Picture of William Cobbett

William Cobbett

places mentioned

July 30th to Aug. 2nd, 1823: Surrey, Sussex, and Hampshire

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Wednesday, July 30.

WORTH is ten miles from Reigate on the Brighton road, which goes through Horley. Reigate has the Surrey chalk hills close to it on the north, and sand hills along on its south, and nearly close to it also. As soon as you are over the sand hills, you come into a country of deep clay; and this is called the Weald of Surrey. This Weald winds away round, towards the west into Sussex, and towards the east into Kent. In this part of Surrey, it is about eight miles wide, from north to south, and ends just as you enter the parish of Worth, which is the first parish (in this part) in the county of Sussex. All across the Weald (the strong and stiff clays) the corn looks very well. I found it looking well from the Wen to Reigate, on the villainous spewy soil between the Wen and Croydon; on the chalk from Croydon to near Reigate; on the loam, sand and chalk (for there are all three) in the valley of Reigate; but not quite so well on the sand. On the clay all the corn looks well. The wheat, where it has begun to die, is dying of a good colour, not black, nor in any way that indicates blight. It is, however, all backward. Some few fields of wheat are changing colour; but for the greater part it is quite green; and though a sudden change of weather might make a great alteration in a short time, it does appear that the harvest must be later than usual. When I say this, however, I by no means wish to be understood as saying, that it must be so late as to be injurious to the crop. In 1816, I saw a barleyrick making in November. In 1821, I saw wheat uncut, in Suffolk, in October. If we were now to have good, bright, hot weather, for as long a time as we have had wet, the whole of the corn, in these southern counties, would be housed, and great part of it threshed out, by the 10th of September. So that all depends on the weather, which appears to be clearing up in spite of Saint Swithin. This saint's birthday is the 15th of July; and it is said that, if rain fall on his birthday, it will fall on forty days successively. But, I believe, that you reckon retrospectively as well as prospectively; and if this be the case, we may, this time, escape the extreme unction; for it began to rain on the 26th of June; so that it rained 19 days before the 15th of July; and as it has rained 16 days since, it has rained, in the whole, 35 days, of course, five days more will satisfy this wet soul of a saint. Let him take his five days; and there will be plenty of time for us to have wheat at four shillings a bushel. But if the saint will give us no credit for the 19 days, and will insist upon his forty daily drenchings after the fifteenth of July; if he will have such a soaking as this at the celebration of the anniversary of his birth, let us hope that he is prepared with a miracle for feeding us, and with a still more potent miracle for keeping the farmers from riding over us, filled, as Lord Liverpool thinks their pockets will be, by the annihilation of their crops!

The upland meadow grass is, a great deal of it, not cut yet, along the Weald. So that, in these parts, there has not been a great deal of hay spoiled. The clover hay was got in very well; and only a small part of the meadow hay has been spoiled in this part of the country. This is not the case, however, in other parts, where the grass was forwarder, and where it was cut before the rain came. Upon the whole, however, much hay does not appear to have been spoiled as yet. The farmers along here, have, most of them, begun to cut to-day. This has been a fine day; and it is clear that they expect it to continue. I saw but two pieces of swedish turnips between the Wen and Reigate, but one at Reigate, and but one between Reigate and Worth. During a like distance, in Norfolk or Suffolk, you would see two or three hundred fields of this sort of root. Those that I do see here, look well. The white turnips are just up, or just sown, though there are some which have rough leaves already. This Weald is, indeed, not much of land for turnips, but from what I see here, and from what I know of the weather, I think that the turnips must be generally good. The after-grass is surprisingly fine. The lands, which have had hay cut and carried from them, are, I think, more beautiful than I ever saw them before. It should, however, always be borne in mind, that this beautiful grass is by no means the best . An acre of this grass will not make a quarter part so much butter as an acre of rusty-looking pasture, made rusty by the rays of the sun. Sheep on the commons die of the beautiful grass produced by long-continued rains at this time of the year. Even geese, hardy as they are, die from the same cause. The rain will give quantity, but without sun the quality must be poor at the best. The woods have not shot much this year. The cold winds, the frosts, that we had up to midsummer, prevented the trees from growing much. They are beginning to shoot now; but the wood must be imperfectly ripened.

