E. W. (Edward Wedlake) Brayley.

A topographical history of Surrey (Volume 2) online

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span, viz. two on the Surrey side, and four in Middlesex, to admit the water to flow off
during land floods. The piers, only 9 feet in thickness, are said to be smaller, in propor-
tion to the span of the arches they sustain, than those of any other bridge in England.
The whole is surmounted by a plain bold cornice and block parapet of granite, with
pedestals for the lamps. On the Surrey side is a handsome toll-house, rusticated. The
approaches on either side form gentle curves of easy ascent. The entire fabric, when seen
from the water, has a light and elegant appearance. An Act of Parliament to regulate
the tolls of Staines Bridge was passed in 1828 ; but the receipts have greatly decreased
since the introduction of railroads. In 1803 the tolls produced £1,200 a year.*

* Manning ami Bray, " Surrey," vol. iii. p. 257.

Adjoining Egham on the north side, and extending to a considerable distance along the
borders of the Thames westward, is the celebrated tract of land called Eunnymede, to the
historical importance of which we have already adverted. This was the spot where the
great charter of Euglish freedom, Magna Charta, received the signature of King John in
June, 1215. Here also on the same day he signed the Charta de Foresta ; and on the
fourth day afterwards, the writ, or precept, by which twelve knights were to be elected in
each county, to inquire into abuses, and aid in carrying the provisions of the Great Charter
into effect. Denliam, in his " Cooper's Hill," an eminence bounding the prospect to the
west, has thus alluded to this ever-memorable event : — ■

" Here was that Charter seal' J, wherein the Crown
All marks of arbitrary pow'r lays down.
Tyrant and Slave, those names of hate and fear,
The happier stile of King and Subject bear :
Happy, when both to the same centre move,
When Kings give Liberty, and Subjects Love."

The peaceful result imagined by the poet was not what the perfidious monarch
intended. He quickly threw off the mask, and by the aid of foreign mercenaries again
sought to subjugate the realm to his own will ; but his decease in the following year gave
a welcome relief to his oppressed people.

It has been several times in contemplation to erect a column at Eunnymede, as a per-
petual memorial of the great event above recorded ; but, either from insufficient means or
from a sad deficiency of patriotism, no effectual steps have hitherto been taken to accom-
plish that object. Akcnside, about the middle of the last century, composed the following
linos as an appropriate inscription for the base of such a monument :—

'• Thou, who the verdant plain dost traverse here,
Whilst Thames among his willows from thy view
Retires, Stranger ! stay thee, and the scene
Around contemplate well. This is the place
Where England's ancient barons, clad in arms
And stern with conquest, from their tyrant King
(Then rendered tame), did challenge and secure
The Charter of thy freedom. Pass not on
Till thou hast bless'd their memory, and paid
Those thanks which God appointed the reward
Of Public Virtue. And if chance thy home
Salute thee with an honour'd Father's name
Go, call thy Sons ;— instruct them what a debt
They owe their ancestors ; and make them swear
To pay it, by transmitting down entire
Those sacred rights to which themselves were born."

There is a tradition that Magna Charta was signed on an cyot, or island, in the Thames

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