Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Bibliographical, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour in the Northern Counties of England and in Scotland
By The Reverand Thomas Frongnall Biddin, D.D., Chaplain in Ordinary to Her Majesty (1838)


It has not been from the want of frequent and urgent entreaty that the present work has been so long in making its appearance before the public. Every encouragement which could have been held out from friends in the North, and every incitement which could have been given from friends in the South, have helped to urge me forward to the undertaking of this Bibliographical, Antiquarian, and Picturesque Tour. Add to this, there has been a latent, and I hope honourable pride, to do that for my own which I have done for another country.

But in a work of such magnitude and cost, involving so much of personal exertion and contingent expense—it was fitting to give the matter a second and a due consideration; and to reflect maturely before I acted decidedly. Several years, not altogether passed without sorrow and solicitude, have occasionally distracted my resolutions and retarded my efforts : for in a journey like the present, which has comprehended a circuit of seventeen hundred miles, unless the start be decided and buoyant, the prosecution of it will be languid, and the return perhaps abrupt. It cannot also be dissembled (to keep down the elastic vigour of a traveller who meditates the eventual publication of his labours) that the “auld lang syne” days of the Biltomanta appear to be fast receding in splendour and attraction. In no one public pursuit is there a more capricious taste manifested than in that for Books. Twenty years ago, an editio princeps of an ancient classical writer produced a sensation amounting to little short of enthusiastic veneration; and the possession of a genuine large-paper Dutch Classic, of the Hemsterhuis or Burmann school, was contended for with so many lusty strokes, as sometimes almost to endanger the bodily condition of the combatant. At that time the French laughed at us for our exclusive love of their old black-letter Chronicles and Romances. Now, we turn our backs without hesitation or remorse upon editiones principes and large-paper Amsterdam quartos,—while our Gallic neighbours are become absolutely frenzied in the acquisition of Verards and Pigouchets. When will all this pirouetting cease? Or is the age of book-chivalrv gone, never to return?

Still, the field, in the point of view in which I felt disposed to scan it, appeared to me to be new, varied, and productive; and if I have more than ordinarily qualified, or merged, the first epithet of my Tour into the second or third, it has been in deference to the present prevailing taste, which it were as hopeless to resist, as it may be bold to question. If, on the one hand, by appearing again, in yet gayer costume, to gather flowers and fruits in the same vocation, I have spared no expense, and grudged no toil, so, on the other, I hope to be cheered for my enthusiasm, and commended for my patriotic ardour. The experienced Reader need hardly be informed, that, in an attempt of this kind, it were folly to anticipate an abundance of pecuniary reward.

And yet, it were impossible, as indeed it would be ungrateful, to deny, that, in the course of this extended “Tour” I have met with every encouragement which could arise from a ready and social reception, and from laborious and effectual aid. The hospitality of the mansion (for which the North is proverbially distinguished) has been in many instances only secondary to the assistance derived in researches among the stores of Public Libraries and Museums. The most joyous dreams of early life could scarcely have led to the expectation of such civilities and kindnesses as those which it has been my fortunate lot to experience; and although this journey was carried on during one of the most untoward seasons ever remembered in Scotland, yet, from the beginning to the end, my path may be fairly said to have been strewn with flowers. To particularize were nugatory and ill-judged. As I have thrown all my feelings into my narrative, so no individual, I would fondly hope, will have cause to complain of attentions slighted, or of kindnesses overlooked. In such a succession of the most cordial hospitalities, the only difficulty has been in varying the theme of thanksgiving.

Were I to bespeak the attention of the reader in anything like a Precis of the contents of the following pages, I might in part direct it to those accounts of the magnificent Cathedrals in the North of England which involve some of the most curious and interesting details of Ecclesiastical Biography; which sometimes invest the mitre with a sort of undying halo ; and rank our Archbishops and Bishops among the most enterprising, intelligent, honourable, and beneficent public actors and politicians of the day.

I had intended to subjoin a brief chapter on the Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland; w but two considerations forbade its execution. The first, that I was not able to visit some of its more distinguished ruins, such as those at Elgin, Dunfermline, Dunblane, Dunkeld, Linlithgow, and at other places; the second, that no material truth or novel feature could be elicited by the examination. The ecclesiastical edifices of the North, from the eleventh to the sixteenth century, are, in plan and ornament, precisely those of the South. The circular headed Norman arch of the twelfth century is nearly similar in both countries. The following specimen however, from one of the early arches of Dunfermline Abbey, may challenge competition with any of its Southern neighbours ; while the head of an intersecting arch, in the ruins of Kelso Abbey, exhibits great beauty as well as singularity of ornament.

The Border History, which belongs more particularly to Northumberland, is one of great interest; occasionally exhibiting the Percys, Nevilles, and Greys, as clothed with the power and renown of potentates. The achievements of these heroes have all the vivid colouring of romance. They lived in an age, and for an age, of which however no renewal can be desired. The use of gunpowder, which shook or battered down their ponderous castles, was conducive in the end to the softening of their characteristic ferocity. The realities of Ridpath* have all the charm of fiction; while some of the ballads of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border attest a period of insubordination of mingled interest and astonishment.

It were perhaps impossible, now and then, not to vary the stream of text with a few little rivulets of historical anecdote subjoined in the notes. There is no country of which the civil history is more abundantly diversified and enriched with such anecdotes, than that of Scotland. Mountains, lakes, waterfalls, deserted or densely populated towns, are scattered in a measure all over the globe; but it is the peculiarities of such national character as we see in the North, that help to give our descriptions of the first-named objects a livelier and a more winning charm.

I feel to be in duty bound to repeat here what has been already observed by me in the Prospectus of this work: “A stranger to Scotland, I had hardly planted my foot upon its soil, when it seemed to take firm and deep root. Her mountains, passes, glens, lakes, and waterfalls — the thickly scattered ruins of castles, built sometimes upon rocks of granite, beetling over the ever-restless wave—the ocean, like a broad blue belt, encircling her indented shores—the numerous and magnificent steamboats borne upon its yielding bosom, with the shouts of commerce, and the rush of interminable vessels, that cover and ever agitate the surfaces of the Forth, the Clyde, and the Tay— all these, and much more of a similar description, may be supposed to furnish vivid and interesting materials for the pages of a work like the present.

But, while it has been impossible for me to neglect such objects of picturesque attraction, I hope to have introduced topics which may be said to come more immediately home to “men’s bosoms and businesses.” The social warmth and friendly offices constantly manifested towards me in Scotland, have strong and lasting claims upon my remembrance and gratitude. I found friends in strangers; and generous hearts beating in almost every new alliance. Some of the most splendid ornaments of this work owe their existence to the prompt and liberal munificence of Scotch friends. In public as well as private Libraries, it was impossible to be more fortunate in attentions received and assistance granted; and if these pages afford not evidence of the value of such aid—as well by the beauty of decoration, as by the importance of information—I have been labouring unto no commendable purpose.

Scotland has a thousand trumpet-tongued evidences of her former struggles for independence and glory. Her earlier historians, although inferior in weight and importance to those of England, are nevertheless numerous and trustworthy ; and it will be found that I have sometimes strayed from the broad beaten road of history, to gather a curious fact, or to illustrate a doubtful point, from the strain of some of her rhyming Chroniclers. Her Barbour, Wyntoun, and Blind Harry, are among the brightest feathers in her historical bonnet. Yet in spite even of the Caledonia of George Chalmers,[1] a body of Scotch History is still a great national desideratum.

On one score this volume may entitle me to the prompt and hearty thanks of my Scotch friends. It is the first book, on so large and expensive a scale of embellishment, of which a full seven-eighths of the engravings have been executed by the burins of Edinburgh and Glasgow Artists. Among these embellishments there will be doubtless found varying shades of merit; but I predict for some of the younger hands which have achieved them, a long career of honourable prosperity. In diligence, skill, and moderation of charge, here will be found instances of surpassing merit and worth. In my zeal to do them justice, 1 have perhaps too frequently exceeded the limits of a sober discretion ; as will appear 011 examining the illustrations of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St. Andrew's : but as the cop-per-plates will have been destroyed on the completion of the number of copies of the work, this superabundance of illustration may be at once pardoned and endured. Wherever I have gone, indigenous Art, both in the pencil and burin, have rewarded my enquiries.

Such is the Companion to those volumes of a Continental Tour, which have long ago experienced the favourable patronage of the public. In labour, anxiety, and cost, these volumes have greatly exceeded all that have gone before them; and midst the fluctuating fashions and capricious pursuits of modern literature, it is, to their author, no small consolation that the matter here developed will be as useful and interesting to distant periods, as to the age in which he lives.

Exning Vicarage, .
March 28, 1838.

[1] This stupendous work, the achievement of one mortal Scotchman, is called by its author “the fruits of the agreeable amusements of many evenings." What attic nights are these! It is a thousand pities that the materials left behind by the Author, have not found patronage sufficient for their publicity; the more so, as these complete the work. The three volumes already extant cry aloud for a general Index.

Volume 1 - England  |  Volume 2 - Scotland

Return to our Online Books Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus