Picture of Thomas Pennant

Thomas Pennant


places mentioned

St Albans to London

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ON quitting St. Alban's , I passed by the long wall which inclosed the nunnery of Sopewell, made of stone mixed with great quantities of Roman tiles. This religious house took its rise from two pious women, who on the site built a hovel with boughs of trees, and covered it with bark, in order to indulge in privacy their fondness for prayer and fasting. Abbot Jeffry, about the year 1140, encouraged their virtue, by founding a nunnery of Benedictines .

IN this house Henry VIII. was privately married, by Doctor Rowland Lee, afterwards bishop of Lichfield, to Anna Boleyne. It maintained at that time thirteen nuns: on the dissolution, only nine; when its revenues, according to Dugdale, were .45. 7s. 10d.; to Speed, .68. 8s. It was first granted to Sir Richard Lee; but finally became the property of Sir Harbottle Grimston, and his heirs.1

AFTER passing through the village of London Colney, seated on the Colne, at about a mile's distance I ascended Ridgehill, remarkable for a most extensive and rich view northwards of the fine country about St. Alban's . At South Mims, enter the county of

MIDDLESEX;

and soon after leave, on the left, Wrotham Park; a beautiful house, built by admiral Byng, who was put to death in 1757!

ABOUT a mile farther, reach the bloody field of Barnet, marked by a column, that shews the spot where the decisive battle was fought between the houses of York and Lancaster, which fixed the crown on the head of Edward IV.

THE great earl of Warwick, resentful of the injuries he had received from that prince, deposed him from the throne he had enabled him to mount. So popular was the character of this potent baron, that a numerous army flew to his standard: every one was proud of bearing his cognisance, the bear and ragged staff, in his cap: some of gold, enamelled; others of silver; and those who could not afford the precious metals, cut them out of white silk, or cloth. When he visited London in peaceful times, he came attended by six hundred men, in red jackets, embroidered with ragged staves before and behind. He kept house at his palace in Warwick-Lane. Six oxen were consumed at every breakfast; and every tavern was full of his meat; and every guest was allowed to carry off as much, roast or boiled, as he could bear upon his long dagger.2

Edward, on his return to England, was joyfully received in London. Hearing that Warwick was on his march towards the capital, he hastened to meet him, and posted himself at Barnet. So bad was the intelligence in those days, that Edward advanced in the night so near to Warwick's camp, that the earl, unapprized of his vicinity, kept firing his ordnance over that of the king the greatest part of the night, without the least execution. On the morning, being that of Easter-day, April 14th 1471, both the leaders placed their armies in order. Warwick wore as his cognisance an ostrich's feather,3 the badge of Edward, the son of king Henry : his friend Vere Earl of Oxford, a star; the fatal cause of the loss of the day. Edward wore a sun; from a fancy, that before the battle of Mortimer's Cross, he saw three distinct suns at last unite in one.4 The battle began at four in the morning, which opened in a thick mist, with that deadly hate which the long series of civil wars had created. The battle raged with various success, as might be expected from the undaunted courage and animosity of the leaders, and from the reflection on the certain destruction consequential of defeat. They fought obscured in fog till ten o'clock: victory seemed to incline to Warwick; when his people, mistaking the stars in the helms of Oxford's soldiers, for the suns of Edward's party, charged their own friends; who, crying Treason! Treason! fled with eight hundred men. The marquis of Montacute, with the fickleness usual in those times, had privily agreed with Edward to desert his brother Warwick, and had changed his livery. This was discovered by some of the earl's men, who instantly put him to death: a fit reward of fraternal perfidy! Warwick, seeing his brother slain, Oxford fled, and the fortune of the day turned against him, leaped on a horse, in hopes of escaping; but coming to an impassable wood, was there killed, and stripped naked, and, after being exposed, with the body of Montacute, for three or four days, in the church of St. Paul's, was interred in the abbey of Bisham in Berkshire, founded by the Montacutes, his maternal ancestors. About four thousand were slain on both sides; who were interred for the most part on the spot. Edward built here a chapel, and, according to the custom of the times, appointed a priest to say mass for the souls of the deceased. This place, in the days of Stow ,5 was converted into a dwelling-house. The following conversation relative to this battle, between Civis and Roger, extracted from Doctor Bullein's Dialogues both pleasante & pietifull, &c. will probably be acceptable to the reader:

Civis. How like you this heath? Here was foughten a fearful field, called Palme Sondaie Battaile, in king Edward the fowerthes tyme. Many thousands were slain on this grounde. Here was slain the noble erle of Warwiche .

