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From London to Land's End Ebook

From London to Land's End
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From London to Land's End

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Title: From London to Land's End
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Sir,

I find so much left to speak of, and so many things to say in every part of England, that my journey cannot be barren of intelligence which way soever I turn; no, though I were to oblige myself to say nothing of anything that had been spoken of before.

I intended once to have gone due west this journey; but then I should have been obliged to crowd my observations so close (to bring Hampton Court, Windsor, Blenheim, Oxford, the Bath and Bristol all into one letter; all those remarkable places lying in a line, as it were, in one point of the compass) as to have made my letter too long, or my observations too light and superficial, as others have done before me.

This letter will divide the weighty task, and consequently make it sit lighter on the memory, be pleasanter to the reader, and make my progress the more regular: I shall therefore take in Hampton Court and Windsor in this journey; the first at my setting out, and the last at my return, and the rest as their situation demands.

As I came down from Kingston, in my last circuit, by the south bank of the Thames, on the Surrey side of the river; so I go up to Hampton Court now on the north bank, and on the Middlesex side, which I mention, because, as the sides of the country bordering on the river lie parallel, so the beauty of the country, the pleasant situations, the glory of innumerable fine buildings (noblemen's and gentlemen's houses, and citizens' retreats), are so equal a match to what I had described on the other side that one knows not which to give the preference to: but as I must speak of them again, when I come to write of the county of Middlesex, which I have now purposely omitted; so I pass them over here, except the palace of Hampton only, which I mentioned in "Middlesex," for the reasons above.

Hampton Court lies on the north bank of the River Thames, about two small miles from Kingston, and on the road from Staines to Kingston Bridge; so that the road straightening the parks a little, they were obliged to part the parks, and leave the Paddock and the great park part on the other side the road--a testimony of that just regard that the kings of England always had, and still have, to the common good, and to the service of the country, that they would not interrupt the course of the road, or cause the poor people to go out of the way of their business to or from the markets and fairs, for any pleasure of their own whatsoever.

The palace of Hampton Court was first founded and built from the ground by that great statesman and favourite of King Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey; and if it be a just observation anywhere, as is made from the situation of the old abbeys and monasteries, the clergy were excellent judges of the beauty and pleasantness of the country, and chose always to plant in the best; I say, if it was a just observation in any case, it was in this; for if there be a situation on the whole river between Staines Bridge and Windsor Bridge pleasanter than another, it is this of Hampton; close to the river, yet not offended by the rising of its waters in floods or storms; near to the reflux of the tides, but not quite so near as to be affected with any foulness of the water which the flowing of the tides generally is the occasion of. The gardens extend almost to the bank of the river, yet are never overflowed; nor are there any marshes on either side the river to make the waters stagnate, or the air unwholesome on that account.
The river is high enough to be navigable, and low enough to be a little pleasantly rapid; so that the stream looks always cheerful, not slow and sleeping, like a pond. This keeps the waters always clear and clean, the bottom in view, the fish playing and in sight; and, in a word, it has everything that can make an inland (or, as I may call it, a country) river pleasant and agreeable.

I shall sing you no songs here of the river in the first person of a water-nymph, a goddess, and I know not what, according to the humour of the ancient poets; I shall talk nothing of the marriage of old Isis, the male river, with the beautiful Thame, the female river (a whimsey as simple as the subject was empty); but I shall speak of the river as occasion presents, as it really is made glorious by the splendour of its shores, gilded with noble palaces, strong fortifications, large hospitals, and public buildings; with the greatest bridge, and the greatest city in the world, made famous by the opulence of its merchants, the increase and extensiveness of its commerce; by its invincible navies, and by the innumerable fleets of ships sailing upon it to and from all parts of the world.

As I meet with the river upwards in my travels through the inland country I shall speak of it, as it is the channel for conveying an infinite quantity of provisions from remote counties to London, and enriching all the counties again that lie near it by the return of wealth and trade from the city; and in describing these things I expect both to inform and divert my readers, and speak in a more masculine manner, more to the dignity of the subject, and also more to their satisfaction, than I could do any other way.

There is little more to be said of the Thames relating to Hampton Court, than that it adds by its neighbourhood to the pleasure of the situation; for as to passing by water to and from London, though in summer it is exceeding pleasant, yet the passage is a little too long to make it easy to the ladies, especially to be crowded up in the small boats which usually go upon the Thames for pleasure.

The prince and princess, indeed, I remember came once down by water upon the occasion of her Royal Highness's being great with child, and near her time--so near that she was delivered within two or three days after. But this passage being in the royal barges, with strength of oars, and the day exceeding fine, the passage, I say, was made very pleasant, and still the more so for being short. Again, this passage is all the way with the stream, whereas in the common passage upwards great part of the way is against the stream, which is slow and heavy.

But be the going and coming how it will by water, it is an exceeding pleasant passage by land, whether we go by the Surrey side or the Middlesex side of the water, of which I shall say more in its place.

The situation of Hampton Court being thus mentioned, and its founder, it is to be mentioned next that it fell to the Crown in the forfeiture of his Eminence the Cardinal, when the king seized his effects and estate, by which this and Whitehall (another house of his own building also) came to King Henry VIII. Two palaces fit for the kings of England, erected by one cardinal, are standing monuments of the excessive pride as well as the immense wealth of that prelate, who knew no bounds of his insolence and ambition till he was overthrown at once by the displeasure of his master.

Whoever knew Hampton Court before it was begun to be rebuilt, or altered, by the late King William, must acknowledge it was a very complete palace before, and fit for a king; and though it might not, according to the modern method of building or of gardening, pass for a thing exquisitely fine, yet it had this remaining to itself, and perhaps peculiar--namely, that it showed a situation exceedingly capable of improvement, and of being made one of the most delightful palaces in Europe.

This her Majesty Queen Mary was so sensible of, that, while the king had ordered the pulling down the old apartments, and building it up in that most beautiful form which we see them now appear in, her Majesty, impatient of enjoying so agreeable a retreat, fixed upon a building formerly made use of chiefly for landing from the river, and therefore called the Water Galley, and here, as if she had been conscious that she had but a few years to enjoy it, she ordered all the little neat curious things to be done which suited her own conveniences, and made it the pleasantest little thing within doors that could possibly be made, though its situation being such as it could not be allowed to stand after the great building was finished, we now see no remains of it.

From London to Land's End

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