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England contained, at the time of which we
speak, forests or woods, abounding in game,
and not deficient in wolvesfour-footed and
two-footed. For, to these forests, fled great
numbers of lawless men: who lurked behind the
bushes, and had little mercy upon wayfarers.
For better protection against such marauders,
it was enacted in 1285, "that the highways
leading from one market town to another
should be widened, so that there should be no
bushes, woods or dikes within two hundred feet
on each side of the road; and those proprietors
who refused to cut down underwoods abutting
on high-roads were to be held responsible for
all felonies that might be committed by persons
lurking in their covert." Next to London,
Winchester, the old Anglo-Saxon capital,
was the chief town of England in those days.
At Winchester there was held yearly a great
fair; and upon traders journeying to this fair,
with goods, or quitting it with money, robbers
loved to pounce. The wooded pass of Alton
was a favourite ambush for the outlaws, so
that a custom arose of sending five mounted
serjeants-at-arms to keep this pass during the
continuance of this fair of St. Giles.

Of the districts uncovered by forest, a large
part was occupied by fens and marshes, on
which cranes and storks, both now extinct in
this country, were plentiful. The roads were
such as we should now not tolerate. There
were no inns; monasteries were the halting
places of the traveller; he received there food
and lodging gratis, and was sold provisions to
take forward on his journey. Towns were
generally walled; the chief towns, then, being,
after London, Winchester, York, Lincoln,
Boston, St. Ives, Lynn, and Stamford. Dover
and Dunwich were both important seaports,
and Southampton already a thriving place.
Yarmouth was starting into life through
the herring-fishery, and Newcastle had just
begun to profit by its coal. But over the
whole country there was nothing like the hive
of people which increase of wealth and population
now supplies for the day's work of
British Industry. The whole population of
London itself was under twenty thousand.
"In the fourteenth century, the whole number
of the inhabitants of Lincoln, who contributed
to an assessment of ninths, was less
than eight hundred." London we have to
picture as a mass of little whitewashed tenements,
with an approach to pavement in the
narrow streets, each street appropriated to its
own trade. Down the centre of streets leading
to the Thames, ran the town drainage into the
river; near the river, dwelt the merchants
and the adventurers on the deep sea. Beside
the corporation wards, the city contained
sokes or districts under independent lords:
the soke lords and their tenants had a vote
as citizens, but were exempt from city jurisdiction.
The consequence of this arrangement,
was a city divided against itself, which
gave comparative impunity to malefactors.
The streets were so dangerous that the canons
of St. Martin-le-Grand were afraid to go
across the road to their collegiate church,
and so obtained leave to connect their lodgings
with the church tower by a wooden

The main traffic out of London was to
Dover, and this road was worked by hackney-men,
who let a horse at Southwark
for the stage to Rochester, where it was
exchanged for another hackney that went on
to Canterbury, and so on. The charge was for
each of those two stages sixteen pence; that is
to say, a sovereign in present money. Carts
were also provided to transport the luggage;
but the roads were so bad that in some districts
it was necessary to rest the cattle four
days after travelling two, although the usage
was to travel four days and rest three;
so four days made a week to travellers. No
cross-road could be attempted without the
assistance of a guide. Ladies of rank went
out occasionally in covered cars, vehicles
richly painted and lined, but lumbering
wagons as to their construction. King Henry
the Third ordered a house of deal to be made,
running on wheels; so a King of England was
the first of the long train of attractions who
have since travelled in caravans.

Trade was in keeping with the poverty and
scanty numbers of the population. Goldsmiths
and others merely worked in other
men's material. Those who kept stores supplied
them from the annual fairs, and if any
run upon the shops exhausted them, it was
requisite to wait until the next fair came round.
When Henry the Third wanted to take Bedford
Castle, pickaxes were required, and
ropes wherewith to pull the battering machines.
He sent a royal order to the sheriffs
of London to supply the necessary articles;
they were not to be raised in London; and
ropes and pickaxes were demanded of the
sheriffs of Dorsetshire, and other counties:
immense trouble being taken, throughout several
counties, to execute an order which two
tradesmen would now receive as a trifling
item in the routine of their business.

When it is remembered that the details of
home comfort which we have given, miserable
as they are, have been drawn from the establishments
of Kings, it will be easy to imagine
what was the condition of the common people in
this country daring the blessed ages of romance
and chivalry. Those wretched good old times!
There is hardly a glory in them that will bear
the light. Even the Wardon pie, that phantom
emblem of good cheer, which we troll over with
an oily chuckle when we sing about the monks
of old, iswhat? "The Cistertian monks of
Wardon, in Bedfordshire, produced, at some
early but uncertain time, a baking variety of the
pear. It bore, and still bears, the name of the
abbey; it figured on its armorial escutcheon,
and supplied the contents of those Wardon
pies so often named in old descriptions of
feasts." The flagon of wine and the Wardon
pie, what have they come to? Vin ordinaire

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