Picture of John Byng

John Byng


places mentioned

A Tour in the Midlands, 1789: Biggleswade to Newark

Next Selection Previous Selection

Thursday June 4

The King's Birth Day.—I put on a clean Shirt; but made no new coat for The Occasion.—There was, this morning, A Delay about the new Horse, as whether P. shou'd purchase Him; However, at last, by the advice, etc., of T. Bush,36 and P's consideration as to Horse-Hire, He was bought.—Now The grand arrangements being finish'd, We, The English Greys, march'd away; but tho' assembled, we are not yet under that steady Discipline that I hope may be observed. Mrs B.—is convoy'd forwards in a Post-Chaise by Mr L.—I was Guide to the cavalry over Biggleswade Common to the Sandy Hills, that we might take a Survey of Caesar Camp; when the View is gay, and The Outworks of The Camp are very perfect, being maiden Ground.

At our descent, we were pelted by a Hail Storm, so quickly, as to drive us under some lucky Trees for Shelter: all last Night there was an heavy Rain; Let it Rain at night, and that will make our Riding Comfortable. We now soon came to Eaton, where before our second Breakfast was ready, the Post-Chaise arrived; and we then all went to see The Church, which is large and lightsome, with a good old Font.

These old Fonts afford much curious Sculpture; and on no account shou'd be put away, as they too commonly are to give place to some modern marble Bauble, the crafty Introduction of some mason, who then happens to be Church-Warden at Eaton. We passed an hour: In a mile forward we left The town of St. Neots to our right, the Steeple of which Church is very lofty, and well-built.—The sky was full of Storms; to escape a near one of approach, we put on at best Speed, till a Blacksmiths Shed at Paxton shelter'd us; and therein we waited its downfall being join'd by many Field Weeders.

In Society Such a Hovel is diverting; alone I have endured it gloutingly: our stay here was half-an-hour; when luckily the weather clear'd up.—On this Road are quarter'd the Scotch Greys, a fine Regiment, with many advantages, of Nationality of Caps, and of a beautiful and particularly colour'd Horse: of much more size and Shew, than our Squadron can boast.

In some miles from Bugden, another storm threatened us and we next refuged in a small public-House, call'd Creamers Hut, where in a neatish Parlour we ate our Bread and Cheese, with as much Satisfaction, as the finest Dress could be borne at the same hour in St. James's Palace.—This delay seemed to throw us out of our Time of dinner; which was to be prepared for us, at 3 o'clock at Alconbury-Hill; where We did not arrive till past that time; and then dinner not ready! We were rather peevish at the delay—for the half hour before dinner is allways a snappish time.—The dinner was better than I expected in this filthy Inn (The Wheat Sheaf) which to the miseries of a cold alehouse, joins the charges of a London Tavern: for 2 small Tench stew'd in a black Sauce were charged 7 shillings.—You may Suppose that on this day we have often great-coated, viz. myself and P., as for W. W. He has encumbered himself with an oil-skin coat, and apron, the Stink of which is intolerable, but, probably, a Brier Hedge may ease him of his Appendage, and rip up his Balloon. He has also brought with him, his little dog Wowsky, to add to his Plagues; so that if my Old Friend Taff were alive and here. He wou'd say to him, 'I see, Sir, you have got a nurse child with you'; (meaning an idle Incumbrance.)

We were soon at Stilton, lately fill'd to see this ill-fought Fight;37 Thence we continued trotting along, not much in Company; for my Companions fly away like Hares, but I must play The Tortoise, and perhaps Poney may win the Race.

The Evening was pleasant, and the last 3 miles near the Nen Banks made some amends for the dreary country from Monks-Wood.

Engraved heading from the Bill at The Haycock at Wansford Bridge pasted by Lord Torrington into his Diary, and showing the traditional figure of the man asleep on a load of hay who, caught by the stream, did not wake up till he drifted on to the bridge.

At 8 o'clock we arrived, (The Chaise some time before us) at the Haycock Wandsford-Bridge, where W. and I, were so comfortably lodged, and treated in our Tour of last Summer.—

After Tea, and a walk over the Bridge, we play'd two Rubbers of Whist, till a good Supper came in; of which I was scarcely allow'd (like another Baratarian Governor)38 to eat; for fear of Spasms: The finest Peas, which, at their first appearance, are much my liking, were denied to me; Tarts likewise; Custards ditto;—This was very right, but very hard! Nor dare I venture for some time till the memory of my last spasmodic Night be blown away.

Friday June 5

Our Horses are well lodged here; and I think that I never slept in a better bed or Room, than in those of last night.—A Week has now slipped away, and little Touring yet begun. To-day it rains hard, with a blustering November Wind.

Lucky to be in Society, and in a good Inn.—I saw at early day my Poney's Shoes taken off, and that He was well, and strongly Shod; which Shoeing I hope may last the most of our way.—I, Mrs B. and P. breakfasted at past 9 o'clock, but W. and L. did not appear till Eleven.

All the Post chaises being out, we deferr'd our drive till the Evening, and order'd an early instead of a late Dinner.—The two late and sick Risers now betook themselves to Fishing, from damp Grass, and in a Nth. wind to improve their Healths; whilst P. and I walk'd to a pretty Village call'd Thornhaugh, in a very rural situation, where stands a neat House of the Dean Proby of Lichfield,39 close to the small Church;—In the Church Yard, o'erun with rampant weeds, I took down this Inscription.

WILLM. CAVE.

I serv'd a great and noble Duke,
        With Truth, and Honesty;
The Lord above hath call'd me hence,
        To serve the Lord most high.

Our Walk sent us hungry home to a good Dinner, well chosen, and well dressed; and there was a Tench of the largest Size I ever saw. But I am afraid to eat!

The Fishers, who had a bad mornings Sport, return'd after Dinner to their Pursuit; when Mrs B., P. and myself drove in a Post Chaise to Peterboro'. The Talbot Inn; where ordering Tea to be prepared, we view'd The Cathedral; the outside of which They much admired, but thought as I did, of the meanness of the fitting up of The Choir, and of the miserably-fancied Screen.

The Stone which mark'd old Scarlets Remains,39a being removed several yards from the right, and old spot, renders ridiculous the Verse under his Picture 'But at your feet there doth his body lie.'

Six o'clock morning Service, in The Chapel appropriate for that Purpose, has been disused for some time, to the great joy of The Performers; and as the Choir Service does not draw an audience, it were better to shut up the doors, and render the whole Business a Sinecure.—Nothing can be worse built than Peterboro', or more melancholy; Not even a dragoon to walk about the Market Place.—They are now eager for their Races which begin on Tuesday next.

But Races are now no longer sought after, or their Balls an object of desire to Ladies who may dance everlastingly in London!

Many horses are already arrived at Peterboro' for the races, which begin on Tuesday next. The noble earl Fitwilliam and family are daily expected with much company.

PETERBORO' RACES, 1789.

TUESDAY, June 9th, HUNTER's SWEEPSTAKES of FIVE GUINEAS each, carrying 12ft. To which is added FIFTY POUNDS, given by the Right Honourable EARL FITZWILLIAM. The best of Three Two Miles and Half Heats. Seven Subscribers.

WEDNESDAY, June 10th, the CITY PLATE of FIFTY POUNDS, for Three-year-old Colts and Fillies, that never won. Colts, 7ft. 12lb. Fillies, 7ft. 10lb. The best of Three Heats. Once round for a Heat.

THURSDAY, June 11th, the MEMBERS' PLATE of FIFTY POUNDS, for Four, Five, Six-year-old, and Aged Horses. Four-year-olds, 7ft. 4lb. Five-year-olds, 8ft. 4lb. Six-year-olds, 8ft. 11lb. and Aged 9ft. Winners of One Plate this Year to carry 3lb. of Two Plates 5lb. of Three Plates or more 7lb. extra. The best of Three Four Mile Heats.

To be shewn and entered at the Angel Inn, on Monday the 8th Day of June, between the Hours of Four and Seven o'Clock in the Evening, when a Certificate of the Age and Qualification of each Horse, etc., is to be produced. Entrance Two Guineas each, and Five Shillings to the Clerk, or double at the Post. Each winning Horse to pay One Guinea towards the Scales, Weights, and Drums.

Every Horse to stand at the House of a Subscriber of One Guinea, and to be plated by a subscribing Smith of Half-a-Guinea.

No less than Three reputed Running Horses, etc., to start for either Plate; and if but one, the Owner shall receive Five Guineas; if Two, Five Guineas each, and their Entrance Money returned.

No Crossing or Jostling; nothing but fair Running will be allowed. Any Disputes which may arise about the Entering, Riding, or Running, shall be determined by the Stewards, or whom they may appoint, and that Determination shall be final.

RICHARD BENYON, Esq. } Stewards.
The Hon. LIONEL DAMER


Gentlemen are desired to order their Riders at the Time of Entrance to mention the Colours they intend to ride in, and not to alter them.

The turf is remarkable fine.

There will be an Ordinary at the Angel on Tuesday and Thursday—at which Inn there will be a Ball on Thursday as usual.

An Ordinary at the Saracen's Head on Wednesday. The Comedians will be at Peterborough in the Race Week.

There will be a regular MAIN of COCKS fought at the Angel Inn during the Races, between the Gentlemen of Leicester and the Gentlemen, of Peterboro'.

Feeders { FAULKNER, Leicester.
PEARSON, Peterboro'.



We soon return'd to our Tea; and were then in haste to be gone. In our way back I enquired about an Old Ruin at Longthorp and one answer was that it had been a Chapel, another, that it was a Tower.

We turn'd to the right into Lord Fitzwilliams Park at Milton, which is a large Flat, and not a place I believe, much Visited; Indeed Mr Norton, Our Host of Wandesford, told me that it was not worth going to; but that all the World went to see Burleigh:40 and so it luckily Escapes an overun.

However we found Milton House41 to be a noble, Venerable Pile, and wish'd much to enter it, but were refused; So cou'd only peep thro' the windows into The Lower Rooms, which appeared very comfortable, and Elegantly furnish'd: but not in the Old Taste! The Library, particularly, seem'd to be a most desirable apartment, and there must be some fine Rooms up Stairs. There is no View from The House.

The Water is a Stagnate Serpentine below the Garden, where an ugly Green-House is now Building.—A Refusal of the Sight of any House known commonly to be seen, is very unpolite, and cruel upon The Tourist.

There cannot be a stronger Resemblance of any Place, than of this, exhibited in a beautiful Print.

As the Evening was far advanced, I had no time to see the Inside of Castor Church, which is a large and lofty Building, and might have been part of a Religious Foundation that formerly stood here.

There are very large Barns yet remaining and much unequal Ground, that seems to have been built upon.

On Returning, found The Fishers to have caught but few fish; However, Mr L. seem'd sorry not to be able to go forward with us, and hinted an Intention, if possible, of joining us. We have already got a, Standing Joke amongst us (about a Taw) that serves for a Stimulator; as shou'd be the case in all Societies.

Our Supper was as good as the dinner: and W. W. forgot his morning complaints.—Nothing can be better, of an Inn, than the Eating, and Bedding of this House.

Saturday June 6

A morning of much haste, of packing, of Settling Bills. At 7 o'clock I arose and hastened Mrs B. for she is to go to town, to-day with Mr L.

After fast'ning up our 3 several Portmanteaus, Breakfast and Salutations, We took our desevering Leave; and were now for the 1st day on our Touring Scheme. Our Baggage will come forward in a Stage-coach; and be in time for the Bed Hour.

For the first few miles it continued a blustrous day: To Burleigh-House We rode, but did not enter, it being neither my wish, or theirs; but I thought that they ought to pass thro' the Park to Survey the Oaks, The Water, The Bridge, and the outside of this Superb Mansion.—At Stamford are Quartered The South-Lincoln Militia, a Set of as awkward, unsightly, ill dressed men as cou'd be drawn together.

I never cou'd find a convincing answer to my Question, why these men shou'd be drag'd forth, annually, from their work and their Families to be ruin'd as Husbands and as Husbandmen?

When The Country shall require their assistance in Time of War and Invasion, Then Let them come forth in strength, and with the richest and most esteem'd country Gentlemen at their Head; and No danger cou'd be so hasty, as not to allow Time for a better discipline than what they now get in their debauch'd monthly Training.

Let The Serjeants, who are establish'd, make a monthly progress around their districts, and see that the men Balloted are upon the Spot; who in an instant may be assembled: But now, What Gentleman of Fortune will undergo such campaignings as these!

Every Gentleman of the County, of Wealth, and consideration, wou'd start forward in Times of danger to serve his Country; but they cannot submit to these blackguard musterings; (so cunningly managed by the Adjutant, and his Deputies;) For the Kingdom is now part of a great annual expence for a national Shame; and every Vice, and every City mischief are transferred into cottage Quiets.

Contemporary pen-and-ink drawing inserted
by Lord Torrington in the Diary

I stopped for some time in Stamford in search of a Stomatic Medicine; and to wonder at The Troops! and then by myself, for my Troops had march'd forward, survey'd this old Gate-Way on the eastern Side of The Town; where the walls are tolerably entire.—Stamford is a large, but an ill-built Town, without Shade around it, or manufactory within it. Detach'd from The Town stands the ancient Chapel of St. Leonards, now serving as a wood House to a Farmer; The Arches are of great Antiquity, and curiosity, and as old as any thing existing; In a short time it must fall to the Ground. From Stamford keeping The Bourn Road, in 3 miles I overtook my companions: Leave the Village of Ryal to our right, pass over a fine turfy Common and so to Little Bitham, from which place we soon enter'd Grimsthorp Park; (by a shabby Gate, and without any Lodge!)

Thro' Grimsthorpe Park is a long ill-kept Road that leads thro' the wooded Part to the open Ground—the View of the water, and of The House opposite. Here I rode forward to Enquire after his Grace, and was soon introduced to Him, my Horse being led into an Out-House; 'My Lord, my two Friends are with me—we wish to see your Grace's House and Place;—as for our Company, Do with us as you please, To dinner, or not, as is most agreeable'—'My Dr. Sir, will they take a glass of wine, and see the House? My Cook is in town, and I am unprepared.' We walk'd out, and Returned with my Comrades, and then his Grace obliged us to see every part, every Closet, of this wretched uninhabited House.—The New Front Hall were built by Sir J. Vanburgh42 in all his clumsy Taste; The other Parts, very old, and outside Chimney'd, were all clean, as his Grace observed; (how shou'd they be otherwise?) of Pictures there are many bad ones of men and Horses; but of which his Grace is a bad Nomenclator: one of Dogs and Bears, He call'd a Hondicotter, instead of Hondius, and He brag'd of a Vandyke, King C.'s Family, which is a most miserable copy.—Here are some faded Pictures by Sir J. Reynolds—of no Value to any one; and the original Paintings by Hogarth, of the 4 Times of the day, which wou'd be highly Valued by some. We were obliged to be drag'd into every Bed Room; and his Grace desired me to fix on that I shou'd chuse to Sleep in when I came there (to which I inwardly replied—'You need not fear that I shall ever come again.') My civility was strained to a degree, I was very hungry, and without hopes of food; and to be obliged, too, to see his forlorn cold kitchen, and his Vanburgh, tasteless, devotionless Chapel! In front of The Mansion, is a most extensive Lawn on both sides of the ugly water, upon and near which is neither Tree nor Shrub.

The back part towards the country, and The Village of Edenham, is of pleasant appearance. There is no Pleasure Ground, or a Rose to be found! To me it appears Strange That any Man, of any Fortune, can Permit his Grounds to lay in disgrace. A Barrell of Paint is of easy Purchase, and of easy use to ornament and preserve Gates and doors: and altho' hasty and grand Embellishments weaken Fortunes, and being foolishly begun, as sillily End; yet why not Employ 2 or 4 men who might under your Eye, Plant and Repair?

For even such assistance would in a few years, highly adorn even a great Domain: Whereas those who from Idleness and a pretence of Expence, will neither Employ themselves, or one single Labourer, whose work they must direct, are supinely content to see The Nettles spring up around them; shatter'd Gates that will neither open or Shut, and Hedges whose Gaps are stop'd by Hurdles.

By self-experience I know how easy it is from a bundle of shrubs, and an apronful of Roots, with a Spade, a dibble and a Trowel, to beautify a Small Garden. But I will not allow even the Plea of Poverty to be an excuse for filth, and neglect; When a cripple of an Alms-House can frequently produce his small Chamber garnish'd with Prints, and his alotment of Garden flourishing with Roses.

I said to his Grace—'Where is the Kitchen Garden?' 'Oh, that we will Walk to see.'—But, now, after a two Hours Survey of the House, my civility began to Halt; (for I had already seen the Kitchen; and what cou'd be in the Kitchen Garden!) So I would not go there: Why Then Bring forth the Horses, said his Grace (from some Hovel). But first you shall see the Dairy; which was as mean, and as ugly, as could be!

Upon mounting my Cold Horse, and bowing away, I felt as disatisfied, as peevish, and as hungry as might be: Of Servants I saw none, so saved Tipping; and only one Curaty kind of Visitor, of whom The Duke took so little Notice, that He seem'd glad to ride away with us.—We talk'd not—I was sulky, and looking out for a Public-House with a civil Landlord for of private ones I felt sick. In 3 miles to Corby, where, tho' there was an alehouse, we did not stop, as 5 more miles would bring us well in; tho' our poor Horses had long been without Food.—From Corby We passed by several Woods, whence the bald-headed Marquis tallyhoo'd many a Fox.

The Angel Inn at Coultersworth (on the north Road) had a smiling appearance, but not so was mine, when I found only two Portmanteaus arrived, and that mine was missing, and might be gone to Newcastle; with all my little comforts, and my greater comforts, as my Sheets, Physick Box, etc. The only Things that poor R. Crusoe had saved from The Wreck, were a Nt. Cap, and two Shirts, and two pair of Stockings that were in P's Portmanteau.

But I bore it, (as, I think, I do heavier attacks) with Philosophy. There was civility, and a good stable; as for the weather, it blew bleak November.—our Dinner now begins to be of the right Sort; and instead of Tench, and Trumpery, 'Here Bring in your cold meat—or any thing that is ready,' and so we fared as well as at our grand Services; But W. W. (being, perhaps, under a Promise, or under a Whim) must needs leave us to make a Visit at Grantham. He did so last year, and may prove as successful now! Visiting, and Touring are inveterate enemies. So ordering a Boy on Horseback to attend him with his Bagage, He went off triumphantly; and will make a grand entree into Grantham.

Engraving of Isaac Newton

P. and I left alone would not be Idle; In spite of wind and wet, we, after dinner walk'd up the Village, as dirty as in winter, to the Apothecarys, (for a medicine for me) whom we found a civil odd sort of man; and here P. read his Newspaper, whilst the Medicine was making. We then crossed the open Fields for half a mile to The Hamlet of Woolsthorpe, famous for being the Birth-Place of Sir Isaac Newton; and we enter'd and Survey'd the Room, in the Old Farm House, where He was born; and then, our curiosity contented, Slid back our Slippery Path to Coultersworth, and by Twilight walk'd around The Churchyard, wherein this was the best Inscription I cou'd make out.

The Grave, kind reader, to a Level brings
Heroes, and beggars, Galley Slaves, and Kings.

At our Return we found our Horses well bedded; and as at Xmas, or on a Hunting Party, listen'd to a howling wind;

The Bladed corn be lodged
The Castles topple on their Warders Heads.

In such a thought, we desired the company of our Landlord Mr T.,43 one of those old conceited sportsmen, who having gallop'd over the country on a stiff cast Hunter, has assumed a consequence from being noticed by my Lord, in the field; for want of other Society.—Of Hunting He knows nothing but Hallooing, and of killing the Game; whether by heading a Fox to Cover, or by turning up a Hare at the nose of The Grey-Hounds:—and then without having had a minutes Sport in the day, brags over his midnight cup, what a fine large Fox they had kill'd: 'What had you a good Run?' 'No—Damn Him, He was sulky, and would not break cover.' Then boasts of the blood of his high bred Hunter; having been taught at Newmarket; that nothing but blood and bone (and such like Nonsense) can hold their wind; and that hairy-legg'd Horses are all dunghill; whereas he look before Him, He would see the Butcher and Baker galloping untired, whilst his conceit feels satisfied on such a jade.

We did not Sup in State: but only had a cloth spread upon a side Table, with some Cold Meat, and Brandy and Water. I trembled at the approaching Night, as might a Bride.

Sunday June 7

Mr Pennant44 in one of his tours relates a youthful Journey in a Stage-Coach, and if a distant Stage Coach Journey of former times had been related, it wou'd have Form'd a Volume of adventures; whereas now—an assimilation of Life and Ideas render us all vapid, and tiresome.

I have ever been so fond of travelling description, as to be delighted at the Entrance of the Passengers in the Play of The Beaux Strategem; as formerly, every Passage betwixt woods and every hollow-way were notorious for Stories of Robberies; and then how happy did the tired Traveller deem himself in having escaped the Perils of Robbery, the dangers of bad Quarters, narrow Lanes, and deep waters; and so much the better then, say I, for

They made Visitings acceptable; They made Tourings curious;
They kept Provisions cheap; They preserv'd counties beautiful;
They kept out Roguery;—They kept in Honesty.

As I proceed in Tour Writing, and Print-Pasting, I get Bold and Vain, Believing that all Diaries become Valuable from Age, and that topographical Prints must become rare and curious; tho' I often Revert to some sad Diaries I have read, or heard of, as one of a punctual woman, who wrote:

Friday. Buried my poor dear Husband.
Saturday. Turned my Ass to Grass.

and tho' this is ludicrous, yet with over Study, and devoid of Nature, what does Tour Writing or any other Writing become?

Tourists should think for themselves, and forget what they have read, for sadly do Recollection and Invention Clash. If possible, I wish to glean my own Remarks, and pick up the few ears that the rich Farmer-Tourist may have left. Descriptions should fall from the Eye upon The Heart; so that the Ignorant might feel, and the Scientific acknowledge the Truth of every Page; I am neither disabled by ease, plenty, and years; but wish quietly to digest my thoughts, and my food. From being nervous (splenetic perhaps) I seek not gay and fashionable society; The conversation of high-bred women is, now, a Logical Spatter of upholding improbabilities, or of contradicting plain Truths: If you are quickly convinced, their Sport ceases, for the Intention of modern cleverness is to perplex, not elucidate; and this kind of argumentative Sparring, The Ladies have picked up from polite Lawyers, and Parliamentary Orators, who egotistically prate Mankind to Death; and have taught the flatter'd Fair to dash away, in their absence, in Controversy, and Investigation. I must own myself unequal of Intellects to wander from common Conversation into such vasty Labyrinths; so that, when obliged to visit, I endeavour for some time to listen; then look about for my Hat, to make a comfortable Retreat, and sneak into what I think an happy Retirement.

Thro' Life I have been eager to undertake the Business of The day;—I shave with cold water; and when I had a tolerable head of hair, I cut it short in Summer to avoid Trouble, and to be what I call comfortable. I knew formerly, two gentlemen, who spent many hours of every day at their Toilettes, where they remain'd immoveable; picking their Teeth, adjusting their Neckcloths, and not be hurried to the Sports of the Field, or The Table.

Our Charge at Coultersworth was reasonable;—and both men and Beasts well lodged: around the Inn, and Garden, are many fanciful Paintings, as one of a man, pointing [To The —]; and on the House is a Bas Relief of Sir I. Newton.

We took the high road, in a very high wind; and only stopp'd for 5 minutes at Great Panton Church, whose steeple is very beautiful and in Preservation; The Road was hard and stoney, and P., used to the Norfolk and Suffolk Sands, thought it very bad; but had he ever been in the North, or in Wales, He must think this charming. Grantham Steeple is wonderfully high, they say 98 yards; 'Tis Height makes Grantham Steeple seem awry/

We left our Horses at the Gate of The Angel Inn, of good, but old appearance; The George Inn of new and grand Building, (commonly call'd Jack Manners' Inn) seems to be in a grand stile, and is kept by a Waiter from Brooks's.45

Grantham Church is very large, and lightsome, but contains nothing of antiquity, except The Font; The best monument is to the Memory of the late Sir Dudley Ryder: The Bells are ten in Number, and reckoned very tuneable. We enquired after our comrade, W, who slept at Mr B's, the Ministers.46

We hence turn'd into The Melton Road, and soon came to Harlaxton; Here is a grand, and most extensive View, to the right, over The Valley of The Trent, and into Nottinghamshire: Denton is a very pleasant Village, where Mr Wellby47 resides in a good old mansion, surrounded by some spacious Ponds.

Here Belvoir-Castle rises to the View, in awful State: In our way we passed by the ruin'd Church of Woolsthorp the Church Yard of which is still used as a Burying Ground. When we approached The Belvoir Stables, we enquired for an Inn (for my wish is for a noon Stop at a quiet Inn, and there to eat of the Family dinner), and were directed to The Peacock, a House of the proper sort; Here they spoke of a Leg of Mutton to be ready in an hour, one o'clock.—We then walk'd up The Hill Belvoir-Castle, where every thing is in neglect, and Ruin, and in such a state it has long been; stingy Minorities succeeded by wasteful Follies! Here is neither Grandeur of Old Buildings, or of convenience of new; The situation is very bold and commanding; tho' I shou'd detest living on a Hill-Top, and to be obliged to eternally strain up and down Hill, in peril, and Fatigue.

The Housekeeper soon came; of a very drunken, dawdling appearance.

BELVOIR CASTLE
from a print inserted in the Diary

The Rooms to the North are of the latest date, and command a boundless Prospect over the Vale into Nottinghamshire; They are large, some very large, But in the whole House, there is no Furniture (Pictures excepted) that a Broker would think worth the carrying away; Nor one Chair, Table, Carpet or Curtain of use or comfort! In this Condition was the House found by the late duke; who, instead of refitting, repairing, and such like necessary and honorable Works, laid about him, like a dragon to buy Pictures (a finishing, not a commencing Taste); and, in truth he did that with Judgment, for finer Pictures are not to be seen; but they are all tost about in confusion: Now all these young (Romish) collectors lavish away a fortune in Italy, without enquiring after their professional Riches, or knowing that their Old Stair-cases and Gallery contain noble Portraits, and original Paintings, which are suffer'd to rot, unregarded. This is truly the case at Belvoir! Besides a most superb Collection of antient Portraits, here are to be seen the best works of Sir J. Reynolds, and Gainsborough.—The mistakes of the Housekeeper were numberless,—pointing to a Picture of the great Duke of Buckingham, she call'd him that Villain Felton; finely confusing the Murder'd with the Murderer! An old Bed, curiously worked by a Countess of Rutland, in a tapestry Room, with fine velvet Chairs, is the most antient Observation in the House.—I will be bold to say that the Great Dining Room is as richly hung by the finest works of Reubens, and Morrillio, as can be; in this Room is likewise the Portrait of Henry VIIIth by Holbein, that came from Southill. There is also a long Gallery where the Pictures (a wonderful Collection of antient and modern Skill) are not yet hung up: a Large Room, like an auctioneers Room, leading from this, is filled by fine Paintings, piled about, at all corners.—I think that fine Pictures are a beautiful Addition to the elegancies of Life; But when I see the walls of great rooms cover'd by valuable Paintings, and at the same time wanting good Chairs, Tables, Grate, Curtains, and Carpets, I contemn such mistaken Pride and Folly! There is an old Shabby Chapel; disused to Prayers; and instead of the necessary number of Servants, but 4 of any description are retained. Pitiful Savings! One Night's losings at Play of the late duke had furnish'd this House: at present there is not an habitable Room, or a Bed fit to sleep in. When K. James 1st (that rude, cunning, half-witted Blockhead) was entertained here at his coming into the Land of Canaan, and was shown the grand surrounding Domains of the Earl of Rutland, He exclaimed, 'What a Glorious Traytor He would make.'

Out of Doors there are no Improvements, no Pleasure Grounds—and as at Grimsthorpe not a Rose Bush to be seen; as if for the last 100 years all had been left to Ruin.

General Poyntz set down before Belvoyr Castle, where Sr Gervas Lucas was Governour for the King, Summoned it, and assaulted it, but both to the like purpose, till after a Siege of four moneths, The House and Castle was deliver'd up to him on the 2 of February, upon honourable conditions, Sr Gervas and his Officers, being convayed to Litchfield.—Heaths Chronicle.

On our descent from the Castle to the Peacock Inn, after a Survey of one Hour and an half (not half time enough for observation) we found that the Leg of Mutton, before mention'd, did not seem to be intended for us, for The Landlady said, with a sour Face, that it must be kept for her Lodgers.—'If so, Madam, I answer'd, Get us any thing you please, and we will give up the mutton.' Now whether this was said, by me, in such a complaisant manner as to win her Heart, or that otherwise She relented, but She almost instantly returned with her Maid Servants, placing before us a Round of Beef boil'd, a Leg of Mutton roasted, with Greens, a Rice Pudding, and a Gooseberry-pie; and all this serv'd up with smiles!

BELVOIR INN.

To dinners 0 2 0
To Brandy 0 1 0
To Wine 0 1 9
To Horses Corn and Hay 0 0 10
  0 5 2

The room was newly white-washed and the Floor of bricks; just such a Room with such a day, as I dined in at Rockingham in my last Summers Tour; and this I had been describing to P. I had nearly forgotten to speak of one family Picture, in The Castle (hung up at an odd Corner, for they are all put carelessly about) of an Earl and Countess of Rutland, with their two children, who were bewitched to Death.48 The Library (if any in this not-reading family) was locked up.

We were now directed down the Hill into The Vale to Botesford, where I was led to survey the Monuments of The Manners,48 and an awkward rugged ride, we found it.—Botesford is a long dirty Village, has a beautiful Church with a very lofty Spire; and the Chancel is fill'd by the magnificent Monuments of The Rutlands; the inspection of which thoroughly, and reading the Inscriptions (particularly that of the two children who perish'd by Sorcery48 would employ a whole morning: They are beautifully carved in marble. The Parsonage of this rich Living (Mr Thorotons) is now Rebuilding. This Inscription is on a Tombstone in The Church-Yard.

            RICHD. WHITACKER

                          1775
                  Aged 24 Years.

Our Lifes a Journ'y on a Winters day,
Some only breakfast first, and so away;
Others stay Dinner, and depart well fed,
The longest lived but sup and go to Bed;
Those most in debt who linger out the day,
Who first depart has less and less to pay.

The Road from Botesford thro' new Enclosures was very rough and unpleasant till we reached the Nth Road at Long-Benyngton; whence we rode slowly on over a flat meadowy Country (where were many pastoral shews of milking by maids on their Sundays dress) to Newark.

At Grantham they leave off the Stone, and build with a flaming red brick, of which Newark is built, and looks like a new Town.

We put up at The Kingston Arms. W. not arrived! After Tea, P. being employed in reading Newspapers, I walk'd around this clean well-built Town, and newly paved.

The Market Place is of much good Building, and Beauty, the Bridge begun by The Marquis of Newcastle. The Trent here did not make the appearance I expected; But The Castle, of which this North West Front only remains, looks nobly over the River.

A Pleasant walk by the Bank of The Trent; and then returned to take another Tour about the Town with P. There is a Cross lately repaired (to shew the difference of Times) both here, and at Grantham, and guarded by Iron Rails: This, I observed to P, who is a good Catholick, as a good Sign! We had a front Room at our inn and a very good supper—which half finished W. W. appeared, P soon retired, but W. and I kept up till 12 o'clock.

Monday June 8

From an alacrity of mind, and a freshness of skin, I commonly pass for not old; but now in company of young men, I must endure the Title of Old Gentleman, which at first sounds unpleasantly, till the Title is regularly confirmed, and then, if Health accompanies, it becomes a Boast.

I come abroad to be busy, and active, nor will I lose time: Every moment of good Weather shou'd be employ'd, ... My sheets of last night I fancied damp, and so in my old custom I drew them on the floor, and slept betwixt the Blankets: often, formerly, I have been in like distress with the unfortunate Couple, so ridiculously drawn—in some humourous pictures. ... When up, at 7 o'clock, I found, with Pleasure, that there were in P's Portmanteau, 2 Shirts, 2 Necks, and 2 pr. of Stockings of mine; so, having kept my Nt. Cap in my Pocket, this makes a sufficient change.

Absent from family perplexities, and divested of Luggage, I am quite an easy man, and free from care; except as to Poney, who merits all my attention. W. W. a young man, must be taught the same; For he said His Horse went lame, and I this morning on examining his Feet, found his Shoes just gone, so instantly order'd him to be shod.—I had a Barber to attend me; for my Implements of Beautifying are all gone—to Newcastle—upon a coasting Voyage!

A Bookseller in the Market Place furnished me with much Information about my County Progress.—Breakfasted alone; my comrades preferred Ease to Observation Stay'd at home; whilst I, young and active like my Poney, took the Nottingham Road; whereon I rode with a jolly civil Farmer, who directed me in my Intentions, and accompanied me to Farndon: Here to my Surprise, The Trent flow'd in as copious a Stream as the Thames at Kew; but a Branch of it runs under Newark Bridge.—

I had some Fears of Poney's Behaviour in the Ferry Boat (for I well remember laming a favorite Horse in such a passage) but He perform'd safely, tho' with much Spirit, as we had other Horses in the Boat; besides a Bevy of Belles, and the Ferrymans pretty little Daughter, Steeriste, to whom I gave a Penny.—The Farmer, who rode a mile with me, remark'd that this was the fullest Blow of Hawthorns ever known; and gave me much direction about The County.—My Pleasant Road brought me to the Village of Rowlston, thence to Fisherton on the Rivers Bank—where were many Anglers employ'd in Chubb catching; and so by Notown, to Thurgarton, where I hoped to have found some Remains of The Priory of Benedictines.

Passing thro' the Village, I came to The very old Church, and seated myself, in much contemplation, and Quiet, for half an hour, in the Church Yard; till the Clerk arrived.

About 15 years since Mr Cooper chose to build his new house upon the old Spot; taking infinite Trouble, as the Clerk told me, to overturn any remaining Ruins.—Now let me appeal to any man of Taste, if necessary, or to any Man of no Taste, by way of Remonstrance, and ask him whether these Ruins, being left, wou'd not have form'd great Beauties in his Grounds and Gardens? And whether a new House would not have look'd better in another Place than stuck close to the Church, without a Sight of the noble old Steeple?

I had neither Pencil or Paper about me (like a Blockhead) or might have attempted something like a sketch of The Church; and written down a good Inscription abt. Loving and beloved Ruth, and Truth, etc.—This fine old Steeple must soon fall, for it is full of Cracks; but 'Such Flaws are found in the most perfect Nature.'

It was but lately that a Love of Antiquity was pursued; For myself I am glad, tho' the Priory was gone, to have seen The Steeple in good time; Shortly, Little of this kind will be left to see. Most of the Church has been pull'd down;—at the Eastern End was found, what The Clerk call'd a desolate Pavement, which was thrown away with the Rubbish; The inside is dark and damp, as the Church Yard Ground has risen considerably.

In regard to the Decay of religious Duties, which every person can remark. The Clerk said (to my regular Enquiry) that Singing had been disused about Six years.—At Botesford, yesterday I made the same enquiry, and found that tho the Psalmody there was on the decline, yet was it tolerably supported by 2 Bassoons, a Clarinet, and a german Flute.—Nothing shou'd be more encouraged as drawing both Young and Old to Church, than Church Melody, tho' the Profligacy and Refinement of the age has abandon'd and ridiculed it: But were I a Squire of a country Village I wou'd offer such Premiums and Encouragement, (of little cost to myself) as wou'd quickly rear an ambitious, and laudable desire of Psalm-Singing, and put forth a little Chorus of Children; than which nothing is more Elevating and Grateful and Sublime, hearing Innocence exert their little Voices in praise of their Creator.

For let Fashion say what it can. Every Ear is more gratified by a chorus of youth, than by the most violent Exertions of Taste.

Leaving Thurgarton I came upon a higher Country, and in two miles to Hallaton, where I walk'd around their Chapel, and survey'd a very old Building opposite, adjoined to the new and neatly-built Farm House.

Thence I soon came in sight of The pretty Town of Southwell, and of its superb Collegiate Church; and put up at the Saracens-Head Inn, at past one o'clock; (having been on my ride 4 Hours and an half,) where, to my great contentment, I was instantly Served, in a large Room, with Cold Beef, Cold Veal, and Gooseberry Tart: and having fared sumptuously, sent for the Clerk, a reverend old man of 82 years of age, 'and his big Hose,—a world too wide for his shrunk shanks,' who shewed me every part of this beautiful, well-kept Church, and the most elegant Chapter House, the carving about which is the best executed, and the lightest I ever saw.—Everything, to my Surprise, was in good Order; The Screen, unlike to that of Peterboro' (indeed every thing shew'd unlike Peterboro' in management), is of both Sides of the best-timed Gothic Sculpture.—There are 16 Prebends, 6 Vicars, Six singing men, and 12 Singing Boys, besides Vergers, an Organist, etc., belonging to this Church.—The Roof of The Choir is admirable, and with the other Parts looks Clean and well-kept; No dirt, No broken Windows! A New Room is now building for their Books, which at present are lodg'd behind the Altar.—At a small distance from The Church, Remain These Ruins of the Archbishop of Yorks Palace; which enclose a Garden at one end of which is the Sessions House, wherein reside one of the Vicars (who all seem to be, with the rest of The Choir most comfortably, nay superbly Lodged). A beautiful old Chimney yet endures.

OLD GATEWAY AT SOUTHWELL
from a water-colour by the Diarist

These Ruins, well preserv'd, are clothed with Ivy, and look as they shou'd do.—At the end of this Building, I sat me down upon a Stile (having first gone into the Town to buy a Pencil) and try'd my untaught Hand at drawing the western, and the best of the 3 old Gateways, leading into The Church Yard.

At the small Shop I enter'd, I sat for some time with the Master, and his Mother, an old woman of 80; and at the next door lives one of 92.

This must be a very healthy, as well as a cheap place; for coals are at l0s. per tun, Beef and Mutton prime Pieces 4 pr. Ib. Veal 3d., Butter 4d.

I then return'd into the Church Yard, and transcribed this (most excellent ) Inscription.

                      WILLm. CLAY.

            Died 4th Octr. 1773, Aged 53.

Here lies A Sportsman, Jolly, kind, and free
From the cares and Trouble of this World was he
When living, his principal and greatest Pride
Was to have a fowling Bag Slung by his Side
And in the Fields and Woods to Labour, toil, and Run,
In quest of Game with Pero, Cobb* , and Gun,
But now, poor Mortal, He from hence is gone
In hopes to find a joyfull Resurrection.

* Two favorite Dogs whom He survived but a short time.

At most Cathedrals, under the Eye of a Bishop, Six o'clock Prayers are left off; Here they are Continued, and there is Regular Service performed 3 times a day all the year round.

The Bell now ringing for Evening Service carried me to The Church, where I was met by Dr. Marsden, a Prebend, who offer'd me, as a Stranger, every civility, as a Choice of Anthem etc., and I then enter'd a Stall.—If I commonly find fault, I shall selldom be wrong; and if I sometimes praise, you may suppose it right: Therefore let me now express my astonishment of Pleasure at hearing this Service.—The Prebend was attended in due Form;—The Prayers were read most leisurely, and devoutly, by Mr Houlson, one of The Vicars; The Organ was excellently play'd; and four Singing Men, and Eleven Boys, sang as carefully as if at the Antient Concert!—The Anthem of 3 parts, 'Sing O Heavens,' by Mr Kent49 was capitally perform'd; and I was told that one of The Boys was reckon'd to have the finest voice in England, and that the men has been sent for to The Abbey-Musick.—The Service being concluded, I waited upon Dr. M., to thank him for his Politeness; and to express my Astonishment at the decency, Regularity, etc., etc.

(B) Give me Leave, Sir, to express my Thanks for the Pleasure I have receiv'd; and my wonder, at the Proprieties observ'd.

(M) Why, Sir, I believe you have found it here, different from other Places.

(B) I have indeed, Sir, and can report the difference.

(M) What Refreshment will you take, Sir, Wine, or Tea before you renew your Journey?

(B) Nothing I thank you, Sir, but my Journey has been happily delay'd an Hour.

I wish that my Comrades had been with me; To have Charm'd the one, and converted the Other. On Returning to my Inn, I call'd for Tea, and had then to pay this Enormous Bill: and to receive at my Departure many Bows from the Family.

handwritten account from the Saracen

Southwell is a well built, clean Town, Such a one as a quiet distressed Family ought to retire to: Coals, Provisions, and Religion to be had good and cheap.

In my Road of Return I saw them sousing the Sheep for their Shearing; a Ceremony as ridiculous as the ducking of a Pick Pocket.

Wash Sheep for the better where Water dooth run,
And let him go Cleanlie, and drie in the Sunne:
Then Share him and Spare not, at two daies an end
The sooner the better, his Corps will amend.
                                                        Thos. Tusser.

Upton Village I passed thro; to my left Averham Park—that was, but now dismantled, cut down, and farmed; Averham Church stands in the bottom near the River: Kellham House,50 where Ld. Lincoln resides, is a Staring, ill-sash'd long window'd Thing, and much too near The River.

Here I crossed The Trent over a long wooden Bridge; and in two miles return'd to Newark.

W. and P. were gone a fishing; No News of Portmanteau! as I learnt that my comrades had seen the Church, I order'd forth The Clerk, and an odd Dog he was, So drunk so deaf, and so conceited: He Swore, and brag'd about his Church, which is certainly a grand Building, but did not show to me in advantage after Southwell; The Screen is fine, The Church is light, but therein is nothing for an antiquary, except some stain'd glass in one Window; How ever it is a noble Building, and they have Singing Boys, and a fine organ. More time I shou'd have allotted to the Survey, but for the absurdity of The Clerk.


EDITOR'S NOTES

36 T. Bush, the younger, the son of the Diarist's former manservant, see Note 1 (a), Vol. I, p. 199.

37 It was through a fight at Stilton between Daniel Mendoza, 'The Fighting Jew', and Richard Humphries, the 'Gentleman Boxer', on May 6th, 1789, that the sport of pugilism received its greatest impetus in this neighbourhood. Daniel Mendoza was born in 1763 and became Champion of England, being chiefly famous for his four great encounters with Richard Humphries. The battle fought between Humphries and Mendoza on May 6th, 1789, at Stilton, at which 3,000 people were reputed to have been present, was won by Mendoza.

38 In Cervantes' Don Quixote, Sancho Panza was made Governor of Barataria. Wonderful feasts were constantly laid before him, but his doctor always said that they were unwholesome.

39 Baptist Proby, D.D., Dean of Lichfield and brother of the First Baron Carysfort, was Rector of Thornhaugh from 1766 to 1809. He was a cousin on his mother's side of Gertrude, Duchess of Bedford, which perhaps explains his appointment to Thornhaugh. He was also Rector from 1750 to 1805 of Doddington in the Isle of Ely, a living said to have been worth about 1,000 per annum. He died in 1807 and was buried at Lichfield.

39a A well-known sexton who interred Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine of Aragon. Scarlet died in 1594 at the age of 98.

"You see old Scarlet's Picture stand on hie
But at your feet there doth his body lie
Second to none for strength and sturdy limb.
A scare babe, mighty voice with visage grim.
He hath enterred two Queens within this place
And this town's householders in his life's space
Twice over; but at length his own time came."

40 Burleigh House, built by William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, between 1575 and 1587, is one of the most important examples of Elizabethan domestic architecture.

41 The present mansion was partly erected in the reign of Henry V, and completed in that of Henry VIII and is still characteristic of the period in which it was built.

42 This entertaining dramatist and architect was no doubt at the period thought by many a foolish fop.

43 Compare Vol. II, p. 292.

44 (See Note 1, Vol. I, p. 199.)

45 The fifth Lord Torrington was an original member of Brook's.

46 The Rev. George Barrington was Vicar of Grantham from 1789 to 1792.

47 The fine old seventeenth-century manor house was replaced by a large modern hall between 1879 and 1883.

48 See History of Belvoir Castle, by Irvin Eller, pp. 61 to 66, and 374 to 376.

49 James Kent (1700-1776), the writer of many anthems, published in 1773, whilst organist of Winchester Cathedral and College, a collection of twelve anthems.

50 In the description of Kelham in 1797 in Thoroton's History of Nottinghamshire, there is a reference to the trees being young and parts of the buildings not being sufficiently screened. This no doubt partly accounts for Lord Torrington's complaint of the building's 'staring appearance'. The Hall was burnt down in 1857.

John Byng, The Torrington Diaries: Containing the tours through England And Wales of the Hon. John Byng (Later Fifth Viscount Torrington) between the years 1781 and 1794 (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1938)

Next Selection Previous Selection