THE LIFE OF JOHN METCALF.
JOHN METCALF was born at Knares∣borough, on the 15th of August, 1717. When four years old, he was put to school by his parents, who were working people, and continued at school two years: He was then seized with the small-pox, which ren∣dered him totally blind, though all possible means were used to preserve his sight.
About six months after recovering from the small-pox, he was able to go from his father's house to the end of the street, and return, without a guide; which gave him Page 2 much spirit and satisfaction.—In the space of three years he was able to find his way to any part of the town of Knaresborough; and had begun to associate with boys of his own age, going with them to seek birds' nests, and for his share of the eggs and young birds he was to climb the trees, whilst his com∣rades waited at the bottom, to direct him to the nests, and to receive what he should throw down; and from this he was soon able to climb any tree he was able to grasp. He would now ramble into the lanes and fields alone, to the distance of two or three miles, and return. His father keeping horses, he learned to ride, and in time became an able horseman, a gallop being his favourite pace. His parents having other children, at the age of thirteen had John taught music, at which he proved very expert; though he had con∣ceived more taste for the cry of a hound or a harrier, than the sound of any instrument.
A gentleman at Knaresborough, of the name of Woodburn, was master of a pack of hounds:—This gentleman encouraged Page 3 Metcalf very much, by taking him to hunt with him, and was always very desirous of his company. Metcalf kept a couple of very good hounds of his own.
Mr. Woodburn's hounds being seldom kennelled, Metcalf used to take several of them out secretly along with his own, about ten or eleven o'clock at night, (the hares being then feeding); but one of the young hounds happening to worry a couple of lambs, it caused him to discontinue that practice.
When about fourteen years old, his acti∣vity of limbs, and the good success with which his exploits were usually attended, consoled him so greatly for the deprivation of sight, that he was lead to imagine it was in his power to undertake any thing, without danger: the following adventure, however, caused him to alter his opinion of its value.
There happened to be a plumb-tree a little way from Knaresborough, where there had been a house formerly.—One Sunday, Met∣calf and his companions (who were skilled in Page 4 matters of this sort) would go there, to get some of the fruit; in these cases, Metcalf was always appointed to ascend, for the pur∣pose of shaking the trees. He was accord∣ingly sent up to his post; but in the height of the business, his companions gathering below were suddenly alarmed by the appear∣ance of the owner of the tree, and prepared to quit the ground with all expedition:—Metcalf thus left to himself, soon understood how matters were going, though the wind was high, which prevented him from hearing distinctly; and being inclined to follow his comrades, in making his retreat he fell head∣long into a gravel-pit belonging to Sir Harry Slingsby, and cut a large gash in his face, without, however, receiving any other injury than a stun which for some time hindered his breathing, and kept him motionless on the ground.—His father being rather severe, Metcalf was afraid to go home, lest his wound should lead to a discovery of the prank he had been engaged in.
Page 5Soon after this, (though not easily dis∣mayed) he and some other boys were com∣pletely alarmed:—The church-porch at Knaresborough being the usual place of their meeting, they one night between eleven and twelve o'clock assembled there; Metcalf being generally the chief projector of their plans: They determined to rob an orchard; which having done, they returned to the church-porch to divide their booty. Before their return, a circumstance had happened to which they were strangers, but to the discovery of which the following little inci∣dent led, though not immediately: There being a large ring to the church-door, which turned for the purpose of lifting the latch, one of the party took hold of it, and, by way of bravado, gave a loud rap; calling out,
The cause of this panic was as follows:—An old lady, wife of Dr. Talbot, (who had for many years enjoyed the living of Spof∣forth) dying, and her relations, who lived at a great distance, being desirous to arrive before her interment, ordered the body to be kept; this being too long the case, and the neighbours perceiving a disagreeable smell, a request was sent to the Rev. Mr. Collins, who ordered the sexton to be called up to dig the grave in the church imme∣diately: the sexton had lighted a great number of candles: so much for the supposi∣tion of the church being on fire; and the grave-digger was the person whose voice had so terrified the apple-merchants, when they knocked. Such, however, was the impression, that pranks of this nature were not repeated.
About the year 1731, Metcalf being then fourteen years of age, a number of men and boys made a practice of swimming in Page 8 the river Nidd, where there are many deeps convenient for that purpose.—Metcalf re∣solving to learn that art, joined the party, and became so very expert, that his compa∣nions did not chuse to come near him in the water, it being his custom to seize them, send them to the bottom, and swim over them by way of diversion.
About this time, a soldier and another man were drowned in the above deeps: the former, it was supposed, was taken with the cramp; the latter could not swim. Metcalf was sent for to get up the bodies, and at the fourth time of diving succeeded in bringing up that of the soldier, which, when raised to the surface, other swimmers carried on shore; but life had quite left it. The other body could not then be found.
There are very frequent floods in the river Nidd; and it is a remarkable fact, that in the deep places, there are eddies, or some other causes of attraction, which will draw to the bottom any substance, however light, which comes within their sphere of action. Large Page 9 pieces of timber were often seen to be car∣ried down by the floods; these, on coming over the deep places, were stopped for the space of a moment, and then sunk. Upon these occasions, Metcalf would go down and with the greatest ease fix ropes to the wood, which was drawn up by some persons pur∣posely stationed on the banks.
In the year 1732, one John Barker kept an inn at the West end of the High Bridge, Knaresborough. This man was a manufac∣turer of linen cloth, and used to bleach his own yarn. At one time, having brought two packs of yarn to the river to wash, he thought he observed a number of wool-packs rolling towards him; but on a nearer view it proved to be a swelling of the current, oc∣casioned by a sudden and very violent rain in the neighbourhood. He had not time to remove his yarn, so that it was swept away, and carried through the arches of the bridge, which stands on a rock. A little below there is a piece of still water, supposed to be about twenty-one feet in depth: as soon as the Page 10 yarn got to this, it sunk, except a little which caught the skirts of the rock in going down. Metcalf being intimate with Barker, and cal∣ling at his house a few days after the acci∣dent, found him lamenting his loss. Metcalf told him that he hoped to recover his yarn for him, but Barker smiled at the supposed absurdity of the proposal: finding, however, that his friend was resolved on a trial, he consented. Metcalf then ordered some long cart-ropes to be procured, and fixing a hook at one end, and leaving the other to be held by some persons on the High Bridge, he descended, and hooking as much of the yarn as he could at one time, he gave orders for drawing up. In this way the whole was re∣covered, with very little damage.
Some time after this, Metcalf happened to be at Scriven, at the house of one Green, an innkeeper.—Two persons then present had a dispute concerning some sheep which one of them had put into the penfold. The owner of the sheep, (one Robert Scaif, a Knares∣borough man, and a friend of Metcalf's) Page 11 appeared to be ill treated by the other party, who wished to take an unfair advantage. Metcalf perceiving that they were not likely to agree about the damages, bade them good night, saying he was going to Knaresborough, but it being about the dead time of night, he was firmly resolved to do a little friendly bu∣siness before he should get home. The pen∣fold being walled round, he climbed over, and getting hold of the sheep one by one, he fairly tossed them over the wall: the difficulty of the service increased as the number got less, not being so ready to catch;—he was not, however, thereby deterred, but fully completed the exploit.
On the return of day, the penfold door being found fast locked, great was the sur∣prise on finding it untenanted, and various the conjectures as to the rogue or rogues who had liberated the sheep; but Metcalf past unsuspected, and enjoyed the joke in silence.
He continued to practice on the violin, until he became able to play country dances. Page 12 At Knaresborough, during the winter season, there was an assembly every fortnight, at which he always attended, and went besides to many other places where there was public dancing; yet, though much employed in this way, he still retained his fondness for hunt∣ing, and likewise began to keep game cocks. Whenever he went to a cock-pit, it was his custom to place himself on the lowest seat, and always close to some friend who was a good judge, and who, by certain motions, enabled him to bet, hedge, &c. If at any time he heard of a better game cock than his own, he was sure to get him by some means or other, though at a hundred miles distance.
A little way from home he had a cock-walk, and at the next house there chanced to be another. The owner of the cock at the latter house supposing that Metcalf's and his would meet, armed his own cock with a steel spur; which greatly displeasing Metcalf, he formed a plan of revenge; and getting one of his comrades to assist, they procured a quantity of cabbage-leaves, and fastening Page 13 them together with skewers, they fixed them against the outside of the windows, that the family might not perceive the return of day∣light; and that they should also be prisoners, these associates in roguery walled up the door with stones, and mud-mortar, which they were assisted in making by the convenience of a pump which stood near. They then brought water, in tubs, and continued pour∣ing it in great quantities over the new wall, (which did not reach quite up to the top of the door-frame) until the house was flooded to a great depth. This done, they made the best of their way home.
In the morning, the people of the house finding their situation, and being at no loss to suppose who had been the projector, and in all probability the leading performer, of the business, were no sooner set at liberty, than they went to a Justice, and got a war∣rant for Metcalf; but not being able to prove the fact, he was, of course, dismissed.
His fame now began to spread; and when Page 14 any arch trick was done, inquiry was sure to be made where Metcalf had been at the time.
At Bilton, two miles from Knaresborough, there was a rookery, and the boys had made many attempts to take the young ones; but the owner wishing to preserve them, they were prevented. Metcalf determining to make a trial, sent one of his comrades in the day-time as a spy to reconnoitre the position of the nests; and having been informed by him as to this, they set out in the dead of night, and brought away seven dozen and a half, excepting the heads, which they left under the trees. The owner of the rooks finding the heads, sent the bellman round, offering a reward of two guineas for disco∣vering the offenders: the secret, however, was kept until long afterwards.
A man at Knaresborough having married a woman who had lived at a farm-house about a mile distant, brought his wife to his own home; and some articles being left in the deserted house, he sent a son he had by a former marriage to bring them away.—Page 15 Metcalf being about the same age as this boy, chose to accompany him. When they got to the place, the boy missed the key, which he had lost from his pocket by the way; and being afraid to return without his errand, he consulted Metcalf about what was to be done. Metcalf was for entering the house at all events; and not being able to procure a ladder, got a pole, which reached to the thatch, and having borrowed a rope and a stick, he climbed up the pole, and then as∣cending by the roof to the chimney, he placed the stick across, and fastening the rope to it, attempted to descend, but finding the flew too narrow, he threw off his cloaths, and laying them on the ridge of the house, made a second attempt, and succeeded: he then opened the door for his companion. While they were in the house, there was a heavy thunder-shower, to which Metcalf's cloathes were exposed, being left upon the house-top: he attempted to get up again, to fetch them; but the pole by which he had ascended was now so wet, that he could not Page 16 climb by it; he was therefore obliged to wait until it dried, when ascending again, he recovered his cloathes. This was con∣sidered by all who heard of it as a very extraordinary performance by one in his situation, as well as a great act of friendship to his companion.
In the year 1732 Metcalf was invited to Harrogate, to succeed, as fidler, a poor old man who had played there for 70 years, and who, being borne down by the weight of 100 years, began to play too slow for coun∣try dancing. Metcalf was well received by the nobility and gentry, who employed no other fidler, except a boy whom he hired as an assistant, when they began to build a long-room at the Queen's Head.
