A Tour Through The Whole Island of Great Britain
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Pages (PDF): 874
Publication Date: 1724 - 1727
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A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain is an account of his travels by English author Daniel Defoe, first published in three volumes between 1724 and 1727. It is roughly divided into several tours, or circuits, around Britain. Volume 1 contains three letters. The first two, Through Essex, Colchester, Harwich, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire, and through Kent Coast, Maidstone, Canterbury, Sussex, Hampshire, and Surrey, are complete circuits, both beginning and ending in London. Letter 3 describes a journey out to Land's End, while Letter 4 starts Volume 2 with the journey back. Letter 5 focuses on London and the Court. Volume 2 ends with Letters 6 and 7 describing a path out to Anglesey and back. Finally, in Volume 3, the narrator begins at the Trent or the Mersey and slowly travels northwards from the Midlands, taking up Letters 8 through 10. Finally, Scotland is divided into three convenient units for Letters 11 through 13.
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Through Essex to Colchester
I BEGAN my travels, where I purpose to end them, viz. at the city of London, and therefore my account of the city itself will come last, that is to say, at the latter end of my southern progress; and as in the course of this journey I shall have many occasions to call it a circuit, if not a circle, so I chose to give it the title of circuits, in the plural, because I do not pretend to have travelled it all in one journey, but in many, and some of them many times over; the better to inform my self of every thing I could find worth taking notice of.
I hope it will appear that I am not the less, but the more capable of giving a full account of things, by how much the more deliberation I have taken in the view of them, and by how much the oftner I have had opportunity to see them.
I set out, the 3d of April, 1722, going first eastward, and took what I think, I may very honestly call a circuit in the very letter of it; for I went down by the coast of the Thames thro’ the marshes or hundreds, on the south-side of the county of Essex, till I came to Malden, Colchester, and Harwich, thence continuing on the coast of Suffolk to Yarmouth; thence round by the edge of the sea, on the north and west-side of Norfolk, to Lynn, Wisbich, and the Wash; thence back again on the north-side of Suffolk and Essex, to the west, ending it in Middlesex, near the place where I began it, reserving the middle or center of the several counties to some little excursions, which I made by themselves. Passing Bow-Bridge, where the county of Essex begins, the first observation I made was, That all the villages which may be called the neighbourhood of the city of London on this, as well as on the other sides thereof, which I shall speak to in their order; I say, all those villages are increased in buildings to a strange degree, within the compass of about 20 or 30 years past at the most.
The village of Stratford, the first in this county from London, is not only increased, but, I believe, more than doubled in that time; every vacancy filled up with new houses, and two little towns or hamlets, as they may be called, on the forest side of the town, entirely new, namely, Mary-land-Point, and the Gravel-Pits, one facing the road to Woodford, and Epping, and the other facing the road to Illford: And as for the hither part, it is almost joined to Bow, in spite of rivers, canals, marshy-grounds, &c. Nor is this increase of building the case only, in this and all the other villages round London; but the increase of the value and rent of the houses formerly standing, has, in that compass of years above-mentioned, advanced to a very great degree, and I may venture to say at least a fifth part; some think a third part, above what they were before.
This is indeed most visible, speaking of Stratford in Essex; but it is the same thing in proportion in other villages adjacent, especially on the forest-side; as at Low-Layton, Layton-stone, Walthamstow, Woodford, Wansted, and the towns of West-Ham, Plaistow, Upton, &c. In all which places, or near them, (as the inhabitants say) above a thousand new foundations have been erected, besides old houses repaired, all since the Revolution: And this is not to be forgotten too, that this increase is, generally speaking, of handsom large houses, from 20l. a year to 60l. very few under 20l. a year; being chiefly for the habitations of the richest citizens, such as either are able to keep two houses, one in the country, and one in the city; or for such citizens as being rich, and having left off trade, live altogether in these neighbouring villages, for the pleasure and health of the latter part of their days.
The truth of this may at least appear, in that they tell me there are no less than two hundred coaches kept by the inhabitants within the circumference of these few villages named above, besides such as are kept by accidental lodgers.
This increase of the inhabitants, and the cause of it, I shall inlarge upon when I come to speak of the like in the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, &c. Where it is the same, only in a much greater degree: But this I must take notice of here, that this increase causes those villages to be much pleasanter and more sociable than formerly, for now people go to them, not for retirement into the country, but for good company; of which, that I may speak to the ladies as well as other authors do, there are in these villages, nay, in all, three or four excepted, excellent conversation, and a great deal of it, and that without the mixture of assemblies, gaming houses, and publick foundations of vice and debauchery; and particularly I find none of those incentives kept up on this side the country.
Mr. Camden, and his learned continuator, Bishop Gibson, have ransacked this country for its antiquities, and have left little unsearched; and, as it is not my present design to say much of what has been said already, I shall touch very lightly where two such excellent antiquaries have gone before me; except it be to add what may have been since discovered, which as to these parts is only this; That there seems to be lately found out, in the bottom of the marshes, (generally called Hackney-Marsh, and beginning near about the place now called the Wyck), between Old-Ford and the said Wyck, the remains of a great stone causeway, which, as it is supposed, was the highway, or great road from London into Essex, and the same, which goes now over the great bridge between Bow and Stratford.
That the great road lay this way, and that the great causeway landed again just over the river, where now the Temple-Mills stand, and passed by Sir Tho. Hickes’s house at Ruckolls, all this is not doubted; and that it was one of those famous highways made by the Romans, there is undoubted proof, by the several marks of Roman work, and by Roman coins, and other antiquities found there, some of which are said to be deposited in the hands of the Revd. Mr. Strype, vicar of the parish of Low-Layton.
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