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The Counties of England by  Charlotte Mason
Table of Contents

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YORKSHIRE

I

[44] YORKSHIRE is the largest county in England. Indeed it is like a separate country, with its own mountains and its own rivers rising in them and flowing into the German Ocean, which washes the whole of its eastern side. The great western moors with their mountain peaks shut it in on the west; the Tees divides it from Durham; the Humber, from Lincoln. The whole of the west of the county is filled with the wide moors of the Pennine Range; the Vale of York occupies the centre; east of the vale lies another rounded swelling moorland, the North York Moors and a chalk ridge, the Yorkshire Wolds, runs north from the Humber: between the Wolds and the North York Moors is the Vale of Pickering. Holderness, low and level, lies between the Wolds and the sea.

Yorkshire is divided into three Ridings, or thirdings  as the word probably means. In the North and East Ridings, corn is grown and cattle are reared; but the West Riding, the beautiful mountain country, is one of the busiest manufacturing districts in England.

II. THE DALES AND THE WESTERN MOORS

THE Yorkshire moors are so high that they are really wide mountains, upon which a man may stand and gaze round, and see nothing but moors between him [45] and the far horizon; bleak, desolate moors, with crags, and huge boulders, and deep clefts in the limestone rock, upon which little will grow but ling and the hardy bilberry; and where there are wide morasses in which the mountain streams gather their waters. Here and there, the moors rise into mountain summits; of these, Mickle Fell, Ingleborough, and Whernside, all over 2300 feet, are the highest. Like other limestone mountains, these have deep caverns in their recesses; there is a cave in Ingleborough more than half-a-mile deep. Whernside, too, has wide and lofty chambers. Hanging from the roofs of these caves, and growing up from their floors, are numberless strange forms, made by the constant dropping of water which contains atoms of lime. There is a precious substance in this limestone country; a wide bed of coal stretches, below the surface, from Leeds to Nottingham, a great natural coal-cellar on the spot to feed the fires whose smoke issues from the tall factory chimneys rising on all sides.

The dales of the West Riding are its great beauty. The rivers issue from the moors between mountain spurs which stretch eastward, each river between its own two spurs. The dales in which these rivers run are full of wild beauty, soft and green, bright, and musical with running water, and flanked by rugged mountain walls with overhanging crags and trees.

Beginning at the north, there is Swaledale, with the pleasant town of Richmond, among hills and woods, upon the river Swale, and near it is Easby Abbey, one of the numerous ruined monasteries of Yorkshire. There is hardly a river valley in the West Riding but has the ruins of at least one abbey.

[46] Wensleydale, the valley of the Ure, the river which joins with the Swale to form the Yorkshire Ouse, contains the beautiful ruins of two abbeys, Jervaux and Fountains. The old city of Ripon, with its cathedral, also stands in the Ure Valley.

The Nidd, the Wharfe, the Aire with the Calder, and the Don, each flows through its own bonny dale to join the Ouse. Harrogate, a fashionable place where people go to drink the mineral waters, is in Niddsdale; near Harrogate is Knaresborough, a town almost as beautifully placed as Richmond, among cliffs and woods and hills.

The beautiful Wharfedale is the next in order, with Otley and Ilkley, and Ben Rhydding, a large establishment where people take baths and drink mineral waters. Higher up, where the river is a narrow torrent flowing through a rocky gorge, are the ruins of Bolton Abbey. Half-a-mile from the abbey the ledges of rock on either side of the river come so close that it is easy to stride across:—

"This striding place is called The Strid,

A name which it took of yore:

A thousand years hath it borne that name,

And shall a thousand more.


"And hither is young Romilly come,

And what may now forbid

That he, perhaps for the hundredth time,

Shall bound across the Strid?


"He sprang in glee, for what cared he

That the river was strong, and the rocks were steep?

But the greyhound in his leash hung back,

And checked him in his leap.


[47]

"The boy is in the arms of Wharfe,

And strangled by a merciless force;

For never more was young Romilly seen,

Till he rose a lifeless corse.


"Now there is stillness in the vale,

And long, unspeaking sorrow:

Wharfe shall be to pitying hearts

A name more sad than Yarrow."

Wordsworth.

The boy's mother, the Lady Alice, gave the riches which should have been her son's to build and endow the fair abbey of Bolton.

Airedale, too, has its ruined abbey; Kirkstall, with ivied walls and carpet of grass, stands in the midst of chimneys, near enough to Leeds to be within a holiday walk for the factory "hands."

III. THE CLOTHING TOWNS

AIREDALE, with the valley of the Calder, beautiful as any in Yorkshire, is the centre of the great woollen manufacture. The hills feed the streams, and the streams supply the water employed in preparing the wool and in finishing the cloth. Underlying the whole district is a great coal-field, which supplies fuel to work the many thousand engines employed in this manufacture; right and left are two great ports, Liverpool and Hull, which send away the woollen goods and bring in the raw wool; and there are canals and railways to carry the goods between all the clothing towns and these ports.

Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield, [48] Dewsbury, and Keighley, are the clothing towns on the banks of the Aire and the Calder.

The forest of tall chimneys which rises above Leeds shows it to be a busy manufacturing town; more than a hundred chimneys mark as many mills where fully 10,000 "hands" are employed. Tall as the chimneys are, the town is smoky enough; and at noon, when the mill-people pour out to their dinners, there is much bustle and noise. The factories are near the Aire, which flows through the town.

All these mills are employed in making broadcloth, for which the wool, besides being spun and woven, is felted  or fulled, to produce the cloth surface; that is, the cloth is beaten, or else passed between heavy rollers, until the fibres of the wool become so locked into each other as to hide the warp and weft threads.

Huddersfield and Halifax are also great clothing or cloth-making towns; there are many woollen factories in both—open quadrangles, or squares of ground surrounded by buildings. The sorting, preparing, spinning, weaving, dressing, and finishing, are each done in a distinct part of the building.

Bradford, which stands where three valleys meet, is in the very heart of the district which makes worsted goods—that is, all woollen goods which are not fulled  after being woven. All round it are busy towns and villages occupied by the makers of cloth or stuff. Merinos, alpacas, coburgs, cords—all kinds of stuff—are made in Bradford, which is also the great wool market of England.

Dewsbury makes blankets, and also shoddy, that is woollen rags torn up, fibre from fibre, and made into new cloth; a little new wool is mixed in, and the whole is woven into very coarse fabrics.

[49] There is a large flax mill on the Aire, at Holbeck, near Leeds, where more than 2000 persons are employed. Barnsley also is a linen-making place.

IV. KNIVES AND FORKS

SHEFFIELD, which stands in a hollow surrounded by hills between which five small rivers flow to unite in the hollow, has been called "the metropolis of steel." Nearly all the steel goods made in England bear the Sheffield mark; indeed, there is hardly a country in the world where you may not find knives with "Sheffield" on the blade. Not only table-knives and forks, but pen-knives, lancets, razors, scythes, saws, scissors, shears, spades, and shovels—every kind of steel implement, is made in Sheffield, and in the villages round it; generally in large manufactories, but many a cottage has its own forge, where some particular kind of knife or edge-tool is made.

Much coal is used in the preparation of steel, and Sheffield stands upon the Yorkshire coal-field. Water, too, is needful in some of the processes, and Sheffield has plenty; and for these reasons Sheffield has become the centre of the steel manufacture; but the iron out of which the steel is made is all brought from abroad. There is a mine in Sweden which furnishes better iron for this purpose than any other in the world; and many shiploads of it are brought every year to Hull, and carried thence to Sheffield.

[50] To change iron into steel, a certain quantity of carbon must be got into the iron: (burn a stick until it is soft and black, and you will see charcoal, one of the most common forms which carbon assumes). To effect this, a huge oven, or pit, is filled with, first, a layer of charcoal, then a layer of iron bars, then a layer of charcoal, and so on, until the layers are about thirty deep. Then the surface is covered with a kind of clay, and a fire of Sheffield coal is kindled underneath and kept up fiercely for many days. The iron is in a red-hot, or, perhaps, a white-hot state; the charcoal also is highly heated, and the iron seems gradually to absorb a portion of charcoal into the very heart of every bar. When the bars are removed from the furnace they are in a blistered state; then they are known as blister steel, and are not yet fit for use. To make common steel, the metal is heated again and hammered with an enormous hammer to make it tough.

When we see "shear steel"  on our table-knives, we must not suppose they have been cut with a pair of shears. This kind of steel is so named because it was found suitable for making shears. It is made by heating several bars red-hot, and hammering them one upon another until they are all welded together into a very close, tough mass.

The most beautiful kind of steel is cast steel, to make which, a fiercer heat tban is used for any other purpose whatever must be employed; and the furnaces and melting-pots must be made so as to endure this great heat.

At last, the steel is ready for the forge. All the Sheffield forges are much alike. They have a forge fire, and a block of stone, with steel anvils and hammers and some other implements. The piece of steel is [51] heated, placed on the anvil, and hammered into whatever shape the workman wishes to produce, knife-blade or scissors. The blade is heated red-hot, and plunged into cold water to harden it, and then it is heated gradually, to make it elastic, or temper it; after which it is carried to the grinding wheels, and ground all over on a large revolving stone. There are generally many wheels together in a large mill, worked by a steam engine. In one room of the mill men grind table-knives, in another scissors, or forks, or razors, or saws; the man who makes the goods hiring the room from the millowner.

The grinding of forks is a most unhealthy trade. They are ground upon a stone formed of sharp, white grit; the grinder sits on a stool and bends over the stone to hold the fork against it. If the stone were wetted, as in most other cases, the grinder would not be injured ; but as it is kept quite dry, quantities of spark are given off, and the face and head of the grinder are always in a cloud of small particles of steel and gritstone, some of which he draws into his lungs with every breath.

Plated goods, that is, forks and spoons, jugs and teapots, made of some cheaper metal coated over with silver, are largely made in Sheffield. There are both steel and iron works at Kotherham, which is a prettily placed town near Sheffield.

The Wharncliffe Woods are near the town of Sheffield; these woods are a bit of the old Sherwood Forest which at one time stretched for 100 miles, between Nottingham and the sea.

V. THE VALE OF YORK

[52] THE rivers on the map of Yorkshire do not look unlike the pattern made by the veins of a leaf. The Ouse itself is the mid rib; the Nidd, Wharfe, Aire, and Don, on which the pleasant town of Doncaster stands, all bring water to it from the western moors. The Der-went collects, by many little streams, the waters of the eastern moorlands. When Mother Ouse has thus gathered all the waste waters of the county, she flows out into the wide estuary of the Humber, there to mingle with Trent river. We say the waste water, because that is exactly what fills the rivers. Living things use what they need of the water that comes from the clouds, and much of the rest flows off by the river channels away to the open sea.

The land which is drained by a river in this way is called its basin. The basin takes in every bit of land from which water flows to join the river. If you draw a line round the Ouse so as to take in the sources of the Swale and Ure—which unite to form the Ouse—and the beginnings of all its tributaries, and of all the little streams which join them, you will have the edge of your leaf, and will see exactly what is the basin of the Ouse.

Water, as you know, finds for itself the lowest place it can reach, and rivers always flow in valleys; sometimes in a narrow, rocky valley, called a glen; sometimes in the lowest part of a great valley, hundreds of miles wide. The Vale of York, through which the Ouse flows, is between forty and fifty miles wide, and is the largest vale in England. It is shut in between the Pennine Moors and the eastern moors and wolds.

[53] A pleasant vale it is, well covered with cornfields and flowery meadows, and having comfortable farmhouses and pretty villages dotted over it, for Yorkshire is a fertile county.

Jn the very heart of this wide vale rises the most beautiful building, perhaps, in our land of England—the glorious York Minster.

It would take many pages to tell of its stone carvings and wood carvings and beautiful painted windows, through which purple and golden light streams in upon the pillars that hold up the great arched roof far overhead—long lines of pillars, which seem to draw together in the distance like trees in forest glades. The Minster stands in the old city of York, which still has some narrow streets and ancient buildings, and some remains of its old walls and towers, to tell us of its changeful history. If some old citizen of York could have gone on with his quiet life in a by-street until he was even older than Methusaleh, what strange histories would he have to tell! Let us fancy we are listening to some of them, paying great heed to the feeble voice of one so very aged.

