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Three hundred years ago, the Market-place was surrounded with old houses of timber, their gables pointing to the open area and overhanging the lower storeys, around them being gardens or plots of ground-elm trees spreading their leafy boughs across the grassgrown space, and the pinfold standing in one corner.
It was a kind of sunny social life the people then enjoyed, free from the ostentatious parade and corroding anxiety of modern times. Some of the popular sports were coarse—for they baited the bear and the bull in the Market-place; but others were less so; as, for example, when the inhabitants went a birding, with hawk on wrist, in the unenclosed fields round Leicester; and there was a simple and hearty hospitality and genuine neighbourly feeling then existing, which complete a picture somewhat different from that presented in the more refined and pretentious nineteenth century.
It was this kind of Leicester with which William Herrick was familiar in his boyish days, when he was in all probability a pupil at the Free Grammar School. But he was sent very early to London, to his brother Nicholas, where he was initiated in the business of a goldsmith. His father, writing to Nicholas, in the year 1575, says, “I have received your letter by your brother William. And I give you hearty thanks that you would send him to Leicester to see us; for your mother and I did long to see him; and so did his brothers and sisters; for the which we give you hearty thanks. We thought he had not been so tall as he is, nor never would have been."*
We here get a pleasing glimpse of the interior of the household in which William Herrick was nurtured. It was one evidently in which gentle and natural affection, and brotherly and sisterly union, reigned supreme. The boy of fifteen, springing up into the tall youth, was clearly welcomed home with equal pride and pleasure.
Three years after, his mother forwarded to him a pair of knitted hose and a pair of knitted Jersey gloves, in return for presents of marmalade, foreign fruit, and fish, which he had conveyed to her some time before. Indeed, the letters extant show that William Herrick was at this period of his life continually forwarding presents
occupied by Mr. Griffin, ironmonger. We discover the fact in this way:—In the will of Alderman Robert Heyrick, dated March 26, 1617, he desires to be “given forth of the house he dwelt in, to be paid yearly for ever,” £5 into the Mayor's hands, for the purpose of purchasing loaves of bread to be distributed among the poor in all the parishes of the town. This annuity is still paid, more than two hundred and forty years after the date of the bequest, by Mr Griffin, as the owner of the house which stands where the venerable alderman's originally stood. It is the corner house of the Market-place and Cheapside. Ald. Robert Herick inherited the property from his father, John Eyrick, who purchased it from his elder brother Nicholas, who succeeded his father, Thomas, by whom it was bequeathed to Nicholas in the will made in the year 1517. Judging from the style of buildings erected at the commencement of the sixteenth century, it was probably one of four gables—two overhanging the Cheapside, two the Market-place-and a picturesque fabric.
• Nichols's History of Leicestershire, vol. ii., part 2, p. 621.
from London to his parents, manifesting warm filial affection in return for the unceasing regard they expressed to him, which shines out of these ancient messages as freshly and brightly as if the writers were alive but yesterday, instead of having been in their graves two hundred and sixty years.
When the portrait in the Mayor's Parlour to which allusion has been made, was painted, William Herrick was thirty-two years of age. As already remarked, this picture has been for some time considered to be that of a citizen of London named Bond; but the pedigree of that family does not contain any person whose age would correspond with that mentioned on the portrait.
What has probably led to the supposition that the person represented was a Bond, is the introduction of the arms of that family into the picture, in one corner,
upon the signet-ring worn on one of the fingers of the subject. As, however, a ring with the same arms upon it appears by the will of old Robert Heyricke to have been in his possession, and as the Bond shield is figured on the wainscot of an old pew
in Woodhouse chapel with William Herrick's initials above it-thus showing that the brothers at one time committed the not uncommon mistake of appropriating their mother's armorial insignia-it is very probable the same error was fallen into by the artist who painted William Herrick's portrait. That the latter was a member of the Goldsmith's Company when his likeness was executed is tolerably certain, and this accounts for the appearance of the arms of the Company by the side of those of Bond. There is little difficulty, therefore, in coming to the conclusion that the second portrait was that of William Herrick.
He had now become a prosperous man, having evidently for some time left the house of his brother Nicholas, and entered on an independent career. In the ten or twelve years following the attainment of his majority, he had amassed considerable wealth, for he purchased the estate at Beaumanor from the agents of Robert, Earl of Essex, in 1595, when he was only a year older than he is seen to be in his portrait. In another year the new proprietor of Beaumanor married Joan May, daughter of Richard May, Esq., a citizen of London, and sister of Sir Humphrey May, Knight, once Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He now renewed his connection with his native town, and became enrolled on the list of freemen, giving to the Mayor “in kindness” twelve silver spoons, with the cinquefoil upon the knobs of them, instead of the usual fee of 10s. Shortly afterwards, in the year 1601, Mr. Herrick was elected one of the Burgesses in Parliament, with Mr. Belgrave, of Belgrave, and remained in that position until the decease of Queen Elizabeth, in March, 1603. In that year, Sir Henry Skipwith and Sir Henry Beaumont of Gracedieu were elected to represent Leicester in Parliament. In the early part of the year 1605 William Herrick was knighted by King James, and he was a second time returned member
for Leicester in the place of Sir Henry Beaumont, who deceased in the month of October of the same year. At this time also he was appointed to an office in the royal jewel-bouse,* having for one of his coadjutors George Heriot-the "jingling Geordie" with whom Scott has rendered us delightfully familiar in his “Fortunes of Nigel,” who was the contemporary, and in some sort the rival, of Sir William Herrick; who himself must have seen as much of the eccentric and pedantic monarch as Heriot did in his frequent intercourse with royalty. The owner of Beaumanor was now as frequently a resident in the metropolis as in the country, for he was appointed a Teller of the Exchequer about the same date as that under review; and in this capacity, as in that of the great capitalist and court banker of the age, whose money was lent alike to the king, the noble, the peeress, and the commoner, he cannot help but have been constantly employed.
He was not however a mere sordid money maker; since we find his services were sought by the inhabitants of Leicester in affairs of importance, and by him freely giren. He lent his valuable assistance-his “great paynes and care"-in the purchase of the Grange, near this town; for which the whole Corporation acknowledged themselves “bound unto him," and which services Mr. Manby, the Mayor, said “all succeeding ages” would have great cause to acknowledge. He was, besides, mainly instrumental in the incorporating of Trinity Hospital. The numerous and important benefits conferred upon the borough by Sir William Herrick ied to the declaration by the Chief Magistrate, and his compeers in the municipal body, in 1616, that they were beholden to him, not only in regard to the affairs of Trinity Hospital, but for “divers others” his “loving favours” manifested unto them and the whole Corporation, and they desired the continuance of his kind favours; “ "for," they added, “upon yourself we and our whole corporation are bold wholly to rely, without which we know not what might befall us.”
In the year 1620, the worthy knight was a third time elected member for Leicester, with Sir Richard Morison, Knight, Master of the Ordnance. In the letter to Mr. Pares, the Mayor, (still extant,) in which he returns thanks, he characteristically writes: “It is a sentence in the Gospel that there were ten lepers cleansed, but there was only one that returned to give thanks. I wish I may be that one; for of all vices I would not be counted ungrateful. I acknowledge your love to me in chosing me your burgess; and I speak it with truth, never any did with better alacrity attend that service than myself did."
This paper would be extended much beyond the limits of such a memoir as can be offered to the notice of a meeting like the present,
* Nichols's Leicestershire, vol. ii., part 1, page 150, note 6.
were all to be included in it that could be said of Sir William Herrick.
It must therefore be brought to a close. On the Knight's retirement from Parliament, he seems to have sought the tranquil enjoyments of a country life in his mansion, surrounded by the poble oaks of Charnwood Forest. There he dwelt until the year of his decease in 1653, aged 91, surrounded by his children's children's children, as his venerable mother Mary Eyrick was, when at the age of 97—she died in 1611, having seen before her departure one hundred and forty-two of her descendants.
It is here worthy of mention, that since the decease of Sir William Herrick, the estate of Beaumanor has passed in regular succession through the hands of five other William Herricks, whose united ages yield an average to each of 76 years; the present proprietor (Wm. Perry-Herrick, Esq.) being the seventh link in the genealogical chain, and enjoying the prospect of a longevity equal to that of any of his forefathers. The late William Heyrick, Esq., of Thurmaston, the last male representative in the direct line of Ald. Robert Herrick, died, it will be remembered, at a good old age, a few years ago.
Enough will, I think, have been said to show that the portraits of the brothers Herrick, preserved in the old Guildhall of Leicester, are those of two Town Worthies; to whose efforts in the past, we of the present day are indebted for the preservation and extension of our municipal heritage. To such men we may point as to those who greatly helped to build up the fabric of local self-government, in the reigns of the Tudors and Stuarts, and who, by their civic services, their public benevolence, their patriotic spirit, and, last but not least, their exemplary domestic lives, showed the worth existing in human nature.
Sincere but unostentatious; austere in profession but genial in practice; rigid in creed but tolerant in heart—these municipal magnates of the Puritan times come down to us as types illustrative of ancient manners and forgotten principles, the study of which may serve to stimulate and instruct their successors; and in an age in which men live in large towns, of which the government becomes every day more complicated and more important, examples of simple life, of elevated integrity, and of love of doing one's duty for its own sake, may well be brought before us, even from the graves of men of the seventeenth contury, to excite our admiration and to enkindle our emulation. We need not turo to the cities of ancient Greece, nor to the turbulent municipalities of ancient Italy, for models of human conduct, while we have had in our own towns patterns of private and public virtue, more homely perhaps than those described by the classic historians, but more true to nature, safer to imitate, and, being of our own race, better acquainted with the wants and requirements of the people of their age, who only differed from the people of our age in being placed in circumstances varying from ours, but who were identical with us in all the essentials of national character.
29th July, 1861.
The Rev. ROBERT BURNABY in the chair.
MR. JAMES THOMPSON having communicated the information that Mr. John Gough Nichols had collected and arranged the ancient letters in the possession of Mr. Perry-Herrick, the following motion was adopted :
That, in the opinion of this Society, the extracts from the letters of the members of the Herrick family, used at the late soirée, indicated that the letters possessed great local interest and value, and therefore the publication of the whole series would be viewed with pleasure by this Society."
It was reported that arrangements were completed for holding a General Meeting at Lutterworth on the 18th and 19th of September next.
Mr. James THOMPSON further made some observations relative to the value of the past transactions of the Society, and advocated their publication.
The following articles, antiquities, &c., were exhibited :
By Mr. ORDISH, a chromo-lithograph of Ecclesiastical and Domestic Furniture, designed by the late Mr. Pugin, and shown at the exhibition of 1851. Mr. Ordish presented the picture to the Society.
By Mr. Hunt, an ancient coin, found near the church at Humberstone. On examination it proved to be a Nuremberg jetton, issued by Damian Krauwinckel, and probably of the fifteenth century. These jettons or tokens are found abundantly all over the country. They were coined by the eminent merchants of Nuremberg, when that great city was the emporium of European commerce, and when they had dealings with merchants in all parts of the world. A great variety of articles were made there, and hence the couplet:
The frequency of the finding of these tokens in England is in some measure accounted for by their having formerly been commonly used as counters.
By MR. THOMPSON, manuscript book, containing the rentroll of Philip Sherard, Esq., of Teigh, in the county of Rutland, of which he gave the following account: