A surprisingly readable account of an early road trip across Great Britain. The author has seen vastly more of my own country than I have and his account has given me itchy feet that want to take me to see more. He visits countless churches, stately homes, abbeys and cathedrals on the way and must have been exhausted by the end of his adventure. Overall, as he might have said, ‘quite agreeable’.

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Dates 13 November 2013 – 04 December 2013
Time spent reading 4 hours, 50 minutes
Highlights 61
Comments 25
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The motor cycle is still better from this point of view, and many thousands of them are in use on English roads, while cyclists may be counted by the tens of thousands. But the bicycle is out of the question for an extended tour by a party which includes ladies.

I was accompanied by a nervous friend from Iowa who confessed that he had been in an automobile but once before. He had ridden with a relative through a retired section of his native state, traversed for the first time by an automobile, and he had quit trying to remember how many run-aways and smash-ups were caused by the fractious horses they met on the short journey.

We noticed that one of the stained-glass windows had been replaced by a modern one, and were informed that the original had been presented to the newer church in America—a courtesy that an American congregation would hardly think of, and be still less likely to carry out.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

The author seems to have something against Americans.

rarely is any attempt made to do business on Saturday. The Week-End holiday, as it is called, is greatly prized,

In no case should a motorist pay a bill at a London garage without a proper receipt.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Wise words.

Foolscap paper, standard throughout the English-speaking world, takes its name from the crest (a fool's cap) of the founder of the industry, whose tomb may still be seen in Dartford Church.

We in America think we can afford to be iconoclastic, for our history is so recent and we have so little that commands reverence by age and association; yet five hundred years hence our successors will no doubt bitterly regret this spirit of their ancestors, just as many ancient towns in Britain lament the folly of their forbears who converted the historic abbeys and castles into hovels and stone fences.

. We were later astonished to learn that the archbishop's salary amounts to $75,000 per year, or half as much more than that of the President of the United States, and we were still more surprised to hear that the heavy demands made on him in maintaining his state and keeping up his splendid episcopal palaces are such that his income will not meet them.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Really?! In 1908?

Henrik Berggren Henrik Berggren

That's insane

Saint Albans, or Albanus, who gave his name to the town and cathedral and who was beheaded near this spot, was the first British martyr to Christianity of whom there is any record.

petrol—or motor spirit, as they call it everywhere in Britain.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Motor spirit?!

Coventry, with its odd buildings and narrow, crowded streets, reminded Nathaniel Hawthorne of Boston—not the old English Boston, but its big namesake in America.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

The Second World War put paid to that.

"Carriages without horses shall go, And accidents fill the world with woe."

So far as I can recall, we did not meet a single vehicle of any kind in the twenty miles of moorland road—surely a paradise for the scorcher.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I didn’t know ‘scorcher’ originally meant ‘a person who drives or cycles very fast’.

Even when touring in your "wind-shod" car, as an up-to-date English poet puts it, and though your motor waits you not a stone's throw from your hotel, you may not entirely dispense with your antiquated equine friend as a means of locomotion.

Even when touring in your "wind-shod" car, as an up-to-date English poet puts it, and though your motor waits you not a stone's throw from your hotel, you may not entirely dispense with your antiquated equine friend as a means of locomotion.

our deliberately formed opinion is still that if we could re-visit only one of the English towns it would be Ludlow.

our deliberately formed opinion is still that if we could re-visit only one of the English towns it would be Ludlow.

Guildford might well detain for a day or more anyone whose time will permit him to travel more leisurely than ours did. William Cobbett, the author and philosopher, who was born and lived many years near by, declared it "the happiest looking town he ever knew"—just why, I do not know.

Exeter enjoys the distinction of having continuously been the site of a town or city for a longer period than is recorded of any other place in England.

Our car attracted a number of urchins, who crowded around it and, though we left it unguarded for an hour or more to go out on the sea-wall and look about the town, not one of the fisher lads ventured to touch it or to molest anything—an instance of the law-abiding spirit which we found everywhere in England.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Law-abiding urchins at the seaside.

At Wells is the cathedral that gives the town an excuse for existence.

From Gloucester to Ross runs an excellent highway, though rather devoid of interest. It was thronged with motorists who generally dashed along in sublime disregard of the speed limits.

Ross is a pretty village, situated on a green hillside overlooking the Wye, and the tall, graceful spire of its church dominates all views of the town.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

The church in which I was married.

The roadside drinking-houses were not so numerous as in England, for the Welsh are evidently more temperate in this regard than their neighbors.

"Tintern is supremely wonderful for its situation among its scores of rivals. It lies on the very brink of the River Wye, in a hollow of the hills of Monmouth, sheltered from harsh winds, warmed by the breezes of the Channel—a very nook in an earthly Eden. Somehow the winter seems to fall more lightly here, the spring to come earlier, the foliage to take on a deeper green, the grass a greater thickness, and the flowers a more multitudinous variety."

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Tintern Abbey really is beautiful.

And yet at this dilapidated old inn there were a number of guests who made great pretensions at style. Women "dressed for dinner" in low-necked gowns with long trains; and the men attired themselves in dress-suits of various degrees of antiquity.

With our motor car racing like mad over the fine highway—there was no danger of police traps at that hour—we did not stop to inquire about the dog that went under the wheels in the first village we passed.

I might remark that one sees the American flag over here far oftener than he would traveling in America. We found nothing but the kindest and most cordial feeling toward Americans everywhere; and the very fact that we were Americans secured us special privileges in not a few cases.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Times have changed.

The average railway hotel in America is anything but an attractive proposition, but in Scotland and in England conditions are almost reversed, the station hotels under the control of the different railway companies being generally the best.

we did not pause in Glasgow, though the fact is that no other large city in Britain has less to interest the tourist.

Newcastle is a large commercial city, famous for its mining and shipbuilding industries, and has but little to engage the attention of the tourist.

And telegraphing is an exceedingly easy thing in England. A message can be sent from any postoffice at a cost of sixpence for the first ten words.

Here we saw many types of the Yorkshire man, famed for his shrewdness and fondness for what we would call "dickering."

the charge that Englishmen can not appreciate humor—at least of a certain kind—is a base slander.

Altogether, it was a day among a thousand, and in no possible way could one have enjoyed it so greatly as from the motor car, which dashed along, slowed up, or stopped altogether, as the varied scenery happened to especially please us.

it has been overcome in a number of instances, notably Warwick Castle and Knole House—by the charge of a moderate admission fee. People who are willing to pay are not generally of the class who commit acts of vandalism. That this practice is not adopted to a greater extent is doubtless due to the fact that numbers of aristocratic owners think there is something degrading in the appearance of making a commercial enterprise out of the historic places which they possess.

It is a common thing in the English towns to find on the main street one of the old gates, the opening through which will admit but one vehicle at a time, often making it necessary to station a policeman on each side to see that there are no collisions. But the gateways have been standing for ages and it would be sacrilege to think of tearing them down to facilitate traffic.

This illustrates one of the queer and not unpleasing features of motoring in England. In almost every out-of-the-way village, no matter how remote or small and how seldom visited by tourists, one runs across no end of quaint landmarks and historic spots with accompanying incidents and legends.

King John died here—the best thing he ever did—

one can hardly travel on schedule with a motor car—at least so long as pneumatic tires are used.

The bare monotony of the place was relieved not a little by the flowers which crowded closely around it.

The curiosity which the average American manifests to know what happened on the day previous is almost wanting in the staid and less excitable Britisher.

It is quadrangular in shape,

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Is it incorrect just to say ‘rectangular’?

Henrik Berggren Henrik Berggren

I've seriously never heard the word quadrangular

Lisa Sanchez Lisa Sanchez

@adoran2 @henrik I suppose quadrangular might allow for broader interpretation. Four-sided shapes without right angles, perhaps :)

Henrik Berggren Henrik Berggren

Ah :)

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I'm glad someone intelligent is here to comment! Thanks @lmsanchez

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

No offence @henrik, our collective brainpower seems to be overshadowed by @lmsanchez!

Henrik Berggren Henrik Berggren

Seems like it, not a bit surprised though :)

It was not very convenient to make inquiries, either, when driving in streets crowded to the limit where our car could not halt for an instant without stopping the entire procession.

I had come to the conclusion that outside of Sundays and holidays the nervous strain of attempting to drive an automobile in the streets of London was such as to make the effort not worth while.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Still somewhat true today!

It was just sunset when we stopped in front of the Hotel Russell.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I know it well, I pass it whenever I have time to walk to the office. Beautiful building.

this was the Quaker method of worship. Unless a member of the congregation felt he had something really worth saying, he waited to speak only "as the Spirit moved him." I could not help thinking that I had been in many meetings where, if this rule had been followed, everybody would have been better off.

It is a favorite route for motorists, and at several points were stationed bicycle couriers of the Motor Union to give warning for police traps. These guards patrolled the road and carried circular badges, red on one side and white on the other. If the white side were shown to the passing motorist, the road ahead was clear; but the red was a caution for moderate speed for several miles. This system, which we found in operation in many places, is the means of saving motor drivers from numerous fines.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Now illegal I believe!

One seldom sees in English newspapers the violent attacks on individuals and the severe denunciations of public men so common in American journals.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Oh, how times have changed.

After the abbey had been dismantled, the church was sold to a contractor, who proceeded to tear it down for the material. He was warned in a dream by the appearance of a monk not to proceed with the work, but disregarded the warning and was killed by the falling of a portion of the wall. If incidents of this kind had happened more frequently England would no doubt be richer in historic buildings.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

And poorer in historic contractors.

A policeman's authority is never questioned in England and his raised hand is a signal that never goes unheeded. He has neither club nor revolver and seldom has need for these weapons. He is an encyclopedia of information, and the cases where he lent us assistance both in directing us on our road and informing us as to places of interest, literally numbered hundreds. He is a believer in fair play and seldom starts out of his own accord to make anyone trouble.

It is not the policeman, but the civil officials who are responsible for the police traps which in many places are conducted in a positively disreputable manner, the idea being simply to raise revenue regardless of justice and without discrimination among the offenders.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Funny how this point of view about speed traps—now speed cameras—is over a hundred years old. What would a speed trap have looked like in 1908?

Two miles from Winchelsea is Rye, another of the decayed seaports of the southeast coast.

Two miles from Winchelsea is Rye, another of the decayed seaports of the southeast coast.

If loyal Americans, as we can rightly claim to be, are so greatly charmed with England, dear indeed it must be to those who can call it their native land.

If loyal Americans, as we can rightly claim to be, are so greatly charmed with England, dear indeed it must be to those who can call it their native land.

On the front of the house was an ancient sun-dial, and across it, in antique letters, the legend "Time will show." I do not know whether this was placed there by Darwin or not, but it is the most appropriate answer which the great scientist might have made to his hosts of critics. Time has indeed shown, and the quiet philosopher who lived in this retired village has revolutionized the thought of the civilized world.

A remarkable feature is the fireplace, situated in the center of the room and without chimney of any kind, the smoke being left to find its way out through the windows or apertures in the roof, as the case might be—a striking example of the discomforts of the good old days when knighthood was in flower.

A light rain had fallen the night before, just enough to beat down the dust and freshen the landscape.

The matter of weather is not of great moment to the motorist in Great Britain. The roads are not affected in the least, so far as traveling is concerned, and dashing through the open air in a rain is not an unpleasant experience. A closed top for the car is rarely necessary. Plenty of waterproof coats and coverings answer the purpose very well and the open air is much pleasanter than being cooped up in a closed vehicle.

Reculvers, or ancient Regulbium, was a Roman city that was destroyed by the encroachments of the sea. Here is one of the oldest and strangest of the ruined churches in England, now standing on the verge of the ocean, which still continues to advance with a prospect of ultimately wiping out the little village.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

It's still there over a hundred years later: