Chapter III. Chester.

At 10:45 I left Liverpool for Chester. Edge Hill Tunnel, which is about a mile or a mile and a quarter in length, was passed in five minutes. Grain ripens from one to two months later here, than in Pennsylvania. The farmers were busy making hay, and the wheat still retained a dark green color. Harvesting is done in August and September. Wheat, rye, barley and potatoes are the staple products. No corn is cultivated in northern England. Wood is so scarce and dear in Great Britain, as well as upon the continent, that the farmers can not afford to build rail-fences. Hedge-fences, walls and ditches, therefore, take their places in every European country. All this is new to the American when he first comes to the Old World. Pass some fields of clover still in bloom. See men mow with the same "German" scythes that we use in America. We reached Chester before noon. This is one of the oldest cities, if not the oldest in the country. Here one sees the England of his dreams, the England he so long desired to see, and which now presents to his gaze, as it were in a focus, both the monuments and the rubbish of many ages. It was once a great military station of the Romans in Britain, who called it the City of Legions. King AEthelfrith reduced it to ruins in the year 607, and it remained "a waste chester" (a waste castra or fortification) for three centuries. The Danes made its walls a stronghold against Alfred and AEthelred, and the Lady of the Mercians, who was the daughter of Alfred and the wife of AEthelred, recognized the importance of the place, and built it up again. It was the last city in England to hold out against William the Conqueror. During the Civil Wars the city adhered to the royal cause, and was besieged and taken by the Parliamentary forces in 1645. The Phoenix Tower bears the incription: King Charles stood on this tower September 24, 1645, and saw his army defeated on Rowton Moor.

The Rows are a very curious feature of the two principal streets running at right angles to each other. Besides the ordinary walks or pavements of these streets, there is a continuous covered gallery through the front of the second story. Some one has said, "Great is the puzzle of the stranger as to whether the roadway is down in the cellar, or he is upstairs on the landing, or the house has turned outside of the window." On this "upstairs street," as some call it, are situated all the first-class shops, the others being in the lower story on a level with the road. Picture to yourself a row of houses having porches in the second story but not in the first, and you have a correct idea of the Rows of Chester. To compare them to the Arcades of Rue de Rivoli in Paris, is a mistake, as they do not resemble those more, than a porch over a pavement resembles one in the second story.

The Cathedral is a grand old church. It was built in the latter part of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries, upon the same site where two of its predecessors had already crumbled into decay. "St. John's Church is even more ancient than the Cathedral, having been built in the eleventh century. I shall never forget its weather-beaten walls and its mossy roof. In many places, the thickness of the walls is greatly reduced by the rain and hail that have washed and beaten against it so long. In my rambles through Chester I had the good fortune of meeting and forming the acquaintance of an Irish Catholic Priest and a wine merchant from Wolverhampton, two intelligent and amiable gentlemen, who taught me much about those curious relics still found in heaps among the ruins of old Chester. At about 2:00 o'clock we stood upon the high square: tower of St. John's (thirty-five feet each side at the top) amidst the elderberries and grass which flourish at that giddy height. Looking at the town from this elevation, one gets no idea of its unique features, as the numerous slate-roofs give it the appearance of a modern town. The descent was made with difficulty, land even attended with some danger, for the long wooden stairs or ladders are becoming shaky and a break of one of its steps might precepitate one from such a height that instant death was the most desirable alternative. But who would not become bold, or even sometimes more that, amid such surroundings! When one says we can't get there, another is sure to declare that we must get there! "What! would you come so far to see antiquity, and then count your steps how near you would approach her?" Eight bells constitute the peal in this venerable old tower. Near by, stand the ivy-clad and moss-covered ruins of portions of the sacred edifices that date back, even to the earlier ages of the Christian era, and from among the dust and rubbish are picked up the broken images of hideous-looking idols that were the ornaments (?) of the temples once standing there. We found a large collection of those ghastly-looking idols piled away in the crypt of the church. Whether the emblems of Druid, or Christian worship, these "images cut out of stone" evidently represent an age, in which the heart was subdued by superstitious fear rather than by "love."

The Walls merit especial attention. They still surround the city completely, and form, in a certain sense, the proudest and most admirable promenade that the world affords anywhere. From it are obtained the best views of the Cathedral and of the country around. The ascent to it is made by a flight of steps on the north side of the East-gate. A ditch or canal about twenty-five feet wide, runs all around the wall and used to render the battering of the wall a matter of extreme difficulty before the invention of powder and the introduction of fire-arms. The pavement, on top of the wall, is four and a half to six feet wide, and skirted on both sides by thinner walls; that on the outside being about four or five feet high. From behind this wall the soldiers would hurl spears, javelins, &c., at the attacking enemy, and keep them in check. How things have changed since that time! Now this walk forms the peaceful and delightful promenade of the private citizens. Here meet the young and the gay, fashion displays its gaudiest colors, and lovers take their "moonlight strolls."

Such is the use now made of the Walls of Chester! America has no walled cities; Europe has but few without walls. In the early history of Europe, every town even had its walls. In many places where the walls have almost disappeared, there are still remaining the gates of the city. At those points the walls were made doubly strong, and high and impregnable towers built over them, in which were stationed strong guards "to defend the gates." Then no stranger could enter without some kind of "pass" from recognized authorities. Did not the system of "pass-ports" which has been handed down to our day, but which seems to be falling into disuse even in Europe, have its origin in this way? At 5:40 I left Chester for Birmingham. On our way we passed Crewe, one of the great railroad centers of England. At this station five hundred trains pass each other every twenty-four hours.

We arrived at Birmingham at 8:45 p.m. Between Wolverhampton and Birmingham lies the great ore and manufacturing district of England. Ore-beds and smoke-stacks cover all the area some thirty miles long and sixteen miles wide, except that occupied by the miserable cottages (some of them mere hovels) of the laborers. Looking at this immense area from the cars, it presents the appearance of one continuous town. No wonder that England can accommodate a population of some twenty odd millions on an area but little more than that of Pennsylvania, when poor humanity is thus crowded together. In the cars, I had formed the acquaintance of a sociable party of ladies and gentlemen, who pointed out places to me, and instructed me concerning the manners and social habits of the people. From Liverpool hither, I found very small brick houses the rule and spacious buildings like our Pennsylvania farm houses, the exception. Barns, I saw none; small stables supply their places even on large farms. We saw several very fine castles by the way, however.

Birmingham is known as "the toy-shop of Europe," "but most of the toys are for children of larger growth." One can nowhere see richer sights than in the show-rooms of many of these shops. One that I visited, a glass show-room containing chandeliers priced upwards of a thousand dollars, and all varieties of fancy-wares of every description, had large mirrors at the ends of the room, covering the entire walls, and producing the grandest effect conceivable. The objects in the room were thus infinitely multiplied in both directions, so that whichever way one turned his face, glittering glassware was seen "as far as the eye could reach."

Such sights are simply bewildering! It is a little difficult to gain admittance to the manufacturing departments of many of these places, but to literary characters that represent "newspapers," the doors are generally opened quite readily. In hunting these shops, I discovered a great want of system in the naming and numbering of the streets of this otherwise quite elegant city. I had passed a certain street twice, from end to end, in search of a particular number. Upon further inquiry, I learned that what I had considered one street, was numbered and named as two, though there was not the slightest deviation from a perfectly straight line at any point of it. To make bad worse, the houses were counted and numbered upwards on one side of the street, and downwards on the other side. In such a city the stranger must find places by speculation!

Strange things one meets at every step in Europe, and soon gets so used to it, that it seems the strangest to see something that is not strange; but oddities are perhaps no plentier on one side of the Atlantic than they are on the other, and are equally amusing everywhere. Upon the burial ground of St. Philip's, stands a monument in honor and memory of a wife that died at the age of fifty-nine years, which has a bee-hive and the inscription: "She looked well to the ways of her household, and did not eat the bread of idleness."

A number of fine statues adorn some of the public squares. One of these, a bronze statue to Peel faces east; while Priestley's marble statue faces south.

The first thing that arrests the tourist's attention on arriving at Birmingham, is its magnificent railroad station, the largest and finest that I had thus far met with in England. As it was late in the evening when I arrived, I had no time to pay much attention to it until the next day. The part entered by the trains is about 1,050 feet long and 200 feet wide, all in one apartment. This part is sprung by forty-two immense iron arches, supporting a roof half of whose covering is glass. The numerous tracks are separated by platforms running lengthwise through the building, from which the passengers enter the cars. In order to avoid the danger of crossing the tracks, there is a fine foot-bridge, eighteen feet wide, running across the tracks above the reach of the locomotive stacks. From this bridge, stairs descent to the platforms between the tracks, as before mentioned. Three hundred trains pass through this station every twenty-four hours. An officer receives and dismisses these trains by means of a signal-bell. The ticket-offices are in the second story of a large building adjoining.

Railroads in Europe.

There are no "conductors" upon the trains after they leave the "stations" (which, by the way, I never heard any one call depots, in Europe) but officers are stationed at the head of every stairway to punch the tickets. Five minutes before any particular train leaves, the ticket-office is closed and the conductors pass through the cars and inspect the tickets. If any one did come into a wrong car or train, there is still time left to correct the mistake. Tickets are not collected till one's destination is reached, where they must be delivered to the door-keeper on leaving the station. Without it, a passenger is a prisoner. "Railroading" is so perfectly systemized in Europe, that it is quite impossible either to cheat a company, or to be cheated out of one's time by missing trains. There is little danger of missing a train even in countries where one can not speak the language. The cars are divided into compartments (Ger. Abtheilungen) of two seats or benches each, running across the car, with doors at the sides. In 1st Class cars, the seats are finely cushioned and the compartments are about as inviting in appearance as our Palace cars; in 2nd Class cars the seats are comfortable but common; but 3rd Class cars have only bare wooden benches. There are in some countries, 4th Class cars, which have no seats. I did not see any of those, but from what I learned of others, they must resemble our freight cars. In those, too, passengers have the privilege of standing or sitting down, according to their taste or comfort. Tickets to 1st Class cars cost about the same as in this country, 2nd Class tickets cost three-fourths, and 3rd Class about half as much.

In hilly sections of the country, the railways generally cross the wagon roads by bridges; but wherever the two kinds of roads intersect each other on a level, travel on the latter is interrupted by gates and watchmen, who permit no one to pass while a train is approaching the crossing. Thus every railway crossing in Europe is superintended day and night by watchmen. These watchmen are noticed by signal-bells, at the departure of every train running in the direction of their crossings. Under such a system, accidents are impossible. Even the doors of each "compartment" are barred by the conductors before the trains are dismissed, and will not be opened by the conductors of the next station, until the train stands still. The tickets, besides containing the ordinary matter on tickets in this country, have also the price printed upon them.

Some of the stations of the Old World, are buildings of extraordinary beauty and magnificence.

The grandest structure of this kind, is, probably, the station (Ger. Station or Bahnhof, Italian Stazione) of Stuttgart. Among many others, might also be mentioned the stations of Paris, of Turin, of Milan, and of Rome; but the Great Western Station of London, lakes the palm of those all, for magnificence, beauty and convenience combined. What the station at Clapham (seven miles above London) looks like, I do not know, but it is said, that from 1,000 to 1,200 trains run through it every twenty-four hours! What multitudes of people must be streaming over the platforms and past the windows of the ticket-offices of such a station, every day! At Birmingham and at Crewe, where 300 and 500 trains pass daily, the swarming thousands remind one of floods and inundations, but how must it look at Clapham?

July 7th, 3:40 p.m. Leave Birmingham for Stratford on the Avon (pron. [=a]'von).