Dartmouth Castle

It’s time we heard from my favourite Edwardian travel writer again. Charles G. Harper can always be relied on for a droll observation or caustic comment. This post finds him in Dartmouth, Devon.

The little coach that runs daily from Dartmouth to Kingsbridge has a steep climb up out of Dartmouth. Here the pedestrian certainly has the advantage, for, tracing his coastwise way round through the woods of Warfleet creek, where a disused limekiln by the waterside looks very like an ancient defensible tower, he comes at last upon the strangely grouped church of St. Petrox, the Castle, and the abandoned modern battery, all standing in a position of romantic beauty, where the sea dashes in violence upon the dark rocks.

Dartmouth Castle 1

The “garrison” of Dartmouth Castle in these days is generally a sergeant of garrison artillery retired from active service, or in some condition of military suspended animation not readily to be understood by a logically minded civilian. It is a situation worthy of comic opera : in which you perceive the War Office erecting batteries for defending the entrance to the harbour, and then, having completed them, furnishing the works with obsolete muzzle-loaders, capable of impressing no one save the most ignorant of persons. Then, these popguns having been demonstrated useless, even to the least instructed, they are removed at great expense, and their places left empty : it having occurred in the meanwhile to the wiseacres ruling the Army that, in any case, under modern conditions, a hostile fleet would be able to keep well off shore and to throw shells into Dartmouth, without coming in range of any ordnance ever likely to be placed at the castle.

So the sergeant-in-charge, who lives here with his wife and family, and is apparently given free quarters and no pay, on the implied condition that he makes what he can out of tips given by tourists, is not burdened with military responsibilities.

Dartmouth Castle 2

The present incumbent appears to have developed strong antiquarian tastes, is learned in the local military operations of Cromwell’s era, and a successful seeker after old-time cannonballs and other relics of strange, unsettled times.

You cannot choose but explore the interior of the Castle, for as you approach there is, although you may not suspect it, an Eye noting the fact. The Eye is the sergeant’s, and there is that way about old soldiers which admits of no denial when he proposes that he shall show you over. You are shepherded from one little room to another, peer from what the sergeant calls the “embershaws” (by which he means embrasures), and then, offering the expected tribute for seeing very little, depart.
‘The South Devon Coast’, Charles G. Harper. Chapman & Hall Ltd, 1907.

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The way of the Dodo

While the first New Zealand Company settlers were trying to establish a foothold at Port Nicholson (later Wellington), 20-year-old Jerningham Wakefield set off to explore the coastline to the north.

March 14, 1840. — Having engaged eight natives, slaves of a chief of Wanganui, to carry my baggage, and accompanied by another, an inhabitant of Pari Pari [Paraparaumu], a settlement on the main land near Entry Island, I started over the hills immediately beyond the Koro Koro stream. Our way lay over hilly forest land and the path was much obstructed by the karewau or suple-jack. On the way I shot a young huia.

Huia MA_I128441_TePapa_Heteralocha-acutirostris_full-2

A male Huia.
Huia, Heteralocha acutirostris, collected no data, New Zealand. Acquisition history unknown. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (OR.000064)

Huia,_Canterbury_Museum,_2016-01-27-2

A pair of Huia in Canterbury Museum. Male, at left, and female.

This bird is about the size of a small fowl, its plumage is black, with the exception of the tail feathers, which are tipped with white, and are much esteemed by the natives as ornaments for the head. The beak is long, and curved, and a yellow wattle grows from each side of its insertion. The natives imitate the bird’s note, from which it takes its name, and thus attract it until almost within their grasp. These birds are peculiar to this part of the country, and their skins are frequently sent as presents to the natives of the northern parts.

It should come as no surprise that the Huia is now considered extinct, although exactly when the last example flew into the great beyond is a matter of debate.

Mr. Dickens goes to Washington

Charles Dickens visited Washington D.C. in 1842 and found it still under construction.

800px-Charles_Dickens_sketch_1842-2It is sometimes called the City of Magnificent Distances, but it might with greater propriety be termed the City of Magnificent Intentions; for it is only on taking a bird’s-eye view of it from the top of the Capitol that one can at all comprehend the vast designs of its projector, an aspiring Frenchman.

Spacious avenues, that begin in nothing, and lead nowhere; streets, mile-long, that only want houses, roads and inhabitants; public buildings that need but a public to be complete; and ornaments of great thoroughfares which only lack great thoroughfares to ornament – are its leading features.

One might fancy the season over, and most of the houses gone out of town forever with their masters. To the admirers of cities it is a …. pleasant field for the imagination to rove in; a monument raised to a deceased project, with not even a legible inscription to record its departed greatness.

Such as it is, it is likely to remain. It was originally chosen for the seat of Government, as a means of averting the conflicting jealousies and interests of the different States; and very probably, too, as being remote from mobs: a consideration not to be slighted, even in America. It has no trade or commerce of its own; having little or no population beyond the President and his establishment; the members of the legislature who reside there during the session; the Government clerks and officers employed in the various departments; the keepers of the hotels and boarding-houses; and the tradesmen who supply their tables.

It is very unhealthy. Few people would live in Washington, I take it, who were not obliged to reside there; and the tides of emigration and speculation, those rapid and regardless currents, are little likely to flow at any time towards such dull and sluggish water.

The principal features of the Capitol, are, of course, the two houses of Assembly ……
(more on those in the next post).

Bon Voyage

The Passengers’ Act [1849]

The following regulations to be observed on board of passenger ships have been issued by the Queen in Council :-

1. All passengers who shall not be prevented by sickness, or other sufficient cause, to be determined by the surgeon, or in ships carrying no surgeon by the master, shall rise not later than 7 o’clock a.m., at which hour the fires shall be lighted.

2. It shall be the duty of the cook, appointed under the twenty-sixth section of the said “Passenger Act, one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine,” to light the fires and to take care that they be kept alight during the day, and also to take care that each passenger, or family of passengers, shall have the use of the fire-place, at the proper hours, in an order to be fixed by the master.

3. When the passengers are dressed their beds shall be rolled up.

4. The decks, including the space under the bottom of the berths, shall be swept before breakfast, and all dirt thrown overboard.

5. The breakfast hour shall be from eight to nine o’clock a.m. ; provided that, before the commencement of breakfast, all the emigrants, except as herinbefore excepted, be out of bed and dressed, and that the beds have been rolled up, and the deck on which the emigrants live properly swept.

mp.natlib.govt.nz

Dinner on board the first emigrant ship for New Zealand. [Auckland, Star Lithographic Works, 1890] Reference Number: A-109-9584  http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=9584.

6. The deck shall further be swept after every meal, and, after breakfast is concluded, shall be also dry holy-stoned or scraped. This duty, as well as that of cleaning the ladders, hospitals, and round-houses, shall be performed by a party taken in rotation from the adult males above fourteen, in the proportion of five to every one hundred emigrants, and who shall be considered as sweepers for the day. But the single women shall perform this duty in their own compartment, where a separate compartment is allotted to them, and the occupant of each berth shall see that his [sic] own berth is well brushed out.

7. Dinner shall commence at one o’clock p.m. and supper at six p.m.

Portland_mp.natlib.govt.nz

The galley of the Duke of Portland, showing passengers being served food from a hatch, with several others waiting their turn and one couple walking away with a full bucket or billy. Pearse, John 1808-1882 : Doings on the Duke of Portland [1851] Gally. Reference Number: E-455-f-010-11 http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=11541

8. The fires shall be extinguished at seven p.m., unless otherwise directed by the master, or required for the use of the sick, and the emigrants shall be in their berths at ten o’clock p.m. except under the permission or authority of the surgeon; or if there be no surgeon, of the master.

9. Three safety-lamps shall be lit at dusk, and kept burning till ten o’clock p.m. ; after which hour two of the lamps may be extinguished, one being nevertheless kept burning at the main hatchway all night.

10. No naked light shall be allowed at any time or on any account.

The regulations continued in the same vein, mostly concerned with hygiene and the prevention of fire on board – washing clothes and airing bedding twice a week, the amount of deck space required for a hospital, no smoking between decks.

There was moral instruction too. Passengers had to muster for inspection at 10 a.m. every Sunday and were “expected to appear in clean and decent apparel.” The Lord’s Day would be observed “as religiously as circumstances will admit.”

21. All gambling, fighting, riotous or quarrelsome behaviour, swearing and violent language, shall be at once put a stop to. Swords and other offensive weapons shall, as soon as the passengers embark, be placed in the cutody of the master.

22. No sailors shall be allowed to remain on the passenger deck, among the passengers, except on duty.

23. No passenger shall go to the ship’s cookhouse without special permission from the master, nor remain in the forecastle among the sailors on any account.

Those last two clauses are probably still in force, they certainly were forty years ago, and I’ll bet passengers and sailors are still trying to find a way around them.

Regulations retrieved from ‘The Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List’, 16th March 1850.

 

 

Nostalgia for the open road

W. MacQueen Pope, in ‘Give Me Yesterday’ (Hutchinson, 1957), remembers the transport of his youth before World War One.

cycleCycling ran through several crazes but it never died out. It had come to stay. And it was a very pleasant exercise indeed, in those now seemingly distant, quiet and peaceful days. One skimmed along, almost without effort; one coasted downhill and even on the flat when speed had been attained, and later one free-wheeled. One was carefree, death did not lurk at every corner, at every crossing. There was space, there was room, there was freedom.

You rang your bell, a musical enough little chime, when you went round a corner and only the very careless pedestrian who had not yet got bicycle conscious or a yapping dog who had aversions for bicycles, or who had been taught to attack them, could do you any damage. And very, very seldom could they do it. You got very expert in dodging aged ladies and gentlemen who stepped off the kerb right in front of you and, if only a moderately good rider, you could land that dog a fine kick if he came too near, without dismounting, and send him off howling.

In the country the main danger came from chickens, who never will get traffic conscious…… And in the very unlikely chance of running someone down, well nobody got hurt much and little harm was done. True, you did not cover anything like the distance a car will take you to-day or a motor-bicycle. But you did not want to do it. The country was very near to London then. Places which are now vast teeming suburban towns were little old sleepy villages clustering round the church and a forge and with old inns where beer which was nectar could be obtained. Those who did not know beer before 1914 have not the slightest idea what it was really like.

Cartbridge, Send

The “little old sleepy village” of Send in Surrey, England, with the New Inn at right.

The roads were clear. There were wagons which lumbered along, vast haywains, with a fragrant load aboard which you could smell because petrol fumes did not pollute the air. You got the scent of the fields, the woods, the hedgerows. There was a good deal of dust but nobody minded that.

You got a welcome in an inn; and if you could not get a cocktail or a coca-cola, you could get an honest ale, gin and ginger beer, the ginger beer out of stone bottles and delicious, and any of the old-fashioned drinks you wanted. I don’t remember tonic water being in demand, but maybe it was and I missed it.

You could have a little country run and cycle home in the twilight and the gathering dusk of the pre-Daylight Saving period and really get fresh unpolluted air. You might stop and sit on a gate. There would be peace all around; no noise of grinding machinery, no roar and explosions from motor-bikes, no sound of violent gear changes and rumble of great lorries. Only perhaps in the distance, a train whistle. You would hear the owls, and high overhead the faint screaming of the swifts – who seldom seem to sleep – and you might glimpse a bat weave by. But you would smell the Land; you would get a breath of Nature.

(Retrieved from ‘They Saw It Happen’, Editor, Asa Briggs. Basil Blackwell, 1960).

Bush travelling

Approaching Taranaki, what sight more beautiful than Mount Egmont’s snowy peak, seen just before the dawn of day, slowly tinged with rosy light – the plain around still lost in gloom-like morning rising from the bed of night?

Egmont

To be encamped for the night, too, in the forest at its base, the blazing watch-fire fitfully lighting up the surrounding gloom, and disclosing to momentary view the stately stems and leafy canopy of gigantic forest trees; and to awake at early dawn, listening with bated breath in charmed surprise to a chorus of sweet sounds (too sweet almost for earthly melody), would prove a poet’s and a painter’s Paradise!

fern leafBut health, also, as well as amusement, is gained by a journey in the bush. By change of scene, the dull routine of daily life is broken, and its business and care for the time forgotten. Almost constant mental excitement, gentle in degree, and agreeable in its kind; exposure to the open air, active exercise, and plain and scanty diet, all tend to health. The appetite is sharpened, the nerves are braced, the blood is purified, the cheek is bronzed, and the traveller commonly returns from his journey a stronger and a better man. What wonder that bush-travelling, then, should be a holiday amusement?

But a lengthened expedition into the interior of a new country, cannot of course be undertaken without some preparation. The pleasure which the traveller will derive from his journey, will greatly depend upon the character of his native party. Nor should a stranger, or a novice in bush travelling, ignorant of the language, and unaquainted with the manners of the people, be advised to start alone. On the contrary he should, if possible, secure as a companion some experienced bush traveller.

There being no wayside hostelries, the traveller, if he be not content with the skies for a canopy and the earth for his bed, must snail-like carry his house upon his back; or, which he will probably prefer, must persuade some other person to undertake the labour for him.

bush path

For a traveller who intends to live bush-fashion, three natives, for bearers, are a sufficient complement. On a long journey, when expedition is an object, the weight of each load should not exceed thirty pounds. Tent, bedding, clothes, and food, need not altogether exceed ninety pounds, or thirty pounds each man. This does not allow of bottled beer, wines, &c.; but nothing will surprise a bush traveller more than the indifference with which he will regard these enjoyable home luxuries, after a few days’ free exposure to the open air : itself an all-sufficient stimulant.
‘Auckland, the Capital of New Zealand’, W. Swainson. Smith, Elder & Co. London, 1853.

Note : Auckland was the capital of New Zealand until 1865, when the “Seat of Government” moved to Wellington.
The author, William Swainson (1809-1884), was Attorney General of New Zealand based in Auckland, not the naturalist William John Swainson who died in Wellington in 1855.
Mount Egmont’s name has reverted to the original Taranaki.

Be Careful Out There

Down here in the Southern Hemisphere, the Christmas/New Year period coincides with summer holidays and road trips, so here are a few useful tips to keep you safe on the highway. Northeners can file them away for later.

D_animals

Drive carefully past animals. The highway is free to the wandering dog, restive horse and un-led cow, and the responsibility for avoiding accidents rests with the motorist. When passing animals it is best to do so slowly and be on the alert. Cows and dogs may be moved by sounding the horn, but making “shoo-ing” noises is more effective. A trick used on the continent is to disengage the clutch, and at the same time, press the accelerator. The sound of the racing engine is the best warning of all. When passing restive horses sound the horn when some distance away to attract the attention of the driver or rider, and then quietly proceed past the animals.

D_Led horses-2

Take the off side of the road when meeting led horses. It is the usual practice when leading horses to keep to the right so that the animals and man in charge of them face the oncoming traffic. When some distance from the animals the motorist should sound the horn to attract the attention of the man in charge. Pass the animals on the off side, giving them a wide berth, and proceed cautiously, with the minimum of noise so as not to frighten them.

D_extinguisher

Carry an efficient fire extinguisher readily accessible. An efficient chemical fire extinguisher is an essential accessory. Light, compact, and easily operated, they are procurable from any up-to-date garage for a few shillings. The device used should be of the type recommended for automobiles and charged with a fluid compound to deal with petrol fires. To be effective the extinguisher must be fitted in such a position that it can be easily reached in the event of a fire, therefore it should not be fixed under the bonnet, near the petrol tank or under the seat. The running board, or near one of the doors, are the best locations for it.
‘Safety First’ cigarette card set by W.D. & H.O. Wills, 1934.