In and Out of London Or, the Half-holidays of a Town Clerk

Loftie, W. J.






IF we take a map of the south-eastern counties, and mark the names of some six or seven places between on the west and Canterbury on the east, we shall be able to trace at a glance the progress of an


Archbishop from his town house to the seat of the Metropolitan see, passing in order by the manor houses or granges at Croydon, Otford, Knole, Maidstone, and Charing. The greatest distance for one stage is that from Croydon to Otford; and.a long rest seems usually to have been made there, or in the immediate neighbourhood. Three miles from Otford to the east was Wrotham, two miles to the south was Knole; but Wrotham and Knole did not exist together as archiepiscopal residences. Wrotham was pulled down before , and Knole built after ; but a third seat was then a short way off-Mayfield, which lay between Sevenoaks and Tunbridge.

Of all these so-called palaces but one remains entire. Yet Knole owes its preservation to no unusual train of circumstances. It has passed through the same vicissitudes of ownership as the others,- has been granted and regranted by the Crown, leased to irresponsible tenants, sold by spendthrifts, visited by Puritan commissioners, and even partially burnt; but it still exists, and seems likely to exist for ages to come, one of the most interesting and perfect examples of an ancient English residence which our country possesses. The walls are substantially as they were left by the Archbishops, patched in places and adapted, but in reality little altered; and although few of the rooms are in exactly their original condition, enough remains to satisfy the most ardent investigator. Situated little more than


twenty miles from London, in the centre of one of the noblest parks in England, surrounded by much of the best scenery in Kent, a morning's drive from Maidstone or Tunbridge Wells, and in the immediate neighbourhood of the convenient little country town of Sevenoaks, it has long been a favourite with sightseers and picnic parties, and has also had more than its share of antiquarian visitors and such gatherings as that which a short time ago filled the hall and courts at the annual meeting of the Kent Archaeological Society.

Trains run to Sevenoaks in about an hour, at frequent intervals throughout the day, from Ludgate-hill, , and Victoria. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, on which Knole is shown, bring the greatest crowds; but as the park is always open and the outside of the house nearly as interesting as the interior, every summer day has its scores of visitors. The long hill up from the railway station is rather trying in the sun, but a in the shape of a superannuated carriage, conveys us to the park-gate for an almost nominal sum. Entering the pleasant little town from the north-west, the secret of its unrivalled healthiness is at once apparent; for not only is it placed 500 feet above the sea level, but upon a deep stratum of porous sandstone. One or two houses catch the eye, an Elizabethan bay window on the right, and a couple of red brick buildings of Queen Anne's time on the left, whilst, opposite the


fine Perpendicular church with its lofty tower, a modest swing-gate gives admittance to Knole. We descend a pleasant sandy avenue between high banks crowned with trees and higher walls, over which roses and ivy peep alternately, and, passing a second gate, enter the park. Long reaches of valley stretch right and left, dotted here and there on the green slopes with bright-hued parties of pleasure, or banner-bearing Sunday-schools from the far city, distributed in groups; while immediately before us rises a bank of the richest foliage, pierced below by the yellow avenue which leads to the house. Entering the wood and turning slightly toward the right, a paved way, which may have echoed often to the footstep of some ambling mule, bearing the sacred person of an Archbishop, mounts the hill, and emerging from the shade displays at one view the north front of the venerable house, its quaint gables and frowning entrance tower, partly hidden by the dark sycamores of which Walpole was so enamoured a hundred years ago or more.

Before applying for admission at the wicket we resolve on a walk round the exterior, little thinking what a journey is before us. Turning along the front towards the east, and descending a slope, we are opposite the arched gateway of the stable court. Two or three pointed windows, now built up, are in a gable above, and the vast barn of the Archbishops to the left of the gateway. We pass under its great walls, the buttresses standing out like the ribs of a


giant skeleton, and turn to the south; the house, bristling with chimneys, and looking more like a whole village than one residence, being on the right; and on the left the open park, bounded apparently at the horizon by the blue line of hills, at whose feet nestle Otford and Wrotham, with their smaller share of archiepiscopal remains. Centenary and bi-centenary oaks, whole avenues of them, acres of fern, sprinkled here and there with birch, beeches which rival Burnham, lawns of smooth sward which has never been disturbed since the making of the world, fitly ornamented with herds of deer,-to all these and many other beauties we turn an antiquarian cold shoulder, and entering a narrow passage between two walls, find ourselves in the Wood Court. It is bounded on one side by the house itself, on the others by offices, which include a gaol for the proper correction of the numerous servants of so vast an establishment. From a stand-point on the grass- plot in the centre may be seen specimens of every style of architecture which has prevailed in England for four centuries at least. Looking with our faces towards the west, we have on the extreme right the fine square towers of the first Archbishop, towards the centre the roof of the vast kitchen, the quaint double staircase, and the innumerable little gables of various offices, brewhouses, bakehouses, and sculleries. Further towards the left, Stuart work begins to show itself-and one great three-light window bears the unmistakeable impress of the classical taste


which prevailed when George III. was king. Here and there over the square Gothic battlements peep Elizabethan gables; while some of the stone mullioned windows have been removed bodily, and their place supplied with the plate-glass and sashes of the reign of Queen Victoria. Leaving this museum of architecture reluctantly, we continue our circumambulation. A wall shuts in the which lies on the south and west sides of the house; but threading our way through a long avenue of beeches we reach the hill-top, when the wall, nowhere very high, suddenly ceases, and an open-work fence allows a glance at the paradise within: trim yew hedges, bordering trimmer walks; dark thickets of evergreens, groves of roses, smooth clipped lawns of turf, here and there an antique statue,-all these things pass for a moment before the eye. Then, crossing the south side of this inner park (for it is no less), and having paused awhile to inspect some ancient hollow trees, and to take a long look down a grassy avenue at the yellow gables of the south front and the grey stonework below on which they stand, while visions of scarlet cardinals and blackrobed priests seem to pass in and out of the pointed doorway in the centre, we hurry on, and reaching the west side, skirt the garden by another avenue of beeches,-with a view here and there of the Sevenoaks Church tower on one hand, and an occasional vista, closed by the ivy-coloured towers of the house, on the other,-and emerge at length from a thicket


of beeches, opposite the great gate again, and under the shadow of the dark sycamores. After a few moments' rest on an inviting seat, and a short application to Murray and a note-book, we approach the gate and knock at the wicket. The knocker alone is worth coming to see; it resembles an iron boot-jack, and is but badly calculated for double knocks.

The entrance gateway which admits to the Green Court is part of the work of Archbishop Bourchier. The roof is not vaulted, but there are indications of its age in the chambers above. Two sides at least of the court itself are of the same antiquity; but a wall formerly stretched right and left from the gate, where now a picturesque row of gables forms one of the most characteristic features of the place. Over this wall, and from the windows of the tower above, the warders watched for the coming of the Cardinal Morton from Otford in October, . It requires little imagination to picture to oneself the long procession of horses and sumpter-mules, of soldiers and priests, of servants and pages, winding through the autumn trees, while in their midst a cross of silver is borne before the litter in which the Archbishop lies racked with an ague, caught in the marshes at Otford. He comes to Knole to die, but his place is speedily filled.

Facing us is another noble gate-tower, flanked on either side by a series of bay windows surmounted by battlements. The flattened arch of this inner


gateway supports a noble oriel, the upper part of which is curiously fitted to the machicolations, so as to give at first sight the impression that the window is later than the tower itself. This idea is dissipated by an examination of the masonry. The oriel lights a fine chamber not usually shown to visitors, and now a nursery, in which the corbels of an arched roof yet remain. They are carved with the device of Archbishop Bourchier, by whom the estate had been purchased in ; and in a little compartment of stained glass in the head of the window occurs the

falcon vulned in the wings

which was one of the supporters of his paternal shield. But the ceiling is now flat and white- washed; for in the louvre which bore the clock over the great hall began to sink, and the clock was moved hither and placed in a curious upper story of the kind of Gothic to be expected from the date; while the pointed roof of the Archbishop's chamber had to make way for the pendulum and weights. The arched gate below is vaulted, and leads to the Stone Court, which seems older than the guide-books make it. It is generally dated from the water-pipes of the roof, which bear the name and arms of the Earl of Dorset, ; but a few minutes' examination of the stonework suffices to show that the leadwork was added long after the court itself was built. A colonnade worthy of William III. and Hampton Court faces the gateway, and gives entrance to the great hall. The hall blazes with


heraldry, and the gallery and roof are of the seventeenth century; but the lower walls are of the Archbishop's time, and under the gallery are still to be seen doors which led to the kitchen when the kitchen was nearly twice its present length, and was supplied with three or four fireplaces at the least. The dais remains in the hall, but it is occupied by a statue of Demosthenes, and the eye seeks in vain for any sign of the merry doings of old days. The Commonwealth had not left the old house untouched, nor the loyal family which owned it: smart fines had the Sackvilles to pay for their loyalty, and not only fines but banishment, like other great nobles of the time; but in the garrets are still to be seen the vast brass-studded trunks which tell by the date , in nails on their lids, of a great coming home when the King received his own again, and the Earl returned to Knole. Those were the prosperous days of the hall. A hundred retainers feasted before their lord, from

Mr. Mathew Caldecott, my lord's favourite,


Thomas Marockoe, a blackamoor.

But this same hall saw a different sight in the spring of , when the body of the young Duke, the sole hope of the house, just come of age, was brought home from Ireland to lie here in state on its way to the sepulchre of his fathers at Withyham, in Sussex. Old men still employed at Knole remember that homecoming,-the hall draped in black, the hatchments, the feathers, the hearse, the mother weeping for the untimely end of her only son, who


had gone forth in the morning full of strength, and was borne back at evening shattered and senseless.

Of the wonders of the interior much has been said and may be said. A very full account is in all the guide-books, both of the furniture and the pictures. There is no need to go through the lists here, but a few things may be noted. The Long Gallery, which is now hung with four copies of Raphael's cartoons, was formerly decorated with beautiful tapestry, which still remains on the other side of the wall in a corridor not shown to visitors. The Cartoon Gallery is ninety feet long and looks low, though it is fifteen feet high. There is fine tapestry also to be seen in the Organ Room and the Chapel, but the best is in a room called the Venetian Bedroom, said to have been fitted up for the reception of Niccolo Molina, the Venetian ambassador; while another authority states that James II. slept in it, which seems probable, as his monogram is on the bed. The tapestry bears the name of "Franciscus Springius," who was probably a Flemish manufacturer, and deserves to be better known to posterity. But the history of tapestry as a fine art has yet to be written. Another charming room is known as Lady Betty Germaine's, where in addition to many objects worth observing, such as a Persian table-cover, a beautifully designed door key, and some heraldic window-glass, we must not fail to notice the Mortlake tapestry, and the portraits worked on it of Vandyke, the painter, and


another character, said by some to be Crane, by whom the Mortlake works were established, and by others, Lord Gowrie, the father-in-law of Vandyke. But no enumeration of pictures or furniture gives any idea of the subtle charm of visiting a house like this. The visitor can hardly keep his attention alive to the explanations of the attendant: he finds himself absently speculating at every step on the scenes which some of these old portraits have looked down upon, in which some of their originals have taken part. His eye is constantly strained in the vague hope of seeing a ghostly bishop, or a tight-vested Elizabethan, or a powdered belle in brocaded sack cross the further end of each long gallery, or hastily disappear through a distant door. Artists are copying pictures, or composing new ones in some of the rooms; architects studying the ceilings or the furniture in others; and when by virtue of a special pass we ascend to the garrets, more are found at work even there, and we are pleased to acknowledge a liberality which makes so much treasure available for art. The chapel, the chaplain's room, with on the stone mantelpiece, the tapestry, the crypt, the picturesque little courts, the mysterious windows which seem to belong to no room of the interior, the turfed and terraced garden, all and each might be treated of; but at last, dizzy with ascending and descending even a tithe of the eighty staircases, of threading his way through lonely and interminable attic galleries, with here and there a


sudden peep into a flowery garden, or a court glowing with the summer sunshine, the traveller gladly finds himself again under the Archbishop's oriel, and remarks, with the eye more of a moralist than a critic, that the gladiator which adorns the centre of a grass-plot has the arms of the Sackvilles on his shield, and the motto, Honi soit qui mal y pense. He probably accepts the words, and making up his mind that in such a place no anachronism seems more absurd than that he should visit it in the nineteenth century, betakes himself through the sunset and the trees to the little town, the railway station, and the great modern city.