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98

THE FIGHT FOR THE BRIDGE

CH. IV

them beyond their cannon; all which (being eleven pieces) were then taken, and two barricades of wood drawn with wheels, in each seven small brass and leathern guns, charged with case shot.” Many of the enemy were slain and many prisoners taken ; the rest were driven pell-mell over the bridge. This, however, the Earl was unable to carry, and was therefore compelled to fall back, having lost on his side two gallant gentlemen of Kent, Sir William Boteler and Sir William Clerk, “and,” says my authority, “not above fourteen soldiers more.” Meanwhile the Earl of Northampton had been equally successful against the party who had crossed by the ford : scarcely had they made their way across and begun to threaten his rear, when he faced about and “forced [them] to a speedy flight over the pass [i.e. the ford) but with little loss, they not being willing to abide a second charge.” It was now three o'clock in the afternoon and the fighting was practically at an end. The advantage lay with the king, but he was unable to push it further. He secured the ford and the mill, but the enemy held grimly to the bridge, and all his efforts to dislodge them were in vain. Waller was worsted but far from annihilated, and for the rest of the day and the whole of the next, the armies lay facing each other on either side of the Cherwell, the king sleeping both nights at "a very poor man's house” at Williamscot. Early on Monday morning, intelligence having arrived that a large force under Major-General Browne was advancing to join Waller, Charles deemed it expedient to fall back upon Aynho and Deddington. At Deddington he lay at "the Parsonage house," probably the fine house already mentioned on the north side of the churchyard, and on the following day he set out for Evesham. But whatever hopes he may have built upon the discomfiture of Waller were soon to be dashed. As he was marching with colours flying through the pleasant Oxfordshire villages on that fatal second of July, another scene was being enacted in the north, and he was soon to be met by the disastrous tidings of the defeat of Marston Moor.

CHAPTER V

Less than a couple of miles above Cropredy the Cherwell makes its entrance into Oxfordshire, and the railway, which has been its constant follower all the way from Hampton Gay, some half-dozen miles to the north of Oxford city, here deserts it. Our business, however, is with the river rather than the rail, and I am therefore about to make a short excursion into Northamptonshire in order to trace the Cherwell to its source. This south-west corner of Northamptonshire was till quite modern times one of the most primitive and unfrequented districts in the Midlands. Readers of Thomas Mozley's rambling Recollections will remember the lively picture he draws of Moreton Pinkney, the Oriel living which he held in the 'thirties. In those days the farmer was content to spend the whole day in jogging to the local market at Towcester or at Daventry, and home again, but now that the railways have brought the more populous centres almost to his door, he will reach Northampton or Rugby in less than a quarter of the time, and the old markets are deserted or decayed. Not that the face of the country has been much changed; the Great Central, it is true, is a magnificent piece of engineering, and it sweeps through these rural solitudes with a royal disregard for impediments; but except at Woodford, where a new redbrick settlement has sprung up, the villages do not appear to have been much flustered by its arrival. On our route to-day we shall see little of it. The Daventry road passes under it

742001 A.

100

PARISH CLERK AND BURGLAR

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less than two miles from Banbury, and does not meet it again till we get to Charwelton, where the line disappears into a tunnel and we see the last of it. This Daventry road, by the way, might not have been so pleasant to travel along in the earlier days of George the Third as it is to-day. A few miles to my right lies the village of Culworth, which was then the headquarters of a notorious confederacy of housebreakers and highwaymen known as the Culworth Gang. Such a terror were these miscreants to the whole country-side, and so inefficient were the local Dogberries, that they managed to carry on their depredations for nearly twenty years before they were brought to justice.

This was at last effected as follows: one evening two men, known to be inhabitants of Culworth, arrived at a public-house in Towcester, and signified their intention of passing the night. They brought with them two bags which as they said contained fighting-cocks. When they retired to bed, the landlord, whose curiosity had been aroused, contrived to open these bags, and found instead of the birds, smockfrocks and masks. This was, to say the least, very suspicious, particularly as several houses in the neighbourhood had recently been broken into and robbed by persons thus disguised. Nevertheless the landlord and the constable, whom he at once took into his counsel, determined to say nothing for the present, and watch events. They were not disappointed; in a day or two another burglary of the same character was committed in an adjacent village, and the two soi-disant cock-fighters were arrested. Needless to say they belonged to the gang, and at length, being uncertain how much information was in the hands of the magistrates, and eager to shift the guilt off their own shoulders, they turned upon their confederates, who were thus brought to justice and the gang was at an end. Most of the gang were ordinary agricultural labourers, but, sad to say, one of them-a shoemaker by trade-filled the dignified office of parish clerk at Sulgrave, and had taken advantage of his position to conceal his share of the spoil in the church. This worthy was

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also reported to have made a constant practice of carrying pistols in his pocket when performing his part in the church service.

But I have not got many miles on my journey when I am reminded that deeds of violence were not confined to the days of the Culworth Gang. As I wheel my machine up the steep hill leading to Wardington a monumental stone by the roadside attracts my attention. The inscription has become quite illegible, but the natives will tell you that the stone was put up to mark the scene of the murder of Kalabergo and that it is called Kalabergo's stone. Kalabergo was an Italian watchmaker, who had left his native soil to escape the conscription of Napoleon and had been settled in Banbury for forty years. He was a familiar figure in the villages and farmhouses of the district, which he was in the habit of visiting periodically to mend the clocks, and sell his famous weather-glasses. At last in the autumn of 1851 a nephew arrived from Italy to assist him in his business, and it was understood that the old man looked upon him as his successor. Young Kalabergo, however, seems to have thought that waiting for dead men's shoes was tedious work, and one evening in the following winter as they were coming down this hill on their return from one of their rounds he drew a pistol and shot his uncle dead. He then hurried into Banbury with a story that they had been set upon by footpads, and that old Kalabergo had been killed. Suspicion however fastened upon the real culprit; the murder was clearly brought home to him, and he was hanged at Oxford Castle.

Wardington is soon reached, and at the further end of the village I turn off the high road to the right in quest of Danesmoor, a spot notable not merely as the traditional site of a conflict with the Danes, but for a more famous and more

1 Since the above was written I am informed that this stone has been removed by some unknown mischievous persons. It has, however, been recovered, and is now in safe custody at the office of the Banbury District Council.

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EDGCOTE

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authentic struggle in the wars of the Roses. As for the Danes, they are known to have made a raid into this part of the country in the time of Edward the Elder, and John Morton, who was the first to write a history of Northamptonshire, records that in his day (the early eighteenth century) the country people used to repeat a "notable rhime,” which they put into the mouth of the advancing host of Danes :

“ If we can Padwell overgoe, and Horestone we can see,

Then lords of England we shall be.”

Padwell being "a noted flush spring in Edgcote grounds," and Horestone “a famous old stone on the borders of Warwickshire in Wardlinton field.” As we shall see later this distich is merely a variant of the better known one connected with the Rollright circle and as evidence of a battle with the Danes it will be safer to rely on the name Danesmoor itself. But one can well believe that these devastating hordes of heathen barbarians left many a legend behind them which in out of the way country places would be handed down from father to son for generations. To the later battle of 1469 we shall come directly. The Cherwell here flows through the secluded and beautifully wooded park of Edgcote, and through this park lies

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For a few short years Edgcote belonged to Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII.'s Vicar-General, but in 1543 it became the property of the Chauncy family, from whom it passed to its present owners. The church, which is hard by the mansion, must be visited if only for its fine series of Chauncy monuments; it is still unrestored and has many features which will delight the antiquary. The present house is one of those spacious comfortable looking country homes it was the fashion to build 150 years ago; its solid substantial air indicates at a glance hospitality and good living, and suggests that here at any rate we have found a place where the orthodox old English Christmas of Bracebridge Hall might still be kept. It was in

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