previous next

CAP. XVIII. OF THE AIRE, SOILE, AND COMMODITIES OP THIS ILAND.

THE aire (for the most part) throughout the Iland is such, as by reason in maner of
The aire of Britaine. continuall clouds, is reputed to be grosse, and nothing so pleasant as that is of the maine. Howbeit, as they which affirme these things, haue onelie respect to the impediment or hinderance of the sunne beames, by the interposition of the clouds and oft ingrossed aire: so experience teacheth vs, that it is no lesse pure, wholesome, and commodious, than is that of other countries, and (as Cæsar himselfe hereto addeth) much more temperate in summer than that of the Galles, from whom he aduentured hither. Neither is there anie thing found in the aire of our region, that is not vsuallie séene amongst other nations lieng beyond the seas. Wherefore, we must néeds confesse, that the situation of our Iland (for benefit of the heauens) is nothing inferiour to that of anie countrie of the maine, where so euer it lie vnder the open firmament. And this Plutarch knew full well, who affirmeth a part of the Elisian fields to be found in Britaine, and the Iles that are situate about it in the Ocean.

The soile of Britaine is such, as by the testimonies and reports both of the old and new The soile. writers, and experience also of such as now inhabit the same, is verie fruitfull; and such in deed as bringeth foorth manie commodities, whereof other countries haue néed, and yet it selfe (if fond nicenesse were abolished) néedlesse of those that are dailie brought from other places. Neuerthelesse it is more inclined to féeding and grasing, than profitable for tillage, and bearing of come; by reason whereof the countrie is wonderfullie replenished with neat, and all kind of cattell: and such store is there also of the same in euerie place, that the fourth part of the land is scarselie manured for the prouision and maintenance of graine. Certes this fruitfulnesse was not vnknowne vnto the Britons long before Cæsars time, which was the cause wherefore our predecessors liuing in those daies in maner neglected tillage, and liued by féeding and grasing onelie. The grasiers themselues also then dwelled in mooueable villages by companies, whose custome was to diuide the ground amongst them, and each one not to depart from the place where his lot laie (a thing much like to the Irish Criacht) till by eating vp of the countrie about him, he was inforced to remooue further, Criacht and séeke for better pasture. And this was the British custome (as I learne) at first. It hath béene commonlie reported, that the ground of Wales is neither so fruitfull as that of England, neither the soile of Scotland so bountifull as that of Wales: which is true, for come and for the most part: otherwise, there is so good ground in some parts of Wales, as is in England, albeit the best of Scotland be scarselie comparable to the meane of either of both. Howbeit, as the bountie of the Scotish dooth faile in some respect, so dooth it surmount in other; God and nature hauing not appointed all countries to yéeld foorth like commodities.

But where our ground is not so good as we would wish, we haue (if néed be) sufficient help to cherish our ground withall, and to make it more fruitfull. For beside the compest that is carried out of the husbandmens yards, ditches, ponds, doouehouses, or cities and great townes: we haue with vs a kind of white marle, which is of so great force, that if it be cast ouer a péece of land but once in thrée score years, it shall not need of anie further compesting. Hereof also dooth Plinie speake, lib. 17, cap. 6, 7, 8, where he affirmeth that our marle indureth vpon the earth by the space of fourescore yeares: insomuch that it is laid vpon Marle. the same but once in a mans life, whereby the owner shall not need to trauell twise in procuring to commend and better his soile. He calleth it Marga, and making diuerse kinds thereof, he finallie commendeth ours, and that of France, aboue all other, which lieth sometime a hundred foot déepe, and farre better than the scattering of chalke vpon the same, as the Hedui and Pictones did in his time, or as some of our daies also doo practise: albe it diuerse doo like better to cast on lime, but it will not so long indure, as I haue heard reported.

Plentie of riuers. There are also in this Iland great plentie of fresh riuers and streams, as you haue heard alreadie, and these throughlie fiaught with all kinds of delicate fish accustomed to be found Hilles. in riuers. The whole Ile likewise is verie full of hilles, of which some (though not verie manie) are of exceeding heigth, and diuerse extending themselues verie far from the beginning; as we may see by Shooters hill, which rising east of London, and not farre from the Thames, runneth along the south side of the Iland westward, vntill it come to Cornewall. Like vnto these also are the Crowdon hils, which though vnder diuers names (as also the other from the Peke) doo run into the borders of Scotland. What should I speake of the Cheuiot hilles, which reach twentie miles in length? of the blacke mounteines in Wales, which go from Here lacks. to Here lacks. miles at the least in length? of the Cle hilles in Shropshire, which come within foure miles of Ludlow, and are divided from some part of Worcester by the Teme? of the Grames in Scotland, and of our Chiltren, which are eightéene miles at the least from one end of them, which reach from Henlie in Oxfordshire to Dunstable in Bedfordshire, and are verie well replenished with wood and corne? notwithstanding that the most part yéeld a sweet short grasse, profitable for shéepe. Wherein albeit they of Scotland doo somewhat come behind vs, yet their outward defect is inwardlie recompensed, not onelie with plentie of quarries (and those of sundrie kinds of marble, hard stone, and fine alabaster) but also rich mines of mettall, as shall be shewed hereafter.