TALES OF OLD YORK

VI. THE ROMAN CITY

I CAN scarce call to mind the early days before the Eomans came. Our people had a town here, but their towns were poor things—just wicker huts, with a bank of earth round to keep off other tribes, for we were [54] always at war with one another. You see the Wolds yonder, to the east,—there is to this day many a mound upon them which marks the graves of our people, warriors slain in the wars.

Then the Romans came. What a people they were! They could do anything they set their minds on. We Britons held out for a long time, but who could stand up against men made of iron? They conquered us, and, for three hundred years, York was the great Roman city in Britain. The city has never seen the like of those days. Why, we have had the Caesars living here, the great emperors of the world! There was Hadrian; and the old man, Severus, who, when he was too sick to ride, was carried up north in a litter before his army, to bring the wild Picts to order, and who only got back to York to die. Then there was the emperor who took one of our own people, the Lady Helena, to be his wife. That was a grand day for Britain. To say truth, we were getting used to the Romans by this time: they were a hard people, but they were fair in a way; and some of us were proud to have anything to do with the masters of the world.

What a splendid place they made of our city, with their palaces and theatres within, and their grand villas outside the walls! Parts of the very walls you see round the city now were built by them. And their baths! Why, there's no building in England now as big and grand as those Roman baths were, with their beautiful pavements and couches, and hot and cold water, and slaves to wait on you—all that heart could wish for ease and pleasure; and all kept up by the emperor, too—nothing to pay.

They were a pleasure more to my mind, somehow, than the circuses. The Romans would turn men into [55] these to fight the wild beasts of the forest, and all the town would go to see the sport; little children, even,. and fair ladies in their beautiful dresses; and they didn't care, not they, if the beast killed the man or the-man killed the beast. They were a hard people!

But this was before they had learned the faith of Christ—when there were heathen temples at every corner. The Lady Helena was a Christian; and in the days of her son, Constantine, who was first called Caesar at York, there were Christian churches in the city, and we even had a bishop. There are many stories* as to who first brought the good faith to Britain. Perhaps it was some soldier who had seen St. Paul when he was a prisoner in Bome. But the Romans had to leave Britain to fight a foe in their own land. You may still see traces of them in the city walls, and in the Icknield Street, which went up to Tynemouth. Some of their statues and altars, gold ornaments, and other things have been dug up from time to time; but there is little now left to show that York was once a great Roman city.

VII. THE SAXONS

MY old head turns when I think of the times that came after the Romans had left the land. We had got used to quiet ways—building, and growing corn, and following useful crafts; but we were not much of soldiers, for the Romans did the fighting for us.

Then the Saxons came from over the sea. I think I see them now, with their long fair hair and blue eyes, [56] and the terrible knives which slew and slew until there seemed scarce any left to slay. They wanted none of us; they wanted the land for themselves; and they got it, driving most of us Britains into Wales, or some other out-of-the-way corner.

Were they pleased, you say, with all the beautiful houses and other buildings, palaces, and even churches left by the Romans? Not they, fierce pagans that they were. All they did with these great works was to burn and destroy them.

But they learnt better in time. A king named Edwin arose in Northumbria, who tried to bring back something of the grandeur of the old Roman days. I have seen him many a time riding about the country, with a great banner, purple and gold, the imperial colours, carried before him.

He took the daughter of the Kentish king, Ethelred, for his wife. She was a Christian lady, and brought Paulinus, one of the Roman missionaries who had settled in Kent, to her northern home. He had black hair and a dark skin, like many of the old Romans, but he stooped like a man used to books, and did not carry himself as did the straight soldiers of the old days.

Edwin listened to the teaching of Paulinus and his wife; a little wooden church was raised in York; and, one Easter morning, the king was baptized. His wise men met to consider whether they would give up Odin and Thor, and take Christ for their God. After much talk, they decided to become Christians; they were baptized, and thousands of the people followed their example.

Edwin was slain in fight with the pagan Penda, king of Middle England; so was Oswald, the king that followed him—the same that went up and down the [57] country on foot with the Bishop, Aidan, teaching the people about Christ.

