An American Professor in Europe 
Summer, 2012 
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Road Trip across England!                 Derby, York, Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne


The Road to Derbyshire
Update 6 June  
The drive to Derbyshire was an amazing experience, even if not very scenic until the last bit, partly not because of the highway route and partly not because of the heavy cloud cover and rain.  From time to time I passed through smaller towns along the half-day’s journey, but there never seemed to be a good place to stop and take pictures of the lovely country-side.  It was an amazing adventure because when driving one contributes to the human motion, I am part of the scene, unlike the impersonal, enclosed, and removed public transportation.  Maybe it is an American thing.  Unfortunately, it was just too dark and damp yesterday for scenic photography of the green hills and valleys along my way to Derby.

     This morning many low dark clouds remained, full of rain, yet unlike yesterday’s solid grey background and constant mist or drizzle, today’s morning clouds were scattered over clear blue skies.  So, before breakfast I took the pictures of peaceful Derbyshire, the many farms and countless livestock, and the seventeenth century inn where I stayed before moving on to York for another night.  Speaking with the innkeeper at check-out, I learned that three of the structure’s walls remain from that period; the dark wood paneling you see below came from a fifteenth century monastery in Lincolnshire.


     Because the day appeared to have promise for some sun, before the drive to York, I entered the National Park and toured the stately and majestic Chatsworth House, home to a dozen generations of the Cavendish Family who have been, since the early 1600s the Earls and Dukes of Devonshire.  Admittedly, only now do I understand that these noble titles and the places to which they refer are disconnected: the real place known as Devonshire and the town of Devon is south past Summerset in the peninsula where one finds Cornwall.  The Earl of Newcastle is not actually in Newcastle, Norfolk is not really from Norfolk, just as Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, is Her Majesty’s husband and not a Scot at all.  He’s Greek!  The disconnect seems to make sense given Edward, the first English king of that name, appeased the conquered Welsh with a promise to name a new prince for their people, then cruelly appointed his son, Edward II, the Prince of Wales.  The male heir to the throne has been named the Prince of Wales ever since.  Prince William, currently the Duke of Cambridge, didn’t even attend university at Cambridge!


      I’ve included some photos of Peak National Park and Chatsworth House.  The purpose of my visit is that it was the Earl of Devonshire, the first of that name, who hired the recent graduate Thomas Hobbes as a young man to serve as tutor to his son in the 1620s.  He was not much older than the lad and subsequently the two made a tour of the continent with Hobbes as his governor.  It was fascinating to tour around the house and imagine Hobbes living there, first as a young tutor and writer, and then later when his pupil became the
Earl and one to yet another generation until his death at age 92.  While touring inside the house, I inquired with one of the guides about Hobbes’ connection, his rooms and papers, and any archivists or historians with whom I could speak.  Of course, this being only a visit, I did not arrange for a special meeting, nor did I expect people of the staff to drop their day’s plans to speak with me.  Nevertheless, I was able to secure the necessary contact information and will follow up.  One guide said that Mr. Hobbes, the philosopher, had served in later years as the family’s librarian.  See the photo of the Devonshire’s extensive library of very old books, dozens going back to before the 1602 and the founding of the Bodleian Library at Oxford. --TW

         HOME PAGE                     

     I followed the park-like river walk, passing a rowing crew with coach in a side raft, and when I came to Ouse Bridge in the old city I took the steps up to street level and suddenly found myself among a mass of people, buses, and typical city bustle.  The old streets are a spaghetti works of cobblestones and the modern mixed in with Roman and Saxon remnants.  Must be more than a thousand shops, restaurants, galleries, pubs and beer gardens, a ghost trail and a ghost hunt, and a Roman bath all packed into a square mile.  On a nicer day, or in the evening, the city center is surely a happening place.
     Any students reading can see that York would be a fine place to visit for a day or overnight from London by rail.  Everything is in easy walking distance and York is closer and more level than Edinburgh with all the same things to do.  As I write this update, I regret that I did not plan more time here, but there will be opportunities to visit again.  Ever seen the movie V is for Vendetta?  Turns out Guy Fawkes, arrested in London and executed in 1605, was from York and sort of a local hero.  Two hundred years before that, as the York Minster was being built (see photo), King Richard II wanted to make York the capital of England.  They uncovered a buried Viking village in 1979, from the days of the Viking kings who captured the city when it was the Saxon capital of Northumbria and named the place “Jorvik.”  York has been a seat of power and metropolitan commerce in the north for the entire Christian era.

                             Roman Column found in York

The Visit to Newcastle          8-10 June                                                         
      It has been a moderately productive time in Newcastle Upon Tyne, the great shipping city of the Northeast of England where one find’s the end of Hadrian’s Wall.  The poor weather has followed me across England (actually it is just wide spread and enduring) so I have few pictures to share since my rainy walk in the city of York.  The drive up from Yorkshire was nevertheless I wonderful adventure passing through the lovely rural country in the misty air; there were places when the visibility improved.  Most of the three-hour journey was on the A-highways through Yorkshire and County Durham instead of the motorways (freeways).  I passed by the author, James Herriot’s, country and through the city of Darlington on the River Tees before the rain poured in the city of Durham.  The rain abated as I made my way on to Newcastle and arrived at my familiar hotel connected to the city’s train station.

     Readers of the blog know that I stayed here twice last summer to do family history research, my purpose again this time.  Last year I posted more pictures of the city but I did manage a shot of the city’s namesake castle, built by William the Conqueror’s son Robert in 1082 as a statement of power to ward off attacking Norsemen and Scots.  (To the left is a picture of the city and the modern bridge from last year.)  What I found remarkable last summer and still today is how this ancient and terrible castle maintains its place silently in the heart of the city high above the River Tyne, surrounded by the traffic of commerce, the busy railway bridge, and modern city bustle as though it doesn’t know its age, now out of place and overshadowed by larger structures along the river.  I so enjoy the feeling of familiarity returning to places I’ve once (or twice) been.  The new (old) castle is like an English friend with whom I get to be reacquainted.

        BACK TO TOP                     TRAVEL CALENDER

My England Road Trip concluded on 10 June first with the two-hour drive from Newcastle to Leeds where I visited a very distant relative (we share my great-great-great grandfather).  Having never met, we had exchanged emails from our connection through family history research and made prior arrangements for the visit.  Mrs. Young is roughly my mother’s age and she and husband were very gracious and thrilled to receive me in their modest home on the north side of the city.  Unexpectedly, the couple set up lunch and insisted I sit at the head of the dining room table as guest of honor.  After much exchange of family history stories and vital information, when it was time to take my leave Mrs. Young offered tea and then insisted I take with me fresh fruits for the journey.  I then drove the final 3 hours past Manchester, then the Liverpool and Chester area, and back into Wales and over the Menai Strait to Anglesey, mostly all 70 mph motorway.  This time I did see one motor police vehicle parked out of sight on the opposite side of the motorway, waiting for speeders, so perhaps my earlier conclusions were in error.  In the end, while the weather was not ideal this week, my first road trip across England, including Derbyshire, York, Newcastle, and more Yorkshire, was a smashing good time! --TW

         BACK TO TOP               GO TO NEXT UPDATE (WALES)


      I’m learning that highway travel is indeed different here.  There seem to be no “free” ways in the sense of miles of high speed-limit roadway without interruption.  In England there may be stretches of 20 or 30 miles, but all must slow to cross the junctions at each point.  I suppose it is the close distances in comparison to vast stretches of highway at home.  At the same time, along my entire route yesterday I went through only three traffic signals; today I encountered a few more because much of the driving was rural in and around the park.  Highways here, whether dual-lane or single, use “roundabouts” at their crossings and exits, producing a constant flow of traffic.  You exit the highway by ramp and come to a roundabout instead of a light.  The driver cues up, as they say, and then enters roundabout, going round to the connecting road, or on smaller highways to turn or continuing on the same.  Very few occasions yesterday did I have to make the dreaded right turn (like our left), pulling out and sharply turning across the intersection onto the perpendicular street and making sure to choose the correct lane.  Today was a different story as I passed through little towns and villages—one time at an Ashbourne traffic light I turned right okay, but realized in the moment of completing the turn that I did it from the RIGHT lane of the previous street!


The Visit to York
                   7 June

The city of York is truly a remarkable place, full of history and pride and quintessentially English.  I spent most of the morning exploring, walking about a mile into the city center from my bed and breakfast along the River Ouse that cuts from northwest to south across the thirteenth century wall that still encircles the city.  As predicted the day was a wet one with a constant drizzle that occasionally turned to heavy rain.  Here in the “Midlands,” as the region is known, it is relatively flat and today there was no wind
under the grey skies, the temperature a mild 66 degrees.

     In the afternoon I drove in the rain on the expressways and highways of the Northeast to return to Newcastle for the third time.  The farmlands of Yorkshire and County Durham are so very peaceful—I passed through the area made famous by the books of James Herriot.  This should give some readers an idea of what I saw along the way.  In closing, a curious thing I realized today that I had not noticed before: in three days of driving across England I have not seen one highway patrol car or stopped speeder.   They use cameras and frequently there are signs with a camera and speed limit, whether it is a dual lane highway or a country road, indicating the surveillance.  Seems to work well, and likely just the sign with no camera does the trick.  I certainly watched my speed because I was told the tickets are very expensive and they come in the mail to the address registered to the plates, which are posted both front and back of all cars. --TW 


      I have ancestors from the nineteenth century who lived near the castle down along the river quay.  If I recall, more than 450 steps down from the castle wall as a matter of fact.  My time over these two days was spent researching old parish records in the city library and in the central library of the city across the river, named Gateshead.  The River Tyne serves a socially constructed reality: it is the border between the counties of Durham to the south and Northumberland to the north, which is the county farthest north in England before passing into Scotland.  The people here speak with a bit of Scottish accent and archivists in the libraries were very helpful.  The results of my work were generally a matter of eliminating possibilities about who was related to whom between 1780 and 1830 rather than confirming my hypotheses, but I am not disappointed because falsification is essential to research. Tomorrow I return to Anglesey and perhaps in the coming days I will verify further possibilities on the Welsh side of my ancestral family.

                       Mr. and Mrs. Albert Young
     (I share a common English ancestor with Mrs. Young)