The Squire of Sandal-Side by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr


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Page 1





"This happy breed of men, this little world."

"To know
That which before us lies in daily life
Is the prime wisdom."

"All that are lovers of virtue ... be quiet, and go a-angling."

There is a mountain called Seat-Sandal, between the Dunmail Raise and
Grisedale Pass; and those who have stood upon its summit know that
Grasmere vale and lake lie at their feet, and that Windermere,
Esthwaite, and Coniston, with many arms of the sea, and a grand
brotherhood of mountains, are all around them. There is also an old gray
manor-house of the same name. It is some miles distant from the foot of
the mountain, snugly sheltered in one of the loveliest valleys between
Coniston and Torver. No one knows when the first stones of this house
were laid. The Sandals were in Sandal-Side when the white-handed,
waxen-faced Edward was building Westminster Abbey, and William the
Norman was laying plans for the crown of England. Probably they came
with those Norsemen who a century earlier made the Isle of Man their
headquarters, and from it, landing on the opposite coast of Cumberland,
settled themselves among valleys and lakes and mountains of primeval
beauty, which must have strongly reminded them of their native land.

For the prevailing names of this district are all of the Norwegian type,
especially such abounding suffixes and prefixes as _seat_ from "set," a
dwelling; _dale_ from "dal," a valley; _fell_ from "fjeld," a mountain;
_garth_ from "gard," an enclosure; and _thwaite_, from "thveit," a
clearing. It is certain, also, that, in spite of much Anglo-Saxon
admixture, the salt blood of the roving Viking is still in the
Cumberland dalesman. Centuries of bucolic isolation have not obliterated
it. Every now and then the sea calls some farmer or shepherd, and the
restless drop in his veins gives him no peace till he has found his way
over the hills and fells to the port of Whitehaven, and gone back to the
cradling bosom that rocked his ancestors.

But in the main, this lovely spot was a northern Lotus-land to the
Viking. The great hills shut him in from the sight of the sea. He built
himself a "seat," and enclosed "thwaites" of greater or less extent;
and, forgetting the world in his green paradise, was for centuries
almost forgotten by the world. And if long descent and an ancient family
have any special claim to be held honorable, it is among the Cumberland
"statesmen," or freeholders, it must be looked for in England.

The Sandals have been wise and fortunate owners of the acres which

that he came from Iceland in his own galley; and a late generation has
written out portions of a saga,--long orally transmitted,--which relates
the incidents of his voyage. All the Sandals believe implicitly in its
authenticity; and, indeed, though it is full of fighting, of the plunder
of gold and rich raiment, and the carrying off of fair women, there is
nothing improbable in its relations, considering the people and the
time whose story it professes to tell.

Seat-Sandal. There were giants in those days; and it must have been the
hands of giants that piled the massive blocks, and eyes accustomed to
great expanses that measured off the large and lofty space. Smaller
rooms have been built above it and around it, and every generation has

with its enormous fireplace, is still the heart of the home.

For nowhere better than among these "dalesmen" can the English elemental
resistance to fusion be seen. Only at the extreme point of necessity
have they exchanged ideas with any other section, yet they have left
their mark all over English history. In Cumberland and Westmoreland, the
most pathetic romances of the Red Rose were enacted. In the strength of
these hills, the very spirit of the Reformation was cradled. From among
them came the Wyckliffite queen of Henry the Eighth, and the noble
confessor and apostle Bernard Gilpin. No lover of Protestantism can
afford to forget the man who refused the bishopric of Carlisle, and a
provostship at Oxford, that he might traverse the hills and dales, and
read to the simple "statesmen" and shepherds the unknown Gospels in the
vernacular. They gathered round him in joyful wonder, and listened
kneeling to the Scriptures. Only the death of Mary prevented his
martyrdom; and to-day his memory is as green as are the ivies and
sycamores around his old home.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 5th Jun 2020, 22:13