Marlborough is in Wiltshire, but it will be legitimate to start a slight exploration of the middle course of the Kennet from the old Forest town. Here the clear chalk stream, fresh from the highlands of the Marlborough Downs, runs as a clear and inviting little river at the foot of the High Street gardens. For Marlborough is a flowery and umbrageous town in its "backs," however dull it may appear to the traveller by the railway, from which dis-vantage point most English towns look their very worst.

Although the river was never wide enough to bring credit or renown to Marlborough, the borough had another channel of profit and good business in its position on the Bath Road. The part that great highway played in the two hundred years which ended soon after Queen Victoria commenced her long reign seems likely to have a renewal in these days of revived road travel. Ominous days are these for the iron ways that, for almost a century, have half ruined the old road towns of England, but at the same time left them in such a state of suspended animation that they are mostly delightful and unspoilt reminders of another age.

The fine and spacious High Street that once echoed with the horns of a dozen coaches in the course of an afternoon now hums with the machinery of half a hundred motors in an hour, and if they do not all stop, some do, and leave the worthy burgesses a greater amount of wealth and a cleaner roadway than their more picturesque predecessors.

The municipality is very ancient and still retains some quaint customs. Not that, however, of the medieval fee for admission to the corporation consisting of two greyhounds, two white capons, and a white bull! The last item must have given the aspirant for civic honour much wearisome searching of farmyards before he found the acceptable colour. Like so many of the old towns through which we have wandered, Marlborough has suffered from fire; one in the middle of the seventeenth century was of particular fury, for, with the exception of the beautiful old gabled houses on the higher side of the sloping main street, the town was then practically destroyed. "Two hundred and fifty dwellings and Saint Mary's church are gone, and over three hundred families forced to crave the hospitality of the neighbouring farmers and gentry, or wander about the fields vainly looking for shelter. Every barn and beast-house filled to overflowing."

The tradesmen of High Street say that theirs is the widest street in England. This may be so. It is undoubtedly one of the most pleasant and picturesque, and "the great houses supported on pillars," to which Pepys refers in his Diary, still remain on the north side.

Marlborough had not actually a Roman beginning. The station known as Cunetio was nearly three miles away to the east. But the castle hill antedates this period considerably and is supposed to be an artificial mound of unknown antiquity, perhaps made by the men who reared Silbury Hill. It is said that within lie the bones of Merlin. Quite possibly this idea arose from the resemblance of the ancient form of Marlborough - "Merlebergh" to the name of the half legendary sorcerer. The real origin of the town-name is supposed to be the West Saxon "Maer-leah" or cattle boundary. Here was erected in the earlier years of the Conqueror's reign a castle that was strengthened and rebuilt in succeeding generations until, somewhere about the rise of the Tudor power, it was allowed to fall into decay. It was probably in the Castle Chapel of St. Nicholas that King John was married to Isabella of Gloucester in 1180, and in the church at Preshute, the parish church of the Castle, is an enormous font of black marble brought from this chapel. A tradition has it that King John was baptized in it. The only real fighting recorded as taking place around the Castle, while it was in existence, was during the time of Fitz Gilbert, who held it for the Empress Maud. Of more importance was the sallying forth, during the Civil War, of the Royalists, who had fortified a mansion which had arisen from the Castle ruins, against the republican town, capturing and partly burning it. The soldiers displayed great savagery, fifty-three houses being destroyed. The garrison of "the most notoriously disaffected town in Wiltshire" was the first taken in the War. The Castle was also famous as the place of meeting for the Parliament of Henry III which passed the "Statutes of Marlborough," the Charter for which Simon de Montfort had risked and suffered so much.

Of more living interest are the ancient and beautiful buildings of Marlborough School, instituted in 1843 by a number of public-spirited men, headed by a priest of the Church of England - Charles Plater. The school is the scene of Stanley Weyman's The Castle Inn, for it was formerly that historic hostel, one of the finest and most famous in England, before the disappearance of the road traveller caused the collapse of the old-fashioned posting-houses. Before the year 1740 it had been a mansion, originally built by Lord Seymour during the reign of Charles II. It afterwards passed through several hands, and, while in the possession of Lady Hertford, saw the entertainment of some of the literary lions of the day, including Thomson of The Seasons and Isaac Watts. In 1767, when it had become the largest inn in England, it was the headquarters of Lord Chatham who, while on the road, developed an attack of gout and, shutting himself up in his room, remained there some weeks. "Everybody who travelled that road was amazed by the number of his attendants. Footmen and grooms, dressed in his family livery, filled the whole inn and swarmed in the streets of the little town. The truth was that the invalid had insisted that during his stay all the waiters and stable boys of the 'Castle' should wear his livery." The fine school chapel was added in 1882 and several extensive and necessary additions have been made to the original buildings. Among famous headmasters may be mentioned Dean Bradley and Dean Farrar.

King Edward the VI Grammar School is at the far end of the town. The old buildings were pulled down in 1905. In this school Dr. Sacheverell, who was born in Marlborough, received his education. The present St. Mary's Church practically dates from the great fire of 1653, and is a very poor specimen of debased Perpendicular. The chancel was added in 1874. A Norman doorway at the west end should be noticed. The tower of the church shows traces of the Royalist attack on the town in 1642. St. Peter's Church, not far from the College, is Perpendicular, and from its high and finely designed tower, curfew still rings each night through the year. Within, the groined roof and beautiful design of the windows are worthy of notice.

