The Journeys of Celia Fiennes

Celia Fiennes’ journeys can be divided into four main chronological and geographical parts. The first period, her ‘early journeys in the South’, took place from roughly 1685 through 1696. Most of these early journeys were undertaken from Newton Toney, where Celia lived until the death of her mother in 1691. In these years Celia travelled relatively close to home, visiting such nearby cities as Salisbury, Bath, and Oxford. During this period, Celia stopped off to see Stonehenge, which she erroneously referred to as ‘Stoneage’. She refrained, however, from descending to vandalism as did fellow traveller John Evelyn, who on a previous visit, had chipped away pieces of the ancient monument with a hammer.

In May of 1697 she undertook what she calls her ‘Northern Journey’. It is the only date she ever gives and various historical events she mentions throughout her journal confirm it. On this trip, Celia departed from London, where she most probably moved after her mother’s death. This rambling journey took her as far north as Scarborough, stopping off at Cambridge, Lincoln, Nottingham, and York along the way. On her return to London, Celia wound her way through Derbyshire, Wolseley, and Warwickshire. In the same year she took a circuitous tour of Kent, along the Dover Road. She was notably impressed with Dover Castle, at which she climbed the tower’s ‘120 steps’ and looked across to Calais, in France.

The next trip, her ‘Great Journey to Newcastle and to Cornwall’, most likely took place the following year, 1698, and encompassed travel throughout the largest part of England, as well as brief forays into Scotland and Wales (see map). With just a hint of upper-class snobbery, Celia found the Scottish culture repugnant, saying that she had ‘mett with a sample of it enough to discourage my progress farther in Scotland.’ She continued on then, along the Scottish-English border and then south through Carlisle, Lancaster, Liverpool, Shrewsbury, and Gloucester, and then through Devonshire to Land’s End. She then returned to London, stopping off at Plymouth, Exeter, Newton Toney, and Windsor along the way.

Her final journeys took place between 1701 and 1703 and were limited mainly to London and its environs. In this part of the journal she includes an extensive description of the Lord Mayor’s Show, and its pomp and pageantry. She also embarks on a detailed synopsis of Westminster as well as a tour of the Courts of Justice. She continues with an uncharacteristically didactic lesson on the English Parliament and Constitution, in which she provides a boiled-down summary of the principles of 17th-century English government. In the concluding pages of the journal she returns to her travelogue style and visits Epsom, Hampton Court, and Windsor.

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