Review of the tour

Having finished my little tour, and counted my neat expenses – twenty-six pounds seven shillings – I am perfectly satisfied with what I have done, and would recommend any young farmer who can afford it to make the same or like tour, so as they may be acquainted with the geography of the country, the population, the manners and customs of the people, and the stage of agriculture, both as to improvements of land, and breeding, feeding of sheep and cattle; as to labouring, they are very far behind what we are in the south and eastern districts in Scotland; their mode of ploughing, harrowing, &c, is slow and expensive; their hedge fences are pitiful, and encumbrances in the way of improving, in the West of England especially. They have the easiest access to manure and exportation of their commodities by canals that can be; that of housing their whole crop at harvest is certainly a bad plan; it gives the fodder a bad musty smell, and must encourage such vermin as rats, mice, &c It also requires a very great expense of building large barns for the purpose; in general, the farms in tillage are but small; 200 acres, English, is reputed a large farm. Every part of the farm steading is kept clean and neat; they have a great dependence upon the dairy for the rent-butter, cheese, and milk – these they manage to a very great purpose. You never see a woman milk a cow; this is all done by the men, and for cleanliness, both as to houses, meat, drink, and clothing, they very far exceed the Scotch in general. In their manner they are frank and open, and ready to give their answer without hesitating or designing.


Ignorance amongst the lower class is much against them; food and clothing seem to be their great concern. They give their children very little education, and by being put to work in some of their manufactories so soon as they can earn twopence a day, they seldom have the opportunity of learning afterwards; they seldom lay up any part of their gains for trouble or old age. Saturday evenings and Sunday’s eating and drinking settle the account for the week’s work. One reason for their being so improvident may be the poor rates being very great ill England, and the allowances for their maintenance so liberal that they are the less careful to lay by anything for a future day. Swearing is a thing they are much addicted to. It is shocking to hear them, of all ages, from young boys and girls up to old age. They have no sense of religion, and any they have is a mere form; indeed, the Established Church Government has too much of this in it. After all, I believe they are freer from hypocrisy by far than our most refined professors and Dissenters of any kind. In general they are civil, and when they get your money for anything, you get more civility and thanks for one shilling than here for one pound.


As to the nobility and gentry, they are far more generous and easy of access than our Scots lairds (whose character has long been poor and proud). In England they are beloved and revered from their liberality and affability. Here in general they are revered from a fear of their arbitrary power, and the manner in which they treat the lower class of people. In England there is scarcely a fine house that may not be seen by any decent- looking person, and everything you wish to see will be pointed out to you. Here you can hardly look over the fence without being threatened; the smallest offence is punished. To hear with what filial affection they speak of their great men when they tell you of their condescending, behaviour and good actions, you cannot help feeling as they do. Here when you see the haughty manner in which even petty gentlemen speak to those below them, you cannot help thinking meanly of them. In road bills, game laws, and whatever they have any power in, they rule with rigour, and none may even risk their opinion in public of their right or wrong; and any petition to be presented must be with the profoundest humility. From what I saw and the many things I heard of the English great, they deserve praise and merit, regard which our Scots lairds have no claim to. We have by far too many gentlemen of the law, justices of the peace, &c., who are not the most conciliatory of men; and .others, Nabobs who from mean extract have made their fortunes abroad, and, now great men at home, and being accustomed to rule over negroes or Indians abroad, retain that domineering spirit which can never take in a land of liberty like ours.


As to the expense of travelling in England, it is little or nothing higher than in Scotland. As to myself, I could travel and live comfortably to go thirty-six or forty miles a day as under; 


On the above a man and horse may travel and hold out very well. I have not received much improvement by seeing anything great to imitate; but I have got information and knowledge of my country which I never could have got otherwise, and may profit by the observations I made upon what I saw, draining especially. The remarks I have made are more for my own amusement than otherwise. They will keep the geography of the country, the nature of the soil, the principal towns, places, and curiosities alive in my memory; and if ever any of mine should go that way, they will see what changes are made. It can but be poor entertainment to any person else.

Kelso: 4th May

Kelso BGS

Tuesday, from Wooler to Kelso, 24 miles. For six miles quite a plain, and a good view of Till Water for 15 miles. It overflows at times many hundreds of acres. They have been at a great expense in banking, and have secured themselves pretty well; it is only stagnant water by a flood, and does not carry off any soil, but improves it. From that till within four miles of Kelso High Lands, a great deal is taken in from Wark Commons and well improved. When nigh to Kelso, husbandry then shines every field; regular straight ridges, good fences, the land clean, and every department carried on to the purpose. All the way up the Tweed to Ancrum Bridge the tenants vie with each other. They, to be sure, have a tractable soil to work upon, and a very moderate quantity of lime or marI can work the land; still the farmers deserve credit, and are not outdone in any country or corner I ever yet saw. Were Mr Frost at Windsor to see farming here, he would repeat his hourly prayer, O Lord. Perhaps it may be said I am partial to my own country, but that I deny; any traveller who makes the same tour will agree with me.

Morpeth, Alnwick and Wooler: 2nd-3rd May

Alnwick Farmer's Folly DB

Alnwick – Farmer’s Folly

Sunday afternoon, from Morpeth to Alnwick, 20 miles. Still the soil is clay for a long way; when at Alnwick it is turnip soil. Nothing worth remarking this ride. For fifty miles back asses seem to be a great part of their stock. You cannot travel a mile any way but you meet with asses, either feeding on the road-side, or employed some way or other. They give the country a mean-like appearance. Alnwick is a small place, very irregularly laid out. The castle has been lately repaired. After twenty years work upon it on the outside, there is nothing very grand; but within it is very richly furnished and very fine paintings. The Duke of Northumberland stays here some months at a time. In conversing with some of the inhabitants, I found them rank democrats.

May 3rd.- Monday, from Alnwick to Wooler Haughhead, 16 miles. For six miles, very wild moor rocks, after that a pretty plain road. .Some hill and dale; good farming; some very renowned graziers on this stage. Nigh to Wooler Haugh-head, large farms and very fine stock are seen, and the very best breeds of sheep. This is a very good inn, but a very damp situation.

To Wooler, 1½ miles. Quite a level and good turnip soil. Wooler stands upon a bank head, a little off the water, a poor looking place, and of very bad access.

Newcastle: 1st May

Saturday.- From Sunderland to Newcastle, 12 miles; quite flat all the way; a very fine country. The soil-a yellow gravel, most of it – none of the richest, but well cultivated and well inclosed. Gateshead, south end of Newcastle bridge, was formerly very steep, banky road. They have altered the road by casting down houses, and have made a new street in a different direction, and now pretty easy. Newcastle bridge widening just now, an addition built to every pier, it will be 10 feet wider. Newcastle is much improved of late years in point of trade, and comfortable to its size, and is nowhere exceeded in Britain. The streets in some places are steep. The butcher market, which is a very large one, stand all in the street, which is a very great nuisance.

Newcastle Exchange SH3

Newcastle Exchange


From Newcastle to Morpeth, 15 miles. This stage is mostly a clay soil, but very well farmed. A great deal of wheat sown; the fences very much like ours in Scotland. Near to Morpeth the soil turns out very rich. Morpeth is a very large town; it is mostly one street, but very often some back lanes. Here they have a continual weekly market for fat cattle and sheep, as also for lean stock at certain seasons. Butchers from Newcastle, Shields, Sunderland, Durham, and many less places, provide themselves here. There is more fat stock here than at both Dalkeith and Edinburgh.

Morpeth bridge & chapel GM

Morpeth Bridge

Darlington: 30th April

Friday, from Great Smeaton to Rushby House Inn, 15 miles. For many miles the soil is pretty good, but as you come on the climate is worse, more bleak, and the soil worse, and the country has not the same warm appearance. Coming on, passed through Darlington, a very neat and large town; a fine market place. Here they have two banks, a good deal of woollen manufacture, principally worsted. A few miles from this is a famous breeder of cattle. He has a bull just now, for which he has been offered £1000. He serves at £10, 10s each cow. The very best shorthorned cattle are bred here, called the Teeswater breed.


