137. Robert Bloomfield to Mary Ann Bloomfield, 30 August 1804*
Towcester. Aug 30th 1804
After parting with Hannah at Highgate I rode very comfortably to St. Albans where I arrived about 12 o'clock, and the coach in which I travelld happening to stop at a house out of the high street where the London Coaches stop, I was forc'd to go to another House, and this I did by chance, and it chanced here that I put into one where no coaches stopt at all, but this I did not discover till afterwards. Dinner was to be ready at one, I accordingly took advantage of that spare hour, as I thought it, to look round a prodigious old church calld St Albans Abbey—I enquir'd at a Book shop for some historical account of it, but could get none. The whole Building is in the form of a cross with a venerable square tower in the center. The East, or upper end of the church is going fast to decay, being separated from the main body of the building by having the immense Gothick arches from the floor to the roof filld up with rough, modern brickwork and a public footpath passing through from side to side of the sanctuary, or chapel of St Albans. At the back of the church appears to have once been perhaps another Aisle, or side wing, but the space is now a green meadow interspersed with ruins, and the earth lies up nearly to the top of a fine range of Gothick windows, the cells of which, if I estimate right must be at least 12 foot below the earth; the windows are stop'd with brick work, and the sides of the beautiful carvework of stone is all crumbling away in places, and in others rubd smooth by the cattle that shelter under the wall from the flies. The whole gives me an idea of space and grandeur far more than Westminster Abbey. the body of the building is longer, and being less ornamented, and standing on a fine commanding Hill, is the noblest object (except St Pauls) that I have ever seen. I did not attempt to see the inside because I meant to set off by the first coach that came by. But after dinner I found none but such as would get to Towcester too soon, and set me down in the middle of the night, so, I bespoke a bed and made myself happy. And I am glad that I stopt there, as the sight of the Abbey and Town was worth the expence. No doubt but the Abbey at Bury was of equal beauty and extent when it was in its prime.
I had a good bed and accommodation, and in the morning waited at another House for the Coventry coach which brought me to Mr Grants yesterday afternoon at 4. They were all from home, and if I had had my recollection about me, there might have been time to have sent you word by last nights post, but I was tired, and Mr G returning in the evening, I went early to bed. You will have received a letter from Mr G which was posted on Tuesday. It wants no answer. I am here safe enough. Mr G is gone to Day to a meeting of Officers, he being captain of a Company of the Towcester Volunteers. The Hall which in Dr Grant's days was appropriated to medical purposes, is now completely surrounded by Muskets and pikes arranged in exact order, and accompanied by some small, and one large Drum, and all the dreadfull paraphernalia of noise and death.
I am going for a walk, and am to dine with I know not who at Braden Hall, about two miles from hence.
I think to go to the Dukes on Sunday or Monday, and you shall hear from me again on Wednesday next. How did Hannah get home? She might write and tell me. My best love to all the children, and to your Father.
Yours affectionately and truly
At Wm Grant's Esq-