John Hodgson's Life
Lanchester— Esh and Satley — Collegiate Church — Lanchester School — Roman Camp and Antiquities — Poems — Longovicum — His cousin Harding.
The year 1804 sees John Hodgson, the subject of our Memoir, settled in the sub-curacy of Esh and Satley, chapels of ease in the parish of Lanchester, These two chapelries, although at that time, as at present, separate benefices, were then held by one incumbent; and of this incumbent Mr. Hodgson was the representative. ln all probability his salary was very small, the curacies themselves having been left in extreme poverty by the dissolution of the collegiate church of Lanchester, to stalls in which their duties and revenues had been attached before that act of spoliation was carried into effect.
In the church of Lanchester, before the dissolution of religious houses, there were a dean and seven prebendaries, each having his specific duties within this extensive and important parish, and each having his own share of its revenues, in recompense for his services. It is not easy to understand why the act of spoliation should have extended to collegiate churches ; but no county suffered more severely from its operation than that of Durham. The great parishes of Darlington, Chester-le- Street, St. Andrew's Auckland, and Lanchester, comprising a very large portion, perhaps nearly one half of the county, were by royal sacrilege robbed of their natural rights; and at the present day any small income which they may happen to possess is chiefly derived from Queen Anne's Bounty or other accidental sources.
In each of these collegiate churches there was, before they suffered from the hand of violence, a staff of clergy with a due division of labour, and a competency for their pains. In their stead we have now lay impropriators, who take all and give little in return. Such was the state of the chapels of Esh and Satley in point of religious services for a long period after the dissolution, that a century has not elapsed since they had only duty once a month performed by the curate of Lanchester, the mother church, in the best way he could. “I feed my fell cattle only once a month” said an incumbent of Lanchester who died only in 1778. This was surely not a subject for a joke. With respect to the chapel of Esh, there is one little piece of history, in which, if he had been acquainted with it, Mr. Hodgson would have felt much interest. Here, at the altar of St. Mary, on the 10th day of August, 1303, King Edward I made an offering of seven shillings, on his way from Durham to Hexham ; and on the same day, during mass in his private chapel, he made another offering of three shillings, in honour of St. Lawrence, at Lanchester. The king was at that time on his road to the borders of Scotland, where he died at Burgh-upon-Sands, in the February following.
Mr. Hodgson did not take up his residence at Esh or Satley, but at Lanchester itself, three miles from either chapel ; the chapels themselves being about the same distance from each other. Happily the districts were not then so populous as perhaps they are now, but even at that time the curacy must have been one of no small labour and responsibility. He could not afford to keep a horse, and therefore he must have had many a long and weary walk in all weathers, as we say in the North. His Sunday duties appear to have been morning and afternoon service at each chapel alternately, with the usual weekday ministrations. Once only does his name occur in the Esh register, and that is in attestation of a marriage on the 30th July, 1804. Some opinion may be formed of the extent of Hodgson’s personal property at this period, from the circumstance that its removal from Sedgefield cost him only the small sum of 4s. 9d,, the distance being not much less than twenty miles by the round about way of Durham. After he had become settled at Lanchester, his first purchase was a fishing-rod, wheel, and hooks. The pleasure which he had derived from angling in the lakes and streams of his native Westmorland again revives. At Sedgefield he had had no opportunity of indulging in this amusement, without going to a distance; but here, at Lanchester, every facility was thrown in his way. Two well-known trout streams were at his very door, the one running through the village, and the other joining it a mile below. He buys also gunpowder, but no mention is made of a gun or of shot. The one he could borrow, the other he could purchase in the village. His payment for board and lodging seems to have been at the rate of 14s per annum; and, such being the fashion, of the day, he buys hair powder, for the first stock of which he pays Is, 3d. These few notices are extracted from a collection of memoranda, begun at Sedgefield, of which some use has been already made. In this book I find reference made to a journal kept by him in 1802, which has not been preserved.
From the attempts at poetry in the book before me, I select one, which, whatever its merit as a composition may be, is very striking for its piety. The fourth line is unfinished.
Eternal source of never-ending love,
From whom all goodness, all perfection flows !
Let no fond passion in my bosom move,
But such. ............(unfinished).......grows
Frail, as the earliest flower of early spring,
And more unstable than the passing gale,
Thy succours I implore, Eternal King,
To guide my footsteps through life's dreary vale.
Tear from my heart the latent seeds of pride.
And prune the wild luxuriance of desire ;
For each day’s want a competence provide.
Then let me, when Thou wilt, in peace expire.
(All other poems mentioned here are in the poetry section)
But here also, as has been already stated, he was a schoolmaster. To eke out the slender income of his curacy he was obliged to teach the village school; and of his doings in this school I have heard him tell many amusing anecdotes. The school itself consisted of two very humble rooms, one above the other, and the communication between the two was by a ladder. The boys were aloft, and sadly did they sometimes misbehave in the absence of the master. “I found them better to manage,” said he, “than the girls, and therefore I put them above, and I could always frighten them well by going a few steps up , and showing my black head, of which they were afraid.”
“Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale.
Now, my little girl,” said he one day to a child repeating the above lines, “tell me what is meant by this?” “My daddy's cow tail” was the reply.
There was at that time belonging to this school an annual payment of ten pounds, settled upon the Greencroft estate by George Clavering, Esq. a former owner, for teaching a few poor children ; but, owing to some family disputes, or some other cause, it was not paid during Hodgson's mastership. The arrears however, were honorably given to him in 1813, long after he had left the place; as he had conscientiously performed the duty, notwithstanding the withdrawal of the salary. Of the other children, some were taught at the usual rate of 5d. or 4d. per week; others at the rate of 7d. 6eZ., and others at that of lOs, per quarter. From his account book he appears to have had much difficulty in extracting his poor fees from the parents of some of his scholars. One single entry may suffice. “Dec. 10, 1804. Received pay for Walton's children of New Houses. My bill was 9s. ld., but I only took 9s. in money; the rest in scolding. The bill ought to have been 15s.”
This was weary work for such a man. But he had clerical duties to cheer him, and private pursuits and studies for his consolation in his solitary hours.
“At Lanchester,” says he, “I commenced my knowledge of the coal formation.” On this acquaintance and its results, much remains to be said in a future page.
But, in addition to clerical duties and geological inquiries, he begins to be a poet and antiquary in earnest. He had not long been settled at Lanchester before his antiquarian zeal awoke from its slumbers. In 1801 he had offered his services to the Editors of the “Beauties of England and Wales,'” but the county of Durham had been surveyed before his letter was received, and his assistance was not required.
From that time we hear of no search after old stones with supposed Runic inscriptions, as upon Moor Duvoch in 1800, nor of any other attempt at gathering sweets in the flower-strewn field of hoar antiquity. Here, however, at Lanchester, was a mine of the most exciting antiquarian wealth, in which had laboured Camden, and Horsley, to say nothing of those Dii Minorum Gentium, Gale, Stukeley, Hunter, Hutchinson, and last, though not least in his own honest estimation, Cade; under whose feet wherever he trod there sprung up camps and military roads, with the peculiar faculty of changing their sites and directions according to his will and pleasure. By all these, in their order of time, had the Roman camp at Lanchester been investigated and described ; but each succeeding year had brought to light new records, numismatic or lapidary, of its ancient inhabitants, calling for elucidation. Here, then, was a field for an active mind, and just at the very time there came into the valley a man in the vigour of youth, with every necessary power of investigation, and already in no slight degree stung by the OBstrum which goaded on honest old Aubrey to “ this wearisome task of searching for antiquities, which (as he goes on to say) nobody hereabout hardly cares for, but rather makes a scorn of it.
But, methinks, it shows a kind of gratitude and good nature to revive the memories and memorials of those who are long since dead and gone.”
To Hodgson, whatever progress he might have made in archaeological pursuits, which was perhaps not much, a Roman camp was a subject of novelty ; and we have abundance of proof that he lost no time in commencing and vigorously prosecuting the study of this branch of our national antiquities. In the progress of his inquiries he was told that, on the subject of the camp at Lanchester, some valuable information could be afforded by Mr. Richard Waugh, a person who resided at East Morton, not far from Durham ; and in reply to his application to that gentleman he has preserved the following letter, proving its writer to have been a man of an inquisitive mind and accurate observation. Of his own letter Hodgson has kept no copy. It may be stated that his correspondent resided at one time, as it appears, at Lanchester. He died in 1808. In his will he is described as “of Gateshead, merchant,” and he left behind him a manuscript collection of local words and phrases, with respect to which I find Hodgson making anxious inquiries in 1813, after he had taken up his residence at Heworth.
The result of these inquiries was, that the book was, on the 22nd Nov., in the possession of Mrs. Emerson, of Hillgate, in Gateshead. “She sought for it,” says he, “yesterday, but did not find it, but she knows she has it, and will send for me when she has found it.” It does not appear that the book was ever found. A collection of Durham words, formed now almost a century ago, would be peculiarly valuable at the present time ; and I have placed the above memoranda upon record to the intent that they may be of use in any search which may be made for its recovery.
“To THE Rev. Mr. HODGSON, Lanchester.”
Sir, East Morton, 5 May, 1806.
“ Yours of Saturday morning was handed to me in Durham. I shall willingly give you any small information I have respecting the Roman station at Lanchester. The altar you allude to is a small votive one, and was in good preservation the last time I saw it at Hollin Hall: but since that it was in possession of the late Mr. Callender of Newcastle, who gave it, along with some other antiquities, to P. Crosthwaite of Keswick, in whose museum I suppose it still remains.
The inscription I have not by me ; it being among other old papers of mine in Gateshead ; but I will seek them out, and send it you in a few days. About 18 or 20 years ago, a considerable number of Roman copper coins, with a stylus and other things, were found at your station. Mr. Hopper (now of Hamsteels) got these; who tells me he gave them away; and thinks they are at present in the collection of Dr. Mitford. I am not certain whether I have a copy of their inscriptions preserved, but a description of them was printed in the Newcastle Chronicle, at that time, about 1787 or 8. The station has been supplied with water from the sources of the Smallhope, above Knycheley, a distance of about three miles. Mr. Tho. Fenwick, of Dipton, and myself, traced the course of the aqueduct, from its head down to the west side of the station, where there has been a reservoir. It begins about a mile to the S.W. from Knycheley mill, near a house called Dyke Nook; where an embankment has been thrown across the rivulet, to collect the waters of three fine springs — ^thence skirting along the heath, till it crosses the road on the west side of Mr. White's woodlands, where it enters his plantation, and passes on a little way south of the house, distinguishing its track by the superior size of the trees, which are more luxuriant by its edges than in other parts of the grounds ; then, continuing its course eastward through the new-inclosed fields on the north side of Home- Moor Hill, takes a sweep to preserve the level and comes on 'tween Newbiggin and Upper Houses, and over the old inclosed ground, where it is nearly obliterated, till it crosses the Wolsingham turnpike to the station. ”This watercourse is now dry, and has been neglected, I suppose, ever since the Roman town and station were abandoned ; as the head-stream has found its way down the ancient course of the rivulet, and now supplies the corn-mill at Knycheley. Mr. Fenwick would, I dare say, point out this aqueduct, so as to give you a better idea of it than any description can convey; and I wish you every success in collecting materials for a history of the place. Mr. Fenwick was mentioning that he has lately got an altar that was found at Ebchester, which I have not seen; you may likely take an opportunity to examine it.”;When at Lanchester the other day. Smith's Botany was lying in Newton's ; which induced me to suppose you are paying attention to the native plants in the neighbourhood. As this part of natural history has long been a favourite pursuit of mine, you would oblige me much by communicating the habitats of any of the rarer species you have observed ; as it may add to the catalogue of the Durham and Northumberland plants lately published."
I am, Sir, with respect, yours,
Here is a kind and sensible letter, which, as we shall see, excited Hodgson to make further inquiries touching the subject now beginning to engage his attention. The concluding paragraph of the letter gives us the further information that Hodgson was at that time beginning to turn his thoughts to botany, a science in which he afterwards made considerable progress, and which afforded him much gratification in his after years. A few days afterwards he writes again to Mr. Waugh, and also to the keeper of the museum at Keswick, respecting the altar above mentioned. I give their letters to him in reply. Of the result of his investigations and inquiries respecting the camp, more will be said in my notice of his poems, written here at Lanchester, in which Longovicum makes so conspicuous a figure as the result of his Roman inquiries.
To THE Rev. JOHN HODGSON.
Sir, East Morton, 17 May, 1806.
The Roman coins, of which the following is some short account, were found in a field on the east side of the station at Lanchester, belonging to Miss Omsby, where it was ploughed out in the spring of 1788
No. 1. A laureated head, legend very perfect, imp • c * m • avr * SEV • ALEXAND * AVG. ; and on the reverse, pietas • avg. Figure, the type of Piety at the altar. This coin must be of Alexander Severus,
No. 2. A female he^d, ivlia • maesa • avg • ; and on the reverse SAECVLi * FELiciTAS. The figUTc is stolated, at the altar, holding in the right hand a patera with a star, which shews her to be deified; in the left an hasta with a caduceus.
No. 3. A laureated head, ibip • antoninvs • avg. On the reverse, VICTORIA • AVG. The figure Victory gradient or passant, holding in the right hand a laurel, in the left a palm.
No. 4. A female radiated head, legend perfect, sall • barbia ORBIANA • AVG. Reverse concordia • avg. Figura sedens, dextra pa- teram, sinistra comucopiam. The wife of Alexander Severus.
No. 5, Of copper. A radiated head. On the obverse, imp • c • vic- TOBiNVS • P.F AVG. On the reverse, pietas (as in No. 1 nearly).
A large coin of very bad brass, one and a quarter inch in diameter and one-eighth in thickness : legend defaced. On the reverse a figure which I take to be Quies, a goddess among the Romans.
The four first numbered coins are of a substance like tin< There were also two more of copper and one of lead, defaced.
A copper wire four and a half inches long ; one-eighth of an inch in diameter, sharp at one end, with a moulding one inch from the point ; the other end is flat. I conjecture it to have been a Roman stylus or pen for writing upoQ waxed tablets.
A piece of lead which has been about an inch in diameter, and one- twelfth in thickness, having a small triangular piece of copper fixed in the middle: it seems to have had legends on each side, but now totally defaced.
A kind of hollow-headed nail of brass with a flat shank, one inch long, one quarter broad, flat at the end, and having near it a round hole one-sixth in diameter; to what use it may have been applied I am not able to form the least conjecture : it is finely coated with the * sacred rust of antiquity ' so much esteemed by antiquaries.
The three following coins were found some time the same summer.
1. A laureated head, caes • ner • traian • optim • avg* geb. Reverse, p • M • T • p • cvi 'P'P'S'P'Q'R. Figura stans, dextra bilancem, sinistra palmam.
2. A laureated head, p * sept • geta • pivs • AVG Rev. .... Caesar paludatus, stans, dextra ramum, sinistra hastam, cum tropeo a tergo.
3. A laureated head, imp • antoninvs • pivs • avg. (Elagabalus). " The last and finest of these coins which I have seen is the following : it was found in Jftne 1789, in Miss Omsby's field when weeding.
A fine struck laureated head: legend, imp • const antinvs • avg. On the reverse a very perfect %ure of Sol gradiens, holding in the right hand a lamp, in the left a globe; five rays about the head^ soli INVICTO • COMITI. In the exergue, ptr : under the right hand t : under the left F. This coin is in copper, nine-tenths of an inch in diameter, weight fifty-and-a-half grains, beautifully covered with an iron-coloured rust : it is more perfect than any of the foregoing, both in respect of the head and figure on the reverse, and also the formation of the letters ; they being squared at the heads and feet like the modem Roman alphabet now used.
Rev. Sir, yours truly,
[On the back of the letter is a drawing of a Roman altar at Mr. Tho. Wilkinson's, Hollin Hall, 1788. Face nine inches high: between six and seven inches broad. Inscription, d yictorde vot • s • v • l • M. s.]
To THE Rev. JOHN HODGSON.
Dear Sir, Keswick, June 2, 1806.
I received yours of the 30th ult., and indorsed send you as good a drawing of the Altar as I am able ; but the latter part of the inscription is not legible and left blank. Breadth at the middle seven and a half inches. Breadth at the two ends eight and a half. Thickness at the middle four and a half. At the two ends five. On the centre of the top is indented the representation of a small saucer with a cup topsy- turvy in its middle, viz. like as an indent made in clay with a six pound cannon-ball in its middle, flat side dowii. The altar is freestone, of a large grit, and when fresh broke^of a cream colour. I shall be very thankful to receive any very curious article by carrier, if not too heavy, and am, Sir, your humble and very obedient servant,
[Here is a bad drawing of the altar mentioned in Mr. Waugh's first letter.]] '' N.B — The figure on the side of the stone like the handle and shank of a key, projects above the surface of the stone, and its parts are about three-quarters of an inch in diameter I have no other antiques from Lanchester.
At Lanchester also the poetical tendencies of Hodgson's mind began to expand and manifest themselves in a more conspicuous way. The following pleasing stanzas were written here in 1805, although they were not published till 1810, when his mother, to whom they are addressed, was in her grave. She was buried on the 25th Aug. 1809. His father died in 1807, in the 54th year of his age. The small volume in which the stanzas are contained will be noticed hereafter. (Poems are in poetry section )
But this was not the only poem written by Mr. Hodgson at Lanchester. I have before me a small volume of the most unpretending appearance, with the following title, " Poems written at Lanchester by John Hodgson, clerk. London, 1807," of which little book an account must be given, not merely because it is its author's first appearance in print, but because it demands a notice from its intrinsic merit, and the light it throws upon the thoughts and feelings, and, it may be added, the amiabilities, of his mind at that early period of his life. One more remark may be made, — that he was an acute observer and ardent admirer of nature in her various operations is proved in every page of this little volume. The poems which it contains were written, as their author informs us, in periods of ill-health and the depression of spirits which the long continuance of such ill-health never fails to bring along with it. What a merciful gift must a mind so constituted be, under such painful and almost hopeless circumstances, to the man to whom it is vouchsafed ! As long as Hodgson could so observe, and think, and write, he wanted not consolations in the midst of afflictions of whatever kind or severity.
The book contains a poem called Woodlands and others. It is neatly printed, in a duodecimo size, by David Akenhead and Sons, Newcastle, and extends to nearly 140 pages. With Mr. John Akenhead, Hodgson maintained a long and cordial friendship after his settlement on the banks of the Tyne in 1806.
In the preface we have the following statements as an apology for the boldness of its author, in thus appearing before the public. These statements are chiefly deserving of a notice here on account of the personal history which they contain.
“At a time when the claim to poetical talent seems no longer to be attributed to innate power, or to any peculiar complexion of the human mind, when the press every day teems with polite and well-finished verse, it may demand an apology to offer to the public a work trifling and unimportant as the present volume. And after I have confessed it is neither from the flattery or the persuasion of my friends, nor from any confidence in the merit of my own performance, that I send it into the world, I hope I may be credited. To say I am entirely unanxious about its favourable reception would belie my feelings. Authors of every description must be agitated with some expectation of the good opinion of their readers, and, if I have any motive for the publishing this volume, it certainly originated in a desire to draw myself from obscurity into notice. My scheme may be blameable, and every way unsuccessful.
But when I recollect the pleasure I had in composing these poems, and the hours of sickness and anxiety they have alleviated, I shall never look back with penitence on the time I have bestowed upon them.”
“During a residence at Lanchester of a little more than two years my time was chiefly occupied in educating the children of the village, and attending to the duties of an extensive curacy. But my health had required some relaxation from professional employment; and that was chiefly sought for in the society and hospitality of the families in the neighbourhood, in wandering into the fields, in botanical recreations, in searching for antiquities about the Roman station, and in occasional attempts at poetry.”
“Woodlands,” he proceeds to state, “which has been chosen for the subject of the first poem, is situated near Lanchester, in the county of Durham, and is the estate of Thomas White, Esq. Prior to the year 1777 it was a wild heath. For improvements in it, according to the Transactions of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, etc., Mr. White received their gold medal ten times, and their silver medal once. The following description of it previous to its inclosure is from Mr. White's own report:”
“The ground of this plot, whilst in a state of nature, was covered with ling, fern, broom, and bad grass, and rushes in the wet places : the high parts of it very bad land, of a channelly quality, and not many inches from a grit-stone rock: lower down the hills the land is of a better quality, affording a tolerable depth of soil, but was then very cold and swampy for want of draining. The features of this inclosure are rather gentle than bold, inclining from the north and south down to a narrow valley in the middle, which continues from east to west through the adjacent country, over which a small but petulant trout-stream wantonly meandered in so many ridiculous mazes as choked its own progress, and rendered the whole of the small valley, containing about eleven acres of my best and most sheltered land, almost useless.” — Transact of the Soc. of Arts, ^c. vol. V. p. 10. “
Of the second poem (the author proceeds) the notes I have given supersede the necessity of any explanation in my preface : and the pieces I have ventured to call Odes are, perhaps, more in want of a sufficient apology for their insertion than of a history of their composition.
Gateshead, June 1807.”
It forms no part of my duty to exercise, even if I were able, the province of a critic; but it may probably appear to many of my readers that, as a whole, the poem of Woodlands is no ordinary composition, and there may be many who will thank me for placing before them the following extracts, some of which, on account of their personal nature, appear to demand a place in a memoir of their author, if even there were no better reason for bringing them forth from a book which is now but little known.
And, trembling like a hart
Entangled in a hunter's toil,
the poplar shakes.. ...(poem in poetry section)
. The poem of “Longovicum” is, as its title at length informs us “a Vision”; Its author sees in a dream a female “ form divinely fair — with flowing robe and braided hair” moving upon a cloud “whose milky hue — was ting'd with shades of clearest blue” and singing to her harp the history of Longovicum under the Druids, the Romans, the Saxons, and the earlier period of Christianity. The verse is harmonious, and some of the pictures are very striking. But the poem was perhaps chiefly intended to serve as a text to which might be appended numerous learned and interesting notes relative to the history of the Camp itself, the result of reading and personal observation. These notes, which are occasionally illustrated by woodcuts rudely carved by the author himself, prove that to Hodgson's short residence at Lanchester must be attributed that faculty of patient inquiry into the subject of Roman antiquities for which he was afterwards so highly distinguished, and which, in process of time, led to such signal discoveries in other and more extensive fields.
He now for the first time writes upon subjects to which happily so much of his after leisure was devoted, and he writes to the purpose. To Lanchester in fact we owe “The Roman Wall”;
A few of his more general remarks upon the camp and its situation and condition at that time may be extracted from his pages. Mr. Surtees made much use of the whole in his History of the County, vol. ii. p. 303—307.
“The Roman station (writes he, p. 67,”c.) the history of which has been attempted in this little poem, is situated near the village of Lanchester in the county of Durham. From the present extent of its ruins and the variety of curious inscriptions, coins, and sculptures that have been dug from them, it is certain the place was once of considerable importance. But its history is so much involved in obscurity, and so many of the records of its ancient strength and extension have perished with its less valuable remains, that its name is now disputed and its founder unknown.”
He then discusses at length the opinions of preceding writers respecting the real name of the station in times of old, and proceeds —
“The scene of this Vision is supposed to lie about the middle of the south wall of the station. Within the last century, and in the memory of many people yet alive, the whole site of the station was overgrown with thorns, brambles, and hazels. But its irregular ruins have now for several years been levelled by the plough, and its area, and the ground on the outside of its walls, been usefully employed. It still, however, exhibits one of the most conspicuous remains of a Roman camp now to be seen in South Britain.
That many valuable antiques should be destroyed by the workmen, who prepared its site for agricultural purposes, was to be expected, and that its remains have for many ages continued to be removed for building the church, the village, the farm-houses, the fences of the neighbouring inclosures, and even to be buried in the highways, is more than probable. It has often, indeed, been visited by very eminent antiquaries, especially by Dr. Hunter and Mr. Horsley, and several of its inscriptions and coins have met the eyes of the curious. But, it is to be feared, many of these records of its history are irretrievably lost. The late proprietor of the farm at Hollingside remembered the spot when it was covered with fallen pillars, and while the towers of the wall were still visible. His dwelling-house was in a great measure built from its remains, and the masons he employed, according to his own description, preferred the stones that were carved to those that had been used for ordinary purposes.” “ The grave stones that were a' covered with letters made excellent throughs /*' One stone in particular, he affirmed, made a yard of wall, and had a beautiful female figure cut on one side, which the masons turned inwards. This %ure is said to be in the west gable.” — “p. 74,
While I resided at Lanchester I not unfrequently met with fragments of altars, hand-mills, mortars, and other curiosities, in the field-walls, and the walls of the cottages and farm-houses, but was never fortunate enough to be gratified with a new inscription. Two of the votive altars I found, had the figures of toads cut upon them; a third had a pcAera and urceolus on its sides ; and a fourth, though neatly hewn, was without any emblematic representation.p. 78.
Its form is a parallelogram, the length of the vallum or wall from east to west being one hundred and eighty-three yards, and its breadth from north to south one hundred and forty-three yards. Like all Roman camps, it had a gate in the middle on every side, from which were streets traversing each other at right angles at the centre. Of the east and west gate and the street leading between them there are yet evident traces. The comers of the wall were round and guarded with towers. The vallum itself was eight feet thick at the foundation, gradually decreasing by parallel steps from the surface of the inside to four feet at the top. It was strengthened on the west by a fosse. The other sides had the advantage, in case of a siege, of the sloping of the hill The Pretorium was situated near the north gate, and evident vestiges of it are still remaining. The stone has been brought from a hill about a mile east from Lanchester. There are traces of two aqueducts, each at least two miles long. p. 91.
At a subsequent period of his life, when resident at Heworth, Mr. Hodgson communicated to the Archaeologia AEliana (yoL i. p. 118) Observations on one of these aqueducts^ and also remarks upon certain heaps of Iron Scoria in the parish of Lanchester.
Of the odes contained in the same little volume one is addressed to the West Winds; two to the Rev J. Cowper, a schoolmaster at Swindale, the author's birth-place ; one to a Bee; and the fifth and last to a Lady. We venture to print the first at full length. It was a great favourite with the late Mr. Surtees, no ordinary judge of poetical elegance, long before he was acquainted with its author.
On the subject of the above volume of poems, however, we must not omit to give Mr. Hodgson's own opinion.
The following is an extract from a letter written by him to his wife at Heworth when he was in London in 1821. 3 March. I must not omit to tell you what the Bishop [of Durham, Dr. Barrington] said when I entered the room to dinner. “here he is; we have just been talking about you. I have been saying that you are not only an excellent antiquary but an excellent poet. I assure you I have read your poems all through more than twice, and I have been advising the company to do the same; they are full of genius.” I do not mention this from vanity, because I have none about the work, which the Bishop honoured with his opinion. I often wish, on account of its faults, that every copy was burnt.'
I myself have frequently heard him express the same desire, especially during a pleasant excursion from Durham to his old scenes at Lanchester on Oct. 14, 1836. Our company, including Hodgson, consisted of Mr. Townsend, Mr. Dobie Wilson of ♦ Vaccinium myrtillus, bilberry or Uagberry. The stamina of this shrub form a very beautiful dome. Glenarbach, in Scotland, Mr. Omsby, and myself. Hodgson was our guide over the camp, every line and stone of which seemed fresh to his memory ; although thirty years had elapsed since his connection with the village had ceased. But he strongly deprecated any mention of his poem of Longovicum, which I happened to have in my pocket, and regretted that the volume in which it was contained was in existence. With the same feeling, he in the preceding year (1835) thus writes in his Journal, on the 22nd of May : “Finished the account of the trees here (at Hartbum) for Mr. Loudon, and sent him, to be returned, a copy of the foolish poems I wrote at Lanchester, as he requested.” And yet the book had been popular, not only at the time of its publication, but long afterwards; and he had received numerous testimonies in its favour from competent and disinterested judges. Two maybe mentioned : “I shall be happy,” says Mr, Surtees, by letter on the 29th April, 1812, “On any opportunity of your personal acquaintance; not only on account of the valuable assistance you promise me, but from the great pleasure I have derived from your poems”; and Mr. Tate of Eichmond thus writes, 3 March, 1829: “The sympathies of my heart are with you ever — When I last saw John Ingram (Dr. Zouch's nephew), who once lived at Staindrop, it delighted me to hear him speak in such high terms of admiration about your little Book of Poetry. Ingram is a man of very fine cultivated talent” “But of the poem of Woodlands more must be said, at the risk of being thought tedious by those who have not, like Hodgson, studied nature and her proceedings, and for whom the eternal language of hills and dales and streams has no charms. Such subjects as these, it must be admitted, have been much abused in what has been called poetry ; but there may be some who will be of opinion that Hodgson's feeling of intense veneration for outward nature is expressed in no ordinary way. From a memorandum in his Journal it appears that, about the year 1830, Mr. Hodgson revised the poem of Woodlands with a view to a new edition. The alterations and additions which he proposed to make are many of them before me ; and they are of such a character as to cause a regret that his design was not carried into execution. The additions are numerous and important, proving that time had matured the judgment of their author, and had furnished him with new ideas, and a still more happy mode of expressing himself in poetic language. I shall probably not incur much blame if I give the manuscript the following extracts. (See poetry section)The poem itself is already before the world. The additions and amendations may never see the light except partially in the present pages.
Whilst resident at Lanchester Hodgson discovered in the county of Durham another cousin a youth of the name of Harding, a native of his own valley of Swindale, and three years younger than.himself, with whom he entered into a friendly correspondence on subjects of literature, &c. The young man was a teacher of writing, and perhaps also of arithmetic and mathematics, in the school of Mr. Kawes, who had by this time removed from Witton-le- Wear to Houghton ; and certainly it is not easy to conceive a more beautiful hand than that in which he writes his letters. The two appear to have met occasionally, both at Lanchester, and afterwards at Gateshead ; after which period all intercourse between them seems to have been interrupted for many years ; until in 1839 they again begin to write to each other: and in one of his letters Harding, who then and had long resided in Liverpool, gives an account of his history during this long interval. He had been a private tutor in several respectable schools, had married, and had become the father of eight children, six of whom were then alive and in the way of doing well. Of Hodgson's letters to this gentleman I have unfortunately no copy,* but that they were full of kindness and information is manifest. To one of them, the contents of which may be surmised from the answer it received, Harding made a long reply, from which, although I am anticipating the order of time which in general it is my intention to pursue, I make the following interesting extract
“In looking over your note, which I do with renewed pleasure, I am particularly struck with the account you give of the dreams you relate It is probable that these letters may be procured in time for my purpose in reference to the scenes of our early youth. What you say about Swindale is to me very affecting. It recalls many tender scenes, that are past and gone, and which can never be recollected in this world ; but the hope of a recognition and happy reunion to our relations in tJie next is, as you justly intimate, our only solace here. I set a high value upon what you call your proxy, as it does ' revive in my memory tJie lineaments of an old friend.' It reminds me of Cowper's feelings on the receipt of his mother's picture ; and I wish I had talents to pay an equal tribute. The account you give of your topographical labours, con- sidering too your clerical duties, is to me quite astonishing ; and am glad to find that the composing of this work has afforded so much rational amusement, and, I would hope, some reasonable profit. The silence being now broken, I shall be happy to hear from you freely as often as may be convenient. Your affectionate cousin, J. Harding