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The eldest son lived with his father. Mr. Charles Eyre, the secondary, bought a house at East Burnham, with some land round it, situated in the centre of his father's estate, which estate he was one day destined, though the younger son, to inherit. At this house he established his ménage, which comprised within it a pretty housekeeper of the name of Green (a native of Stoke, hard by), by whom he had two children, both girls. He lived in good style, received his male acquaintance there hospitably, and was considered to be what was called a “man of pleasure.” It is related that the elder brother of this Mr. Charles Eyre was, or pretended to be, scandalized at his brother's free way of life, and was wont to say “that he would take a wife himself, if only to get an heir who should keep Charles out of the estate.” Nevertheless, he died a bachelor, and Mr. Charles Eyre accordingly succeeded to these ancient possessions, about the year 1745. But he let the house at Huntercombe, and continued to live at his own house at East Burnham, his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, residing with him (bearing his name) until his death, at the ripe age of eighty, in 1786. She used to assist him in his business as “Secondary,” the greater part of which he transacted in the country; boxes of papers, coins, tallies, &c., being sent from the Exchequer to East Burnham by official messengers for that purpose. His youngest daughter, Arabella, was sought in marriage about the year 1770 by a Captain John Popple, a young gentleman in the regular army, without any fortune: the captain probably calculating on that deficiency being supplied by his wife's expected inheritance. He continued in the army, living in quarters, accompanied by his wife, on a very small income, up to the death of Mr. Eyre, when that gentleman leaving his daughters each a comfortable fortune, Captain Popple quitted the service, and went to live at a place called Bury Hill, in Hertfordshire.
Mr. Charles Eyre dying without legitimate issue,
the paternal estate, manors, &c., passed to his nephew,
a Captain Sayer, the son of one of his sisters, who had married a Mr. Sayer, of London, drysalter. This gentleman accordingly came to reside on his estate; but he could not well live where Mr. Eyre had done, seeing that Mr. Eyre had bequeathed that house to his eldest daughter as part of her inheritance: East Burnham House, and about forty acres of land adjacent, not forming any portion of the Eyre estate. Captain Sayer took up his abode in a small house (at that time almost a cottage), pertaining to the Eyre estate, adding a few rooms to make it suitable for a gentleman to occupy. There was another house belonging to himself, called the “Manor House,” of much better appearance, also situate in East Burnham: but this was sadly out of repair, and decayed, so that Captain Sayer preferred to live in the house above mentioned, situated on the verge of the common. Here he kept a pack of harriers, and lived like a gentleman, though from having delicate health he went rarely abroad. His hounds were maintained more for his country neighbours' amusement than his own, since he, poor man! was all but blind, and could take therefore very little share in any kind of sport. -
Mr. Sayer had been in the army, and had received
a bullet wound at the battle of Minden, in 1759. The belief entertained by his friends was, that he had contracted an injury to his sight by sleeping on the damp ground, in the campaign in Germany; he was never married. At the time of his residence on the estate (which embraced a span of twenty-four years), a vast deal of game was spread over the manor. Mr. Sayer was a justice of the peace, and persons who trespassed on the manor and killed his game were often caught, and brought before him by his own gamekeepers: yet he never would punish them, but used to reprimand them gently, telling them “they must not repeat the offence;” after which, he would. order them into the servants' hall to get victuals and drink. Before Mr. Charles Eyre's death, the cottage, to which Mr. Sayer afterwards made the addition I have spoken of, would seem to have been occasionally let for the summer, for it is well remembered in the neighbourhood that, to this cottage Mr. Richard Brinsley Sheridan brought his charming young bride, Miss Linley, on returning to England from Flanders after their stolen wedding; and here, therefore, may be supposed to have been spent their real “honeymoon.” In Moore's Life of Sheridan will be found letters from Sheridan written from East Burnham Cottage. To return to Mr. Charles Eyre. He left the bulk of his personal property—which was considerable— to his two daughters. The eldest was, a year or two after his death, united in marriage to Mr. Coxe, a gentleman of fortune in the county of Gloucester; he was nephew to Mr. Charles Eyre, through his mother, and consequently cousin german in blood, though
not in title, to Miss Elizabeth Eyre. She bore him no children, being no longer young at this period, and in the sequel (as will presently be narrated) she managed to enrich his descendants by a former wife with her own money. After her marriage, Mrs. Coxe let the house in which she and her father had so long resided, and took possession of her new home at Lippiat, in Gloucestershire. I cannot make out the names of the parties who thenceforth tenanted “the great house” at East Burnham, except that of a Mr. Sturt, and a Mr. Stevenson, of Coxe Lodge, Co. Northumberland, whose daughter became Countess of Mexborough, and, with the Earl, also resided some time at East Burnham. A Mr. Parry lived and died (in 1812) at the Manor House, the site of which was many years since converted into a market garden, let to Thomas Buckland, (formerly gamekeeper to the lord of the manor,) where a noble cedar of Lebanon remains and flourishes still, a vestige of the character of the residence in bygone days. I am unable to say who lived there after Mr. Parry's death, although doubtless the books of the collector of rates and taxes of the period would furnish the names, if referred to. During the reign (as we will call it) of Mr. Sayer —viz., from 1786 down to 1810—the hamlet of East Burnham seems to have been profoundly tranquil and stationary, the agriculture eminently primitive and unskilful, the habits of the people rude and uncontrolled; the labouring class less depressed, perhaps, than in many other districts, since Mr. Sayer was liberal-handed, Mrs. Coxe extremely kind and generous towards them, and the farmers held their land at an easy rent. Mr. Sayer must have lived much within his income, passing his days as he did in quiet retirement, occupying his own house, and keeping an establishment of a moderate size. He seems to have had a sister about his own age living with him, who died one year before him, unmarried. An old man now alive, named William Buckland, at the age of eightyfour, relates that his father was gamekeeper to Captain Sayer, and was also general overlooker of the woods and the manor of East Burnham (or “Allards”.) He himself (the deponent) knew this place during fifty years, never knew an instance of a tree standing on the waste or forest being cut down, but sometimes the wind would blow one down, or part of one, on which occasions the lord of the manor always had them cut up by his own men: often distributing among the poor people the wood so obtained, but not invariably. Sometimes took it home for his own use. Had heard it said by many persons that Mr. Sayer had no legal rights over the manor, not having inherited through the male line; still, nobody ever contested it, Mr. Sayer being well liked by his neighbours. Another man, named Slaymaker, related to the writer some particulars concerning this hamlet, in December, 1856, he being then eighty-five. He came first into this neighbourhood about the year 1792; he was farm servant, or husbandry-labourer, and shepherd, many years with a farmer named Edward Goldwin, who then held the farm now occupied by Mr. William Watkins. During the eleven years of Slaymaker's service with Farmer Goldwin in East