From Rushby House Inn to Durham, 9 miles. This stage mostly a strong wheat soil; some of it a white clay. A great many steep “putts” in the road; in many places this stage the roads are shamefully narrow, and seem shamefully encroached upon by enclosing. There are certainly five gentlemen in the place to look after them.

Durham from the river PE

Durham is a large town, but a very low situation, and of bad access in every direction. A river divides the town. I think it is one of the worst laid out towns I have seen in all my ride-bad streets, irregular buildings, and nothing to recommend it. Saw the Cathedral, which is a very fine one; it is next to York Minster of any I ever saw. Some very fine masonwork, as well as paintings. It is in length 90 yards, in breadth I cannot say how much. Here they have a fine organ, supposed to be first-rate This being the Race Day, every house was full, and the town all in confusion. Cocking till four, then the race. The ground can be the best seen of any race ground I ever saw. I stayed until I saw one heat well contested for; after that I came to Sunderland. They were a wicked-like people, swearing and betting.


From Durham to Sunderland, 13 miles. This is a pleasant situation, a large place, and well built. Vast numbers of coal ships belong to this place. A great part of this a very bad road. About half-way, at a village called Hetton, there is an academy, where 140 gentlemen’s sons are taught almost in every branch of education. This stage is pretty high ground, and we have a view of the sea a great part of the way. The cast metal bridge is a very wonderful thing, and well worth any person’s while to ride 40 or 50 miles for no other purpose than to see. The appearance of it is very pleasing. At the distance of a few hundred feet you are apt to think it very slight work, but when you come close to it you have a very different appearance. There are six centres in form as under each of these, but has three rings somewhat like a lint-wheel, and balusters supporting the one ring from the other. There are thin cross bars that join the centres both above and below, and over the top cross bars the whole breadth of the roadway of the bridge. The haunches are all raised to the level by circles of cast iron in form of large cylinders. It is so regular and open work that a thousand hoys may play among the balusters without being in danger of falling. Height of the bridge, 100 feet; width, 236 feet. I cannot say the breadth of the road on the top, but there are foot walks railed off for foot people to be safe from cattle or carriages.

Easingwold: [29th April]

Thursday morning, from York to. Easingwold, 13 miles. This is a long, straggling town. In the middle of the town I saw about 25 crows’ nests. The people are very fond of them, and no person is allowed to molest them. The soil in general is not very rich, but well farmed. The fences are all of thorn. They labour here very much after our own fashion; sow vast quantities of wheat; very little turnip soil on this stage. Highland cattle now to be seen in small numbers, as also black-faced sheep, Scotch breed. The roads may all be called loanings. Large flocks of geese are feeding all them – many thousands – and boys and girls attending them. Children behave civilly; they speak to no stranger as they pass, and if they do, it is in the most prudent manner. Both sheep and cows pasture on these lanes, and have no other ground whatever.


From Easingwold to Thombeck Street, 18 miles. In this stage came past Thirsk, three miles back. The soil this stage is rather poor; a great many farms seem to be taken off common. It is a pretty clean place, about the size of Jedburgh or Hawick township lands. Here roads are narrow, and fencing all kept rather of the bramble kind. On the right hand, about four miles, we see a high ridge of heath extending from north to south 16 miles in a kind of line, all improved about half- way up the hill. When at the summit it is a plain moor, upwards of 10,000 acres, all common. Here they have houses and stables for some hundreds of horses. They come from most counties in England for training galloping horses. It is allowed there is no piece of ground in England equally suitable for the purpose. A great many drovers live near this place, and a reputable set of butchers, who drive livestock to York market, besides what they kill. I saw 17 butchers’ stalls. Thombeck Street is a small town, newly built; will not do much, being only three miles from Thirsk.


From Thombeck Street to Northallerton, 7 miles. This is a large, well-built town, well laid out. It may be in size twice as large as Kelso. The streets are very wide. Here they have a great many cattle markets. This is a fine country; they have some very good inns; they farm much on our own plan; they sow a great portion of their grounds yearly with grass seeds, the same as we do.

From Northallerton to Great Smeaton, 7 miles. Here the people speak more in our own lingo and tone, more than any place I have been. There are two very good inns here, though no stage town. They all observe the same cleanliness and civility everywhere.

Ferry Bridge: 28th April

Wednesday morning, from Doncaster to Ferry Bridge, 10 miles. For the first part of the stage, the soil is very cold, and lies high; a good deal of common ground lying waste. For the first time, I saw a good many of the Cheviot breed of sheep, both ewes and hoggs, that had been sold last back-end, but had been poorly maintained. Here, for wonder, I see them laying lime on the ground. Ferry Bridge is a fine low standing place on the side of a river, but I have lost its name. Here a great many small crafts come from the east, sometimes on the river and sometimes on the canal. I breakfasted with the passengers of two different stages. We made a strange medley; some had tea, some coffee; some cold meats, ham and eggs, some toast and butter; others plain bread, some biscuits. Before we had finished the horn sounded to mount. There was strange work, many deficient bills, from 1s 2d to 1s 8d. One young man fell into a convulsive fit; nobody knew him, and he was left to the care of the housekeeper, and every one went his own way. This house carries on brewing, farming, and post house to a great extent. They have a separate house on each side of the gate, two waiters, two chamber- maids, and a number of different people in the stable yard. This is 175 miles from London. There is a very fine bridge being built over the river, fine mossy ground on the banks; the finest freestone quarries here I ever saw, as also lime-stone ones.


From Ferry Bridge to Tadcaster, 12 miles. A small town with little appearance of trade. The soil this stage is very middling, but well farmed. They have most of their cattle still in straw yards something strange all the way. They give their cows and other cattle hay, laid down on the very best pastures, at this date; yet they eat it very clean up. This must be owing to the fineness of the hay. It is all made from rich, old lands, and very well won. Horses like it well, and feed greedily.


York Minster OE

York Minster

From Tadcaster to York, 9 miles. This is a large city, and has been strongly walled: has strong arched gates. A river divides the city. A good many small ships deliver their burdens here from every quarter. They have a castle or citadel, and a great number of very fine buildings about it in the form of a large square. Here debtors are confined, but seem quite comfortable, and have room to carry on their different employments. In the castle they hold their courts of justice. It is all divided into elegant apartments, fitted up for judges, juries, witnesses, counsel, and other people concerned. In the castle there are a good many antique things deposited. It has been enlarged and improved of late years. York Minster is one of the largest cathedrals in Britain; its length within walls is 400 feet, its width 170 feet, its height in proportion. The workmanship is of the best kind. The paintings on the roof, and painted figures all the glass are wonderful – Moses, Aaron, Abraham, all the prophets and evangelists in full size, and done life-like. The organ is one of the finest I ever saw or heard. Went in to hear evening prayers, as they style the service. The whole company consisted of the man who read the prayers and a chapter of the Bible, eight singing boys, seven other people, and myself. The music was very good, still, it had the appearance of some prelude to a play rather than divine service. There is very little business (I mean manufacturing) carried on here agreeable to the population. A great many country gentlemen spend the winter months here with their families. The streets are very confined and ill-paved. A great many elegant shops, but seemingly doing but little business. They have weekly markets for store sheep for eight months of the year, and for fat sheep and cattle all the year round. A great many dealers or drovers live all round. The population after all is not equal to Manchester, nor near to it.

