Things to See Round London
This chapter deals with places of interest around London worth visiting. As many of Mr. Harper's chapters on the great roads deal to some extent with the environs of the Metropolis, detailed references to places already described and illustrated in those chapters have been omitted, but in order to help readers to recall historic sites and scenes we give in the present chapter the page numbers relating to these.Pages: <1> 2 3
I. - the north-west
A car, a fine day, a few hours to spare, and "a man," as David Copperfield's friend would say, "might spend" a most delightful time round London and never go farther afield than, roughly, thirty miles. To help him on his explorations of the north-western area about the metropolis, he has four main exits - the Great North Road, numbered 1 on the maps, Watling Street, numbered 5, Road 404 through Harrow, and Route 40 through Uxbridge. These are the main arteries, but the pressure of curiosity will carry him into many of the smaller veins or side-roads.
Setting out by the Great North Road, he will pass through Barnet, and at Potter's Bar, if he turns westward along Route 650, he can visit South Mimms, where there is one of the oldest and most interesting churches in England. At Shenley, farther westward, is an old beehive-shaped Round House for prisoners, the inscriptions on which take the form of copybook maxims, "Do well and fear not," and "Be sober, be vigilant." Near here, too, is Porters, which once belonged to the great sailor Lord Howe, of the glorious First of June fame.
Slipping back on to the Great North Road by Route 555, which takes him through Colney Heath, the tourist reaches Hatfield, the home of the Cecils. Some six miles farther on there is Welwyn - not the new garden city, but the old village where the Rev. Edward Young, of "Night Thoughts," was rector for thirty-odd years, and planted an avenue of limes, which can still be seen.
Turning off the main road at Knebworth Station, he can leave his car and ramble through Knebworth Park, where Edward Bulwer, first Baron Lytton, once dwelt. Knebworth Church is interesting for the Lytton Chapel, with its curious effigies and its magnificent Elizabethan pulpit.
The excursion should be continued across Road 600 to Kimpton Hoo, the seat of that Mr. Brand who undoubtedly earned his title of Viscount Hampden by occupying the position of Mr. Speaker in the days when Parnell was showing the House of Commons what could be done with obstruction. Turning north again by Route 651 through the pretty village of St. Paul's Walden, he can pass a mile south of Hitchin and so gain the Great North Road once more at Stevenage. As he turns homewards he can pause to inspect the Six Hills, which the experts declare to be prehistoric tumuli.
Leaving London by Watling Street - from Dover to Wroxeter in Shropshire the Roman engineers drove this way - there is Elstree, notorious for the Weare murder, more written about by famous authors than any other crime in the calendar. Once upon a time people made the pilgrimage to Elstree solely to gaze at the scene where Thurtell cut Weare's throat from ear to ear and then battered out his brains. The actual crime took place in Gill's Hill Lane, now a respectable suburban retreat. St. Albans, some miles farther on, is now one of the centres of the printing trade, which is particularly interesting, as it was in the gatehouse of the old abbey (now incorporated in the grammar school) that the first colour printing press was set up in England, It is a dozen miles or so to Dunstable, where the car first touches the Chiltern Hills. It was here, in the twelfth century church, that Cranmer pronounced that decree of divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon which led to the separation of the English Church from Rome.
In the centre of Dunstable the Icknield Way, the oldest route in England, cuts Watling Street at right angles. By turning to the left, Route 489, the explorer on his return can visit some of the most beautiful country near London. After running parallel to Dunstable Downs for some four miles, he will again turn to the left along Route 486, and almost at once find himself in the heart of the beech woods. Lost here in the glades are the charming villages of Dagnall and Little Gaddesdon Here, too, is Ashridge Park, where the new Zoo is being constructed. He can either pursue the road to Hemel Hempstead, or, better still, spend an hour in running across Berkhampstead common, where a monument commemorates the twelve thousand officers who were trained in the neighbourhood by the Inns of Court for the Great War, and in visiting the loveliness of Aldbury, where a vast, lonely pillar recalls the virtues of that Duke of Bridgewater who was the father of our inland waterways.
An expedition from Harrow by Route 404 can be made a literary pilgrimage. After leaving Pinner and Northwood behind - they are now in the grip of Greater London and have lost much of their rural fragrance - he can turn down Route 455, skirt Ruislip common, and double back to Harefield. It was here that that Countess of Derby lived who had the unique honour of being praised by two great poets - in her youth by Spenser; in her old age by Milton. The original Harefield Place, where she once entertained Queen Elizabeth, was burned down in the days of her grandson by Sir Charles Sedley, who would read in bed with a lighted candle. In 1634, three years before she died, John Milton, then a young Cambridge graduate living at Horton, ten miles away, wrote "Arcades" in her honour. The whole spirit of this neighbourhood, from the valley of the Thames and the Come to the heights of the Chilterns, finds its echo in the poet's works "L'Allegro" and "II Penseroso."
If the visitor wishes to exhaust in one day the Mil-tonic associations, he can double back via Chesham into Route 413 and reach the Chalfonts. At St. Giles is Milton's Cottage. All the neighbourhood abounds with memories of the Cromwellian Period. Jordans is sacred to the Quakers. In Beaconsfield, one of the prettiest small towns in England, Edmund Burke lies buried, as well as Edmund Waller, the poet.
The "Gregories," or "Butler's Court," was the name of the property that Burke bought here and showed to Dr. Johnson on. a celebrated occasion. Turning back through Chalfont St. Peter, the pilgrim can return through Rickmansworth again to London.
Route 40 carries one out of London through Uxbridge, founded by Alfred the Great. The "bridge" in its name is due to the fact that five little rivers meet here - the Colne, the Chess, the Verlam, the Misbourne and the Gade. The Old Treaty House and Crown Inn was the scene of the abortive attempt made in 1645 by Commissioners from both sides to conclude peace between Charles I and Parliament. A rather desolate stretch of country, and we are at Gerrard's Cross. Here, turning to the left down Route 332, the explorer can visit all the delightful country about Burnham Beeches and Farnham Royal.
Farnham Royal, Stoke Park, now a golf course, can be seen. It was once the home of that Lord Chief Justice famous for " Coke upon Littleton " and his treatment of Sir Walter Raleigh. Farther on there is Stoke Poges church, for ever associated with the poet Gray and his "Elegy." Leaving the Gray country, the explorer can either return to London or complete his investigations of the north-west area by extending his tour back to Beaconsfield and on to High Wycombc (Route 40). Here he is in the Disraeli country, and he can make a pilgrimage to Hughen-den. Wycombe, the seat of the chairmaking industry is a very picturesque old town. There is the Red Lion, the scene of many political combats. Disraeli, making a gesture, once seized the tail of the emblem and twisted it off. Passing through Hughenden on the way to Great Missenden, the motorist can lose his way in a delightful network of lanes on the summit of the plateau, but if he has an eye for beauty he will not mind, and if he turns left at Presswood he will reach Great Hampden, sacred to the memory of the great John Hampden, whose descendants, in the persons of the Earls of Buckinghamshire, still live at Hampden House.
A road through a gate will take him down into the Missenden-Risborough Road, which will land him in sight of Chequers, the old Elizabethan house presented by Lord Lee of Farnham for the use of the Prime Ministers of England. Four of them in the course of the last eight years have already lived there. Turning up a lane to the right, he can visit Little Hampden common, the scene of a recent feud, and one of the most beautiful spots in the country. It is satisfactory to know that the quarrel which led to the enclosure of the common and the subsequent violent destruction of the offending fence is likely to be settled by the purchase of the property by the National Trust. Besides the Rising Sun - there is no inn in England with a more appropriate title - Little Hampden boasts one of the smallest churches in the country. The nave, which dates from the twelfth century, contains some remarkable thirteenth century paintings, and the north porch, with its magnificent medieval timber frame, was justly regarded by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments as unique of its kind.
