« AnteriorContinua »
harvest from the visitors who resort hither for a view of “King John's Palace,” as it is called.
Hisit.-Conducted by our guide, we once more entered the royal Hall of Eltham, with such feelings as naturally accompany those who are treading on that time-hallowed ground where history, tradition, and fiction, have impressed their respective seals. Entering the door, a screen, once elaborately carved, and running across the building, opens a thoroughfare to a corresponding entrance on the opposite side. In the centre of the screen is an inner door to the hall. Of the latter, the noble proportions strike the visitor at the first glance, and challenge his admiration. In its present state, however, the general effect is much injured by the very means employed for its security, -namely, the heavy wooden frame-work raised to support the roof, but which conceals the beauty of its proportions. With this, however, we must not find fault; some of the noblest statues of antiquity have been obliged to support their dignity by "accepting modern pedestals ;” and without the means here ingeniously employed, the Hall of Eltham must long ere this have been laid open to the weather. In the sixth volume of the Archæologia, Mr. King has given minute descriptions of the Hall, to which we refer our readers.
The Screen, already mentioned as running before the offices, was richly carved, with a gallery over it for the musicians. Through this door entered the guests who were not in immediate attendance upon the king. Here the
brave and the beautiful of other days were received by the great officers of state, and conducted to the dais, where, on his throne, the monarch received their homage and congratulations. The two great bow-windows at either side of
the upper end, in which were placed the royal sideboards, are adorned with beautiful flowing tracery, and in style and proportions are magnificent. All the windows were obviously placed in such a manner as to afford an opportunity of hanging arras under them, * as in the banquet scene represented in the steel engraving. The length of the Hall is rather more than a hundred feet, the breadth thirty-six, and the height forty-five feet. It has five double windows on each side, exclusive of the great bays, at the end of which was the chief entrance into the state apartments.
The purposes of a common barn, to which this magnificent hall has been so long applied, have materially altered and defaced some of its noblest features. One of the gorgeous oriels, for example, that opened to the east and west, has been partly broken and cut away in order to admit loaded waggons into the interior; and various other mutilations, the effects of violence, not time, are observable in other parts of the building. But our regrets on this head give way to something like a feeling of congratulation, when we reflect that, had not this change in its destination occurred, the Hall of Eltham would have long since disappeared, like the original palace to which it belonged. At the upper or north end of the building was the high dais, slightly elevated, and running across the hall. This is now the threshing-floor; and at both ends of this platform, east and west, are the magnificent bay windows above mentioned, each forming a deep
THE BAY WINDOWS-THE ROOF.
recess, and exhibiting, in design and workmanship, all the characteristic beauty of its class and epoch. The most cursory view will enable the reader to judge of their shape and proportions; but to form any adequate conception of what they must have been when filled with richly-stained glass, and pouring a flood of gorgeous colours upon the royal banquet, requires no little effort of the imagination. “ There the raised platform, near the bay, Served well for stage: that oriel gay Rose with light leaves and columns tall Mid 'roial glass' and fretwork small; While tripod lamps from the coved roof Showed well each painted mask aloof: Lanfranc and Saxon Edward there Watching the scene they once could cliarc.;"
The Roof.—The following ubservations on the construction of the roof were given by Mr. Chessel Buckler while the last repairs were going on. The preservation of this noble monument of ancient Englisii architecture is an honour to the country. When stripped of its external covering, the roof distinctly exhibited the beauty of its carpentry, and the extent of its injuries. It is wholly constructed of chestnut, the strength and solidity of which, though unimpaired by time alone, were in many places destroyed by the operations of the weather.* The main beams of the roof are full seventeen inches square and twenty-eight feet long, perfectly straight, and sound throughout, and are the produce of trees of the most stately growth. A forest must have yielded its choicest timber for the supply of this building; and it is evident that the material has been wrought with incredible labour and admirable skill. The repairs are limited to the roof, the parapet by which it is protected, and the buttresses by which it is upheld. As it has been stated that the joints and mouldings of the roof are secured by wooden pins only,
* The upper or western part had suffered the most which was arrested several centuries ago, it is certain from neglect; the cornices and beams, which were that the mischief which has been in operation updangerously decayed, had been repaired, and perhaps wards of fourscore years to the present time, was not restored to their original stability. Formerly, the accelerated by the dry-rot, which has not been disdeficiencies were supplied with chestnut, which is now covered in any part of the building, except a small substituted by oak, strongly bolted and strapped with spot in the principal wall-plate, over the south bayiron. Whatever might have occasioned the injury, window.-Buckler's Eltham.