I met, at Worth, a beggar who told me; in consequence of my asking where he belonged, that he was born in South Carolina. I found, at last, that he was born in the English army, during the American rebel-war; that he became a soldier himself; and that it had been his fate to serve under the Duke of York, in Holland; under General Whitelock, at Buenos Ayres; under Sir John Moore, at Corunna; and under "the Greatest Captain," at Talavera! This poor fellow did not seem to be at all aware that, in the last case, he partook in a victory ! He had never before heard of its being a victory. He, poor fool, thought that it was a defeat . "Why," said he, "we ran away , sir." Oh, yes! said I, and so you did afterwards, perhaps, in Portugal, when Massena was at your heels; but it is only in certain cases that running away is a mark of being defeated; or, rather, it is only with certain commanders. A matter of much more interest to us, however, is, that the wars for "social order," not forgetting Gatton and Old Sarum, have filled the country with beggars, who have been, or who pretend to have been, soldiers and sailors. For want of looking well into this matter, many good and just, and even sensible men are led to give to these army and navy beggars what they refuse to others. But if reason were consulted, she would ask what pretensions these have to a preference? She would see in them men who had become soldiers or sailors because they wished to live without that labour by which other men are content to get their bread. She would ask the soldier beggar whether he did not voluntarily engage to perform services such as were performed at Manchester; and if she pressed him for the motive to this engagement, could he assign any motive other than that of wishing to live without work upon the fruit of the work of other men? And why should reason not be listened to? Why should she not be consulted in every such case? And, if she were consulted, which would she tell you was the most worthy of your compassion, the man, who, no matter from what cause, is become a beggar after forty years spent in the raising of food and raiment for others as well as for himself; or the man who, no matter again from what cause, is become a beggar after forty years living upon the labour of others, and, during the greater part of which time, he has been living in a barrack, there kept for purposes explained by Lord Palmerston, and always in readiness to answer those purposes? As to not giving to beggars, I think there is a law against giving! However, give to them people will, as long as they ask. Remove the cause of the beggary and we shall see no more beggars; but as long as there are boroughmongers , there will be beggars enough.

Thursday, July 31.

I left Worth this afternoon about 5 o'clock, and am got here to sleep, intending to set off for Petworth in the morning, with a view of crossing the South Downs and then going into Hampshire through Havant, and along at the southern foot of Portsdown Hill, where I shall see the earliest corn in England. From Worth you come to Crawley along some pretty good land; you then turn to the left and go two miles along the road from the Wen to Brighton; then you turn to the right, and go over six of the worst miles in England, which miles terminate but a few hundred yards before you enter Horsham. The first two of these miserable miles go through the estate of Lord Erskine. It was a bare heath with here and there, in the better parts of it, some scrubby birch. It has been, in part, planted with fir-trees, which are as ugly as the heath was: and, in short, it is a most villainous tract. After quitting it, you enter a forest; but a most miserable one; and this is followed by a large common now enclosed, cut up, disfigured, spoiled, and the labourers all driven from its skirts. I have seldom travelled over eight miles so well calculated to fill the mind with painful reflections. The ride has, however, this in it: that the ground is pretty much elevated, and enables you to look about you. You see the Surrey hills away to the north; Hindhead and Blackdown to the north-west and west; and the South Downs from the west to the east. The sun was shining upon all these, though it was cloudy where I was. The soil is a poor, miserable, clayey-looking sand, with a sort of sandstone underneath. When you get down into this town, you are again in the Weald of Sussex. I believe that Weald meant clay , or low, wet, stiff land. This is a very nice, solid, country town. Very clean, as all the towns in Sussex are. The people very clean. The Sussex women are very nice in their dress and in their houses. The men and boys wear smock-frocks more than they do in some counties. When country people do not, they always look dirty and comfortless. This has been a pretty good day; but there was a little rain in the afternoon; so that St. Swithin keeps on as yet, at any rate. The hay has been spoiled here, in cases where it has been cut; but a great deal of it is not yet cut. I speak of the meadows; for the clover-hay was all well got in. The grass, which is not cut, is receiving great injury. It is, in fact, in many cases, rotting upon the ground. As to corn, from Crawley to Horsham, there is none worth speaking of. What there is is very good, in general, considering the quality of the soil. It is about as backward as at Worth: the barley and oats green, and the wheat beginning to change colour.

Friday Morning, Aug . 1 .

