Lancashire Sketches Vol. 1 (II.)

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RAMBLE FROM BURY TO ROCHDALE.


ONE fine afternoon, at the end of February, I had some business to do in Bury, which kept me there till evening.  As twilight came on, the skies settled slowly into a gorgeous combination of the grandest shapes and hues, which appeared to canopy the country for miles around.  The air was clear, and it was nipping cold, and every object within sight stood out in beautiful relief in that fine transparence, softened by the deepening shades of evening.  The world seemed to stand still and meditate, and inhale silently the air of peace which pervaded that tranquil hour of closing day, as if all things on earth had caught the spirit of "meek Nature's evening comments on the fuming shows and vanities of man."  The glare of daylight is naturally fitted for bustle and business, but such an eventide as this looked the very native hour of devout thought, and recovery from the details of worldly occupation.  It is said that the town of Bury takes its names from the Saxon word byri, a burgh or castle.  One of the twelve ancient Saxon fortresses of Lancashire stood in the place called "Castle Croft," close to the town, and upon the banks of the old course of the river Irwell.  Immediately below the eminence upon which the castle stood, a low tract of ground, of considerable extent, stretches away from below the semicircular ridge upon which the northern extremity of the town is situated, up the valley of the Irwell.  Less than fifty years ago this tract was a great stagnant swamp, where, in certain states of the weather, the people of the neighbourhood could see the weird antics of the "Wild Fire," or "Jack o' Lanterns," that fiend of morass and fen.  An old medical gentleman, of high repute, who has lived his whole life in the town, lately assured me that he remembers well, that during the existence of that poisonous swamp there was a remarkable prevalence of fever and ague amongst the people living in its neighbourhood, which diseases have since then almost disappeared from the locality.  The valley so long fruitful of pestilence is now drained and cleared, and blooms with little garden allotments belonging to the working people thereabouts.  Oft as I chance to pass that way, on Saturday afternoons or holidays, there they are, working in their little plots, sometimes assisted by their children or their wives,—a very pleasant scene.

    I lingered in the market-place a little while, looking at the parish church, with its new tower and spire, and at the fine pile of new stone buildings, consisting of the Derby Hotel, the Town Hall, and the Athenćum.  South Lancashire has, for a long time past, been chiefly careful about hard productive work, and practicable places to do it in, and has taken little thought about artistic ornament of any sort; but the strong old county palatine begins to flower out a little here and there, and this will increase as the wealth of the county becomes influenced by elevated taste.  In this new range of buildings there was a stateliness and beauty which made the rest of the town of Bury look smaller and balder than ever it seemed to me before.  It looked like a piece of the west end of London dropped among a cluster of weavers' cottages.  But my reflections took another direction.  At "The Derby" there, thought I, will be supplied,—to anybody who can command "the one thing needful,"—sumptuous eating and drinking, fine linen, and downy beds, hung with damask curtaining, together with grand upholstery, glittering chandelier and looking-glass, and more than enough of other ornamental garniture of all sorts,—a fine cook's shop and dormitory, where a man might make shift to tickle a few of his five senses very prettily, if he was so disposed.  A beggar is not likely to put up there; but a lord might chance to go to bed there, and dream that he was a beggar.  At the other end of these fine buildings the new Athenćum was quietly rising into the air.  The wants to be provided for in that edifice were quite of another kind.  There is in the town of Bury, as, more or less, everywhere, a sprinkling of naturally active minds, struggling through the hard crust of ignorance and difficulty towards mental light and freedom.  I felt sure that such as these, at least, would watch the laying of the stones of this new Athenćum with a little interest.  That is their grand citadel, thought I; and from thence the artillery of a few old books shall help to batter tyranny and nonsense about the ears.  This fine Old England of ours will some day find, like the rest of the world, that it is not mere wealth, and luxury, and dexterous juggling in trade, that make and maintain its greatness, but intelligent and noble-hearted men, in whatever station of life they grow; and they are, at least, sometimes found among the obscure and poor.  It will learn to prize these as the "pulse of the machine," and to cultivate them as the chief hope of its future glory; and will carefully remove all unnecessary difficulties from the path of those who, by a wise instinct of nature, are impelled in the pursuit of knowledge.

    The New Town Hall is the central building of this fine pile.  The fresh nap has not yet worn off it; and, of course, its authorities were anxious to preserve its fresh beauty from the contaminations of "the unwashed."  They had made it nice, and they wanted none but nice people in it.  At the "free exhibition" of models for the Peel monument, a notice was posted at the entrance warning visitors that "Persons in Clogs" would not be admitted, and in my erroneous belief that this Town Hall, into which "Persons in Clogs" were not to be admitted, was public property, the qualification test seemed to be altogether at the wrong end of the man.  Alas, for these poor lads who wear clogs and work-soiled fustian garments!  It takes a moral Columbus, every now and then, to keep the world awake to a belief that there is something fine in them, which has been running to waste for want of recognition and culture.  Blessčd and beautiful are the feet which fortune has encased in the neat "Clarence" of soft calf or Cordovan, or the glossy "Wellington" of fine French leather!  Even so; the woodenest human head has a better chance in this world if it come before us covered with a good-looking hat.  But woe unto your impertinent curiosity, ye unfortunate clog-wearing lovers of the fine arts!  I was delighted to hear, however, that several of these ardent persons of questionable understanding, meeting with this warning as they attempted to enter the hall, after duly contemplating it with humorous awe, doffed their clogs at once, and, tucking the odious timber under their arms, ran up the steps in their stocking-feet.  It is a consolation to believe that these clogs of theirs are not the only clogs yet to be taken off in this world of ours.

