Bernard Burke.

A visitation of the seats and arms of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain (Volume 2) online

. (page 13 of 73)
Online LibraryBernard BurkeA visitation of the seats and arms of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain (Volume 2) → online text (page 13 of 73)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

built in the reign of Richard I., and it is
generally supposed — though it may be called
in question — to have been built by Peter
de Compton. The entire property belonged, hi
early days, to Angier, or De Augo, whose
daughter, Alice, conveyed it by marriage to
Walter de la Pole, and he bequeathed it to
Peter, who assumed the name of Compton.
After six descents in this name, Joan, the
co-heiress of William Compton, brought it
by marriage, in Edward the Second's reign,
to Geoffrey Gilbard or Gilbert, of Greena-
way, in the parish of Brixham, Devonshire,
a pleasant seat of long continuance in his
family, and situated upon rising ground, on
the east side of the Dart, a short mile
above the town of Dartmouth. The Gilberts
were settled in this county, beyond ques-
tion, as early as the Norman Conquest, and
even before that time, according to one of
authority, quoted by Prince. Certain it
is, that there were many men of eminence
amongst them, both in arms and in letters.
The name, however, which shines out with
peculiar lustre, and prominency beyond all
others, is that of Sir Humphry Gilbert.
He had, at an early period of life, devoted
himself to the sea, at a time when voyages
of discovery or of conquest, or even of piracy,
provided it was exercised only against the
Spaniards, were an absolute passion with
the people, and not a little encouraged by
the government. But his object seems to
have been of a less questionable nature than
was usual with adventurers of this kind.

Prince classes him among the worthies ot
Devon, and says, "he was, as our antiquaries
characterise him, an excellent hydrographer,
and no less skilful mathematician ; of an
high and daring spirit, though not equally
favoured of fortune; yet the large volume
of his virtues may be read in his noble
enterprizes, the great design whereof was to
discover the remote countries of America,
and to bring off those savages from their
diabolical superstitions, to the embracing the
gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Christ, for
which his zeal deserves an eternal remem-

In plain English, he was deeply imbued
with the adventurous spirit of his day, as might
be expected from one who, on the mother's
side, was brother to the gallant Sir Walter
Raleigh. Prince talks of his having discovered
land, an assertion which may well admit of
doubt. However, this may be, he represented
to Queen Elizabeth how necessary it was for
England to settle those countries formerly
discovered by John and Sebastian Cabot,
as otherwise they would be sure to be taken
possession of by the French. The great lure
held out in all these enterprises was the pro-
bability, if not certainty, of finding gold
mines, the real advantages of colonization
never entering into the consideration of any
party. Elizabeth in consequence granted him
a commission, with very ample powers, to
settle any lands he might find untenanted by
a Christian prince. He then formed an
association, for carrying out the proposed
enterprise ; but though many entered into
his views readily enough at first, yet, when it
came to the point, not a few fell off from him.
Undaunted by this, he supplied all deficiencies
so far as he was able from his own funds, and
boldly set sail, although with means consider-
ably crippled. The result was by no means
such as his energy and zeal had deserved.
He came back, after much fatigue, and some
danger, without having achieved anything,
and with the loss of one of his best ships.

Undaunted by this failure, he proceeded
to a second voyage, wherein Prince tells us
"he made great discoveries, and gave name
to a certain fretum (as I take it) in the
Northern Seas, called Gilberts Straits unto
this day." He was, however, no more suc-
cessful than he had been on his foregoing
adventure. To console him, Queen Eliza-
beth, frugal as she was known to be of such
rewards, conferred upon him the honour of
knighthood, and as a badge of her particular
grace, gave him a golden anchor, with a
large pearl at the peak, which he ever after
wore in his breast. A yet stranger instance
of her bounty — for the Virgin Queen by no
means delighted in seeing her courtiers mar-
ried — was the bestowing upon him the hand



of one of her maids of honour, Anne, daugh-
ter of Sir Anthony Aucher, of Kent, by whom
he had a numerous offspring.

