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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about Vanishing England.

It seems something like sacrilege to disturb the resting-places of our prehistoric ancestors, and to dig into barrows and examine their contents.  But much knowledge of the history and manners and customs of the early inhabitants of our island has been gained by these investigations.  Year by year this knowledge grows owing to the patient labours of industrious antiquaries, and perhaps our predecessors would not mind very much the disturbing of their remains, if they reflected that we are getting to know them better by this means, and are almost on speaking terms with the makers of stone axes, celts and arrow-heads, and are great admirers of their skill and ingenuity.  It is important that all these monuments of antiquity should be carefully preserved, that plans should be made of them, and systematic investigations undertaken by competent and skilled antiquaries.  The old stone monuments and the later Celtic crosses should be rescued from serving such purposes as brook bridges, stone walls, stepping-stones, and gate-posts and reared again on their original sites.  They are of national importance, and the nation should do this.

[Illustration:  Half-timber Cottages, Waterside, Evesham]

CHAPTER IX

CATHEDRAL CITIES AND ABBEY TOWNS

There is always an air of quietude and restfulness about an ordinary cathedral city.  Some of our cathedrals are set in busy places, in great centres of population, wherein the high towering minster looks down with a kind of pitying compassion upon the toiling folk and invites them to seek shelter and peace and the consolations of religion in her quiet courts.  For ages she has watched over the city and seen generation after generation pass away.  Kings and queens have come to lay their offerings on her altars, and have been borne there amid all the pomp of stately mourning to lie in the gorgeous tombs that grace her choir.  She has seen it all—­times of pillage and alarm, of robbery and spoliation, of change and disturbance, but she lives on, ever calling men with her quiet voice to look up in love and faith and prayer.

But many of our cathedral cities are quite small places which owe their very life and existence to the stately church which pious hands have raised centuries ago.  There age after age the prayer of faith, the anthems of praise, and the divine services have been offered.

In the glow of a summer’s evening its heavenly architecture stands out, a mass of wondrous beauty, telling of the skill of the masons and craftsmen of olden days who put their hearts into their work and wrought so surely and so well.  The greensward of the close, wherein the rooks caw and guard their nests, speaks of peace and joy that is not of earth.  We walk through the fretted cloisters that once echoed with the tread of sandalled monks and saw them illuminating and copying wonderful missals, antiphonaries, and other manuscripts which we prize so highly now.  The deanery is close at hand, a venerable house of peace and learning; and the canons’ houses tell of centuries of devoted service to God’s Church, wherein many a distinguished scholar, able preacher, and learned writer has lived and sent forth his burning message to the world, and now lies at peace in the quiet minster.

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