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A visitation of the seats and arms of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain (Volume 1) online

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The mansion stands on the banks of the
Ouse, opposite the junction of that river
with the Nidd, and tlie A'illages of Mitton
and ]\Touckton alluded to by Sir AA'^alter Scott,
in his Rokeby —

"Monckton and Mitfon told the ne'n-s,
How heaps of Roundheads choked the Ouse."

It has tAvo parks, the one on the north, the
other on the south, besides extensive gar-
dens Avhich are kept in a high state of cul-


tivation, and fully realize tlie poetical maxim
of mingling the ^^ utile dulciy

SOCKBTIRNE HALL, cmmty of Durham, the
seat of Henry Collingwood Blackett, Esq.,
J, P., is a stately new pile of Elizabethan
architecture, planted on the very verge of
Tees, in the green level peninsula round
which the stream sweeps so lovingly, as to
evoke the richest diction of every topo-
grapher beginning with Leland. An airy
arch of 150 feet span unites the two counties
of Durham and Yorkshire. The ruined
church where the Conyers knelt in life and
slept in death, stands lonely on its deserted
graveyard. The ancient hall of Conyers has
mouldered to nearly the level of its bounding
pastures. A dying cliestnut seems the last
relic of its thick defences of green. The
little chapel-aisle to the chiirch retains a
small remainder of the Conyers monuments.
Broken panes of coloured glass, and brasses
still unworn forbid the disruption of Couj'crs
memories from Sockburn. The hall has
been chosen by Mr. Blackett as a littlng
place for the protection of a noble effigy
carved in Crusading times. The crossed
legs crush a hound in mortal conliict Avith a
winged asp. This was perhaps the lively
portraiture of tlie owner of a formidaljle
blade which holds its well earned position
vmder the same conservative roof, as the an-
cient title-deed to this lovely domain. The
Conyers could say truh-, " By this sword we
hold our land." We do not ask the reader to
pin his faith on the Norman name of Conyers
being the veritable style of a dragon-slaying
knight in Saxon times, much less, tliat this
falchion of Coeur de Lion's days belonged to
him. But we would have him remember that
the tenure of presenting each new count-pa-
latine bishop in tlie midst of Tees witli tliis
falchion is of unknown antiquitj' — that this
may notbethe earliest sword used for that pur-
pose — that the very name of Saxon is derived
from those fearful cmved sachs which figure
in the shields of our East Saxons and modern
Saxony, and which. Avere the instruments se-
lected for the treacherous slaying of the
Britons Avhen Ilengist cried aloud lu's watch-
word "Nempt your sexes." Jlay not Sock-
bm'U be the bourne or bound of St. Cuth-
bert's patrimony held by the curved sach or
falchion ? Before the gift of Sockburn, we
hear that Sir Roger Conyers Avas, in the
Conqueror's days, made constable of the
keep of Durham and all the soldiers tliere.
The office A\'as to be hereditary under the
bishop, as the lialtonsheld theirs in Chcsliire.
Then comes his son Sir Roger, constable by
inheritance, " as by a deed is made mention
in the time of Henry the First, AAdiich deed
is yet to see under a great seal, himself in
complete armour, sustaining of his falchion

and shield at arms, and amounted of his
horse, bemg armed, and attired Avith all the
furniture of the iield, having a shaffron, and
a plume of feathers according to the course
of Avar, and the marshall office of a constable."
This is a gallant picture, and Ave Avish we had
better authority for it than the " manuscript
of .John Calverley, Esq." from which Randal
had it. Certainly all constabulary rights
had decayed when the Conyers flaunted
proudly at Sockburn. Yet Avhy dwell on the
well known name of the Sockburn knights ?
Their falchion badge in their chapel lights
has faded from the eartJi as Camden hath,
who saAv it. Their heirs, tlie Talbots, fell
sick of their ancient acres. The sale in the
17th century let in another Northern race
the Blaclietts, longknoAvn and long cherished
in the North. But Sockburn is still a seat.
The old hall has given Avay to no ignoble
successor. May the Tees many a long year
wind round Sockburn and rejoice it its
being the nursing-soil of gentry.

EEAUMAIIOR, near Loughborough. Tho
seat of WiLLJA.Ai Hekkick, Esq.— Leicester-
shire is exceedingly rich in historic inte-
rest. Among its baronial castles and an-
cestral halls, are Belvoir,Donmgton, Gopsal,
Bradgate, Garendon, LoAvesljy, and Coleur-
ton, and it has lately received an " added
charm," ):)y the re-erection of tAvo of its
stateliest mansions, those of Braumanor,
and PrestAvold. The very name of Beau-
manor is suggestive of local beauty. Situa-
ted in a lovely A'ale on the eastern boundary
of Charnwood Forest, and combining an in-
termixture of tlie richest Avoodland Avith
pleasant slopes, and the Avild and picturesque
rocks of the forest, the ancient park, par-
tially disparked as it has long been, is still a
tract of unusual loveliness. CroAvued and
embellished, as it noAV is, by the Elizabethan
Hall, just completed, it may fiiirly take rank
in the first class of those great ornaments of
England — the country-seats of the Aristoc-
racy. The first house erected at Beaumanor
at the commencement of the 12th century,
Avas probably built l)y Geoffrey le Despenser,
ancestor of the tAvo distinguished but ill-fated
Hughs of that name ; but Ave have no record
actually mentioning Beaumanor bi/ name, be-
fore the reign of Henry IH. On the attain-
der of the Spencers, in 1325-G, Beaumanor
fell to the CroAvn, and was conferred on Henry
de Beaumont, a nobleman of great distinction
and illustrious connection, Avho commenced
in 1330 the second mansion at Beaumanor, and
formed the Great Park ; the circumference
of Avhich is stated to have been 20 miles.
The next interesting CA'cnt associated Avith
the annals of Beaumanor is the royal visit of
Richard XL and his Queen. Henry, third
Lord Beaumont, the jvcttx chevalier, Avho,



.^ a


according to Kniglitou, liarl at the tournament
at Calais, " broken a lance with the Lord
Cliamberlain of France, and comported him-
self altogether as a brave true Kniglit," was
then living at Beaumanor. From the gallant
Eeaumonts, their favourite home passed — on
the attainder of Henry, the second Viscount,
after the battle of Towton — to William, Lord
Hastings, and again, at his death in 1483, to
Lord Leonard Grey, whose sister-in law, the
Duchess of Suffolk- -the mother of Lady
Jane Grey — lived in domestic peace with her
third and humble husband, Adrian Stocks,
in the calm retreat of Ciiarnwood ; finding,
it is said, that " the shade was not only safer
but sweeter than the sunshinfe." The next
OAvner of Beaumanor was the celebrated
Earl of Essex, whose son transferred it to
Siu William Heruick, ancestor of a race
in whom all the characteristics of the English
country gentleman may be said to have been
hereditary. Its present worthy representa-
tive is William IIerrick, Esq., now of
Beaumanor, one of whose collateral ances-
tors was Robert IIerrick, the exquisite poet
of the 17tli centur3^ We may fairly suppose
that the sjdvan shades of Ikaumanor may
have been the scene of many of his inspirations.

"Hervick, famed for love-fraught Ijtics,

Sang his love-songs in these groves ;
Half Anacreon's soul was Herrick's,

And the other half was Love's.''

The ancient house, built by Lord Beau-
mont in 13.30, and re-faced by the Duchess of
Suffolk, was taken down in 1725, and Avas
succeeded by a Palladian structure of very
inferior pretensions, which, in its turn, in
1845, gave way to the present noble editice.

IITTLECOT, Wiltshire, the seat of Edward
William Leyborne Popham, Esq. In the
early days of the Plantagencts, this estate
belonged to the Calstons, by whose heiress
it was conveyed by marriage to William
Darell, sub-treasurer of England, avIio estab-
lished hiiitself on the lands thus acquired.
Of the sub-treasurer's sons the eldest. Sir
George Darell, succeeded to his maternal
inheritance, and it then continued in the
family for several generations, Avheu it was
sold to Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice
of England, and of very ancient descent. The
direct male line of this celebrated lawyer
terminated in Francis Popham, Esq., Avho
died without issue in 1730, having bequeath-
ed the estate to his nephcAV, Lieutenant-
General Edward William Leyborne. The
latter, m consequence, assumed the surname
of Popham, and took up his abode at Little-
cot. His son and heir, Edward William
Popham, is the present OAvner of the estate.
Littlecot Park occupies about four miles
in circumference. On one side of it is a lofty
hill, covered with Avood, and contrasting

beautifully Avith the luxuriant meadoAvs along
the banks of the Kennet. A branch of this
river runs through the garden, where it forms
a preserve for trout. The house itself is a
large ancient building, erected by one of the
Darells in the early part of the sixteenth
century, at a time Avhen it Avas no longer
an object to convert country seats into places
of defence, but even since that period con-
siderable alterations have been made. This
may beparticularly said ofthe exterior, though
Avithin are still many marks of the feudal
ages. The great hall, A\'hich is spacious, is
floored Avith stone and lighted by lofty Avin-
doAvs. The Avails are hung Avith numerous
reliques of ancient armour, Avhile a large oak
table, extending nearly from one end of the
room to the other, avouches for the hospi-
tality ofthe olden time. The picture-gallery
is about a hundred-and-ten feet in length,
and contains numerous portraits in the Spa-
nish dresses of the sixteenth century. Here,
also, is a curious piece of needlework, repre-
senting a large Roman tesselated pavement
found in the adjoining park.

Littlecot House stands in a low and lonely
situation, three sides of it being surrounded
by a park, which, as Ave have before men-
tioned, spreads over the neigbouring hill.
Such a locality suits Avell with the gloomy
tradition that still clings to it, and Avhich,
though it has been more than once told,
can hardly be omitted in a Avork of this na-
ture. We shall, hoAvever, make our tale as
brief as possible in imitation of the experi-
enced Aubrey, Avhose ghost- stories have for
the most part the curt style of an epigram.

The night Avas dark and stormy, as befits
November, when an old midwife, who sate
crooning by her lonely fire-side, Avas sud-
denly startled by a knocking at her door.
Upon opening it she saw a horseman, Avho
hastily informed her that shcAvas Avanted by
a lady of rank, and that she would be hand-
somely rewarded, but must submit to have
her eyes bound as the affeir required secrecy.
With some reluctance she consented, and
Avas then placed on a pillion behind him.
After a journey of several miles they stopped,
and the midw-ife was conducted through more
than one long room, till on arriving at a
bed-chamber, her eyes were unbound and
she saw her intended patient, Avith a man of
ferocious aspect. The lady was delivered of
a fine boy, Avhich the man immediately
snatched from the midwife, and flung upon a
blazing Are in the same room. The poor lit-
tle creature, however, being very strong, rol-
led in its agony off the fire to the hearth, but
the ruffian, Avitli a brutality that AA'Ould not be
credible in Action, dashed the child under the
grate, and heaping live coals upon it soon
put an end to its existence. Horrified as the
midAvife was by this scene, she had no time


to dwell upon it from the necessity of at-
tending to the mother, while with this
mingled a burning desire to learn where she
was, as a means of punishing the perpetrator
of so brutal an outrage. How was this to be
done ? how was she to know the place
again ? A sudden tliought flashed upon her
to cut off a piece of the bed curtain, and,
upon being again led out of the room witli
bound eyes, slie carefully counted the steps
by winch she descended. The next day she
communicated tlie affair to a magistrate,
when suspicion falling upon the Darell who
then owned Littlecot she was taken to the
house. The steps were found to agree ex
actly with her account, and the fragment
corresponded to a hole in the curtain. Upon
the trial it also came out that a beautiful
young lady in the family (a niece) had under
pretence of gonig to Avignon to study
French Avithdrawn herself from all her ac
quaintanco, yet had been seen by a fruit-Avoman
more than once after her aA'OAA'ed departure,
looking out of a small Avinduw next to her
usual apartment. Strong as this CAndence
may seem, it was met and contradicted by cir-
cumstances no less strong. But the great
thing which upset the Avoman's testimony was
lier haA'ing declared that she had tAvice crossed
a ford on tlie way to the house in question.
Now, tliere AA-as but one river — aiid that run-
ning in a straight Ime — betAveen the two
houses. If, therefore, the guide had Avheeled
round and again crossed tlie river to deceive
her, he must have forded it a tJiird time before
he could reach the suspected place, for, other-
wise, he Avas still as much on the wrong side of
the Avater as if he had never passed at all. As
to the hole in the curtain, that might have
been made by a discarded servant, who had
left the place some time before with threats
of vengeance ; and she also might have
been led by vindictive feelings to have used
the midAvife's agency in getting up the whole
fabrication. At all events, the jury pro-
nounced the accused " not guilty," though
this Avas far from being the popular belief,
and the misfortunes, that soon afterwards
befeU the family, Avere by many considered a
divine A'isitation. According to one account
the owner of Littlecot soon became involved
in estate and deranged m mind, and died a
victim to despondency. Sir Walter Scott
says, — " by corrupting his judge he escaped
the sentence of the laAv ; but broke his neck
by a fall from liis horse in hunting, in a few
months after." The place Avhere this hap-
pened is still knoAvn by the name of DarelTs
Stile, a spot to be dreaded by the peasant
Avhom the shades of evening have overtaken
on his Avay.

FULMER GROVE, Gcrrard's Cross, Buck-
inghamshire, the seat of John Kaye, Esq.

high sheriff of the county in 1849, deputy
lieutenant of the same, and a magistrate for
Bucks and Middlesex. It formerly com-
posed part of a large estate belonging to ]\Ir.
Owen, grandson and heir of Eichard Esk-
rigge, who sold this portion of the property
to Richard Calvert, Esq., and from him it
Avas purchased in 1820, by the present oAvner.
The latter gentleman rebuilt the house in
1833, the style of its architecture being
Italian. The land attached consists of
about 200 acres, divided into gardens, plea-
sure-grounds, plantations, and a highly cul-
tivated farm, and forming a pleasant pros-
pect to the liouse itself This property is
situated in Stoke Hundred, and in the parish
of Fulmer, from Avhich the Grove has de-
rived its appellation.

ASH HALL, Glamorganshire, the seat of
the Rev. Thomas GronoAv, three miles from
CoAvbridge. It Avas formerly the residence
of the late Colonel Aubrey, father of Sir
Thomas.; Aubrey, Baronet, of Llantrithyd.
The house is an ancient edifice, but Avith a
modernized stuccoed front, and is situated
on the summit of park like grounds with
extensive downs rising immediately behind.
It commands a beautiful vieAV of a rich and
picturesque vale, reaching to the Bristol
channel, together with the opposite coast of
Somersetshire. The oak room or pan-
elled dining room is deserving of particular
notice, being richly carved, and in a high
state of preser\-ation.

KOL'WOOD, the seat of John Ward, Esq., in
Kent, near Bromley, about fourteen miles
from London, in the parish of Keston. The
present mansion is Avell Avorthy of attention
for its architectural elegance, but it becomes
still more interesting Avhen Ave are told that
it stands upon ground once occupied by a
favourite residence of the great Williani
Pitt, Avhich Avas pulled doAvn in 1823. The
genealogy of the old house, if we may be
allowed" to apply such a term to clay and
mortar, may he thus traced. It AA'as a plas-
tered brick building, Avhich had long been
tenanted by fox-luinters, on account of the
pack of hounds kept by the Duke of Grafton
in the neighbourhood. It afterAvards came
into the possession of the late Mr. Calcral't,
Avhen it served as a place of meeting for the
leaders of the opposition in the Commons.
From him it devolved to the Burrell family,
Avho sold it to Captain Ross, and he after no
very long tenure, parted Avith it to Mr,
Barrow, nephew of the late Sir James
Barrow. Having executed various altera-
ations, lie sold the estate to Mr. Randall,
an eminent ship-builder, and he again dis-
posed of it to William Pitt, avIio Avas a native


of the neigliboiiriiig parisli. Here the great
statesman enjoyed the little leisure that was
allowed him in tlie society of his favourite
niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, and a few se-
lect friends, his chief delight being to super-
intend the forming of those ornamental
shrubberies, which he himself had planned,
and which have made this spot so much ad-
mired. Ayhen it passed into the hands of
the present owner, he made yet greater
changes. In 1825, he pulled down the old
house, and erected the present building, one
of the most elegant and substantial mansions
in tlie county. It is of the Grecian style of
architecture, the south front extending 180
feet in length, with a circular portico of four
Ionic columns. But the ground itself has
yet older recollections than any that belong
even to the former building. It is believed
to have given a name to the parish of Kes-
ton, of which it forms a part, from the camp
usually called Julius Caesar's camp at Hol-
wood Hill. The remains of this fortification
are of an oblong form, originally extending
over about twenty acres, and commanding
an extensive prospect. In the immediate
vicinity is a spring called Ctesar's spring.
Many conjectures have been hazarded by
antiquarians respecting these memorials of
other times, but being so uncertain they are
hardly worth repeating.

GAYHURST, or, as it was at one time
called, GoTHURST, Buckinghamshire, is about
three miles from Newport- Pagnell, near the
road to Northampton. The manor, at the
date of the Norman Conquest, was held
under the bishop of Baieux, by the bishop of
Liseaux, and of this latter by Robert de
Nodariis, or Nowers, whose family not long
afterwards became possessed of it in their
own right. This probably took place when
Odo forfeited his claims by conspiring against
his uterine brother, William the Conqueror,
for in almost every instance the tenants then
in possession woidd seem to have retained
the estates they held of their rebellious
superiors. On the death of the last heir
male of the Nowers, in 1408, the manor passed
by marriage to Sir Richard Neville, and from
the Nevilles, by another female heir, to the
family of ]\Iulso, Mulsho, or Moulsho, about
the middle of the sixteenth centurj'. The
only daughter of William ]\InLsho, who died
in 1601, married Sir Everard Digby, and he
being about to engage in the Gunpowder
Plot, made over his estate in trust for his
son. Sir Kenelm Digby, to avoid tlie chance
of forfeiture if the conspiracy should fail. It
did fail, as every one knows, and he lost his
life in consequence. His son. Sir Kenelm
Digby, has obtained a sort of dim and doubt-
ful place in the temple of fame, much like the
twilight that hovers between day and night,

belonging^ to both, and yet not exactly
either. That he was a man of cuiious
research is unquestionable, but he rather
lagged beliind, tlian went before, his age, in
useful knowledge, being a stanch believer
in secret sympathies, alchemy, divining rods,
and all the rest of that occult'trash, by which
men love to deceive themselves as well as
others. As a specimen of his quackery we
may quote the attempt he made to cure his
wife, the beautiful Venetia Stanley, of a ten-
dency to consumption. With tliis view he
brought over fi'om France, and introduced
into the grounds of Gayhurst, the pomatium,
a large edible snail of'a whitish hue, tinged
with red, and of a remarkably firm flesh,
which with many other sages of tlie same
school_ he held to" be choice food for a con-
sumptive patient. The snail-colony pros-
pered in their new home, whatever the lady
might do, for they now abound in a coppice
on the banks of the Ouse, and may also be
met with in mud walls near some of the
villages of the neighbourhood. On the
approach of winter they bury themselves
deep in the ground, wjicre they remam in .a
torpid state till spring. But the medical
experiments of Sir Kenelm were not always
so harmless as in this matter of snails. The
Lady Venetia was remarkable for her per-
sonal attractions, and he took it into his
head that viper-broth would be an admira-
ble specific to preserve and heighthen her
beauty. His patient consented, — nothing
lothe, it may be presumed, with such an
object in view — drank up the potion,
and died. Notwithstanding these medical
mistakes he bore a high literary reputation
in his day, being compared by some to the
celebrated Picus of JMirandula, while, in his
epitaph we are told that he was, —

"This age's wonder for his noble parts,

Skilled in six tongues, and learned in all the arts.'"

Besides which he was a considerable bene-
factor to the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
Nor was this all ; he was "tam jMarti quam
Mercurio," fought bravely at Algiers, taking
several armed vessels, and yet more distin-
guished himself by his resolute attack of the
Venetian fleet with a very inferior force in
the Bay of Scanderoon. In the Civil War
too he played the part of a stout and faith-
ful cavalier, battled for the king as long as
there was the least chance of success, got
fined and imprisoned for his roj^alty by the
Roundheads, sought a refuge in France when
he could do no better, became chancellor to
Henrietta Maria, and was by her sent envoy
to Pope Innocent X. Of his sons the only
survivor was John Digby, who left two
daughters, married to Sir John Conway and
Richard i\Iostyn, Esq., and they, having
procured an act of parliament for that



pin-pose, sold Gaj'liurst in 1704 to George
Wrighte, Esq., son of the Lord Keeper, Sir
Nathan Wrighte. Tlie daughter and lieiress
of the former of these last mentioned gentle-
men, Anna Barbara Wrighte, dying in 1830
the estate devolved to the heirs of George
Thomas Wyndham, Esq. of Cromer in Nor-
folk; and in the November of the same year
the royal permission, under tlie king's sign
manual, was obtained by JMaria Augusta,
■widow of George Thomas Wyndham, Esq.,
in behalf of her eldest son George Thomas
Wyndham, a minor, — that out of respect
to the memory of George Wrighte, of
Wrighte before that of Wyndham, and
Esq., of Gayluirst he might use the surname
bear the arms of Wrighte in the second
quarter. The estates of Gayhurst and Gold-
ington are now vested in tlie sisters and co-
heirs of the said George Thomas Wyndham,
viz.; Maria- Anne, wife of Godfrey, present
Lord Macdonald, and Cecilia, wife of Lord
Alfred Paget, ]\[.P.

The mansion is built in a spacious park,
and amongst grounds laid out with taste and
judiciously planted. It is a venerable speci-
men of the ElizalDethan style of architecture,
begun, according to Pennant, in 1597 ; but
much improved a few years afterwards by
William I\Iulsho, Esq., its then proprietor, by
whom a part of the north front was modern-
ized, and the windows appropriately orna-
mented. The greatest fault that can be
objected to tlie building is thelowuess of the
rooms, in proportion to their size, which takes
away from any idea of grandeur.

Tradition has been at work here, borrow-
ing her theme from the story of the ill-fated
Sir Everard. We are told tliat in these
chambers were many artful contrivances for
the concealment of the Gunpowder Plot
conspirators ; and in one of them used to be
showna moveable floor, with nothing remark-
able in its appearance, but made to revolve
on a pivot, wliich, by the withdrawal of a
secret bolt discovered a room below. This
apartment received its light from the lower
part of a muUioned window, that could not
be observed exteriorly, unless at a great
distance ; and here the conspirators are said

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