Roger. If it please your maistership, my granndfather was also here, with twenty tall men of the parishe where I was borne, and none of them escaped but my granndfather only. I had his bowe in my hande many a tyme: no man could stir the string when it was bent. Also his harnes was worn upon our S. Georges back, in our churche, many a colde winter after; and I hearde my grand-dame tell how he escaped.

Civis. Tell me, Roger, I pray thee, howe he did escape the danger?

Roger. Sir, when the battaile was pitched, and appointed to bee foughten nere unto this windmill, and the somons given by the harolts of armies, that spere, polax, blackbille, bowe and arrowes, should be sette a worke the daie following, and that it shoulde be tried by bloudie weapon, a sodaine fear fell on my grandfather; and the same night, when it was darke, he stale out of the erle's campe, for fear of the king's displeasure, and hid him in the woode; and at lengthe he espied a greate hollow oke tree, with armes somewhat greene, and climbed up, partly through climing, for he was a thatcher; but feare was worthe a ladder to him: and then, by the helpe of the writhen arm of the tree, he went down, and there remained a good while; and was fedde there by the space of a monthe with old achorns and nuttes which squirrels had brought in; and also did in his sallet kepe the raine water for his drinke, and at length escaped the danger.

AT a small distance stand Hadley church, and its pleasant village, on the edge of Enfield Chace; where, in my boyish age, I passed many happy days with my uncle, the Reverend John Pennant, who, during forty years, was the worthy minister. The following epitaph, composed by the Reverend Mr. Garrow, schoolmaster at Hadley, truely describes his well-spent life:

Here lieth the body of the Reverend John Pennant, youngest son of Peter Pennant, of Bychton, in the county of Flint; and Catharine, daughter of Owen Wynne, Esq. of Glynne, in Merionethshire. He was rector of this parish forty years, and of that of Compton Martin, in Somersetshire; and chaplain to her Royal Highness the Princess dowager of Wales. He resided here forty years; and lived much respected, and died much regretted by the poor and his numerous acquaintance. He departed this life the 28th day of October, 1770, in his serenty-first year, full of piety towards his God, and of gratitude to his friends.

HERE had been, in early times, a hermitage; which Geffry de Magnaville, about the year 1136, bestowed on his new-founded abbey of Walden in Essex .6 The church was probably a chapel to the hermitage, and, from its being annexed to Walden, was called Hadley Monachorum. It is at present a donative in the gift of the lords of the manor. The present church is built with flints. Over the west door is the date 1498, and the sculpture of a rose and a wing. The same is found under the upper window of Enfield, and on a gateway opposite to the Curtain in Shoreditch, once belonging to the Benedictine nunnery of Haliwell. Sir Thomas Lovel, who lived at the period in which this church was built, was a great benefactor to the nunnery, and had his residence at Enfield. Whether he contributed to the building of Hadley, does not appear; otherwise it would seem to have been a badge of his: but others have conjectured it to have been a rebus, expressive of the name of an architect, Rosewing .

To this church, on the demolition of that of St. Christopher Le Storks, were removed the poor remains of my pious mother, who died of the small pox in London, in April 1744. At the same time, those of my worthy sister Sarah, born November 28th, 1730, who died November 11, 1780, were deposited in the same place. That excellent woman, her twin sister Catherine, survived till February 10, 1797, and on the 20th was interred in Hadley church.

ON the top of the steeple there remains an iron pitch-pot, designed as a beacon, to be fired occasionally, to alarm the country in case of invasion. It takes its name from the Saxon Becnian, to call by signs. Before the time of Edward III. the signals were given by firing great stacks of wood; but in the eleventh of his reign, it was first ordered that this species of alarm should be made with pitch-pots placed on standards,7 or on elevated buildings, within due distances of one another.

