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Title: The Dukeries
Author: Gilchrist, Murray, 1868-1917
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Dukeries" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.




    Described by R. Murray Gilchrist

    Pictured by E. W. Haslehust



    |                 ~Beautiful England~              |
    |                   _Volumes Ready_                |
    |                          |                       |
    | OXFORD                   |   THE CORNISH RIVIERA |
    | THE ENGLISH LAKES        |   DICKENS-LAND        |
    | CANTERBURY               |   WINCHESTER          |
    | THE THAMES               |   CHESTER             |
    | WINDSOR CASTLE           |   YORK                |
    | CAMBRIDGE                |   THE NEW FOREST      |
    | THE HEART OF WESSEX      |   EXETER              |
    | THE PEAK DISTRICT        |   HEREFORD            |
    |                    THE DUKERIES                  |
    |                                                  |
    |              _Uniform with this Series_          |
    |                                                  |
    |                  ~Beautiful Ireland~             |
    |                                                  |
    |       LEINSTER           |     MUNSTER           |
    |       ULSTER             |     CONNAUGHT         |



    The Priory Gateway, Worksop             _Frontispiece_

    Worksop Manor                                        8

    Robin Hood's Larder                                 14

    The Major Oak, Thoresby Park                        20

    The Beech Avenue, Thoresby                          26

    Welbeck Abbey                                       32

    Clumber                                             36

    Thoresby                                            42

    Ollerton                                            48

    Rufford Abbey                                       52

    The Japanese Garden, Rufford Abbey                  56

    Edwinstowe                                          60

[Illustration: THE DUKERIES]


Although within the last twenty-five years Worksop has suffered many
changes, unfortunate enough from an æsthetic point of view, the Dukeries
end of the principal street still suggests the comfortable market town
in the neighbourhood of folk of quality. The only relic of notable
antiquity is the quaint inn, known as the Old Ship--a building with
projecting upper story and carved oaken beams that might have been
transported from Chester.

The twin-towered Priory Church, a gatehouse of singular interest, and
some slight, gracefully proportioned ecclesiastical ruins are the main
features of interest. The Priory was founded by William de Lovetot, and
used by the canons of the order of St. Augustine. Great men were buried
there, notably several chiefs of the Furnival family, who had for town
residence Furnival's Inn in Holborn. The interior of the church contains
some excellent round and octagonal pillars, and one or two ancient
effigies. The walls are coated with stucco, which detracts considerably
from the beauty of this handsomely proportioned building. One of the
most interesting things to be seen is a piece of a human skull, pierced
with an arrowhead. This hangs to the left of the doorway by which the
vestry is reached. There is a weird superstition concerning the moving
of this relic.

Near by is the ruined chapel, erected about the middle of the thirteenth
century. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and in olden times must
have blazed with gorgeous colours. The roof has fallen; little remains
of its former beauty save the lancet windows. The double piscina and the
sedilia are still in fair preservation, and we are shown the round holes
in the stonework once filled with the pegs of the canons' oaken seats.

In the churchyard are a few quaint epitaphs for such as delight to dwell
upon the virtues of the forgotten dead. The Priory Gatehouse at the
farther end is perhaps one of the most interesting buildings of its kind
in existence. The stonework is of soft grey, and the roof chiefly of
well-coloured tiles. A roadway about fifteen yards in length passes
through the building; the original ceiling of oaken beams with graceful
braces is still in good condition. Above this was the Hospitium, or
guest chamber, where may be seen the hooded chimney-piece and the hearth
before which old-time travellers rested o' nights and told tales that
Chaucer might have loved, before retiring to the smaller chambers, to
sleep heavily after the good cheer provided by their priestly hosts. In
front of this relic stands the old market cross; and near by, until
within the nineteenth century, were the stocks for vagrants and
refractory townsmen.

Camden tells us that in his time Worksop was "noted for its great
produce of liquorice, and famous for the Earl of Shrewsbury's house,
built in our memory by George Talbot, with the magnificence becoming so
great an Earl, and yet below envy". In Park Street, not far from the
Priory Gateway, is one of the entrances to the Manor Park. The trees
still remaining are not noteworthy in the matter of size, with the
exception of a few cedars and beeches near the terrace of the house. As
one approaches, the Manor Hills, gently sloping and well wooded, with
heather-covered clearings, may be seen to the left. As for the house
itself, the garden front of to-day, without being of great architectural
interest, has a very pleasant air of unpretentious comfort and
brightness. There is a flower garden whose beds are edged with box and
yew. The chief object of note is a long and high wall, probably a
portion of the ancient house; this is somewhat dignified with its worn
coping, whereon stand various urns the carving of which time has
softened. From the terrace one looks down on the sloping park with its
mere, and scattered trees, and graceful groups of young horses.

Passing round the house, and entering a vast gateway surmounted by a
lion, one sees, to the right, part of the manor built after 1761, when
the house which replaced the Elizabethan palace built by the Earl of
Shrewsbury and his Countess Bess, with its pictures and furniture and
some of the Arundelian marbles, was destroyed by fire. To my thinking,
the most suggestive view of the present edifice is gained from the
Mansfield road, within a few minutes' walk of the town.

From an ancient engraving we find that the first house bore some
resemblance to Hardwick Hall, the great Bess's most successful building.
It contained five hundred rooms; in front was a fine courtyard, with a
central octagonal green plot surrounding a basin with a fountain. The
artist gave to this a touch of life by drawing a coach and six proudly
curving towards the outlet; on the lawns beyond are ladies with
fan-shaped hoops, and thin-legged gentlemen with puffed coat skirts.

[Illustration: WORKSOP MANOR]

Of this house Horace Walpole writes, in 1756: "Lord Stafford carried us
to Worksop, where we passed two days. The house is huge and one of the
magnificent works of Old Bess of Hardwick, who guarded the Queen of
Scots here for some time in a wretched little bedchamber within her own
lofty one:--there is a tolerable little picture ('The story of
Bathsheba, finely drawn and shaded, in faint colours') of Mary's
needlework. The great apartment is vast and _triste_, the whole leanly
furnished: the great gallery, of about two hundred feet, at the top of
the house, is divided into a library and into nothing. The chapel is
decent. There is no prospect, and the barren face of the country is
richly furred with evergreen plantations." In 1761 he records that
"Worksop--the new house--is burned down; I don't know the circumstances,
it has not been finished a month; the last furniture was brought in for
the Duke of York: I have some comfort that I had seen it; except the
bare chamber in which the Queen of Scots lodged, nothing remained of
ancient time".

Not only was Mary Stuart well acquainted with Worksop Manor, but later,
her son, James the First, on his first progress to London, became the
guest of Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury, her jailer's successor. In a
letter to his agent, John Harpur, this nobleman writes forewarning him
of the expected honour, and, after bidding him see to horses being in
readiness, adds, as postcript: "I will not refuse anie fatt capons and
hennes, partridges, or the like, yf the King come to me". We find that
James left Edinburgh on the fifth of April, 1603, and reached Worksop on
the twentieth, after leaving the High Sheriff of Yorkshire at Bawtry,
and being met and escorted by his brother of Nottinghamshire. It is
matter for surprise that the king accepted the Talbot hospitality,
considering their melancholy connection with his mother's tragedy, but
it is true that he never made parade of filial piety. At Worksop Park
appeared a number of huntsmen, clad in Lincoln green, whose chief, "with
a woodman's speech, did welcome him, offering His Majesty to show him
some game, which he gladly consented to see, and, with a traine set, he
hunted a good space, very much delighted: at last he went into the
house, where he was so nobly received, with superfluitie of all things,
that still every entertainment seemed to exceed other. In this place,
besides the abundance of all provision and delicacies, there was most
excellent soul-ravishing musique, wherewith His Highness was not a
little delighted." One wonders if he was shown the royal prisoner's
miserable little room. At Worksop he spent a night, and in the morning
stayed for breakfast, which ended, "there was such store of provision
left, of fowls, fish, and almost everything, besides bread, beere and
wines, that it was left open for any man that would, to come and take".

In the State papers relating to the Rebellion of '45 may be found a
curious and interesting account of a secret hiding-place, reached by
lifting a sheet of lead on the roof. A tattling young woman told the
story upon oath, describing a staircase that descended to a little room
with a fireplace, a bed, and a few chairs, with a door in the wainscot
that opened to a place full of arms. Unfortunately, both history and
tradition are silent concerning any shelter offered by Worksop Manor to
proscribed folk.

After the burning of the new house, in 1761, the Duke of Norfolk, Lord
Shrewsbury's descendant, laid the foundation stone of another in 1763.
We learn that this was to have been one of the largest in England; but
that only one side of the proposed quadrangle was completed, although
five hundred workmen were employed, and closely supervised by the
duchess in person. This stood for three-quarters of a century; then, the
estate being sold to the Duke of Newcastle, the greater part of the
house was pulled down and the present place built.