But I cannot remember all the Saxon princes and their wars; I am an old man, very old. The last great fight when a Saxon king was in the battle I mind well enough. That was at Stamford Brig, close by York city. The king was Harold, the last of the Saxon kings, and a fine brave prince he was. He was only king for a few weeks, though. William the Norman came over sea to take his crown away; and, at the same time, his own brother, Tostig, a worthless nithing, as men used to call him, who was angered with him, brought Hardraada, the king of Norway, with many ships and men, to fight against Harold. They marched against our city and took it, and we might have fared badly; but Harold the king heard the news, brought an army up from the south, drove the invaders out of the city, and fought them in a great battle by Stamford Brig.

From seven in the forenoon till three, afternoon, did the battle rage, and the great army of Hardraada and Tostig was destroyed.

The good Harold liked not to fight his brother, and, before the battle, promised him lands and riches if he would send his men away. "What for my friend?" said Tostig. "Eight feet of English ground, or, as he is a tall man, ten feet," said Harold, meaning that a grave was all he could give Hardraada. So the fight went on, and Harold conquered; but, poor king, no sooner was it over than he learned that William the Norman had landed; and three weeks after Haruld lay dead on the field of Hastings.

VIII. HARD TIMES AGAIN

[58] SURE no land ever had so hard a master as William the Norman was to us. The north-country folk were brave, and would not give in to be conquered after the Hastings fight. The King of the Danes brought over an army to help, and all the men north of Humber rose; they marched upon York, took it, and slew the Normans who were guarding the walls. William, full of wrath, marched north with a great army; he vowed we should never forget his anger. Aire waters rose in flood to keep him out, but he brought his men into York, and from Humber to Tees, from sea to sea, did the fierce king and his army go. They tore up the crops, they slew the cattle, they killed man, woman, and child, and set fire to every town and village they came to. The whole north country was a desert; for sixty miles north of York they scarce left a roof to cover a man's head. A hard winter followed; the snow lay knee-deep on the ground, and any who had found a hole to hide them in from the Norman fell before the hunger and cold of that winter. May York city never more see such a terrible time!

After this, the king and his knights fell to building castles to keep the country folk from rising again. You may see many of these old Norman keeps at this day up and down the country. After all, when the conquest was made, there were only a few of these Normans in the land—the knights who lived in the castles and their men; the Saxons were never driven out, so you English people are mostly Saxons to this. [59] Hard as they were to their foes, and that was the way of men in those days, these Normans wished to serve God, and for the next two hundred years or more they were busy building grand cathedrals. Their own homes were plain enough; they cared only to have them strong, so their castles were built with stone walls six or eight feet thick; and light and air got in only by narrow chinks through which archers might shoot. But no such churches have ever been built in England as in the centuries after the Normans first settled here; you may see what they could do by our own grand Minster.

They borrowed a good deal of the money for these fine buildings from the Jews, who were the only rich people then.

IX. THE ROSES.

See the account of St. Albans, Herts, for an explanation of "The Roses."

DON'T think we had nothing but wars and troubles and hard times in York city. The parliaments, which always meet now in the fine new Parliament Houses at Westminster, used very often to be held at York. Those were times of gay doings in the old city, feastings and tourneys. But I scarce remember any time more joyful than when King Edward III. married his fair Queen Philippa here. It was from York, too, that she marched with the Lords Neville and Percy to fight the battle of Neville's Cross. Speaking of Philippa reminds me of another queen [60] whom York city has cause to remember; Margaret, queen of Henry VI., she that had the head of the Duke of York stuck on the city gates, with a paper crown to mock him for his pains, for he had thought to wear the crown* of England. The king was a prisoner, but Margaret was free, and, with the help of the barons of the north, she raised an army and met the Duke of York at Wakefield, where was fought one of the twelve bloody battles of the Roses. The queen conquered, but small was the glory, for she had four times as many men as the duke. He fell in the fight, and cruel Lord Clifford came upon the body and struck off the head; he set on it a crown of paper, and so fixed it on a pole and presented it to his queen, at which present was much joy; but many laughed then that soon lamented after. The queen had the head fixed upon the city gates.

Three months after, this same Clifford was slain upon Towton field near Tadcaster, struck in the throat by a headless arrow.

A terrible battle was that of Towton, such as had not been fought on English ground since tbe fight of Hastings. It began at break of day, and for six hours did the fight go on, and neither side would give in, the snow falling thick all the time, and laying a white cover over the slain.

The Earl of Warwick, the mighty baron, the kingmaker, he that could raise armies at his call from his own earldoms, wore the white rose of York and led the army. At last, they of Lancaster slowly gave way, and soon every man fled for his life. All through the night they fled, hotly chased by the men of the Yorkist army, who slew all they came upon. In the morning was a woful reckoning of dead bodies; nigh forty thousand [61] slain—forty thousand! and among them our bravest and noblest. Aye, it was a dark day for the land, the day of Towton fight! And. a dark and evil war for England was this war of the Roses, which left scarce a brave baron or a prince in the land, and laid our bold archers by thousands upon many a battle-field. Margaret and Henry waited here, in York, while the battle raged, and when the news reached them, they fled north to Scotland.

I cannot remember to tell you of all that happened betwixt this quarrel of the Roses and the next great Civil War, when King Charles I. and his people fought, army to army, up and down the land. Close by here, on Marston Moor, was one of those fights. Prince Rupert, the king's wild kinsman, after breaking the siege of Lathom House, burst over the moors and into York; and as evening came on, he drew up his men to face Cromwell's Ironsides on Marston Moor. What men the Ironsides were! England has had no such soldiers since the Eoman days. The fight was fierce, but at nightfall all was over, and Rupert rode away with hardly a man at his back.

I can tell no more; if ye would know more about York city, ye must . . . . .

X. THE SEA-BOARD

THE coast of York makes a curve from Tees mouth, where is the busy, iron-working town of Middles-borough, to Flamborough Head, north of which it is bold and rocky.

[62] The ruins of Whitby Abbey, where,

"In the convent cell,

A Saxon princess once did dwell,

The lovely Ethelfled,"

stands on a high cliff, 250 feet above the sea, overlooking the narrow streets of this old sea-port town. Jet brooches and earrings are made here, jet being found about Whitby.

Scarborough, farther south, is a fashionable bathing place. It stands within a bay, its piers sweeping round the harbour; and the town creeps, step by step, street by street, up a high and steep cliff, on the top of which are the ruins of a castle. It is an old town; Tostig and Hardraada landed here before the battle of Stamford Brig, and nearly destroyed Scarborough.

There is scarcely a promontory in England that stands more boldly out to sea than Flamborough Head. The name means "headland of the flames," for the Danes kept a beacon fire alight there to guide their ships upon the sea. The brilliantly white chalk cliffs which form it are part of a range nearly six miles in length. South of this Head, the shores are tame, consisting of low cliffs of clay or chalk, flat marshy lands, and sands and sandhills. This is the coast of Holderness, which is bordered a few miles inland by the Wolds; these are hills with a smooth bold front, from which a glorious view may be had.

From Spurn Point to Bridlington Bay, a distance of about thirty miles, the ocean is gradually gaining on the land, and half-a-dozen towns and villages have been submerged. At Hornsea, a road has disappeared bodily; Kilnsea has lost its old church; while of Ravenspur, [63] once a large sea-port town, which stood by Spurn Point, with churches, streets, and houses many, the very name has disappeared from the map. It is not that the sea comes in with a sudden burst and sweeps off village or town all at once; it works away steadily by day and by night. Bit by bit the land is carried off with whatever stands upon it—church or village street; the very rate at which it gains upon the land is calculated—two yards in a year in some places, six or seven in others. Spurn Point is a low, barren ridge of sand and shingle.

The sea does not carry its spoil far; the tide rushes up the Humber, bearing with it the waste from the cliffs of Holderness; when the tidal wave goes out again, it leaves the mud and stones behind. So they remain, mud-banks and shoals in the bed of the Humber, too heavy for the river to sweep out; wherefore, only pilots who know it well can navigate this estuary.

Hull, or Kingston-upon-Hull, is named after the river it stands on. It is an old town and a great seaport at the mouth of the Humber. Hull trades with the whole world, chiefly with Holland, the Baltic, Sweden, and Norway. It exports the cottons of Manchester, the woollens and linens of Yorkshire, the lace and net of Nottingham. It imports large quantities of foreign wool, flax, iron, timber, tallow, grain, and other things. This port has three large docks.


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