The river is formed by water entering swallets in the limestone and rises from the ground at
Wookey Hole Caves in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, and runs through a V-shaped valley. The geology of the area is limestone and the water reaches Wookey Hole in a series of underground channels that have eroded through the soluble limestone. The river mouth is in Weston Bay on the Bristol Channel.
The river was navigable from the middle ages until 1915, and used for international trade.
The River Axe is formed by the water entering the cave systems and flows through the third and first chambers, from which it flows to the resurgence, through two sumps 40 metres 130 ft and 30 metres 98 feet long, where it leaves the cave and enters the open air.
It is the second largest resurgence on Mendip, with an estimated catchment area of 46.2 square kilometres 17.8 sq miles and an average discharge of 789 litres 208 US gallons per second.
It then passes through major cave systems such as Swildon's Hole, Eastwater Cavern and St Cuthbert's Swallet, around Priddy, but 95% is water that has percolated directly into the limestone.
From Wookey Hole village the river flows through a ravine and then west through the village of Wookey.
At Wookey the River splits into two channels with the ‘Lower River Axe’ running past to the south of the village west towards Henton and then onto Panborough Moor where it joins a series of rhynes and drains supplying water to the wetland in the area.
The Lower River Axe then runs north along the west most edge of Knowle Moor whilst the River Axe continues west through the same moor.
The two channels meet again on the boundary between Knowle and Panborough Moors.
The river continues northwest past Wedmore Moor and through Oxmoor, Stoke Moor and Monk Moor.
The river passes through the settlement of Lower Weare and on to the south of Loxton. From this point until it passes between Uphill Cliff and Brean Down, then reaches the coast at Weston Bay, the river forms the northern boundary of the county.
Tributaries of the Axe include three rivers called Yeo: the Cheddar Yeo, the Mark Yeo and the Lox Yeo.
The word Axe is a version of the Celtic word for water.
The lower reaches of the Axe have a history of navigation from the harbour at Uphill through to the settlement of Weare. The current tidal limit of the Axe is the sluice gates at Bleadon and Brean Cross.
In the Middle Ages overseas trade was carried out from the port of Rackley, which is now north of the river as the course has been diverted.
Rackley is now a farm below Crook Peak and west of Axbridge, which also had wharves.
In the 14th century a French ship sailed up the river and by 1388 Thomas Tanner from Wells used Rackley to export cloth and corn to Portugal, and received iron and salt in exchange.
Later slate was imported through this route and it may have still be possible to
trade through Rackley until the act of 1915 authorising the drainage of the Axe
and installation of the flood gate at Bleadon.
Bleadon had been a small port, sometimes known as Lympsham Wharf, for many years, with the arrival of the railway in 1841 making this the furthest navigable point.
It was last used by the ketch Democrat in 1942.
A series of 11 watermills were powered by the river but the only one which remains is at Burcott.
Rising above the swirling mist and the vast flat landscape of the Somerset Levels is Burrow Mump, topped by the ruins of St Michael’s Church. This natural 79ft hill would once have stood as an island in a marshy sea, but the area was drained in the Middle Ages by local monks to provide summer pasture and remains a patchwork of rivers and wetlands used for farming.
Burrow Mump (both words mean ‘hill’) has enjoyed an elevated view on history. It was probably used by the Saxons as a lookout post, Roman artefacts have been discovered here and the remains of a ‘motte’ castle date back to the Normans. The medieval chapel which replaced it would go on to offer a place of refuge for Royalist soldiers during the English Civil War in the 17th century.
Plans for a new church, the ruins seen in our homepage image, began more than 100 years later in 1793. But it was never completed - apparently due to a lack of funds - and remains roofless to this day. The ruins and hill were given to the National Trust in 1946, as a striking memorial to men and women from Somerset who were killed during the Second World War.
THE BORE the course of the stream, the head of the tide will not be so high as it is in these days.
We are fortunate in being here at full moon.
Indeed everything is favourable to a sightworth seeing . The wave, gleaming white in the distance, rolls nearer and nearer. Now we hear the sound of its growing roar.
The ships’ hawsers are made taut. Boats are turned with bow to meet the oncoming tide .Then the shrill voices of the children cry “Tide’s coming I” and at last it sweeps past us, rocking the boats, or carrying them away like corks, washing the timbers of the shipping, rushing through the arches oi I lie bridge.
What astonishes us most is the rapidity with which the channel of the river is filled.
When we have descended from our point of vantage, and passed under the triple arch of the old Watergate, and said farewell to Master Clerk, the water has already risen to a considerable height.
We are just in time to see the barge on the Slip with its precious freight of the two stone effigies take the water, and ride off on the tide on its way to
FRIARN STREET Taunton.
Bon voyage to the Knight and his lady.
And so to our inn, to supper, and to bed ! Do you ask what we had for supper ! I will tell you.
We feasted sumptuously on a hen in a pasty, a gift which kind Brother Nicholas had sent to the inn for us, four mutton bones boiled, a manchet, and a pottle of beer, which we shared with two other pilgrims. We have not seen day dawn, but we are up betimes and have broken our fast before we leave the inn to be present in the church of the Grey Friars at mass.
Our host sees us off at his door and points the way.
It is not difficult to find.
Freren Street or Friarn Street does but carry on the main street in Damyet.
Not many yards away we pass the Wayhur or Horsepond on our left and then come to the wall behind which the Friary and its Church stand between the street and the brook.
We note that the houses here are smaller and meaner than we have yet met with in the town, as indeed we might well
THE BRISTOLL CHANNEL words. It tells us that the bridge was built at the expense ofsunn member or members of the I revel Inmlly, who lived in this neighbom hood Remember that, in this line, this is an act of piety.
I'o Imlld n bridge or repair a road, and I Ini’, help God’s pilgrims is a holy deed Clime to us is a small Chapel bull! m lunlly on the bridge, which plan”. I lie structure under the protection oi one "I the saints, and where offerings lot ii . maintenance are collected. II is served, not by our friends of the Hospital, lad by IhcCrey Friars, whose ac<|tiiiiutnii< e we have yet to make.
There are dwelling houses on the bridge beside the ( Impel, urid at one of them the tollman will rolled our bridge-pennies as we p.i hi;, door.
I said that the bridge is the hub of the town.
Truly, we are m I lie midst of a busy scene, and Ironi out point of vantage can see much oi wlial is going on around us.
On the stone Slip, which has but lately been built, and which is destined long to outlive the bridge itself, lies a barge.
A crowd, almost as large as that which we have seen in Eastover, is collected on the quay and is looking down on the work of a group of labourers, who are directed by a master mason in charge of the operation.
They have brought from a ship, which has come up the river on the last tide, two stone effigies swathed in straw.
The faces and hands, however, are visible, and we see that the Bristol carvers have fashioned here a Knight and his Lady, with faces and hands turned towards heaven.
The labourers are now lifting them into the flat-bottomed barge.
On the next tide they will be carried up to Taunton, and thence will make their final journey in a waggon to the church for which they are destined.
Below the bridge, moored against the quay-side lie ships, not a few.
That fine vessel Le Gabriel de Bridgwater belongs to Master Dennis Dwin, the Irish merchant.
She is unloading her cargo of woad, a blue dye-stuff for the use of the Bridgwater cloth makers.
The town crane is busy hoisting it ashore. La Marie de Tanton got rid of
14 It tells us that the bridge was built at the expense oi noun member or members of the I level liimlly, who lived in this neiglibom I .
Remember that, in tlihdign, this is an act of piety.
To build n bridge or repair a road, and I bus help God’s pilgrims is a holy deed (lose b> us is a small Chapel hull I m In.illy on the bridge, which places lie structure under the protection oi one oi Ihe saints, and where offerings lot lb» maintenance are collected. Il is served, not by our friends of the Hospital, lail by Ihetirey Friars, whose accpiuiiibnice we have yet to make. There are dwelling houses on the bridge beside the ( Impel, mid at one of them the tollman will colled our bridge-pennies as we p.i his door. I said that the bridge Is the hub of the town.
Truly, we me in Ihe midst of a busy scene, and lioui mu point of vantage can see much ofwhat is going on around us.
On the stone Slip, which has but lately been built, and whichIt is destined long to outlive the bridge itself, lies a
EFFIGIES EN ROUTE 15 barge. A crowd, almost as large as that which we have seen in Eastover, is collected on the quay and is looking down on the work of a group of labourers, who are directed by a master mason in charge of the operation. They have brought from a ship, which has come up the river on the last tide, two stone effigies swathed in straw. The faces and hands, however, are visible, and we see that the Bristol carvers have fashioned here a Knight and his Lady, with faces and hands turned towards heaven. The labourers are now lifting them into the flat-bottomed barge. On the next tide they will be carried up to Taunton, and thence will make their final journey in a waggon to the church for which they are destined. Below the bridge, moored against the quay-side lie ships, not a few. That fine vessel Le Gabriel de Bridgwater belongs to Master Dennis Dwin, the Irish merchant. She is unloading her cargo of woad, a blue dye-stuff for the use of the Bridgwater cloth makers. The town crane is busy hoisting it ashore. La Marie de Tanton got rid of
And so, in two miles, to Axbridge, the last of these places under the Mendip massif proper.
There is a distinct air of antiquity about Axbridge under its bare shoulder, Shute-Shelve Hill, but its antiquity is hardly attractive.
It was a borough under Edward the Confessor, and held its own for centuries till its Corporation was dissolved in 1886.
On the W. side of the market place and on the S. side of the Winscombe road (opposite the Lamb Hotel) is a group of old houses with good wooden window frames.
The interesting church (St John Baptist) stands high and is approached by a long flight of steps.
The choir is accommodated under the triple-windowed tower, so that the sanctuary is proportionately long.
Features to be remarked are: the elaborate plaster roof (1636) of the nave, with pendants, the Prowse monument in the S. chancel aisle, a good carved font, an old building called the Treasury S. of the West door, and a hole in the N. wall connected with a cell outside, over which there is now an iron grating.
WINSCOMBE (? Winds Combe).— 'Westward of Axbridge the Mendips begin to peter out in gradually narrowing islands—Winscombe Hill with the well-known landmark of Crook’s Peak at its western end, then the long Bleadon Hill with the Roman road along it, Uphill, and finally the mile-long promontory of Brean Down.
Mendip is fortified to the very last: there is a camp on the seaward verge.
The Lake Villages. One of the outstanding events in British archaeology in the past half century was the excavation of Glastonbury lake village by Dr. Bulleid and Mr. St. George Gray. From time to time so much has been written of the structure and appearance of this village that it is now familiar to most of us. A sister village at Meare, about a mile away, is being uncovered and is supplementing the story with its evidence. Lake villages existed in Switzerland as early as 3,500—4,000 B.C., but until Hallstatt invaders displaced the Swiss villages nothing of the sort was known in Britain. After a journey via Brittany, that lasted some hundreds of years, descendants of the Swiss refugees reached Ireland and south-west England, and taught the natives — for the Glastonbury men were of the ancient long-barrow or Mediterranean stock-—their ways and the Brythonic or Welsh tongue. The two villages were constructed of thousands of tons of stone, timber and clay, which was carried from firm ground in little dug-out canoes and dumped in the lake.
The mass was kept within bounds by oak piles.
On this artificial island was piled the clay and wood which formed the foundation of circular skep-shaped huts. After vast labour undertaken with the most primitive appliances, the most impressive feature is the artistic spirit that is caught and reflected at every facet of the life of these folk.
Every vessel is of simple form, yet effective and artistic ; and a large proportion are inscribed with Celtic designs. This art, which was not truly on the lines of native tradition but was derived from Armorican or Breton sources, was immediately taken by the folk to their hearts so that in Great Britain, and Ireland it lived through incessant invasion for above a thousand years. The earliest date of the foundation of Glastonbury is 300 B.C., and, therefore, we see the art in its first development, purely geometrical and decorative, without the utilisation of beasts and figures that came later.
Moreover, one feels that much of the work was as experimental as Elizabethan verse, and thence that there was no stagnation of spirit in those times.
At present it suffices to say that Celtic art is the art of movement, as contrasted with the classical ideal of formal perfection, and as such is amazingly “modern.” ft is more abstract, yet in regard to technique and medium the Celt always betrays himself as the complete realist. Whereas even the commonest classical design, even when painted oi' incised, is made to simulate some original in the round and requires a number of details to further the illusion, the Celtic design is always an end in itself, is severely economical, and leaves no space for fussiness. The men of Glastonbury were considerable craftsmen who knew of the lathe and the rotary corn-mill hut were without the potter’s wheel. Many weaving-combs, bobbins anti spindlc-whorls were found in the debris from their huts, therefore, the ancient inhabitants of Somerset were not as naked as Caesar would have us believe.
It is pleasing to catalogue their vices. They knew the dice-box anti decked themselves with very beautiful glass beads, many of which were coloured with the favourite Celtic blue, and, as an offset to the razors which had been used by men for some hundreds of years, the women treasured bronze mirrors and berouged themselves. Mendip Caves. Caves were still occupied at Cheddar, and Mr. Batch has found much intimate and valuable material in Wookey Hole. Read’s Cavern, near Burrington, discovered in 1919 by Mr. R. F. Read', and excavated by Dr. Palmer and Mr. Tratman, was used between 100 B.C. and 1 A.D. ; probably by families from the adjoining Dole bury Camp. It yielded some fine examples of smith’s work 20t 21 and 22) and an interesting list of domestic animals.
Sheep was the most numerous, pig was common, and there were a fair number o_f oxen like Kerry cattle ; but the Celtic horse, which was like the Exmoor pony, was scarce.
Wild animals, such as deer were now quite negligible as food. Fig. 21-Decorated Vase: Read’s Cavern
ROMAN PERIOD The two invasions of Julius Caesar belong in effect to the preceding period of British history, and have been described in that context. For nearly a hundred years after them Britain was left alone by the Roman Government, until the peaceful penetration of Roman traders and the hostile rivalries of British chieftains made the time ripe for the annexation which Julius had dreamed of and which Augustus had on two occasions contemplated. In a .d . 43 the Emperor Claudius gave orders for the invasion and conquest of Britain, and an army of four legions, with auxiliaries, was landed on the coast of Kent under the command of Aulus Plautius Silvanus. One of their ports of disembarkation was certainly Richborough (Portus Rutupias) (Fig. 5), which is in our guardianship. Here among the successive traces of occupation lasting four centuries can be seen part of the fortifications thrown up by the legions of Aulus Plautius to protect their base on landing. Richborough was at that time an island in the estuary of the Stour, and was probably connected with the mainland by a causeway. The opposition of the non-Belgic to the Belgic tribes was exemplified by Cogidubnus, King of Sussex, who hastened to join the Romans, and as a reward was left in enjoyment of his kingdom till his death. A large inscription is still preserved at Chichester in which he is given the unique title of “ King and Legate of the Emperor in Britain.
ROMAN PERIOD The main resistance of the Belgic kingdom of the Catuvellauni, though fierce, was soon crushed by the capture of their capital near Colchester (Camulodunum). The subsequent obstinate resistance of Caratacus, Cunobeline’s son, in the mountains of Wales does not concern us here. Once the main Belgic power hadbeen broken, the conquest of the south and westfollowed fairly easily. It was entrusted to the Second Legion, then under the command of the future Emperor Vespasian, who, we are told by Suetonius, capturedtwenty British hill forts in the course of this campaign. These were no doubt mostly those of the western Belgae, and must have included Hod Hill in Dorset, where there is a Roman fortified camp in a corner of the Belgic earthwork, and perhaps also Maiden Castle, where evidence of Belgic occupation super imposed on the earlier remains has recently been found. The Roman conquest though rapid was. complete. Within five years of the first invasion the Romans were mining the lead of the Mendips, and there was no further military activity south of the Thames for nearly , 250 years. The achievements of the Roman Empire during that period were the victories of peace. Local government was instituted, according to the Roman practice in Gaul, on the basis of the existing tribal divisions, each tribe having its own territory with a capital town. In southern England there were six such tribal states— the Cantii of Kent, capital Canterbury (Durovernum), the Atrebates of Berkshire, Surrey, and north Hampshire, capital Silchester (Calleva, probably Commius’ old capital), the Belgae of Hampshire and Somerset, capital Winchester (Venta), the Regni of Sussex, capital Chichester (Noviomagus), the Durotriges of Dorset, capital Dorchester (Durnovaria), and the Dumnonii of
32 ROMAN PERIOD Devon, capital Exeter (Isca). Five of these six townsare covered by modern cities, but the sixth, Silchester, is almost bare of modern buildings and was systematically excavated in the last years of the nineteenth century. Though it is now buried once more, an excellent idea of it can be gained from Reading Museum, where most of the finds are preserved, and where there are plans and models of the buildings, including one of a Christian church, probably of the fourth century, the only one hitherto known in Roman Britain. The walls of Silchester still stand above ground, and the northern side is now under the guardianship of the Office of Works. They have not yet been accurately dated, but by analogy should belong to the late first or early second century. Another Roman town of importance in the south is Bath (Aquae Sulis), which was apparently only a health-resort, and not the capital of any tribe ; but it contains, in its baths, one of the most interesting monuments of the Roman era in the country. They are in the custody of the Corporation of Bath. Another feature of the flourishing period of theRoman Empire in Britain is the Villas, which are numerous in the southern counties. Among the largestmay be mentioned Folkestone in Kent, Bignor in Sussex, and Brading in the Isle of Wight. It is, ofcourse, a mistake to suppose that these villas were inhabited by immigrant Romans from Italy. Theywere the farms and houses of well-to-do British-born gentry, whose ancestors had fought against Gesar andClaudius ; and it was the greatest achievement of the Empire to turn such people into Romans. Perhaps the most important factor in the “ Romanizing ” of the country was the road-system. The great majority of the main Roman roads were laid out by military engineers to meet the needs of the army
STONE AGE AXES
Stone axes are grouped according to petrological, mineralogical and textural criteria.
Over 40 different axe groups are recognised from a total of 7625 axes found in Britain of which only 3546 have been grouped ,
Clough and Cummings, 1988.
Just over 1000 axes are made of greenstone, of which 392 members (referred to a "Group 1") have been identified as being manufactured in west Cornwall and possibly originating from the Mount's Bay area ,
largely on the basis of the site of origin and the local presence of greenstone (Stone, 1951).
Group 1 axes,
originally catalogued in the 1940s (Keiller, 1941), are broadly described as uralitized gabbro with original pyroxene and feldspar, with the characteristic development of a uralitic fringe of blue-green amphibole around the primary pyroxene; epidote, sphene and chlorite are common accessory minerals.
Because this assemblage and texture is a very common feature of many Cornish greenstones, the actual outcrops, representing the stone age factories used by Neolithic man, have never been positively identified.
however, the assumed manufacture from this area is still largely based on the apparent similarity between a petrographic examination of thin sections of greenstone axes and the outcrops in the Mount's Bay area.
To date no definite match has been achieved, such that archaeologists have suggested that the outcrops are actually underwater and have yet to be sampled! (Evans, 1962)
The second century geography of Claudius Ptolemaeus records that the Uxella Aestuarium lies somewhere along the southern shores of the Severn Estuary (at coordinates 16*00 53°30), and this name has been associated with the River Axe in Somerset. A later entry in Ptolemy (vide supra) records a town named Iscalis, whose given coordinates (16*00 53°40) place it very near the mouth of the Axe, indeed, the name may stem from the same Welsh/Gaelic root, usk, axe, uisg, exe, isc & c. all meaning ‘water’. The name Iscalis possibly means something like ‘the settlement by the water’.
Below the Dobuni are the Belgae¹ and the towns: Iscalis 16*00 53°40, Aquae Calidae 17*20 53°40 and Venta 18*40 53°00.²
The Dobunni occupied Gloucestershire and parts of Hereford & Worcester, while the Belgae were thought to inhabit the counties of Avon and Hampshire. It is possible, however, that any settlement at Bawdrip lay in the territories of the Durotriges and was administrated from Ilchester, with which it communicated by road.
These towns have been identified, respectively, as; somewhere near Bawdrip on the Axe, Aquae Sulis (Bath, Avon) and Venta Belgarum (Winchester, Hampshire).
There are two substantial Roman buildings at Bawdrip, one on the north-western outskirts of the village (ST3240) and another a little along the road to the south-east (ST3539). There is also a salt working site at Huntspill (ST3743) about three miles to the north-east.
It is possible that the road from Ilchester continued north-west towards the Bristol Channel near Burnham-on-Sea, where there are known Roman buildings nearby at Lakehouse Farm (ST3550), and a Romano British temple at Brean Down (ST2958) overlooking the Channel near Weston-super-Mare, both sites in Somerset.
THE STORY OF ASHE HOUSE J. R. W. COXHEAD Lovers of the history and beauty of the countryside should never be bored in East Devon.
Hidden away in the valleys and narrow coombes among the lovely southern ranges of the Blackdown Hills, can be found churches and houses of historic interest, and lonely places steeped in legend.
Compared to the better known parts of the romantic county of Devon, the eastern district is still a happy hunting ground for the seeker after a knowledge of bygone times.
A mass of unrecorded history and legend still awaits the pen of the enterprising historian. The quaint little town of Colyton, with its narrow, winding streets and attractive old buildings clustering around its magnificent church, is the centre of an area of the greatest interest
. Within easy reach of the town are the remains of a great monastery, and a famous castle.
Close by, in secluded valleys, may be found the cradles of several celebrated families, and one ancient house, now but a portion of its original size, was the birthplace of the most brilliant general this country has ever produced. In Ashe House, close to the east bank of the Axe, the great John Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, was born on 26th May, 1650.
Every battle Marlborough fought he won, and every town he besieged he took.
Under his command the fame of the British soldier-was established throughout Europe, and the armies of one of the most powerful kings ever to rule in France were utterly defeated. To find Ashe House from Cotyton, the road through Whit ford to the village of Musbury should be taken, and at the crossroads by the village the left-hand turning into the main road leading to Axminster must be followed. About a mile along the road, and tying well back on the left, stands the old house overlooking the swiftly flowing waters of the Axe.
The weathered walls of grey stone, the ntullioned windows, and a look of quiet dignity betoken a building that has seen the passage of many centuries. The northern portion of the estate of Musbury containing Ashe was held in Saxon times by Ailmar, Earl of Devon.
William the Conqueror gave Ashe to Baldwin cle Brionis, Sheriff of Devon who still held it in 1084.
On Baldwin’s death the estate passed to his daughter Emma and then to her son Robert d’Avranches, whose daughter Matilda carried it to Robert the king’s son who died on 31st May, 1172. Through Matilda’s daughter, also named Matilda, the property passed to Reginald Courtenay, senr., who possessed it for life.
When Matilda died her half-sister Hawise de Aincoort succeeded to Ashe and carried it to Reginald Courtenay, junr.
On 31st July, 1219, Hawise died and the estate came to her son Robert Courtenay who married Mary, daughter of William de Vernon, Earl of Devon. Robert Courtenay died on 26th August, 1242, and was succeeded in the lordship of Okehampton by his eldest son John Courtenay who, according to the following extract from the “ Hundreds of Devon,” page 1511, gave Ashe to Henry de Esse:—“John Courtenay, lord of Okehamton (26 Aug., 1242—3 May, 1273), in 1253 made a grant of land at Ash in Musbury to Henry de Esse or Ash (Polewhele, II, 295) who gave the same to Julian, wife of John Orwey of Orwey. Through Orwey’s younger daughter, Phillipa Ash, it descended to Warren Hampton, junr., her son, and through Alice, one of Hampton’s daughters and coheiresses, who married John Billet, it came to her daughter Christiana, first married to John Drake and afterwards to Christopher Francheyney, by each of whom she left a son.
The eldest son, John Drake of Exmouth, having recovered Ash, married Margaret, daughter of John Cole of Rill in Exmouth, which he gave together with the manor of Withycombe Raleigh to his younger son, whilst his elder son John and his grandson Sir Bernard Drake inherited Ash (Pole in Polewhele, 295—6).” This somewhat complicated family history shows how the house of Ashe passed through the centuries from a Saxon earl to the famous family of Drake. The Drakes of Ashe were a proud and dauntless race.
Prominent during the Elizabethan period in naval and military affairs, Sir Bernard Drake was overshadowed by the greater fame of his very distant relative Sir Francis. John Prince in his “ Worthies of Devon ” places Sir Bernard among the most celebrated men of the county. It would appear that Sir Bernard was not at all keen to accept the great navigator as a relative. To the aristocratic lord of Ashe, Sir Francis was little more than an adventurous pirate. On 4th April, 1581, Drake received a knighthood in honour of his great voyage round the world. He was now a very famous man. Tradition relates that wishing to have a coat-of-arms to match his title, he was foolish enough to assume the armorial bearings of the ancient family of Drake of Ashe. To Sir Bernard, who considered the relationship of his family 1 By the Rev. O. J. Reichel. THE STORY OF ASHE HOUSE 255 to the great sailor to be rather hazy, the action was unforgivable.
Furious with the impudence of a man who to him was an upstart, Sir Bernard sought for Sir Francis in the precincts of the Court, and upon finding him soundly boxed his ears.
The men of Elizabethan times were impetuous and high-spirited, and it is difficult to imagine how a bold and hardy sailor like the admiral avoided striking back. The affair caused a frightful scandal at Court, and Sir Francis with his ear still smarting complained to the Queen with whom he was in high favour. It is hard to say how much truth there is in the story, but most legendary tales contain a certain amount of fact. However, whether the quarrel occurred or not, the Queen granted Sir Francis a completely new coat-of-arms of which he may well have been proud.
The shield is sable with a fesse wavy between two polar stars argent. The Crest is a ship under reef, drawn round the globe with a cable-rope by a hand out of the clouds, and over it this motto—Auxilio divino ; and under it, Sic parvis magna. It is said that Sir Francis, as an act of derision, included in the crest a wyvem hanging upside-down in the rigging of the ship. A wyvern was the armorial bearing, of the Drakes of Ashe. The man who had become the scourge of the Spanish Main and the greatest sailor of his day could now safely tease his arrogant kinsman. Sir Bernard Drake, who received the honour of knighthood at Greenwich on 9th January, 1585, was unfortunately smitten down with gaol fever during the Exeter Assizes in April, 1586. He was moved to Crediton where he died within a few days and was there buried. In the South Aisle of Musbury Church there is a remarkable coloured monument to his memory and to other members of the family. It shows the kneeling effigy of the gallant knight, clad in full armour, with the figure of his wife by his side. Beneath the effigy appears the following inscription in letters of gold:—
HEER IS THE MONUMENT OF S:r BARNARD DRAKE K:T
WHO HAD TO WIFE DAME GARTHRUD THE DAUGHTER OF BARTHOLOMEW FORTESCUE OF FILLY ESQr.
BY WHOM HEE HAD THREE SONNES AND THREE DAUGHTERS WHERE OF WHEAR FIVE LIVING AT HIS DEATH VIZ :
HUGH MARIE MARGARET AND HELEN :
HE DIED THE Xth OF APRILL „
1586 AND DAME GARTHRUD HIS WIEF WAS HERE BURED THE XII:th OF FEBRUARIE 1601 UNTO THE MEMORIE OF WHOME
JOHN DRAKE ESQ: HIS SONNE HATH SET THIS MONUMENT:
THE STORY OF ASHE HOUSE Had it not been for his untimely death, Sir Bernard might well have become even more famous than the great Sir Francis.
The following extract from " The Worthies of Devon,” clearly shows that John Prince considered Sir Bernard to have been one of the foremost sea-captains of the Elizabethan period:—“ I find Sir Bernard chiefly applied himself to sea-service : for thus doth Mr., Purchase testify of him, ‘ That Sir Bernard Drake, a Devonshire knight, came to Newfound-Land with a commission; and having divers good ships under his command, he took many Portugal ships, and brought them into England as prizes.’
And for his great undertakings this way, he is ranked the 2d among the most famous sea captains of our country in his time.” Sir Bernard’s great grand-daughter, who was a daughter of Sir John Drake of Ashe, married Sir Winston Churchill, a knight of the neighbouring county of Dorset, and it was while she was on a visit to her father at Ashe in 1650, that she gave birth to her second son John.
This child of destiny, later to become victorious in many famous battles, is the ancestor of yet another man of destiny who guided this country through the perils of the recent terrible war—the Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill. For many generations after the death ,of Sir Bernard, the Drakes continued to live at Ashe, but on the death in 1733, without issue, of Sir William Drake, the senior branch of the family became extinct.
His widow sold the reversion of Ashe, with other estates in the neighbourhood, to Messrs. Bunter and Tucker of Axminster. These gentlemen in turn sold Ashe to a Mr. Wheadon, of Appledore near Farway, who left the property to his sister Mrs. Kinglake, afterwards Mrs. Gatcomb, of Shovel House, North Petherton in Somerset. Later the hquse was purchased by James Smyth of Axminster, who kindly allowed members of the Devonshire Association to inspect the building in 1907. James Smyth died on 6th January, 1909. In 1920 Mr. J. D. Rutter bought the estate from the Smyth family, and in 1925 he sold Ashe House with about seven acres of land to a Mr. Peat. The present owner of Ashe, Mr. L. Field, bought the property in 1946. Lady Drake, widow of Sir William Drake, beautified the private chapel at Ashe in a lavish manner. Four years after her husband’s death she married Colonel George Speke, of Dillington in Somerset, and their only daughter, Anne, was married in the chapel on 20th May, 1756, to Frederick, Lord North, for many years Prime Minister to George III. During harvest time in the year 1765, Lord North and Sir Robert Hamilton were staying at Ashe House. The two members of the Government were extremely unpopular in the Westcountry at the time, because of the recently imposed- THE STORY OF ASHE HOUSE 257 tax on cider. On the day the gathering of the harvest was completed on the estate, the reapers were returning to the homestead waving their hooks and shouting : “ We have’n— we have’n!” Thinking he was about to be attacked because of the unpopular tax, Lord North was struck with terror.
Sir Robert Hamilton, however, drew his sword and was about to issue forth in an endeavour to repel the attack, when they were informed by members of the household that the men were only celebrating the old harvest custom of “ Crying the Neck.” ■ Ashe House was originally an oblong building lying east and west.
It suffered so much damage during the Civil War that the family were forced to reside for a time at Trill about a mile distant in an easterly direction. In 1669 Sir John Drake succeeded to the baronetcy bestowed upon his father at the Restoration. He at once set to work to rebuild the ruined home of his ancestors, and to use the words of John Prince—he was “ a sober, serious, and prudent person.” Replanning Ashe on a grander scale he “ enlarged and beautified it to a greater perfection than it was before; enclosed a park adjoining to the house with a good wall; made fishponds, walks, gardens well furnished with great variety of choice fruits, etc., so that it may vye, for beauty and delight, with most other seats in those parts.” Apart from restoring the ruins of the original house, Sir John added a new central portion with a north wing, the old part becoming the south wing. Building material was not far to seek. About a mile and a half from Ashe were the ruins of the great monastic foundation of Newenham Abbey. Sir John must have made good use of the abbey walls, because hardly a vestige of the old monastery can be seen to-day. On 24th September, 1787, there was a very tragic fire at Ashe which damaged the northern wing of the house, and destroyed the stables and outbuildings, causing the deaths of thirteen coach-horses and hunters.
The glory now departed from the old home of the Drakes.
The historic building became a farmhouse and remained so until the year 1895, when James Smyth of Axminster had the present spacious farmhouse erected close to the old mansion. * To-day Ashe House consists of the original oblong structure of mellow grey stone and a small portion of the central part of the building, but the north wing has completely vanished.
On entering the house a window on the right at once catches the eye.
There, in stained-glass are the arms of the Drakes of Ashe—a fierce-looking red wyvern on a silver shield. The bedroom at the eastern end of the house is reputed to be the one in which the great Duke was bom. Beneath the western end of the building there is a small wine-cellar now used for 258 THE STORY OF ASHE HOUSE garden tools. The remains of the centre of the house, which now contains the staircase and a small entrance hall, originally reached as far as the little chapel to which it was connected by the north wing.
The licence for a domestic chapel at Ashe was granted by Bishop Brantyngham of Exeter on 21st April, 1387. This historic chapel, a beautiful little building even in its present sad state of decay, is now used as a storehouse.
Above the entrance, carved in stone and prancing in a menacing manner, will be found the haughty wyvernof the Drakes. At the west end the blocked-up doorway which led to the mansion can be plainly seen, and at the east end there is a fifteenth century piscina in the south wall. It was in this attractive little edifice, three hundred years ago, that two notable children were christened—John Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, and his sister Arabella, who became Maid of Honour to the Duchess of York. SOME NOTES ON SAINT BONIFACE BY DOM JOHN STEPHAN, O.S.B. Originally this paper was meant only as an attempt at locating the Relics of St. Boniface in England.
A casual reference noticed a few years ago in the “ Shrines of British Saints,” p. 79, by Charles Wall (Methuen and Co., 1905), led to some correspondence of mine with the Vicar of Brixworth, in Northants, concerning a reliquary in his church, which is supposed to have contained relics of St. Boniface.
This correspondence has not yet yielded all that I expected from it, but it led me to examine some other questions connected with St. Boniface, which are not without their interest. In 1955 we shall be reminded of the 12th centenary of. the Martyr’s death, and no doubt various scholars will be giving him their attention in preparation for that date, so that even such a modest contribution as this may prove of some use. Moreover, there is a duty of historical justice we can even now fulfil, as will appear in the course of this study. I. St. Bqniface’s Birthplace It is rather disappointing that the VIIIth century Life of St. Boniface, written about 780 by the priest Willibald, on which all subsequent Lives are based, should mention neither the place nor the date of Winfrid’s birth.
Such details, which mean so much to us, were sadly neglected by the ancient chroniclers, who were more intent on the edification than the information of their readers.
Willibald did not know Boniface personally, but he drew his information from Archbishop Lull, the immediate successor of the martyr in the see of Mainz, and from other persons who had been acquainted with him, besides utilizing some of his authentic letters.
Five other Lives, written between the 9th and nth centuries, form the Corpus of our principal sources, together with the Letters written by or to St. Boniface, and which were carefully preserved. Of these vitae sex the most important are the first (Vita I) by Willibald, then the sixth (Vita VI) by the monk Othlo, of the abbey of St. Emmeram, Regensburg, written between 1062—1066 at Fulda, the resting-place of the Saint.
Othlo improved the style of Vita I and obtained supplementary information from various quarters, besides giving us at least one letter (No. 2) not found elsewhere.
trium phs which their indolence neglected, should be usurped by the conduct and valour of their lieutenants. The m ilitary fame of a subject was considered as an insolent invasion of the Im perial prerogative ; and it became the duty, as well as interest, of every Roman general, to guard the frontiers intrusted to his care, w ithout aspiring to conquests which m ight have proved no less fatal to himself than to the vanquished barbarians. 1 The only accession which the Roman Conquest of Bri- empire received, during tain was the first the first century of the exception to it. C h r is t ia n ^ w a g t h e province of Britain. In this single instance, the successors of Caesar and Augustus were persuaded to follow the example of the former, rather than the precept of the latter. The proximity of its situation to the coast of Caul seemed to invite their arms ; the pleasing, though doubtful, intelligence of a pearl fishery, attracted their avarice ; 2 and as Britain was viewed in the light of a distinct and insulated world, the conquest scarcely formed any exception to the general system of continental measures. A fter a war of about forty years, undertaken by the most stupid,3 maintained by the most dissolute, and term inated by the most tim id of all the emperors, the far greater p art of the island subm itted to the Roman yoke.4 The various tribes of Britons possessed 1 Germanicus, Suetonius, Paulinus, and Agricola were checked and recalled in the course of their victories. Corbulo was put to death. Military merit, as it is admirably expressed by Tacitus, was, in the strictest sense of the word, imperatoria virtus. - Caesar himself conceals that ignoble m otive; but it is mentioned by Suetonius, c. 47. The r.ritish pearls proved, however, of little value, account of their dark and livid colour. Tacitus observes, with reason (in Agricola, c. 12), that it was an inherent defect. “ Ego facilius crediderim, naturam margaritis deesse quam nobis avaritiam.” 3 Claudius, Nero, and Domitian. A hope is expressed by Pomponius Mela, 1. iii. c. G (he wrote under Claudius), that, by the success of I lie Eoman arms, the island and its savage inhabitants would soon be better known. It is amusing enough to peruse such passages in the midst of London. 4 Bee the admirable abridgment given by Tacitus, in the life of Agricola, and copiously, though perhaps not completely, illustrated by our own antiquarians, Camden and Horsley. valour w ithout conduct, and the love of freedom w ithout the spirit of union. They took up arms w ith savage fierceness ; they laid them down, or turned them against each other, w ith wild inconstancy ; and while they fought singly, they were successively subdued. N either the fortitude of Caractacus, nor the despair of Boadicea, nor the fanaticism of the Druids, could avert the slavery of their country, or resist the steady progress of the Im perial generals, who m aintained the national glory, when the throne was disgraced by the weakest, or the most vicious of m ankind. A t the very time when Domitian, confined to his palace, felt the terrors which he inspired, his legions, under the command of the virtuous Agricola, defeated the collected force of the Caledonians, at the foot of the Grampian h ills; and his fleets, venturing to explore an unknown and dangerous navigation displayed the Roman arms round every part of the island. The conquest of Britain was considered as already achieved; and it was the design of Agricola to complete and ensure his success, by the easy reduction of Ire land, for which, in his opinion, one legion and a few auxiliaries were sufficient.1 The western isle m ight be im proved into a valuable possession, and the Britons would wear their chains with the less reluctance, if the prospect and example of freedom were on every side removed from before their eyes. B ut the superior m erit of Agricola soon occasioned his removal from the government of Britain ; and for ever disappointed this rational,* though extensive, scheme of conquest. Before his departure, the prudent general had provided for security as well as for dominion. He had observed th at the island is almost divided into two unequal parts by the opposite gulfs, or, as they are now called, the Friths of Scotland. Across the narrow interval of about forty miles, he had drawn a line of m ilitary stations, which was afterwards fortified in the reign of Antoninus Ptus, by a turf ram part, erected on foundai The Irish writers, jealous of their national honour, are extremely provoked, on this occasion. both with Tacitus and with Agricola.