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Charles G. (Charles George) Harper.

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Then it is seen that the illustration rather closely resembles this
spot, with the trifling exceptions that eagles, and not lions, surmount
the pillars, and that the mansion of Broome is really not to be seen
through the gateway, although clearly visible a few yards away, when
it is seen to be not unlike the house pictured. Many have been the
perplexed pilgrims who have vainly sought the ancestral Ingoldsby gates
and chimneys between Canterbury and Folkestone, lured to the quest
by the original Preface to the _Legends_. Broome Park, whose lovely
demesne is criss-crossed by turfy paths and tracks freely open to the
explorer, is beautifully undulating and thickly wooded. In its midst
stands the mansion, built in the last years of the seventeenth century
by one of the extinct Dixwell family, and gabled, chimneyed, and
generally as picturesque as Barham "most pseudonymously" described it,
under the title of "Tappington Hall."

[Illustration: BROOME PARK: THE REAL ORIGINAL OF TAPPINGTON HALL.]

The Oxenden family have long owned the beautiful old place, which
still contains a "powdering closet," as used in the bygone days of
huge headdresses and powdered hair. My lady would sit in her boudoir
with her head thrust through a hatch in the wall into the "powdering
closet" - a contrivance necessary to prevent the powder being scattered
over everything.

[Illustration: TAPPINGTON, FROM THE FOLKESTONE ROAD.]

Here, by the "Eagle Gates," the road branches, the left-hand route
continuing to Dover, the right-hand to Folkestone. This is the
"beautiful green lane" of the Preface to the _Legends_. "Here,"
says that Preface, addressed to the incredulous who did not believe
in the existence of Tappington Hall - "here a beautiful green lane,
diverging abruptly to the right, will carry them through the Oxenden
plantations and the unpretending village of Denton, to the foot of a
very respectable hill - as hills go in this part of Europe. On reaching
its summit, let them look straight before them - and if, among the
hanging woods which crown the opposite side of the valley, they cannot
distinguish an antiquated manor house of Elizabethan architecture, with
its gable ends, stone stanchions, and tortuous chimneys rising above
the surrounding trees, why, the sooner they procure a pair of Dollond's
patent spectacles the better. If, on the contrary, they can manage
to descry it, and, proceeding some five or six furlongs through the
avenue, will ring at the Lodgegate - they cannot mistake the stone lion
with the Ingoldsby escutcheon (Ermine, a saltire engrained Gules) in
his paws - they will be received with a hearty old English welcome."

[Illustration: DENTON.]

Let us, then, proceed along the Folkestone Road, with the Oxenden
plantations - now grown into dense woods of larch and pine - on the
right. Wayfarers are scarce, and the lovely scenery of Broome Park
and the road into Denton is quite solitary. A ladder-stile leaps the
rustic fence, birds chatter and quarrel in the trees, but as you come
into the hamlet of Denton, it is, in its quaint old-world appearance
and apparent emptiness, like some stage scene with the actors called
off. Denton is a triangular strip of village green, surrounded by
picturesque cottages, and with the old sign of the "Red Lion" inn
planted romantically in the centre. Beyond it comes Denton Court,
screened from the road by its timbered park, with Denton Chapel close
by. Of this you may read in the _Legends_; but those who, relying too
implicitly upon Barham's statements, seek the brass of the Lady
Rohesia, with the inscription -

"+Praie for ye sowle of ye Lady Royse,
And for alle Christen sowles+"

will be doomed to disappointment, for it is one of his picturesque
embellishments upon fact.

[Illustration: Denton Church]

Denton Chapel is a building of the smallest dimensions, belonging to
the Early English and later periods, but not distinguished by many
mouldings or other features by which the date of a building is most
readily to be fixed. It consists only of a nave and a plain tower; but
on the north wall, beside the pulpit, there is a sculptured stone which
may arouse the curiosity of the passing architect. It is probably a
dedication cross, but the incised letters upon it have hitherto baffled
elucidation.

More amusing, perhaps, is the colony of white owls which haunt the
chapel, and from their perch on the beams above the chancel deposit
upon the altar unmistakable evidence of their visits.

And now we come to Tappington. The valley opens wide, and on either
side of it climb gently-rising hills clothed with thin woods, the
Folkestone Road ascending the shoulder of the hills to the left. From
it we look down upon a beautiful flat expanse of meadow-land; but no
lodge-gate, no stone lions, no avenue, and certainly not the slightest
trace of a park nor of a grand manor house can be seen. Only an old
farmstead, half-smothered in ivy and creepers, is seen, in midst of the
open meadow. It is a dream of rustic beauty, but - it is not the manor
house of Barham's vivid fancy and picturesque pen. If, however, the
rich details with which he clothed the old farm buildings of Tappington
are lacking, it yet remains of absorbing interest, quite apart from
the literary memories it embodies. The old house, and the remains of
a former grandeur still visible in the half-obliterated foundations
of demolished buildings, attract attention. There it stands, a squat
building of mellowed red brick, crossed and recrossed with timbering.
Its rust-red roof is bowed and bent, and, in place of the clustered
chimneys of fiction, one short and stout chimney springs from the
centre of the roof-ridge, while another crowns the gable-end. In the
meadow are traces of an old well which, before the greater part of
Tappington Manor House was, at some unknown period, pulled down, stood
in a quadrangle formed by a great range of buildings. Creepers and ivy
clothe the front of the old house, and a garden, full of all manner
of old-fashioned flowers, extends on either side of the entrance.

[Illustration: TAPPINGTON HALL.]

The interior is of more interest than might be supposed from a glance
at the outside. A magnificent old carved-oak staircase conducts
upstairs from the lower rooms, and on the walls hang portraits - old
portraits indeed, but quite fictitiously said to be Ingoldsbys, and in
fact derived by some later owner of the property from Wardour Street,
or other such ready source, where not merely Ingoldsbys, but ancestors
of every kind, are procurable on demand. One, with an armorial shield
and the name of "Stephen Ingoldsby" painted on it, glowers sourly from
the topmost stair, where the blood-stained flooring still bears witness
to an extraordinary fratricide committed here two hundred and fifty
years ago.


[Illustration: THE "MERCHANT'S-MARK" OF THOMAS MARSH OF MARSTON.]

It is quite remarkable that, while Barham invented and transmuted
legends that had Tappington for their centre, he never alluded to
this genuine tragedy. It seems, then, that when all England was
divided between the partisans of King and Commons, and Charles and his
Parliament were turning families one against the other, Tappington
Manor House was inhabited by two brothers, descendants of that "Thomas
Marsh of Marston" who is the hero of that prose legend, "The Leech
of Folkestone," and whose merchant's-mark is still to be seen here,
carved on the newel of the great staircase. These two brothers had
taken different sides in the struggle then going on, and quarrelled
so bitterly that they agreed never to speak to one another, living
actually in different parts of the then much larger house, and only
using this staircase in common as they retired to or descended from
their particular apartments.

[Illustration: TAPPINGTON HALL: NIGHT.]

One night, by evil chance, they met upon the stairs. None knew what
passed between them, or whether black looks or bitter words were
exchanged; but as the Cavalier passed, his Puritan brother drew a
dagger and stabbed him in the back. He fell, and died on the spot, and
the stains of his blood are there to this day - visible, indubitably, to
one's own physical eyes.

The good people - farming folks from Westmoreland - who lately occupied
the house, showed the stranger these stains, outside what is known
as the bedroom of "Bad Sir Giles," who, to quote "The Spectre of
Tappington," "had been a former proprietor in the days of Elizabeth.
Many a dark and dismal tradition is yet extant of the licentiousness of
his life and the enormity of his offences. The Glen, which the keeper's
daughter was seen to enter, but never known to quit, still frowns
darkly as of yore; while an ineradicable blood-stain on the oaken stair
yet bids defiance to the united energies of soap and sand. But it is
with one particular apartment that a deed of more especial atrocity is
said to be connected. A stranger guest - so runs the legend - arrived
unexpectedly at the mansion of the 'Bad Sir Giles.' They met in
apparent friendship; but the ill-concealed scowl on their master's
brow told the domestics that the visit was not a welcome one." Next
morning, the stranger was found dead in his bed, with marks of violence
on his body. He was buried in Denton churchyard, on the other side
of the highway to Folkestone. For the rest of the tale, and how the
spectre was supposed to have purloined Lieutenant Seaforth's breeches,
the _Ingoldsby Legends_ themselves must be consulted.

Tappington has again passed away from the Barhams. Ingoldsby's
son, the Reverend Richard Harris Dalton Barham, Vicar of Lolworth,
Cambridgeshire, resigned that living in 1876, and retired to Dawlish,
South Devon, where he died in 1886; but considerably earlier than that
date he had agreed, having no children, to sell the property and divide
the proceeds with his two sisters. This was accordingly done.

