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Westward Ho!

Devonshire and the west of England

View William Hatch's Travels in Europe, June 1st 1901 on W.Hatch's travel map.

First let me apologize for the extended delay between this entry and the most recent. The RAHS is hosting a new event on Saturday October 10th from 2-5pm, so most of my time has been spent organizing and collaborating to make it a success. That said, my thoughts have not strayed far from the pages of William Hatch's travel journal. I have been itching to continue the journey with him, and after three weeks hiatus we are finally back at it!

Time and again William Hatch makes it clear in his journal that his interests lay more in the countryside of Great Britain than it's cities. This proved true with a two week stay in the Lake District when compared to just three hours spent in Edinburgh, Scotland. We will see once again that Hatch's penchant for exploring the countryside wins out more than not against the bustle of Great Britain's urban centers.

On July 15th, 1901 Hatch set out for Devonshire, today known as the county of Devon and famed for the English Riviera, the Jurassic Coast, and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This area is the most sparsely populated in England and home to some of the country's more popular seaside attractions. Tourism and agriculture are the primary economic outputs of the region, but in Hatch's mind and experience this county was the jumping point for adventure outside of England. The historical novel Westward Ho! - which has inspired plays, films, radio programs and children's books - begins its story in the county of Devon. It became such a popular novel that the town of Westward Ho! was founded in 1863 in an effort to capitalize on the tourism which grew steadily in the area after the publication of the novel. Below is William's description of the numerous associations to the novel:


The Hatch party spent their time in Devon in the town of Clovelly, a small seaside village literally built into the cliff side. Hatch remarks that it "is the most unique place i ever saw." Note the photos below: the left is Clovelly as you will find it today, and the right is a photo that William took of the village in 1901 - not much has changed!



LEFT Image: "Clovelly - Harbour02" by Franzfoto - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clovelly_-_Harbour02.jpg#/media/File:Clovelly_-_Harbour02.jpg

Their first full day in Clovelly Hatch and his party took a "day's ramble down the coast. We have spent the whole day, starting out with our lunch at 10 o'clock." On this hike they walked along 400 foot-high cliffs, ambled through private parks and ate lunch next to a freshwater spring. Needless to say, Hatch describes the scenery in great detail and with much enthusiasm. Once back in the village he does much the same in describing Clovelly:


Amazing as it might seem to be, Hatch and his friends spent an entire week in Clovelly - the same length of time that they spent in London! They clearly enjoyed the coastline, the quaint yet odd village, the welcoming and "very good looking" people. Hatch describes their days there as comfortable and sunny: "When the thermometer reaches 80 here the natives think it very hot. We are comfortable when they are sweltering." This is interesting to note, as it highlights just how different the climate can be from region to region. Much like we are used to here in Minnesota during the summer, in Chicago Hatch experienced hot and humid summers contrasted with cold, windy winters. While England is very much a temperate climate like that of the continental United States, it benefits from a buffeting sea breeze which keeps the entire island warmer in winters and cooler in summers. This is of interest to Will, much the same as the people and their behaviors capture his attention: "the people here seem much above the ordinary fisher fold. ...They are all good talkers. They are much easier to understand than the Londoners and far more interesting." Clearly no matter how wonderful and fun his time in London was, Will is set on enjoying the countryside infinitely more. Indeed he seems determined to do so.


Leaving Clovelly proved bittersweet for William. While he knew that the Valley of the Wye lay waiting at his next stop, he could not help but feel sadness at leaving "the attractive spot [where they had] spent all the time that we could spare." On their way out of the village and back to the train station in Bideford Hatch and Miss Hood (who had been travelling with him for this portion of his journey) made a stop at the country estate owned by friends of Mrs. Williams, a mutual acquaintance of William and Miss Hood. Below is William's account of their time there. It is clear just how deeply he enjoyed himself on this rare glimpse into traditional English life in a country house.


From here, William and his companions traveled onward to Bideford. There they took the train to the village of Barnstaple where they stayed the night. Early the next morning - and without breakfast, as William notes - they traveled for four hours by train and coach heading northward through "Lorna Doone" country along the eastern border of Wales. Yet again William displays his active and enthusiastic demeanor. While making their way toward their destination the coach encountered a severely steep incline:


That anyone would not have enjoyed travelling with William Hatch is an utter mystery to me.

As they traveled 21 miles northward by coach and train, William read his battered copy of Lorna Doone. The novel by R.D. Blackmore remains popular to this day for its exceptional literary depictions of the English countryside. Hatch and his wife Nellie clearly enjoyed the book -- its descriptions of county Devon prompted William to make that part of England a must-see before even setting out on his voyage. Now, with only a month left before his return to America and in his final week of traveling England Hatch was finally experiencing the Doone Valley and surrounding areas. Making their way through this region, our party ended up in Bristol and finally traveled from there to Ross-on-Wye. They arrived at 9 pm, nearly 36 hours after setting out from their beloved village of Clovelly.

It is in Ross-on-Wye where we will leave William and his companions until next week. With just one month remaining in the journey, Hatch will soon depart England and make a hasty but eventful trip to the continent before returning to America.

Until next time, cheers!

Dustin Bardon, M.Phil
Director, Rockford Area Historical Society

Posted by W.Hatch 13:55 Archived in England

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