Beautiful in the extreme is the walk through Savernake Forest which, if it is not to be compared with the New Forest either in size or wildness, does in one particular surpass the latter, namely in its magnificent vistas and beech avenues. The central walk between Marlborough and Savernake is unsurpassed in England and probably in Europe. It leads to Tottenham House, situated at the eastern extremity and belonging to the Marquis of Ailesbury. This mansion stands on the site of an old house of the Seymours, to whom the Forest passed from the Plantagenet Kings (it was a jointure of Queen Eleanor). By marriage the estates afterwards went to the Bruces, who still hold them.

Herds of deer roam the open glades, and wild life is abundant and varied. In some parts of the Forest the thickets and dense undergrowth are reminiscent of the district between the Rufus Stone and Fording-bridge in the greater Forest, but the highest beauty of Savernake lies in the avenues of oak and beech which extend for miles and meet about midway between Durley and Marlborough. Here are no fir plantations to strike an alien note. Rugged and ancient trees that were saplings in Stuart times or before and the dense young growth of to-day are all natural to the soil. The column that stands on high ground, a little over a mile from Savernake station, commemorates, among other events, the temporary recovery of George III from his mental illness.

Great Bedwyn was once a Parliamentary borough and, in more remote times still, a town of importance. It has a station on the Reading-Taunton Railway and can be reached by circuitous roads from Savernake Forest. Although nominally still a market town, it is really but a large village. It is mentioned in the Saxon records as the scene of a battle between the men of Wessex and those of Mercia in the great struggle for domination in 675. The cruciform church is a fine structure, mostly built of flint and dating from Transitional times. The chancel is Early English and the transepts Decorated, but the nave is of the older style with fine ornamentation. In the chancel will be noticed the effigy of Sir John Seymour (1536), the father of Protector Somerset. A brass commemorates another John Seymour, brother of the Protector. There is also a monument to a daughter of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. In the south transept is an effigy, cross legged, of Sir Adam de Stokke (1312) and a plain slab with an incised cross of another of his family. The church has a quantity of stained glass of much beauty. An ancient Market Hall once stood in the centre of the spacious main street; while it stood the villagers were reminded of the vanished glories of Bedwyn. The road proceeds past Chisbury Hill, a prehistoric camp on the Wansdyke. Within the earthwork is a barn that was once the Decorated church of St. Martin. Mr. A.H. Allcroft thinks that the original building was erected shortly after the drawn battle between Wessex and Mercia that took place on the Downs hereabouts in 675. Froxfield is reached just short of the Berkshire border and the way accompanies the railway and canal through Little Bedwyn, where is a stone-spired church dating from the early thirteenth century. Froxfield Church is outside the village on a hill. It is a small and ancient Norman building, quaint and picturesque. The old Somerset Hospital here was founded in 1686 by Sarah Duchess of Somerset for thirty widows of the clergy and others; about half that number are now maintained in the beautiful old buildings, grouped round a quadrangle high above the road.

At Hungerford, the first town in Berkshire, over nine miles direct from Marlborough, we return to the Kennet. The townsmen are proud of the fact that their liberties were given them by John of Gaunt, who held the Royal Manor, which afterwards became the property of the town, and as proof of the charter they still show the stranger a famous horn presented to the burgesses by the great Duke of Lancaster. A fierce battle is said to have raged on the banks of the Kennet between West Saxons and Danes, where now anglers whip the stream for the fat trout that this part of Kennet breeds. The historic Bear Inn was the lodging of William of Orange on the night of December 6, 1688, when he received the messengers of James II. Hungerford Church is now of small interest. It has been rebuilt within recent times and contains little from the old building. A cross-legged effigy is supposed to represent Sir Robert de Hungerford (1340).

In coming from Marlborough to Hungerford the valley of the Kennet has been left to the north, but only for the purpose of noting the beauties that lie around Savernake Forest and the course of the Avon Canal. The Kennet in its upper course is equally beautiful and, if possible, an additional journey should be made through the picturesque village of Axford, passing on the way Mildenhall, the one-time Cunetio. The site of the Roman station is now marked by Folly Farm. The most attractive place on this part of the river is Ramsbury, six miles from Marlborough and five from Hungerford. That this little town was evidently of great antiquity is proved by the important place it held in the tenth century, when it was a "stool" of the Bishop of Wiltshire. Originally the name of the town was Hrafensbyrig or Ravensbury. The Early English church contains a number of interesting relics of the supposed cathedral discovered in the restoration of the existing building. They consist of sculptured stones of fine design and well preserved. In the Darell Chapel is an altar tomb and others to various members of this once famous family. A canopied tomb of William de St. John stands in the chancel. Other interesting items are the finely sculptured font and stoups at the north and south doors. Ramsbury Park has been passed on the way here from Marlborough. In it is the manor house, a seventeenth-century building, containing a famous collection of armour. The Kennet is at its best as it flows through the park.

On the Hungerford side of Ramsbury, and to the south of the Kennet, is the famous Littlecote Manor, a magnificent and unexcelled sixteenth-century house. Built by the Darells it passed to the Pophams, one of whom was a leader of the Parliamentarians. A gruesome and probably true story is told of the last of the Darells - "Wild Dayrell." A midwife deposed that she had been fetched blindfold to attend a lady at dead of night. When her offices were over, a wild-looking man seized the infant and hurled it in a blazing fire. Afterwards apprehended, Darell by some trick managed to defeat justice.

A beautiful side excursion can be taken soon after leaving Ramsbury to Aldbourne, three miles from the Hungerford road. This small town, which boasts a fine church of much dignity and interest, is situated at the end of the lonely expanse of Aldbourne Chase. From the heights above views may be had of the distant Cotswold and Malvern Hills. Chilton Foliat, picturesquely placed on the river bank, is the only village passed on the way to Hungerford. Its church contains a number of monuments to the Popham family and a cross-legged effigy of an unknown person.

Kintbury is three miles from Hungerford on the road which follows the canal and railway toward Newbury. The interesting and partly Norman church was pulled about in a shameful manner in the middle of the last century. Another restoration about forty years ago repaired the mischief as far as was possible. The Norman doorways remain much in their original condition, also the chancel arch and the two squints. Kintbury is a pleasant and typical Berkshire village, little altered by the railway, which seems to have spared these old towns and villages in the Kennet valley in a remarkable way, possibly because "desirable villadom" has taken itself entirely to the banks of the Thames away to the north.

The road may be now taken northwards over the Kennet Bridge in two miles to Avington, which is only about two miles from Hungerford direct and just off the main Newbury road. The church here should on no account be missed. It is a perfect gem of pure Norman architecture, the only portion of later date being the Tudor south porch and arch near the font; the priest's door; vestry arch and window, and a low side window. It will be noticed that the chancel arch is broken at the top. The font has grotesque sculpture upon it, the subjects being doubtful. The early carvings and arabesques in the church are of great interest and will repay careful scrutiny. Avington is one of the smallest of hamlets, but wonderfully pretty in its setting of green on the river-bank. The picturesque rectory is close to the church.

The Newbury road runs about half a mile north of the river past Stock Cross and Benham Park to Speen, generally supposed to be identical with Spinae, the Roman station at the junction of the roads from Bath and Cirencester to Silchester. Not far from the rebuilt church is an ancient well over which has been erected in recent years a Gothic arch. One mile farther, eight from Hungerford, and we are in Newbury, perhaps the "new burb" in comparison with the older settlement of Speen. A castle built in 1140 was in existence but a few years. It was destroyed by King Stephen after being held for the Empress Maud during a three months' siege. Newbury took part in the Wars of the Roses and stood for the House of York. When the Lancastrians entered the town in 1460 the partisans of York were put to the sword. Every one has heard of "Jack of Newbury." He was a rich cloth merchant named John Smallwood who lived in North-Brook Street at a time when the town was famed for its woollen trade. His patriotism led him to gather one hundred and fifty of the youth of Newbury and, himself marching at their head, took part with his men in the battle of Flodden. His house still stands, although greatly altered to outward appearance; in its old rooms Henry VIII was received as a guest and proffered to the worthy clothier a knighthood in recognition of his services to the state, an honour which Smallwood sturdily refused.

During the Marian persecutions the Master of Reading School - Julian Palmer, with others, was burnt at the stake. But the stirring events of the Civil War eclipse the earlier historical interest. Two important battles were fought in the near vicinity of the town. The first took place on September 20, 1643. The Londoners, under Essex, were returning to the capital after raising the siege of Gloucester, and had taken the longer, and southern, route as being the most open and practicable. News of the approach reached the King at Oxford and it was decided to stop them and give battle. Essex had led his men out of Hungerford the day before and in the evening he found his way barred by the Royalist cavalry at Newbury Wash. The Parliamentary forces bivouacked on Crockham Heath and next morning opened the attack. They were fortunate enough to be able to seize the high ground commanding the Kintbury road before the King's men awoke to the importance of the position. The Life Guards under Biron charged up the hill with great valour, but failed to shift the stubborn townsmen, and brave and gentle Falkland was killed in the melee. On the Highclere road, about a mile out of Newbury, stands the monument to this noble and pathetic figure, whose heart seems to have been broken by the wretched times in which he lived.

On the other side of the field Prince Rupert, after repeated attempts to cut a way through the London infantry, met with as little success as the Guards, and the vanguard of the Parliamentary Army had forced its way steadily along the London road, so that, when night fell, after a day of heroic fighting on both sides, the King decided to retire into Newbury, and the way into London was open to the Republicans.

The second battle took place after a year had passed, on October 27, 1644. The King's cause had been victorious in the west, and his army had afterwards successfully relieved Donnington Castle. The Royal forces were in a strong position to the north of Newbury, between Shaw House and the Kennet, with Donnington in the centre of the defences. The Army of the Parliament, under the joint command of Essex and Manchester, and numbering among the sub-commandants Cromwell and the redoubtable Waller, made a concerted attack from front and rear. In this fight the honours may be said to have lain with the King as, with the exception of the artillery, the Royal losses were small and a successful retreat during the night quite defeated the object of the Republican attack, which was to smash, once and for all, the army opposed to them.

Beautiful old Shaw House, one of the finest in Berkshire, still shows traces of the fight in the earthworks that partly encircle it. The mansion was built by another celebrated clothier of Newbury, one Thomas Dolman, whose namesake and descendant was knighted at the Restoration.

Newbury Church was rebuilt by "Jack of Newbury," and the date of its completion (1532) may be seen on a corbel. This was after Smallwood's death, the work being finished by his son. The clothier's brass (1519) may be seen among others. The appointments of the church are fine and imposing; the Jacobean pulpit, dated 1607, should be noticed, also the history of the church, in the form of an illuminated chart, on the west wall. The hero of the town was married in the chapel of the old Hospital of St. Bartholomew which was turned into a school in the reign of Edward VI. Some of the school buildings are of a later date than this. The most picturesque old house in the town, which really contains few that are ancient, is Newbury Museum, once the Cloth Hall. There is a pleasing glimpse of the Kennet from the short high bridge in the main street and a still pleasanter view of the bridge itself from the river path below.

A charming excursion can be taken to Lambourne, up in the heart of the chalk hills to the north-west. This was one of King Alfred's towns, and until the coming of the light railway one of the most unknown and remote in the kingdom. Railway and road follow the course of the Lambourne, a delightful river, clear and cold from the chalk and never seeming to run dry, as do other streams of a like nature in exceptionally hot summers. Another railroad goes directly north from Newbury and forms the main route between Oxford and Winchester. This also penetrates the heart of the Berkshire uplands and taps a district inexhaustible in charm and interest, in the centre of which is Wantage, famous as the birthplace of Alfred. But this country has been fully described by Mr. Ditchfield in "Byeways in Berkshire."

The Bath road in a little over three miles from Newbury reaches Thatcham, once, by all accounts, a large and prosperous market town, but this was in the days of the Angevin kings. The great market square probably dates from their time and the battered remains of the old market cross may have replaced a still more ancient one. The fine church has a Norman door and Transitional arcading, but a very thorough "restoration" has obliterated most of the ancient features. The Danvers and Fuller tombs should be seen, also an interesting brass to Thomas Loundye. The fabric of a chantry chapel at the other end of the village dates from 1334, but it was much altered in externals in the early eighteenth century, when it was turned into a school.

The Bath-London road that we have travelled from Marlborough now approaches the most beautiful stretches of the Kennet, lined with fine parklands on the gentle northern slopes of the valley. The high hedges and fences are in places very jealous of the beauties they encircle, but there are charming glimpses here and there of this pleasant countryside. Woolhampton, with a modern church of no particular interest, is passed four miles from Thatcham, and two miles farther comes Aldermaston Station, where we leave the great highway and turn south to Aldermaston Wharf on the Kennet Canal. This is a most pleasant spot, and to enhance the charm of the surroundings a large sheet of ornamental water has been formed, close to, and fed by, the channel. Aldermaston village is nearly two miles to the south-west and well-placed among the wooded hills that march with the Hampshire border. The aspect of the village is as unspoilt as any in the old Berkshire by-ways. At the southern end of the street are the gates of Aldermaston Park; a picturesque expanse of broken ground with several fine avenues, and populated by herds of deer. The old Jacobean mansion was burnt down in 1843, although a few of the ancient features were saved and incorporated in the new house. Close to the park is the church, the foundations of which are Norman, as are also the very fine and uncommon west door and two blocked-up doors in the chancel and nave. In the chapel on the south side is the tomb of Sir George Forster and his lady (1526) with their twenty attendant children. The knight's feet rest against his favourite hound and a lap dog is pulling at the lady's dress. There are also brasses to some other members of the Forster family which owned the manor during Elizabethan days. The pulpit and sounding board belong to this period. The lancet windows of the chancel date this portion of the church as about 1270. There are some ancient frescoes, faint and dim by contrast with the modern scheme of decoration; they represent St. Christopher carrying our Lord, and, below, a mermaid and fish.

Silchester is about four miles to the south-east by winding ways that lead over the hills of the Hampshire border. The traveller who comes prepared to find the actual ruins of the Roman Calleva spread before him will be grievously disappointed. The economic necessities of to-day have rendered the surrender of the site to the agriculturist as necessary as it is appropriate. The sandy soil of North Hants is a better protection to these remnants of a former civilization than all the tarpaulins or sheds that would otherwise have to be used. Minute and accurate plans of the foundations, that include those of a small Christian Basilica, were made in sections, as they were uncovered, over a period extending from 1864 to 1910. For a detailed study of the surveys, and of the many antiquities capable of removal, those interested must visit the Reading Museum. It has been found that the walls of Calleva followed the irregular outline of a former British stronghold, and instead of the usual square plan the outline of the city was seven-sided. The remnants of the flint walls are nearly one and three-quarter miles round and contain within their circumference about 100 acres. Within the east gate is an old farmhouse and the interesting parish church of Silchester, dating mostly from the thirteenth century.

The beautiful fir woods that are such a feature of the surrounding landscape make rambles in any direction most delightful. By-ways may be taken eastwards to the Stratfields - Mortimer, Saye and Turgis. The second is well known as the residence of the great Duke of Wellington and his successors, who hold it by presenting a flag to the King on the anniversary of Waterloo.

About three miles south of Silchester is an interesting church at Bramley. It is more than probable that the ruins of the former place were used by the builders of this church. The older portions, the north side of the nave and the font, are Norman. Part of the chancel is Early English and the tower, built of brick, just antedates the Civil War. The ugly Brocas chapel on the south side was erected in the opening years of the nineteenth century. It contains a "monstrous fine" sculpture of one of the family and bears on the roof their gilded Moor's head crest as a vane. The most interesting detail in the church is a series of wall paintings, including one of the martyrdom of St. Thomas a Becket. The west gallery was added in the early eighteenth century and is a handsome erection. Not far away is the fine old Manor House, now divided into tenements, but still a gracious and dignified "black-and-white" building.

A by-way going westwards through "Little London" eventually leads to a number of interesting villages, among them Pamber and Monk Sherborne, which form one parish. The church used by Pamber is a remnant of the old Priory church founded by Henry I, and consists of the ancient choir and tower dating from the end of the twelfth century. Within are a few relics of this period, including several old coffin slabs, a font and a wooden cross-legged effigy belonging to the thirteenth century. Monk Sherborne Church has a Norman door and chancel arch and also a piscina of this period. The remainder of the much-restored fabric is mainly Early English.

For our present goal - Kingsclere - the way is circuitous, but extremely pleasant. (In fine weather it is possible to take a short cut by field paths for the greater part of the distance.) After crossing the almost obliterated Port Way, as the road from Silchester to Old Sarum is called, and nearly eight miles of cross country rambling from Bramley, a main highway is reached at Wolverton, where the church is reputed to be a work of Sir Christopher Wren. This is unlikely, but the design of the tower is familiar to anyone acquainted with London City and dates, with the remainder of the fabric, from 1717. The red-brick walls relieved by white stone are a little startling at first in such an out-of-the-way village, but their effect is not unpleasing, and when the church is entered its fine proportions will be admired by anyone not slavishly bound to the worship of "Gothic." The powers that once ruled here evidently thought otherwise, for several attempts have obviously been made to do away with some of the classic details. The fine contemporary woodwork of the chancel and other irreplacable details were destroyed or seriously damaged by a destructive fire about twelve years ago.

In another two miles Kingsclere is reached. This is a very ancient town and was under the Saxon Kings, as its name proclaims, a royal manor. Its "papers" go back to the eighth century. After the Conqueror's day it passed into the hands of the church, and Rouen Canons were its overlords. When they became aliens in political fact, the manor passed to William de Melton. King John had one of his hunting lodges at Freeman tie on the south of the town. No history has been made at Kingsclere since Charles passed the night of October 21, 1644, here, on his way to Newbury, but there is an air of "far-off things and battles long ago" about the quiet little town and its grey and solemn Norman church. The stern square church tower is a fine example of early twelfth-century work, majestic in its simplicity, but apart from this the exterior appears to have been scraped clean of ancient details by a drastic restoration. Within, the spacious and fine proportions of the building atone for a great deal that has been lost by the mistaken zeal of Victorian renovators. The font, pulpit and Norman north door are of especial interest; of less ancient details, the Jacobean pulpit and the great chandelier, dated 1713, call for notice.

The Downs to the south of Kingsclere are of much beauty and comparatively unknown to the tourist. Although of no great height and unremarkable in outline, the splendour of the colouring, especially after August is past, of the woods that cover the sides of the undulating billows of chalk is unforgettable. The Port Way, ignoring all hills and dales in its uncompromising straightness, occasionally shows itself as a rough track along the open side of a spinney, or as a well-marked score in the escarpment of a Down, but never as a modern highway east of Andover. The road winding and up and down westwards from Kingsclere is a pleasant enough adaptation of a possible British trackway, and brings us in a short four miles to Burghclere, where there is a station on the Great Western Railway between Newbury and Winchester. At Sydmonton, half a mile short of the railway, a grassy lane leads up to Ladle Hill (768 feet), the bold bastion of chalk to to the south. Here we may obtain a fine view of the characteristic scenery of northern Hampshire. The curving undulations of the chalk have many a hut circle and tumulus to tell of the fierce life that once peopled these solitary wastes. Then the valleys were shunned as inimical to human kind. Now the depths of almost every wrinkle and fold has some habitation, and many a small hamlet lies out of sight among the trees, unguessed at from the hill-road above. Away to the south is Great Litchfield Down - literally the "Dead-field"; perhaps the scene of a great battle, but more probably the cemetery of a forgotten race. The still higher Beacon Hill (853 feet) appears close at hand, as does Sidown, on the other side of Burghclere, where is perhaps an even finer view. The old church down by the railway station was "polished up" in a very painstaking way about fifty years ago, but still retains a Norman nave which seems to have resisted the sandpapering process. Highclere Park and Castle form a show-place of the first rank; the park being beyond all praise. The slopes of the Downs and some of their summits are within this beautiful domain of the Earls of Carnarvon. Ear away from the Castle the park is entirely natural and unconfined, but around the house - for an actual "castle" is non-existent - magnificent avenues of rhododendrons make a perfect blaze of colour in the early summer. The "Jacobean" pile high on the hillside is so only in name, for it was built by the architect of Big Ben. Once a favourite residence of the Bishops of Winchester, the Castle passed to the Crown in the sixteenth century and then, after purchase by Sir Robert Sawyer, to the Herberts by intermarriage with the last-named knight's family. Highclere Church is a new building designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and stands just outside the park. It replaces an erection of the late seventeenth century which used to stand within a stone's throw of the castle upon the site of another building of great antiquity.

It is possible to make a way past the woods of Sidown and by the Three Legged Cross Inn to Ashmansworth, where a few years ago a number of wall paintings, one an unique depictment of Pentecost, were discovered on the walls of the little old church that are supposed to have Roman materials built into them. From here we may continue more or less along the summits of the chalk uplands until the famous Inkpen, or Ingpen, Beacon is reached, in an isolated corner of north-western Berkshire. But alas! the former glory, on the map, of the Beacon has departed. Until quite recently it was thought that this, the highest section of the chalk in England, exceeded that mystic 1,000 feet that gives such a glamour to the mere hill and makes of it a local "mountain." An added slur was cast upon Inkpen in the handing to the neighbouring Walbury Hill Camp of an additional five feet by these interfering Ordnance surveyors. The new maps now read - Walbury Camp 959 feet; Inkpen, 954. But the loss of 18 yards or so does not seem to have altered the glorious view from the flat-topped Down or to have made its air less sparkling. The grand wooded vista down the Kennet valley toward Newbury is a sharp contrast to the bare uplands north and south. Walbury Camp, a fine prehistoric entrenchment, is distinct from Walbury Hill, slightly lower, on which is Combe Gallows, a relic of the past kept in constant repair by a neighbouring farmer as a condition of his land tenure. Inkpen village is more than a mile away to the north. Here is a church once old but now smartened up to such an extent that its ancient character is not apparent. The building, however, has not lost by the change. The modern appointments are both beautiful and costly.

At the back of the Beacon is the lonely little village of Combe, sunk deep in a hollow of the hills that rise all around it. It has a small Early English church of little interest, but the village is worth a long detour to see because of its unique position. Here was once a cell of the Abbey of Bec in Normandy. A stony hill-road goes out of the settlement southwards, between the huge bulk of Oat Hill (936 feet) and Sheepless Down, back into Hampshire. The road eventually leads to Linkenholt, another hamlet lost in the wilderness of chalk, and then by Upton to the Andover highway at Hurstbourne Tarrant on one of the headwaters of the Test. The map name is rarely used by the natives, who term the place "Up Husband"; it was officially spelt "Up Hursborn" as lately as 1830. It is a village in a delightful situation and delightful in itself, though of late years the architecture of the "general stores" has replaced some of the old timber-framed houses on the main street. But the George and Dragon, even if it shows no timbers on its long front, wears an old-fashioned air of prosperity that belongs to the coaching past. Tarrant Church, like so many others hereabouts, has been sadly "well restored," but still retains a Transitional south door and some rather remarkable wall paintings.

The Andover road rises through Dole's Wood and passes over the hill to Knight's Enham and Andover. The last-named busy little town of to-day owes much of its prosperity to the fact that it is an important meeting place of railways connecting three great trunk lines. To outward view Andover is utterly commonplace; everything ancient has been ruthlessly improved away, and that curse of the railway town, an appendix of mean red-brick villas, mars the approach from the west. It has a past, however, which goes back to such remote times that its beginnings are lost in those "mists of antiquity" which shroud so much of the country described in our preceding chapter. The "dover" in the town-name is probably the pre-Celtic root which meets the traveller when he arrives at Dover and greets him again in unsuspected places from the "dor" in Dorchester and the Falls of Lodore to the "der" in Derwent and smoky Darwen. All have the same meaning - water; and "an," strangely enough, is a later and Celtic word for the same element, the equally ubiquitous "afon." So that Andover should be a place of many waters, which it is not. A small stream - the Anton - flows almost unnoticed through the town, though its name seems to have been given occasionally to the whole of the longer Test that it meets a few miles to the south.

Written records of Andover before Wessex became a kingdom do not exist. But scraps of tessellated pavement in the vicinity show that it was a locality well known to the Romans, and the Port Way, that great thoroughfare of the Empire, passed within half a mile of the modern railway junction. In 994, Olaus, King of Norway, is said to have been baptized here, his sponsor being Ethelred the Unready. The town received its charter from King John and took part in the disagreement between Stephen and Matilda, when it had the misfortune to be burnt. It saw two of the Stuarts when the evil days for each were reaching their culmination. Charles I stayed here on his way to the last battle of Newbury, and James II slept at Priory House while retiring from Salisbury to London just before the arrival of William of Orange. The town returned two members to Parliament before the Reform Act, and afterwards one until 1885. Half legendary are some of the tales of the hustings at Andover in those days of "free and open" voting, and the old "George" seems to have been a centre of the excitement on election days, where most of the guineas changed hands and where most free drinks were handed to the incorruptibles. It was here during the candidature of Sir Francis Delaval that his attorney had occasion to send him the following bill -

  "To being thrown out of the window of the George Inn, Andover; to 
  my leg being broken; to surgeon's bill, and loss of time and business; 
  all in the service of Sir Francis Delaval 

This rough treatment was in consequence of the poor lawyer having, at his patron's instigation, invited the officers of a regiment quartered in the town, and the mayor and corporation, to a dinner at the "George," each in the other's name. At this same inn Cobbett, in one of his Rural Rides, had an adventure with mine host and pushed his opinions down the throat of the assembled company in his usual manner. This inn, and the "Angel," were great places in the posting days, when the Exeter Road was one of the most important arteries in England. They are among the pleasant survivals of eighteenth-century Andover, for there is nothing that appears on the surface older than that period, except the Norman door of the churchyard - all that is left of the fine building pulled down in 1840 to make way for the present imitation Early English church - and a piece of wall on the north side, a remnant of a cell belonging to the Benedictine Abbey of Saumur. About three miles west of Andover is Weyhill, a village celebrated for its fair and immortalized in The Mayor of Casterbridge. It at one time claimed to be the largest in England, but in these changed days its rural importance has diminished. The fair takes place in October and now covers four consecutive days instead of the original six. The first day is Sheep Fair followed by "Mop" (hiring), Pleasure, and Hop Fairs with horses every day and several side-shows such as "Cheese Fair" and the like. It has been thought possible that Weyhill is referred to in The Vision of Piers Plowman - "At Wy and at Wynchestre I went to the Fair."

We now propose to turn eastwards for the last time and to follow the main London road along the northern boundary of Harewood Forest through Hurstbourne Priors ("Down Husband") and then past the wide expanse of Hurstbourne Park, in which stands the seat of the Earl of Portsmouth and which clothes the northern slopes of the Test valley for more than a mile with its beautiful woods and glades. Its eastern boundary is close to Whitchurch, seven miles from Andover. Whitchurch was another famous posting centre and, like Andover, a rotten borough. Here an important cross-country route from Oxford to Winchester tapped the Exeter road and here the modern ways of the Great Western and South Western cross each other at right angles. At the famous "White Hart" Newman wrote the opening part of theLyra Apostolica while awaiting the Exeter coach in December, 1832. The great tower of All Hallows still stands, but little besides of the old building. While the restoration was in progress a Saxon headstone was brought to light. It bears a presentment of our Lord's head with the following inscription: -


The old chapel of Freefolk, little more than a mile out of the town, dates from 1265 and came into existence because the winter floods on the infant Test prevented the good folk of the vicinity getting into Whitchurch. The famous Laverstock Mill, where the paper for Bank of England notes has been made for two hundred years, is not far away by the side of the high road. The owners of the Mill, and of Laverstock Park, are a naturalized Huguenot family named de Portal, whose ancestors came to England and settled in Southampton during the persecution of the Protestants that followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. When Cobbett rode by the Mill he made the following unprophetic utterance: - "We passed the mill where the Mother-Bank paper is made! Thank God! this mill is likely soon to want employment. Hard by is a pretty park and house belonging to 'Squire' Portal, the paper-maker. The country people, who seldom want for sarcastic shrewdness, call it 'Rag Hall!'"

Nearly four miles from Whitchurch comes Overton, once a market but now a quiet village that shows signs of activity (apart from the ceaseless procession of motor traffic) only on one day in the year, July 18, when a great sheep fair takes place. For Overton is a centre of the great sheep-down country of north Hampshire. The church is unremarkable except that the nave has Norman pillars with arches of a later date above them. The fine old manor house near the railway station is called Quidhampton.

After passing Ashe we reach Deane, where a road to the right leads in a mile and a half to Steventon, at the rectory of which village Jane Austen was born in 1775, her father holding the incumbency for many years. As we rejoin the main road Church Oakley lies to the right at the source of the Test. Here stands a church built about 1525 by Archbishop Warham, whose ancestors lived at Malshanger, nearly two miles away to the north. After passing Worting, ten miles from Whitchurch and two from Basingstoke, that we are nearing a large town becomes apparent, and soon the gaunt and curious clock tower of Basingstoke Town Hall comes into view, a land-mark for many miles.

The "Stoke Bare-hills" of Thomas Hardy has changed the tenor of its way several times in history. It started by sending members to Parliament three hundred years before it became a borough in the reign of the first Stuart, when it was already famous as a manufactory of silks and woollens. A time of inanition followed until the great period of road travel set in, when it became the most important centre between London and Salisbury. Then with the iron way came another phase that at one time threatened to bring the town into line with Swindon, Crewe and other railway "wens"; but except for some miles of small red-brick villas, packed close together on the bleak wolds that surround the town, it has not greatly suffered and is still essentially agricultural. Quite lately a new industry has grown up here, the manufacture of farming implements.

Close to the railway station are the ruins of the chapel of the Holy Ghost, founded by Bishop Fox in 1525. They stand in the ancient cemetery which dates from the time of the Papal Interdict (1208) when, in consequence of King John's quarrel with the Pope, burial in churchyards was suspended. Basingstoke Church was built in the early sixteenth century and contains some of the old glass from the Holy Ghost Chapel.

The most interesting place in the vicinity of Basingstoke is Old Basing, two miles to the east, and ever memorable as the scene of the defence of Basing House. This magnificent mansion had been built by William Paulet, first Marquis of Winchester, on the site of the original Norman castle of Basing. When the Civil War broke out, the fifth Marquis, John Paulet, decided to defend the house for the King, and gathering his friends and retainers about him, amply provisioning his cellars and "writing 'Aimez Loyalte' on every pane of his windows with the diamond of his ring," he calmly awaited the Roundheads, who were soon in possession of Basingstoke. Two hundred and fifty Royalist soldiers had already joined the garrison when the actual siege began in July, 1643. The attackers under Waller numbered seven thousand, but by December, after great losses, they were forced to withdraw. The following spring another determined effort was made to starve out the garrison, but the arrival of Colonel Gage with reinforcements from Oxford put fresh heart into the "nest of hornets," and the news that their fortress had been renamed "Basting House" by their admiring friends stiffened their resolve. During the next few months, however, religious differences within led to a weakening of the heroic defence and to the beginning of the end, and after two thousand lives had already been lost, Basing House fell to the redoubtable Cromwell in person on October 14, 1645, about one hundred of the defenders being killed in the final assault and some three hundred prisoners taken.

Of this historic site there remain but a few walls and the Gate-house. The area covered by the entrenchments was about fourteen acres and the garden must have been a place of beauty before the litter of the siege marred the trim walks and parterres. The country people were bidden help themselves when the victors departed with their prisoners, and the work of ruin was quickly complete.

Basing church, which was used in the attack on the House, is of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and contains many memorials of the Paulet family. Its outside is much more striking and handsome than its interior, which has a rather empty and featureless appearance. Not far from Basing is the great entrenchment of Winklebury Castle, over 3,000 feet round. From the edge of its commanding vallum Cromwell took the observations for his successful assault on Basing House.

Sherborne St. John, two miles north of Basingstoke, has an old church, with an ugly tower built in 1833. The Brocas brasses and the fine Jacobean pulpit are interesting. The Vyne, a celebrated mansion, is one mile farther along our road. The greater part of the building is four hundred years old, though certain additions and alterations are due to Inigo Jones. Its beautiful chapel has some old French glass, inserted in the windows in 1544, and other details of much interest.

Between the hills to the south, nearly four miles from Basingstoke, is the small village of Herriard and the neighbouring park named after it. Its Transitional church has been much rebuilt, but still contains several items of interest, including a fine chancel arch and some old stained glass. North-east of the park is the old and partly Saxon church of Tunworth, about four miles direct from Basingstoke. The Herriard road continues in a little over six miles to Alton, a pleasant and out-of-the-way old town, but with little left of its former picturesque streets. Alton is famous for its ale made from the hops grown in the immediate neighbourhood. The church has a door covered with bullet marks, a legacy from the Civil War, when the troops of the Parliament under Waller attacked the Royalists, who had fled to the church for sanctuary. A good deal of Norman work is visible in the base of the tower. The Jacobean pulpit and misericords in the choir call for remark and also the interesting "memoriall" on a pillar of the nave to the "Renowned Martialist " - Richard Boles - who defended the church during the attack referred to above.

From Alton the Meon Valley Railway follows the high road to distant Fareham on the shores of Portsmouth Harbour, and penetrates a lonely countryside, perhaps the least-known portion of Hampshire. For the first ten miles the railway and road traverse the uplands that are a continuation of the Sussex Downs and part of the great chalk range of southern England. In one of the nooks of this tableland, two miles from the station at Tisted and four from Petersfield, is Selborne, made for ever famous by Gilbert White, who lived at The Wakes, the picturesque rambling old house opposite the church. At West Meon the actual valley from which the railway takes its name is entered. The infant stream, here a mere trickle under the hedgerows, comes down from East Meon, three miles away, where there is a cruciform church containing a black Tournai font, and an old stone pulpit dating from the fifteenth century. Close by is a manor house, once the property of the Bishops of Winchester. Warnford, a mile below West Meon, has a church of great interest. It is a Norman building on the site of the first sanctuary erected for the converted Meonwaras by Wilfred of York. Several noteworthy features may be seen, including a Saxon sundial from the original church. At Corhampton two miles further south, a Saxon church still remains, though it has lost its early apsidal chancel.

The building has apparently been erected on a mound, possibly prehistoric. Droxford station is within a four-mile walk of Hambledon where, in 1774, modern cricket was first played. Droxford Church is another fine old building that, with those just enumerated, lends an added interest to this delightful valley, the scenic charm of which would alone be sufficient recompense for the trouble involved in exploring it. Customs and beliefs are more primitive and the forms of speech more archaic than in the region beyond the New Forest, and the natives have a goodly amount of the old Jutish blood in their veins, possibly more than their relatives of the Isle of Wight. The swelling hills of that delectable land fill the vista as we descend between Soberton and Wickham, where the valley divides the main portion of the ancient Forest of Bere from the scattered woodlands of Waltham Chase and, at the last-named village, widens into the lowlands that stretch between Tichfield and Fareham and the busy activities of Portsmouth.

We now near the end of our brief exploration of Wessex and, returning to Basingstoke, take the last sixteen miles of our course over the great road, straight and lonely of houses, that runs across the hills to Winchester. The Romans built up the solid foundations of the greater part of this highway which passes through no villages, though it has several within a short distance of its straight hedges and interminable telegraph posts. Near the Sun Inn, high on the chalk hills five miles from Basingstoke, a lane turns left to Dummer, worth visiting for the sake of the old unrestored church dating mostly from the early thirteenth century. The old beams and the large sixteenth-century gallery have escaped "improvement." The oak pulpit is said to date from the early fifteenth century. The most striking feature of the interior is a canopy over the chancel arch, a relic of the rood that once stood beneath it. Several interesting brasses of the At Moores, and a squint at the back of a recess, or image niche, should be noticed. George Whitfield's first ministry was in this church. Close by is the ancient manor house, partly of the fourteenth century, and on the Basingstoke side of the village is Kempshott Park, a "hunting lodge" of George IV. The bare rolling Downs reach a height of over 650 feet east of Dummer, in the neighbourhood of Farleigh Wallop and Nutley. On the other side of the Winchester highway North Waltham has a rebuilt church in "Norman" style. Steventon, the birthplace of Jane Austen, already mentioned, is but a short distance farther. East Stratton is another out-of-the-way village off the high road to the left and just beyond Stratton House, a seat of the Earl of Northbrook. A magnificent avenue of beech trees leads to Micheldever village, and also, in the opposite direction to the station, to that point on the South Western Railway where the traveller to Southampton notes that the exhausted pant of the engine has changed to an easy glide as the train passes the summit tunnel and rolls down to Winchester. The dim recesses of Micheldever wood extend to the east of the Roman road on its undulating but perfectly straight course until it drops to Headbourne Worthy.

As we descend the last few miles the ancient capital of Wessex and of England is seen ahead lying in the lap of its enfolding hills. The blunt and stern outline of the grey cathedral is softened by the misty veil, shot with mingled gold and pearl, that rests softly over the valley and that obliterates everything mean and unworthy in the scene before us. Just as the memories of great and famous days that cling round the old towns of Wessex - threads of faith and chivalry, valour and high endeavour - make an opalescent robe to hide for a moment the futilities of the present.