Retford: 27th April

Retford Bread Stone DBTuesday morning, from Carleton to Retford, 12 miles. All this stage the ground is very level and well farmed, still they are at no great distance from the Trent, but stand upon another river well situated. They generally have leases, but at the same time precarious, either depending upon the life of the proprietor or the tenant. Retford is a very neat, clean place, about the size of Hawick, but more open built. Not far from it there are two intermediate inns, where any person may wait and have what he pleases, when the horse feeds on 4d for corn, ad for beans, and 3d for hay. Stay as short as you please, you can have a 4d glass of wine and 1d biscuit, which is very refreshing. For this you have as much civility as in most places in Scotland were you to drink or spend 10s. Their hostlers clean your horse, wash out the fore feet, rub and “redd tail and mane;” for this he expects 2d or 3d; no person can begrudge him. After staying an hour you feel quite refreshed. This is the general practice, the hostlers curse and swear all the time they are rubbing a horse, and always the “blood” ; it is really shocking to hear them, they certainly look upon it as part of their business.


From Retford to Bossington Bridge, 12 miles; 157 miles from London. For some distance the soil is pretty good, after that much of it has been taken off commons, and only partially improved, a kind of shrub willow heath and furze, running by the way, which leads to Bawtry, a pretty village. A little further on is the Red Lion tavern, near Robin Hood’s well. From thence to Doncaster, 5 miles. Here they carry on a great many small factories, chiefly in the woollen way. A great branch of a canal comes very nigh to the town, about 1½  miles on the side of the way. They have the finest race ground I ever saw, and well preserved all the year round. The streets are paved with a very hard, flinty kind of stone, uneasy for a horse to travel upon, or even pedestrians.

Whitham Common: 26th April

Monday, from Stamford to Whitham Common, 12 miles. This is a very elegant inn, 100 miles from London. A large farm belongs to the inn; a great part of the ground evidently appears to have been taken and enclosed at no great distance of time. Here they sow a great deal of sainfoin, which they very much approve of; they have also a good many turnips; they speculate a good deal on farming, and have altered the face of the country of late by appearance. All the hay in the country is made from old ground, very little new sown down anywhere I have seen compared to our own country. They have a very mixed, bad breed of cattle a kind of mixture of every breed and sort. They here work two horses abreast, and more like Scotch farming. The roads are rather what may be called loanings, as there are generally 30 feet of grass, without the fences on each side; the road is abused by the feet of droved cattle, and fences but very middling.


From Whitham Common to Grantham, 10 miles. In this stage the country is more hill and dale than on this side of London. After riding a few miles across a little river which runs to the east, for three miles on either side the ground has a very small rise, and is all laid out in small farms, well farmed as any I have yet seen; the soil is agreeable, and can be turned to any purpose. Upon inquiry, I found they had leases here for twenty years; the very face of the country shows what men will do when they have any certainty of enjoying the fruits of their industry. In many places I have passed, I found they had no leases, but let at the mercy of the proprietor. In general, however, they are not changeable nor severe landlords; at some times when there is a change of lairds, there are often changes of masters. On going on the road, we passed through a long, neat, well-built village, where there is a very high steeple and spire; it is what they call a township; they have a large tract of arable land, one quarter they lease in baulks, on many of the ridges lies a crop, the declivity one above another, like terraces they certainly are, still they like their own method, and feed their cows and horses on these large baulks.


From Grantham to Newark-upon-Trent, 14 miles. This is a pretty large town, well built – all brick walls. The river runs by the back of the town, to the foot of their stable yards or gardens. A great many small craft pass here up the river, by way of the canal, as far as Burton in Staffordshire; they come up as far as this from the eastern ocean with wood, iron, and other Baltic articles; few more agreeable situations anywhere than Newark. I suppose it to be twice as large as Kelso, a very fine bridge over the Trent; here the large ships discharge below; the small lighters go up the river; several very large inns here. From the sea at Hull to Burton will be 130 miles; sometimes the canal by locks leaves the river for a mile on either side, and in floody times is quite overflowed, but this is not often; it is a rich, marshy land, feeds amazingly, and great crops of hay taken off it. A few miles back we came over a hill, the situation very like Lilliardsedge; we see to the north a large tract of low ground, all subject to flooding, but it does little hurt, being only stagnant water; this country in dry seasons feeds large stocks of sheep, but in wet seasons they all rot and die. They have the land at 10s an acre average, besides tithes, &c, but from its situation being low and level, very little improvement can be made upon it.


From Newark to Carleton Inn, 7 miles. All this way, after crossing the river, there is as level a road as I ever saw, always at about a mile distant from the river. This tract seems in the possession of different proprietors, all of whom farm well, and seem to vie with each other. The ground is well laid out in regular enclosures, very fine hedges, and a good many stripes of plantings which are thriving well. Here the New England fir flourishes, which is a good account of both soil and climate. I measured the average shoots of the Scots firs at this date, 3 inches, which, I suppose, is far before us at home. Here are two very large inns, my landlord a very intelligent farmer. They are very particular in the breed of their sheep. I never saw better ones. I saw about twelve waggons drawn by four horses each, all loaded with sticks for hop poles, going to the east. They were then to be shipped for the Kent plantations. They grow on the marshes up the river, and bring a high price. This is a great article for the farmers who have long leases, planting and cutting. They are of every kind of wood, cut over and over, and grow as a kind of underwood.

Stilton: 25th April

Sunday, left Bugden for Stilton, 14 miles. For the first five miles large fields of drilled beans, peas, and wheat, all drilled across old ridges; the soil a black loam, and fit for any crop, if well prepared. They farm better here than most places I have seen. As we came near to Stilton less fields, and very irregular; here they fold their sheep in the night upon new ploughed fallow, very rough, which may help the land, but is ruinous for the sheep. Wherever I saw this practised, the sheep are poor looking creatures. In this place they may be styled real corn farmers. A great deal of their best old pasture ground in this and many other places I have come past, even on the west road also-the ground is very much hurt by the ants-they raise up the ground in hillocks, about the size of half a cartload of earth. In summer this hill is brown, and the very substance quite eaten up; when you scratch it with a stick it is all in motion, and must be much against the pasture or hay crop when they cut it, but whenever the weather turns wet and cold in autumn, the ants all disappear, and the hillocks turn out to be the very best pasture for sheep in winter, and the low places betwixt the hillocks are the most fertile in spring, from the shelter. Some are for destroying them by tillage, others say they are a benefit; no person will believe the appearance they make who never saw them; in some fine hill pasture one-fourth part of the surface is hillock; they hurt new shorn sheep, hut nothing else.


Stamford from Burghley Park OC

From Stilton to Stamford, 14 miles. For some miles here the country is all level, and very well farmed, and fences decently kept; the soil of a mixed kind, very unequal. When we come on further, the ground rises; and from one eminence you have a view of all the country In the north, east; and west .for three miles, in some points much more. Further on there is a common of 600 or 700 acres, would be a most desirable farm if broke up and improved, being overgrown with whin, some thorn bushes and ferns; at present it is left to the community. Still the ignorant people would not wish it divided. A few very indifferent sheep, belonging to a great many different people, can pay no real rent; they say the clergy would reap all the profit if it were improved. On coming near Stamford, the situation is very beautiful; it is a large town, seven different parish churches, with very high spires on each. On the south side of the town a little is Hatfield House, commonly called Burleigh Park. This house was built by Queen Elizabeth; it is somewhat singular in its appearance; there is perhaps 30 or 40 kinds of turrets, with small spires on each, which gives it a Gothic appearance, but taking the house outside and inside, the architecture, size, painting, &c, it is thought by many to be the fourth best house in England; the paintings are the very finest . The house may be seen any lawful week-day; it takes four hours at the least to see everything, and costs three or four shillings. The park in which it stands is very noble – deer, ponds, cascades, large trees, and fine gravel walks; it is a most enchanting place; every person may walk in the park. Being Sunday, I went over in the afternoon with my landlord, and walked about the house; hundreds of townspeople were there walking, and although the family were there in the house, no fault was found. We could not get in, it being Sunday. This house and place now belongs to the Earl of Exeter, who is very popular in the place.

Burghley Park lodge OC