CHAPTER I. WINCHESTER AND CENTRAL HAMPSHIRE
Alone in a quiet graveyard at the upper end of the town is the chancel of old St. Peter's church, now used as the chapel of the burying ground. Most of the removable items were taken to the new church erected in High Street in 1863, including certain fine windows and the Norman font of Purbeck marble. In a neglected corner of the old churchyard is the tombstone of John Bucket, one-time landlord of the "King's Head" in Stockbridge. It bears the following oft-quoted epitaph:
And is, alas! poor Bucket gone?
Farewell, convivial honest John.
Oft at the well, by fatal stroke
Buckets like pitchers must be broke.
In this same motley shifting scene,
How various have thy fortunes been.
Now lifting high, now sinking low,
To-day the brim would overflow.
Thy bounty then would all supply
To fill, and drink, and leave thee dry,
To-morrow sunk as in a well,
Content unseen with Truth to dwell.
But high or low, or wet or dry,
No rotten stave could malice spy.
Then rise, immortal Bucket, rise
And claim thy station in the skies;
'Twixt Amphora and Pisces shine:
Still guarding Stockbridge with thy sign.
The main street crosses the Test by two old stone bridges and from these, glancing up and down the street, one has a charming view of the surrounding hills which fill the vista at each end. The road out of the town to the east runs over the shoulder of Stockbridge Down on which is a fine prehistoric entrenchment called Woolbury Ring. Thence to Winchester is a long undulating stretch of rough and flinty track with but few cottages and no villages on the way until tiny Wyke, close to the city, is reached. One welcome roadside inn, the "Rack and Manger," stands at the cross roads about half way, and occasional ancient milestones tell us we are on the way to "Winton."
Our itinerary through west-central Hampshire has not included that little known fragment of the county that lies to the west of Romsey and is a district of commons and woods, part of the great forest-land that we shall hurriedly explore in the next chapter. The chief interest here, apart from the natural attractions of the secluded countryside, is a simple grave in the churchyard of East Wellow, a small by-way hamlet about four miles from Romsey. Here is the last resting place of Florence Nightingale who lies beside her father and mother. The supreme honour of burial at Westminster, offered by the Dean and Chapter, was refused by her relatives in compliance with her own wish. So East Wellow should be a pilgrim's shrine to the rank and file of that weaponless army whose badge is the Red Cross.