Woodstock and Marlborough Palace: 15th April

Thursday morning, to Woodstock, 10 miles; for 6 miles it is a high-lying country hill and dale, as was a great part of last stage, but very fine land, most of it a fine turnip soil, and very well farmed at this date. Saw 200 sheep clipped in the neatest manner that can be conceived; the sides of the sheep done off in four different directions, the marks of the scissors are like hurdles or palings. Lambs in general 5 and 6 Ibs. and compass. The side of the sheep had the resemblance of a bed quilt patchwork. They certainly excel the Scotch very much in this operation. Woodstock is a neat, clean place; a tavern twice as large as that at Kelso, and some very spacious inns. The town joins close to the side of the park of that name. The park is enclosed with a wall twelve feet high and thirteen miles round. A gate or entrance to the house is at the end of the principal street. Upon opening the gate you have at once a full view of Blenheim House and policy. The water pond, which consists of 30 acres of water, surface all artificial, and the banks dressed off in the neatest manner and to the best advantage. Boats moored here and there on the lake give it the appearance of a salt-water harbour. The house of itself is certainly the most princely thing in Britain; the carving on stone, the painting, and the representation of all the trophies of war taken by his Grace the Great Duke of Marlborough, the fine taste displayed by the architect in planning as well as executing the work. The garden, the wood in the park, and the regular plan in which it has been laid out and planted; the monument erected in memory of his Grace, 120 feet high, about a mile from and fronting the house; with many other things beyond the limits of my paper, makes it the most magnificent and stately of all I have ever seen. The expense of the whole was done by Government during Queen Anne’s reign; and the sum must have been immense. A book to be had at the house, price 1s, describes the whole; and persons decently dressed may have admittance to see everything out and in for paying about 4s to the servants in the different departments.

OXFORD

From Woodstock to Oxford, 8 miles. Large tracts of common ground this stage; fine soil; the nature of the soil very variable; some very good, other parts very poor. Beans and barley seem to be the staple grains mostly sown from Carlisle to this part all the way. I am fully convinced that all the oats they raise will not serve the horses, and the inhabitants must depend on importation or the other grain. There is very little oatmeal used anywhere here, or by any class of men. Oxford is a large town, and from the extent and number of ancient buildings, it has certainly been the second, if not the first town in England. To describe it properly is beyond both my abilities and limits. I spent a good many hours and shillings to see as much as my time would permit. I bought a late publication which describes the whole very justly, from which I have taken the following notes, whereby every reader may have some idea of the place. There are twenty different colleges, all large buildings and under different rules. In some the collegians are lodged as well as educated. There are five public halls, and fifteen large churches. The situation is low, but pleasant. The number of collegians here must be great. I could not learn how many. I think it a wonderful place. The carving on some of the buildings is very grand, and some of the statues very well done. Farming here better than most places I have been at. Fences pretty well kept.

BENSON AND HENLEY

From Oxford to Benson, 12 miles. A great many turnpikes raised this stage. Very good farming here. They were still feeding sheep on hurdles, giving them a little hay with their turnips, and in some places a few potatoes. They are also eating wheat with sheep, and confining them on corners by hurdles and palings. Lambs in general 5 and 6 lbs the leg, Dutch weight. Benson stands upon Thames forty miles west of London. Small craft come up all the way. In point of situation nothing can be more pleasant; before entering the town, for one mile the road is an avenue with trees on each side, 150 feet broad. The town street is wide; three capital inns, besides small ones. It seems about twice as large as Hawick. From Henley to Nettle Bed, 6 miles. The house a small cottage. On crossing the river at Henley Bridge we ascend a pretty steep hill for several hundred yards; when at the summit and looking down upon Henley, the prospect is beautiful; from thence you see up the river for forty miles, and down all the way to London. The banks all green fields. From this you see a part of a great many counties. The land all manured, with chalk quarries in it 50 or 60 feet deep, and in some places the road cut through little hills of it. When rainy the road is as slippery as if on soap; and what is worse, the road surface has exactly the appearance of what is thrown out of soap works.

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