This village is seven miles from Horsham, and I got here to breakfast about seven o'clock. A pretty village, and a very nice breakfast, in a very neat little parlour of a very decent public-house. The landlady sent her son to get me some cream, and he was just such a chap as I was at his age, and dressed just in the same sort of way, his main garment being a blue smock-frock, faded from wear, and mended with pieces of new stuff, and, of course, not faded. The sight of this smock-frock brought to my recollection many things very dear to me. This boy will, I dare say, perform his part at Billingshurst, or at some place not far from it. If accident had not taken me from a similar scene, how many villains and fools, who have been well teased and tormented, would have slept in peace at night, and have fearlessly swaggered about by day! When I look at this little chap; at his smock-frock, his nailed shoes, and his clean, plain, and coarse shirt, I ask myself, will anything, I wonder, ever send this chap across the ocean to tackle the base, corrupt, perjured Republican judges of Pennsylvania Will this little lively, but, at the same time, simple boy, ever become the terror of villains and hypocrites across the Atlantic? What a chain of strange circumstances there must be to lead this boy to thwart a miscreant tyrant like Mackeen, the chief justice and afterwards governor of Pennsylvania, and to expose the corruptions of the band of rascals, called a "Senate and a House of Representatives," at Harrisburgh, in that state!

I was afraid of rain, and got on as fast as I could: that is to say, as fast as my own diligence could help me on; for as to my horse, he is to go only so fast . However, I had no rain; and got to Petworth, nine miles further, by about ten o'clock.

Friday Evening, Aug 1.

No rain, until just at sunset, and then very little. I must now look back. From Horsham to within a few miles of Petworth is in the Weald of Sussex; stiff land, small fields, broad hedgerows, and, invariably, thickly planted with fine, growing oak-trees. The corn here consists chiefly of wheat and oats. There are some bean-fields, and some few fields of peas; but very little barley along here. The corn is very good all along the Weald; backward; the wheat almost green; the oats quite green; but, late as it is, I see no blight; and the farmers tell me that there is no blight. There may be yet, however; and, therefore, our government, our "paternal government," so anxious to prevent "over production," need not despair , as yet, at any rate. The beans in the Weald are not very good. They got lousy before the wet came; and it came rather too late to make them recover what they had lost. What peas there are look well. Along here the wheat, in general, may be fit to cut in about 16 days' time; some sooner; but some later, for some is perfectly green. No swedish turnips all along this country. The white turnips are just up, coming up, or just sown. The farmers are laying out lime upon the wheat fallows, and this is the universal practice of the country. I see very few sheep. There are a good many orchards along in the Weald, and they have some apples this year; but, in general, not many. The apple-trees are planted very thickly, and, of course, they are small; but they appear healthy in general; and, in some places, there is a good deal of fruit, even this year. As you approach Petworth, the ground rises and the soil grows lighter. There is a hill which I came over, about two miles from Petworth, whence I had a clear view of the Surrey chalk-hills, Leith Hill, Hindhead, Blackdown, and of the South Downs, towards one part of which I was advancing. The pigs along here are all black, thin-haired, and of precisely the same sort of those that I took from England to Long Island, and with which I pretty well stocked the American States. By the by, the trip which Old Sidmouth and crew gave me to America was attended with some interesting consequences; amongst which were the introducing of the Sussex pigs into the American farm-yards; the introduction of the swedish turnip into the American fields; the introduction of American apple-trees into England; and the introduction of the making, in England, of the straw plat, to supplant the Italian; for had my son not been in America, this last would not have taken place; and in America he would not have been, had it not been for Old Sidmouth and crew. One thing more, and that is of more importance than all the rest, Peel's Bill arose out of the "puff-out" Registers; these arose out of the trip to Long Island; and out of Peel's Bill has arisen the best bothering that the wigs of the boroughmongers ever received, which bothering will end in the destruction of the boroughmongering. It is curious, and very useful , thus to trace events to their causes. Soon after quitting Billingshurst I crossed the river Arun, which has a canal running alongside of it. At this there are large timber and coal yards, and kilns for lime. This appears to be a grand receiving and distributing place. The river goes down to Arundale, and, together with the valley that it runs through, gives the town its name. This valley, which is very pretty, and which winds about a good deal, is the dale of the Arun: and the town is the town of the Arun-dale. To-day, near a place called Westborough Green, I saw a woman bleaching her home-spun and home-woven linen. I have not seen such a thing before, since I left Long Island. There, and, indeed, all over the American States, north of Maryland, and especially in the New England States, almost the whole of both linen and woollen used in the country, and a large part of that used in towns, is made in the farm-houses. There are thousands and thousands of families who never use either, except of their own making. All but the weaving is done by the family. There is a loom in the house, and the weaver goes from house to house. I once saw about three thousand farmers, or rather country people, at a horse race in Long Island, and my opinion was, that there were not five hundred who were not dressed in homespun coats. As to linen, no farmer's family thinks of buying linen. The lords of the loom have taken from the land, in England, this part of its due; and hence one cause of the poverty, misery, and pauperism that are becoming so frightful throughout the country. A national debt, and all the taxation and gambling belonging to it, has a natural tendency to draw wealth into great masses. These masses produce a power of congregating manufactures, and of making the many work at them, for the gain of a few . The taxing government finds great convenience in these congregations. It can lay its hand easily upon a part of the produce ; as ours does with so much effect. But the land suffers greatly from this, and the country must finally feel the fatal effects of it. The country people lose part of their natural employment. The women and children, who ought to provide a great part of the raiment, have nothing to do. The fields must have men and boys; but where there are men and boys there will be women and girls ; and as the lords of the loom have now a set of real slaves, by the means of whom they take away a great part of the employment of the country-women and girls, these must be kept by poor-rates in whatever degree they lose employment through the lords of the loom. One would think that nothing can be much plainer than this; and yet you hear the jolterheads congratulating one another upon the increase of Manchester, and such places! My straw affair will certainly restore to the land some of the employment of its women and girls. It will be impossible for any or the "rich ruffians"; any of the horse-power or steam-power or air-power ruffians; any of these greedy, grinding ruffians, to draw together bands of men, women and children, and to make them slaves, in the working of straw. The raw material comes of itself, and the hand, and the hand alone, can convert it to use. I thought well of this before I took one single step in the way of supplanting the Leghorn bonnets. If I had not been certain that no rich ruffian, no white slave holder, could ever arise out of it, assuredly one line upon the subject never would have been written by me. Better, a million times, that the money should go to Italy; better that it should go to enrich the rivals and enemies of the country; than that it should enable these hard, these unfeeling men to draw English people into crowds and make them slaves, and slaves too of the lowest and most degraded cast.

Saturday, Aug . 2.

Ever since the middle of March, I have been trying remedies for the hooping-cough , and have, I believe, tried everything, except riding, wet to the skin, two or three hours amongst the clouds on the South Downs. This remedy is now under trial. As Lord Liverpool said, the other day, of the Irish Tithe Bill, it is "under experiment." I am treating my disorder (with better success I hope) in somewhat the same way that the pretty fellows at Whitehall treat the disorders of poor Ireland. There is one thing in favour of this remedy of mine, I shall know the effect of it, and that, too, in a short time. It rained a little last night. I got off from Petworth without baiting my horse, thinking that the weather looked suspicious, and that St. Swithin meant to treat me to a dose. I had no greatcoat, nor any means of changing my clothes. The hooping-cough made me anxious; but I had fixed on going along the South Downs from Donnington Hill down to Lavant, and then to go on the flat to the south foot of Portsdown Hill, and to reach Fareham to-night. Two men, whom I met soon after I set off, assured me that it would not rain. I came on to Donnington, which lies at the foot of that part of the South Downs which I had to go up. Before I came to this point, I crossed the Arun and its canal again; and here was another place of deposit for timber, lime, coals, and other things. White, in his history of Selborne, mentions a hill, which is one of the Hindhead group, from which two springs (one on each side of the hill) send water into the two seas: the Atlantic and the German Ocean ! This is big talk; but it is a fact. One of the streams becomes the Arun , which falls into the Channel; and the other, after winding along amongst the hills and hillocks between Hindhead and Godalming, goes into the river Wey , which falls into the Thames at Weybridge. The soil upon leaving Petworth, and at Petworth, seems very good; a fine deep loam, a sort of mixture of sand and soft chalk. I then came to a sandy common; a piece of ground that seemed to have no business there; it looked as if it had been tossed from Hindhead or Blackdown. The common, however, during the rage for "improvements," has been enclosed . That impudent fellow, Old Rose, stated the number of Enclosure Bills as an indubitable proof of "national prosperity." There was some rye upon this common, the sight of which would have gladdened the heart of Lord Liverpool. It was, in parts, not more than eight inches high. It was ripe, and, of course, the straw dead; or I should have found out the owner, and have bought it to make bonnets of! I defy the Italians to grow worse rye than this. The reader will recollect that I always said that we could grow as poor corn as any Italians that ever lived. The village of Donton lies at the foot of one of these great chalk ridges, which are called the South Downs. The ridge, in this place, is, I think, about three-fourths of a mile high, by the high road, which is obliged to go twisting about, in order to get to the top of it. The hill sweeps round from about west-north-west to east-south-east; and, of course, it keeps off all the heavy winds, and especially the south-west winds , before which, in this part of England (and all the south and western part of it), even the oak-trees seem as if they would gladly flee; for it shaves them up as completely as you see a quickset hedge shaved by hook or shears. Talking of hedges reminds me of having seen a box-hedge, just as I came out of Petworth, more than twelve feet broad, and about fifteen feet high. I dare say it is several centuries old. I think it is about forty yards long. I is a great curiosity.

The apple-trees at Donnington show their gratitude to the hill for its shelter; for I have seldom seen apple-trees in England so large, so fine, and, in general, so flourishing. I should like to have, or to see, an orchard of American apples under this hill. The hill, you will observe, does not shade the ground at Donnington. It slopes too much for that. But it affords complete shelter from the mischievous winds. It is very pretty to look down upon this little village as you come winding up the hill.

From this hill I ought to have had a most extensive view. I ought to have seen the Isle of Wight and the sea before me; and to have looked back to Chalk Hill at Reigate, at the foot of which I had left some bonnet-grass bleaching. But, alas! Saint Swithin had begun his works for the day, before I got to the top of the hill. Soon after the two turnip-hoers had assured me that there would be no rain, I saw, beginning to poke up over the South Downs (then right before me), several parcels of those white, curled clouds, that we call Judges' Wigs . And they are just like judges' wigs. Not the parson-like things which the judges wear when they have to listen to the dull wrangling and duller jests of the lawyers; but those big wigs which hang down about their shoulders, when they are about to tell you a little of their intentions , and when their very looks say, "Stand clear !" These clouds (if rising from the south-west) hold precisely the same language to the greatcoatless traveller. Rain is sure to follow them. The sun was shining very beautifully when I first saw these judges' wigs rising over the hills. At the sight of them he soon began to hide his face, and before I got to the top of the hill of Donton, the white clouds had become black, had spread themselves all around, and a pretty decent and sturdy rain began to fall. I had resolved to come to this place (Singleton) to breakfast. I quitted the turnpike road (from Petworth to Chichester) at a village called Upwaltham, about a mile from Donnington Hill; and came down a lane, which led me to a village called Eastdean; then to another called Westdean, I suppose; and then to this village of Singleton, and here I am on the turnpike road from Midhurst to Chichester. The lane goes along through some of the finest farms in the world. It is impossible for corn land and for agriculture to be finer than these. In cases like mine, you are pestered to death to find out the way to set out to get from place to place. The people you have to deal with are innkeepers, ostlers, and post-boys; and they think you mad if you express your wish to avoid turnpike roads ; and a great deal more than half mad, if you talk of going, even from necessity, by any other road. They think you a strange fellow if you will not ride six miles on a turnpike road rather than two on any other road. This plague I experienced on this occasion. I wanted to go from Petworth to Havant. My way was through Singleton and Funtington. I had no business at Chichester, which took me too far to the south. Nor at Midhurst, which took me too far to the west. But though I staid all day (after my arrival) at Petworth, and though I slept there, I could get no directions how to set out to come to Singleton, where I am now. I started, therefore, on the Chichester road, trusting to my inquiries of the country people as I came on. By these means I got hither, down a long valley, on the South Downs, which valley winds and twists about amongst hills, some higher and some lower, forming cross-dells, inlets, and ground in such a variety of shapes that it is impossible to describe ; and the whole of the ground, hill as well as dell, is fine, most beautiful, corn land, or is covered with trees or underwood. As to St. Swithin, I set him at defiance. The road was flinty, and very flinty. I rode a foot pace, and got here wet to the skin. I am very glad I came this road. The corn is all fine; all good; fine crops, and no appearance of blight. The barley extremely fine. The corn not forwarder than in the Weald. No beans here; few oats comparatively; chiefly wheat and barley; but great quantities of swedish turnips, and those very forward. More swedish turnips here upon one single farm than upon all the farms that I saw between the Wen and Petworth. These turnips are, in some places, a foot high, and nearly cover the ground. .The farmers are, however, plagued by this St. Swithin, who keeps up a continual drip, which prevents the thriving of the turnips and the killing of the weeds. The orchards are good here in general. Fine walnut-trees, and an abundant crop of walnuts. This is a series of villages all belonging to the Duke of Richmond, the outskirts of whose park and woods come up to these farming lands, all of which belong to him; and I suppose that every inch of land that I came through this morning belongs either to the Duke of Richmond or to Lord Egremont. No harm in that, mind, if those who till the land have fair play ; and I should act unjustly towards these noblemen, if I insinuated that the husbandmen have not fair play, as far as the landlords are concerned; for everybody speaks well of them. There is, besides, no misery to be seen here. I have seen no wretchedness in Sussex; nothing to be at all compared to that which I have seen in other parts; and as to these villages in the South Downs, they are beautiful to behold. Hume and other historians rail against the feudal -system; and we, "enlightened" and "free" creatures as we are, look back with scorn, or, at least, with surprise and pity, to the "vassalage" of our forefathers. But if the matter were well inquired into, not slurred over, but well and truly examined, we should find, that the people of these villages were as free in the days of William Rufus as are the people of the present day; and that vassalage, only under other names, exists now as completely as it existed then, Well; but out of this, if true, arises another question: namely, Whether the millions would derive any benefit from being transferred from these great lords who possess them by hundreds, to Jews and jobbers who would possess them by half-dozens, or by couples? One thing we may say with a certainty of being right: and that is, that the transfer would be bad for the lords themselves. There is an appearance of comfort about the dwellings of the labourers, all along here, that is very pleasant to behold. The gardens are neat, and full of vegetables of the best kinds. I see very few of "Ireland's lazy root"; and never, in this country, will the people be base enough to lie down and expire from starvation under the operation of the extreme unction ! Nothing but a potato-eater will ever do that. As I came along between Upwaltham and Eastdean, I called to me a young man, who, along with other turnip-hoers, was sitting under the shelter of a hedge at breakfast. He came running to me with his victuals in his hand; and I was glad to see that his food consisted of a good lump of household bread and not a very small piece of bacon . I did not envy him his appetite, for I had at that moment a very good one of my own; but I wanted to know the distance I had to go before I should get to a good public-house. In parting with him, I said, "You do get some bacon then?" "Oh, yes! sir," said he, and with an emphasis and a swag of the head which seemed to say, "We must and will have that ." I saw, and with great delight, a pig at almost every labourer's house. The houses are good and warm; and the gardens some of the very best that I have seen in England. What a difference, good God! what a difference between this country and the neighbourhood of those corrupt places Great Bedwin and Cricklade . What sort of breakfast would this man have had in a mess of cold potatoes? Could he have worked , and worked in the wet, too, with such food? Monstrous! No society ought to exist where the labourers live in a hog-like sort of way. This is really a soaking day, thus far. I got here at nine o'clock. I stripped off my coat, and put it by the kitchen fire. In a parlour just eight feet square I have another fire, and have dried my shirt on my back. We shall see what this does for a hooping-cough. The clouds fly so low as to be seen passing by the sides of even little hills on these downs. The Devil is said to be busy in a high wind; but he really appears to be busy now in this south-west wind. The Ouakers will, next market day, at Mark Lane, be as busy as he. They and the ministers and St. Swithin and Devil all seem to be of a mind.

