RAMBLE FROM BURY TO
"It's hardly in a body's'pow'r
To keep, at times, frae being sour,
To see how things are shar'd;
How best o' chiels are whiles in want,
While coofs on countless thousands rant,
And ken na how to wair't:
But, Davie, lad, ne'er fash your head,
Though we hae little gear,
We're fit to win our daily bread,
As lang's we're hale and fier."
ONE fine afternoon, at
the end of February, I had some business to do in Bury, which kept me
there till evening. As the twilight came stealing 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 very 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. Everything seemed to stand still and
meditate, and inhale silently the air of peace which pervaded that
magnificent and 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 absorbing
details of worldly occupation. It is said that the town of Bury
takes its name from the Saxon word byri, a burgh, or castle.
One of the twelve ancient Saxon fortresses of Lancashire stood in the
place now 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 once reared its frowning walls, 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, to the dismay of some of them, the weird antics
of the "Wild Fire," or, "Jack o' Lantern," 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 comparatively disappeared from the locality.
There is something rich in excellent suggestions in the change which has
been wrought in that spot. The valley, so long fruitful of pestilences, 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 the East Lancashire Railway, on Saturday afternoons, or holidays,
there they are, working in their little plots, sometimes assisted by their
children, or their wives; a very pleasant scene. Most Englishmen glory in
a bit of garden of their own, and take pleasure in the pains they bestow
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
Athenæum. South Lancashire has, for a very long time past, been chiefly
careful about its hard productive work, and practicable places to do it
in; and has taken little thought about artistic ornament of any sort; but
that part of the strong, old county palatine begins to flower out a little
here and there, and this will increase as the enormous 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. There it stood in the town, but not, apparently, of the town. 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 Athenæum 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 thin sprinkling of naturally active and noble minds, struggling through
the hard crust of ignorance and difficulty, towards mental light and
freedom. Such salt as this poor world of ours has in it, is not unfrequently found among this humble brood of stragglers. I felt sure that
such as these, at least, would watch the laying of the stones of this
new Athenæum with a little interest. That is their grand citadel, thought
I; and from thence, the fatal artillery of a few old books shall help to
batter tyranny and nonsense about the ears;—for there is a reasonable
prospect that there, the ample page of knowledge, "rich with the spoils
of time," will be unfolded to all who desire to consult it; and that from
thence the seeds of thought may yet be sown over a little space of the
neighbouring mental soil. 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 among the legerdemain of 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, unostentatious, and very poor. It will learn to prize these,
as the "pulse of the machine," and to cultivate them as the chief hope of
its future existence and glory; and will carefully remove, as much as
possible, all unnecessary difficulties from the path of those who, from a
wise instinct of nature, are impelled in the pursuit of knowledge by pure
love of it, for its own sake, and not by sordid aims.
The New Town Hall is the central building of this fine pile. The fresh nap
was not yet worn off it; and, of course, its authorities were anxious to
preserve its pristine Corinthian 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. There are some Town Halls which are public property, in
the management of which a kindred solicitude prevails about mere ornaments
of wood and stone, or painting, gilding, and plaster work; leading to
such restrictions as tend to lessen the service which they might afford to
the whole public. They are kept rather too exclusively for
grandee-festivals; and gatherings of those classes which are too much
sundered from the poor by a Chinese wall of exclusive feeling, and
vulgarly distinguished from them by the vague name of the "respectable." I
have known the authorities of such places make "serious objections to
evening meetings;" and yet, how oft have I seen the farce of "public
meetings" got up by this party, or that, ostensibly for the discussion of
some important question then agitating the population of the
neighbourhood, inviting public discussion, at eleven o'clock in the
forenoon, an hour when the heterodox multitude they feared to meet, would
be secure enough at their labour; and, in this way, many a pack of fanatic
hounds—and there are some such in all parties—have howled out their hour
with a clear stage and no foe; and then walked off glorying in their sham
triumph, leaving nothing beaten behind them but the air they have tainted
with ex parté denunciation. 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 of a queer kind, and
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 at all awake to a dim belief that there
is something fine in them, which has been running to waste for want of
recognition and culture. Blessed and beautiful are the feet, thought I,
which fortune hath encased in the neat "Clarence," of the softest 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
strongly assured that there were several curious specimens of this strange
animal extant among the working people of Bury.) It was pleasant 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
condemned 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. But, as this "Town Hall" is private property, and,
as it has been settled by a certain coronetted Solon of the north that "a
man can do what he likes with his own," these reflections are, perhaps,
more pertinent to other public balls that I know of than to this one.
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 Bantling'," the ancient recognizance 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. 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; and of his countess, Charlotte de Tremouille, who so bravely defended Fathom House against the parliamentary
forces, during the last civil wars. She was daughter to Claude, Duke of Tremouille, and Charlotte Brabantin de Nassau, daughter of William, Prince
of Orange, and Charlotte de Bourbon, of the royal house of France. Apart
from all the pride of famous descent, both the earl and his lady were
remarkable for certain high and noble qualities of mind, which commanded
the respect of all parties in those troubled times. I sometimes think that
if it had pleased Heaven for me to have lived in those days, I should have
been compelled by nature to fall into some Roundhead rank, and do a stroke
or two, the best I could, for that cause. When a lad at school I had this
feeling: and, as I pored over the history of that period, sometimes by
the light of the fire, for want of a candle, I well remember how, in my
own mind, I shouted the solemn battle-cry with great Cromwell and his
captains, and charged with the earnest Puritans, in their bloody struggles
against the rampant tyrannies of the time. Yet, even then, I never read of
this James, Earl of Derby—the brave and faithful soldier of a very
infatuated king—without a feeling of admiration for the chivalry of his
character. I lately saw, in Bolton, an antique cup of "stone china,"
quaintly painted and gilt, out of which it is said that he drank the
communion immediately before his execution. Greenhalgh, of Brandlesome,
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  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 the greatest part of Lancashire; but, since that
time, the old landlord domination has fast declined in the manufacturing
districts; and, though the people have found some galling slaveries under
new disguises, in the state of things which manufacture has brought with
it, they certainly begin 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 great departed
statesman, Peel—which is becoming a kind of political Lancashire Mecca in
these days—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 very fair health and spirits, I took the road at
once, with my stick in my hand, as briskly 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 county people of Lancashire, where there
are, perhaps, more really cleaver 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 glen, 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, wood-betony, 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 the
behoof of his customers. The country people in Lancashire generally have
great faith in simples, and in simple treatment for their diseases. I well
remember that one of their most canonical recipes for a common cold is "a wot churnmilk posset, weel sweet'nt, an' a tricycle cake to't, at
bed-time." They are profound believers in the kindly doctrine
expressed in that verse of George Herbert's:—
"More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of; in every path
He treads down what befriends him
When sickness makes him pale and wan.
Oh mighty love! man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him."
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 pharmacopæia, his life and manners were very
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 liked
very well 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 little clough, where all
is so still that one can hear the waters sing among the fields and stunted
woods off the wayside. The wind was blowing fresh and keen across Knoll
Hill and the heathery wastes of Ashworth and Rooley Moors, 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 meanings 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,
about the time of "high change," as I 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 very 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 narrow 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. 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 music among
the pots, which somebody was washing. The place did not seem very
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 crimped nor frilled any way, but just plainly
adorned with a broad border of those large, stiff, old-fashioned puffs,
which I used to watch my mother make on the end of the "Italian iron,"
when I was a lad at home. 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 good wife, Mary, got some tea ready for her tired
old man. The entrance of a customer seemed to be an important affair
to them, and partly so, I believe, because they were glad to have a little
company in their quiet corner, and liked 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, measter. See yo, tay this cheer. It's as chep
sittin' as stonnin' for aught aw know. An' poo up to th' fire, for it's
noan so warm to-meet.
Sam. Naw, its nobbut cowdish, for sure; dray up to th' hob, an' warm yo,
for yo look's gradely parish's. 
"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. Ah, sure aw will. We'n a bit o' very nice cowd mheyt; an' aw'll
bring it eawt. But it's bhoylt, mind yo! Dun yo like it bhoylt? Yo'n find
it middlin toothsome.
I told her that it would do very well; and then the landlord struck in:—
Sam. Does ta yer, lass. There's a bit o' nice pickle theer, i'th cubbort;
aw dar say he'd like some. Fot it eawt, an' let him feel at it.
Mary. Oh, ay, sure there is; an' aw'll bring it, too. Aw declare aw'd
forgetter it! Dun yo like pickle, measther?
"I do, very well," said I, "just for a taste, thank you."
Mary. Well, well; aw myhen 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
"I come from Manchester," said I.
Mary. Fro Manchester, eh! Whau, then, yo'd'n rayther ho' 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 I can assure you that 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 dhyel howsomer nor loaf, too, mind yo. * * * Neaw, wi'n naut uncuth to set
afore yo; but yo'n find that beef's moan sich bad takkin', iv yor ony ways
sharp set. * * * Theer, see yo! Nea, may yoursel'
awhom, an' spare naut,
for wi'n plenty moor. But houd! yo hannot o' yor tools yet. Aw'll reytch yo
a fork in a crack.
I fell to my homely feast with a very hearty good-will, for the viands
before me were not scanty, and they were both wholesome, and particularly
welcome, after my sharp walk in the keen wind, which came whistling over
the moors 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 a very 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's folk said
about the parliamentary crisis, and the rumour which had reached him, that
there was an intention of restoring the corn-laws again, when Mary
interrupted him by saying, "Husht, Sam; does ta yer naut?" 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, he said, "Ah, yon's Jone o' Jeffry's." "It's
naut else, aw believe," said Mary; "does ta think he'll co'?" "Co',
ah," replied Sam; "does he ever miss, thinks ta? Tay thy cheer to th'
tone side a bit, an' may reawm for him, for he'll be i'th' heawse in a
minute." And then, turning to me, he said, "Nea, then, measter, yo'n yer
some gam, iv yor spare't." He had scarcely done speaking, when a loud "Woyhe"
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 full-blown
Lancashire Cossack 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 bull-dog. Giving his hands a hearty smack, he rubbed
them together, and smiled at the fire; and then, doffing his rough hat,
and flinging it with his whip upon the table, be shouted out, "Hello! Heaw are yo—o' on yo! Yo'r meeterly quiet again to-neet, Mary! An' some ov a cowd neet it is. My nose sweats." The landlord whispered to me, "Aw towd yo, didn't awe. Sit yo still; he's rare company, is Jone."
Mary. Ah, we're quiet enough; but we shannut be so long,
neaw at thir't come'd, Jone, nothur.
Jone. Well, well. You noan
beawn to flyte mo, owd crayter, are yo?
Sam. Tay no notiz on hur, wilto, foo; hoo mhyens
Mary. Nut aw! Sit to deawn, Jone. We're olez fain to sitho; for thir't noan one o'th'warst mak o' folk, as roof as to art.
Jone. Aw'st sit mo deawn, as what aw am; an' aw'st warm me too, beside;
an' aw'll ha' summat to sup too, afore aw darken yon dur-hole again. * * * Owd
woman, fill me one o'th bigg'st pots yo han, an' let's be havin' houd, aw
pray yo; for my throttle's as dry as a kex. An' be as slippy as ever yo
con, owd crayter, or aw'st be helpin' myself, for it's ill bidein for dry
folk amung good drink!
Mary. Nay, nay; aw'll sarve
tho mysel', Jone, i' tho'll be patient abeawt
hauve a minute; an' theaw'st ha' plenty to start wi', as heaw't be.
Jone. "That's just reet," said Pinder, 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 cauve-cote, too. Whau, mon, yo'dd'n sink into a dhyed
sleep, an' fair dee i'th' shell, iv one didn't wacken yo up a bit, oytch
neaw and then.
Mary. Eh, mon! Thea sees, our Sam an' me's gettin' owd, an' yo'dd'n
raythur be quiet a very dhyel, for th' bit o' time at wi' ha'n to do on. Beside, aw could never do wi' roof wark.
Raylee o' me! It'd weary a grooin' tree to ha' th' din, an' th' lumber, an' th' muck at te
some ale heawzus. To my thinkin', aw'd go as fur as othur grace  grew or waytur ran, afore aw'd live amoon
sich doin's. One could elthur manage
we't at th' for-end o' their days. But what, we hannut so lung to do on,
neaw; an' aw would e'n finish as quietly as aw can. We hannut had a
battle i' er heawse uz—let's see—uz three yeer an' moor; ha'n wi, Sam?
Sam. Naw, aw dunnot think we han. But we soud'n a dhyel moor ale, just
afore that time, too.
Jone. Three year, sen yo! Eh, the dule, Mary; heaw ha'n yo shaped that!
Whau' owd Neddy at th' Hoo'senam—yo known owd Noddy, aw reckon, dunnot yo,
Sam. Do I know Rachdaw Church steps, thinks to?
Jone. Aw dar say yo known th' steps a dhyel better nur yo known th' church
Sam. Whau, aw have been bin up thoose steps a time or two
i' my life; an thea knows, ony body at's bin up 'em a twothore  times, 'll nut forget 'em
so soon; for iv thi'n tay 'em sharpish fro' th' bothom to' th' top, it'll
try their wynt up rarely afore they reytch'n Tim Bobbin gravestone i' th'
owd church-yort. But, aw've bin to sarvice theer as oft as thea has, aw
Jone. Ah;—an' yo'n gotten abeawt as mich good wi't, as aw have, aw dar
say; an' that's naut to crack on;—ho'ever, wi'n say no moor uppo' that
footin'. But, iv yo known ony body at o', yo known own 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 fheyt i' their heawse. Eh, aw've si'n
him ston o'er 'em, wi' a candle i' eyther hont, mony a time,
when they'n bin fheytin', an' he's kept co'in eawt, "Nea lads. Turn him
o'er, Tum! Let 'em ha' reawm, chaps, wi'n yo; let 'em em ha' reawn! Nea
lads! Keep a loce leg, Jam! Nea lads!" And then, when one on 'em wur done
to th' lung-length, he'd sheawt eawt, "Houd, bond! he's put his hont up! Come, give o'er, and ger up." And, afore they'd'n getten gradely wynded,
and put their cloas on, he'd offer "another quart for the next battle."
Eh, he's one o'th quarest chaps i' this nation, is owd Ned, to my
thinkin', an' he's some gradely good phoynts in him, too.
Sam. There isn't a quarer o' this countryside, as hea't be; an' there's
some crumpers amoon th' lot.
Jone. Aw guess yo know'n Bodle, too, dunnot yo, owd Sam?
Sam. Yigh, aw do. He wortches up at th' col-pit yon, doesn't he?
Jone. He does, owd craytur.
Mary. Let's see, isn't that him 'at skens a bit?
Sam. A bit, says ta, lass? It's aboon a bit, by Guy. He skens ill enough
to crack a looking glass, welly. His e'e-seet crosses somewheer abeawt th'
end on his nose, i' th' treawth wur known; an' he's as feaw as an empty
pot, oleo o'er,—an' as leawsy as Thump, too, beside.
Mary. Eh, do let th' lad alone, folk, win you. Aw marvel at yo'n no moor
wit nor mayin a foo o' folk at's wrang wheer they connut help it. Yo met
happen be strucken yorsels! Beside, he's somebory's chylt, an' somebory
likes 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. But, aw see yo
known him weel enough; an' so aw'll tell yo a bit of a crack abeawt him
an' Owd Neddy.
Mary. Well let's ha't; an' mind ta tells no lies abeawt th' lad i' thy
Jone. Bith mon, Mary, aw connut do, adeawt aw say at he's other a pratty
un, or a good un.
Sam. Get forrud wi' thy tale, Jone, wilto: an' bother no moor abeawt it.
Jone. (Whispers to Owd Sam): Aw say. Who's that chap's at sits hutchin i'
the nook their, wi' his meawth oppen?
Sam. Aw know not. But he's a nice quiet lad o' somebory's, so tay no notiz. Thae'll just meet pleaz him i' tho'll get forrud; thae may see that, i'
tho'll look at him, for he stares like a ferret at's sin a ratton.
Jone. Well, yo see'n, Sam, one mornin', after Owed Neddy an' Bodle had
been fuddlin' o' th' o'erneet, thi'dd'n just getten a yure o' th' owd dog
into 'em, an' they sit afore th' fire i' Owd Neddy kitchen, as quiet, to
look at, as two pot dolls; but they didn't feel so, nother; for thi'dd'n some ov 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
yearn'stfully at th' fire-hole o' at once't, and he said, "By th' mass,
Owd Ned, aw've a good mind to go reet up th' chimbley." Well, yo known,
Neddy likes a spree as well as ony men livin', an he doesn't care so mich
what mak' o' one it is, nothur; so as soon as he yerd that he jumped up,
an' said, "Damn it, Boodle, 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 rayley go up, thinks ta, owd crayter?" "Go?—ah;
what elze?" said Owd Ned—"Up wi' tho; soot's good for th'bally-waach,
mon; an' aw 'll gi' tho a quart ov ale when tho comes deawn again!" "Will ta, for sure?" said Bodle, prickin' his ears. "Am aw lyin'
thinks ta?" onswer't Owd Neddy. "Whau, then, aw'm off, by Gos, iv
it're 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' bothom 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, "Houd
hur back a bit, whol aw get eawt o'th seet, or elze hoo'll poo me deawn again."
Hoo stare's a bit afore hoo could may it
eawt what it wur a'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 ov a floor. Yo'n some make o' divulment agate i'th chimbley,
aw declare." As soon as hoo fund what it wur, hoo sheawted, "Eh, thea
ghreyt gawmless foo! Wheer to for up theer? They'll be smoor't, mon!" An, hoo would ha' darted forrud, an' gotten
hond on him; but Owd Ned kept
stonnin afore hur, an' sayin "Let him alone, mon; it's nobbut a bit ov a
spree." Then he looked o'er his shoulder at Bodle, an' said, "Get tee forrud, wilto nowmun; thae met ha' bin dawn again by neaw;" an, as soon
as he see'd at Bodle wur gettin meeterly weel up th' hole, he leet hur
go; but hoo wur to lat by a dhyel. 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'
else. He did just stop abeawt hauve a minute,—when he feld hur hit his
legs,—to co' eawt, "Hoo's that at's hittin' mo?" "Whau," said hoo, "It's
me, thae ghreyt leather-yed;—an' come deawn wi' tho! Whatever arto' doin'
i' th' chimbley?" "Aw'm goin' up for some ale." "Ale! There's no ale up theer, thae ghreyt brawsen foo! Eh, aw wish yor Mally wur here!" "Aw wish hoo wur here, istid o' me," said Bodle. Come deawn witho this minute, thae
ghreyt drunken hal!" "Nut yet," said Bodle,—"but aw'll not be lung, nothur,
yo may depend;—for it's noan a nice plaze,—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, nothur;—so ger off, an' let mo get it o'er afore aw'm
chauk't;" and 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 whole wi' his hont, an sheawtin'
up, "Go on, Bodle, owd lad! Go on, owd mon! Thir't a reet un, i' tho
lhoyzus! Thea'st have a quart o' th' best ale i' this hole, i' thou lives
till tho comes deawn again, as hea 'tis, owd brid! an i' tho does through
it, aw'll be fourpence or fi'pence toawrd thi berrin." And then, he went sheawting up an' deawn "Hey! Dun yo yer, lads; come here! Owd Boodle's
gwon chleyn up th' chimbley! Aw never sprad my e'en uppo th' marrow trick
to this i' my life." Well, yo may thinks, Sam, th' whole hawse wur up i'
no time; an' some rare spwort they ha'dd'n; whol Owd Neddy kept goin' to
th' eawtside, to see if Boodle had getting his yed eawt at th' top; an'
then runnin' in again, and bawling 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 hond, somewheer toward th' top,
an' he coom shutterin' deawn again, an' o' the soot i' the chimbley wi' him; an' he let wi' his hinder end thump o' th' top-bar, an' then roll't
deawn uppo th' har'stone. An' a greadly 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, amoon a ghreyt cloud o' soot, an' Owd Neddy stood o'er him,
laughin', an' wipein' his e'en, an' co'in' eawt, "Tay thy wynt a bit,
Bodle; thir't safe londed, iv it be hard leetin'! Thir't a reet un, bi' th' mon art ta, too. Tay thy wynt, owd bird! Thea'st have a quart ov ale,
as hea '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 chimney swept as
chep i' my life, never!"
Mary. Well, if ever! Whau, it 're enough to may th' fellow's throttle up! A ghreyt, drunken leather-yed! But, he'd be some dry, mind you!
Jone. Yo'r reet, Mary! Aw think mysel' at a quart ov ale 'ud come noan
amiss after a do o' that mak. An' Bodle wouldn't wynd aboon once wi' it,
afore he see'd th' bottom o' th' pot, nothur.
Well, I had a good laugh at Jone's tale, and I enjoyed his manner of
telling it, quite 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 fyerd o' throwing yo'r
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 uppo th' bar, theer;" he turned to me, and said "That's yo,
measther!" This is a little superstition, which is common to the
fire-sides 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 laft it heytin', an plenty to go on wi', so then. Mon, aw reckon
to look after deawn-crayters a bit, iv there be aught sturrin'." "Well,"
said she, "aw dar say thea does, Jone; an' mind yo thoose at winnut
do some bit like toawrd things at connut spheyk for theirsels, they'n
never ha' no luck, as hoo 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 flyerful 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 bookin' tho!
Jone. Houd, measther,
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 thi' connot hang folk for spheykin neaw, as thi' couldn't once on a day; so
get forrud wi't, as what it is.
He then, also, 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 Lord Stanley puttin' th' Corn Laws on
again? There wur 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
dunnut know what mut become o' poor folk iv they did'n do. What think'n
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 yer it!
Sam. An' so am aw too, Jone. But what, aw know'd it
weel enough. Eh, moon;
there's a dhyel moor crussuz o' brade lyin' abeawt i' odd nooks an'
corners, nor there wur once oy a day.
Aw've sin th' time when thi'd'n ha' bin checked up like lumps o' gowd.
Jone. Aw think they'n ha' to fot Lord John back, to wheyve his cut deawn
yet. To my thinkin' he'd no business to lhyev his looms. But aw dar say he
knows his own job betther nor aw do. 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 fot eawt. What think yo,
Sam. It's so like; it's so like! But aw dunnut 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 to don't. But, iv they wur'n to put th' Corn Bill on
again, there's mony a theawsan' 'ud be clemmed to dhyeth, o'ov a rook.
Jone. Ah, there would so, Sam, at aw know on. But, see yo; there's a
dhyel on 'em 'ud go deawn afore me. Aw'd may somebody houd back whol
their cale coom! Iv they winnut gi' me my share for wortchin' for, aw'll
have it eawt o' some nook, ov aw dunnut, damn Jone! (Striking the table
heavily with his fist.) They's never be clemmed at ir hawse, as aw ha'
folk clemmed i' my time,—never, whol aw've a knheyve a th' end o' my arm! Neaw, what have aw towd yo!
Sam. Thea'rt reet lad! Aw houd to wit good, by th' mass. Whol they gi'n us
some bit like ov a choance, we can elthur do. At th' most o' times, we'n
to kill 'ursels 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 met manage to pinch a
bit, neaw an' then; becose one could reayson abeawt it some bit like. But
it's th' childher, mon, it's th' childer! Th' little things at look'n
for it reggelur; an' wonder'n heaw it is when it doesn't come. Eh, dear o'
me! To see poor wortchin' folk's little 'bits o' childher 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 mo?" It's enough to may onybody cry
their shoon full!
Here I took out my book to make another note.
Jone. Hello! your agate again! Your for mayin' some mak ov a hobbil on
us, aw believe! What, are yo takkin' th' pickter on mo, or summat? *
* * * * Eh, owd Sam; what a thing this larnin' is. Aw should ha' bin worth mony a
hunderth theawsan peawnd iv aw could ha' done o' that shap, see yo !
Sam. Aw guess thea con write noan, nor read nothur, con ta,
Jone. Nut aw! aw've no moor use for a book nor a duck has for a umbrell. Aw've had to wortch meeterly hard sin aw're five year owd, mon. Iv aw've
aught o' that mak to do, aw go to owd Silver-yed at thi'lone-side, wi't. It may's mo mad mony a time, mon; one look's sich a
Sam. An' he con
write noan mich, aw think, con he?
Jone. Naw. He went no fur nor pot-hook an' ladles i' writin', aw believe. But he can read a bit, an' that's moor nor a dhyel o' folk abeawt here can
do. Aw know nobory oppo this side at's greadly larnt up, nobbut Ash'oth
parson. But there's plenty o' chaps i' Rachdaw teawn at's so brawsen
wi' wit, whol nothur me, nor thee, nor no mon elze, con may ony sense on
'em. Yo reckelect'n a 'torney co'iln' here once't. What dun yo think o'
Sam. He favvurs a foo,
Jone; ar aw'm a foo mysel'.
Jone. He's far learnt i' aught but honesty, mon, that's haw it is. He'll
do no reet, no tay 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 sphoyle a good mon sometimes; iv he'll stick
weel to 't.
Jone. It brings moor in nor mine does, a dhyel. But wi'n let it drop. Iv aw'd his larnin, aw'd may summat on't.
Sam. Ah, well; it's a fine thing is larnin', Jone! It's a very fine thing! It tay's no reawm up, mon. An' then, th' baillies conned fot it, thea
sees. But what, a dhyel o' poor folk are so taen up wi' gettin' what they
need'n for th' bally an' th' back, whol thi'n nothur time nor inclination
for nought but a bit ov a crack for a leetenin'.
Jone. To mich so, owd Sam! To mich so!
Mary. Thae never
tells one heaw th' wife is, Jone.
Jone. Whau, th' owd lass is yon; an' hoo's nothur sickly, nor soory, nor
sore, 'at aw know on. * * *
* Yigh, hoo's trubble't wi' a bit ov a bhreykin' eawt
abeawt th' meawth, sometimes.
Mary. Does hoo get nought for it?
Jone. Naw, nought 'at'll mend it, aw'm fyerd. But, aw'm mad enough,
sometimes to plaister it wi' my hond,—iv aw could find i' my heart.
Mary. Oh, aw see what to mhyens, neaw.
* * An'
aw dar say thea gi's her 'cation for't, neaw an' then.
Jone. Well, aw happen do; for th' best o' folk need'n bidin wi' a bit
sometimes; an' aw'm noan one o' th' best, yo know'n.
Mary. Naw; nor th' warst nothur, Jone.
Jone. Yo dunnut know, o' mon.
Mary. Happen not; but, thir't to good to brun, as hea't be.
Jone. Well, onybody's so, Mary. But, we're o' God Almighty's chiller,
mon; an' aw feel fain on't, sometimes; for he's th' best feyther at a chylt
Mary. Ah, but thea'rt nobbut like other chiller,
Jone; thea doesn't tak as
mich notice o' thy feyther, as thea should do.
Sam. Well, well; let's o' on us be as good as we con be, iv we aren't as
good as we should be; an' then wi's be better nor we are.
Jone. Hello! that clock begins 'o givin' short 'lowance, as soon as ever
aw get agate o' talkin'; aw'm mun be off again!
Sam. Well; thae'll co' a lookin' at us,
olez, when tho comes this gate on,
winnut to, Jone? Iv tho doesn't, aw'st be a bit 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' Boggart.
Sam. Well neaw, mind ta does do, for aw've 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 now wearing late, and, as I had yet nearly three miles to
go, I rose, and went my way. This old 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. And 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 modern 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 these
hills, communing with my own heart, and with the "shapes, and sounds, and
shifting elements" of nature, in many a quiet trance of meditative joy;
where the serenity of the scene was unmixed with any ruder sounds than the
murmurs and gurglings of the many-mooded mountain stream, careering over
its rocky bed through the shady hollow of the vale; and the blithe music
of small birds among the woods which lined the banks; or the viewless
gambols of the summer wind among the varied shade of rustling green, which
canopied the lonely stream, so thickly, that the flood of sunshine which
washed the treetops of the wood in gold, only stole into the deeps in
little fitful threads; hardly giving a warmer tinge to the softened light
in the cool grits and mossy cells down by the water side. Romantic Spoddenlond! Country of wild beauty; of hardy, simple, honest life; of
old-world manners, and of ancient tales and legends dim! There was a time
when almost 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 sylvan stronghold of the
fairies; where they would remain impregnable, haunting wild "thrutches" and sylvan
"chapels," in lonely deeps of its cloughs and woods; and, in
spite of all the hard-hearted logic in the world, still holding their
mystic festivals there on moonlight nights, and tripping to the ancient
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, simple, and unlettered people. There is a little
fold, called "Prickshaw," in this township of Spotland, which fold was
the home of a notable country astrologer, in Tim Bobbin's time, called "Prickshaw
Witch." Tim tells a humourous story in his works, about an adventure he
had with this Prickshaw planet-ruler, at the old Angel Inn, in Rochdale. Prickshaw keeps up its old oracular fame in that moorland quarter to this
day, for it has its planet-ruler still; and, it is not alone in such
wild, remote, 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, to 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, weak, or 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 clear and
distinct proportions, before the wondering public gaze, who has more lofty
and learned pretensions; witness the advertisement of Dr. Alphonso
Gazelle, of No. 4, Sparth Bottoms, Rochdale, which appears in the Rochdale
Sentinel, of the 3rd of December, 1853.  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; but, woe to the day, when men live to
see such bequests, long ago left for pious uses, degenerated into
lolling-couches, upon which vulgar pride may rock its sense of duty into
stillness, among the fatal stupors of worldliness, * * * And now, 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 this 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 deep and
craggy glen, called "Simpson Clough," which is one of the finest pieces of
ravine scenery in the whole 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 narrow rocky
channels. 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, disused lead mine may still be seen,
partly shrouded by tangled 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 site of the old hall of the Bamfords of Bamford. The new building
is a residence of one branch of the Fenton family, wealthy bankers and
cotton spinners, and owners of large tracts of land, here and elsewhere.
On an elevated table-land, at the western side of the clough, and nearly
opposite to Bamford Hall, stood the ancient mansion of Grizlehurst, the
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
prevailing tradition that the famous Hugh O'Neal, Earl of Tyrone and King
of Ulster, took shelter in these woody solitudes, after suffering severe
defeat in the great Irish Rebellion, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Mr.
John Roby of Rochdale has woven this legend into an elegantly written
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 roadside public-house, with "Jone o' Jeffrey's," and the old
couple; namely, that there is a great outlying mass of poor dumb folk in
this country, who—by low social condition, but more by the prevalent lack
of common education among them—are shut out from the chance of hearing
much, and still more from the chance of understanding what little they do
hear, respecting many interesting political questions of the time; and,
also, with respect to many other matters which are of essential importance
to their welfare. Whether this gross ignorance which yet pervades a great
multitude of the poor of England, 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 potent
elements from their less fortunate fellows, or, whether it is chargeable
upon neither, let learned 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 idle or incurious as
to the condition of the humbler classes of this kingdom; or, by those who
move only in such exclusive circles of life and thought, that they
habitually ignore many of the conditions of human existence which lie
outside of their own narrow limits of society and sympathy; or, by such as
wink their eyes to the great truth in this matter, in order to work out
some small purpose of their own. Wherever there is ignorance at all there
is too much of it; and it cannot be too soon nor too effectually removed,
especially by those who are wise enough to see the crippling and
infectious malignities of its nature. 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 strange 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,
The prejudice is strong."
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, and by that erratic play of
unenlightened, unbridled feeling, which has no safer government than the
ephemeral circumstances which chase each other off the field of time. 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." He who knows the touches of this passive instrument, can make
it discourse the music he desires; and, unhappily, that is not always
airs from heaven.
"'Tis the time's plague,
When madmen lead the blind."
Now, 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 of them,
and, therefore, can throw such influence as in them lies into one or the
other scale of the matter. This boasted out-door parliament—this free
expression of public opinion in England, however, as I have said before,
goes no farther down among the people than education goes. Below that
point lies a land of fretful slaves, dungeoned off by ignorance from the
avenues which lead to freedom; and they mostly drag out their lives in
unwilling subservience to a legislation which is beyond their ken and
influence. Their ignorance keeps them dumb; and, therefore, their
condition and wants are neither so well known, nor so often nor so well
expresser as those of the educated classes. They seldom complain, however,
until the state of affairs begins to press them to great extremities, and
then their principal exponents are mobs, and fierce uproars of
desperation. It is plain that where there is society there must be law,
and obedience to that law must be somehow enforced, even among those who
know nothing of the law, as well as those who defy it; but my principal
quarrel is against 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 of theirs is unnecessarily continued, the
very enforcement of laws among them, the nature of which they have no
chance of knowing, looks, to me, very like injustice. I see a rather
remarkable difference, however, between the majority of popular movements
which have agitated the people for some time past, and that great
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 one popular question which has been agitated
within the memory of man. But it did more than this—and herein lies one of
the great foundation-stones which shall hold it firm awhile, I think;
since it has passed into a law, its effects have most efficiently
convinced, and won over, that dumb, uneducated multitude of the labouring
poor, 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 particularly so—so that, where it could not penetrate the
understanding, it has by this time triumphantly reached the stomach, and
now sits there, smiling complacent 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 protectionist philosophers are
likely to be "adjourned sine die," for this generation at least—perhaps
much longer; for the fog is clearing up a little, and I think I see, in
the distance, a rather better education getting ready for the next
"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 are born to serve her and obey;
Binding herself by statute to secure
For all her children whom her soil maintains,
The rudiments of letters."
THE COTTAGE OF
AND THE VILLAGE OF MILNROW.
"If thou on men, their works and ways,
Canst throw uncommon light, man;
Here lies wha weel had won thy praise,
For Matthew was a bright man.
"If thou art staunch without a stain,
Like the unchanging blue, man;
This was a kinsman o' thy am,
For Matthew was a true man.
"If thou bast wit, and fun, and fire,
And no'er good wine did fear, man,
This was thy billie, dam, and sire,
For Matthew was a queer man."
IT is not in its large
towns that the true type of the natives of Lancashire can be seen. The
character of its town population is greatly modified by amalgamation with
settlers from distant quarters. Not so in the country parts, because the
tenancy of land, and employment upon it, are sufficiently competed by the
natives; and while temptations to change of settlement are fewer, the
difficulties in the way of changing settlement are greater there than in
towns. Country people, too, stick to the old sod, with hereditary love, as
long as they can keep soul and body together upon it, in any honest way. As numbers begin to press upon the means of living, the surplus fights its
way in cities, or in foreign lands; or lingers out a miserable life in
neglected corners, for want of work, and want of means to fly, in time, to
a market where it might, at least, exchange its labour for its life. The
growth of manufacture and railways, and the perpetual inroads of hordes of
destitute, down-trodden Irish, are truly stirring up Lancashire, and
changing its features, in an unparalleled way; and this change is rapidly
augmenting by a varied infusion of new human elements, attracted from all
quarters of the kingdom by the immense increase of capital, boldly and
promptly embarked in new inventions, and ever-developing appliances of
science, by a people remarkable for enterprise and industry. Still, he who
wishes to see the genuine descendants of those old Saxons who came over
here some fourteen hundred years ago, to help the Britons of that day to
fight for their land, and remained to farm it, and govern in it, let them
ramble through the villages on the western side of Blackstone Edge. He
will there find the open manners, the independent bearing, the steady
perseverance, and that manly sense of right and wrong, which characterised
their old Teutonic forefathers. There, too, he will find the fair
comeliness, and massive physical constitution of those broad-shouldered
farmer-warriors, who made a smiling England out of an island of forests
and bogs,—who felled the woods, and drained the marshes, and pastured
their quiet kine in the ancient lair of the wild bull, the boar, and the
Milnrow is an old village, a mile and a half eastward from the Rochdale
station. The external marks of its antiquity are now few, and much
obscured by the increase of manufacture there; but it is, for many
reasons, well worth a visit. It is part of the fine township of
Butterworth, enriched with many a scene of mountain beauty. A hardy
moor-end race, half farmers, half woollen-weavers, inhabit the district;
and their rude, but substantial cottages and farmsteads, often perch
picturesquely about the summits and sides of the hills, or nestle
pleasantly in pretty green helms and dells, which are mostly watered by
rambling rivulets, from the moorland heights which bound the township on
the east. There is also a beautiful lake, three miles in circumference,
filling a green valley, up in the hills, about a mile and a half from the
village. Flocks of sea-fowl often rest on this water, in their flight from
the eastern to the western seas. From its margin, the view of the wild
ridges of the "Back-bone of England" is fine to the north, while that
part of it called "Blackstone Edge," slopes up majestically from the
cart road that winds along the eastern bank. A massive cathedral-looking
crag frowns on the forehead of the mountain. This rock is a great point of
attraction to ramblers from the vales below, and is called by them "Robin
Hood Bed." A square cavity in the lower part is called "Th' Cellar." Hundreds of names are sculptured on the surface of the rock, some in most
extraordinary situations; and often have the keepers of the moor been
startled at peep of summer dawn by the strokes of an adventurous
chiseller, hammering his initials into its hard face as stealthily as
possible. But the sounds float, clear as a bell, miles over the moor, in
the quiet of the morning, and disturb the game. One of the first favourite
rambles of my youth was from Rochdale town, through that part of
Butterworth which leads by "Clegg Hall," commemorated in Roby's tradition
of "Clegg Ho' Boggart," and thence across the green hills, by the lonely
old farm-house, called "Peanock," and, skirting along the edge of this
quiet lake—upon whose waters I have spent many a happy summer day,
alone—up the lofty moorside beyond, to this well-known rock, called "Robin
Hood Bed," upon the bleak summit of Blackstone Edge. It is so large that
it can be seen at a distance of four miles by the naked eye, on a clear
day. The name of Robin Hood, that brave and gentlemanly outlaw of the
olden time ―
"The English ballad-singer's joy—"
is not only wedded to this wild mountain crag, but to at least one other
congenial spot in this parish; where the rude traditions of the simple
people of the neighbourhood point out another rock, of several tons
weight, as having been thrown thither, by this stalwart king of the
green-woods, from an opposite hill, nearly seven miles off. The romantic
track where the lake lies, is about the level of Milnrow, and quite out of
the ordinary way of the traveller, who is too apt to form his opinion of
the features of the whole district, from the rather sterile sample he sees
on the sides of the rail, between Manchester and Rochdale. But if he
wishes really to know the country and its inhabitants, he must get off
that, "an' tak th' crow-gate," and he may find vast moors, wild ravines,
green ploughs, and dells, and
"Shallow rivers, to whose falls,
Melodious birds sing madrigals,"
which will repay him for his pains. And then, if he be a Lancashire man,
and a lover of genius, let him go to Milnrow―it was the dwelling-place of
Tim Bobbin, with whose works I hope he is not unacquainted. His written
works are not much in extent. He was a painter, and his rough brush was
replete with Hogarthian sketches, full of nature, and radiant with his
own broad, humorous originality. He also left a richly-humorous dialectic
tale, a few Hudibrastic poems and letters, characteristic of the sterling
quality of his heart and head, and just serving to show us how much
greater the man was than his book.
I was always proud of Tim, and in my early days have made many a
pilgrimage to the village where he used to live, wandering home again
through the green hills of Butterworth. Bent on seeing the place once
more, I went up to Hunt's Bank, one fine day at the end of last hay-time,
to catch the train to Rochdale. I paid my shilling, and took my seat among
a lot of hearty workmen and country-folk coming back from the cheap trips
to Wales and the bathing places on the Lancashire coast. The season had
been uncommonly fine, and the trippers looked brighter for their out, and,
to use their own phrase, felt "fain at they'rn wick," and ready to buckle
to work again with double vigour. The smile of summer had got into the
saddest of us a little, and we were communicative and comfortable. A
long-limbed collier lad, after settling his body satisfactorily in a
corner, began, with eyes and ears oblivious to all winks and whispers, to
hum, in a jolting metre, with as much freedom of mind as if he was at the
mouth of a lonely "breast-hee" on his native moorside, a long country
ditty about the courtship of Phœbe and
"Well met, dearest Phœbe,
oh, why in such haste?
The fields and the meadows all day I have chased,
In search of the fair one who does me disdain;
You ought to reward me for all my past pain."
The late comers, having rushed through the ticket-office into the
carriages, were wiping their foreheads, and wedging themselves into their
seats, in spite of many protestations about being "to full already." The
doors were slammed, the bell rung, the tickets were shown, the whistle
screamed its shrill signal, and off we went like a street on wheels over
the little Irk, that makes such a slushy rumpus under the rotten wood
bridge by the college wall. Within the memory of living men, the angler
used to come down the bank, shady thereabouts, and settle himself among
the grass, to fish in its clear waters. But since Arkwright set this part
of the world so wonderfully astir with his fine practicable combination of
other men's inventions, the little Irk, like the rest of South Lancashire
streams, has been put to work, and its complexion is now so subdued to
what it works in, that the angler comes no more down to the banks of the
Irk with his baited tackle and piscatorial patience and cunning to beguile
the delicate loath and the lordly trout in his glittering suit of silver
The train is now nearly a mile past Miles Platting, and about a mile over
the fields, on the north side, lies the romantic dell called "Boggart Hole
Clough," hard by the village of Blackley ― a pleasant spot for an
afternoon walk from Manchester. An old Lancashire poet lives near it, too,
in his country cottage. It is a thousand to one that, like me, the
traveller will see neither the one nor the other from the train; but,
like me, let him be thankful for both, and ride on. Very soon now appears,
on the south side of the line, the skirts of Oldham town, scattered about
the side and summit of a barren slope, with the tower of the parish church
peeping up between the chimneys of the cotton factories behind Oldham
Edge. If the traveller can see no fine prospective meaning in the
manufacturing system, he will not be delighted with the scene, for the
country has a monotonous look, and is bleak and sterile, with hardly
anything worthy of the name of a tree to be seen upon it. But now, about a
hundred yards past the Oldham station, there is a little of the palpably
picturesque for him to feast on. We are crossing a green valley running
north and south. Following the rivulet through the hollow, a thick wood
waves on a rising ground to the south. In that wood stands Chadderton
Hall, anciently the seat of the Chaddertons, some of whom were very famous
men; and since then, the seat of the Horton family. The situation is very
pleasant, and the land about it looks richer than the rest of the
neighbourhood. There was a deer-park here in the time of the Hortons.
Chadderton is a place of some note in the past history of the country, and
it is said to have formerly belonged to one of the old orders of
knighthood. On the other side of the line, about a mile and a half off,
the south-east end of Middleton is in sight, with its old church on the
top of a green hill. The greater part of the parish of Middleton, with
other vast possessions in South Lancashire, belonging to the Ashetons from
before Richard III., when extraordinary powers were granted to Randulph
Asheton. The famous Sir Ralph Asheton, called "The Black Lad," from his
wearing black armour, is traditionally said to have ruled in his
territories in South Lancashire with great severity. In the town of
Ashton, one of the lordships of this family, his name is still remembered
with a kind of hereditary terror; and till within the last five or six
years he has been shot and torn to pieces in effigy by the inhabitants, at
the annual custom of "The Riding of the Black Lad." The hero of the fine
ballad called "The Wild Rider," written by
Bamford, the Lancashire poet,
was one of this family. The Middleton estates, in 1776, failing male
issue, passed by marriage into the noble families of De Wilton and
Suffield. Now many a rich cotton spinner, perhaps lineally descended from
some of the villain-serfs of the "Black Lad," has an eye to buying the
broad lands of the proud old Ashetons.
The train is now hard on Blue Pits Station, where it is not impossible for
the traveller to have to wait awhile. But he may comfort himself with the
assurance that it is not often much more than half an hour or so. Let him
amuse himself, meanwhile, with the wild dins that fill his ears;—the
shouting and running of porters, the screams of engine whistles, the jolts
and collisions on a small scale, and the perpetual fuff-fuff of trains, of
one kind or other, that shoot too and fro by his window, then stop
suddenly, look thoughtful, as if they had dropt something, and run back
again. If he looks out, ten to one he will see some red-hot monster making
towards him from a distance at a great speed, belching steam, and
scattering sparks and red-hot cinders; and in the innocent timidity of
the moment he may chance to hope it is on the right pair of rails. But
time and a brave patience delivers him from all these terrors, unshattered
in everything—if his temper holds good—and he shoots ahead again.
The moorland hills now sail upon the sight, stretching from the round peak
of Knowl on the north-west, to the romantic heights of Saddleworth on the
south-east. The train is three minutes from Rochdale, but, before it
reaches there, let the traveller note that picturesque old mansion, on the
green, above Castleton Clough, at the left-hand side of the rail. His eye
must be active, for, at the rate he is going, the various objects about
him, literally "come like shadows, so depart." This is Castleton Hall,
formerly a seat of the Holts, of Stubley, an ancient and powerful local
family in this parish, in the reign of Henry VIII. Castleton Hall came
afterwards into the possession of Humphrey Chetham, the venerable founder
of Chetham College, in Manchester. Since then it has passed into other
hands; but the proverb "as rich as Chetham o' Castleton," is often used
by the people of this district, at this day; and many interesting
anecdotes, characteristic of the noble qualities of this old Lancashire
worthy, are treasured up by the people of those parts of the country where
he lived; especially in the neighbourhoods of Clayton Hall, near
Manchester, and Burton Tower, near Bolton, his favourite residences. Castleton Hall was an interesting place to me when I was a lad. As I pass
by it now, I sometimes think of the day when I first sauntered down the
shady avenue, which leads to it from the highroad behind; and climbed up
a mossy wall by the way-side, to look into the green gloom of a mysterious
wood, which shades the rear of the building. Even now, I remember the
flush of imaginations which came over me then. I had picked up some scraps
of historic lore about the hall, which deepened the interest I felt in it. The solemn old rustling wood; the quaint appearance and serene dignity of
the hall; its rich associations; and the spell of interest which lingers
around every decaying relic of the works and haunts of men of bygone
times, made the place eloquent to me. It seemed to me then like a
monumental history of its old inhabitants and their times. I remember, too,
that I once got a peep into a part of the hall, where, in those days, some
old armour hung against the wall, silent and rusty enough, but, to me,
teeming with tales of chivalry and knightly emprise. But, here is Rochdale
Railway Station, where he, who wishes to visit the village of Milnrow, had
If the traveller had time and inclination to go down into Rochdale town,
he might see some interesting things, old and new, there. The town is more
picturesquely situated than most of the towns of South Lancashire. It
lines the sides of a deep valley on the banks of the Roch, overlooked by
moorland hills. In Saxon times it was an insignificant village, called "Roch-eddam,"
consisting of a few rural dwellings in Church Lane, a steep and narrow old
street, which was, down to the middle of last century, the principal
street in the town, though now the meanest and obscurest. The famous John
Bright, the Cromwell of modern politicians, was born in this town, and
lives at "One Ash," on the north side of it. John Roby, author of the
"Traditions of Lancashire," was a banker, in Rochdale, of the firm of
Fenton and Roby. The bank was next door to the shop of Thomas Holden, the
principal bookseller of the town, to whom I was apprentice. For the clergy
of the district, and for a certain class of politicians, this shop was the
chief rendezvous of the place. Roby used to slip in at evening, to have a
chat with my employer, and a knot of congenial spirits who met him there. In the days when my head was yet but a little way higher than the counter,
I remember how I used to listen to his impulsive, ingenious, and versatile
conversations. Holden himself was a man of more than ordinary education,
and a clever tradesman. I served him nearly eleven years; and though,
during that time, he often lectured me for "thumbing" the books
in his shop, he sometimes lent me books to read at home. To his dying day,
he seldom met me on the street that he did not stop to give me a solemn
and friendly warning against radical tendencies. Rochdale was one of the
few places where the woollen manufacture was first practised, after its
introduction into England. It is still famous for its flannel. The history
of Rochdale is in one respect but the counterpart of that of almost every
other South Lancashire town. With the birth of cotton manufacture, it shot
up suddenly into one of the most populous and wealthy country towns in
England. After the traveller has contemplated the manufacturing might of
the place, he may walk up the quaint street from which the woollen
merchants of old used to dispatch their goods on pack horses to all parts
of the kingdom, and from which the street takes the name of "Packer
Street." At the top, a flight of one hundred and twenty-two steps leads up
into the churchyard, which commands an excellent view of the town below. There, too, lies "Tim Bobbin." Few Lancashire strangers visit the town
without looking at the old rhymer's resting-place. Bamford, author of "Passages in the Life of a Radical," thus chronicles an imaginary visit to
Tim's grave, in happy imitation of the dialect of the neighbourhood: ―
"Aw stood beside Tim Bobbin grave,
At looks o'er Rachda teawn,
An th'owd lad woke within his yearth,
An sed 'Wheer arto beawn?'
"Awm gooin into th' Packer-street,
As far as th' Gowden Bell,
To taste o' Daniel Kesmus ale.
TIM—'Aw cud like a saup mysel.'
"An by this hont o' my reet arm,
If fro that hole theawl reawk,
Theawst have a saup oth' best breawn ale
At ever lips did seawk.
"The greawnd it sturrd beneath meh feet,
An then aw yerd a groan,
He shook the dust fro off his skull,
An rowlt away the stone.
"Aw brought him op a deep breawn jug,
At a gallon did contain;
He took it at one blessed droight,
And laid him drawn again."
Some of the epitaphs on the grave-stones were written by Tim. The
following one on Joe Green, who was the sexton in Tim's day, is published
with Tim's works:—
"Here lies Joe Green, who arch has been,
And drove a gainful trade,
With powerful Death, till out of breath,
He threw away his spade.
When Death beheld his comrade yield,
He, like a cunning knave,
Came, soft as wind, poor Joe behind,
And pushed him into his grave."
Near to this grave is the grave of Samuel Kershaw, blacksmith, bearing an
epitaph which is generally attributed to the pen of Tim, though it does
not appear among his published writings: ―
"My anvil and my hammer lie declined,
My bellows, too, have lost their wind;
My fire's extinct, my forge decayed,
And in the dust my vice is laid.
My coal is spent, my iron is gone,
My last nail driven, and my work is done."
"Blind Abraham," who rang the curfew, and who used to imitate the Rochdale
chimes in a wonderful way, true to their slightest faults, for the lads at
the old Grammar School, could lead a stranger from any point of the
churchyard, straight as an arrow's flight, to Tim's gravestone. The
Grammar School was founded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, by Archbishop
Parker. The parish church is an interesting old edifice, standing on the
edge of an eminence which overlooks the town. Tradition says its
foundations were laid by "Goblin Builders." The living was anciently
dependent on the Abbey of Whalley. It is now the richest vicarage in the
kingdom. A short walk through the fine glebe lands, and past "Th' Canthill
Well,"  west of the vicarage
will bring the traveller to the hill on which, in 1080, stood the castle
of Gamel, the Saxon Thane, above the valley called "Kill-Danes," where the
northern pirates once lost a great fight with the Saxon.