Being once, with his assistant, at Ripon assembly, they resolved to call the next day at Newby Hall, the seat of 'Squire Blacket; having got acquainted with that worthy family by their frequent visits to Harrogate. There they stayed, regaling themselves, till near night, when they set out for home. Page 17 In the way, they had to cross the river Ure by a ford, or go round by Boroughbridge or Ripon, which latter Metcalf was not inclined to do. They were told that the ford would be found impassable, much rain having fallen. Metcalf, however, was determined to try; but on coming to the water-side, he found his companion was much in liquor, and began to doubt of his getting over: as for himself, he had no fear, being a good swimmer.—So it was agreed that Metcalf should strip, and (leaving his cloathes to the care of his friend) lead his horse over, and thereby prove whether or not it was safe for his comrade to follow. By this means they got over, but not before it was dark. He then began to dress himself, but his waistcoat (in which were the three joints of his haut∣boy) was missing, as also his silver shoe∣buckles, and seventeen shillings which fell from his pocket. This was an unpleasant accident, but there being no present remedy, they made the best of their way to Copgrove, where they rested. Metcalf listened dili∣gently Page 18 to the clock, and after some hours, supposing the waters to have abated, (which was the case,) he returned, and found his seventeen shillings on the bank, and a buckle on each side of the water. The waistcoat and hautboy he could never recover, although he carefully drew the deeps with a gardener's iron rake, which he had procured for that purpose at Newby Hall.
Metcalf now bought a horse, and often ran him for small plates. He still continued to be a cocker—often hunted—and some∣times went a coursing; in the evenings he attended to play at the assemblies: finding, from these various pursuits, pretty sufficient employment. Being greatly encouraged by the gentlemen, he began to think himself of that class, excepting that his rents failed to come in half-yearly from his tenants.
About this time there was a long-room built at the Green-Dragon at Harrogate. More music being then wanted, he engaged one Midgeley (one of the Leeds waits) and Page 19 his son, as assistants. Midgeley, sen. being a good performer, was taken into partnership gratis; but the son, and Metcalf's former assistant, paid five pounds each premium. This was done with the approbation of all the innkeepers, who wished to keep Metcalf at the head of the band.
In the year 1735, Francis Barlow, Esq of Middlethorp, near York, who kept a pack of beagles, was at Harrogate, and liking Met∣calf, gave him an invitation to spend the winter at Middlethorp, desiring him to bring his horse: the invitation was gladly accepted, and he went out with Mr. Barlow's hounds twice a week, highly gratified in the enjoy∣ment of his favourite sport. While at Mid∣dlethorp, he was invited by Mr. Hebdin, an eminent musician, of York, to come to his house, and play, offering him, gratis, any service or instruction in his power: this kind offer Metcalf readily accepted, and went to practice music on those days when there was no hunting.
Page 20He had now completed a visit of six months to the worthy 'Squire of Middle∣thorpe;—and the hunting season being almost over, he proposed to his patron to take a farewell hunt in the forenoon, intending to proceed to Knaresborough in the evening.—He accordingly set out with the hounds in the morning; returned with the 'Squire at noon; got himself and his horse well fed and watered, and then pro∣ceeded to York, to take leave of Mr. Heb∣din, previous to his going home. He had learned to walk, and ride very readily through most of the streets of York; and as he was riding past the George Inn, in Coneystreet, Standish, the landlord, stopped him, calling out
On the North-West end of Kirk-Hammer∣ton Moor, the road to Knaresborough joined the main road which leads to Boroughbridge by a sudden turn to the left; but Metcalf Page 22 cleared that without any difficulty. When they came to Allerton-Mauleverer, the stran∣ger asked whose large house that was on the right; and was immediately informed by Metcalf. A little farther on, the road is crossed by the one from Wetherby to Bo∣roughbridge, and proceeds along by the high brick wall of Allerton Park. There was a road leading out of the Park, opposite to the gate upon the Knaresborough road, which Metcalf was afraid of missing; but the wind being from the East, and he per∣ceiving a blast coming through the Park∣gate, he readily turned his horse to the oppo∣site gate which leads to Knaresborough. Reaching out his hand to open it, he felt the heel, as it is called; and, backing his horse, exclaimed
Arrived at their journey's end, they stop∣ped at the house now called the Granby, but found that the ostler was gone to bed.—Metcalf being very well acquainted with the place, led both the horses into the stable, and the ostler soon after appearing, he delivered them to his care, and went into the house to inquire after his fel∣low-traveller, whom he found comfortably seated over a tankard of negus, in which he pledged his guide; but when Metcalf at∣tempted to take the tankard, he reached out his hand wide of the mark: however, he soon found it, and drank; and going out again, left to the landlord the opportunity of explaining to his companion what he was not yet sensible of.—
1736. The Harrogate season now com∣mencing, Metcalf, of course, resumed his occupation; and, being of a jocular and comic turn, was so well received at all the inns, that he obtained free quarters for himself and horse.
The Green Dragon at that place was then kept by a Mr. Body, who had two nephews with him; and when the hunting season drew near its close, these with some other young men expressed a great desire for a day's sport; and knowing that Mr. Wood∣burn, the master of the Knaresborough pack of hounds, had often lent them to Metcalf for the same purpose, they doubted not of the success of his application: being, how∣ever, unprovided with hunters, they were obliged to defer the day for near a fortnight before they could be accommodated.
Page 28On the evening before the appointed day, Metcalf went, flushed with hope, to Mr. Woodburn, requesting him to lend the pack for the next day. This was a favour out of his power to grant, having engaged to meet 'Squire Trapps, with the hounds, next morning, upon Scotton Moor, for the pur∣pose of entering some young fox-hounds.—Chagrined at this, Metcalf debated with himself whether the disappointment should fall to Mr. Woodburn's friends, or his own: determining that it should not be the lot of the latter, he arose the next morning before day-break, and crossed the High Bridge, near which he had the advantage of the joint echos of the Old Castle and Belmont Wood. He had brought with him an extraordinary good hound of his own, and taking him by the ears, made him give mouth very loudly, himself giving some halloos at the same time. This device had so good an effect, that in a few minutes he had nine couple about him, as the hounds were kept by various people about the shambles, &c. and were suffered to Page 29 lay unkennelled. Mounting his horse, away he rode with the dogs to Harrogate, where he met his friends, ready mounted, and in high spirits. Some of them proposed going to Bilton Wood; but this was opposed by Metcalf, who preferred the Moor: in fact, he was apprehensive of being followed by Mr. Woodburn, and wished to be further from Knaresborough upon that account.
Pursuant to his advice, they drew the Moor, at the distance of five miles, where they started a hare, killed her after a fine chace, and immediately put up another:—just at this moment came up Mr. Woodburn, foaming with anger, swearing most terribly, and threatening to send Metcalf to the devil, or at least to the house of correction; and, his passion rising to the utmost, rode up with an intention to horsewhip him, which Metcalf prevented, by galloping out of his reach.—Mr. Woodburn then endeavoured to call off the hounds; but Metcalf, knowing the fleet∣ness of his own horse, ventured within speak∣ing, though not within whipping, distance of Page 30 him, and begged that he would permit the dogs to finish the chace, alledging that it would spoil them to take them off; and that he was sure they would (as they actually did) kill in a very short time. Metcalf soon found that Mr. Woodburn's anger had begun to abate; and going nearer to him, pleaded in excuse a misunderstanding of his plan, which he said he thought had been fixed for the day after. The apology succeeded with this good-natured gentleman, who, giving the hare to Metcalf, desired he would accom∣pany him to Scotton Moor, whither, though late, he would go, rather than wholly dis∣appoint Mr. Trapps. The reader, by this time, knows enough of Metcalf to believe he was not averse to this proposal; so leaving the hares with his comrades, and engaging to be with them in the evening, he joined his old associate. The day being advanced, Metcalf objected to the circuitous way of Harrogate Bridge, proposing to cross the river Nidd at Holm Bottom; and Mr. Wood∣burn not being acquainted with the ford, Page 31 he again undertook the office of guide, and leading the way, they soon arrived at Scot∣ton Moor, where Mr. Trapps and his com∣pany had waited for them two hours. Mr. Woodburn explained the cause of the delay, and, being now able to participate in the joke, the affair ended very agreeably.
Metcalf stayed with this company until three in the afternoon, and then set off for Harrogate, crossing the river. He had not tasted food that day; but when he got to his friends, he found them preparing the brace of hares, with many other good things, for supper; and after spending many jovial hours, he played country-dances till day∣light.
When the Harrogate season was over, it was Metcalf's constant custom to visit at the inns, always spending the evening at one or other of them. At the Royal Oak (now the Granby) in particular, scenes of mirth were often going forward; and at these he greatly attracted the notice of one of the land∣lord's daughters.
Page 32In the summer he used often to run his horse for the petty plates or prizes given at the feasts in the neighbourhood; and on all these occasions, when in her power, she was sure to attend, with her female friends. By frequent intercourse, the lady and Metcalf became very intimate; and this intimacy produced mutual regard and confidence. Her mother being a high-spirited woman, had brought up her daughters, as she hoped at least, with notions ill suited to the condi∣tion of Metcalf; so that in order to disguise the state of their hearts from her parents, the lovers agreed on a set of names and phrases, intelligible to each other, though not so to them. He used to call himself Mary, or Tibby, (at once changing the sex, and speaking as if of a third person); and she, Harry, or Dickey, or some such name. Whenever he sought to intimate to her his intention of visiting her, he would say,
One night, in particular, Metcalf having, in consequence of an appointment, arrived there about midnight, and got in by a window that had been designedly left open; in his way to the young woman's room, he met the old one in the middle of the stair-case! Both parties were much surprised; and the mistress asking angrily
In summer he would often play at bowls, making the following conditions with his antagonist, viz. to receive the odds of a bowl extra for the deficiency of an eye.—By these terms he had three for the other's one. He took care to place a friend and confidant at the jack, and another about mid-way; and those, keeping up a constant discourse with him, enabled him, by their voices, to judge of the distance. The degree of bias he could always ascertain by feeling; and, odd as it may seem, was very frequently the winner.
Cards, too, began to engage his attention; all of which he could soon distinguish, un∣assisted; and many were the persons of rank who, from curiosity, played with him, he generally winning the majority of the games.
Page 35But the atchievements already enumerated were far from bounding either his ambition or capacity: He now aspired to the acquaint∣ance of jockies of a higher class than he had hitherto known, and to this end frequented the races at York and many other places; when he always found the better kind of per∣sons inclined to lend him their skill in making his bets, &c. impressed, as they no doubt were, with sympathy for his situation, and surprize at his odd propensity.
He commonly rode to the race-ground amongst the crowd; and kept in memory both the winning and losing horses.
Being much in the habit of visiting York in the winter time, a whim would often take him to call for his horse at bed-time, and set out for Knaresborough, regardless of the bad∣ness of the roads and weather, and of all remonstrance from his friends; yet the hand of Providence always conducted him in safety.—It was quite common for him to go from Skipton, over the Forest Moor, to Knares∣borough, alone; but if he had company, Page 36 and it was night, he was, of course, the foremost.
About the year 1738, Metcalf having increased his stud, and being aware of the docility of that noble animal, the horse, so tutored his own, that whenever he called them by their respective names, they would immediately answer him by neighing. This was chiefly accomplished by some discipline at the time of feeding. He could, however, without the help of those responses, select his own horses out of any number.
Having matched one of his horses, to run three miles, for a wager of some note, and the parties agreeing to ride each his own, they set up posts at certain distances, on the Forest, including a circle of one mile; having, of course, three rounds to go. Great odds were laid against Metcalf, upon the supposition of his inability to keep the course. But what did his ingenuity suggest in this dilemma: or, rather, what did it anticipate? He procured four dinner-bells from the different inns, with what others he Page 37 could borrow; and placing a man, with a bell, at each post, he was enabled, by the ringing, to turn; and fully availing him∣self of the superior fleetness of his horse, came in winner, amidst the plaudits and exultations of the multitude, except only those who had betted against him.
A gentleman of the name of Skelton then came up, and proposed to Metcalf a small wager, that he could not gallop a horse of his fifty yards, and stop him within two hundred. This horse was notorious as a run-away, and had baffled the efforts of the best and strongest riders to hold him. Met∣calf agreed to the wager, upon condition that he might choose his ground; but Skel∣ton objected to there being either hedge or wall in the distance. Metcalf, every ready at any thing that was likely to produce a joke, agreed; the stakes were deposited; and knowing that there was a large bog near the Old Spa at Harrogate, he mounted at about the distance of an hundred and fifty yards from it. Having observed the wind, Page 38 and placed a person who was to sing a song, for the guidance of sound, he set off, at full gallop, for the bog, and soon fixed the horse saddle-skirt deep in the mire. He then floundered through the dirt as well as he was able, till he gained a firm footing; when he demanded his wager, which was allotted him by the general suffrage. It was with the greatest difficulty, however, that the horse could be extricated.—That Metcalf was so well acquainted with this spot, was owing to his having, about three weeks before, relieved a stranger who had got fast in it in the night, and whose cries had attracted him.
It was now no unusual thing with him to buy horses, with a view to sell them again. Happening to meet with a man who had left the place of huntsman to a pack of sub∣scription hounds kept by Sir John Kaye, 'Squire Hawkesworth, and others, and who had a horse to sell, Metcalf inquired his price, at the same time requesting per∣mission to ride him a little way. Having Page 39 trotted the horse a mile or two, he returned, telling the owner that the eyes of his nag would soon fail. The man, however, stood firm to his demand of twenty-five guineas for the horse, alledging that he was beauti∣fully moulded, only six years old, and his action good. Metcalf then took the man into the stable, and desired him to lay his hand upon the eyes of the horse, to feel their uncommon heat; asking him, at the same time, how he could, in conscience, demand so great a price for a horse that was going blind. This treaty ended with Met∣calf's purchasing the horse, bridle, and sad∣dle, for fourteen pounds.
A few days after, as he was riding on his new purchase, he ran against a sign-post, upon the Common, near the Toy-Shop, and nearly threw it down. Not discouraged by this, he set off for Ripon, to play at an assembly; and passing by a place at Harro∣gate called the World's-End, he overtook a man going the Ripon road.—With him Metcalf laid a wager of six-pennyworth of Page 40 liquor, that he would get first to an alehouse at some small distance. The ground being rough, Metcalf's horse soon fell, and lay for a while on the thigh of his master, when, making an effort to rise, he cut Metcalf's face with one of his fore shoes. The Rev. Mr. Richardson coming up at this moment, and expressing his concern for the accident, Metcalf told him that nothing had hurt him but the cowardice of his horse, who had struck him whilst he was down. His instru∣ment, however, suffered so materially, that he was obliged to borrow one to perform on for the night, at Ripon, to which place he got without further accident. The assembly over, he set off to return to Harrogate, and arrived there about three in the morning.
He now thought it was time to dispose of his fine horse, whose eyes began to discharge much. After applying the usual remedies of allum blown into the eyes, roweling in different parts, &c. he found him in market∣able condition; and knowing that there would soon be a great shew of horses with∣out Page 41 Micklegate-Bar, at York, he resolved to take the chance of that mart; and setting out the night before, put up at the Swan, in Micklegate. The next morning, when the shew began, Metcalf's nag attracted the notice of one Carter, a very extensive dealer, who asking the price, was told twenty-two guineas. Carter then inquired if he was found, and received for answer,
Having sold his horse, he set off on foot for Harrogate; but before he had got to Holgate (about a mile on his way) he was overtaken by a Knaresborough man, on horseback, who proposed, for two shillings-worth of punch, to let him ride in turn, dividing the distances equally. Metcalf thought the man was unreasonable in his Page 42 demand, but agreed to it at length; and giving his companion one tankard, he, by consent, got the first ride, with instructions to the following effect, viz. That he should ride on till he got a little beyond Poppleton-Field, where he would see a gate on his right hand, to which he should fasten the horse, and leaving him for the owner, proceed. Metcalf not seeing the gate, as described, rode on to Knaresborough, which was seven∣teen miles from the place where he had left his fellow-traveller. He then left the horse at the owner's house, saying that the master having got into a return-chaise, had de∣sired him to ride the horse home.—The owner was greatly enraged at being lest to walk so long a way; but, on Metcalf's pleading that he never saw the gate, he found it his interest to join in the laugh.
Being now in the prime of life, and posses∣sing a peculiar archness of disposition, with an unceasing flow of spirits, and a contempt of danger, seldom if ever equalled by one in his circumstances, it will not be wondered at Page 43 that levities, such as are before recited, should have employed a considerable portion of his time. The sequel, however, will, in due course, shew, that he was capable of embarking in, and bringing to perfection, several schemes, of public as well as private utility; and this promise to the reader, it is hoped, will insure his patience, while he is made the companion of the author in a few more of his frolicsome adventures.
In the year 1738 Metcalf attained the age of twenty-one years, and the height of six feet one inch and an half, and was remark∣ably robust withal.
At that time there lived at Knaresborough one John Bake, a man of a ferocious temper and athletic figure. He was considered in the neighbourhood as a champion, or rather bully; and thus qualified, was often em∣ployed specially, to serve writs or warrants, in cases where desperate resistance was ex∣pected. Metcalf going one evening, with a friend, to a public house, they there met this Bake; and a short time after, Metcalf's Page 44 and Bake sat down to cards. The latter took some money off the table, to which he was not entitled; and the former remon∣strating on the injustice of Bake, received from him a violent blow. Metcalf interposing with words only at first, was treated in the same manner; when instantly entering into combat with this ruffian, he bestowed upon him such discipline as soon extorted a cry for mercy.
To the fame which Metcalf had acquired by various means, was now added that of a boxer, though he was far from being ambi∣tious of celebrity in that way. Some little time after, Metcalf was called up at midnight by this very Bake, who, knowing by experi∣ence the prowess and powers of his late anta∣gonist, had presumed to make a bet of five guineas, that Metcalf would beat a fellow whose company he had just left.—But Met∣calf gave him to understand, that, although he had store of thumps for those who should treat him with insolence, he was no prize-fighter; and having no quarrel with the man Page 45 in question, he (Bake) might fight or forfeit as he liked best.
Being desirous of getting a little fish, he once, unassisted, drew a net of eighty yards length, in the deepest part of the river Wharfe, for three hours together. At one time he held the lines in his mouth, being obliged to swim.
The following wager he laid, and won: He engaged with a man at the Queen's Head at Harrogate, to go to Knaresborough Cross, and return, in less time than the other would gather one hundred and twenty stones, laid at regular distances of a yard each, and, taking one stone at a time, put them all into a basket placed at one end of the line.
Meeting with some company, amongst whom there was one of a boastful turn, Metcalf proposed to go against him from Harrogate to Knaresborough Cross, provided he would take the way which Metcalf should choose. To this the other agreed, believing that he could easily keep pace with Metcalf till he should arrive within sight of the Cross, Page 46 and that he could then push forward, and beat him. But when they got within half a mile of the town, Metcalf quitted the road which leads over the High Bridge, and, knowing that his antagonist could not swim, made for a deep part of the river above Bridge, and divesting himself of his upper drapery, swam across; at the same time cal∣ling out jeeringly to his adversary,
About this time, Dr. Chambers, of Ripon, had a well-made horse, which he used to hunt; but finding that latterly he became a great stumbler, he exchanged him with a dealer, who took him to Harrogate, and meeting with Metcalf, told him he had an excellent hunter to sell at a low price.—Metcalf desired to try how the horse leaped, and the owner agreeing, he mounted him, and found that he could go over any wall or fence, the height of himself when saddled. A bargain was soon struck; and this hap∣pening Page 47 at the Queen's Head, several gen∣tlemen who were witnesses of the horse's performance invited Metcalf to accompany them, two days after, to Belmont Wood, where a pack of hounds were to throw off.
These hounds were the joint property of Francis Trapps, Esq and his brother, of Nidd, near Ripley. A pack superior to this was not to be found in the kingdom; nor were the owners themselves ever excelled in their attention to their dogs and hunters.
The wished-for day arriving, Metcalf at∣tended the gentlemen, and the hounds were not long in finding. The fox took away to Plumpton Rocks, but finding all secure there he made for Stockeld Wood, and found matters in the same state as at Plump∣ton.—He had then run about six miles. He came back, and crossed the river Nidd near the Old Abbey, and went on the East side of Knaresborough, to a place called Coney-Garths (where there were earths) near Scriven. Metcalf's horse carried him nobly; pulling hard, and requiring propor∣tionate Page 48 resistance. The wind being high, Metcalf lost his hat, but would not stop to recover it; and coming to Thistle-Hill, near Knaresborough, he resolved to cross the river at the Abbey-Mill, having often before gone, on foot, over the dam-stone. When he got to the dam, he attended to the noise of the fall, as a guide, and ranging his horse in a line with the stones, dashed forward for some part of the way; but the stones being slippery with a kind of moss, his horse stum∣bled, but recovered this and a second blun∣der: the third time, however, floundering completely, away went horse and rider into the dam. Metcalf had presence of mind to disengage his feet from the stirrups, during the descent; but both the horse and himself were immersed over head in water. He then quitted his seat, and made for the oppo∣site side, the horse following him. Having secured his nag, he laid himself down on his back, and held up his heels to let the water run out of his boots; which done, he quickly re-mounted, and went up a narrow lane Page 49 which leads to the road between Knares∣borough and Wetherby; then through some lanes on the North-East side of Knares∣borough; and crossing the Boroughbridge road, he got to the Coney-Garths, where he found that the whipper-in only had arrived before him.
Here the fox had earthed, as was expected; and the other horsemen (who had gone over the Low Bridge, and through the town) after some time came up.—They were much surprised at finding Metcalf there, and attri∣buted the soaked condition of himself and horse to profuse sweating; nor were they undeceived till (giving up the fox) they got to Scriven, where, upon an explanation of the affair, they laughed heartily.
In the circle of Metcalf's acquaintance at Knaresborough were two young men, whose sister lived with them in the capacity of housekeeper; and she being of a jocular turn, would often, on Metcalf's calling at the house, propose such whimsical schemes to him, as gave him reason to believe that to Page 50 laugh and be merry was the chief business of her life. However, she one evening apprised him of her intention to pay him a visit in the night, and desired him to leave his door unlocked. A knowledge of the woman's mirthful propensity made him at first con∣sider this as a joke; but, on the other hand, he though it possible that a real assignation was intended; and being too gallant to disappoint a lady, he told her he would obey her orders. Too sure for the future peace of Metcalf, the lady was punctual to her appointment; coming at the dead time of night to his mother's house, unawed at pas∣sing by the church, whose sanction was want∣ing. It would be impertinent to derain the reader on the subject of the meeting: suffice it to say, that Metcalf too had unfortunately left his scruples at another house. In a few months after, this tender creature accosted him in the usual way—
Page 51Whatever compunction Metcalf might have felt in a case of confiding innocence, pleading for the only compensation in his power, he did not think his conscience very deeply interested in the present: besides, his heart was strongly attached to his first truly respectable and worthy mistress.—His busi∣ness, therefore, was to pacify a troublesome client, which he did in the best manner he was able. The adventure with this dulcinea had happened previous to the above-men∣tioned hunt; but when Metcalf accompa∣nied the gentlemen from the Coney-Garths to the village of Scriven, he there heard, on the authority of the landlord of the inn, that a woman had gone that day to filiate a child to him. He endeavoured to be merry on the occasion, alledging, that it could not be so, as he had not seen the woman for several years. This produced a laugh among the company; but with Metcalf it soon took a more serious turn. On his return to Harro∣gate he employed his fellow-fidler to procure a meeting between him and his favourite, Page 52 Dorothy Benson, which was effected with some difficulty; and he took this occasion to inform her of his disgrace, judging it better to be before-hand with her, in a mat∣ter which could not be long concealed.—
Page 54At night, Metcalf ventured to break cover; and judging it unsafe to remain in the neighbourhood of the hounds, he gave his assistant directions to put his little affairs in order—then mounting his horse, he took the road for Scarborough.
As he was walking one day on the sands, with a friend, he resolved to take a swim in the sea, his companion agreeing to give him an halloo when he should think he had gone far enough outward; but the other, not making a sufficient allowance for the noise of the sea, suffered him to go out of hearing before he shouted, and Metcalf continued swimming until he got out of the sight of his friend, who now suspected he should see him no more. At length he began to reflect, that, should he proceed on to Holland, he had nothing in his pocket to make him wel∣come;—so turning, and removing his hair from his ears, he thought he heard the breakers beating against the pier which defends the Spa: finding, by the noise, that Page 55 he was at a great distance, he increased his efforts, and happening to be right, he landed in safety, and relieved his friend from a very painful situation.
Having an aunt at Whitby, near the Allum-works, he went there, left his horse, and got on board an allum ship bound for London.
In London he met with a North-country man who played on the small pipes, and who frequented the houses of many gentle∣men in town. By his intelligence Metcalf found out several who were in the habit of visiting Harrogate; and amongst others, Colonel Liddell, who resided in King-street, Covent-Garden, and who gave him a gene∣ral invitation to his house. The Colonel was a Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed, and lived at Ravensworth-Castle, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne; and on his return from London into the North, which generally happened in the month of May, he stopped three weeks at Harrogate, for a number of years successively.
Page 56When the winter was over, Metcalf thought he must t•ke a look out of London. Accordingly •e set out through Kensington, Hammersmith, Colnbrook, Maidenhead, and Reading, in Berkshire; and returned by Windsor, and Hampton-Court, to London, in the beginning of May. In his absence, Colonel Liddell had sent to his lodgings, to let him know that he was going to Harrogate, and that, if agreeable to him, he might go down either behind his coach or on the top. Metcalf, on his return, waited upon the Colonel, and thanked him, but declined his kind offer, observing, that he could, with great ease, walk as far in a day as he would choose to travel. The next day, at noon, the Colonel, and his suite, consisting of six∣teen servants on horseback, set off, Metcalf starting about an hour before them. They were to go by way of Bugd•n, and he made his way to Barnet. A little way from Barnet the Bugden and St. Albans roads part, and he had taken the latter: however, he made good the destined stage for sleeping, which Page 57 was Welling, and arrived a little before the Colonel, who was surprized at his perform∣ance. Metcalf set off again the next morn∣ing before his friends, and coming to Big∣gleswade, found the road was crossed with water, there being no bridge at that time. He made a circuitous cast, but found no other way, except a foot-path which he was dubious of trusting. A person coming up, asked,
Metcalf became now in great request as a performer at Ripon assembly, which was resorted to by many families of distinction, such as those of Sir Walter Blacket of Newby, Sir John Wray, Sir R. Graham, 'Squire Rhodes, 'Squire Aislaby of Studley, and many others. When he played alone, Page 60 it was usual with him, after the assembly, to set off for Harrogate or Knaresborough; but when he had an assistant, he remained all night at Ripon to keep him company, his partner being afraid to ride in the dark.
Finding himself worth fifteen pounds, (a larger sum than he ever before had to spare) he made his favourite Miss Benson his trea∣surer; but as he had not yet begun to specu∣late in the purchase of land, and a main of cocks being made in the neighbourhood, he became a party, and drawing his cash from the hands of his fair banker, he lost two-thirds of his whole fortune.—The remaining five pounds he laid on a horse which was to run at York a few days after; and though he had the good fortune to win the last wager, his general imprudence in this way produced a little shyness from his sweetheart.
His competitor (not suspecting the inti∣macy between Metcalf and the young lady) pushed his suit briskly; and after a short time, banns were published in the churches of Knaresborough and Kirby-Overblow.—Page 61 Metcalf was much surprised, having long thought himself secure of her affection. He now began to believe that she had laid more stress on his late follies than he had been aware of, and the remembrance of them gave him exquisite pain, for he loved her tender∣ly, and was restrained from proposing mar∣riage to her only by the doubts he had of being able to support her in the manner she had been accustomed to. On the other hand, his pride made him disdain to shew that he was hurt, or to take any measures to prevent the match. The publication of banns being complete, the wedding-day was appointed.—The supposed bridegroom had provided an entertainment at his house for upwards of two hundred people; and going with a few friends to Harrogate on the Sun∣day, proposed the following day for the nuptials, which were to be solemnized at Knaresborough, intending to return to Har∣rogate to breakfast, where a bride-cake was ready, with a hamper of wine, which latter was to have been carried to Kirby, for the use of the guests he had invited.
Page 62On the Sunday, Metcalf riding pretty smartly past the Royal Oak, towards the Queen's Head, was loudly accosted in these words—
The girl who had called him being present, he told her, that as she and his horse were the only witnesses to what had passed, he would kill the first who should divulge it.—The immediate concern was to six on some Page 63 plan, as Miss Benson was apprehensive of being missed by her friends.—Jack, ever prompt at an expedient, desired that she would that night place a lighted candle in one of the windows of the old house, as soon as the coast was clear, and herself ready to set off, which will doubtless appear to the reader a very extraordinary signal to a blind man; but he had conceived measures for carrying the projected elopement into effect by the assistance of a third person. This being approved of, she went into the house, and in a short time was followed by Metcalf, who was warmly received by the supposed bridegroom and company. The tankard went briskly round with
Having stayed till it was near dark, he thought it time for putting business into a proper train. Going then to a public house known by the name of the World's End, he inquired for the ostler, whom he knew to be Page 64 a steady fellow; and after obtaining from this man a promise either to serve him in an affair of moment in which he was engaged, or keep the secret, he related the particulars of his assignation, and the intended elope∣ment; to forward which, he desired him to let them have his master's mare, which he knew would carry double.—This agreed on, he requested the further service of meeting him at the Raffle Shop (now the Library) at ten o'clock: a whistle was to be given by the first who got there, as a signal. They met pretty punctually; and Metcalf asked him if he saw a star, meaning the light before mentioned: he said, he did not; but in less than half an hour the star was in the place appointed. They then left the horses at a little distance from the house, not choosing to venture into the court-yard, it being paved. On the door being opened by the lady, he asked her if she was ready; to which she replied in the affirmative.—He advised her, however, to pack up a gown or two, as she probably might not see her mother again for Page 65 some time. The ostler having recommended the lady's pillion to Metcalf, in preference to that of his mistress, he asked her for it:—
Metcalf left his bride, on his return, at a friend's house within five miles of Harrogate, but did not dismount, being in haste to return the mare he had borrowed with French leave. A few minutes after their Page 66 return, Mr. Body, the landlord, called for his mare, to go to Knaresborough, and fortunately she was ready for him.
Metcalf now went to the Queen's Head, to perform the usual service of playing during the breakfast half hour. His over∣night's excursion made him rather thought∣ful, having got a bird, but no cage for it. While he was musing on this subject, an acquaintance, who made one of the intended bridegroom's company the evening before, came up, and asked him to take a glass with him. Metcalf quickly guessed what his busi∣ness was, but adjourned with him to a private room, seemingly unconcerned.
This narrative (a part of which was no news to Metcalf) was scarcely finished, when young Benson appeared; and Metcalf put an end to all inquiry, by declaring the truth: and thinking it his duty to conciliate, if possible, those whom he had offended, he employed the softest phrases he was master of on the occasion. He begged pardon, through their son, of Mr. and Mrs. Benson, whom he did not presume to call father and mother, and wished them to believe that the warmth of his passion for their daughter, with the despair of obtaining their consent, Page 69 had led him to the measures he had taken; and that he would make them the best amends in his power, by the affectionate conduct he should observe to his wife.
The son, in part pacified, left Metcalf, and reported this declaration to his parents: but they were just as well pleased at it, as they would have been at the sight of their build∣ing in flames; and, in the height of passion, declared they would put him to death, if they met with him.
The poor forlorn Dickinson then departed, accompanied by one of Mr. Benson's sons. When they got near his home, they heard two sets of bells, viz. those of Folifoot and Kirby Overblow, ringing, in expectation of the arrival of the bride and groom; but the sound was more like that of a knell to Dickin∣son, who fell from his horse through anguish, but was relieved by the attention of his friend. The company were surprised at not seeing the bride; but matters were soon explained, and they were desired to partake of the fare pro∣vided for them.
Page 70Metcalf not being able, at once, to pro∣cure a Palace for his Queen, took a small house at Knaresborough. It now became matter of wonder that she should have pre∣ferred a blind man to Dickinson, she being as handsome a woman as any in the country. A lady having asked her why she had refused so many good offers for Blind Jack; she answered,
He now went to Harrogate, as usual, with the exception of one house. Meeting with a butcher there one day, and drinking pretty Page 71 freely, a wager was proposed to Metcalf, that he durst not visit his mother-in-law. He took the wager, mounted his horse, and riding up to the kitchen-door, called for a pint of wine. There being then only women in the house, they all ran up stairs in a fright. He then rode into the kitchen, through the house, and out at the hall-door, no one molesting him. As there were many evi∣dences to this act of heroism, he returned, and demanding the stakes, received them without opposition.
The Harrogate season being on the decline, he retired to Knaresborough, where he pur∣chased an old house, intending to build on its scite the next summer. Assisted by ano∣ther stout man, he began to get stones up from the river; and being much used to the water, took great delight in this sort of work. Meeting with some workmen, he told them the intended dimensions of his house, and they named a price, by the rood, for build∣ing it: but Metcalf, calculating from his own head, found that their estimate would Page 72 not do; so letting them the job by lump agreement, they completed it at about half the sum which they would have got by the rood.
He now went to the Oak, to demand his wife's cloaths, but was refused: on a second application, however, he succeeded. His wife having brought him a boy, and some genteel people being the sponsors, they em∣ployed their good offices to heal the breach between the families, and were so fortunate as to succeed. On the birth of a daughter (the second child) Mrs. Benson herself was godmother, and presented Metcalf with fifty guineas.
He continued to play at Harrogate in the season; and set up a four-wheel chaise, and a one-horse chair, for public accommodation, there having been nothing of the kind there before.—He kept those vehicles two sum∣mers, when the innkeepers beginning to run chaises, he gave them up; as he also did racing, and hunting; but still wanting em∣ployment, he bought horses, and went to Page 73 the coast for fish, which he took to Leeds and Manchester; and so indesatigable was he, that he would frequently walk for two nights and a day, with little or no rest.
Going from Knaresborough to Leeds in a snow-storm, and crossing a brook, the ice gave way under one of his horses, and he was under the necessity of unloading to get him out; but the horse as soon as free ran back to Knaresborough, leaving him with two pan∣niers of fish, and three other loaded horses, which, together with the badness of the night, greatly perplexed him:—After much difficulty, however, he divided the weight amongst the others, and pursuing his journey, arrived at Leeds by break of day.
Once passing through Halifax, he stopped at an inn called the Broad Stone. The land∣lord's son and some others who frequented Harrogate seeing Metcalf come in, and hav∣ing often heard of his exploits, signified a wish to play at cards with him: he agreed, and accordingly they sent for a pack, which he desired to examine a little. The man of Page 74 the house being his friend, he could depend upon his honour in preventing deception. They began, and Metcalf beat four of them in turn; playing for liquor only. Not satis∣fied with this, some of the company proposed playing for money; when engaging at shil∣ling whist, Metcalf won fifteen shillings. The party who lost then proposed to play double or quit, but Metcalf declined playing for more than shilling points; till at last yielding to much importunity, he got en∣gaged for guineas, and, favoured by fortune, won ten, the whole sum late in the possession of the loser, who took up the cards, and going out, soon returned with eight guineas more: Metcalf's friend examined the cards, to see that they were not marked; and find∣ing all fair, they went on again, until those eight pieces followed the other ten. They then drank freely at Metcalf's cost, he being in good circumstances to treat. About ten at night he took his leave, saying he must be at Knaresborough in the morning, having sent his horses before. On his way he cros∣sed Page 75 the river Wharfe about a mile below Poole: the water being high, his horse swam, but he got safe home; and this ended his pursuits as a fishmonger, the profits being small, and his fatigue very considerable.
From the period of his discontinuing the business of fishmonger, Metcalf continued in the practice of attending Harrogate, as a player on the violin in the Long-room, until the commencement of the Rebellion in 1745.
The events of that period having been so numerously and so minutely detailed, that any one the least conversant in the history of this country cannot be unacquainted with the origin, progress, and termination of the civil commotions which agitated it,—it would appear unnecessary to obtrude the narration of them here, further than may seem needful to introduce the part in which Metcalf bore a personal share. The circumstance of his commencing soldier, was at that time, and will still by the reader, be looked upon as a very extraordinary proceeding of one in his situation.
Page 76The alarm which took place, in conse∣quence of that event, was general; and loyalty to the reigning Sovereign, and Government, with measures for resistance to the Rebel Party, shone no where more conspicuous than in the County of York.
Amongst the many instances which mark this, none were more striking than the sig∣nally-gallant conduct of the late WILLIAM THORNTON, Esq of Thornville.
The opinion of that gentleman, as deli∣vered at the General County Meeting held at the Castle of York, was, that the four thou∣sand men, (for the raising, cloathing, and maintaining of which ninety thousand pounds had been subscribed) should be embodied in companies with the regulars, and march with the King's forces to any part where their services might be required.—This mode of proceeding, however, not meeting the opi∣nion of the majority of the gentlemen present, he determined to raise a company at his own expence.
Page 77In consequence of that resolution, Mr. Thornton went to Knaresborough about the first of October, 1745; and Metcalf having for several years been in the practice of visit∣ing that gentleman's mansion, (particularly at the festive season of Christmas, where, with his violin and hautboy, he assisted to entertain the family) Mr. Thornton was well acquainted with his extraordinary disposition, and, imagining that he might be of service to him in his present undertaking, sent for our blind hero to his inn, treated him liberally with punch, and, informing him
Such was their success, that in two days only they enlisted one hundred and forty men, out of whom the Captain drafted sixty-four, (the number of privates he wanted) and sent immediately to Leeds for cloth of a good quality for their cloathing. The coats were blue, trimmed and faced with buff; and buff waistcoats. The taylors he had employed refusing to work on a Sunday, he rebuked their fanatical scruples in these words:
He now began to found the company as to their attachment to the cause and to himself.
All matters being adjusted, the company was drawn up, and amongst them BLIND JACK made no small figure, being near six feet two inches high, and, like his compa∣nions, dressed in blue and buff, with a large gold-laced hat: So well pleased was the Captain with his appearance, that he said he would give an hundred guineas for only one eye to stick in the head of his dark champion.
Jack now played a march of the Captain's choosing, and off they moved for Borough∣bridge. Capt. Thornton having a discretion∣ary route, took his march over the moors, in expectation of meeting some of the straggling parties of the rebel army; and quartered at several villages in his way, where he was kindly received, and visited by the heads of the genteelest families in the neighbourhood, who generally spent the evenings with him. Metcalf being always at the Captain's quar∣ters, Page 81 played on the violin, accompanied by a good voice,
Arriving at Newcastle, they joined the army under the command of General Wade, by whose order they were united with Pulte∣ney's regiment, which, having suffered much in some late actions abroad, was thought the weakest. Captain Thornton gave orders for tents for his men, and a marquee for himself, for which he paid the upholsterer eighty guineas. He pitched them on New∣castle Moor, and gave a pair of blankets to each tent. Jack observed to his Captain,
After stopping here for about a week, the General received intelligence of the motions of the rebels, and gave orders to march by break of day for Hexham, in three columns, wishing to intercept them upon the West road, as their route seemed to be for England that way. The tents were instantly struck; but the Swiss troops having the van, and not being willing to move at so early an hour, it was half past ten before they left the ground, and the snow by that time was become extremely deep in several places: it also proved a very severe day for hail and frost. They were often three or four hours in marching a mile, the pioneers having to lower the hills, and fill up several ditches, to make a passage for the artillery and baggage.
About ten at night they arrived at Oving∣ton, the place marked out for them, with Page 83 straw to rest on; but the ground was frozen so hard, that but few of the tent-pins would enter it, and in those few tents which were pitched, the men lay one upon another, greatly fatigued with their march, it having been fifteen hours from the time of their striking the tents, till their arrival at this place, although the distance is only seven miles.
At eleven o'clock at night Captain Thorn∣ton left the camp, and went to Hexham, to visit his relation, Sir Edward Blacket, and with a view of getting provisions and neces∣saries for his men: he was only nine hours absent, as, although it was Sunday morning, the march was to be continued. It having been customary to burn the straw, to warm the men before they set off, orders were here given to preserve it, in case it might be wanted on their return. However, Captain Thornton and the Lieutenant being absent, and the Ensign having died at Newcastle, Metcalf took it upon him to say,
That day they reached Hexham, where they halted. On Monday night, about ten o'clock, the army was put in motion by a false alarm. Here General Wade resolved to return; and immediately began the march for York, by way of Piersebridge, Catterick, and Boroughbridge; and continuing his route Southward, encamped his men on Clifford Moor, where they halted a few days, and then moved to a ground between Ferry∣bridge and Knottingley. The rebels had now penetrated Southward as far as Derby; but the General having heard that they had received a check from the Duke of Cumber∣land, Page 85 sent General Oglethorpe with a thou∣sand horse towards Manchester, either to harrass the enemy in their retreat, or to join the Duke's forces; and returned himself with the remainder, by Wakefield-Outwood, and Leeds, to Newcastle.
In the mean time the Duke came up with the rebels at Clifton, on the borders of Westmoreland, of which Lord George Mur∣ray, with the rear guard, had taken possession, whilst another party had fortified themselves behind three hedges and a ditch.
The Duke coming upon the open moor after sun-set, gave orders for three hundred dragoons to dismount, and advance to the brink of the ditch; when the rebels fired upon them from behind the hedges, which they returned, and fell a few paces back: the rebels mistaking this for flight, rushed over the ditch, but meeting a warmer recep∣tion than they expected, were glad to retreat, and continued their route to Penrith.
The Duke's army was not able to follow, owing to the badness of the roads, and the Page 86 fatigue of a tedious march; but the next morning he pursued them to Penrith; and from thence to Carlisle, where they left part of their army.
His Royal Highness thought it advisable to reduce this place, and accordingly sent for heavy artillery from Whitehaven, which ar∣riving on the 25th of December, the garrison surrendered on the 30th, and his Royal Highness returned to London. General Wade continued his march for the North, dismissing all the foreigners from his army; and General Hawley on coming from London to take the command, was joined by some regiments which had been withdrawn from Flanders. They marched to Edinburgh; from thence to Falkirk, and pitched their tents on the North-East side of the town, on the 16th of January.
The Highland army being at Torwood, about mid-way between Falkirk and Stirling, and distant from the English camp only about three miles, they could easily discover each other's camp-lights. The English army lay Page 87 all night on their arms, in expectation of being attacked; but the van and picquet guards came in on the morning of the 17th, having observed no motions in the rebel camp which shewed any signs of an attack, although they were as near them as safety would permit. Soon after, the enemy were observed to move some of their colours from Torwood, towards Stirling, which made the English suppose that they were retreating; but this motion was a feint to deceive them. However, upon this appearance, the soldiers were ordered to pile their arms, and take some refreshment; and although Lord Kil∣marnock was in the rebel army, General Hawley went to breakfast with Lady Kilmar∣nock, at Callendar-House. The enemy, in the mean time, stole a march down a valley Northward, unperceived; but just before the army discovered them, they were seen by a person who ran into the camp, exclaiming,
Captain Thornton's company was embo∣died with the matrosses, who were thought too weak; and this was a great disappoint∣ment to him, whose intention was to be in the front, whenever an engagement should take place. Metcalf played before them to the field; but the flag cannon sinking in a bog, Captain Thornton exclaimed,
The General observing a vast body of the rebels on the right, drew up his men nearer Falkirk, and gave orders to keep the town until morning: however, on examining the powder, they had the mortification to find that the heavy rains had damaged it to such a degree, that but few pieces could be fired; and the village being open on all sides, was a circumstance so favourable to the enemy, as induced that General to form the resolu∣tion of quitting the town with all expedition, and march to Linlithgow, where there was more shelter under the walls, in case of an attack.—This measure was fully justified by the event; for the enemy pursued so closely, that many were taken by surprise, as, in consequence of the order to keep the town all night, several had gone into the houses to put off their wet cloathes; and those who Page 91 were apprised of the retreat had no sooner left the place, than the rebels took possession, and made a great many prisoners, amongst whom were twenty of Captain Thornton's men, with the Lieutenant and Ensign.
Mr. Crofts, the Lieutenant, having eighty guineas in his pocket, begged to make Lord George Murray his treasurer; which office his Lordship accepted, and had afterwards the generosity to return him SIX!
Captain Thornton, also, was in one of the houses, for the purpose before-mentioned, but had not time sufficient to effect his escape; and being alarmed by the bagpipes at the door, he retreated up stairs: in a few minutes several of the rebels rushed up, in search of the fugitives; when one of them came to the very room door behind which he had taken refuge, and overlooking him, said,
We will there leave Captain Thornton, and return to Metcalf, who with the matros∣ses was retiring from the field of battle.
Knowing that two of his master's horses had been left at a widow's house a short distance from the town, he made his way to the place, with intent to secure them. This woman had in the morning expressed great seeming loyalty to King George; but when Metcalf returned in the evening, the wind had changed:—She now extolled Prince Charles, and said the deseat of George's folk was a just judgment.
Page 93Metcalf went into the stable and found the horses, saddled them, and was leading out the first, when he was surrounded by a few stragglers of the Highland army:
They arrived at Linlithgow, where they halted; and the next day they marched to Edinburgh. There the mob, and lower orders of people, were very free in their expressions, and some of the higher also spoke very warmly, in favour of Prince Charles; making it appear clearly, by their own account, that nothing could prevent his coming to the Crown.