it may not be superfluous to remark that the structure is held together by the assistance of nails.*
The Souterrains.—Of the subterranean passages lately discovered at Eltham Palace, the following facts are contained in a small pamphlet on the subject, published at Greenwich. Tradition has always kept up the belief of an underground passage from Eltham Palace to Blackheath, Greenwich, or the River; and it was affirmed in the neighbourhood that at Middle Park, connected with the passages, there was stable-room under ground for sixty horses. Under the floor of one of the apartments of the palace, a trap-doorf opens into a room under-ground, ten feet by five, and proceeding from it, a narrow passage about ten feet in length, conducts the stranger to the series of passages with decoys, stairs, and shafts, some of which are vertical, and others on an inclined plane, which were once used for admitting air, and for hurling down missiles upon enemies, according to the modes of defence then in use. And it is worthy of notice that, at points where weapons from above could assail the enemy with the greatest effect, there the shafts are made to verge and concentrate. About five hundred feet of these passages have been entered and passed through in a western direction towards Middle Park, and under the moat to the extent of two hundred feet. The arch is broken down in the field leading from Eltham to Mottingham, but still the brickwork can be traced further, and proceeding in the same direction. The remains of two iron gates, completely carbonized, were found in that part of the passage under the moat; and large stalactites formed of super-carbonate of lime hung down from the roof of the arch, which sufficiently indicated the time that must have elapsed since these passages were last entered.
Environs.-Shooter's-hill, the well-known landmark in this part of Kent, is within a very short walk of Eltham Hall. The tower commands a beautiful prospect of the metropolis, Greenwich, Woolwich, the Thames, and the adjacent counties, and thus forms the centre of a most extensive panorama. It was erected by Lady James, in honour of her husband Sir William James, Baronet, who commanded the Company's marine forces in the East Indies, and in 1755, distinguished himself, by the taking of Severndroog Castle, on the coast of
* Buckler's Eltham Hall.
effusi, neque cito castigabant oculos, neque illos per | This is in the open court, and, being exposed to immensum cælum spargebant. Tamesislætissima the rain, cannot be explored with convenience but in ubertate in viciniam exudat, et ad radices montis redsummer, when the subterraneous passages on which euntibus ni gyrum Auctibus insulam pene molitur. it opens, are accessible.
Passim toto alveo naves, et omnis generis onerariæ: | Sed memorabilis amœnitas penè citius animum ut proximas quidam totas aspicerem cæterum longius quam oculos diffudit aspectu, non Britanniâ tantum, stantes, aut sub altiori ripa, ex malis antennisque sed fortasse tota Europa pulcherrimo! Ingens planities tantum nudam ut brumalem sylvam cognoscerem.aliquot suspensa colliculis, rursus montes in orbem Lysons—Barclaii Icon. Animorum, 518.-1614.
Malabar. It is triangular in shape, and about forty-five feet high. In the vestibule were formerly arranged numerous specimens of the armour and trophies taken at Severndroog, and in front is an inscription commemorative of that victory.
Blackheath, of which the above is the most conspicuous feature, is often mentioned in the old chronicles as the scene of " notable events.' The view which it commands is celebrated in all languages, and still continues to be a theme of universal admiration. Previously to this, Shooter's-hill was a beacon station; and in the Churchwardens' Account at Eltham, in 1556, there are frequent charges made for " watchinge the becon on Shutters-hill.”
The old military road from London to Dover is supposed to have followed nearly the same track as the present. Various Roman antiquities have been dug up on the Heath, an account of which may be seen in the Archæologia. With the popular names of Jack Straw, Wat Tyler, Jack Cade, the counterfeit Mortimer, and with the military operations of Henry the Sixth, Henry the Seventh, the “ bastard Falconbridge,” Lord Audley, the Cornish rebels, Edward the Fourth, and other personages and events, Blackheath is intimately associated. It has also been the scene of many great public exhibitions of military pomp and court ceremony. It was on this heath, in the immediate vicinity of his “faire house of Eltham,” that Henry the Fourth, with great parade and magnificence, met the Emperor of Constantinople, when he arrived in England to solicit assistance against Bajazet. And here, on the 23rd of November, the mayor and aldermen of London, with four hundred citizens “clothed in scarlet, with red and white hoods,” met their victorious monarch on his return from Agincourt. Here also the citizens met the Emperor Sigismund, when he came to mediate a peace between France and England; and here Edward the Fourth was also welcomed to England by a multitude of loyal citizens, who conducted him in triumph to his palace. Here, in 1519, a solemn embassy, consisting of the Admiral of France, the Bishop of Paris, and other grandees of church and state, with twelve hundred persons in their train, were met by the Lord Admiral of England and a numerous retinue; and the same year, Cardinal Campeius, the Pope's legate, was received, with great splendour, on Blackheath, by the Duke of Norfolk, and “conducted to a rich tent of cloth of gold, where he arrayed himself in his cardinal's robes, and then rode in princely state to London."
But the most magnificent “Blackheath procession” on record, was that which took place at the interview between Henry the Eighth and the Lady Ann of Cleves, with an abridgement of which we shall conclude our present notice of Eltham and its vicinity.
See Holinshed-Stow–Hasted— Kilburne--Lambard--with the condensed account by Lysons. VOL. I.