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Picturesque old houses; being the impressions of a wanderer off the beaten track online

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the queerest old town imaginable. In the centre
of the market place stands the Moot Hall with
overhanging stories and pillar supports. This
contains " The Cage," or lock-up like at " The
Tollsey" at Burford. Here a couple of primitive-
looking implements or elongated pitch-forks are
still kept handy for pulling off the thatched roofs

1 Ives' Select Papers, p. 39.

2 See Secret Chambers and Hiding- Places,





Picturesque Old Houses 209

of houses in the case of a fire. The cathedral-like
Cruciform church is the finest in the county. The
exterior is very ornamental, with canopied niches
and graceful pinnacles, and a noble assembly of
gargoyles pulling all kinds of extraordinary grimaces.
In the interior is much carved oak, especially about
the ceiling, which is one of the best in Essex.
In place of the old seats are rows of chairs which,
though they add to the cathedral effect, give the
whole a modern appearance.

A mile or so away is Horeham Hall, a good but
rather too much restored mansion with step gables
and twisted chimneys. I prefer the smaller house
of Little Hadham, a fine old house with hexagonal
towers to the west of Bishop's Stortford, which
altogether has been less tampered with. Here lived
that gallant Royalist, Lord Capel, who, after the
surrender of Colchester in 1648, although his safety
was guaranteed by Fairfax, soon followed his com-
panions, Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle, to
the grave. Some fifty years after his execution,
when his descendants removed from their old seat
to Cassiobury, a silver casket was discovered con-
taining the heart of the cavalier, with instructions
that it should be presented to Charles II. if he should


2io Picturesque Old Houses

ever come to the throne as a testimony of his attach-
ment to the Royal cause.

Spain's Hall and Moyns, away to the north-east of
Thaxted, are both fine Elizabethan mansions. The
former is a little too much mantled in ivy to show
the beauty of its architectural details. The tomb of
one of the Kemps who once lived at Spain's states
that he was voluntarily silent for seven years. It
is an out-of-the-way place even nowadays some
eight or nine miles from the railway so possibly
there was nobody to speak to two or three centuries
back. But I forgot : Mr. Kemp had a wife. How
then ? Perhaps they were competitors for the flitch
at neighbouring Dunmow, and that was the only
way to secure it. Now, had the tomb specified that
Mrs. Kemp was silent for seven years, that, indeed,
would have been one of the seven wonders of the
world !

At High and Good Easter, to the south of
Dunmow, we are again miles from anywhere. The
inhabitants of the latter village cannot have all
been immaculate, for the local authorities had to
erect a whipping-post. Though comparatively modern,
it is not unlike one I remember to have seen at
Waltham Cross a carved one of the time of


Picturesque Old Houses


Elizabeth, which, to my grief, I hear has been stolen.
Fortunately I had photographed it. This and the
pillory (one of the very few examples remaining)

pillory, Waltham Cross.

formerly stood in the market square, but they had
been removed and fenced in by iron rails. I believe
the pillory still remains.

Little Leighs Priory, to the north-east of the

2i2 Picturesque Old Houses

Easters, includes a beautiful red-brick quadrangular
Tudor gateway, with stone mullioned windows and
ornamented chimneys. One would like to see this
old place restored with care to its pristine glory ; it
is well worth it, and the interior contains a lot of
good linen panelling.

The historic mansion, New Hall, near Chelmsford,
for many years past has been a nunnery. It is to
be hoped the interior has not been altered, as I
hear has been the fate of that of Rawdon House, at
Hoddesdon (also now a nunnery) where I remember
to have seen some magnificent oak carvings or
Littleberries, at Mill Hill (Hendon) another of the
reputed residences of Nell Gwyn, where, before it
became a religious establishment, I have seen very
fantastical mural decorations, panel paintings, oak
carvings, etc. The Villiers, first and second Dukes
of Buckingham, and the Monks, first and second
Dukes of Albemarle, lived at New Hall in great
splendour, and before them it was an occasional
Royal residence of Henry VIII. (who became possessed
of it through his father-in-law, Sir Thomas Boleyn,
of Hever Castle and Rochford Hall in Essex), Mary,
and Elizabeth. We get a good peep of the mansion
as it appeared in the year 1656 from Evelyn. "I


Picturesque Old Houses 213

return'd homeward," says that diarist, " passing againe
thro' Colchester ; and by the way, neere the antient
towne of Chelmsford, saw New Hall, built in a
parke by Henry 7 and 8, and given by Queen
Elizabeth to the Earle of Sussex, who sold it to
the late greate Duke of Buckingham, and since seiz'd
on by O. Cromwell (pretended Protector). It is a
faire old house built with brick, low, being only of
2 stories, as the manner then was ; the gatehouse
better ; the court large and pretty ; the staire-case
of extraordinary widnesse, with a piece representing
Sir F. Drake's action in the year 1580, an excellent
sea-piece ; the galleries are trifling ; the hall is noble ;
the gardens a faire plot, and the whole seate well
accommodated with water ; but above all 1 admir'd
the faire avenue planted with stately lime-trees in
4 rowes for neere a mile in length. It has three
descents, which is the only fault, and may be reform'd.
There is another faire walk of the same at the
mall and wildernesse, with a tennis court and pleasant
terrace towards the park, which was well stor'd with
deere and ponds." 1

There is an old house at Blackmore, some miles
to the south-west of New Hall in the direction of
1 Evelyn's Diary, July ioth, 1656.

214 Picturesque Old Houses

Ongar, called Jericho House, where, according to
tradition, the much-married monarch (or " professional
widower " as a schoolboy called him), when at his
Essex palace, used to keep a supplementary reserve
of would-be wives ; and when the King's whereabouts
were not known, the expression that he had " gone to
Jericho " had scarcely the vague meaning that it has
nowadays. Another house with a reputation about as
good, or bad, as Jericho, was Killigrews, at Margaret-
ting, on the other side of Ingatestone, but this has
been pulled down long since.

Another Essex mansion, once of almost equal
importance to New Hall, was Layer Marney, of
which the graceful tower remains a remarkable
example of Early Tudor brickwork, with terra-cotta
mouldings. The church close by contains some
grand old monuments to the Lords Marney, a screen,
curious frescoes, and good carvings in the pulpit
and pews. The village inn of Peering, to the north-
west, could formerly boast of one of the finest
panelled rooms in Essex, but now all the oak
carvings are gone, I know not whither. An equally
beautiful room may still be seen at the moated
manor house of Tolleshunt D'Arcy, to the south of
Layer Marney. The other two Tolleshunts Major


Picturesque Old Houses 215

and Knights are queer, out-of-the-worJd places. At
the former stand the walls and tower of Becking-
ton Hall, a grim fragment of mediaeval architecture
with singular extinguisher turrets. In the village of
Tolleshunt D'Arcy is a maypole, but I do not know
whether the good folk there turn out in overcoats
and shawls to foot it on the first of May, for my
experience of the early part of " the merry month "
is not inviting, though to dance round the maypole
would be a good excuse for getting up one's circulation
when biting east winds are rampant. I believe until
the last to the bitter end, we might call it the
custom was kept up at Aldermaston, near Reading.
I say to the last, for the tapering gilt-ball-surmounted
maypole that I saw there a few years back has fallen
a victim to one of the many gales it had weathered.
The pretty village of Ickwell, in Bedfordshire, still
retains its lofty maypole, as well as the custom of
dancing around it in due form, and I trust it
may still survive in the present century.

Before bringing these casual wanderings to a
close, a word must be said about Eastbury and
Belhus. The first of these can scarcely be said to
be off the beaten track, for it stands close to the
railway line, near the busy and densely populated

216 Picturesque Old Houses

suburb of Barking. This extensive Elizabethan
mansion has three sides of a quadrangle and one of
its towers intact that is to say, as far as the outside
is concerned, for the interior has been stripped of
all its fittings, and the greater part, of the rooms
are untenanted. Here, according to tradition, Lord
Monteagle received the anonymous letter, as is
supposed, from his sister-in-law, Mrs. Abingdon, of
Hindlip Hall, in Worcestershire. 1 Other accounts
say that Eastbury was a meeting-place of the
plotters, which is also possible, for there is no
actual proof that this house was Monteagle's
residence at Barking. The unpicturesque sur-
roundings, I fear, will prevent this fine old building
from ever being occupied other than as a farm-

Belhus (about the same distance from the
Thames, but lower down in the direction of
Purfleet) stands in the midst of an extensive park.
This also is a fine old Tudor structure. It is
earlier in date than Eastbury, but has been some-
what spoiled by Strawberry Hill Gothic embellish-
ments ; many of the rooms are, however, little altered,
and the walls are lined with the original tapestry and
1 Vide Secret Chambers.



Picturesque Old Houses 217

silken hangings, and numerous interesting portraits.
The name of Lennard, Lord Dacre, is an important
one, as may be judged from a prodigious pedigree
on vellum, which only brings us as far as the
sixteenth century. It was owing to the extrava-
gance of Thomas, Lord Dacre, Earl of Sussex, that
the fine old mansion, Hurstmontceux, was sold,
and afterwards allowed to fall into ruin. Doubtless
the beautiful Countess had her share in bringing
about these monetary difficulties, for she inherited a
taste for luxurious living both from her mother, the
Duchess of Cleveland, and her (reputed) Royal father.

On the wall of the great staircase at Belhus
hang side by side the portraits of this ill-assorted
pair, who in their lifetime were seldom seen together.
Married at the ages of thirteen and fourteen, they
soon drifted apart. The husband naturally enough
objected to the company into which his wife was
thrown in the society of that lively Italian beauty,
the notorious Duchess of Mazarin, who, to win the
good graces (not that her good looks went against
her, for that matter) of the Countess's august father,
took the young lady under her wing. A scribe
interested in the chit-chat of the day, records, among
the other madcap freaks of these two ladies, that

2i8 Picturesque Old Houses

" they went downe into St. James Parke the other
day with drawne swords under their night gownes,
which they drew out and made severall fine passes
with to the admiration of severall men that was
lookers on in the Parke." At length the Earl's
flighty spouse was placed under strict supervision in
a nunnery at Paris, where she may have amused
herself, as did her boon companion when similarly
situated, by pouring water through the floor-boards
of her room upon the beds of the unfortunate nuns
beneath. The Countess of Sussex on obtaining her
liberty returned to her husband, but the reunion was
only temporary; they lived and died apart, the Earl
at Chevening (which in those days did not belong
to the Stanhopes), the Countess at Linsted, the
quaint old village I have mentioned in the early
pages of this book.

In the drawing-room at Belhus is one of the
finest portraits I have ever seen of James II.
Arrayed in a gorgeous suit of steel inlaid with gold,
the abdicated monarch, old, worn, and haggard,
looks as if his mind was dwelling upon his mis-
fortunes. Poor James ! Will any writer ever spare
him a coat of whitewash, for surely, with all his
faults, he was not worse than Judge Jeffreys ?

Picturesque Old Houses 219

Among the numerous curiosities of the seven-
teenth century are casques, breastplates, guns, swords,
jack-boots, etc., etc., and a pillion saddle, which last
I do not remember to have seen elsewhere. One of
the bedrooms looks the picture of a haunted
chamber, and, indeed, report says there is a ghost
who occasionally makes himself audible, though not
visible perhaps the shade of some luckless inmate
of a long-forgotten hiding-place within the thickness
of the massive walls.

As I notice upon looking back I have kept almost
exclusively to the Home Counties, I hope upon a
future occasion to go farther afield. For the present
I bid the reader adieu.


Abingdon, 131

Acton, 40

Adderbury House, 143

Albourn Place, 78

Aldbury, 168

Alfold, 99

Allington, 54

Appleton, 132

Ascott-under-Wychwood, 143

Ashridge, 168

Asthall, 139

Aston Bury Manor House, 181

Astwell Mill, 155

Audley End, 206

Avington, 107

Aylesbury, "Old King's Head,"

Aylesford, 54

Badlesmere, 121

Batemans, 65

Bearsted Green, 23

Beckington Hall, 215

Beeding, 78

Belhus, 216

Benenden, Pump Farm, 60

Bexon Manor House, 27

Bidborough, 91

Biddenden, 61

Bisham Abbey, 124

Blackmore, Jericho House, 214

Blenheim, 145

Blockfield, 95

Boarstall Tower, 164

Bolebrook, 66

Bonnets Farm, 97

Borden, " Heart's Delight," 30

Borden, Sutton Barn, 30

Boughton Malherbe, 42

Boughton Monchelsea, 52

Braddocks, 208

Bramber, 78

Brambletye House, 69

Bramdean, Woodcote, 1 10

Bramley, 98

Bramshill House, 104

Bray, 121

Bredgar, 26

Broadhurst, 74

Bromfield, 39

Broughton Castle, 149

Burford, 139

Burningfold, 100

Burwash, 64

Canons Ashby, 1 5 1
Cassiobury, 190
Champion Court, 9
Charing, 39
Charlton Court, 50
Charmouth, 80
Chelmsford, New Hall, 212
Chiddingfold, 99
Chiddingstone, 91



Chipperfield, 192

Claydon House, 155

Clophill, 175

Compton Wynyates, 151

Cowdray, 86

Cranbrook, 59

Creslow Manor House, 156

Crittenden, 93

Crowhurst, 94

CuckfieJd Place, 73

Davington Court, 4

Davington Priory, 4

Denham, 198

Dinton, 159

Ditchley Park, 144

Ditchling, 77

Doddington, Seed Farm, 12

Dorchester, 131

Dorney, 122

Uorton, 163

Dunsfold, 99

Eastbury, 215
East Grinstead, 68
Eastling, 11
East Mascalls, 75
East Peckham, 55
East Sutton, 48
East Sutton Place, 50
Eddlesborough, 171
Egerton, 42
Eversley, 100
Ewelme, 130

Faversham, 3
Finchden, 60
Fordingbridge, no
Friths, 65
Frit well, 146

Godington, 40

Good Easter, 210
Gorhambury, 191
Goudhurst, 58
Grafton Green, 43
Gravetye, The Moat, 72, 96
Great Tangle y, 98
Green Street, 31

Hadley Common, 136

Hambledon, no

Hampton Gay, 146

Hardwick House, 130

Harefield, 195

Harrietsham, 36

Harting, Up Park, 86

Hartwell, 159

Hatfield, 188

Headcorn, 46

Hever, 93

Hillingdon, Cedar House, 202

Hockliffe, "White Horse Inn,"

Hollingbourne, Godfrey House,


Hollingbourne, Manor House, 21
Holmshurst, 64
Horeham, 65
Horeham Hall, 209
Home, Smallfield Place, 97
Horsmonden, 58
Houghton Conquest, 173
Hucking, "Hook and Hatchet,"


Hurley, Lady Place, 125
Hurstpierpoint, Danny, 78

Kingsdown, 12
Kirby, 75
Knebworth, 182

Langley, 38
Layer Marney, 214



Leaveland, 12

Leeds Castle, 36

Lenham, 32

Lenham, Charity House, 34

Lillingston Lovell, 155

Lindfield, Old Place, 76

Lingfield, 96

Linsted, 15

Littleberries, 212

Little Chart, 42

Little Gaddesden, 170

Little Hadham, 209

Little Leighs Priory, 211

Long Wittenham, 130

Loseley, 99

Lower Gravenhurst, 176

Lower Winchendon, 161

Ludgate Farm, 18

Mailing, 54
Mapledurham, 127
Marden, 58
Meppershall, 177
Minster Lovel, 137
Moat-in-den, 46
Moor Hall, 198
Moreton Pinkney, 155
Moyns, 210

Newenden, 59

Newnham, Calico House, 6

Newport, 208

Newsells, 205

Ninfield, 137

Northmoor, 133

Norton, 32

Oare, 5

Ockley, King's Farm, 97
Ockwells, 114
Odiham, 105

Offham Green, 54
Old Basing, 1061
Osbrook Farm, 97
Ospringe, 5
Over Gravenhurst, 176

Parham Hall, 82
Penshurst, 92
Petworth, 83
Philberts, 121
Pluckley, 41
Possingworth, 65
Pound's Bridge, 91
Puttenden, 95

Queen Hoo Hall, 184

Racton, Lordington House, 90
Rawdon House, 212
Raynham Hall, 193
Ringwood, Moyles Court, no
Rodmersham, 31
Rolleston Farm, 60
Rolvenden, 59

Rudgwick, Baynard's Hall, 98
Rushett, 32

St. Leonard's Castle, 54
Sarratt, 192
Sharsted Court, 9
Shillington, 177
Shipton-under-Wychwood, 142
Shoesmiths, 65
Shottesbrooke, 121
Silsoe, 175
Smarden, 62
Spain's Hall, 210
Spilsbury, 143

Standlake, Gaunt House, 134
Stanton Harcourt, 134
Steene House, 155
Steyning, 81



Stondon Massey, 137
Sutton Courtney, 131
Sutton Place, 99
Sutton Valence, 48
Swakeleys, 202

Tanners, 65

Tewin, 187

Teynham, 31

Thaxted, 208

Throwley, 12

Tichborne, 109

Tittenhanger, 189

Toddington, 171

Tolleshunt D'Arcy, 214

Tonge, 31

Torry Hill, 19

Tunstall, Grove End Farm, 29

Ulcomb, 46

Wakehurst, 72
Waldron, 65
Water Eaton, 146
Watford, The Grove, 189
Waltham Cross, 210
Warnford, 1 10
West Hoathly, 69
Whitchurch, 158
White Waltham, 120
Winchester, 107
Wiston, Abbot's Farm, 8r
Wiston House, 82
Witney, 137
Wickens, 40
Wickin, 155

Wivelsfield, Oat Hall, 76
Wood Eaton, 146
Woodstock Park, 143
Wroxton Abbey, 149

Yalding, Court Lodge, 57

Printed by Haatll, Watson & Vtney, Let., London and Aylesbury,

A 000032812 o

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Online LibraryAllan FeaPicturesque old houses; being the impressions of a wanderer off the beaten track → online text (page 11 of 11)