The next morning as many of Captain Thornton's men as had escaped being taken prisoners, (about forty-eight in number,) assembled; and none of them being quite certain of having seen the Captain since he Page 95 left them with the cannon in the bog, they supposed him to have shared the fate of many other brave men who had fallen in the action of that day, and which they all sin∣cerely lamented—not only on account of the favours he had individually conferred on them, but for the great and liberal example which he had invariably shewn to his brother officers, in the care and attention which he paid to his men in general; the natural con∣sequence of which was, that he possessed the love and confidence of the soldiery. The disappearance, also, of the two other officers, and twenty of their men, greatly dispirited them; and, together with the suspension from their regular pay, induced some of them to apply to Metcalf for a supply, in order to carry them home; but he laudably refused any aid he might have afforded them, on being informed of the purpose for which it was required.
The army being fixed at Edinburgh, the head-quarters were at the Abbey. The superior officers sent for Metcalf, thinking it Page 96 a singular circumstance that a person de∣prived of sight should enter into the army; and knowing that his master was missing, they desired to converse with him. One of the officers belonging to the dragoons who retreated from Falkirk speaking ironically of Thornton's men, asked Jack how he got off the field of battle.—Metcalf answered,
He now determined upon a journey to Falkirk, in search of his Captain; but this being attended with difficulty, he applied to a Page 97 Knaresborough man who lived at Edinburgh and was of the rebel party, telling him that he wished to be a musician to Prince Charles, as he found it was all over with the English. The man informed him that they had a spy, an Irishman, going to the Prince; on which Metcalf set forward with him, and he pro∣mised to recommend him on their arrival at Falkirk; but on coming up to the English out-sentries, they were stopped:—Metcalf inquired for the Captain, and informed him of the real cause of his journey: by him he was kindly advised to lay aside his project, and told that he would lose his life; but still persisting, he proceeded with the spy, and arrived at Linlithgow, where they stayed all night. They met with several women who had been upon plunder, and were then on their return to Edinburgh; and the spy instructed them how to avoid the English sentries. Metcalf was very careful to exa∣mine the cloathes they had got, thinking that by chance he might meet with some of his Captain's, ignorant as he was of his fate. Page 98 One of the women sent a token by Metcalf to her husband, who was Lord George Murray's cook: this woman's guide was a horse-dealer, who soon became acquainted with Metcalf, having frequented the fairs in Yorkshire; and at this time by some means had got introduced to the heads of both armies, and obtained a protection from each to press horses occasionally.—This man's fate was re∣markable; for going into Stirling, where the King's army lay, he found that orders were given to let no strangers pass without an examination, which he underwent, and said that he had a protection from General Huske: being ordered to produce it, he had the mis∣fortune to take that out of his pocket which he had got from the Pretender; and when informed of his mistake, instantly produced the other—but too late; for he was tied up by the neck to a lamp-iron, without giving him time to put off his boots.
A short time before Metcalf and the spy left the 'Change-house at Linlithgow, some of the van guard of the rebels came in, and Page 99 called for whiskey; and it was supposed that they dropped there a silver-mounted pistol, which, on their setting out, the spy picked up, and offered to Metcalf; but he refused it, saying, he thought it not proper to have fire-arms about him, as he expected to be searched: so they pursued their journey and presently fell in with the rebels out∣guard, several of whom accosted Metcalf, and as all seemed well, they were allowed to pass, and arrived at Falkirk, where he inquired for Lord George Murray's cook, to deliver his present, and was afterwards introduced to and conversed with his Lord∣ship, Secretary Murray, and other gentle∣men. Lord George gave him part of a glass of wine, an article at that time of great value; for as the rebels had been there three times, and the English twice, they had almost swept the cupboard clean of its crumbs.
Whilst conversing with them, he was very circumspect, knowing that his life was in danger, if the real purpose of his journey should be discovered.
Page 100He then made his way towards the market-place, where a number of Highlanders were assembled.—This was on Wednesday the 22d; but it happened that his master had left the place that morning, about four hours before his arrival.
We will now return to Captain Thornton, whom we left on Friday in the closet, in close neighbourhood with the Highland Chiefs, who every day transacted business in the room. The Quarter-Masters of the rebel army hav∣ing taken the house, had given the woman to whom it belonged a small apartment back∣ward; but every night she took care to carry him such provisions as she could convey through a crevice at the bottom of the door; and this mode she used for fear of alarming those who slept in the adjoining rooms. The closet was only a yard and a half square; and the Captain's cloathes being wet when he entered, made his situation the more uncom∣fortable, as he had got a severe cold, and sometimes could not forbear coughing, even when the rebels were in their room. Once Page 101 in particular, hearing a cough, they said one to another
On Monday night the woman of the house went to the door to carry provisions as usual, when the Captain said to her,
With respect to Metcalf, whom we left at Falkirk, as his dress was a plaid waistcoat laced with gold, which he had borrowed of a friend at Edinburgh, together with a blue regimental coat faced with buff, he told the Highlanders, in answer to their inquiries, that he had been fiddling for the English officers, and that they had given him that coat, which had belonged to a man who was killed; and also that his intention was to serve in the same capacity with Prince Charles.—But a person coming up who had seen Jack at Harrogate, said,
In a short time Metcalf and his fellow-prisoners were tried by a court-martial, at which he was acquitted, and had permission given to go to the Prince; but wanting to borrow a clean shirt, they asked him where his own were; he said, at Linlithgow, but that he durst not go there, on account of George's devils. They told him that he might safely go with the Irishman he came with. He knew that his companion had letters for the Highlanders' friends at Edin∣burgh, but had no intention to pass the En∣glish sentries. Metcalf amused him with assurances that he had ten pounds at Edin∣burgh, Page 106 for which he should have no occa∣sion if he joined the Prince, and that he might have the greatest part of it: the spy, on this, became extremely desirous of his company to Edinburgh, wishing to finger the money, and proposed going across the coun∣try; but Metcalf said that he could pass the English sentries, by saying that he was going to Captain Thornton. They then proceeded, and after going two miles, they met an offi∣cer, who was reconnoitring, and he knowing Metcalf, told him that his master was arrived at Edinburgh, which news was highly plea∣sing to him. On leaving the officer, the spy accosted him with
The army still quartered at Edinburgh, while part of the rebels were in Falkirk, and another part at Stirling, where they raised several batteries, and besieged Stirling Castle. The governor, General Blakeney, made little Page 108 opposition; and a shot from the batteries killing two or three men, some of the officers were greatly enraged, and threatened to confine the Governor: But a little time shewed that he was right in his conduct; for letting the rebels come pretty near the walls, on a sudden he began so hot a fire, as to kill several of their men, demolishing their batteries, and dismounting their guns, which made them glad to retreat, and raise the siege: and the General having destroyed the bridge, they were obliged to make a circuit∣ous march before they were able to ford the river.
The Duke of Cumberland arrived at Edin∣burgh on the 30th of January, 1746; and two days afterwards marched out at the head of the army, towards Falkirk, the rebels leaving it a little time before. Captain Thornton visited the Duke often: his Royal Highness took notice of Metcalf, and spoke to him several times on the march, observing how well by the sound of the drum he was able to keep his pace. On the army's arri∣val Page 109 at Linlithgow, intelligence was received that the rebels were on their march to give them battle; upon which the army was drawn up in order, and the Duke rode through the lines, and addressed the men as follows:
At Aberdeen the Duke gave a ball to the ladies, and personally solicited Captain Thorn∣ton for his fidler, there being at that time no music in the army except Colonel Howard's, (the Old Buffs) and which being wind music were unaccustomed to country dances. As the rebel army was only twenty miles distant, Page 110 no invitations were sent till five o'clock, tho' the ball was to begin at six. Twenty-five couple danced for eight hours, and his Royal Highness made one of the set, and several times, as he passed Metcalf, who stood on a chair to play, shouted
Next morning the Duke sent him two guineas; but as he was not permitted to take money, he informed his Captain, who said, that as it was the Duke's money, he might take it; but observed, that he should give his Royal Highness's servants a treat. He had only three servants with him, (viz. his gentleman, cook, and groom.) So the next night two of them paid Metcalf a visit, and a merry party they made, the Captain ordering them great plenty of liquor.
In a little time they proceeded on their march, and engaged the rebels on Culloden moor, giving them a total defeat, although they had targets to ward off the bayonet, whilst they cut away with their broad swords, Page 111 yet the Duke found a method of frustrating their plan, by pushing the bayonet over the right arm, which rendered their targets of no use. Kingston's Light Horse pursued them in their disorder and flight, and made a great slaughter amongst them.
The English prisoners were now all libe∣rated.—Two or three of Captain Thornton's men had died in prison; and the rest re∣turned home.
The rebellion being completely suppressed, Captain Thornton returned home also, ac∣companied by Metcalf, of whose family it is full time to take some notice.—He had the happiness to find his faithful partner and children in good health; and although the former confessed that she had entertained many fears for her poor blind adventurer, yet knowing that a spirit of enterprize made a part of his nature, she was often comforted by the hope, that he would, in some degree, signalize himself, notwithstanding the misfor∣tune under which he laboured.—This decla∣ration, following a most cordial reception, Page 112 gave full confirmation to an opinion which Metcalf had ever held, viz. that the caresses and approbation of the softer sex, are the highest reward a soldier can deserve or obtain.
The notice with which the Duke of Cum∣berland had honoured Metcalf, gave him much reason to believe, that, had he fol∣lowed him to London, he would have re∣ceived more marks of his Royal favour.—But Metcalf was deficient to himself in this instance; neglecting to solicit further notice till it was judged too late to make application.
About a year after their return, a vacancy happening in the representation for the city of York, the citizens sent for Mr. Thornton, and unanimously elected him, free of all expence.
A short time after this, the militia was raised, and he was, as his merit well entitled him to be, appointed Colonel of the West-York battalion; which situation he held, with advantage to the service, and honour to himself, for the remainder of his life.
Page 113Blind Jack being now at liberty to choose his occupation, attended Harrogate as usual; but having, in the course of his Scotch expe∣dition, become acquainted with the various articles manufactured in that country, and judging that some of those might answer for him to traffic with in England, he repaired, in the spring, to Scotland, and supplied him∣self with various articles in the cotton and worsted way, particularly Aberdeen stock∣ings. For all those articles he found a ready sale at the houses of gentlemen in the exten∣sive County of York; and being personally known to most of the families, was ever very kindly received. He never was at a loss to know, amongst a thousand articles, what each had cost him, from a particular mode of marking.
It was also customary with him to buy horses, for sale in Scotland, bringing back galloways in return; and in this traffic he depended on feeling the animals, to direct his choice.
Page 114He also engaged pretty deeply in the con∣traband trade, the profits of which were at that time much more considerable than the risk.
One time in particular, having received a pressing letter from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, requiring his speedy attendance, he set out on horseback from Knaresborough at three in the morning, and got into Newcastle in the evening about six o'clock, the distance nearly seventy-four miles, and did not feel the least fatigued.
Having received some packages, he em∣ployed a few soldiers to convey them to a carrier, judging that men of their description were least liable to suspicion. After sending off his goods, he stayed two nights with some relations he had there, and then set off for home. He had with him about an hundred weight of tea, cased over with tow, and tightly corded up; this he put into a wallet, which he laid across his saddle.
Coming to Chester-le-Street, (about half∣way between Newcastle and Durham) he Page 115 met at the inn an exciseman, who knew him as soon as he had dismounted, and asked him what he had got there. Metcalf answered,
Once having disposed of a string of horses, he bought, with the produce, a quantity of rum, brandy, and tea, to the amount of 200l. put them on board a vessel for Leith, and travelled over-land, on foot, to meet the vessel there. He had about thirty miles to walk, and carried near five stone weight of goods which he did not choose to put on shipboard. At Leith he had the mortifica∣tion to wait six weeks, without receiving any Page 116 tidings of the vessel, which many supposed to have been lost, there having been a storm in the interval. The distress of mind result∣ing from this, induced him once to say,
As this vessel stood in need of repairs, Metcalf put his goods on board another, Page 118 and in her got to Newcastle. There he met with an acquaintance; and from the seem∣ing cordiality at the meeting, he thought he might have trusted his life in the hands of this man. With this impression, Metcalf opened to him the state of his affairs; in∣forming him that he had got four hundred gallons of gin and brandy, for which he had a permit, and about thirty gallons for which he had none, and which he wanted to land; telling him, at the same time, of the harrass∣ing voyage he had just finished: But, it seems, his misfortunes were only about to commence; for, in a quarter of an hour, he found that the man whom he had taken for a friend had gone down to the quay side, and, giving information of what he knew, had all the goods seized, and brought on shore. Metcalf imagined that none were seizable but the small part for which he had not obtained a permit; but was soon un∣deceived, the whole being liable to seizure, as not agreeing with the specified quantity.
Page 119He then repaired to the Custom-House, and applied to Mr. Sunderland, the Collector. This gentleman knew Metcalf, (being in the habit of visiting Harrogate) and received him very kindly; but informed him, with much concern, that it was not in his power to serve him, the captors being the excise people, and not of his department.—He, however, suggested, that some good might result from an application to Alderman Peireth, with whom Metcalf was acquainted, and who was particularly intimate with the Collector of the Excise. The good Alder∣man gave him a letter to the Collector; re∣presenting, as instructed by Metcalf, that the bearer had bought four hundred gallons of spirits, at the Custom-House at Aberdeen; and that the extra quantity was for the pur∣pose of treating the sailors and other friends, as well as for sea-stock for himself. At first the Collector told him that nothing could be done for him, until he should write up to the Board, and receive an answer; but Metcalf remonstrating on the inconvenience of the Page 120 delay, and the other re-considering the letter, he agreed to come down to the quay at four o'clock in the afternoon, which he accor∣dingly did, and released every thing without expence.
A short time after the regiment called the Queen's Bays were raised, they were quar∣tered at Knaresborough and the adjacent towns; but, after a short stay, they were ordered to the North. The country people seemed extremely unwilling to supply car∣riages for conveying the baggage; the King's allowance being but nine-pence a mile, per ton; that of the County, one shilling in the West Riding, and fifteen-pence in the North Riding. Metcalf having two waggons, (one of them covered) had a mind to try this new business; and, to make sure of the job, got the soldiers to press his two carriages, which were accordingly loaded, himself attending them to Durham. Previous to loading, however, the country people, who knew the advantage of carrying for the army, and who had kept back, in hopes of an advance in the Page 121 price, came forward with their waggons, in opposition to Metcalf; but the soldiers would employ no other.
Arriving at Durham, he met Bland's Dragoons, on their march from the North to York: they loaded his waggons again for Northallerton, and would willingly have engaged them to York; but this he was obliged to decline, having promised to bring twenty-three wool-packs to Knaresborough. He was just six days in performing this journey; and cleared, with eight horses and the one he rode, no less a sum than twenty pounds; though many people were afraid to travel with soldiers.
Some time after the Queen's regiment had got to Durham, it received the usual annual recruit of four horses to a troop. The regiment having been so lately raised, had no old horses: nevertheless, four were to be sold from each. Metcalf had notice sent him of the sale, but did not receive the letter until the day before it commenced.—He set off, however, that afternoon, for Dur∣ham, and riding all night, got there by day-break.
Page 122His first business was to become acquainted with the farriers; so getting about half-a-dozen of them together, and plying them heartily with gin, he began to question them as to the horses which were to be sold.
Amongst the number to be disposed of, was a grey one, belonging to one of the drums. The man who had the charge of him not having been sufficiently careful in trimming him, had burnt him severely, which caused a prodigious swelling. Had this careless conduct been known to his superiors, he would have been punished for it: upon that account the matter was hushed up. Metcalf, however, being appri∣zed of the real cause, in the course of his conversation with the farriers, determined to purchase him, judging that they would be desirous to part with him at any price; and in this conjecture he was not mistaken.
The sale began by bringing out seven bay horses; six of which a gentleman bought for a carriage, and Metcalf purchased the seventh.
Page 123They then brought forward the grey horse with his swelled sheath, which excited many jokes and much laughter among the specta∣tors.—Our chapman bought him also, at the very low price of 3l. 15s. od. which was first affixed by the auctioneer, but which, how∣ever, the people said was very much beyond his value.
Having used such applications as he thought efficacious for his recovery, by the time he had got him home he had the satis∣faction to find him perfectly sound; and within a week afterwards refused fifteen guineas for him.—He kept him many years as a draught-horse; and the other horse also was sold to a profit, by which he thought himself very well paid for his journey to Durham.
In the year 1751 Metcalf commenced a new employ:—He set up a stage-waggon between York and Knaresborough, being the first on that road, and conducted it con∣stantly himself, twice a week in the summer season, and once in winter; and this business, Page 124 together with the occasional conveyance of army baggage, employed his attention until the period of his first contracting for the making of roads, which suiting him better, he disposed of his draught, and interest in the road, to one Guiseley.
An act of Parliament having been ob∣tained to make a turnpike-road from Harro∣gate to Boroughbridge, a person of the name of Ostler, of Farnham, was appointed sur∣veyor; and Metcalf falling into company with him, agreed to make about three miles of it, viz. between Minskip and Fearnsby.—The materials were to be procured from one gravel pit for the whole length: he therefore provided deal boards, and erected a tempo∣rary house at the pit, took a dozen horses to the place, fixed racks and mangers; and hired a house for his men at Minskip, which was distant about three-quarters of a mile. He often walked from Knaresborough in the morning, with four or five stone of meat on his shoulders, and joined his men by six o'clock: and by the means he used, he com∣pleted Page 125 the work much sooner than was ex∣pected, to the entire satisfaction of the sur∣veyor and trustees.
During his leisure hours he studied mea∣surement in a way of his own; and when certain of the girt and length of any piece of timber, he was able to reduce its true con∣tents to feet and inches; and would bring the dimensions of any building into yards or feet.
Near the time of his finishing this road, the building of a bridge was advertised to be contracted for, at Boroughbridge; and a number of gentlemen met for that purpose at the Crown inn there. Metcalf, amongst others, went also. The masons varied considerably in their estimates. Ost∣ler, the surveyor of the roads, was appointed to survey the bridge; and Metcalf told him that he wished to undertake it, though he had never done any thing of the kind before. On this, the surveyor acquainted the gentle∣men with what Metcalf had proposed; when he was sent for, and asked what he knew Page 126 about a bridge: he told them, that he could readily describe it, if they would take the trouble of writing down his plan, which was as follows:
Soon after, there was a mile and an half of turnpike-road to be made between Knares∣borough-Bridge and Harrogate, which Met∣calf also agreed for. Going one day over a place covered with grass, he told his men that he thought it different from the ground adjoining, and would have them try for stone or gravel, which they immediately did, and found an old causeway, supposed to have been made in the time of the Romans, which af∣forded many materials proper for the purpose of making the road. Between the Forest-Lane head and Knaresborough-Bridge, there was a bog, in a low piece of ground, over which to have passed was the nearest way; and the surveyor thought it impossible to make a road over it: but Metcalf assured him that he could readily accomplish it.—The other then told him, that if so, he should be paid for the same length as if he had gone Page 128 round. Jack set about it, cast the road up, and covered it with whin, and ling; and made it as good, or better, than any part he had undertaken. He received about four hundred pounds for the road and a small bridge which he had built over a brook called Stanbeck.
There was an old house at Harrogate, with some fields belonging to it, and denominated a messuage, which was of more value, as having common-right upon the Forest. It belonged to an old woman, and at her decease to her husband. Metcalf went to the latter, and bought his contingent right in the house and land; and the old woman came to him soon after, to sell her life-estate in it also. They agreed; and including both the net sum amounted to eighty pounds. In about three weeks after this purchase, he sold it for upwards of two hundred pounds.
A road being projected between Harro∣gate and Harewood-Bridge, six miles in length, a meeting was held, (the late Lord Harewood, then Mr. Lascelles, being one of Page 129 the party) to contract with any person who might be thought proper to make it. A great number of estimates were delivered, but Metcalf obtained the contract. It was to be completed before the winter set in; and being a stiff-clay soil, it was judged expedient to cast the whole length before they began to stone it: on these accounts he agreed with the gentlemen, that no carriages should pass whilst the road was making; and, by way of prevention, had sluices cut at each end of the lane, and wooden bridges, which he took up occasionally, thrown across, for his own carriages to pass over with the materials. He also hired two houses, at a distance from each other on the road, to entertain strangers who travelled on horse∣back, and the people employed in the under∣taking, as there were not sufficient in the country. The short period he had contracted to complete the work in, obliging him to use the readiest methods, he had a wheel-plough drawn by nine horses through the forest, as the best and most expeditious way to get up Page 130 the roots of whin and ling, in parts where they were strong; and being obliged to super∣intend the progress of the work, he obtained leave from the innkeepers at Harrogate to engage a substitute in his absence. He com∣pleted his contract in the time allowed, to the satisfaction of the gentlemen trustees, and of the surveyor; and received for the work twelve hundred pounds.
There then being about a mile and an half of road to be made through part of Chapel-Town to Leeds, Lord Harewood and other gentlemen met at the Bowling-Green in Chapel-Town, to receive estimates;—and Metcalf got the contract. He also widened the arch of Sheepscar-Bridge; and received for that and the road together near four hundred pounds.
Between Skipton and Colne in Lancashire there were four miles of road to be made, and estimates were advertised for. A num∣ber of gentlemen met, and Metcalf's pro∣posals had the preference. The materials were at a greater distance, and more difficult Page 131 to be procured, than he expected; and a wet season coming on, made this a bad bargain; yet he completed it according to contract.
He next engaged for two miles on the Burnleigh road, which he completed; but was not more a gainer.
He then agreed for two miles of road which lay through Broughton to Martin; and two miles more which lay through Addingham, and over part of Romell's Moor. The same trustees acted for those roads, as for that of Colne. These he completed, and received one thousand three hundred and fifty pounds from Mr. Ingham of Burnleigh and Mr. Alcock of Skipton.
After this, a meeting was held at Wake∣field, to contract for making part of the road between that town and Halifax.—Metcalf engaged for four miles which lay between Mill-Bridge and Belly-Bridge; and finished this also, though it was an extremely wet summer.—He then took three miles more which lay between Belly-Bridge and Halifax, and completed it.—And also agreed Page 132 for five miles which lay between Wakefield and Checkingley-Beck, near Dewsbury.
The trustees of the road, (Sir Rowland Winn, — Smith and W. Roebuck, Esqrs.) meeting at Wakefield, to let part of the road leading to Pontefract, and likewise from Wakefield to Doncaster, Metcalf took three miles and an half which lay between Hag-Bridge and Pontefract, and one mile and an half on the Doncaster road, from Crofton through Foulby; all which he completed. The road from Wakefield, to Pontefract, Doncaster, and Halifax, being under the management of one company of trustees, Mr. Allen Johnson was treasurer for one part, John Mills, Esq for another, both of Wakefield; and Mr. Valentine Stead, and Mr. William Cook, for the other parts: By the payment of these four gentlemen he re∣ceived six thousand four hundred pounds.
A road was then advertised to be let from Wakefield to Austerland, intended to lead through Horbury, Almondbury, Hudders∣field, Marsden, and Saddleworth. A meet∣ing Page 133 was held at Huddersfield, for the purpose. Sir John Kaye, Colonel Radcliffe, 'Squire Farrer, and several other gentlemen attended, and Metcalf agreed with them from Black-Moor Foot to Marsden, and from thence to Standish-Foot; also from Lupset-Gate, thro' Horbury, about two miles and an half. At that time none of the road was marked out, except between Marsden and Standish-Foot, leading over a common called Pule and Standish: the surveyor took it over deep marshes; but Metcalf not expecting it to have been carried that way, thought it a great hardship, and complained to the gentlemen, alledging it would be a much greater expence: they answered, that if he could make a complete road, he should not be a loser; and they were of opinion, that it would be necessary to dig the earth quite out of the marshes, until they came to a solid bottom.—Metcalf, on calculating that each marsh, upon an average, being three yards deep, and fourteen broad, would make two hundred and ninety-four solid yards of earth Page 134 in every rood, which, to have carried away, would have been extremely tedious and ex∣pensive—and not only so, but that the road lying East and West, would fill with snow in winter, (as it usually falls in that direction, when the wind is in the North)—argued the point privately with the surveyor and several of the gentlemen: but they all seemed im∣moveable in their former opinion. Metcalf then appeared at the public meeting, and the subject was again brought forward; but knowing that it would be to little purpose to hold a contest with them, he said,
Page 137In the building of bridges, where the foundations were bad, he laid on a sufficient thickness of ling where it could be got, otherwise of wheat straw; he next laid planks five inches thick, with square mortises cut through; and driving in a number of piles, he made the foundation secure.—He then laid springs for the arch upon the planks, which caused all to settle regularly when the weight came on. And though he built many arches, of different sizes, by taking this me∣thod none ever fell.
He undertook three turnpike-houses upon the Wakefield and Austerland roads, and completed them all. Believing there was a stone-quarry on the South-East side of Hud∣dersfield, in ground belonging to Sir John Ramsden, he bored secretly in the night-time before he undertook the road, and was suc∣cessful in finding it. After finishing the road, having some vacant time, and having likewise discovered the quarry, Sir John gave him liberty to lead away stone. He now took houses to build, particularly one belong∣ing Page 138 to Mr. Marmaduke Hebdin, nine yards wide, twenty-three yards long, and twenty-one feet from the foundation to the square of the building;—it had twenty chimnies or pipes: And this he also completed.
He undertook the road from Dock-Lane head, in Yorkshire, to Ashton-under-Line, in Lancashire; also from the guide-post near the latter place, to Stockport, in Cheshire; and also between Stockport and Mottram-Longdale: the whole length being eighteen miles. He set men to work in different parts, with horses and carts to each company; and though he lost twenty horses in one win∣ter, he was not discouraged; observing that
Page 139He then took eight miles more which re∣quired several drains and arches.—He raised one hollow nine yards, and built sufficiently on each side to keep up the earth, with bat∣tlements on the top; for which he received two thousand pounds.
One day being met by Sir Geo. Warren, who inquired if he was at leisure, and being answered in the affirmative, he desired to see him at his house at Poynton. Metcalf went, and agreed to make about five miles of a private road through the Park. He took twelve or fourteen horses of his own, and brought large quantities of stone into Sir George's grounds, for the use of draining. For this he received several hundred pounds, and great favours also from Sir George and his lady.
A road was to be made between Whaley and Buxton, in Derbyshire, to avoid a hill: it went over a tedious piece of ground called Peeling Moss; the whole road being four miles in length, with some part strong rock, which was to be blasted with gunpowder.—Page 140 In taking this road, Metcalf met with strong opposition from a son of one of the commis∣sioners; but Peter Legh, Esq of Lyme, and another gentleman, supporting Metcalf, he gained the point, and completed the under∣taking, with several drains and fence walls; for which he received near eleven hundred pounds.
He next took a mile and an half of High-Flats, between Huddersfield and Sheffield; and finished it likewise, to the amount of three hundred pounds.
Eight miles of road were next advertised to be made between Huddersfield and Hali∣fax. A meeting was held, and several per∣sons attended with estimates for making it. One part was very rocky, and full of hollows, and the ground in a very bad situation, par∣ticularly between Elland and Saltershebble, and through a place called Grimscar Wood, which was very boggy and rough. Many were of opinion that it was impossible to make a road over that ground. But by building up the hollows, and lowering the Page 141 hills, Metcalf accomplished it:—And it is worthy of remark, that he never undertook any road which he did not complete, altho' he has taken many which persons who had their sight durst not engage in. He finished the road, with a great number of fence walls and drains, to the satisfaction of the surveyors and trustees, and received for it two thousand seven hundred and eleven pounds.
A little after this, a road was advertised to be made between Congleton and the Red-Bull Inn, in Cheshire, about six miles in length; but the materials were about three miles distant in several places. A meeting for letting this road was held at a place called Audersley, which Metcalf attended; and being a stranger in that part, he fortunately met with three gentlemen who knew him, viz. — Clows of Macclesfield, — Downs of Sigleigh, and — Wright of Mottram, Esqrs. two of them Justices of the Peace.—They said to the trustees,
During the time that Metcalf was engaged in making this road, having one day occasion to stop at Congleton, he met, at the Swan inn there, one Warburton, a capital farmer, who lived about a mile distant. This man Page 143 was remarkable for sporting large sums in various ways, and no sooner saw Metcalf, than he accosted him thus:
The quantity of liquor yet to come in being large, detained many of the company until five in the morning; and Warburton, who had got pretty drunk, by way of com∣fort, declared before parting, that of twenty-two fine cows, he would rather have lost the best, than have been beaten so publicly.
Metcalf apprehending that he might now be solicited by many to engage in play, and considering the importance of his other en∣gagements, called aside Mr. Rolle, the sur∣veyor of the road, and begged of him to give sixpence, upon condition of receiving five pounds, if he (Metcalf) should play any more at cards for eighteen months, the time allotted to finish the road. Mr. Rolle appro∣ving Page 147 highly of this, they returned to the company, and Metcalf making the proposal, received the surveyor's sixpence publicly; and thus put an end to all further importunity.
Here Metcalf finds it his duty to suspend, for a while, his road-making narrative, to introduce, for the last time, the mention of the much-loved Partner of his cares, whom he had brought into Cheshire, and lest at Stockport, that she might avail herself of the medical advice of a person there, famed for the cure of rheumatic complaints, of which description her's was thought to be:—But human aid proving ineffectual, she there died, in the summer 1778, after thirty-nine years of conjugal felicity, which was never inter∣rupted but by her illness or his occasional absence.
In his treatment of her, Metcalf never lost sight of the original distinction in their cir∣cumstances, always indulging her to the ut∣most that his own would allow; but she had no unreasonable desires to gratify. She died in the sixty-first year of her age, leaving four children; and was buried in Stockport church-yard.
Page 148In 1781 the road between Wetherby and Knaresborough was let.—He undertook that part which led through Ribston and Kirk-Deighton, till it joined the great North road leading from Boroughbridge to Wetherby; and also built two toll-houses upon the road; and received about three hundred and eighty pounds.
Metcalf had a daughter married in Cheshire, to a person in the stocking business. The manufacturers in this line, in the neighbour∣hood of Stockport, talked of getting loads of money; and Metcalf thought that he would have a portion of it also: he accordingly got six jennies and a carding engine made, with other utensils proper for the business; bought a quantity of cotton, and spun yarn for sale, as several others did in the country. But it cost him much trouble and expence, before he got all his utensils fixed: the speculation likewise failed; and a time came when no yarn could be sold without loss. Then Met∣calf got looms, and other implements proper for weaving calicoes, jeans, and velverets:—for having made the cotton business an object Page 149 of particular attention, he was become very well acquainted with the various branches of it. He got a quantity of calicoes whitened and printed, his velverets cut, dyed, &c. and having spun up all his cotton, he set off with about eight hundred yards of finished goods, intending to sell them in Yorkshire, which he did at Knaresborough and in the neighbour∣hood; and his son-in-law was to employ his jennies until he came back. On his return, coming to Marsden near Huddersfield, where he had made a road some years before, he found that there was to be a meeting, to let the making of a mile and an half of road, and the building of a bridge over the river that runs by the town, so as to leave the former road, in order to avoid the steepness of a hill. At the persuasion of some of his friends, he staid till the meeting, and agreed with the trustees. The bridge was to be twelve yards in the span, and nine yards in breadth. These too he completed, and received a thousand pounds; but the season being wet, and the ground over which he had to bring his ma∣terials very swampy, and at a distance from the road, he lost considerably by it.
Page 150In 1789 he was informed that there was a great quantity of road to be let in Lancashire: he accordingly went, and took a part between Bury and Eslington, and another part from Eslington to Ackrington; as also a branch from that to Blackburn. There were such hollows to fill, and hills to be taken down, to form the level, as was never done before: in several of the hollows the walls were ten yards high, before the battlements were put on the top. He had two summers allowed to finish this work in; but the trade in Lancashire being brisk, made wages very high, and the navigation at that time cutting through the country so employed the men, that it was a very difficult matter to procure a sufficiency of hands. The first summer the rains were so perpetual, that he lost about two hundred pounds; but in the next he completed the whole work, and received by the hands of Mr. Carr of Blackburn three thousand five hundred pounds; and, after all, was forty pounds loser by it.
In the year 1792 he returned into York∣shire; and having no engagement to employ Page 151 his attention, he bought hay to sell again, measuring the stacks with his arms; and having learnt the height, he could readily tell what number of square yards were con∣tained, from five to one hundred pounds value. Sometimes he bought a little wood∣standing; and if he could get the girth and height, would calculate the solid contents.
From that period he has settled on a small holding at Spofforth, near Wetherby; and his house is kept by a daughter and son-in-law.
At Chri•…as, 1794, he paid a visit to the present Co•…el Thornton, and his mother, at Thornville-Royal; and the reception he met with was such as fully reminded him of former days at Old Thornville, where he had spent many Christmasses. The truly respectable Relict, and the worthy Representative, of his late Commander, always receive Blind Jack with a condescending affability, highly flat∣tering to one in his humble station.
Having known the streets of York very accurately in the earlier part of his life, he determined, on the commencement of the last year, to visit once more that ancient city, Page 152 where he had not been for the space of thirty-two years: He found alterations for the better in Spurriergate, Blakestreet, the Pavement, &c. and being now in the neighbourhood of Middlethorp, where he had, in the year 1735, spent a half-year so happily, he resolved to have another look at it, in the possession of its present worthy master. From Mr. Barlow's house there is a road which leads to Bishop∣thorpe; and this road he clearly recollected, though sixty years had elapsed since he had gone that way before: so rete•… was his memory on this occasion, that 〈◊〉 discovered an alteration in the hanging of two gates by a wall-side near the above mansion. At Mr. Barlow's he staid several nights, which, he scarcely need add, were spent most agreeably, he endeavouring to make his fiddle speak the satisfaction and hilarity felt by its owner. Returning to York, he spent a few nights at the house of another friend; and setting out on the 10th of January, 1795, he walked to Green-Hammerton, in his way to Thornville-Royal, in about three hours and an half, being Page 153 ten miles; proceeded to Thornville that night, and to Knaresborough next morning the 10th, which being the birth-day of Sir Thomas Slingsby's eldest son, and which was kept with the utmost festivity, he resolved to spend at the worthy Baronet's. Here he closed the festive season of Christmas, after a tour of some weeks amongst his friends;—to whom, in particular, he submits, with the utmost deference, this imperfect Sketch of a LIFE, with which only can terminate his grateful remembrance of their numerous favours.