Page images

There are several smaller dales branching out of Wensleydale, of which indeed they may be accounted part. Of these the principle are Bishopdale, and Raydale, or Rodale,—the valley of the Roe; which last contains Lake Semerwater, a sheet of water covering a hundred and five acres, and about forty-five feet deep. Besides this lake, the natural objects of interest in the district best known are Aysgarth Force, Hardraw Scaur, Mill Gill near Askrigg, and Leyburn Shawl; the last is a lofty natural terrace from which the eye may range from the Cleveland Hills, at the mouth of the Tees, to those bordering upon Westmorland. Rich in historic associations, Wensleydale contains the royal castle of Middleham, Richard the Third's favourite residence; Bolton Castle, built by and long appertaining to the Scropes, where Mary Queen of Scots spent a short portion of her sad captivity in England; and the Cistercian Monastery of Jorevalle or Jerveaux, a rich and mitred(1) Abbey, now

o as in Scrope and Rokeby, is to be pronounced as oo or ou-and the whole word Your as Drayton has it, or Ure as Leland and most of his successors write it. Yore is the semi-Latin medieval form." (Richmondshire, its Lords and Edifices, p. 60.) I differ entirely, at present, from both these writers; but give their opinions, leaving the etymological reader to form his own judgment. From all preserved documents-Papal Bulls-Royal Charters-Feudal grants and family papers which I have hitherto investigated, as well as in the local pronunciation, I consider my orthography justified, and adhere to "Yore."

(1) In Longstaffe's "Richmondshire, p. 73," it is stated that "The abbey spiritually was a mitred one, but not parliamentarily so." This is certainly erroneous. When A. D. 1307, Edward the First, after keeping the previous Christmas at Carlisle, held on the octaves of St. Hillary a "Great Parliament" in that city, to which were summoned "eighty-seven Earls and Barons; twenty Bishops; sixty-one Abbots, and eight Priors; besides many Deanes, Archdeacones, and other inferiour Clearkes of the Convocation. The Master of the Knights of ye Temple,-of every shire, two Knights; of every city, two Citizens; and of every borough, two Burgesses, &c." (Stowe's Chron., p. 210), we find the Lord Abbot of "Jorevall," thirty-sixth on the roll of Abbots, taking precedence over those of Fountains and Bellalaud, both Cistercian houses. There were in England, thirty-nine mitred Abbots, and, although the number of Abbots and Priors summoned to Parliament varied, there were never fewer than twenry-five Abbots and two Priors. (Vide, Hallam's Constitutional History. Henry's History of England.) Elsynge, in his " Modus Tenendi Parliamentum," says, in his Chapter "Of those who were antiently summoned to Parliament"--"All Abbots and Priors, which held by earldom or a barony, ratione tenure.

merely a pile of ruins. In Coverdale are the remnants of Coverham Abbey.

The district is celebrated for the produce of its dairies, it consisting chiefly of grazing farms; and Middleham Moor is well known as one of the first training grounds for race horses in England. The villages, which are numerous, are for the most part neat; and there are several gentlemen's seats pleasantly situated. To the botanist the vale presents attractions, as it produces many of our rarer plants, and in it the ornithologist will find more than one-half of our English land-fowl. On the moors grouse are plentiful; the wild cat and pine-maiten are still occasionally found in the woods. In ancient times wolves abounded. Fish are plentiful in the Yore and its tributary streams, and in Lake Semerwater; almost every mountain beck contains splendid trout, and in spawning time large salmon frequent the river. There are mines of lead and coal; the former were worked in the reign of King John, if not earlier, while freestone, slate, and lime are easily obtained; nor are either iron or copper wanting, although not worked. The natives are a fine hardy race, stern of mood and somewhat rude in manners and in speech, but kind and hospitable to an extreme; retaining many of their forefathers' customs unchanged by modern refinement.

Leland tells us there is produced in "Uredale very little corne except bygge (barley) or otes, but plentifull of gresse on communes.

"Coverdale is worse than Swaledale or Uredale for corne, and hath no woods but about Coverham Abbey.

"In the dales of Richemontshire they burne linge, pete, and turffes. (1)

In the writ of summons their "christian names were never mentioned. They were styled thus: Dilecto in Christo Abbati Sancti Augustini. Jorevalle was beyond all question a barony.

(1) Turf, "Turbis," during the mediaval ages was commonly employed as fuel in France, Flanders, and England. Pliny mentions it as a poor substitute for wood, used in cookery by the Cauchi. (Nat. Hist. lxvi. c. 1); whilst the

"In places where they cutte doune linge good gresse springeth for the catel for a yere or 2 until the linge overgrowe it." This custom of burning the ling in order to promote the growth of herbage for sheep is yet practised, and frequently on a February or March evening the stranger will be alarmed by immense distant conflagrations which seem to threaten the safety of the country.

To finish this brief outline I may add that Wensleydale is a royal forest, of which the Duke of Leeds, hereditary Constable and Lord of Middleham Castle, through descent from the family of Conyers, (1) is Her Majesty's Ranger; possessing the right of hunting and shooting over all lands not belonging to Jorevalle Abbey. (2) Formerly, Red Deer were plentiful in the parks, more especially in Bishopdale Chase; and these magnificent creatures came down the valley, in severe winters, so recently as the close of the last century.

And now, before we view Wensleydale in that happy day when the Holy Catholic Faith was professed throughout our Island, let us briefly revert to an earlier period— the earliest that attested history records. When Julius Cæsar invaded Britain B. C., 55, he did not by any means

[ocr errors]

Chronicle of Andres shows it was not more agreeable to the fine ladies of those days those days than of our own. 'Quod uxor ejus focam glebarum vel turbarum erosum habetat."

(1) The house of Conyers, or Coigners, is one of hoar antiquity and high repute both in Yorkshire and the adjacent palatinate of Durham. The name, according to Camden's "Remaines," signifies Quince, and is placed amongst those families who had names from trees near their habitations. Alas for this ancient race! "From John, the son of Galfrid," writes Surtees, "descended in a long lineal procession gallant knights and esquires, who held Sockburn (in Durham), till the reign of Charles I., whilst the younger branches of this stately cedar shadowed both Durham and Yorkshire. All are now fallen; and not a foot of land is held by Conyers in either county." The last Sir John Conyers, Bart., died a pauper. The lands of Sockburn were held under the Bishop, Count Palatine of Durham, by the service of presenting each new prelate on his entering the diocese with the falchion, "wherewith the champion Conyers slew the worm, dragon, or fiery flying serpent, which destroyed man, woman, and child; in memory of which, the king then reigning gave him the manor of Sockburn." This achievement is said to have been before the Conquest," nevertheless, the name of Conyers is of Norman origin.

(2) His Grace's Deputy Ranger is F. Cholmeley, jun., Esq.

perfect the conquest of the country. Wensleydale then formed part of the powerful kingdom of the Brigantes, or dwellers on the water or hill country, whose capital was Isurium Brigantium, the present Aldborough, near Boroughbridge; in all probability the chief city in Britain. The Romans had a long and severe struggle with the aborigines before their sway was universally acknowledged, and the Brigantes were the last to yield: their final subjugation was effected by Cnous Julius Agricola, in the reign of Vespasian; the proprætor, Petilius Cerealis, receiving their submission A.D., 70.

Up to this era the religious creed of the Druids, a sanguinary superstition, imperfectly known to us, prevailed in Wensleydale. Often must the dale's thick woods have witnessed most barbarous rites-often must their echoes have repeated the agonising shrieks of human victims, consumed in slow flames as sacrifices to those demon gods who their priests taught could not be propitiated, unless for the life of a sick man, the life of a man was offered up. The Druids seem to have possessed some knowledge of the sciences; the art of writing was likewise familiar to them; but dark and gloomy indeed was their faith-dark as the oak forests in which its solemnities were held-gloomy as the strange belief that they derived their origin from Dis, or Pluto, which led them to compute their time by nights rather than by days.

Few traces of Druidism remain in Wensleydale, although it prevailed during so many centuries. One vestige may be found in the Beltane bonfire; till recently kindled near some of the villages on Midsummer Eve. In this fire, bones or dead animals are burned, whilst the spectators dance round or leap over it, and enforce contributions from all passengers, thus proving it to have been, originally, a sacrifice to the false god Bel, Belus, or Baal, who was once as much worshipped on the banks of the Yore, as by the streams of Babylon or Nineveh. Neither was wholly unknown, though adored by another name

[ocr errors]

-Moloch, horrid king, besmear'd with blood

Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears,

Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud

Their children's cries unheard, that pass'd through fire
To his grim idol-


-with these in troop

Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians call'd
Astarte, queen of heav'n, with crescent horns;
To whose bright image nightly by the moon
Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs."


To this day Penhill, the chief hill, retains its early British name, which as Pen is a word generally describing round land, like a head, means the round hill.

When Britain at last yielded to the rule of the Cæsars, Roman arts and customs superseded the British. The young nobility assumed the Roman costume, and finally, almost surpassed their conquerors in luxury: this country, in fact, became essentially Italianized. During the Roman occupation, a period of full four hundred years(1), Wensleydale was included in the province of Maxima Cæsariensis, the capital of which was Ebor or York, a favourite residence of the Emperors, when in this island. Other cities adorned the province, and in them temples, palaces, and baths, vied in magnificence with those of Italy. Wensleydale was not forgotten.

About the close of the second century, where Bainbridge now stands, the station or town of Bracchium, previously composed of turf huts, was built of stone, under the care of Lucius Aunous Senecio, by the 6th cohort of the Nervii, Lucius Vipsius commanding the Legion. This cohort was quartered according to the Notitia Imperii, at Elenborough, whither it had probably removed from this place. The Nervii Dictenses, supposed to be a


(1) The great length of this period, equal to that between the reigns of Henry VI. and Victoria, is almost universally over-looked, together with the fact, that during the greater part of it, Britain was as highly civilized as any part of the world. A good History of England from B. c. 55, to a. D. 447, is much wanted.

« PreviousContinue »