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

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Llechdwnny must have been a place of
some pretensions, if we may judge from the
noble avenue of lime-trees that seem to have
led up to the mansion. Another significant
hint of its former grandeur is afforded by the
fact of its being one of the few gentlemen's
seats marked down in Speed's " Map of Car-
mardenshire," bearing date 1(310.

Of the two chapels, which form the wings
of the chapel at Cydweli, the one on t lie
south side belonged altogether to this
family.

CASTLE MENZIES, or MENGTJES, as it was
originally written, and is still pronounced,
Perthshire, the seat of Sir Robert Menzies,
Bart. The estate has never been possessed
by any other family than the Menzies of that
ilk.

Old as the present castle is, there was a vet
older one standing at or near the same site.
This was destroyed by fire sometime previous
to 1560, in which year the castle was raised,
as we now see, by Duncan Menzies of that
ilk, Laird of Weem. It is a fine specimen of
the ancient Scottish keep, the walls being in
many parts upwards of fifteen feet thick, ami
so strong that it must have been utterly im-
pregnable at a time when artillery was not
in use. After 1745 it was frequently used as
a military station by the king's troops, and
even then proved a notable place of defence
against all ordinary attacks. It stands in the
midst of a beautiful and extensive lawn, at
the foot of the rock of Weem,* that rises up



* There is a spring underneath the rock of Weem cele-
brated as having been selected by Sir David Menzies
after his return from the crusades, as the place to
which he retired in order to spend the remainder of his
life in religious observances and mortification. Ilis
abode was formed on three sides by a natural cleft in the
rock, and the remains of the rude work, said to have
been performed by his own hand in making the fourth
side, is still extant. The spring is on the further
extremity.

Sir David's Well, as it is now called, is visited annually
on the 1st of May by all the fair damsels in the neigh-
bourhood ; popular superstition investing it with the
virtue of granting one of three wishes within the course
of the year quite to the satisfaction of its votaries, who
have to propitiate its favour by a small offering.



at least six hundred feet above the lower
grounds about the castle, its base being
thickly wooded. In some places the rock is
almost perpendicular, but the top when once
attained affords a glorious prospect, and one
that well repays the labour of the ascent.
On the west side lie spread before the spec-
tator Castle Menzies, with its rich meadow
lands — the so-called Haughs of Appin — a
considerable part of Loch Tay, and the
highest points in that line of the Grampians,
the lofty crests of Benlawers and Benmore.
( hi the east side the prospect is different, but
it can hardly be called less beautiful. The
spectator there sees Aberfeldy, with the deep
well-timbered dean of Moness, the luxuriant
valley of Strathtay, backed by a circle of
hills, and beyond them by a second range,
yet higher and embracing a still wider sweep,
the hills of Atholl. Through the whole of
this lovely scene the Tay winds along like a
shining serpent.

As already mentioned, the ascent of the
Weem is by no means a pleasant or even an
easy matter to those unaccustomed to
climbing mountains. How difficult it is may
be imagined from the following anecdote,
which hardly would have been told without
something at least to give it a colour : — The
late incumbent of the parish, a man well
adapted to such an enterprize from his
previous habits, was requested about sixty
years ago to conduct Mr. Playfair (afterwards
Principal) to the summit of the Weem by the
steepest path that could be taken con-
sistent with safety. The experienced pastor,
nothing loath, took the lead, and the future
Principal, who certainly must have had good
nerves, did not hesitate to follow. Arrived
at the top, and then for the first time fully
sensible of his own achievement, he could not
help exclaiming, "Has there ever been a
living creature here before?" "Oh yes,"
replied the pastor, coolly," many — goats and
eagles."

This rock, towering so high, and stretching
so far and wide, forms an admirable shelter
for the castle grounds below, screening them
most effectually from the fury of the northern
blasts, and thus allowing a free impulse to
vegetation. In consequence of this favour*
able circumstance, and the excellent quality of
the soil, many of the trees, oaks, planes, and
eliesnuts, have attained an enormous size.
But there is a beech amongst these forest
giants yet more remarkable from the singular
way in which it has grown. Near the ground

* Weem is the Gaelic for a cave, and there exists an old
tradition that there was a cave of large extent near the
castle, of which the mouth was securely filled up by
order of the laird, in consequence of its being reputed
to be haunted by a mischievous Kelpie, who had desti oyed
two youths who had attempted to explore the utmost
depth of the cave. They never returned alive, but their
bodies were afterwards found in Loch Glassie, on the top
of the rock of Weem.



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN.



07



it is split, as it were, into two branches, or
trunks rather, and then again unites about
four feet above the point where the separa-
tion commences. The opening thus left is
quite wide enough to allow a person of the
common size to pass through it without
difficulty. It well deserves to have the lines
of Campbell inscribed upon it, and perhaps
more than the tree which gives rise to the
poet's invocation :

" Sparc, woodman, spare the beechen tree,
Though bush or flowret never grew
My dark unwarming shade below ;
Nor summer bud perfume the dew,
Of rosy blush or yellow hue ;
Nor fruits of autumn blossom born
My green and glossy leaves adorn ;
Nor murmuring tribes from me derive
The ambrosial amber of the hive ;
Yet leave this barren spot to me ;
Spare, woodman, spare the beechen tree."

To be sure, this spot must be called any-
thing but barren. Sheltered as the grounds
are, they naturally produce a variety of
fruits in great perfection — all, in fact, that are
capable of growing in the open air, unless
under the influence of a southern or eastern
climate, The Castle Menzies Gean, or Wild
Cherry, is particularly celebrated throughout
the whole country for its peculiar size and
flavour.

Taken in its whole extent, the parish
abounds in game of various kinds. The
mountain hares that are found here, like
those of still higher latitudes, are smaller and
fleeter than the common hare, and, though dun
in summer turn white in winter. At a still
higher region than the hare the ptarmigan is
found, and that also grows white in winter.
The capircailzi, formerly indigenous to
Scotland, is also seen here.

The family of Menzies is beyond all ques-
tion of very ancient origin. They are be-
lieved to have come over with William the
Conqueror when he invaded England. Some
have identified them with the Maners, from
whom the family of Rutland have descended.
At all events, there cannot be much doubt of
their having settled in Scotland soon after
the Norman Conquest, and during the reign
of Malcolm Canmore, when they connected
themselves by marriage with the highest and
noblest of their adopted country. Their
spreading greatness may be elicited from
various documents and charters, wherein they
appear in the discharge of important offices,
and loaded with honours and commendations.



PLAS MAD0C, Denbighshire, North Wales,
the seat of Miss Youde Lloyd ; plds, a word
of frequent use in designating Welsh seats,
meaning not only " an extended area," but
also "a Hall," or "palace." Thus, Plas
Madoc signifies " the Hall of Madoc," though

VOL. II.



it may not be so easy to say whence it ac-
quired the latter half of its title. However
this may be, the estate has been possessed by
the ancestors of Miss Youde Lloyd since the
sixth century.

This house is a spacious mansion of the
Grecian oi-der of architecture. It was built
no longer back than the reign of James I., by
William Lloyd, Esq., the then owner of
Plds Madoc, and stands at the entrance of the
vale of Llangollen, so long the theme of won-
der with tourists of all ages and dispositions.
Madame de Genlis has exhausted the
brilliant colours of romance in describing it ;
Pennant, though seldom moving out of the
grave and sober pace which befits the anti-
quarian hobby, has been warmed up into
unusual admiration ; and a multitude of other
tourists have painted it most glowingly, each
after his own fashion. One writer, indeed,
says " the Vale of the Cross " at its upper
end — and which is generally confounded with
it — and that of Llandyssilis, on the Holyhead
Road, opposite to the former, are both, to our
mind, superior to Llangollen. Much depends
upon lights ; it is rather an evening than a
morning landscape." This, however, is a
mere matter of taste ; and perhaps a single
opinion, though pronounced by an able judge,
should not be allowed to outweigh the uni-
versal feeling in its favour.

In this valley the soft and beautiful are
most happily blended with the wild and
picturesque. Through the midst of it pours
the River Dee, which, as Pennant quaintly
observes, " emblematic of its country, runs
with great passion," and rushes through the
town of the same name, dashing over cataracts
at almost every ten yards, and beautifully
diversified in its course by woods, meads,
rocks, and hills. The noblest of these is the
conical mountain, upon the summit of which
stands the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran,
backed by the long line of limestone rocks,
called the Eglwyseg Rocks, the bright hues of
which, under the influence of the evening
sun, have been compared to the plumage of
a male pheasant when turned towards the
light. Here the Dee is seen foaming down
a cataract near the bridge, where, its whole
bed is a solid mass of rock, leaving only a
deep and narrow channel for its passage,
through which its dark and almost black
waters pour along with uncommon fury.
This bridge is one of the Tri Thlws Cymru,
or Three Beauties of Wales; it consists of
four irregular arches, the piers having been
founded where the rocks afforded the greatest
facilities to the builder. This useful, and
indeed indispensable structure was chiefly
owing to John Trevor, Bishop of St. Asaph,
who died in 1357.

In enumerating the attractions of this
valley, we ought not to pass over, without

o



98



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN.



notice, the aqueduct and the viaduct, works
that from their use and magnitude would have
done honour to Roman enterprise and to
Roman judgment. To the fisherman also Llan-
gollen will have charms of another kind ;
salmon, trout, and grayling, abound in the
Dee in its whole course through the valley.
Plas Madoc is at no great distance from
the populous village of Rhuabon, or, as it
is sometimes written, Rhiwabon, a place
celebrated for its iron mines and collieries.
The parish itself forms a most important part
of the Denbighshire coal-field, the largest
seam of which is here nine feet in thick-
ness.

SWINTON PAKE, in the North Riding of
Yorkshire, near the town of Bedale, and
about ten miles from Ripon, the seat of Mrs.
Vernon Harcourt, who is devisee for life of
the whole property under the will of her first
husband, the late William Danby, Esq.
This lady, being a widow, was married again
in 1838 to Captain Octavius Vernon Har-
court, son of the late Archbishop of York.

In the olden times, this manor formed a
part of the more extensive manor and free
chase of Mashamshire, given to the Abbey of
Jervaulx, by Roger de Mowbray, whose
bounty to the monasteries must be con-
sidered as profuse, even in an age when most
men were too willing to enrich such
establishments at the expense of their own
families. In recompense for these benefac-
tions he has obtained an honourable mention
in monastic legends. While the prosaic
chronicler, Hoveden, says that having un-
dertaken a second pilgrimage to the Holy
Land, he was taken prisoner by Saladin,
died, and was buried, the more poetic monks
have made him die, as a hero and a Christian
should do, in peace and honour. As they
tell the story, he was on his way home, but
not yet out of Arabia, when one day he saw
a lion fighting desperately with a truculent
dragon. Now, in all ages and at all times, your
true knight was at mortal feud with dragons
of every kind, whether winged or only
creeping, which, considering their many evil
propensities as well as their pestilential
breathings, was both just and reasonable.
He, therefore, took part with the lion, and
had the good luck to mortally wound his
antagonist, whereat the king of beasts, being
of a grateful nature, and perhaps more gently
disposed than others of his kind, followed
him to England. What grew out of this
singular friendship the legend saith not, but
Mowbray survived fifteen years, and then
dying was entered in Byland Abbey, a
fact proved by his monument, so long as it
lasted. It was distinguished, according to the
same veracious account, by the figure of a
sword.



It is not known at what time, or urged by
what inducements, the monks alienated so
magnificent a property, immediately con-
tiguous to their own demesne lands ; but it
is not the less certain that in 1328 Joan,
daughter and heiress of Sir John de
Walton, was possessed of, and sold, this
noble manor, with its dependencies, to
Geoffrey le Scrope, second of the name in the
family of the Scropes of Masham. In that
line it continued till the final partition of
the estate between the three coheiresses of
Geoffrey, the last Lord Scrope of Upsal and
Masham. In this division, which, however,
did not take place till the year 1520, in the
reign of Henry VIII., Masham fell to the
share of Margery, who had married Sir
Christopher Danby, grandson of Sir Robert
Danby, of Thorpe Perrow, Kt., Chief Justice
of the Court of King's Bench, avIio died in
1472.

The late Mr. Danby was a lineal descend-
ant of John de Danby, Lord of Great and
Little Danby in the time of the Conqueror,
and derived by marriages with the several
houses of Nevil, Lord Latimer, and the Earl
of Westmorland — from John of Gaunt, Duke
of Lancaster, fourth son of King Edward
III.

The first residence at Swinton Park was
a sporting seat of the Danbys, whose
more constant place of abode was at Thorpe
Perrow, near Bedale. This character the
house of Swinton retained even after the
family had sold Thorpe and removed to
Farnley, near Leeds, which had been acquired
by a marriage with the heiress of Langton.
About the year 1700, Sir Abstruphus
Danby, Kt., began to improve Swinton,
and added considerably to the house by the
construction of an extensive whig towards
the north, and a fine suite of rooms facing
the south, terminating in a museum for
minerals, fossils, and other productions of
natural history. This building was of stone,
and in the cinque-cento taste. The late
William Danby, Esq., contributed yet further
to giving the house the peculiar form and
character which it now presents. During
the interval from 1780 to 1820 he was con-
tinually employed in making additions and
improvements in the building as left by Sir
Abstruphus ; and, finally, about the last-
named period, he changed its style of archi-
tecture to the castellated domestic. He also
constructed a massive Anglo-Norman entrance,
tower, library, and other apartments, from
the designs of Mr. Lugar.

The scenery of the park and grounds is
exceedingly beautiful, and has been the
theme of very general admiration. The
home lake, the great lake, and the romantic
seclusion of the Storth Water, have each
their own peculia attractions. Over the



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN.



99



ravine of Quarry Gill a bridge is thrown,
seventy feet in height, formed of three
pointed arches, which, with the cataract of
the Falls of the Eller, forms a striking
contrast with the more quiet parts of this
delightful landscape. Nor is there any want
of interesting prospects beyond the limits
of this extensive domain. The views of the
neighbouring country extend from the western
moorlands of the vale of York, and from
the wolds of the West Riding, to the Durham
bills.

THURSO CASTLE, in the county of Caith-
ness, the seat of Sir George Sinclair, Bart., of
Ulbster.

Thurso Castle is the most northern seat
in Great Britain, situated at the entrance of
the Pentland Frith, and opposite to the
Orkney Isles. It was long the chief resi-
dence of the ancient Earls of Caithness of
the mighty house of St. Clair, descended from
a younger son of the last Earl of Orkney.
The present mansion was erected by George,
Earl of Caithness, in 1660, and it came into
possession of this branch of the family about
a century and a half ago.

The castle is an excellent spechnen of a
Scottish mansion built during the picturesque
period of gable ends, high roofs, round towers,
and peaked turrets. And about twenty years
since, it was doubled ; a very handsome set
of rooms having been built at the back of the
old castle, towards the sea, by the late Sir
John Sinclair. The dining-room, drawing-
room, and billiard-room are excellent, and to
all the conveniences of an elegant modern
mansion are added the quaint details of an
old Scots-French chateau, a style so different
from our Elizabethan.

The castle is built on a rock overhanging
the ocean, and when tide is full, it is almost
possible to throw a pebble into the sea from
the drawing-room windows. The scenery
has a peculiar beauty of its own. There are
no trees, lawns, shrubberies, or gardens ; but
on the other hand, there are rugged rocks,
wild waves, precipitous cliffs, yawning caves,
grassy downs, picturesque creeks, and bold
headlands, with glorious views of the wide
sea, and of the rocky shores of the Orcades.

In short, here we have the very perfection
of sea scenery, and there is no room for
regret that we are removed hundreds of
miles from the oaks, and lakes, and green
undulations of an English park. No trees
will grow close to the coast, and we do not
miss them, having in then stead the dizzy
cliff. No lawns and meadows grace the dis-
tant prospect, but we sigh not for them,
having in their stead the ever-changing sea
and the glorious sunsets gilding the wide
horizon.

Though the castle is old, its walls are sub-



stantial; its three round towers contain
spiral staircases. Its library is stored with
excellent works in all languages, and its
dining-room is hung round with pictures of
the successive generations of the family for
upwards of two centuries. The garden is
situated a mile to the interior, and is well
cultivated and pretty ; and five miles further
up the country there is a venerable grove of
trees, with a much larger garden, and the
substantial foundations of a spacious mansion,
which a former Laird of Ulbster commenced,
but which was, happily, unfinished ; as a
shady grove and a few cultivated meadows
would have been a common-place substitute
for the finest sea views in Great Britain.
There is a very excellent shooting lodge on a
portion of the estate, about twelve miles off,
which contains every accommodation for
sportsmen.

The neighbouring districts are rich and well-
cultivated. The town of Thurso is a borough
or barony, of which Sir George Sinclair is
superior. It stands on the opposite side
of the creek, half-a mile west from the
castle, and contains considerably upwards of
three thousand inhabitants.