I must not forget the churches . That of Donnington is very small, for a church. It is about twenty feet wide and thirty long. It is, however, sufficient for the population, the amount of which is two hundred and twenty-two, not one half of whom are, of course, ever at church at one time. There is, however, plenty of room for the whole: the "tower" of this church is about double the size of a sentrybox . The parson, whose name is Davidson, did not, when the return was laid before Parliament, in 1818, reside in the parish. Though the living is a large living, the parsonage house was let to "a lady and her three daughters." What impudence a man must have to put this into a return! The church at Upwaltham is about such another, and the "tower" still less than that at Donnington. Here the population is seventy-nine. The parish is a rectory, and, in the return before mentioned, the parson (whose name was Tripp) says, that the church will hold the population, but that the parsonage house will not hold him! And why? Because it is "a miserable cottage." I looked about for this "miserable cottage," and could not find it. What an impudent fellow this must have been! And, indeed, what a state of impudence have they not now arrived at! Did he, when he was ordained, talk anything about a fine house to live in? Did Jesus Christ and Saint Paul talk about fine houses? Did not this priest most solemnly vow to God, upon the altar, that he would be constant, in season and out of season, in watching over the souls of his flock? However, it is useless to remonstrate with this set of men. Nothing will have any effect upon them. They will keep grasping at the tithes as long as they can reach them. "A miserable cottage "! What impudence! What, Mr. Tripp, is it a fine house that you have been appointed and ordained to live in? Lord Egremont is the patron of Mr. Tripp; and he has a duty to perform too; for the living is not his : he is, in this case, only an hereditary trustee for the public; and he ought to see that this parson resides in the parish, which, according to his own return, yields him ?125 a year. Eastdean is a vicarage, with a population of 353 , a church which the parson says will hold 200, and which I say will hold 600 or 700, and a living worth ?85 a year, in the gift of the Bishop of Chichester. Westdean is united with Singleton, the living is in the gift of the church at Chichester and the Duke of Richmond alternately; it is a large living, it has a population of 613, and the two churches, says the parson, will hold 200 people! What careless or what impudent fellows these must have been. These two churches will hold a thousand people, packed much less close than they are in meeting houses.

At Upwaltham there is a toll-gate, and, when the woman opened the door of the house to come and let me through, I saw some straw plat lying in a chair. She showed it me; and I found that it was made by her husband, in the evenings, after he came home from work, in order to make him a hat for the harvest. I told her how to get better straw for the purpose; and when I told her that she must cut the grass, or the grain, green , she said, "Aye, I dare say it is so: and I wonder we never thought of that before; for we sometimes make hats out of rushes, cut green, and dried, and the hats are very durable." This woman ought to have my Cottage Economy . She keeps the toll-gate at Upwaltham, which is called Waltham, and which is on the turnpike road from Petworth to Chichester. Now, if any gentleman, who lives at Chichester, will call upon my son, at the office of the Register in Fleet Street, and ask for a copy of Cottage Economy , to be given to this woman, he will receive the copy, and my thanks, if he will have the goodness to give it to her, and to point to her the Essay on Straw Plat.

Saturday, August 2.

