Picture of Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

places mentioned

Letter 6, Part 3: Worcester, Hereford and Wales

Next Selection Previous Selection

From Tewkesbury we went north 12 miles, to Worcester, all the way still on the bank of the Severn; and here we had the pleasing sight of the hedge-rows, being fill'd with apple trees and pear trees, and the fruit so common, that any passenger as they travel the road may gather and eat what they please; and here, as well as in Gloucestershire, you meet with cyder in the publick-houses sold as beer and ale is in other parts of England, and as cheap.

Here we saw at a distance, in a most agreeable situation, the mansion or seat of Sir John Packington, a barronet of a very antient family; and for so long from father to son knight of the shire for the county, that it seems as if it were hereditary to that house.

On the other side of the Severn at --- and near the town of Bewdly the Lord Foley has a very noble seat suitable to the grandeur of that rising family.

Worcester is a large, populous, old, tho' not a very well built city; I say not well built because the town is close and old, the houses standing too thick. The north part of the town is more extended and also better built. There is a good old stone bridge over the Severn, which stands exceeding high from the surface of the water. But as the stream of the Severn is contracted here by the buildings on either side, there is evident occasion sometimes for the height of the bridge, the waters rising to an incredible height in the winter-time.

It narrowly escap'd burning, but did not escape plundering at the time when the Scots army commanded by King Ch. II. in person, was attack'd here by Cromwel's forces; 'twas said some of the Royalist's officers themselves, propos'd setting the city on fire, when they saw it was impossible to avoid a defeat, that they might the better make a retreat; which they propos'd to do over the Severn, and so to march into Wales: But that the king, a prince from his youth, of a generous and merciful disposition would by no means consent to it.

I went to see the town-house, which afforded nothing worth taking notice of, unless it be how much it wants to be mended with a new one; which the city, they say, is not so much enclin'd, as they are able and rich to perform. I saw nothing of publick notice there, but the three figures, (for they can hardly be call'd statues) of King Charles I. King Charles II. and Queen Anne.

The cathedral of this city is an antient, and indeed, a decay'd building; the body of the church is very mean in its aspect, nor did I see the least ornament about it, I mean in the outside. The tower is low, without any spire, only four very small pinnacles on the corners; and yet the tower has some little beauty in it more than the church itself, too; and the upper part has some images in it, but decay'd by time.

The inside of the church has several very antient monuments in it, particularly some royal ones; as that of King John, who lyes interr'd between two sainted bishops, namely, St. Oswald, and St. Woolstan. Whether he ordered his interment in that manner, believing that they should help him up at the last call, and be serviceable to him for his salvation I know not; it is true they say so, but I can hardly think the king himself so ignorant, whatever the people might be in those days of superstition; nor will I say but that it may be probable, they may all three go together at last (as it is) and yet, without being assistant to, or acquainted with one another at all.

Here is also a monument for that famous Countess of Salisbury, who dancing before, or with K. Edward III. in his great hall at Windsor, dropt her garter, which the king taking up, honoured it so much as to make it the denominating ensign of his new order of knighthood, which is grown so famous, and is call'd the most Noble Order of the Garter: What honour, or that any honour redounds to that most noble order, from its being so deriv'd from the garter of a --- For 'tis generally agreed, she was the king's mistress, I will not enquire.

Certainly the Order receives a just claim to the title of most noble , from the honour done it, by its royal institution; and its being compos'd of such a noble list of the kings and princes as have been entred into it: I say, certainly this order has a just title to that of noble , and most noble too; yet I cannot but think that the king might have found out a better trophy to have fix'd it upon, than that lady's garter. But this by the way: here lyes the lady that's certain, and a very fine monument she has, in which one thing is more ridiculous than all that went before, (viz.) That about the monument, there are several angels cut in stone, strewing garters over the tomb, as if that passage, which at best had something a little obscene in it, I mean of the kings taking up the lady's garter, and giving such honours to it, was also a thing to be celebrated by angels, in perpetuam re? memoriam.

Besides this, here is the monument or the body of Prince Arthur, eldest son to King Henry VII. who was married, but died soon after; and his wife Katharine Infanta of Spain, was afterwards married to, and after 20 years wedlock divorced from King Henry VIII.

Upon the prince's tomb stone is this inscription. HERE lyes the body of Prince Arthur, the eldest son of King Henry VII. who dyed at Ludlow, in the year 1502. and in the seventeenth year of his father's reign.

There are several other antient monuments in this church, too many to be set down here: They reckon up 99 Bishops of this diocess, beginning at the year 980, out of which catalogue they tell us have been furnish'd to the world, 1 Pope, 4 Saints, 7 High-Chancellors of England, 11 Arch-Bishops, 2 Lord Treasurers of England, 1Chancellor to the Queen, 1 Lord President of Wales, and 1 Vice President: Their names are as follows.

1 Pope, (viz.)

Julius de Medicis, call'd

Clement VII

4 Saints.

St. Egwin.
St. Dunstan.
St. Oswald.
St. Wolstan.

11 Archbishops.
St. Dunstan.
St. Oswald
St. Wolstan.


7 Chancellors
of England.

De Ely.

1 President.


1 Vice-President.


2 Lord Treasurers.


1 Chancellor to a Queen.


This city is very full of people, and the people generally esteem'd very rich, being full of business, occasion'd chiefly by the cloathing trade, of which the city and the country round carries on a great share, as well for the Turkey trade as for the home trade.

The salt springs in this county which were formerly esteem'd as next to miraculous, have since the discovery of the mines of rock salt in Lancashire, Cheshire, &. lost all of wonder that belong'd to them, and much of the use also; the salt made there being found to be much less valuable than what is now made of the other. So I need say little to them.

Near this city are the famous Maulvern Hills, or Mauvern Hills, seen so far every way. In particular, we saw them very plainly on the Downs, between Marlborough and Malmsbury; and they say they are seen from the top of Salisbury steeple, which is above 50 miles.

There was a famous monastery at the foot of these hills, on the S.W. side, and the ruins are seen to this day; the old legend of wonders perform'd by the witches of Mauvern, I suppose they mean the religieuse of both kinds, are too merry, as well as too antient for this work.

They talk much of mines of gold and silver, which are certainly to be found here, if they were but look'd for, and that Mauvern wou'd out do Potosi for wealth; but 'tis probable if there is such wealth, it lies too deep for this idle generation to find out, and perhaps to search for.

There are three or four especial manufactures carried on in this country, which are peculiar to it self, or at least to this county with the two next adjoyning; namely, Chester, and Warwick.

  1. Monmouth cups sold chiefly to the Dutch seamen, and made only at Beawdly.
  2. Fine stone potts for the glass-makers melting their metal, of which they make their fine flint glass, glass plates, &. not to be found any where but at Stourbridge in this county, the same clay makes crucibles and other melting pots.
  3. The Birmingham iron works: The north indeed claims a share or part of this trade, but it is only a part.
  4. Kidderminster stuffs call'd Lindsey Woolseys, they are very rarely made any where else.

At Stourbridge also they have a very great manufacture for glass of all sorts.

From Worcester I took a tour into Wales, which tho' I mentioned above, it was not at the same time with the rest of my journey; my account I hope will be as effectual.

In passing from this part of the country to make a tour through Wales, we necessarily see the two counties of Hereford and Monmouth, and for that reason I reserv'd them to this place, as I shall the counties of Chester and Salop to my return. A little below Worcester the Severn receives a river of a long course and deep chanel, call'd the Teme, and going from Worcester we past this river at a village call'd Broadways; from whence keeping a little to the north, we come to Ludlow-Castle, on the bank of the same river. On another journey I came from Stourbridge, famous for the clay for melting pots as above; thence to Kidderminster, and passing the Severn at Bewdley we came to Ludlow, on the side of Shropshire.

In this course we see two fine seats not very far from the Severn, (viz.) the Lord Foley's, and the Earl of Bradford's, as we had before a most delicious house, belonging to the Lord Conway, now in the family of the late famous Sir Edward Seymour. Indeed this part of the county, and all the county of Salop is fill'd with fine seats of the nobility and gentry, too many so much as to give a list of, and much less to describe.

The castle of Ludlow shows in its decay, what it was in its flourishing estate: It is the palace of the Princes of Wales, that is, to speak more properly, it is annex'd to the principality of Wales; which is the appanage of the heir apparent, and this is his palace in right of his being made Prince of Wales.

The situation of this castle is most beautiful indeed; there is a most spacious plain or lawn in its front, which formerly continu'd near two miles; but much of it is now enclosed. The country round it is exceeding pleasant, fertile, populous, and the soil rich; nothing can be added by nature to make it a place fit for a royal palace: It only wants the residence of its princes, but that is not now to be expected.

The castle itself is in the very perfection of decay, all the fine courts, the royal apartments, halls, and rooms of state, lye open, abandoned and some of them falling down; for since the Courts of the President and Marches are taken away, here is nothing to do that requires the attendance of any publick people; so that time, the great devourer of the works of men, begins to eat into the very stone walls, and to spread the face of royal ruins upon the whole fabrick.

The town of Ludlow is a tolerable place, but it decays to be sure with the rest: It stands on the edge of the two counties, Shropshire, and Worcestershire, but is itself in the first; 'tis on the bank of the Teme, over which it has a good bridge, and it was formerly a town of good trade; the Welch call this town Lye Twysoe, which is in English, the Prince's Court. Mr. Cambden calls the river Teme the Tem'd, and another river which joyns it just at this town, the Corve, whence the rich flat country below the town is call'd Corvesdale.

King Henry VIII. established the Court of the President here, and the Council of the Marches and all causes of nisi prius , or of civil right were try'd here, before the Lord President and Council; but this Court was entirely taken away by Act of Parliament in our days, and this, as above, tends to the sensible decay of the town as well as of the castle.

From Ludlow we took our course due south to Lemster, or Leominster, a large and good trading town on the River Lug. This river is lately made navigable by Act of Parliament, to the very great profit of the trading part of this country, who have now a very great trade for their corn, wool, and other products of this place, into the river Wye, and from the Wye, into the Severn, and so to Bristol.

Leominster has nothing very remarkable in it, but that it is a well built, well inhabited town: The church which is very large, has been in a manner rebuilt, and is now, especially in the inside, a very beautiful church. This town, besides the fine wool, is noted for the best wheat, and consequently the finest bread; whence Lemster Bread, and Weobly Ale, is become a proverbial saying.

The country on our right as we came from Ludlow is very fruitful and pleasant, and is call'd the Hundred of Wigmore, from which the late Earl of Oxford at his creation, took the title of Baron of Wigmore: And here we saw two antient castles, (viz.) Brampton-Brian, and Wigmore-Castle, both belonging to the earl's father, Sir Edward Harley; Brampton is a stately pile, but not kept in full repair, the fate of that antient family not permitting the rebuilding it as we were told was in tended. Yet it is not so far decay'd as Ludlow, nor is it abandoned, or like to be so, and the parks are still very fine, and full of large timber.

We were now on the borders of Wales, properly so call'd; for from the windows of Brampton-Castle, you have a fair prospect into the county of Radnor, which is, as it were, under its walls; nay, even this whole county of Hereford, was, if we may believe antiquity, a part of Wales, and was so esteem'd for many ages. The people of this county too, boast that they were a part of the antient Silures, who for so many ages withstood the Roman arms, and who could never be entirely conquer'd. But that's an affair quite beyond my enquiry. I observ'd they are a diligent and laborious people, chiefly addicted to husbandry, and they boast, perhaps, not without reason, that they have the finest wool, and best hops, and the richest cyder in all Britain.

Indeed the wool about Leominster, and in the Hundred of Wigmore observ'd above, and the Golden Vale as 'tis call'd, for its richness on the banks of the river Dove, (all in this county) is the finest without exception, of any in England, the South Down wool not excepted: As for hops, they plant abundance indeed all over this county, and they are very good. And as for cyder, here it was, that several times for 20 miles together, we could get no beer or ale in their publick houses, only cyder; and that so very good, so fine, and so cheap, that we never found fault with the exchange; great quantities of this cyder are sent to London, even by land carriage tho' so very remote, which is an evidence for the goodness of it, beyond contradiction.

