SURREY LANDSCAPES

ORIGINAL ETCHINGS

BY

PERCY ROBERTSON
A.R.E.

Works by Percy Robertson
rule
Preface

The first inhabitants of Surrey seem, according to the Geography of Ptolemy, to have been a tribe called Regni, inhabiting, as Camden says, "the parts now called Surrey, south-sex, and the sea-coast of Hants." The somewhat higher civilization of these people, upon which Cæsar comments, was doubtless owing to their proximity to the coast, and therefore greater intercourse with the more cultivated people of Gaul. Cæsar, on his second invasion, B.C. 56, having overcome Cassivelaunus in Kent, seems to have met with little or no opposition from the Surrey people, passing peaceably on through Kent and the north part of Surrey till he was able to cross the Thames, either at Kingston or Chertsey.

As everybody knows, the Roman occupation lasted some 400 years, when they were obliged to withdraw, upon which the country was broken up into a number of small kingdoms, ruled over by military chieftains, who were more fond of fighting for supremacy among themselves than combining together to repel the constant inroads of the Picts and Scots.

In Brayley and Walford we read, "Even at this distance of time, the face of the ancient territory of the Regni bears many signs of having been the seat of ancient warfare, the military antiquities of the district being considerably more numerous than the civil remains. Many of the hills throughout Surrey and Sussex display these peculiar entrenchments, and on the southern hills of Surrey are divers large encampments of an irregular form, which have been referred to the ancient Britons, but whether they are of a date before or after the Roman invasion is very uncertain."

Perhaps the most notable of these is the ancient camp on St. George's Hill, near Byfleet. This is a large woodland enclosure of hill and dale, beautifully timbered and wild, apparently a part of the primeval forest. On the highest of one of its many pine-clad summits are the remains of the ancient camp, well worth a visit, if only for enjoying an exquisite bit of nature in her wildest and woodiest mood. Another of these remains is on St. Anne's Hill, near Chertsey, of which we give a sketch.

The antiquarian will be interested in tracing the old Roman road, a part of which, near the Sussex border, is known as Stane Street. It led from Chichester to London by way of Dorking , Leith Hill, and Ockley, where it is supposed to be particularly noticeable. The Pilgrims' Way, skirting irregularly the side and top of the Chalk Down throughout the country on its route from Winchester to Canterbury, will also occupy his attention. It is probable that Guildford is the only town of present importance through which it passed.

The roads in those early days were simply tracks through wood and swamp without metal foundation, often impassable for vehicular traffic in bad weather. This is the reason that the higher ground was preferred where possibly, as in the case of this Pilgrim road : but even here, comparatively sound as it was supposed to be, pillions and pack horses were almost exclusively used.

For the reason stated in our notice of the sketch of Guildford from St. Catherine's , we may believe this to be the oldest road of the country ; the line that it takes would naturally be the higher ground along the Downs on account of the more solid surface presented by the chalk.

Although one of the smallest of the English counties, in population Surrey ranks fourth, owing to such a considerable area of its northern border being absorbed by suburban London.

The historic records of the county are not important, but any paucity in this direction is fully compensated by Surrey's glorious association with the signing of Magna Charta, which, as every school child knows, was accomplished on June 15th, 1215, on the field of Runnymeade near Egham.

In country seats and " stately homes " this is richer than most counties, but it is remarkable how few of its ancient families it has retained. To its geological formation it, of course, owes its peculiar variety and richness of scenery. The northern portion lies wholly in the Thames basin, where naturally alluvial deposit gives it its richest soil, and here are to be found luxuriant stretches of timber hardly excelled anywhere else in England.

Running east and west, more or less through the middle of the county, is the chalk region of the North Downs, with a character of landscape entirely its own, but not less pleasing, with beech, yew, and on some spots box, as the prevailing trees. Parallel with this, from Telburstow Hill on the east, to Godalming on the west, is a subordinate range, roughly speaking of Green Sand formation, which affords scenery of incomparable beauty. To the south of this, across the Sussex border, extends the great Weald, occupying the undulating lowland between the North and the South Downs.

Domestic architecture in this county is better represented than the ecclesiastical :- of the former, Beddington Hall, now an Orphanage, near Croydon ; Crowhurst Place, near Godstone, a fine old moated mansion of Henry VII.'s time, reduced now to a farmhouse ; Smallfield Place, near Burstow ; Loseley, near Guildford ; Sutton Place and Abbot's Hospital are fine examples of old-time residences.

Of ecclesiastical remains, Newark Abbey and the Early English crypt and refectory of Waverley Abbey, the first Cistercian house in England, founded in 1228, are alone left. The " Annales Waverlienses," published by Gale, are supposed to have suggested to Scott the name of his first novel. Whether this is so or not, Waverley, snugly nestling among its green pastures embedded in lovely trees, should not be missed by the lover of the picturesque when in these parts. Among interesting churches we would cite Beddington, a fine example of Early Perpendicular ; Chaldon, with its frescoes of the twelfth century, discovered during restoration only in 1870 ; Compton, with its two-storied chancel, and St. Mary's, Guildford.

The only castles of which there are tangible remains are Farnham and Guildford.

Now we come to what, in the writer's mind, is the more attractive portion of our subject, the scenery ; the varied beauty of which one sees in almost every part of the county.

All along the southern ridge, which we have just noticed, are panoramas of surprising richness, while among the smiling valleys and hollow lanes one can almost lose oneself ; and never get tired of the charming peeps of rural and pastoral pictures.

The view from Richmond Hill is of world-wide celebrity, but who can convey an idea of its beauties ? Of course the Thames is here seen at its best, as it curves boldly round from immediately below us and loses itself among meadows and foliage ; the precipitous declivity at our feet giving us foreshortening effects of objects of the foreground, to which the eye is quite unaccustomed, and which for the moment seem almost startling ; the play of colour, too ; whether in spring, summer, autumn or winter, colour asserts itself here and will not be overlooked.

What can beat the view of London from Banstead Downs, or, in another direction, that from Boxhill or Hindhead ? these have one great advantage, viz., that the Crystal Palace cannot be seen from them.

Leith Hill bears the palm for height, 993 feet, but to many people the view is less attractive, owing to its advanced position southward from the main ridge - this view is almost wholly Weald-en. Newland's Corner, to the writer's mind, is preferable, because of greater variety, bolder outlines, and greater prominence of colouring. It is useless, however, to particularize ; there are innumerable points all over the county that cannot fail to strike the lover of the picturesque. As for walks, one need only walk (or bicycle) from Bookham round to Burford Bridge, or from Abinger over to Felday and round to Peaslake, to say one never wishes for anything prettier.

Let the cyclist indulge in a run down from Hindhead to Godalming , seven miles on a "free wheel," and he will tell you nothing in England can beat it, and if in England where else ? Or let the pedestrian explore the recesses of the forest region north of Leith Hill, and find his way, if he can, to Friday Street, a lovely spot buried among the hills, covered with fir and beech, heather and gorse. The best way to reach it is by the foot-path through the Rookery grounds, about a mile west of Westcote, to Broadmoor, thence a rough track leads over the hill through beautiful woods, till one sees a large pond or small lakelet lying prettily under the slope of the hill surrounded by Scotch firs.

Near at hand is Wooton House, the birth place of John Evelyn, whose diary teaches us to appreciate the beauties of his native county. The ponds of Surrey (in the north of England they would be called meres) are a pleasing feature of the moorland and pine clad region extending between Bagshot and Hindhead, the most notable of which is that of Frensham about five miles south of Farnham.

One is constantly reminded of different sights and scenes that one has come across in one's peregrinations abroad - sometimes a bit of Norway or Switzerland is recalled, at another a Scotch moor or a Welsh moel is in one's mind. Even a reminiscence of the distant Rockies has been known to crop up - still, with all the recollections of other sights and scenes, the genius and charm of the old Home Country predominate :- a very multum in parvo is Surrey.


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