Waugh: Sketches of Lancashire Life (5)

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BOGGART HO' CLOUGH.


        "Under the greenwood tree,
         Who loves to lie with me,
         And tune his merry note
         Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither;
         Here we shall see
         No enemy
But winter and rough weather."

SHAKSPERE.


THERE is a quiet little clough about three miles from Manchester, near to the ancient village of Blackley.  The best entrance to it which I know of is by a gateway leading down from the southern edge of a shady steep called "Entwisle Broo," in the high road from Manchester to Middleton, which runs close by the northern end of the clough.  Approaching the spot in this direction, a winding road leads down between a low bemossed wall on the right, and a thorn hedge which partly screens the green depth on the left.  The trees which line the path overlap it with a pleasant shade in summer time, till it reaches the open hollow, where stands a comfortable brick-built farm-house—the only habitation in it—with its outbuildings and gardens spreading around, and sheltered in the rear by the green, wooded bank of the clough.  Thence this pretty Lancashire dell wanders on southward for a considerable distance in picturesque quietude.  The township of Blackley, in which it is situated, retains many traces of its former rural beauty, and some scattered remnants of the woods which once covered the district.  As a whole, it is, even yet, so pleasantly varied in natural features as fairly to entitle it to rank among the prettiest scenery in the immediate neighbourhood of Manchester, although its green valleys are now, almost all of them, more or less, surrendered to the conquering march of manufacture—all, except this little secluded glen, known by the name of " Boggart Ho' Clough."  Here, still, in this old sylvan "deer-leap" of the Saxon hunter, the dreamy student, the lover of nature, and the jaded townsman, have a green and tranquil sanctuary, where they can quietly wander, serenely cloistered from the tumults of man's life; and perhaps there is many a contemplative rambler who sometimes seeks the serene retirement of this leafy dell, the whole aspect of which seems to invite the mind to hold a "sessions of sweet, silent thought."  One can imagine that this is such a place as a man of poetic temperament would delight to linger in occasionally; and the interest which has gathered around it is not lessened by the fact, that before Samuel Bamford, the Lancashire poet, left this district to take up his abode in the metropolis, he dwelt at a pleasant cottage, on the summit of the green upland, a little distance from the eastern edge of the clough.  And here, in his native sequestration, he may have sometimes felt the significance of Burns's words,


"The muse, nae poet ever fond her,
 Till by himsel' hem learn'd to wander,
 Down by some streamlet's sweet meander,
                             And no think lang."


The rural charms and retired peacefulness of "Boggart Ho' Clough" might well, in the vicinity of a place like Manchester, account for part of its local celebrity; but not entirely so.  The superstitions of the locality and the shaping power of imagination have clothed the place with an interest which does not solely belong to the embowered gloom of its green recesses, nor to its broken, picturesque steeps, overgrown with fern and spreading tanglements of prickly underwood; nor to the deep, shrouded seclusions of its utmost remoteness; nor to the beauty of its swardy holm, spreading out a pleasant space in the centre of the vale; nor to the wimpling rill which wanders through it from end to end


"Amongst the pumystones, which seem to plaine,
 With gentle murmure, that his course they do restraine."


Man has clothed the scene in a drapery of wonder and fear, woven in the creative loom of his own heart and imagination.  Any superstitious stranger wandering there alone, under the influence of a midsummer midnight moon, would probably think this a likely place for the resort of those spiritual beings who "fly by night."  He might truly say, at such an hour, that if ever "Mab" held court on this green earth, "Boggart Ho' Clough" is just such a green nook as one can imagine that her mystic choir would delight to dance in, and sing


   "Come, follow, follow me,
     Ye fairy elves that be,
     Light tripping o'er the green,
     Come follow Mab your queen;
 Hand in hand we'll dance around,
 For this place is fairy ground."


The place is now associated with the superstitions of the district; and on that account, as well as on account of its natural attractions, it has been the theme of more than one notable pen.  In Roby's "Traditions of Lancashire" there is a story called "The Bar-Gaist, or Boggart," which is connected with "Boggart Ho' Clough."  From this story, which was contributed to that work by Mr. Crofton Croker, author of "The Fairy Legends," I quote the following:

    "Not far from the little snug smoky village of Blakeley, or Blackley, there lies one of the most romantic of dells, rejoicing in a state of singular seclusion, and in the oddest of Lancashire names, to wit, the 'Boggart-Hole.'  Rich in every requisite for picturesque beauty and poetical association, it is impossible for me (who am neither a painter nor a poet) to describe this dell as it should be described; and I will, therefore, only beg of thee, gentle reader, who, peradventure, mayst not have lingered in this classical neighbourhood, to fancy a deep, deep dell, its steep sides fringed down with hazel and beech, and fern and thick undergrowth, and clothed at the bottom with the richest and greenest sward in the world.  You descend, clinging to the trees, and scrambling as best you may,—and now you stand on haunted ground!  Tread softly, for this is the Boggart's clough.  And see in yonder dark corner, and beneath the projecting mossy stone, where that dusky sullen cave yawns before us, like a bit of Salvator's best; there lurks that strange elf, the sly and mischievous Boggart.  Bounce! I see him coining; oh no, it was only a hare bounding from her form; there it goes—there!

    "I will tell you of some of the pranks of this very Boggart, and how he teased and tormented a good farmer's family in a house hard by, and I assure you it was a very worthy old lady who told me the story.  But, first, suppose we leave the Boggart's demesne, and pay a visit to the theatre of his strange doings.

    "You see that old farm-house about two fields distant, shaded by the sycamore tree: that was the spot which the Boggart or Bar-gaist selected for his freaks; there he held his revels, perplexing honest George Cheetham, for that was the farmer's name, scaring his maids, worrying his men, and frightening the poor children out of their seven senses, so that, at last, not even a mouse durst show himself indoors at the farm as he valued his whiskers, five minutes after the clock had struck twelve."

    The story goes on describing the startling pranks of this invisible torment of honest George Cheetham's old haunted dwelling.  It tells how that the Boggart which was a long time a terror to the farmer's family, "scaring the maids, worrying the men, and frightening the poor children," became at last a familiar, mysterious presence—in a certain sense, a recognise member of the household troop—often heard, but never seen; and sometimes a sharer in the household conversation.  When merry tales were being told around the fire, on winter nights, the Boggart's "small shrill voice, heard above the rest, like a baby's penny trumpet," joined the general laughter, in a tone of supernatural congeniality, and the hearers learned, at last, to hear without dismay, if not to love the sounds which they had feared before.  But, boggarts, like men, are moody creatures; and this unembodied troubler of the farmer's lonely house seems to have been sometimes so forgetful of everything like spiritual dignity, or even of the claims of old acquaintance, as to reply to the familiar banter of his mortal co-tenants, in a tone of petty malignity.  He even went so far, at last, as to revenge himself for some fancied insults, by industriously pulling the children up and down by the head and legs in the night time, and by screeching and laughing plaguily in the dark, to the unspeakable annoyance of the inmates.  In order to get rid of this nocturnal torment, it appears that the farmer removed his children into other sleeping apartments, leaving the Boggart sole tenant of their old bedroom, which seems to have been his favourite stage of action.  The story concludes as follows:

    "But his Boggartship having now fairly become the possessor of a room at the farm, it would appear, considered himself in the light of a privileged inmate, and not, as hitherto, an occasional visitor, who merely joined in the general expression of merriment.  Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt; and now the children's bread and butter would be snatched away, or their porringers of bread and milk would be dashed to the ground by an unseen hand, or, if the younger ones were left alone but for a few minutes, they were sure to be found screaming with terror on the return of their nurse.  Sometimes, however, he would behave himself kindly.  The cream was then churned, and the pans and kettles scoured without hands.  There was one circumstance which was remarkable:—the stairs ascended from the kitchen; a partition of boards covered the ends of the steps, and formed a closet beneath the staircase.  From one of the boards of this partition a large round knot was accidentally displaced; and one day the youngest of the children, while playing with the shoe-horn, stuck it into this knot-hole.  Whether or not the aperture had been formed by the Boggart as a peep-hole to watch the motions of the family, I cannot pretend to say.  Some thought it was, for it was called the Boggart's peep-hole; but others said that they had remembered it long before the shrill laugh of the Boggart was heard in the house.  However this may have been, it is certain that the horn was ejected with surprising precision at the head of whoever put it there; and either in mirth or in anger the horn was darted forth with great velocity, and struck the poor child over the ear.