Here I am in spite of St. Swithin!--The truth is, that the saint is like most other oppressors; rough him! rough him! and he relaxes. After drying myself, and sitting the better part of four hours at Singleton, I started in the rain, boldly setting the saint at defiance, and expecting to have not one dry thread by the time I got to Havant, which is nine miles from Fareham, and four from Cosham. To my most agreeable surprise, the rain ceased before I got by Selsey, I suppose it is called, where Lord Selsey's house and beautiful and fine estate is. On I went, turning off to the right to go to Funtington and Westbourn, and getting to Havant to bait my horse, about four o'clock. From Lavant (about two miles back from Funtington) the ground begins to be a sea-side flat. The soil is somewhat varied in quality and kind; but, with the exception of an enclosed common between Funtington and Westbourn, it is all good soil. The corn of all kinds good and earlier than further back. They have begun cutting peas here, and, near Lavant, I saw a field of wheat nearly ripe. The swedish turnips very fine, and still earlier than on the South Downs. Prodigious crops of walnuts; but the apples bad along here. The south-west winds have cut them off; and, indeed, how should it be otherwise, if these winds happen to prevail in May, or early in June? But now I come to one of the great objects of my journey: that is to say, to see the state of the corn along at the south foot and on the south side of Portsdown Hill. It is impossible that there can be, anywhere, a better corn country than this. The hill is eight miles long, and about three-fourths of a mile high, beginning at the road that runs along at the foot of the hill. O n the hill-side the corn land goes rather better than half way up; and, on the seaside, the corn land is about the third (it may be half) a mile wide. Portsdown Hill is very much in the shape of an oblong tin cover to a dish. From Bedhampton, which lies at the eastern end of the hill, to Fareham, which is at the western end of it, you have brought under your eye not less than eight square miles of cornfields, with scarcely a hedge or ditch of any consequence, and being, on an average, from twenty to forty acres each in extent. The land is excellent. The situation good for manure. The spot the earliest in the whole kingdom . Here, if the corn were backward, then the harvest must be backward. We were talking at Reigate of the prospect of a backward harvest. I observed that it was a rule that if no wheat were cut under Portsdown Hill on the hill fair-day , 26th July, the harvest must be generally backward. When I made this observation, the fair-day was passed; but I determined in my mind to come and see how the matter stood. When, therefore, I got to the village of Bedhampton, I began to look out pretty sharply. I came on to Wimmering, which is just about the mid-way along the foot of the hill, and there I saw, at a good distance from me, five men reaping in a field of wheat of about 40 acres. I found, upon inquiry, that they began this morning, and that the wheat belongs to Mr. Boniface, of Wimmering. Here the first sheaf is cut that is cut in England: that the reader may depend upon. It was never known that the average even of Hampshire was less than ten days behind the average of Portsdown Hill. The corn under the hill is as good as I ever saw it, except in the year 1813. No beans here. No peas. Scarcely any oats. Wheat, barley, and turnips. The swedish turnips not so good as on the South Downs and near Funtington; but the wheat full as good, rather better ; and the barley as good as it is possible to be. In looking at these crops, one wonders whence are to come the hands to clear them off. A very pleasant ride to-day; and the pleasanter for my having set the wet saint at defiance. It is about thirty miles from Petworth to Fareham; and I got it in very good time. I have now come, if I include my boltings , for the purpose of looking at farms and woods, a round hundred miles from the Wen to this town of Fareham; and, in the whole of the hundred miles, I have not seen one single wheat rick, though I have come through as fine corn countries as any in England, and by the homesteads of the richest farmers. Not one single wheat rick have I seen, and not one rick of any sort of corn. I never saw, nor heard of the like of this before ; and if I had not witnessed the fact with my own eyes I could not have believed it. There are some farmers who have corn in their barns perhaps; but when there is no rick left, there is very little corn in the hands of farmers. Yet the markets, St. Swithin notwithstanding, do not rise. This harvest must be three weeks later than usual; and the last harvest was three weeks earlier than usual. The last crop was begun upon at once, on account of the badness of the wheat of the year before. So that the last crop will have had to give food for thirteen months and a half. And yet the markets do not rise! And yet there are men, farmers, mad enough to think, that they have "got past the bad place," and that things will come about, and are coming about! And Lethbridge, of the Collective, withdraws his motion because he has got what he wanted: namely, a return of good and "remunerating prices"! The Morning Chronicle of this day, which has met me at this place, has the following paragraph. "The weather is much improved, though it does not yet assume the character of being fine. At the Corn Exchange since Monday the arrivals consist of 7130 quarters of wheat, 450 quarters of barley, 8300 quarters of oats, and 9200 sacks of flour. The demand for wheat is next to zero, and for oats it is extremely dull. To effect sales, prices are not much attended to, for the demand cannot be increased at the present currency. The farmers should pay attention to oats, for the foreign new, under the king's lock, will be brought into consumption, unless a decline takes place immediately, and a weight will thereby be thrown over the markets, which under existing circumstances will be extremely detrimental to the agricultural interests. Its distress however does not deserve much sympathy, for as soon as there was a prospect of the payment of rents, the cause of the people was abandoned by the representatives of agriculture in the Collected Wisdom, and Mr. Brougham's most excellent measure for increasing the consumption of malt was neglected. Where there is no sympathy, none can be expected, and the land proprietors need not in future depend on the assistance of the mercantile and manufacturing interests, should their own distress again require a united effort to remedy the general grievances." As to the mercantile and manufacturing people, what is the land to expect from them? But I agree with the Chronicle , that the landlords deserve ruin. They abandoned the public cause the moment they thought that they saw a prospect of getting rents. That prospect will soon disappear, unless they pray hard to St. Swithin to insist upon forty days wet after his birthday. I do not see what the farmers can do about the price of oats. They have no power to do anything unless they come with their cavalry horses and storm the "king's lock." In short, it is all confusion in men's minds as well as in their pockets. There must be something completely out of joint, when the government are afraid of the effects of a good crop. I intend to set off to-morrow for Botley, and go thence to Easton; and then to Alton and Crondall and Farnham, to see how the hops are there. By the time that I get back to the Wen, I shall know nearly the real state of the case as to crops; and that, at this time, is a great matter.

William Cobbett, Rural Rides (Letchworth: Temple Press, 1932)

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