One would hardly expect so pleasant, and fruitful a country as this, so near the barren mountains of Wales; but 'tis certain, that not any of our southern counties, the neighbourhood of London excepted, comes up to the fertility of this county, as Gloucester furnishes London with great quantities of cheese, so this county furnishes the same city with bacon in great quantities, and also with cyder as above.

From Lemster it is ten miles to Hereford, the chief city, not of this county only, but of all the counties west of Severn: 'Tis a large and a populous city, and in the time of the late Rebellion, was very strong, and being well fortify'd, and as well defended, supported a tedious and very severe siege; for besides the Parliament's Forces, who could never reduce it, the Scots army was call'd to the work, who lay before it, 'till they laid above 4000 of their bones there, and at last, it was rather taken by the fate of the war, than by the attack of the besiegers.

Coming to Hereford, we could not but enquire into the truth of the story so famous, that the Reverend Dr. Gibson had mentioned it in his continuation of Cambden; of the removing the two great stones near Sutton, which the people confirm'd to us. The story is thus,

Between Sutton and Hereford, is a common meadow call'd the Wergins, where were plac'd two large stones for a watermark; one erected upright, and the other laid a-thwart. In the late Civil Wars, about the Year 1652, they were remov'd to about twelve score paces distance, and no body knew how; which gave occasion to a common opinion, That they were carried thither by the Devil. When they were set in their places again, one of them requir'd nine yoke of oxen to draw it.

Not far from Lidbury, is Colwal; near which, upon the waste, as a countryman was digging a ditch about his cottage, he found a crown or a .coronet of gold, with gems set deep in it. It was of a size large enough to be drawn over the arm, with the sleeve. The stones of it are said to have been so valuable, as to be sold by a jeweller for fifteen hundred pounds.

It is truly an old, mean built, and very dirty city, lying low, and on the bank of Wye, which sometimes incommodes them very much, by the violent freshes that come down from the mountains of Wales; for all the rivers of this county, except the Driffin-Doe, come out of Wales.

The chief thing remarkable next to the cathedral, is the college, which still retains its Foundation Laws, and where the residentiaries are still oblig'd to celibacy, but otherwise, live a very happy, easy, and plentiful life; being furnish'd upon the foot of the foundation, besides their ecclesiastical stipends.

The great church is a magnificent building, however ancient, the spire is not high, but handsome, and there is a fine tower at the west end, over the great door or entrance. The choir is very fine, tho' plain, and there is a very good organ: The revenues of this bishoprick are very considerable, but lye under. some abatement at present, on account of necessary repairs.

There are several monuments in it of antient bishops, but no other of note. Between Leominster and this city, is another Hampton Court, the seat of the Lord Conningsby, who has also a considerable interest in the north part of this county; a person distinguishing himself in the process or impeachment against the late Earl of Oxford, his neighbour; who, to his no small disappointment, escap'd him. There is nothing remarkable here that I could observe: But the name putting me in mind of another Hampton Court, so much beyond it, that the house seems to be a foil to the name; the house was built by Rowland Lenthall, Esq; who was Guard de Robe to Henry IV. so that it is old enough, if that may recommend it, and so is its master.

From Hereford keeping the bank of Wye as near as we could, we came to Ross, a good old town, famous for good cyder, a great manufacture of iron ware, and a good trade on the River Wye, and nothing else as I remember, except it was a monstrous fat woman, who they would have had me gone to see. But I had enough of the relation, and so I suppose will the reader, for they told me she was more than three yards about her wast; that when she sat down, she was oblig'd to have a small stool plac'd before her, to rest her belly on, and the like.

From hence we came at about 8 miles more into Monmouthshire, and to the town of Monmouth. It is an old town situate at the conflux of the Wye and of Munnow, whence the town has its name; it stands in the angle where the rivers joyn, and has a bridge over each river, and a third over the River Trothy, which comes in just below the other.

This town shews by its reverend face, that it is a place of great antiquity, and by the remains of walls, lines, curtains, and bastions, that it has been very strong, and by its situation that it may be made so again: This place is made famous, by being the native place of one of our most antient historians Jeoffry of Monmouth. At present 'tis rather a decay'd than a flourishing town, yet, it drives a considerable trade with the city of Bristol, by the navigation of the Wye.

This river having as I said, just received two large streams, the Mynevly or Munno, and the Trother, is grown a very noble river, and with a deep chanel, and a full current hurries away towards the sea, carrying also vessels of a considerable burthen hereabouts.

Near Monmouth the Duke of Beaufort has a fine old seat, call'd Troy; but since the family has had a much finer palace at Badminton, near the Bath; this tho' a most charming situation seems to be much neglected.

Lower down upon the Wye stands Chepstow, the sea port for all the towns seated on the Wye and Lug, and where their commerce seems to center. Here is a noble bridge over the Wye: To this town ships of good burthen may come up, and the tide runs here with the same impetuous current as at Bristol; the flood rising from six fathom, to six and a half at Chepstow Bridge. This is a place of very good trade, as is also Newport, a town of the like import upon the River Uske, a great river, tho' not so big as Wye, which runs thro' the center of the county, and falls also into the Severn Sea.

This county furnishes great quantities of corn for exportation, and the Bristol merchants frequently load ships here, to go to Portugal, and other foreign countries with wheat; considering the mountainous part of the west of this county, 'tis much they should have such good corn, and so much of it to spare; but the eastern side of the county, and the neighbourhood of Herefordshire, supplies them.

I am now at the utmost extent of England west, and here I must mount the Alps, traverse the mountains of Wales, (and indeed, they are well compar'd to the Alps in the inmost provinces;) But with this exception, that in abundance of places you have the most pleasant and beautiful valleys imaginable, and some of them, of very great extent, far exceeding the valleys so fam'd among the mountains of Savoy, and Piedmont.

The two first counties which border west upon Monmouthshire, are Brecknock, and Glamorgan, and as they are very mountainous, so that part of Monmouthshire which joyns them, begins the rising of the hills. Kyrton-Beacon, Tumberlow, Blorench, Penvail, and Skirridan, are some of the names of these horrid mountains, and are all in this shire; and I could not but fansy my self in view of Mount Brennus, Little Barnard, and Great Barnard, among the Alps. When I saw Plinlimmon Hill, and the sources of the Severn on one side of it, and the Wye and Rydall on the other: it put me in mind of the famous hill, call'd-----in the cantons of Switzerland, out of which the Rhine rises on one side, and the Rhosne, and the Aa on the other. But I shall give you more of them presently.

We now entered South Wales: The provinces which bear the name of South Wales, are these, Glamorgan, Brecknock, Radnor, Caermarthen, Pembroke, and Cardigan. We began with Brecknock, being willing to see the highest of the mountains, which are said to be hereabouts; and indeed, except I had still an idea of the height of the Alps, and of those mighty mountains of America, the Andes, which we see very often in the South-Seas, 20 leagues from the shore: I say except that I had still an idea of those countries on my mind, I should have been surprized at the sight of these hills; nay, (as it was) the Andes and the Alps, tho' immensly high, yet they stand together, and they are as mountains, pil'd upon mountains, and hills upon hills; whereas sometimes we see these mountains rising up at once, from the lowest valleys, to the highest summits which makes the height look horrid and frightful, even worse than those mountains abroad; which tho' much higher, rise as it were, one behind another: So that the ascent seems gradual, and consequently less surprising.

Brecknockshire is a meer inland county, as Radnor is; the English jestingly (and I think not very improperly) call it Breakneckshire: 'Tis mountainous to an extremity, except on the side of Radnor, where it is something more low and level. It is well watered by the Wye, and the Uske, two rivers mentioned before; upon the latter stands the town of Brecknock, the capital of the county: The most to be said of this town, is what indeed I have said of many places in Wales, (viz.) that it is very antient, and indeed to mention it here for all the rest, there are more tokens of antiquity to be seen every where in Wales, than in any particular part of England, except the counties of Cumberland, and Northumberland. Here we saw Brecknock-Mere, a large or long lake of water, two or three miles over; of which, they have a great many Welch fables, not worth relating: The best of them is, that a certain river call'd the Lheweni runs thro' it, and keeps its colour in mid-chanel distinguish'd from the water of the lake, and as they say, never mingles with it. They take abundance of good fish in this lake, so that as is said of the river Thysse in Hungary; they say this lake is two thirds water, and one third fish. The country people affirm, there stood a city once here, but, that by the judgment of Heaven, for the sin of its inhabitants, it sunk into the earth, and the water rose up in the place of it. I observe the same story is mentioned by Mr. Cambden with some difference in the particulars: I believe my share of it, but 'tis remarkable, that Mr. Cambden having lost the old city Loventium, mentioned by Ptolemy to be hereabouts, is willing to account for it, by this old story.

It was among the mountains of this county that the famous Glendower shelter'd himself, and taking arms on the deposing Richard II. proclaimed himself Prince of Wales; and they shew us several little refuges of his in the mountains, whither he retreated, and from whence, again, he made such bold excursions into England.

Tho' this county be so mountainous, provisions are exceeding plentiful, and also very good all over the county; nor are these mountains useless, even to the city of London, as I have noted of other counties; for from hence they send yearly, great herds of black cattle to England, and which are known to fill our fairs and markets, even that of Smithfield it self.

The yellow mountains of Radnorshire are the same, and their product of cattle is the same; nor did I meet with any thing new, and worth noticing, except monuments of antiquity, which are not the subject of my enquiry: The stories of Vortigern, and Roger of Mortimer, are in every old woman's mouth here. There is here a great cataract or water fall of the River Wye, at a place call'd Rhayadr Gwy in Welch, which signifies the Cataract or Water Fall of the Wye, but we did not go to see it, by reason of a great flood at that time, which made the way dangerous: There is a kind of desart too, on that side, which is scarce habitable or passable, so we made it our north boundary for this part of our journey, and turn'd away to Glamorganshire.

Entring this shire, from Radnor and Brecknock, we were saluted with Monuchdenny-Hill on our left, and the Black-Mountain on the right, and all a ridge of horrid rocks and precipices between, over which, if we had not had trusty guides, we should never have found our way; and indeed, we began to repent our curiosity, as not having met with any thing worth the trouble; and a country looking so full of horror, that we thought to have given over the enterprise, and have left Wales out of our circuit: But after a day and a night conversing thus with rocks and mountains, our guide brought us down into a most agreeable vale, opening to the south, and a pleasant river running through it, call'd the Taaffe; and following the course of this river, we came in the evening to the antient city of Landaff, and Caerdiff, standing almost together.

Landaff is the seat of the episcopal see, and a city; but Cardiff which is lower on the river, is the port and town of trade; and has a very good harbour opening into the Severn Sea, about 4 miles below the town. The cathedral is a neat building, but very antient; they boast that this church was a house of religious worship many years before any church was founded in England, and that the Christian religion flourish'd here in its primitive purity, from the year 186, till the Pelagian heresy overspread this country; which being afterwards rooted out by the care of the orthodox bishop, they plac'd St. Dobricius as the first bishop in this town of Landaff, then call'd Launton: Tis observable, that though the Bishop of Landaff was call'd an arch-bishop, yet the cathedral church was but 28 foot long, and 10 foot broad, and without any steeple or bells; notwithstanding which the 3 first bishops were afterwards sainted, for their eminent holiness of life, and the miracles they wrought; nor had they any other cathedral from the year 386, to the year 1107, when Bishop Urban built the present church, with some houses for the clergy adjoyning, in the nature of a cloyster. Tho' the church is antient, yet the building is good, and the choir neat, and pretty well kept; but there are no monuments of note in it, except some so antient, that no inscription can be read, to give any account of.

The south part of this country is a pleasant and agreeable place, and is very populous; 'tis also a very good, fertile, and rich soil, and the low grounds are so well cover'd with grass, and stock'd with cattle, that they supply the city of Bristol with butter in very great quantities salted and barrell'd up, just as Suffolk does the city of London.

The chief sea port is Swanzey, a very considerable town for trade, and has a very good harbour: Here is also a very great trade for coals, and culmn, which they export to all the ports of Sommerset, Devon, and Cornwal, and also to Ireland itself; so that one sometimes sees a hundred sail of ships at a time loading coals here; which greatly enriches the country, and particularly this town of Swanzey, which is really a very thriving place; it stands on the River Tawye, or Taw: 'Tis very remarkable, that most of the rivers in this county chime upon the letters T , and Y , as Taaf, Tawy, Tuy, Towy, Tyevy.

Neath is another port, where the coal trade is also considerable, tho' it stands farther within the land. Kynfig Castle, is now the seat and estate of the Lord Mansel, who has here also a very royal income from the collieries; I say royal, because equal to the revenues of some sovereign princes, and which formerly denominated Sir Edward Mansel, one of the richest commoners in Wales; the family was enobled by Her late Majesty Queen Anne.

In this neighbourhood, near Margan Mynydd, we saw the famous monument mentioned by Mr. Cambden, on a hill, with the inscription, which the people are so terrify'd at, that no body will care to read it; for they have a tradition from father to son, that whoever ventures to read it, will dye within a month. We did not scruple the adventure at all, but when we came to try, the letters were so defac'd by time, that we were effectually secur'd from the danger; the inscription not being any thing near so legible, as it seems it was in Cambdens time.

The stone pillar is about 4 or 5 foot high, and 1 foot thick, standing on the top of this hill; there are several other such monuments in Radnorshire, and other counties in Wales, as likewise in Scotland we saw the like: But as I have always said, I carefully avoid entering into any discourses of antiquity, as what the narrow compass of these letters will not allow.

Having thus touch'd at what is most curious on this coast, we pass'd thro' the land of Gowre, and going still west, we came to Caermarthen, or Kaer-Vyrdhin, as the Welsh call it, the capital of the county of Kaermardhinshire.

This is an antient but not a decay'd town, pleasantly situated on the River Towy, or Tovy, which is navigable up to the town, for vessels of a moderate burthen. The town indeed is well built, and populous, and the country round it, is the most fruitful, of any part of all Wales, considering that it continues to be so for a great way; namely, thro' all the middle of the county, and a great way into the next; nor is this county so mountainous and wild, as the rest of this part of Wales: but it abounds in corn, and in fine flourishing meadows, as good as most are in Britain, and in which are fed, a very great number of good cattle.

The chancery, and exchequer of the principality, was usually kept at this town, till the jurisdiction of the Court and Marches of Wales was taken away. This town was also famous for the birth of the old Brittish prophet Merlin, of whom so many things are fabled, that indeed nothing of its kind ever prevail'd so far, in the delusion of mankind, and who flourish'd in the year 480: And here also the old Britains often kept their parliament or assemblies of their wise men, and made their laws. The town was fortify'd in former times, but the walls are scarcely to be seen now, only the ruins of them.

Here we saw near Kily-Maen Ibwyd, on a great mountain, a circle of mighty stones, very much like Stone-henge in Wiltshire, or rather like the Rollrych Stones in Oxfordshire; and tho' the people call it Bruarth Arthur, or King Arthur's Throne, we see no reason to believe that King Arthur knew any thing of it, or that it had any relation to him.

We found the people of this county more civiliz'd and more curteous, than in the more mountainous parts, where the disposition of the inhabitants seems to be rough, like the country: But here as they seem to converse with the rest of the world, by their commerce, so they are more conversible than their neighbours.

The next county west, is Pembrokeshire, which is the most extreme part of Wales on this side, in a rich, fertile, and plentiful country, lying on the sea coast, where it has the benefit of Milford Haven, one of the greatest and best inlets of water in Britain. Mr. Cambden says it contains 16 creeks, 5 great bays, and 13 good roads for shipping, all distinguish'd as such by their names; and some say, a thousand sail of ships may ride in it, and not the topmast of one be seen from another; but this last, I think, merits confirmation.

Before we quitted the coast, we saw Tenbigh, the most agreeable town on all the sea coast of South Wales, except Pembroke, being a very good road for shipping, and well frequented: Here is a great fishery for herring in its season, a great colliery, or rather export of coals, and they also drive a very considerable trade to Ireland.

From hence, the land bearing far into the sea, makes a promontory, call'd St. Govens Head or Point. But as we found nothing of moment was to be seen there, we cross'd over the isthmus to Pembroke, which stands on the E. shore of the great haven of Milford Haven.

This is the largest and richest, and at this time, the most flourishing town of all S. Wales: Here are a great many English merchants, and some of them men of good business; and they told us, there were near 200 sail of ships belong'd to the town, small and great; in a word, all this part of Wales is a rich and flourishing country, but especially this part is so very pleasant, and fertile, and is so well cultivated, that 'tis call'd by distinction, Little England, beyond Wales.

This is the place also made particularly famous for the landing of King Henry VII, then Duke of Richmond: From hence, being resolv'd to see the utmost extent of the county west, we ferry'd over the haven as-----and went to Haverford, or by some call'd Haverford-West; and from thence to St. Davids, or St. Taffys, as the Welch call it. Haverford is a better town than we expected to find, in this remote angle of Britain; 'tis strong, well built, clean, and populous.

From hence to St. Davids, the country begins to look like Wales again, dry, barren, and mountainous; St. Davids is not a bishop's see only, but was formerly an arch-bishop's, which they tell us, was by the Pope transferr'd to Dole in Britany, where it still remains.

The venerable aspect of this cathedral church, shews that it has been a beautiful building, but that it is much decay'd. The west end or body of the church is tolerably well; the choir is kept neat, and in tollerable repair, the S. isle without the choir, and the Virgin Mary's Chappel, which makes the E. end of the church, are in a manner demolish'd, and the roofs of both fallen in.

There are a great many eminent persons bury'd here, besides such, whose monuments are defac'd by time: There is St. Davids monument, to whom the church is dedicated, the monument of the Earl of Richmond, as also of the famous Owen Tudor; there are also four antient monuments of Knights Templara, known by their figures lying cross legg'd; but their names are not known, and there are six several monuments of bishops, who ruled this church, besides St. David.

This St. David they tell us was uncle to King Arthur, that he lived to 146 years of age, that he was bishop of this church 65 years, being born in the year 496, and dyed ann. 642; that he built 12 monasteries, and did abundance of miracles.

There was a very handsome house for the bishop, with a college, all built in a close by themselves, but they are now turn'd to ruins.

Here the weather being very clear, we had a full view of Ireland, tho' at a very great distance: The land here is call'd St. Davids Head, and from hence, there has some time ago, gone a passage boat constantly between England and Ireland, but that voiture is at present discontinued. They reckon up 112 bishops of this see, since it begun, to the year 1712.

The last bishop but two, was Dr. Thomas Watson, of whom the world has heard so much, being depriv'd after a long debate, on a charge of simony; whether justly, or not, I shall not enquire, but he bestow'd great sums on charitable designs, and is still (living) enclined as I am told, to do much more.

From hence we turn'd N. keeping the sea in our W. prospect. and a rugged mountainous country on the E. where the hills even darken'd the air with their heighth; as we went on, we past by Newport, on the River Nevern, a town having a good harbour, and consequently a good trade with Ireland.

Here we left Pembrokeshire, and after about 22 miles, came to the town of Cardigan, an old and well inhabited town, on the River Tivy: 'Tis a very noble river indeed, and famous for its plenty of the best and largest salmon in Britain.

The country people told us, that they had beavers here, which bred in the lakes among the mountains, and came down the stream of Tivy to feed; that they destroy'd the young frye of salmon, and therefore the country people destroy'd them; but they could shew us none of them, or any of their skins, neither could the countrymen describe them, or tell us that they had ever seen them; so that we concluded they only meant the otter, till I found after our return, that Mr. Cambden mentions also, that there were beavers seen here formerly.

This town of Cardigan was once possess'd by the great Robert Fitz-Stephen, who was the first Britain that ever attempted the conquest of Ireland; and had such success with a handful of men, as afterwards gave the English a footing there, which they never quitted afterwards, till they quite reduc'd the country, and made it, as it were, a province of England.

The town is not large, has been well fortify'd, but that part is now wholly neglected. It has a good trade with Ireland, and is enrich'd very much, as is all this part of the country, by the famous lead mines, formerly discover'd by Sir Carbery Price, which are the greatest, and perhaps the richest in England; and particularly as they require so little labour and charge to come at the oar, which in many places lyes within a fathom or two of the surface, and in some, even bare to the very top.

Going N. from the Tyvy about 25 miles, we came to Abrystwyth, that is to say, the town at the mouth of the River Ystwyth. This town is enrich'd by the coals and lead which is found in its neighbourhood, and is a populous, but a very dirty, black, smoaky place, and we fancy'd the people look'd as if they liv'd continually in the coal or lead mines. However, they are rich, and the place is very populous.

The whole county of Cardigan is so full of cattle, that 'tis said to be the nursery, or breeding-place for the whole kingdom of England, S. by Trent; but this is not a proof of its fertility, for tho' the feeding of cattle indeed requires a rich soil, the breeding them does not, the mountains and moors being as proper for that purpose as richer land.

Now we enter'd N. Wales, only I should add, that as we pass'd, we had a sight of the famous Plymlymon-Hill, out of the east side of which as I mentioned before, rises the Severn, and the Wye; and out of the west side of it, rises the Rydall and the Ystwyth. This mountain is exceeding high, and tho' it is hard to say which is the highest hill in Wales, yet I think this bids fair for it; nor is the county for 20 miles round it, any thing but a continued ridge of mountains: So that for almost a whole week's travel, we seem'd to be conversing with the upper regions; for we were often above the clouds, I'm sure, a very great way, and the names of some of these hills seem'd as barbarous to us, who spoke no Welch, as the hills themselves.

Passing these mountains, I say, we enter'd N. Wales, which contains the counties of Montgomery, Merionith, Caernarvon, Denbeigh, and Flint shires, and the Isle of Anglesea.

In passing Montgomery-shire, we were so tired with rocks and mountains, that we wish'd heartily we had kept close to the sea shore, but it not much mended the matter if we had, as I understood afterwards: The River Severn is the only beauty of this county, which rising I say, out of the Plymlymon Mountain, receives instantly so many other rivers into its bosom, that it becomes navigable before it gets out of the county; namely, at Welch Pool, on the edge of Shropshire. This is a good fashionable place, and has many English dwelling in it, and some very good families; but we saw nothing farther worth remarking.

The vales and meadows upon the bank of the Severn, are the best of this county, I had almost said, the only good part of it; some are of opinion, that, the very water of the Severn, like that of Nile, impregnates the valleys, and when it overflows, leaves a vertue behind it, particularly to itself; and this they say is confirm'd, because all the country is so fruitful, wherever this river does overflow, and its waters reach. The town, or rather as the natives call it, the city of Montgomery, lyes not far from this river, on the outer edge of the country next to Herefordshire. This was, it seems, a great frontier town in the wars between the English and the Welch, and was beautify'd and fortify'd by King Henry III; the town is now much decay'd: It gives title to the eldest son of the ducal house of Powis, who is call'd Lord Montgomery, and Marquis of Powis; they have a noble seat at Troy, hard by this town on the other side the river: But the house of Pembroke also claims the title of Montgomery.

This county is noted for an excellent breed of Welch horses, which, though not very large, are exceeding valuable, and much esteem'd all over England; all the North and West part of the county is mountainous and stony. We saw a great many old monuments in this country, and Roman camps wherever we came, and especially if we met any person curious in such things, we found they had many Roman coins; but this was none of my enquiry, as I have said already.

Merionithshire, or Merionydshire, lyes west from Montgomeryshire; it lyes on the Irish Sea, or rather the ocean; for St. George's Chanel does not begin till further north, and it is extended on the coast, for near 35 miles in length, all still mountainous and craggy. The principal river is the Tovy, which rises among the unpassable mountains, which range along the center of this part of Wales, and which we call unpassable, for that even the people themselves call'd them so; we look'd at them indeed with astonishment, for their rugged tops, and the immense height of them: Some particular hills have particular names, but otherwise we called them all the Black Mountains, and they well deserv'd the name; some think 'tis from the unpassable mountains of this county, that we have an old saying, that the devil lives in the middle of Wales, tho' I know there is another meaning given to it; in a word, Mr. Cambden calls these parts the Alps of Wales.

There is but few large towns in all this part, nor is it very populous; indeed much of it is scarce habitable, but 'tis said, there are more sheep in it, than in all the rest of Wales. On the sea shore however, we see Harleigh-Castle, which is still a garrison, and kept for the guard of the coast, but 'tis of no great strength, but by its situation.

In the middle of these vast mountains (and forming a very large lake (viz.) near its first sources) rises the River Dee, of which I shall speak again in its proper place.

Here among innumerable summits, and rising peaks of nameless hills, we saw the famous Kader-Idricks, which some are of opinion, is the highest mountain in Britain, another call'd Rarauvaur, another call'd Mowylwynda, and still every hill we saw, we thought was higher than all that ever we saw before.

We enquired here after that strange phænomenon which was not only seen, but fatally experienced by the country round this place, namely, of a livid fire, coming off from the sea; and setting on fire, houses, barns, stacks of hay and corn, and poisoning the herbage in the fields; of which there is a full account given in the philosophical transactions: And as we had it confirm'd by the general voice of the people, I content my self with giving an account of it as follows:

It is observable, that the eclipses of the sun in Aries, have been very fatal to this place; for in the years 1542, and 1567, when the sun was eclipsed in that sign, it suffer'd very much by fire; and after the latter eclipse of the two, the fire spread so far, that about 200 houses in the town and suburbs of Caernarvon, were consum'd.

But to return to the face of things, as they appear'd to us, the mountainous country spoken of runs away N. through this county and almost the next, I mean Caernarvonshire, where Snowden Hill is a monstrous height, and according to its name, had snow on the top in the beginning of June; and perhaps had so till the next June, that is to say, all the year.

These unpassable heights were doubtless the refuges of the Britains, when they made continual war with the Saxons and Romans, and retreated on occasion of their being over power'd, into these parts; where, in short, no enemy could pursue them.

That side of the country of Carnarvon, which borders on the sea, is not so mountainous, and is both more fertile and more populous. The principal town in this part, is Carnarvon, a good town, with a castle built by Edward I. to curb and reduce the wild people of the mountains, and secure the passage into Anglesea. As this city was built by Edward I. so he kept his Court often here, and honour'd it with his presence very much; and here his eldest son and successor, tho' unhappy, (Ed. II.) was born, who was therefore call'd Edward of Caernarvon. This Edward was the first Prince of Wales; that is to say, the first of the Kings of Englands sons, who was vested with the title of Prince of Wales: And here was kept the chancery and exchequer of the Prince's of Wales, for the N. part of the principality, as it was at --- for the S. part. It is a small, but strong town, clean and well built, and considering the place, the people are very courteous and obliging to strangers. It is seated on the firth or inlet call'd Menai, parting the isle of Anglesea, or Mona, from the main land; and here is a ferry over to the island called Abermenai Ferry: And from thence a direct road to Holly Head, where we went for no purpose, but to have another view of Ireland, tho' we were disappointed, the weather being bad and stormy.

Whoever travels critically over these mountains, I mean of S. Wales, and Merionithshire, will think Stone-henge in Wiltshire, and Roll-Rich Stones in Oxfordshire no more a wonder, seeing there are so many such, and such like, in these provinces; that they are not thought strange of at all, nor is it doubted, but they were generally monuments of the dead, as also are the single stones of immense bulk any other, of which we saw so many, that we gave over remarking them; some we saw from 7, 8, to 10, and one 16 foot high, being a whole stone, but so great, that the most of the wonder is, where they were found, and how dragg'd to the place; since, besides the steep ascents to some of the hills on which they stand, it would be impossible to move some of them, now, with 50 yoke of oxen. And yet a great many of these stones are found confusedly lying one upon another on the utmost summit or top of the Glyder, or other Hills, in Merionith and Carnarvonshire; to which it is next to impossible, that all the power of art, and strength of man and beast could carry them, and the people make no difficulty of saying the devil set them up there.

One of these monumental stones is to be seen a little way from Harleigh-Castle: It is a large stone lying flat, supported by three other stones at 3 of the 4 angles, tho' the stone is rather oval than square, it is almost n foot long, the breadth unequal, but in some places its from 7 to 8 foot broad, and it may be suppos'd has been both longer and broader; 'tis in some places above 2 foot thick, but in others 'tis worn almost to an edge by time: The three stones that support it, are about 20 inches square, 'tis suppos'd there has been four, two of which that support the thickest end, are near 8 foot high, the other not above 3 foot, being suppos'd to be settled in the ground, so that the stone lyes sloping, like the roof of a barn. There is another of these to be seen in the isle of Anglesea, the flat stone is much larger and thicker than this; but we did not go to see it: There are also two circles of stones in that island, such as Stone-henge, but the stones much larger.

This is a particular kind of monument, and therefore I took notice of it, but the other are generally single stones of vast magnitude, set up on one end, column wise, which being so very large, are likely to remain to the end of time; but are generally without any inscription, or regular shape or any mark, to intimate for who, or for what they were so placed.

These mountains are indeed so like the Alps, that except the language of the people, one could hardly avoid thinking he is passing from Grenoble to Susa, or rather passing the country of the Grisons. The lakes also, which are so numerous here, make the similitude the greater, nor are the fables which the country people tell of these lakes, much unlike the stories which we meet with among the Switzers, of the famous lakes in their country; Dr. Gibson, (Mr. Cambdens continuator) tells us of 50 or 60 lakes in Carnarvonshire only, we did not count them indeed, but I believe if we had, we should have found them to be many more.

Here we met with the char fish, the same kind which we see in Lancashire, and also in the lakes of Switzerland, and no where else, that I have heard of in Europe; the Welch call it the torgoch.

There is nothing of note to be seen in the Isle of Anglesea but the town, and the castle of Baumaris, which was also built by King Edward I. and call'd Beau-Marsh, or the Fine Plain; for here the country is very level and plain, and the land is fruitful and pleasant. The castle was very large, as may be seen by its remains, and that it was strong; the situation will tell also, but 'tis now of no use.

As we went to Holly Head, by the S. part of the island from Newborough, and came back thro' the middle to Beaumaris, we saw the whole extent of it, and indeed, it is a much pleasanter country, than any part of N. Wales, that we had yet seen; and particularly is very fruitful for corn and cattle.

Here we cross'd the Fretum, or strait of Meneu again, and came to Bangor, at the place where King Edward I. intended to have built a great stone bridge, it wou'd indeed have been a work fit for so great and powerful a king, as K. Edward was: But the bottom being doubtful, and the sea in that place sometimes very raging and strong, the workmen thought it impracticable, and tho' as we were told, that the king was very positive in his design for a great while, yet he was prevail'd with at last to decline it.

From hence, I say, we cross'd to Bangor, a town noted for its antiquity, its being a bishops see, and an old, mean looking, and almost despicable cathedral church.

This church claims to be one of the most antient in Britain, the people say, 'tis the most antient; that St. Daniel (to whom this church was dedicated) was first bishop here, in the year 512. They allow that the pagans, perhaps of Anglesea, ruined the church, and possess'd the bishoprick after it was first built, for above 100 years; nor is there any account of it from the year 512, to 1009: After this, the bishoprick was ruined again by dilapidation, by one of its own bishops, whose name was Bulkeley, who, as the Monasticon says, not only sold the revenues, but even the very bells, for which sacrilege he was struck blind; but this last is a tradition only.

It is certainly at present a poor bishoprick, and has but a poor cathedral; yet the bishops are generally allow'd to hold some other good benefice in commendam , and the preferment seems to be a grateful introduction to the clergy, as the bishops are generally translated from hence, to a more profitable bishoprick.

From Bangor we went north, (keeping the sea on our left hand) to Conway. This is the poorest but pleasantest town in all this county for the bigness of it; it is seated on the bank of a fine river, which is not only pleasant and beautiful, but is a noble harbour for ships, had they any occasion for them there; the stream is deep and safe, and the river broad, as the Thames at Deptford: It only wants a trade suitable to so good a port, for it infinitely out does Chester or Leverpool itself.

In this passage, we went over the famous precipice call'd Penmen-muir, which indeed fame has made abundance more frightful, than it really is; for tho' the rock is indeed very high, and if any one should fall from it, it wou'd dash them in pieces, yet, on the other hand, there is no danger of their falling; and besides, there is now a wall built all the way, on the edge of the precipice, to secure them: Those who have been at the hill or pass of Enterkin in Scotland, know very well, the danger there is much greater, than what can be thought of here; as the frequent loss of lives, both of man and horse will testify.

We have but little remarkable in the road from Conway to Hollywell, but craggs and rocks all along the N. shore of Denbeigh, till we came to Denbeigh town. This is the county town, and is a large populous place, which carries something in its countenance of its neighbourhood to England, but that which was most surprizing, after such a tiresom and fatiguing journey, over the unhospitable mountains of Merioneth, and Carnarvonshire, was, that descending now from the hills, we came into a most pleasant, fruitful, populous, and delicious vale, full of villages and towns, the fields shining with corn, just ready for the reapers, the meadows green and flowery, and a fine river, with a mild and gentle stream running thro' it: Nor is it a small or casual intermission, but we had a prospect of the country open before us, for above 20 miles, in length, and from 5 to 7 miles in breadth, all smiling with the same kind of complexion; which made us think our selves in England again, all on a sudden.

In this pleasant vale, turning N. from Denbeigh, and following the stream of the river, we came to S. Asaph, a small city, with a cathedral, being a bishoprick of tolerable good value, though the church is old: It is but a poor town, and ill built, tho' the country is so pleasant and rich round it. There are some old monuments in this church, but none of any note, nor could we read the Welch inscriptions.

From hence we come to Holly-well: The stories of this Well of S. Winifrid are, that the pious virgin, being ravished and murthered, this healing water sprung out of her body when buried; but this smells too much of the legend, to take up any of my time; the Romanists indeed believe it, as 'tis evident, from their thronging hither to receive the healing sanative virtue of the water, which they do not hope for as it is a medicinal water, but as it is a miraculous water, and heals them by virtue of the intercession and influence of this famous virgin, St. Winifrid; of which I believe as much as comes to my share.

Here is a fine chapel cut out of a solid rock, and was dedicated to this holy virgin; and numbers of pilgrims resort to it, with no less devotion than ignorance; under this chapel the water gushes out in a great stream, and the place where it breaks out, is form'd like a basin or cistern, in which they bathe: The water is intensely cold, and indeed there is no great miracle in that point, considering the rocks it flows from, where it is impregnated by divers minerals, the virtue of which, and not of the saint, I suppose, work the greatest part of the cures.

There is a little town near the well, which may, indeed, be said to have risen from the confluence of the people hither, for almost all the houses are either publick houses, or let into lodgings; and the priests that attend here, and are very numerous, appear in disguise: Sometimes they are physicians, sometimes surgeons, sometimes gentlemen, and sometimes patients, or any thing as occasion presents. No body takes notice of them, as to their profession, tho' they know them well enough, no not the Roman Catholicks themselves; but in private, they have their proper oratory's in certain places, whither the votaries resort; and good manners has prevail'd so far, that however the Protestants know who and who's together; no body takes notice of it, or enquires where one another goes, or has been gone.

From hence we past by Flint-Castle, a known place, but of no significance; and then in a few hours we cross'd the River Dee, and arriv'd at the city of West Chester, from whence, I shall give a farther account of my journey in my next.

I am,
SIR, Yours, &.



1 N.B. This was an expression the king used on no occasion, but such, as where the places were exquisitely fine, and particularly pleased him: and it was not observ'd that ever his majesty said it of any place in England, but of this, and of Burleigh-House by Stamford in Lincolnshire, the seat of the Earl of Exeter.

Daniel Defoe, A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journies (London: JM Dent and Co, 1927)

Next Selection Previous Selection