William Cobbett, Rural Rides
(Malmsbury, September 11, 1826):
It was once a most magnificent building; and there is now a door-way, which is the most beautiful thing I ever saw, and which was, nevertheless, built in SAXON times, in 'the dark ages,' and was built by men who were not begotten by Pitt nor by Jubilee George. What fools, as well as ungrateful creatures, we have been and are! There is a broken arch, standing off from the sound part of the building, at which one cannot look up without feeling shame at the thought of ever having abused the men who made it. No one need tell any man of sense; he feels our inferiority to our fathers, upon merely beholding the remains of their efforts to ornament their country and elevate the minds of the people. We talk of our skill and learning, indeed! How do we know how skilful, how learned they were? If, in all that they have left us, we see that they surpassed us, why are we to conclude that they did not surpass us in all other things worthy of admiration?
There is a market-cross in this town, the sight of which is worth a journey of hundreds of miles. TIME, with his scythe, and 'enlightened Protestant piety,' with its pick-axes and crow-bars; these united have done much to efface the beauties of this monument of ancient skill and taste, and proof of ancient wealth; but in spite of all their destructive efforts this cross still remains a most beautiful thing, though possibly, and even probably, nearly, or quite, a thousand years old. There is a market-cross lately erected at DEVIZES, and intended to imitate the ancient ones. Compare that with this, and then you have, pretty fairly, a view of the difference between US and our FOREFATHERS of the 'dark ages.'