Boyat, or Bovieres, as it once was called, had been a "hundred," and was probably more of a village than at present, since up to 1840 there was a pound and stocks opposite to the single farm-house that remained. The lands stretched from the hill to the river, near which was a hamlet called Highbridge, just on the boundary between Twyford and Otterbourne. Here was an endowed Roman Catholic chapel, a mere brick building, at the back of a cottage, only distinguished by a little cross on the roof. There is reason to think that a good many dependants of the Brambridge family lived here, for there are entries in the parish register that infants had been born at Highbridge, but the curate of Otterbourne could not tell whether they had been baptized.
A new parchment parish register was provided in 1690, and very carefully kept by the curate, John Newcombe, who yearly showed it up to the magistrates at the Petty Sessions, when it was signed by two of them. A certain Augustin Thomas was a man of some property, comprising a house and two or three fields, which were known as "Thomas's Bargain," till one was used as a site for the Vicarage. Several surnames still extant in the parish are found in the register, Cox, Comley, Collins, Goodchild, Woods, Wareham—Anne and Abraham were the twin children of John and Anne Diddams, a curious connection with the name Didymus (twin), which seems to be the origin.
There must have been extensive repairs, if such they may be called, of the church, probably under the influence of Sir Charles and Lady Wyndham—for though Cranbury House stands in Hursley parish, it is so much nearer to Otterbourne that the inhabitants generally attend the church there,—and two huge square pews in the chancel, one lined with red baize, the other bare, were appropriated to Cranbury, and might well have been filled by the children of Sir Charles and Dame James his wife—Jacoba in her marriage register at Hursley—for they had no less than seventeen children, of whom only five died in infancy, a small proportion in those days of infant mortality. The period of alteration is fixed by a great square board bearing the royal arms, with the initials W. and M. and the date 1687. No notice was taken of the Nassau shield, and indeed it must have been put up in a burst of enthusiasm for the glorious Revolution, for the lion, as best he can be recollected, had a most exultant expression, with his tongue out of one side of his mouth.
The black-letter Commandments on the chancel arch were whitewashed out, and a tablet in blue with gold lettering erected in their stead on each side of the altar. The east window had either then or previously been deprived of all its tracery, and was an expanse of plain glass with only a little remains of a cusp at the top of the arch. The bells were in one of the true Hampshire weather-boarded square towers, of which very few still exist in their picturesqueness. There were the remains of an old broken font, and a neat white marble one, of which the tradition was that it was given by a parish clerk named David Fidler, and it still exists as the lining of the present font.
Sir Charles Wyndham died in 1706, his wife in 1720. A small monument was raised for them in Hursley Church, with an inscription on a tablet now in the tower, purporting that the erection was by their daughters, Frances White and Beata Hall.
Frances was married to a man of some note in his day, to judge by the monument she erected to his memory in Milton Church, near Lymington, where his effigy appears, an upright figure cut off at the knees, and in addition to the sword in his hand there is a metal one, with a blade waved like a Malay crease, by the side of the monument. The inscription is thus -
THOMAS WHITE Esq., son of
IGNATIUS WHITE Esq. of Fiddleford in Dorsetshire.
He served three kings and Queen Ann as a Commander in the guards, and was much wounded. He was in the wars of Ireland and Flanders.
He had one son who dyed before him. He departed this life on the 17th of February in the year 1720.
This monument was erected by his widow Frances, one of the daughters of Sir Charles Wyndham, in the county of Southampton.
Mrs. White thus lost her husband and her mother in the course of the same year. Her brother sold the Cranbury property to Jonathan Conduitt, Esquire, who was a noted person in his day. He married Catherine Barton, the favourite niece and adopted daughter of Sir Isaac Newton. It may be remembered that this great man was a posthumous child, and was bred up by his mother's second husband, Barnabas Smith, Rector of North Witham, Lincolnshire, so as to regard her children as brothers and sisters. Hannah Smith married one Thomas Barton of Brigstock, and her daughter Catherine (whose name mysteriously is found as suing for the price of property sold to Charles II. for the site of the King's house at Winchester), lived with Sir Isaac Newton, was very beautiful, and much admired by Lord Halifax for her wit and gaiety. It was even reported that she was privately married to him, but this of course was mere scandal, and she became the wife of Jonathan Conduitt, educated at Trinity College, a friend and pupil of Newton, who had for many years assisted in the harder work of Master of the Mint, and wrote an essay on the gold and silver coinage of the realm. He was member of Parliament for Southampton. Sir Isaac made his home with his niece and her husband till his death in 1727, when Mr. Conduitt succeeded to his office as Master of the Mint, and intended to write his life, but was prevented by death in 1737. Among the materials which Mr. Conduitt had preserved is the record of Newton's saying, "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
A very curious relic of Sir Isaac survives in the garden at Cranbury Park, viz. a sun-dial, said to have been calculated by Newton. It is in bronze, in excellent preservation, and the gnomon so perforated as to form the cypher I. C. seen either way. The dial is divided into nine circles, the outermost divided into minutes, next, the hours, then a circle marked "Watch slow, Watch fast," another with the names of places shown when the hour coincides with our noonday, such as Samarcand and Aleppo, etc., all round the world. Nearer the centre are degrees, then the months divided into days. There is a circle marked with the points and divisions of the compass, and within, a diagram of the compass, the points alternately plain and embossed.
There is no date, but the maker's name, John Rowley, and the arms of Mr. Conduitt, as granted in 1717. Quarterly 1st and 4th Gules, on a fesse wavy argent, between three pitchers double eared or, as many bees volant proper.
2nd and 3rd Gules, a lion rampant argent between six acorns or. Impaling argent 3 boars' heads sable for Barton.
Crest—Two Caducean rods with wings, lying fesse ways or. Thereon a peacock's head, erased proper.
The motto—"Cada uno es hijo de sus obras." "Each one is son of his deeds"—translates the Spanish.
The 1st and 3rd quartering belongs to the old family of Chenduite, from which Jonathan Conduitt may have been descended. Probably he could not prove his right to their Arms, and therefore had the fresh grant.
Mr. Conduitt died in 1737, leaving a daughter, whose guardians sold Cranbury to Thomas Lee Dummer, Esquire, from whom it descended in 1765 to his son of the same name.
Catherine Conduitt married the son of Viscount Lymington, afterwards created Earl of Portsmouth.
CHAPTER VII—THE BUILDING AT HURSLEY
In the year 1718, Hursley was sold by Cromwell's two surviving daughters for 36,000 pounds to William Heathcote, Esq., afterwards created a baronet.
The Heathcotes belonged to a family of gentle blood in Derbyshire. Gilbert Heathcote, one of the sons, was an Alderman at Chesterfield, and was the common ancestor of the Rutland as well as the Hursley family. His third son, Samuel, spent some years as a merchant at Dantzic, where he made a considerable fortune, and returning to England, married Mary the daughter of William Dawsonne of Hackney. He was an intimate friend of the great Locke, and assisted him in his work on preserving the standard of the gold coin of the realm. He died in 1708, his son William and brother Gilbert attained to wealth and civic honours.
Sir Gilbert was Lord Mayor in 1711 and was the last who rode in procession on the 9th of November. Both were Whigs, though the Jacobite Lord Mayor, whose support was reckoned on by the Stuarts, was their cousin.
At about twenty-seven years of age, William Heathcote married Elizabeth, only daughter of Thomas Parker, Earl of Macclesfield, and had in course of time six sons and three daughters. He was M.P. first for Buckingham and afterwards for Southampton. He was created a baronet in 1733.
There were plans drawn for enlarging the old lodge in which the Hobbys and Cromwells had lived, but these seem to have been found impracticable, and it was decided to pull the house down and erect a new one on a different site. Tradition, and Noble in his Cromwell, declared that the change was from dislike of the Cromwell opinions and usurpations, but Mr. Marsh considers this "mean and illiberal" and combats it sharply.
The new and much more spacious building was placed a little higher up on the hill, with a wide bowling-green on the south side, where in dry summers the old foundations of the former house can be traced, the walnut avenues leading up to it. The house was in the style that is now called Queen Anne, of red brick quoined with stone, with large-framed heavy sash windows and double doors to each of the principal rooms, some of which were tapestried with Gobelin arras representing the four elements—Juno, with all the elements of the air; Ceres presiding over the harvest, for the earth; Vulcan with the emblems of fire; and Amphitrite drawn by Tritons personifying water.
There was then a great central entrance-hall, in the middle of the northern side of the house, with stone steps going up at each end, outside, but, as we see from drawings and prints of the time, with no carriage-approach to the house, so that people must have driven up to the front door over the grass.
Sir William died in 1751, fifty-eight years old. His son, Sir Thomas, born in 1721, was the builder of old Hursley Church, which was begun in 1752, and completed the next year, only the tower being left of the former edifice. In 1808 some few capitals of the old pillars remained in parts of the village, and were adjudged by Mr. Marsh to be Saxon. It was said that the inside was very dark, the ground outside being nearly on a level with the windows, and six or eight steps descending to the floor.
It was all swept away, and the new structure was pronounced by Mr. Marsh to be exceedingly "neat, light, and airy." It was 82 feet long, and 49 broad, with two aisles, and an arched ceiling, supported on pillars. It might well be light, for the great round-headed windows were an expanse of glass, very glaring in sunshine, though mitigated by the waving lime-trees. The plan and dimensions followed those of the old church, and were ample enough, the north aisle a good deal shorter than the chancel, and all finished with gables crow-stepped in the Dutch fashion. It was substantially paved within, and was a costly and anxiously planned achievement in the taste of the time, carefully preserving all the older monuments. A mausoleum in the same style was built for the Heathcote family in the south-western corner of the churchyard, and gradually the white- washed walls of the church became ornamented (?) with the hatchments of each successive baronet and his wife, the gentlemen's shields with the winged globe as crest, and the motto Deus prosperat justos; the ladies' lozenge finished with a death's head above, and Resurgam below.
Sir Thomas was twice married and had eight children. He died at sixty-five years of age on 29th of June 1787. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the second Sir William, who was born in 1746, and was member for the county in three Parliaments. He was a man of great integrity, humanity, and charity, very affable and amiable, and unassuming in his manners, "and he died as he had lived, fearing God." He married Frances, daughter and co-heiress of John Thorpe of Embley, and had seven children.
His eldest son, Sir Thomas, married the heiress of Thomas Edwards Freeman, of Batsford, Gloucestershire, in 1799, and was known as Sir Thomas Freeman Heathcote. He was member for the county from 1808 till 1820, when he retired. He is reported to have known an old man who said he had held a gate open for Oliver Cromwell, but this must have meant the grandson, who died in 1705.
Sir Thomas died without issue in his fifty-sixth year on the 21st day of February 1825.
CHAPTER VIII—OLD OTTERBOURNE
Thomas Dummer, Esquire, who in 1765 succeeded his father in the possession of Cranbury, was a man to whom some evil genius whispered, "Have a taste," for in 1770 he actually purchased the City Cross of Winchester to set it up at Cranbury, but happily the inhabitants of the city were more conservative than their corporation, and made such a demonstration that the bargain was annulled, and the Cross left in its proper place. He consoled himself with erecting a tall lath and plaster obelisk in its stead, which was regarded with admiration by the children of the parish for about sixty years, when weather destroyed it.
He also transported several fragments from Netley Abbey, which formed part of his property at Weston near Southampton, and set them up in his park as an object from the windows. There is an arch, the base of a pillar, and a bit of gateway tower, but no one has been able to discover the part whence they came, so that not much damage can have been done. The rear of the gateway has been made into a keeper's lodge, and is known to the village of Otterbourne as "the Castle."
He is also said to have had a kind of menagerie, and to have been once in danger from either a bear or a leopard; the man at Hursley who rescued him did not seem in his old age to be clear which it was, though he considered himself to have a claim on the property.
It would not have been easy to substantiate it, for Mr. Dummer died without heirs about 1790, leaving his property at Cranbury and Netley first to his widow, and after her to the Chamberlayne family.
Mrs. Dummer lived many years after her husband, and married an artist, then of some note, Sir Nathanael Dance, who assumed the name of Holland, and in 1800 was created a baronet. He threw up painting as a profession, but brought several good pictures to Cranbury. His wife survived him till 1823-24, when William Chamberlayne, M.P. for Southampton, came into the property, and from him, in 1829, it descended to his nephew, Thomas Chamberlayne, Esquire.
Brambridge had a more eventful history. From the Welleses, it passed to the Smythes, also Roman Catholics. Walter Smythe, the first of these, was second son of Sir John Smythe of Acton Burnell in Derbyshire. His daughter Mary Anne was married at nineteen to one of the Welds of Lulworth Castle, who died within a year, and afterwards to Thomas Fitzherbert, who left her a childless widow before she was twenty-five.
It was six years later that, after vehement passionate entreaties on the part of George, Prince of Wales, and even a demonstration of suicide, she was wrought upon to consent to a private marriage with him, which took place on the 21st of December 1785, at her house in Park Lane, the ceremony being performed by a clergyman of the Church of England, in the presence of her uncle and one of her brothers.
So testifies Jesse in his Life of George III. Nevertheless there is at Twyford a belief that the wedding took place at midnight in the bare little Roman Catholic Chapel at Highbridge, and likewise in Brambridge House, where the vicar officiated and was sworn to secrecy. The register, it is said, was deposited at Coutts's Bank under a lock with four keys. The connection with Twyford was kept up while the lady lived, but no one remains who can affirm the facts. Her first marriage, in early youth, was most probably, as described, at Brambridge. Her very small wedding ring is also extant, but neither ring nor ceremony can belong to her royal marriage. It would be curious that the adjoining parish of Marwell likewise had to boast (if that is a right word) of Henry VIII.'s marriage with Jane Seymour.
Mrs. Fitzherbert certainly visited Brambridge, for an old gardener named Newton, and Miss Frances Mary Bargus, who came to live at Otterbourne in 1820, remembered her, and the latter noted her fine arched brows. George IV.'s love for her was a very poor thing, but she was the only woman he ever had any real affection for, and he desired that her miniature should be buried with him.
She survived him for many years, and died in 1837 at eighty-one years old.
Her brother Walter was one of the English who visited Paris and was made prisoner by Napoleon I. at the rupture of the peace of Amiens, and detained till 1814. While he was a prisoner, his brother Charles caused all the limes in the avenue at Brambridge to be pollarded, and sold the tops for gun stocks. Nevertheless the trees are still magnificent, making three aisles, all the branches inwards rising up perpendicularly, those without sweeping gracefully down, and all budding and fading simultaneously. The pity is that the modern house should not have been built at one end or the other, so that they form actually a passage that leads to nothing. Since his death, the property has been sold, and has passed into strangers' hands. The endowment of the chapel has been transferred to one at Eastleigh, and the house to which it was attached belongs to a market garden.
The two parishes were near enough to the coast to be kept in anxiety by the French schemes for landing. The tenant of the Winchester College property at Otterbourne is said to have kept all her goods packed up, and to have stirred the fire with a stick all through one winter; and as late as between 1840-50, Mr. Bailey of Hursley still had in his barn the seats that had been prepared to fit into the waggons that were to carry the women into the downs in the event of a battle.
The Rev. John Marsh, who in 1808 collected the memoranda of Hursley and dedicated them to Sir William Heathcote, was curate of Hursley and incumbent of Baddesley. The Vicar was the Rev. Gilbert Heathcote, fifth son of Sir Thomas, second Baronet. He was afterwards Archdeacon of Winchester and a Canon of Winchester. He was a man of great musical talent, and some of his chants are still in use. The only other fact recollected of him was, that being told that he used hard words in his sermons, he asked a labourer if he knew what was meant by Predestination, and was answered, "Yes, sir, some'at about the innards of a pig." He generally resided there. Mr. Marsh remained curate of Hursley and was presented to the living of Baddesley. All this time Otterbourne had only one Sunday service, alternately matins or evensong, and the church bell was rung as soon as the clergyman could be espied riding down the lane. Old customs so far survived that the congregation turned to the east in the Creed, always stood up, if not sooner, when "Alleluia" occurred at the end of the very peculiar anthems, and had never dropped the response, "Thanks be to Thee, O Lord," at the end of the Gospel.
The Holy Communion was celebrated four times a year, 35. 7d. being paid each time for the Elements, as is recorded in beautiful writing in "the Church Raiting book," which began to be kept in 1776. "Washan the surples" before Easter cost 4s.; a Communion cloth, tenpence; and for washing and marking it, sixpence. A new bell cost 5 pounds: 5: 10, and its "carridge" from London 11s. 10d. Whitewashing the church came to 1 pound: 1s., and work in the gallery to 10s. 4d. Besides, there was a continual payment for dozens of sprow heads, also for fox heads at threepence apiece, for a badger's head, a "poul cat," marten cats, and hedgehogs. These last, together with sparrows, continue to appear till 1832, when the Rev. Robert Shuckburgh, in the vestry, protested against such use of the church rate, and it was discontinued. Mr. Shuckburgh was the first resident curate at Otterbourne, being appointed by the Archdeacon. He was the first to have two services on Sunday, though still the ante-Communion service was read from the desk, and he there pulled off his much iron-moulded surplice from over his gown and ascended the pulpit stair. The clerk limped along the aisle to the partitioned space in the gallery to take part in the singing.
