Wanderings in Wessex eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 332 pages of information about Wanderings in Wessex.

Close to the Axe and to the main line of the railway are the scanty ruins of Newenham Abbey, once of great renown.  Founded in 1245 by the de Mohuns, it met with the usual fate at the Great Dispersal.  A mile farther, on the Musbury road, is Ashe Farm, which once belonged to the Drake family.  A daughter of the house married one Winstone Churchill, and here in 1650 was born John, afterwards to become the great Duke of Marlborough.  These Drakes were claimed by Sir Francis as his relatives, but they rather fiercely repudiated the claim, and this obscure county family took proceedings against the great Seaman for using their crest—­a red dragon.  Gloriana, however, retaliated by giving her bold Sir Francis an entirely new device showing the dragon cutting a most undignified caper on the bows of his ship.  The effigies of three of these Drakes, with their wives in humble attitudes beside them, are to be seen in Musbury church, another mile farther on.

Somewhere in this fertile and beautiful valley, between Axminster and Colyton, was waged the great battle of Brunanburgh between the men of Wessex led by Athelstan and the Ethelings, and Anlaf the Dane, an alien Irish King, who captained the Picts and Scots.  Five Kings (of sorts), seven Earls, and the Bishop of Sherborne were killed, but the victory was with the defenders.  Athelstan founded a college to commemorate the battle and its result, and caused masses to be said in Axminster church for ever (!) for the repose of the souls of those of his friends who fell.

The London road from Honiton runs a beautiful and lonely course of fourteen miles up hill and down dale to Chard in Somersetshire, passing, about half way, the wayside village of Stockland.  The hills that here divide the valleys of the Otter and the Yarty are crossed by the high road and involve several steep “pitches” up and down which the motorist must perforce go at a pace that enables him for once to view the landscape o’er and not merely the perspective of hedge in front of him.  The remote little village of Up-Ottery is away to the left on the infant stream surrounded by the southern bastions of the Blackdowns.  Here is the fine modern seat of Viscount Sidmouth.  Beacon Hill (843 feet), to the north of the village, commands a celebrated view, as wide as it is lovely.

[Illustration:  SHERBORNE.]



Chard is a place which satisfies the aesthetic sense at first sight and does not pall after close and long acquaintance.  The great highway from Honiton to Yeovil becomes, as it passes through the last town in South Somerset, a spacious and dignified High Street with two or three beautiful old houses, among a large number of other picturesque dwellings which would sustain the reputation of Chard even without their aid.  First is the one-time Court House of the Manor, opposite the Town Hall.  Part of the building

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Wanderings in Wessex from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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