Although the scenery is so sweetly beautiful, the soil is said to be
very poor - mostly unfertile red earth, mixed with great quantities of
flints, the rest chalk. A great extent of the property is still coppice
and scrubwood. An advertisement of 1890, offering the place to be let,
is interesting:

FARM. - KENT. - Tappington Everard, Denton, near Canterbury, comprising
Homestead, with Picturesque Residence (formerly occupied by the Rev.
R. H. Barham, author of the _Ingoldsby Legends_) and about 245 Acres
of Land, of which 144 Acres are Pasture, and 101 Acres Arable. Rent
£220. Early possession may be had. - For terms and further particulars
apply to Messrs. Worsfold & Hayward, Land Agents, Dover, and 80,
Cannon Street, London, E.C.




CHAPTER VI

ROMNEY MARSH


The scene now changes to Romney Marsh. It was in 1817, in his
twenty-ninth year, that Barham came to this recondite region,
the Archbishop of Canterbury having collated him to the rectory
of Snargate, with which went at that time, by some mysterious
ecclesiastical jugglery that does not concern us, the curacy of the
parish of Warehorne. He lived by preference there, rather than in the
malarious marsh itself, at Snargate, and thus the vicarage house that
stands, amid a recent melancholy plantation of larches, to the left
of the road on entering the village, has its interest, for we may
suppose that in it he lived, although, to be sure, it has undergone
alterations, and its stuccoed abominations and feeble attempts at
Gothic design must be later than his day. It is a disappointing house
to the literary pilgrim who loves his Barham - gaunt and dismal-looking
as you pass it; but the site is interesting, for we must by no means
forget that it was here, driven to it by the weariness of being
confined to the house after breaking his leg in a gig accident, in
1819, that he turned to literary composition. A novel called _Baldwin_
was the result. It was published anonymously, and was not - nor, as a
perusal of it satisfies one, did it deserve to be - a success. He was
only serving his apprenticeship to letters, and had not yet discovered
himself. That he speedily improved upon this first effort becomes
evident in his succeeding work, begun immediately after the completion
of the first. This, partly written here, was the novel of _My Cousin
Nicholas_, a work of splendid and rollicking humour now undeservedly
forgotten. Before he had finished the manuscript a change came over his
professional prospects, for in 1821 he was induced to apply for a minor
canonry of St. Paul's Cathedral, and when, to his surprise, he was
elected, removed to London, and neither Warehorne nor Snargate knew him
any more. Those who make this pilgrimage will think his unbounded joy
at leaving his country cure perhaps a little indecent:

Oh, I'll be off! I will, by Jove!
No more by purling streams I'll ramble,
Through dirty lanes no longer rove,
Bemired, and scratched by briar and bramble.

He was eager for London, and preferment.

[Illustration: WAREHORNE.]

As for Warehorne itself, it is one of those smallest of villages with
the biggest of churches which give the stranger the alternatives of
supposing either that it has decayed from some former prosperity or
that the piety of whoever built the big church outran his discretion.
Perhaps he who originally built it was a sinner of more than usual
calibre, the magnitude of whose misdeeds is thus feebly reflected to
after ages in this architectural expiation. It is a thought of one's
very own, but essentially Barhamesque - so imbued with the spirit of
the master does the pilgrim become. But at any rate, if the original
portions of the church be Norman and Early English, the great heavy
tower of dull red brick is commonplace eighteenth century, and owes
nothing to ideas of vicarious atonement, which were not prevalent
at the time of its building. "Commonplace" I have called it, and so
indeed it is, and unimaginative to boot, but that is not to deny the
impressiveness it gives the view. It has quite the right tone for
the grim place, overhanging the mist-laden, sad-faced marsh, and the
trees that have grown up around it have in some freakish sympathetic
mood grown in quite the proper dramatic way. There they slant across
the sky, the sweeping poplars; there between them you can glimpse the
churchyard yews; and there, I doubt not, the least imaginative can
picture the smugglers of Romney Marsh topping the rise, each one with
a couple of brandy-tubs across his shoulders. Nay, to go further - a
mental excursion for which we have due warranty in the authentic
published records of Barham's own residence here - we may perceive
the rector of Snargate coming home o' nights to wife and children
at Warehorne rectory, and meeting on the way, in the dark, those
self-same free-traders. "Stand!" they cry; and then, with relief, "It's
only parson! Good-night t'ye, sir!" Had it been someone else, say a
preventive man, they would have knocked him senseless to the ground, as
the mildest measure they could afford.

Here, down a curving and suddenly descending road, we came unexpectedly
to a railway and its closed level-crossing gates, a surprising
encounter in these wilds. It is the Ashford to Rye branch of the
South-Eastern - or more grandiloquently, since its alliance with the
London, Chatham and Dover, the "Great Southern" Railway: great, they
say, in nothing but its charges and delays.

Warehorne, to the backward view from the foot of this descent, looks
another place - its church, seen to be really on a height - surrounded by
apple orchards.

[Illustration: A SUNDIAL, WAREHORNE CHURCH.]

No sooner is the level crossing passed than we are come to a bridge
spanning a broad waterway running right and left. This marks our advent
upon Romney Marsh, for here is the famous Royal Military Canal, a
national defence that has never been called on to prove its usefulness,
and has ever been, since its projection and execution in 1805, the
subject of much satire at the expense of the military engineers who
designed and constructed, and the Government that authorised it.

The origin of the canal is found in the naturally open condition of
this coast, and in the old fears of invasion, not so long since dead;
for there are still those who vividly recollect such alarms even in the
reign of Napoleon III.

[Illustration: WAREHORNE.]

The long range of the south coast between Eastbourne and Folkestone - a
stretch of, roughly, fifty miles - is remarkable for the low sandy
or shingly shores that offer easy landing for boats. The smugglers,
during many centuries, found the beaches of Dymchurch, the marshes
of Winchelsea, Rye, and Romney, places exactly fitted to the needs
of their shy midnight business, and it has always been seen that the
landing of a foreign foe could most readily be effected by an invading
force on these low sand spits and shingly promontories - assuming the
simultaneous absence of our fleet and the presence of a dead calm.
Lying directly opposite France, whose coast can, under favourable
conditions, be seen, now like a grey cloud, and again, when sunshine
strikes the distant cliffs, gleaming white, the unprotected state of
the Kent and Sussex littoral has always occasioned much uneasiness in
times of war or rumours of war. It has never been forgotten that Cæsar
landed at Deal, or that William the Norman came ashore at Pevensey, and
those hoary historical lessons have served to afflict many statesmen
with nightmares, away from the time when Henry VIII., in 1539, built
his squat castles and potbellied bastions at Sandown, Deal, Sandgate,
and Walmer, in fear of a Continental combination against him, and
personally saw that they were well and truly built; down to the years
of Napoleon's threatened descent, when the Military Canal was dug and
the long line of Martello towers built. What says Ingoldsby of the
canal? Why, this:

"When the late Mr. Pitt was determined to keep out Buonaparte and
prevent his gaining a settlement in the county of Kent, among other
ingenious devices adopted for that purpose he caused to be constructed
what was then, and has ever since been conventionally termed, a
'Military Canal.' This is a not very practicable ditch, some thirty
feet wide and nearly nine feet deep in the middle, extending from the
town and port of Hythe to within a mile of the town and port of Rye,
a distance of about twenty miles, and forming, as it were, the end of
a bow, the arc of which constitutes that remote fifth quarter of the
globe, Romney Marsh, spoken of by travellers. Trivial objections to
the plan were made at the time by cavillers; an old gentleman of the
neighbourhood, who proposed, as a cheap substitute, to put down his own
cocked-hat upon a pole, was deservedly pooh-pooh'd down; in fact, the
job, though rather an expensive one, was found to answer remarkably
well. The French managed, indeed, to scramble over the Rhine and the
Rhone, and other insignificant currents; but they never did, or could,
pass Mr. Pitt's 'Military Canal.'"

[Illustration: THE ROYAL MILITARY CANAL, AT WAREHORNE.]

Satire is writ large, in a fine bold Roman hand, over that description
of the Military Canal, is it not? and really, the difficulty of
outflanking, or even of overpassing, this insignificant waterway would
have been small had Napoleon ever set forth from Boulogne. But he never
did, and so its defensible properties remain only x. One thing it does
do most thoroughly: being dug at the foot of the ground falling to
the levels, it sets visible limits and bounds to the marshland, and
in a striking manner makes you understand that here you are come into
another and strange region. From Hythe, under those earthy clifflets
it goes by way of Lympne, Hurst, Bonnington, Bilsington, Ruckinge,
Warehorne, and Appledore, and thence to within hail of Rye, and is
nowadays a most picturesque object. The word "canal" does by no means
accord it justice. You picture a straight-cut stretch of water, yellow
and malodorous, with barges slowly voyaging along, the bargees smoking
rank shag and indulging in ranker language; but that is quite unlike
this defence of Old England. It is not straight, its waters are clean,
there are not any barges; but there are overhanging trees, clusters of
bulrushes, strange water-plants, and an abundance of wild life along
its solitary way. Before railways were, and when even the few roads
of the marsh were almost impassable, the canal was very useful to the
inhabitants of the district, when goods came and went along it by
packet-boats; but they have long since ceased to ply. So long since
as 1867 it was proposed to sell this obsolete defence to a projected
railway company, but it escaped that fate.

They are chiefly beech-trees that line the banks, generally on the
inner side, where the heavy raised earthworks and the corresponding
ditch for defenders are still very prominent.

We are introduced to the Marshland at the beginning of the prose
legend, "The Leech of Folkestone." "The world," we are told, "according
to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America,
and Romney Marsh. In this last named, and fifth, quarter of the
globe, a Witch may still be occasionally discovered in favourable,
_i.e._ stormy, seasons, weathering Dungeness Point in an eggshell,
or careering on her broomstick over Dymchurch Wall. A cow may yet be
sometimes seen galloping like mad, with tail erect, and an old pair of
breeches on her horns, an unerring guide to the door of the crone whose
magic arts have drained her udder."

This "recondite region," as he very happily calls it, is still, sixty
years after the description was written, a peculiar and eerie tract.
Among the most readily defined of districts, Romney Marsh proper
extends from Hythe on the east, along the coast to New Romney, in a
south-westerly direction, and is bounded by the high-road between that
town and Snargate on the north-west; the circuit being completed by the
line of the Royal Military Canal. Other marshes, indistinguishable by
the eye from that of Romney, extend westward and up to and beyond Rye
and the river Rother, across the border from Kent into Sussex. These
are, severally, Dunge Marsh, Walling Marsh, and Guildford Level.

Romney Marsh obtains its name from the Anglo-Saxon _Ruimn-ea_, the
marshy water - the same root-word which gave Ramsgate its original
name of _Ruim's-geat_. We do not know by what name the Romans knew
the district; but it is quite certain that when they came to Britain,
and for two centuries later, the area now covered with pastures and
scattered hamlets was a great lagoon, fed by the rivers Rother and
Limen and the many landsprings that even in these comparatively arid
times gush from the ragged edge of the high ground between Hythe and
Warehorne. With every flood tide, the sea mixed its salt waters with
the fresh brought down by the rivers, which at the ebb flowed out
into the sea at a point where, now nearly four miles inland, the tiny
village of Old Romney is seen, standing on its almost imperceptible
hillock. The Rother, now a very insignificant stream, was diverted from
its old course by the terrible storm of 1280, and now seeks the sea
at Rye, and the Limen has long been a mere brook; but when the Romans
established themselves here, those river-channels were broad enough
and deep enough to afford safe passage for the vessels of that time,
and the anchorage within the great shingle-bank that then protected
the lagoon from where Hythe now stands to New Romney was by far the
best and safest on this coast. It is difficult at first to fully grasp
these great changes that have so altered the appearance of this great
tract of country within the historic period; but, once understood, they
make a fascinating study and give the marsh a deeper interest. Then
only is it possible to reconstruct the forgotten scene: the calm waters
of the magnificent harbour stretching away for miles, to the densely
wooded slopes of Ruckinge, Bonnington, and Hurst, where the oaks and
the brushwood were mirrored in the shallow reaches, and the clustered
vessels could be seen anchored in the fairway.

At the remotest end of this lake, where Lympne and Studfall Castle are
now, were the harbour and fortress of Portus Lemanis, taking their name
from the river Limen, and forming perhaps the chief commercial port of
that time, just as Rutupium and Regulbium were the military and naval
stations. From that point ran a road, straight as though measured by a
ruler, fourteen miles inland, across country, to the Roman station and
town of Durovernum: the lonely road now marked on the map as "Stone


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Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperThe Ingoldsby Country → online text (page 5 of 16)