The Ride of Hereward the Wake and his Mare “Swallow”

 

(Reridden by “The Skipper” without the Boy) Ref D02297

From The Graphic 6 September 1890 (an extract about Holywell)

by C.T. Staniland, R. I., C. T. C.

See especially his first and second crossings on the Holywell ferry)

AOI! (The old wild battlecry with which the writer of the “Song of Roland” ends every paragraph, and which still survives in the “ship ahoy!” of the sailors but as a war cry has given place to our “Hurrah!“) “I am Hereward the wake the Berserker, the brain-hewer, the land thief, the sea thief, the feeder of ravens. Aoi! come kite! Aoi! Come Wolf! Aoi! Come erne from off the fen!” So sang Hereward the last of the English, Lord of Bourne and Deeping, whose celebrated ride from Ely round Cambridge, and back to Ely, “The Skipper” proposes to delineate with pencil and pen from sketches and notes made while re-riding it on a Humber tricycle.

“Art is long and time is fleeting,” so, to make the most of the short holiday, “The Skipper” trained from St Pancras to Ely one evening, and the next morning started over muddy roads to follow “The Wake’s” route as given by the incisive pen of Charles Kingsley in his “Hereward the Wake”.

[… The Skipper rode from Ely to Stuntney, Soham, Freckenham, Mildenhall (where Hereward met a Potter carrying pots on a pony, who objected to parting with his pots at Hereward’s behest). Then (Brandon, Wangford, Lakenheath) Barton Mills, Kennett, Newmarket, Rech or Devil’s Dyke, Fleam, or Bascamh Dyke, the Gog Magog, and Wort’s Causeway, Trumpington, Grantchester, Coton, Madingley, near Fen Drayton and. …]
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The Ferry Boat at Holywell
The Ferry Boat at Holywell

turned again to the left for Holywell ferry. On the way the rain again came down, necessitating a spurt (?) over ruts, and et cetera, of about two miles an hour. Arrived at the ferry “The S.” had to exercise his patience (in the rain) until the ferry man heard his frantic shouts and brought over his cumbrous ferry. This is hauled backwards and forwards by a chain running through sheaves and pulleys on the side rails, and takes horses and wagons across. By the time “The S.” reached the other side of the rain had ceased, and it became a question whether he should return to the other shore, and make sketches of the ferry, etc, which had previously been rendered impossible by the rain, or go onto St Ives, some 4 miles by the road, and obtain a lining for the inner man, which was much needed, and return the next morning to complete the route. On finding from the ferryman that there was a footway from St Ives to Holywell, which reduced the distance to about 2 miles, the dinner carried the day, and “the S.” made tracks for St Ives, the weather and the roads being wet and heavy, more or less, all the way, and he arrived at St Ives (which is not in the programme, but is a handy place, a little off the route, at which to stay the night).

After a good night’s rest, and with dry clothes, “The S.” made a start back to obtain the sketches missed on the previous day. After due consideration of the bad state of the roads, and the much shorter distance of the footway across the fields, he elected to give his poor tired steed a rest in its stable and started across the fields on foot, crossed the ferry, and made for Fen Drayton, rather a picturesque village, with some half timbered and thatch cottages.
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Holywell from the ferry
Holywell from the ferry

Returning, and taking a seat on a five barred gate to the left of the road, he obtained a good view, rather quaint, of Holywell village seen across the fields, with its ragged poplars, its parsonage and church; the scarecrow was not-but “The S.” won’t reveal the secrets of the prison house. It makes a good bit of colour on the foreground anyhow. “The S.” Strolled back along the road, driving before him, as he went, flocks of finches and sparrows, and other small deer, who seem to think him on murderous thoughts intent, and flew out of a hedge in a cloud, a startling whirr, to settle a few yards further on then repeat the performance. With the solid wheels of the cycle, on the contrary, one can creep up to the birds and animals, and watch them without disturbance, and “The S.” has more than once come up to and nearly run over pheasants and partridges and their chicks, sunning themselves, and having a dust bath in the deep ruts of country roads.

The Holy Well
The Holy Well

Onto the ferry, where a convenient fence, at a convenient point of view, gave “The Skipper” a seat, and the sketch. Holywell seems, as a village, to be at the back of the world. Never had “The S.” seen such dilapidated cottages, sheds, etc, the yellow grey mud walls were dropping in flakes from their framing, the thatches were rotting and peeling away from the rafters, mud and mildew, damp and dreariness, rust and rottenness, seem to have got the upper hand, and it seemed to be no man’s business to deprive them of their foul pre-eminence. Judging from the look of things generally, , in all its varied forms and terms, seemed to have marked it for its own, and it should be a good investment to open a shop with good blends of quinine and laudanum, the latter of which is consumed in large quantities, enough to kill a horse, by all the fen dwellers, fen-slodgers, and other inhabitants of these watery flats.
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Back to St Ives, a football match on the road keeping “The Skipper” longer than was wise in the raw, chilly air. Next morning “The S.” started for the home run to Ely, “the Camp of Refuge”. Through Needingworth and Bluntisham, near which was a Jolly old mill (why are most mills so sketchable and beloved of artists?), and away through the long, straggling town of Earith

'and was ferried over at Earith'
‘and was ferried over at Earith’

[….then Sutton Haddenham, , Stretton, Thetford, Ely….]

The next morning, “The Skipper” took the train back to St Pancras, and so ended his holiday.

A curious notice of the Fen country, near Cambridge, as it was in 1821, is preserved in the “Autobiographical Recollections” of the late Prof Prime. He says:-“at the first Board meeting after I was elected a Conservator (of the Bedford Level Corporation) we made a voyage by the River Ouse, from Ely and Littleport. It was 10 miles in length, whereas the road by land was only 5 miles. The tract through which we passed, called The Padnals, was one swamp, on which the was no building, except two cottages, for the foundations of which earth had been carried thither in boats and the inhabitants of them gained their livelihood, as many others did at that time, by catching fish in the summer, and wildfowl in the winter”.
On one occasion a poor man, witness in court, being asked what he was said “A banker”
The judge said, “We cannot have any absurdity”.
The man replied, “I am a banker my lord.” He was the man who repaired the banks of the dikes.

Images © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) and findmypast.co.uk
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Ague (A-gyoo) is a severe fever that's marked by recurring chills, shivering, and sweating. Sometimes, ague refers just to the chills and shivering, topped off by joint and bone pain. Up until the nineteenth century, however, ague was the English word for malaria — a mosquito-borne disease that causes fever and chills. Malaria is usually associated with the tropics, so it sounds weird that the disease was a major cause of sickness and death in England from 1564 to the 1730s. Chalk it up to a bad combination of climate change, brackish water in rivers and marshes, and, of course, mosquitoes.

Ague was prevalent enough that Shakespeare mentioned it in nine of his plays. You'll also see ague surface in Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and Gulliver's Travels.

From Cliffs Notes.

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