Winds. In this Iland likewise the winds are commonlie more strong and fierce, than in anie other places of the maine, which Cardane also espied: and that is often séene vpon the naked hilles, not garded with trées to beare and kéepe it off. That grieuous inconuenience also Building. inforceth our nobilitie, gentrie, and communaltie, to build their houses in the vallies, leauing the high grounds vnto their corne and cattell, least the cold and stormie blasts of winter should bréed them greater annoiance: whereas in other regions each one desireth to set his house aloft on the hill, not onlie to be seene a farre off, and cast forth his beames of statelie and curious workemanship into euerie quarter of the countrie; but also (in hot habitations) for coldnesse sake of the aire, sith the heat is neuer so vehement on the hill top as in the vallie, because the reuerberation of the sunne beames either reacheth not so farre as the highest, or else becommeth not so strong as when it is reflected upon the lower soile.

Husbandrie amended. But to leaue our buildings vnto the purposed place (which notwithstanding haue verie much increased, I meane for curiositie and cost, in England, Wales, and Scotland, within these few yeares) and to returne to the soile againe. Certeinelie it is euen now in these our daies growne to be much more fruitfull, than it hath béene in times past. The cause is for that our countriemen are growne to be more painefull, skilfull, and carefull through recompense of gaine, than heretofore they haue béene: insomuch that my Synchroni or time fellows can reape at this present great commoditie in a little roome; whereas of late yeares, a great compasse hath yéelded but small profit, and this onelie through the idle and negligent occupation of such, as dailie manured and had the same in occupieng. I might set downe examples of these things out of all the parts of this Iland, that is to saie, manie of England, more out of Scotland, but most of all out of Wales: in which two last rehearsed, verie little other food and liuelihood was wont to be looked for (beside flesh) more than the soile of it selfe, and the cow gaue; the people in the meane time liuing idelie, dissolutelie, and by picking and stealing one from another. All which vices are now (for the most part) relinquished, so that each nation manureth hir owne with triple commoditie, to that it was before time.

Pasture. The pasture of this Iland is according to the nature and bountie of the soile, whereby in most places it is plentifull, verie fine, batable, and such as either fatteth our cattell with speed, or yéeldeth great abundance of milke and creame: whereof the yellowest butter and finest chéese are made. But where the blue claie aboundeth (which hardlie drinketh vp the winters water in long season) there the grasse is spearie, rough, and verie apt for brushes: by which occasion it commeth nothing so profitable vnto the owner as the other. The best pasture ground of all England is in Wales, & of all the pasture in Wales that of Cardigan is the cheefe. I speake of the same which is to be found in the mounteines there, where the hundred part of the grasse growing is not eaten, but suffered to rot on the ground, whereby the soile becommeth matted, and diuerse bogges and quicke moores made withall in long continuance: because all the cattell in the countrie are not able to eat it downe. If it be to be accompted good soile, on which a man may laie a wand ouer night, and on the morrow find it hidden and ouergrowen with grasse: it is not hard to find plentie thereof in manie places of this land. Neuertheless, such is the fruitfulnes of the aforsaid countie that it farre surmounteth this proportion, whereby it may be compared for batablenesse with Italie, which in my time is called the paradise of the world, although by reason of the wickednesse of such as dwell therein it may be called the sinke and draine of hell: so that whereas they were woont to saie of vs that our land is good but our people euill, they did but onlie speake it; whereas we know by experience that the soile of Italie is a noble soile, but the dwellers therein farre off from anie vertue or goodnesse.

Our medowes, are either bottomes (whereof we haue great store, and those verie large, bicause Medowes. our soile is hillie) or else such as we call land meads, and borowed from the best & fattest pasturages. The first of them are yearelie & often ouerflowen by the rising of such streames as passe through the same, or violent falles of land-waters, that descend from the his about them. The other are seldome or neuer ouerflowen, and that is the cause wherefore their grasse is shorter than that of the bottomes, and yet is it farre more fine, wholesome, and batable, sith the haie of our low medowes is not onelie full of sandie cinder, which breedeth sundrie diseases in our cattell, but also more rowtie, foggie, and full of flags, and therefore not so profitable for stouer and forrage as the higher meads be. The difference furthermore in their commodities is great, for whereas in our land meadowes we haue not often aboue one good load of haie, or peraduenture a little more in an acre of ground (I vse the word Carrucata or Carruca which is a waine load, and, as I remember, vsed by Plinie lib. 33. cap. 11.) in low meadowes we haue sometimes thrée, but commonlie two or vpward, as experience hath oft confirmed.

Of such as are twise mowed I speake not, sith their later math is not so whoisome for cattell as the first; although in the mouth more pleasant for the time: for thereby they become oftentimes to be rotten, or to increase so fast in bloud, that the garget and other diseases doo consume manie of them before the owners can séeke out any remedie, by Phlebotomie or otherwise. Some superstitious fooles suppose that they which die of the garget are ridden with the night mare, and therefore they hang vp stones which naturallie haue holes in them, and must be found vnlooked for; as if such a stone were an apt cockeshot for the diuell to run through and solace himselfe withall, whilest the cattell go scot free and are not molested by him. But if I should set downe but halfe the toies that superstition hath brought into our husbandmens heads in this and other behalfes, it would aske a greater volume than is conuenient for such a purpose, wherefore it shall suffice to haue said thus much of these things.

The yéeld of our corne-ground is also much after this rate folowing. Through out the Corne. land (if you please to make an estimat thereof by the acre) in meane and indifferent yeares, wherein each acre of rie or wheat, well tilled and dressed, will yeeld commonlie sixtéene or twentie bushels, an acre of barlie six and thirtie bushels, of otes and such like foure or fiue quarters, which proportion is notwithstanding oft abated toward the north, as it is oftentimes surmounted in the south. Of mixed corne, as peason and beanes, sowen togither, tares and otes (which they call bulmong) rie and wheat named miscelin here is no place to speake, yet their yéeld is neuerthelesse much after this proportion, as I haue often marked. And yet is not this our great foison comparable to that of hoter countries of the maine. But of all that euer I read, the increase which Eldred Danus writeth of in his De imperio Iudæorum in Aethiopia surmounteth, where he saith that in the field néere to the Sabbatike riuer, called in old time Gosan, the ground is so fertile, that euerie graine of barleie growing dooth yéeld an hundred kernels at the least vnto the owner.

Of late yeares also we haue found and taken vp a great trade in planting of hops, whereof our moorie hitherto and vnprofitable grounds doo yeeld such plentie & increase, that their are few farmers or occupiers in the countrie, which haue not gardens and hops growing of their owne, and those farre better than doo come from Flanders vnto us. Certes the corruptions vsed by the Flemings, and forgerie dailie practised in this kind of ware, gaue vs occasion to plant them here at home: so that now we may spare and send manie ouer vnto them. And this I know by experience, that some one man by conuersion of his moorie grounds into hopyards, wherof before he had no ommoditie, dooth raise yearelie by so little as twelue acres in compasse two hundred markes; all charges borne toward the maintenance of his familie. Which industrie God continue! though some secret fréends of Flemings let not to exclaime against this commoditie, as a spoile of wood, by reason of the poles, which neuerthelesse after three yeares doo also come to the fire, and spare their other fewell.

Cattell. The cattell which we breed are commonlie such, as for greatnesse of bone, swéetnesse of flesh, and other benefits to be reaped by the same, giue place vnto none other: as may appeare first by our oxen, whose largenesse, height, weight, tallow, hides, and homes are such, as none of anie other nation doo commonlie or may easilie excéed them. Our shéepe likewise for good tast of flesh, quantitie of lims, finesse of fléece caused by their hardnesse of pasturage, and abundance of increase (for in manie places they bring foorth two or thrée at an eaning) giue no place vnto anie, more than doo our goates, who in like sort doo follow the same order, and our déere come not behind. As for our conies, I haue séene Meall and Disnege. them so fat in some soiles, especiallie about Meall and Disnege, that the grease of one being weighed, hath peised verie néere six or seuen ounces. All which benefits we first refer to the grace and goodnesse of God, and next of all vnto the bountie of our soile, which he hath indued with so notable and commodious fruitfulnesse.

But as I meane to intreat of these things more largelie hereafter, so will I touch in this Wine. place one benefit which our nation wanteth, and that is wine; the fault whereof is not in our soile, but the negligence of our countriemen (especiallie of the south partes) who doo not inure the same to this commoditie, and which by reason of long discontinuance, is now become vnapt to beare anie grapes almost for pleasure & shadow, much lesse then the plaine fields or seuerall vineyards for aduantage and commoditie. Yet of late time some haue assaied to deale for wine, as to your lordship also is right well knowen. But sith that liquor when it commeth to the drinking hath bin found more hard, than that which is brought from beyond the sea, and the cost of planting and keeping thereof so chargeable, that they may buie it far better cheape from other countries: they haue giuen ouer their enterprises without anie consideration, that as in all other things, so neither the ground it selfe in the beginning, nor successe of their trauell can answer their expectation at the first, vntill such time as the soile be brought as it were into acquaintance with this commoditie, and that prouision may be made for the more easinesse of charge, to be imploied vpon the same.

If it be true, that where wine dooth last and indure well, there it will grow no worse: I muse not a little wherefore the planting of vines should be neglected in England. That this liquor might haue growne in this Iland heretofore, first the charter that Probus the emperour gaue equallie to vs, the Galles, and Spaniards, is one sufficient testimonie. And that it did grow here, beside the testimonie of Beda lib. 1. cap. 1. the old notes of tithes for wine that yet remaine in the accormpts of some parsons and vicars in Kent, & elsewhere, besides the records of sundrie sutes, commensed in diuerse ecclesiasticall courts, both in Kent, Surrie, &c: also the inclosed parcels almost in euerie abbeie yet called the vineyardes, may be a notable witnesse, as also the plot which we now call east Smithfield in London giuen by Canutus sometime king of this land, with other soile there about vnto certeine of his knights, with the libertie of a Guild which therof was called Knighten Guild. The truth is (saith Iohn Stow our countrie man, and diligent traueller in the old estate of this my natiue citie) that it is now named Port soken ward, and giuen in time past to the religious house within Algate. Howbeit first Otwell, the Archouell, Otto, & finallie Geffrie erle of Essex constables of the Tower of London, withheld that portion frō the said house, vntill the reigne of king Stephan, and thereof made a vineyard to their great commoditie and lucre. The Ile of Elie also was in the first times of the Normans called Le Ile des vignes. And good record appéereth, that the bishop there had yearelie thrée or foure tunne at the least giuen him Nomine decimæ, beside whatsoeuer ouer-summe of the liquor did accrue to him by leases and other excheats, whereof also I haue seene mention. Wherefore our soile is not to be blamed, as though our nights were so exceeding short, that in August and September the moone which is ladie of moisture, & chiefe ripener of this liquor, cannot in anie wise shine long inough vpon the same: a verie méere toie and fable right worthie to be suppressed, because experience conuinceth the vpholders thereof euen in the Rhenish wines.

The time hath béene also that wad, wherwith our countrie men died their faces (as Cæsar Wad. saith) that they might séeme terrible to their enimies in the field, and also women & their daughters in law did staine their bodies & go naked, in that pickle to the sacrifices of their gods, coueting to resemble therin the Ethiopians, as Plinie saith li. 22. cap. 1. and also madder Madder. haue béene (next vnto our tin and woolles) the chiefe commodities, and merchandize of this realme. I find also that rape oile hath beene made within this land. But now Rape. our soile either will not or at the leastwise may not beare either wad or madder: I saie not that the ground is not able so to doo, but that we are negligent, afraid of the pilling of our grounds, and carelesse of our owne profit, as men rather willing to buie the same of others than take anie paine to plant them here at home. The like I may saie of flax, which by Flax law ought to be sowen in euerie countrie-towne in England, more or lesse: but I sée no successe of that good and wholesome law, sith it is rather contemptuouslie reiected than otherwise dutifullie kept in anie place of England.

Some saie that our great number of lawes doo bréed a generall negligence and contempt of all good order; bicause we haue so manie, that no subiect can liue without the transgression of some of them, and that the often alteration of our ordinances dooth much harme in this respect, which (after Aristotle) doth séeme to carie some reason withall, for (as Cornelius Gallus hath:)

Euentus varios res noua semper habet.

Eleg. 2. But verie manie let not to affirme, that the gréedie corruption of the promoters on the one side, facilitie in dispensing with good lawes, and first breach of the same in the lawmakers & superiors, & priuat respects of their establishment on the other, are the greatest causes whie the inferiours regard no good order, being alwaies so redie to offend without anie facultie one waie, as they are otherwise to presume, vpon the examples of their betters when Principes lo magis exemp quam culpa peccare sole. anie hold is to be taken. But as in these things I haue no skill, so I wish that fewer licences for the priuat commoditie but of a few were granted (not that thereby I denie the maintenance of the prerogatiue roiall, but rather would with all my hart that it might be yet more honorablie increased) & that euerie one which by féeed friendship (or otherwise) dooth attempt to procure oughts from the prince, that may profit but few and proue hurtfull to manie, might be at open assizes and sessions denounced enimie to his countrie and commonwealth of the land.

Glasse also hath beene made here in great plentie before, and in the time of the Romans; and the said stuffe also, beside fine scissers, shéeres, collars of gold and siluer for womens necks, cruses and cups of amber, were a parcell of the tribute which Augustus in his daies laid vpon this Iland. In like sort he charged the Britons with certeine implements and vessels of iuorie (as Strabo saith.) Wherby it appéereth that in old time our countriemen were farre more industrious and painefull in the vse and application of the benefits of their countrie. than either after the comming of the Saxons or Normans, in which they gaue themselues more to idlenesse and following of the warres.

If it were requisit that I should speake of the sundrie kinds of moold, as the cledgie or Earth claie, whereof are diuerse sorts (red, blue, blacke and white) also the red or white sandie, the lomie, rosellie, grauellie, chalkie or blacke, I could saie that there are so manie diuerse veines in Britaine, as else where in anie quarter of like quantitie in the world. Howbeit this I must néeds confesses that the sandie and cledgie doo beare great swaie: but the claie most of all, as hath beene, and yet is alwaies séene & felt through plentie and dearth of corne. For if this latter (I meane the claie) doo yeeld hir full increase (which it dooth commonlie in drie yeares for wheat) then is there generall plentie: wheras if it faile, then haue we scarsitie, according to the old rude verse set downe of England, but to be vnderstood of the whole Iland, as experience dooth confirme:

When the sand dooth serue the claie,
Then may we sing well awaie,
But when the claie dooth serue the sand,
Then is it merie with England.

Vallies. I might here intreat of the famous vallies in England, of which one is called the vale of White horsse, another of Eouesham, commonlie taken for the granarie of Worcestershire, the third of Ailesbirie that goeth by Tame, the rootes of Chilterne hils, to Donstable, Newport panell, Stonie Stratford, Buckhingham, Birstane parke, &c. Likewise of the fourth of Whitehart or Blackemoore in Dorsetshire. The fift of Ringdale or Renidale, corruptlie called Ringtaile, that lieth (as mine author saith) vpon the edge of Essex and Cambridgeshire, and also the Marshwood vale: but for somuch as I know not well their seuerall limits, I giue ouer to go anie further in their description. In like sort it should not be amie to Fennes. speake of our fennes, although our countrie be not so full of this kind of soile as the parties beyond the seas, to wit, Narbon, &c: and thereto of other pleasant botoms, the which are not onelie indued with excellent riuers and great store of corne and fine fodder for neat and horsses in time of the yeare (whereby they are excéeding beneficiall vnto their owners) but also of no small compasse and quantitie in ground. For some of our fens are well knowen to be either of ten, twelue, sixtéene, twentie, or thirtie miles in length, that of the Girwies yet passing all the rest, which is full 60 (as I haue often read.) Wherein also Elie the famous Ile standeth, which is seuen miles euerie waie, and wherevnto there is no accesse but by thrée causies, whose inhabitants in like sort by an old priuilege may take wood, sedge, turfe, &c; to burne: likewise haie for their cattell, and thatch for their houses of custome, and each occupier in his appointed quantitie through out the Ile; albeit that couetousnesse hath now begun somewhat to abridge this large beneuolence and commoditie, aswell in the said Ile as most other places of this land.

Commons. Finallie, I might discourse in like order of the large commons, laid out heretofore by the lords of the soiles for the benefit of such poore, as inhabit within the compasse of their manors. But as the true intent of the giuers is now in most places defrauded, in so much that not the poore tenants inhabiting vpon the same, but their landlords haue all the commoditie and gaine, so the tractation of them belongeth rather to the second booke. Wherfore I meane not at this present to deale withall, but reserue the same wholie vnto the due place whilest I go forward with the rest; setting downe neuerthelesse by the waie a, generall commendation of the whole Iland, which I find in an ancient monument, much vnto this effect.

And a little after:Illa quidem longé celebris splendore, beata,
Glebis, lacte, fauis, supereminet insular cunctis,
Quas regit ille Deus, spumanti cuius ab ore
Profluit oceanus, &c.
Testis Lundonia ratibus, Wintonia Baccho,
Herefordia grege, Worcestria fruge redundans,
Batha lacu, Salabyra feris, Cantuaria pisce,
Eboraca syluis, Excestria clara metallis,
Norwicum Dacis hybernis, Cestria Gallis,
Cicestrum Norwagenis, Dunelmia præpinguis,
Testis Lincolnia gens infinita decore,
Testis Eli formosa situ, Doncastria visu, &c.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: