found it the same all through
our journey; the distances between place and place were not often
distinctly given, but generally indicated, in a slipshod way, by
time, as,—"Railway from Brussels to Louvain, in 2¼ to 3 hours."
It was a few minutes past five in the afternoon when we
rolled away from Antwerp into the green country beyond.
"Camomile" and Sam were in the next carriage, all alone, gazing
dreamily through the windows, and crooning—
"Heigh, Hal o' Nab's, an' Sam, an' Sue;
Heigh, Jonathan, art thou theer too?
We're o' alike,—there's nought to do;
So bring a quart afore-us."
And now began my first real peep at a foreign land. The
whole country between Antwerp and Malines was one fertile level of
well cultured land. The farm-houses were good, and well-built;
and everything connected with them seemed in good and orderly
condition. Again and again, as we travelled on, the country
reminded me of the rich plains of Middle England,—the same careful
farming, the same smiling fertility was visible everywhere.
Thick with towns and hamlets studded,
And with streams and vapours grey,
Like a shield embossed with silver,
Round and vast the landscape lay.
The peasants, too, hanging about the red-tiled farm-houses, or
lounging near the line, were hardy, and healthy-looking, and well
dressed; and although it was "good Sunday," as we say in England, I
saw a company of them practising archery in a field near the
Pleasant, and English-looking as the landscape was, there are
some things which, by their absence, continually reminded me that I
was not in my own land. In the first place, there were no fine
old trees in sight; the trees were all slim, and young. In the
second place, there were no song-birds; not one chirp of feathered
minstrelsy could I hear, aloft or aloes. In England, on such a
day, the lark would have been up in the dazzling sunshine, raining
his matchless carol down upon the listening world; and on every
hedge, and in every grove, from shady bush, and swinging bough, the
blended lyrics of wandering choirs would have rung out in fitful
bursts of unpremeditated glee, like " tipsy jollity, that reels with
tossing head." But all was silent in this wide green
landscape,—silent as a church when service is over. Another
thing which I noticed in the open country as we went along, was the
utter absence of green hedges. The beautiful old hedge-rows
and shady green lanes of England,—there is nothing of the same kind
in this Belgian land. How comes it that they are not here; and
how comes it that we have them in England? Probably they
originated in England, in the Saxon period,—when the land was
divided into small holdings,—before the great Norman lords came
swooping down upon the soil.
Forty minutes run along this great green level,—with here and
there a substantial farmstead; here and there a windmill; and here
and there the steeple of a village church, to break the fertile
sameness of the scene,—brought us to the town of Malines. . . . At
Malines, we are a quarter of a mile from the town; and, therefore we
see nothing of it,—not even the top of the tower of its famous
cathedral; although that is 320 feet high.
Malines is one of the most celebrated cathedral towns of
Belgium; it is a town of "broad and regular streets, handsome
squares, and fine buildings;" and yet it is a dull, sleepy place,
totally deserted by the trade, which gives life to most of the great
towns of Belgium. The allusion to Malines in the old monkish
rhyme, in which the place is spoken of as "Mechlinia stultis," or
"Malines for fools," was perhaps first suggested in 1551, when the
magistrates protested against the then projected canal from Antwerp
passing near the town; and were successful. The same policy
was pursued by the authorities of the place in the case of the canal
from to Louvain two centuries later; when again they succeeding in
impoverishing the place. And lastly, when the present railway
was constructed, the corporation refused to allow the station to be
built within the walls. "Mechlinia stultis," says the old
monkish rhyme; but, the same kind of folly is not wholly unknown in
practical England. However, I did not see Malines, and
therefore I shall say no more about it, except that it is a fine old
town, with a noble cathedral, "imposing, and worthy of its
archiepiscopal dignity," as the guidebook says; and that its
lace,—the famous Mechlin lace,—disputes the palm with the lace of
Brussels; and that its churches are adorned with many fine pictures,
the finest of which is an alter-piece by Van Dyck.
The guide-book warns travellers to beware of the changes at
this station, and well it may. It says, "the convenience of
those who have to change carriages is not much consulted here, as
the passenger frequently alights in the midst of a sea of rails, at
a considerable distance from the salle d'attente, and may
easily mistake the trains." And we found this to be quite
true. The shuntings, and the shoutings, and the sidings, and
the cross-lines, and the shiftings to and fro, were quite
bewildering; and we were not surprised to learn that the lines at
this station had proved "the ribs of death" to many a confused
Quaint old towns of toil and traffic,
Quaint old towns of art and song;
Memories haunt their pointed gables,
Like the rocks that round them throng.
AS we drew away
from the shade of Maline's station, the cathedral tower rose into
sight,—grey monarch of all the verdant plain; and we caught sight of
the outskirts of the old town, now shrunken within the circuit of
its ancient walls,—like the mouldy kernel of a shrivelled nut.
The landscape looked gloriously rich, as far as we could see in the
dazzling sunshine. Away we went, through the same wide,
smiling level of well-cultured, thinly-wooded land,—crossed, here
and there, with good roads, seemingly well travelled. Away we
went, past the same substantial farm-houses, and clustering
cottages, with their plots of orchard and garden about them; past
little nest-like villages, with their grey church towers peeping up
above the surrounding red-tiled roofs; and past little companies of
clean-looking, healthy, Sunday-clad peasants, lounging by the line,
or halting in their field-rambles to watch us go by. Our line
crossed the river Dyle; and for a distance of about two miles, it
ran hard by the Antwerp-Louvain Canal, upon which pleasure boats
were plying, filled with holiday folk. This fine canal is one
that the magistrates of Malines would not have near their sacred
rookery. The banks of the canal, as far as I saw it,—that is
about two miles,—were lined with tall trees.
Forty minutes run from Malines brought us to the ancient town
of Louvain,—"Louvain for learning," as the old monkish rhyme says.
Here again, the line only skirts the town, and we see very little of
the place beyond the railway station, and the raw-looking modern
utilities thereunto belonging. Louvain is not only famous for
learning; they now brew a peculiar kind of beer there, which is
highly esteemed by many of the Belgians,—but I understand that the
rest of the world doesn't think it nice. The name of Louvain
comes from Loo, a wooded height, and veen, a marsh.
It is a walled town of about 34,000 inhabitants; and there is now
within the walls,—"a world too wide for its shrunk shanks,"—a great
deal of arable land, which once was covered with people. In
the fourteenth century, when it was the capital of Brabant, and the
residence of the Dukes, it was a much more opulent and populous
place than now. Belgium was an industrial land in those days;
and its artizans were a bold, turbulent, and liberty-loving
people,—as their frequent insurrections sufficiently evinced.
But, even then, Louvain was one of the most flourishing seats of the
woollen trade in all the land; and it is said to have contained no
less than two thousand cloth manufactories,—which, when we think of
the cloth manufactories of to-day, one can hardly understand.
However, between the nobles, and the workmen, and their employers,
this healthy source of its ancient prosperity was fooled away for
ever; and the woollen trade of Louvain flitted to the West Riding of
Yorkshire, and other parts of the world,—to return no more.
The weavers of Louvain seem to have been as rough as the
roughest in Belgium; and, like their brethren of Ghent and Bruges,
they were exceedingly jealous of the nobles in their civic
administration. "During an insurrection in 1378, thirteen
magistrates of noble family were thrown from the window of the Hotel
de Ville, and received by the populace below on the points of their
spears." Such things as these inevitably bring reprisals,
sooner or later, as it was in this case. The power of the
nobles soon rose into dominance again; and their tyranny became such
that thousands of the workmen of Louvain emigrated to England,
where, wisely encouraged by the king, they gave rise to our cloth
manufactories in different parts of the kingdom. Since that
time Louvain has declined; and it is now a lifeless place, chiefly
famous for its ancient Town Hall,—"a very rich and beautiful example
of late Gothic architecture,"—said to surpass all the town halls of
Belgium in elegance and harmony of design, built in 1448-63; for its
fine old churches, rich in Flemish pictures; for its ancient Cloth
Hall, erected as a warehouse for the Cloth-makers' Guild, in 1317;
and its University, founded in 1426, which in the "sixteenth century
was reckoned the most famous in Europe,—hence the old proverb,
"Louvain for learning." The number of students, then, is said
to have been more than 6,000. It is now exclusively
ecclesiastical in character; and is attended by 1,000 students.
Another run of about thirty minutes brings us to the town of
Tirlemont, another decayed old place, of about 12,000 inhabitants,
left, now, like a poor fish, feebly flapping its tail upon a moist
bank, from which the sea has retired. Like Louvain, and many
other ancient towns of Belgium, it was a much more important place
centuries ago than it is now. Here, too, as in the case of
Louvain, the walls, nearly six miles in circuit, enclose a good deal
of arable land; and the inhabitants roll about within that wide
environment, like a handful of peas in a ten-gallon barrel.
Two or three minutes stay at Tirlemont, and on we go.
We now begin to leave the great green plain behind; and the
landscape becomes picturesquely undulant. A quarter of an hour
or so, and we are at the ancient village of Landen. On our way
from Tirlemont to Landen we cross the battle-plain of Neerwinden,
where the French, under Marshal Luxembourg, defeated William III.,
of England, in 1693; and where the French, under Dumouriez and Louis
Philippe (then General Egalité) were defeated by the
Austrians and driven out of Belgium. The whole country here,
stretching far away on both sides of the line, is sprinkled with
names that remind one of battle and bloodshed,—Maestricht, Liége,
Namur, Wavre, Brussels, Waterloo, and many others, of like memory.
In all directions, the land has been trampled by contending hosts,
and steeped in the red rain of war, for centuries gone by.
Landen is historically interesting as the birth-place of
Pepin, the major-domo of the royal domains of the Frankish king,
Clotaire II. Pepin lies buried at the foot of a hill which yet
bears his name. His fifth lineal descendant was,—Charlemagne.
Leaving Landen, village after village flits by,—with their
red tiles, and orchards, and gardens,—and the hues of the smiling
rural landscape deepen in beauty as the sun declines. About
thirty minutes' run, and we are at Ans, —where the aspect of the
scene changes considerably. Here we seem suddenly to leave
rural life behind, and enter upon a land of industrial
enterprise,—coal mines, foundries, machine-shops, and manufactories
of different kinds,—and shale, and cinders, and sooty rubbish lie
about, here and there, reminding one of the iron districts of
Ans is 490 feet above the city of Liége, of which place it
may almost be called a suburb. We are now in the country of
the Walloons,—a people of Celtic origin,—who are still reckoned a
distinct race among the surrounding Belgians. From Ans the
line descends a steep incline, affording a fine view of the famous
city of Liége,—which lies all under the eye,—and of the beautiful
valley of the Meuse, all thronged with life and business.
Of Liége, where we called on our return journey, I shall
something further on. We had some time to wait at the station;
and we were glad to leave the hot carriages, and stretch our legs a
little. "Camomile" and Sam, too, got out from their carriage,
with three others who had been their companions on the way.
The three latter were evidently native Belgians and as they walked
away, one of the three was still talking and gesticulating in an
excited manner. "Camomile" and Sam stood together, quietly
watching the three Belgians as they left the platform.
"Yon's a jumped-up camplin' whelp o' somebry's," said
"He's raither fast-gaited, for sure," replied Sam.
"He's an ill-contrive't pousement, an' nought else,"
"Who is he?" said Sam.
"Nay, I know nought who he is, now what he is, nor where he
comes fro',— nor where he's gooin' to; but,—if I've ony skill o'
butcher's meight,—he's a boilin'-piece, an' noan so fresh, noather.
If he'd said hauve as mich to me as he's said to yon chap i'th blue
shirt, I'd ha' set him one on,—an' I towd him so."
"Why, what did he say?"
"Nay; I know nought what it wur about; but I never yerd a bit
o' feawer talk slatter't off the edge of a mortal lip nor yon
craitur coom out wi'!"
"He wur raither peeort, for sure."
"Peeort! He'll ha' to come to his cake an' milk afore
aught's long,—as who lives to see it,—mark my words!"
"He wants takkin' down a peg or two."
"Takkin' down! I could like th' job! . . . I towd him
that he'd no business to come away fro whoam bi his-sel'. . . .
Here; come wi' me. I could like to have a bit of a do wi' yon
chap. He snapped at me once or twice when we were i'th railway
IT was about an
hour past sunset when, with eyes riveted upon the landscape before
us, we left the Station des Guillemins, at Liége, on our way
The sky was cloudless, and the air was clear. Twilight
was beginning to "remove from sight day's mutable distinctions,"
and, as its mystic influence deepened upon the scene, a strange
spell of beauty stole over the ancient city of Liége, and the lovely
valley in which it lies, folded from view all round by the green
historic hills. The rising moon, too, had begun to tinge the
declining light with her romantic radiance, as we rolled away into
the country where the renown of Charlemagne lingers like a charm
upon every hill and dale.
It took us nearly two hours to reach Herbestal, the first
station upon the Prussian frontier,—but those two hours were
delightfully spent; for the whole country between Liege and that
place is remarkable for its picturesque beauty, its ever-varying
charms of hill and dale, and wood and water,—its prosperous
villages, and busy manufactories,—its pleasant modern mansions, and
its ancient castles, and churches, and places of great historic
interest. As we rolled along in the moonlight, I felt, again
and again, as if I might have been riding through Derbyshire, upon
the Midland route. The line frequently crosses a picturesque
winding stream, called the Vesdre; and, here and there, on each side
of our way, its moonlit waters gleamed up far till lost in the
receding shades of beautiful little wooded glens. I do not
wonder that Baedeker says, "This is the most beautiful part of the
journey between England and Germany, and should, if possible, be
performed by daylight."
On our way to the Prussian frontier, we passed several places
of interest, of which, of course, we caught no more than moonlight
glimpses as we flew by, or when we lingered a few minutes at the
station. The first of these was Chaufontaine, a beautiful
little watering place, much frequented by the citizens of Liége.
The next station is Pepinster, or "Pepin's terra," "the country of
Pepin," the famous ancestor of the still more famous Charlemagne.
Leaving this, we passed by a little town, or village, hard by the
line, where every window was illuminated, in celebration of some
festival of the church. Our next halting-place was the town of
Verviers. This was the last station on the Belgian side.
Verviers is a busy place, of about 33,312 inhabitants. It is
entirely of modern origin; and it consists almost entirely of
extensive cloth manufactories and their dependencies. Upwards
of 350,000 pieces are annually manufactured here; and the uniforms
of the Belgian army are made of cloth manufactured in this
town,—whose active prosperity seems to revive something of the
ancient fame of Belgium as a cloth country.
Beyond Verviers, the train runs through seven tunnels, and
crosses several bridges, in a short distance. And now, in the
strong moonlight, we flitted along, through a country rich in
historic romance; and the picturesque features of the scene,—though
only caught in flying glimpses,—kept us awake all the way.
Dolbain is a village, picturesquely situated in the valley of
the Vesdre, in full view from the line. On the height above
Dolbain stands the Castle of Limburg, the ancestral seat of the
ancient ducal family of Limburg, "from which the Counts of
Luxembourg, and the German Emperors Henry VII., Charles IV.,
Wenceslaus, and Sigismund were descended. The castle belonged
to the ancient capital of the fertile Duchy of Limburg, of which but
few traces now remain. The city possessed a cathedral and five
other churches,, and occupied the entire breadth of the valley of
Dolbain." Such was the ancient city of Limburg. But,
"wild war's deadly blast" swept over the populous valley, and
Limburg has now almost entirely disappeared. "In 1288 it was
sacked by Duke John I. of Brabant, after the battle of Worringen; it
was subsequently captured and pillaged, at different periods, by the
Dutch, the Spaniards, and the French; and was at length entirely
destroyed by Louis the Fourteenth, in 1675." The moon shines
now, on its ruined fortifications; but nature has taken back most of
the site of the ancient city into her arms again.
A few minutes' run from this spot brings us to Herbestal,—
the first station beyond the frontier. Here the Prussian blue
rises up before us like a wall, and we are entering upon a land
where all the world seems to be in training for war. We are
detained at this station by the custom-house formalities; but the
authorities are very civil and not very inquisitive; and there is a
rough sort of a refreshment room, half filled with soldiers, where
we get a draught of Bavarian beer, whilst the luggage is being
examined. At this place, too, I met with a rough-looking
fellow who was as drunk as an Englishman. We had prevented him
leaping from the carriage, when the train began to slacken on its
approach to Herbestal,—for which service he rewarded us with a burst
of impassioned eloquence, in an unknown tongue. At the station
he was walked off by a file of soldiers, because he couldn't find
his ticket. He bade us farewell with gleaming eyes.
Leaving Herbestal, we pass Assenet, Troutzen, and the castle
of Walkenhausen,—we cross the valley of the Geul, by a fine viaduct
128 feet high,—we rush out of the moonlight into a tunnel about 600
feet long; and after that into another tunnel, nearly three times as
long; and finally, as we descend an incline, the ancient city of
Aix-la-Chapelle lies all before us, under the bright moonlight, in a
fertile valley, surrounded by gently-sloping hills. We gaze
eagerly upon the long lines of lighted streets, and the moonlit
towers of this famous city,—the Aquisgranum of the Romans;
the favourite residence of Charlemagne,—his birth-place; and the
place of his burial. By him, Aix-la-Chapelle was elevated to
the rank of the second city in the empire, and the capital of his
dominions north of the Alps. From his death down to the
accession of Ferdinand I., in 1531, it was the scene of the
coronation of all the German Emperors, thirty-seven in number,—and
was called, par excellence, the Free City of the Holy Roman
Empire, and seat of Royalty. The insignia of empire were
preserved here till 1793, when they were transferred to the Imperial
treasury at Vienna.
From the windows of our carriage we were gazing down upon the
far-stretching lights of the venerable imperial city, and regretting
that we could not linger there a little while, when "Camomile"
looked in, and cried out,—"Heigh! I say! Isn't this
Axley Chapel?" We gave him the name; whereupon, turning round
to his friend Sam, he said, "Now, then; didn't I tell tho!"
From Aix-la-Chapelle to Cologne the line passes through a
country which, though picturesque in natural features, is now
chiefly remarkable for its valuable mines of zinc, lead, silver, and
coal; and for its large foundries and other manufactories. The
whole country, and every little busy town we passed in the
moonlight, reminded me of manufacturing England; and as we
approached the manufacturing town of Duren, the ironworks, close by
the railway, reminded me very strongly of the great ironworks upon
the line between Manchester and Bolton.
It was nearly midnight when we reached the stately old city
of Cologne, where we took up our quarters at the Hotel du Nord, near
The Dome, the Dome of Cologne!
Antique, unique, sublime,
Rare monument from the Elder Time,
Begun so long agone,
Yet never finished, though wrought at oft—
Yonder it soars alone—
Blending the weird, and stern, and soft—
The Cathedral-dome of Cologne.—RÜCKERT.
THE Rhine at
It was midnight when, wearied with our long, hot, exciting
journey, we arrived at Cologne, on the left bank of the grand old
German Rhine! The moonlight, shining fitfully through
straggling clouds, fell with weird effect upon the grey towers, and
amongst the antique houses, as we stepped out from the station; and,
as we made our way through the quaint streets of the sleeping town,
the whole thing was like a mediæval dream.
We took up our quarters at the Hotel du Nord; and there, hard
by the famous Cathedral, within a stone's throw of the Rhine, and
surrounded by the moonlit wonders of stately old "Cologne of the
Three Kings," we slept without rocking, under the protection of St.
Gregory and St. Gereon, the patron saints of the city, and near the
sacred relics of English St. Ursula and her eleven thousand martyred
virgins. Although impressed with a sense of the historic fame
of the spot we were upon, we climbed the wide staircase of the hotel
slowly and with weary eyes that night. Everything we saw was
handsome, and clean, and in good order; and, on our way along the
lobby, I saw printed cards, here and there against the wall,—"Wagen
im Gasthofe" and "Kalte u. warme Bäder." In our bedrooms,
however, we found, as usual, that there was neither soap nor
candles; and we had to ring and give a special order for these
luxuries. With this exception, all else was very good and very
clean; and one excellent thing was that in every bedroom a card of
the tariff at the hotel was hung up.
The Hotel du Nord is a handsome pile of buildings,
quadrangular in form, the central court of which is occupied by
gardens and green-bordered walks, amongst which there are two pretty
fountains,--a cool, quiet, and altogether delightful retreat from
the glaring sun outside, or from the bustle of the hotel. This
central garden looked beautiful in the moonlight, seen from the
windows of our bedrooms that night. The night was sultry
again; and throwing open the folding windows, I fell sound asleep,
lulled by the tinkling fountains in the court below.
The next morning was Whit-Monday,—a great festival of the
Catholic Church. The principal theme of our conversation at
breakfast was the glorious old Cathedral, which was not more than
five hundred yards from the room in which we were sitting. We
found that grand high mass was to be celebrated in the Cathedral
that forenoon by the Archbishop and a crowd of attendant clergy,
with all the pomp of the Roman Catholic ritual.
After breakfast, we sallied forth into the fresh, sunny
morning; and there, at the head of our street, upon a gentle
eminence, looking down upon the broad Rhine, and all round upon the
ancient city, the far-famed "Dom," or Cathedral of Cologne, stood
before us. I have seen almost all the cathedrals of England,
and certainly the finest of them, but this is the grandest pile I
ever beheld, and I do not wonder that it is reckoned as "probably
the most magnificent Gothic edifice in the world." In the
ninth century an episcopal church occupied the site of this noble
fane. The present Cathedral was founded in 1248, by Conrad, of
Hochenstaden. Snowe, in his "Legends of the Rhine," says of
it, "Sorrow seizes the heart of every spectator who looks upon that
unfinished, but still glorious structure, the Cathedral of Cologne.
It is only a fragment; but it is such a fragment as the strength and
intellect of the Titans of old might have reared for their primeval
worship. [Note] There are many stories
told of its origin and progress; but the fact of the architect's
name who planned it being altogether unknown, and even the
circumstance of its remaining unfinished through a long series of
superstitious ages, are as singular and strange as anything said of
it in fiction."
It wanted an hour to service-time; and we hovered about that
marvellous Cathedral of Cologne, as if spell-bound by its solemn and
majestic beauty. Retreating, again and again, so as to take in
all the glorious sight before us, we hovered about the front of the
west façade—with its huge towers, its vast central window, and its
grand portal,—spelling out the features of ancient saints and kings,
and watching the dawn and ravens, as they flitted noisily about the
richly-sculptured pile, or perched here and there upon the brows of
time-worn apostles. In the meantime all Cologne seemed to be
slowly streaming in at the entrance doors; and that venerable temple
seemed as if it could hold all Cologne. The dimensions of the
building may give the reader some idea of its importance as a mass;
but nothing, except itself, can tell its beauty. Its length is
511 feet—which is the intended height of the towers, when finished;
its breadth is 235 feet; its walls are 150 feet high; and the height
of the roof is 201 feet. Its numerous shrines and chapels are
singularly rich in gold, and silver, and all kinds of precious
jewels; and they abound in holy relics, and in the bones of kings,
and saints, and emperors of the olden time. Amongst these is
the celebrated shrine in which are preserved the bones of "The
Magi," or "Three Kings." The treasures of this shrine are said
to be worth six millions of francs. Behind this shrine lies
buried the heart of Mary of Medicis. But there is no room here
to speak of the antique wonders of this famous church, the design of
which has never yet been wrought out. Upon the unfinished
southern tower, an immense crane, which had stood there for four
hundred years, was removed in 1868; and it seems that there is now
some hope of the completion of the building. At last, its hour
of glory is nigh!
Build it high as the sapphire sky!
As noonlight never hath shone
On Temple of such a magnificent
Ideal, from zone to zone,
So, aid its ascent
To the sapphire blue of the
The Cathedral-dome of Cologne!
As the time drew near for the beginning of the service, the
crowds at the entrances increased; and we went in, expecting to find
a crush; but, in spite of the immense number present, there was
still ample space in that vast nave, the pavement of which was worn
into hollows by the footing of many generations of devotees.
The area of the interior is 7,399 square yards. The great
choir was already filled with a standing crowd. We took up our
station in the nave; and the scene before us was singularly
impressive. We were far away from the high altar; and, only
now and then, between the heads of the intervening crowd, could we
catch a glimpse of the officiating priests; but the clouds of
incense, the chanting of the priests, the tinkling of silver bells,
and the grand bursts of sacred music from the choir in the transept
deepened the effect of that imposing scene. In the stillness
which immediately preceded the commencement of the service, I had
time to notice the grand, honest, hardy, German faces, as they came
surging in at the doors; but, amongst them all, the most striking
was one little compact company of nine persons,—dusty, wayworn,
simple country pilgrims, who had been travelling since break of
day—they were evidently all of one family, father, mother, sister,
and six brothers, all embrowned with farm labour. They came
trailing shyly into the church like so many Chaldean shepherds; and
when they came to the centre of the spacious nave, in front of the
distant altar, they dropt at once upon their knees in attitudes of
profound devotion. In spite of all prejudices, that kneeling
group was a touching sight.
At the close of the service, whilst we were lingering again
before the west front of the Cathedral, the Archbishop and his
attendants came forth at the grand portal; and, as they crossed the
sunlit square, the simple folk in his way dropt down upon their
knees, and received his blessing as he hurried by. After this
we chartered an open conveyance, and rode about the quaint streets
for nearly two hours. It was a festival of the Church; and
everywhere we found the people making holiday. Many of the
streets were strewn with greenery,—chiefly small branches of pine,
and in all directions, as we went slowly along between the winding
lines of ancient houses, we met with banners, and shrines, and
relics, and candles ready for illumination when night came on.
We visited some of the most remarkable of the city's ancient
churches; and whether it was the singular fineness of the weather,
or that our route led through the sweetest parts of the city, we
certainly found Cologne as clean as it was singularly quaint,—in
spite of its reputation as the home of a villainous congregation of
About five in the afternoon we were on board the steamer
bound up the Rhine from Cologne to Mayence.
Note: Since the time of my trip "Up the
Rhine," the Cathedral of Cologne has been completed under the
auspices of William, Emperor of Germany.—E. W.
By the Rhine, by the Rhine, dwell not by
My son, I counsel thee fair;
Too beauteous will be that life of thine,
Too lofty thy courage there.
The glamour of sight and of sound will combine,
Till with shudd'ring delight thou shalt burn;
Thou'lt sing of thy home "By the Rhine, by the Rhine!"
To thine own thou wilt never return.
BEWARE OF THE
THE glowing day was
far spent when we turned our backs upon grey Cologne of the Three
Kings, with its regal memories of old Rome; its wild legends of the
middle ages; its knights, and its saints, and its scents, and its
grand old churches; the camp of Marcus Agrippa; the city whose
streets have resounded the tramp of Trajan's legions; the city where
Vitellius and Sylvanus were proclaimed emperors, and where the
latter met his death. There it stands,—the hoary relic, so
quaint and stately,—two thousand years old,—reminding us strongly of
the worst and the best in times gone by.
A few minutes' walk, in and out, between the antique houses,
brought us to the river side, where we stepped on board the "King
William," bound for Mayence, more than a hundred miles up the
stream. We were afloat, at last, on the broad bosom of the
Rhine; and, as the steamer churned away through the sunlit waters,
the towers of Cologne rose more and more proudly into sight.
The evening was grandly sunny and still. The great river came
down by the city in majestic flow; and our progress against the
current was slow.
For the first twenty miles the Rhine winds in and out between
low, sandy banks and wide green plains, with, here and there, an
ancient village clinging lovingly to the water side. With the
exception of these old village clusters, the appearance of the
country in this first twenty miles, as seen from the steamer,
reminds one of the banks of the Humber, between the mouth of the
river Ouse and Hull. It presents scarcely any of those
features which have made "the haunted regions of the Rhine" so
famous in song and story,—save where some mouldering tower, upon the
bank of the stream, peers up from the antique dwellings that nestle
around it, and carries the mind away into the realms of romance.
Of course we were prepared for the comparative tameness of this
first twenty miles; and yet we were intensely interested in all
around; for we felt that we were in a charmed land,—we were upon the
legendary Rhine,—the darling river of the old Teuton race,—one of
the most romantic streams in all the world, both in its natural
features, and in its history; and, as we paced the deck of the "King
William," all eye and ear, we gazed ahead, now and then, to catch a
glimpse of the famous "Seven Mountains."
On we went, up the famous stream, gliding slowly by one
little grey town after another, close by the water, or peeping up
from the green level beyond,—Rodenkirchen, Westhofen, Porz, Lulsdorf,
Neider Cassel, and Rheid,—where the light green of the young vine
leaf was beginning to gladden all the land,—on we went, passing,
here, a great raft of timber on its way seaward, there, the mouth of
a tributary river, and there, a quiet green island, till we came in
sight of the ancient city of Bonn,—now chiefly famous for its
University, established by the King of Prussia in 1818. Bonn,
like many other of these ancient settlements on the banks of the
Rhine, owes its origin to the Romans,—who have left the print of
their martial feet all over this romantic region. The city
lies upon the right bank of the river, as we go up. We could
see into its old-fashioned streets as we went by; and what we saw
made us regret that we could not linger there awhile.
Bonn was one of the first fortresses built by the Romans upon
the Rhine. It is mentioned by Tacitus as "Castra Bonnensia;"
and was the spot where Claudius Civilis, the rebel leader of the
Batavi, was defeated by the Romans, A.D. 70. About the middle
of the fourth century it was destroyed by the Alemanni. In
1268, the Electors of Cologne removed their court to Bonn from
Cologne, the citizens of which had expelled them. This shows
that, before that time, Bonn had again become a place of great
importance. After that, the ancient city suffered its share,
age after age, from the contending hosts which over-ran that part of
Europe with restless war.
Bonn is full of interest for the archæologist and the
historian. Its chief buildings are the University,—a "huge
building nearly a quarter of a mile long,"—and the Minster, a fine
building, surmounted by five towers, the tops of which are visible
from the deck of the steamer, as we ascend the Rhine. From
Bonn upwards, for a hundred miles, every step we go leads us farther
into a paradise of the senses,—a perfect dreamland of historic
romance,—a land crowded with the recollections of famous races of
men and of great events, century after century, backward into the
prehistoric time, where imagination wanders in the mist,—a land
where the rambling vine clothes every hill-side with richness and
with beauty; where every mountain-top and every wild crag is crowned
with hoary memorials of the past and where "the shapes, and sounds,
and shifting elements" of nature lend their aid to deepen the
grandeur that dwells upon the scene.
As we ascend the Rhine from Bonn, river after river leaps
down through shady receding glens to feed the mighty stream; tower
after tower, spire after spire, flit by, mouldering and ivy-clad;
one ancient city after another clustering thick upon the water-side;
wild mountain steeps, "hung with the bushes of the bending vine;"
and craggy peaks, crested with ragged ruins of feudal power; green
islands, sleeping in the midst of the rushing river; and little grey
villages, bulging and decrepit, and laving their aged feet in the
water,—such sights as these flit by in quick succession as we go;
and we feel that we are trailing our way through the ancient records
of mankind in their most interesting form and that the whole romance
of the far-stretching land seems to have crowded to the banks of
this famous stream, as if drawn thither by an irresistible spell.
Long before we reached Bonn, the "Seven Mountains" had begun
to sail into sight. My first view of them did not impress me
so much as their renown had led me to expect. They,—or rather,
the foremost of them,—stand upon the left bank, as we ascend the
river; about five miles above the city of Bonn. With this
group of mountains the characteristic glories of the Rhine scenery
commence; the most romantic part of the river being between these
mountains and the old town of Bingen, about a hundred miles up the
stream. The highest of the "Seven Mountains" is Delberg, which
is 1,532 feet; but the most interesting, and the most striking, in
appearance and position, is the famous Drachenfels, or "Dragon
Rock"—Byron's "castled crag of Drachenfels,"—whose precipitous rocks
rise boldly from the water side; and whose wild peaks are crested
with the ragged ruins of some robber's nest of the middle ages.
There is a world of romance connected with the "Seven Mountains,"
and with Rolandseck, on the opposite side of the stream. Upon
the Drachenfels is the ancient quarry called "Dombruch," from which
the stones were originally taken to build the Cathedral of Cologne,
there, too, is shown the Cave of the Dragon, from whence comes its
name, "The Dragon Rock,"—the dragon killed by the "horned
Siegfried," the hero of the Niebelungen lay,—who, having bathed
himself in its blood, became invulnerable. The "Dragon's Cave"
is clearly visible from the Rhine, about half-way up, among the
vineyards; and the wine yielded by these craggy slopes is known by
the name of Drachenblut, or Dragon's blood. And
The castled crag of Drachenfels
Frowns o'er the wide and winding Rhine.
I can easily believe that he who wishes to see the "Seven Mountains"
well, must wander a while amongst their solitary intervening
valleys; he must climb their vine-clad steeps, and muse among their
lonely ruins in all tempers of sun and shade; and, lastly, he must
see them from the craggy top of the Drachenfels, which commands one
of the finest views upon all the Rhine—
Whose breast of water broadly swells
Between the banks which bear the vine;
And hills all rich with blossom'd trees,
And fields which promise corn and wine,
And scattered cities crowning these,
Whose far white walls among them shine.
The tops of these mountains are all, more or less, crowned with the
ruins of the ancient castles of the Archbishops of Cologne, or with
the ruins of monastic establishments. Amongst the woods upon
the wild peak of Lowenburg, there still remain extensive ruins of an
ancient castle, "which was once the scene of the conferences of
Hermann, Elector of Cologne and Count of Wied, with the reformers
Melanchthon and Bucer, before he became a convert to Protestantism
in 1541. Here, too, in the troublous times of 1583, Elector
Gebhard resided with his wife, the beautiful Countess Agnes von
Mansfeld, whom he had abducted from the convent of Gerresheim."
Upon the bank of the river, opposite the Drachenfels, the
wild ruins of Rolandseck occupy the craggy peak of a basaltic rock,
347 feet above the level of the Rhine. The castle of
Rolandseck is said to have been built by Roland, peer of France and
paladin of Charlemagne, who fell at the battle of Roncesvalles.
On a beautiful island in front of Rolandseck, called
Rolandswerth or Nonnenswerth, half-shrouded from sight by trees,
stands an extensive nunnery, of ancient origin. This part of
the Rhine,—with the Drachenfels on one bank, and Rolandseck upon the
other, and with the beautiful monastic island of Rolandswerth in the
stream between,—is a rare combination of wild natural beauty, and of
romantic interest. The ruin of Rolandseck receives its name
from a tradition that Roland, the famous nephew of Charlemagne,
chose this spot, because it commanded a view of the island convent,
"within whose walls his betrothed bride had taken the veil upon
hearing a false report of his having fallen at Roncesvalles."
He lived there a lonely hermit, for many years, according to the
legend, which is said to have suggested Schiller's beautiful ballad,
"The Knight of Toggenburg:"—
He reared a lowly building,
Where still the traveller sees
The grey walls of that cloister
Peep from the linden trees;
And there, from dawn of morning,
Till evening's starlight shone,
With naught but hope to cheer him,
The watcher sat alone.
And ever to the cloister
He turned a wistful eye,
Till from her lattice gazing,
The form he loved came nigh.
Until with gaze enchanted,
Her image he would hail;
Angel, mild, and bending
Meekly to the veil.
And there one morn they found him,
With eye all glazed and chill;
But his lifeless glance was resting
Upon that lattice still.
On the sparkling Rhine
We bounded, and the white waves round the prow
In murmurs parted; varying as we go,
Lo! the woods open and the rocks retire.
Some ancient convent's walls, or glistening spire
'Mid the bright landscape's tract unfolding slow.
Here, dark with furrowed aspect, like despair,
Hangs the bleak cliff; there, on the woodland's side,
The shadowy sunshine pours its streaming tide;
Whilst Hope, enchanted with a scene so fair;
Would wish to linger many a summer's day,
Nor heeds how fast the prospect winds away.
OUR view of the
Seven Mountains, as we went up the river from Cologne, was not so
striking as was the retrospect when we were leaving them behind,—so
much depends upon position, and upon the state of the atmosphere,
and upon all those things which make up what painters call "effect."
Looking back from the deck of the steamer, the Drachenfels,—which is
the foremost of the Seven Mountains, rising almost sheer from the
river side,—came into full view, from its base to the topmost
storm-worn stone of the shattered fortress upon its summit.
The evening was beautifully clear and calm. We could
distinctly see a company of holiday folk wandering in and out among
the ruined walls that crest the crag. From our point of view
the precipitous scar below the ruin was a fearful steep to look
For four or five miles after passing the Drachenfels, the
scene we were leaving behind grew more and more beautiful. On
one side of the river was the lofty wooded rock of Rolandseck,
peaked with its shattered tower,—the lordless home of the bold
Roland, "who fought at Roncesvalles" a thousand years ago; on the
opposite side, the craggy steep of the Drachenfels, with its
castellated ruin jutting into the sky, and behind this, the entire
range of the Seven Mountains, peak after peak, each differing in
height and form from the rest,—each bearing its own ruined memorials
of ages long gone by,—and each the home of some special historic
legend,—these were all more or less in sight now, tipped, here and
there, with the glory of the setting sun. Below these, and now
sinking into the soft shade of approaching twilight, the grand old
solemn Rhine came silently down between Rolandseck and the wild
steep of the Drachenfels; and there, in the midst of the river, lay
sleeping the haunted convent isle of Nonnenwerth, —a little
umbrageous paradise, shut out from the rest of the world by the
wizard stream, and the storied mountains that gather around.
These were all in sight at once; and they made up a picture from
which we were taken away too soon. We had now fairly entered
upon the characteristic glories of the Rhine, where
Frequent feudal towers
Through green leaves lift their walls of gray
And many a rock which steeply lowers,
And noble arch in proud decay,
Look o'er the vale of vintage-bowers.
Our "silent highway" led through an enchanted land,—through scenery
of wild natural beauty, and of the most romantic historic interest.
The river nobly foams and flows,
The charm of this enchanted ground,
And all its thousand turns disclose
Some fresher beauty varying round.
The tender green of the young vine-leaf was beginning to
gladden the rugged slopes on all sides; and there was a holiday tone
about every spot in which the life of man clustered on the banks of
the mighty stream. As we passed the village of Rhonsdorf, the
signs of holiday were visible among its quaint houses; and amongst
our passengers upon the steamer there were several brown-faced
country folk wandering about with wreaths of ivy upon their hats.
They were making holiday, too,—for it was Whit-Monday; and yet, with
all this holiday-making, wherever we went, from Cologne up to
Mayence, we met with no drunkenness; which made one think a little
about Whit-Monday in England,—Whit-Monday in Manchester,—at Knott
Mill,—at Belle Vue,—and elsewhere.
On we went, "with our beards upon our shoulders," as the
Spanish proverb says,—on we went, still looking back to the
beautiful scene that we were leaving. On we went till the
spires of Unkel, rising upon the left bank of the river, drew our
attention ahead. Opposite to Unkel, upon the right bank,
stretched "those wondrous basaltic columns which extend to the
middle of the river, and when the Rhine runs low you may see them
like an engulphed city beneath the waves."
We have hardly-passed Unkel before a bold curve in the river
brings us in sight of Remagen, grey old Remagen,—a venerable-looking
little town, close by the water side. It is more than likely
that, before the time of the Roman occupation, the Teuton race had a
fortified settlement on that spot; but, apart from that, Remagen is
the Roman Rigomagus. A milestone bearing the date 162, found
in 1763, records that the Roman road which formerly passed here was
begun under the Emperors M. Aurelius and L. Verus.
We never lost sight of the ruin-crested mountains on our way
from Cologne to Mayence; we no sooner leave one ancient town or
village behind, than another is in sight; and we feel, all the way,
that the most famous races of mankind have contended for mastery
upon ancient town of Remagen stands the village of Erpel, near the
shores of this mighty stream. Almost opposite to the which
rises the "Erpeler Lei," an immense basaltic cliff, 642 feet
high. The quarries of this cliff find employment for a great
number of barges upon the Rhine,—some of which we met descending the
On we went, all eye for the continually-changing features of
the scenery, passing Kasbach and Linzerhausen, over-frowned by the
grey ruin of Ockenfels, till we came to the old town of Linz,—which
formerly belonged to the Electorate of Cologne. Linz is still
"a walled town." "The environs of Linz yield good red
wine, and during the vintage, the little town is a busy scene." So
says the chronicle. And I can believe it, for it lies in the
heart of a paradise; and it looked a quaint and pleasant rural nest,
seen from the deck of our steamer in passing.
Near Linz we met with immense rafts, heavily laden with
timber, slowly descending the stream. Wooden houses were
built, here and there, upon these rafts as substantial as if they
were intended to last for a lifetime. Upon these rafts, too,
women were hanging clothes upon lines to dry; culinary utensils lay
about the doors of the wooden houses; and, here and there, men were
at play, or lying about, at full length, smoking. It was a
The day was stilling down. We could see the white
hawthorn blossoms, here and there, upon the banks of the river, and
the nightingale's song rose loud and clear in the quiet air, from
the woods on all sides. Although the wild mountain tops still
reflected the lingering splendour of the sunken sun, all below was
sinking into shade. The grey gloaming was drawing his soft
veil over the scene; the mysterious hush of night was stealing on;
and the fine glamour of the hour deepened around us, as we laboured
up the weird Rhine, between storied mountains with ruins crowned,
and passing one sleepy old town after another, all softly draped in
the mystic evening shade, till we came to Hammerstein.
Burg-Hammerstein, or Ober-Hammerstein, is an ancient village,
close by the river side, upon the left bank. Near the village
rises a massive rock, upon whose summit stand the wild ruins of
Hammerstein, dreaming of the proud days of its past strength, when
the banners of the Spaniard and the Swede alternately waved from its
walls; and when its halls and courts resounded the tread of warriors
who fought for and against the great Wallenstein, in the Thirty
Hammerstein, whose two towers still rise proudly from its
massive ruins, has been the home of emperors centuries ago. At
Hammerstein the Emperor Henry IV, resided for some time when
persecuted by his son, Henry V., and here he kept the imperial
insignia till their removal by his usurping successor. During
the Thirty Years' War the castle was successively occupied by
Swedes, Spaniards, troops of Cologne, and troops of Lorraine; and
was finally demolished in 1660. For the last two centuries it
has been a roofless ruin,—the home of the raven and the owl,—open to
the winds and rain,— a proud relic of the times gone by, still
mouldering gloomily grand, like a stranded wreck upon the mighty
Opposite to Hammerstein, as we ploughed our way upward in the
dusky shade, still attended by the nightingale's song, which rose
loud and clear from the green woods, first on one side, then on the
other, in liquid fits of respondent melody, we could see the wooded
villages of Namedy and Fornich, where lights were now beginning to
glimmer, here and there, through the shrouding trees. Behind
these in still more dreamy shade, rose the dark rock of Kreuzborner
Ley, and the wild mountains that overlook romantic Brohl.
From Hammerstein we glided on, in the deepening twilight,
passing village after village, and raft after raft, till a sudden
bend of the river brought us in sight of the lights of grey
Andernach,—the oldest town upon the Rhine.
Old castles rear their haughty crest,
Still grimly proud in life's decline,
And purple vineyards kiss the breast
Of the deep-rolling, mighty Rhine.
THE lights of
Andernach were glimmering dimly ahead, on the right bank of the
river, and the scene behind us was gliding into shade. As we
ploughed our way upward in the deepening twilight, between vine-clad
slopes with hoary ruins crowned, the last tinge of evening's
after-glow died out upon the solemn stream, and all the world seemed
stilling down to rest. The scent of flowers and the fitful
song of the nightingale filled all the air from shore to shore; and
when we glanced back at the imperial ruin where
High in his halls embattled sat Wolf of
Like eagle in his eyrie at sunlight's dim decline—
the wild pile looked grander than ever in the shrouding shade.
By the time we had reached Andernach night was upon us.
The moon was rising, and here and there in the chequered sky a patch
of stars twinkled, like golden dew-drops on little fields of blue,
between the flying clouds. Except the nightingale, whose
liquid warble rose, loud and clear, now here, now there, from the
woods ashore, all living things seemed to have sunk to rest; and now
the river seemed to begin its ancient night song to the dusky hours,
"imposing silence with a stilly sound." "By the straggling
moonbeams' misty light" we caught a glimpse of Andernach in passing;
grey Andernach, which is reckoned "the oldest town upon the Rhine."
Andernach again awakes the memories of ancient Roman rule.
It was called by the Romans Antonacum, and originated in one of the
camps of Drusus. It is chiefly famous for its excellent
millstones; and these millstones must have been known to the Romans,
for several of them have been turned up amongst the Roman ruins in
Britain; and they were called "Rhenish millstones" by Latin authors.
We saw little of Andernach in passing, except that it was a quaint
little town, with a curious old watch-tower standing close by the
Pursuing our way, we pass the town of Neuwied, with its
industrious community of Moravian Brothers, whose grave manners and
simple life have gained for them the name of "The Quakers of
Germany,"—we pass Wessenthorne, or "White Tower,"—so called from the
watch-tower built there by the Electors of Treves, to mark the
boundary of their domains,—we pass Engers, a little village as old
as the time of the Roman occupation,—we pass Mulhofen, a village at
the mouth of the river Sayn, a romantic stream, which empties itself
into the Rhine at this point,—we pass Bendorf, and Vallender, and
the island village of Niederworth, with its ancient convent where
our own Edward III. sojourned for some time, and where he was
visited by the Emperor Louis and other princes,—we pass the villages
of Mallendar and Wallersheim, chiefly inhabited by raftsmen, and
where small rafts descending the stream halt to be made larger;—one
after another, these flit by, half-seen by the fitful light of the
moon; and now we draw near to the famous castle of Ehrenbreitstein,
crowning a huge rocky precipice, opposite to the junction of the
Rhine and the Moselle; and on the opposite side to Ehrenbreitstein
the lights of the city of Coblentz are glittering before us.
Our way leads under the shade of the fortified steep of "The
Gibraltar of the Rhine;" and, gazing upwards, in the dusk from the
deck of the steamer, we see nothing of Ehrenbreitstein but the
gloomy precipice which overfrowns the river.
At Coblentz,—the Confluentes of the Romans, so called from its
situation at the junction of the Rhine and the Moselle,—we halted
for about two hours. This is the capital of Rhenish Prussia,
and, as everybody knows, is also a great "garrison town," which I
can easily believe,—for in a long stroll which we had through the
quaint streets, it seemed to me that every second man we met was a
soldier. We had time here to sup comfortably at the "Belle Vue
Hotel," near the river side.
It was a little past midnight when we went on board again.
There was still a fitful moonlight, which showed us something of the
proud impregnable fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, "The Broad Stone of
Honour," on the opposite side of the river; but we saw more of its
position than of the fortress itself. Ehrenbreitstein is best
seen from a few miles above Coblentz, in descending the river.
From that point its appearance is worthy of its fame.
It was about one in the morning when our steamer started
again on its way to Mayence. I spent the whole of the night on
deck, and for the next three hours after leaving Coblentz, city
after city, town after town, village after village, flitted by in
the dreamy "midnight's tingling stillness," all silent as cities of
IT was past
midnight when our steamer left Coblentz on its way up the Rhine to
Mayence. I had been much impressed by the scenery of the last
fifty miles between the city of Bonn and Coblentz; but now, in the
still hours of early morning, by chequered moonlight, we were
entering upon the real glory of the Rhine.
The grandest scenery of all this famous river lies between
Coblentz and the old town of Bingen,—"dear old Bingen on the Rhine."
Between Coblenz and Bingen the mountains rise almost perpendicularly
from the river side; and every mountain peak, and every jutting
rock, following in quick succession, is crowned by some hoary feudal
ruin; every steep is clad with vineyards; and picturesque old towns
nestle, here and there, by the rushing stream. Some of the
most famous ruins upon all the Rhine lie in this tract between
Coblentz and Bingen. The proud old Castle of Stolzenfels,
where Isabella, sister of our Henry the Third, and wife of the
Emperor, lived in great state, in the year 1275,—romantic Boppard on
the one side, and grey Bornhofen on the other,—Salzig, and Hirzenach,
and Welmach, and beautiful old Saint Goar, one of the most
picturesque spots upon the Rhine, and surrounded by its grandest
scenery,—the mighty ruin of the Rheinfels, which has successfully
resisted the attack of many a proud army,—the weird rock of the
Lurlei,—picturesque Oberwesel, the Vesalia of the Romans,—Chönburg,
high-perched above the mighty stream, and especially interesting to
Englishmen as the place where Count Schomberg was born, who fell in
the battle of the Boyne, fighting for the Prince of Orange,—
The horse were the first that ventured
The foot soon followed after,
And brave Duke Schomberg was no more,
At the Battle of Boyne Water.
Pfalzgrafenstein is a toll castle on the Pfalz Island in the
Rhine. It was built in 1326-1327 by King Ludwig von Bayern
for the purpose of collecting the taxes from Rhine shipping.
Next comes Caub, where Blucher's army crossed the river by a
pontoon bridge on New Year's night, in 1814; and here, in the middle
of the stream, stands the quaint-looking, lonely castle of the Pfalz,
or Pfalzgrafenstein, built as a tollhouse by the Emperor Louis, and
"sadly memorable as a prison to the more distinguished of
criminals,"—Werth Island, the Castle of Stahleck, and Old Bacharach,
which takes its name from the god of wine, —the wild ruins of
Furstenburg, Sonneck, Reichenstein, and Rheinstein, the echoing vale
of Rheindeibach," and the old town of Lorche which, in the middle
ages, was inhabited by a knot of knightly families, who, according
to an ancient record, "led here a life like in Paradise,"—the
ancient tower, called the "Mouse Tower," standing in the stream, as
we draw near to Bingen. It appears to have been built in the
thirteenth century by Bishop Seigfried, as a toll-house in the
river. The word "mans" is probably only an older form of "mauths,"
duty or toll, and, together with the very unpopular object for which
the tower was erected, perhaps gave rise to the legend of Bishop
Hatto, eaten by the rats. The tale, too, may have been fixed
on Hatto, because, though one of the most distinguished men of his
time, he was proud and ambitious, and not very scrupulous in the
choice of the means to arrive at his aim. Southey gives us a
version of this legend in his ballad, "God's Judgment on a Bishop."
The ballad begins by telling how bitterly he oppressed and starved
the poor; and how, having invited the clamorous multitude to one of
his granaries, where "they should have food for the winter," he set
fire to the barn and burnt them all. After which, "he sate
down to supper merrily and he slept that night like an innocent
man." But fearful retribution swiftly overtook him.
In the morning as he entered the hall,
Where his picture hung against the wall,
A sweat-like death all over him came,
For the rats had eaten it out of the frame!
And now, it was rats by night, and rats by day, rats by land, and
rats by sea,—he was haunted by rats wherever he went; and rats
devoured all his substance:—
As he looked, there came a man from his
He had a countenance white with alarm—
"My lord, I opened your granaries this morn,
And the rats had eaten all your corn."
Another came running presently,
And he was as pale as pale could be;
"Fly! my lord bishop, fly!" quoth he,
"Ten thousand rats are coming this way—
The Lord forgive you for yesterday!"
"I'll go to my tower in the Rhine," replied he,
"'Tis the safest place in Germany;
The walls are high, and the shores are steep,
And the tide is strong, and the water deep."
He reaches his tower, and he goes to rest; but is awakened in the
night by a fearful scream. He starts, and sees "two eyes of
flame on his pillow," from whence the screaming came.
He listened and looked; it was only the
But the bishop he grew more fearful for that,
For she sate screaming, mad with fear
At the army of rats that were drawing near.
Down on his knees the bishop fell,
And faster and faster his beads did he tell,
As louder and louder drawing near,
The saw of their teeth without he could hear.
They have whetted their teeth against the stones,
And now they pick the Bishop's bones;
They gnawed the flesh from every limb,
For they were sent to do judgment on him.
I passed the whole of the night on deck, between Coblentz and
Mayence; and, as the steamer glided on in the profound stillness,
between those wild ruin-crested mountains, and past one old town
after another, where I could see the fitful moonlight sleeping upon
the silent streets as we went by, it was like sailing through a
depopulated world. The only sound that broke the solemn
silence was the rush of the Rhine,—that weird melody which the
ancient river has sung to millions of midnights before the foot of
man wandered upon its banks.
Soon as we had passed the pretty old town of Bingen, the
shores of the river became more open and flat. We passed
Rudesheim,—which gives name to the celebrated wine,—and Schloss
Johannisberg, a vast white mansion or castle, upon a shapely green
eminence, 362 feet above the Rhine, where the famous "Johannisberg,"
the choicest of all the Rhine wines, is grown.
It was about nine in the morning when we landed at Mayence,
where we took up our quarters at the English hotel. We spent
the day in wandering about the famous old city, which is,
historically, one of the most interesting towns on the Rhine.
It owes its origin to the Romans. Here Walpoden broached the
scheme of the Hanseatic League,—which freed the trade of Germany
from feudal robbery; and here dwelt Guttenberg, the inventor of
movable types for printing. We visited the grand old
cathedral, the first archbishop of which was the son of an English
waggon-maker or wainwright; hence two waggon wheels are quartered in
the arms of the city to this day. We rambled about the quaint
streets and squares of the city; and we lingered in the
market-place, which is surrounded by antique houses. It was
market-day, and the square was crowded with country people, in
quaint attire, and with clean, healthy-looking market-women, in
great, curious caps, as white as fresh snow. The marketplace
was full of flowers,—chiefly lilies; and I noticed that the
asparagus grows here to a great size. Bundles of it lay about
on every stall. Wherever we went in Mayence, we met with
soldiers, wandering about in twos and threes, or marching in large
Next morning we left and returned down the Rhine to Cologne.
Here we stayed one night more; and after spending another pleasant
day in the old city of Antwerp, we took steamer again for Harwich,
in Suffolk; and so ended my first trip to the Continent.
gleams of delusive sunshine, the wet summer was steadily sinking
into a chronic state of damp decline, and the hope of any bright
retrieval for the fading season was dying out of men's minds; and
the poor of the land were beginning to look towards the coming
winter with fearful forecast.
It was far on in the afternoon of a gloomy day, and the rain
was falling fast, when I left Manchester, and that darling old
ditch, the Irwell, behind, in the hope of reaching Sheffield in time
for the evening proceedings of the British Association in that town.
The sky was dark with thunderous cloud; the air was close, and
sulphuric; and the scene, all along the line, was depressing, in
spite of the natural beauty of its features; for the summer foliage
was rotting upon the bough, and the hay lay steeping and stewing
upon the sodden fields, until it was fast becoming unfit for
anything but bedding for cattle. There was not a breath of
wind stirring; and there was a lurid look about the sky that
foretold impending storm.
About twenty miles from Sheffield, there had been a "dog
show" in a field, outside a little town, near the line. When
our train got to the station at this place, the show was just
beginning to break up; and there was a great rush of dog-folk, with
their dogs, into the carriages. The crowd was so great that
they were allowed to tumble in anywhere,—dogs and all,—irrespective
of classes. Our carriage had, up to this point, been the
exclusive shelter of three doleful-looking, unsocial persons, who
all seemed as if they were behind in their rent, and generally "thrutched
in their minds," and who had sat, all the way, as far as possible,
from one another, now reading a little, now smoking a little, and
now dozing a little, by fits, and taking sly glances of scrutiny at
each other, now and then, when they thought nobody was looking; but,
when the train pulled up at the melting "dog show" the scene in our
carriage changed very suddenly, and changed very much. There
was a dense and excited crowd upon the platform. The door was
thrown violently open; there was a clamorous rush, which choked the
entrance; and, in a minute, our sulky solitude was crowded with
rough, hearty Yorkshiremen, accompanied by one magnificent dog of
the St. Bernard breed, which had won a prize, and one beautiful slim
black-and-tan dog, which had not won a prize. In an instant,
the carriage was as busy as a monkey-cage; and the roof fairly rang
again with the loud clatter of strong, old-fashioned, Chaucerian
Yorkshire talk which rose from the steaming swarm; for they were
all, more or less, soaked with the rain which had been falling
incessantly during the time of the show.
