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ST. JAMES'S MAGAZINE
HERALDIC AND HISTORICAL REGISTER.
THE CASTLES AND MANSIONS OF GREAT BRITAIN
Broughton Castle, Orfordshire.
OXFORDSHIRE, however celebrated for its university, has not many castellated remains of magnitude, such as we occasionally meet with in other counties; to make amends for this general deficiency, the tourist will find in Broughton Castle an edifice that may be fairly ranked amongst the most interesting of our ancient remains; and this not only as regards the building itself in an architectural point of view, but from the various historical recollections hanging about it, producing the same effect upon the mind that the ivy does, when it coils and clusters about some mouldering ruin. Instead, however, of adopting the formaland it should perhaps be added the dull—pace of an antiquarian narrative, I will speak of this noble structure in the first person, and give the impressions of it as they arose in my mind, even though they should at times seem trifling, and at others, contradictory. It is Madame de Stael, I think, who says, when speaking of the drama, “ c'est un art necessaire au theatre que de faire juger les principaux personnages plutot par l'effet qu'ils produisent sur les autres que par un portrait quelque frappant qu'il puisse etre.” Now this, mutatis mutandis, may be said of anything and everything worth seeing, whether landscape, or building, or spectacle of any kind; we shall scarcely ever get so lively an idea of them as when we are shewn, step by step, the feelings they have excited in others.
Banbury may be called my starting-point, since it was the last place en my route before coming to my final object, Broughton Castle. Nor was I at all reluctant to make a short halt, and look about me in a town that had found so much notice in history and drama. Of Banbury Castle I say nothing, it would lead me too far from the subject in hand; but there is one little anecdote connected with the Puritanic feeling for which the town was so celebrated, that deserves mention. In the earlier editions of Camden's “ Britannia,” as rendered into English by old Philemon Holland, the translator had chosen to improve upon his
ST. JAMES'S MAG., NO. I.
original, and whereas the antiquarian had written that Banbury was
Winwife.--I am quite off that scent now.
Winwife.- Put off by a brother of Banbury, one that they say is come here and governs all already.
Quarlons.-- What do you call him ? I knew divers of those Banburians when I was in Oxford. Winwife.--Master Littlewit can tell us.
What call you the reverend elder you told me of, your Banbary man ?
Littlewit.—Rabbi Busy, sir; he is more than an elder, he is a prophet, sir.
Quarluns.-0, I know him ; a baker is he not ?
Littlewit.—He was a baker, sir, but he does dream now, and see visions; he has given over his trade.
Quarlons.--I remember that too ; out of a scruple he took that in spiced conscience those cakes he made were served to bride-ales, maypoles, morrices, and such profane feasts and meetings.
But it is time to leave Banbury.
It was a summer's afternoon in the month of July, that, taking the road to Shipton upon Stour, I set out for Broughton Castle, or, as it was called at one time, Broughton Hall. The distance is about two
* Fuller's “Worthics of England,” p. 328, Oxfordshire.
† Act I, Scene 1. p. 384. Gifford's Edition.
miles and a half, or perhaps a little more ; yet, short as the way is, it was rendered yet shorter to the fancy by the exceeding beauty of the landscape.
At times the little copses on either side shut out the surrounding scenery; then again the thickets on one or both sides would break off, and allow glimpses, as it were, into the undulating grounds beyond, for there are no hills of any magnitude about here. The whole in fact was one continued succession of cornfields, woods, and meadow lands seen under the shifting clouds in every possible tint and hue of green, from its brightest to its deepest colour. Upon the whole, I should say that Bloxham Hundred, in which this scene lies, has not its equal for a quiet landscape in any other part of Oxfordshire. At all events, the country can shew nothing to surpass it, and it is moreover rich in antiquities, so that it is in every respect peculiarly deserving of the traveller's notice.
On a sudden, a sharp turn of the road gave me a full view of the castle, and a little to the left of it Broughton Church, for it was the custom at a very remote period, for the feudal lord to build a church close to his castle. In this, both he and his descendants found their last resting-place, and at the same time it served as a place of worship for his vassals of all descriptions.
It is impossible for anything to have presented a more beautiful picture than did the fine old castle, seen under the influence of a summer's afternoon. The grey walls were tinted into a pale yellow, or darkened into shadow, as the flying clouds for a moment veiled the sun without hiding it, or flew off again before the wind. The prevailing architecture of the building is in the Elizabethan style, but with this are mingled portions of a yet earlier period, indeed of the time of Edward the First ; and it may be that of these some date from William the Conqueror, for we have a few scanty gleanings in Domesday Book of Broughton, or, as it is there called, Brohtune. Thus a part of the north front was built by the Fiennes in 1544, but the walls of the eastern extremity, and several rooms with their groined stone-roofs belong to the fourteeenth century. In like manner the south front presents at its east end an old tower with loop-holes and Gothic windows that in a great measure retain their former character. This side was rendered yet more picturesque to my fancy by the thick masses of ivy that covered it in such profusion as only at intervals to let the wall itself become visible, intertwining with it so closely as to be well nigh inseperable; a whole colony of owls, had they so pleased, might have settled here with great comfort to themselves. I hardly know why it is, but the ivy has always seemed to me as natural an appendage to these ancient reliques, whether ruined or entire, as their buttresses and Gothic windows, while upon more modern buildings it appears out of place; a poor attempt to anticipate time, just as if youth should voluntarily assume the silver hairs of age. But here, upon walls that dated from a half-remembered era, the dark green foliage harmonized wonderfully with all around, the union of life with decay mellowing and softening the
ravages made by time. Extensive as the building is even now, and at one time with its outward defences, it occupied a much larger space—it is completely surrounded by a broad and deep moat of running water, the only access to the open area beyond being on the north side over a stone bridge of two
arches, and through a tower which stands there in its old strength, like some giant warder of the castle. This is connected with the main building by a battlemented wall, having cruciform apertures or arrowlets, through which the besieged could discharge their arrows with little danger to themselves from a continuous terrace along the inner face of the battlement.
I have noticed the two different styles of architecture prevailing in this noble edifice, and I may now add that the western side is of another, and, I should imagine, more recent period; and yet, so far at least as my own feelings go, there is nothing unpleasant or incongruous in these architectural contradictions : they rather seem to me to be in excellent keeping with the other changes that had taken place; had not the castle successively been the abode of the gallant Norman who gained his fame and estate under William the Conqueror, of the Molins, of the Hungerfords, and of the Wykehams, till it fell to the noble family of Saye and Sele, by intermarriage with Margaret, the daughter and heiress of Sir William Wykeham? The striking contrasts in the building were many indications of the age which had given rise to them—the pages of a pictorial history, if I may so call it, appealing more powerfully to the imagination than any words could do
Segnius irritant quæ sunt dimissa per aures
Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus." Were they not, too, living witnesses to the truth of what chroniclers had recorded, and supplying much to the fancy that no longer lives in tradition? If any should object to such notions as being more suited to poets and romancers than to the sober pace of an antiquarian, I must remind them that unless antiquarians have been sadly maligned by their unfriends, they mingle as much of the fanciful in their pursuits, even when they look gravest, as ever did Thomas the Rhymer himself, or any professor of the joyous science in the sunny lands of Provence. If this shall not be held a sufficient excuse, I must then shelter myself under the grave authority of the law, and remember how there was a time when gowned and bewigged advocates danced with each other in their inns of court, and were actually put out of commons for a term, or more, if they neglected so wholesome a stimulus to study—“Neque semper arcum tendit Apollo."
The principal entrance to the hall is in the north front, through the side of the eastern central oriolum. It is of considerable dimensions, being fifty-five feet long and twenty-five feet broad, and the ceiling is enriched with numerous pendants, one of the many singular inversions of the natural order of things so frequent in Gothic architecture, the ornaments growing out of the roof which they appear to be supporting, without in fact having any base themselves. Here the present lordly owner of the castle has with much taste arranged a variety of ancient armour, some of which has descended to him with the building, and the rest he has himself purchased to complete the collection. The whole is kept in excellent order, and being here in its proper place—the arms of feudal warfare in a feudal hall—it produces a very different impression upon the mind from what such things do when seen in a museum.
The traveller who has had the good fortune to see a fine picture in the Louvre at Paris, with which it had no connexion, and afterwards to light upon the same painting when restored, like so many of Napoleon's plunderings, to