An account by William Cobbett of his 1826 visit to Stratford and Old Sarum
William Cobbett visited Stratford (Dean) and Old Sarum on 30th August 1826 but was not impressed.
"When I came down to Stratford Dean I wanted to go across to Laverstoke, which lay to my left of Salisbury; but just on the side of the road here, at Stratford Dean, rises the Accursed Hill . It is very lofty. It was originally a hill in an irregular sort of sugar-loaf shape: but it was so altered by the Romans, or by somebody, that the upper three-quarter parts of the hill now, when seen from a distance, somewhat resemble three cheeses , laid one upon another; the bottom one a great deal broader than the next, and the top one like a Stilton cheese, in proportion to a Gloucester one. I resolved to ride over this Accursed Hill.
"As I was going up a field towards it, I met a man going home from work. I asked how he got on. He said, very badly. I asked him what was the cause of it. He said the hard times. "What times," said I; "was there ever a finer summer, a finer harvest, and is there not an old wheat-rick in every farmyard?" "Ah!" said he, "they make it bad for poor people, for all that." "They?" said I "who is they?" He was silent. "Oh, no, no! my friend," said I, "it is not they ; it is that Accursed Hill that has robbed you of the supper that you ought to find smoking on the table when you get home." I gave him the price of a pot of beer, and on I went, leaving the poor dejected assemblage of skin and bone to wonder at my words.
The hill is very steep, and I dismounted and led my horse up. Being as near to the top as I could conveniently get, I stood a little while reflecting, not so much on the changes which that hill had seen, as on the changes, the terrible changes, which, in all human probability, it had yet to see , and which it would have greatly helped to produce . It was impossible to stand on this accursed spot without swelling with indignation against the base and plundering and murderous sons of corruption. I have often wished, and I, speaking out loud, expressed the wish now; "May that man perish for ever and ever, who, having the power, neglects to bring to justice the perjured, the suborning, the insolent and perfidious miscreants, who openly sell their country's rights and their own souls."
Ride Down The Valley Of The Avon In Wiltshire (1826) From Rural Rides. William Cobbett, page 347
Text and drawing from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Rural Rides, by William Cobbett
Local History Group