In 1583 — that is, not quite six years after-
wards — at the instigation of Secretary Wal-
singham, and by permission of the Muscovy
Company, he sailed to Newfoundland, and
the great river of St. Lawrence, in Canada.
There lie took possession, in the Queen's
name, of a country two hundred leagues in
length, by the ceremony of cutting a turf and
rod, according to the ancient English cus-
tom, an act which drew down upon him much
censure and ridicule at the time, as arising
from childish vanity, but which was capable
of a fairer interpretation. The grant made
him by the Queen was under the express
condition of the lands being taken possession
of within six years ; there wanted now but a
few months only to the expiration of that
time of limit, and having sold a large portion
of his property in England, to assist in de-
fraying the expenses of the adventure, it
was but natural he should wish to secure
as soon as he could, and by the best legal
means in his power, the lands for which he
had made so great a sacrifice.

The men whom he had despatched to
see what could be discovered inland, while
the ships were being repaired and refitted,
had turned their inquiries more especially
into the possible existence of gold or silver
mines. In their company was a Saxon
miner, who brought back some ore which he
positively declared was silver, an assertion
indeed which did not seem to want probability,
since the silver mines of New Mexico were not
very much more to the southward, and silver
had also been found in Scotland, a country
considerably more to the north.

Disasters of every kind now multiplied
upon the unfortunate expedition. Some of
his men fell sick, some died, others fell to
piracy, and, being resolved to proceed with
his discoveries southward, he was obliged to
leave the Swallow behind, from want of
hands to man her. Next the captain of the
Squirrel deserted ; but still, under all these
discouragements, Sir Humphry set sail, and
soon afterwards the Delight struck upon a
rock and went to pieces.

It was now agreed to return home, but
they were incessantly pursued by stormy
weather, and the Squirrel, in which Sir Hum-
phry had embarked, being evidently too small
for such a service, the people aboard the larger
ship, Golden Hind, were hi constant expecta-
tion of her going down. When it grew yet
rougher, all were earnest with him to leave
the smaller craft. His constant reply to
these friendly admonitions was, " We are as
near to heaven by sea as by land ; " and in
this he remained firm, in spite of all persua-

sions. About midnight, when all was dark
around, and the storm at its highest, the
Squirrel being ahead of the Golden Hind, the
lights of the former were all at once extin-
guished, and a general cry burst forth from
those in the Golden Hind of " Our general is
lost ! " It was supposed by the mariners
that the vessel sank at the moment when
the lights disappeared, for she was never
seen or heard of afterwards. Such is the
plain unvarnished tale, as we find it, though
at much greater length in the old collection
of voyages. Prince, the biographer of the
Devonshire worthies, has given us the same
story, but with certain additions, borrowed
from the narratives of the superstitious sea-
men, which time had embodied into a legend
much more to the taste of the multitude,
always credulous, and always greedy of the
wonderful. It would lose by compression,
or by being told in any language but his.
" He had now but two ships left, and they
but of small force, to wit, the Golden Hind
of forty tons, and the Squirrel of ten, into
which last the general, notwithstanding many
persuasions to the contrary,, would needs go
himself; and as they changed their course to
return to England, at the very instant of
winding about, there passed between them,
towards the land — strange, and yet confi-
dently averred to be true — a very Uon (to
their seeming), in shape, hair, and colour,
not swimming after the manner of a beast,
by moving his feet, but rather gliding upon
the surface of the water, with his whole body
in sight ; nor did he dive under water and
rise again, as dolphins, porpoises, and other
such fishes are seen to do, but boldly showed
himself above water, notwithstanding the
mariners presented themselves in open view
to amuse him ; and thus he passed along,
turning his head to and fro, yawning and
gaping wide as he went ; and, to give them a
farewell, coming against the Hinde, he sent
forth an horrible voice, roaring like a lion.
Which spectacle all plainly saw, and beheld
it, so far . as they were able to discern, as
men prone to wonder at so strange a thing.

" This apparition passed, there instantly
followed a grievous and violent storm, which
made the waves rise so high, and rage so
horribly, that all hopes of safety had already
left them.

" The general, nothing daunted, with his
book in his hand — most likely the Holy
Bible or the common prayer — cried out aloud
to his company in these words, ' We are so
near to heaven here at sea as at land.''

"This speech, as became a soldier resolute
in Christ Jesus — rather wondering than
affrighted — to the comfort of his company, he
oftentimes repeated ; until at last he was
swallowed up by the waves ; though the



other ship, with some of his crew, was pre-
served, <ind returned safely into England,
from some of which this relation may he sup-
posed to come.

" Further what may not be omitted, was
the ingenuous device and noble motto —
speaking a brave mind — which Sir Humphry
wore in his breast. His device was Mars
and Mercury conjoined by a cross. The
motto underneath was, Quid nou ? All
which seems to declare this great captain's
mind was this, that there is nothing too diffi-
cult for wisdom and valour to undertake and
perform, if accompanied with Christ's assist-
ance. Quid nont What is there that a
noble and gallant spirit may not hope to
achieve by the blessing of the Lord Jesus?
Or else (what may relate to his pious zeal of
propagating the faith of our blessed Saviour in
foreign countries), it may import this much : —
That all our wisdom and valour ought to unite
and centre in promoting and defending the honor
of the cross of Christ. Hence I rind that the
learned in that ingenuous faculty do acknow-
ledge, that the bearing the cross in our coat-
armour is the most honourable charge to be
found in heraldry, which, among Christians
especially, might serve to honour this gentle-
man's witty device."

In the family of this gallant but unfor-
tunate seaman, the Grange remained till
about 1780, when the Gilberts * disposed
of it to Mr. Amyott, who however did
not long retain possession of his new pur-
chase. In a very short time, he sold it to
the late Rev. George Templer, and he
again sold it, but this time it was partitioned
out in several lots. The castle, and about
one hundred acres of the barton, were pur-
chased by Mr. Bishop, a farmer, and he re-
sold his part of the bargain to Francis Gar-
rett, Esq., the present proprietor.

Situated in a valley, and entirely com-
manded by a hill in its rear, this place affords
a curious example of the fortified mansion-
house, or castle, of an early period. The
principal buildings form a quadrangle, enclos-
ing an inner court, from which were commu-
nications with the interior. In the south
front is the main entrance, defended in
former days by its portcullis. The narrow
Gothic windows, now replaced by modern
sashes, were strongly machiolated. On the
right of the entrance is the church, on the
left, or west, is the great hall. In the rear of
the east wing are the ivied remains of a
tower, the walls of which, like those in the
rest of the building, are exceedinly thick
and strong. The outer or anterior court, with
its walls and gateway, is destroyed ; but a

* The present representative of the Gilberts of Comp-
ton is the Rev. John Pomroy Gilbert, of the Priory,
elder brother of General Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert,
Bt., G.C.B.

portion of the moat, which encloses the
whole, is still remaining.

"Yet time has seen, that lifts the low,
And level lays the lofty brow,—
Has seen this broken pile complete,
Big with the vanity of state ;
But transcient is the smile of fate !
A little rule, a little sway,
A sun-beam in a winter's day,
Is all the good and mighty have,
Between the cradle and the grave."

The grounds attached to this ruined pile
are very extensive, and belong to one of the
most fertile parts of all Devonshire. Such at
least is the general notion conceived of the
whole parish of Marldon. The barton, of
which the grounds of Compton form a part, is
now much divided, and held by various occu-

GUIMSTHORPE CASTLE, in the county of
Lincoln, the seat of Lord Willoughby de
Eresby. To judge from all outward appear-
ances, this building has been erected at
various periods, the south-east tower proba-
bly as far back as the reign of Henry III.
It is in shape the frustrum of a pyramid,
with an embattled top, within which is a
winding staircase of stone, leading to a
chamber that has windows similar to those
found in many old castles. A large part,
indeed the greater part, belongs to the reign
of Henry VIII. , and, as Leland informs us,
"the place of Grimesthorpe was no great
thing afore the new building of the second
court. Yet was all the old work of stone,
and the gate-house was fair and strong, and
the walls on each side of it embattled ; there
is also a great ditch about the house." Fuller,
in his day, treats it with very little more
courtesy, observing, " Grimsthorp I may
term an extempore structure, set up on a
sudden by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk,
to entertain King Henry VIII. in his pro-
gress into these parts. The hall therein was
fitted to a fair suit of hangings, which the
duke had by his wife, Mary, the French
Queen, and is now in the possession of the
Eight Hon. Montague, Earl of Lindsey."

It was either at this time, or close upon it,
that the east, west, and south fronts were
built, each having embattled turrets at the
angles. The north front was added at a
much later period by Sir John Vanbrugh,
of whom Sir Joshua Reynolds was wont to
say that he displayed more imagination than
any other architect.

