Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/Essex elephants

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ESSEX ELEPHANTS.

 

 

The great home county of Essex is less explored by strangers than almost any shire in England. Its margin, seen from the Thames, is so truly uninviting, and the way to it through the eastern limb of London, by Aldgate, Whitechapel, Mile End, and Stratford, is so dull, so flat, so poverty-stricken, and so redolent of odours, that persons who have travelled their country tolerably well, have left this material portion of it unvisited.

Yet Essex has its claims on our attention. It possesses decided beauties—its Chigwell Row, its Laindon Hills, and, till lately, its large and picturesque forests of Epping and Hainault. Within their shade rose Havering-atte-Bower, the residence of Edward the Confessor, and Wanstead House and Park, where a king, "out by rotation," found a princely home. Within the last few years, alas! the woodcutter's axe has been busy among the Hornbeams and other trees, and the deer-trodden thickets are fast disappearing before modern improvements.

To the antiquary the eastern kingdom is filled with interest. Who it was that embanked the Thames and the Lea, and by converting swamps into rivers gave large pastures to Essex and Hertfordshire, is a question still to be answered. Being done, the Danish snake-ships, entering the Lea at Barking Creek, sailed up to Hertford, as they probably sailed up the Fleta to Battle Bridge. The great street, proceeding due east from London, crosses the Lea and several of its branches; the latter having their origin in trenches and counter-trenches cut for strategic purposes. Stratford-le-Bow—i.e., the street-ford with a bridge (de arcu)—is memorable as the locality of the first stone arch, and is supposed to be the place intended in the ancient nursery song—

London Bridge is broken down,
Dance over my Lady Lea.

Adjoining Bow, the chapel of St. Leonard's, Bromley, marks the escape from drowning of the Empress Matilda. Across the river commences Stratford Langthorne, where, in Mary's reign, eleven persons were burnt to death. Looking northward from the road, which, through the lower portion of Stratford, is constructed on a causeway, Leyton Church is seen, planted on a slight elevation, the first from the river in a distance of about five miles. The site was probably taken for a Prætorium by the Romans, and a stone coffin, in good preservation, was here discovered in making the cutting for the Cambridge line of railway. Half a mile from the church, on the winding Lea, beloved by Izaak Walton, is situated Temple Mill. Corn-mills were property not at all despised by the lofty Knights Templars.

Still keeping our faces turned to the rising sun, three or four miles brings us to the village of Ilford, a word commemorating difficulties once experienced in crossing the little river Roden, which here opposed the traveller's passage. An equal distance onward, another small affluent of the Thames imparts its name to the town of Romford. But our special business at present is with the former locality, and we dismiss our antiquarian guide and ask a geologist cicerone.

To "those who understand their epoch," it is a result of exceeding interest to have witnessed a great science grow, in their own life of forty years, from stammering childhood to adolescence; to have seen almost the first uncertain beams of geology struggling in the morning sky, and then, from hour to hour, pouring in a flood of accumulating facts, Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/62 Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/63