Feeling his way across Little Hampden common, or going back to the road past Chequers, the motorist can make Wendover as the outpost of his trip. Stevenson once described it as a "straggling, purposeless place." This is hardly true of the old portion of the village, with its mellowed, red-brick houses, some of them as old as the fourteenth century. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the village was the property of the banker, Smith, whom Pitt, the Younger, made Lord Carrington for helping him financially in the war with the French.
Close to Wendover is Halton, once the seat of Mr. Alfred de Rothschild. It was turned into a training camp for the 21st Division during the war, and is now the scene of one of the most remarkable post-war experiments. Here hundreds of aircraft apprentices receive their technical training before being drafted into the regular Air Force. The scene of this unique experiment lies under the shelter of the wooded heights of Haddington Hill. Halton House is now the officers' mess.
Returning to London by Route 413, the pretty village of Great Missenden is passed. From here the motorist, by taking a road to the right, can run through the charming hamlets of Little Kingshill and Holmer's Green to Penn, which stands 600 ft. above the sea. The interesting church here was erected in the fourteenth century, but the Penns buried under its roof are not the famous Quaker family. Leaving Penn, the tourist can end his trip through the north-west area by passing once more through Beaconsfield and Uxbridge by Route 40 to London.
II. - the north-east
John Gilpin once made a famous excursion into the north-east area about London. Cowper's poetic licence, which, unlike other licences, is never endorsed, enabled him to say that "Like an arrow, swift he flew, shot by an archer strong," but keeping well within this excessive speed, the explorer, with a car and a few hours to spare, may follow the same track, being pretty certain to cover the distance in half the time that the gallant train-band captain took on his swift horse.
Route 10 will take him to Edmonton, where Mrs. Gilpin waited dinner in vain for her husband, but there is no Wash there now for the wheels of his car to throw about. He will, indeed, only make the deviation from Route 10 in passing through Edmonton in order to reach Waltham Abbey. One of the many beautiful Eleanor crosses erected throughout the country is to be seen here.
At the cross itself the explorer is back on Route 10, and less than a mile will take him to Cheshunt. In Doomsday Book the name of the place is given as Cestrehunt, from which fact it has been deduced that it was once a Roman station. James I had his favourite residence here in Theobalds Park, and the amiable Richard Cromwell's public career, which began with the pomp of a coronation at Westminster Abbey two years before, ended in Cheshunt, to which he quietly retired.
I suspect that Gilpin's horse must have possessed a Derby winner strain, for the distance from Ware to London is twenty miles, and after only a short breather, alarmed by the braying of a donkey, he galloped all the way back. The internal combustion engine, however, impervious to alarms, will carry the motorist even more speedily to the town where the hospitable Calendar lived. The road, which is the highway to Cambridge, follows so far the course of the river Lea. A writer of a hundred years ago declared that Ware "consists of one long street and several smaller ones" - and perhaps the description cannot be bettered. At the Saracen's Head was once the "Great Bed of Ware." The bed itself has now been removed to the Rye House, two miles distant, the scene of the famous plot to assassinate Charles II and his brother James. For the mischief hatched here some of the noblest blood in England was shed.
Before he returns homewards the explorer should visit Hertford. Only part of the castle, which was besieged and taken by the French invaders in the reign of King John, is retained in the building that now stands on the old site. Hailey-bury School is about three miles from Hertford, which the pilgrim can leave by Route 602. It will take him back through Hoddesdon to the main thoroughfare on which both he and the famous John Gilpin set out from London.
Another day let him take Route n, through Epping Forest, one of the Londoners' playgrounds, rescued from de-afforestation by an Act of 1871 and publicly opened by Queen Victoria. It is interesting to note that the forest was continually being reduced in size from the days of King John, and but for that Act of 1871 would have vanished altogether.
Passing through the town of Epping and Potter Street he will find himself in Harlow, about a mile to the south of the river Stort. The church here, which was much damaged by fire in 1711, is interesting. At Harlowbury is a large, ancient chapel, used a hundred years ago as a barn, which has many notable architectural features.
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