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AN ENGLISH RAMBLE.
24th August, 1857. FEw of the counties of England would seem to offer less attraction to tourists than the agricultural district of Buckinghamshire; nevertheless, a ramble through its well-cultivated farms and truly primitive villages is not without interest to those who can take pleasure in rural scenery not unmixed with antiquarian features. Such an excursion the writer lately made, starting from Chalfont St. Giles, immortalized by having been for a time inhabited by John Milton, during the plague of London in 1666. Passing through the cheerful little town of Amersham, you come to Shardeloes, the residence of Mr. Drake, delightfully situate on rising ground, which is clothed with noble timber for some distance, the valley below being watered by the stream of the Misbourne, here collected into a somewhat extensive lake. Great Missenden is an ordinary country village nestled between the hills: soon after quitting which, we opened upon the Chiltern Hills, a chalk range running South-west and North-east, and forming the lower boundary of the Vale of Aylesbury. The little town of Wendover appeared the very abode of dulness, as we quietly entered it between five and six in the evening of a beautiful summer's day. Hardly a human being was visible, harvest-time having emptied the dwellings even to the children, who are useful in the general work of “leasing,” or gleaning, in the wheat stubbles. This solitude and repose was, however, anything but unwelcome; for the weather was delightful, and the landscape truly English. The church, embosomed in trees; the fields around richly studded with sheaves of corn; the cattle at graze; and the hills tufted with shrubs, box, juniper, and the like, altogether it was a scene at once cheerful, attractive, and picturesque. From this to Aylesbury nothing interesting, save to the farmer. From Aylesbury (a thriving country-town,) we took the Buckingham road for five miles, diverging to the left, intending to visit the village of Oving, where there is a fine old seat of the Aubreys: but the road being intricate we took a wrong turn, and found ourselves at another village, which on inquiry we learnt was North Marston.
Methought the church appeared worthy of a visit; accordingly we ascended the hill on which it stands. Some urchins, who ran after us offering to hold our horse, went and fetched the cottager woman who kept “ the kay of the church.” On entering, I was surprised to perceive a very handsome painted glass window, evidently of recent date: a substantial oaken ceiling, with pendants and roses, carved seats, communion-tablets, handsomely fitted; everything neat and well cared for. The exterior offered unusual architectural beauty, the nave being decorated with numerous Gothic pinnacles. I expressed to the good woman, our conductress, my wonder at all this, and asked who had embellished this church.
Woman—“The Queen, to be sure.”
Traveller—“The Queen! what could she have to do with it?”
Woman—“Why, a precious good deal, I'se warrant. Did ye never hear of one John Camden Neild—a great miser—what left all his money and his lands to the Queen?” Traveller—“Well, I think I do recollect, some few years back, hearing of a great legacy which had been left to the Queen. Was it about here that the lands lay?” Woman—“Aye, sure! Mr. Neild owned ever so many farms round about this here place.” Traveller—“Had he any residence in the village?” Woman—“No: he used to come and dra' his rents
his own self, and then he stopped with one of his
tenants, handy here: he lived very close, and had saved up millions of money.” Traveller—“Millions ! that's not to be believed. I thought I heard that what he left to the Queen was about a hundred thousand pounds, or there-away.” Woman—“Lor blessy 'twas ever so much more nor that.” Traveller—“I can't think it, somehow.” Woman – (looking embarrassed)—“Well, how much is a million?” Traveller—“Why, a million is ten hundred thousand pounds.” Woman—(with a gesture of impatience, and proceeding to open an inner door)—“Ah! he'd more nor that round here away, let alone other places.” Over the communion-table, and under the handsome window I have mentioned, is an inscription in old English characters painted on a gold ground in memory of the testator, John Camden Neild; placed there by order of the Queen.
Proceeding about two miles farther, I reached the village of Granborough, with a little plain church, its cottages scattered in clusters, and offering indu. bitable indications of comfort and decent habits in the residents. The harvest had caused the cottages to be deserted by their owners; a few children (and those healthy and well fed) being the only living things to be seen. At Granborough I halted for refreshment; finding, by good luck, what has of late years become but too rare, a jug of genuine home. brewed beer. The landlord and his dame, full of civility, produced all that their humble house afforded; and both I and my horse left the spot with renewed energies. Our road to Steeple Claydon lay through pasturage enclosures, the gates of which were many and tedious to open. Passing through the grounds of Sir Harry Werney, Bart., M.P., we stopped to look at the Church of Middle Claydon, which adjoins his time-honoured mansion, formerly the seat of the ancient family of Chaloner: the park is enlivened by a sheet of water, and is well timbered. Mounting a neighbouring hill, I found myself at Steeple-Claydon, —a place interesting to me on account of my rela. tionship with this family of Chaloner, many members of which lie buried within the precincts of its simple, unpretending church. The village is delightfully situate on high ground, with extensive views over the country on all sides. Nothing can be more agree. able to look upon than the cottages and farm-houses of Steeple Claydon. A few flaring flowers ornament most of them in front, while abundance of vegetable produce lies behind. Everything denotes the pre: siding influence of a considerate “squire” and a
benevolent parson. On the western declivity of the hill I found a school-house of elegant design, rebuilt on the site of the old school, for the reception of the infant children of the neighbourhood, by Sir Harry Werney. With that reverence for bygone generous deeds which characterizes all cultivated minds, Sir Harry has caused the memory of the original founder to be preserved; the escutcheon of a Chaloner, carved in stone, being still in its place over the porch, the only part of the original building which remains. On the brow of the hill is a “vallum,” of considerable depth and width, with a mound, where Oliver Cromwell, it is credibly affirmed, encamped during his campaign against the King's forces in this county. Sir Harry Werney has placed a brass inscription in a wall hard by, in order to keep alive the tradition concerning this interesting incident. In the chancel of the church at Steeple Claydon is a mural tablet to the memory of an Edward Chaloner, one of whose ancestors” the tablet records as having been knighted by the Protector of King Edward the Sixth, and by Queen Elizabeth sent ambassador to the Emperor Ferdinand and to Philip the Second King of Spain. Quitting this pleasant spot, not without regret, I descended into the plain, and, by a sequestered track of a purely agricultural character, passed through the villages of Edgcott and Grendon-Underwood (the latter boasting a handsome and picturesque church), and, traversing for a short space the “Akeman way,” one of the early Saxon highways, I came to Ludgershall, having a most primitive-looking parsonagehouse, seated on an eminence; thence, through pas
* Sir Thomas Chaloner.