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it flows through the towns of Hungerford and Newbury, celebrated for its two battles, and near which is Donnington Castle, once the residence of the poet Chaucer; and then by Aldermaston (where is a very fine manor-house of the time of James I.), Brimpton (where are several barrows), Theale, and many other villages of less importance. In its way it receives numerous tributaries; the chief are the Lambourne, which unites with it at Newbury; it belongs wholly to Berkshire; and the Emborne, which joins it below Brimpton, after having for the greater part of its course separated Wiltshire from Berkshire. The whole length of the Kennet is about fifty-three miles. It has by means of locks and cuts been rendered navigable for barges of one hundred and twenty tons burden, up to Newbury, where it joins the Kennet and Avon Canal: since the completion of the Great Western Railway the traffic along it has been so much lessened that the receipts barely cover the current expenses.
I have pointed out nearly all that is of consequence in Reading, and there is not much besides to be seen in the immediate neighbourhood. One of the curiosities always shown to the stranger k a stratum of sand in Catsgrove lane, which is filled with oyster-shells and other marine fossils. In Dr. Plot's amusing 'Natural History of Oxfordshire' (in which the wonders of any other county are, however, gladly laid under contribution), their situation is proposed to be accounted for by an hypothesis as good in its way as Voltaire's pilgrims' cockle-shells, and for which it might have afforded a hint. When the Danes were besieged in Reading by King Ethelred and his brother Alfred, as has been mentioned, they endeavoured to secure themselves by cutting a trench across the meadows. Now, says Dr. Plot, "the Saxons having in all probability removed their cattle, it is likely that they might be supplied by their navy with oysters, which, during the time of the abode of their army on land, might be very suitable employment for it. Which conjecture allowed, there is nothing more required to make out the possibility of the bed of oysters coming thither, without a deluge, but that Catsgrove was the place appointed for the army's repast."
It must not be forgotten that Three-Mile Cross, the scene of ' Our Village,' the pleasantest lady's book in the language (I mean of those I have read, for I must to my shame confess that I have not read many), is at the distance its name implies from Reading: for its own sake it would deserve a visit, while all who have read its description will not fail to recognise in it many an old acquaintance.
From Reading you cross to the village of Caversham, on the opposite side of the Thames, by a bridge of extraordinary deformity. The county of Oxford and the corporation of Reading have, I believe, to maintain this bridge between them, and they have not been able to agree as to the best method of doing so; consequently each has done its half as it pleased, independently of the other. The Oxford half is an old-fashioned stone and brick structure—the Berkshire half is a sort of make-shift wood and iron skeleton, the whole presenting an appearance similar to the lady in the engraving that used to be exhibited in the windows of the print-shops some twenty or thirty years ago —one-half of the lady being represented in full dress, the other bare bones. Leland thus describes its appearance in his day :—" At Causeiham, shortly called Causham, iher is a great mayne bridge of tymbre over the Tamise, wher I markid that it restid most upon foundation of tymbre, and yn sum places of stone. Toward the north end of this bridge stondith a fair old chapelle of stone on the right hond, pilid in the fundation for the rage of the streame of the Tamise." (' Itinerary,' ii. 5.) In the reign of James II. some of the old stone and brick arches were removed for the convenience of the navigation. It has been in its present state for at least half a century. It is now the ugliest bridge on the Thames, and equal in ugliness to any in the kingdom.
Caversham is a long straggling village of about fifteen hundred souls; in the lower part of it are many very mean and miserable-looking houses, occupied by fishermen, bargemen, and others, who get their living by the water; on the higher ground there are a good many very excellent houses. Several handsome villas have been erected within the last few years. The church is small, and of various dates, but some portions are very ancient. Caversham House, which is a prominent object from the Thames, occupies a commanding position; and both from the house and grounds are obtained views of great extent and beauty. The mansion, which is a showy one, was built by Lord Cadogan in the reign of George I., but has been subsequently altered more than once. The grounds were laid out by Capability Brown, and are much admired. In the old mansion, which was pulled down when the present was erected, Charles I. was for a while a prisoner; and here he had the interviews with his children which Clarendon has mentioned.
At Caversham was a cell and chapel belonging to the monastery of Nutley, in Buckinghamshire. These cells, of which I have frequently had to speak in these Rambles, were little dependencies attached to a monastery, in which one or more monks, according to the size, resided, remaining still strictly under the authority of their superior, and conforming in all respects to the practice and discipline of the house. The cell usually arose from a farm or an estate being given to a religious house at some distance, when a monk was appointed to reside there, partly perhaps to look after the property, and partly because it afforded a convenient retirement for an aged or a supernumerary inmate of the parent establishment. Refractory monks were also occasionally sent to them to rusticate for a season. After a while, if not at first, a chapel was generally erected, and it frequently became the nucleus of a monastery. At this cell at Caversham there was only one monk; but there was a chapel attached, and it was in great repute on account of a statue of the Virgin, to whom the chapel was dedicated, which was reported to have wrought many miracles. It also contained, at the suppression, a great number of relics of considerable celebrity. Dr. London's letters respecting his visit to this cell are so characteristic, and so illustrative of these places in general, that a few extracts from them will probably be not unacceptable. He describes the chapel as a place "whereunto wasse great pilgrimage" on account of the image; and he mentions in another letter, as a proof of the numbers who resorted to the " Lady of Caversham," as she was called, that "even at my being ther com in nott so few as a dosyn with imagies of waxe." This he soon put a stop to, after the fashion he describes in a subsequent letter to Cromwell, wherein he also tells something of the image itself, and of some other interesting matters. "The image," he says, "ys plated over with sylver, and I have put yt in a cheste fast lockyd and naylyd uppe, and by the next bardge that comythe from Reding to London yt shall be brought to your lordeschippe. I have also pulled down the place sche stode in, with all other ceremonyes, as lightes, schrowdes, crowchys, and