The family of St. Clair is one of the most
illustrious in Scotland, and came originally
from Normandy. The St. Clairs were dis-
tinguished as Barons of Rosslyn, from the
days of King Malcolm Canmore. William
de St. Clair was the first of the name who
settled in Scotland, at Rosslyn, in Midlothian.
He was son of the Count de St. Clair, in
Normandy, by Helena, a near relation of
William the Conqueror.

Many generations after their original settle-
ment in Scotland, William St. Clair, Baron of
Rosslyn, married the daughter and heiress of
the mighty line of Scandinavian Earls of
Orkney, which had been founded in the ninth
century by Sigurd. From this marriage
sprang three St. Clairs, or Sinclairs, Earls of
Orkney, two Henrys and William, who were
the most powerful and illustrious of the
Scottish magnates during the reigns of Robert
II., Robert III., and the three first James.
AVilliam, third Earl of Orkney, whose mother
and wife were grand-daughters of Scottish
kings, and whose daughter married King
James the Second's son, was forced by King
James the Third to resign, one after another,
his most valuable possessions, the great Lord-
ship of Nithesdale and the princely fief of
Orkney.

This great northern earldom, he and his
ancestors had held since the ninth century as
a fief from the King of Norway. And when
it came to be annexed to the Scottish Crown
by the marriage of King James III. with
Princess Margaret of Denmark, the first act
of that monarch, as Lord Paramount, was to
compel the too potent carl to surrender his



100



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN.



domains. He obtained as an inadequate com-
pensation the Earldom of Caithness, and the
Castle of Ravensheugh, in Fifeshire.

The sons of this great earl founded three
great branches of the house of Sinclair. 1.
William, the eldest, was ancestor of the Lords
Sinclair, a family now extinct in the male
line, and represented, as heir of line, by Air.
Anstruther Thomson, of Charleton, in Fife-
shire. 2. Oliver, the second, was Baron of
Rosslyn, whose descendants became extinct
in the male line about the middle of last
century. 3. William, the youngest, was Earl
of Caithness, whose descendants now enjoy
the title. Thus, of the great house of Sinclair,
the Earl of Caithness, is the collateral heir
male, and Mr. Anstruther Thomson is the
direct heir of line.

Of the families of the name of Sinclair,
most are descended from the Earls of Caith-
ness, or are more remote branches of the
original Sinclairs of Rosslyn, before they
became Earls of Orkney. One distinguished
family, that of the actual Lord Sinclair, is in no
way related to, or descended from, the ancient
Earls of Orkney, Lords Sinclair and Earls of
Caithness; being the representative of the
ancient family of St. Clair, of Hermandston,
who bear the engrailed cross of Sinclair of a
different tincture, and are indeed sprung from
a race of very great antiquity, but of totally
different descent, though, probably, of kindred
origin in Normandy, seven centuries ago.

The family of Sinclair of Ulbster, is a
branch of the house of Caithness, and has
possessed the estate of Ulbster for between
two and three hundred years. It has risen
to first-rate importance in the north, by the
illustration of its alliances, and the extent of
its estates. Many of the lands which now
belong to it were formerly possessed by tho
Earls of Caithness.

It is remarkable that the succession to the
Earldom of Caithness has been very indirect ;
the title having, again and again, been in-
herited, without the accompaniment of an
acre of land, by remote collaterals. Thus it
has been twice within the last three or four
generations. Sinclair of Ratter inherited the
earldom, without estates, from a remote
cousin. And his son, in like manner, was
succeeded, in the bare title, by the Baronet
of Mey, who was the late Earl of Caithness.
Hence, for more than a century, there have
been no ancestral estates attached to the
earldom, and the late and present lines of
earls have merely possessed the properties
which they inherited as younger branches.
Thus the territorial importance of the earls
diminished, while that of the house of Ulbster
rose in proportion.

Ulbster is their original seat, and the place
of* family sepulture. Thurso Castle was a,
later acquisition ; and near to it, Sir C'corge



possesses the picturesque ndns of Scrabster
Castle, a stronghold belonging to the crown,
of which he is hereditary constable.

Sir George's grandfather, George Sinclair,
of Ulbster, a man venerated for his piety
and worth, married Lady Janet Sutherland,
sister to William Earl of Sutherland, and
aunt to the Duchess Countess of Sutherland.

Their son, Sir John, was most deservedly
well known. He was born at Thurso Castle,
in 1754. To his unremitting exertions the
country is greatly indebted, giving rise to
that spirit of agricultural improvement
which, within a few years, has produced so
great a change in its aspect. He was the



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