But changes were beginning. The direct coaching road between Winchester and Southampton had been made, and many houses had followed it. The road that crosses Colden Common and leads to Portsmouth was also made about the same time, and was long called Cobbett's road, from that remarkable self-taught peasant reformer, William Cobbett, who took part in planning the direction.
Cobbett was a friend of Mr. Harley, a retired tradesman who bought the cottage that had belonged to a widow, named Science Dear, and enlarged it. Several American trees were planted in the ground by Cobbett, of which only one survives, a hickory, together with some straggling bushes of robinia, which Cobbett thought would make good hedges, being very thorny, and throwing up suckers freely, but the branches proved too brittle to be useful. About 1819 Mr. Harley sold his house and the paddock adjoining to Mary Bargus, widow of the Rev. Thomas Bargus, Vicar of Barkway in Hertfordshire, and she came to live there with her daughter Frances Mary. In 1622, Miss Bargus married William Crawley Yonge, youngest son of the Rev. Duke Yonge, Vicar of Cornwood, Devon, of the old family of Yonges of Puslinch. He then retired from the 52nd regiment, in which he had taken part in the Pyrenean battles, and in those of Orthez and Toulouse, and had his share in the decisive charge which completed the victory of Waterloo. They had two children, Charlotte Mary, born August 11th, 1823, and Julian Bargus, born January 31st, 1830.
CHAPTER IX—CHURCH BUILDING
A new era began in both Hursley and Otterbourne with the accession of Sir William Heathcote, the fifth baronet, and with the marriage of William Yonge.
Sir William was born on the 17th of May 1801, the son of the Rev. William Heathcote, Rector of Worting, Hants, and Prebendary of the Cathedral of Winchester, second son of Sir William, third baronet. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Lovelace Bigg Wither of Manydown Park in the same county. She was early left a widow, and she bred up her only son with the most anxious care. She lived chiefly at Winchester, and it may be interesting to note that her son remembered being at a Twelfth-day party where Jane Austen drew the character of Mrs. Candour, and assumed the part with great spirit.
He was sent first to the private school of considerable reputation at Ramsbury in Wiltshire, kept by the Rev. Edward Meyrick, and, after four years there, became a commoner at Winchester College, where it is said that he and Dr. William Sewell were the only boys who jointly retarded the breaking out of the rebellion against Dr. Gabell, which took place after their departure. However, in April 1818 he left Winchester, and became a commoner of Oriel College, Oxford, where his tutor was the Rev. John Keble, only eight years older than himself, and not yet known to fame, but with an influence that all who came in contact with him could not fail to feel.
In 1821 Mr. Heathcote gained a First-class in his B.A. examination, and was elected Fellow of All Souls in November 1822. He began to read at the Temple, but in April 1825 he came into the property of his uncle, and in the November of the same year he married the Hon. Caroline Frances Perceval, the youngest daughter of Charles George Lord Arden. Both he and his wife were deeply religious persons, with a strong sense of the duties of their station. Education and influence had done their best work on a character of great rectitude and uprightness, even tending to severity, such as softened with advancing years. Remarkably handsome, and with a high-bred tone of manners, he was almost an ideal country gentleman, with, however, something of stiffness and shyness in early youth, which wore off in later years. In 1826 he became member for the county on the Tory interest.
As a landlord, he is remembered as excellent. His mother took up her abode at Southend House in Hursley parish, and under the auspices of the Heathcote family, and of the Misses Marsh, daughters of the former curate, Sunday and weekday schools were set on foot, the latter under Mrs. Ranger and her daughter, whose rule continued almost to the days of national education. One of his first proceedings was to offer the living of Hursley to the Rev. John Keble, who had spent a short time there as curate in 1826. It was actually accepted, when the death of a sister made his presence necessary to his aged father at Fairford in Gloucestershire; and for two years, during which the publication of the Christian Year took place, he remained in charge of a small parish adjacent to his home.
About 1824 Mrs. Yonge began to keep the first Sunday school at Otterbourne in a hired room, teaching the children, all girls, chiefly herself, and reading part of the Church Service to them at the times when it was not held at church. The only week-day school was on the hill, kept by a picturesque old dame, whose powers amounted to hindering the children from getting into mischief, but who—with the instinct Mrs. Charles describes—never forgave the advances that disturbed her monopoly.
In 1826, as Mrs. Yonge was looking at the empty space of a roadway that had led into the paddock before it became a lawn, she said, "How I should like to build a school here!"
"Well," said her mother, Mrs. Bargus, "you shall have what I can give."
Mrs. Yonge contrived the room built of cement, with two tiny ones behind for kitchen and bedroom for the mistress, and a brick floor; and the first mistress, Mrs. Creswick, was a former servant of Archdeacon Heathcote's.
She was a gentle woman, with dark eyes and a lame leg, so that she could not walk to church with the children, who sat on low benches along the nave, under no discipline but the long stick Master Oxford, the clerk, brandished over them. Nor could she keep the boys in any order, and the big ones actually kicked a hole nearly through the cement wall behind them. At last, under the sanction of the Rev. Gilbert Wall Heathcote, who had succeeded his father as Vicar of Hursley, a rough cast room was erected in the churchyard, where Master Oxford kept school, with more upright goodness than learning; and Mr. Shuckburgh, the curate, and Mr. Yonge had a Sunday school there.
The riots at the time of the Reform Bill did not greatly affect the two parishes, though a few villagers joined the bands who went about asking for money at the larger houses. George, Sir William's second son, told me that he remembered being locked into the strong room on some alarm, but whether it came actually to the point of an attack is a question. It was also said that one man at Otterbourne hid himself in a bog, that the rioters might not call upon him; and one other man, James Collins, went about his work as usual, and heard nothing of any rising.
One consequence of the riotous state of the country was the raising of troops of volunteer yeomanry cavalry. Charles Shaw Lefevre, Esq. (afterwards Speaker and Lord Eversley), was colonel, Sir William was major and captain of such a troop, Mr. Yonge a captain; but at one of the drills in Hursley Park a serious accident befell Sir William. His horse threw back its head, and gave him a violent blow on the forehead, which produced concussion of the brain. He was long in recovering, and a slight deafness in one ear always remained.
In 1835 a far greater trouble fell on him in the death of the gentle Lady Heathcote, leaving him three sons and a daughter. In the midst of his grief, he was able to bring his old friend and tutor nearer to him. Mr. Keble at the funeral gave him the poem, as yet unpublished,
I thought to meet no more,
which had been written after the funeral of his own sister, Mary Anne Keble. The elder Mr. Keble died in the course of the same year, and Mr. Gilbert Wall Heathcote, resigning the living to become a fellow of Winchester, it was again given to the Rev. John Keble. Mr. Heathcote had brought to Otterbourne a young Fellow of New College, a deacon just twenty-three, the Reverend William Bigg Wither, who came for six weeks and remained thirty-five years. He found only twelve Communicants in the parish, and left seventy!
Mr. Keble was already known and revered as the author of the Christian Year, and was Professor of Poetry at Oxford, when he came to Hursley; having married, on the 10th of October 1835, Charlotte Clarke, the most perfect of helpmeets to pastor or to poet, save only in the frailness of her health.
He had two years previously preached at Oxford the assize sermon on National Apostasy, which Newman marks as the beginning of the awakening of the country to church doctrine and practice. He and his brother were known as contributors to the Tracts for the Times, which were rousing the clergy in the same direction, but which were so much misunderstood, and excited so much obloquy, that Mr. Norris of Hackney, himself a staunch old-fashioned churchman, who had held up the light in evil times, said to his young friend, the Rev. Robert Francis Wilson, a first-class Oriel man, to whom the curacy of Hursley had been offered, "Now remember if you become Keble's curate, you will lose all chance of preferment for life."
Mr. Wilson, though a man of much talent, was willing to accept the probability, which proved a correct augury.
The new state of things was soon felt. Daily Services and monthly Eucharists, began; and the school teaching and cottage visiting were full of new life. Otterbourne had, even before Mr. Keble's coming, begun to feel the need of a new church. The population was 700, greatly overflowing the old church, so that the children really had to be excluded when the men were there. It was also at an inconvenient distance from the main body of the inhabitants, who chiefly lived along the high road. Moreover, the South Western Railway was being made, and passed so near, that to those whose ears were unaccustomed to the sound of trains, it seemed as if the noise would be a serious interruption to the service.
Mr. Yonge had begun to take measures for improving and enlarging the old church, but was recommended to wait for the appointment of the new incumbent. Mr. Keble threw himself heartily into the scheme, and it was decided that it would be far better to change the site of the church at once. The venerable Dr. Routh, who was then President of St. Mary Magdalen College, and used yearly to come on progress to the old manor house, the Moat House, to hold his court, took great interest in the project, and the college gave an excellent site on the western slope of the hill, with the common crossed by the high road in front, and backed by the woods of Cranbury Park. Also a subscription of large amount was given. Sir William Heathcote as patron, as well as Mr. Keble, contributed largely, and Mr. Bigg Wither gave up his horse, and presented 25 pounds out of each payment he received as Fellow of New College. Other friends also gave, and, first and last, about 3000 pounds was raised.
Church building was much more difficult in those days than in these. Ecclesiastical architecture had scarcely begun to revive, and experts were few, if any indeed deserved the title. An architect at Winchester, Mr. Owen Carter, was employed, but almost all the ideas, and many of the drawings of the details came from Mr. Yonge, who started with merely the power of military drawing (acquired before he was sixteen years old) and a great admiration for York Cathedral.
The cruciform plan was at once decided on (traced out at first with a stick on Cranbury grand drive), but the slope of the ground hindered it from being built duly east and west; the material is brick, so burnt as to be glazed grey on one side. Hearing of a church (Corstan, Wiltshire) with a bell-turret likely to suit the means and the two bells, Mr. Yonge and Mr. Wither rode to see it, and it was imitated in the design. The chancel was, as in most of the new churches built at this time, only deep enough for the sanctuary, as surpliced choirs had not been thought possible in villages, and so many old chancels had been invaded by the laity that it was an object to keep them out.
Mr. Yonge sought diligently for old patterns and for ancient carving in oak, and in Wardour Street he succeeded in obtaining five panels, representing the Blessed Virgin and the four Latin Fathers, which are worked into the pulpit; also an exceedingly handsome piece of carving, which was then adapted as altar-rail—evidently Flemish— with scrolls containing corn and grapes, presided over by angels, and with two groups of kneeling figures; on one side, apparently an Emperor with his crown laid down, and the collar of the Golden Fleece around his neck, followed by a group of male figures, one with a beautiful face. On the other side kneels a lady, not an empress, with a following of others bringing flowers. At the divisions stand Religious of the four Orders, one a man. The idea is that it probably represents either the coronation of Maximilian or the abdication of Charles V. In either case there was no wife, but the crown is not imperial, and that is in favour of Maximilian. On the other hand the four monastic Orders are in favour of Charles V.'s embracing the religious life.
For the stone-work, Mr. Yonge discovered that the material chiefly used in the cathedral was Caen stone, though the importation had long ceased. He entered into communication with the quarrymen there, sent out a stone mason (Newman) from Winchester, and procured stone for the windows, reredos, and font, thus opening a traffic that has gone on ever since.
Mistakes were made from ignorance and lack of authoritative precedent, before ecclesiology had become a study; but whatever could be done by toil, intelligence, and self-devotion was done by Mr. Yonge in those two years; and the sixty years that have since elapsed have seen many rectifications of the various errors. Even as the church stood when completed, it was regarded as an effort in the right direction, and a good example to church builders. The first stone was laid in Whitsun-week 1837 by Julian Bargus, Mr. Yonge's five-year-old son. A school for the boys was built on a corner of the ground intended as churchyard, and a larger room added to the girls', the expense being partly defrayed by a bazaar held at Winchester, and in part by Charlotte Yonge's first book, The Chateau de Melville, which people were good enough to buy, though it only consisted of French exercises and translations. The consecration took place on the 30th of July 1838, and immediately after daily matins were commenced. So that the Church of St. Matthew has never in sixty years been devoid of the voice of praise, except during casual absences. Most of the trees in the churchyard were planted by Mr. Bigg Wither, especially the great Sequoia, and the holly hedge around was grown by him from the berries of the first Christmas decoration, which he sowed in a row under the wall of the boys' school, and transplanted when large enough.
It was in 1839 that Mr. Keble published his Oxford Psalter, a work he had been engaged on for years, paying strict and reverent attention to the Hebrew original, and not thinking it right to interweave expressions of his own as guidance to meaning. His belief was that Holy Scripture is so many-sided, and so fathomless in signification, that to dwell on one point more than another might be a wrong to the full impression, and an irreverence in the translation. Thus, as a poet, he sacrificed a good deal to the duty of being literal, but his translation is a real assistance to students, and it is on the whole often somewhat like to Sternhold's, whom he held in much respect for his adherence to the originals.
Perhaps it may be mentioned here that the parishes of Hursley and Otterbourne were in such good order under the management of Sir William Heathcote and Mr. Yonge, that under the new Poor Law they were permitted to form a small Union of four, afterwards five, and now six parishes.
Ampfield was a hamlet lying on the western side of Hursley Park and wood, a very beautiful wood in parts, of oak and beech trees, which formed lovely vaulted arcades, one of which Mr. Keble used to call Hursley Cathedral. The place was increasing in population, and nearly two miles of woodland and park lay between it and the parish church.
Sir William Heathcote, therefore, resolved to build a church for the people, and Mr. Yonge was again the architect and clerk of the works, profiting by the experience gained at Otterbourne, so as to aim at Early English rather than Decorated style. A bell turret, discovered later at Leigh Delamere in Wiltshire, was a more graceful model than that of Corston. The situation was very beautiful, cut out, as it were, of the pine plantation on a rising ground above the road to Romsey, so that when the first stone was laid by Gilbert Vyvyan, Sir William's third son, the Psalm, "Lo, we heard of the same at Ephrata, and found it in the wood," sounded most applicable. St. Mark was the saint of the dedication, which fell opportunely on 21st April 1841, very near Mr. Keble's birthday, St. Mark's day, and to many it was a specially memorable day, as the Rev. J. H. Newman was present with his sister, Mrs. Thomas Mozley, and her husband, then vicar of Cholderton; and the Rev. Isaac Williams, a sacred poet, whose writings ought to be better known than they are, was also present. The endowment was provided by the chapter of Winchester giving up the great tithes, and a subscription of which T. White, Esq. of Ampfield gave 500 pounds.
The Rev. Robert Francis Wilson was the first curate, being succeeded in the curacy of Hursley by the Rev. Peter Young, then a deacon, who inhabited the old vicarage. The present one, which had been built by Sir Thomas Freeman Heathcote, was made over to the living by Sir William some years later.
Immediately after the consecration, Sir William was married to Selina, daughter of Evelyn John Shirley, Esq., of Eatington, Warwickshire, a marriage occasioning great happiness and benefit to all the parish and neighbourhood.
CHAPTER X—HURSLEY CHURCH
In one of his prose writings Mr. Keble speaks of the faithful shepherd going on his way though storms may be raging in the atmosphere; and such might be a description of his own course as regarded his flock, though there were several of these storms that affected him deeply. One gust came very near home.
The diocesan, Bishop Charles Sumner, was an excellent and conscientious man, with a much deeper sense of his duties as a bishop than his immediate predecessors, and of great kindness and beneficence; but he had been much alarmed and disturbed by the alleged tendencies of the Tracts for the Times, and shared in the desire of most of the authorities to discourage their doctrines and practice. When, therefore, the curate of Hursley came to Farnham to be admitted to the priesthood, he was required, contrary to the usual custom with candidates, to state categorically his views upon the Holy Eucharist. He used the expressions of the Catechism, also those of Bishop Ridley, but was desired to use his own individual words; and when these were sent in, he was rejected, though they did not outrun the doctrine that had always been taught by the close followers of the doctrine of the Catechism. Nevertheless, in spite of this disapproval, there was no withdrawal of his licence, and he remained at Hursley, not thinking it loyal to seek Ordination from another bishop, as would readily have been granted. He married Mrs. Keble's cousin, Miss Caroline Coxwell, and their young family was an infinite source of delight to the childless vicarage.
