페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER II.

CONTAINS SOME PARTICULARS

OF THE

GILDRIG

FAMILY, AND OF THE MANOR OF FREELAND.

In the parish of Andover, in Hampshire, resided a certain family of the name of GILDRIG, who had inherited and farmed, for years past, a paternal estate which afforded, with good æconomy, all the necessaries, if not the superfluities of life. By the failure of an elder branch of the family, the Gildrigs of Andover became entitled to the noble Manor of Freeland, in Middlesex, together with Highland, Bogland, Thirteen Acres, and numerous other dependencies. The Manor, thus extending over several distinct estates, afforded an astonishing revenue; but some law-suits and squabbles in which the former proprietors had been entangled either by their own spirit of litigation, or the jealousy of the neighbouring land-holders, together with the mismanagement of their stewards, had so heavily incumbered it with debt, that the tenants complained grievously of the fines, heriots, reliefs, and other duties, which were from time to time levied upon them to pay the interest. What added to their grievances was, that as the same mismanagement continued, the debts yearly increased, and threatened eventually to overwhelm them.

The mansion-house was very old, but in good condition, spacious and well furnished in the antique style. Contrary to the common rules of architecture, the noblest suit of rooms were at the top of the house, and so downwards, the orders being reversed. It consisted of three stories, each of a different order, but so contrived as to be well blended, and to unite the solid and the elegant, the agreeable and the useful together. It lad, however, suffered some dreadful dilapidations from the unskilful alteration of daring innovators. The upper story, which from the mode of building, we shall call the first, was solely appropriated to the residence of the Lord and his family. The rooms were superbly, though fancifully decorated with globes, sceptres, and crowns, gilded on the walls, and ceilings : but the most remarkable article of furniture was the Lord's and Lady's elbow-chairs, which were only rude mishapen things of oak, and that of the Lord had a great Highland stone between its feet, either to keep it steady, or for some other purpose. The se cond, or middle story, was less superb, but more elegant, being supported by polished Corinthian pillars," and was destined for the reception of those of the principal tenants, whom the Lord condescended to make his companions. The decorations, though less splendid, were as remarkable as those of the first story. The walls and ceilings were ornamented with coronets and armorial bearings, interspersed with bunches of red, blue, and green ribbons. These trappings when perfect, must have had a pleasing and grand effect; but as most of those, who had been admitted, had, from a pride ofshowing that they had been the companions of the Lord, cut off strips from the bunches of ribbons, to stick in their breeches-knees, or their bosoms, as Indians stick shells and feathers h.ouh the gristles of their ears and noses, the hangings were in tatters, and the tout ensemble was become much less respectable. The seat of the Keeper of the Lord's Court of Conscience who was the chief of the second story, was no less remarkable than those of the Lord and Lady, It was a bag stuffed with wool, as some say, to remind him of the interest of the tenants, who were very great woollen-manufacturers. It seems rather schoolboyish, however, that his posteriors should be reminded of what he should always carry in his head. The third, or ground story, was without all these ornaments; but its design was noble, grand, and magnificent, though excessively simple. The walls were of a thickness and solidity sufficient to bave lasted to the end of the world ; but unfortunately, the materials of which they were composed, were of so brittle and perishable a nature, as to require frequent patching up, to the destruction of its symmetry and harmony of proportion, without restoring it to its primitive strength. This story was set apart for the Steward, and other chief domestics of the household, and had been made so strong purposely to preserve the plale, which belonged to the tenantry, although devoted to the Lord's use. The ceilings of this story were, therefore, made almost as difficult of access from the other two stories, as from without doors, so that if the Steward's household were honest people, very little waste could be committed. In order to keep him watchful, his seat was on a hard bench, which was humourously styled ' a bed of roses,' but from its containing the plate, &c. its real mame was—The Money Bench. The Stewards, notwithstanding these wholesome precautions, have often been treacherous, or slept upon their bench, which has afforded opportunities to some persons belonging to the upper stories, to make free with some of the plate, as well as of the strips of hangings. The room where the Money Bench was placed, was termed the Common Hall, because all the affairs of the manor were discussed there by a certain number of delegates chosen by and from the tenants for their supposed superior talents and integrity; but man is

Quâvis incertior aurâ, -and the public good was too often sacrificed to pritate interest. In the Common Hall there

« 이전계속 »