Edward Walford.

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

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But there came with him such a conclave of men
on horseback and men on foot, that the Hartgills


were in great dread. The open space near the
church was nigh filled with this concourse, con-
sisting of fifteen of Lord Stourton's own men,
sundry of his tenants, besides several gentlemen
and justices, to the number of about sixty per-
sons in all. His lordship went into the church
house, which was about forty paces distant, and
thence sent word to the Hartgills, who were
sheltering themselves under the sacred roof,
' that they must come out, for the church was no
place to talk of worldly matters ;' whereupon they
adventured themselves, coming within twenty
paces, old Hartgill, after due salutation, saying,
' My lord, I see many of mine enemies about
your lordship, therefore I am much afraid to
come any nearer.' Upon this the company said,
' they durst promise all they had, they should
have no bodily hurt.' Upon this comfort they
approached to my lord's person. Lord Stourton
then discoursed upon the reason which had
brought them together, saying that if they would
come into the church house he would pay them
the money. But the Hartgills refused to go into
any covered place, the church excepted.

u At this refusal there was much demur and
talking, but some one present thought good that
a table should be set upon the open green, which
was done accordingly. Lord Stourton laid there-

U 2


upon a cap-case and a purse, as though he
intended to make payment ; and calling unto the
two Hartgills, he said that the council had
ordered him to pay them a certain sum of money,
which they should have every penny ; ' but marry,
he would first know them to be true men.' This
was the watchword, which was no sooner said
than Lord Stourton laid hands on William
Hartgill, adding, ' I arrest you of felony.'
Immediately ten or twelve of his own men
surrounded the Hartgills and thrust them violently
into the church house. Here his lordship
produced 'two bands of inkle' which he had
in readiness, and he caused his men to bind them
with the same. He took from them their purses
with his own hands, and finding afterwards a
turquoise in one, gave it to Lady Stourton.
When John Hartgill was bound he gave him a
blow on his face, Sir James FitzJames and
Chaffin looking on. At this moment young
Hartgill's wife, no doubt alarmed at the
commotion, rushed into the church house,
encountering Lord Stourton at the door. He
spurred and kicked at her, making a great rent
in her hosen with his spur, and finally gave her
such a blow with his sword between the head
and neck that she fell backwards as though dead,
and for three hours the company had much ado


to keep life in her.' Such is the extraordinary
account of the illegal arrest of two unoffending
gentlemen, made in the presence of so many
persons, that one is surprised that a feeling of
common humanity did not come to rescue the

But the worst part of the story remains to be
told. Lord Stourton, having kept the Hartgills
all day without food or drink, conveyed them
bound as his prisoners to a house on his estate,
called Bonhams, where he sent for two "justices
of the peace" to examine them ! on what ground
or charge is not stated. The so-called "justices"
were probably creatures of his own, for we find
that their examination ended in nothing but
an order that they should be " losed of their
bonds." The same night the prisoners were
fetched away by some of Lord Stourton' s minions,
who, as it subsequently appeared in evidence,
had orders to dispatch them if they made any
resistance. Their destination now was a " close
yard," adjoining the great house, where they
were made to kneel down with their hands tied
behind them, and were beaten till they were
thought to be dead, " my lord in the the mean
season standing at the gallery door, which was
not a coyt's (quoit's) cast from the place."
"\Vhen the ruffians had done the job thus far,


they wrapped up the bodies in their own gowns
and carried them through a garden into the
gallery, where they were joined by Lord
Stourton himself, who carried a candle to show
them the way, and who, when one of the dying
men showed by a groan that life was not quite
extinct, ordered his servant to cut their throats,
" lest a French priest, who lay near, should hear
them." The bodies were then cast into an
underground chamber or dungeon, his lordship
standing by with the candle in his hand.

One of the assassins, apparently with a softer
heart than his fellow, said, " Oh, rny lord, this
is a pitiful sight. Had I thought what I now
think before the thing was done, your whole
land would not have won me to such an act."
To this his wicked employer answered, " What,
faint-hearted fool ! is it any more than ridding
the world of two knaves, that living were trouble-
some to God's law and man's ? there is no more
account to be made of them than the killing of
two sheep !" And so they finished their hideous
work of death by digging a grave for their victims,
covering them first with earth and then with
paving stones, while Lord Stourton kept walking
up and down on the planks above, oftentimes
calling to them to make speed, for that the
night went away." But, though the night


passed away and morning came, the hand of
justice at length did not fail to overtake the
wicked lord, who was arrested and carried to
London to be judged for his foul crime. In
January, 1556, he was committed to the Tower to
await his trial, which took place on February 2K
following, before the judges of the Council in
Westminster Hall. It appears he entertained
a hope that, being an adherent, nominally at
least, of " the old religion," he would not be
allowed by the Queen to suffer the extreme
penalty of the law. But in this hope he was
grievously mistaken. " The Queen and her
Council," observes a writer of repute, " were
greatly displeased at this, and willed process and
judgment to proceed against him."

When called upon to make answer to the
charge of wilful murder, he refused to plead,
and would not open his mouth until he was
threatened with being pressed to death if he
remained silent. At last he pleaded guilty,
and was sentenced to be hanged; four of his
men also were sentenced to be hanged at the
same time.

It may readily be supposed that these four
poor wretches were turned off at St. Giles's
Pound or at Tyburn tree; but the end of
Lord Stourtou himself was to be witnessed


by the men of his own county. He was
accordingly conveyed by easy stages by way
of Hounslow, Staines, and Basingstoke to
Salisbury, where he was executed on the 6th
of March. The only favour shown to him
was the permission that, in virtue of his
rank, he should be throttled by a silken
instead of a hempen cord. The market-place
was the scene of his execution ; and it is
some comfort to learn that "he made great
lamentation at his death for his wilful and
impious deeds."

The memory of such a miscreant might
well be allowed to pass aw r ay, and when he
was buried in Salisbury Cathedral it would
perhaps have been kinder to have erected no
monument to mark the spot where he was
laid. But in the north transept there is a
tomb which is known as that of *' the wicked
Lord Stourton" by exhibiting the armorial
bearings of the family in the shape of six
circular openings, which represent the six springs
which rose, and perhaps still rise, in the park
at Stourton. The silken cord with which he
suffered was suspended over his tomb for
many years, till it rotted away and fell to

It is scarcely a matter of wonder that the


Stourton family should have long since sold
their Wiltshire estates, and emigrated to York-
shire, where their name is held deservedly in
honour to the present day.



VERY many, if not most, of the members of
our Peerage, both English and Irish, can
boast with truth that they represent families
of ancestral wealth and influence, or of historic
note, or of brilliant achievements ; and this is
true to a far greater extent of the Peerage of
Scotland, on the roll of which not a name appears
that has not been adorned with a coronet for at
least the best part of two centuries, while nearly
all the pedigrees can be certified by the " Lyon "
King of Arms at Edinburgh to extend back into
the ages when the Stuarts had not yet added an
English to their Scottish throne.

A few of the Irish families, however, have at-
tained the honours of the peerage without any
very great public services on the part of the first
grantee, and without being able to boast of great


wealth or noble ancestry. " My lord," said a
wealthy squire arid M.P., who lived in St. James's-
place, to Lord Bute, or Lord Shelburne, or to
some other Prime Minister of the last century, " I
am very much inclined to support your measures
in my place in Parliament, and to give you my
vote and steady support ; but I should be most
glad and most obliged to you if, in return, you
would go so far out of your way as to ask for me
the permission of the Ranger (one of the royal
dukes) to allow me the privilege of a private key
which will admit me from my garden in St.
James' s-place into the Green Park without going
round by way of the Palace." " I am sorry, sir,"
replied the Premier, with a benevolent smile,
" that it is not in my power to oblige you in the
precise manner in which you wish. The thing,
1 assure you, is an impossibility ; and His Royal
Highness has not only refused it to more than
one applicant, but has desired me never to ask
such a favour again. I will, however, with
pleasure recommend you to His Majesty for an
Irish peerage, if you feel inclined to accept the

I do not know for certain whether the proffered

Irish coronet was accepted by Mr. with the

same readiness with which it was offered ; but
the story which, by the way, is told with some


variation by that old gossip, Sir Nathaniel Wrax-
all may serve to show that Irish peerages were
not held of very great account in London even in
the good old days ' when George the Third was
king," and when the Legislative Union of 1800
had not been dreamed of as yet by the younger

I am led into these remarks by way of intro-
duction to the story of the rise and advancement
of one plain Captain Benjamin Bloomfield of the
Royal Artillery, to the dignity of " Lord Bloom-
field, of Redwood, in the county of Tipperary, in
the peerage of Ireland." It appears that the
bestowal of this title was due in a very great
measure to the concurrence of two or three fortu-
nate accidents.

It so happened that a plain, untitled gentleman,
" descended from an ancient family in Ireland,"
according to Sir Bernard Burke albeit he omits
all mention of his pedigree, " Ulster King of
Arms " though he is some sixty 3 r ears ago held
a commission in the Royal Artillery ; and
secondly, that he was at Brighton with his troop,
when the Prince Regent had taken up his resi-
dence at the Pavilion, which he had recently
built as a palace of pleasure. A third piece of
gratuitous good fortune was to be found in the
fact that the Captain was well known in Brighton


as an accomplished player on the violoncello ; and
further by way of a fourth bit of luck his Royal
Highness, in his idle and leisure hours, wanted
some one who could accompany him on that in-
strument. Accordingly one day a message was
sent to the barracks, requesting, or rather com-
manding, the presence of Capt. Bloomfield at
the Pavilion. The summons was loyally and
dutifully obeyed ; Capt. Bloomfield put in an
appearance before " the first gentleman in
Europe;" and so far were his musical talents
brought to the right market, that from that even-
ing commenced an acquaintance between the
Prince and the captain which gradually ripened
into an intimate friendship, and as Captain Bloom-
field had good manners, good sense, and more
tact than falls to most men, lasted while the
Prince was king.

For a considerable time the captain was known
in fashionable circles as Sir Benjamin Bloomfield,
being appointed an Equerry and Gentleman
Usher of the Court, and knighted by the Prince
in 1815. Two years later, on the retirement of
Sir John M'Mahon, he was appointed to the not
very laborious offices of Receiver-General of the
Duchy of Cornwall, and Private Secretary to the
Prince and Keeper of the Privy Purse.

But he had not yet reached to the summit of


the -mountain up which his musical talents had
led him by an easy ascent. In 1824, as we
are told by the Peerages, he was accredited
Minister Plenipotentiary and Ambassador Extra-
ordinary to the Court of Stockholm," and shortly
afterwards was raised to the Irish Peerage as
Lord Bloom field.

Capt. Gronow, in his amusing and entertaining
" Anecdotes and Reminiscences," lets us into a
little of the secret history of these last two steps
of preferment. He says : " A court intrigue,
headed by a fashionable and fascinating mar-
chionesss, caused Sir Benjamin Bloomfield to be
sent into splendid exile, this lady attributing to
him the fact that she had been compelled to send
back to the donor some jewels which had been
presented to her by the Prince Regent, but which,
as it was afterwards discovered, could not be
alienated from the Crown, to which they, in fact,
belonged." This was the true reason, then, why
Sir Benjamin was sent off as ambassador to
Stockholm and eventually created a peer; and
such is the real story of the origin of the title.

It is only right to add that, although he had
received not a diplomatic but only an ordinary
education, Lord Bloomfield's good sense, polished
tastes, affable manners, and unostentatious


hospitality rendered him exceedingly popular in
that northern capital, and that in his " splendid
exile " he became as great a favourite with Ber-
nadotte as he had been with the Prince Regent
at Windsor, at Brighton, or at Carlton House.
The name of Lord Bloomfield (adds Captain
Gronow in 1860), is held in great respect even to
the present day in Sweden. Eventually he was
nominated a Knight Grand Cross of both the
Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order and also of
Bath, and promoted to the rank of lieutenant-
general in the army and colonel-commandant in
the Royal Engineers.

Lord Bloomfield died in the year 1846, at the
age of eighty-four, having been twice married.
His only son, his issue by his second wife, is the
present Lord Bloomfield, who, having followed the
diplomatic profession, and having held for many
years the post of Minister at the Court of Berlin,
has been rewarded with an English peerage, and
the dignity of a Knight Grand Cross of the
Order of the Bath. Still, however, it may fairly
be asserted, I take it, that, in all human proba-
bility, these twin coronets would never have been
called into existence if it had not been for the
occurrence of the chapter of accidents already
referred to ; and if any moral is to be drawn from


the story of Benjamin, Lord Bloomfield, it would
seem to be that it is occasionally a profitable invest-
ment to give our sons, as well as our daughters, a
musical education.


London : Printed by A. Scliulze, 13, Poland Street.


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