Edward Walford.

Tales of our great families. 2d series (Volume 1) online

. (page 15 of 16)
Online LibraryEdward WalfordTales of our great families. 2d series (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

acquittal on the charge of high treason in the
reign of George I, are matters well known to
every school-boy or school-girl. His son and suc-
cessor, the second earl, was the gleaner and editor
of the valuable collection of historical docu-
ments which is known to scholars as the Harleian
Miscellany, and which was purchased from his
widow for the British Museum. The third earl
was his cousin, also Edward, of whom little more
need be said than that he married and had four
sons, of whom the eldest reigned as a peer in
his stead, the second was Bishop of Hereford,
and the fourth a prebendary of Worcester, while his
third son Thomas, was sent into the city to make
his fortune, or at all events to push his way. The
story of this Thomas Harley I now come to tell.

Athough the son and the brother of an Earl of
Oxford, yet this gentleman shared the fate which
is so common among the younger sous even of
titled parents, namely, that of having to begin
the world with but a very small suppty of money.
Young Harley was educated at the school at
Westminster, but it is not on record that on
leaving his father's house at Westminster he
walked through Temple Bar and journeyed east-
wards into the City of London proper, with only
the conventional half-a-crown in his pocket which
usually figures on these occasions. Indeed, it is


not at all certain that he went through Temple
Bar at all, for even at that date there were more
ways than one into the heart of London. One
way, at all events, was by the river, not in a
steamer, but in a hired wherry or his father's
private barge.

It so happened that his father's steward, who
had made some pickings out of the Harley estates,
was possessed of a very pretty daughter, one
Anna or as she was called " Nanny" Bangham,
and she became the fair goddess of his destiny.
She was her father's heiress, was known to have
a good fortune " looming in the future," and her
father, plain Edward Bangham, thought that
none would have a better right to share it with
her than one of his master's sons. The fates
were propitious ; young Thomas Harley " popped
the question" which has made (or marred) so
many men before him and after him. Old Bang-
ham was quite as willing as his fair daughter to
say " yes ;" so the affair was soon settled, and
her money too. He received with "Nanny" a
handsome fortune, with which, at the ripe age of
twenty-two, the Honourable Thomas Harley com-
menced business in the wine trade, and became a
citizen of London, resolving mentally, no doubt,
to sit one day in the civic chair.

Time went on. Harley prospered in his busi-


ness, and the fact of his having a " handle" to
his name, we may be sure, did not stand in his
way among the good people who worship Mam-
mon much, but " blue blood" even more, to the
east of Temple Bar. Ten years after his mar-
riage, and his start in business, namely, in 1762,
we find him chosen an Alderman of London, and
in the same year one of the members of the City,
having succeeded to the seat vacated by its late
respected representative, Sir John Barnard. He
served as Sheriff of London in 1764, and became
Lord Mayor in 1768.

During his shrievalty he made himself famous,
though not perhaps popular in the City, by seizing
the emblems of the " boot" and " petticoat,"
which the mob were burning in the street oppo-
site the Mansion House, in mockery of Lord
Bute and the Princess Dowager, while the Sheriffs
were busily engaged, on their parts, in burning
the North Briton, the paper of John Wilkes.
The people in the mob were throwing copies of
the paper about in sport and fun, when one of
them probably carrying inside of it a handful
of dirt or a stone was hurled through the front
window of Mr. Sheriff Harley's chariot, shatter-
ing the glass. This caused an alarm, and the
Sheriffs retired, with sound discretion, to the
Mansion House. Some few of the ring-leaders of


the mob were arrested, and brought before the
Lord Mayor ; but it turned out to be a " storm in
a tea-cup," and it appeared that no danger to the
Constitution was designed or contemplated by
the populace, though angry with the civic mag-

A proposal being made to offer a vote of thanks
to the Sheriffs, for discharging their duty on this
not very difficult or critical occasion, was nega-
tived by the Lord Mayor himself, who stated
publicly that he did not consider the affair as
" sufficiently important for a public and solemn
acknowledgment, which," he declared with em-
phasis, " ought to follow only the most eminent
exertions of duty."

For this refusal it is almost incredible the
Duke of Bedford, in his place in the House of
Lords moved that the Mayor and Corporation of
London should be " ordered to attend at the bar
to answer for their conduct ;" while another duke,
His Grace of Richmond, in seconding the motion,
took to himself and his leader great credit for
not moving a formal address to His Majesty,
urging him to " deprive the City of its charter."
Lord Mansfield, who had, fortunately, enjoyed a
legal instead of a ducal education, with great
good sense and coolness, explained the matter in
all its bearings, to the satisfaction of the House,

T 2


and in the end prevailed upon the two dukes to
withdraw a motion which conld not be justified
upon any principle of reason, law, or liberty.

For his service on this occasion, however, Mr.
Harley was sworn a Privy Councillor, so that he
could style himself "Right Honourable" long
before he attained the honours of the mayoralty.*
But in proportion as he gained favour at Court,
he lost it in the City ; and in consequence he
was thrown out of Parliament at the next elec-
tion, and was afterwards unsuccessful in his
candidature for Herefordshire, in which county
it might be thought the Harley interest would
have been all-powerful. At length, in 1775, on
the occasion of Mr. Foley being raised to the
peerage, when the memory of his shrievalty had
passed away, the farmers and cider-makers of
Herefordshire thought better of the affair, and
sent him as their representative to St. Stephen's;
and he continued to hold his seat for a quarter of
a century or more.

There is little or nothing to say with respect
to Mr. Barley's mayoralty, except that it was

* It is stated by Mr. Sylvanus Urban in the obituary notice
of Mr. Harley in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1804, that this
honour had never before been conferred on any of his prede-
cessors in the mayoralty from the days of Sir William


uneventful, and that at the close of it he had won
back part at least of that capricious and fleeting
substance called public favour.

' It cannot be denied," observes a writer in
the Gentleman's Magazine, who was eminently
acquainted with the City politics of seventy years
ago, " that in consequence of the peculiar temper
of the times, and the imperious duty thence fre-
quently imposed on him of firmly resisting the
headstrong course of popular licentiousness, the
conduct of Mr. Harley was frequently exposed, as
might have been expected, to obloquy and mis-
representation. A strong instance of this was
afforded in the case of the press-warrants in 1770
and the following year. As he never wanted
popular favour, nor practised those disingenuous
artifices by which the fleeting applause of a
giddy multitude is too often successfully pursued,
it was not in the transient popularity of a day
that he sought the reward of his exertions, but
in the approbation of his own conscience, and,
next to that, in the well-founded and permanent
praise of those whose praise he justly valued.
Laudari a laudatis was ever the object of his
ambition. At this distance of time, however,
when the ebullitions of popular fury have, to-
gether with their effects, long since happily sub-
sided in this kingdom, aud when the lamentable


consequences of uncou trolled democratic frenzy
have been so abundantly exemplified in our eyes
in the total ruin and desolation of neighbouring
States, it will hardly be thought to derogate
from Mr. Harley's public character when we
state that, in the vigilant discharge of his official
duties he was frequently exposed to insult and
opposition from a lawless and irritated mob;
that, in burning The North Briton, while he was
Sheriff, in 1764, he was violently and tumultu-
ously assaulted ; that, on more than one occasion
during his mayoralt}' he encountered, with a
characteristic coolness, and with the most deter-
mined intrepidity, very serious personal danger;
and that when afterwards, in 1770, he was going
up with a number of fellow-citizens to present a
loyal address to his Sovereign on the birth of a
princess, he was even forcibly torn from his
chariot, and prevented from proceeding to St.
James's. It is more pleasant to relate that in
later and better times a very different sentiment
had universally prevailed in the metropolis ; and,
it is a fact that even his former political opponent,
Mr. Wilkes himself, who will probably be as
little suspected of partiality in this as of want
of discernment in any instance, has frequently
been heard to bear honourable testimony, in the
latter years of his life, to the merits of Mr.


Harley's public conduct, declaring it to have
been at all times uniform, manly, and consistent/'
He also continued to draw a good income from
his business as a merchant, to which he eventu-
ally added that of a banker, and prospered in
his double capacity. In conjunction with another
gentleman, named Drummond I believe, his
son-in-law he had at one time a contract for
supplying the army in America with foreign gold
a contract out of which the two are said to
have realized a fortune of more than half a mil-
lion. With the proceeds of this contract he bought
a fine property at Berrington, near Leominster,
on which he built a sumptuous residence, in fact
a sort of palace. But, partly owing to the extra-
vagance of his style of living, and partly in con-
sequence of some extensive failures, " there was
in his banking-house in 1797," says a contempor-
ary writer, " something like a hesitation of pay-
ment." With respect to this event, " Sylvanus
Urban" says : " At a period when this critical
and even awful state of public affairs had given
a shock to public credit, which was felt not only
by the most respectable commercial houses
throughout the kingdom, but also in some mea-
sure by the Bank of England itself, Mr. Harley
determined at once to relinquish all his commer-
cial concerns. The most liberal and friendly


offers of pecuniary aid, he bad declined in the
most disinterested manner ; and having made a
voluntary assignment of all his real and personal
property (should it be wanting) for the honourable
payment of all his partnership demands, he had
soon the heartfelt satisfaction of seeing them all
discharged in their fullest extent, both as to
principal and interest, a proof of his upright-
ness and integrity which raised him even higher
than before in the 1 estimation of his fellow-

Even after this momentary failure, though ad-
vanced in years, he was strongly urged to allow
himself to be put forward as a candidate for the
chamberlainship of the City, when vacant by the
death of Mr. Wilkes ; but he declined the pro-
posal, in a " manly and feeling address" to the
Livery, in which he stated among other reasons
that, in event of such a vacancy, he was pledged
to support the individual who in point of fact
was elected to the post. On quitting the repre-
sentation of the City in 1774, he issued another
address to the Liverymen of London, " strongly
marked by that manly steadiness and consistency
of character, that clear discernment and vigour
of intellect, by which he was at all times distin-
guished in public and private life." Mr. Harley
spent the last few years of his life in retirement.


He was for some years before his death " the
Father of the City," and he drew a salary of
.300 a-year from the civic funds as governor of
the Irish Society. His wife died in 1798, and
he followed her to the grave in 1804. His bio-
grapher, in the columns of the Gentleman's Maga-
zine, records the fact that, down to near the end
of his life, he continued the vigilant and active
discharge of his civic duties in the metropolis,
retaining to the time of his death his alderman's
gown, and having become by the death of Mr.
Alsop, in 1785, the " Senior or Father of the
City." He left five daughters, his co-heirs two
of whom married peers but no son to succeed
him ; and, though the earldom of Oxford lived
on till 1853, yet the male line of the ancient and
noble House of Harley is now extinct ; its memory,
however, is embalmed in the name of Harley
Street, so named after the celebrated author of
the Harleian Miscellany, who is mentioned above
as the second earl.



THE noble House of Stourton is of great an-
tiquity in Wiltshire, deriving its name
from the village of Stourton the town or ville
upon the Stour where its head held broad acres
from a date before the Conquest down to the
beginning of the Georgian era. That the
Stourtons were men of note and of power at
that early date is proved by the fact that Botolph
de Stourton was one of the chief opponents of
the Norman invader in the west, disputing every
inch of ground against him, breaking down the
sea walls of the Severn, guarding the land pas-
sages, and securing Glastonbury, so that he was
able to dictate even to William the Conqueror the
terms on which he would yield possession of the
soil. From him descended a long line of knights,
who fought for the Holy Sepulchre in their gene-


rations, and sought their mates among the Bassets,
the Vernons, and the Berkeleys. One of this
line, Sir John Stourton, a gallant warrior, and
also a statesman, in the reign of Henry VI., was
raised to the peerage in A.D. 1455 as Lord Stour-
ton. His great-great-grandson, Charles, the
seventh baron, however, sadly tarnished the
family escutcheon by a deed of murder, which he
expiated in the market-place at Salisbury.

This deed of violence took its origin in a strife
arising out of those Forest Laws which were so
cruel a source of oppression of our poorer classes
in the Middle Ages. As Mrs. Crosse writes in
" Once a Week :" " Every schoolboy knows that
the tyranny of the early Norman kings was
felt most keenly in their cruel exactions for the
preservation of game. To kill beasts of the chase
was as penal as the murder of a man. We can
easily understand how stoutly our ancestors bat-
tled for the " Charta de Foresta," which was
extorted with as much reluctance as the Magna
Charta itself. Even when the laws had under-
gone a considerable amelioration, common per-
sons keeping dogs within the limits of the forest
were obliged to cut away the balls of their fore-
feet, to render them incapable of pursuing game
or of hunting the deer. Great dissatisfaction
arose from time to time in respect to the encroach-


ments of the limits of the royal hunting grounds,
and bad blood was produced between the great
landowners and the yeomanry and tenantry on the

In order to see an example of the sad effects of
the laws, I will ask my readers to accompany
me to the forest of Selwood, which lies on the
borders of Wiltshire and Somersetshire, in the di-
rection between Salisbury and Bath.

This tract of laud, pleasantly diversified by a
succession of hills and valleys, must have been
very picturesque in the days when as yet it was
not cut up by modern " improvements," and
what is known as " high farming." These fair
lands, some twelve miles long by five in breadth,
were in due course of time " disafforested,"
not, however, without a great deal of opposition
from those who were directly interested in keep-
ing them up as a " chase," and who preferred the
interests of their horses and dogs to those of a
prosperous and contented peasantry. But there
are two sides to every question ; and the whirligig
of time brought it about in the course of a couple
of centuries I do not stop here to explain how
that the yeomen and cottagers obtained a pre-
scriptive right to pasture their cattle on the out-
lying parts of the forest of Selwood ; and of course
the lower orders had a personal interest in pre-


serving its glades from encroachment by lords and
squires. Again to quote the words of Mrs Crosse :
" Towards the close of the reign of Henry the
Eighth the nobles began to slice off pieces of the
outlying wastes and commons, inclosing them for
their own pastures and parks. A belief in the
rights of the soil is so inherent in human nature
that it is not surprising that the people rose and
resisted to the very death this encroachment on
their privileges. They were first despoiled of
their lands by the king, and, now that the forest
laws had fallen into desuetude, they were robbed
of their pasturage by the nobles. The evil had
attained to such a height that in 1549, a pro-
clamation was issued by Edward VI. to restrain
certain nobles and gentry from inclosing the
commons and converting them into their own
pastures and parks, and commanding that all
ground that had been thus inclosed should be
thrown open on a certain day, under heavy
penalties." But the good intentions of this order
were disregarded by the great landowners ; and
the result was that the cottagers assembled and
raised tumults throughout the district, breaking
down the fences which inclosed the parks which
Lord Herbert and Lord Stourton had carved out
from the lands which, though illegally, they had
looked upon as " waste." The Crown on more


than one occasion sent down a commission to
quell these disturbances ; but one of these at all
events was not destined to pass away without

In the district of which I write is a parish
called Kilmington, and in it lived a yeoman
family named Hartgill, between whom and Lord
Stourton there was evidently " no love lost." In
fact, both the father and the son had taken active
measures to oppose his lordship's arbitrary at-
tempts to inclose the adjacent lands ; but Lord
Stourton would not yield, and no doubt felt all
the more sorely wounded because his opponent
was a man of only middle class birth and parent-
age. The Hartgills sent up a memorial to the
Privy Council, and in the course of a week or
two a royal mandate came from London, a
scarlet-coated messenger from Whitehall, desiring
his lordship to desist from an inclosure he had
commenced, and to avoid giving occasion for
further " misliking *' among his neighbours.

At this time his lordship, who had married a
sister of the Duke of Northumberland, happened
to die ; but the quarrel between the Stourtons and
the Hartgills was not buried in his grave it was
taken up with all possible bitterness by his son
and successor Charles, the seventh lord, the in-
dividual already mentioned.


A few years passed on, but apparently the
strife between the lord of the great house and the
yeoman's family was as lively as ever. At Whit-
suntide, 1556, it appears that Lord Stourton came
over from Stourton to Kilmington, with the pre-
tended grievance that the Hartgills had been hunt-
ing with horses and dogs in his park. With him
came a large band of retainers, armed with guns
and bows, and evidently bent on mischief. We
catch a glimpse of the rough manners of the fore-
fathers of the yeomen of Wilts and Somerset when
we read that the Hartgills, on hearing of his lord-
ship's approach, retreated into the parish church
of Kilmington for safety. One of the old man's
sons, however, John by name, ran back to his
father's homestead, in order to fetch some staves,
some bows and arrows, and other weapons of
offence and defence. As he ran across, several
arrows were shot at him by Lord Stourton's men,
but these happily missed their aim. Several of
the villagers now came up to aid the Hartgills,
and actually drove the Stourtonites from the
churchyard and its precincts, while the old people
with their servants took refuge in the tower of
the church, and laid in a supply of bread and
meat in order to stand a siege.

One can easily imagine the face of the elder
Hartgill as he peered warily out of the church


window, and, after thanking his son for the supply
of food, bade him go up with all speed to London,
to lay the facts of the case before the Queen and
her Council at Whitehall.

Scarce was young John Hartgill out of sight,
when Lord Stourton and his " men of war" re-
turned to the churchyard, keeping the old people
shut up in the dark belfry of the tower in a pretty
state of nervous alarm. One of them, however,
went off to the yeoman's defenceless farm-house,
and took out of the stables old Hartgill's favourite
riding horse, valued at eight pounds, and shot
him with a cross-bow, in sight of his owner,
giving out that the latter had been seen on it
hunting in his lordship's park.

Meantime the son returned from London,
having so far succeeded in his mission that at
his request the Lords of the Council sent down a
commission, with the high sheriff of Somerset at
its head, ordering Lord Stourton to appear before
them. His lordship was, therefore, obliged to
swallow his rage, and make a journey to London
in custody of the sheriff. On reaching Whitehall
he was committed to the Fleet Prison, to which
no doubt he was conveyed by the old " silent
highway" of the river Thames. In all proba-
bility, however, as being the brother-in-law of
the Duke of Northumberland, he speedily found


a means of escape perhaps by the use of a
" silver key ;" for, if I may believe the account
of this affair as given by the antiquary Strype,
he was soon back at Kilmington, harassing the
Hartgills with all the malice of which he was

And so matters stood for a year or two, during
which I suppose that the Hartgills came down
from their fastness in the church tower, and went
about their business as if nothing strange had
happened. But it is clear that the Stourtons
would not let them remain in quiet. On the ac-
cession of Mary, the Hartgills and their fellow-
yeomen appear to have presented a fresh petition,
asking either for protection from their tyranny,
or redress against their violence, for the Council
at Whitehall again called the brawlers before
them. Lord Stourton now made all sorts of
promises of good behaviour, vowing that if any
of the Hartgills' cattle or horses had been de-
tained at Stourton House, they had only to
come and fetch them, and they should have them
freely and readily. But they soon learnt not
to " put their trust in princes ;" for as they were
going to the great house they were attacked by
several of his lordship's men, who attacked and
wounded John Hartgill, and left him for dead in
the road.

VOL. i. u


This affair had now grown so serious as to
have attracted the attention of the Court of the
Star Chamber, to whom, we read, " the matter
appeared so heinously base on the Lord Stourton's
side, that he was fined in a certain sum, to be
paid over to the Hartgills." Besides this, his
lordship was a second time committed as a
prisoner to the Fleet. But fines and imprison-
ments had no weight with him. By hook or \)j
crook he again contrived to effect his escape out
of " durance vile," this time, however, giving a
bond in 2000 to return when called upon to
appear, and expressing a wish to settle the
quarrel between himself and his old enemies by
a money payment, and desiring the Hartgills to
fix upon a place where they should receive the
fine. Strype tells us that " the latter received
his errand, but were in much doubt to adventure
themselves," and not without good reason, as we
shall see presently.

The rest of the story shall be told as con-
densed by Mrs. Crosse from old Strype's quaint
and circumstantial narrative : " At length a
meeting was arranged at Kilmington Church, and
at ten of the clock one cold January morning
Lord Stourton came, true to his appointment.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15

Online LibraryEdward WalfordTales of our great families. 2d series (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 16)