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FESTIVALS AT ELTHAM PALACE.
which actually transpired at Eltham, and at the same time are highly characteristic of the manners of that age. We ought not to omit mentioning, however, that “on the day the Earl of Derby mounted his horse to leave London, upwards of fifty thousand men were in the streets, bitterly lamenting his departure.”
In 1405, King Henry the Fourth “ celebrated his Christmas” here, after the manner of his predecessors; and on this occasion, says the chronicle, the Duke of York was “accused of an intention of breaking into the palace, by scaling the walls, and murdering the king.” The same monarch kept open court at Eltham on two subsequent occasions, and was residing in the palace when seized with the malady of which he died. But these festivals were celebrated with even more than former splendour by King Henry the Sixth. By Edward the Fourth the palace was repaired and embellished at great expense; and here his daughter Bridget Plantagenet—who became a nun of Dartford—was born, and next day baptized in the palace chapel by the Bishop of Winchester. Three years later, Eltham palace was again the scene of magnificent banquets and shows, during which two thousand persons were daily entertained at the king's expense. King Henry the Seventh built the front of the palace towards the moat, and frequently resided in it; but he was the last of a long race of sovereigns who honoured it with any lengthened visit; for although Henry the Eighth* celebrated two Christmases here, the royal visits had now become “few and far between;" and one of the last occasions on which the palace was made the scene of a great court festival, was that appointed for his conferring the honours of the peerage upon Sir Edward Stanley, of Hornby Castle, in Lancashire, whose services at the battle of Flodden have already been noticed in these pages.
His claims to that honour were founded on his being “one of the most discreet persons, and justices of the peace, for assessing and collecting a subsidy of one hundred and sixty-three thousand pounds by a poll-tax;" of his having commanded the rear of the English army at Flodden-field, and forced the Scots, by the power of his archers, to descend the hill, which, by causing them to open their ranks, gave the first hopes of that day's victory.t The ceremonial
• Chronicles. Stow. Holinshed. Grafton. fees, and likewise to Garter, principal king-at-arms,
† King Henry keeping his Whitsuntide at the his fee; whereupon, he had special summons to parpalace of Eltham, the next year ensuing, commanded liament, the same year, by the title of Mounteagle, that for those valiant acts against the Scots, as also and was installed one of the Knights of the Garter. for that his ancestors bore the eagle in their crest, he Rot. Parl. Collins, vol. ii. p. 450. This title has been should be proclaimed Lord of Mounteagle, which was recently revived, and conferred on Mr. Spring Rice, accordingly then and there done ; and he gave to the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. officers of arms five marks, besides the accustomed
on this occasion was stamped with all the gorgeous display so usual in that reign; but as a contagious disorder was then raging in London, none were permitted to dine at the “ king's hall at Eltham,” except the officers of arms, who, “ at the serving in of the king's second course of meat, entered, according to custom, and proclaimed the king's style and title, and also that of the new lord.”
During the civil war, Robert Earl of Essex occupied the palace of Eltham, and dying here, was buried in Westminster Abbey. On the establishment of the Commonwealth, it was seized by the Parliament, and sold; the parks were broken into, the deer dispersed or killed by the soldiers and the mob; and the work of devastation once begun, continued till the greater part of the palace was reduced to a state of ruin.*
At last, however, the beauty of Greenwich and the great convenience of the river as a channel of communication with the capital, gradually deprived Eltham of court patronage. Its palace was only enlivened at long intervals by the presence of royalty; while its rival, the new Placentia, grew more and more in favour, till it became the habitual residence of the sovereign, and the scene of those splendid exhibitions which subsequently characterized the reigns of Henry the Eighth † and his magnanimous daughter, Queen Elizabeth. The latter, during her infancy, was often taken to the “Old
House of Eltham” for change of air; and on coming to the throne, paid it an occasional visit of recognition. But it was no longer considered fit for a royal establishment; and, although visited by King James and his successor, it never regained any share of its former importance; but, being every year more and more neglected, it became at last a splendid ruin, yet a monument on
which were inscribed the early chronicles of the English monarchy. But, although the property reverted to the crown
* After the martyrdom of King Charles, three the chapel and hall ; and the house was reported as years later, the manor house was surveyed and the untenantable. Parliam. Survey. Paper on the Hall of materials valued at £2754. It was then described Eltham, N. R. S., also Lysons, vol. i. pt. ï. p. 50. in the Parliamentary survey as built of brick, wood, † It appears, by a passage in the works of Erasmus, stone, and timber- consisting of one fair CHAPEL, one that Henry the Eighth and all the children of Henry great HALL, thirty-six rooms and offices below stairs, the Seventh, except Prince Arthur, were educated at with two large cellars. Above stairs were seventeen Eltham. The learned writer describes a visit which lodging-rooms on the King's side, nine on the Prince's he paid them, accompanied by his friend Mr. Thomas side, and seventy-eight rooms in the offices round the More, afterwards Lord Chancellor, and at this time court-yard, which contained an acre of ground. None a student at Lincoln's Inn. [Ed. 1811, Lysons, vol. i. of the rooms enumerated were then furnished, except 788, refers to Knight's Life of Erasmus, p. 69.]
ELTHAM PARK—PALACE BRIDGE.
at the Restoration, no pains were taken by government to protect the ruin from violence and spoliation. On the contrary, the old palace was turned into a quarry, and all the materials that could be converted to use were gradually removed and sold. Fortunately for the Hall, it was considered by some influential observer on the spot that it would make a good barn ;* and to this accidental circumstance we are chiefly indebted for its preservation.
The three parks attached to the palace, with the demesne lands, extended over sixteen hundred and fifty-two acres, on which grew seven thousand seven hundred trees; of which four thousand were declared in the Survey to be “old and decayed,” and the remainder were marked out for the use of the navy.t A book, called the Mysteries of the Good Old Cause, published in 1660, says, “Sir Thomas Walsingham had the Honour of Eltham given him, which was the Earl of Dorset's, and the middle Park, which was Mr. White's. He has cut down five thousand pounds' worth of timber, and has scarcely left a tree to make a gibbet.”
The Approach.—The royal Hall is visible at a considerable distance; and, from various points of Blackheath and its vicinity, forms an interesting landmark to the stranger. This, however, is chiefly during the winter and spring months; for as soon as the trees resume their foliage, it is lost among the wooded landscape, or only seen by glimpses through the straggling trees of the park—remnants of that primeval forest by which it was once surrounded. In the immediate approach, the first objects that catch the eye are masses of ancient wall, thickly mantled with ivy, at the base of which the water of the original moat still keeps its bed. Over this, an ancient bridge of three arches leads to the inclosure, once covered with the habitations of royalty, but now reduced to this solitary hall, and flanked on the left by several dwelling-houses, that harmonize much better with our modern ideas of comfort than the moated walls of antiquity. Halting on the bridge for a few minutes, the effect of the
• Lysons—Buckler-Hist. of Kent.
+ Parliam. Survey-Lysons, vol. i. pt. ii.
scene from that point is at once pleasing and impressive. On the left, overhanging the moat, which here forms a very small but picturesque sheet of water,* is a modern farm-house in a pleasing rustic style, with a balcony supported on slender pillars that rest on the edge of the fosse below. On the margin of the water opposite, is a small fresh lawn, bordered with shrubbery, and covered with that beau gazon on which the eye delights to repose. This spot, including the house, a projecting gallery, and several other compartments, presents an excellent subject for a cabinet picture. The bank of the moat was an extensive work, and of much greater magnitude on the west and south sides than towards the north, composing a terrace to the south of at least one hundred feet broad.
The design of the palacet was quadrangular. The hall, surmounted by its louvre, rose above the other edifices, standing in a direction nearly due east and west; and the common rule was observed of limiting the general elevation to two stories. Like other castellated mansions, the outline was irregular, towers and projecting masses breaking the line at intervals with picturesque effect. The area of the palace was an imperfect square, surrounded by buildings on the north and west, and partly inclosed on the other two sides, the centre being occupied by four quadrangles, of which two towards the west were of large dimensions, and formed wide and spacious courts. Standing on an eminence of greater elevation than any in the immediate district except Shooter's-hill, the ground sloped gently away towards the west, over a rich and interesting landscape, including Blackheath, Greenwich Park, and the Surrey hills, between which stood London with the lofty spire of the old cathedral of St. Paul in view, and the insulated pile of Westminster Abbey, then without towers; the distant heights of Highgate terminating the background. It was surrounded by a moat inclosing above an acre of ground within its limits. The moat was about sixty feet broad, except the portion towards the north entrance, where it was increased to one hundred and fifteen feet. On the west side of the bridge, the water of the moat still washed the old ivyed walls of the palace—now reduced to little more than the foundations. In front, through a few straggling elm-trees, the venerable old Hall presents itself. The avenue to the door is flanked by two cottages, evidently built out of the old materials of the palace, and now posted like sentinels for the protection of its remains. In one of these resides the female custode of the hall, who reaps no inconsiderable
* Mr. Buckler remarks, that the external wall long after all other traces of the palace have disapwithin the moat was built with great care and peared. See “Eltham Hail,” edit. 1828. strength, and that its basement is likely to remain | Lysons—Buckler—" Environs.”
| Buckler's Eltham.--Graph. Illustrator.
harvest from the visitors who resort hither for a view of “ King John's Palace," as it is called.
Visit.—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