Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ture-fields and enclosures, to Brill—a small town somewhat singularly placed, on the summit of a lofty ridge some 300 feet or more above the level of the surrounding country. - This place was formerly the centre of a district called Birnwode forest, resorted to by several of our Plantagenet Kings for the purpose of hunting. King John, Henry the Second, and Edward the Third, spent much time here. From several points in the immediate vicinity of the church, most delightful and commanding views are obtained. The wooded resi. dence and park of the Marquis of Chandos, Wotton House, lies immediately under the ridge, to the North; whilst beyond it stretch away for many miles, the productive farms and comfortable shaded homesteads of this rich and favoured county. But little remains of the once extensive forest by which this district was formerly covered. A grove of lofty trees, close to the town, appears to be the sole remnant of its departed glory. Early on the morrow I descended from my “monticule,” on the South-west side, bent upon finding the way to the site of an edifice of ancient date, historically interesting by its having stood a siege of a fortnight's duration, by the Parliament forces under General Fairfax, in 1645; Boarstall House, at that time belonging to Lady Dynham, being successfully defended by Sir William Campion, A pleasant drive of some three miles brought me to the spot, now a rural solitude, once animated with active and opulent feudal existence. The Gate House, with its four massive towers, yet stands, and in its pristine form, only shorn of its portcullis and

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

drawbridge; a striking picturesque monument of mediaeval taste. It is confidently affirmed to have been erected in the reign of Edward the First, about the year 1324; John de Handlo, the lord of the domain, having obtained licence from the King to “fortify his mansion at Boarstall, and make a castle of it”—so ran the edict.” Three sides of the deep moat are yet open, and full of water; and one solitary secular tree (an elm) stands within its enclosure, sole survivor of many hundred oaks and elms which, no longer ago than the year 1810, surrounded this ancient feudal castle.

The woman who now resides in the Gate House recounted to me the following particulars. “My grandmother,” said she, “lived and died here. She died about thirty years ago, when she was eightyseven. I remember her very well, and have often heard her tell about the old house, and about the family of Aubrey. The “great house,” she said, stood upon a deal of ground, and had prim gardens, and trees set in rows, with clipped hedges; and there were very noble rooms in the mansion. The late Sir Thomas Aubrey inherited a large part of Sir John Aubrey's estates. He died, like his uncle, at a great age. My grandmother remembered the forest being so thick all round Boarstall that you could not see the house until you came quite close upon it. Sir John Aubrey had, by his first wife, a son, who about the age of six or seven years came to an untimely death.

* [The property came, by inheritance, to the family of Aubrey, about one hundred and fifty years since; the last male descendant of which, Sir Thomas Aubrey, dying not more than a year ago, without children,

the estates devolved upon a lady (married to Mr. Ricketts), the next in blood, residing at Dorton House..] . - : . . . . . . .”

[graphic]

His nurse having giving the child a little medicine,

wished that he should afterwards take some gruel.

To make this gruel, she used some oatmeal which she

found in one of the cupboards in the Gate House,

where the kitchen was situate. It unfortunately | turned out that this oatmeal had had arsenic mixed

with it. The child at first refused to swallow the gruel, saying it was nasty; on which the nurse added some sugar, and thus the child was induced to eat it up. The poor boy died within three hours of this fatal mistake being committed. My grandmother saw the child when it was dying: it was a fine little boy, and the nurse had like to have gone out of her mind with grief. Lady Aubrey, the boy's mother, took on sadly, and after a few months died of a - broken heart. The widower, anxious for an heir, married, after a while, another lady; but she bore o him no child.” Sir John began to pull down the great house about eighty years ago, carting the stone and other materials away to enlarge Dorton House withal; | || || o

originally a structure of the Tudor age, which it took him many years to complete. It is situate - about a mile and a half East of Brill, nearly at | | the bottom of the slope, and in the immediate ! *, vicinity of a somewhat remarkable medicinal spring of a strong chalybeate quality. Sir Thomas Aubrey, on coming to the property, somewhere about thirty years ago, set about cutting down the fine forest which surrounded the site of Boarstall House. There were many trees of such bulk and value as to fetch the sum of 16l, per stick. The estimate made by the inhabitants was, that he had cut down over 1500 timber-trees. As Sir Thomas Aubrey did not inherit the Dorton estates, (which were left to Mrs. Ricketts,) it was surmised that this wholesale destruction of the Boarstall timber was prompted by an unworthy feeling of jealousy; the Boarstall estates being destined to pass to Mrs. Ricketts and her heirs, in default of Sir Thomas leaving a son. After making a leisurely inspection of this interesting relic of the fourteenth century, I returned to Brill; whence, passing by the spa or mineral spring mentioned above, and close to Dorton House, I reascended by a steep path to the pleasant village of Chilton. It would be difficult to point out a more charming drive. On each side of the ridge an extensive view is enjoyed; whilst on gently descending into the village, the road is overarched by umbrageous trees, and the ancient manor-house and handsome church, in close proximity, are shaded by a grove of magnificent elms. After leaving Chilton, the road sinks down into the valley of the Thames; and, passing through the town of Thame, we followed a dull level line of country to Prince's Risborough, a neat little town nestled at the base of the Chiltern range. Ourselves and horse standing in great need of sustentation, we alighted at what was dignified by the title of the “head inn” of the place; and, after seeing the good horse cared for, opened the subject of dinner with the landlady. Traveller—“What have you got in the house, mistress 2" Landlady—“Mighty little, I'm afeard.” Traveller—“Well, then, you'd better send out and get us some mutton-chops, or something.” Landlady—“Oh! that won't be no use, for there ain't such a thing in the town." Traveller—“How do you know that?” Landlady—"'Cos we've been and tried for some other travellers; and there's ne'er a butcher have got a scrap of meat. Ye see, to. morrow's our market-day; so they wont kill till the over-night.” Traveller—“Well, then, bring out the bread and cheese; you've got that, I suppose?” Landlady—“Ay, ay, we got that, sure enough!”

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic][graphic]

Towards six o'clock, we jogged on; passing by the pretty little village of Bradenham, under the hill on which the church of West Wycombe, presenting a striking object, is perched. At its base stands the noble mansion and richly-timbered grounds of Sir Francis Dashwood King, called West Wycombe Park; than which, few more attractive and interesting seats can be cited. The road hence, to High or Chipping Wycombe, lay through a valley watered by a stream, and ornamented by the wood-crowned heights of Wycombe Abbey, forming a delightful landscape, gilded by the departing rays of a gorgeous sunset.

Here ends my humble “itinerary.” May it interest some of your readers who still cherish a love of old English tradition, haunts, and dwellings; albeit my track led neither through romantic nor magnificent scenery.

* I repeat this prosaic dialogue, to show that frugal habits are still in fashion among the rural population of England.

[graphic][graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »