Cheddar And The Mendips
From 'Tour of London and the Provinces ' by Daniel Defoe (1724-1726)

Near this city, and just under the hills, is the famous, and so much talked of Wokey Hole, which, to me, that had been in Pool's Hole, in the Peak of Derby, has nothing of wonder or curiosity in it; the chief thing I observed in this, is, what is generally found in all such subterraneous caverns; namely, That the water dropping from the roof of the vault, petrifies, and hangs in long pieces like icicles, as if it would, in time, turn into a column to support the arch. As to the stories of a witch dwelling here, as of a giant dwelling in the other (I mean in Pool's Hole) I take them to be equally fabulous, and worth no notice.

In the low country, on the other side Mendip Hills, lies Chedder, a village pleasantly situated under the very ridge of the mountains; before the village is a large green, or common, a piece of ground, in which the whole herd of the cows, belonging to the town, do feed; the ground is exceeding rich; and as the whole village are cow-keepers, they take care to keep up the goodness of the soil, by agreeing to lay on large quantities of dung for manuring, and enriching the land.

The milk of all the town cows, is brought together every day into a common room, where the persons appointed, or trusted for the management, measure every man's quantity, and set it down in a book; when the quantities are adjusted, the milk is all put together, and every meal's milk makes one cheese, and no more; so that the cheese is bigger, or less, as the cows yield more, or less, milk. By this method, the goodness of the cheese is preserved, and, without all dispute, it is the best cheese that England affords, if not, that the whole world affords.

As the cheeses are, by this means, very large, for they often weigh a hundred weight, sometimes much more, so the poorer inhabitants, who have but few cows, are obliged to stay the longer for the return of their milk; for no man has any such return, until his share comes to a whole cheese, and then he has it; and if the quantity of his milk delivered in, comes to above a cheese, the overplus rests in account to his credit, 'till another cheese comes to his share; and thus every man has equal justice, and though he should have but one cow, he shall, in time, have one whole cheese. This cheese is often sold for six pence to eight pence per pound, when the Cheshire cheese is sold but for two pence to two pence halfpenny.

Here is a deep, frightful chasm in the mountain, in the hollow of which, the road goes, by which they travel towards Bristol; and out of the same hollow, springs a little river, which flows with such a full stream, that, it is said, it drives twelve mills within a quarter of a mile of the spring; but this is not to be understood, without supposing it to fetch some winding reaches in the way; there would not, otherwise, be room for twelve mills to stand, and have any head of water above the mill, within so small a space of ground. The water of this spring, grows quickly into a river, and runs down into the marshes, and joins another little river called Axe, about Axbridge, and thence into the Bristol Channel, or Severn Sea.

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