Of the original park, which Evelyn mentions as "sweet and delectable",
nowadays there is but little to be seen. There still remains, however, a
beech grove called the "Druid's Temple", a "Lover's Walk" for
sentimental youth, and a wood of acacias and cedars, yews and tulip
trees--once known as the "Wilderness", but since the eighteenth century
called the "Menagerie", because of a Duchess of Norfolk who kept an
aviary within its precincts. Mrs. Delany, in 1756, thus alludes to this
place: "We went there on Sunday evening; but I only saw a crown bird and
a most delightful cockatoo, with yellow breast and topping". There is an
air of pleasing disorder about the drives, and one is occasionally
reminded of Irish demesnes.

Within a mile of the house once stood the celebrated "Shire oak"--a
gigantic tree whose branches overshadowed a portion of Nottinghamshire,
of Derbyshire, and of Yorkshire. Evelyn tells us that the distance from
bough-end to bough-end was ninety feet, and that two hundred and
thirty-five horses might have sheltered beneath its foliage. This tree
disappeared entirely in the eighteenth century, and the exact site is
now a matter of some uncertainty.


To savour the full charm of Sherwood Forest one must stray from the
highroad, lose one's path, and wander in happy patience until a broad
avenue is reached, or above the treetops one sees the slender and
graceful spire of some stately church. The formal beauty of the
frequented ways--trimly kept and splendidly coloured--precludes all
illusion: only in the remote solitudes with their monstrous old trees is
it possible to evoke a mind picture of Robin Hood and his devoted
followers. And even in the most secluded places the imagined pageant of
these folk suggests the theatre. The loveliness seems unreal--a
background devised by some scene-painter of genius.

But Sherwood is always beautiful and always tranquil; to those who know
aught of wood magic it is as fair in cold midwinter as in autumn, when
the leaves are no longer green leaves, but a rich mosaic of russet and
orange and sullen red. My most wonderful memory is of a November day
when a fine snow was falling, and the leaves drifted downward in a
continuous murmuring veil. Then, no rabbits played upon the grassy
wayside or crossed the track, and the pheasants shivered in their hidden
shelters. In early springtime one best realizes the antiquity; the
first opening leaves call to mind pale lichen growing upon damp castle
walls: in summer the air is languorous, bringing a desire for rest and
contemplation. Storms are impious there: the ancient oaks and birches
and chestnuts must wail and protest, like dotards wakened from senility
to cruel hours of actual life.

Of the old forest naught remains in perfection save the southern parts
known as Birkland and Bilhagh, in the neighbourhood of Edwinstowe and
Ollerton. Near the former village may be seen the famous "Major Oak" and
"Robin Hood's Larder". The full glory departed several centuries ago;
Camden himself writes of "Sherewood, which some interpret as _clear
Wood_, others as _famous Wood_, formerly one close continu'd shade with
the boughs of trees so entangled in one another, that one could hardly
walk single in the paths," that "at present it is much thinner, and
feeds an infinite number of Deer and Stags".

In British times the district was occupied by the tribe of the Coritani,
and later the Romans built several camps here, various relics of which
were discovered in the eighteenth century. Not far away, Edwin, the
Saxon King of Northumbria, was slain in battle--fighting against Penda,
King of Mercia, and Cadwallader, King of Wales; and in all probability
his body was buried at the village of Edwinstowe.

[Illustration: ROBIN HOOD'S LARDER]

The earliest definite notice of Sherwood dates from the days of Henry
the Second, when William Peverel had control and profit of the district
under the Crown. After his dispossession, a lady named Matilda de Caux
and her husband held the office of Chief Foresters. In Edward the
First's time this office was seized by the Crown, and granted, as a
special mark of favour, to persons of high station.

The _Charta de Foresta_, constructed in Henry the Third's reign,
contains some curious information about woodland customs. We learn that
"any archbishop, bishop, earl, or baron, coming to the King at his
command, and passing through the forests, might take and kill one or two
of the King's deer, by view of the forester if he were present; if not,
then he might do it upon the blowing of a horn, that it might not look
like a theft. The same might be done when they returned."[1] Courts
called Swainmotes were held thrice yearly--one fifteen days before
Michaelmas, a second about the Feast of St. Martin, and a third fifteen
days before St. John Baptist's Day. At the same time the cruel
punishments for offences against the forest laws were lessened in
rigour. Thenceforth no man was punished with death or mutilation for
illegally hunting, but if found taking venison was fined heavily. If he
were unable to pay, he was imprisoned for a year and a day, and then
discharged upon pledges; but if unable to find any surety, was exiled.

    Footnote 1: Reeves's _English Law_.]

The chief officers were known as foresters, verderors, woodwards, and
agisters. Each verderor had the liberty of taking a tree out of Birkland
or Bilhagh; but this privilege seems to have been abused, since in later
years the officers were found to choose the best timber available, and
in William the Third's reign the favour was withdrawn.

Until the sixteenth century the forest seems to have been infested with
wolves: we read that one, Sir Robert Plumpton, in Henry the Sixth's
time, held land called "wolf-hunt land" at Mansfield Woodhouse, seven or
eight miles away, by service of horn-blowing to chase or frighten away
these creatures. In 1635, from a survey taken by royal command, it was
discovered that the forests contained 1367 red deer, 987 of these being
"rascalds", or ill-conditioned. A few years before, the district had
been ravaged by fire, and a contemporary writer describes the
conflagration as one such as was "never knowne in menes memory; beinge
four mille longe and a mille and a halfe over all at once". Later the
gentleman tells how "ridinge on his way through the forest homeward, he
saw a greate herde of faire red deere, and amonst them 2 extreordanory
greet stages, the which he never saw the like".

Much of the forest oak was used for the royal navy, but more was allowed
to decay. Folk of good birth but fallen fortunes frequently begged a
grant of these trees from the Crown. In 1677 Thoroton writes that so
many claims were granted that there would soon not be wood enough left
to cover the bilberries! As time went on, the cleared portions, being of
no further use for kingly sport, were sold to various noblemen. In 1683,
1270 acres were bought by the Duke of Kingston, to add to Thoresby Park;
while early in the eighteenth century 3000 acres were enclosed for the
making of Clumber Park. The last portions of the forest remaining were
the hays, or enclosures, of Birkland and Bilhagh, which were granted to
the Duke of Portland about 1827, in exchange for the perpetual advowson
of St. Mary-le-Bone. Bilhagh later became the property of the late Earl
Manvers, its price being the manors of Holbeck and Bonbusk, near
Welbeck. After the resignation of the Crown lands the waning historical
interest of Sherwood ceased. Birkland and Bilhagh are still beautiful as
in their prime, but the rest of the neighbourhood is nowadays naught but
a wonderful pleasaunce, where drowsy pheasants wander unafraid, and
where the chief signs of life are on holidays, when happy folk crowd
from the neighbouring towns to view, awestricken, the wonders and the
riches of the great houses, and the artificial beauties of perhaps the
finest parks in England.

One or two literary men of some distinction have rhapsodized over the
charms of Sherwood, notably William Howitt and Washington Irving. Lord
Byron, whose house of Newstead lies not far away, displayed but little
interest in the district. The only modern writer to whom the secret of
the real Sherwood has been fully divulged is Mr. James Prior, whose
books, inspired by the spirit of the woodlands, should delight all who
love fresh and wholesome pictures of unspoiled country life.

Sherwood, as everybody knows, was Robin Hood's kingdom. Learned men have
racked their brains concerning the great outlaw's existence. Joseph
Hunter, the historian of Hallamshire, published in 1852 an ingenious
tract concerning his period and his real character, which in short gives
plausible enough details of his adventures. There is a well known by his
name not far from Doncaster, another near Hathersage, in the Peak
Country; and more than one village prides itself upon the site of his
"Shooting Butts". A cave, by legend ascribed to him, may be found on an
"edge" overhanging the Derwent valley, whilst within an easy walk of
Haddon Hall one may see two rocks known as his "Stride".

Langland, in the _Vision of Piers Plowman_, makes the first mention of
his popularity:--

    "I kan not parfitly my paternoster, as the priest sayeth,
     But I kan rymes of Robyn Hode and Randolf, Earl of Chester".

Again, in John Fordun's _Scottish Chronicle_, written about 1360, we
find him described not only as a notorious robber, but as a man of great
charity. In 1493 Wynkyn de Worde printed a sequence of old ballads
treating of his adventures. This book, known as _The Lytel Geste of
Robyn Hood_, became very popular, and brought into vogue the rustic
pageants known as the Robin Hood Games, in which the adventures of the
outlaw and his companions, Maid Marion, Little John, Will Scarlet, and
Friar Tuck, were depicted for the admiration of the multitude.

