Bernard Burke.

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

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uncertain. However this may be, the family
of Muchgros formerly resided here, and we
find in the reign of Henry III., a Sir Richard
Muchgros, Knt., founding a chapel dedicated
to Saint* Catherine of the Rock. This chapel
is now totally destroyed, but there was for-
merly in the eastern window an escutcheon
with this inscription : " Rich. Muchgros,
liujus capelloB conditor.'"

In the reign of Elizabeth, we find Woolers
Hill possessed by the great Lord Burleigh,
who disposed of it to a son of Sir John Han-
ford. A portion, however, of the estate
seems at one time to have been possessed by
the Vampages of Pershore, with whom the
Hanfords intermarried ; and thus, in default
of male heirs to the property, acquired the
remainder. Since that time it has remained
uninterruptedly in the hands of the same
family, a period extending from three to four
hundred years. The principal front of this
house, which faces the north, was erected in
1611, by a John Hanford, whose portrait still
hangs in the hall. It is built of a hard stone,
closer in grain, and darker in colour than the
famous Portland stone, but of a kind which is
no longer to be found in the neighbourhood.
So hard indeed is this material, that time,
while it has lent a deeper and softer tone to



60



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN.



the mass, has had no effect whatever in dimi-
nishing the boldness and sharpness of the
outlines. In this respect the stone is as fresh
and as untouched as if it had been cut only
yesterday. Above the porch is a motto,
" Memorare Novissima" with the date super-
added of 1611 ; but, as we have already ob-
served, the rest of the building is of a much
older date. It is of the Elizabethan style of
architecture.

The offices and outbuildings have the same
venerable appearance that belongs to the
house itself, and harmonise with it in a very
picturesque manner.

Nothing can be better chosen than the site
of this house. It stands on the north side of a
hill, called Bredon Hill, at about one-third of
the ascent from the Vale of Evesham, of which
it commands a full view. From the bowling
green may be seen Upton-upon-Severn, the
abbey and town of Pershore, with the white
sails of the various craft upon the Avon,
gliding along within a mile or less of the
mansion ; and Strensham, celebrated as being
the birth-place of Butler, who sang —

" Sir Hudibras, his passing worth,
The manner how he sallied forth,
His horse's virtues and his. own."

The Avon is here at its greatest depth, and
meanders more than in any other part of its
course, amongst groves, houses, orchards,
and green meadows. Pugh has given a
very animated account of this interesting
scene, at once minute and comprehen-
sive : — " On ascending to the top of the
hill above the house, the view is yet more
majestic, though I think less sweet and en-
chanting. From a small knoll on the top,
the whole horizon is taken in ; and hence the
visitor who has a taste for the charms of
nature, may enjoy a prospect which is not
equalled by anything I have seen. Towards
the east, Broadway Hill, with its straight
footpath four times crossing the winding
carriage way down into the vale : Lord
Coventry's Tower, and the woods beneath it;
then turning with the sun, the Gloucester-
shire hills, with the town of Cheltenham,
snugly and warmly embayed by its neigh-
bouring hills; next Gloucester Cathedral;
Tewkesbury, with the junction of the Severn
and Avon on its race ground ; May Hill, the
Black Mountains in South Wales ; then the
Malvern Hills, a little foreshortened, the
Abbey of Great Malvern, the Shropshire
hills ; then Worcester, Crancombe Hill, and
Evesham (with its finely preserved Tower and
beautiful Church, in ruins) finishes the circle.
"I cannot conceive anything liner than this
sublime prospect, and have certainly seen
nothing that so completely fills my mind.
The Thames at Windsor, is broader than the
Avon ; the buildings and seats beyond com-



parison finer: but in every natural beauty it
is, I think, much inferior. The view from the
top of Malvern is very fine and extensive ;
but too like that of an aeronaut, the objects
are not well marked : from Bredon Hill all is
distinct, and the Malvern Hills form a mag-
nificent object to look upon.

"There are many curiosities near the house.
It is indeed all classic ground. The first
object in ascending from the house is the
foundation of a chapel, which was dedicated
to Saint Catherine of the Rock, said to have
been founded by Richard Muchgros, whose
family resided at Wollas Hall in the reign of
Henry III.

" On the top of the hill is a camp, with
double trench, enclosing about twenty acres
of ground. Dr. Nash thinks it British ; but
it is generally believed to be Roman ; an idea
that is strengthened by its shape, the en-
trance from the east, and the number of
Roman coinsand utensils "which are constantly
turning up. At the brow is a stone prospect
house, which from the vale appears like a
square pillar; but it has two rooms, one above
the other, capable of receivingtwenty persons.
Near this is an immense stone, called ' The
Bramsbury Stone,' of which, though it is so
large and conspicuous, I can get no account.

" About fourscore years ago, a hillock, on
the side of the hill, containing about an acre,
with its trees and cattle, slipped nearly a
hundred yards down ; and ten years ago,
without any previous warning, a chasm
opened on the hill in the solid rock, about 200
yards long, of the breadth of fifteen feet, and
of very unequal depth ; and in this state the
whole remains. The wolves have disappeared
long ago, but there are a great many foxes,
and a sufficiency of hares and partridges; and
1 have heard the present Mr. Hanford say,
that ' Bredon Hill rabbits ' were formerly
cried in London.

"The air of this place, although as it fronts
the north it is rather keen, is yet very healthy,
as I gratefully remember ; for it restored me
after a dangerous and tedious fever. The
soil is proverbially fruitful. The grass is
most luxuriant : it is never scorched up, nor
ever rots the sheep."

If we proceed to the interior, we shall find
the house is not unworthy of its situation.
The great hall has a noble appearance. It is
thirty-four feet long, twenty-two feet wide,
and eighteen feet high, with a carved screen
and gallery, and lighted by two large windows
on the right of the porch. Over the chimney-
piece is a large tablet showing the arms and
motto of the family. Up stairs is an elegant
little chapel, receiving its lights from some
small windows in the attic floor. The roof is
groined, and it contains an altar and a sa-
cristy. In the kitchen is a curious but very
useful contrivance. The spit there is turned



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN.



61



by means of a wheel put into action by a small
stream that rises just under the brow oi*
Bredon Hill, that immense mountain range
which divides the Vale of Evesham from the
Cotswold district.

Several land-slips, similar to those in the
Isle of Wight, and probably arising from the
same causes, have taken place in the imme-
diate neighbourhood, and that at no very
remote date. About the commencement of
the last century, a hillock on the side of
Bredon Hill slipped nearly a hundred yards
down, with all the trees and cattle upon it.
The quantity of ground thus removed could
not have been less than an acre. A still more
remarkable phenomenon occurred here be-
tween forty and fifty years ago : a chasm
opening, without any previous warning, in
the solid rock of the hill, about two hundred
yards long, and fifteen feet wide, but of very
unequal depth. Since that time, however,
the ground has remained undisturbed ; the
agent, or rather the agents, that produce
these startling effects, being of necessity slow
in action.

Bredon Hall has other claims upon the
attention of the passing traveller. Although
its perpendicular height rises to eight or nine
hundred feet, yet the woodlands are not con-
fined to its base, but appear in picturesque
groups from time to time up to the very sum-
mit. The botanist too will find here a va-
riety of herbs and flowers; but the dry enu-
meration of them would be foreign to our
present purpose ; and beyond this, our limits
would not permit us to go, though the
subject is one replete with interest and
instruction.

EELVOIR CASTLE, co. Leicester, the seat
of the Duke of Rutland, has a world-wide
fame. This is owing partly to its almost
unequalled grandeur, and partly to the
liberal and hospitable spirit of its princely
owner. Next to Windsor Castle, it is the
noblest baronial residence in Great Britain.
It is justly the glory of the Midlands. To
Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, and Notting-
hamshire, it presents the noblest object in
the distant prospect, and all these counties
have at times claimed it as being within
their boundaries. Topographers have been
misled by these claims. Though standing very
near to the Lincolnshire border, Belvoir
Castle is in Leicestershire. It is six miles
W.S.W. from Grantham, ten N. of Melton
Mowbray, twenty-eight N.E. from Leicester-
shire, and eighteen east of Nottingham. The
present castle, which is, we believe, the fourth
on its site, is situated on the apex of a lofty
and well-wooded eminence, which terminates
a range of bold headland, beginning near
Seg's Hill, and forming the southern bound-
ary of the luxuriant Vale of Belvoir.



The first building erected on the site was a
Norman fortress, built by Robert de Todeni,
standard-bearer to the Conqueror, the original
grantee. His successors assumed the name
of Albini. From the Albinis the castle de-
scended to the family of the Lords Ros, of
Hamlake ; and by the marriage of Sir Robert,
Manners {temp. Hen. VI.), with Eleanor,
daughter and heir of Thomas Lord Ros,
and subsequently Baroness Ros in her own
right, it came to the ancestor of the present
noble owner, the Duke of Rutland. It would
be long to tell the various mutations that
Belvoir Castle underwent before the erection
of the present stately edifice. In the feudal
times, in the wars of the Roses, and in the
troubled times of Charles I., it was frequently
garrisoned ; its commanding military posi-
tion, naturally rendering it a station of great
importance. At the commencement of the
present century, successive attempts at mo-
dernizing had nearly reduced the style and
character of the castle to that of an ordinary
hall. When the present noble duke came to
his majority, one of his first objects was the
rebuilding the castle of his ancestors, or,
rather, restoring it to its appropriate charac-
ter. At an outlay of £200,000, this great
work had nearly been completed, in 1816,
when, on the 26th of October, in that year,
a fire broke out, which reduced the magnifi-
cent structure to a blackened ruin. Portions,
however, of the castle escaped the devour-
ing element, as the south-west and the south-
east fronts, and the beautiful chapel. At
the time of this conflagration the castle con-
tained collections of works of art and n rtw
that could scarcely be surpassed by any
private mansion in Europe. Many valuable
pictures, by the old masters, were consumed,
and much of the costly furniture destroyed.
The zealous exertions of the domestics and
neighbouring tenantry succeeded, however,
in rescuing the valuable series of family por-
traits, and many other objects of interest.
But so extensive was the devastation, that
few owners but the Duke of Rutland would
have immediately resolved that the castle
should rise again, with more than its former
splendour. The works were immediately
recommenced; improvements on the previ-
ous designs were suggested and adopted, and
in a few years the towers of Belvoir, Phoenix-
like, rose again from their ashes. For
such a site, and with all the historical asso-
ciations connected with it, the adoption of
the Gothic style was confessedly the most
appropriate. The great difficulty of render-
ing a Gothic structure well adapted to the
usages, comforts,' and elegancies of modern
life, was never so satisfactorily overcome as
in Belvoir Castle. Though situated on so
great an elevation, the approach to the castle
is rendered comparatively easy by bridging



62



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN.



the ravine under the northern bastion. The
grand entrance is at the north-west, and
consists of a highly-decorated Gothic arch-
way, which admits carriages. This is appro-
priately graced with about 150 stand of arms.
Passing hence, the visitor enters the Guard-
room, which is tilled up with very choice
specimens of ancient armour, and all the
accessories of a baronial hall. The win-
dows are of very rich painted glass, and
exhibit the portraits of the early owners of
the castle. The roof is vaulted, and the
architectural embellishments are chaste and
elaborate. The Regent's Gallery, on the
western side of the castle, may vie with any
room in Europe. It is 181 feet long, 18 feet
4 inches high, and 17 feet 8 inches broad.
It is furnished and decorated in a manner
worthy of its beautiful proportions. Paint-
ings and tapestry of great value adorn its
walls, while the statuary, rich antique cabi-
nets, and countless articles of vertu, display
the perfection of taste, and charm the be-
holder. The views from the recessed win-
dows of this noble apartment are of surpass-
ing loveliness. Immediately below is the
terrace ; at a short distance a noble wood
rises stage above stage, and clothes from foot
to summit a rocky hill, between which and
the castle intervenes a glen of most pic-
turesque beauty. Stretching to the north-
west, the Vale of Belvoir presents a rich
champaign, beautifully contrasting with the
woodland steep just mentioned, and in the
distance Nottingham and its castle are dis-
tinctly seen. The name of this truly grand
apartment was given to it from the circum-
stance of its having been occupied by George
IV. when Prince Regent, and from its having
drawn down from that correct connoisseur
expressions of the highest admiration. The
picture gallery is 31 feet 6 inches high,
02 feet long, and 25 feet 10 inches broad. It
is lighted from the top. Notwithstanding
the irreparable loss occasioned by the lire,
this gallery may vie with almost any other
private collection. The library is of large
extent, and stored with eight or nine thou-
sand volumes, and many valuable MSS.
With the exception of its contents, it is the
least attractive room in the castle, being
lighted from an inner court. Its very sombre
character is, however, well suited for study
and retirement. The assembly room, in
which the family and visitors assemble before
going to dinner, is 27 feet by 24. The grand
corridor has elicited the admiration of the
highest architectural authorities. It is a
unique introduction into mansions of this
character, and its effect on the beholder
amply justifies the introduction. Lincoln
Cathedral is said to have furnished the de-
signs for the chaste embellishments of this
most imposing corridor. The state drawing-



room, or, as it is called out of respect to
its designer, the late lamented duchess, the
Elizabeth Saloon, is justly the wonder of all
visitors. It is 55 feet by 30, with 20
feet 10 inches elevation. To Mr. Matthew
Wyatt, was, we believe, confided the task of
decorating this superb apartment. It is at
once most chaste and gorgeous. The ceiling
is painted with subjects from the heathen
mythology — the late Duke of York being
very distinguishable as Jupiter Tonans. A
beautiful statue of the duchess from Mr.
Wyatt's chisel, adorns the saloon, and hi
the different compartments of the richly-
draped walls are inserted enamel miniatures
of various members and friends of the ducal
family. The grand dining-room is 55 feet
by 31, and 20 in height. On occasions when
Royalty or distinguished foreigners are guests
at the castle, the scene presented in this room
is truly baronial. There is a noble suite
called the Chinese rooms. The furniture
and decorations here are all genuine Chinese
work; but excellent and beautiful as that
work is, of its kind, it must be confessed
the style so badly harmonises with the other
appointments of this noble edifice, that its
introduction seems out of place, and the vio-
lation is not compensated by the variety.
The basement story contains a kitchen and
offices of a magnitude suited to the require-
ments of such a truly ducal establishment.
Under the Staunton Tower is the entrance to
the vaulted wine cellars, which are of extra-
ordinary capaciousness. In the ale cellars,
occupying vaults under another portion of
the building, are streets of barrels. One
vessel, containing 1300 gallons, was filled at
the birth of the present Marquis of Granby,
in 1815, and emptied when he arrived at his
majority. The Staunton Tower, of which
we have just made mention, is supposed
to stand on the site of the ancient don-
jon. The lower story is evidently of very
high antiquity. The custos of this tower is
the representative of the ancient family of
Staunton of Staunton ; and when the sove-
reign visits Belvoir, the key is formally pre-
sented by the chief of that time-honoured line.
This feudal custom has been preserved with
great care. It is alluded to in the well-known
rhymed pedigree of the Stauntons, given in
Throsby's " Thoroton." Sir Malger de
Staunton, the ancestor of this family, de-
fended the Castle against William the Con-
queror. Hence the custom.

To this brief sketch of the castle it is right
to add some description of its accessories.
At a short distance are the faint traces of
the ruins of the Benedictine Priory of Bel-
voir, founded temp. Gi. Conquestoris. Below
the castle rock begin romantic walks leading
through groves and thickets to the delightful
pleasure-grounds. These grounds, with all



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN.



63



their appropriate adjuncts of statue, grotto,
fountain, and bower, may be said to have
been the creation of the late duchess, to
whose tine and exquisite taste they appear
to be consecrated. A pillar, standing on
her favourite spot, bears a touching poetic
tribute to her loveliness and worth. A gentle
ascent from this charming plaisaunce leads to
the family mausoleum, in which her earthly
remains repose. This beautiful structure was
erected by the present duke. It is situated
on an eminence called Blackbury (vulgb,
Blackberry) Hill. It is approached by an
avenue of funereal yews, and is surrounded
by groves of appropriate trees. To tins
beautiful cave of Machpelah have been
transferred from the ancient family resting-
place at Bottesford, the coffins of the cele-
brated Marquis of Granby and the four
dukes who preceded the present noble repre-
sentative of the illustrious line, besides
twelve other members of the Rutland family.
The emblematic sculptures in the interior are
of very high character. The mausoleum was
designed by Wyatt, and its foundation-stone
was laid by the late Duke of York in 1826.
Its style is Early Norman.

The park contains a lake of ten- and-a-half
acres, and many hundred acres of the richest
pasture and woodland. The dairy-house,
the stables, and kennels, are all models in
their way.

An old hostelrie on the north side of the
castle hill is still permitted to stand for the
numerous parties of pleasure and tourists
that visit the castle.

Scarcely, however, does any distinguished
foreigner visit this country who does not
receive from the Duke of Rutland an invita-
tion to enj oy the princely hospitality of Bel voir .

In the hunting season, and especially at
Christmas, the castle is the scene of such
festivities as remind one of the days of yore,
save that unbounded hospitality is blended
with all the refinements of aristocratic life.
We have seen kings and queens welcomed to
Belvoir. We have seen the Duke of Welling-
ton lead off the merry dance. We have seen
christenings, with royal sponsors, and birth-
days at which the bravest, the greatest, and
the fairest of creatures were assembled ; but
none of these scenes afforded us more heart-
felt enjoyment than that which we have felt
at seeing how the tenantry and neighbouring
peasantry are treated in these ever-open
halls.

Mention ought to be made of the imposing
effect which the castle has when viewed from
any portion of the adjoining domain. In this
it greatly surpasses Windsor. The rich
masses of wood that flank it, its more
numerous towers, and its more commanding
site, combine indeed to give it a proud pre-
eminence over all other English castles.
Its effect when viewed, as it often is in



Leicestershire, from a distance of thirty
miles, with a setting sun gilding its many
windows, is extremely striking. Nor should
the prospect from the castle be forgotten.
The Cathedral of Lincoln, the town and beau-
tiful spire of Newark, and a countless number
of churches, are seen across the fertile vale
that lies at its foot. Charnwood Forest
bounds its south-western horizon. The nearer
prospect embraces, among other objects, nearly
twenty lordships of which the Duke of Rut-
land is owner, of whose churches he is patron,
and to whose denizens he extends a degree of
care that proves how heartily he recognises
the maxim that property has its duties as
well as its rights. It was, therefore, with
great justice that the fiftieth year of his grace's
Lord Lieutenancy of Leicestershire was dis-
tinguished by raising a statue to his honour,*
and that one of the present poets of the
county wrote on the occasion the beautiful
verses of which the following distich is the
refrain :

•' O, my brethren, what a glory
To the world is one good man ! "

Belvoir Castle forms the subject of a
remarkable Pindaric Ode of great length,
first printed 1690, and reprinted in Nichols'
Leicestershire. It also forms the theme of a
Latin poem of great merit, entitled " Arx
Belvoirina," in a collection of the poems of
Louth School, by the Rev. Andrew Burnaby.
The poet Crabbe, who held the neighbouring
living of Muston, has also celebrated the
castle and its inmates in his nervous strains.

Literature and the arts have not only
been cherished, but cultivated at Belvoir ;
there are living scions of the ducal stem
that have afforded pleasing evidences of this.
The writings of Lord John Manners, and
his sister, the Lady Emmeline Stuart Wort-
ley, will take a deservedly high place in the
literature of our country.

GWINFE, co. Carmarthen, the seat of
Lewis Lewis, Esq., a county magistrate, has
been, time out of mind, hi the possession of
the Lewis family. The house was rebuilt
about two centuries ago by the ancestors of
the present possessor. The fine old Scotch
pines in the grounds are said to be a sign of
the family's having favoured the royalists in
the time of James II., as those trees were
planted generally to point out the residences
of the Jacobites. The house is prettily
situated in the midst of lawns studded with
handsome trees, and intersected by a rapid
stream; and the bold grandeur of the lofty
hills which surround it adds much to the
beauty of the place.

* This statue, which was exhibited in the Crystal
Palace, has in its base the appropriate inscription,

" Prcesenli tibi maturos laryimur honores."



64



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN".



HAVILLAND HALL, in the island of Guern-
sey (near the town of St. Peter Fort), the seat
of Lieut. Col. T. F. de Havilland, was built by
the present owner in 1830 ; the residence of
his ancestors having been enveloped by the ex-
tension of the neighbouring town. Col. de Ha-
villand had served thirty-two years in the Ma-
dras Engineers, when he returned to his native
island in 1822, and he finally retired from the
East India Company's service in 1825. In his
military career he had been employed against
Pondicherry, Seringapatam, Colombo ; and was
field engineer with the Indian troops sent to
Egypt in 1801-2, on the personal application
for his services of the Hon. Sir Arthur Wel-
lesley, now the Duke of Wellington. He
was also much employed in the civil depart-
ment of his profession ; and was peculiarly
successful in the construction of the Madras
Bulwark against the increasing action of the
well-known surf along that coast, which,
in 1820, threatened the destruction of the
whole town and fort. It extended two and
a-half miles, was completed very consider-
ably within the estimate, and to the entire
satisfaction of the local government and of
the Court of Directors at home, having an-
swered its intended purpose these thirty years
past, without addition or repair.



Online LibraryBernard BurkeA visitation of the seats and arms of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 73)