This is a newspaper article, written by an American, of his experiences, on holiday, after Queen Victorias Golden Jubilee Celebrations, which were on June 20th 1887.







LEAMINGTON, England, July 5. 1887 --- As a headquarters, Leamington was necessary; in itself it presented nothing of interest to see. But little coaching is done in this part of England, and there was but one coach to be had, and for that we were obliged to wait. Indeed, I fancy that the gentleman to whom I was indebted for a seat is the first American to make the journey which we have just completed with so much success. Waiting, however, was certainly tame. “You see, Sir, the Mayor o’ this place ‘e’s very near, and wouldn’t spend no money, and besides, we hain’t got none o’ these ‘ere h’old chapels like they ‘ave in Warwick, and the dekkyrations looks fine on them,” said sadly, in a thick, beery voice the driver of the “fly” (single-horse, pleasure carriage), which took me to Warwick the day before. I had not reflected until that moment that medieval remains have likewise an advantage from a jubilee point of view; but I was, for more romantic reasons, glad to find myself the next morning leaving the new and uninteresting streets of Leamington and passing out into the Warwick road seated on top of a fast-going four-horse coach, bound into the English country and towards the old English towns of the west.

But Worcester and Hereford were still far away, and we had first to think of our journey thither as part of our pleasure, not as means to an end. The sensation was one of dignity and superiority, and we, the passengers, all looked a little self-conscious, for as is etiquette in a town, the guard was winding clear and merry blasts upon his horn, and every passer-by was turning to see. It was on the high road first that the splendid exhilaration of driving in this way overcame us. The day was cloudy and rather cold; the wind blew fresh in our faces, and the long far landscapes of slopes and fields were hidden in low-rolling mists, although the air nearby was clear. The country, which we could view well over the tall hedgerows was from our high seats, looked dull, for there were no fair shadows and patches of sunlight to see. The weather was every morning of this cloudy fashion, yet always at midday the clouds broke, and the afternoon fields would be bright with sun. Through the whole drive we met few people upon the roads, no gentlefolk at all, only the drivers of carts, vans, and traveling shows, and round canvas-topped miller’s wagons drawn by the largest and shaggiest of Clydesdale horses. The men we passed were of a red-faced type, wearing corduroy trousers, tied tight round the leg with a string just below the knee, the nearest approach to the Knickerbockers of yore. Some of the oldest of these men touched their hats; all stared. There was little talking done by any of us. Each one sat trying to fasten these impressions of inside England which were thronging on our minds. The rattle of the horses’ hoofs and the roll of the wheels filled the ear with pleasant suggestions, and now and again the horn wound, and there was the excitement of passing through one of those villages where the people of this crowded island live huddled together like cattle amid squalor and beauty hard to find. We saw nowhere during our journey the village cottage in the beauty which it possessed in Warwickshire. In the counties of Monmouth, Gloucester, and most of Worcester the villages are built of stone or brick, new and more comfortable; here they are built of “wattle and dab,” or osiers and mud, as we should say, and they have thick, brown thatched roofs and dormer windows with bright little panes, and black beams in the walls, often half hid by creeping vines or white rose bushes. Their little doors open directly on the street, and in the lower windows, best of all, the finest pots of red and white geraniums. It is astonishing the pleasure one may feel while one looks at these simple houses and forgets the life which must be led inside. They are large enough for two --- but for ten!

The district as far as Stratford-on-Avon, where we put up for lunch, is a grazing or hay and grain country mostly, and look so rich and mellow and well cared for that it is a pleasure to see, and yet they say everywhere that farmers and landlords are growing poorer every day, and mine host of the “Swan” at Alcester, where we spent the first night, told me he had just thrown a farm onto the Marquis of Hertford’s hands because he could not pay the rent. Stratford, however, does not rely on land for its subsistence: it relies on Shakespeare and is prosperous. I had better not say too much on the well-worn though ever attractive subject of the poet’s home: there would be a danger of my falling into the enthusiastic vein of Mr. “Jeemes Pipes of Pipesville,” a correspondent to a California newspaper, one of whose letters from here hangs, cut out and framed, on the wall of the Washington Irving parlor at the Red Horse Inn. Speaking of this place for entertainment, he says: “It is the best family and commercial hotel in Stratford;” and of the museum: “Mr. Jones, the keeper, has pleasure in stating that the museum continues to be visited and revisited by ladies and gentlemen of greatest respectability.” It looks as though on promise of such advertisement Mr. “Pipes” had obtained a free ticket to the museum and a free dinner at the Red Horse; it has at least a suspicious sound. Suffice it in my own case to say that after visiting everything in Stratford connected with the maker and benefactor of the place, I found that to me the church on the Avon where he lies buried was the most pleasant and suggestive of all. My saying this is clear of guile, for it can benefit none but the old sexton of Trinity in the shape of additional fees. I do not grudge him these; I am indebted to him for a delicious elegy which he delivered to me over the late Vicar and his wife. In the vaulted porch of the church were two beautiful little stained-glass windows. “This window” said the sexton to me, pausing long and solemnly at his periods and making each period descriptive of a pane. “This window represents the wife of the Vicar. She resided in this parish. She visited the poor. She did. And her weeping and inconsolable husband erects this monument to her everlasting memory. That window represents the Vicar. He resided in this parish. He visited the poor. He died. And his second wife erects this monument to his everlasting memory.” He pattered this word for word the same when I went into and when I came out from the church; he seemed to have forgotten that he had said it before. I think he had it by rote.

The first night away we passed at Alcester. It was not a long journey, but we seldom made such, for the weather was unusually hot and the roads for lack of rain were hard for the horses’ hoofs, and, to tell the truth, we always like to linger long at our lunching places to see what there was to be seen. In coaching one is delightfully free from time tables and may stop whenever one chooses. Alcester is so small a town as to be almost a village; it was formerly a commercial place for the making of needles, but the Marquis of Hertford, who lives nearby, drove the trade away since he found it too noisy for rural repose. So, his lordship has kept Alcester in its old-time picturesqueness and contented himself with lower rents for his land. It seemed a famous place for inns. I counted five of these within 300 yards, all with overhanging upper stories and gabled roofs and many mullioned windows such as the cottages do not have. The Bear, the Talbot, the Three Tuns, the Turkshead, and the Fox were their names. There is a queer old Town Hall in the square behind the church, and a lane of quaint little houses of moldy brick or “wattle and dab,” which are part of the parson’s glebe, their rear doors opening on the churchyard and the children play among the headstones of many green graves.

In every place where we stopped there was a church and churchyard worth going to see, if only for the gray outside architecture and the tall trees that sweep its tower. Often there are wonderful inscriptions on some of the headstones to the graves. On the church door of St. Kenelm, in the hamlet of Upton Snodsbury, where we stopped to bait our horses on the way to Worcester the next day, was a notice in the Vicar’s handwriting: “Funerals not taken on Sundays.” Happy parish where on one day in the week they may defy the hand of fate! In the churchyard I saw a headstone of slate, polished to a lugubrious black. It was sacred to the memory of John and Sarah Bullock, (my great-great-grandparents, J.F.) one of whom died in 1833, the other in 1854. In each corner were the words; Reader, prepare for death,” and below the following admonitory lines:                          


 “Stranger, who frisks along this church pathway,

Stop thy quick step and read this serious lay,

To solemn musings one short hour devote,

And give a loose to salutary thought.

While this according stone attracts thy eye

Hear it exclaim, ‘Thou mortal too, must die.’

Be wise in time, reform, repent, amend,

Life has no length, eternity no end.”


Edward Bullock keeps the Royal Oak Inn, and is a licensed maltster, so that the family apparently still flourishes. He cannot, however, have taken his ancestors’ warning much to heart, for later I saw him or his man quite disguised in drink on one of his wagons in the high street of Worcester, it being market day. He almost ran us down, and indeed it was exciting work getting four-in-hand through the crowded, narrow thoroughfares of Worcester, but good driving by McGregor, our coachman, the largest horse owner in Leamington, pulled us out of all difficulties, and landed us safely at the sign of the “Bell” about midday. This gave us time to see the cathedral and porcelain works, and later in the day to drive on to Malvern, the watering place and town of lodging houses and hotels upon the Malvern Hills. We spent Sunday at Malvern, and in the afternoon, I went up the hill and laid me down “by a brookside,” like Langland of this place, not to dream concerning “Piers the Plowman,” but to look out over the land and try to explain to myself its charm. Warwick and Worcester lay before me, a great expanse of sloping country in all shades of green of different crops and brown of plowed land and golden of the mown hay fields.

There was a great number of trees about it, many more than hitherto, and these are the remnants of Malvern Chase, and grow as fringes to the fields or in clumps; very few stand out in the midst of a field alone. They are all cut or planted with an eye to artistic effect --- not to simply clear the land. The country looked rejoicing under the shining sun. There were no shadows, for there were no clouds, and only the ever-present English haze lay low in the distance, and up through it rose spires and the points of far distant village roofs. It is because this country is so luxuriantly green that it is so fair, for in its features it is flat and tame. It was different when we drove the next morning through the pass called the Wytche to the west side of Malvern range under the Great Herefordshire Beacon, where stands the ancient British camp.

The Vale of Hereford lay before us, fertile, but an extent of broken rolling hills, over which ran steep roads, which make horses sigh, good and level as they may be. At the top of the first descent was a warning to cyclists, “This hill is dangerous,” showing how universal have become the travels of the “Cyclists’ Touring Club,” for at all uncertain places, we saw notices of this kind. The hill in question was called Chance’s Pitch, the legend whereof is that in this spot, one Chance, a farmer, returning at night from Worcester, having drank too much good ale, lashed his horse until it was unable to stop its speed, and man and beast were dashed over the cliff at the foot of the hill.

We found it ever interesting to inquire of countrymen the stories of all queer sounding names, and it also lent a romance to the dullest stretch of road to remember that this country, more than any other, was the scene of battles in civil wars and to picture to one’s self a company of Roundheads in buff and bandolier, or troup of Cavaliers with waving plumes, coming suddenly upon us round a road bend or over the hill.

Ledbury, where we stopped for lunch, was the headquarters of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, after he had driven out grim old Col. Birch. If the Prince put up at the “Feathers” I am in doubt but let us hope, he found a hostel as comfortable as this. They gave us a fairly good cold lunch and a capital tankard of ale, this last despite the fact that the Lady Henry Somerset, who owns the land, is a “teetotalist of the most rabid dye,” as mine host said. Indeed, the “Feathers” was superior to the typical English inn, which we did not learn to love. At the “Green Dragon” at Hereford, where we spent the night, we drove as usual through the archway into the stable yard in silence and solitude, amid no ringing of bells or rushing of smiling waiters to the doors. Being a larger and therefore yet inferior establishment, this hotel was owned by a company under the auspices of a manageress. This severe person, on being approached in her office, was kind enough to grant us rooms and cause us to be led up to them in silence by a disheveled maid. Compared with a continental welcome, this English one was cold.

In all these hotels there is a “coffee room,” in the smaller places furnished with but one large table and called an inn parlor, where non-commercial visitors take their repasts. And, there is a “commercial room,” where drummers and their leather sample cases are always to be found. There is a bar and a bar parlor, presided over by a barmaid, often comely and entertaining, and opening on the stableyard a “tap room,” where coachmen and teamsters most resort. Upstairs you might sometimes find good oak carving on the staircase, or a queer oil painting hanging on the walls of the dark and narrow corridors, but the house is generally musty and dull, though clean. There is always a great apartment, called the assembly room, where county balls and dinners take place, and these rooms all smell vilely of stale beer and were still hung with fulsome mottoes appropriate to the late jubilee access of loyalty, which has overtaken every town and hamlet in the land.

These jubilee dinners probably tasted better to the poor people who ate them than ours did to us, though from the same cuisine. The food, especially in the larger places, was very bad, and had it not been for the good ale which stood us for meat and drink, we should often have gone hungry. So long as the horses were well enough fed to carry us forward we were content. It was astonishing how horsey even the most ignorant persons in the party had become, and we watched our steeds anxiously during the next day’s hard drive down the wild valley of Wye through Ross to Monmouth.

They stood it well enough and carried us bravely over the hills of Monmouthshire, by Raglan Castle to Tintern, where we saw the moonlight fall on the ruined abbey walls. But every day grew hotter and more trying to an English horse, and at Gloucester one of the leaders lay down in the stable at night and refused to eat. His head was affected by the sun. He had been the favorite of the team, a hunter and “clever across country,” we were told, and the sympathy of everyone accompanied him on his journey home in a box-car by train. We drove sadly an undignified “unicorn” team of three to Evesham, through Tewksbury on the morrow. At Evesham we found a fresh horse sent down by train, and we were able the next day to make our proposed stage and round off our journey at Leamington, as intended, only sorry that we were not to drive longer by a month or more.


Copied from The New York Times of July 24, 1887.
After reading good driving by McGregor, our coachman, the largest horse owner in Leamington”, I searched the websites for more information, and found; 1896, Edward McGregor, Bath Hotel, Livery Stables, Leamington. I then looked in a “Kelly’s Directory” of 1912, and was surprised to find the advert, shown at the beginning of this article.                       J.F.

A nephew, who lives in America, found this newspaper article when researching his family tree. J.F. 

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