The direct route from Salisbury to Amesbury is (or was) the loneliest seven miles of highway in Wiltshire. No villages are passed and but one or two houses; thus the road, even with the amenities of Amesbury at the other end is, under normal conditions, an ideal introduction to the Plain. The parenthesis of doubt refers to that extraordinary and, let us hope, ephemeral transformation which has overtaken the great tract of chalk upland encircling Bulford Camp. The fungus growth of huts which, during the earlier years of the Great War, gradually crept farther and farther from the pre-war nucleus and sent sporadic growths afield into unsuspected places, will undoubtedly vanish as time passes, just as the unnaturally busy traffic of the road will also disappear. Some of the gaunt incongruities visible from near Stonehenge have, happily, already vanished and in this brief description they will be, as far as is possible, ignored. Certain it is that those readers who have had the misfortune to be connected with them by force of "iron circumstance" will not wish for reminders of their miseries.

Old Sarum is on the left of, and close to, the road. It can be most conveniently visited from this side. At present the most interesting part of the great mound is the actual fosse and vallum. The interior, while excavations are in progress, is too much a chaotic rubbish heap to be very inviting. But again this is merely a passing phase and soon the daisy-starred turf will once more mantle the grave of a dead city. The valley road turns off to the left a short distance past the railway and goes to Stratford-sub-castle, just under the shadow of the great mound to the west. This forms a pleasant enough introduction to the scenery and villages of the Upper Avon. The Manor House at Stratford is associated with the Pitt family, for the estate came by purchase to the celebrated Governor Pitt, the one-time owner of the diamond named after him. His descendant, the Earl of Chatham, was member for Old Sarum when it was the most celebrated, and execrated, of all the "rotten boroughs." For many years the elections took place under a tree in a meadow below the hill. This tree was destroyed in a blizzard during the winter of 1896. The Early English and Perpendicular church is quaint and picturesque. On its tower will be seen an inscription to Thomas Pitt and within, an ancient hour-glass stand. The old Parsonage has the inscription over the entrance: -



The road now crosses the Avon bridge at a point where the western road from Old Sarum once forded the river, and follows the valley to the three Woodfords, Lower, Middle, and Upper. Just past the middle village, in a loop of the Avon, is Heale House, now rebuilt. In the old mansion Charles took refuge during his flight after Worcester. The secret room in which he hid was preserved in the reconstruction. Lake, a beautiful old Tudor House, lately burned, but now restored, stands near the river bank south of Wilsford, through which village we pass to reach West Amesbury, eight miles from Salisbury. The fine modern mansion not far from Wilsford is the seat of Lord Glenconner.

Another route which keeps on the east bank of the Avon through a sometimes rough by-way, starts from the Salisbury side of the Avon bridge, close to Old Sarum, and passes through the hamlets of Little Durnford, Salterton and Netton to Durnford, where there is a fine church, partly Norman, with an imposing chancel arch and north and south doors of this period. The remainder of the building is mainly Early English. Some old stained glass in the Perpendicular windows of the nave should be noticed and also the chained copy of Bishop Jewel's Apologie or Answer in Defense of the Churche of Englande, dated 1571, in the chancel. The pulpit dates from the early seventeenth century and is a well-designed piece of woodwork with carving of that period. A brass to Edward Young and his family, two recessed tombs in the south wall, a few scraps of wall painting, and the fine Norman font with interlaced arches and sculptured pillars, are some of the other interesting items in this old church. Ogbury Camp rises above the village to the east; a lane to the north of it leads in rather more than three miles to Amesbury.

In the mist of legend and tradition that surrounds the towns and hamlets of the Plain the origin of Amesbury is lost. The name is supposed to be derived from Ambres-burh - the town of Aurelius Ambrosius - a native British king with a latinized name who reigned about the year 550. In the Morte d'Arthur "Almesbury" is the monastery to which Guinevere came for sanctuary, and romantic tradition asserts that Sir Lancelot took the body of the dead Queen thence to Glastonbury. We are on firmer ground when we come to the time of the tenth-century house of Benedictine nuns dispersed by Henry II for "that they did by their scandalous and irreligious behaviour bring ill fame to Holy Church." It had been founded by a royal criminal, that stony-hearted Elfrida of Corfe, who murdered her stepson while he was a guest at her door. But very soon there was a new house for women and men - a branch of a noted monastery at Fontevrault in Anjou - of great splendour and prestige in which the women took the lead. To this Priory came many royal and noble ladies, including Eleanor of Brittany, granddaughter of Henry II and Eleanor of England, widow of Henry III. The Priory met the same fate as most others at the Dissolution and its actual site is uncertain. Protector Somerset obtained possession of the property and afterwards a house was built by Inigo Jones, most of which has disappeared in subsequent additions and alterations. While the Queensberry family were in possession the poet Gay was a guest here and wrote, in a sham cave or grotto still existing on the river bank, the Beggar's Opera, that satire on certain aspects of eighteenth-century life which, strangely enough, became lately popular after a long period of comparative oblivion.

Amesbury Church once belonged to the Priory. Its appearance from the outside gives the impression that it is unrestored. This is not the case, however, for the drastic restoration and partial rebuilding has taken place at various times. The architecture is Norman and Early English with Decorated windows in the chancel. The double two-storied chamber at the side of the north transept consists of a priest's room with a chapel below. The grounds of the Priory at the back of the church are very lovely, the river forming the boundary on one side. Amesbury town is pleasant and even picturesque, and the Avon in its immediate neighbourhood may be described as beautiful. It is the nearest place to Stonehenge in which accommodation may be had and is also a good centre for the exploration of the Plain. The western road runs in the direction of Stonehenge. On the crown of the hill to the right, just before reaching West Amesbury, the so-called "Vespasian's Camp" is seen. This is undoubtedly a prehistoric earthwork.

The description of Salisbury Plain in the Ingoldsby Legends is hardly accurate now: -

  "Not a shrub nor a tree, 
  Not a bush can we see, 
  No hedges, no ditches, no gates, no styles, 
  Much less a house or a cottage for miles."

The usual accompaniment of the chalk - small "tufts" of foliage, that become spinneys when close at hand, dot the surface of the great plateau. Green, becoming yellow in the middle distance and toward the horizon french-grey, are the prevailing hues of the Plain, but at times when huge masses of cloud cast changing shadows on the short sward beneath, the colours are kaleidoscopic in their bewildering change. This immense table-land, from which all the chalk hills of England take their eastward way, covers over three-fifths of Wiltshire if we include that northern section usually called the Marlborough Downs.

We now approach the mysterious Stones that have caused more conjecture and wonder than any work of man in these islands or in Europe and of which more would-be descriptive rubbish has been written in a highfalutin strain than of any other memorial of the past. Such phrases as "majestic temple of our far-off ancestors," "stupendous conception of a dead civilization" and the like, can only bring about a feeling of profound disappointment when Stonehenge is actually seen. To all who experience such disappointment the writer would strongly urge a second or third pilgrimage. Come to the Stones on a gloomy day in late October or early March when the surface of the great expanse of the Plain reflects, as water would, the leaden lowering skies. Then perhaps the tragic mystery of the place will fire the imagination as no other scene the wide world over could. Stonehenge is unique whichever way one looks at it. In its age, its uncouth savage strength, and its secretiveness. That it will hold that secret to the end of time, notwithstanding the clever and plausible guesses of archaeologist and astronomer, is almost beyond any doubt, and it is well that it should be so.

The appearance of Stonehenge has been likened to a herd of elephant browsing on the Plain. The simile is good and is particularly applicable to its aspect from the Amesbury road - the least imposing of the approaches. The straight white highway, and the fact that the Stones are a little below the observer, detract very much from the impressiveness of the scene. The usual accompaniments of a visit, a noisy and chattering crowd of motorists, eager to rush round the enclosure quickly, to purchase a packet of postcards and be off; the hut for the sale of the cards, and the absurdly incongruous, but (alas!) necessary, policeman, go far to spoil the visit for the more reverent traveller. But if he will go a little way to the south and watch the gaunt shapes against the sky for a time and thus realize their utter remoteness from that stream of evanescent mortality beneath, the unknown ages that they have stood here upon the lonely waste, the dynasties, nay, the very races, that have come and conquered and gone, and the almost certainty that the broad metalled highway which passes close to them will in turn disappear and give place, while they still stand, to the turf of the great green expanse around; then the awe that surrounds Stonehenge will be felt and understood.

The early aspect of Stonehenge was far more elaborate than as we see it to-day, and the avenues that led to the inner circles and the smaller and outer rings have to a large extent disappeared. The stones are enclosed in a circular earthwork 300 feet across. The outer circle of trilithons, 100 feet in diameter, is composed of monoliths of sandstone originally four feet apart and thirty in number. Inside this circle is another of rough unhewn stones of varying shapes and sizes. Within this again, forming a kind of "holy place," are two ellipses - the outer of trilithons five in number and the inner of blue stones of the same geological formation as the rough stones of the outer circle. Of these there were originally nineteen.

Near the centre is the so-called "altar stone," over fifteen feet long; in a line with this, through the opening of the ellipse, is the "Friar's Heel," a monolith standing outside the circles. The larger stones or "sarsens" are natural to the Marlborough Downs, but the unhewn or "blue" stones are mysterious. They are composed of a kind of igneous rock not found anywhere near Wiltshire. A suggestion by Professor Judd is that they are ice-borne boulders accidentally deposited on the Plain during the southward drift of the great ice cap. One of the sarsen stones is stained with copper oxide, and this fact has been taken to point to Stonehenge being erected somewhere in the Bronze Age - that is, not longer ago than 2000 B.C. Excavations about twenty years ago brought to light a number of stone tools, fragments of pottery, coins and bones. Belonging to a long period of time, the finds were inconclusive. It is quite possible that the ring of rough blue stones were erected by a primitive race of stone men and that a continuous tradition of sanctity clung to the spot until, in the time of those heirs and successors of theirs who used bronze weapons and were acquainted with the rudiments of engineering, the imposing temple that we call Stonehenge came into being.

It will be well at this point to make brief reference to the interpretation placed on Stonehenge by various writers. Henry of Huntingdon (1150) calls it Stanhenges, and terms it the second wonder of England, but professes entire ignorance of its purpose and marvels at the method of its construction. Geoffrey of Monmouth (1150) ascribes its origin to the magic of Merlin who, at the instance of Aurelius Ambrosius, directed the invasion of Ireland under Uther Pendragon to obtain possession of the standing stones called the "Giants' Dance at Killaraus." Victory being with the invaders, the stones were taken and transported across the seas with the greatest ease with Merlin's help, and placed on Salisbury Plain as a memorial to the dead of Britain fallen in battle. Giraldus Cambrensis, Robert of Gloucester and Leland all give a similar explanation. About 1550, in Speed's History of Britain and Stow's Annals, Merlin and the invasion of Ireland are dropped and sole credit given to Ambrosius for the erection. Thomas Fuller (1645) ridicules tradition and consider the stones to be artificial and probably made of sand (!) on the spot. Inigo Jones about the same time attributes the erection to the Romans. His master, James I, having taken a philosophic interest in the Stones, had desired him to make some pronouncement upon them. This monarch's grandson, in his flight, is said to have stopped and essayed to count the stones, with the usual result on the second trial. Pepys a short time after went "single to Stonehenge, over the Plain and some great hills even to fright us. Come thither and find them as prodigious as any tales I ever heard of them, and worth going this journey to see, God knows what their use was! they are hard to tell but may yet be told."

About the middle of the eighteenth century the Druid temple legend began to gain ground and many great men gave support to their interpretation; it is not yet an exploded idea. Stukely, the archaeological writer, gives a definite date - 460 B.C. - as that of their erection, and Dr. Johnson, writing to Mrs. Thrale, says: - "It is, in my opinion, to be referred to the earliest habitations of the island as a druidical monument of, at least, two thousand years, probably the most ancient work of man upon the island." In the last part of this sentence the great doctor either forgets, or shows his ignorance of, the antiquities at Avebury. Sir Richard Hoare, at the close of the century, is equally convinced that this explanation is the right one. Other theories current about this time were - that it was a monument to four hundred British princes slain by Hengist (472); the grave of Queen Boadicea; or a Phoenician temple; even a Danish origin was ascribed to Stonehenge. Perhaps the most curious fact connected with the literary history of Stonehenge is that it is not mentioned in the Roman itineraries or by Bede or any other Saxon writer.

In 1824 the following interesting article by H. Wansey appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine.

  "In my early days I frequently visited Stonehenge to make 
  observations at sunrise as well as by starlight. I noticed that the 
  lower edge of the impost of the outer circle forms a level 
  horizontal line in the heavens, equi-distant from the earth, to the 
  person standing near the centre of the building, about 15 degrees 
  above the horizon on all sides.

  "Stonehenge stands on rather sloping ground; the uprights of the 
  outer circle are nearly a foot taller on the lower ground or 
  western side than they are on the eastern, purposely to keep the 
  horizontal level of the impost, which marks great design and skill. 
  The thirty uprights of the outer circle are not found exactly of 
  equal distances, but the imposts (so correctly true on their under 
  bed) are each of them about 7 cubits in length, making 210 cubits 
  the whole circle.

  "If a person stands before the highest leaning-stone, between it 
  and the altar stone looking eastward, he will see the pyramidal 
  stone called the Friar's Heel, coinciding with the top of 
  Durrington Hill, marking nearly the place where the sun rises on 
  the longest day. This was the observation of a Mr. Warltire, who 
  delivered lectures on Stonehenge at Salisbury (1777), and who had 
  drawn a meridian line on one of the stones. Mr. Warltire asserted 
  that the stone of the trilithons and of the outer circle are the 
  stone of the country, and that he had found the place from whence 
  they were taken, about fourteen miles from the spot northward, 
  somewhere near Urchfont.

  "If the person so standing turns to his left hand, he will find a 
  groove in one of the 6-foot pillars from top to bottom, which (in 
  the lapse of so many ages, and swelled by the alternate heat and 
  moisture of two thousand years, has lost its shape) might have 
  contained in it a scale of degrees for measuring; and the stone 
  called the altar[3] would have answered to draw those diagrams on, 
  and this scale of degrees was well placed for use in such a case, 
  for one turning himself to the left, and his right hand holding a 
  compass, could apply it most conveniently. With all this apparatus 
  the motions of the heavenly bodies might have been accurately 
  marked and eclipses calculated, a knowledge of which, Caesar says, 
  they possessed in his time.

  "Wood and Dr. Stukeley both make the inner oval to consist of 
  nineteen stones, answering to the ancient Metonic Cycle of nineteen 
  years, at the end of which the sun and the moon are in the same 
  relative situation as at the beginning, when indeed the same 
  almanack will do again.

  "In my younger days I have visited Stonehenge by starlight, and 
  found, on applying my sight from the top of the 6-foot pillars of 
  the inner oval and looking at the high trilithons, I could mark the 
  places of the planets and the stars in the heavens, so as to 
  measure distances by the corners and angles of them....

  "It is very remarkable that no barrow or tumulus exists on the east 
  side, where the sun (the great object of ancient worship) first 

[3] "Dr. Smith says that he has tried a bit of this stone, and found that it would not stand fire. It is, therefore, very improbable that it should have been used for burnt sacrifices."

The theory put forward in this article has in late years been upheld by no less an authority than Sir Norman Lockyer, who thinks that the practice of visiting Stonehenge on the longest day of the year - a pilgrimage that goes back before the beginnings of recorded history, essayed by a country people not addicted to wasting a fine summer morning without some very strong tradition to prompt them - goes far to bear out the theory that Stonehenge was a solar temple. If this is so, the mysterious people who erected it were civilized enough to have a good working knowledge of the movement of the heavenly bodies, and probably combined that knowledge with a not unreasonable worship and ritual. Sir Norman Lockyer's calculations give the date of the erection as about 1680 B.C.

Lord Avebury considers that it is part of a great scheme for honouring the famous dead, and many modern writers have adopted the same view. That the Plain near by is a great cemetery is beyond doubt, but then so are more or less all the chalk hills of Britain.

There is more than one explanation of the probable method of the construction of the trilithons. A writer in the Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine (W. Long) puts forward the theory that an artificial mound was made in which holes were dug to receive the upright pillars. When these were in position the recumbent block could easily be placed across the two and, all the trilithons being complete, the earth could be dug away, leaving the stones standing. Professor Gowland, however, does not favour this view in the light of his recent discoveries and is inclined to credit the builders with a greater knowledge of simple engineering.

In 1918 Stonehenge, which hitherto had formed part of the Amesbury Abbey estate of Sir Cosmo Gordon Antrobus, was sold to Sir C.H. Chubb, who immediately presented it to the nation. The work of restoration is being carried out by the Office of Works, and the Society of Antiquaries are, at their own expense, sifting every cubic inch of ground under those stones that are being re-erected - to the dismay of many of that body - in beds of concrete! Much apprehension has been felt by archaeologists that this renovation will have deplorable results, but it is promised that nothing is to be done in the way of replacement which cannot be authenticated. At the time of writing the work is still in progress and all is chaos. When the hideous iron fence is replaced by the proposed ha-ha, or sunk fence, and new sward grows about the old stones the general effect will be greatly improved. The excavators have re-discovered certain depressions shown in Aubrey's Map (1666) and which had long since disappeared to outward view. There is little doubt that they held stones more or less in a circle with the "Slaughter Stone." It is conjectured that, as in the case of the inner blue stones, this outer ring was constructed before the more imposing trilithons were erected, perhaps at a period long anterior. Each of the holes already explored contain calcined human bones.

Stonehenge Down; Wilsford Down to the south; Stoke Down westwards, and, in fact, the whole of the great Plain is a maze of earthworks, ditches, tumuli and relics of a past at which we can only guess. Here, if anywhere in Britain, is haunted ground and perhaps the silence of earlier writers may be explained by the existence of a kind of "taboo" that prevented reference to the mysteries of the Plain.

The exploration of the upper Avon may be extended from Amesbury to Durrington (one mile from Bulford station), where is an old church containing fine carved oak fittings worth inspection. Across the stream is Milston, where Addison was born and his father was rector. Higher up the river is pretty Figheldean with its old thatched cottages embowered among the huge trees that line the banks of the stream, and with a fine Early English church. The monuments in the Decorated chancel are to some of the Poores, once a notable family. The church also contains certain unknown effigies. These were discovered at some distance from the church, probably having been thrown away during some earlier "restoration!"

Netheravon is famous for its Cavalry School. Of its Norman and Early English church Sydney Smith was once a curate, to his great discomfort. The tower here is very old and some have called it Saxon. The student of Rural Rides will remember that here Cobbett saw an "acre of hares!" Fittleton is another unspoilt little village, and Enford, or Avonford, the next, has a fine church unavoidably much restored after having been struck by lightning early in the nineteenth century; the Norman piers remain. All these villages gain in interest and charm to the pedestrian by being just off the high road that keeps to the west bank of the river. Upavon, however, is on a loop of this highway and sees more traffic. Here is a church with a Transitional chancel; it is said that the contemporary nave was of wood. The fine tower and present nave belong to the thirteenth century. The Norman font with its archaic carving and the fifteenth-century crucifix over the west door should be noticed. Upavon was the home of a kindred spirit to Cobbett, for here was born the once famous "Orator Hunt," farmer and demagogue - rare combination! He was chairman of the meeting in Manchester that had "Peterloo" as its sequel. Near Upavon, but down stream, is the small and ancient manor house of Chisenbury, until lately the property of the Groves, one of whose ancestors suffered death for his participation in the rising of Colonel Penruddock during the Commonwealth.

At Rushall the narrow valley of the Avon, guarded by the opposing camps of Casterley and Chisenbury, is left for the transverse vale of Pewsey, on the farther side of which are the Marlborough Downs. A number of chalk streams drain the vale and go to make up the head-waters of the Avon; in fact two streams, both bearing the old British name for river, meet hereabouts; the one rising about two miles from Savernake station and the other about the same distance from Devizes. Along the northern slope of this vale the canal made to join the Kennet and Thames with yet another, the Bristol Avon, runs its lonely course. Five miles west of Rushall is the divide between the waters of the English Channel and the Severn Sea, and the Bristol Avon receives the stream that rises but a mile from its namesake of Christchurch Bay. High in one of the combes at this end of the valley is the small village of All Cannings, said to have been of much importance in the dark ages as a Saxon centre. All it has to show the visitor now is a cruciform church with Norman and Early English fragments and a good Perpendicular tower.

The villages of Pewsey Vale are many and charming. All are well served by the "short-cut" line of the Great Western, over which the Devon and Cornwall expresses now run. Across the vale, in an opposite direction to the iron way, runs the Ridgeway, a road probably in use when Stonehenge was not, and Silbury Hill, that mystery of the Marlborough Downs, was yet to be. On the western side of this old road are the villages of Patney and Chirton. At the latter is a very beautiful Transitional church. Near Beechingstoke, close to the Ridgeway, is a famous British village, the entrenchment containing about thirty acres. The old road comes down from the northern highlands between Milk Hill (964 feet) and Knap Hill, the two bluffs that rear their great bulk across the vale. Here beneath the "White Horse," a modern one cut at the beginning of the nineteenth century, are the old churches of Alton Priors and Alton Berners, the latter partly Saxon.

The road north-east from Rushall runs through Manningford Bruce. The church here is possibly Saxon; it has a semi-circular apse. On the north wall of the chancel is a tablet to Mary Nicholas with arms bearing the royal canton. This was her reward for helping Charles in his flight after the battle of Worcester. Manningford Abbots once belonged to the Abbot of Hyde. The rebuilt church is only of interest in possessing a very fine pre-Reformation chalice. Two miles farther is Pewsey, a pleasant town surrounded by the chalk hills. From those to the eastward Cobbett, when he beheld the vale stretched out before him, broke into one of those simple but graphic descriptive touches that help to make the Rural Rides immortal, "A most beautiful sight it was! Villages, hamlets, large farms, towers, steeples, fields, meadows, orchards and very fine timber trees. The shape of the thing was this: on each side downs, very lofty and steep in some places, and sloping miles back in other places, but on each side out of the valley are downs. From the edge of the downs begin capital arable fields, generally of very great dimensions and in some places running a mile or two back into little cross valleys formed by hills of downs. After the corn-fields come meadows on each side, down to the brook or river. The farmhouses, mansions, villages and hamlets are generally situated in that part of the arable land that comes nearest to the meadows. Great as my expectations had been, they were more than fulfilled. I delight in this sort of country..... I sat upon my horse, and I looked over Milton and Easton and Pewsey for half an hour, though I had not breakfasted."

Pewsey Church has a Transitional nave and Early English chancel; the oblong tower being Perpendicular. The carved reredos was designed and worked by Canon Pleydell-Bouverie, who also made the communion rails from some timbers of the San Josef, a ship taken by Nelson at the battle of Cape St. Vincent. The roof of the organ chamber and vestry are of much interest; they are part of the refectory roof of Ivychurch Priory.

The country to the north of the little old town is very beautiful. The precipitous wall of the Marlborough Downs, with several lovely and little-known villages at its foot, is a remarkable feature of the landscape. The high road to Marlborough, that climbs the hills for three fatiguing miles, passes through the small village of Oare, where there is a modern red-brick church. Not far away to the west are the hamlets of West and East Towel, lost in the lonely by ways beneath the hills. Above them in a fold of the Downs is Huish, dropped down amidst memorials of a long vanished past. Dewponds, earthworks and "hut circles" cover the hills in all directions. At Martinsell, the camp-crowned hill to the east of the high road, until recent days a festival was held, the beginnings of which may have been in Neolithic times. On Palm Sunday young men and maidens would ascend the hill carrying boughs of hazel. They would, no doubt, have been scandalized if told that the ceremony had anything but a Christian significance. The prospect of the Vale from this hill-side, or from the high road itself, is not easily forgotten, and the beech-woods and parklands of Rainscombe, that fill the broad but sheltered hollow below, make a lovely foreground to the view.

We must now return to the lower end of the Vale of Wylye which has been noticed at Wilton, where the river, road and rail come down a narrow defile from Heytsbury and Warminster. This valley has on the north and east the familiar aspect of Salisbury Plain. On the south and west are those wooded hills that are seen also from the neighbourhood of Fonthill, and though both sides of the valley are made of the same material - the current chalk of Wiltshire - they are very unlike in their superficial scenery. The Wylye is perhaps the most beautiful of Wiltshire rivers, and although it has an important cross-country railway running close to it for the greater part of its length, the villages and hamlets upon the banks are peculiarly calm, secluded and unspoilt.

The high road from Salisbury to Warminster turns northwards at Fugglestone past the two Wilton stations, without entering that town and, passing through Chilhampton and South Newton, reaches the hamlet of Stoford, which has an old inn close to the river bank. A short half mile westwards is the picturesque old village of Great Wishford, said to be derived from "welsh-ford," where the church has been so much restored that it is practically a new one. The chancel with its fine triple lancet window is Early English. The altar tomb of Sir Thomas Bonham has his effigy in a pilgrim's robe which is said to commemorate that knight's seven years' sojourn in Palestine. An incredible tradition, current among the country people, says that Lady Bonham gave birth to seven children at one time, and that the sieve, in which they were all brought to the church to be christened, hung in the old nave for many years. The fine tomb in the chancel is that of Sir Richard Grobham (1629). His helmet and banner are suspended upon the opposite wall; an old chest in the south aisle is said to have been saved from a Spanish ship by this knight.

The main road continues up the valley to Stapleford, where is a fine cruciform church with Norman arches on the south of the nave and with a door of this period on the same side. The fine sedilia and piscina in the fourteenth-century chancel should be noticed, and also the well-proportioned porch that has within it a coffin slab bearing an incised cross. Here the valley of the Winterbourne comes down from the heart of the Plain at Orcheston through Winterbourne Stoke and Berwick St. James; a lonely and thinly populated string of hamlets seldom visited by the ordinary tourist, but of much charm to those who appreciate the more unsophisticated type of English village that, alas! is becoming more rare every day. Both Berwick and Stoke have interesting old churches.

Continuing up the Wylye we reach Steeple Langford, situated in the most beautiful part of the valley. Here is a Decorated church with good details and a remarkable tomb-slab bearing an incised figure of an unknown huntsman, also a fine altar tomb of the Mompessons. The rector here in the days of the Parliament was ejected in the depth of winter with his wife and eleven children, suffering great hardship before succour reached them. Little Langford is across the stream in an exquisite situation. Deeply embowered among the trees is the small cruciform church with an interesting Norman door, showing in the tympanum, a bishop, said to represent St. Aldhelm, in the act of benediction. We may keep to the road that closely follows the railway on the south side of the stream to Wylye, a quiet little place half way up the vale. Here is a Perpendicular church with a pinnacled tower and an Early English east end. The Jacobean pulpit stood in the old church at Wilton and was brought here when that was rebuilt. A famous pre-Reformation chalice is preserved among the church plate, and the village is proud of its bells. One bears the words "Ave Maria"; another not so old is inscribed "1587 Give thanks to God." Across the stream the hamlet of Deptford stands on the main road, which goes by Fisherton de la Mere to Codford St. Mary. Here another quiet valley opens up into the Plain and leads to the remote villages of Chitterne St. Mary and All Saints, among many relics of the prehistoric past - "British" villages and circles, tumuli and ditches. Codford St. Mary Church, though partly rebuilt, is still of interest and has a Transitional Norman chancel arch and fine Norman font. The Jacobean pulpit and Tudor altar tomb of Sir Richard Mompesson should be noticed. The altar is said to have been made from the woodwork of a derelict pulpit from St. Mary's, Oxford. Cobbett was enthusiastic about the well-being of the country and its farmers hereabouts, and was especially delighted with the rich picture that this part of the Wylye makes from the Down above. Codford is the village taken by Trollope for the scene of The Vicar of Bulhampton.

Codford St. Peter, where there is a railway station, has a much-restored church, practically rebuilt. The ancient sculptured stonework in the chancel, discovered during the rebuilding, is said to be Saxon. The font with its curious Norman carvings is noteworthy. On the other side of the vale are three interesting villages, beautifully placed - Stockton, Sherrington and Boyton. Stockton Church is Transitional with an Early English chancel. Its screen was erected by the former Bishop of Worcester, Dr. Yeatman-Biggs, in memory of his wife and brother. The wall separating nave and chancel is uncommon in its solidity, the small opening being more in the nature of a doorway than of a chancel arch. Two squints made it possible for the people to see the movements of the minister at the altar. In the north aisle is the canopied tomb of John Topp (1640) and on the other side of the church, that of Jerome Poticary. Both these worthies were wealthy clothiers, and the first-named built the beautiful manor house which we may still see near by. The old panelling and moulded ceilings of this mansion are very fine specimens of seventeenth-century workmanship. Jerome Poticary also built himself a fair dwelling that is now a farmhouse. The picturesque Topp almshouses and pleasant old cottages together with the charm of the natural surroundings make this village a delightful one. Sherrington once had a castle owned by the Giffards, but all that is now to be seen is the green mound where once it stood, close to the little old church. Boyton church is a fine example of the Decorated style. It has some older Early English portions. The windows in the Lambert chapel are much admired. Here are also two altar tombs; that with a figure in chain armour, cross-legged, represents the crusading Sir Alexander Giffard. An interesting discovery was made of a headless skeleton under the chancel floor, supposed to have been the remains of a Giffard who lost his head for rebellion in the reign of Edward II. Boyton Manor, a beautiful old house, is not far away. It was built in the early seventeenth century and was for a time the residence of Queen Victoria's youngest son.

Upton Lovell, about a mile from Codford St. Peter, has a church, the nave of which was built in the seventeenth century. The chancel belongs to the original Transitional building. An altar tomb with an effigy in armour is supposed to be that of a Lovell of Castle Cary. The manor was held by this family and from them the village takes its name. An unhappy story is told of one of the family, a participant in the Lambert Simnel rebellion, who managed to find sanctuary here, and, perhaps through his retainers being in ignorance of his whereabouts, was starved to death in the secret chamber in which he had hidden himself. His skeleton was discovered long afterwards seated at a table with books and papers in front of it. Knook is the next village, a mile below Heytesbury. Here is a church that, in spite of ruthless restoration, has retained its Norman chancel and a south door with a fine tympanum. Also the old manor house has still much of its former dignity in spite of its change of station. Away to the north, on one of the rounded summits of Salisbury Plain, is Knook Castle, a prehistoric camp that was utilized by the Romans and possibly by the Saxons after their invasion of the west.

Heytesbury or Hegtredesbyri, seventeen miles from Salisbury, has a station half-way between the old town and Tytherington on the south, and is an ancient place that had seen its best days before the dawn of the nineteenth century. It was another of the "rotten" boroughs and fell into a period of stagnation from which the railway seems to have lately rescued it. Many new roads and houses have sprung up without, however, spoiling the appearance of this pleasant little place. The church, dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, is chiefly Early English with Transitional work in the chancel and Perpendicular in the nave. In the north transept is the Hungerford chantry, to whose founder is due the chantry seen in Salisbury Cathedral. The south transept contains a tablet in memory of William Cunnington (1810), to whose researches the antiquaries of Wiltshire owe a great deal of their information. This church was made collegiate by Bishop Joscelyn in the twelfth century. Heytesbury Hospital was founded by Lord Treasurer Hungerford, whose badge, two sickles, may be seen over the entrance. In the beautiful park are some magnificent beeches and a group of cedars below the fir-clad Copley Hill which is crowned by a prehistoric camp.

At Tytherington there is another church, very small and old and once a prebend of Heytesbury. In the early days of the last century service was only performed here four times a year, and a legend was once related to the writer of a dog that had been accidentally shut up in this church at one service and found alive and released at the next, ten weeks later! A mile farther is Sutton Veny, where there are two churches, a fine new one, and an old ruined building of which the chancel is kept in repair as a mortuary chapel. The manor house is picturesque and rambling, as is the village itself, straggling along the road to Warminster. At the upper end of the street a cross road on the right leads to Morton Bavant and to the main route on the north side of the stream. The partly rebuilt church is of little interest, excepting perhaps the arch of chalk that supports the fourteenth-century tower, but the village deserves the adjective "sweet." The stream, although now of small size, and the surrounding hills that rise close by into Scratchbury Camp, make a lovely setting for the mellow old cottages and bright gardens that one may hope are as good to live in as they are to look at. Close by the village certain Roman pavements were found in 1786, but the site is now uncertain and the mosaics have been lost. At the cross roads just referred to, the left-hand road climbs the hill to the Deverills - Longridge, Hill, Buxton, Monkton and Kingston, pleasant hamlets all, of which the first has the most to show. Here is a fine church partly built of chalk and containing the tomb of the Sir John Thynne who made Longleat. The old almshouses were founded by his descendant, Sir James, in 1665. In Hill Deverill Church is a monumental record of the Ludlows. To this family General Ludlow, of the Army of the Parliament, belonged. Beyond the last of the Deverills is Maiden Bradley, alone with its guardian hills, which ring it round with summits well over 800 feet above the sea. Long Knoll is the monarch of this miniature range and well repays the explorer who climbs to its summit with a most delightful view. In Maiden Bradley Church is the tomb of Sir Edward Seymour, Speaker of the House in the reign of Charles II, and a fine Norman font of Purbeck marble.

Resuming the route northwards from Sutton Veny, Bishopstrow is soon reached. Above the village to the north is the great rounded hill called Battlesbury Camp, crowned with the usual entrenchments and surrounded by the curious "lynchets" or remains of ancient terrace cultivation. Bishopstrow Church dates from 1757, when it replaced a building with Saxon foundations and east end. The main road is now taken on the north bank of the stream and in two miles, or twenty-one direct from Salisbury, we arrive at the old town called, no one knows why, Warminster. It may be that the Were, the small stream or brook running into Wylye gives the first syllable, but that St. Deny's Church was ever a minster there is no evidence, though it is occasionally so called by the townspeople. Now quite uninteresting, the church was rebuilt some thirty years or more ago. In High Street, close to the Town Hall, is the chantry of St. Lawrence, still keeping its old tower but otherwise rebuilt. For its age and situation Warminster retains little that is ancient, but it is a pleasant and very healthy town, 400 feet above the sea. Here, in the early nineteenth century, two eminent Victorians - Dr. Arnold and Dean Stanley - received their first education at the old Grammar School. St. Boniface College, established in 1860, is a famous house of training for missionaries. Warminster has "no villainous gingerbread houses running up and no nasty shabby-genteel people; no women trapesing about with showy gowns and dirty necks, no Jew-looking fellows with dandy coats, dirty shirts and half heels to their shoes. A really nice and good town" (Cobbett).

The great show-place and excursion from Warminster is Longleat. To reach the great house and famous grounds we take the western road which reaches the confines of the park in a little over four miles and passes under the imposing mass of Cley Hill, an isolated eminence of about 900 feet, on the summit of which a curious "ceremony" used to take place, as at Martinsell, on Palm Sunday. The boys and young men from neighbouring villages would ascend the hill to play a game with sticks and balls. Not one could say why, but that it was "always done." Undoubtedly this was an unconscious reminiscence of a pagan spring festival.

Longleat is indeed a "stately home of England" and one of the most famous of those larger mansions that are more in the nature of permanent museums for the benefit of the public than of homes for their fortunate possessors. In normal times the galleries are open on two or three days in the week, according to the seasons, and holiday crowds come long distances to see the magnificent house and its still more splendid surroundings, perhaps more than to inspect the art treasures which form the nominal attraction. Still these are very fine and should, if possible, be seen.

The origin of "Long Leat" - the long shallow stream of pond and lakelets artificially widened and dammed - was, like that of so many other great houses, a monastic one. An Augustinian Priory stood here before the Dissolution, but when the Great Dispersal took place it had already decayed and no great tragedy occurred. Protector Somerset had a young man attached to his retinue, and in his confidence, named Sir John Thynne who, when his master lost his head, very adroitly kept his own, afterwards marrying the heiress of a great London merchant - Sir Thomas Gresham. This enabled the husband to add greatly to the small property he had already purchased, which included the old priory buildings, and the altered state of his fortunes prompted him to erect a stately residence on the old site. His first efforts were destroyed by a disastrous fire, but in 1578 the stately house was finished and, as far as the exterior is concerned, was practically as we see it to-day. The interior was entirely remodelled at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville. James Thynne - "Tom of Ten Thousand " - was the Lord of Longleat in 1682. He was engaged to the beautiful sixteen-year-old widow of Lord Ogle, when she had the misfortune to attract the attention of Count Konigsmark, a Polish adventurer, whose hired assassins waylaid and shot Thynne in Pall Mall. The Count escaped punishment, but his instruments were hanged upon the scene of the crime. The property then passed to a cousin who became the first Viscount Weymouth. The third Viscount was made Marquis of Bath when he was the host of George III in 1789. A famous guest of the first Viscount was Bishop Ken, who stayed at Longleat for many years as an honoured visitor.

Amongst the treasures on the walls of the corridors and saloons are several Holbeins, portraits of contemporaries of his, including Henry VIII. There are also a number by Sir Peter Lely, one being of Bishop Ken and another of his friend and host; several interesting paintings of celebrated men of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and some good representative examples of great artists from Raphael to Watts. The grand staircase and state drawing-room are of admirable proportions and form part of the work of Wyatville. In the drawing-room is treasured a cabinet of coral and a writing tablet which belonged to Talleyrand. The great hall, which contains a collection of armour and ancient implements of war of much importance and value, has a fine wooden roof and minstrels' gallery. Among the stags' horns that decorate the walls will be seen two mighty headpieces that once belonged to Irish elks and were discovered in a peat bog. The chimney-piece here belongs to the period before Wyatville began his transformation of the interior.

Not least of the attractions of Longleat are its surroundings. The park is sixteen miles round, and a large portion of this great space is taken up by garden and pleasaunce, as distinct from the deer park itself. The approach from Warminster and the north is by a wooded ascent with Cley Beacon to the right and past "Heaven's Gate," a favourite view-point with Bishop Ken, who, it is said, composed the morning hymn associated with his name while contemplating the inspiring scene before him. Almost as fine is the approach from the south through the arched gateway on the Horningsham road. This route passes through groves of magnificent timber and by the string of delightful ponds that give the place its name.

The road that hugs the Plain on its western side goes almost directly north from Warminster and, passing Upton Scudamore, reaches Westbury in less than four miles. The history of this old town is closely bound up with that of the kings of Wessex and at Westbury Leigh is a site called the "Palace Garden," encircled by a moat said to have once been the residence of these monarchs. The Westbury White Horse is supposed to have been cut as a memorial of the great victory of Alfred over the Danes in 890 (or 877). In the later Middle Ages, this town, like many others in the west, was a centre of the cloth trade, and, later, iron foundries were a feature of the place.

The handsome cruciform church, in the midst of its fine chestnut trees, is of much interest. Originally Norman, the greater part of the present building is early Perpendicular. The dingified central tower and the spaciousness of the interior will be admired. On the south of the chancel is the Willoughby Chapel, on the north, that of the Maudits. The south transept contains a monument of Sir James Ley, created Earl of Marlborough by Charles I. The chained book, a copy of Erasmus' Paraphrase, and also the fine, though modern, stained glass in the east and west windows is worthy of notice.

A new suburb has grown up on the western side between the original town and the railway junction nearly a mile away and the immediate surroundings of the station, as we enter it from the south, are reminiscent of a northern industrial town. Smoke and clangour, and odours not often met with in Wiltshire, are very insistent. Not so many years ago Westbury was in a backwater, if that term may be applied to railways, but now that it is on the new main route to Devon and Cornwall the industrial aspect of the town may increase greatly during the next few years.

Frome, six miles away over the border in Somersetshire and on this same new way to the west, has shaken off its ancient air of bucolic peace and now prints books and weaves cloth and does a little in the manufacture of art metal work. The town, nevertheless, is very pleasant despite its strenuous endeavour to make money in a way Mercian rather than West Saxon. Its broad market place and steep and picturesque streets leading thereto, especially that one named "Cheap," and the rural throng that congregates on market and fair days is distinctly that of Wessex. Frome Church is more beautiful within than without. It is approached, however, by a picturesque and steep ascent of steps, on the left-hand wall of which are sculptures of the Stations of the Cross. The church is extraordinary for the number of its side chapels and its amazing mixture of styles, but the interior has an air of much dignity and even beauty, which was greatly added to by a restoration which took place during the fifties of the last century. Perhaps the most interesting item about the church is the tomb of Bishop Ken, who was brought here from Longleat "at sunrising." His body lies just without the east window and the grave is thus described by Lord Houghton: -

  A basket-work where bars are bent, 
  Iron in place of osier; 
  And shapes above that represent 
  A mitre and a crosier.

Again we have been tempted too far afield and must return to the eastern road out of Westbury that follows the Great Western Railway to Bratton, not far from Edington station. Above to the right, on one of the western bastions of the Plain, is the White Horse just mentioned. It is of great size - 180 feet long and 107 in height. It was "restored" many years ago and the ancient grotesque outline altered by vandals who should have known better. Above the figure is the great entrenched camp called Bratton Castle, containing within its walls 23 acres. Bratton Church is built in a peculiar situation against the side of the Down. The fine cruciform structure, with a handsome four storied central tower, dates from about 1420 and occupies the site of an older building, probably Norman. The brass to Seeton Bromwich (1607) should be noticed. We now proceed by the northern foot of the hills to Edington, where is one of the most beautiful churches in Wiltshire, exceeding in its proportions and dignity some of our smaller cathedrals. It was originally the church of a monastery of Augustinians founded in 1352 by William of Edyngton, Bishop of Winchester. A tragedy took place here in 1450 during the Cade rebellion, when the Bishop of Salisbury (Ayscough) was seized by the rioters while he was celebrating mass, taken to the summit of the Downs and there stoned to death. A chapel was afterwards built on the spot, but the exact site is uncertain. The Bishop's fault was that, being constantly with the Court, his diocese was neglected and his flock suffered.

The church was both conventual and parochial; the nave, as usual in such cases, being the people's portion. The chancel, both in proportions and detail, is a very fine example of the Decorated style. In the south transept is a beautiful altar tomb with a richly carved canopy; the occupant is unknown. So is the resting-place of Bishop Ayscough. Another fine monument is that in the nave to Sir Ralph Cheney (1401). The beautiful and original fourteenth-century glass should be noticed and also the Jacobean pulpit. Of the conventual buildings nothing remains, but a few fragments of the succeeding mansion of the Pauletts are now incorporated in a neighbouring farmhouse. A magnificent yew in the churchyard probably antedates the present church, and may have been contemporary with an earlier parish church of which all record has been lost.

The road goes onward through the charming villages nestling under the northern bastions of the Plain that is still on the right hand as it was at Heytesbury. We are now on the opposite side with lonely Imber four miles away over the hills, the only settlement between the former town and Edington. "If one would forsake the world let him go to Imber," says a modern writer, and an old couplet runs "Imber on the Down, four miles from any town." After passing Coulston and Erlestoke (a gem among beautiful hamlets), from rising ground near by, may be obtained truly glorious views of the west country toward Bath and Bristol and the distant Severn Sea. A lane now turns left to Cheverell, where is a fine old mansion with an interesting courthouse and cells for prisoners, and an Early English church with a Perpendicular tower. Within the church is a tablet to Sir James Stonehouse, of interest to those who have explored the Plain, for this was the "Mr. Johnson" of Hannah More's Shepherd of Salisbury Plain and the cottage in which the shepherd - David Saunders - lived is still shown in the village.

We now approach a parting of the ways. The Salisbury-Devizes road crosses that we have been travelling, which runs west and east from Frome to Andover. Southwards toward Salisbury is the pleasant little town of West Lavington. Here is a famous college for farmers known as the Dauntsey School. It was endowed in 1895, partly from certain moneys left by Alderman Dauntsey who flourished in the fifteenth century. The Dauntsey almshouses were also an institution associated with this benevolent merchant. The church is an interesting building of various dates, from Norman to Perpendicular. The Dauntsey chapel was erected on the south side in the early fifteenth century for the family of that name; another, called the Beckett chapel, stands to the south of the chancel. A fine altar tomb, one of two in the south transept, bears a recumbent effigy of Henry Danvers. Among other objects of interest is the memorial of Captain Henry Penruddocke, shot by soldiers of the Parliament, while asleep in one of the houses of the village. The road through West Lavington leads to the heart of the Plain at Tilshead, passing at its highest point St. John a Gore Cross, where a chantry chapel once stood, a shrine where travellers might make their orisons before braving the terrors of the great waste. Tilshead met with a curious misfortune in 1841, according to the inscription on one of the cottages. A great flood, caused by a very sudden thaw which liberated some miles of snow-water on the higher portions of the Plain, tore down the narrow (and usually waterless) valley and caused great destruction in the tiny village; the old Norman church being the only building that was quite undamaged. Market Lavington is farther east on the Pewsey road. It was once of some importance and is one of those decayed towns that almost justify Cobbett's claim that the population in the valleys around the Plain was very much greater in olden days. The church here has a fine Perpendicular tower, and is partly of this style and partly Decorated. Within will be observed a squint, an ancient credence table in the chancel, and a stoup in the vestry.

Our road now runs northward past Lavington station to Potterne, three miles from the Lavington cross roads and eleven from Westbury. This is one of the most attractive villages in Wiltshire; remarkable for its half-timbered houses of the fifteenth century, especially that known as "Porch House," purchased and restored by the late George Richmond. This is supposed to be identical with the old Pack Horse Inn that once stood in the village. Potterne Church is a fine example of Early English, and the natural dignity of the building is enhanced by its domination of the village around it. It is said to have been built by the same Bishop Poore who erected Salisbury Cathedral, and is the only church on the present site. An earlier building was once in the old churchyard. The Perpendicular tower will be admired for its proportions and detail. When restorations were in progress in 1872 the archaic tub-shaped font, now standing at the end of the church, was discovered under the present font. Around the rim are inscribed the words of the ancient baptismal office: - SICUT. GERVUS. DESIDERAT. AD. FONTES AQUARUM. ITA. DISIDERAT. ANIMA. MEA. AD. TE. DS. AMEN. (Psalm xlii. 1). There are several interesting brasses and memorials in the church and outside on the north side will be seen an old dole table for the distribution of alms.

Two miles of pleasant undulating road now bring us to Devizes upon its hill beyond the railway. The town kept, until about a hundred years ago, its old style "The Devizes" - Ad Divisas,[4] the place where the boundaries of three manors met. This is the generally accepted explanation of the name, though there is still room for conjecture. Remains, considerable in the aggregate, of the Roman period have been discovered in the town and immediate neighbourhood. It is quite possible that a Roman origin of the town itself may be looked for; but it is as a feudal stronghold hold that Devizes began to make its history and as a humble dependency of that stronghold the modern town took its beginning. The castle was built by Bishop Roger in the early years of Henry I, and its chief function seems to have been that of a prison. Robert, the eldest son of the Conqueror, was shut up in it. Soon afterwards, its builder, having taken the side of Maud in her quarrel with Stephen, was imprisoned in a beast house belonging to the castle, when the king, in one of his smaller successes, took possession. Another notable prisoner was Hubert de Burgh, who escaped and flew to St. John's Church for sanctuary; his gaolers recaptured him at the altar, but soon afterwards gave him liberty on being threatened with the wrath of the Church. During the reign of Edward III the nephews of the French king were kept here as hostages. Its last appearance in history was during the Civil War, when the keep was defended by Sir Edward Lloyd for the King, but according to Leland it must by that time have fallen into evil state, for, in 1536, he writes: "It is now in ruine and parte of the front of the towres of the gate of the kepe and the chapell in it were caried full unprofitably, onto the buyldynge of Master Baintons place at Bromeham full four miles of," and after Cromwell had "slighted" it, the remnants, goodly enough even then, were used as a free quarry by anyone desiring to build. The mound and ditch that surrounded the outer walls and a few fragments of the masonry of a dungeon is all that can be seen to-day, but the mound is crowned by a modern and rather imposing castellated building.

[4] An ancient countryman may occasionally be met with who will direct the pedestrian to "the 'Vize."

The Castle church was St. John's, though of course the fortress had its own chapel within the walls. Originally a Norman building, St. John's was much altered during the fifteenth century, when the present nave was erected and the Tudor chapels of the chancel were added. The tower is one of the finest and most dignified that we have in the older style. The ceiling of the south chapel, added to the church by Lord St. Amand, is a beautiful example of the woodwork of the early Tudor period, as is that of the present vestry and one-time chapel on the north side. An extension of the nave took place in 1865, when the old west front was much altered.

St. Mary's, the town church, has a Norman chancel and Perpendicular nave and tower. On the beautiful old roof of the nave is a record of the actual date and the builder's name: -


A fine statue of the Virgin will be noticed in the eastern gable of the nave. The Transitional south porch has a not unpleasing upper story dating from 1612.

The streets between the two churches have some good old houses in them, and the first traversed is called the "Brittox," said to be derived from "Bretesque," the name for the outer defences of the castle. The broad market place is one of the most spacious in the kingdom, and a very interesting sight on market days. Here one may see the shepherd of Salisbury Plain, or rather, of the Marlborough Downs, in typical costume - long weather-stained cloak and round black felt, almost brimless, hat, described by Lady Tennant as having a bunch of flowers stuck in the brim, but this the writer had never the fortune to see until the summer of 1921 when the shepherd was also wearing his own old cavalry breeches and puttees! In the centre of the throng rises the mock Gothic pinnacled market cross, presented to Devizes in 1814 by Henry Addington, afterwards Viscount Sidmouth, who succeeded Pitt as Premier. There is a remarkable inscription upon one side of the pedestal which, for the benefit of those unable personally to peruse it, a portion is here appended: -

  On Thursday the 25th of January 1753 
  Ruth Pierce of Pottern, in this County agreed with 
  Three other women to buy a Sack of Wheat in the Market 
  Each paying her due proportion toward the same. 
  One of these women, in collecting 
  The Several Quotas of Money discovered a Deficiency, 
  And demanded of Ruth Pierce the sum which was wanting 
  To make good the amount: Ruth Pierce protested 
  That she had paid her share and said "She wished 
  That she might drop down dead if she had not." 
  She rashly repeated this awful wish, when, to the 
  Consternation and Terror of the surrounding Multitude 
  She instantly fell down and expired, having the Money 
  Concealed in her hand.

The "Bear" is a spacious inn made out of two fine old houses, and is famous as the hostelry where the father of Sir Thomas Lawrence was at one time landlord. He was a man of literary tastes and public-spirited withal, for he is said to have erected posts upon the lonely hills hereabouts to guide wayfarers to civilization. Those who have seen Salisbury Plain in its winter aspect will appreciate what this meant at the end of the eighteenth century, when cultivation, and the consequent fence, was not in existence thereon, and to be lost on the Downs in the snow was a serious adventure. The account of the Lawrence family in Fanny Burney's Diary is of much interest and throws an intimate light on certain aspects of English provincial life at that time.

Besides a large number of pleasant and dignified houses of the eighteenth century, Devizes has a few older ones, principally in the alleys at the back of St. John Street; and some fine public buildings that would not disgrace a town of more consequence. Foremost among these is the Corn Exchange, close to the "Bear." On its front will be noticed a statue of the goddess of agriculture. The edifice over which she presides is of imposing size and shows how great an amount of business must have been transacted here in the past. The Town Hall contains several objects of interest which are shown to the visitor, including a fine set of old corporation plate. The ancient hall of the wool merchants' Guild is near the castle. Its purpose has long forsaken the old walls, but under the care of the present occupiers the well-being of the building is assured. The museum is well worth seeing. Here is the famous "Marlborough Bucket," said to be of Armorican origin. It was discovered near Marlborough by Sir R.C. Hoare, and its contents proved it to be a cinerary urn of a date probably not much anterior to the Roman occupation of Britain. The geological collections - stones and fossils; and some interesting models of Avebury and Stonehenge, and particularly the Stourhead antiquities - British and prehistoric - should on no account be missed.

An old diary of royal progresses gives the following account of a foreign visit in 1786: -

  "On September 25 the Archduke and Duchess of Austria with their 
  suite arrived in town from Bath. On the road, as they came through 
  the Devizes, they met with a singular occurrence, which afforded 
  them some entertainment. A custom has prevailed in that place, of 
  which the following story is the foundation: A poor weaver passing 
  through the place without money and friends, being overtaken by 
  hunger and in the utmost necessity, applied for charity to a baker, 
  who kindly gave him a penny loaf. The weaver made his way to 
  Coventry, where, after many years' industry, he amassed a fortune, 
  and by his will, in remembrance of the seasonable charity of 
  the Devizes, he bequeathed a sum in trust, for the purpose of 
  distributing on the anniversary of the day when he was so relieved 
  a halfpenny loaf to every person in the town, gentle and simple, 
  and to every traveller that should pass through the town on that 
  day a penny loaf. The will is faithfully adminstered, and the Duke 
  of Austria and his suite passing through the town on the day of 
  the Coventry loaf, on their way from Bath to London, a loaf was 
  presented to each of them, of which the Duke and Duchess were most 
  cheerfully pleased to accept, and the custom struck the Archduke so 
  forcibly as a curious anecdote in his travels that he minuted down 
  the circumstance, and the high personages seemed to take delight in 
  breakfasting on the loaf thus given as the testimony of gratitude 
  for a favour seasonably conferred."

St. James' Church, with its fine Perpendicular tower, will be passed if the main road is taken toward Avebury. A better way for the traveller on foot is to go by the beautiful avenue called Quakers' Walk to Roundway Down and Oliver's Camp, the last named being actually an ancient encampment, given its present name because the battle for Devizes in the Civil War took place close by. The fight was not a Parliamentary success and Waller was forced to retire before the King's men under Lord Wilmot. The Down was in consequence renamed "Runaway" by the jubilant Cavaliers. Below the face of the hill to the south-west is the picturesque village of Rowde, famous for its quaint old inn. If the Roundway route is chosen a descent should be made to Bishop's Cannings lying snugly under the steep side of Tan Hill. Here is a magnificent church of much interest and beauty. The cruciform building is in the main Transitional and Early English. The dignified central tower has a spire of stone. The corbels supporting the roof are carved with representations of Kings and Abbots. The interior is impressive in its splendid proportions and graceful details, and of especial beauty are the Perpendicular arches inserted in the nave. The fine triple lancets of the chancel, transepts and west end also call for notice. To the east of the south transept is the former chapel of Our Lady of the Bower. This has been the Ernle chantry since 1563. It contains monuments of this family and an ancient helmet bearing their crest hangs on the wall. The south transept has a piscina and in the north transept is a curious old carved chair, said to have been used by the guardian of a shrine, but whose or what shrine is unknown. The two-storied building on the north-east of the chancel, consisting of a sacristry and priest's room, is the oldest part of the church. James I was entertained in the village during one of his progresses by the vicar who, with the help of his parishioners, rendered some of his own compositions for the edification of the King.

The Avebury road now ascends the sparsely inhabited chalk hills, part of the range known under the general designation of the Marlborough Downs. To the left, on the northern slopes of Roundway Down, have been erected a number of gaunt and lofty wireless masts, visible for a great distance. They may be said to stand in a cemetery, so numerous are the round barrows scattered about the surrounding hills. After passing a reservoir on the left the road reaches the lonely "Shepherd's Shore," nearly 600 feet up. Just past this point the mysterious Wansdyke is crossed. Hereabouts the Dyke runs in a fairly straight line east and west, where this direction keeps to the summit of the hills. It is well seen from our road as it descends on the right from Horton Down. To the east it eventually becomes lost in the fastnesses of Savernake Forest. Westwards it is, for some distance, identical with the Roman road to Bath. The "Wodensdyke" appears to have been made to protect south-western England from foes coming out of the midlands, but whether it was the work of Brito-Roman or West Saxon is unknown. Our way now drops past three conspicuous barrows on the left, with the Lansdown Column showing up on the summit of Cherhill Down beyond. This was erected to commemorate the birth of Edward VII. Presently, in the other direction, to the right front, appears the dark mass of Silbury Hill, perhaps another monument to a great monarch, but of an age too distant for conjecture.

Seven miles from Devizes we reach the Bath road at Beckhampton, first crossing the track of the old Roman Bath-Silchester way about three-quarters of a mile before it joins the modern road. We are now in the valley of the Kennet, which here turns east after an infant course under the long line of Hackpen Hill and through the out-of-the-way villages of Winterbourne Basset, Monkton and Berwick Basset. The "winter bourne" is actually the baby Kennet, that in dry summers hardly makes an appearance. Berwick has a family connexion with Wooton, over the hills and far away to the north-west. Hackpen is almost the final effort of the chalk in this direction. At its northern end it rises to 884 feet, an isolated section being crowned by Barbury Camp, ringed by its beech trees, from which there is a grand view north and west. From this point the general trend of the chalk escarpment is north-east to the Lambourn Downs, between Lambourn and Wantage. Along the brow of this long ridge wanders that fascinating old track indifferently termed Ridgeway and Icknield Way, which only leaves the highlands to cross the Thames at Streatley. But we are off our own track now and must return to Avebury, or Abury as the natives have it. The village is a mile from Beckhampton, and a short distance up the by-road the first glimpse of our goal may be had on the left in the two "Long Stones" just visible across a field. A little farther one gets the best distant view of Silbury Hill - one which shows its artificial character and true shape to great advantage. The sombre tone of the turf that clothes it is remarkable; when seen against the pale sweep of the Downs behind, its sides do not appear to reflect light at all.

"As a cathedral is to a parish church," Aubrey's comparison of Avebury with Stonehenge is difficult to understand upon merely a casual visit. To grasp the unique character of this, the oldest prehistoric monument in Europe, and perhaps in the world, we must take for granted the investigations and discoveries of antiquaries and archaeologists during the last 250 years, and if the comparison between their conjectural but approximately correct plans and the present aspect of this mysterious relic of the Stone Age is disappointing and perplexing, we can only be thankful that the work of Farmer Green and Tom Robinson, the two despoilers mentioned by the earliest investigators, has been prevented in their descendants, and that though the circles are incapable of restoration, the few stones that remain will be preserved for all time.

Avebury is undoubtedly older than Stonehenge and must belong to the true Neolithic period, whether the former does or not. Of the original six hundred and fifty megaliths eighteen are standing and about the same number are buried. Some are nearly 17 feet high, and the rampart that encloses the Temple is no less than 4,500 feet round and from 10 to 20 feet in height, though it is computed that from the bottom of the ditch to the wall must have originally been nearly 50 feet. The modern village, built of some of the missing stones, is partly within the circular earthwork. This rampart is the only part of the great work which can be readily comprehended by the visitor. A circle of one hundred stones is said by the archaeologist Stukely to have stood around the edge of the enclosure, forty-four still standing in his time (1720). The same writer asserts that within the great circle were two other separate rings consisting of thirty stones, and each containing an inner circle of twelve stones. The northern of these rings had three large stones in the middle; the southern, one enormous stone 27 feet high and nearly 9 feet round. One, or possibly two, avenues of stones led south-east and south-west; that going in the direction of West Kennet may still be traced and fifteen stones remain, but the other is conjectural, if it existed at all. The two megaliths seen from the Beckhampton road may be a remnant of it. The purpose of all this intricate and elaborate work is a puzzling problem and, like the mystery of Stonehenge, will probably remain a secret to the end. The literature of Avebury, not quite so copious as that of the stones of the Plain, is also more diffident in its guessing. Avebury has given a title to the most modest and thorough of its students, and his writings on this and the other prehistoric monuments of Wiltshire, a county that must have been a holy land some thousands of years ago, should be studied by all who have any concern in the long-buried past of their country.

Avebury Church, just without the rampart, was originally a Saxon building, its aisles being Norman additions. The chancel was rebuilt in 1879, but certain old features are preserved. The fine tower is Perpendicular. The font may be Saxon, though the ornamentation is of a later date. Avebury Manor House, beyond the churchyard, is a beautiful old sixteenth-century dwelling; it marks the site of a twelfth-century monastery.

About one mile south of Avebury rises the extraordinary mound called Silbury Hill, as wonderful in its way as either of the two great stone circles of Wiltshire and perhaps part of one plan with them. It is said to be the largest artificial hill in Europe and bears comparison, as far as the labour involved in its erection is concerned, with the Pyramids. The mound is 1,660 feet round at the base and covers over five acres. It is now just 130 feet high, but when made it is probable that the top was more acute and consequently higher. A circle of sarsens once surrounded the base, but these have almost all disappeared. Pepys repeats an old tradition that a King Seall was buried upon the hill; but it is extraordinary that Avebury and Silbury were less known to our forefathers than Stonehenge, and the first mention of these two places, as being of antiquarian or historic interest, is in the seventeenth century. Excavations during recent years have done little or nothing to clear up the mystery of Silbury. The fact that the Roman road (which leaves the Bath road just west of Silbury) here deviates slightly from its usual straightness is significant and proves that the mound was in existence when the road was made. The villagers around used to ascend the hill on Palm Sunday to eat "fig cakes" and drink sugar and water. It has been suggested that this ceremony had some connexion with the gospel story of the barren fig tree, but it is much more probable that the tradition has a very early origin. As a matter of fact the cakes were mostly made with raisins which are called figs by natives of Wessex.

To the south-east of Silbury is the "Long Barrow," one of the most famous in England. This tumulus is over 330 feet long and about 60 feet wide. When the stone chamber was opened some years ago, four skeletons were found within. Vestiges of a small stone circle remain on the South of the Bath road, between it and the Kennet, and almost on the track of the Ridgeway. If the Way is followed northwards towards the slopes of Overton Hill we reach the "quarry" where most of the megalithic monuments of Wiltshire originated. These extraordinary stones, thickly scattered over the southern slopes of the Marlborough Downs, are generally known as the "Grey Wethers," or "Sarsens." At one time supposed to have been brought to their present position by glacial action, they are now said to be, and undoubtedly are, the result of denudation. They are composed of a hard grey sandstone which once covered the chalk; the softer portions wearing away left the tough core lying in isolated masses upon the hills. Not far away in Clatford Bottom is the "Devil's Den," a cromlech upon the remains of a long barrow; the upper slab measures nine feet by eight. The Downs above Fyfield form a magnificent galloping and training ground for the racing stables near by. Our road, the Bath highway, now follows the Kennet into Marlborough, six miles from Avebury.