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sandstone, beautified by the late Marquis of Westminster and by his successor, and containing the family mausoleum. The space above the altar is filled by Westall's picture, “Joseph of Arimathea Begging the Body of Jesus from Pilate.”
All the early writers on the history of Chester concur in describing the place as a flourishing port; and it is hence quite clear that the Dee was, in ancient days, perfectly ravigable thence to the sea. It may be mentioned as a curious and interesting fact that, some centuries ago, Flookersbrook was covered with water, and that a deep and broad channel flowed through Mollington, Stanney, and that direction, which emptied itself into the estuary now called the Mersey. Hollinshed, after tracing minutely the course of the Dee, through Flookersbrook up to Stanney, distinctly states that it "sendeth foorth one arme by Stanney poole and the parke side into Merseie Arme.” Speed marks out this course on his map; and it is still more broadly defined in an old Dutch map of much earlier date, printed at Rotterdam. In consequence of the uncertain and imperfect state of the river, the once thriving commerce of this ancient city has dwindled into comparative insignificance, and Liverpool has enormously gained thereby. Spirited efforts have lately been made to improve the navigation and port of Chester. Brief reference to a city which will at another time demand full notice and description in this work must here be made. Chester is the only example of a completely circumvallated town remaining in England. York comes nearest to it in this respect, but the fortified wall of that great city is not perfect in its circuit; whereas the wall that surrounds Chester affords a continuous promenade. Built by Roman hands, it was for centuries watched and guarded by the Roman soldiery, till the withdrawal of their legions from Britain entailed a long series of sanguinary struggles through many eventful epochs of England's history. Houses more quaintly characteristic than those of Chester can in no other city of the United Kingdom be found; and though the churches suffered greatly at the hands of the Parliamentary troops after the siege of 1645, these edifices yet contain much that is worthy observation.
As the Dee coils round Chester we may note the features external to the city, which was first a settlement of the ancient Romans, then a colony of imperial Rome, afterwards a favourite city and resort of the Anglo-Saxon monarchs, next the camp and court of Hugh Lupus, the first Norman Earl of Chester, and his nephew Robert, the Gros Veneur, or chief huntsman of the Conqueror-whence the noble line of Grosvenor—and then the key to the subjugation of Wales, and its union with the English Crown.
There is the spacious and beautiful meadow called the Roodee, or properly speaking Roodeye, on which the Chester Races are held, and where, some years ago, that curious festival the Eisteddfod, or congress of the Welsh bards and minstrels, was held—almost but not quite in Wales.* The Roodeye, now one of the most splendid pastures of its size in England, was a mere waste of alluvial soil, covered with water at every tide, save only for a bank or “eye” of green land in the midst, whereon was placed a cross of stone. Roodeye,” or “the Island of the Rood," was hence the meadow's name as long ago as when Liverpool was but a fishing hamlet, and when the infant commerce of England was borne upon the billows of the Dee up to the very walls of Chester.
* The occasion is memorable for the extraordinary importance which it derived from the enlightened hospi. tality of the mayor, Mr. Maysmor Williams, and from the attendance of eminent musicians, who gave an unwonted character to this traditional meeting.
From the parapet of the Grosvenor Bridge, one of the chief modern adornments of old Chester, the Roodeye and the “crooked Dee” are behe!d to great advantage, as are many objects far and near. The railway viaduct and bridge will be noted as a prominent feature of the view, and likewise as the memorable scene of a terrible accident on May 24, 1847, when a passenger train was precipitated into the river below. A tour of the
ancient wall is incumbent as a matter of course on every visitor to Chester. The promenade is an easy one, as the footway is kept in good repair, and the distance to be footed is less than two miles. The gates have been unfortunately modernised quite out of their historical character, and present no calient feature that can recall their ancient association with feudal houses. But the time was when these strongly fortified entrances to the city were confided to noble families or civic corporations for safe keeping. Thus, the serjeantship of the East Gate has belonged since the time of Edward I. to the ancestors of Lord Crewe; the North Gate during that period has been in charge of the citizens; the Water Gate was in custody of the Stanleys, Earls of Derby; while the Bridge Gate belonged to the Earls of Shrewsbury, inheriting from their ancestors the Troutbecks and Rabys, serjeants thereof in the fourteenth century. Supposing that we are on the east side of the square space which is enclosed by the military wall, and are in the position of entering the city by the gate on that side, from
the populous outskirt of Foregate Street, we may ascend the steps, and proceed northward on the ramparts, with the cathedral on our left hand, till we come to the Phønix Tower, at the north-east angle—a mouldering turret, famous as the stand-point whence Charles I. looked upon the defeat of his army on Rowton Moor. Turning westward, and leaving on our right hand the Nantwich and Ellesmere Canal deep below, and on our left the Abbey Green, we proceed over the North Gate, with the Bluecoat School on our right hand, till we reach Morgan's Mount, a curious watch-tower, having a lower chamber on a level with the walls, and an open platform above, which we can gain by mounting a short flight of steps. On this tower a battery was placed during the siege, and was successful in keeping the Parliamentary troops at bay. A little further on is the remnant of an ancient structure, once known as the Goblin's Tower, but now more generally designated Pemberton's Parlour. Yet a few paces further, and we reach the north-west extremity of the wall, where is a picturesque
group of ruined masonry, formed of Bonewaldesthorne's Tower and the Water Tower, which last, though about a furlong from the Dee-side, is supposed, not without good authority, to have been once reached by the tidal waters, and to have been a mooring-place for vessels of some draught; in testimony whereof, old inhabitants depose to certain massive rings and bolts which, in the infancy of a generation that is hastening to decay, might be seen about the old turret. The railway, passing under this angle of the city's circumvallation, runs between Pemberton's Parlour and the two towers, actually invading the interior as well as the precincts of the fortified town. What relic of antiquity, however venerable, is fortified against such inroads? It happened, indeed, that the particular spot traversed by the railway within the city walls was more than commonly interesting in its remote archæology. It is no other than the Barrow Field, or as the meadow was once called, Lady Barrow's Hey. Seen from the wall, near Pemberton's Parlour—which semicircular ruin doubtless once filled a whole circle, and was either a round or octagonal tower—the Barrow Field looks smilingly through a grove of trees. Fifteen hundred years before the plague carried off great numbers of the citizens of Chester, who were buried in this field, Roman soldiers went through their daily drill and exercise on the same ground. When, in 1858, a temporary siding was made to accommodate the excess of traffic on the railway, called for by the holding of the Royal Agricultural Society's show that year on the Roodeye, the excavations revealed several Roman graves, with vases, lamps, ornaments, and coins pertaining to the Italian masters of Britain. Large quantities of tiles, which lined the tombs, have been placed in the adjacent public grounds, the arrangement being such as to give a good idea of the form and character of those early interments.
West of the city walls, as already described, is the spacious Roodeye, round which is the race-course whereon, every May, the Chester Cup is contested. The castle is on our left, within the walls, and at the southern or south-western extremity of the city. Excepting a square pile, called Julius Cæsar's or Julius Agricola's Tower, nothing of the castle is ancient. The main edifice, in fact, is modern, and of the Grecian type. Part is used as a military barrack and armoury, and the rest as the assize court and county gaol.
Crossing the Bridge Gate, which is in communication with the old bridge, built in 1280 by the citizens, under a peremptory order from King Edward I., we continue our walk on the summit of the wall, till we come to the Wishing Steps, whose name is a perfect mystery. From their top, which is at an altitude of some sixty feet, a beautiful view of the Dee is gained, with the light but strong suspension bridge.
Thus have we made the circuit of the city walls, touching mainly that which is external to Chester streets; these and their many remarkable monuments being left for another occasion. From Chester the Dee flows in a straight channel six miles long to its estuary, and so into the Irish Sea. The Mostyn Deep is a narrow serpentine passage, in continuation of the channel, and it winds among treacherous sands and flats between the Flint and Cheshire coasts, the clue being only known to fishermen and pilots. The heart-touching poem to which reference has been made tells of the dangers which land-folk as well as boatmen experience in trusting to the Sands of Dee. They extend far round the Air Point, along the north coast of Denbigh, past Rhyl, Abergele, and Llandulas, even to Ormes Bay. For miles the North-Western line of railway, between these places and Chester, skirts the sands at the mouth of the once easily navigable river. Charles Kingsley's ballad-story has a sad reference to oft-repeated fact. Many a poor girl, bidden like Mary to “call the cattle home across the Sands o' Dee,” has been lost in the mist that rises from the sea and hides the land. In the poem we read that the cattle came across the crawling foam, “but
never home came she;" and this is a true narration of what has naturally happened in such circumstances, for the brute instinct rarely fails in finding the right road when safety lies on the one hand and destruction on the other. Let us conclude our account of the river Dee by quoting the ballad, which has all the value of a local tradition in suggestiveness of peculiar scenery. The concluding lines bring before us, with a force at once vivid and tender, the catastrophe, and point it with the simple and harmless superstition of the spot :
“Oh, is it weed, or fish, or floating hair
A tress of golden hair,
Above the nets at sea ?
Among the stakes on Dee.'”
“They rowed her in across the rolling foam
The cruel crawling foam,
To her grave beside the sea :
Across the Sands o' Dee."
The Town and the Abbey-Origin of the Name-The Old Abbey and its History-Its Dissolution-Building of the New
House-Description of the Building-The Portraits-Horace Walpole's Criticisms-Lord William and Lady Rachel-The “Lion's Head” from "Button's "--The Library-Statue-gallery and Green-house- The Park and GardensFarms on the Estate-Royal Visits—The Town of Woburn and the Churches-Pedigree of the Russells—Earl Russell -- Agricultural Improvements-The Bedford Level.
ARMS OF THE RUSSELLS.
ITUATED at a distance of some forty miles from London, on the great northern road which leads through St. Albans to Dunstable, and so to Birmingham and Liverpool, and a little beyond the point where we miss the straw-plait manufacture, so noticeable a feature of the Bedfordshire villages, Woburn is the type of a modern rural town, though with few distinctive features. About a mile from it, on its eastern side, stands the Abbey of Woburn, the
seat of the Duke of Bedford ; and we shall take the liberty of strolling thither through the park before we reconnoitre the town.
The meaning of the name “Woburn” has been much disputed; but Langley, in his History of Desborough Hundred,” suggests that it probably signifies : “A winding, deep and narrow valley, with a rivulet at the bottom, and its sides thickly set with trees.” If this derivation will hold good on other grounds, it must be owned that it corresponds very fairly with the present appearance of the locality. For the little Crawley Brook, which gives its name to the adjoining village of Husband Crawley, finds its springs and first feeders within the bounds of the Park of Woburn.
But we must start on our expedition with sober and prosaic views. When we mention the name “abbey,” our imagination is apt to conjure up a view of Gothic buildings, with pointed arches and windows, tall and slender shafts clustered with ivy, and walls gradually crumbling in graceful ruin ; or else dark and gloomy cloisters, into which ancient rooms, ill-lighted, and with pavements and ceilings of stone, open through archways that have stood the winters of 400 years—like the battlements of Newstead, apostrophised by Lord Byron. But nothing could be further from reality at Woburn than such ideas. Here the tourist sees before him merely a large and noble modern mansion, in the classic style ; and the Gothic, and ecclesiastical, and romantic element is wholly wanting.
Antiquaries relate that the ancient Abbey of Woburn was founded, in 1145, for monks of the Cistercian order, by Hugh de Bolebec, a powerful Norman baron, who hela lands here under Walter Giffard, a relative of the Conqueror, at the time of the Domesday survey ; and that it owed its foundation to a suggestion of the Abbot of Fountains, in Yorkshire, fourteen of whose monks, under their prior, named Allan or Allen, came hither in li45. The abbey was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Late in life Hugh de Bolebec himself assumed the Cistercian habit, and probably died and was buried in his adopted home.
Almost all the registers and documents relating to it having perished, or at all events been lost, we know but little of the history of the abbey in the Middle Ages-indeed, no