In the public library of the University of Cambridge is preserved the
manuscript of the finest and most ancient ballad. This, which is known
as "A Tale of Robin Hood", may be cited in its quaint and dramatic
picturesqueness as the most perfect and complete example of song
literature extant. It begins with Robin's desire to attend church at
Nottingham, since "It is a fortnight and more sin' I my Saviour saw".
Little John accompanies him, but on the way they quarrel about a wager,
and Robin strikes him, upon which the faithful servant departs in high
dudgeon. At Nottingham a hooded monk recognizes our hero and gives the
alarm. He is surrounded by the sheriff and his followers, and, although
he slays twelve men, is at last captured, and held in durance until
Little John, who has quite forgiven him, accomplishes his release by a
clever stratagem.

The chap-book entitled _Robin Hood's Garland_, which was published at
York, contains the generally believed account of his death and burial.
In it we read how he visited his cousin, the Prioress of Kirklees
Nunnery, for the purpose of being bled. She, who must have been
soul-sister of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, took advantage of his
defencelessness, and, after opening a vein, locked up the room and left
him for a day. Before dying, he blew his horn, and Little John, who was
outside, burst open the doors just in time to hear his last words. The
_Garland_ is full of instances of Robin's nobility, and for delightful,
invigorating reading may even be commended to the youth of to-day. It is
a concise little history, beginning with the first day of his outlawry,
and ending with the fatal scene at Kirklees. As a vivid series of
woodland sketches it is without parallel of its kind, and reading, one
may almost journey through the greater Sherwood in the company of the
goodly archers clothed in Lincoln green.


The humour is bucolic and breezy. The song of "Robin Hood and the
Bishop", which the black-letter copy describes as "Shewing how Robin
Hood went to an old woman's house, and changed cloathes with her to
escape from the bishop, and how he robbed the bishop of all his gold and
made him sing a mass", contains about the best specimen of this country
wit. Again, in _Robin Hood and the Tanner of Nottingham_ is a most
ludicrous account of the manner in which, after being threatened with a
"knop upon his bare scop", Robin receives as sound a drubbing as ever he
himself inflicted. But this punishment, and his philosophical manner of
bearing it, only earned him another follower, since the victorious
tanner became at once enamoured of the free forest life, and swore there
and then to join the band.

The Elizabethan dramatists made good use of our hero, knowing well that
when he was presented on the stage the hearts of the people were moved.
In "a Pleasant Commedie called Looke About You", he appears as a
fresh-faced and pretty young nobleman, ever ready to do a good turn to
his friends, to whom everybody defers, and who passes through the play
laughing and merry as his namesake, the Goodfellow of Ben Jonson. So
rosy are his cheeks and so bright his eyes that he personates the
heroine, Lady Fauconbridge, at some unwelcome visits that she dreads.
_The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon_, by Anthony Munday, who
wrote at the end of the sixteenth century, gives the next dramatic
information. This shows him living in full state, but still young, and
on the eve of marriage with Matilda Fitzwater, Lord Lacy's child. His
steward, Warman, instigated by the Prior of York, betrays him in
Judas-like fashion (for what real reason we are not told, if it be not
for the wasting of his lands), and as an outlaw he flies to the
greenwood, where he is joined by Matilda, who renounces her fine name
and calls herself Maid Marion. Prince John has fallen in love with her,
and she is in mortal fear of his pursuit. In this play Little John and
Friar Tuck converse prettily in an aside:--

    _Little John._ Methinks I see no jest of Robin Hood,
                   No merry morrices of Friar Tuck,
                   No pleasant skippings up and down the wood,
                   No hunting songs, no coursings of the buck.

    _Friar Tuck._  For merry jests they have been shown before,
                   As how the friar fell into the well
                   For love of Jenny, that fair bonny belle;
                   How Greenleaf robbed the Shrieve of Nottingham,
                   And other mirthful matters full of game.

These passages obviously refer to the antecedent plays. After this comes
_The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon_, collaborated by the same
author with Henry Chettle, another successful playwright. This,
differing from the ballad account, shows how he was poisoned by his
uncle, the wicked prior. His obsequies are solemnized with a plaintive
little dirge:--

    "Weep, weep, ye woodmen, wail,
     Your hands with sorrow wring,
     Your master Robin Hood lies dead,
     Therefore sigh as you sing.

    "Here lie his primer and his beads,
     His bent bow and his arrows keen,
     His good sword and his holy cross:
     Now cast on flowers fresh and green;

    "And as they fall, shed tears and say,
     Wella, wella-day! wella, wella-day:
     Thus cast ye flowers and sing,
     And on to Wakefield take your way."

After his demise poor Marion is so tormented by her royal persecutor
that she seeks refuge in Dunmow Abbey, where she is poisoned by the
king's order. In each play the outlaw is extolled so highly, and made so
admirable in every way, that in spite of the quaintness one is moved to
honest admiration. His dying scene is most pathetic, and there is no
doubt that the simple country audience would weep as though for a dearly
loved friend.

The airs pertaining to the Robin Hood literature are merry in the
extreme--delicious, sparkling waves of melody, to which thousands of
country dances have been performed. They sprang from the heart, and
even to-day, if offered to the public, might win popular success. All
are "lusty fellows with good backbones", such as Shakespeare in his
salad days must have listened to and admired. Gay, in his pastoral _The
Flights_, gives a charming picture of Bowzybeus delighting the reapers
with one of these ballads, ere falling asleep midst happy laughter.

In folklore are still preserved a few relics. "To go round by Robin
Hood's barn" is to travel in a roundabout fashion, and "to sell Robin
Hood's pennyworths", to sell much below value, as a generous robber
might. His "feather" is the Traveller's Joy, his "hatband" the
club-moss. His "men" or his "sheep" are the bracken, and his "wind" a
wind that brings on a thaw. We are told that Robin could stand anything
but a "tho wind". The Red Campion, the Ragged Robin, and the Herb Robert
are known in several counties by his name. His greatest claim to
popularity was that he took away the goods of none save rich men, never
killed any person except in self-defence, charitably fed the poor, and
was in short, as an old writer tells us, "the most humane and the prince
of robbers".


The present house of Welbeck was built upon the site of an abbey for
Premonstratensian canons, which was begun in 1140. Nothing, however,
remains of the old place save some stonework in the cellars and a few
inner walls. A portion of the house dates from 1604; in an engraving
from the great Duke of Newcastle's book on Horsemanship we find that it
originally bore some resemblance to a French château. Charles the First
and Henrietta Maria were entertained here--the house being placed at
their disposal whilst their host occupied Bolsover Castle, some miles
distant. Ben Jonson devised a masque entitled "Love's Welcome" for the
royal amusement, and there was such feasting and show that it cost
between fourteen and fifteen thousand pounds.

The Abbey is richly furnished, and contains one of the finest
collections of pictures and miniatures in Europe, and a wealth of
ancient manuscripts. The miniatures were gathered together in the early
part of the eighteenth century by Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford. Of
these treasures Mrs. Delany writes in 1756: "I have undertaken to set
the miniatures of the Duchess of Portland [Lord Oxford's daughter and
heiress] in order, as she does not like to trust them to anybody else,
and for want of proper airing they are in danger of being spoiled. Such
Petitots! such Olivers! such Coopers!" About that time the good lady
describes an evening walk in park and gardens: "By the time we came in,
the moon was risen to a great height, and we sat down in the great
dining-room to contemplate its glory, and to talk of our friends, who in
all likelihood were at that moment admiring its splendour as well as
we". Later she confesses that Welbeck has a _glare of grandeur_, and
that although she admires her Duchess when receiving princely honours
and acquitting herself with dignity, she loves her best in her own
private dressing-room!

The miniatures were wellnigh lost in the middle of the nineteenth
century. The late duke had lent the collection to the Manchester Art
Treasures Exhibition of 1857, and a certain well-known literary man, who
was in the owner's confidence, arranged for all to be sent to London, so
that, like Mrs. Delany, he might arrange them in suitable order. There
he pawned the whole lot for trifling sums, with seven different
pawnbrokers; but, thanks chiefly to a well-known inhabitant of Worksop,
all, with the exception of five, were recovered.