    In one of the windows of "The Derby" was exhibited a representation of "The Eagle and Child," or, as the country-folk in Lancashire sometimes call it, "Th' Brid and Bantlin'," the ancient cognisance of the Stanleys, Earls of Derby, and formerly kings of the Isle of Man, with their motto, "Sans changer," in a scroll beneath.  This family still owns the manor of Bury, and has considerable possessions there. [p.97-1]  They have also large estates and great influence in the north and west of Lancashire.  In former times they have been accounted the most powerful family of the county; and in some of the old wars they led to the field all the martial chivalry of Lancashire and Cheshire under their banner.  As I looked on the Stanley's crest, I thought of the fortunes of that noble house, and of the strange events which it had shared with the rest of the kingdom.  Of James, Earl of Derby, who was beheaded at Bolton-le-Moors, in front of the Man and Scythe Inn, in Deansgate, two centuries since [p97-2]; and of his countess, Charlotte de Tremouille, who so bravely defended Lathom House against the Parliamentary forces during the last civil wars.  I once saw, in Bolton, an antique cup of "stone china," quaintly painted and gilt, out of which it is said that James, Earl of Derby, drank the communion immediately before his execution.  Greenhalgh, of Brandlestone, who was a notable and worthy man, and who governed the Isle of Man for the Earls of Derby, lived at Brandlesome Hall, near Bury.  Respecting Edward, the third earl, Camden says: "With Edward Earl of Derby's death the glory of hospitality seemed to fall asleep."  Of his munificent housekeeping, too, he tells us how he fed sixty old people twice a day, every day, and all comers twice a week; and every Christmas Day, for thirty-two years, supplied two thousand seven hundred with meat, drink, money, and money's worth; and how he offered to raise ten thousand soldiers for the king.  Also, that he had great reputation as a bone-setter, and was a learned man, a poet, and a man of considerable talent in many directions.  The present Lord Stanley [p.98] is accounted a man of great ability as a politician and orator, and of high and impetuous spirit, and is the leader of the Conservative party in Parliament.  A century ago the influence of great feudal families like the Stanleys was all but supreme in Lancashire; but since that time the old landlord domination has declined in the manufacturing districts, and the people have begun to set more value upon their independent rights as men than upon the painful patronage of feudal landlords.

    I had no time to devote to any other of the notabilities of Bury town; and I thought that "Chamber Hall," the birthplace of the famous statesman, Sir Robert Peel, would be worth a special pilgrimage some Saturday afternoon.  I had finished my business about seven o'clock, and as the nightfall was fine and clear I resolved to walk over to Rochdale, about six miles off to see an old friend of mine there.  Few people like a country walk better than I do; and being in fair health and spirits I took the road at once, with my stick in hand, as brisk as a Shetland pony in good fettle.  Striking out at the town-end, I bethought me of an old herbalist, or "yarb doctor," who lived somewhere thereabouts,—a genuine dealer in simples, bred up in the hills, on Ashworth Moor, about three miles from the town, and who had made the botany of his native neighbourhood a life-long study.  Culpepper's "Herbal" was a favourite book with him, as it is among a great number of the country people of Lancashire, where there are, perhaps, more clever botanists in humble life to be found than in any other part of the kingdom.  Nature and he were familiar friends, for he was a lonely rambler by hill, and clough, and field, at all seasons of the year, and could talk by the hour about the beauties and medicinal virtues of gentian, dandelion, and camomile, or tansy, mountain-flax, sanctuary, hyssop, buckbean, woodbetony, and "Robin-run-i'th-hedge," and an endless catalogue of other herbs and plants, a plentiful assortment of which he kept by him, either green or in dried bundles, ready for his customers.  The country people in Lancashire have great faith in simples, and in simple treatment for their diseases.  I well remember that one of their recipes for a common cold is "a wot churn-milk posset, weel sweet'nt, an' a traycle cake to't, at bed-time."  They are profound believers in the kindly doctrine expressed in that verse of George Herbert's:—


                   More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of; in ev'ry path
He treads down what befriends him
When sickness makes him pale and wan.


Therefore, our primitive old herb doctor had in his time driven what he doubtless considered, in his humble way, a pretty gainful trade.  And he was not exactly a "doctor-by-guess," as the Scotch say, but a man of good natural parts, and of some insight into human physiology, of great experience and observation in his little sphere, and remarkable for strong common sense and integrity.  He was also well acquainted with the habits and the peculiar tone of physical constitution among the people of his neighbourhood.  Like his pharmacopśia, his life and manners were simple, and his rude patients had great confidence in him.  It was getting dark, and I did not know exactly where to find him, or I should have been glad to see the old botanist, of whom I had heard a very interesting account in my native town.

    When one gets fairly into the country it is fine walking by a clear starlight, when the air is touched with frost, and the ground hard under the foot.  I enjoyed all this still more on that old road, which is always rising some knoll or descending into some quiet clough, where all is so still that one can hear the waters sing among the fields and stunted woods near the way-side.  The wind was blowing fresh and keen across Knowl Hill and the heathery wastes of Ashworth and Rooley, those wild heights which divide the Vale of the Roch from the Forest of Rossendale.  I stood and looked upon the blue heavens, "fretted with golden fire," and around me, upon this impressive night-scene, so finely still and solemn, the effect deepened by the moanings of the wind among the trees.  My mind reverted to the crowded city, and I thought to myself, this is rather different to Market Street, in Manchester, on a Tuesday forenoon!  I stood still, and listened to the clear "Wo-up!" of a solitary carter to his horse on the top of the opposite knoll, and heard the latch of a cottage door lifted, and saw the light from the inside glint forth into the trees below for an instant.  It was a homely glimpse, which contrasted beautifully with the sombre grandeur of the night.  The cottage door closed again,—the fireside picture was gone,—and I was alone on the silent road, with the clear stars looking down.

    I generally put off my meals till I get a hint from the inside; and by the time that I reached the bottom of a lonely dell, about three miles on the road, I began to feel hungry, and I stepped into the only house thereabouts, a little roadside inn, to get a bite of something.  The house stands near to a woody ravine, which runs under the highway at that place.  It is said to have been entirely built by one man, who got the stone, hewed it, cut the timber, and shaped it, and altogether built the house, such as it is; and it has an air of primitive rudeness about it which partly corroborates the story.  The very hearth-flag is an old gravestone, brought from the yard of some ancient moorland chapel, and part of the worn lettering is visible upon it still.  It is known to the scattered inhabitants of that district by the name of "The House that Jack Built."  On entering the place I found the front room dark and quiet, and nothing stirring but in the kitchen, where I saw the light of a candle, and heard a little clatter among the pots, which somebody was washing.  The place did not seem promising, so far as I could see at all, but I felt curious, and walking forward I found a very homely-looking old woman, bustling about there, with a clean cap on, not crimpled nor frilled anyway, but just plainly adorned with a broad border of those large, stiff, old-fashioned puffs which washerwomen make on the end of the Italian iron.  Old Sam, the landlord, had just come home from his work, and sat quietly smoking on the long settle, in a nook by the fireside, while his wife Mary got the tea ready.  The entrance of a customer seemed to be an important affair to them, and partly so because they were glad to have a little company in their quiet corner, and like to hear, now and then, how the world was wagging a few miles off.  I called for a glass of ale, and something like the following conversation ensued:—


Mary.    Aw'll bring it, maister.  See yo, tak this cheer.  It's as chep sittin' as stondin'.  An' poo up to th' fire, for it's noan so warm to-neet.

Sam.    Naw, it's nobbut cowdish, for sure.  Draw up to th' hob, an' warm yo, for yo look'n parish't (perished).

"If you can bring me a crust of bread and cheese, or a bit of cold meat, or anything, I shall be obliged to you," said I.

Mary.    Ay, sure aw will.  We'n a bit o' nice cowd beef, an' I'll bring it eawt.  But it's bhoylt (boiled), mind yo!  Dun yo like it bhoylt?  Yo'n find it middlin' toothsome.


I told her that it would do very well; and then the landlord struck in:—


Sam.    Doesto yer, lass?  There's a bit o' pickle i'th cubbort; aw dar say he'd like some.  Fot (fetch) it eawt, an' let him feel at it.

Mary.    Oh, ay, sure there is! an' aw'll bring it, too.  Aw declare aw'd forgetten it!  Dun yo like pickle, maister?

"I do," said I,—"just for a taste."

Mary.     Well, well, aw meeon for a taste.  But aw'll bring it, an' yo can help yorsel to't.  Let's see,—wi'n yo have hard brade?  Which side dun yo come fro?

"I come from Manchester," said I.

Mary.    Fro Manchester, eh!  Whau, then, yo'd'n rather ha' loaf-brade, aw'll uphowd yo.

"Nay, nay," said I.  "I'm country-bred; and I would rather have a bit of oat-cake.  I very seldom get any in Manchester; and when I do, it tastes as if it was mismanaged, somehow; so a bit of good country bread will be a treat to me."

Mary.    That's reet! aw'll find yo some gradely good stuff!  An' it's a deeol howsomer nor loaf, too, mind yo! . . . . Neaw, wi'n nought uncuth to set afore yo; but yo'n find that beef's noan sich bad takkin', if yor ony ways sharp set. . . . Theer, see yo!  Neaw, make yorsel awhoam, an' spare nought, for wi'n plenty moor.  But houd; yo hannot o' yor tools yet!  Aw'll get yo a fork in a crack.


    I fell to with a good will, for the victuals before me were not scanty, and they were both wholesome and particularly welcome after my sharp walk in the keen wind that night.  The first heat of the attack was beginning to slacken a bit, and old Sam, who had been sitting in the corner, patient and pleased all the while, with an observant look, began to think that now there might be room for him to put in a word or two.  I also began to feel as if I had no objection to taper off my meal with a little country talk; and the old man was just asking me what the town-folk said about the Parliamentary crisis, and the rumour which had reached him that there was an intention to revive the Corn Laws again, when Mary interrupted him by saying, "Husht, Sam!  Doesto yer nought?"  He took the pipe out of his mouth, and, quietly blowing the smoke from the corner of his lips, held his head on one side in a listening attitude.  Old Sam smiled, and, lighting his pipe again, said, "Ah, yon's Jone o' Jeffry's."  "It's nought else, aw believe," said Mary.  "Doesto think he'll co'?"  "Co'?  Ay!" replied Sam.  "Does he ever miss, thinksto?  Tak chi cheer to th' tone side a bit, an' make reawm for him, for he'll be i'th heawse in a minute."  And then, turning to me, he said "Nea, then, maister, yo'n yer some gam, if yor spare't."  He had scarcely done speaking when a loud "Woigh!" was heard outside as a cart stopped at the door, and a heavy footstep came stamping up the lobby.  The kitchen door opened, and a strong-built country carter stood before us,—large-limbed and broad-shouldered, with a great, frank, good-tempered face, full of rude health and glee.  He looked a fine sample of simple manhood, with a disposition that seemed to me, from the expression of his countenance, to be something between that of an angel and a bulldog.  Giving his hands a hearty smack, he rubbed them together, and smiled at the fire; and then, doffing his hat, and flinging it with his whip upon the table, he shouted "Hello!  Heaw are yo,—o' on yo?  Yor meeterly quiet again, to-neet, Mary!  An' some of a cowd neet it is!  My nose sweats."  The landlord whispered to me, "Aw towd yo, didn't aw?  Sit yo still; he's rare company, is Jone!"



Oil painting, believed to be of Jone O'Jeffreys.
Reproduced by kind permission of Jacky Ward Lomax.


Mary.    Ay, we're quiet enough; but we shannot be so long, neaw at thir't come'd, Jone.

Jone.    Well, well; what, yor noan beawn to flyte, owd crayter, are yo?

Sam.    Tak no notiz on hur, wilco, foe?  Hoo meeons nought wrang.

Mary.    Not aw!  Sit to deawn, Jone.  We're olez fain to sitho; for thir't noan one o'th warst mak o' folk, as rough as to art.

Jone.    Aw'st sit mo deawn, as what aw am; an' aws't warm me, too, beside; an' aw'll ha' summit to sup, too, afore aw darken yon dur-hole again. . . . Owd woman, fill one o'th big'st pots yo han, an' let's have houd, aw pray yo, for mi throttle's as dry as a kex.  An' be as slippy as ever yo con, or aw'st be helpin' mysel',—for it's ill bidin' for dry folk amung good drink!

Mary.    Nay, nay; aw'll sarve tho, if thou'll be patient hauve a minute; an' theawst ha' plenty to start wi', as heaw't be.

Jone.    "That's reet!" as Pinder said, when his wife bote hur tung i' two!  Owd woman, yo desarv'n a comfortable sattlement i'th top shop when yo dee'n; an' yo'st ha' one, too, iv aw've ony say i'th matter. . . . Eh, heaw quiet yo are, Sam!  By th' mass, iv aw're here a bit moor aw'd may some rickin' i' this cote, too.  Whau, men, yo'dd'n dee i'th shell iv one didn't wakken yo up a bit neaw an' then.

Mary.     Eh, mon!  Thea sees, our Sam an' me's gettin' owd, an' wi'dd'n raythur be quiet, for th' bit o' time 'at wi' ha'n to do on.  Beside, aw could never do wi' rough wark.  Raylee o' me!  It'd weary a grooin' tree to ha' th' din an' th' lumber an' th' muck at they han i' some aleheawses.  To my thinkin', aw'd go as fur as othur grace (grass) grew or wayter ran afore aw'd live amoon sich doin's.  One could elthur manage wi't at th' for-end o' their days.  But what, we hannot so lung to do on neaw; an' aw would e'en like to finish as quietly as aw can.   We hannot had a battle i' this heawse as,—let's see,—as three year an' moor; ha'n wi, Sam?

Sam.    Naw, aw dunnot think we han.  But we soud'n a deeol moor ale just afore that time, too.

Jone.    Three year, sen yo!  Eh, the dule, Mary! heaw ha'n yo shap'd that!  Whau owd Neddy at the Hoo'senam,—yo known owd Neddy, aw reckon, dunnot yo, Sam?

Sam.    Do I know Rachda' Church steps, thinksto?

Jone.    Aw dar say yo know th' steps a deeol better nor yo know th' church, owd brid!

Sam.    Whau, aw have bin up thoose steps once or twice i' my life; an thea knows, ony body at's bin up 'em a twothore (few) times, 'll not forget 'em so soon; for if thi'n tak 'em sharpish fro' th' bottom to th' top, it'll try their wynt up rarely afore they getten to Tim Bobbin gravestone i'th owd churchyard.  But aw've bin to sarvice theer as oft as theaw has, aw think.

Jone.    Ay! an' yo'n getten abeawt as much good wi't as aw have, aw dar say; an' that's nought to crack on;—but wi'n say no moor upo' that footin'.  Iv yo known onybody at o', yo known owd Neddy at th' Hoo'senam; and aw'll be bund for't, 'at i' three years' time he's brunt mony a peawnd o' candles wi' watchin' folk feight i' their heawse.  Eh, aw've si'n him stop o'er em, wi a candle i' eyther hont, co'in eawt, "Nea, lads!  Turn him o'er, Tum!  Let 'em ha' reawm, chaps; let 'em ha' reawm!  Nea, lads!  Keep a loose leg, Jam!  Nea, lads!"  And then, when one on 'em wur down to th' lung-length, he'd sheawt eawt, "Houd! he's put his hont up!  Come, give o'er!"  An' afore they'd'n getten gradely wynded, an' put their clooas on, he'd offer another quart for th' next battle.  Eh, he's one o'th quarest chaps i' this nation, is owd Ned, to my thinkin'; an' he's some good points in him, too.

Sam.    There isn't a quarer o' this countryside, as hea't be; an' there's some crumpers amung th' lot.

Jone.    Aw guess yo known Bodle, too, dunnot yo, owd Sam?

Sam.    Yigh, aw do.  He wortches up at th' col-pit yon, doesn't he?

Jane.    He does, owd craytur.

Mary.    Let's see,—isn't that him 'at skens a bit?

Sam.    A bit, saysto, lass?  It's aboon a bit, by Guy!  He skens ill enough to crack a looking-glass, welly (well-nigh).

Mary.    Eh, do let th' lad alone, folk, win yo?  Aw marvel at yo'n no moor wit nor makin' fool o' folk at's wrang wheer they connot help it.  Yo met happen be strucken yorsels!  Beside, he's somebory's chylt, an' somebory likes [p.107] him, too, aw'll uphowd him; for there never wur a feaw face i' this world but there wur a feaw fancy to match it somewheer.

Jone.    They may fancy him 'at likes, for me; but there's noan so mony folk at'll fancy Bodle, at after they'n smelled at him once't.  An', by Guy, he's hardly wit enough to keep fro' runnin' again woles i'th dayleet!  But aw'll tell yo a bit of a crack abeawt him an' Owd Neddy.

Mary.    Well, let's ha't; an mind to tells no lies abeawt th' lad i' thi talk.

Jone.     Bith mon, Mary, aw connot do that, beawt aw say 'at he's oather a pratty un or a good un.

Sam.     Get forrad wi' thy tale, Jone, an' bother no moor abeawt it.

Jone (whispers to Owd Sam).    Aw say.  Who's that chap at sits hutchin i'th nook theer, wi' his meawth oppen?

Sam.     Aw know not.  But he's a quiet lad o' somebory's, so tak no notice.  Thae'll just meet plez him i' tho'll get forrad.  Thae may see that, i' tho'll look at him; for he stares like a ferrit watchin' a ratton.

Jone.    Well, yo seen, Sam, one mornin', after Owd Neddy an' Bodle had been fuddlin' o'th o'erneet, thi'dd'n just getten a yure o'th dog into 'em, an' they sit afore th' fire i' Owd Neddy's kitchen, as quiet, to look at, as two pot dolls; but they didn't feel so, noather, for thi'dd'n some of a yed-waache apiece, i'th treawth wur known.  When thi'dd'n turn't things o'er a bit, Bodle begun o' lookin' very yearnstfully at th' fire-hole o' at once't, and he said, "By th' mass, Ned, aw've a good mind to go up th' chimbley!"  Well, yo known, Neddy likes a spree as well as ony mon livin', an' he doesn't care so mich what mak' o' one it is nother; so as soon as he yerd that he jumped up, an' said, "Damn it, Bodle, go up—up wi' tho!"  Bodle stood still a minute, looking at th' chimbley, an' as he double't his laps up, he said, "Well, neaw; should aw rayleygoo up, thinksto, owd crayter?"  "Go?—ay! what elze?" said Owd Ned.  "Up wi' tho; soot's good for th' ballywaach, mon; an' aw'll gi' tho a quart ov ale when tho comes deawn again!"  "Willto, for sure?" said Bodle, prickin' his ears.  "Am aw lyin', thinksto?" onswer'd Owd Neddy.  Whau, then, aw'm off, by th' mon, iv it's as lung as a steeple!"  An' he made no moor bawks at th' job, but set th' tone foot onto th' top-bar, an' up he went into th' smudge-hole.  Just as he wur crommin' hissel' in at th' bottom o'th chimbley, th' owd woman coom in to see what they hadd'n agate; an' as soon as Bodle yerd hur, he code eawt, "Howd her back a bit, till aw get eawt o'th seet, or else hoo'll poo me deawn again!"  Hoo stare't a bit afore hoo could make it eawt what it wur at're creepin' up th' chimbley-hole, an' hoo said, "What mak o' lumber ha'n yo afoot neaw? for yo're a rook o'th big'st nowmuns 'at ever trode on a floor!  Yo'n some mak o' divulment agate i'th chimbley, aw declare!"  As soon as hoo fund what it wur, hoo sheawted, "Eh, thea greight gawmless foo!  Wheer arto for, up theer?  Thea'll be smoor't, mon!"  An' hoo would ha' darted forrad, an' getten howd on him; but Owd Ned kept stonnin afore hur, an' sayin', "Let him alone, mon; it's nobbut a bit of a spree."  Then he looked o'er his shoulder at Bodle, an' said, "Get thee forrad, wilto, foo!  Thae met a bin deawn again by neaw!  An' as soon as he see'd 'at Bodle wur getten meeterly weel up th' hole, he leet her go; but hoo wur too lat to get howd.  An' o' at hoo could do wur to fot him a seawse or two o'th legs wi' th' poker.  But he wur for up, an' nought else.  He did just stop abeawt hauve a minute,—when he felt hur hit his legs,—to co' eawt, "Who's that at's hittin' mo?"  "Why," said hoo, "It's me, thae greight leather-yed; an' come down wi' the!  Whatever arto' doin' i'th chimbley?"  "Aw'm goin' up for ale."  "Ale!  There's no ale up theer, thae greight brawsen foo!  Eh, aw wish yor Molly wur here!"  "Aw wish hoo were here, istid o' me," said Bodle.  "Come down witho this minute, thae greight drunken hal!"  "Not yet," said Bodle,—"but aw'll not be lung, nothur, yo may depend;—for it's noan a nice place,—this isn't.  Eh! there is some ov a smudge!  An' it gwos wur as aw go fur;—a—tscho—o!  By Guy, aw con see noan,—nor talk, noathur;—so ger off, an' let me get it o'er afore aw'm chauk't!"  An' then th' owd lad crope forrud, as hard as he could, for he're thinkin' abeawt th' quart ov ale.  Well, Owd Neddy nearly skrike't wi' laughin', as he watched Bodle draw his legs up eawt o'th seet; an' he set agate o' hommerin' th' chimbley wole wi' his hont, and sheawtin' up, "Go on, Bodle, owd lad!  Go on, owd mon!  Thir't a reet un!  Thea'st, have a quart o'th best ale i' this hole, i' tho lives till tho comes deawn again, as hea 'tis, owd brid!  An' i' tho dees through it, aw'll be fourpence or fi'pence toawrd th' berrin!"  And then he went sheawting up an' deawn, "Hey! dun yo yer, lads?  Come here!  Owd Bodle's gone up th' chimbley!  Aw never clapt my een upo th' marrow trick to this i' my life!"  Well, yo may think, Sam, th' whole heawse wur up i' no time; an' some rare sport they hadd'n; an' Owd Neddy kept goin' to th' eawtside, to see if Bodle had getten his yed eawt at th' top; an' then runnin' in again, an bawlin' up th' flue, "Bodle, owd lad, heaw arto gettin on?  Go throo wi't, owd cock!"  But, whol he're starin' and sheawtin' up th' chimbley, Bodle lost his howd, somewheer toawrd th' top, an he coom shutterin' deawn again, an' o'th soot i'th chimbley wi' him; an' he let wi' his hinder-end thump o'th top-bar, an' then roll't deawn upo' th' har'stone.  An a gradely blash-boggart he looked, yo may think.  Th' owd lad seem't as if he hardly knowed wheer he wur; so he lee theer a bit, amung a cloud o' soot, an' Owd Neddy stood o'er him, laughin', an' wipin' his een, an' co'in eawt, "Tak thy wynt a bit, Bodle; thir't safe londed, iv it be hard leetin'!  Thir't a reet un; bi' th' mon arto, too!  Tak thy wynt, owd brid!  Thea'st have a quart, as how 'tis, owd mon, as soon as ever aw con see my gate to th' bar eawt o' this smudge at thea's brought wi' tho!  Aw never had my chimbley swept as chep i' my life!"

Mary.    Well, if ever!  Whau, it're enough to mak th' felly's throttle up!  A greight, drunken leather-yed!  But, he'd be some dry, mind yo!

Jone.     Yor reet, Mary!  Aw think mysel that a quart of ale wouldn't come amiss after a do o' that mak.  An' Bodle wouldn't wynd aboon once wi' it, afore he seed th' bottom o' th' pot, noather.


    Well, I had a good laugh at Jone's tale, and I enjoyed his manner of telling it, as much as anything there was in the story itself for, he seemed to talk with every limb of his body, and every feature of his face; and told it, altogether, in such a living way, with so much humour and earnestness, that it was irresistible; and as I was "giving mouth" a little, with my face turned up toward the ceiling, he turned to me, and said quickly, "Come, aw say; are yo noan fleyed o' throwing yor choles off th' hinges?"  We soon settled down into a quieter mood, and drew round the fire, for the night was cold; when Jone suddenly pointed out to the landlord one of those little deposits of smoke which sometimes wave about on the bars of the fire-grate, and, after whispering to him, "See yo, Sam; a stranger upo th' bar, theer;" he turned to me, and said, "That's yo, maister!"  This is a little superstition, which is common to the firesides of the poor in all England, I believe.  Soon, after this, Mary said to Jone, "Hasto gan thy horse aught, Jone?"  "Sure, aw have," replied he.  "Aw lift it heytin', an' plenty to go on wi', so then.  Mon, aw reckon to look after deawn crayters a bit, iv there be aught stirrin'."  "Well," said she, "aw dar say thea does, Jone; an' mind yo, thoose at winnut do some bit like to things at connot talk for theirsels, they'n never ha' no luck, as who they are."  "Well," said Jone, "my horse wortches weel, an' he sleeps weel, an' he heyts weel, an' he drinks weel, an' he parts wi't fearful weel; so he doesn't ail mich yet."  "Well," replied Mary, "there isn't a wick thing i' this world can wortch as it should do, if it doesn't heyt as it should do."  Here I happened to take a note-book out of my pocket, and write in it with my pencil, when the conversation opened again.


Sam. (whispering).    Sitho, Jone, he's bookin' tho

Jone.    Houd, maister, houd!  What mak o' marlocks are yo after neaw?  What're yo for wi' us, theer?  But aw caren't a flirt abeawt it; for they connot hang folk for talkin' neaw, as thi' could'n once on a day; so get forrud wi't, as what it is.


    He then began to inquire about the subject which was the prevailing topic of conversation at that time, namely, the Parliamentary crisis, in which Lord John Russell had resigned his office at the head of the Government; and the great likelihood there seemed to be of a protectionist party obtaining power.


Jone.    Han yo yerd aught abeawt 'em puttin' th' Corn Laws on again?  There were some rickin' abeawt it i' Bury teawn when aw coom off wi' th' cart to-neet.

Sam.     They'n never do't, mon!  They connot do!  An' it's very weel, for aw dunnot know what would become o' poor folk iv they did'n do.  What think'n yo, maister?


    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, mon; there's a deal more crusts o' brade lyin' abeawt than there wur once't of a day.  Aw've sin th' time when thi'dd'n ha' bin nipt up like lumps o' gowd.

Jone.    Aw think theyn ha' to fot Lord John back, to wheyve (weave) his cut deawn yet.  To my thinkin' he'd no business to lev his looms.  But aw dar say he knows his own job betther nor me.  He'll be as fause as a boggart, or elze he'd never ha' bin i' that shop as lung as he has bin, not he.  There's moor in his yed nor a smo'-tooth comb con fotch eawt.  What thinken yo, owd brid?

Sam.     It's so like!  But aw dunnot care who's in, Jone, i' thi'n nobbut do some good for poor folk; an' that's one o'th main jobs for thoose 'at's power.  But iv they wur'n to put th' Corn Bill on again, there's mony a theawsan' would be clemmed to deeoth.

Jone.    Ay, there would so, Sam, 'at I know on.  But see yo,—there's a deal on 'em 'ud go deawn afore me.  Aw'd make somebody houd back till their cale coom!  Iv they winnot gi' me my share for worchin' for, aw'll have it eawt o' some nook,—iv aw dunnot, damn Jone! (striking the table heavily with his fist).  They're never be clemmed at our heawse, as aw ha' si'n folk clemmed i' my time,—never whol aw've a fist at th' end o' my arm!  Neaw, what have aw towd yo!

Sam.    Thea'rt reet, lad!  Aw houd thi wit good, by th' mass!  Whol they gi'n us some bit like ov a chance, we can do.  At th' most o' times, we'n to kill 'ursels (ourselves) to keep 'ursels, welly; but when it comes to scarce wark an' dear mheyt, th' upstroke's noan so fur off.

Mary.    Ay, ay.  If it're nobbut a body's sel', we could manage to pinch a bit, neaw an' then; becose one could rayson abeawt it some bit like.  But it's th' childer, mon,—it's th' childer!  Th' little things at look'n for it reggilar an' wonder'n heaw it is when it doesn't come.  Eh, dear o' me!  To see poor folks bits o' childer yammerin' for a bite o' mheyt,—when there's noan for 'em,—an' lookin' up i' folk's faces, as mich as to say, "Connot yo help me?"  It's enough to may (make) onybody cry their shoon full!


Here I took out my book to make another note.


Jone.    Hello! yo'r agate again!  What, are yo takkin th' pickier on mo, or summat? . . . Eh, Sam, what a thing this larnin' is!  Aw should ha' bin worth mony a theawsan' peawnd if aw could ha' done o' that shap, see yo!

Sam.    Aw guess thea con write noan, nor read noather, conto, Jone?

Jone.    Not aw!  Aw've no moor use for a book nor a duck has for a umbrell.  Aw've had to wortch hard sin aw're five year owd, mon.  Iv aw've ought o' that mak to do, aw go to owd Silver-yed at th' lone-side wi't.  It makes me as mad as a wasp, mony a time, mon; one looks sich a foo!

Sam.    An' he con write noan mich, aw think, con he?

Jone.    Naw!  He went no fur nor pot-hook an' ladles i' writin', aw believe.  But he con read a bit, an' that's moor nor a deeol o' folk abeawt here con do.  Aw know nobory upo' this side at's gradely larnt up, nobbut Ash'orth parson.  But there's plenty o' chaps i' Rachda' teawn at's so brawsen wi' wit, that noather me, nor thee, nor no mon elze, con may ony sense on 'em.  Yo reckelect'n a 'torney co'in here once't?  What dun yo think o' him?

Sam.    He favours a foo, Jone; or aw'm a foo mysel.

Jone.    He's far larnt i' aught but honesty, mon, that's heaw it is.  He'll do no reet, nor tak no wrang.  So wi'n lap it up just wheer it is; for little pigs ha'n lung ears.

Sam.    Aw'll tell tho' what, Jone; he's a bad trade by th' hond, for one thing; an' a bad trade 'll mar a good mon sometimes.

Jone.    It brings moor in than mine does.  But we'n let it drop.  Iv aw'd his larning, I'd make summat on't.

Sam.    Ah, well! it's a fine thing is larnin', Jone!  It's a very fine thing!  It taks no reawm up, mon.  An' then, th' baillies connot fot it, thea sees  But what, poor folk are so taen up wi' gettin' what they needn' for th' bally an' th' back, whol thi'n noather time nor inclination for nought but a bit ov a crack for a leetenin'.

Jone.    To mich so, owd Sam!  To mich so!

Mary.    Thea never tells one heave th' wife is, Jone.

Jone.     Why, th' owd lass is yon; an' hoo's noather sickly, nor soory, nor sore, 'at aw know on. . . . Yigh, hoo's trouble't wi' a bit ov a breykin'-eawt abeawt th' meawth sometimes.

Mary.    Does hoo get nought for it?

Jone.    Nawe, nought 'at'll mend it.  But aw'm mad enough, sometimes, to plaister it wi' my hond,—iv aw could find i' my heart.

Mary.    Oh, aw see what thou meeons, neaw. . . . An' aw dar say thea gi's her 'casion for't, neaw an' then.

Jone.    Well, aw happen do.  Th' best o' folk need'n bidin' wi' a bit sometimes; an aw'm noan one o' th' best, yo known.

Mary.    Nawe; or th' warst noather, Jone.

Jone.    Yo dunnot know o', mon.

Mary.    Happen not; but thir't too good to brun, as how't be.

Jone.    Well, onybody's so, Mary.  But we're o' God Almighty's childer; an' aw feel fain ont sometimes; for he's th' best faither that a chylt con have.

Mary.    Ay, but thea'rt nobbut like other childer, Jone; thea doesn't tak as mich notice o' thy faither as thea should do.

Sam.    Well, well; let's o' on us be as good as we con be, if we aren't as good as we should be; an' then wi's be better nor we are.

Jone.    Hello! that clock begins a-givin' short 'lowance, as soon as aw get agate o' talkin'.  Aw mun be off!

Sam.    Well, thae'll co' a-lookin' at us, when tho comes this gate on, winnut to, Jone?  Iv tho doesn't, aw'st be mad, thae knows.

Jone.    As lung as aw'm wick and weel, owd crayter, aw'st keep comin' again, yo may depend,—like Clegg Ho' Boggart.

Sam.    Well, neaw, mind tho does do, for aw'd sooner see thee nor two fiddlers, ony time; so good neet to tho, an' good luck to tho, too, Jone, wi' o' my heart!


   The night was wearing late, and as I had yet nearly three miles to go I rose and went my way.  This road was never so much travelled as some of the highways of the neighbourhood, but since railways were made it has been quieter than before, and the grass has begun to creep over it a little in some places.  It leads through a district which has always been a kind of weird region to me.  I have wandered among those lonely moorland hills above Birtle and Ashworth, and Bagslate, up to the crest of old Knowl, and over the wild top of Rooley, from whence the greatest part of South Lancashire,—that wonderful region of wealth and energy,—lies under the eye, from Blackstone Edge to the Irish Sea; and I have wandered through the green valleys and silent glens among those hills, communing with the "shapes, and sounds, and shifting elements" of nature, in many a quiet trance of meditative joy, when the serenity of the scene was unmixed with any ruder sound than the murmurs of the mountain stream careering over its rocky bed, and the music of small birds among the woods upon its banks, or the gambols of the summer wind among the rustling green, which canopied the stream so thickly that the sunshine only stole into the deeps in fitful threads, hardly giving a warmer tinge to the softened light in cool grots below.  Romantic Spoddenlond!  Country of wild beauty, of hardy simple life, of old-world manners, and of ancient tales and legends dim!  There was a time when the very air of the district seemed to my young mind impregnated with boggart-lore, and all the wild "gramerie" of old Saxon superstition,—when I looked upon it as the last stronghold of the fairies, where they would remain impregnable, haunting wild "thrutches" and sylvan "chapels," in lonely deeps of the sloughs and woods, still holding their mystic festivals there on moonlight nights, and tripping to the music of its waters, till the crack of doom.  And, for all the boasted march of intellect, it is even to this day a district where the existence of witches and the power of witch-doctors, wise-men, seers, planet-rulers, and prognosticators, find great credence in the imaginations of a rude and unlettered people.  There is a little fold, called "Prickshaw," in this township of Spotland, which fold was the name of a notable country astrologer in Tim Bobbin's time, called "Prickshaw Witch."  Tim tells a humorous story about an adventure he had with this Prickshaw planet-ruler, at the Angel Inn, in Rochdale.  Prickshaw keeps up its oracular fame in that moorland quarter to this day (1854), for it has its planet-ruler still; and it is not alone in such wild outlying nooks of the hills that these professors of the art of divination may yet be found,—almost every populous town in Lancashire has, in some corner of it, one or more of these gifted star-readers, searching out the hidden things of life, for all inquirers, at about a shilling a-head.  These country soothsayers mostly drive a sort of contraband trade in their line, in as noiseless and secret a way as possible, among the most ignorant and credulous part of the population.  And it is natural that they should flourish wherever there are minds combining abundance of ignorant faith and imagination with a plentiful lack of knowledge.  But they are not all skulkers, these diviners of the skies, for now and then a bold prophet stands forth in distinct proportions before the public gaze, who has more lofty and learned pretensions; witness the advertisement of Dr. Alphonso Gazelle, of No. 4, Sparth Bottoms, Rochdale, which appeared in the Rochdale Sentinel of the 3rd of December, 1853. [p.119]  Oh, departed Lilly and Agrippa! your shadows are upon us still!  But I must continue my story of the lone old road and its associations; and as I wandered on that cold and silent night, under the blue sky, where night's candles were burning so clear and calm, I remembered that this was the country of old Adam de Spotland, who, many centuries since, piously bequeathed certain broad acres of land "for the cure of souls" in the parish of Rochdale.  He has now many centuries slept with his fathers.  And as I walked down the road, in this sombre twilight, with a hushed wind, and under the shade of the woody height on which the homestead of the brave old Saxon stood, my footsteps sounding clear in the quiet air, and the very trees seeming to bend over to one another and commune in awful murmurs on the approach of an intruder, how could I tell what the tramp of my unceremonious feet might waken there?  The road crosses a woody glen, called "Simpson Clough," which is one of the finest pieces of ravine scenery in the county, little as it is known.  The entire length of this wild gorge is nearly three miles, and it is watered by a stream from the hills called "Nadin Water," which, in seasons of heavy rain, rages and roars with great violence through its rocky channel.  There is many a strange old tale connected with this clough.  Half-way up a shaley bank which overhangs the river on the western side of the clough, the mouth of an ancient lead-mine may still be seen, partly shrouded by brushwood.  Upon the summit of a precipitous steep of wildwood and rock which bounds the eastern side of the clough, stands Bamford Hall, a handsome modern building of stone, a few yards from the side of the old hall of the Bamfords of Bamford.  On an elevated table-land, at the western side of the clough, and nearly opposite to Bamford Hall, stood the ancient mansion of Grizlehurst, a seat of the notable family of Holt in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  The Holt family were once the most powerful and wealthy landowners in the parish of Rochdale.  The principal seats of the family in this parish were Stubley Hall, in the township of Wardleworth, and Castleton Hall, in the township of Castleton.  The manor of Spotland was granted by Henry VIII. to Thomas Holt, who was knighted in Scotland by Edward, Earl of Hertford, in the thirty-sixth year of the reign of that monarch.  Part of a neighbouring clough still bears the name of "Tyrone's Bed," from the tradition that Hugh O'Neal, Earl of Tyrone, took shelter in these woody solitudes, after his defeat in the great Irish rebellion, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  Mr. John Roby, of Rochdale, wove this legend into romance, in his "Traditions of Lancashire."

    I reached home about ten o'clock, and thinking over the incidents of my walk I was a little impressed by one fact suggested by the conversation at the road-side public-house with "Jone o' Jeffreys" and the old couple,—namely, that there is a great outlying mass of dumb folk in this country, who,—by low social condition and lack of common education among them,—are shut out from the chance of hearing much, and still more from the chance of understanding what they do hear respecting the political questions of the time; and, also, with respect to many other matters which are essential to their welfare.  Whether this ignorance is chargeable upon that multitude itself, or upon that part of the people whom more favourable circumstances have endowed with light and power, and who yet withhold these elements from their less fortunate fellows, let casuists decide.  The fact that this ignorance does exist among the poor of England lies so plainly upon the surface of society, that it can only be denied by those who are incurious as to the condition of the humbler classes of this kingdom, or by those who move in such exclusive circles of life that they habitually ignore the conditions of human existence which lie outside of their own limits of society.  That portion of our population which hears next to nothing, and understands less, of politics and the laws,—any laws whatever,—is nevertheless compelled to obey the laws, right or wrong, and whatever mutations they may be subject to, and is thus continually drifted to and fro by conflicting currents of legislation which it cannot see,—currents of legislation which sometimes rise from sources where there exists, unfortunately, more love for ruling than for enlightening.  Many changes come over the social condition of this blind multitude, they know not whence, nor how, nor why.  The old song says—


Remember, when the judgment's weak
            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.  Shrewd demagogues know well how prostrate is the position of this uneducated "mass," as it is called; and they have a stock of old-fashioned tricks by which they can move it to their own ends "as easy as lying."


                   'Tis the time's plague,
When madmen lead the blind.


The educated classes have all the wide field of ancient learning open to them,—they can pasture where they will; and, the stream of present knowledge rushing by, they can drink as they list.  Whatever is doing in politics, too, they hear of, whilst these things are yet matters of public dispute and in some degree they understand and see the drift or them, and therefore can throw such influence as they have into one or the other scale of the matter.  This outdoor parliament of England, however, goes no farther down among the people than education goes.  Below that point lies a land of fretful slaves, cut off by ignorance from the avenues which lead to freedom; and they drag out their lives in blind subservience to a legislation which is beyond their influence.  Their ignorance keeps them dumb; and, therefore, their condition and wants are neither so well known, nor so often nor so well expressed, as those of the educated classes.  They seldom complain, however, until the state of affairs drives them to extremity, and then their principal exponents are riots and uproars of desperation.  It is plain that where there is society there must be law, and obedience to that law must be enforced, even among those who know nothing of the law, as well as those who defy it; but my principal quarrel is with that ignorant condition of theirs which shuts them out from any reasonable hope of exercising their rights as men and citizens.  And so long as that ignorance is unnecessarily continued, the very enforcement of laws among them, the nature of which they have no chance of knowing, looks, to me, like injustice.  I see a remarkable difference, however, between the majority of popular movements which have agitated the people for some time past and that successful one,—the repeal of the Corn Laws.  The agitation of that question, I believe, awakened and enlisted a greater breadth of the understanding sympathy of the nation, among all classes, than was ever brought together upon any popular question which has been agitated within the memory of man.  But it did more than this,—and herein lies one of the foundation-stones which shall hold it firm awhile, I think,—since it has passed into law its results have convinced that uneducated multitude who could not very well understand, and did not care much for the mere disputation of the question.  Everybody has a stomach of some sort,—and it frequently happens that when the brain is not very active the stomach is remarkably so,—and, where it could not penetrate the understanding, it has by this time triumphantly reached the stomach, and now sits there, smiling defiance to any kind of sophistry that would coax it thenceforth again.  The loaves of free trade followed the tracts of the League, and the hopes of protectionists are likely to be "adjourned sine die," for the fog is clearing up a little, and I think I see a better education getting ready for the next generation.


O for the coming of that glorious time
When, prizing knowledge as her noblest wealth
And best protection, this imperial realm,
While she exacts allegiance, shall admit
An obligation on her part to teach
Them who were born to serve her and obey,
Binding herself by statute to secure
For all her children whom her soil maintains
The rudiments of letters!


――――♦――――


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