It took a few minutes for them to get shaken down into their
places. The St. Bernard mastiff looked frightened, and crept
under the seat, with some difficulty; whilst the owner of the
"black-an'-tan" kept his dog in a large square basket, the lid of
which he lifted, now and then, to show the points of the animal
inside. All the talk was about dog's,—the merits of different
dogs at the show, the pedigrees of dogs, and the decisions of the
judges. This, however, was mingled with an eager disposition
to bet about anything in the wide world.
On our side of the carriage there happened to be five men of
stout build, whilst, on the opposite seat, six men of smaller mould
were wedged together, as close as herrings in a barrel. One of
these was a bright-eyed, talkative little "tyke," who was evidently
of a restless and contentious disposition. "Now, talking abaat
weight," said he, addressing a broad-shouldered farmer, who sat on
our side, "talking abaat weight. Ye've had a deeal to say for
yersen, Jossy, abaat one thing an' another, sin we coom into this
hoil, but I'll back us six upo' this side ageean ye five upo' that
side, for a sovereign,—naa then!" Whereupon, a loud and hot
discussion arose, during which every man in the carriage was asked
to declare his weight. This process, also, led to a great deal
of vehement dispute; and the uproar lasted all the rest of the way.
The din declined, however, as we dropped, here and there, one of the
company, at little stations on the road; and, by the time that the
train arrived at Sheffield, the inmates of our carriage were reduced
to the original sulky three, who had started together from
Manchester,—and who glared upon each other, in savage silence, as
they trickled out of the carriage, and mingled with the fuming crowd
upon the platform,—perhaps never to meet again.
Here we are, at Sheffield, which takes its name from the
river Sheaf. Sheffield,—the town of thwittles,—"the capital of
steel,"—famous all over the world for its fine cutlery; and,
certainly, looking at the town from the edge of the station, through
the drizzling rain, with not a breath of wind stirring, and a thick
canopy of thunderous gloom overhead, it did not seem inviting.
To travellers who have only seen the place as they flitted
by, on a murky day, when all its manufactories were at work, and all
its furnaces ablaze, belching their fires into the muggy air, it
seems one of the most lurid of all the "black towns" of busy
England; but, to anyone who leaves the station, and wanders about
its quaint streets, it soon loses this repulsive aspect; and yet,
perhaps there is no town in the kingdom whose general aspect in dull
weather contrasts so strongly with the country around; for it is the
centre of one of the most picturesque districts in all "merry
England," and one of the richest in its historic associations.
Sherwood Forest, Bolsover, Roche Abbey, Beauchief Abbey, Wingfield
Manor, Hardwick, Coningsbrough Castle, Chatsworth, The Peak,
Castleton, and the hills and dales of Derbyshire, Wharncliffe,
Ecclesfield, and many other places which illustrate the story of the
land for many centuries gone by. It is, indeed, the centre of
a vast garden of varied natural beauty; and the air seems thick with
the blending fact and romance of history,—the skin-clad Briton and
his Roman foe,—Saxon thanes, and Norman knights,—the scowling serf,
the mitred knights,—the mitred abbot, Robin Hood, and the merry
greenwoods of old England, Ivanhoe, Peveril of the Peak, and a host
of reminiscences, and old tales, and old songs, "the English
ballad-singer's joy," that wake up dreams that wave delightfully
before the half-shut eye.
At the time of the Conquest in 1066, Sheffield was the
capital of a large district, consisting of the parishes of
Sheffield, Ecclesfield, Handsworth, Treetop, and Whiston, which
district was known amongst the Saxons by the name of Hallamshire.
Here, in Hallamshire, Waltheof, the last of the Saxon earls, and the
husband of Judith, the Conqueror's niece, dwelt in his hall, and
ruled over the serfs and tenantry of his vast lordship. He was
a man of the highest power and repute amongst the Saxons; and the
Conqueror did much to conciliate him. He was the son of Siward,
the Dane, who led the army of the Confessor against Macbeth, after
the murder of Duncan in Scotland; and he was a man of gigantic
stature and indomitable courage. The Conqueror pardoned him
for his share in the Saxon conspiracy of Atheling, and gave him his
niece in marriage; but, when he rebelled a second time, by entering
into a confederacy with certain of the Norman lords against William,
he was betrayed by his wife, Judith; he was executed at Winchester,
and buried at Croyland Abbey; and, for centuries after, his tomb was
frequented by the vanquished Saxons, as the shrine of a martyr.
Such was Waltheof, the great Saxon thane, the first man whose name
is immediately connected with the history of Sheffield, and the
district around it. It is now generally agreed among the
historians of Sheffield that the aula, or mansion of
Waltheof, stood upon Castle Hill, now near the market-place of the
town, which spot was afterwards occupied by the castle of the Norman
rulers of the district.
From the faithless widow of Waltheof, the Saxon Thane, the
lordship of Hallamshire passes through the hands of a succession of
powerful families. The first of these was the de Buslis, of
whose rule there is little record extant. From them it passed
to the de Lovetots, who seem to have been an amiable and religious
race. With them the progress of Sheffield began. They
built a hospital for the sick on "Spital Hill;" they built and
endowed the present parish church; they built a bridge over the Don,
and a mill near it; and they founded the Priory of Worksop on the
edge of Sherwood Forest, where they were buried. From the de
Lovetots the estates passed, in the reign of Henry the Second, to
the warlike Furnivals, who ruled over Hallamshire for nearly two
hundred years, and whose adventures in the Holy Land have been the
theme of many a wild story. One of this family was known by
the name of "The Hasty Furnival." From the Furnivals the
lordship passed by marriage to the Talbots, Earls of Shrewsbury,
whose warlike renown rings through the whole history of their times.
After the Talbots came the Howards, in which family the lordship
still remains. . . .
Sheffield Castle was a strong fortress in the time of the
Norman lords, occupying four acres of ground upon the spot still
known as "Castle Hill," at the junction of the Don and the Sheaf.
Some of the massive foundations, and a few fragments of the old
walls still remain, incorporated with and overgrown by modern
buildings. The site is now surrounded by the modern town,
although in ancient times it stood at a little distance from the
straggling old town, which wandered up the steep, between the castle
and the church; and the castle was connected by a drawbridge with a
far-stretching park, which clothed all the eastern and southern
slopes, now covered with the smoking dwellings of modern Sheffield.
It is a difficult thing to realise the difference between the
little old town of the time of the Furnivals and the Sheffield of
our day. "A few straggling huts and smithies, forming an
irregular street, between the castle and the church gates, with a
few houses lying down towards the town mill," seem to have formed
the whole town of Sheffield, in the time of its early Norman lords.
There are traditions that the inhabitants of Sheffield made arrows
for some of the ancient British tribes; there is a tradition also
that the English victories at Crecy and Agincourt were largely owing
to the superiority of the arrows made at Sheffield. These,
however, are only traditions, though the thing is not impossible.
Johnson, the antiquary, found a record of 130 gross of arrow shafts
at 14d., and 5,000 arrow heads at 15d. per 100, having been sent
from Sheffield for the use of the Government. At the battle of
Bosworth Field, too, the Earl of Richmond's men used arrows from
Sheffield, "of a very superior make, being longer, sharper, better
ground, and more highly-polished than those previously
manufactured." Amongst the articles issued from the Privy
Wardrobe at the Tower, in the reign of Edward III., who had visited
the town for hunting, a "Cultellum de Shefeld," was mentioned.
Chaucer's miller, in the "Canterbury Tales," carried "a Shefeld
thwytel in his hose." In 1575, the Earl of Shrewsbury
presented to Lord Burghley a case of Hallamshire whittles, "being
such fruietes as his poor country afforded with fame therefrom."
Sheffield knives are often mentioned in plays of this date, and "3
gross de Hallamshire knyves" appears in the accounts of exports from
Liverpool, in 1589. Among directions about the choice of
quills in "The Writing Master," a book published in 1590, we find,
with reference to the penknife, that a "right Sheffield knife is
So much for Sheffield cutlery in the olden time. We
know how immensely since then the cutlery trade of the town has
grown. In spite of its early fame as a cutlery town, the
progress of Sheffield was slow until comparatively modern times,
which is partly explained by the fact that in former times the
forges and furnaces of the town were the property of the lords of
the manor, who grew rich at the expense of the community.
There is a curious document extant which says:—
By a survaie of the town of
Sheffield, made the seconde daie of Januarie, 1615, by twenty-four
of the most sufficient inhabitants there, it appeareth that there
are in the towne of Sheffield 2,207 people, of which there are 725
which are not able to live without the charity of their neighbours.
These are all begging poore. These (though the best sorte) are
but poore artificers; among them there is not one which can keep a
teame on his own land, and not above tenn who have grounds of their
own that will keep a cow. They are 160 householders who are
not able to relieve others. These are such (though they beg
not) as are not able to abide the storme of one fortnight's
sickness, but would thereby be driven to beggary.
This was a sad state of things for poor old "Thwittletown," in those
days; but even so lately as the year 1750 one of the most
intelligent townsmen of Sheffield, in describing the condition of
the town at that time, said that "to be as rich as a man of a
hundred a year was proverbially to be of the highest rank."
The same authority, who is quoted by the historian of Hallamshire,
says of the town itself, that it was a poor, little, dirty,
mean-built town; the streets were badly pitched, the channel ran
down the centre of them, and but few of the causeways were flagged.
The houses had gable ends and gutters with protruding spouts, which,
during a shower of rain, discharged what they received on the heads
of the passers-by: whilst the scavenger's cart was as yet an unknown
luxury. At night the far-sundered lamps gave but a feeble
gleam; the best shops were only lighted by a tallow candle or two;
and people who were abroad in the dark had to creep about with
lanterns, like glow-worms. I glean these things from the
history of Hallamshire, and other sources. During the last
century, Sheffield has made a tremendous stride. It is now a
town of 300,000 inhabitants; "the capital of steel," and the most
famous place in the world for cutlery.
Three centuries and more ago, when
Sheffield castle stood,
And nearly all the country round was moorland wild and
There was no master cutler, but cutlers by the score,
Who worked in shops beside the Don, as their fathers
Great Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury, was then the reigning
A proud and potent man was he, and always wore a sword;
Whilst his vassals carried whittlers stuck in their
And this distinguished lord from serf, as everybody
And early each September, by this famous feudal chief,
These apron-men, the cutler smiths, for bodily relief,
Were freely sent to Sheffield Park, amongst his antlered
With leave to slaughter what they could, and feast with
A century goes by, and then a Master Cutler reigns,
Chief of the smiths who work with skill, and yet earn
The proud Earl sleeps in marble tomb, but each
The old feast of the cutlers is kept up with right good
But now, great Gilbert's heir's the guest of Sheffield's
The chief of those bold hammermen who make the anvil
And thus we see the world turns round in more than airy
Since the high can take the lower, and the low the
or four centuries ago, must have been a very picturesque little
town, as seen from a distance; although it seems to have had only a
hard time of it under the crippling rule of its ancient lords,—even
the best of them,—and some of them seem to have been very amiable
and generous men; but slavery was still the fashion in those days,
and political economy was unknown. Apart from this, however,
the little old town of thwittle-makers, or "apron-men," of three
centuries ago, must have presented a beautiful picture to the eye,
from any point of approach, when the massive Norman castle, covering
four acres of ground, stood upon the banks of the Sheaf, down in
what is now the densest part of the town; and when its one little
street of quaint huts and smithies straggled up the green slope
between the castle and the gates of the old church, which still
crowns the heart of the modern town; and when the sides of the
hills, which close in the scene all round, were clad with greenwoods
and deer parks, the wild summits of which commanded extensive views
of the most beautifully-varied scenery in England.
In those days, the castle itself was begirt by groves and
gardens; and a drawbridge across the river Sheaf connected it with a
vast deer park; and the quaint little winding street, where the
hammermen and grinders of ancient Sheffield dwelt,—overawed by the
castle from below, and by the church from above,—the quaint street
which made up old feudal Sheffield must have been overgushed and
interwoven here and there with the greenery that clothed the hill
side upon which it lay.
Few even of the manufacturing towns of England have changed
so completely from their early appearance as Sheffield has changed.
It is still one of the most remarkable towns in the kingdom.
It is singular in its situation; it is fearfully singular, to a
stranger, in its first appearance; and its occupation may be truly
called "a striking specialty," for it is the foremost hammerer and
knife-maker, and steel manufacturer of all the world. It is
the most central town in England, being equi-distant between the two
seas; and it is closely surrounded by some of the most charming
scenery in all the land.
From the green hills which clip in its smoky hive of 300,000
people, five beautiful little rivers come wandering down. The
Porter joins the Sheaf on its way to the town, the Rivelin,—the
stream of which Ebenezer
Elliott sings so sweetly,—the Rivelin and the Foxley flow into
the Don, the Don joins the Sheaf under the broken walls of the old
castle, in the lowermost part of the town , and the Sheaf gives name
to the town itself.
The only relics of the castle now remaining are some of its
massive foundations and a few fragments of the old walls, partly
incorporated with stables and slaughter-houses, in a stinking slum,
near the spot where the drawbridge of the fortress led across the
river into its far-stretching deer-park and gardens. I tried
to explore this gloomy nook of the town one damp morning, and I saw
here and there unmistakable bits of the old walls; but before I
could get down to the river-side I was forced to turn back on
account of the stench. The rest of the site is now completely
deluged with modern buildings, with the usual allowance of inns and
lurid-looking gin shops; but, in spite of change, the memory of the
ancient castle still clings to the ground in the names "Castle
Hill," "Castle Folds," "Castle Croft," castle this, and castle that
and as one looks round now upon the altered scene, in the very heart
of busy, smoky Sheffield, these names seem like ghostly voices of a
vanished world . . . .
Under the rule of the Earls of Shrewsbury, the cutlery trade
of poor old Sheffield seems to have been very carefully stunted and
crippled, for it was entirely under the control of the lord of the
manor; and the restrictions laid upon it under that regime must have
completely crushed all chance of its expansion. The following
were the chief rules by which the trade was governed by the lords of
the manor in those days:—
That for twenty-eight days after
8th August, every year, no work whatever was to be done; nor from
Christmas to the 23rd January. That every apprentice must have
served seven years before he could exercise his trade on his own
account. That no person was to be allowed to have more than
one apprentice. That no grinding could be done during the
holiday months. That no grinder could reside out of the
district, within which he must have been instructed. That
neither haft nor knife blade could be made or sold out of the
liberties. That every cutler must have his own mark stamped on
his goods. That every journeyman must be at least twenty years
old. That five pounds must be paid before entering into
business—one half to go to the Earl of Shrewsbury, and the other to
relieve the poor in the corporation. Personal appearance,
also, was secured, in answer to any summons, by the penalty of a
heavy fine, which was no less imposed for a breach of any of the
This is a nice list of good old conservative regulations for the
benefit of the community. No wonder that the trade of the town
limped and lagged under such shackles as these. The Sheffield
cutlers of those days worked like men with one leg and one arm tied
up. But as light and freedom grew in the land, and Sheffield
gradually emerged from its ancient restrictions, we have seen how
wonderfully the independent trade of the town grew in wealth and
importance, until, as "the capital of steel," it has become a
proverb among the nations of the earth. . . .
In ancient days the "thwittle," or "whittle," was the
masterpiece of the Sheffield cutler's craft; and Chaucer's miller,
in the "Canterbury Tales," carried "a Shefeld thwytel in his hose."
The "thwittle" was simply a blade stuck in a wooden handle, like the
table-knives of to-day. The next form was the "Jack-knife,"
the blade of which shut into the handle. This was the
invention of Jacques de Liege, the famous cutler of Liège, which is
the Sheffield of Belgium. In Scotland it is called a
"Jockteleg," which is a corruption of the inventor's name.
Burns speaks of "a faulding jocteleg; " and Sir Walter Scott
mentions the "jocteleg" in "Rob Roy." In Lancashire and
Yorkshire, too, many a man speaks of "a jack-a-legs knife" who
little dreams of the origin of the name. In the Rev. Alfred
Gatty's "Sheffield Past and Present" I find the following passage:
Lockhart relates, in his life of
Sir Walter Scott, that when the great romance writer returned, in
1815, from visiting the field of the recently fought battle of
Waterloo, he spent a night at Sheffield with two young companions of
his tour. In the morning Scott sallied forth from his hotel to
provide himself with the best planter's knife that he could buy.
Having secured what he wanted, and which for many years afterwards
was always carried in his pocket, he wrote his name on a card,
"Walter Scott, Abbotsford," to be engraved on the handle. At
breakfast he told young Scott of Gala what he had done, who
forthwith went out to do likewise; and when he gave his name to be
inscribed on the knife, the master cutler who took the order told
him he hoped it would serve him as good a turn as another Mr. Scott
had already done him; for, said he, "when my man, an honest fellow
from the north, saw the other name, he almost went out of his
senses, and offered me a week's work if I would only let him keep
the autograph; and I took Saunders at his word." Lockhart
further states that Sir Walter used to talk of this incident as one
of the most gratifying compliments he ever received n his literary
The fame of Sheffield is not confined to its renown as the
greatest steel factory in the world. In modern times it has
become associated with the names and fortunes of many remarkable
persons in art, science, and literature; amongst whom are James
Montgomery, the poet; Ebenezer Elliott, the corn-law rhymer; Joseph
Hunter, historian of Hallamshire, &c.; Ebenezer Rhodes, author of
"Peak Scenery," and other works; Samuel Bailey, whom Elliott styles
"the Bentham of Hallamshire;" Mrs. Hofland,
Sir Francis Chantrey, Sir
William Sterndale Bennett, Thomas Creswick, R.A.; Henry Clifton
Sorby, LL.D., F.R.S., and a host of other eminent persons, though
less known to fame. Sheffield, too, must have a peculiar
interest to the members of the British Association, for I see it
stated in one of the local papers, which now lies before me, that it
was the birth-place of the Association. It seems that "the
first idea of founding the British Association occurred at a dinner
party given by the late John Hessey Abraham, of Holly Green House,
Sheffield Moor. The idea then mooted during the after-dinner
talk, in a house which is now occupied, we believe, by the Ecclesall
Club, was destined to a rich fruition. Mr. Abraham, in
conjunction with the late Earl Fitzwilliam and Mr. (afterwards Sir)
David Brewster, prosecuted the plan, and were the agents in
establishing a society which now ranks among the first of its nature
in the world. The nobleman and gentlemen just named took part
in the first meeting, held at York, and one of the opening addresses
was delivered by Mr. Abraham. Well might Sheffield give a hearty
welcome to the scientific bantling which it sent forth into the
world half a century ago, and which now returns to the place of its
birth so nobly developed, so rich in honours, and so potent in the
realm of thought.
But Sheffield is rid at last of the curious visitors who have
fluttered the astonished cutlers upon its busy streets during the
past week or two. The meeting of the British Association is
over. The addresses have been delivered; the papers have been
read; the illuminated ball of scientific inquiry has been sent
spooming another league or two into the dark; the soirées have been
held; the "Red Lion Club" has roared, and wagged its tail; and the
chieftains of science, with their more or less unscientific yet
admiring followers, are rushing away from the smoky scene in all
directions, like boys breaking up from school, leaving many a pair
of uninitiated Sheffield eyes gazing with all their might, whilst
the mouth that belonged to them gradually opened as they read a
"Report on the proximate analysis of the Rhizome of Zingiber
Officinalis," or a "Note on the behaviour of Iodine to Chloroform,"
or "The Gelatinization of Tincture of Kino," or "The chemistry of
Under the greenwood tree,
Who loves to lie with me,
And tune his merry note
Under the sweet bird's
Come hither, come hither, come hither
Here he shall see
But winter and rough weather.
SHEFFIELD has not
escaped from the general depression of the times. It has done
a good trade in butchering tools in its day; and butchery has been
the fashion lately; but, in spite of that, it suffers now, with the
rest of the kingdom, from the complicated disease of the last few
years,—from great famines in the East; from bad weather, and
untimely strikes, and trade disputes; from reckless official neglect
of affairs at home; from the destruction of confidence in commerce;
from the shifty tricks and uncertainties of romantic rule; and from
unjust, ignoble, and ruinous wars in outlying nooks of the
world,—all which have combined to cover the "distressful country,"
from end to end, with lurid clouds, big with disastrous gloom.
The Sheffield cutlers feel the nip of the times at last; for, as one
of them said the other day, "we'n bin livin' upo' faith this two or
three year back; an' naa we're tryin' to live upo' hope; but, by th'
mass, if this gover'ment's baan to dance t' swaggerin'-jig mich
longer, it'll be charity t' next!" [Note]
Many of the "apron-men" of Sheffield were out of work and,
when it wasn't raining, they might be seen, here and there, lounging
listlessly in clusters, about the street corners, with their hands
in their pockets, watching with curious eyes the unusual rush of
luggage-laden cabs towards the stations; for the meeting of the
British Association was melting away, in little rills, along the
different railway lines; and each man of the thoughtful throng was
returning to his tent, to watch and work among the indisputable
facts of nature, and to brood in solitude for another year upon the
great problems of life. And I found that when all the varied
labours of the session were over, the theme that lingered mostly in
men's minds was the latest researches into the nature and phenomena
of protoplasm, "the only form in which life can manifest itself."
And now, before I go any farther, I may say that I speak as a very
humble listener to those who have given careful study to the matter.
But, with respect to this especial question of the nature of
protoplasm, I found every man of them impressed with the fact that,
whilst two particles of protoplasm,—in which the keenest eye of
science could find no difference,—developed, one into a jelly-fish
and the other into a man, they were, therefore, forced to the
conclusion that deep within them there must be "a fundamental
difference of which we know nothing."
This approach, also, brings them again to the shore of the
great untravelled ocean beneath whose waters lies the tremendous
mystery of consciousness "deeper than ever did plummet sound," and
their only outlook seems to be in the fact that "with every advance
in organisation there is a corresponding advance in mind; which
suggests the hope that under the continued operation of the great
law of evolution, higher faculties may be evolved in the far off
future, which may reveal to man the great mystery of Thought." . . .
But the meeting of the British Association has come to an
end, and the record of its labours is speeding through the land;
and, like the scientific men who have pondered these lofty themes so
earnestly, I, too, must now prepare to quit the scene. And
yet, before I leave smoky Sheffield and its blazing furnaces for the
merry greenwoods, I will not resist the temptation to take a glance
at the most touching and romantic passage in the history of the old
One wintry morning, near the end of the year 1570, the
accomplished and unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots was brought across
the hills from Chatsworth in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury
and his men, to his castle at Sheffield, as a remote and strong
seclusion, capable of resisting any possible attack, and where she
might lie hid in lonely durance until forgotten by her scheming
friends; and for the next fourteen years this ancient fortress was
the chief prison house of that ill-fated lady. The Rev. Alfred
Gatty, in his "Sheffield Past and Present," says:—
Those who are acquainted with the
still romantic route across the moor from Chatsworth to Sheffield
can imagine the day's ride in early winter to the captive Queen,
who, still only twenty-eight years old, attended by her ladies and
servants, and closely guarded by the Earl of Shrewsbury's
men-at-arms, passed in their journey, over the untracked soil.
They would ascend the long hills at a pace which the gallant and
indignant prisoner would gladly have quickened. The shy
grouse, disturbed by the cavalcade, would rise from their heather
covert and flee away on a wing of liberty which she would envy.
In vain might she hope that some Stanley or Percy, with a band of
bold followers, would spring up for her rescue and when entering the
mean town of her future captivity, with the least possible pomp, as
was specially ordered, her heart would turn sick as the smiths,
relaxing their ponderous strength, and leaving their forges, came
into the street to wonder at the unusual procession the purport of
which, and who was the personage so attended, were kept secret by
order of the counsellors of Elizabeth. There would be
astonishment and talk amongst these rude bystanders; but she would
pass through the gateway, the wicket would close upon her, and far
happier would the crowd outside remain than the royal woman, with
her retinue, who had been received within its walls.
No doubt the doings of the all-powerful castle of the lord of the
manor would be the principal theme of conversation in the secluded
little town which was overawed by its embattlements in those days;
and we can easily imagine that, for a long time after Mary had
passed through its gateway, there would be a great deal of whispered
talk and wild speculation in the huts and smithies of old feudal
Sheffield about the mysterious prisoner who lay concealed within its
frowning walls; until, at last, her very existence would become like
a dream. And it was here,—in what is now the busy heart of
modern Sheffield,—that, three centuries ago, Mary Stuart lay immured
in the old Norman castle of the Earls of Shrewsbury for more than
fourteen years,—from the age of twenty-eight to forty-two,—fretting,
and scheming, and hoping, and despairing, and raging, and brooding
bitterly upon the unhappy past, as she paced the narrow limits of
her prison range like a caged panther; now gazing wistfully out upon
the far-stretching parks and gardens of the castle, where the wild
birds sang, and the fallow deer wandered at will; now listening to
the distant clang of merry hammermen in the little town upon the
steep above the castle; now weeping passionately as she remembered
the happy days of her youth, and the sunny realm of France.
Well might the poor captive's hair turn prematurely grey in that
long confinement, haunted by so many painful memories, and clouded
with such a gloomy future.
Mary's incarceration at Sheffield, however, was slightly
relieved, now and then, by a brief change of prison-house.
Sheffield Castle was a strong fortress, suited to the turbulent
times. For two hundred and thirty years it had been the home
of the lords of Hallamshire, when, early in the sixteenth century,
George, the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, and lord of the manor of
Sheffield, feeling, probably, that the castle was more a place of
security than of comfort, built a country residence, upon a lofty
site, about two miles south of the town, which is still known in its
ruined state as Sheffield Manor. This, too, was a strong
fortified dwelling, occupying about three acres of ground, and
commanding a fine view of the valley, which is now filled with
modern Sheffield, and of the far-stretching woodland hills all
round. The Earl was a wealthier man than some of his
predecessors, and this new castellated house,—which seems to have
been magnificently furnished for the period,—was finished early in
the reign of Henry the Eighth.
Very soon after its completion it began to be associated with
the history of the times. When Cardinal Wolsey fell from his
high estate, and retired to his archiepiscopal palace, near York, he
was arrested there by the Earl of Northumberland, and transferred by
him to the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury, at Sheffield, where he
arrived after two days' journey; and where he was received, at
Sheffield Manor, by the Earl and Countess, who "came out
respectfully beyond the gate to welcome him." The unhappy
prelate remained in the care of the Earl of Shrewsbury for more than
a fortnight; their usual place of meeting being "the long gallery,
in the window of which they would sit in serious talk as to what
this summons from the King could mean, until apprehension became so
alarming that the health of the 'old man, broken with the storms of
state,' gave way, and he was seized with a violent dysentery, during
which the governor of the Tower of London arrived, with a guard of
twenty-four men; and the sinking Cardinal was taken away in his
charge." Twice on his road to Leicester he rested for a night;
and when he reached the abbey gate of that town, he had become so
weak that he had to be supported upon his mule. "Father
Abbot," said he, "I am come hither to leave my bones among you."
And there he died soon after; and there he was buried; although now,
as our own Samuel Bamford
Neither heap nor sod,
Nor stone, nor pillar grey,
Is left to indicate the spot
Where the once proud Wolsey lay.
But Wolsey was not the only historic prisoner to whose sighs the
strong walls of Sheffield Manor have listened.
During Mary Stuart's long confinement at Sheffield Castle,
she was occasionally removed to The Manor, upon the hill, two miles
south of the town, whilst her lodgings in the castle were being
cleansed; and in one of these visits an attempt to effect her escape
was made by Sir Henry Percy. This led to a remonstrance with
the Earl of Shrewsbury, who justified himself on the ground that
"her prison-house required purifying," and the secretaries of
Elizabeth's ministers were assured that when the captive was removed
to the Manor, good numbers of men, continually armed, watched her
day and night, both under her windows, over her chamber, and on
every side, "so that unless she could transform herself into a flea
or a mouse, it was impossible that she should escape."
The Manor, in its palmy days, was surrounded by a great park.
The park is now let out in farms; the stately old fortified mansion
is in ruins; and within the limits of its broken walls there are,
now, a farmhouse, a row of colliers' cottages, a little chapel, a
coal-pit shaft, and a beer shop.
Sheffield Manor was dismantled in 1706, and has been allowed
to run to ruin. There still remains, however, one interesting
relic of its ancient grandeur. On the south side of the great
quadrangle, a strong square tower, or lodge, still stands intact,
though now inhabited as a farmhouse. In this tower there is a
chamber measuring 18ft. 6in. by 13ft. 6in., and 8ft. 6in. high.
The ceiling of this chamber is ornamented with the heraldic devices
of the Talbots, and over the fireplace are their richly-quartered
arms. This is said to have been the lodging of the Queen of
Scots. The walls are now bare, but some of the fastenings
remain, on which tapestry used to hang. This chamber, which
still bears the name of "Queen Mary's Room," is approached by a
narrow turret staircase of rude stone steps, such as commonly leads
to a belfry; indeed, it reminded me very strongly of the narrow
stone staircase which leads up to Mary's little private room in
Holyrood Palace, in which Rizzio was murdered. Next to this
ornamented chamber, which is lighted by a stained-glass window,
there is a smaller apartment of the same character; and a second
flight of winding stone steps leads up to the leaded roof of the
tower, which commands a fine view of the picturesque country all
round. And here, from the embattled summit of this old tower,
the hapless lady has probably often gazed upon the beautiful hills
and dales around, and longed for the wings of a bird, that she might
"fly away and be at rest." But Sheffield saw the unhappy
captive nearly to the end of her mortal suffering; for in little
more than two years after she left the spot, the headsman smote her
in the gloomy hall at Fotheringay, and she complained no more.
And now I will quit the smoky chimneys and blazing furnaces
of Thwittletown. I will close my article with a brief glance
at one of the most delightful of all the beautiful scenes in its
At the close of the meeting of the British Association, I and
a few friends had set one day apart for a visit to Sherwood Forest;
and "for a wonder," it proved to be a day of unclouded sunshine from
beginning to end.
Leaving Sheffield at 9-13 in the morning, a run of eighteen
miles brought us to the little town of Worksop in Nottinghamshire,
on the edge of the Forest. Worksop is a remarkably clean and
sweet-looking little town, touched here and there with quaint relics
of the olden time, like "Ye olde Shippe Inne," in Bridge Street, and
the ancient Priory Gateway, and the broken cross in the market
place, and it is surrounded by beautiful woodland scenery, and
park-like landscapes. Worksop has no manufactures, but it does
a deal in the way of malting and corn grinding, and it has also a
growing timber trade. The ancient lords of Sheffield were also
lords of Worksop,—the Lovetots, the Furnivals, the Talbots, and the
Howards in succession; and the most prominent feature in its early
history was its venerable Priory, of which the principal relic left
is the ancient gate-house, in the market place. Altogether it
is a pleasant little rural town, and the history of its old Priory
is almost the history of the town itself. But I must leave
clean little Worksop, and its quaintness and its prettiness all
behind, "and hie me away to merry Sherwood, some pastime for to
see." . . .
At a fine old hostelry, in the main street of the town, we
chartered an open conveyance, and away we went for a fifteen-mile
drive through "The Dukery," into the romantic remains of wild old
Sherwood Forest, at Birkland and Bilhagh, near the ancient village
of Edwinstowe. "The Dukery" is a great tract of the old
forest, which has been trimmed and trained into what is now,—taken
as a whole,—the grandest stretch of park scenery in the kingdom.
Leaving the town by the Park Gates, we found ourselves at
once under the shade of lordly woods, and for the next ten miles or
so, we rode on through magnificent park lands, the Manor Park,
Welbeck Park, Clumber Park, and Thoresby Park, one after the other;
catching a glimpse, here and there, as we went along, of the great
mansions, with their gleaming lakes, belonging to these parks, until
at last, we came to the grand old "Major Oak," and the genuine
relics of the wild old forest, at Budley, and Birkland, and Bilhagh;
for, although one continuous tract of ancient forest, it bears these
several names,—and it stretches for miles in one dense mass of rich
foliage, with thousands of the grandest old oak trees I ever saw,
under whose spreading boughs, miles of thick, tall, bright ferns
twinkled in the sun. Here we were, at last, in Sherwood
Forest, and all that I had read and dreamt of bold Robin Hood and
the gay greenwoods of old England seemed to be brought palpably
before my eyes. The scene was so enchantingly wild and sweet
that I will not attempt to describe it in the brief space at my
command just now, but close with the words of Charles Reece
Pemberton, who says that it is "the most perfect specimen of antique
forest, the most sequestered and distinctly charactered elf and
fairy realm on earth, beautifully grand, awful, solemn, and deeply,
After dining at the little forest village of Edwinstowe, near
the ruins of the ancient Palace of Clipstone, we returned to Worksop
by another woodland route, as the rosy rays of evening fell upon the
Note: this was written in the year 1879.
Excelsior Steam Printing and Bookbinding Works,
Hulme Hall Road, Manchester.