    "There are few matters upon which parents feel more acutely than that of the maltreatment of their offspring; but time, that great soother of all things, at length familiarised this dangerous occurrence to every one at the farm, and that which at the first was regarded with the utmost terror, became a kind of amusement with the more thoughtless and daring of the family.  Often was the horn slipped slyly into the hole, and in return it never failed to be flung at the head of some one, but most commonly at the person who placed it there.  They were used to call this pastime, in the provincial dialect, 'laking wi't' Boggart;' that is, playing with the Boggart.  An old tailor, whom I but faintly remember, used to say that the horn was often 'pitched' at his head, and at the head of his apprentice, whilst seated here on the kitchen table, when they went their rounds to work, as is customary with country tailors.  At length the goblin, not contented with flinging the horn, returned to his night persecutions.  Heavy steps, as of a person in wooden clogs, were at first heard clattering down stairs in the dead hour of darkness; then the pewter and earthen dishes appeared to be dashed on the kitchen floor; though in the morning all remained uninjured on their respective shelves.  The children generally were marked out as objects of dislike by their unearthly tormentor.  The curtains of their beds would be violently pulled to and fro; then a heavy weight, as of a human being, would press them nigh to suffocation, from which it was impossible to escape.  The night, instead of being the time for repose, was disturbed with screams and dreadful noises, and thus was the whole house alarmed night after night.  Things could not long continue in this fashion; the farmer and his good dame resolved to leave a place where they could no longer expect rest or comfort; and George Cheetham was actually following with his wife and family the last load of furniture, when they were met by a neighbouring farmer named John Marshall.

    "'Well, Georgey, and soa you're leaving th' owd house at last?' said Marshall.

    "'Heigh, Johnny, my lad, I'm in a manner forced to't, thou sees,' replied the other; 'for that wearyfu' Boggart torments us soa, we can neither rest neet nor day for't.  It seems loike to have a malice again't young ans, an' it ommost kills my poor dame here at thoughts on't, and soa thou sees we're forc'd to flit like.'

    "He had got thus far in his complaint, when, behold, a shrill voice, from a deep upright churn, the topmost utensil on the cart, called out, 'Ay, ay, neighbour, we're flitting, you see.'

    "'Od rot thee,' exclaimed George: 'if I'd known thou'd been flitting too, I wadn't ha stirred a peg.  Nay, nay, it's to no use, Bally,' he continued, turning to his wife, 'we may as weel turn back again to th' owd house, as be tormented in another not so convenient."'

    Thus endeth Crofton Croker's tradition of the "Boggart," or "Bar-gaist," which, according to the story, was long time a well-known supernatural pest of old Cheetham's farm-house, but whose principal lurking-place was supposed to be in a gloomy nook of "Boggart Ho' Clough," or "Boggart Hole Clough," for the name adopted by the writer of the tradition appears to be derived from that superstitious belief.  With respect to the exact origin of the name, however, I must entirely defer to those who know more about the matter than myself.  The features of the story are, generically, the same as those of a thousand such like superstitious stories still told and believed in all the country parts of England—though perhaps more in the northern part of it than elsewhere.  Almost every lad in Lancashire has, in his childhood, heard either from his "reverend grannie," or from some less kin and less kind director of his young imagination, similar tales connected with old houses, and other haunts, in the neighbourhood of his own birthplace.

    Among those who have noticed "Boggart Ho' Clough," is Mr. Samuel Bamford, well known as a poet, and a graphic prose writer upon the stormy political events of his earlier life, and upon whatever relates to the manners and customs of Lancashire.  In describing matters of the latter kind, he has the advantage of being "native and to the manner born;" and still more specially so in everything connected with the social peculiarities of the immediate locality of his birth.  He was born at Middleton, about two miles from "Boggart Ho' Clough," and, as I said before, he resided for some years close to the clough itself.  In his "Passages in the Life of a Radical," vol. i. p.130, there begins one of the raciest descriptions of Lancashire characteristics with which I am acquainted. The first part of this passage contains a descriptive account of "Plant," a country, botanist, "Chirrup," a bird-catcher, and "Bangle," a youth "of an ardent temperament, but bashful," who was deeply in love with "a young beauty residing in the house of her father, who held a small milk-farm on the hill-side, not far from Old Birkle."  It describes the meeting of the three in the lone cottage of Bangle's mother, near Grislehurst wood; the conversation that took place there; and the superstitious adventure they agreed upon, in order to deliver young Bangle from the hopelessness of his irresistible and unrequited love-thrall.  "His modest approaches had not been noticed by the adored one; and, as she had danced with another youth at Bury fair, he imagined she was irrecoverably lost to him, and the persuasion had almost driven him melancholy.  Doctors had been applied to, but he was no better; philters and charms had been tried to bring down the cold-hearted maid, but all in vain:


"He sought her at the dawn of day;
 He sought her at the noonin';
 He sought her when the evening gray,
 Had brought the hollow moon in.

"'He call'd her on the darkest night,
 With wizard spells to bind her:
 And when the stars arose in light,
 He wandered forth to find her.'


"At length sorcerers and fortune-tellers were thought of, and 'Limping Billy,' a noted seer, residing at Radcliffe Bridge, having been consulted, said the lad had no chance of gaining power over the damsel, unless he could take Saint John's Fern seed; and if he could but secure three grains of that, he might bring to him whatever he wished, that walked, flew, or swam."

    Such being the conditions laid down, and believed in by the three, they resolved to venture, together, on the taking of Saint John's Fern seed, with strict observance of the time and the cabalistic ceremonials enjoined by "Limping Billy," the seer, of Radcliffe Bridge.  "Plant," the botanist, "knew where the finest clump of fern in the country grew;" and he undertook to accompany "Chirrup" and "Bangle" to the spot, at the time appointed, the eve of St. John the Baptist.  The remainder of the passage describes "Boggart Ho' Clough," the spot in which St. John's Fern then grew in great abundance, and where the botanists of the district still find the plant; it describes them also the fearful enterprise of the three at the witching hour of midnight, in search of the enchanted seed:—

    "On the left hand, reader, as thou goest towards Manchester, ascending from Blackley, is a rather deep valley, green swarded, and embowered in plantations and older woods.  A driving path, which thou enterest by a white gate hung on whale-jaw posts, [52] leads down to a grove of young trees, by a modern and substantial farm-house, with green shutters, sashed windows, and flowers peeping from the sills.  A mantle of ivy climbs the wall, a garden is in front, and an orchard, redolent of bloom, and fruit in season, nods on the hill-top above.  Here, at the time Plant was speaking of, stood a very ancient house, built partly of old fashioned bricks, and partly of a timber frame, filled with railings and daub (wicker-work plastered with clay).  It was a lone and desolate-looking house indeed; misty and fearful, even at noon-day.  It was known as 'Boggart-ho',' or 'Fyrin-ho';' and the gorge in which it is situated, was, and is still known, as 'Boggart,' or 'Fyrin-ho' Kloof, 'the glen of the hall of spirits.'  Such a place might we suppose, had Milton in contemplation when he wrote the passage of his inimitable poem


"'Tells how the drudging goblin sweat,
 To earn his cream-bowl, duly set,
 When, in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
 His shadowy flail had thrash'd the corn
 Which ten day-labourers could not end;
 'Then lies him down, the lubber fiend:
 And, stretch'd out, all the chimney's length,
 Basks at the fire, his hairy strength;
 And cropful, out of door he flings,
 Ere the first cock his matin sings.'


    "By the side of the house, and through the whole length of the valley, wends a sickly, tan-coloured rindle; which, issuing from the great White Moss, comes down, tinged with the colour of its parent swamp.  Opposite the modern house, a forbidden road cuts through the plantation on the right towards Moston-lane.  Another path leads behind the house, up precipitous banks, and through close bowers, to Booth Hall; and a third, the main one, proceeds along the kloof, by the side of the stream, and under sun-screening woods, until it forks into two roads: one a cattle-track, to 'The Bell,' in Moston; and the other a winding and precipitous foot-path, to a farm-house at 'Wood-end;' where it gains the broad upland, and emerges into unshaded day.