Their baby ways, to one who held that "where christened infants sport, the floor is holy," and who read a mystical meaning into many of their gestures and words, were a constant joy and inspiration; and there grew up a store of poems upon them and other little ones, especially the children of Dr. George Moberly, then headmaster of Winchester College (later bishop of Salisbury). These Mr. Keble thought of putting together for publication, being chiefly impelled to do so by the desire to improve Hursley Church, the eighteenth century arrangement of which really prevented the general inculcation of the more reverent observances which teach and imply doctrine.
In consideration of the feelings of certain old parishioners, and the other more pressing needs, as well as of the patience with which so great an enterprise needed in his mind to be contemplated, nine years had elapsed since his incumbency had begun before he wrote: "We are stirring about our Church, and next spring I hope really to go to work; you must come and see the plans first, or else hereafter for ever hold your peace in respect of alleging impediments. One feels that one's advanced age has not rendered one fitted to set about such works; but really the irreverence and other mischiefs caused by the present state of Hursley Church seem to leave one no choice."
The step that had first been taken was one for which many generations far and wide have reason to be grateful, the arrangement and publication of the Lyra Innocentium, to a certain degree on the lines of the Christian Year, so as to have one poem appropriated to each Sunday and holy day (though these were only fully marked off in a later edition).
The book is perhaps less universally read than the Christian Year, and is more unequal, some poems rising higher and into greater beauty, some deeper and showing that the soul had made further progress in these twenty years, some very simple in structure, fit for little children, yet with a grave and solemn thought in the last verse.
Those that are specially full of Hursley atmosphere, on events connected with the author, may be touched on here.
"Christmas Eve Vespers" was suggested by the schoolmaster's little daughter going into church before the decoration had been put up, and exclaiming, disappointed, "No Christmas!" "The Second Sunday in Lent" recalls, in the line on "the mimic rain on poplar leaves," the sounds made by a trembling aspen, whose leaves quivered all through the summer evenings, growing close to the house of Mr. Keble's life- long friend and biographer, Sir John Taylor Coleridge, at Ottery St. Mary. An engraving of Raffaelle's last picture "The Transfiguration" hung in the Vicarage drawing-room.
"The Fourth Sunday in Lent," on the offering of the lad with the five loaves, was suggested by the stained window on that subject given by the young Marquess of Lothian—a pupil for some years of Mr. Wilson at Ampfield—to the church at Jedburgh, built by his mother. Now that he has passed away, it may be remarked that he, as well as all the children commemorated in these poems, grew up so as to leave no painful impression connected with them. "Keep thou, dear boy, thine early vow," was fulfilled in him, as it was with George Herbert Moberly, the eldest son of Dr. Moberly, who, when a young child staying at the vicarage, was unconsciously the cause of the poems "Loneliness" and "Repeating the Creed," for Easter Sunday and Low Sunday. Frightened by unwonted solitude at bedtime, he asked to hear "something true," and was happy when Mrs. Keble produced the Bible. He was a boy of beautiful countenance, and his reverent, thoughtful look, as he repeated the Creed, delighted Mr. Keble. It was little expected then that he was doomed to a life-long struggle with invalidism, though he was able to effect much as a thinker and a priest before he, too, was taken to see in Paradise "the glorious dream around him burst."
It was a baby sister of his who drew herself up in her nurse's arms with a pretty gesture, like a pheasant's neck in a sort of reproof, as she said "Thank you" to her little self, when she had held out a flower to Mr. Keble, which, for once in his life, he did not notice; and his self-reproach produced the thoughts of thankfulness. One of the gems of the Lyra, "Bereavement," was the thought that came to the mind of the Pastor as he buried the little sister, the only child except the elder girl, of the bailiff at Dr. Moberly's farm. "Fire" embodied his feeling about a burnt child at Ampfield -
We miss thee from thy place at school And on thy homeward way, Where violets, by the shady pool, Peep out so shyly gay
The Lullaby, with the view of the burnished cross upon the spire, and the girl singing the baby to sleep with the old Psalm -
In Thee I put my stedfast trust, Defend me, Lord, for Thou art just,
is another Ampfield scene, inspiring noble and gentle thoughts for Innocents' Day.
"Lifting up to the Cross" (St. James's Day) was the product of a drawing brought home from Germany of a sight beheld by Miss Maria Trench, on a journey with Sir William and Lady Heathcote. She afterwards became Mrs. Robert F. Wilson, and made her first wedded home at Ampfield; and there is another commemoration of that journey in the fountain under the bank in Ampfield churchyard, an imitation of one observed in Tyrol and with the motto -
While cooling waters here you drink Rest not your thoughts below, Look to the sacred sign and think Whence living waters flow, Then fearlessly advance by night or day, The holy Cross stands guardian of your way.
"More Stars" (All Saints' Day) and "Wakefulness" (The Annunciation) are reminiscences of Charles Coleridge Pode, a little nephew of Mr. Yonge, and his ecstatic joy on the first night of being out of doors late enough to see the glory of the stars. A few months later, on a sister being born, he hoped that her name would be Mary "because he liked the Virgin Mary." And when, only a few days later, his own mother was taken from him, he lay awake and silent, night after night. He, too, was one who fulfilled his early promise, till, as a young physician, he was cut off after much patient suffering. "More Stars" is also attributed to an exclamation of one of Mr. Peter Young's children; but in point of fact, most little ones have broken out in a similar joyous shout on their first conscious sight of the starry heavens.
Mrs. Keble used to forbear telling of the subjects of these poems, lest, as she said, there might be a sort of blight on the children in breaking the reserve; but most of them are beyond the reach of that danger in publicity; and I can only further mention that the village children en masse, and the curate's in detail, furnished many more of the subjects, while still they only regarded Mr. Keble as their best of playmates.
They cheered him when the great sorrow of his life befell him in the secession of John Henry Newman, hitherto his friend and fellow- worker. It came at a time when perhaps he was most fitted to bear it, when his brother in Gloucestershire and his wife at home had just begun to recover from a terrible typhoid fever caught at Bude.
Words spoken in the immediate prospect of death, by Mrs. Keble, strengthened her husband's faith and made him more than ever determined to hold fast by the Church of his fathers; and the thankfulness and exhilaration caused by the improvement in her health carried him the better over the first blow, though he went out alone to a quiet deserted chalk-pit to open the letter which he knew would bring the final news of the reception of his friend into the Roman Church.
Nor did his Hursley plans stand still. Under the management of Sir John Taylor Coleridge and other friends, the Christian Year had become much more profitable, and the Lyra also brought in a considerable quota, so that the entire work could be undertaken at Mr. Keble's expense.
It was decided, partly by Mr. Yonge himself, that the enterprise was on too large a scale for his partial knowledge, and moreover, much progress had been made during these nine years in ecclesiology, so that architects who had made it their study were to be found. The design was committed to William Harrison, Esq., a relation of Archdeacon Harrison, a very old friend and contemporary. It followed the lines of the existing church, which were found to be so solid and well built as for the most part only to need casing and not renewal, nor was the old tower taken down.
The contract with Locke and Nesham was for 3380 pounds, exclusive of the flooring, the wood-work, and other fittings of the interior. For this 1200 pounds was set aside, but the sum was much exceeded, and there were many offerings from private friends.
The altar of cedar-wood was the gift of Robert Williams, Esq.; the altar plate was given by Mrs. Heathcote; the rails by the architect; the font by the Rev. William Butler and Emma his wife, and the clergy and sisters of Wantage. Mr. Butler was then vicar of Wantage, later canon of Worcester and dean of Lincoln. The present cedar credence table was made long after Mr. Keble's death, the original one was walnut, matching the chancel fittings.
This was proposed as the inscription on the base of the font, to be entirely hidden—
Ecclesiae Parochiali Sanctorum Omnium In agro Hursleiense Hunc Fontem, Lavacrum Regenerationis, In honorem D. N. J. C. Gratis animis D.D.D. Presbyteri, Diacones, Lectores, Sorores Ecclesiae SS. Petri et Pauli Indigna familia Apud Wantagium
Whether the whole was actually cut out on the under side of the granite step must be uncertain.
The steps of the sanctuary have in encaustic tiles these texts. On the lowest:
Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have a right to the Tree of Life, and enter through the gates into the city.
On the step on which the rails stand:
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
On the next:
Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
And on the highest:
Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty, they shall behold the land that is very far off.
The lectern was the offering of the friend of his youth, the Rev. Charles Dyson, Rector of Dogmersfield, copied from that at Corpus Christi College, where they first met.
The corbels were carefully chosen: those by the chancel arch are heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, as exponents of the inner mysteries; those by the east window are St. Athanasius and St. Augustine as champions of the faith. On the corbels of the north porch, looking towards the hills of Winchester, are Bishops Andrewes and Ken on the outside; on the inside, Wykeham and Waynflete. On the south porch, St. Augustine of Canterbury, and the Empress Helena over the door; on the outside, Bishop Sumner and Queen Victoria to mark the date of building.
"How would you like to have the book boards of the seats?" wrote the architect; "perhaps it would suggest the idea of a prayer desk if they were made to slope as the chancel stalls?"
And certainly their finials do suggest kneeling, and the arrangement is such that it is nearly impossible not to assume a really devotional attitude.
A stranger clergyman visited the church, measured the font and the height to the ceiling, and in due time, in 1850, there arrived the beautiful carved canopy, the donor never being known.
The windows did not receive their coloured glass at first; but Mr. Keble had an earnest wish to make them follow the wonderful emblematic series to which he had been accustomed in the really unique Church of Fairford, where he had grown up. The glass of these windows had been taken in a Flemish ship on the way to Spain by one John Tame, a Gloucestershire merchant, who had proceeded to rebuild his parish church so as fitly to receive it, and he must also have obtained the key to their wonderful and suggestive arrangement.
Fairford Church is much larger than Hursley, so that the plan could not be exactly followed, but it was always in Mr. Keble's mind. It was proposed that the glass should be given by the contribution of friends and lovers of the Christian Year. Two of the windows came from the Offertory on the Consecration day, one three-light was given by Mrs. Heathcote (mother of Sir William), another by Sir William and Lady Heathcote, one by the Marchioness of Bath, and one by the Marchioness of Lothian. The designs were more or less suggested by Dyce and Copley Fielding, but the execution was carried out by Wailes, under the supervision of Butterfield. The whole work was an immense delight to Mr. Keble, and so anxious was he that the whole should be in keeping, that the east window was actually put in three times before it was judged satisfactory. The plan of the whole was Mr. Keble's own; and though the colours are deeper, and what is now called more crude, than suits the taste of the present day, they must be looked upon with reverence as the outcome of his meditations and his great delight. I transcribe the explanation that his sister Elisabeth wrote of their arrangement:
The Hursley windows are meant to be a course of Instruction in Sacred History from Adam to the last day the church being dedicated to All Saints.
The north-west window has Adam and Noah. The windows along the north aisle each represent two persons from the Old Testament.
The three-light window on the north side, David with the ground plan of the Temple, Moses with the Tables of the Law, Solomon with the Model of the Temple. The Medallion under Moses is the Altar of Incense, and some of the Holy things.
The whole of that window means to represent the fixing and finishing of the Old Religion.
Then comes in the north chancel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, the prophets preparing for the Gospel.
The north-east window has the Circumcision connecting the Law with the Church, with the figures of Anna and Simeon on each side.
East window: The Crucifixion, The Blessed Virgin and St. John on each side, The Agony, Bearing the Cross, and the Scourging.
The side window of the Sanctuary has St. Stephen and St. John the Baptist as the nearest Martyrs to our Lord, both before and after Him, and their martyrdoms underneath.
The south-east window: The Resurrection, with soldiers at the Sepulchre. St. Peter and St. Paul on each side.
The south chancel windows: The Four Evangelists; under, St. Luke, the Disciples at Emmaus; under, St. John, he and St. Peter at the Sepulchre.
The three-light south window: St. James the Less, first Bishop of Jerusalem; underneath, the Council in Acts x. 6. At his side two successors of the Apostles, St. Clement of Rome, Phil. iv. 3, and St. Dionysius of Athens, Acts xvii. 34, to show how the Church is built upon the Apostles.
In the west window, the Last Judgment, with St. Michael with his scales, and answering to Adam and Noah in the west window of the north aisle; and as a repentance window, St. Peter and St. Mary Magdalene in the west of the south aisle. In the two windows close to the font, St. Philip and Nicodemus, for baptism.
So were carried out the lines in the Lyra Innocentium.
The Saints are there the Living Dead, The mourners glad and strong; This sacred floor their quiet bed, Their beams from every window shed Their voice in every song.
The clerestory windows were put in somewhat later, on finding that the church was dark, and Mr. Keble wished to have the children mentioned in Scripture, in outline upon them, but this was not carried out.
It was first thought probable that readers of the Christian Year and the Lyra Innocentium might have presented these stained windows, but the plan fell through, and the only others actually given were the repentance window, representing St. Peter and St. Mary Magdalene, by Mr. Harrison. Two were paid for by special offertories, and the rest were finally given by Mr. Keble, as the sums came in from his published writings.
The spire, completing the work, was added to the ancient tower by Sir William Heathcote.
The foundation stone, a brass plate with an inscription surrounded by oak leaves and acorns, was laid on the 29th of May 1847, but the spot is unknown. The entire cost, exclusive of the woodwork and the gifts mentioned, amounted to 6000 pounds. The large barn was used as a temporary church, and there are happy recollections connected with it and with the elm-shaded path between the Park and the vicarage field. When all sat on forms without the shade of pews, example taught a lesson of reverent attitude to the congregation, who felt obliged to lay aside any bad habits which might have grown up out of sight, so as to be unconsciously prepared for the new church, where the very width of the open benches and the shape of their ends are suggestive of kneeling in prayer. The period of the building was a time of enjoyment to Mr. Keble, for it was symbolical to him of the "edifying," building up, of the living stones of the True Church, and the restoring her waste places. When the workmen were gone home he used to walk about the open space in the twilight silence in prayer and meditation.
When the topmost stone was to be added, on 18th October 1848, and the weathercock finally secured, Mr. Keble ascended to the elevation that he might set his hand to the work, and there said a thanksgiving for the completion—"The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house. His hands shall also finish it" (Zech. iv. 9).
The day of the Consecration was an exceedingly happy one, on 24th October 1848, the only drawback being that Sir William Heathcote was too unwell to be present. There was a great gathering—the two Judges, Coleridge and Patteson, and many other warm and affectionate friends; and Sir John Coleridge was impressed by the "sweet state of humble thankfulness" of the Vicar and his wife in the completion of the work.
The sermon at Evensong on that day was preached by Mr. Keble himself, in which he spoke of the end of all things; and said the best fate that could befall that new church was that it should be burnt at the Judgment Day.
He thought, probably, of the perils of perversion from true Catholic principles which the course of affairs in these days made him dread exceedingly, and hold himself ready to act like the Non-jurors, or the Free Kirk men in Scotland, who had resigned all for the sake of principle. "Nevertheless," he wrote, "I suppose it is one's duty to go on as if all were encouraging."
And he did go on, and supported others till, by God's Providence, the tide had turned, and much was effected of which he had only dreamt as some day possible. It was in this frame of mind that the poem was composed of which this is a fragment:
The shepherd lingers on the lone hillside, In act to count his faithful flock again, Ere to a stranger's eye and arm untried He yield the rod of his old pastoral reign. He turns and round him memories throng amain, Thoughts that had seem'd for ever left behind O'ertake him, e'en as by some greenwood lane The summer flies the passing traveller find, Keen, but not half so sharp as now thrill o'er his mind.
For indeed every lapse in his parish turned to fill their pastor with self-blame.
CHAPTER XI—THE GOLDEN DAYS OF HURSLEY
Those forebodings of Mr. Keble's mercifully never were realised; many more years were granted in which Hursley saw the Church and the secular power working together in an almost ideal way.
To speak of what Sir William Heathcote was as a county gentleman would be difficult. He was for many years Chairman of the Quarter Sessions, and it is worth recording that when King Frederick William IV. of Prussia wished for information on the practical working of the English system of government, and sent over two jurists to enquire into the working of the unpaid magistracy, they were advised to attend the Winchester Quarter Sessions, as one of the best regulated to be found. They were guests at Hursley Park, and, as a domestic matter, their interest in English dishes, and likewise their surprise at the status of an English clergyman, were long remembered.
Considerable county undertakings originated in these days—a new and well-managed lunatic asylum at Fareham, a renewed jail on the then approved principles, and the inauguration of county police. In all these undertakings Sir William Heathcote and Mr. Yonge were active movers, and gave constant superintendence while they were carried out. Ill health obliged Sir William to retire from the representation of North Hants in the Conservative interest in 1847, but in 1854, on the recommendation of Sir Robert Harry Inglis, he was elected member for the University of Oxford, and so remained till his final retirement in 1868. What he was in both public and private capacities has nowhere been better expressed than by the late Earl of Carnarvon in a letter to the editor of the Times.
Long time a county member, and intimately acquainted with the subjects and interests which formed the heritage of English county gentlemen, he was, as a chairman of Quarter Sessions, recognised and often appealed to as the very representative and pattern of the class; and when afterwards he accepted the blue riband of Parliamentary representation as member for the University of Oxford, from first to last, through all the waves and weathers of political and personal bitterness, he retained the trust of friend and opponent. So long as he cared to keep that seat, all men desired to keep him. For this was his special characteristic, that in every period and pursuit of life, in the public business of his county, in the House of Commons, in the University, he not only enjoyed respect and affection, but he conciliated the confidence of all.
It was the unconscious tribute to a whole life and character. For to a remarkable clearness and vigour of intellect, he added a fairness of mind, a persuasiveness and courtesy of manner, with an inflexible uprightness of purpose, which won to him friend and stranger alike. I have never known any one who was not bettered by his converse, but I think none outside his own county and society can fully appreciate the remarkable influence which his name and character—in the later years it might be truly said "clarum et venerabile nomen"—exercised on all with whom he was connected. If indeed he had a fault, it was that his standard of action was so high, his nature so absolutely above the littleness of ordinary life, that he attributed to inferior men far purer and more unselfish objects than those that really moved them. "Vixit enim tanquam in Platonis politeia, non tanquam in Romuli faece."
It is the common fault of biographers to over-colour the character of a favourite hero, but those who knew Sir William Heathcote will admit that there is no exaggeration in what I have said. He was the highest product of a class and school of thought which is fast disappearing, and which will perhaps find few representatives in the next generation. With change of time comes also change of men; and the statesmen and politicians of the new world, whatever their merits or demerits, will probably be of a very different order from him of whom I am writing. The old university culture, the fastidious taste, the independence of thought, the union of political life with county associations—bound up as they are in this case by a rare intelligence and a moderation of mind which trimmed, with an almost judicial impartiality, the balance of thought on all matters submitted to him—are not a combination to be easily found in any age or society; but it may be safely predicted that they will be even less common in the coming age than they were in the generation of which Sir William Heathcote was a representative and ornament. Be this, however, as it may, I desire, by your favour, to record here the loss of one who deserved, if ever man did, the name of an English worthy.
This warm-hearted tribute is the exact truth, as all could testify who ever had occasion to ask Sir William's advice or assistance. Another such testimony must be added, from a speech of Lord Chief Justice Coleridge at Nobody's Club.
I looked at him from another point of view, and I can tell you only how he struck me, a man much younger, of different surroundings, differing from him in many opinions, political and religious. Yet it is my pride and sorrowful delight to recollect that Sir William Heathcote gave me his friendship for nearly forty years; and it is not presumptuous to say that his friendship deepened into affection. I could not say if I would, and I would not if I could, all that he was to me, how much of what is best (if there is any) in my life I owe to him, how much affection and reverence has gone with him to his grave. His house was open like another home; in joy, and still more in sorrow, his sympathy was always warm and ready, in trouble and in difficulty his advice was always at hand. What advice it always was! What comfort and strength there was in his company! For the time at least he lifted one up and made one better. Inflexible integrity, stern sense of duty, stainless honour, these qualities a very slight acquaintance with Sir William Heathcote at once revealed. But he had other great qualities too. He was one of the closest and keenest reasoners I ever knew. He was a man of the soundest and strongest judgment; and yet full of the most perfect candour and full of forbearance and indulgence for other men. And for a man of his intellect, and, indeed, for a man, he was wonderfully modest and shy, and of a humility which was, as I saw it, profoundly touching. Yet there was no weakness in him. Not unbecomingly, not one whit more than was just, he believed in himself, in his position, in his family; he had dignity true and inborn without the need of self- assertion, and love and respect towards him went hand in hand.
Mr. Keble once said, coming away from a long talk with him, that it was like holding intercourse with some old Christian knight. And so it was . . .
I am not one of those who believe in the degeneracy of the race, and I look forward to the future with hope rather than with dismay. I believe upon the whole the world improves. It is useless to be always looking back to be a laudator temporis acti se puero is placed by the wise and genial Horace to the discredit and not to the credit of old age. But I do think that each age has its own virtues, and its own type of excellence, and these do not return. We may have good things, but we shall not have the same good things. We shall have, I hope, good men, and great men, and noble men, in time to come, but I do not think we shall see again a Sir William Heathcote. That most charming mixture of dignified self respect, with unfailing gracious courtesy to others, those manners in which frankness and refinement mingled with and set off each other, that perfect purity of thought and utterance, and yet that thorough enjoyment of all that was good and racy in wit or humour—this has passed away with him. So beautiful and consistent a life in that kind of living we shall hardly see again.
He was preserved to our time to show us of a later age a perfect specimen of the old-fashioned, high-bred, highly cultivated county gentleman; and a finer type of Englishman it is hardly possible to conceive.
These two portraits, they are too true to be called eulogies, thoroughly describe Sir William as he was in friendship, as he was not only to his original contemporaries but to their sons, so that he came to be a generally looked up to father, as it were, to the magistracy of the county as well as the neighbourhood. A portrait of him by G. Richmond, Esq., R.A., was subscribed for by the magistracy and placed in the County Hall, which began to be newly restored under his auspices, so as worthily to show the work of Henry III. in the beautiful old banqueting hall.
Already, however, a great loss had been suffered in William Crawley Yonge, who had worked by his side in all his public undertakings, carrying out all that was done in a spirit of thoroughness that never rested till perfection had been attained as far as possible. His own parish of Otterbourne had felt his influence, and was noted for good order and improvement. Both Otterbourne and Hursley had land in allotments from at least 1830, long before the arrangement was taken up by Government. Mr. Yonge's strong churchmanship and deep religious feeling told on all around, and there was a strong sense of his upright justice, as much as his essential kindness. The end came suddenly; apoplexy brought on by the hurry and confusion of sending off his only son, Julian Bargus Yonge, in the Rifle Brigade to the Crimean War. He died on the 26th of February 1854. "What shall we do without him?" were the first words of Sir William Heathcote's letter to Mr. Keble on receiving the tidings.
It should be mentioned here that six young men from Otterbourne were concerned in the Crimean War—Captain Denzil Chamberlayne and Julian B. Yonge, though health obliged the latter to return from Varna, while the former took part in the famous Balaklava charge, and was unhurt, though his horse was killed. And four of the privates, John Hawkins, James and William Mason, and Joseph Knight, of whom only James Mason lived to return. An inscription built into the wall of the churchyard records their names, with the inscription, suggested by Mr. Keble, "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth."
And here William Yonge's daughter must record Sir William's never- failing kindness to her mother and herself, both in matters of business and in personal criticism, and assistance in those matters in her works in which the counsel of a man acquainted with the law is needful to prevent mistakes. Indeed, in the discussions on character and adventures, nothing was ever more evident to her than that she was talking (as Mr. Keble said) to a true specimen of the most pure- minded chivalry.
On 16th September 1868 Sir William retired from Parliament, and, on the 9th of August 1870, was sworn of the Privy Council. This appointment gave him the greater satisfaction as a testimony to his consistent integrity through his whole parliamentary career, as it came from the Gladstonian ministry, and he had been forced by his deep Church and State convictions to separate from Mr. Gladstone, the friend and fellow-worker of his younger days.
His last great public achievement was the rebuilding and improvement of the County Hospital. Winchester had been the first provincial city to possess a County Hospital, and the arrangements had grown antiquated and by no means accordant with more advanced medical practice. A subscription was raised, and with the warm co-operation of Warden Robert S. Barter of Winchester College, the present building was erected, on Mr. Butterfield's plans, in a more healthy and airy situation, in the year 1868, with a beautiful chapel for the nurses and patients, and with the modern system of nursing carried out. As was said, when in 1878 Sir William resigned the post of Chairman of the Committee, he was the father and the founder of the institution.
Few men have earned by a lifetime so much honour, gratitude, and affection as he by one consistent, upright course of life, or have left a nobler memory.
A few words we must give to the festivals. There was the yearly distribution of Christmas beef to all the labourers and artisans employed on the estate, and widows. There was occasionally a grand "beating of the bounds" of the Manor of Merdon, followed by a dinner in a tent to the tenants, at which the "Lord of the Manor" made a speech, hoping that in times to come the days of "the Old Sir William" might be kindly remembered; and somewhat later there were private theatricals, performed chiefly by the family, which were a great pleasure to friends and tenants.
What a centre of hospitality, cheerfulness, and kindness Hursley Park was in those days can hardly be described, though remembered by many as a sort of golden age of Hursley.
CHAPTER XII—HURSLEY VICARAGE
The Golden Age of Hursley did not deduce all its honour from the manor house. The vicarage was perhaps the true centre of the light which the Park reflected, or rather both knew that their radiance alike came from One Source above, in whose Light they sought to walk.
The happy, sometimes playful, intercourse between them may perhaps best be exemplified by the petition sent up by Mr. Keble on an alarm that the copse on Ladwell hill was about to be cut down in obedience to the dicta of agricultural judges who much objected to trees and broad hedgerows.
Ladwell, or as it probably ought to be, Ladywell hill, is a steep bank, thickly clothed with trees and copsewood, with cottages nestling under it, on the southward road from Hursley, and on the top the pathway to Field House, the farm rented by Dr. Moberly, Headmaster of Winchester College (since Bishop of Salisbury) as the holiday resort of his family. It is a delightful place, well worthy of the plea for its preservation.
TO THE LORD OF THE MANOR OF MERDON.
THE PETITION OF SUNDRY LIFE-TENANTS OR HEREDITARY DENIZENS OF THE SAID MANOR.
Humbly Sheweth, - That by custom of this clime, Even from immemorial time, We, or our forefathers old (As in Withering's list enrolled) Have in occupation been Of all nooks and corners green Where the swelling meadows sweet With the waving woodlands meet. There we peep and disappear, There, in games to fairies dear All the spring-tide hours we spend, Hiding, seeking without end. And sometimes a merry train Comes upon us from the lane: Every gleaming afternoon All through April, May, and June, Boys and maidens, birds and bees, Airy whisperings of all trees, With their music will supply All we need of sympathy. Now and then a graver guest For one moment here will rest Loitering in his pastoral walk, And with us hold kindly talk. To himself we've heard him say, "Thanks that I may hither stray, Worn with age and sin and care, Here to breathe the pure, glad air, Here Faith's lesson learn anew, Of this happy vernal crew. Here the fragrant shrubs around, And the graceful shadowy ground, And the village tones afar, And the steeple with its star, And the clouds that gently move, Turn the heart to trust and love." Thus we fared in ages past, But the nineteenth age at last, (As your suppliants are advised) Reigns, and we no more are prized. Now a giant plump and tall, Called High Farming stalks o'er all, Platforms, railings and straight lines, Are the charms for which he pines. Forms mysterious, ancient hues, He with untired hate pursues; And his cruel word and will Is, from every copse-crowned hill Every glade in meadow deep, Us and our green bowers to sweep. Now our prayer is, Here and there May your Honour deign to spare Shady spots and nooks, where we Yet may flourish, safe and free. So old Hampshire still may own (Charm to other shires unknown) Bays and creeks of grassy lawn Half beneath his woods withdrawn; So from many a joyous child, Many a sire and mother mild, For the sheltering boughs so sweet And the blossoms at their feet, Thanks with prayers shall find their way; And we flowers, if we may pray, With our very best would own Your young floweret newly blown.
ANEMONE NEMOROSA PRIMULA VULGARIS ORCHIS DAFFODIL COWSLIP STRAWBERRY VIOLET [Innumerable Signatures.] etc. etc. etc. LADWELL HILL, 2nd April 1855.
"The young flow'ret newly blown" was Sir William's son Godfrey, who faded at seven years old. When his mind was wandering, one of his dreamy utterances was, "I should like to fly softly." And therefore Mr. Keble suggested that the words on his little grave (outside the mausoleum) should be "Who are these that fly as a cloud?"
The intercourse of the vicarage with the Park, as with all this neighbourhood, was affectionate, intimate, or neighbourly and friendly, according as there was likeness of mind. The impression left was always a cheerful one of hospitality and of a kind of being on holy ground. The house stands on the side of a rapid slope from the Park, with a terrace raised on brick arches overlooking the lawn, only separated by a low wall from the Churchyard. Here, in early summer, the school children from both the outlying congregations met those of Hursley at tea, and for games in the Park, ending with standing round in the twilight below the terrace, and singing the National Anthem and Bishop Ken's Evening Hymn. The Anniversary of the Consecration Day, falling late in the autumn, was the occasion of a feast for the elders of the parish above sixty years old. This followed, of course, on festal services, when those who heard it can hardly forget a sermon of Warden Barter's on the 134th Psalm, when, with the noble sweetness of his countenance lighted up, he spoke of our delight in nature being the joy of a child in the beauty of his father's house.
A new organ had been given, and the choir had been brought to great improvement during the few years that the Rev. W. Le Geyt was at Hursley. Also a mission school chapel had been built at Pitt, a hamlet on the downs towards Winchester, and a second curate had been added to the staff. The present writer can only dwell with thankfulness too deep to be spoken on Mr. Keble's influence, not so much friendly as fatherly, and he was the best and kindest of critics in literary affairs.
But throughout, the vicar was the personal minister to each individual of his flock—teaching in the school, catechising in the church, most carefully preparing for Confirmation, watching over the homes, and, however otherwise busied, always at the beck and call of every one in the parish. To the old men and women of the workhouse he paid special attention, bringing them little dainties, trying to brighten their dull minds as a means of reaching their souls, and endeavouring to raise their spirits to higher things. One who had been removed to another Union, when asked how he liked Hursley, said, "It seemed as if they was saying Holy, Holy, Holy, all day long."
During this time Mr. Keble wrote his Life of Bishop Wilson, making two visits to the Isle of Man to study the situation and the documents there preserved; various of the "Plain Sermons"; some controversial pamphlets defending the cause of the Church; and above all, the treatise on "Eucharistic Adoration." He assisted Dr. J. M. Neale in drawing up the Salisbury Hymnal, a precursor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, and contributed several hymns, especially those for Rogation days, for the service for Holy Matrimony, and a very grand one for the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, which has not found place in Hymns Ancient and Modern.
All this time he was the prime counsellor and assistant to many engaged in church work or church defence, among whom may be mentioned Dr. Pusey, Bishop Alexander Forbes of Brechin, Bishop Walter Hamilton of Salisbury, the Rev. W. J. Butler of Wantage (Dean of Lincoln), and Canon Liddon. To them Hursley Vicarage was a place of holy counsel and peaceful rest.
Bishop Robert Gray of Capetown, and the great Bishop George Augustus Selwyn, were warmly welcomed there on their visits to England; and the young son of the last-mentioned, John Richardson Selwyn, when left in England for education, often happily spent part of his holidays there. No doubt this had a share in his preparation for his future work in Melanesia, closed early by the failure of health that brought him, after a few more years, to his grave.
Another guest was Queen Emma of the Sandwich Isles, literally the Queen of the South, come to hear the wisdom of the Saint; and last of all, the friend and partner of his earlier work, the sharer in the revival of the Church from her torpid repose, John Henry Newman, who met Dr. Pusey there for one last day, fulfilling the words written long before -
Yet deem not on such parting sad Shall dawn no welcome dear and glad.
But neither of these two last visits took place till after the changes of old age had begun at Hursley.
The first great sorrow came in the death of Elisabeth, the wise, gentle, and quiet invalid sister who had been always part of Mr. Keble's life, and seemed, above all, to diffuse about her an atmosphere of peace and holiness. After a gradual, almost imperceptible decay, she sank to sleep on the 7th of August 1860. Mrs. Keble's always frail health began to fail more and more, so that winters in a warmer climate became necessary. Dawlish, Penzance, and Torquay were resorted to in successive winters, and Mr. Keble began to revolve the question whether it might not become his duty to resign the living, where, to his own humble apprehension, all his best efforts had failed to raise the people to his own standard of religion. However, this was averted, and he was still at his post when, on the night of St. Andrew's Day, the 30th of November 1864, as he was sitting up writing to Dean Stanley on a passage of which he disapproved in the History of the Jewish Church, the hand of warning touched him with a slight stroke of paralysis. With complete rest at Torquay and Penzance during the winter, he recovered to a considerable degree, and came home to resume many of his usual habits, but Mrs. Keble's suffering from spasmodic asthma had become very frequent, and it became necessary, early in the autumn, to remove to Bournemouth.
There they remained, she gradually sinking, and only distressed at the thought of his being left; he bearing up in silent resignation and prayer till, on the 22nd of March, a mistake in using a cold instead of a hot bath brought on a shock, and in four days more, on Maundy-Thursday the 29th of March 1866, the voice of Hursley and Otterbourne was, "Thy master is taken from thy head to-day." It was granted to her to be at rest concerning him before she followed, six weeks later, on the 11th of May, to the double grave.