A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: W.Hatch

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 Comments (0)

"Walking in a royal ghostery"

A week in London

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

With River Days two weekends ago I was too busy last week to write a blog entry. Thus I am feverishly chasing Mr. Hatch through England, but it seems as though he will continue to escape us. This entry details his writings from July 8th to the 14th -- we are now officially more than one full month behind William's journal entries. No matter, however; the beauty of history is that it stays put as long as its sources do, and ours is not going anywhere soon!

We pick up our chase of Mr. Hatch as he begins his description of Lincoln Cathedral. Through much of the Medieval Period Lincoln Cathedral was purported to be the tallest structure on earth. In 1549, however, an incredibly strong storm blew the lead-covered spire down and it was never rebuilt. Lincoln Cathedral is today the third largest in England and remains one of the most highly regarded by visitors and scholars alike. Indeed, William Hatch seems to have liked it very much:



While visiting the cathedral, Hatch and his party encountered something very strange to them. The separation of church and state which we have here in the United States was not something of much importance in English society at the turn of the 20th century. In fact, it was often the case that Members of Parliament and other political and government figures used religion and churches as a source of revenue as well as an audience for their opinions. Such a display was what Hatch witnessed that day on 8th July 1901.


As Hatch wrote these words, he sat in the comfort of a London hotel after a busy day exploring the city. If you have ever traveled to new cities, especially large cities such as London, you understand the idea that all big cities tend to feel the same. This is true only for a short visit, however; the longer one spends in a large city, the more and more one discovers the small communities throughout that make great cities great. As we will see throughout his extended stay in London, William Hatch spends enough time exploring to find the small communities and hidden gems of England's capital city. He also tightly links the city he discovers to the city he already knows from Dickens and other descriptions in literature. This overlay creates a much more vibrant environment for William to experience as he tromps down dim streets or past elegant architecture.

His first day in London is not spent idle. As usual, Hatch inquires at the post office which was prearranged for him to receive mail from the United States, mainly items sent by his wife Nellie (Florida) Hatch. After spending some time to read his letters (in the course of ready his journal these seem to be some of his favorite moments) Hatch set out to visit the Tower of London. This iconic castle was founded in 1066 and has stood on the site since the time of William the Conqueror. Throughout its history the castle has become renowned as the site of many famous executions including Anne Boleyn, most famous of the eight wives of King Henry VIII. In addition to its original purpose as a royal residence the Tower also served as a prison, a torture and interrogation chamber, and an armory. Today it is an extremely popular tourist destination with almost 2.5 million visitors each year. Below is what Mr. Hatch had to say on the subject:


Hatch next visited St. Paul's Cathedral which at the time of his visit (and until 1962) was the tallest building in London. It remains one of the highest domes in the world and is the seat of the Anglican Church. Hatch describes his climb to the top of this dome where he "had a good view of the city. It is not so smoky as Chicago and [there was] no fog at the time. I could see Crystal Palace eight miles away." His comment that London was not so smoky as Chicago is remarkable; air pollution was so bad that London was known for severe smog which was sardonically called 'pea soup fog.'


The excerpt from Hatch's travel journal pictured above is an amazing example of just how small the world is, even 115 years ago. The connections which William made throughout his incredibly full life followed him across the Atlantic and turned an ordinary trip into one filled with comfort and friendship that many people do not experience at home on a regular basis. This is a prime example of just the sort of person William Hatch was - not just a Civil War veteran, not just a school teacher. He was someone who captivated those around him and created an environment in which they could excel at whatever it was they were good at. Those relationships resulted in William running into friends both across the street and across oceans. Relationships such as this are the reason many people - myself included - love travelling.

Hatch describes Charles T. Fox - who is mentioned in the excerpt above - as having "charge of all the business of the Pillsbury Flour in Europe. [He] lived several years in Minneapolis, the best city in the world to live in." As a born and bred Minnesotan, it is always exciting to see when someone praises the state I live in or cities found here. It is also extremely interesting to note the incredible success of the milling companies based out of Minnesota. The Pillsbury Company at that time was one of the largest and most respected producers of flour in the industry. Coupled with the well-known brand of General Mills, the mills of Minneapolis supplied incredible amounts of food to the world and illustrated that Minnesota companies could be hugely successful even on an international scale. The roller-mills in Rockford, MN were a part of this tradition as well.

Hatch's exploration of London continued with a trip to Westminster Abby. Much as with St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London, Hatch was fascinated with the long history of this iconic London landmark. Of special interest to him are those famous individuals laid to rest there:


As I read his journal I notice just how many varieties of transportation was used in turn-of-the-century London. Buses, taxicabs, cars, the Underground, horse carriages and even boats were used regularly to move the millions of people living in London throughout the city. On July 10th 1901 William Hatch made use of the River Thames and traveled by boat four and a half miles downriver from Tower Bridge to Greenwich. You may have heard of this place a few different times; Greenwich Village in New York City and Greenwich Mean Time are both named after this part of South-East London. Greenwich Mean Time, in particular, is of great interest as it was formerly the international civil time standard, as the site is located at zero degrees longitude. At the height of the British Empire, most of the world literally set their watches to the time observed in Greenwich. William Hatch for one would not be left out:


One interesting anecdote regarding the ball that dropped above the Greenwich observatory is that it the reason we watch the ball drop at New Years. Prior to universal time recording and dissemination, the ball drop was used to signal the time of day - and time of year - to citizens across the developed world.

William spent the next few days - July 11th to the 13th - exploring the outer reaches of London. Of special interest were the Kensington Gardens and the Kew Botanical Gardens. These two spots offered Hatch a brief but much enjoyed respite from the bustle of the most populous city in the world. The time spent in relative solitude allowed Hatch to review and revise plans to visit Devonshire in southwest England, for which he planned to depart London on July 15th.

With him soon leaving London, we will pick up the William's story as he makes his way once again into the countryside.

Until next time, cheers!

Dustin Bardon
Director, Rockford Area Historical Society

Posted by W.Hatch 13:10 Archived in England Tagged london england travel tower_of_london lincoln_cathedral travel_journals Comments (1)

"Well where did I leave off?"

One final day in Scotland, then on to London

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

William Hatch was never one to be short on words. Though his descriptions of places and people and experiences are relatively succinct, he nevertheless ends up writing pages and pages each day to his wife Nellie. He is a romantic. He sees so much beauty in the natural world and in things returning to that world. One such example of this is his description of Melrose Abbey in Scotland. The final days in that country were spent by Hatch and his companions in nature and in ruins at the site of this 12th century abbey-church that was a center of Scottish learning and influence until the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century. By the time Hatch reached it, the site was already a ruin and very much in commune with the nature surrounding it. Hatch in particular is interested in its storied past, especially the mystical and the weird.


In the image above you can see the spot which Hatch references with 'x' in the journal excerpt above that. This is a prime example of just the sort of things which caught William's attention - Medieval ruins relating to stories of wizards and heroes found in 19th century literature.

We have already seen that William and his companions have learned through trial and error how best to get around these countries to which they are foreign. Whether making change, finding lodging or interacting with pub owners, Hatch seems to happen upon countless ways that make clear that they are not at home in Illinois. The most interesting part of these encounters is not the differences in custom or measurements but in the manner that he handles these differences. As a foreign visitor to these countries Hatch is forced to change his understanding rather than expect his hosts to change theirs. This is one of the most fundamental learning experiences any human can have. Altering the perspective from which one views their world to see it from the point of another is surreal, and it causes the learner to realize just how wonderfully human we all are. Travel invariably leads people to experience this on some level. Below is yet another instance of William's continued education in all things English:


After over a month exploring the Welsh, English, and Scottish countrysides, the Hatch Party finally makes its way towards what was then the largest city in the world: London. At this time London was the capitol of the largest empire in the world, home to international companies with more power and influence than most countries at the time. It was also the center of literature, art, and culture in the West, with a rich history influenced by the successive conquests of the Celts, Romans, Vikings, Normans, and Anglo-Saxons. Even William Hatch, a self-proclaimed lover of country life, found many excellent reasons to love London and all that it had (and still has) to offer visitors and residents alike.

One major reason he loved it was because of the countless sites throughout the city referenced in the pages of literature. William Hatch has proven his literate nature when quoting William Wordsworth at length in the Lake District and citing Sir Walter Scott at Melrose Abbey. One of his favorite authors has been noticeably absent from this discourse, but not for long. Charles Dickens captured William's - and millions of others' - imagination with his evocative depictions of life in Victorian London. If you ever make a visit to the Ames-Florida-Stork House in Rockford, Minnesota you will find Hatch's copies of Great Expectations and Hard Times preserved under the roof of that 170 year old home. Hatch's wife Nellie lived there as a child, and the couple spent their summers in Rockford. It only seemed fitting for Hatch to leave some of his books there. These are now included in the collections of the Rockford Area Historical Society. Below are the first of many of William Hatch's descriptions of London through references to the characters created by Charles Dickens:


By this point in his journey Hatch had traveled by boat, by carriage, by train, and by foot. Upon entering London, however, he was introduced to other modes of transportation including buses, cabs and most notably the Underground. Incorporating the world's first underground railway from 1863, the London Underground is considered the oldest rapid transit system on Earth. It is also hailed as one of the best, a distinction which began early - as we can see by Hatch's description of it in his journal.


Modern amenities such as the first and best underground system were not the only progressive things one could find in London. Being the capital of a massive empire spanning the entire globe, London naturally also became home to an incredible mixture of people from far flung places. It remains so to this day. A day after encountering the Underground, Hatch and Ed Harper encounter something perhaps even more astonishing - open dissent and amiable discussion of events by people with different and sometimes opposing opinions. He writes about a corner of Hyde Park which is "given up to speakers who wish to speak on any subject. A man will begin to talk and a group will gather about him and perhaps ask him questions or disagree with him and they will have it back and forth." This practice was very common in Europe, but not so much so in America. This is because America had always supported a strong right to freedom of speech. In England and other countries, however, public discourse was contained to informal instances such as this in Hyde Park; to speak out against the Crown or any other authority in an official manner was often labeled as libel at best and treason at worst.


The good weather continued to follow Hatch and his party through London, giving him plenty of beautiful evenings to spend writing back to Nellie. The first few days in England's capital were packed with site seeing, but there was only more to come. Catch up with us next time as Hatch explores the Thames, Crystal Palace, the Tower of London and more!

Until next time, cheers!

Dustin Bardon
Interim Director, Rockford Area Historical Society

Posted by W.Hatch 13:21 Archived in England Tagged london travel travel_journal william_hatch Comments (1)

"Bristling Country"

Six days in Scotland, Part 1

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

Now that William and the Harpers have left the Lake District, the speed with which they travel increases dramatically. Compared to the two weeks spent exploring what seemed like every inch of the innumerable valleys, mountains and lakes of Grasmere and the surrounding area, our traveling party spends little time in the cities found throughout Scotland and England. London is the only urban area that seems of interest to Will. We will explore his feelings on Glasgow and other cities of renown, but I expect they pale in comparison to the romantic vistas of Lake Windemere or the quaint confines of the Brown Cow Inn. Though his impressions of the UK might change now that Mr. Hatch is leaving his beloved Lake District, his eloquent writing and detailed descriptions of his experiences are sure to continue unaltered. The passage below is excellent evidence to prove this hypothesis:


Much like we have already seen, Will carries his favorite writers with him, whether in a book of poetry or simply close to his heart. He once again spies a monument to Wordsworth -- it is a safe bet that his keen observation of such landmarks will continue. This is also the first passage in which he references another literary hero: Charles Dickens. The Pickwick Papers was Dickens' first published work, which Hatch has clearly read and enjoyed judging by his effortless incorporation of the characters into his experiences.

As was a frequent occurrence with travel in 1901, and often still is, the train from Grasmere, Wales to Glasgow, Scotland made stops and changes in small towns such as Keswick, as Hatch mentions. In this small town Will, Ed and Mrs. Harper go in search of lunch. They find "a neat looking place" and go in. "Then appeared one of the oddest looking virgins that it has been my fate to meet. ...She may have been 25 and she may have been 40! Her mother called her Sally and Sally will be an amusing character in the memories of the trip." This is the first time we see William use an exclamation point! Clearly Sally made a strong impression on the group. As anyone who enjoys people watching knows, Sally is one of those characters who imprint themselves in one's imagination and remain irrevocably associated with a particular experience.


The passage above gives us a glimpse into Will's sense of humor as well as into the personality of his wife, Nellie (Florida) Hatch. When I first read this section I was struck by the blatant sarcasm present in Will's voice. His reference to the room decorated with pictures of graveyards as "cheerful" cements my opinion of Mr. Hatch as a fun-loving, clever, and potentially mischievous man. Who wouldn't want to spend time and travel with him?! On the other hand, when we read other portions of this passage with a critical eye it is clear that Nellie acts as a tempering agent for Will. She has strong "control of the tendency to laugh," whereas Will "told funny things to make excuse for [the Harpers] to laugh and not hurt Sally's feelings." What is more, Nellie forbade her husband from buying too many souvenirs, with special concern against buying spoons; this isn't the first time Will has stopped himself upon "remembering [his wife's] injunction" against bringing any home. The relationship between William and Nellie appears as a classic case of opposites attracting.

After eight hours of travel the group arrived in Glasgow, Scotland, where the Glasgow International Exposition was in progress. Hatch states that "the crowds reminded me much of the World's Fair" of Chicago in 1893. Though they just arrived in in the city, Hatch and the Harpers leave for Loch Lamond and Loch Katrine to spend two days in the country. Here we see plainly William's feelings: "I don't seem to care much for the cities. I enjoy much better its rural parts." Below is a description of their lodgings for this excursion into the Scottish countryside, complete with post card!


William, Ed and Mrs. Harper spend much less time in each place they visit from here on. Only London comes close to the Lake District in terms of the length of time they stayed and extent to which they explored. Even still, Hatch marvels yet again at the landscapes to be found throughout the UK, and on this particular occasion in southern Scotland. His journal entries now contain more and more post cards and photographs -- it seems he has taken a shine to documenting the trip beyond what words can tell. Even still, his words illustrate quite almost as well as the added photographs:


After exploring Loch Trossachs and Ellen's Isle Hatch and the other walk back to the hotel. All along the way Will is reminded of the books he has read, particularly the copy of Lady of the Lake, a copy of which he just purchased. Similarly, Ed Harper is in his element as they wander through the rough yet lush valley of the Trossachs. It is fascinating to witness the particularities of each member of the group through Will's eyes. Mr. Harper seems an inquisitive man with highly focused interests, of which botany is primary as Will explains. If you have ever traveled with friends or family who are passionate about something to be found on your way, then you know well the amusement that I feel reading about Ed Harper's quirks and singular love of flowers, or botany as Will calls it.



Two days after leaving the Lake District in northern Wales, Will Hatch and the Harpers arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland. Clearly they are moving quickly to see as much as they can! On the way to Edinburgh - second largest in the country and capital of Scotland - the party stops in Stirling. You may have heard this name before, as both William Wallace and Robert Bruce fought famous battles for Scottish Independence near Stirling Castle. Even this was not enough to keep Will and the Harpers for long, however, as they spent just four hours there before moving on to Edinburgh.

It is from this point where we will leave the travelers for now. The second part of "Six Days in Scotland" will contain just as much as this first part -- William Hatch was not one to leave out the details!

Until next time, cheers!

Dustin Bardon
Interim Director, RAHS

Posted by W.Hatch 13:45 Archived in Scotland Tagged trains glasgow scotland travel travel_journal william_hatch 1901 Comments (0)

"Four Glorious Days"

More of the Lake District

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

Mr. Hatch is quickly discovering that writing to his wife Nelly every day will soon become near impossible. The staggering amount of activities he undertakes and sites he visits is almost too much to recount properly in writing. I am finding the sheer volume of his words difficult to deal with as well; to date, this blog is now nearly a full month behind Mr. Hatch's journal entries with regards to chronology. My aspirations to publish an entry each week reflecting William's journal entries for that same week of his trip is quickly becoming but a pipe dream.


Owing to this difficulty I will begin to move more quickly through Hatch's reflections on the Lake District in order to get closer to following directly in his footsteps throughout the remainder of his journey. This blog entry will cover the remainder of his days spent in the Lake District from June 18th to the 25th.

If traveling thousands of mile to a new country isn't enough to convince us that William Hatch was an adventurous, curious, and strongly independent person, his accounts of the days spent exploring the Lake District certainly will. On numerous occasions he tells about walking ahead or hanging back from his companions in order to indulge his curiosity. Whether climbing uphill faster in order to have a solitary view of Lake Windemere, or breaking away from Mr. and Mrs. Harper to investigate a grubby pub, William Hatch was clearly someone not afraid to "get off the beaten trail". If you have ever traveled - especially if you are interested in the history, art, food, music, or other cultural aspect of the place you are visiting - then you have likely experienced moments like the one William describes below:



Individual excursions like this are typical of Mr. Hatch - he clearly enjoyed exploring and experiencing as much as he could. Nevertheless, he made sure to include his friends (and wife) whenever possible. Even in conditions that were less than ideal, Hatch felt drawn to continue tramping off on his own. In the first weeks of their travels he and the Harpers were lucky to have wonderful weather. He mentions their "first experience with a steady rain" for which the British Isles are renowned on June 19th - more than a full week after they landed in England! With this first rain continuing throughout the day the Harpers decided to stay back, but William continued on his own:


Some of the most enjoyable parts of the trip for Mr. Hatch, as we have already seen, include any chance he has to indulge in poetry. He clearly also thoroughly enjoyed the many hikes and climbs through the Lake District. Serendipity conspired on June 21st, 1901 to bring both of these together for him in a most entertaining way. While hiking yet another mountain pass above the serene forests and glass-smooth lakes of the District, Hatch and Mrs. Harper happened upon an inn:


It is clear from his delighted recollection of the poem he found at the Inn that William allowed himself to time and again be surprised by this beautiful country and its hard-working, fun-loving inhabitants. The fact that he either remembered the poem or took the time to write it down illustrates just how struck with amusement, joy, and wonder by it that he was. This wonder continues throughout the remainder of his days spent in Grasmere and the Lake District. Even simple things, such as a horse and buggy, seem to be items of great interest to William Hatch.



The passage above is one of the final entries which Hatch wrote while still in the Lake District. He and his companions spent nearly two full weeks exploring its furthest reaches. They followed the paths of Wordsworth and other Romantics. They climbed mountains and boated across England's largest lake. Most of all, they met incredible people along the way - shepherds, carters, and cooks - with stories that fascinated William Hatch to no end. We shall see whether their next destination of Glasgow, Scotland will resonate so deeply with the intrepid Mr. Hatch.

Until next time, cheers!

Dustin Bardon
Interim Director, Rockford Area Historical Society

Posted by W.Hatch 11:36 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged lake district_grasmere_william wordsworth_travel_william hatch Comments (0)

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