Hadley stands at the edge of Enfield Chace ,8 a vast tract of woodland, filled with deer. The view of the county of Essex, over the trees, is extremely beautiful. This great extent of forest was first granted, by William the Conqueror, to Geffry de Magnaville, a noble Norman, one of his followers: the name afterwards corrupted to Mandeville. His posterity were Earls of Essex till the death of William Fitzpier, in 1227, his descendant by the female line; when this chace, and the title of Essex, fell to Humphry de Bohun Earl of Hereford, in right of his mother, sister to Fitzpier .9 It continued with the Bohuns till the decease of the tenth of the name; after which, the property of the Chace descended to Henry Earl of Derby, afterwards Henry IV. by virtue of his marriage with Mary, younger sister to the last Bohun, and became annexed to the dutchy of Lancaster .10

FROM Hadley to Barnet is half a mile: a small thoroughfare town on the top of a hill; whence its name, corrupted from the Saxon Bergnet, a little hill. It has also the title of Chipping Barnet, on account of its market. In Saxon times, a vast wood filled this tract; which was granted to the abbey of St. Alban's . An inscription in the church shews it was founded by a Beauchamp:

Ora pro anima Johannis Beauchamp hujus operis fundatoris.

HERE is a fair monument to a countryman of mine, Thomas Ravenscroft, Esquire, born at Hawarden, of an antient family in that parish. He lies in a gown and ruff, recumbent. He died in 1630. He and his son James were considerable benefactors to this place. To him was owing the vestry-room; to James, an alms-house for six poor women, which he amply endowed.

NEAR Barnet is a medicinal well, a gentle and safe chalybeate; in former times in great repute.

FROM this town is a quick descent. Near the village of Whetstone I again enter Middlesex; which I quitted on going into Barnet. Just beyond Whetstone, the road passes over Finchley Common; infamous for robberies, and often planted with gibbets, the penalty of murderers. The resort of travellers of all ranks, and the multitudes of heavy carriages which crowd this road, compared with those between St. Denys and Paris, give a melancholy idea of the overgrown size of our capital, which makes such annual havock of the lives and fortunes of the distant visitants.

ABOUT a mile beyond this common, stands Highgate; a large village, seated on a lofty eminence, overlooking the smoky extent beneath. Here, in my memory, stood a large gateway, at which, in old times, a toll was paid to the bishop of London, for liberty granted (between four and five hundred years ago) by one of his predecessors, for passing from Whetstone, along the present road, through his parks, instead of the old miry way by Friarn Barnet, Colnie-hatch, Muswell-hill, Crouch-end, and (leaving Highgate to the west) by the church of Pancras. In the time of Queen Elizabeth, it was farmed from the bishop, for forty pounds a year.11 After resting for a small space over the busy prospect, I descended into the plain, reached the metropolis, and disappeared in the crowd.


1 Tanner, 183.

2 Stow's Hist. London, edit. 1611, p. 130.

3 Ibid. 422.

4 Hollinshed, 660. Shakespeare, Henry VI. part iii. act 2.

5 Annals, 423.

6 Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 621.

7 Lambarde's Kent, 66.

8 This Chace was inclosed in the seventeenth of the present reign, and was found to contain 8349 acres; which were thus allotted:

  A. R. P.    
Enfield parish 1732 2 6   including 200 to be inclosed and let, in aid of land-tax and poor's rate.
Old Park in ditto 30 0 15    
Edmonton 1231 2 6    
Hadley 240 0 0    
South Mims 1026 0 0    
Oldfold Farm 36 3 24    
The Crown 3213 2 20    
Tythe Owners 519 0 32    
Four Lodges 313 0 3  
To be enfranchised 6 2 1    

The 200 acres allowed in relief of Enfield parish, are divided into forty-one lots, and let at .1. 16s. per acre, and some for two guineas, for ninety-nine years, commencing at Michaelmas 1778. The crown makes .1300 a year of twenty-four lots, for the same term, and at various and higher rents.

9 Vincent's Discoverie, 180.

10 Cambden, i. 398.

11 Norden's Speculum Brit. Middlesex, 15.

Thomas Pennant, The Journey from Chester to London (London: Wilkie and Robinson, 1811)

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