List Of Contents | Contents of Miscellanies upon Various Subjects
< < Previous Page    

brown rich furr) at Stanton Park, &c. the race now extinct thereabout.

The Romans subdued and civilized them; at Lekham (Mr. Camden saith)
was a colony of them, as appears there by the Roman coin found there.
About 1654, in Weekfield, in the parish of Hedington, digging up the
ground deeper than the plough went, they found, for a great way
together, foundations of houses, hearths, coals, and a great deal of
Roman coin, silver and brass, whereof I had a pint; some little
copper-pieces, no bigger than silver half-pence (quaere if they were
not the Roman Denarii) I have portrayed the pot in which a good deal
was found, which pot I presented to the Royal Society's Repository, it
resembles an apprentice's earthen Christmas-box.

At Sherston, hath several times been found Roman money in ploughing. I
have one silver piece found there (1653) not long since, of
Constantine the Great. Among other arts, that of architecture was
introduced by them; and no doubt but here, as well as in other parts,
were then good buildings, here being so good stone: I know not any
vestigia now left in this country, except the fragments of the Castle
of Salisbury, which takes its name from Caesar, Caesarisburghum, from
whence Sarisburgh, whence Salisbury.

At Bath are several Roman inscriptions, which Mr. Camden hath set
down, and by the West Gate a piece of a delicate Corinthian freeze,
which he calls wreathed leaves, not understanding architecture; and
by in a bass relieve of an optriouch. At Bethford, about 1663, was
found a grotto paved with Mosaic work, some whereof I have preserved.

