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entire length of the building. The present owner,
Sir Anthony Cope, like his forefathers, delights in
his ancestral home, and will allow no restorations
but such as are absolutely necessary, and these are
executed with the tenderest care, so it is impossible
to detect where the old work has been renovated.
The general appearance of the interior of Bramshill
reminds one of that most perfect of old halls, Hard-
wick, in Derbyshire. The exterior of the latter may,
perhaps, be more imposing, but in regard to colour
there is no comparison, for a house of mellowed
red brick will always compare favourably against one
of stone.

Odiham, to the south, and Old Basing, to the
south-east of Eversley, are both picturesque. By
way of extensive heaths of purple heather and velvety
turf, you strike into the road which runs between
Bagshot and Basingstoke, and take another road
running at right angles to the south. The rectory
house of Odiham is a pretty old house, and, I am
informed by the son of a late rector, contains a
ghost, which his mother has frequently seen ! Un-
fortunately, I was somewhat tied for time here, and
had to content myself with a passing glance at the



io6 Picturesque Old Houses

old houses and at the parish stocks, which stand
intact. I believe as recently as 1872 a man was
placed in the stocks at Newbury, in Berkshire, for
drunkenness, although the punishment had fallen into
disuse some forty years before.

Anybody travelling down the South- Western line
must have noticed how pretty Old Basing looks from
the railway, and I have known many people who,
from this appetising glimpse, have got out at Basing-
stoke to explore the village. The interest, of course,
is centred in the scanty remains of the old castle,
or " house," so gallantly defended by the Royalist
Marquis of Winchester against the Parliamentary
forces in 1643 and 1644. The starving garrison
received temporary relief from Colonel Gage, who
made a desperate and successful sally to take in pro-
visions. With the zeal of a true Cavalier, the old
Marquis swore he would hold out even if his house
was the last to stand for the King ; but Cromwell
at length arrived in person, and his invincible Iron-
sides were not long before they carried the day,
with booty, it is said, to the value of ^200,000,
leaving behind only a smouldering mass of ruins.
Among the later Paulets interred at Basing was the
beautiful Countess of Bolton, the illegitimate daughter



Picturesque Old Houses 107

of the handsome Duke of Monmouth, to whom she
bore a striking resemblance.

From Old Basing I went to Winchester, of all
the cathedral cities one of the most picturesque ; but
I was somewhat disappointed in the old buildings
around the close, after those of Salisbury. Apart
from the Cathedral and the famous hospital of
St. Cross, I think I was best pleased with a quaint
line of ancient houses along the side of the river.
When I revisited Winchester a few months later, I
was sadly disappointed to find that one of these, with
delicate carved oak tracery of the fifteenth century,
had been demolished.

Winchester was a favourite resort of the Court
of Charles II., where, had that monarch lived longer,
he would have completed a Royal palace. His
favourites, Gwyn and Portsmouth, judging by con-
temporary gossip, very properly were housed outside
the precincts. When at Winchester the King was
a frequent visitor to Avington, an old mansion some
miles to the north-east of the city a classic-looking
structure, the oldest part of which is now centred in
and around the stables. The old banqueting-hall,
that used to resound with the revelries of the Merry
Monarch and the select (?) few whom he chose for



io8 Picturesque Old Houses

his companions, was afterwards converted into a
greenhouse or conservatory, but now has entirely
disappeared. The King's hostess was the abandoned
Countess of Shrewsbury, the notorious woman who,
according to Horace Walpole, disguised as a page,
is said to have held Buckingham's horse while that
nobleman had a duel with her husband, in which
the latter was slain. 1 I remember having seen among
the Peel heirlooms, dispersed a year or so ago, a
very curious portrait of this lady as Minerva. The
picture originally came from Avington, whence it was
removed to princely Stowe, and thence to Dray ton.
Now, alas ! it has gone for ever, I suppose to
America. What a thousand pities it could not have
been purchased back for its original home. Away
from its associations, surely it has lost all its
romantic interest, and is merely now an example of
Lely's art.

Jack Talbot, the son of the victim of Bucking-
ham's sword, also was fated to meet his death
in the same way, falling in a duel with the son
of his mother's Royal guest viz., the first Duke
of Grafton, Charles II.'s son by the Duchess of
Portsmouth. Charles Talbot, the heir to Avington,
1 Vide The Memoirs of the Count de Gramont.



Picturesque Old Houses 109

dying without issue, the estate devolved upon his
mother's son by a second marriage. The fate of
this son was especially tragic, and, though perhaps
less savouring of romance, had more heroism about
it. In his vain attempts to save a favourite dog
from drowning in Avington lake, the old gentleman
got beyond his depth and was drowned.

I may mention that Pope's well-known allusion
to the association of the Duke of Buckingham's
riverside seat, Clevedon, with the Countess of
Shrewsbury, must not be accepted as fact ; for that
house was only in course of erection at the time
she married her second husband in 1680. So much
for the old memories of Avington.

On my way from here to Bramdean (which lies
about midway between Petersfield and Winchester),
I passed through a village whose name will always
be familiar in this country viz., Tichborne. A
quiet, cheerful little place it seemed to be. The un-
pretentious inn the "Tichborne Arms," I think was
its name had a particularly homely aspect, and was
kept by an equally homely hostess, who had many
stories to recount in connection with the famous trial.

As I have said before, I wanted to put up at
Bramdean, but arriving there late was not successful,



i io Picturesque Old Houses

and had to go on to West Meon. Returning
next morning, I visited the manor house of Wood-
cote, and had the honour to be conducted round the
old house by its owner, the famous physician and etcher,
Sir Seymour Haden. Among other things of interest
he showed me a room full of his etchings, which he
said were very rarely to be met with. I understand
that the collection will one day or other find a home
in the British Museum. Woodcote is a compact
little red-brick gabled house, but does not boast any
particular architectural beauty. Various alterations
have, I grieve to say, swept away all signs of some
curious hiding-places which were once to be seen.

Warnford and Hambledon are both very pretty
villages, situated far away from any railway in a
stretch of thoroughly rural England, and here must
my ramblings in Hampshire end. But I forgot :
Ringwood and Fordingbridge belong to the extreme
west of this county. These favourite resorts of the
angler impressed me mainly with the beauty of the
winding river Avon. The former place I visited
on account of its proximity to Moyles Court, which
is associated with sad memories of the good Lady
Lisle, who, for her compassion in housing two
wretched fugitives from the field of Sedgemoor, was




nfeedcoix.



Picturesque Old Houses in

condemned by the inhuman Jeffreys to be burned at
the stake. The trial of the lady is a remarkable
record of the licence and brutality of the Bench
at the latter part of the seventeenth century. The
old house was saved some years ago from falling
into ruin and oblivion : as it appears now, however, it
bids fair for a long and prosperous future, notwith-
standing the fact that the portrait of Jeffreys reigns
supreme at the old house of his unfortunate victim.



CHAPTER X

WE will not at present go into the western
counties, but will strike northwards through
parts of Berkshire and Oxfordshire, keeping more
or less to the course of the beautiful river Thames.
Alas ! the old river is fast losing its primitive
character, and great fashionable hotels are rapidly
taking the place of the cosy little riverside inns ;
ere very long I suppose the banks up as far as
Oxford will present quite a suburban appearance,
except where the grounds of private estates have
not been cut up for building purposes.

My first impression as a boating man or, rather,
youth was going up the river from Kingston to
Maidenhead with an old and enthusiastic oarsman,
an athlete with not the faintest trace of timidness
or nervousness in his composition, and, therefore, a
striking contrast to myself. They say friendships
originate through the juxtaposition of the most
opposite and contrary qualities. Perhaps that is why



Picturesque Old Houses 113

he and I struck up companionship. He did the
rowing in thoroughly professional style, and with a
swing which would have been approved by the
picked men of either university.

I had to manage the steering as best I could,
and once or twice, when I had lost both my head
and the rudder lines, the only way to save a
collision was to shout out " Whoa ! " This some-
what original style prevented many a catastrophe.
But I fared far worse when my friend left me to
my own resources and got out to tow the boat,
unfurling the rope as he darted off at a breakneck
pace over hills and housetops, so it seemed to me.
The little craft, meanwhile, was travelling through
the water like a torpedo-boat, and I had to steer
clear through the most intricate complication of
barges, houseboats, and derelicts of all shapes and
sizes. How I managed to come out of the dilemma
alive has always been a mystery to me. Providence
must have stepped aboard and directed the steering.
Every nerve and muscle was strained to keep the
boat from capsizing. To " Whoa ! " now was out of
the question, for my friend was miles ahead beyond
recall, entirely oblivious of my precarious situation.
At last we got clear of the busy place, wherever

8



H4 Picturesque Old Houses

it was. I breathed once more. The towing line
grew shorter and shorter. My friend again was
within measurable distance, and when at last he
joined me, I impressed upon him that next time
any towing had to be done I should prefer " terra
cotta," as the old lady remarked upon her way
from Dover to Calais.

At Maidenhead my friend left me ; he was bound
for Oxford, while I had to get back that night to
town ; but, as the days were long, I had a couple
of hours to spare, so I set out in search of
Ockwells Manor House, of which I had seen
some fascinating drawings in Nash's Old English
Mansions. This fine old fifteenth-century house
was then comparatively little known, and I had
some difficulty in finding its situation, but after
hunting about and making various inquiries, at
length I espied some old roofs and chimneys in
the midst of a clump of lofty poplar and chestnut
trees. Closer to the road were great bushes of
syringa, which filled the air with their sweet fragrance.
I approached the old house with misgivings, for I
could recognise in it none of the beautifully carved
barge-boards of the drawing ; but wandering round
by some old barns and out-buildings, I suddenly



Picturesque Old Houses 115

came upon the front, and shall never forget the
impression it made upon me. Part was in deep
shadow, while the upper portion was brilliantly
lighted by the last rays of the setting sun, which
brought out all the fantastic carvings in bold relief.
Long I stood in the grass-grown courtyard, peopling
the silent house with the gaily bedecked lords and
ladies dead and forgotten for centuries, who once
frequented the now deserted rooms and corridors.
Never had I seen such a picture of sad but dignified
solitude.

All this side of the house was unoccupied and
crumbling to decay, but in a most poetic state
from an artistic point of view. A delightful old
carved porch, with great dragons upon the spandrils
above, led by the quaintest old corridor or u entrie"
to the great hall. Here dilapidation reigned supreme
dust and debris everywhere. The oak panelling,
bleached with age, was crumbling off the walls.
In the wide expanse of diamond-paned windows all
along one side of the hall and in the great bay by
the raised dais were apertures through which heavy
festoons of ivy had found their way. Upon the
walls above the panelling was a strange medley of
things a great pair of Cromwellian jack-boots, a



n6 Picturesque Old Houses

dilapidated Elizabethan saddle of green velvet, a
fragment of chain mail, a rusty sword or two, and
some hoops of iron which once served as stirrups.
The boots, I was informed by a farm labourer, were
once the property of no less a personage than Oliver
Cromwell. He was surprised here (so went the
story) by a party of Royalists, and had to get off as
best he could without his boots ! What a subject
for a historical picture the Lord Protector
decamping in his stockings ! I wonder whether the
Vicar of Bray of the famous song had pity upon
him if he fled that way, and provided him with
another pair.

One really learns some valuable bits of history
travelling about the country. A friend of mine
was once shown the identical inn yard where
" Henry VIII. addressed the Romans," and in the
same village the residence of u Queen Dowger." He
suggested " Dowager," but was immediately crushed.
" Dowger was the woman's name," his informant
was sure. I have been shown also the house of
" Guy Fawkes, the first Quaker," or if something
more sensational were required, could point out where
the original block may be seen upon which Queen
Elizabeth was beheaded !




OCKWELLS.




OCKWELLS.



Picturesque Old Houses 1 1 7

The part of Ockwells which pleased me best was
a glazed corridor upon the upper landing of the
staircase, which led on to the minstrels' gallery. At
the time when the staircase became an important
feature of a house space was found in the little
interior quadrangle around which the glazed corridor
runs for erecting an imposing Jacobean staircase.
From an old room at the back of the screen, or
minstrels' gallery, was a little opening through which
the lord of the manor could keep a watch upon
his retainers, if necessary ; though upon occasions
when the flowing bowl was conspicuous, I expect
it was equally necessary for the lady of the manor
to keep an eye upon her lord and master.

In the passage leading into the hall was the
old buttery hatch, with enormous hinges and iron
supports. It conjured up visions of veal pasties,
roasted peacocks, soused gurnet, and the tempting
viands one reads about in the romances of Harrison
Ainsworth. Such visions are all very well in their
way, but they are tantalising upon an empty stomach,
as was the case in this instance.

Since the occasion of my first trip to Ockwells
there have been many changes. The old house and
some adjoining land changed hands, and rumours got



1 1 8 Picturesque Old Houses

about that it was going to be pulled down indeed,
I have since heard that transactions had already been
entered upon for selling the carved oak tracery in
the gables and elsewhere, and that some of these were
eventually going to America. Letters written to the
newspapers as a rule do not attract much attention,
or do much practical good, but the result of one
which I wrote to the Standard was particularly
gratifying. Other papers promptly took up the cause.
Pictures of the doomed manor house appeared in the
illustrated journals. This gratuitous advertisement, I
suppose, suggested a financial speculation, for ere
long the property again changed owners for the
better. Since then, from time to time, a small fortune
has been spent in the most careful and complete
restoration. As a rule I tremble at the very word,
for have not hundreds of houses and churches been
entirely destroyed by ignorant and unsympathetic
workmen ? In the case of Ockwells, however, I
believe their mode of procedure has been rigidly
watched from first to last.

Quite recently I accepted an invitation to com-
pare the past with the present, and indeed there
was a metamorphosis. The flat ceiling had been
removed and the open timber roof revealed. All



Picturesque Old Houses 1 1 9

the original heraldic glass (which fortunately had
been taken out years before) had been replaced to
its original position in the windows of the great hall
(a display of colour that it would be difficult to
rival). Suits of armour and ancient weapons of
all descriptions stood and hung in every direction, and
carved Gothic cabinets, antique chairs and tables, fitted
into their several corners as if they had stood there
for a couple of centuries at least. In additional
contrast also to my previous visit, a table was laid for
lunch, which, amidst such environment, it is needless
to state, was most acceptable. I had heard rumours
that the quaint old glazed corridors had been removed,
but greatly rejoiced to find them untouched, and
improved tenfold by the walls being lined with ancient
tapestry. " Linen-fold " oak panelling and elaborately
carved mantelpieces from other old houses have
found a most suitable home here, as have Elizabethan
chests and bedsteads, and even a Jacobean cradle is
in use for instilling the young mind from its earliest
days with the love of " Kernoozable " things.

The exterior restoration has been as careful and
complete as the interior indeed, it is almost impossible
to detect where the old masonry ends and where
the new commences. The porch has been widened



i2O Picturesque Old Houses

to its original dimensions, and the carved portions of
oak cleverly fitted into their original positions like
the most ingenious of puzzles. The new buildings
which have been added are quite in keeping with
the rest, and the amount of oak lavished upon the
ceilings, etc., is as extensive as in the original part
of the house.

Of the once important family of Norreys who
originally lived at Ockwells, there were, not many
years ago, living representatives in the neighbourhood,
but, as in the case of so many similar vicissitudes of
ancient families, they had degenerated into common
labourers.

From the Norreys (of whom there are monu-
mental and genealogical records in Bray Church)
Ockwells passed to the Fettiplaces and the Days.
Sir Thomas Day, the keenest hunter and hardest
drinker in Berkshire, was, according to local tradition,
knighted by Queen Anne for his attention in opening
a gate for her Majesty to pass through. The
identical spot is, or was recently, pointed out ; but
with due respect to tradition, I cannot help thinking
the Queen must have had some better cause for
conferring a knighthood.

The secluded villages of White Waltham and



Picturesque Old Houses 121

Shottesbrooke, not far from Ockwells, are well worth
a visit, both on account of their natural beauty and
antiquities. At the former may be seen the remains
of a moated manor house, where, according to the
antiquary Hearne (who, by the way, was born at
White Waltham), Henry VII. 's son, Prince Arthur,
lived for a time. On a bank not far from the
church stand the stocks and the whipping-post, in a
good state of preservation.

The interior of the Cruciform church at Shottes-
brooke is of exceptional interest, though I have only
a hazy recollection of some good brasses and a fine
old chest.

Of the picturesque almshouses at Bray and an
old house called Philberts I also can record but a
vague impression. The latter was the residence of
William Chiffinch, the keeper of the back-stairs and
boon companion of Charles II., who is said to have
been a frequent visitor ; the proximity of the house
to Windsor affording the Merry Monarch convenient
relaxation when he wished to throw aside his kingly
dignity. Formerly there was here a fine bust of
Nell Gwyn : it would be interesting to know what
has become of it.

Opposite Bray, on the Buckinghamshire side of the



122 Picturesque Old Houses

water, is the old seat of the Palmer family, Dorney,
a secluded Jacobean house buried in a grove of elms.
This was another favourite resort of Charles II. so
much so that it is painted as the background of one
of his best portraits ; but it was more the beauty of
its inmate than of the mansion or grounds which
formed the attraction, as here for a time resided
the beautiful Mrs. Palmer, who later on was created
Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland,
and of whom one reads so much in the Court annals
of the time. The Royal visitor probably was not so
welcome to the lady's husband, for the King became
so much attached to her, and, as a natural consequence,
she became so much attached to Whitehall Palace,
that the result was a separation. Those who have
perused Pepys's inimitable diary will have observed
what an important figure this handsome and im-
perious woman cut in the gay Court. The following
extract gives one a vivid impression of the strained
relationships between Mr. and Mrs. Palmer one
of those little sidelights which so add to the
fascinations of semi-historical episodes. I wonder no
painter has selected a subject from this paragraph
in the diary. The new Queen had recently arrived
from Portugal, and Westminster was gaily bedecked



Picturesque Old Houses 123

and thronged with loyal citizens anxious to get a
glimpse of her. Pepys, usually to the fore upon
such occasions, was busily engaged in making mental
notes which were to be placed on record at the
close of the day in his famous cipher. From the
top of the present existing portion of the Palace
he could get a magnificent view of the pageantry on
the river.

" All the show," he says, " consisted chiefly in
the number of boats and barges and two pageants
one of a king and another of a queen, with her
maydes of Honour sitting at her feet very prettily ;
and they tell me the queen is Sir Richard Ford's
daughter. Anon came the King and Queen in a
barge under a canopy with ten thousand barges and
boats, I think, for we could see no water for them,
nor discern the King nor Queen. And so they
landed at White Hall Bridge [the landing stage or
stairs of the Palace], and the great guns on the other
side went off. But that which pleased me best was
that my Lady Castlemaine stood over against us on
a piece of White Hall, where I glutted myself with
looking on her. But methought it was strange to
see her Lord and her upon the same place walking
up and down without taking notice one of another,



J24 Picturesque Old Houses

only at first entry he put off his hat and she made
him a very civil salute, but afterwards took no
notice one of another ; but both of them now and
then would take their child which the nurse held
in her armes and dandle it. One thing more :
there happened a scaffold below to fall and we
feared some hurt, but there was none, but she of
all the great ladies only run down among the common
rabble to see what hurt was done, and did take
care of a child that received some little hurt, which
methought was so noble. Anon there came one
there booted and spurred that she talked long with.
And by and by, she being in her hair, she put on
his hat, which was but an ordinary one, to keep the
wind off. But methinks it became her mightily, as
everything else do."

Of Medmenham and Bisham Abbeys, beyond the
famous Cliefden Woods of which Lord Ronald Gower
writes so poetically in his Reminiscences, so much
has been written that perhaps the less I have to
say the better about these picturesque buildings, so
familiar to frequenters of the river. The ghost of
Lady Hoby at the latter that learned sister of
the Ladies Bacon, Burleigh, and Killigrew, who
thrashed her little boy so unmercifully that he died



Picturesque Old Houses 125

in consequence is said to walk the grounds in
widow's weeds as an everlasting penalty for her
cruelty ; and " if spirits from the vasty deep " ever
were unrestful, surely those of Lord le Despenser,
Sir William Stanhope, Sir John King, and other
members of the notorious " Hell Fire Club " at
Medmenham ought to haunt those ruins. Possibly
they still repeat their terrible nocturnal orgies, but
the Abbey precincts having degenerated into a hotel,
in daytime the ruins are the haunt of the holiday-
maker, who, as a rule, does not dwell much upon
the past, and as far as spirits are concerned, has them
in a modified form with soda or Apollinaris.


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Online LibraryAllan FeaPicturesque old houses; being the impressions of a wanderer off the beaten track → online text (page 6 of 11)