Here are two famous Riding Houses, one the pride of the author of the
great work on Horsemanship in Stuart times. This is used nowadays as a
picture gallery, the late Duke of Portland having built another of
dimensions almost double. To my thinking, one of the chief beauties of
Welbeck is the gilded gateway opening to the avenue on the road from
Worksop to Ollerton--surely one of the most graceful and yet imposing
structures of its kind in the country. Another and more singular
attraction consists of the subterranean roadways--gigantic mole runs the
cause of whose creation is, and probably always will be, a mystery to
the world in general. The pleasure gardens are stocked with rare trees,
and the vast lake has so natural an appearance that one forgets that it
was made by human folk. The kitchen garden is notably fine: we are told
that it covers thirty acres, and that the houses for peaches and other
luscious fruits extend over a quarter of a mile. There is a story of a
monstrous bunch of Syrian grapes having, some generations ago, been
grown there, and sent by the duke of that time across country to
Wentworth House. It weighed nineteen and a half pounds, and was
carried--as was the trophy taken by the spies from Canaan--attached to a

Finest of the Welbeck trees is the "Greendale Oak", which in 1724 was
transformed, by cutting, into an archway, the aperture being 10 feet 3
inches high and 6 feet 3 inches wide, so that a carriage, or three
horsemen riding abreast, could pass through. From the branches cut off
at that time a cabinet was made for the Countess of Oxford--a fine piece
of furniture, inlaid with a representation of her spouse driving his
chariot and six through the opening.

Horace Walpole, in 1756, writes in his usual acid style: "I went to
Welbeck. It is impossible to describe the bales of Cavendishes, Harleys,
Holleses, Veres, and Ogles: every chamber is tapestried with them; nay,
and with two thousand other morsels; all their histories inscribed; all
their arms, crests, services, sculptured on chimneys of various English
marbles in ancient forms (and to say truth) most of them ugly. Then such
a Gothic hall, with pendent fretwork in imitation of the old, and with a
chimney-piece like mine in the library. Such water-colour pictures! such
historic fragments! There is Prior's portrait and the Column and
Verelst's flower on which he wrote; and the authoress Duchess of
Newcastle in a theatric habit, which she generally wore, and,
consequently, looking as mad as the present Duchess; and dukes of the
same name, looking as foolish as the present Duke; and Lady Mary
Wortley, drawn as an authoress, with rather better pretensions; and
cabinets and glasses wainscoted with the Greendale Oak, which was so
large that an old steward wisely cut a way through it to make a
triumphal passage for his lord and lady on their wedding! What treasures
to revel over! The horseman Duke's manège is converted into a lofty
stable, and there is still a grove or two of magnificent oaks that have
escaped all these great families, though the last Lord Oxford cut down
above an hundred thousand pounds' worth. The place is little pretty,
distinct from all these reverend circumstances." Twenty-one years later
he writes: "Welbeck is a devastation. The house is a delight of my eyes,
for it is a hospital of old portraits." One is inclined to believe that
something in the order of his reception had stung him into lasting

The great ancestress of the owner of Welbeck, and of the other nobility
in the Dukeries, was Bess of Hardwick, who built a magnificent country
house on the "edge" overlooking the Vale of Scarsdale, some miles
distant from the border of Sherwood Forest. This singular woman, as
striking a personality as her contemporary and sometime friend Queen
Elizabeth, occasionally passed in state along the "ridings".

Her life-story is a marvellous instance of genius devoted to the
attainment of a high position. The daughter of a well-to-do squire, she
was married at fifteen to a wealthy young gentleman whose estate lay ten
miles away, and who, dying very soon, left her mistress of the greater
part of his fortune. Her first house at Barlow, near Chesterfield, has
entirely disappeared, save for a piece of old wall. She remained a widow
for many years, then married Sir William Cavendish, by whom she had six
children. After his death she chose Sir William St. Loe, inherited his
extensive estates, then, well past her prime, accepted the offer of the
widowed George, Earl of Shrewsbury; but before the marriage insisted
that two of her young Cavendishes should be married to two of his young
Talbots. For a few years her fourth venture proved satisfactory enough;
but the custody of Mary Queen of Scots apparently became too much of a
nerve-strain for both man and wife; and their wrangles finally became
common property in high circles. She embroiled herself with Queen
Elizabeth; she persecuted her husband for his so-called
meanness--although she was exceedingly rich in her own right; and, worst
of all, she sowed dissension between him and his own offspring. The poor
earl's condition was melancholy enough; one has no doubt that he was
thankful to the heart when they separated for the last time.

In the portrait at Hardwick Hall she is represented as a comely,
roguish-looking matron in full maturity: a better idea of her character
may be won from the effigy lying on the tomb she erected for herself in
All Saints' Church at Derby. There one sees a face not unbeautiful, but
cold and masterful in the extreme.

It was her grandson, William, first Duke of Newcastle, who first gave
lustre to Welbeck, and perhaps, after all, he owed most of his celebrity
to an intellectual wife, known in Restoration days as "Mad Madge of
Newcastle". Few pictures of domestic life in the seventeenth century are
more pleasing than that given by this lady in the short account of her
girlhood, which opens her fantastical autobiography. Born the youngest
of Sir Thomas Lucas's eight children, in a large country house near
Colchester, she was trained under a system of education originated by
her mother. The daughters, of whom there were five, were not kept
strictly to their schoolbooks, but rather taught "for formality than
benefit". Singing, dancing, music, reading, writing, and embroidery were
their accomplishments; but Mistress Lucas, who was left a widow soon
after the birth of Margaret, cared not so much for dancing and fiddling
and conversing in foreign languages as that they should be bred modestly
and on honest principles. In London, where they migrated for the season,
they would visit Spring Gardens, Hyde Park, and similar places, and
sometimes attended concerts, or supped in barges on the river.

As she grew to womanhood Margaret became filled with the desire to play
maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria, chiefly because she had heard
that the queen in her poverty had not the same number of ladies as in
her prosperity. After much persuasion her mother allowed her to leave
home, and she joined the Court at Oxford, and soon afterwards met
William Cavendish, who was her senior by nearly thirty years. They
married, and the battle of Marston Moor forced them into exile. Obliged
to return to England, so that she might raise funds, she wrote one or
two volumes of _Poems_ and _Philosophical Fancies_, successors to
another grotesque work entitled _The World's Olio_. These were the first
three of ten immense folios, treating of every imaginable subject, and
most slipshod in grammar and style, that she gave to the world, tenderly
regarding them, in the absence of any other offspring, as her children.

[Illustration: WELBECK ABBEY]

The Lives of the duke and of herself are, however, the only productions
remembered nowadays. Of the first, Charles Lamb says: "There is no
casket rich enough, no casing sufficiently durable, to honour and keep
safe such a jewel"; but Pepys, who lived at the same time as the noble
authoress, described it as "the ridiculous History of the Duke, which
shows her to be a mad, conceited, rediculous woman, and he an asse to
suffer her to write what she does to and of him". Her own memoir is
charmingly and unaffectedly egotistical. She tells us: "I fear my
ambition inclines to vainglory, for I am very ambitious, yet 'tis
neither for beauty, wit, title, wealth, or power, but as they are Steps
to raise me to Fancies Tower, which is to live by remembrance in all
ages.... My Disposition is more inclined to Melancholy than Merry, but
not crabbed or peevish Melancholy, but soft, melting, and contemplating
Melancholy, and I am apt rather to weep than to laugh." Always fearing
that she might be mistaken by posterity for her husband's first wife,
she gives an elaborate explanation at the end of the book, so that all
in after years might accredit her with intellectual magnificence.

Although she met with much ridicule at the Court of Charles the Second,
being satirized particularly by the libertine poets Etherege and Sedley,
the fulsome praise of men of considerable intellect was lavished upon
her, and even the sedate and usually truthful Evelyn, after a lengthy
enumeration of the great women of history, flattered her with the
assurance that all of those summed up together only divided between them
what she retained in one! A curious story is told of her appearance with
a train-bearer in the chamber of Catherine of Portugal. As this was a
breach of Court etiquette, she was forbidden to repeat it, and resented
the reproof by wearing at her next appearance a train of satin and
silver thirty yards long, with the end supported by four waiting-ladies
in the ante-room.

She wrote several plays, concerning one of which, _The Humorous Lovers_,
Pepys tells us that although he would rather not have seen it, since it
was so sickeningly silly, yet he was glad, because he could understand
her better afterwards. At the end of the first performance, as a queen
of breeding, she stood up in her box and made her respects to the

In those days of better fortunes the quaintly assorted couple spent much
time in the country houses of Welbeck and Bolsover. The duke's income
was very large, being equal to at least £200,000 of our money, and,
since both had rural tastes, it is probable that they were far happier
in Nottinghamshire than in their fine town mansion in Clerkenwell Close.
Welbeck she admired most, since it was seated "in the bottom of a park
environed with woods, and noble, yet melancholy". One wonders if the
ghost of this "wise, wittie and learned lady" wanders in those beautiful
and amazing precincts, a little bewildered and more than a little angry
that any of her beloved spouse's descendants should have dared to
enlarge and embellish the comfortable temple of their conjugal felicity.
If she could have had her will, his works in architecture, like hers in
the realms of smoky fancy, would have lasted until the end of time.


The most impressive approach to Clumber is by way of Normanton Inn, a
red-brick hostelry draped luxuriantly with virginia creeper. At some
slight distance is a magnificent glade of varied greens, with great
patches of blood-coloured bent-grass. In the neighbourhood grow many
fine Spanish chestnuts; when I was last there the ground was littered
with the fallen flowers. A vast, festooned cloud, grey as the smoke of
some monstrous fire, drifted from the east; then lightning sported
wickedly amongst the trees, and the rain fell in torrents. Beside the
balustraded bridge the water seemed covered with an army of white
puppets. But it was at the entrance to the Lime Tree Avenue that I
looked upon the greatest wonder of the day. Behind the shifting veil the
view of that curving road seemed as fantastically unreal as the
background of some ancient Italian masterpiece.

This avenue, three miles in length, has on either side two rows of
limes, and on a hot July midday the fragrance is overpoweringly sweet.
From this the house is not visible--to reach it one must pass down a
private drive to the left. Whilst the present house was being built,
Sir Harbottle Grimston writes on a tour enjoyed in 1768: "From Worksop
Manor to Clumber, Lord Lincoln's, over the heath. The house is situated
rather low in a very extensive park, near a noble piece of water, over
which is a very handsome bridge on 'cycloidal' arches. The house is not
yet finished, but by its present appearance seems as if it would be
magnificent. There are nineteen windows in front, the middle one a bow,
with two wings projecting forwards." About this time Walpole speaks of
Clumber being "still in leading-strings". The building was finished
about 1770, and is of white freestone, pleasantly age-coloured, with a
south front that opens to a formal and beautiful Italian garden with
terraced walks and graceful marble fountains. Beyond, reached by stone
staircases, spreads the great lake, which covers eighty-seven acres. On
this may be seen a gay full-masted frigate, the aspect of which in this
tranquil and richly wooded country strikes a somewhat bizarre note. The
park contains four thousand acres, and in the neighbourhood of the house
may be seen many handsome cedars and yews. The finest view is obtainable
from the opposite bank of the lake, or from near the head, where stands
the home farmstead of Hardwick.

[Illustration: CLUMBER]

The house, though not one of the most impressive in its exterior aspect,
contains treasures of priceless worth. The pillared entrance hall has
several fine statues, notably one of Napoleon and another of the author
of _The Seasons_. All the state chambers are extremely handsome, and in
the large drawing-room may be seen five ebony cabinets and four
pedestals surmounted with crystal chandeliers, which were brought from
the Doge's Palace. Perhaps the most notable is the dining-room, 60 feet
long, 34 feet wide, and 30 feet high. We are told that it can easily
accommodate one hundred and fifty guests at dinner. The library, a fine
room panelled with mahogany, contains many treasures, notably three
Caxtons--_The History of Reynard the Fox_, 1481; _The Chronicles of
England_, 1482; and _The Golden Legend_, 1493: the first and second
folios of Shakespeare: and many examples--one printed on vellum--of
Froissart's _Chronicles_. There is also a fifteenth-century manuscript
of Gower's _Confessio Amantis_. In the smoking-room is to be seen a
remarkable chimney-piece of carved marble, which once stood in Fonthill
Abbey, the house of the author of _Vathek_. To the antiquarian, perhaps
the most interesting objects are four funeral cysts, dating from two
thousand years ago. There is a fine collection of pictures, chiefly of
old masters of distinction, amongst which may be found portraits by
Holbein, Vandyke, Lely, and Hogarth, of folk intimately associated with
the history of our country.

Near by stands the Church of the Holy Virgin, built by the present Duke
of Newcastle. Its walls and spire are of rich red and yellowish
sandstone, in the fourteenth-century style. This is probably one of the
most ornately beautiful churches in the kingdom, and the view from the
open doorway is surpassingly rich in colour. The interior contains much
fine carving--the altar-piece is of alabaster, with the Virgin and child
for central figures. The windows are delicately tinted: in spite of the
excess of splendour naught can offend the artistic taste.

The Clinton family, of which the Duke of Newcastle is head, is one of
the oldest and most celebrated in our annals. Geoffrey de Clinton, a
distinguished forbear, Chamberlain and Treasurer to Henry the First, was
the builder of Warwick Castle, and after his day his collateral
descendants devoted their lives to serving the Crown faithfully. Edward
the First called one his "beloved squire"; others fought with glory in
the French battles. A Clinton was in the deputation that received Anne
of Cleves when she journeyed to meet her spouse. Another assisted in the
suppression of Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion, and was afterwards one of
Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council, being employed in various matters of
high import, notably in the projected marriage of his royal mistress and
the Duke of Anjou. He died in the fullness of honour, and was buried in
St. George's Chapel, Windsor. His son was one of the peers at the trial
of Mary Queen of Scots. In the time of George the First another of the
family filled the highest office of state, and died Lord Privy Seal;
whilst the present duke's grandfather, as illustrious as any of his
predecessors, was a celebrated politician of Early Victorian days, and
was, moreover, honoured with the friendship and admiration of the young


The village of Budby, beyond the confines of Thoresby Park, is one of
the most placid and sleepy places I know. The stuccoed houses are
perhaps devoid of picturesqueness, but the shallow Meden, which runs
quietly beside the roadway, is crystal-clear, and from the wilderness on
the farther bank one often sees pert black water hens slip gently from
the shelter of the long grass, and glide to and fro like tiny boats.
Beyond the bridge swans swim very proudly, with the austere dignity that
has naught in common with the familiar bearing of petted birds in town
parks. The Meden is a beautiful and melancholy stream, at whose side an
exile from the hill country might sit down and weep. The rough woodland
from which we are barred has a refreshingly cool aspect: in summer the
wilder foliage contrasts strikingly with the rich purple of

The present house of Thoresby, which stands about a quarter of a mile
from the site of its cold and damp predecessor, was built between 1864
and 1874. It is in the modern Elizabethan style, its walls of stone
quarried at Steetley, some miles away, and is surrounded by a rich and
beautiful park where may be seen many magnificent beeches and firs and
oaks. The mansion is rich in art treasures, and may be counted amongst
the most luxuriously furnished in the country; and the pleasure gardens
are stately and beautiful.

Fine herds of deer wander among the bracken and heath, and the trees are
haunted with happy squirrels. The park is thirteen miles in
circumference, and near the house the little River Meden spreads out
into a singularly picturesque lake, diversified with toy islands. The
Thoresby of to-day possesses an atmosphere of tranquil splendour: in its
neighbourhood one has some difficulty in evoking lively pictures of the
celebrated folk who inhabited its predecessors.

The great woman of Thoresby was Lady Mary Wortley Montague, who spent
there the greater part of her youth. The house in her time was a plain
and uninteresting building of red brick. This was destroyed by fire in
1745. From the record by Sir Harbottle Grimston of his tour in the
autumn of 1768, we find that--more than twenty years afterwards--the new
hall was not completed. Sir Harbottle writes: "This parke excels the
others much in beauty, having a very good turf, which in this country is
very much wanting. The house, which is not nearly finished, is rather
adapted for convenience than magnificence. It is fronted by a rising
lawn, on the top of which is a very fine wood. On one side a noble piece
of water, which supplies a cascade behind the house: the other side of
this house is beautified by plantations." Horace Walpole found this hall
dull, since he declared that "Merry Sherwood is a _triste_ region, and
wants a race of outlaws to enliven it, and as Duchess Robin Hood has
left her country, it has little chance of recovering its ancient glory".
This was obviously written after the famous Duchess of Kingston had
departed on her Continental tour.

Before me lie a pair of tiny shoes of sea-green silk, shot with an
undertone of flesh colour. For at least a century these were in the
possession of a yeoman family in the neighbourhood of Wortley village.
The toes are pointed, the heels high, and on the lappets are frayed
marks where the pins of the jewelled buckles pierced the fabric. The
insteps do not belie the tradition that a kitten could lie beneath the
arch of the wearer's naked foot, for they are so high that it seems as
if the blue blood of the Pierreponts were accompanied with physical

These are relics of Lady Mary, and were probably left at her husband's
heritage of Wharncliffe, in Yorkshire, when the first happiness of her
married life had come to an end, and before she became engaged in those
famous travels which, by their result--the introduction of inoculation
for the smallpox--raised her even to a greater eminence than that given
by her intellectual ability.

She was born of a family that had already produced two men of splendid
genius, whose names are written in golden letters in the annals of
literature: Beaumont, the dramatist, who wrote, in collaboration with
his friend Fletcher, some plays that are considered by our best critics
as inferior only to Shakespeare's, was related by his mother to the
Pierreponts of the Elizabethan age; and Henry Fielding, the novelist,
was Lady Mary's second cousin. She is said to have written in her copy
of _Tom Jones_ as fine a tribute to an author's power as could be
desired--simply the words _Ne plus ultra_. Villiers, the notorious Duke
of Buckingham, whose end served Pope for some of his best satirical
verse, was also of the same stock.

[Illustration: THORESBY]

It was at Thoresby that Lady Mary's strange love affair with the
handsome Mr. Edward Wortley, of Wharncliffe Chase--the abode of the
Dragon of Wantley--began, and after many difficulties ended in one of
the most mysterious marriages that ever puzzled literary students. When
a girl of fourteen she met the gentleman at a party, and was delighted
with the attraction which he found in her conversation. She became a
particular friend of his sister, with whom she commenced a sentimental
correspondence--most of the letters, it may be said, being written by
Wortley himself. He became, through the vehicle of the complacent Miss
Anne, her guide and philosopher, and soon we find him answering certain
precocious queries about Latin. Then jealousy appeared--somebody had
escorted Lady Mary to Nottingham Races! The flattered young beauty begs
to know the name of the man she loves, "that I may (according to the
laudable custom of lovers) sigh to the woods and groves hereabouts, and
teach it to the echoes". Thereupon Wortley's inclinations were made
known, and she replied: "To be capable of preferring the despicable
wretch you mention to Mr. Wortley, is as ridiculous, if not as criminal,
as forsaking the Deity to worship a calf; ... my tenderness is always
built upon my esteem and when the foundation perishes, it falls".

Wortley, not only in the courtship, but throughout their long wedded
life, appears to have been singularly calm and unimpassioned. He was an
admirable scholar, and counted among his intimate friends Addison and
Steele. The second volume of the _Tatler_ was dedicated to him in an
epistle probably composed by the latter writer.

The easy-going sister Anne died, without Lady Mary displaying an excess
of grief, and thenceforth the lovers corresponded directly. She alarmed
Wortley with her society successes, and he charged her with a growing
levity and love of pleasure. Thereupon she became wise and steady, and
his fears increased, since the sense she displayed was more suited to a
grave matron than to a fashionable belle. Time went on: Wortley made his
desires known to the maiden's father, but a disagreement arose
concerning the marriage settlement, and the Marquis of Dorchester--he
was not created Duke of Kingston until 1715--set about looking for
another son-in-law. A gentleman was found whom Lady Mary professed to
hate, and in August, 1712, Wortley carried her off in a coach and they
were made man and wife. As the father was implacable, she entered
wedlock without any portion. Probably the marquis was not sorry to be
rid of his worthy daughter, since one cannot doubt that his opposition
to her happiness must have whetted the tongue that stung so keenly in
later years.

Of Lady Mary's life at Thoresby we find interesting pictures in her
descendant, Lady Louisa Stuart's, "Introductory Anecdotes to her
Letters". "Lord Dorchester, having no wife to do the honours of his
table at Thoresby, imposed that task upon his eldest daughter, as soon
as she had bodily strength for the office; which in those days required
no small share. For the mistress was not only to invite--that is, urge
and tease--her company to eat more than human throats could conveniently
swallow, but to carve every dish, when chosen, with her own hands....
There were then professed carving-masters, who taught young ladies the
art scientifically: from one of these Lady Mary said she took lessons
thrice a week, that she might be perfect on her father's public days,
when in order to perform her functions without interruption she was
forced to eat her own dinner an hour or two beforehand."

In his lordship's resentment against her stolen marriage, he refused to
allow her to have much intercourse with the rest of her family. Lady
Louisa Stuart tells us that her mother, Lady Bute, "remembered having
only seen him once, but that in a manner likely to leave some impression
on the mind of a child. Lady Mary (Lady Bute's mother) was dressing, and
she playing about the room, when there entered an elderly stranger (of
dignified appearance and still handsome) with the authoritative air of
a person entitled to admission at all times; upon which, to her great
surprise, Lady Mary, instantly starting up from the toilet-table,
dishevelled as she was, fell on her knees to ask his blessing. A proof
that even in the great and gay world this primitive custom was still

The most agreeable memory Lady Mary preserved of this formal and
cold-blooded sire was that when a member of the Kit-Cat Club he
nominated her, then seven years old, as one of the toasts of the year.
The child was sent for, and, adorned with her very finest attire,
presented to the members. Her health was drunk, and her name engraved,
according to custom, on a drinking glass. Probably this hour of triumph
was the happiest in all her life, and, moreover, may have stimulated her
with the desire to shine always among the foremost. Her after life was
strangely assorted--she saw much of the world, and she was accounted the
brightest female wit of her time. She christened Pope the "wicked wasp
of Twickenham", and did not escape scatheless either from his attacks or
from those of Horace Walpole. She loved great prospects--loved rocks and
heights. It is possible that her recollections of the Sherwood country
were not agreeable, since she showed herself averse from any allusion in
her marvellous letters; but in spite of the artificiality of her period
one may be certain that her adventurous spirit prompted her to leave
unexplored no portion of the ancient forest. The ruggedness of
Wharncliffe Chase was more to her fancy: in her old age, writing from
Avignon, she declared this the finest prospect she had ever seen.

Her nephew Evelyn, second Duke of Kingston, chose for wife the notorious
lady whom Walpole nicknamed "Duchess Robin Hood", and from whose
romantic adventures resulted one of the most celebrated trials of the
eighteenth century. After his death, in 1773, the title became extinct.
He left his widow handsomely provided for, and she in her turn returned
a magnificent collection of family treasures to his nephew, Charles
Meadows, who in 1806 was created first Earl Manvers. An extract from her
will is interesting reading:--

    "And I also give and bequeath unto said Charles Meadows all the
    Communion Plate which belonged to the chapel of Thoresby, and which
    was taken away with the other vessels and sent by mistake to St.
    Petersburgh in Russia, and my gold desert plate with the case of
    knives forks and spoons of gold and four golden salt cellars all
    engraved with the arms of Kingston and also one large salt cellar
    called Queen Elizabeth's salt cellar together with all my other gold
    and gilt plate whatsoever, either for use or ornament."

Then, after a long list of other riches, one reads:--

    "And I also give him my nine doz. of Moco handle knives and forks
    mounted in gold which I bought at Rome, and likewise the whole
    length portraits of the late Duke of Kingston and of the present
    Duchess of Kingston, to be put up at Thoresby which as well as all
    the plates shall be reputed as an heirloom to the said house; and I
    also give him the several pieces of cannon and the Ships and vessel
    on Thoresby Lake".

In the eighteenth century several quaint ships embellished the lake. The
last, we learn, was broken up more than half a century ago; and, as they
must have seemed singularly out of place, one is not disposed to regret
their disappearance.


There is one splendid approach to Thoresby, now, unfortunately enough,
barred from the public. To reach this from Ollerton one crosses the
bridge, turns to the right for a few yards, then on the left sees beyond
a stout palisading the celebrated Beech Avenue. The first time I visited
this place was on a stormy evening in August, about sunset-time. The
western sky was overcast with grey low-hanging clouds; at intervals rain
fell in brief showers. Once breathing the atmosphere of this strange
seclusion one forgot the quaintness of Ollerton and the pleasing
wildness of the forest: here the formality brought a suggestion of some
old French colour print--the avenue might have been the state road to
some royal château.

[Illustration: OLLERTON]

Four rows of gigantic beeches stretched for almost half a mile from the
roadway; between the second and third might still be seen the old pebble
and gravel drive. The monstrous boles, strangely curved and divided,
were coloured like green-rusted bronze; overhead the branches mingled
like the upper tracery of some ancient cathedral window. There were no
grass or flowers underfoot: the ground was covered thick with last
year's mast and withered leaves--"yellow and black and pale and hectic
red"; sometimes I saw a strange black and grey fungus, large as a fine
lady's fan.

The colouring was magnificent, and yet, looking from the palings at the
farther end (beyond which one sees a green and cheerful vignette) one
realized that something was lacking. The handsome coach-and-six with
white horses and postilions in scarlet coats and white breeches--an
equipage such as is depicted in the engraving of old Worksop
Manor--should always be present in this suggestive place; and even a
wheeled and curtained sedan of the kind fashionable at Marie
Antoinette's Court would not appear incongruous, drawn by one officious
purple-liveried lackey and pushed by another along the side paths. The
Beech Avenue is the only spot in the Dukeries that permits one to
recreate mentally the life of the eighteenth century. It should not
terminate in a roadway of comparatively slight interest, but should
instead reach a water-theatre with a hornbeam hedge, with rockwork
basins, and with tall silver fountains. There is something nobly
pathetic in this deserted avenue--even the trees themselves have a
mournful look, as though they repined because of the loneliness of
to-day. No living thing moves here--it might be a sacred grove, never to
be frequented by creatures of the woodland.