    "About half way up this kloof is an open, cleared space of green and short sward: it is probably two hundred yards in length, by sixty in width; and passing along it from Blackley, a group of fine oaks appear on a slight eminence, a little to the left.  This part of the grove was, at the time we are concerned with, much more crowded with underwood than at present. [53]  The bushes were then close and strong; fine sprouts of 'yerthgroon' hazel and ash, were common as nuts; whilst a thick bush of bramble, wild rose, and holly, gave the spot the appearance of a place inclosed and set apart for mysterious concealment.  Intermingled with these almost impervious barriers, were tufts of tall green fern, curling and bending gracefully; and a little separate from them, and near the old oaks, might be observed a few fern clumps of a singular appearance; of a paler green than the others—with a flatter, and a broader leaf—sticking up, rigid and expanded, like something stark with mute terror.  These were 'Saint John's Fern;' and the finest of them was the one selected by Plant for the experiment now to be described.

    "A little before midnight, on the eve of St. John, Plant, Chirrup, and Bangle, were at the whale-jaw gate before-mentioned; and having slightly scanned each other, they proceeded without speaking, until they had crossed the brook at a stepping-place, opposite the old Fyrin-ho'.  The first word spoken was— 'What haste thou?'


"Mine is breawn an' roof,'


said Plant, exhibiting a brown earthen dish.  What haste thou?' he then asked.


"'Mine is breet enough,'


said Chirrup, showing a pewter platter, and continued, 'What haste thou?'
 

"'Teed wi' web an' woof,
 Mine is deep enough,'


said Bangle, displaying a musty, dun skull, with the cap sawn off above the eyes, and left flapping like a lid by a piece of tanned scalp, which still adhered.  The interior cavities had also been stuffed with moss and lined with clay, kneaded with blood from human veins, and the youth had secured the skull to his shoulders by a twine of three strands of unbleached flax, of undyed wool, and of woman's hair, from which also depended a rave n black tress which a wily crone had procured from the maid he sought to obtain.


"'That will do,'


said a voice, in a half whisper, from one of the low bushes they were passing.  Plant and Chirrup paused; but Bangle, who had evidently his heart on the accomplishment of the undertaking, said, 'Forward!—if we turn, now a spirit has spoken, we are lost.  Come on!' and they went forward.

    "A silence, like that of death, was around them as they entered on the open platting.  Nothing moved either in tree or brake.  Through a space in the foliage the stars were seen pale in heaven, and a crooked moon hung in a bit of blue amid motionless clouds.  All was still and breathless, as if earth, heaven, and the elements, were aghast.  Anything would have been preferable to that unnatural stillness and silence—the hoot of the night owl, the larum of the pit sparrow, the moan of the wind, the toll of a death-bell, or the howl of a ban-dog, would, inasmuch as they are things of this world, have been welcome sounds amid that horrid pause.  But no sound came, no object moved.

    "Gasping, and with cold sweat oozing on his brow, Plant recollected that they were to shake the fern with a forked rod of witch hazel, and by no means must touch it with their hands, and he asked, in a whisper, if the others had brought one.  Both said they had forgotten, and Chirrup said they had better never have come; but Plant drew his knife, and stepping into a moonlighted bush, soon returned with what was wanted, and they went forward.

    "The green knowe, the old oaks, the encircled space, and the fern, were now approached; the latter stiff and erect in a gleamy light.

    "'Is it deep neet?' said Bangle.

    "'It is,' said Plant.


"'The star that bids the shepherd fold,
 Now the top of heaven doth hold.'


    "And they drew near.  All was still and motionless.

    "Plant knelt on one knee, and held his dish under the fern.

    "Chirrup held his broad plate next below, and

    "Bangle knelt, and rested the skull directly under both on the green sod; the lid being up.

    "Plant said


"'Good St. John, this seed we crave,
 We have dared; shall we have?'


    "A voice responded:


"'Now the moon is downward starting,
 Moon and stars are all departing;
         Quick, quick; shake, shake;
 He whose heart shall soonest break,
         Let him take.'


    "They looked, and perceived by a glance that a venerable form, in a loose robe, was near them.

    "Darkness came down like a-swoop.  The fern was shaken, the upper dish flew into pieces—the pewter one melted; the skull emitted a cry, and eyes glared in its sockets; lights broke—beautiful children were seen walking in their holiday clothes, and graceful female forms sung mournful and enchanting airs.

    "The men stood terrified, and fascinated; and Bangle, gazing, bade, 'God bless 'em.'  A crash followed as if the whole of the timber in the kloof was being splintered and torn up; strange and horrid forms appeared from the thickets; the men ran as if sped on the wind—they separated, and lost each other.  Plant ran towards the old house, and there, leaping the brook, he cast a glance behind him, and saw terrific shapes—some beastly, some part human, and some hellish, gnashing their teeth, and howling, and uttering the most fearful and mournful tones, as if wishful to follow him but unable to do so.

    "In an agony of terror he arrived at home, not knowing how he got there.  He was, during several days, in a state bordering on unconsciousness; and, when he recovered, he learned that Chirrup was found on the White Moss, raving mad, and chasing the wild birds.  As for poor Bangle, he found his way home over hedge and ditch, running with supernatural and fearful speed—the skull's eyes glaring at his back, and the nether jaw grinning and jabbering frightful and unintelligible sounds.  He had preserved the seed, however, and, having taken it from the skull, he buried the latter at the cross road from whence he had taken it.  He then carried the spell out, and his proud love stood one night by his bed-side in tears.  But he had done too much for human nature—in three months after she followed his corpse, a real mourner, to the grave!

    "Such was the description my fellow-prisoner gave of what occurred in the only trial he ever made with St. John's Fern seed.  He was full of old and quaint narratives, and of superstitious lore, and often would beguile time by recounting them.  Poor fellow! a mysterious fate hung over him also."

    This description of "Boggart Ho' Clough," with its accompanying vivid dramatic picture of one of our strong local superstitions, is all the more interesting from the vigorous and graphic pen of one who knew the place and the people around it so well.  I know no other writer who is so able to portray the distinctive characteristics of the people of South Lancashire as Samuel Bamford.

    It is now some years since I first visited the scene of the foregoing traditions.  At that time I was wholly unacquainted with the last of these legends, and I knew little more about "Boggart Ho' Clough," in any way, than its name indicates.  I sought the place then, solely on account of its natural attractions.  Feeling a little curious, however, respecting the import of its name, and, dimly remembering Roby's tradition, I made some inquiry while lingering in the neighbourhood, and found, that, although some attributed the name to the superstitious credulity of the native people, there was one gentleman who nearly destroyed that theory in my mind at the time, by saying, that, a short time previous, he had dined with a lawyer who informed him in the course of a conversation upon the same subject, that he had recently been at a loss how to describe the place in question, having to prepare some notices to be served on trespassers; and, on referring to the title-deeds of the property, he found that a family of the name of "Booker," had formerly occupied a residence situated in the clough, and that their dwelling was designated "Bowker's Hall."  This he, perhaps rather hastily, adopted as the origin of the name, and described it accordingly.  But the testimony of every writer who notices the spot, especially those best acquainted with it, inclines to the other derivation.

    But the locality has other points of interest, besides this romantic rural nook, and the tales of glamour connected with it.  In it there is many a boggart story, brought down from the past, many a spot of fearful repute among native people.  Apart from all these things, the chapelry of Blackley is enriched with historic associations well worth remembering, and it contains some very interesting relics of the ancient manner of life there.  In former times the chapelry had in it several fine old quaint Lancashire halls; Booth Hall, Nuthurst Hall, Lightbowne Hall, Hough Hall, Crumpsall Hall, and Blackley Hall.  Some of these still remain, and are worth seeing.  Some of them have been the homes or the birth-places of men of decided eminence in their day—eminent for worth as well as station—among whom there is more than one who has left a long trail of honourable recollections behind him.  Such men were Humphrey Chetham, Bishop Oldham, and others.  Bradford the martyr, also, is said to have resided in this township.  William Chadderton, D.D., bishop of Chester, and afterwards bishop of Lincoln, was born at Nuthurst Hall, about the year 1540.  George Clarke, the founder of the charity which bears his name, and one of Fuller's Worthies, resided in Crumpsall.  The following particulars respecting the district and its notabilities I glean from the recently published "History of the Ancient Chapel of Blackley," by the Rev. John Booker, B.A., of Magdalene College, Cambridge, curate of Prestwich:—First with respect to the ancient state of Blackley, in the survey of Manchester, as taken in the 15th Edward II. (1322), and preserved by Kuerden, [54] the following official notice of the township occurs:―"The park of Blakeley is worth in pannage, aëry of eagles, herons and hawks, honey-bees, mineral earths, ashes, and other issues, fifty-three shillings and four-pence.  The vesture of oaks, with the whole coverture, is worth two hundred marks [£133 6s. 8d.] in the gross.  It contains seven miles in circumference, together with two deer-leaps, of the king's grant."  This short but significant passage is sufficient to give the reader a glimpse of the appearance of Blackley township five hundred years ago.  From the same authority, we learn, that Blackley park (seven miles in circumference) was, at that time, surrounded and fenced in by a wooden paling.  "The two 'deer-leaps' were probably cloughs or ravines, of which the most remarkable is the 'Boggart Hole Clough,' a long cleft or dell between two rocks, the sides of which rise abruptly and leave a narrow pass widening a little here and there, through which flows a small brook.  This is the last strong-hold of Blackley's ancient characteristic features, where rural tranquillity still reigns free from the bustle and turmoil of mercantile industry around it."

    The following particulars respecting the etymology of the name "Blackley," will not be unacceptable to students of language:—"Its etymology is yet a disputed point, owing to the various signification of the Anglo-Saxon word, blac, blæc, bleat, which means not only black, dark, opaque, and even gloomy, but also pale, faded, pallid, from 'blæcan,' to bleach or make white.  And, as if these opposite meanings were not sufficiently perplexing, two other forms present themselves, one of which means bleak, cold, bare, and the other yellow; the latter syllable in the name ley, legh, leag, or leah, signifying a field or place of pasture."  On this point, Whittaker says, in his History of Manchester, "The Saxon bloc, black, or blake, frequently imports the deep gloom of trees; hence we have so many places distinguished by the epithet in England, where no circumstances of soil and no peculiarities of water gave occasion to it, as the villages of Blackburn and Blackrode in Lancashire, Blakeley-hurst, near Wigan, and our own Blackley, near Manchester; and the woods of the last were even seven miles in circuit as late as the fourteenth century.

    "Leland, who wrote about the year 1538, bears testimony 'to the altered aspect of Blackley, under the influence of cultivation, and to the changes incident to the disafforesting of its ancient woodlands.  He says:—'Wild bores, bulles, and falcons, bredde in times past at Blakele, now for lack of woode the blow-shoppes decay there.' [55]

    "Blackley had its resident minister as early as the reign of Edward VI. in the person of Father Travis, a name handed down to us in the pages of Fox and Strype.  Travis was the friend and correspondent of Bradford the martyr.  In the succeeding reign he suffered banishment for his protestant principles, and his place was probably supplied by a papist."

    The site upon which, in 1815, stood the quaint old hall of Blackley, is now occupied by a print-shop.  Blackley Hall "was a spacious black-and-white half-timbered mansion in the post and petrel style, and was situated near to the junction of the lane leading to the chapel and the Manchester and Rochdale turnpike road.  It was a structure of considerable antiquity, and consisted of a centre and two projecting wings, an arrangement frequently met with in the more ancient manor-houses of this county, and bore evidence of having been erected at two distinct periods.

    "Like most other houses of similar pretensions and antiquity, it was not without its traditionary legends, and the boggart of Blackley Hall was as well known as Blackley Hall itself.  In the stillness of the night it would steal from room to room, and carry off the bedclothes from the couches of the sleeping, but now thoroughly aroused and discomfited inmates. [56]

    The township of Crumpsall bounds Blackley on the north side, and is divided from it by the lively but now turbid little River Irk, or Irke, or Irked, which means "Roebuck."  "From time immemorial, for ecclesiastical purposes, Crumpsall has been associated with Blackley."  The present Crumpsall Hall stands on the north side of the Irk, about a mile and a half from "Boggart Ho' Clough."  The earlier orthography of the name was "Crumeshall, or Curmeshall.  For its derivation we are referred to the Anglo-Saxon, the final syllable 'sal' signifying in that language a ball or place of entertainment, of which hospitable abode the Saxon chief, whose name the first syllable indicates, was the early proprietor.  Thus, too, Ordsall in the same parish."  Here, in later days, Humphrey Chetham was born, at Crumpsall Old Hall.  The author of the "History of the ancient Chapel of Blackley," from whose book I gather all this information, also describes a quaint old farm-house, situated in a picturesque and retired spot in the higher part of Crumpsall, and pointed out as the dwelling in which Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, who founded the Manchester Grammar School, was born.  About four years ago, when rambling about the green uplands of Crumpsall, I called at this farm to see a friend of mine, who lived in a cottage at the back of the house, in the garden.  While there I was shown through this curious old dwelling, by the tenants  and I very well remember that they took especial pains to acquaint me with its local importance, as the place of Bishop Oldham's nativity.  It is still known as "Oldham's tenement," and also as "Th' Bongs (Banks) Farm."  The following is a more detailed account of the place and the man:—

    "It is celebrated as the reputed birthplace of Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, who, according to tradition current in the neighbourhood, was born there about the middle of the fifteenth century, and it is stated to have been the residence of the Oldhams for the last four hundred years.  The house itself, a long narrow thatched building, bears evidence of considerable antiquity; the walls appear to have been originally of lath and plaster, which material has gradually in many places given place to brick-work; and the whole exterior is now covered with white-wash.  A room on the ground-floor is still pointed out as the domestic chapel, but there are no traces of it ever having been devoted to such use.

    "Hugh Oldham, LL.B., bishop of Exeter, was descended from an ancient family of that name.  According to Dodsworth (MSS. folio 152), he was born at Oldham in a house in Goulbourne-street, but this assertion is contradicted by the testimony of his other biographers: Wood and Godwin state that he was born in Manchester, by which they mean not so much Manchester town as Manchester parish; and Dugdale, in his Lancashire visitation, states more definitely in what part of the parish, correcting at the same time the misstatement of the others, 'not at Oldham, but at Crumpsall near Manchester.'  In 1503 he was created Archdeacon of Exeter, and in the following year was raised, through the influence of the Countess of Richmond, to the see of Exeter.  In 1515, having founded the Grammar School of Manchester, he endowed it with the corn-mills situate on the River Irk, which he purchased from Lord de la Warre, as well as with other messuages and lands in Manchester."

    In relation to Bishop Oldham, it may be worth while noticing that in the Manchester Guardian of yesterday, Wednesday, January 10th, 1855, I found the following letter respecting an agèd and poor descendant of this native prelate.  This brief notice of an agèd and poverty-stricken descendant of the Bishop—a soldier's wife, who has followed the fortunes of her husband, as a prisoner of war, and through the disasters of battle, shipwreck, and imprisonment in a foreign land—is not uninteresting:—"There is now living in this city a poor, agèd woman, who, it appears, is a descendant of the founder of the Manchester Grammar School, and who was also (in 1783) the first scholar in the first Sunday School opened in Manchester.  In subsequent years, as a soldier's wife, she followed the fortunes of her husband in the tented field, as a prisoner of war, and also in shipwreck.  She is in full possession of her mental powers, and though, in a certain sense, provided for, I am persuaded that many of those whose Alma Mater was the Grammar School, and the Sunday School teachers and scholars, would be delighted to honour her."

    Crumpsall, in the chapelry of Blackley, was also the birthplace of that noble native gentleman, Humphrey Chetham, one of Fuller's Worthies, and a man whom Manchester has every reason to hold in reverent remembrance.  The following matter relative to the man, and the place of his birth, is from the same volume:—

    "He was born at his father's residence, Crumpsall Hall, and was baptised at the Collegiate Church, Manchester, July 15th,1580.  He probably received his education at the Grammar School of his native town.  Associated with his brothers, George and Ralph, he embarked in trade as a dealer in fustians, and so prospered in his business that in 1620 he purchased Clayton Hall, near Manchester, which he made his residence, and subsequently, in 1628, Turton Tower.  'He signally improved himself,' writes Fuller, 'in piety and outward prosperity, and was a diligent reader of the scriptures, and of the works of sound divines, and a respecter of such ministers as he accounted truly godly, upright, sober, discreet, and sincere.  He was high-sheriff of the county in 1635, and again in 1648, discharging the place with great honour, insomuch that very good gentlemen of birth and estate did wear his cloth at the assize, to testify their unfeigned affection to him; and two of them (John Hartley and Henry Wrigley, Esquires), of the same profession with himself, have since been sheriffs of the county.'

    "By his will, dated December 16th, 1651, he bequeathed £7,000 to buy a fee-simple estate of £420 per annum, wherewith to provide for the maintenance, education, and apprenticing of forty poor boys of Manchester, between the ages of six and fourteen yearschildren of poor but honest parentsno bastards, nor diseased at the time they are chosen, nor lame, nor blind; 'in regard the town of Manchester hath ample means already (if so employed) for the maintenance of such impotents.'  The hospital thus founded was incorporated by Charles II.  In 1700 the number of boys was increased to sixty, and from 1779 to 1826 eighty boys were annually maintained, clothed, and educated.  In the year 1718 the income of the hospital amounted to £517 8s. 4d., and in 1826 it had reached to £2,608 3s. 11d.

    "He bequeathed, moreover, the sum of £1,000 to be expended in books, and £100 towards erecting a building for their safe deposit, intending thus to lay the foundation of a public library; and the residue of his estate (amounting to near £2,000) to be devoted to the increase of the said library and the support of a librarian.  In 1826 this fund was returned at £542 per annum.  The number of volumes is now about 20,000.  Mr. Chetham died unmarried September 20th, 1653, and was buried at the Collegiate Church, where a monument has recently been erected to his memory at the cost of a former participator in his bounty."

    The following description of the house, at Crumpsall, in which Humphrey Chetham was born, is also given in Booker's History of Blackley Chapel:

    "Crumpsall Hall, the residence of this branch of the Chethams, was another specimen of the half-timbered mansions already described.  In design the same arrangement seems to have been followed that is met with in many of the halls erected during the fourteenth and two succeeding centuries—an oblong pile forming the centre, with cross gables at each end, projecting some distance outwards.  The framework consisted of a series of vertical timbers, crossed by others placed transversely, with the exception of the gables, in the upper part of which the braces sprang diagonally from the centre or king-post.  The roofs were of high pitch, and extended considerably beyond the outer surface of the walls, thus not only allowing of a more rapid drain of water, but also affording a greater protection from the weather.  The hall was of two stories, and lighted chiefly by bay-windows, an occasional dormer-window in the upper story rising above the roof, and adding to the effect of the building by destroying that lineal appearance which it would otherwise have assumed.  This mansion, though never possessing any great pretensions to architectural excellence, was nevertheless interesting from the picturesque arrangement of its details, and may be considered a very creditable example of the middle-class houses of the period to which it is referred.  It occupied a site distant nearly a quarter of a mile from that of the present hall, and was taken down about the year 1825."

    Well may Fuller, writing of Humphrey Chetham, say, "God send us more such men!"  The "poor boys" of Manchester may well repeat the prayer, and pray also that heaven may send after them men who will strictly look to the righteous administration of the bequests which such men leave behind them.

    It is not yet a week since I went down to the Chetham Library, to copy, from Booker's "History of Blackley," the foregoing particulars respecting its founder.  The day was dark and damp, and the great quadrangle of the college was as still as a church-yard.  Going up the old stair-case, and, treading as lightly as I could with a heavy foot, as I went by the principal librarian's room door, I entered the cloistral gloom of the old library.  All was stirless and silent, as I wandered on through the dark array of book-laden shelves.  The sub-librarian was writing in some official volume upon the sill of a latticed window, in one of the recesses.  Hearing an approaching foot, he came out, and looked the usual quiet inquiry.  "'Booker's Blackley,'" said I.  He went to one of the recesses, unlocked the door, and brought out the book.  "Will you enter it, sir," said he, pointing to the oblong volume kept for that purpose.  I did so, and walked on into the "Reading Room" of the library; glancing, as I went in, at Oliver Cromwell's sword, which hangs above the door-way.  There was a good fire, and I had that interesting, antique apartment all to myself.  The lofty, arched old room looked very clean and comfortable, and the hard, oaken floor resounded to the footstep.  The whole furniture was of the most quaint and substantial character.  It was panelled all round with bright old black oak.  The windows were latticed, and the window-sills broad.  The heavy tables were of solid oak, and the chairs of the same, with leather-covered and padded seats and backs, studded with brass nails.  A curiously-carved black oak book-stand stood near the door, and several antique mirrors and dusky portraits hung around upon the dark panelling.  Among these is the portrait of Bradford the martyr, a native of Manchester.  In the library there is a small black-letter volume, entitled, "Letters of Maister John Bradford, a faythfull minister and a syngular pyllar of Christe's Church: by whose great trauiles and diligence in preaching and planting the syncerity of the Gospel, by whose most goodly and innocent lyfe, and by whose long and payneful imprisonments for the maintenance of the truth, the kingdom of God was not a little aduanced: who also at last most valiantly and cheerfully gane his blood for the same.  The 4th day of July.  In the year of our Lord 1555."  The portrait of Humphrey Chetham, the founder, stands immediately above the old-fashioned fireplace, under the emblazoned arms of his family.  Sitting by the fire, at a little oak-table covered with green baize, I copied the particulars here given, relative to Chetham's bequest to the people of his native locality.  I could not but lift my eyes now and then towards that solemn and gentlemanly old face, inwardly moved by a feeling which reverently said, "Will it do?"  The countenance of the fine old merchant seemed to wear an expression of sorrow, not unmingled with quiet anger, at the spectacle of twenty thousand books—intended as a "Free Library," though now, in comparison with its possibilities, free chiefly in name—twenty thousand books, packed together in gloomy seclusion, yet surrounded by a weltering crowd of five hundred thousand busy people, a great number of whom really hunger for the mass of knowledge here, in a great measure, consigned—with most excellent registrative care and general bibliopolic skill—to dusty oblivion and the worm.  It is true that this cunningly-secreted "Free Library" is open six hours out of the twenty-four, but these hours fall precisely within that part of the day in which people who have to work for their bread are cooped up at their occupations.  At night, when the casino, the singing-room, and the ale-house, and all the low temptations of a great city are open, and actively competing for their prey, the Chetham Library is dark and still, and has been locked up for hours.  I am not sure that the noble-hearted founder would be enthusiastically satisfied with it all, if he saw the relations of these things now.  It seems all the more likely that he would not be so, when one observes the significant tone in which, in his will, he alludes to the administration of certain other local charities existing in his own time.  After specially naming the class of "poor boys" for whose benefit his Hospital was intended, he specially excludes certain others, "in regard the town of Manchester hath ample means already (IF SO EMPLOYED) for the maintenance of such impotents."  Judging, from the glimpse we have in this passage, of his way of thinking upon matters of this kind, it seems likely that, if it were possible to consult him upon the subject, he would consider it a pity that the twenty thousand books in the library, and the five hundred thousand people outside the walls, are not brought into better acquaintance with each other.  So, also, murmurs many a poor and thoughtful man, as he walks by the college gates, in his hours of leisure, when the library is closed.


 
ROSTHERNE MERE.
(A CHESHIRE SKETCH.)


"Though much the centuries take, and much bestow,
 Most through them all immutable remains—
 Beauty, whose world-wide empire never wanes,
 Sole permanence 'mid being's ceaseless flow.
 These leafy heights their tiny temple owe
 To some rude hero of the Saxon thanes,
 Whom, slowly pricking from the neighbouring plains,
 Rapt into votive mood the scene below.
 Much, haply, he discerned, unseen by me—
 Angels and demons hovering ever near;
 But most he saw and felt, I feel and see
 Linking the "then" and "there" with "now" and "here,"
 The grace serene that dwells on grove and lea,
 The tranquil charm of little Rostherne Mere."

F. ESPINASSE.


ROSTHERNE MERE was a pet theme with a young friend of mine, and we started together towards that place, at noon, on Sunday, the 9th of June.  Walking up to the Oxford Road Station, we paid our sixpences, and got our tickets to Bowdon, which is the nearest point to Rostherne Mere, by rail, being four miles from the latter place.  The train was not yet up, and we sauntered about the platform, among a number of well-dressed people, of all classes, with a host of plump children crowing among them, all waiting in smiling anxiety to go the same way.  The day was fine, and the sky clear, except where a few gauzy clouds floated across it with dreamy grace, as if they had come out for a holiday.  Everything seemed to feel that it was Sunday.  The fields, and groves, and gardens were drest in their best.  It was the Sabbath of the year with them.  In a few minutes our fiery iron horse had whirled us to Bowdon, and we were walking up the wooden steps that lead from the station.  Turning to the left at the top, we struck into a quiet road that leads between hedge-rows, in the direction of Rostherne.  Bowdon bells were ringing to church as we walked along, surrounded by singing birds, and sunshine, and a thousand sweet odours from the cottage gardens by the wayside.  Now and then a young sylph, of graceful face and timid mien, tripped past us, in the garb of a lady, on her way to church, with her books before her; then a knot of pretty, brown-faced village girls, with wild flowers in their hands, going the same way, with all the innocent vivacity of childhood in their look and gait; anon came slowly wending up the path an old couple, bending with age, the history of a simple life of honourable toil written in their faces, and their attire wearing that touching air which always marks the struggle which decent poverty makes to put its best appearance on.  The road, which seemed to be little frequented, shortly brought us to Ashley Hall, a picturesque woodland mansion, which stands near it.  A fine avenue of ancestral trees shade the walk to the porch of the old hall, which nestles behind the present modern one.  The outbuildings are antiquated and extensive.  The old house still wears the appearance of an abode of comfort and elegance, bent with that quaint charm which hangs about all fine, old-fashioned rural dwellings.  Nothing seemed to be stirring in or about the building but the wind, the birds, and the trees; and the two large stone sphinxes in front of the porch looked like petrified genii, so profound was the repose of this green nook.  Outside the house the grass was growing over everything, even over the road we walked on it was creeping.  For some distance the roadside was pleasantly soft to the foot with springy verdure, and thick-leaved trees overhung the highway,


                                                  "That faire did spred
 Their armies abroad, with gray mosse overcaste;
 And their green leaves, trembling with every blast,
 Made a calm shadow far in compass round,"


until we began to descend into the green pastures of a little vale, through which a clear river winds its murmuring way.  A widow lady stood in the middle of the path, waiting till her little orphan lad and his sister drove a herd of cows from the field by the water-side.  There was the shade of grief on her pale face, and she returned our salutation with pensive courtesy.  We loitered a few minutes by the gate, and helped the lad and his sister to gather the cattle, and then went on, thinking of the affecting group we had left behind us.  The wild flowers were plentiful and fine by the way, especially that modest little blue-eyed beauty, the "Forget-me-not," which grew in great profusion about the hedges.  A large drove of hungry-looking Irish cattle came wearily up the road, driven by a frieze-coated farmer, who rode upon a rough pony that never knew a groom; and behind him limped a bare-footed drover, eagerly munching a lump of dry loaf, as he urged forward a two-days-old calf by a twist in the tail,—an old and simple application of the screw-propelling principle, which is very effectual with all kinds of dilatory quadrupeds with tails on.  He was the very picture of poverty, and yet there was a gay-hearted archness on his brown face, and he gave us the "good day" merrily.  The very flutter of his rags seemed to have imbibed the care-defying gaiety of the curious animal they hung upon, with such tender attachment.  The whole country was one tranquil scene of fertile verdure, frequently flat for the length of a mile or two; but gently undulated in some places, and picturesquely wooded.  In a vista of nearly two miles, not a human foot was on the road but ours; and every sight and sound that greeted the senses as we sauntered along the blossomy hedge-side in the hot sunshine, was serenely sweet and rural.  Skirting the wall of Tatton Park, we came up to a substantial farmhouse near the highway, and opening the gate, we walked up to it, to get a few minutes rest, and a drink.  At our request, a girl at the door of the house brought us a large country jug full of churn milk, which, when she had reached us a seat in the garden, we drank as we sat in the sun.  In the yard, a little fat-legged urchin had crept with his "porritch-pot," under the nose of a large chained dog about twice the size of himself, and sat there, holding his spoon to the dog's mouth, childishly beseeching him to "sup it."  The good-natured brute kept a steady eye on us while we were in sight, postponing any notice of his little playmate.  By direction of the goodwife, we took a by-path which led towards the village.  The country folk were returning from church, and among them a number of little girls, wearing a head-dress of pure white, but of a very awkward shape.  What was the meaning, or what the use, of the badge they wore, I could not exactly tell.

    We found that, though the village had many pretty cottage homes, dropped down irregularly, among the surrounding green, it consisted chiefly of one clean, little street of rural houses, of very pleasant appearance.  Here and there, a latticed-window was open to the front, showing a small parlour, scrupulously clean and orderly.  The furniture, old-fashioned, substantial, and carefully polished; and the Bible, "gleaming through the low-most window-pane," under the shade of myrtle-pots, and fuchsias in full flower.  As we looked about us for the church, a gentleman in the garb of a clergyman stepped out of one of the houses, which, though a white-washed dwelling, of simple construction, and of no great size any way, still had something peculiarly attractive in its retired position, and an air of superiority about the taste and trimness of all its appurtenances.  He had a book in one hand, and leaned forward in his walk,—not from infirmity, for he was hale and active,—but as if to give impetus to his progress, which seemed to have an earnest purpose somewhere.  This gentleman was the Vicar of Rostherne.  We inquired of him the way to the church.  "Come up this way," said he, in an agreeable tone, but without stopping in his walk.  "Have you never seen it before?"  "Never."  "Here it is, then," he replied, as we entered the church-field at the top of the knoll.  The sudden appearance of the venerable fane, and its picturesque situation, called forth an involuntary expression of admiration from us.  We walked on slowly, scanning the features of the solemnly-beautiful scene.  The vicar then inquired where we came from, and when we answered "Manchester," he went on, "Well, now, I don't at all wonder, nor much object to you Manchester gentlemen, pent up as you are the whole week, coming out on a Sunday to breath a little country air, and to look on the woods and fields, but I should be better pleased to see you come in time to attend divine worship, which would be a double benefit to you.  You might easily do it, and it would enhance the pleasure of your ramble, for you would go home again doubly satisfied with all that you had seen.  Don't you think you would now?"  It needed no Socratic effort on his part to obtain our cordial assent to such a sentiment so kindly expressed.  As we walked on, he brought us dexterously to the north-west corner of the church, the best point of view, looking down through the trees, from the summit of the green hill on which the church stands, upon Rostherne Mere in all its beauty.  There it lay, in the bosom of the valley below, as smooth and bright as a plate of burnished silver, except towards the middle, where the wind embossed it with fantastic ripples, which shimmered in the sunlight.  And all fringed round with the richest, greenest meadows, and plumy woods, sloping down to the edge of the water.  From the farther side, a finely-wooded country stretched away as far as we could see, till the scene ended in a dim amphitheatre of the moorland hills rising up from east to west on the horizon.  In front of us, and about four miles beyond the lake, the pretty village of Bowdon and its ancient church were clearly in sight above the woods.  It was, altogether, a very beautiful English scene.  And it is a pity that this lovely little oasis is not better known to the trade-jaded hearts that fret themselves foolishly to death in Manchester, and rush here and there in crowds, to fill all the world's telescopes; the majority of them, perhaps; like me, little dreaming of the existence of so sweet a spot so near them.  By the side of the mere, where the water was as placid as glass, being sheltered from the wind by the woods on its shelvy banks, we were delighted with a second edition of the scenery on the margin, and of the skies above, clearly reflected in the seemingly unfathomable deeps of the water.  My friend remarked, what a fine harmony of love and law we find everywhere interwoven with all "the shapes, and sounds, and shifting elements" of creation.

    The vicar had left us, and gone into the church, requesting us, when we had feasted our fill on the outside, to follow him, and look through the inside of the church.  We lifted the latch, but seeing him addressing a number of young people, who sat round him in attentive attitude, we shut the door quietly, and walking round to the porch on the opposite side, went in, on tiptoe.  Standing silent under the organ-loft, we listened, while he impressed upon his young flock the nature and intent of confirmation, and the necessity for their understanding the solemn obligation implied thereby, and devoutly wishing to undertake it, before they could be admitted to partake of it.  "And now," said he, "if any of you don't quite understand anything I am saying to you, don't be afraid to say so.  I shall be glad to know it, that I may make it clear to you.  For you must remember, that it is not what I say to you that will be of use to you, but what you understand of it."  He then consulted them about the best times in the following week for them to meet him, that he might assist such as were wishful to prepare for the ceremony.  He asked "Thomas," and "Mary," and "Martha," how four o'clock would suit them on certain days, and when they whispered, very reverentially, that "half-past seven would suit them better," he replied, "I dare say it will, and let it be so then."  He then repeated the pleasure it would give him to meet them at that or any other hour on certain days next week, to help, and examine them.  It was only changing his dinner hour a little.  We walked quietly out as he began to catechise them, postponing our examination of the interior till a fitter opportunity.

    Rostherne churchyard is a singularly retired spot.  A solemn repose mingles with the natural charms of everything about it, increased by the antiquity of its relics.  Though near the village, it is approached from it by a gentle ascent, from the head of which it slopes away, clean out of sight of the village, and is bounded on the west side by a row of sombre old trees, through which Rostherne Hall is seen in the midst of woods and gardens.  No other building except the church is in sight; and, a sweeter spot for the life-wearied body to take its last rest in, could hardly be imagined.  As I walked about this quiet country grave-yard, which is environed by scenery of such a serene kind, that nature itself seems afraid to disturb the repose of the sleepers, upon whose cold bed the leaves tremble silently down from their umbrageous canopy; and where I could hear no sounds but the low, lulling music of the trees rustling plaintively around, I thought of Gray's inimitable "Elegy written in a Country Churchyard:


"Beneath these rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
     Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
 Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
     The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

"The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
     The swallow twittering from her straw-built shed,
 The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
     No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

"For then no more the blazing heart shall burn,
     Or busy housewife ply her evening care;
 No children run to lisp their sire's return,
     Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

"Oft did the harvest to the sickle yield;
     Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
 How jocund did they drive their team a-field!
     How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

"Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
     Their homely joys and destiny obscure:
 Nor grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
     The short and simple annals of the poor.

"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
     And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
 Await alike the inevitable hour;
     The paths of glory lead—but to the grave.

"Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
     If memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
 Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault,
     The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

"Can storied urn, or animated bust,
     Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
 Can honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
     Or flattery soothe the dull, cold ear of death.

"Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
     Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
 Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed,
     Or waked to ecstacy the living lyre.

"But knowledge to their ayes her ample page,
     Rich with the spoils of time, did never unroll;
 Chill penury repress'd their noble rage,
     And froze the genial current of the soul.

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
     The dark unfathom'd eaves of ocean bear;
 Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
     And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

"Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
     The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
 Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest;
     Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.

"The applause of listening senates to command,
     The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
 To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
     And read their history in a nation's eyes,

"Their lot forbade; nor circumscribed alone
     Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
 Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
     And shut the gates of mercy on mankind;

"The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide;
     To quench the blushes of ingenious shame;
 Or heap the shrine of luxury and pride
     With incense kindled at the muse's flame.

"Far from the maddening crowd's ignoble strife,
     Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
 Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
     They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

"Yet ey'n these bones, from insult to protect,
     Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
 With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
     Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

"Their name, their years, spelt by the unletter'd muse,
     The place of fame and elegy supply;
 And many a holy text around she strews,
     That teach the rustic moralist to die."


    This fine elegiac poem—perhaps the finest of the kind known in the English language—and which so remarkably unites the most touching truth and beauty of tone and style, with a finely solemn music in its versification, admirably adapted to the subject, might, with almost equal fitness, have been written from this peaceful churchyard of little Rostherne village.  Man, whom Quarles calls a "worm of five feet long," is so liable to have his thoughts and feelings absorbed by the mere art of keeping himself bodily alive, that he is none the worse for a hint from the literature of the churchyard; even read from the gravestones of such a place as Rostherne churchyard:—


"Art is long, and life is fleeting,
     And our hearts, though stout and brave,
 Still, like muffed drums, are beating
     Funeral marches to the grave."


We walked over the gravestones, reading the inscriptions, some of which had a strain of simple pathos in them, such as the following:—


"Ye that are young, prepare to die,
 For I was young, and here I lie."


    Others there were in this, as in many other burial-places, which were either unmeaning, or altogether unsuitable to the situation they were in.  There were several half-sunken headstones in different parts of the yard, mostly bemossed and dim with age.  One or two were still upright; the rest leaned one way or other.  These very mementoes, which pious care had set up, to keep alive the mortal memories of those who lay mouldering in the earth below, were- sinking into the graves of those they commemorated.

    At the outside of the north-east entrance of the church, lies an ancient and massive stone coffin, dug up a few years ago in the graveyard.  Upon the stone lid of the coffin was sculptured the full-length figure of a knight in a complete suit of mail, with sword and shield.  No further clue has been obtained to the history of this antique coffin and its effigy, than that it belonged to one of the ancient Cheshire family of Venables, whose crest and motto, "Sic Donec," it bears.  The church contains many interesting monuments, belonging to this and other families of the old gentry of Cheshire.  Several of these are of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  But the finest and most interesting monuments in the church, as works of art, are those belonging to the Egerton family of Tatton Park or Parks, for it is divided into the "Great Park" and the "Small Park," containing, altogether, 6,000 statute acres.  At a suitable time, the careful old sexton occasionally takes a visitor up to the gate which separates the Egerton seat and monuments from the rest of the church, and, carefully unlocking it, ascends two steps with a softened footfall, and leads him into the storied sanctum of the Lords of Tatton, where, among other costly monuments, he will be struck by the chaste and expressive beauty of a fine modern one, in memory of a young lady belonging to this family.  On a beautiful tomb, of the whitest marble, the figure of a young lady reclines upon a mattress and pillow of the same, in the serenest grace of feature and attitude; and "the rapture of repose" which marks the expression of the countenance, is a touching translation, in pure white statuary, of these beautiful lines in which Byron describes the first hours of death:


"Before decay's effacing fingers
 Have swept the lines where beauty lingers."


At the back of the recumbent lady, an exquisite figure of an angel kneels, and leans forward with delicate grace, watching over the reposing form, with half-opened wings, and one hand slightly extended over the dead.  The effect of the whole is exceedingly beautiful, chaste, and saddening.  The monument is kept carefully covered with clean white handkerchiefs, except when the family is present, when it is uncovered until their departure.  Before I was admitted to view this beautiful memorial I had heard something of the story which it illustrates, and I inquired further of the sexton respecting it.  The old man said that the young lady had been unwell only a few days previous to the evening of her death, and, on that evening, the family physician thought her so much better, and felt so certainly expectant of a further improvement in her health, that he directed her attendants to get her to repose, and then they might themselves safely retire to rest for a little while.  They did so; and returning soon, found her still lying precisely as they had laid her, and looking so placid in feature, that they did not know she was dead, until they came to find her quite cold.  The monument represents her as she was thus found.  As I stood looking silently upon this group of statuary, the evening sun shone through the southern windows of the old church, and the sexton—who evidently knew what the effect would be—lowered the crimson blind of the window nearest to the monument.  This threw a soft rich crimson hue over the white marble tomb, the figures, and the sculptured drapery, which gave it an inexpressibly rich appearance.  So white and clean was the whole, that the white handkerchiefs which the sexton had taken off the figures, and laid upon the white basement of the tomb, looked like part of the sculpture.

    The church is dedicated to St. Mary.  It is proved to have existed long prior to 1188.  The present steeple was erected in 1741.  There is something venerable about the appearance of an old ecclesiastical building, which continually and eloquently preaches, without offending.  Apart from all questions of doctrines, formulas, and governments, I often feel a veneration for an, old church, akin to that expressed by him who said that he never passed one without feeling disposed to take off his hat to it.

    The sun was setting westward over the woods, and we began to think of getting a quiet meal somewhere before we went back.  There is generally an old inn not far from an old church.  "How it comes, let doctors tell;" but it is so; and we begun to speculate upon the chance of finding one in this case.  Going out of the churchyard at the lowest corner, through a quaint wicket gate, with a shed over it, a fight of steps led us down into a green dingle, embosomed in tall trees.  And there, in front of us, stood a promising old country "hostelrie," under the screen of the woods.  We looked an instant at its bright window, and its homely and pleasant appurtenances, and then, with assured minds, darted in, to make a lunge at the larder.  "A well-conducted inn is a thing not to be recklessly sneered at in this world of ours, after all," thought I.  We sat down in a shady little room in front, and desired the landlord to get us some tea, with any substantial stomach-gear that was handy and plentiful.  In a few minutes a snowy cloth was on the table, followed by "neat-handed Phillis," with the tea-things.  A profusion of strong tea, and toast, and fine cream, came next, in beautiful china and glass ware; the whole crowned with a huge dish of ham and poached eggs, of such amplitude, that I began to wonder who was to join us.  Without waste of speech, we fell to, with all the appetite and enjoyment of Sancho at Camacho's wedding.  The landlord kept popping in, to see that we wanted nothing, and to urge us to the attack, which last was really a most needless, though a very generous, office.  After tea, we strolled another hour by the edge of the water, then took the road home, just as the sun was setting.  The country was so pleasant, and we so refreshed, that we resolved to walk to Manchester, and watch the sinking of the summer twilight among the woods and fields by the way.  Our route led by the edge of Dunham Park, and through Bowdon, where we took a peep at the church, and the expansive view from the churchyard.  There is a remarkably fine old yew-tree in Bowdon churchyard, seated around.  The road from Bowdon to Manchester passes through a country which may be truly characterised as the market-garden of Manchester.  We went on, through the villages of Altrincham, Sale Moor, and Stretford, thinking of the meaning of his words who said


"One impulse from a vernal wood
     Will teach thee more of man,
 Of moral evil, and of good,
     Than all the sages can."


    It was midnight when I got to bed, and sunk pleasantly into a sound sleep, to wake in the morning to careful thought among quite other scenes than those I had wandered in the previous day; but I feel that while I live, I shall not easily lose the sweet remembrance of "the tranquil charm of little Rostherne Mere."




THE END.




LONDON: PETTER AND GALPIN, LA BELLE SAUVAGE YARD, LUDGATE HILL.



FOOTNOTES.
 

1.

Succeeded his father, the thirteenth Earl of Derby, in 1851.  Has been Chief Secretary for Ireland, and Secretary of State for the Colonies.  Accepted office as Premier, in 1851.

2.

Since that time the people of Bury have erected a monument in their market-place to the memory of this brave-hearted benefactor to his country.  The statue itself has a noble and simple appearance, but the pedestal on which it stands looks an insignificant footing for a figure of such proportions, and is a little open to the criticism of "Owd Dollop," who said that it looked "like a giant trying to balance hissel' upov a four-peawnd loaf."

3.

Parish't—perished.

4.

Grass.

5.

A Twothor—a few.

6.

"Beneficial practical philosophy, No. 4, Sparth Bottoms, near Rochdale.—Prognostic astro-phrenology, or nature considered as a whole—its matter, its properties, its laws, physical, moral, and intellectual; and the effect of their influences on individual life, character, and ability.  From these premises, and nearly twenty years' experience, any lady or gentlemen may have the most valuable advice on matters of health, sickness, procession, trade, emigration, and speculation; also marriage—its prospects to the inquirer, whether it will be attended with happiness, the time of its occurrence, a full description and character of the present or future partner, with copious instructions to the unmarried—which offer or party to take, and thus secure the fullest amount of happiness, shown to any individual by this combination of science.  The principal requisite points of information for applying the science to the benefit of an inquirer are—the precise date, place of birth, and the station in life.  Attendance every day except Mondays, at No. 4, Sparth Bottoms, Rochdale.

"Dr. ALPHONSO GAZELLE."

7.

Properly "Th' Campbell Well," a well in what is called "Th' Broad Feel," where the Danes encamped, previously to their attack on the Saxon castle, and their slaughter at Kill-Danes, in the vale below.

8.

Lathein'—inviting.

9.

John Leach, of Wardle, was a notable man among the early Methodists, and was one of Wesley's first preachers.  He was my grandmother's uncle.  In Southey's Life of Wesley, I find the following note respecting him, under the head, "OUTCRY AGAINST METHODISM.—VIOLENCE OF MOBS, AND MISCONDUCT OF MAGISTRATES."—"When John Leach was pelted, near Rochdale, in those riotous days, and saw his brother wounded in the forehead by a stone, he was mad enough to tell the rabble that not one of them could hit him, if he were to stand preaching there till midnight.  Just then the mob began to quarrel among themselves and, therefore, left off pelting.  But the anecdote has been related by his brethren for his praise."

10.

Pullen—poultry.

11.

Hadloont reean—headland gutter.

12.

Het—hight, called.

13.

Whent—whistle.

14.

Testa de Neville.

15.

Harl. MSS.   Codex 2,085, fo. 443.

16.

Hard. MSS., 1296. There is a pedigree of this family in Dodsworth's MSS. Bodleian Lib. vol, lxxix.

17.

The "picking rod" is a straight wooden handle, by which the hand- loom weaver used to impel his shuttle. "As straight as a pickin' rod," is a common phrase among country people in South Lancashire.

18.

"Radcliffe's Origin of Power-loom Weaving," pp. 59-66.

19.

The village of Newton, on Newton Heath, near Manchester.

20.

A kind of spiced cake, for which the village of Eccles, near Manchester, is famous.

21.

A quaint old vendor of nuts and Eccles cakes, who used to be well known at Lancashire wakes and fairs.

22.

Much valuable silver plate is sometimes lent by the inhabitants of Lancashire villages to adorn the front of their native rush-cart during its annual peregrinations.

23.

A thirty-six gallon barrel.

24.

He was the landlord of an old road-side inn, on Newton Heath, with a pleasant bowling-green behind it.  The house is still known as "Bill o' Booth's."

25.

The following note is attached to this passage, in Mr. Gaskell's lectures:—"That noble master of language, Walter Savage Lander, who has done me the honour to refer to my lecture in the Examiner, says of this word 'symble,' a feast, it is very like 'symbslum,' which means the same, in form of pic-nic; and adds. 'In Tuscany a fine cake is called semolino.  When I was a boy at Rugby, I remember a man from Banbury, who sold simnels, very eatable.  The interior was not unlike mince-pie without fat, but flavoured with saffron; the exterior was hard, smooth, and yellow.'"

26.

Harl. MSS. 1,926.  There is a pedigree of this family in Dodsworth's MSS. Bodleian Lib. Vol, lxxix.

27.

Clarendon's History of the Rebellion," edit. 1714, v. 1, p. 196.

28.

Baines' 4to. "Hist. Lancashire," v. 1, p. 586: v. 2, p. 676. 12mo: v. 1, p. 54. Adams's Cat. of Lords, &c., who compounded for their Estates, p, 54.

29.

Survey of London, by Stowe, Strype's edition, 1720, vol. 1, fol. 102.

30.

Corry's Lancashire, v. 2, p. 619.  In Dodsworth's MSS. Bodleian Lib. v. cxvii. p. 163, is a record of Robert Heywood, Esq.

31.

Feeorin—fearful things.

32.

Thomas Posthumus Holt, Esq., was one of the intended Knights of the Order of the Royal Oak.  According to a M.S. memorandum, he died 26th March, 1669, "after sown-sett a hower, as they report it."—Burke's Commoners.

33.

See "Tyrone's Bed," in Roby's "Traditions of Lancashire."

34.

The turbulent Earl of Tyrone, who headed the Irish rebellion in the reign of Elizabeth.

35.

Groo-weather—growing-weather.

36.

Knowl-hill, between Rochdale and Rossendale.

37.

The dule sleawnd theem at cut um deawn—the devil astonish those who cut them down.

38.

Yers to mo, neaw?—hearest thou me, now?

39.

Ire Jammy lad—our James's son.

40.

Stoop—a stake; a long piece of pointed wood.

41.

Marlock—a freak; a prank.

42.

Delit—daylight.

43.

 Wilto, shalto—by force; against the will.

44.

Scarrin—scaring; terrifying.

45.

One of the Fenton family who own the land there.

46.

Mheyt-whol—meat-whole; able to eat his meals.

47.

Aw'm so like—it may naturally be expected that I shall.

48.

Folk at's a dur to keep oppen, connut do't wi'th wynt—folk that have a house to maintain, cannot do it with the wind.

49.

Th' War Office—a name applied to the village of Bamford.

50.

Hollingworth's Mancuniensis—Willis's editions, p. 53.

51.

Court Magazine, vol. 8, No. 45.

52.

Those somewhat remarkable posts have been removed of late years, and stout pillars of stone occupy their places.

53.

Those oaks have been felled, and the kloof is now comparatively denuded of timber; the underwood on the left side is nearly swept away.  Sad inroads on the ominous gloom of the place.

54.

Kuerder's MS., fol. 274, Chetham Library.

55.

Leland's "Itinerary" (Hearne's edit.), vol. vii. p. 42.

56.

The following note is attached to this passage in Mr. Booker's volume: —"The annals of Blackley bear ample testimony to the superstition of its inhabitants.  It has had its nine days' wonder at every period of its history.  Hollingworth, writing of that age of portents and prodigies which succeeded the Reformation, says:—'In Blackley, neere Manchester, in one John Pendleton's ground, as one was reaping, the corns being cut seemed to bleede; drops fell out of it like to bloud; multitudes of people went to see it: and the straws thereof, though of a kindly colour without, were within reddish, and as it were bloudy!' Boggart-hole Clough, too, was another favourite haunt of ghostly visitants, the legend of which has been perpetuated by Mr. Roby in his 'Traditions of Lancashire,' vol. ii. pp. 295, 391.  Nor has it ceased in our day: in 1852 one of its inhabitants imperilled the safety of his family and neighbours, by undermining the walls of his cottage, in his efforts to discover the hidden cause of some mysterious noise that had disturbed him."

 


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