A beautiful chapel still exists in the north-
west tower. In the north-east tower is the
kitchen, and the ground floor of this front
contains the offices, over which is the chief
dining-room, containing many beautiful pic-
tures and portraits. In the south and west
fronts are many smaller rooms. It should
also be mentioned, that the north front, be-



fore alluded to, as the work of Vanbrugh, is
composed of two lofty wings, bahistraded at
top with a pinnacle at each corner. The
whole stands in the midst of a noble park,
full sixteen miles in circumference, and beauti-
fully varied with thick and extensive woods.
From the gates of the north or principal
front extends a magnificent avenue, near a
mile in length, while on the south side of
the house are the gardens and pleasure
grounds, abounding in all those fruits and
flowers which may be expected from such
places when in the highest state of cultiva-
tion. On the west, a beautiful lawn, of the
liveliest green, slopes down to two lakes,
occupying about a hundred acres. Beyond
these the ground is seen to rise gently,
the prospect being terminated by a grove
of forest trees. On the east side the view
includes the village of Grimsthorpe, with
the lordship of Edenham, the latter of which,
with the exception of about a hundred
acres, belongs to the owner of the mansion.
In a valley, about a mile from the house,
are three or four large sculptured stones,
the scanty remains of what was once the
Vallis Dei, or Vaudy, a Cistercian abbey,
founded in or near 1451, of William, Earl
of Albemarle. The site of the monastic
pile is now covered by a small wood.

" Oblivion's awful storms resound,
The massy columns fall around,
The fabric totters to the ground,
And darkness veils its destiny."

ROSS-DHU HOUSE, Dumbartonshire, the
seat of Sir James Colquhoun, Bart., lord
lieutenant of the county, and for several
years M.P. for the county of Dumbarton.
He married Jane, second daughter of Sir
Robert Abercromby, Bart., of Birkenbog, and
by her has issue one son, James.

Tins family has been at all times distin-
guished, and particularly so in the person of
Sir John Colquhoun, grandson of that Sir
John, who in 1440 was killed by the islanders
at Inchmurren. In 1474 he was created Lord
High Chamberlain of Scotland, and Am-
bassador Extraordinary to the English Court,
at a time when the ravelled affairs of the two
nations required the mediation of one who
possessed both sagacity and temper. Three
years afterwards he was made Governor of
Dumbarton Castle for life ; but he did not
long survive to enjoy these honours, for the
castle being besieged in 1478 he was killed
by a cannon ball at the siege of Dunbar,
leaving behind him the memory of a brave
and good man, who had filled every station
with credit to himself, and advantage to his
king and country.

The present mansion of Ross-dhu was
built in 1774 by Sir James Colquhoun, who

married Lady Helen Sutherland, daughter of
Lord Strathnaver, son and heir apparent of
John, nineteenth Earl of Sutherland. The
names of Sir James and Lady Helen Col-
quhoun, with the date when the house was
erected, are engraved upon the roof of the
building, which belongs to the Grecian style
of architecture. It stands on a peninsula,
nearly surrounded by Loch Lomond, from
which last circumstance it probably derives at
least a portion of its name : Ross, like Ness and
Nose, signifying a promontory. The deer-
park, grounds, and plantations attached to the
house, contain about six hundred acres of
excellent land. There is also one of the
islands, Inch Lonaig, which has been kept
as a deer-park for many centuries, and is
remarkable for a number of fine old yews.
Not far off from the modern mansion are
the ruins of the ancient castle of Ross-dhu,
the former residence of the family. They
cannot be less, and probably are much more,
than four hundred years old. Hard by is a
roofless chapel, still used as a family cemetery
by the Lairds of Luss. If we extend our
search a little further, but still confining
ourselves to the same parish of Luss, we
shall find our attention arrested by other re-
mains of antiquity, to which cling various
popular traditions. Thus near Dunfin — the
fort of Fin or Fingal — a huge rock is pointed
out that proves Fingal must have been a
giant of giants. He stood, say the oral
chroniclers, on the top of Benbin, and poised
this immense mass upon his little finger, with
the intention of hurling it to the summit of
Shantron Hill, a distance of several miles ;
but with a giant's strength Fingal had also a
giant's clumsiness, and not having poised the
stone rightly, it fell into a small brook mid-
way between the two hills, where it has re-
mained ever smce.

Loch Lomond in one of the Roman itine-
raries is called Lyncaledur, that is to say,
" the Lake of the Woody Water." The
name of Loch Lomond it did not receive
until the fourteenth century, when it was so
called from Ben Lomond. Prior to that time
it was known as Loch Leven, from the ex-
ceeding smoothness of its waters, which at-
tain their greatest breadth on coming opposite
to Ross-dhu. It is then about eight miles
wide, its extreme length being about thirty
miles, the whole being rendered yet more
picturesque by headlands and well-wooded

PENCARROW, Pencarou, or Pencaro — for
so the word has been variously written — in
the co. of Cornwall, about three miles north-
west of Bodmin, the seat of Sir William
Molesworth, Bart.

At a very early period, the barton of Pen-


















carrow was in the family of Stapleton, and
about a century afterwards in that of Serjeaux,
which ended in co-heiresses. It subsequently
became the property of a family who took
their name from the place ; but one of this
race was attainted and lost the estate, either
for siding with King Richard III. against his
rival Richmond, or for aiding Flammanc in
his rebellion when the same Lancastrian had
become Henry VII. Pencarrow next passed
to the Walkers, of Exeter, who, in the reign
of Elizabeth, disposed of it to John Moles-
worth, of Tretane, Esq., a commissioner
or auditor to that queen for the Duchy of
Cornwall. This last-named gentleman was
the ancestor of the present proprietor now
settled at Pencarrow.

The mansion, as it now appears, was com-
menced in 1765, by Sir John Molesworth, the
fourth baronet, and completed by his son. It
contains several good rooms, especially a
music room, and three libraries stored with
the best works on philosophy, science, and
history. The pictures are chiefly family por-
traits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Northcote,
and Raeburn. The hot houses and conser-
vatories have been lately rebuilt, and are cal-
culated to display the beauties of a choice
collection of exotic plants. The gardens and
shrubberies have been laid out by the present
proprietor, and are much admired. The gar-
den before the southern front of the house is
in the Italian style, with terraces of grass, and
in the form of an amphitheatre. In its centre
is a fountain made of granite, the basin of
which is copied from that on the Piazza
Navonna, at Rome, On its eastern side is a
rockery, in imitation of one of the neigh-
bouring tors, and composed of rocks of time-
worn granite, with shrubs interspersed; dense
masses of American plants, with lofty trees
in the back ground, crown the rockery,
bound the garden on the west as well as on
the east, and present a gay appearance when
in full flovver. In the grounds and planta-
tions about the house is a collection of rare
trees, and amongst them young and thriving
specimens of almost every hardy species of
the yew, fir, and cypress tribes that have
been introduced into England.

The park is of considerable extent, and is
skirted by plantations. On the highest
ground in it, is one of those ancient camps,
supposed to be Danish, with which Cornwall
abounds. It is in a very perfect state, and has
a double vallum ; the inner one is oval, enclo-
sing an area of 250 feet by 200 ; the outer one
is of an irregular form. On the fortifications
grow ancient and stunted oaks, twisted and
distorted by the storms of the Atlantic.
From the camp extensive views can be ob-
tained of the surrounding country, with the
Atlantic Ocean, the cliffs of the north-coast
of Cornwall, the moors and western tors in

the distance, presenting a wild and pic-
turesque scene.

The family of Molesworth is said to be of
Norman origin, and like many of the military
adventurers who came into England at the
period of the Norman Conquest, it probably
took its name from property which it acquired
from the Saxons ; for there are two places in
England called Molesworth or Mouldsworth ;
the former is in the neighbourhood of Ches-
ter, and according to Lysons, it was at an
early period the property of the Moles-
worths ; the other is a parish in Huntingdon-
shire, in which county the Molesworths
resided during several generations. Moles-
worth is likewise a Saxon name, composed of
mould, signifying earth, pasture, &c, and
worth, derived from weorthig, a meadow,
field, or farm, which word was frequently
used in the Saxon language as the termination
of names of places.

WOOLERS HILL, anciently Woolas Hall,
Worcestershire, about four miles from the
market town of Pershore, the seat of
Charles Edward Hanford, Esq., a magis-
trate for the counties of Worcester and
Gloucester, and a deputy-lieutenant for
the former. In addition to the names al-
ready given, it was also called Wolvershull,
upon which Nash observes, " Whether
this Wolvershull received its name from
the wolves, which before and since the Con-
quest very much infested this county, is

Online LibraryBernard BurkeA visitation of the seats and arms of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain (Volume 2) → online text (page 13 of 73)