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The Oxford and Milford Haven Road

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The distance between London, as measured from the Marble Arch, and Milford Haven is 256½ miles. The exit from London by this road is, without a doubt, the finest of any in the Metropolis. The way goes along the Bayswater Road to Netting Hill, and thence by Holland Park to Shepherd's Bush and Acton. Past Acton to Ealing, Hanwell and Southall, the road comes to Hillingdon heath and Hillingdon village, where it descends to Uxbridge. An entry in the registers of Hillingdon church is more eloquent of the olden condition of the road than any mere description could be It reads: "1702 Nov. 13. Will. Harrison, Postman, murdered near the great Bridge between Hillingdon and Uxbridge. Nov. 28. Edward Symonds, Drover, murdered at the same time and about the same place, and by the same hand." Stafford bridge, which is the one referred to, across the little river Finn, is not great, but it is larger than another, which is very small.

From Uxbridge the road, crossing the Grand Junction Canal and the river Colne, enters Buckinghamshire. The oddly-named Swan and Bottle inn makes a pretty picture, beside the Colne. Past Tatling End we come to Gerrard's Cross common and the freak church built there in 1859, and thence on to Beaconsfield. A short way off to the right is Jordans, the secluded place of the Quakers' meeting, where William Penn and others of the early Quakers lie. Beaconsfield is a stately broad-streeted village, with a very fine church and an ancient parsonage. In the churchyard is the monument to Edward Waller, poet of the Restoration period. The punning shield of arms of the Wallers, including walnut-leaves, is seen on it, and it is overhung by a fine walnut tree. Downhill and past Holt-spur, we come to Wycombe Marsh, and thence into the town of High Wycombe. The town and district are prosperous in the chairmaking way, amidst the Buckinghamshire beech woods. Hughenden is not quite two miles off to the right. In the churchyard lies that great statesman, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, who died in 1881. Hughenden Manor, the statesman's country residence, a mansion of geranium-hued red brick, is above the church.

As the road approaches West Wycombe the great hill overhanging that village is seen, crowned by a hideous eighteenth-century freak church, whose tower bears a huge ball. This was the work of Sir Francis Delaval, of West Wycombe Park. He built also the mausoleum on the hillside for himself and his fellow members of the Hell-fire Club. The village street is a quaint survival of old coaching times, with the Black Boy and George inns. From thence the road ascends by Dashwood Hill to the Chiltern Hills and Stokenchurch. Here a lovely expanse of beech woods extends as far as the descent of Aston Rowant Hill. At the foot of the hill we have come to a level tract of country, past the Lambert Arms, followed by a slight rise into Tetsworth, where the great Swan inn of coaching days is seen, shrunken to the condition of a mere rustic inn. By Wheatley and Forest Hill we rise to the unlovely stone-quarrying village of Headington, and thence descend Headington Hill to St. Clement's and cross Magdalen Bridge into Oxford.

By Queen Street, and past the railway station, the city is left behind. A level road conducts past Botley and on to the crossing of the Thames at E'ynsham, or Swinford, bridge. This is a toll-bridge. The reason for it is that in years gone by no authority could be found willing to replace the ferry by a bridge; and the then Earl of Abingdon in 1779 procured an Act of Parliament authorising him to build a bridge at his own expense and to levy tolls. Through Eynsham to Witney, famed for its blanket making, established here because of the real or supposed bleaching qualities of the water of the river Wind-rush. That river flows down in the valley parallel with the road, on the right as we proceed.

In three miles the grey ruins of Minster Lovel manor-house are seen down there. This was the seat of the Lovels from 1107 to 1487, when the last Lord Lovel disappeared after the Battle of Stoke, near Newark, fighting on the side of the impostor, Lambert Simnel. He was heard of no more. In 1708, when some alterations were in progress at this ancient manor-house, a secret chamber was found in which the skeleton of a man seated at a table was disclosed. It was thought to be that of the missing Lord Lovel, who, it is supposed, had taken refuge here after the defeat of Stoke and was tended by a retainer, the only person who knew his hiding-place. Some sudden fate must have overtaken the servant, and the unfortunate fugitive, securely locked in here, was starved to death.

The next group of cottages on the road is Charter-ville, a Communist settlement founded in 1847 by Feargus O'Connor. It was a failure. - In four miles Burford is seen down on the right hand. This is an entirely unaltered little place, remote from railways, with houses dating from about the sixteenth to the close of the eighteenth centuries. The last years of Burford's activities were in the time of George IV, the ultimate years of Bibury races, held in this neighbourhood. Burford Priory, a Renaissance mansion, which had been long in ruins, has of late years been restored.

Our road goes lonely for nine miles, save for the New Barns inn, to Northleach, a little town once busy in the old English wool and clothing trade, with a magnificent church rebuilt in the fifteenth century by one of the old cloth-merchants and wool-staplers. Ascending Puesdown, and thence descending to Andoversford, a village and railway junction, we are in another five miles at Charlton Kings, the approach to Cheltenham. This ancient market-town took its rise as a health resort from 1718, when its springs first were noticed. A visit of George III and his consort in 1788 set the seal of favour upon Cheltenham. It is now also a town of great educational establishments.

Gloucester is not much more than nine miles from Cheltenham. The road to it is flat. Gloucester is one of the few cities in this country which keep their original Roman plan, but it would be vain here to seek any Roman remains. The great cathedral appears from its exterior to be a work of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and is a magnificent example of the development of the Perpendicular style of Gothic architecture. But the interior is largely a stern and impressive Norman.

Along Westgate Street we proceed to cross the Severn into the village of Over; and thence by Highnam, Birdwood and Huntley to The Lea, Weston-under-Penyard and Ross. In this little town was born, in 1637, John Kyrle, "the Man of Ross," who passed his long life of a comfortable independence as a bachelor in doing good locally, improving the town and composing quarrels. He planted the elm avenue in the churchyard. Kyrle died 1724. His house, looking upon the quaint market house, bears a tablet. Kyrle was an ardent Royalist, and caused to be engraved on the wall of the market house, where he always could look upon it from his windows, a curious device with a heart and the letters F. C. H., meaning " Faithful to Charles in Heart." It is a strange circumstance that through the floor of the church and that of the pew he used to occupy, flourishing elm-suckers long since sprang up and have formed two sapling trees. These were carefully tended, but they now are dead

The river Wye is crossed below Ross, at Wilton Bridge, picturesque with a pillar sundial midway. Thence by Wilton to Goodrich, with its ruined castle, Whitechurch, Ganarew and Dixton, whence we enter Monmouth town. In a niche in front of the Shire Hall is a statue of Henry V, born in Monmouth Castle, 1388. Some few remains of the castle are to be seen on the parade-ground of the barracks. In front of the Shire Hall is also a statue of the Hon. C. S. Rolls, airman. The way out of Monmouth is across the highly romantic Monnow bridge, of red sandstone, with its defensible gateway. This was put last into a posture of defence in 1839, when Chartists proposed to advance from Newport and attack the town. The gatehouse was closed and its walls loopholed for musketry, but no attack was delivered.

Passing Troy House, a seat of the Duke of Beau fort, and Mitchel Troy village, the picturesque ruins of Raglan Castle are seen. The castle stood a siege in 1646, when the loyal old Marquess of Worcester long held it for the king, yielding only for lack of food.

These now become regions of characteristic Welsh place-names. From Rhyd-y-Gravel we pass to Penpergwm, on to Abergavenny, through a country dominated by the Sugarloaf, a peaked mountain 1,954 feet high. Abergavenny is a busy market town Few vestiges of its castle remain. In the old Priory church are monuments of the Lords of Bergavenny, of the Norman de Braose family

By Llanwenarth-citra-Usk we come to Llangrwyney and Crickhowell, past the ruins of Crickhowell Castle, in a meadow on the left. Through the town, and on by Forth Mawr, a gateway of an old mansion of the Herberts, to Glan Usk and Glan Nant, the road rises the long ascent of the Bwlch, which means "the defile" or "the pass." From the hamlet of the same name a swift descent leads to Llansaintffraed Scethrog and Llanhamlach.

Approaching the town ol Brecon, the gloomy peaks of the Brecon Beacons rise away to the left six miles distant. The loftiest of these peaks is Pen-y-fan, 2,910 feet. Brecon, or, as the Welsh style it, "Aberhonddu" is a pleasant, prosperous looking place, with the remains of a castle by the river Usk. At Priory House, close by the grim old Priory church, Charles I was for a time sheltered by Sir Hubert Price, after the disastrous Battle of Naseby, 1645. The celebrated actress, Mrs. Siddons, was born in 1755 at a house in the High Street, now the "Siddons Wine Vaults." Across the Usk bridge we leave for St. David's, or Llanfaes, a suburb of Brecon. This is followed by Llans-pyddid, which means the "Hospital Church," from a hospice founded here by the monks of Malvern for the succour of travellers. The church is here, but that travellers' resting place has disappeared. The vale of Usk, along which the road wends, is a gem of natural beauty all the way through Penpont to Nantygwyreiddyn and Sennybridge. Thence the road rises to Trecastle, a hamlet in the parish of Llywel, whose church stands lonely, one mile along the way. The castle whence the place takes its name stood on a bold hill to the right.

Beyond Llywel church we pass through the lovely vale of Cwm Dwr, and, entering Carmarthenshire, come to the little town of Llandovery, whose ruined castle stands in a meadow on the left, by the river Bran, as the long village-like street of the town begins. Leaving this rustic place, we cross the infant river Towy and proceed by Llan-wrda to Abermarlais and Manordilo, into Llandilo. This is an unpretentious small town, standing where there is a choice of routes to Carmarthen, sixteen miles distant. The left-hand route is the more picturesque. Here the Towy is crossed by a graceful stone bridge of one span, built in 1841. It is well worth the traveller's while, when coming this way, to proceed four miles off to left, past Fair Fach level-crossing, to see the most romantically picturesque castle in either England or Wales. This is the mysterious fortress of Cerrig Cennen, built none know when or by whom and without a history. It is situated in a lonely valley, from which rises suddenly and precipitously a gaunt limestone crag, like a Rock of Gibraltar. On the apex of this crag, approachable from only one side, the others being sheer cliffs, stands the ruined castle.

Resuming the route to Carmarthen, through the vale of Towy, Golden Grove, seat of Earl Cawdor, is passed, and then Llanarthney, Capel Dewi Isaf and Llangunnor. From this last village the long bridge is crossed across the now broad Towy into Carmarthen. The rather grim town is the seat of a great county gaol, which is situated in the ancient castle.

Leaving Carmarthen uphill, by Lammas Street and by Picton Terrace, the road comes to the ugly stone obelisk monument to General Sir Thomas Picton, slain at Waterloo, and buried in S. Paul's Cathedral. He was a native of Carmarthen. On to Johnstown and Sarnau railway station, and by Banc-y-Felin and Llanvihangel Abercowin, we come to St. dear's, a village in two parts: Blue Boar and Lower St. dear's. This district was the centre of the South Wales "Rebeccaite" agitation against the excessive number of toll gates on roads, in 1839 and following years, in which many such were destroyed.

The road, passing Llandowror, rises Brandy Hill (a corruption of "Bron Du," meaning "Black Slope") to Tavernspite. This, again, is a debased form of a Welsh word: "Tafaruspythy," meaning a hospice or spital, a rest for wearied travellers. It is on a lonely, haggard hill-top. The olden hospice is gone, but is represented by an inn, which is situated beside the cottages of a woe begone hamlet.

Follows, then, a descent to Prince's Gate and Cold Blow. The last-named place is inhabited chiefly by workers in the Begelly and Stepaside anthracite collieries. The cottages all are whitewashed in their entirety, from the ground and all over their roofs, to the very chimneys.

An extremely steep descent, with a corresponding rise, leads on to the hilltop town of Narberth. Here, again, are the ruins of a castle. They are very scanty, and look, on their bare, rounded hill-top, not unlike the ragged fragments of an old tooth that is urgently wanting extraction.

At Narberth we have come to that region of Pembrokeshire which long has been known as " Little England beyond Wales." This old description refers to a settlement here in the time of Henry I of a colony of English and French, in lands seized from the Welsh. Between this point and the remaining eighteen miles to the sea at Milford Haven the population still is largely of that mixed ancestry, and the very place-names are generally English, not Welsh.

Descending, then, from Narberth, and coming through Robeston Wathen, we cross the East Cleddau river at Canaston Bridge. Through Slebech village, and down Arnold's Hill, to Deeplake, where one of the many sea-creeks of Milford Haven comes in. Picton Castle, two miles left, stands in its beautiful park. The rise and descent of Sussry Hill to the crossing of the West Cleddau river brings us to Haverfordwest. Boldly stands the great castle, looking down upon the bridge. It was built originally by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, and withstood all Welsh attacks. Even on that day, centuries later, when Owain Glyndwr, in 1403, who had a special technique for taking castles, burnt the town of Haverfordwest, he could not reduce this famous fortress.

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