The village, or--not to wound local susceptibilities--the town of
Ollerton is quaint and richly coloured; even in the depth of winter it
has a warm and inviting aspect. Being situated on a loop of the Great
North Road, it possesses two fine old inns, the more conspicuous being
the "Hop Pole", a handsome formal place that might have been depicted in
an ancient sampler. This faces the open forest, separated only from it
by a small green, the placidly flowing Maun, and a few fields.

Near at hand is the brown, square-towered church, contrasting strangely
with the houses of ripe-hued brick and tile. The churchyard has an air
of sleepy comfort, but the interior of the building contains little of
any interest to the antiquarian. All the armorial glass has disappeared;
naught is left to carry one's mind back to ancient days. To my thinking
the finest feature of Ollerton is the old Hall, within a stone's throw
of the "Hop Pole". This was probably erected upon the site of a former
house in the beginning of the eighteenth century. The walls are
admirably mellowed, and many of the windows have been blocked
up--probably in the days of the window tax. The principal front has been
disfigured with various domestic offshoots; none the less the house
still presents an aspect of austere dignity, and one regrets that to-day
it should not still be used as a residence of note instead of an estate
office. Inside, one of the principal features is a singularly handsome
staircase. The garden is formal and pretty--a pleasant nook for an idle

The Markhams, original owners of this property, were people of
considerable note in our history, many of them holding high offices. One
was dubbed by the Virgin Queen "Markham the Lion", another championed
the cause of Arabella Stuart, and was condemned to death, but reprieved
at the last moment after a ghastly little performance beside the
execution block. A daughter of this house married Sir John Harrington,
and enjoyed through her lifetime the friendship of Elizabeth.

Within easy walking distance, not far from the tantalizing glimpse of
the Rufford Avenue, a road turns eastward, passes a small wayside inn
dignified with the name of Robin Hood, and soon reaches what was known
as the King's House at Clipstone--to-day a lamentable ruin with no
trace of its former magnificence. Here the Plantagenet kings held their
Courts and rested after their days of hunting, and the rising ground
about the house, nowadays devoted to the growing of oats, must once have
blazed with all the colours of pageantry. What remains of the palace
might be naught but the broken wall of an old kiln, or the fragment of
some burned-out factory. The most fatal blow was dealt to this relic by
a Duke of Portland, who, in 1812, had the foundations dug up and used
for the drainage of the surrounding country. Clipstone Park, which Mad
Madge of Newcastle described as a chase in which her lord took great
delight (it being richly wooded, and watered with a stream full of fish
and otters--in short, an ideal place for hunting, hawking, coursing and
fishing), is now a placid pastoral district without distinction, such as
may be found in any gently undulating country.


Rufford Abbey, which is within easy walking distance of Ollerton,
surpasses in interest and beauty the other great houses of the
neighbourhood. The view from the pelican-crowned gateway, with its
avenue of limes (some of which are considered the finest in all England)
and beeches and elms, terminating in a glimpse of the façade of reddish
stone, reminds one of the palace of the Sleeping Beauty in the days
before briers and brambles barred the way. Separated from this avenue by
a gravelled space, where in summer great hydrangeas blossom in green
tubs, a fine staircase leads to the main entrance.

[Illustration: RUFFORD ABBEY]

The house, which is not open to the public, and which for several
centuries has been a favourite resting-place of kings, possesses a
singular atmosphere of beauty and charm. The walls are hung with
priceless old tapestry and marvellous portraits by the great English
masters. There is much wonderful needlework--an eighteenth-century lady
of the Savile family was as devoted to her embroidery frame as Mary
Stuart herself. On screens and quaint chairs are seen her masterly
copies of Hogarth's pictures.

No brief description could do justice to the wonders of a house so rich
in objects connected with our history. The whole is remarkable and
strange: in no place have I felt so deeply the influence left by the
famous dead. Weird legends are connected with certain rooms: if the
history of Rufford were written in full it would be remarkable beyond
imagination. One of the most fascinating places is the chapel, erected
in the time of Charles the Second, and surely the most comfortable
sanctuary in any nobleman's house. At the west end is a gallery, its
walls lined with ancient embossed leather, its Prayer Books dating from
the Restoration, its faded and antique chairs suggesting all manner of
pleasant reveries during service.

The state rooms are admirable in so far as restfulness and quiet beauty
take the place of excessive pomp. Each piece of furniture is storied and
of great value. Nothing startles the eye; the colouring is always
subdued and pleasing; in short, Rufford combines in perfection the
palace and the home.

The outward appearance suggests harmony without extravagance. The
pleasure grounds, although not on as large a scale as those of the other
houses, are exceedingly beautiful--the Japanese Garden being a wonderful
pleasaunce in miniature, with paved walks and toy lake and waterfall.
Not far away the River Maun, with rich flowers and shrubs on its banks,
glides calmly to a tranquil mere, where grey herons perch like birds of
stone on the boughs of the island trees. In front of an older entrance
to the house stretches a grass-grown avenue, by which is the
"Wilderness" of Elizabethan days. There lie the remains of famous
racehorses, reared on the estate. The park itself has not been submitted
to the attentions of the landscape gardener: it is natural and unspoiled
as in monkish times.

Of the original Cistercian abbey, built in 1148 and peopled with monks
brought from Rievaulx in Yorkshire, little remains save a groined and
pillared chamber, supposed to have been the refectory, and used nowadays
as a servants' hall. There is a singular hooded fireplace with a fine
old dog-grate, and against the end wall stands a long oaken table--a
relic of ancient feasting.

Rufford Abbey owed its existence to the filial piety of a collateral
descendant of William the Conqueror. The sixteenth-century translation
of the Foundation reads thus:--

    "Gilbert Gaunte Earle of Lincolne to all his men and all the
    Children of our Holy Mother the church sends greeting willing you to
    know that I have given and granted in pure alms to the monks of
    Ryvalls for my Father's and Mother's souls And for ye remission of
    my sinns the Manor of the town of Rughfforde And all that I have
    there in demesne to build an Abbey of the order of Cistercians in
    the honour of St. Mary the Virgin--Therefore I will and Command that
    they freely and quietly from all secular service and all customes
    shall hold the said land with All that to the dominion of the said
    Town doth belong in woods plains meadowes pastures mylnes waters
    ways and paths."

A striking contrast may be found in the Domestic State Papers of 10
December, 1533:--

    "Thomas Legh to Cromwell. On St. Nicholas Day the quondam Abbot of
    Rufforth was installed at Ryvax, and the late abbot of Ryvax sang
    _Te deum_ at his installation, and exhibited his resignation the
    same day. The assignation of his pension is left to my Lord of
    Rutland, in which I moved him to follow your advice. Though pity is
    always good, it is most necessary in time of need. I would,
    therefore, that he had an honest living, though he has not deserved
    it, either to my lord or me."

After the Dissolution, Henry the Eighth leased the estate for twenty-one
years to Sir John Markham, and afterwards exchanged it for some Irish
property belonging to George, Earl of Shrewsbury. Bess of Hardwick was
here often, and it was at Rufford that, in 1575, she arranged the
marriage of her daughter, Elizabeth Cavendish, with Darnley's brother,
from which union issued the ill-fated Arabella Stuart. Queen Elizabeth
was greatly offended by what she justly regarded as an encroachment upon
royal prerogative, and both mothers-in-law were sent for a time to the
Tower. The Earl of Shrewsbury wrote in explanation to Lord Burghley:--

    "The Lady Lennox being, as I heard, sickly, rested her at Rufford
    five days and kept most her bedchamber, and in that time the young
    man her son fell into liking with my wife's daughter before
    intended, and such liking was between them as my wife tells me she
    makes no doubt of a match, and hath so tied themselves upon their
    own liking as cannot part. My wife hath sent him to my lady, and the
    young man is so far in love that belike he is sick without her."

Then, giving a slight hint of his countess's ambitions, he adds:--

    "This taking effect, I shall be well at quiet, for there is few
    noblemen's sons in England that she hath not prayed me to deal for
    at one time or other, and now this comes unlooked for without thanks
    to me."


Arabella Stuart was born at Chatsworth, and thenceforth all Lady
Shrewsbury's pride was fixed upon this granddaughter who might possibly
become a queen. At Rufford there are two curiously touching portraits of
this dreamy child, in whose sad little face one reads the promise of
untoward fortunes. In 1576 the Earl of Lennox died, and two years later
Queen Elizabeth took "oure lyttl Arbella" under her protection. When she
was seven years old, this "very proper child" sent a specimen of her
handwriting to her royal kinswoman, desiring the bearer to present her
"humble duty to her Majesty, with daily prayers for her". The Queen of
Scots in the following year maliciously informs her sister of England
that "nothing has alienated the Countess of Shrewsbury from me but the
vain hope, which she has conceived, of setting the crown of England on
the head of her little girl, Arabella, and this by marrying her to a son
of the Earl of Leicester. These children are also educated in this idea;
and their portraits have been sent to each other."

Bess of Hardwick died in 1608, and in her will, which must have been
made many years before, left £200 to purchase a golden cup for the
Queen, "as a remembrance from her that has always been a dutiful and
faithful heart to her highness". She craves, moreover, that Elizabeth
may have compassion upon and be gracious to her poor grandchild
Arabella Stuart. After the old lady's death, Arabella's connection with
Rufford soon ceased.

Mary, Bess of Hardwick's daughter, who had married Earl Gilbert, lived
at Rufford in her widowhood. This lady inherited a considerable share of
her mother's ambition and lack of scruple. In a quarrel with Sir Thomas
Stanhope, a Nottinghamshire knight from whom are descended three
earldoms, she dispatched a servant with the following unpleasing

    "My lady hath commanded me to say thus much to you. That though you
    be more wretched, vile, and miserable than any creature living; and,
    for your wickedness, become more ugly in shape than any living
    creature in the world; and one to whom none of reputation would
    vouchsafe to send any message; yet she hath thought good to send
    thus much to you:--That she be contented you should live, and doth
    in no ways wish you death; but to this end, that all the plagues and
    miseries that may befal any man may light upon such a caitiff as you
    are, and that you should live to have all your friends forsake you;
    and without your great repentances, which she looketh not for,
    because your life hath been so bad, you will be damned perpetually
    in hell-fire."

From this beginning ensued one of the most noted and romantic feuds of
the seventeenth century.

After the death of this outspoken lady--her husband's father had accused
the great Bess of occasionally using the language of Billingsgate--the
Rufford estate passed to the Savile family, her sister-in-law, Lady
Mary Talbot, having married a Lincolnshire baronet of that name. Later,
one of the Savile ladies, wife of Sir William, and daughter of Thomas,
Lord Keeper Coventry, earned lasting fame by her bravery at the siege of
Sheffield Castle. The Saviles were Royalists: in the Bodleian Library
may be seen a letter to Cromwell from a certain unknown person who had
been instructed to take into custody young Sir George and such friends
as might be found at Rufford:--

    "Sir George Savill is not at home. We have detained one Mr.
    Coventry, who is the Lady Savill's brother, until Sir George shall
    appear to yr. highness. He is said to be in London at his house in
    Lincolns in field, at the corner of queene streete, called Carlisle
    house or Savill house. We can find nobody in his house, that gives
    any light, onely we heare that one of his family, Mr. Davison, who
    is Tutor to Sir George, was at the meeting, and stayed in the house
    till after dinner on fryday (a supposed gathering of Royalists) and
    then went away. We cannot yett get him."

This Sir George was created Earl and finally Marquis of Halifax by
Charles the Second, and became one of the leading statesmen of the
seventeenth century. One of his grandsons was the witty Earl of
Chesterfield; another descendant was Henry Carey, the writer and
composer of "Sally in our Alley". On the death of the second marquis,
without male issue, the title became extinct, and the estate with the
Savile baronetcy passed to a somewhat distant kinsman, whose collateral
descendant is present owner of this fine estate, the traditions of which
are almost without parallel in the matter of interest and romantic


Of the few trees of distinction pertaining to old Sherwood, perhaps the
most famous, and certainly the least picturesque, is the "Parliament
Oak", which may be seen to the right of the Mansfield road as it
approaches Edwinstowe. To this venerable ruin, which an iron palisading
protects from wanton hands, clings the tradition that Parliaments of
King John and Edward the First met under its shade, the last in October,
1290. Queen Eleanor was ill--she died in the following month at Harby
near Lincoln--and thence was made the most notable funeral progress in
English history.

The country around is tranquil and pleasing; not far away stands the
quaintest of windmills, which must certainly tumble from very weariness
before many years have passed. Above the tops of the closely-planted
trees to the right are to be seen the chimneys of a deserted-looking
building, raised in the early nineteenth century by a Duke of Portland,
in imitation of the Priory Gatehouse at Worksop. This stands at the end
of a fine undulating glade. On the north side are statues of Richard the
First, Allan-a-Dale, and Friar Tuck; on the south, others of Robin Hood,
Maid Marion, and Little John.

[Illustration: EDWINSTOWE]

To the left, one passes through a wicket, and coasts a great wood for
some hundred yards, then turns sharply and soon reaches the "Russian
Cottage", a chalet "put together without nails", near by which is the
well-known "Shambles Oak" or "Robin Hood's Larder", so called because in
its hollow interior once were hooks for the storing of stolen venison.
Unfortunately this fine tree was fired by some holiday-makers years ago,
and to-day there is something pathetic in the valiant greenness of its
scanty leaves. It is like an old, old man who will be brave to the end.

Thence, by passing along the glades of Birkland and following paths
faintly worn--with a chance of straying into strange solitudes--one
comes before long to the "Major Oak"--the most virile of all the ancient
trees. In spite of its iron stays--possibly because of them--it is still
vigorous and hearty, although its age has been estimated at considerably
more than a thousand years. There is something monstrous and uncanny
about this veteran; in its vicinity folk of to-day seem strangely out of

A pleasant old keeper watches it vigilantly, careful that none shall
harm his treasure. He has a curious enough favourite: a fine cock
pheasant which comes to his call--has done so indeed for the last four
years--and daintily accepts plumcake from his hand. Once this bird had a
mate; now he remains a contented widower. The quaintness of the
good-fellowship of man and bird is very pleasant to observe.

The circumference of the "Major Oak" at the height of five feet from the
ground is over thirty feet, and the circumference of its branches is
about two hundred and seventy yards. It was formerly called the "Queen's
Oak", or the "Cockpen", the latter because of a fine breed of gamecocks
that roosted there in the days of a Major Rooke, to whom it owes its
present name. The tree is hollow, and, entering by a narrow
opening--difficult enough for a stout person to negotiate--seventeen or
eighteen may crowd together in the interior. Not far away is another
magnificent tree, less known but almost equally worthy of admiration. It
is called the "Simon Foster Oak", from the fact that a century ago a
person of that name kept his pigs in acorn-time nightly under its

Thence Edwinstowe may easily be reached by a path across the green.
Historically the village is of some importance, since, according to
general belief, Edwin, the first Christian King of Northumbria, was
buried there. It is a sleepy, comely place; in winter the warm
colouring of old brick and tile is very pleasant to the wayfarer, whilst
throughout the other seasons the rich little gardens are all gay with
old-fashioned flowers. The church is admirably situated, and has a tall
and graceful spire with grotesque ornaments at the base, which from a
distance bear a fantastical resemblance to roosting birds. In 1679 the
folk of Edwinstowe humbly petitioned for permission to take two hundred
oaks for the repair of the building, and one reads that, seven years
before, the steeple had been beaten down by thunder, and the old body
shaken, and in a very ruinous condition; also that without the king's
charitable help the whole church must absolutely perish. After the
resultory survey, the Surveyors General of the Woods wrote that most of
the trees of Birkland and Bilhagh were decayed, very few of use to the
navy being left. Finally it was decided that such trees might be taken
as were not fit for Government purposes. Strangely enough, neither in
this church nor in its sister of Ollerton are any ancient monuments,
such as one might expect to find in so interesting a neighbourhood. At
the vicarage here lived for some years Dr. E. Cobham Brewer, best known
for his _Dictionary of Phrase and Fable_; whilst in a house that stood
beside the stream lived William--afterwards Sir William--Boothby, the
uncle of pretty Penelope, whose white marble tomb is one of the wonders
of Ashbourne in Peakland.

The birches from which Birkland takes its name are accounted amongst the
finest in the kingdom, and at no time look better than on a sunny
winter's morning, when they present a wonderful symphony of brown and
silver. After crossing Edwinstowe, in a sufficiently dangerous way, the
road continues, with Bilhagh in sight, to Ollerton, where it bridges the
placid Maun. Not far away is a small red quarry, its toy precipice
pierced with the retreats of sand-martins. To the left is Cockglode, the
only large house left in the forest proper--a Georgian place with a fine
avenue of Scots pines. This was the residence of the late Earl of
Liverpool, who, like all his noble neighbours, counted the great Bess of
Hardwick amongst his forbears.

    _At the Villafield Press, Glasgow, Scotland_

    |                                                   |
    | Transcriber's Note:                               |
    |                                                   |
    | Spelling and punctuation have been retained as in |
    | the original publication.                         |

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