Copyright
Bernard Burke.

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

. (page 33 of 79)
Online LibraryBernard BurkeA visitation of the seats and arms of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain (Volume 1) → online text (page 33 of 79)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the most disgusting forms of caricature. It
has been supposed that the figures remain-
ing, in 1794, upon the walls of the cloisters
of the college at Ashridge, were subjects
chosen to deride the Preaching Eriars and
Minorites ; but, Avhether this be true or no,
it is certain that the latter, who were intio-
duced into England about the year 1221,
incurred much popular odium, from their
great wealth and noble buildings, as con-
trasted with their aftected poverty and
mortification. The Bonhommes, however,
did not themselves escape without some
rude attacks upon tlieir character and
reputation. It seems, that the monastery
contained a portion of the blood of Christ,
of which the following account is given by
the historian, HoUinshed : —

" Edmund, the son and heir of Richard,
Earl of Cornwall, second son of King Jolm,
being with hi.s father in Germany, and
beholding the relickes and other precious
ornaments of the ancient Emperors, he
espied a box, of gold, whereof he perceived
(as the opinion of men, then given), that
therein was contained a portion of the blood
of our Saviour. He, therefore, being desir-
ous to have some part tliereof, so interested
liim that had the keeping of it, that he
obtahied his desire, and brought it over with
Jiim into England, bestowing a third part



thereof, after his' father's decease, on the
Abbeie of Hailes, as it were to adorue and
inrich the same, because that therein both
his father and mother were buried; and the
other two parts he reserved in his own cus-
todie ; till at length, moved upon .such
devotion as was then used, he founded a
Abbeie, a little from his manor of Bercam-
sted, which Abbeie was named Ashrug, in
which he placed the raoonks of the order of
Boniiommes, being the iirst that ever had
been scene, of that order, in England ; and
herewith he also assigned the two other parts
of that blood to the same Abbeie. Where-
tipon followed great resort of people to
those two places, induced thereunto by a
certaine blind devotion."

Speed improves upon this story, by telling
us that the supposed blood was " only honey
clarified and coloured with safi'ron."

Now, besides that saffron seems a curious
ingredient for giving honey the colour of
blood, the fraud, it is plain, did not originate
witJi the Bonhommes, since they received
the box from Earl Edmund, and said no
more of it than was said to them ; inoreover
we cannot help remarking, that the history
of the poor monks has not often been
Avritten by ttnprejudiced chroniclers.

In 1291, King Edward the First, who
resided liere, near to his Castle of Berkham-
stead, held a parliament, in which were long
and earnest debates with regard to the
oi'igin and use of fines, and their necessity.
It was of short duration, but though no acts
were passed tliercin, yet several judgments
w'ere given, as appears by the record which
made it a parliament.

In 1294, the iving being involved in a
second war with France, many of the clergy
and others made contributions towards the
carrying of it on, for which they received in
return particular protection or other benefits.
Amongst such contributors to the royal
necessities were the Bonhommes, of Ash-
ridge, but though such aids were called
voluntary they were in trutli compulsory;
and in the same year one-half of the anntial
profits, derivable from the benefices so ac-
quired in exchange, was granted to the king,
and orders issued that those who resisted
should be dealt with as public enemies.
According to Kennett, neitiier the re-
venues of these, nor of other churches,
were originally designed for the particu-
lar use of such establishments, but were
entrusted to religious men, that they
might the better discharge tlie duty of
patrons, and i^rovide an able incumbent
with less chance of being corrupted in
their choice ; y^t, the convents detei-min-
ing to make these inheritances their own,
would purchase a deed of gift from the
Pope, and quickly make themselves perpetual

u



UG



SEATS OF GREAT BRITAIN,



rector?. "This," says Lipscomlie, "was
the illegithnate bh-th of most impropriations,
the lay patrons devoutly resigning their
rights of presentation to religions houses ;
and the latter, by their interest or money,
procuring from the Papal See, an annexation
of the tithes to themselves, with an arbitrary
portion, or a small settled reserve for a
dependent of their own called a vicar.

The revenues of the college were so con-
siderably augmented by Edward the Black
Prince, that he acquired the honour of being
looked upon as its second founder. But at
length came the semi-protestant time of
Henry the Eighth, "who spared neither man
in his wrath nor woman in his lust," and down
fell the monasteries, Ashridge amongst tlie
rest. Soon afterwards it became again,
as it had been in early days, a royal resi-
dence ; for Edward the Sixth bestowed it
upon his sister, the Princess Elizabeth, who
continued to reside there during the reign of
Mary. Elizabeth, when estaJjlished on the
throne, granted it to William George, one
-of her gentlemen-pensioners, for a term of
years, in reward of his good and faithful ser-
vices. Afterwards, in the seventeenth year
of her reign, she made a grant of the manor
to John Dudley and John Ayscough and
their heirs, who sitbsequently granted it to
Henry, Lord Cheyney, and Jane, Lady
Cheyney, his wife, and their heirs. Li the
forty-fourth year of Elizabeth, it again
changed hands, Lady Clieyney selling the
manor to Ralph Marshal, and he, in the
following year, conveyed it to Randolph
Crew, Thomas Chamljerlain, and tlieir heirs.
In the second year of James the First, these
last-named occupants granted by their in-
denture the manors of Ashridge, Gaddesden,
and Frithsden, to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord
EUesmcre, and the heirs male of his body ;
and, in default of such heirs male, to the lise
of tlie riglit heirs of the said Lord Ellesmere
for ever, who also purchased the manor of
Lucies, formerly belonging to the college.

Amongst tlie many illustrious names be-
longing to this family, the most memorable
perhaps is the Duke of Bridgewater, who
has been called '' the father of inland naviga-
tion in England." Quifac'd j^cr aUum facit
jjer se, says the law in criminal matters, and
the same should in reason apply to this saga-
cious nobleman, who employed the genius of
Brindley in carrying his canal through
mountains, and over rivers as well as valleys.
The brilliance of tiiis great achievement has
no doubt been throAvn much into the shade
by the gigantic system of railways, but the
name has of lite become a subject of public
interest by the singular will of John Wil
Ham, seventh Earl of Bridgewater. By this
documentthe late Lord AH'urd succeeded to
the hereditary estates of I'-gerton upon con-



dition of his obtaining a higher grade in the
peerage than that of earl within live years;
failing which, the property was to go to his
brother, the Hon. Charles Henry Cast, sub-
ject to the like term But Lord Alford died
within little more than one year, and then
came the question, was his brother or his son
entitled to the estate '? On the one side, it
was urged, that the late possessor being-
dead without having obtained the stipulated
grade, his descendant had thereby incurred
the penalty of forfeiture. To this it was re-
plied, that only one year having expired, the
matter must as yet be considered doubtful.
Both parties appealed to law, and law has
decided in favour of the iir.st-named litigant.
What a curious volume might be compiled
from the Wills in Doctors" Commons of hu-
man weakness, bigotry, singularity, and
madness. Well and wisely sang the morai
bard, —

"All feel the ruling- passion strong in death."

The old college was surrounded by a paik
about live miles in circuit, and full of noble
oaks, beeches, and ash-trees, the ground be-
ing broken up into hill and dale, and covered
with the richest verdure. Tlie front, formed
out of the remains of the college, was en-
closed by a court having a gatewiiy, and
many convenient apartments presenting, as
it stood during the greater part of the last
century, a range of seven gothic windows in
the hail, having two wings, with each a bay
window, and two smaller wings beyond thenij
belonging to the time of Elizabeth or James
the First. On one side of the passage at
the entrance of the house, Avas the buttery
liatch ; on the other, the hall, into which
there Avere two doors. The cloisters, Avhich
formed a quadrangle, were also a subject of
curiosity, being vaulted Avitli good asldar
work of Totteriihall stone, and the college
arms in the centre. On the walls were
beautifully painted, in water colours, forty
compartments, representing the principal
events in tlie life of Christ. The conventual
church stood in what was the garden, rang-
ing Avith the cloisters.

This old pile, Avhich was entirely sur-
rounded by walls, contained an extensive
gallery hung about with family portraits.
Many curiosities Avere also preserved here.
Li one room, called Queen Elizabeth's apart-
ment, Avas an ancient bed, wjiich, according
to tradition, not only belonged to her, but
Avas in great part the Avork of her own hands.
hi the same chamber were a toilet and two
pair of rich shoes, which are also supposed
to have been her propert3^ Some of tJiese
reliques may yet be seen at Asln-idge.

xV small neat chapel adjoined the cloisters,
said to have been built in 1699. It should
also be mentioned tliat most of tlie bed-



SEATS OF GKEAT liKITAlN.



147



rooms were lums with old tapestry, exhibit-
ing subjects taken from Holy Writ.

Lord Ellesmere went to no little expense
in repairhig and beautifying the body of the
liouse, and up to the time of the great Civil
War Ashridge exhibited the utmost magnifi-
cence, both in its internal and external
appearance. At that time, the Earl of
Bridgewater being upon the king's side, his
])roperty and his house were much damaged
by the Roundheads, Eventually he was
forced to compound with them for all his
property.

The new mansion was erected under the im-
mediate direction of John William, seventli
Earl of Bridgewater, from the designs of
Wyatt, and occupies the site of the conven-
tual buildings, standing on the confines of
Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, about
three miles from Borkliampstead, and five
from Hemelsted. At a short distance from
the mansion towards the south, is a rude
arch, formed of oolites and native rock, where
this junction of the two counties takes place ;
the line of separation being continued from
here, towards the north, tln-ough the house,
completely divides it ; that portion of the
building, which comprises the principal apart-
ments, together with the chapel and conser-
vatories, is in Buckinghamshire, while the
inferior domestic offices and stables with
their accompaniments westward of this line
are in Hertfordshire;.

The principal fronts of tlie buildings are
towards the north, the south and the east.
The first extends from the eastern angle to
the western point, more than one thousand
feet in length, consisting of a varied and
irregular line of towers and battlements,
arched door-ways, mullioned windows, cor-
bels, and machicolations, with a massive
turretted centre, fine Gothic porch, and a
beautifully proportioned and graduated spire
surmounting the chapel. From the north
front of the mansion are fine vistas, towards
the north and north-east end, cut through
large plantations of forest trees. The chief
entrance is by a richly-decorated Gothic
porch, with octagonal towers, foliated span-
drils, and open battlements. Above it is a
window, twenty-one feet high, of stained
glass exteriorly, and plate-glass within, while
above, carved in stone, are the armorial
bearings of Egerton impaling Haynes.

The hall is ornamented with a line of ar-
morial bearings, springing from those of
llenry the Seventli, in tlie central compart-
ment on the east side. On the corbels, which
support tlie roof, are the arms of Thomas,
first Lord Ellesmere, and his descendants ;
and upon a brass plate near the door is an
inscription to the effect that the foundation
was laid by Catherine Anne, Countess of
Bridgewater, 25th Oct., 1808,— the anniver



sary of King George the Third's accession,
and the mansion hihabited 11th Oct., 1814.

The grand stair-case is thirty-eight feet
square. It consists of double flights of mag-
niticent stone-steps, with an iron balustrade,
by which is the ascent to a gallery on the
east side by three low pointed arches, the
walls on the south-west and north being
adorned witli niches, corbels, canopies, and
statues. The light is admitted by twelve
windows, also with pointed arches, close
under which is a galler}^ -witji an iron railing.
The ceiling is highly ornamented, and in the
centre, ninety-five feet above the floor, is a
wind-dial. Figures of the following indivi-
duals connected with the ancient college of
Bouhommes stand in the several niches ;
namely, — Sanchia, Avife of Richard, King of
the Romans, and mother of the founder ;
Richard, King of the Romans ; and the Earl
of Cornwall — besides which are some very
fine portraits.

In tlie hall at the foot of the stair-case
are carved frames of oak, whereon are placed
slabs of alabaster and marble, which at one
time formed the grave-stones of the monks,
or of persons buried in their college. Folding
doors of oak open from the ante-room into
the chief apartments.

The library, which has a richly grahied
roof, is lighted by live windows looking out
upon an arcade. Tlie book-cases are of
ebony, inlaid with brass, and the chimney-
piece is of black marble to correspond.
From the arcade just mentioned is a descent,
under five Gothic arches by a flight of steps
to a parterre of flowers.

Ihe family apartments are in the eastern
wing, opening at the end to a green-house
and orangery, supported by iron tracery that
divides the building like the nave and aisles
of a cliurch, and ends in an open octa-
gon tower, fifty feet in height. In the same
wing is a billiard-room, and an ante-room
adjacent to the library.

The diiiing-room opens, by a plate-glass
window at the western end, into an immense
conservatory, with an open-Avorked roof of
oak, ornamented with china jars and vases
of Malta stone. From this conservatory a
door opens into the south side of the ante-
cliapel, to which there is another approach
by a corridor formed by a line of arclies.
The M-est doors are finely carved, in the
florid Gothic style, and formerly belonged
to the old college. Todd gives the follow-
ing glowing description of the chapel : — ■
" From the point at which the cha;iel is
entered, it is difficult to say what most
excites admiration. The perforated oak
screen, the highly-Avrought Gothic ceiling,
the windows filled with beautifully painted
glass, and throwing around their various
coloured and subdued light, the elaborately



148



SEATS OF GKEAT BUITAIN.



carved altar-piece, and the brass rail Avhicli
encloses it, all of which demand our par-
ticular notice."

The other adjuncts of the chapel are in
perfect harmony with this account of its
solemn splendour ; but it has never been
officially consecrated, although divine service
is regularly performed in it by one or more
of the domestic chaplains when the family
is at Ashridge.

The prospect from the central tower of
the mansion is, of its kind, almost unrival-
led. It extends over the Surrey Hills, at
the distance of forty miles, over Windsor
Forest, and a great part of the Avest and
north-west part of Bucks., on the verge of
the Chiltern Hills, Crossley Wood (said to
be visible from the sea), the hills of Hert-
fordshire and Bedfordshire, Avhich are the
boundaries towards the east, and on the
north-west, those of Warwickshire are
plainly visible.

The park is about five miles in circum-
ference, and is much celebrated for its
variety of ground, as well as for its fine
plantations of oak, ash, and beech. Its
great defect is the want of water, which,
according to the poet, Skelton, was so com-
plete, that the " canes ibi hauriunt ex puteo
altissimo " — the dogs drink tliere out of a
deep well. lie thus describes it after
his quaint fashion, in his " Garlaude of
Laurell :"—

" Of the Bonehoms of Ashrige, beside narkamstcde,
That goodly place to Skelton moost kynde,
Where the sank voyall is. Cvyste's blode so rede,
WTiercuponhe uiatrefyde liftcr Ids myiide,
A plcsauater place than Ashrige is," harde ^vcre to
fynde
As Skelton rehersith, with wordes few and playne,
In Ids distichon made on vcises twaine
Fraxinus in clivo frondetque virct sine rivo,
Nonest sub clivo sLinilis sine fliindne vivo."

At one time the park was in two divisions,
one of which was stocked witli fallow-deer,
and the other with red deer. The latter of
these was situated north-west of tlie house,
and was bounded by a lane leading from
Bishop's Heath, part of Ivinghoe Common
to the south towards Berkhampstead, and
Pitston Copse.

In the gardens, which are on the south
side of the mansion, are many ornamental
objects. Amongst them are a fountain, a
grotto, a Gothic cross, and several rustic
buildings, the approach to which is by a
gently undulating gravel path, that at in-
tervals presents several fine views of the
house itself. Upon the wliole, there are
few more interesting seats to be found
throughout England.

WOKEFIELD PAUK, Berkshire, the seat of
Robert Allfrey, Esq., a magistrate of tlui
county. The manor of Woketicld, ancicnth'



called llocfclle, and since then Wookcfielci
otherwise Wukfield, belonged to the crown,
at the time of the Norman survey, as an ap-
pendage to Aldermaston, but was afterwards
held with Stratfield by the Mortimers, and
was with that manor in jointure to the Queen
of King Henry the Seventh in 1495. His
son, Henry the Eighth, settled it upon
Catherine Parr, the last of his many wives.
Subsequently it came by purchase to the
celebrated law^'er, Serjeant Plowden ; by his
descendant, Francis Plowden, it was sold to
Peter Weaver, Esq., whose grandson, by his
only daughter was Francis Parry, envoy to
Portugal in the reign of King Charles the
Second. Tliis last-named gentleman had
only one son, who died early, and four
daughters, who, surviving him, divided tlie
estate into four equal parts, Avhen the eldest,
Catherine, retained her share, but the remain-
ing three parts were sold in October, 1742, to
the Earl of Uxbridge. By this nobleman the
estate wasagain disposed of to Bernard Brocas,
Esq. The new possessor left it to his widow for
life, with a condition that upon her death it
should go to his son, who however died be-
fore the lady. It thus devolved to Bernard
Brocas, Esq., whose trustees, upon his demise,
sold the estate in 1842, to tlie present pro-
prietor, Robert Allfrey, Esq. By him the
mansion, which had been repaired in 1745,
was almost wholly rebuilt, and it now pre-
sents the appearance of an elegant Italian
structure.

KIIGRASTOIv, in Perthshire, the seat of
John Grant, Esq., a deputy lieutenant,
jitstice of peace, and commissioner of sup-
ply, in the same county, is pleasantly si-
tuated in tlie Liwer part of the vale of
Strath Earn, in a well-wooded park, with
kept lawns and shrubberies, and a large
walled garden with vineries. The mansion,
Avhicli was built by the father of the pre-
sent proprietor about forty-five years ago,
is large and commodious, being an oblong
square of Grecian architecture three storeys
in height, composed of red freestone ; the
public rooms, on the first fioor, being en-
tered from a spacious saloon in the centre,
on Avhich floor are also tlie family apart-
ments, and above the saloon is an open
gallery giving access to the principal bed-
rooms, Avhich, with the staircase leading to
it, are lighted by cupolas on the roof.

in the public rooms is a valuable col-
lection of pictures by the Old Masters, in-
cluding the names of Guergino, Alessandro
A'^eronese, Salvator Rosa, Domenico Feti,
Spagnoletto, Van der Heldst, Leonardo da
Vinci, Schedoni, Gherardo della Notti, Zur-
beran, and Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Kilgraston is surrounded liy picturesque
hills, Iijiving Moncrieft'e Hill on the north,



SEATS OP GKEAT BRITAIN.



149



and the Ochills on the south. It is within
four and a-half miles of the city of Perth,
one mile of the Bridge of Earn, and not far
from the confluence of tlie Tay and Earn,
the latter of which rivers bounds part of the
property on the northern side. Within a
mile of the house, and on the estate, are
the mineral wells of Pitkaithly.

The properties of Kilgraston and Pit-
kaithly, nosv united, came into Mr. Grant's
family by purchase during the last cen-
tury.

GORHAMBURY, in the county of Hert-
ford, the seat of the Earl of Verulam, lord-
lieutenant of the same. The place in all
probability derived its name from Robert
de Gorham, an abbot of the monastery of
St. Alban's, who himself was so called from
his birth place, Gorham, near Caen in Nor-
mandy. In this family the manor remained
for several generations, when it came into
the possession of the Countess of Oxford,
who liowever sold it to Thomas de la IMare,
the thirtieth abbot of the monastery, to
Avhich it thus became once more annexed.
With the monks it continued till the disso-
lution by Henry the Eighth, who gave
it to Ralph Rowlatt, Esq., and by his son
it would seem to have been conveyed to
Sir Nicholas Bacon, Keeper of the Gieat
Seal, and one of the queen's Privy Council.
Although he did not escape without experi-
encing some of tlie vicissitudes belonging to
the capricious temper of Elizabeth, yet he
contrived to maintain her favour to the end,
and even to be the subject of the royal
witticisms. Towards the end of his life he
became very corpulent, which occasioned
her to observe that " Sir Nicholas's soul was
w^ell lodged ; " a jest which at another time
he more than requited with a notable piece
of courtesy. In one of her progresses she
paid him a visit at his new mansion of Gor-
hambury, when she observed that " his house
was too little for him" — "Not so, madam,"
he adroitly replied ; " but your majesty has
made me too great for my house." His
death is said to have lieen caused, or at least
hastened, by the following circumstance.
He was under tlie hands of his barber, and
the weather being sultry he ordered a window
before him to be thrown open. As he Avas
cxceedingl)' stout, he presently fell asleep in
the current of fresh air that was blowing in
upon him, and awoke after some time dis-
tempered all over. " Why," said he to the
servant, " did you sufier me to sleep thus
exposed?" The latter replied that " he did
not presume to disturb him." " Then," said
the Lord Keeper, " by 3-our civility I lose
my life." And so it proved, for being re-
moved to his bedchamber he died a few days
afterwards.



Gorhambury by his will devolved to An-
thony Bacon, his eldest son by a second wife,
the true and constant friend of Essex, whose
disgrace and death are said to have hastened
his own dissolution. Dying unmarried, he
bequeathed the estate to his brother, the
celebrated Francis, but the life of this great
man is written indelibly in some of the
brightest as well as darkest pages of English
history, and to enter here into its details
would be useless repetition. It is only
necessary to add of him, tliat during his life-
time he conveyed the manor and estate of
Gorhambury to trustees, by wliom after
his decease it was conveyed to Sir Francis
Leigh and others in trust for the sole use of
Sir Thomas jMeautj's, the private secretary
and confidential friend of the chancellor.
Sir Thomas Meautys married Anne Bacon,
eldest daughter of Sir Nathaniel Bacon (se-
cond son of Sir Nicholas), and heiress of
Francis, Lord St. xA.lbans.

Upon the death of Sir Thomas jMeautys,
his widow married Sir Ilarbottle Grimston,
who purchased of Sir Henry Meautys his
interest in the estate of Gorhambury. Sir
Harbottle came of an ancient family, long
seated at Bradfield Hall, near j\[anningtree,
Essex, at which place he was born, a.d.
1594, or about that period.

From him the estate came to his second
son, Sir Samuel Grimston, and he having no
male issue adopted William Luckyn, grand-
son of J\Luy, daughter of Sir Harbottle
Grimston, who had married Sir Capel
Luckyn, of Messing Hall in Essex, wdien he
took the surname of Grimston, and was
created Viscount Grimston.

The old house was pulled down by one of
its late owners, but fortunately an account



Online LibraryBernard BurkeA visitation of the seats and arms of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain (Volume 1) → online text (page 33 of 79)