[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]
To the Rev. WILLIAM HANBURY, Rector of Church-Langton, in Leicestershire.
THE candid reader will excuse the inserting of an introduction to this letter.
About the year 1751 , Mr. Hanbury commenced the execution of a design to encourage PLANTING, for the most benevolent purposes and upon a very extensve scale. It met with various success in proportion to the minds of those who heard of it; and according to their feeling, liberal or otherwise, upon a subject, so new and simple.
In 1758, Mr. Hanbury published an " Essay on Planting," dedicated to the University of Oxford; where he received his education ; and by this means his scheme became widely discused. Many were the congratulations which he received in consequence ; and he had the satisfaction to find it met with very general. approbation frorn men of abilities ; who no sooner -were informed of its tendency, then they warmly extolled a plan so very honourable.on the grounds both of publick spirit and of pure philantropy. "I was of the goodness and practicability of the scheme, and found it much approved of by all my learned correspondents at a distance, and by men of the first genius and discernment in the kingdom ; who would not have flattered and encouraged me in the pursuit of it, had they known it to be merely visionary and aerial.
Amongst the variety of letters on the occasion received this winter, [1760,] one from the lord bishop of Sodor and Mann seems to demand a place here ; as it not only shews the sense of that worthy man on the undertaking, but contains likewise a short History of some of the Customs in the Isle of Mann. The letter is this
Bishops-Court, Isle of Mann,
(Per Liverpool,) Oct.1, 1760.
Rev. and worthy Sir,
Permit me, though an entire stranger to you, to pay you the tribute of my congratulation, on the benefit and emolument likely to accrue to the community, from the peculiarly laudable zeal you have exhibited to the publick,. : by : your exemplary recommendation of the Theory and Practice of PLANTING.
I may, probably, have been the more taken with your scheme, and the sentiments set forth in your Essay on this subject, on account of my having resided for twenty five years in the well-cultivated and planted county of Hertford, and being within these five years transplanted to the Isle of Mann; where barren rocks and dreary mountains were the principal objects that saluted my fight on my first entrance ; and where, even upon traversing every part of it, I found trees and hedges much scarcer that houses and inhabitants
My excellent predecessor, Dr. Wilson, with whose character, I believe, I need not acquaint you, happily endued with every quality to render him a peculiar blessing to this country and people, among other manifold instances where in this see was indebted to him, has left behind him a specimen of Mr. Hanburys taste and genius, by a large plantation of trees about the episcopal manse1 , where there was not a twig when he came to it. I with I had not to lament the loss of the largest and best of them, taken down to help towards the expence of repairs, before I was aware time enough to have redeemed them ; which I should gladly have done at double the price they were sold for. All the answer I receive to this lamentation, frequently uttered, is " that I shall soon supply the deficiency." This, GOD willing I shall endeavour to do, though without the least hope of living to reap the benefit of my pains, as my predecessor did of his ; who lived to have much use of his trees, both for pleasure and profit ; and might have had more, but for an over-fondness to his vegetable family, so as to be often unwilling to part even with those, whose removal would have given advantage to the growth of the rest. He gave order, however that one, of his own planting, should,be used for his coffin which, it seems, was accordingly fullfilled.2
And,now, good sir, I, must tell you how sorry I am for my distance from my brother-planter, I will not say, who am, as, yet, unqualified so becoming even a pupil to Mr. Hanbury. Leicestershire happens to be as unfortunately situated for my receiving much help from your nursery, as any part of England. Had I seen your Essay, if it were then published, when I was upon a visit to .my native country, in the year 1758, I would have endeavoured to have made Market-Harborough in my way ; in order to have paid my respects to the renowned horticultor. at Church-Langton, even at the hazard of being received, for want of credential recommendation. .
I herewith take leave to enclose a draught for five pounds; for which: your gardener may send, indeed I know not well what ; some sort of plants, or trees,as you or he shall think suitable to this sea-breezed island, and its sandy, gravelly soil. But, unless you have opportunity of sending to Coventry, through which the Liverpool waggons .pass, I know not how I can receive any of the produce of your goodly plantations, of any sort. However, I was willing to transmit my mite of encouragement to your noble design, and to bear a small testimony of my esteem for your propagating spirit, both earthly and heavenly.3 And. though :I should never be able to receive any other return for my pittance of purchase-money, a few of your hints or instructions to a tyro in the art of planting, will be a sufficient compensation for my good wishes of prosperity and success to your promising undertaking for publick utility. A dozen or two of apple-trees, of the best sort, viz. nonpareil, golden-pippin, and French or Dutch pippin, or what you better approve, standard or dwarf, would be acceptable, if the conveyance above-mentioned be practicable ; directed to the care of the post-master in Liverpool.
Flowers I have no great taste for, especially since I came hither ; where I am obliged to be a tiller of land for bread. Next to necessaries, geraniums, honey-suckles and provence-roses are my chief cultivation in the garden. Of the first I have only four, sorts, though Miller, I think, reckons forty, with very hard names. Mine, in plain English; are the horse-shoe, rose-scented, varigated, and smooth leaved. . If you have any other, unless they happen to be too trifling or unprofitable for your culture to regard, I should be glad of some slips ; which by experience I :find will do, though long out of the ground. I brought no other with me, and they have furnished me with increase. I generally house them in winter in my hall ; for we Manks folks have not yet arrived at green-houses ; though I think this is a shrub that very little needs such care, unless in places where frosts are severe, which is not our case. Winds, here, are more the planters enemy than frost or snow. The effects of that remarkable wind of the 6th of October, 1756, which blasted several yards of the tops of most of my elms, and ashes, still remain a disagreeable blemish, as well as probable damage to them ; but, I know not how to consent to the hazard my servants are willing to undertake, of climbing to cut off the dead branches. All my trees will not purchase the life or limb of a fellow-creature, if any accident should happen.
Dr. Pococke, bishop of Offory, tells me he thinks firs would thrive well in any, even the mountainous parts, of this isle. I have some, but do not much relish them. Sycamore, ash, elm, or abele 4 do very well, where tolerably sheltered : but Oaks are scarce with us, excepting what are dug out of the curragh, or, low lands; where there are still some, and formerly were found in great plenty, and of confiderable size. 5
As our estates are moderate, every thing is proportionably so : but, as we have no mighty wealth, so neither have we extreme poverty; and, consequently, no parish-rates 6 for maintenance of the needy. Those few, who may be deemed such, are supported by voluntary collections, especially at, the sacramental offertory, to which the. whole congregation contribute ; as well those who do not, as those who stay; at the communion ;- which I think is a very commendable custom.
Every body almost, hath land enough for cattle and bread-corn but salt-herring and potatoes are the staple sustenance, to help out among the lower rank ; and which being cheap and plentiful, work, more than is absolutely necessary, is what the natives are not very fond of.7 As to Planting,, they think it to be a sort of supererogatoty improvement " which, they say, they may juit as well be without, as their forefathers : and the antediluvian timber, from under ground, has served them long for building ; that is, for the few purposes they want it ; viz. roofs and door frames. But luxury and splendour, to which this country, for ages hath been, a stranger, having of late increased much in the neighbouring kingdoms, begin now to find their way across the water ;. and some stately structures have of late appeared in the Port-Town * When I say stately, it is comparative.
But, I forget : Mr. Hanbury is a stranger to me, whilst I am writing as if we were old acquaintance. So long a letter, therefore, should seem to require some apology, were it not that your publick spirit and benevolent turn of mind are such, as will probably incline you , to think it requires none. If your more important engagements will allow you time to acknowledge the receipt of it, you will thereby oblige your unknown brother, and fellow-servant,
MARK SODOR and MANN.
In consequence of this letter, Mr. Hanbury observes, " I sent my lord the fruit-trees he seemed to want, and some hundreds of small plants of different sorts of forest-trees, all in one matted bundle. The carriage was ready and strait from Coventry to Liverpool, by the stage-waggon ; and I was resolved to present his lordship with what-ever he wanted ; and ., promised to send him young ware for this purpose, if he would plant the whole island properly. His lordship was pleased to joke me, for talking about planting the whole island ; but by that I meant no more than ornamenting it, by planting here and there a clump upon a distant hill, or land belonging to the see, or where nobody could object to it. This would not be attended with much expence; and is what might be done in all places destitute of that graceful, but useful. ornament.
" I could not continue my correspondence with this worthy man, as, from that period, I had nothing to give him an account of, but what would much affect him ; namely, the attacks made upon my scheme by the violent torrents of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitiablenes: As soon, however, as the deed of trust was executed, I wrote him word, that we were then, and not before, established ; and that our foundation seemed to be sure and permanent. For the future, I shall be always happy in reciting its progress, and satisfying him of any particulars that may accidentally occur." See Hanburys " History of the Charitable Foundations at Church-Langton :" p. 110119.
Tuis very worthy divine having joined the allurement of musical associations, to help the fund, and further the spirit of his plan ; the following apposite lines appeared, which seem to merit insertion.
"On the Rev Mr HANBURYS PLANTAT1ONS,
and MUSICK. MEETING
So sweet thy strain, so thick thyshade
The pleas'd spectator sees
The miracle once more displayd
Of ORPHEUS, and his TREES."
To shew how much at heart he held his benevolent plans, the following is extracted from a publication of the best authority. " Tuesday, 5th March, 1767, the Rev. William Hanbury, rector of Church-Langton, in Leicestershire, gave up the sum of £1500, together with a share of his Plantations, in trust for the foundation of a very large and extensive charity What pity, that any man thus blessed in his deeds, should have met with obstruction and contumely in the execution of them ! He rests from his labours, and posterity thall embalm his memory.
1 An incumbents residence ; a parsonage; also the farm and land round the mansion, or dwelling-house. It is so called likewise in Scotland. See Boswells Journal, p. 9
2 His coffin, was made from one of the elm-trees that he planted soon after his coming to the island ; which was cut down, and sawed into planks for that purpose, a few years before his death." Life of Bp. Wilson, by Cruttwell,p. xci.
3 This alludes to Mr. Hanburys excellent design, and his very sanguine hopes of extending the plan, when adequately successful, to the plantation of virtue and morals upon religious principles, by the establishment of charity-schools. See his Essay
4 A beautiful species of the white poplar.
5 This Curragh (like the Curragh of Kildare, in Ireland,) is a large tract of land, which runs the breadth of the isle, betwixt Ballaugh and Ramsay. It was formerly a bog ; but, since it has been drained, is become one of the richest parts of the Island : and though the peat is six eight or.,ten feet deep, yet by husbandry -and ,burning~.they have got a face, which will. bear the plough. Thus the same ground supplies the neighbourhood both with bread and fuel In this place have been found very large trees, of oak and fir, fome two feet and a half in diameter, and forty feet long, supposed by the inhabitants to have lain here since the deluge; though Mr. Robertson inclines to think they. were probably buried here by some violent concussion, subsequent to the era of the Druids, after the close of the fourth century. Near Castle-Town, indeed, some traces of an earthquake, find o~ a volcanick eruption, have been observed : but tradition on these subjects is silent The oaks and firs says bp Wilson, " do not lie promiscuously ; but where there is plenty of one sort, there are generally few or none of the other." See his Short History. See also a curious letter from the Rev. Ja. Wilks to Dr Ducarel, Gent. Mag 178~. p. 503.
6 In the whole island, says Mr. Robertson, there is no public establishment for shelteriug the destitute, protecting the insane, restoring the sick, or supporting the poor : yet in this country; private charity is very liberal. In the herring-season . the benevolence of the fishermen feeds the poor; and during the residue of the year they are suppnrted by the weekly generosity of individuals. The Manks have the following generous proverb in their mother-tongue, rra tayn derrey voughi coon~y Ic/I, bought :èlley, tafee hene garagktee:
that is, " Where one poor man relieves another, God himself rejoices at it Or, as is in the original, " he laughs out right." See Robertson Tour, 1798, 158. .
7 Indolence ~Mr Robertson remarks is a prominent feature of the Manks character - otherwise, the lands would be more universally cultivated, and manufactures more generally established. From what causes this hereditary inactivity may spririg, I will not presume to say : but, it certainly derives new influence from the quiet of the lonely vales, and mountainous recesses, to which the greater part of the inhabitantsare accustomed from their Childhood." Tour, p 152,
p. 53. This, theft, perhaps, that can be~iv~i~ to be sure a very humane ~ and a kind ~ apology ~ by his virtue, health, wealth, and happiness conist hi adion .; and were I a Manks clergyman, my text to them should often be taken, and strongly enlarged upon, from such passages of a Solomon, and a Paul, as these. Prov. x. 4, Xli. 27, Xii!. 4, xxi. 5, xxiii. 21. Rom. xii. xi, 2 ThefT. iii. io. i Tim.
8 Douglas, or, according to the ancient orthography, Dufglas, is now the principal town of the island. The seat of governmeat is at Castle-Town, about ten miles distant ; but trade and commerce have rendered Douglas in wealth and importance greatly superior. The streets of this town are irregular ; and a stranger feels surprized, on viewing several of the best houses hemmed in by so many miserable cottages. several of these have, however, been lately demolished; and a spirit of architectural elegance seerns now ruling in Douglas ; to which the Manks have many inducements, particalarly from their easy access to some fine quarries of limestone and marble. "About a mile from Castle-Town there is an excellent quarry of black marble, which is much esteemed by the natives for chimney-pieces, tomb-stones, flagging of churches, &c. " That lofty flight of steps leading to one of the noblest edifices in the world, was taken, says Mr. Robertson, from this quarry, and presented to the dean and chapter of St. Pauls cathedral by the venerable bishop Wilson."
The houses skirting the banks of that fine river which forms the harbour of Douglas, have an air of superior elegance. See Tour,.pp.15,16, 73.
: * Gent. Mag. for March, 16 p. :142.