RAMBLE FROM BURY TO ROCHDALE.
afternoon, at the end of February, I had some business to do in
Bury, which kept me there till evening. As twilight came on,
the skies settled slowly into a gorgeous combination of the grandest
shapes and hues, which appeared to canopy the country for miles
around. The air was clear, and it was nipping cold, and every
object within sight stood out in beautiful relief in that fine
transparence, softened by the deepening shades of evening. The
world seemed to stand still and meditate, and inhale silently the
air of peace which pervaded that tranquil hour of closing day, as if
all things on earth had caught the spirit of "meek Nature's evening
comments on the fuming shows and vanities of man." The glare
of daylight is naturally fitted for bustle and business, but such an
eventide as this looked the very native hour of devout thought, and
recovery from the details of worldly occupation. It is said
that the town of Bury takes its names from the Saxon word byri,
a burgh or castle. One of the twelve ancient Saxon fortresses
of Lancashire stood in the place called "Castle Croft," close to the
town, and upon the banks of the old course of the river Irwell.
Immediately below the eminence upon which the castle stood, a low
tract of ground, of considerable extent, stretches away from below
the semicircular ridge upon which the northern extremity of the town
is situated, up the valley of the Irwell. Less than fifty
years ago this tract was a great stagnant swamp, where, in certain
states of the weather, the people of the neighbourhood could see the
weird antics of the "Wild Fire," or "Jack o' Lanterns," that fiend
of morass and fen. An old medical gentleman, of high repute,
who has lived his whole life in the town, lately assured me that he
remembers well, that during the existence of that poisonous swamp
there was a remarkable prevalence of fever and ague amongst the
people living in its neighbourhood, which diseases have since then
almost disappeared from the locality. The valley so long
fruitful of pestilence is now drained and cleared, and blooms with
little garden allotments belonging to the working people
thereabouts. Oft as I chance to pass that way, on Saturday
afternoons or holidays, there they are, working in their little
plots, sometimes assisted by their children or their wives,—a very
I lingered in the market-place a little while, looking at the
parish church, with its new tower and spire, and at the fine pile of
new stone buildings, consisting of the Derby Hotel, the Town Hall,
and the Athenćum. South Lancashire has, for a long time past,
been chiefly careful about hard productive work, and practicable
places to do it in, and has taken little thought about artistic
ornament of any sort; but the strong old county palatine begins to
flower out a little here and there, and this will increase as the
wealth of the county becomes influenced by elevated taste. In
this new range of buildings there was a stateliness and beauty which
made the rest of the town of Bury look smaller and balder than ever
it seemed to me before. It looked like a piece of the west end
of London dropped among a cluster of weavers' cottages. But my
reflections took another direction. At "The Derby" there,
thought I, will be supplied,—to anybody who can command "the one
thing needful,"—sumptuous eating and drinking, fine linen, and downy
beds, hung with damask curtaining, together with grand upholstery,
glittering chandelier and looking-glass, and more than enough of
other ornamental garniture of all sorts,—a fine cook's shop and
dormitory, where a man might make shift to tickle a few of his five
senses very prettily, if he was so disposed. A beggar is not
likely to put up there; but a lord might chance to go to bed there,
and dream that he was a beggar. At the other end of these fine
buildings the new Athenćum was quietly rising into the air.
The wants to be provided for in that edifice were quite of another
kind. There is in the town of Bury, as, more or less,
everywhere, a sprinkling of naturally active minds, struggling
through the hard crust of ignorance and difficulty towards mental
light and freedom. I felt sure that such as these, at least,
would watch the laying of the stones of this new Athenćum with a
little interest. That is their grand citadel, thought I; and
from thence the artillery of a few old books shall help to batter
tyranny and nonsense about the ears. This fine Old England of
ours will some day find, like the rest of the world, that it is not
mere wealth, and luxury, and dexterous juggling in trade, that make
and maintain its greatness, but intelligent and noble-hearted men,
in whatever station of life they grow; and they are, at least,
sometimes found among the obscure and poor. It will learn to
prize these as the "pulse of the machine," and to cultivate them as
the chief hope of its future glory; and will carefully remove all
unnecessary difficulties from the path of those who, by a wise
instinct of nature, are impelled in the pursuit of knowledge.
The New Town Hall is the central building of this fine pile.
The fresh nap has not yet worn off it; and, of course, its
authorities were anxious to preserve its fresh beauty from the
contaminations of "the unwashed." They had made it nice, and
they wanted none but nice people in it. At the "free
exhibition" of models for the Peel monument, a notice was posted at
the entrance warning visitors that "Persons in Clogs" would not be
admitted, and in my erroneous belief that this Town Hall, into which
"Persons in Clogs" were not to be admitted, was public property, the
qualification test seemed to be altogether at the wrong end of the
man. Alas, for these poor lads who wear clogs and work-soiled
fustian garments! It takes a moral Columbus, every now and
then, to keep the world awake to a belief that there is something
fine in them, which has been running to waste for want of
recognition and culture. Blessčd and beautiful are the feet
which fortune has encased in the neat "Clarence" of soft calf or
Cordovan, or the glossy "Wellington" of fine French leather!
Even so; the woodenest human head has a better chance in this world
if it come before us covered with a good-looking hat. But woe
unto your impertinent curiosity, ye unfortunate clog-wearing lovers
of the fine arts! I was delighted to hear, however, that
several of these ardent persons of questionable understanding,
meeting with this warning as they attempted to enter the hall, after
duly contemplating it with humorous awe, doffed their clogs at once,
and, tucking the odious timber under their arms, ran up the steps in
their stocking-feet. It is a consolation to believe that these
clogs of theirs are not the only clogs yet to be taken off in this
world of ours.
In one of the windows of "The Derby" was exhibited a
representation of "The Eagle and Child," or, as the country-folk in
Lancashire sometimes call it, "Th' Brid and Bantlin'," the ancient
cognisance of the Stanleys, Earls of Derby, and formerly kings of
the Isle of Man, with their motto, "Sans changer," in a scroll
beneath. This family still owns the manor of Bury, and has
considerable possessions there. [p.97-1]
They have also large estates and great influence in the north and
west of Lancashire. In former times they have been accounted
the most powerful family of the county; and in some of the old wars
they led to the field all the martial chivalry of Lancashire and
Cheshire under their banner. As I looked on the Stanley's
crest, I thought of the fortunes of that noble house, and of the
strange events which it had shared with the rest of the kingdom.
Of James, Earl of Derby, who was beheaded at Bolton-le-Moors, in
front of the Man and Scythe Inn, in Deansgate, two centuries since [p97-2];
and of his countess, Charlotte de Tremouille, who so bravely
defended Lathom House against the Parliamentary forces during the
last civil wars. I once saw, in Bolton, an antique cup of
"stone china," quaintly painted and gilt, out of which it is said
that James, Earl of Derby, drank the communion immediately before
his execution. Greenhalgh, of Brandlestone, who was a notable
and worthy man, and who governed the Isle of Man for the Earls of
Derby, lived at Brandlesome Hall, near Bury. Respecting
Edward, the third earl, Camden says: "With Edward Earl of Derby's
death the glory of hospitality seemed to fall asleep." Of his
munificent housekeeping, too, he tells us how he fed sixty old
people twice a day, every day, and all comers twice a week; and
every Christmas Day, for thirty-two years, supplied two thousand
seven hundred with meat, drink, money, and money's worth; and how he
offered to raise ten thousand soldiers for the king. Also,
that he had great reputation as a bone-setter, and was a learned
man, a poet, and a man of considerable talent in many directions.
The present Lord Stanley [p.98]
is accounted a man of great ability as a politician and orator, and
of high and impetuous spirit, and is the leader of the Conservative
party in Parliament. A century ago the influence of great
feudal families like the Stanleys was all but supreme in Lancashire;
but since that time the old landlord domination has declined in the
manufacturing districts, and the people have begun to set more value
upon their independent rights as men than upon the painful patronage
of feudal landlords.
I had no time to devote to any other of the notabilities of
Bury town; and I thought that "Chamber Hall," the birthplace of the
famous statesman, Sir Robert Peel, would be worth a special
pilgrimage some Saturday afternoon. I had finished my business
about seven o'clock, and as the nightfall was fine and clear I
resolved to walk over to Rochdale, about six miles off to see an old
friend of mine there. Few people like a country walk better
than I do; and being in fair health and spirits I took the road at
once, with my stick in hand, as brisk as a Shetland pony in good
fettle. Striking out at the town-end, I bethought me of an old
herbalist, or "yarb doctor," who lived somewhere thereabouts,—a
genuine dealer in simples, bred up in the hills, on Ashworth Moor,
about three miles from the town, and who had made the botany of his
native neighbourhood a life-long study. Culpepper's "Herbal"
was a favourite book with him, as it is among a great number of the
country people of Lancashire, where there are, perhaps, more clever
botanists in humble life to be found than in any other part of the
kingdom. Nature and he were familiar friends, for he was a
lonely rambler by hill, and clough, and field, at all seasons of the
year, and could talk by the hour about the beauties and medicinal
virtues of gentian, dandelion, and camomile, or tansy,
mountain-flax, sanctuary, hyssop, buckbean, woodbetony, and
"Robin-run-i'th-hedge," and an endless catalogue of other herbs and
plants, a plentiful assortment of which he kept by him, either green
or in dried bundles, ready for his customers. The country
people in Lancashire have great faith in simples, and in simple
treatment for their diseases. I well remember that one of
their recipes for a common cold is "a wot churn-milk posset, weel
sweet'nt, an' a traycle cake to't, at bed-time." They are
profound believers in the kindly doctrine expressed in that verse of
More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of; in ev'ry path
He treads down what befriends him
When sickness makes him pale and wan.
Therefore, our primitive old herb doctor had in his time driven what
he doubtless considered, in his humble way, a pretty gainful trade.
And he was not exactly a "doctor-by-guess," as the Scotch say, but a
man of good natural parts, and of some insight into human
physiology, of great experience and observation in his little
sphere, and remarkable for strong common sense and integrity.
He was also well acquainted with the habits and the peculiar tone of
physical constitution among the people of his neighbourhood.
Like his pharmacopśia, his life and manners were simple, and his
rude patients had great confidence in him. It was getting
dark, and I did not know exactly where to find him, or I should have
been glad to see the old botanist, of whom I had heard a very
interesting account in my native town.
When one gets fairly into the country it is fine walking by a
clear starlight, when the air is touched with frost, and the ground
hard under the foot. I enjoyed all this still more on that old
road, which is always rising some knoll or descending into some
quiet clough, where all is so still that one can hear the waters
sing among the fields and stunted woods near the way-side. The
wind was blowing fresh and keen across Knowl Hill and the heathery
wastes of Ashworth and Rooley, those wild heights which divide the
Vale of the Roch from the Forest of Rossendale. I stood and
looked upon the blue heavens, "fretted with golden fire," and around
me, upon this impressive night-scene, so finely still and solemn,
the effect deepened by the moanings of the wind among the trees.
My mind reverted to the crowded city, and I thought to myself, this
is rather different to Market Street, in Manchester, on a Tuesday
forenoon! I stood still, and listened to the clear "Wo-up!" of
a solitary carter to his horse on the top of the opposite knoll, and
heard the latch of a cottage door lifted, and saw the light from the
inside glint forth into the trees below for an instant. It was
a homely glimpse, which contrasted beautifully with the sombre
grandeur of the night. The cottage door closed again,—the
fireside picture was gone,—and I was alone on the silent road, with
the clear stars looking down.
I generally put off my meals till I get a hint from the
inside; and by the time that I reached the bottom of a lonely dell,
about three miles on the road, I began to feel hungry, and I stepped
into the only house thereabouts, a little roadside inn, to get a
bite of something. The house stands near to a woody ravine,
which runs under the highway at that place. It is said to have
been entirely built by one man, who got the stone, hewed it, cut the
timber, and shaped it, and altogether built the house, such as it
is; and it has an air of primitive rudeness about it which partly
corroborates the story. The very hearth-flag is an old
gravestone, brought from the yard of some ancient moorland chapel,
and part of the worn lettering is visible upon it still. It is
known to the scattered inhabitants of that district by the name of
"The House that Jack Built." On entering the place I found the
front room dark and quiet, and nothing stirring but in the kitchen,
where I saw the light of a candle, and heard a little clatter among
the pots, which somebody was washing. The place did not seem
promising, so far as I could see at all, but I felt curious, and
walking forward I found a very homely-looking old woman, bustling
about there, with a clean cap on, not crimpled nor frilled anyway,
but just plainly adorned with a broad border of those large, stiff,
old-fashioned puffs which washerwomen make on the end of the Italian
iron. Old Sam, the landlord, had just come home from his work,
and sat quietly smoking on the long settle, in a nook by the
fireside, while his wife Mary got the tea ready. The entrance
of a customer seemed to be an important affair to them, and partly
so because they were glad to have a little company in their quiet
corner, and like to hear, now and then, how the world was wagging a
few miles off. I called for a glass of ale, and something like
the following conversation ensued:—
Mary. Aw'll bring it, maister. See yo,
tak this cheer. It's as chep sittin' as stondin'. An'
poo up to th' fire, for it's noan so warm to-neet.
Sam. Naw, it's nobbut cowdish, for sure.
Draw up to th' hob, an' warm yo, for yo look'n parish't (perished).
"If you can bring me a crust of bread and cheese, or a bit of cold
meat, or anything, I shall be obliged to you," said I.
Mary. Ay, sure aw will. We'n a bit o'
nice cowd beef, an' I'll bring it eawt. But it's bhoylt
(boiled), mind yo! Dun yo like it bhoylt? Yo'n find it
I told her that it would do very well; and then the landlord struck
Sam. Doesto yer, lass? There's a bit
o' pickle i'th cubbort; aw dar say he'd like some. Fot (fetch)
it eawt, an' let him feel at it.
Mary. Oh, ay, sure there is! an' aw'll
bring it, too. Aw declare aw'd forgetten it! Dun yo like
"I do," said I,—"just for a taste."
Mary. Well, well, aw meeon for a
taste. But aw'll bring it, an' yo can help yorsel to't.
Let's see,—wi'n yo have hard brade? Which side dun yo come
"I come from Manchester," said I.
Mary. Fro Manchester, eh! Whau, then,
yo'd'n rather ha' loaf-brade, aw'll uphowd yo.
"Nay, nay," said I. "I'm country-bred; and I would rather have
a bit of oat-cake. I very seldom get any in Manchester; and
when I do, it tastes as if it was mismanaged, somehow; so a bit of
good country bread will be a treat to me."
Mary. That's reet! aw'll find yo some
gradely good stuff! An' it's a deeol howsomer nor loaf, too,
mind yo! . . . . Neaw, wi'n nought uncuth to set afore yo; but yo'n
find that beef's noan sich bad takkin', if yor ony ways sharp set. .
. . Theer, see yo! Neaw, make yorsel awhoam, an' spare nought,
for wi'n plenty moor. But houd; yo hannot o' yor tools yet!
Aw'll get yo a fork in a crack.
I fell to with a good will, for the victuals before me were
not scanty, and they were both wholesome and particularly welcome
after my sharp walk in the keen wind that night. The first
heat of the attack was beginning to slacken a bit, and old Sam, who
had been sitting in the corner, patient and pleased all the while,
with an observant look, began to think that now there might be room
for him to put in a word or two. I also began to feel as if I
had no objection to taper off my meal with a little country talk;
and the old man was just asking me what the town-folk said about the
Parliamentary crisis, and the rumour which had reached him that
there was an intention to revive the Corn Laws again, when Mary
interrupted him by saying, "Husht, Sam! Doesto yer nought?"
He took the pipe out of his mouth, and, quietly blowing the smoke
from the corner of his lips, held his head on one side in a
listening attitude. Old Sam smiled, and, lighting his pipe
again, said, "Ah, yon's Jone o' Jeffry's." "It's nought else,
aw believe," said Mary. "Doesto think he'll co'?" "Co'?
Ay!" replied Sam. "Does he ever miss, thinksto? Tak chi
cheer to th' tone side a bit, an' make reawm for him, for he'll be
i'th heawse in a minute." And then, turning to me, he said "Nea,
then, maister, yo'n yer some gam, if yor spare't." He had
scarcely done speaking when a loud "Woigh!" was heard outside as a
cart stopped at the door, and a heavy footstep came stamping up the
lobby. The kitchen door opened, and a strong-built country
carter stood before us,—large-limbed and broad-shouldered, with a
great, frank, good-tempered face, full of rude health and glee.
He looked a fine sample of simple manhood, with a disposition that
seemed to me, from the expression of his countenance, to be
something between that of an angel and a bulldog. Giving his
hands a hearty smack, he rubbed them together, and smiled at the
fire; and then, doffing his hat, and flinging it with his whip upon
the table, he shouted "Hello! Heaw are yo,—o' on yo? Yor
meeterly quiet again, to-neet, Mary! An' some of a cowd neet
it is! My nose sweats." The landlord whispered to me,
"Aw towd yo, didn't aw? Sit yo still; he's rare company, is
Oil painting, believed to be of Jone O'Jeffreys.
Reproduced by kind permission of Jacky Ward Lomax.
Mary. Ay, we're quiet enough; but we
shannot be so long, neaw at thir't come'd, Jone.
Jone. Well, well; what, yor noan beawn to
flyte, owd crayter, are yo?
Sam. Tak no notiz on hur, wilco, foe? Hoo
meeons nought wrang.
Mary. Not aw! Sit to deawn, Jone.
We're olez fain to sitho; for thir't noan one o'th warst mak o'
folk, as rough as to art.
Jone. Aw'st sit mo deawn, as what aw am;
an' aws't warm me, too, beside; an' aw'll ha' summit to sup, too,
afore aw darken yon dur-hole again. . . . Owd woman, fill one o'th
big'st pots yo han, an' let's have houd, aw pray yo, for mi
throttle's as dry as a kex. An' be as slippy as ever yo con,
or aw'st be helpin' mysel',—for it's ill bidin' for dry folk amung
Mary. Nay, nay; aw'll sarve tho, if thou'll
be patient hauve a minute; an' theawst ha' plenty to start wi', as
Jone. "That's reet!" as Pinder said, when
his wife bote hur tung i' two! Owd woman, yo desarv'n a
comfortable sattlement i'th top shop when yo dee'n; an' yo'st ha'
one, too, iv aw've ony say i'th matter. . . . Eh, heaw quiet yo are,
Sam! By th' mass, iv aw're here a bit moor aw'd may some
rickin' i' this cote, too. Whau, men, yo'dd'n dee i'th shell
iv one didn't wakken yo up a bit neaw an' then.
Mary. Eh, mon! Thea sees, our
Sam an' me's gettin' owd, an' wi'dd'n raythur be quiet, for th' bit
o' time 'at wi' ha'n to do on. Beside, aw could never do wi'
rough wark. Raylee o' me! It'd weary a grooin' tree to
ha' th' din an' th' lumber an' th' muck at they han i' some
aleheawses. To my thinkin', aw'd go as fur as othur grace
(grass) grew or wayter ran afore aw'd live amoon sich doin's.
One could elthur manage wi't at th' for-end o' their days. But
what, we hannot so lung to do on neaw; an' aw would e'en like to
finish as quietly as aw can. We hannot had a battle i'
this heawse as,—let's see,—as three year an' moor; ha'n wi, Sam?
Sam. Naw, aw dunnot think we han. But
we soud'n a deeol moor ale just afore that time, too.
Jone. Three year, sen yo! Eh, the
dule, Mary! heaw ha'n yo shap'd that! Whau owd Neddy at the
Hoo'senam,—yo known owd Neddy, aw reckon, dunnot yo, Sam?
Sam. Do I know Rachda' Church steps,
Jone. Aw dar say yo know th' steps a deeol
better nor yo know th' church, owd brid!
Sam. Whau, aw have bin up thoose steps once
or twice i' my life; an thea knows, ony body at's bin up 'em a
twothore (few) times, 'll not forget 'em so soon; for if thi'n tak 'em
sharpish fro' th' bottom to th' top, it'll try their wynt up rarely
afore they getten to Tim Bobbin gravestone i'th owd churchyard.
But aw've bin to sarvice theer as oft as theaw has, aw think.
Jone. Ay! an' yo'n getten abeawt as much
good wi't as aw have, aw dar say; an' that's nought to crack on;—but
wi'n say no moor upo' that footin'. Iv yo known onybody at o',
yo known owd Neddy at th' Hoo'senam; and aw'll be bund for't, 'at i'
three years' time he's brunt mony a peawnd o' candles wi' watchin'
folk feight i' their heawse. Eh, aw've si'n him stop o'er em,
wi a candle i' eyther hont, co'in eawt, "Nea, lads! Turn him
o'er, Tum! Let 'em ha' reawm, chaps; let 'em ha' reawm!
Nea, lads! Keep a loose leg, Jam! Nea, lads!" And
then, when one on 'em wur down to th' lung-length, he'd sheawt eawt,
"Houd! he's put his hont up! Come, give o'er!" An' afore
they'd'n getten gradely wynded, an' put their clooas on, he'd offer
another quart for th' next battle. Eh, he's one o'th quarest
chaps i' this nation, is owd Ned, to my thinkin'; an' he's some good
points in him, too.
Sam. There isn't a quarer o' this
countryside, as hea't be; an' there's some crumpers amung th' lot.
Jone. Aw guess yo known Bodle, too, dunnot
yo, owd Sam?
Sam. Yigh, aw do. He wortches up at
th' col-pit yon, doesn't he?
Jane. He does, owd craytur.
Mary. Let's see,—isn't that him 'at skens a
Sam. A bit, saysto, lass? It's aboon
a bit, by Guy! He skens ill enough to crack a looking-glass,
Mary. Eh, do let th' lad alone, folk, win
yo? Aw marvel at yo'n no moor wit nor makin' fool o' folk at's
wrang wheer they connot help it. Yo met happen be strucken
yorsels! Beside, he's somebory's chylt, an' somebory likes [p.107]
him, too, aw'll uphowd him; for there never wur a feaw face i' this
world but there wur a feaw fancy to match it somewheer.
Jone. They may fancy him 'at likes, for me;
but there's noan so mony folk at'll fancy Bodle, at after they'n
smelled at him once't. An', by Guy, he's hardly wit enough to
keep fro' runnin' again woles i'th dayleet! But aw'll tell yo
a bit of a crack abeawt him an' Owd Neddy.
Mary. Well, let's ha't; an mind to tells no
lies abeawt th' lad i' thi talk.
Jone. Bith mon, Mary, aw connot do
that, beawt aw say 'at he's oather a pratty un or a good un.
Sam. Get forrad wi' thy tale, Jone,
an' bother no moor abeawt it.
Jone (whispers to Owd Sam). Aw say.
Who's that chap at sits hutchin i'th nook theer, wi' his meawth
Sam. Aw know not. But he's a
quiet lad o' somebory's, so tak no notice. Thae'll just meet
plez him i' tho'll get forrad. Thae may see that, i' tho'll
look at him; for he stares like a ferrit watchin' a ratton.
Jone. Well, yo seen, Sam, one mornin',
after Owd Neddy an' Bodle had been fuddlin' o'th o'erneet, thi'dd'n
just getten a yure o'th dog into 'em, an' they sit afore th' fire i'
Owd Neddy's kitchen, as quiet, to look at, as two pot dolls; but
they didn't feel so, noather, for thi'dd'n some of a yed-waache
apiece, i'th treawth wur known. When thi'dd'n turn't things
o'er a bit, Bodle begun o' lookin' very yearnstfully at th'
fire-hole o' at once't, and he said, "By th' mass, Ned, aw've a good
mind to go up th' chimbley!" Well, yo known, Neddy likes a
spree as well as ony mon livin', an' he doesn't care so mich what
mak' o' one it is nother; so as soon as he yerd that he jumped up,
an' said, "Damn it, Bodle, go up—up wi' tho!" Bodle stood
still a minute, looking at th' chimbley, an' as he double't his laps
up, he said, "Well, neaw; should aw rayleygoo up, thinksto, owd
crayter?" "Go?—ay! what elze?" said Owd Ned. "Up wi' tho;
soot's good for th' ballywaach, mon; an' aw'll gi' tho a quart ov
ale when tho comes deawn again!" "Willto, for sure?" said
Bodle, prickin' his ears. "Am aw lyin', thinksto?" onswer'd
Owd Neddy. Whau, then, aw'm off, by th' mon, iv it's as lung
as a steeple!" An' he made no moor bawks at th' job, but set
th' tone foot onto th' top-bar, an' up he went into th' smudge-hole.
Just as he wur crommin' hissel' in at th' bottom o'th chimbley, th'
owd woman coom in to see what they hadd'n agate; an' as soon as
Bodle yerd hur, he code eawt, "Howd her back a bit, till aw get eawt
o'th seet, or else hoo'll poo me deawn again!" Hoo stare't a
bit afore hoo could make it eawt what it wur at're creepin' up th'
chimbley-hole, an' hoo said, "What mak o' lumber ha'n yo afoot neaw?
for yo're a rook o'th big'st nowmuns 'at ever trode on a floor!
Yo'n some mak o' divulment agate i'th chimbley, aw declare!"
As soon as hoo fund what it wur, hoo sheawted, "Eh, thea greight
gawmless foo! Wheer arto for, up theer? Thea'll be
smoor't, mon!" An' hoo would ha' darted forrad, an' getten
howd on him; but Owd Ned kept stonnin afore hur, an' sayin', "Let
him alone, mon; it's nobbut a bit of a spree." Then he looked
o'er his shoulder at Bodle, an' said, "Get thee forrad, wilto, foo!
Thae met a bin deawn again by neaw! An' as soon as he see'd
'at Bodle wur getten meeterly weel up th' hole, he leet her go; but
hoo wur too lat to get howd. An' o' at hoo could do wur to fot
him a seawse or two o'th legs wi' th' poker. But he wur for
up, an' nought else. He did just stop abeawt hauve a
minute,—when he felt hur hit his legs,—to co' eawt, "Who's that at's
hittin' mo?" "Why," said hoo, "It's me, thae greight leather-yed;
an' come down wi' the! Whatever arto' doin' i'th chimbley?"
"Aw'm goin' up for ale." "Ale! There's no ale up theer,
thae greight brawsen foo! Eh, aw wish yor Molly wur here!"
"Aw wish hoo were here, istid o' me," said Bodle. "Come down
witho this minute, thae greight drunken hal!" "Not yet," said
Bodle,—"but aw'll not be lung, nothur, yo may depend;—for it's noan
a nice place,—this isn't. Eh! there is some ov a smudge!
An' it gwos wur as aw go fur;—a—tscho—o! By Guy, aw con see
noan,—nor talk, noathur;—so ger off, an' let me get it o'er afore
aw'm chauk't!" An' then th' owd lad crope forrud, as hard as
he could, for he're thinkin' abeawt th' quart ov ale. Well,
Owd Neddy nearly skrike't wi' laughin', as he watched Bodle draw his
legs up eawt o'th seet; an' he set agate o' hommerin' th' chimbley
wole wi' his hont, and sheawtin' up, "Go on, Bodle, owd lad!
Go on, owd mon! Thir't a reet un! Thea'st, have a quart
o'th best ale i' this hole, i' tho lives till tho comes deawn again,
as hea 'tis, owd brid! An' i' tho dees through it, aw'll be
fourpence or fi'pence toawrd th' berrin!" And then he went
sheawting up an' deawn, "Hey! dun yo yer, lads? Come here!
Owd Bodle's gone up th' chimbley! Aw never clapt my een upo th'
marrow trick to this i' my life!" Well, yo may think, Sam, th'
whole heawse wur up i' no time; an' some rare sport they hadd'n; an'
Owd Neddy kept goin' to th' eawtside, to see if Bodle had getten his
yed eawt at th' top; an' then runnin' in again, an bawlin' up th'
flue, "Bodle, owd lad, heaw arto gettin on? Go throo wi't, owd
cock!" But, whol he're starin' and sheawtin' up th' chimbley,
Bodle lost his howd, somewheer toawrd th' top, an he coom shutterin'
deawn again, an' o'th soot i'th chimbley wi' him; an' he let wi' his
hinder-end thump o'th top-bar, an' then roll't deawn upo' th'
har'stone. An a gradely blash-boggart he looked, yo may think.
Th' owd lad seem't as if he hardly knowed wheer he wur; so he lee
theer a bit, amung a cloud o' soot, an' Owd Neddy stood o'er him,
laughin', an' wipin' his een, an' co'in eawt, "Tak thy wynt a bit,
Bodle; thir't safe londed, iv it be hard leetin'! Thir't a
reet un; bi' th' mon arto, too! Tak thy wynt, owd brid!
Thea'st have a quart, as how 'tis, owd mon, as soon as ever aw con
see my gate to th' bar eawt o' this smudge at thea's brought wi' tho!
Aw never had my chimbley swept as chep i' my life!"
Mary. Well, if ever! Whau, it're
enough to mak th' felly's throttle up! A greight, drunken
leather-yed! But, he'd be some dry, mind yo!
Jone. Yor reet, Mary! Aw think
mysel that a quart of ale wouldn't come amiss after a do o' that mak.
An' Bodle wouldn't wynd aboon once wi' it, afore he seed th' bottom
o' th' pot, noather.
Well, I had a good laugh at Jone's tale, and I enjoyed his
manner of telling it, as much as anything there was in the story
itself for, he seemed to talk with every limb of his body, and every
feature of his face; and told it, altogether, in such a living way,
with so much humour and earnestness, that it was irresistible; and
as I was "giving mouth" a little, with my face turned up toward the
ceiling, he turned to me, and said quickly, "Come, aw say; are yo
noan fleyed o' throwing yor choles off th' hinges?" We soon
settled down into a quieter mood, and drew round the fire, for the
night was cold; when Jone suddenly pointed out to the landlord one
of those little deposits of smoke which sometimes wave about on the
bars of the fire-grate, and, after whispering to him, "See yo, Sam;
a stranger upo th' bar, theer;" he turned to me, and said, "That's
yo, maister!" This is a little superstition, which is common
to the firesides of the poor in all England, I believe. Soon,
after this, Mary said to Jone, "Hasto gan thy horse aught, Jone?"
"Sure, aw have," replied he. "Aw lift it heytin', an' plenty
to go on wi', so then. Mon, aw reckon to look after deawn
crayters a bit, iv there be aught stirrin'." "Well," said she,
"aw dar say thea does, Jone; an' mind yo, thoose at winnut do some
bit like to things at connot talk for theirsels, they'n never ha' no
luck, as who they are." "Well," said Jone, "my horse wortches
weel, an' he sleeps weel, an' he heyts weel, an' he drinks weel, an'
he parts wi't fearful weel; so he doesn't ail mich yet."
"Well," replied Mary, "there isn't a wick thing i' this world can
wortch as it should do, if it doesn't heyt as it should do."
Here I happened to take a note-book out of my pocket, and write in
it with my pencil, when the conversation opened again.
Sam. (whispering). Sitho, Jone, he's
Jone. Houd, maister, houd! What mak
o' marlocks are yo after neaw? What're yo for wi' us, theer?
But aw caren't a flirt abeawt it; for they connot hang folk for
talkin' neaw, as thi' could'n once on a day; so get forrud wi't, as
what it is.
He then began to inquire about the subject which was the
prevailing topic of conversation at that time, namely, the
Parliamentary crisis, in which Lord John Russell had resigned his
office at the head of the Government; and the great likelihood there
seemed to be of a protectionist party obtaining power.
Jone. Han yo yerd aught abeawt 'em puttin'
th' Corn Laws on again? There were some rickin' abeawt it i'
Bury teawn when aw coom off wi' th' cart to-neet.
Sam. They'n never do't, mon!
They connot do! An' it's very weel, for aw dunnot know what
would become o' poor folk iv they did'n do. What think'n yo,
I explained to them the unsettled state of Parliamentary
affairs, as it had reached us through the papers; and gave them my
firm belief that the Corn Laws had been abolished once for all in
this country, and that there was no political party in England who
wished to restore them, who would ever have the power to do so.
Jone. Dun yo think so? Aw'm proud to
Sam. An' so am aw, too, Jone. But
what, aw know'd it weel enough. Eh, mon; there's a deal more
crusts o' brade lyin' abeawt than there wur once't of a day.
Aw've sin th' time when thi'dd'n ha' bin nipt up like lumps o' gowd.
Jone. Aw think theyn ha' to fot Lord John
back, to wheyve (weave) his cut deawn yet. To my thinkin' he'd
no business to lev his looms. But aw dar say he knows his own
job betther nor me. He'll be as fause as a boggart, or elze
he'd never ha' bin i' that shop as lung as he has bin, not he.
There's moor in his yed nor a smo'-tooth comb con fotch eawt.
What thinken yo, owd brid?
Sam. It's so like! But aw
dunnot care who's in, Jone, i' thi'n nobbut do some good for poor
folk; an' that's one o'th main jobs for thoose 'at's power.
But iv they wur'n to put th' Corn Bill on again, there's mony a
theawsan' would be clemmed to deeoth.
Jone. Ay, there would so, Sam, 'at I know
on. But see yo,—there's a deal on 'em 'ud go deawn afore me.
Aw'd make somebody houd back till their cale coom! Iv they
winnot gi' me my share for worchin' for, aw'll have it eawt o' some
nook,—iv aw dunnot, damn Jone! (striking the table heavily with
his fist). They're never be clemmed at our heawse, as aw
ha' si'n folk clemmed i' my time,—never whol aw've a fist at th' end
o' my arm! Neaw, what have aw towd yo!
Sam. Thea'rt reet, lad! Aw houd thi
wit good, by th' mass! Whol they gi'n us some bit like ov a
chance, we can do. At th' most o' times, we'n to kill 'ursels
(ourselves) to keep 'ursels, welly; but when it comes to scarce wark
an' dear mheyt, th' upstroke's noan so fur off.
Mary. Ay, ay. If it're nobbut a
body's sel', we could manage to pinch a bit, neaw an' then; becose
one could rayson abeawt it some bit like. But it's th' childer,
mon,—it's th' childer! Th' little things at look'n for it
reggilar an' wonder'n heaw it is when it doesn't come. Eh,
dear o' me! To see poor folks bits o' childer yammerin' for a
bite o' mheyt,—when there's noan for 'em,—an' lookin' up i' folk's
faces, as mich as to say, "Connot yo help me?" It's enough to
may (make) onybody cry their shoon full!
Here I took out my book to make another note.
Jone. Hello! yo'r agate again! What,
are yo takkin th' pickier on mo, or summat? . . . Eh, Sam, what a
thing this larnin' is! Aw should ha' bin worth mony a theawsan'
peawnd if aw could ha' done o' that shap, see yo!
Sam. Aw guess thea con write noan, nor read
noather, conto, Jone?
Jone. Not aw! Aw've no moor use for a
book nor a duck has for a umbrell. Aw've had to wortch hard
sin aw're five year owd, mon. Iv aw've ought o' that mak to
do, aw go to owd Silver-yed at th' lone-side wi't. It makes me
as mad as a wasp, mony a time, mon; one looks sich a foo!
Sam. An' he con write noan mich, aw think,
Jone. Naw! He went no fur nor
pot-hook an' ladles i' writin', aw believe. But he con read a
bit, an' that's moor nor a deeol o' folk abeawt here con do.
Aw know nobory upo' this side at's gradely larnt up, nobbut Ash'orth
parson. But there's plenty o' chaps i' Rachda' teawn at's so
brawsen wi' wit, that noather me, nor thee, nor no mon elze, con may
ony sense on 'em. Yo reckelect'n a 'torney co'in here once't?
What dun yo think o' him?
Sam. He favours a foo, Jone; or aw'm a foo
Jone. He's far larnt i' aught but honesty,
mon, that's heaw it is. He'll do no reet, nor tak no wrang.
So wi'n lap it up just wheer it is; for little pigs ha'n lung ears.
Sam. Aw'll tell tho' what, Jone; he's a bad
trade by th' hond, for one thing; an' a bad trade 'll mar a good mon
Jone. It brings moor in than mine does.
But we'n let it drop. Iv aw'd his larning, I'd make summat
Sam. Ah, well! it's a fine thing is larnin',
Jone! It's a very fine thing! It taks no reawm up, mon.
An' then, th' baillies connot fot it, thea sees But what, poor
folk are so taen up wi' gettin' what they needn' for th' bally an'
th' back, whol thi'n noather time nor inclination for nought but a
bit ov a crack for a leetenin'.
Jone. To mich so, owd Sam! To mich
Mary. Thea never tells one heave th' wife
Jone. Why, th' owd lass is yon; an'
hoo's noather sickly, nor soory, nor sore, 'at aw know on. . . .
Yigh, hoo's trouble't wi' a bit ov a breykin'-eawt abeawt th' meawth
Mary. Does hoo get nought for it?
Jone. Nawe, nought 'at'll mend it.
But aw'm mad enough, sometimes, to plaister it wi' my hond,—iv aw
could find i' my heart.
Mary. Oh, aw see what thou meeons, neaw. .
. . An' aw dar say thea gi's her 'casion for't, neaw an' then.
Jone. Well, aw happen do. Th' best o'
folk need'n bidin' wi' a bit sometimes; an aw'm noan one o' th'
best, yo known.
Mary. Nawe; or th' warst noather, Jone.
Jone. Yo dunnot know o', mon.
Mary. Happen not; but thir't too good to
brun, as how't be.
Jone. Well, onybody's so, Mary. But
we're o' God Almighty's childer; an' aw feel fain ont sometimes; for
he's th' best faither that a chylt con have.
Mary. Ay, but thea'rt nobbut like other
childer, Jone; thea doesn't tak as mich notice o' thy faither as
thea should do.
Sam. Well, well; let's o' on us be as good
as we con be, if we aren't as good as we should be; an' then wi's be
better nor we are.
Jone. Hello! that clock begins a-givin'
short 'lowance, as soon as aw get agate o' talkin'. Aw mun be
Sam. Well, thae'll co' a-lookin' at us,
when tho comes this gate on, winnut to, Jone? Iv tho doesn't,
aw'st be mad, thae knows.
Jone. As lung as aw'm wick and weel, owd
crayter, aw'st keep comin' again, yo may depend,—like Clegg Ho'
Sam. Well, neaw, mind tho does do, for aw'd
sooner see thee nor two fiddlers, ony time; so good neet to tho, an'
good luck to tho, too, Jone, wi' o' my heart!
The night was wearing late, and as I had yet nearly three miles to
go I rose and went my way. This road was never so much
travelled as some of the highways of the neighbourhood, but since
railways were made it has been quieter than before, and the grass
has begun to creep over it a little in some places. It leads
through a district which has always been a kind of weird region to
me. I have wandered among those lonely moorland hills above
Birtle and Ashworth, and Bagslate, up to the crest of old Knowl, and
over the wild top of Rooley, from whence the greatest part of South
Lancashire,—that wonderful region of wealth and energy,—lies under
the eye, from Blackstone Edge to the Irish Sea; and I have wandered
through the green valleys and silent glens among those hills,
communing with the "shapes, and sounds, and shifting elements" of
nature, in many a quiet trance of meditative joy, when the serenity
of the scene was unmixed with any ruder sound than the murmurs of
the mountain stream careering over its rocky bed, and the music of
small birds among the woods upon its banks, or the gambols of the
summer wind among the rustling green, which canopied the stream so
thickly that the sunshine only stole into the deeps in fitful
threads, hardly giving a warmer tinge to the softened light in cool
grots below. Romantic Spoddenlond! Country of wild
beauty, of hardy simple life, of old-world manners, and of ancient
tales and legends dim! There was a time when the very air of
the district seemed to my young mind impregnated with boggart-lore,
and all the wild "gramerie" of old Saxon superstition,—when I looked
upon it as the last stronghold of the fairies, where they would
remain impregnable, haunting wild "thrutches" and sylvan "chapels,"
in lonely deeps of the sloughs and woods, still holding their mystic
festivals there on moonlight nights, and tripping to the music of
its waters, till the crack of doom. And, for all the boasted
march of intellect, it is even to this day a district where the
existence of witches and the power of witch-doctors, wise-men,
seers, planet-rulers, and prognosticators, find great credence in
the imaginations of a rude and unlettered people. There is a
little fold, called "Prickshaw," in this township of Spotland, which
fold was the name of a notable country astrologer in Tim Bobbin's
time, called "Prickshaw Witch." Tim tells a humorous story
about an adventure he had with this Prickshaw planet-ruler, at the
Angel Inn, in Rochdale. Prickshaw keeps up its oracular fame
in that moorland quarter to this day (1854), for it has its
planet-ruler still; and it is not alone in such wild outlying nooks
of the hills that these professors of the art of divination may yet
be found,—almost every populous town in Lancashire has, in some
corner of it, one or more of these gifted star-readers, searching
out the hidden things of life, for all inquirers, at about a
shilling a-head. These country soothsayers mostly drive a sort
of contraband trade in their line, in as noiseless and secret a way
as possible, among the most ignorant and credulous part of the
population. And it is natural that they should flourish
wherever there are minds combining abundance of ignorant faith and
imagination with a plentiful lack of knowledge. But they are
not all skulkers, these diviners of the skies, for now and then a
bold prophet stands forth in distinct proportions before the public
gaze, who has more lofty and learned pretensions; witness the
advertisement of Dr. Alphonso Gazelle, of No. 4, Sparth Bottoms,
Rochdale, which appeared in the Rochdale Sentinel of the 3rd
of December, 1853. [p.119]
Oh, departed Lilly and Agrippa! your shadows are upon us still!
But I must continue my story of the lone old road and its
associations; and as I wandered on that cold and silent night, under
the blue sky, where night's candles were burning so clear and calm,
I remembered that this was the country of old Adam de Spotland, who,
many centuries since, piously bequeathed certain broad acres of land
"for the cure of souls" in the parish of Rochdale. He has now
many centuries slept with his fathers. And as I walked down
the road, in this sombre twilight, with a hushed wind, and under the
shade of the woody height on which the homestead of the brave old
Saxon stood, my footsteps sounding clear in the quiet air, and the
very trees seeming to bend over to one another and commune in awful
murmurs on the approach of an intruder, how could I tell what the
tramp of my unceremonious feet might waken there? The road
crosses a woody glen, called "Simpson Clough," which is one of the
finest pieces of ravine scenery in the county, little as it is
known. The entire length of this wild gorge is nearly three
miles, and it is watered by a stream from the hills called "Nadin
Water," which, in seasons of heavy rain, rages and roars with great
violence through its rocky channel. There is many a strange
old tale connected with this clough. Half-way up a shaley bank
which overhangs the river on the western side of the clough, the
mouth of an ancient lead-mine may still be seen, partly shrouded by
brushwood. Upon the summit of a precipitous steep of wildwood
and rock which bounds the eastern side of the clough, stands Bamford
Hall, a handsome modern building of stone, a few yards from the side
of the old hall of the Bamfords of Bamford. On an elevated
table-land, at the western side of the clough, and nearly opposite
to Bamford Hall, stood the ancient mansion of Grizlehurst, a seat of
the notable family of Holt in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
The Holt family were once the most powerful and wealthy landowners
in the parish of Rochdale. The principal seats of the family
in this parish were Stubley Hall, in the township of Wardleworth,
and Castleton Hall, in the township of Castleton. The manor of
Spotland was granted by Henry VIII. to Thomas Holt, who was knighted
in Scotland by Edward, Earl of Hertford, in the thirty-sixth year of
the reign of that monarch. Part of a neighbouring clough still
bears the name of "Tyrone's Bed," from the tradition that Hugh
O'Neal, Earl of Tyrone, took shelter in these woody solitudes, after
his defeat in the great Irish rebellion, in the reign of Queen
Elizabeth. Mr. John Roby, of Rochdale, wove this legend into
romance, in his "Traditions of Lancashire."
I reached home about ten o'clock, and thinking over the
incidents of my walk I was a little impressed by one fact suggested
by the conversation at the road-side public-house with "Jone o'
Jeffreys" and the old couple,—namely, that there is a great outlying
mass of dumb folk in this country, who,—by low social condition and
lack of common education among them,—are shut out from the chance of
hearing much, and still more from the chance of understanding what
they do hear respecting the political questions of the time; and,
also, with respect to many other matters which are essential to
their welfare. Whether this ignorance is chargeable upon that
multitude itself, or upon that part of the people whom more
favourable circumstances have endowed with light and power, and who
yet withhold these elements from their less fortunate fellows, let
casuists decide. The fact that this ignorance does exist among
the poor of England lies so plainly upon the surface of society,
that it can only be denied by those who are incurious as to the
condition of the humbler classes of this kingdom, or by those who
move in such exclusive circles of life that they habitually ignore
the conditions of human existence which lie outside of their own
limits of society. That portion of our population which hears
next to nothing, and understands less, of politics and the laws,—any
laws whatever,—is nevertheless compelled to obey the laws, right or
wrong, and whatever mutations they may be subject to, and is thus
continually drifted to and fro by conflicting currents of
legislation which it cannot see,—currents of legislation which
sometimes rise from sources where there exists, unfortunately, more
love for ruling than for enlightening. Many changes come over
the social condition of this blind multitude, they know not whence,
nor how, nor why. The old song says—
Remember, when the judgment's weak
And certainly that part of the popular voice which is raised upon
questions respecting which it has little or no sound information
must be considerably swayed by prejudice. Shrewd demagogues
know well how prostrate is the position of this uneducated "mass,"
as it is called; and they have a stock of old-fashioned tricks by
which they can move it to their own ends "as easy as lying."
'Tis the time's plague,
When madmen lead the blind.
The educated classes have all the wide field of ancient learning
open to them,—they can pasture where they will; and, the stream of
present knowledge rushing by, they can drink as they list.
Whatever is doing in politics, too, they hear of, whilst these
things are yet matters of public dispute and in some degree they
understand and see the drift or them, and therefore can throw such
influence as they have into one or the other scale of the matter.
This outdoor parliament of England, however, goes no farther down
among the people than education goes. Below that point lies a
land of fretful slaves, cut off by ignorance from the avenues which
lead to freedom; and they drag out their lives in blind subservience
to a legislation which is beyond their influence. Their
ignorance keeps them dumb; and, therefore, their condition and wants
are neither so well known, nor so often nor so well expressed, as
those of the educated classes. They seldom complain, however,
until the state of affairs drives them to extremity, and then their
principal exponents are riots and uproars of desperation. It
is plain that where there is society there must be law, and
obedience to that law must be enforced, even among those who know
nothing of the law, as well as those who defy it; but my principal
quarrel is with that ignorant condition of theirs which shuts them
out from any reasonable hope of exercising their rights as men and
citizens. And so long as that ignorance is unnecessarily
continued, the very enforcement of laws among them, the nature of
which they have no chance of knowing, looks, to me, like injustice.
I see a remarkable difference, however, between the majority of
popular movements which have agitated the people for some time past
and that successful one,—the repeal of the Corn Laws. The
agitation of that question, I believe, awakened and enlisted a
greater breadth of the understanding sympathy of the nation, among
all classes, than was ever brought together upon any popular
question which has been agitated within the memory of man. But
it did more than this,—and herein lies one of the foundation-stones
which shall hold it firm awhile, I think,—since it has passed into
law its results have convinced that uneducated multitude who could
not very well understand, and did not care much for the mere
disputation of the question. Everybody has a stomach of some
sort,—and it frequently happens that when the brain is not very
active the stomach is remarkably so,—and, where it could not
penetrate the understanding, it has by this time triumphantly
reached the stomach, and now sits there, smiling defiance to any
kind of sophistry that would coax it thenceforth again. The
loaves of free trade followed the tracts of the League, and the
hopes of protectionists are likely to be "adjourned sine die," for
the fog is clearing up a little, and I think I see a better
education getting ready for the next generation.
O for the coming of that glorious time
When, prizing knowledge as her noblest wealth
And best protection, this imperial realm,
While she exacts allegiance, shall admit
An obligation on her part to teach
Them who were born to serve her and obey,
Binding herself by statute to secure
For all her children whom her soil maintains
The rudiments of letters!