CHAPTER IX. SALISBURY AND THE RIVERS
Alvedeston, the last village actually in the valley, lies under a spur of Middle Down from which there is a magnificent view of the "far flung field of gold and purple - regal England." Alvedeston church is an old cruciform building containing the tomb of a knight in full armour. This is one of the Gawen family. The Gawens were for many years lords of Norrington, a beautiful old house near by. Aubrey suggests that they were descended from that Gawain of the Round Table who fought Lancelot and was killed. The last village, Berwick St. John, is high upon the hills and close to Winklebury Camp. Its Early English church, as is usual in this district, has transepts. The Perpendicular tower, though rather squat, is of fine design and the interior has several interesting monuments and effigies, including effigies of Sir John Hussey and Sir Robert Lucie clad in mail. A pleasant custom obtains here of ringing a bell every night during the winter to guide home the wanderer upon the lonely hills. This was provided for in the will of a former rector - John Gane (1735). From Berwick the hill walk to Salisbury, spoken of in the earlier part of this chapter, should be taken.
Another valley worth exploring is that of the Bourne, north-east of Salisbury, down which the main railway line from London passes for its last few miles before reaching the city. The Bourne is crossed by the London road nearly two miles from the centre of the town. About half a mile up stream is the ford where the old way crossed the river to Sarum. The London road rises to the right and traverses the lonely chalk uplands to the Winterslow Hut, lately known as the "Pheasant," a reversion to its old name. Here lodged Hazlitt, essayist and recluse, for a period of nine years, and here several of his best known dissertations were penned, including the appropriate "On Living to One's Self." Charles Lamb, accompanied by his sister, visited him here. We, however, do not propose to travel by the great London highway, but to turn to the left just across St. Thomas' Bridge, and soon after passing the railway we cross the old Roman road where it appears as a narrow track making direct for the truncated cone of Old Sarum away to the west across the valley. Figsbury Rings is the name of the camp-crowned summit to the east of our road. The first three villages are all "Winterbournes " - Earls, Dauntsey and Gunner. The first two have rebuilt churches, but the third - Gunner - has a Transitional building of some interest. The name is a corruption of Gunnora, spouse of one of the Delameres who were lords hereabouts in the early thirteenth century. Farther on, Porton will not detain us very long, but Idmiston has a church that is a fine example of the style so well called Decorated. The tower, indeed, is Norman, but the clustered columns of the nave with their carved capitals and bases are beautiful specimens of fourteenth-century architecture. The Early English chancel has a triple east window and side lancets. The two-storied porch is late Decorated or early Perpendicular. A tomb of Giles Rowbach and tablets to the Bowie family are of interest. One of the Bowles, a vicar of the church, was a notable Spanish scholar and made a translation ofDon Quixote. Boscombe Rectory was once occupied by "the judicious" Hooker and the first part of the Ecclesiastical Polity was written here. Another theologian - Nicholas Fuller - famous in his day, held the living of the next village - Allington. At Newton Tony, over eight miles from Salisbury, the pleasant scenery of the Bourne may be said to end. Beyond, we reach an outlying part of the Plain that is seen to better advantage from other directions. Newton Tony has a station on the branch line to Amesbury and Bulford Camp. Wilbury House, on the road to Cholderton, was erected in the Italian style in the early seventeenth century by the Bensons, a noted family in those days, one of whose members is commemorated by a brass in the church. The house was the home of the late Mr. T. Gibson Bowles, formerly the member for King's Lynn.
The valley goes on to Cholderton, Shipton Bellinger and Tidworth, where are situated the head-quarters of the Southern Military Command. The Collingbournes - Ducis and Kingston - are much farther on, right at the head of the valley, and eighteen miles from Salisbury. If the explorer has penetrated as far as Tidworth a train can be taken three miles across the Down to Ludgershall, a very ancient place near the Hampshire border. It would seem to have been of some importance in earlier days. "The castell stoode in a parke now clene doun. There is of late times a pratie lodge made by the ruines of it and longgethe to the king" (Leland). To this castle came the Empress Maud and not far away the seal of her champion, Milo of Hereford, was found some years since. All that is left to show that Leland's "clene doun" was a slight exaggeration is a portion of the wall of the keep built into a farm at the farther end of the little town. The twelfth-century church is interesting. Here may be seen the effigy of Sir Richard Brydges, the first owner of the Manor House (or "pratie lodge") which succeeded the castle. The picturesque appearance of the main street is enhanced by the old Market Cross which bears carved representations of the Crucifixion and other scenes from the New Testament.