The Saxons succeeding them, and driving away to Ireland, Cornwal, &c.
these Britains were by Romans left here; for they used the best of
them in their wars, (being their best soldiers) here was a mist of
ignorance for 600 years. They were so far from knowing arts, that they
could not build a wall with stone. They lived sluttishly in poor
houses, where they eat a great deal of beef and mutton, and drank good
ale in a brown mazard; and their very kings were but a sort of
farmers. After the Christian Religion was planted here, it gave a
great shoot, and the kings and great men gave vast revenues to the
Church, who were ignorant enough in those days. The Normans then came
and taught them civility and building; which though it was Gothick (as
also their policy "Feudalis Lex") yet they were magnificent. For the
Government, till the time of King Henry VIII. it was like a nest of
boxes; for copyholders, (who, till then were villains) held of the
lords of the Manor, who held of a superior lord, who perhaps held of
another superior lord or duke, who held of the king. Upon any occasion
of justing or tournaments in those days, one of these great lords
sounded his trumpets (the lords then kept trumpeters, even to King
James) and summoned those that held under them. Those again sounded
their trumpets, and so downward to the copy-holders. The Court of
Wards was a great bridle in those days. A great part of this North
Division held of the honour of Trowbridge, where is a ruinated castle
of the dukes of Lancaster. No younger brothers then were by the custom
and constitution of the realm to betake themselves to trades, but were
churchmen or retainers, and servants to great men rid good horses (now
and then took a purse) and their blood that was bred of the good
tables of their masters, was upon every occasion freely let out in
their quarrels; it was then too common among their masters to have
feuds with one another, and their servants at market, or where they
met (in that slashing age) did commonly bang one another's bucklers.
Then an esquire, when he rode to town, was attended by eight or ten
men in blue coats with badges. The lords (then lords in deed as well
as title) lived in their countries like petty kings, had "jura
regalia" belonging to their seigniories, had their castles and
boroughs, and sent burgesses to the Lower House; had gallows within
their liberties, where they could try, condemn, draw and hang; never
went to London but in parliament-time, or once a year to do their
homage and duty to the king. The lords of manours kept good houses in
their countries, did eat in their great Gothick halls, at the high
table; (in Scotland, still the architecture of a lord's house is
thus, viz. a great open hall, a kitchen and buttery, a parlour, over
which a chamber for my lord and lady; all the rest lye in common, viz.
the men-servants in the hall, the women in a common room) or oriele,
the folk at the side-tables. (Oriele is an ear, but here it signifies
a little room at the upper end of the hall, where stands a square or
round table, perhaps in the old time was an oratory; in every old
Gothic hall is one, viz. at Dracot, Lekham, Alderton, &c.) The meat
was served up by watch-words. Jacks are but an invention of the other
age: the poor boys did turn the spits, and licked the dripping-pan,
and grew to be huge lusty knaves. The beds of the servants and
retainers were in the great halls, as now in the guard-chamber, &c.
The hearth was commonly in the middle, as at most colleges, whence the
saying, "Round about our coal-fire." Here in the halls were the
mummings, cob-loaf-stealing, and a great number of old Christmas plays
performed. Every baron and gentleman of estate kept great horses for a
man at arms. Lords had their armories to furnish some hundreds of men.
The halls of justices of the peace were dreadful to behold, the
skreens were garnished with corslets and helmets, gaping with open
mouth, with coats of mail, lances, pikes, halberts, brown bills,
batterdashers, bucklers, and the modern colivers and petronils (in
King Charles I.'s time) turned into muskets and pistols. Then were
entails in fashion, (a good prop for monarchy). Destroying of manors
began temp. Henry VIII., but now common; whereby the mean people live
lawless, nobody to govern them, they care for nobody, having no
dependance on anybody. By this method, and by the selling of the
church-lands, is the ballance of the Government quite altered, and put
into the hands of the common people. No ale-houses, nor yet inns were
there then, unless upon great roads: when they had a mind to drink,
they went to the fryaries; and when they travelled they had
entertainment at the religious houses for three days, if occasion so
long required. The meeting of the gentry was not then at tipling-
houses, but in the fields or forest, with their hawks and hounds, with
their bugle horns in silken bordries. This part very much abounded
with forests and parks. Thus were good spirits kept up, and good
horses and hides made; whereas now the gentry of the nation are so
effeminated by coaches, they are so far from managing great horses,
that they know not how to ride hunting-horses, besides the spoiling of
several trades dependant. In the last age every yRoman almost kept a
sparrow-hawk; and it was a divertisement for young gentlewomen to
manage sparrow-hawks and merlins. In King Henry VIII.'s time, one Dame
Julian writ The Art of Hawking in English verse, which is in Wilton
Library. This country was then a lovely champain, as that about
Sherston and Cots-wold; very few enclosures, unless near houses: my
grandfather Lyte did remember when all between Cromhall (at Eston) and
Castle-Comb was so, when Easton, Yatton and Comb did intercommon
together. In my remembrance much hath been enclosed, and every year,
more and more is taken in. Anciently the Leghs (now corruptly called
Slaights) i. e. pastures, were noble large grounds, as yet the Demesne
Lands at Castle Combe are. So likewise in his remembrance, was all
between Kington St. Michael and Dracot-Cerne common fields. Then were
a world of labouring people maintained by the plough, as yet in
Northamptonshire, &c. There were no rates for the poor in my
grandfather's days; but for Kington St. Michael (no small parish) the
church-ale at Whitsuntide did the business. In every parish is (or
was) a church-house, to which belonged spits, crocks, &c., utensils
for dressing provision. Here the house-keepers met, and were merry,
and gave their charity. The young people were there too, and had
dancing, bowling, shooting at butts, &c., the ancients sitting gravely
by and looking on. All things were civil and without scandal. This
church-ale is doubtless derived from the {Greek text: agapai}, or
love-feast, mentioned in the New Testament. Mr. A. Wood assures me,
that there were no alms-houses, at least they were very scarce before
the Reformation; that over against Christ Church, Oxon, is one of the
ancientest. In every church was a poor man's box, but I never
remembered the use of it; nay, there was one at great inns, as I
remember it was before the wars. Before the Reformation, at their
vigils or revels, sat up all night fasting and praying. The night
before the day of the dedication of the church, certain officers were
chosen for gathering the money for charitable uses. Old John
Wastfield, of Langley, was Peter-man at St. Peter's Chapel there; at
which time is one of the greatest revels in these parts, but the
chapel is converted into a dwelling-house. Such joy and merriment was
every holiday, which days were kept with great solemnity and
reverence. These were the days when England was famous for the " grey
goose quills." The clerk's was in the Easter holidays for his benefit,
and the solace of the neighbourhood.

Since the Reformation, and inclosures aforesaid, these parts have
swarmed with poor people. The parish of Cain pays to the poor (1663)
L500 per annum; and the parish of Chippenham little less, as appears
by the poor's books there. Inclosures are for the private, not for the
public, good. For a shepherd and his dog, or a milk-maid, can manage
meadow-land, that upon arable, employed the hands of several scores of

In those times (besides the jollities already mentioned) they had
their pilgrimages to Walsingham, Canterbury, &c. to several shrines,
as chiefly hereabouts, to St. Joseph's of Arimathea, at his chapel in
Glastonbury Abbey. In the roads thither were several houses of
entertainment, built purposely for them; among others, was the house
called "The Chapel of Playster" near Box; and a great house called
....... without Lafford's Gate, near Bristol.

Then the Crusado's to the Holy War were most magnificent and glorious,
and the rise, I believe, of the adventures of knights errant and
romances. The solemnities , of processions in and about the churches,
and the perambulations in the fields, besides their convenience, were
fine pleasing diversions: the priests went before in their
formalities, singing the Latin service, and the people came after,
making their good-meaning responses. The reverence given to holy men
was very great. Then were the churches open all day long, men and
women going daily in and out hourly, to and from their devotions. Then
were the consciences of the people kept in so great awe by
confession, that just dealing and virtue was habitual. Sir Edwyn
Sandys observed, in his travels in the Catholic countries, so great
use of confession as aforesaid, that though a severe enemy to the
Church of Rome, he doth heartily wish it had never been left out by
the Church of England, perceiving the great good it does beyond sea.
Lent was a dismal time, strictly observed by fasting, prayer, and
confessing against Easter. During the forty days, the Fryars preached
every day.

This country was very full of religious houses; a man could not have
travelled but he must have met monks, fryars, bonnehommes, &c. in
their several habits, black, white, grey, &c. And the tingle tangle of
their convent bells, I fancy, made very pretty musick, like the
college bells at Oxford.

Then were there no free-schools; the boys were educated at the
monasteries; the young maids, not at Hackney schools, &c. to learn
pride and wantonness, but at the nunneries, where they had examples of
piety, humility, modesty, and obedience, &c. to imitate and practise.
Here they learned needle-work, and the art of confectionary,
surgery, physick, writing, drawing, &c.

Old Jaques (who lived where Charles Hadnam did) could see from his
house the nuns of the priory of St. Mary's (juxta Kington) come forth
into the nymph-hay with their rocks and wheels to spin, and with their
sewing work. He would say that he hath told threescore and ten; though
of nuns there were not so many, but in all, with lay-sisters, as
widows, old maids, and young girls, there might be such a number. This
was a fine way of breeding up young women, who are led more by example
than precept; and a good retirement for widows and grave single
women, to a civil, virtuous, and holy life.

Plato says, that the foundation of government is, the education of
youth; by this means it is most probable that that was a golden age. I
have heard Judge Jenkins, Mr. John Latch, and other lawyers, say, that
before the Reformation, one shall hardly in a year find an action on
the case, as for slander, &c. which was the result of a good

It is a sarcasm, more malicious than true, commonly thrown at the
church-men, that they had too much land; for their constitution being
in truth considered, they were rather administrators of those great
revenues to pious and publick uses, than usufructuaries. As for
themselves, they had only their habit and competent diet, every order
according to their prescribed rule; from which they were not to vary.
Then for their tenants, their leases were almost as good to them as
fee simple, and perchance might longer last in their families. Sir
William Button (the father) hath often told me, that Alton farm had
been held by his ancestors from the Abbey of Winchester, about four
hundred years. The powers of Stanton Quintin held that farm of the
Abbey of Cirencester in lease 300 years: and my ancestors, the
Danvers, held West Tokenham for many generations, of the Abbey of
Broadstock, where one of them was a prior. Memorandum, that in the
abbies were several corrodies granted for poor old shiftless men,
which Fitzherbert speaks of amongst his writs. In France, to every
parish church is more than one priest, (because of the several masses
to be said) which fashion, Mr. Dugdale tells me, was used here, and at
some churches in London, in near half a dozen.

In many chancels are to be seen three seats with niches in the wall
(most commonly on the south side) rising by degrees, and sometimes
only three seats, the first being for the bishop, the second for the
priest, and the third for the deacon. Anciently the bishops visited
their churches in person. This I had from Mr. Dugdale; as also that in
many churches where stalls are, as at cathedrals, (which I mistook for
chauntries) and in collegiate churches. This searching after
antiquities is a wearisome task. I wish I had gone through all the
church-monuments. The Records at London I can search gratis. Though of
all studies, I take the least delight in this, yet methinks I am
carried on with a kind of oestrum; for nobody else hereabout hardly
cares for it, but rather makes a scorn of it. But methinks it shows a
kind of gratitude and good nature, to revive the memories and
memorials of the pious and charitable benefactors long since dead and

Eston Pierse, April 28, 1670.


< < Previous Page    

Other sites: