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

Loftie, W. J.





THE virtues of the Vicar of Bray, whose consistent life is celebrated in a well- known song, were emulated, if not surpassed, by those of Sir William Petre. This worthy seems to have been able to swallow any oaths imposed by Tudor tyranny, to have made up his mind to keep his place whatever king or queen might reign, and to have resolved, if possible, to be honest, but in any case to be rich. In an age when men were burned for the turning of a sentence, and hanged for a misinterpreted exclamation, and when it seems to us as if no one who had any mind of his own could follow the dictates of conscience, the dictates of parliament, and the dictates of self- interest at the same time, it is wonderful and nothing less to find Sir William Petre serving Wolsey and Henry, Somerset and Northumberland, Mary and Elizabeth, successively, without incurring half a dozen attainders at least. Nine lives, if he had them, might have been jeopardied in the effort. Yet he succeeded, and we can only conclude that he knew how to be silent when others spoke, how to


refrain when others declared, how to wait when others hastened. As if to add to the difficulties which surrounded him, the very nature of his possessions brought him into direct contact with the Pope himself, and in he received a bull from Paul IV. in which he was specially authorised to keep the estates which had been granted to him or which he had purchased, and which had formerly belonged to the monasteries that he had taken so large a part in destroying. It is said that he obtained this bull on the tacit understanding that by preserving the estates himself, he might be the better able to endow afresh the despoiled abbeys, but this was the voice of scandal. It is only certain that he retained the lands, that the monasteries were never restored, and that an almshouse, which is now the first old building we see as we leave Ingatestone station, was, apparently, the only institution he ever endowed. Nor did he in this case exceed his habitual prudence, for, considering the immense revenues he received from conventual estates, the petty sum of £90 13s. 4d. annually was a moderate income to assign to it.

The almshouses were originally in the track of the railway, and were removed to their present site and rebuilt by the late Lord Petre. Sir William's endowment does not seem very magnificent, but we must remember that he also founded eight fellowships at Exeter College, Oxford.

He, moreover, added considerably to the parish church, chiefly in chapels for his family, and his initials appear in the brickwork on one of the gables. A magnificent altar-tomb, on which he lies in full armour by the side of his second wife, may still be seen in the chancel. He died full of years and honours in , and his son obtained in the first year of James I. the peerage still enjoyed by his descendants. The Lords Petre have shown in successive centuries a different kind of consistency from any displayed by the founder of their fortunes, and are still reckoned among the so-called houses which have adhered to the faith


of the ages before the Reformation. A Romanist chapel is still a prominent feature of the buildings at Ingatestone Hall, and a little colony of that persuasion is maintained under the shelter of the house which Sir William built.

Ingatestone Hall is not what it was, yet few more picturesque examples of Tudor architecture remain in England. Leaving the station, which is about twenty miles from London, by a road down hill to the south, we pass a modern lodge, and enter what was once a quadrangle through an old archway. The tall and ancient trees set off with most harmonious greens a red brick court, clad here and there in ivy, and boasting at one side the finest Westeria, perhaps, in England. The old hall is now divided into separate tenements, in one of which is the residence of a priest, and in another that of the land agent of the Petre estate. In the centre is a modern-looking porch, supported on classical columns, by which entrance is given to the chapel, the eastern end of which has recently been extended by the addition of an apse, and a bell turret. An ancient turret is in the corer of the court, and windows filled with armorial glass peep out here and there from under the ivy. The red brick of the sixteenth century is patched in many places with modern building; lofty roofs of tile, and dormer windows of the utmost quaintness, rise high above; chimneys of many shafts tower over the gables, and the waters of a pond reflect the various


hues of red and brown in their sombre depths, and are bordered by an avenue of limes on the other side, from which the most charming views of the old house may be obtained.

Our visit was in summer, when the fresh green leaves seemed almost out of place beside the ancient buildings, but the air of seclusion and even of sadness, which pervaded the old hall, was not dissipated by the glowing sunshine. No great effort of the imagination was required to people the grassy slope with courtiers and ladies in the gorgeous costumes of three centuries ago, or to see peeping from the mullioned lattices heads covered with velvet and feathers, though the roar and whistle of a passing train speedily recalled us from the silent past to the bustling present. A modern novelist has laid the scene of a sensational novel at Ingatestone Hall; and, in truth, no more appropriate situation can anywhere be found for a picture requiring decayed splendour and gloomy magnificence for a background.

The residence to which access is obtained through a modern door in the ivy-clad turret contains some fine tapestry: Noah and his family entering the ark; Moses as an infant pulling off Pharaoh's crown, while the King stoops to caress him; the murder of the oppressor of his brethren; the Golden Calf in Horeb; and the breaking of the Two Tables,- many such scenes may be made out in one room; in another, we see the Espousals of Joseph and


Mary, and the Adoration of the Magi. In this last picture a long procession of knights and attendants with richly-caparisoned horses and camels wind along the road in the back-ground, and the view is such as might have been presented in the sixteenth century by the neighbourhood of Ingatestone.

But perhaps the most curious part of the house is a priest's hiding-place, which was discovered in to be in one of the projections of the south side. Its entrance is in a small room on the middle floor, where a trap about two feet square admits by a ladder to a little chamber about fourteen feet long by two feet wide and ten high. It is on the level of the ground, and in the sand of which the floor is composed chicken bones were found, the remains probably of some food secretly supplied to an occupant. A curious trunk or chest was discovered at the same time. It had, no doubt, been used for storing the Altar furniture and other necessaries for the secret celebration of mass. It is strange that all knowledge of this hiding-place had died out. A packing-case addressed to one Lady Petre in old writing was found in the dungeon, and must have lain there nearly a hundred years. It was about a century ago that the family finally left Ingatestone, and in the interval all memory of the mysterious closet had faded away.

Ingatestone Hall was once a grange or summer residence of the Abbess of Barking. Some parts


of it, therefore, may be older than the time of Sir William. It must have originally been a double square. But only three sides of one court and the gateway, much modernised, now remain. The barn, and perhaps some of the adjoining buildings, look even older than the house, and were probably erected to contain the tithes and rents in kind received by the abbess. The collector paid annually for the manor the sum of xlviij s. to the Cellaress of the Abbey.

The little town of Ingatestone is said to derive its name from one of the miliary stones of a Roman road, which here passed by on its way to Colchester. Roman brick is built into the rubble walls of the church, and Roman remains have been found in the immediate neighbourhood. The Red Lion Inn, in the village street, is still pointed out as the place where the milestone once stood: and in ancient documents the place is spoken of in Latin as

Ing ad Petram,

the meadow by the stone. It is also sometimes named Ing Abbess, from the nunnery of Barking, to which it belonged, until Henry VIII., having taken possession, sold it to Sir William Petre for £849 12s. 6d. Twelve other manors are named in the papal bull of which mention has already been made, but this one had belonged to Barking Abbey from time immemorial, and is spoken of in the Domesday Survey as being held ever by St. Mary,

Semper Sancta Maria.

The name of the adjoining parish of Butsbury is given in old


deeds as




pointing to another


or pasture in the possession of an individual or family called


The surname is not yet unknown in Essex. Another parish close by is Margaretting, or St. Margaret's Ing, and a third bears a family name, as Mountney's Ing, or Mountnessing.

The tall red tower of the parish church is a conspicuous object in every view of Ingatestone. Its beauty makes us wish modern Gothic architects were not so devoted to stone for their towers. A very good view of it is given in Buckler's Churches of Essex, in which also there is a sketch of part of the hall, and some account of the interior. The church tower dates from the fifteenth century, and contains more than half a million bricks. A projection on the south side contains the staircase to the roof. It is of the winding sort, and is made of large bricks. In the chamber above, there are five bells, dated respectively , , , and two in . One of these last bears a quaint inscription:-

The founder he has played his part,

Which shows him master of his art.

So hang me well and ring me true,

And I will sound your praises due.

The interior of the church is spacious and light. It has been recently and, strange to say, is not much, if at all the worse. In the chancel, at the south side, is the tomb of Sir William Petre,


of which mention has already been made. Near it is a tablet to the memory of his brother, Robert, which tells us that he was Receiver of the Exchequer to the

moste famous Queen Eliza.

In the north chapel, which serves as a vestry-room, are several tombs; and below, in a vault, twenty coffins are laid side by side. The Petres now bury their dead at Thorndon, where a beautiful mortuary chapel has been erected. Among the monuments here at Ingatestone is one to the memory of John, the first Lord Petre, an immense structure of the time of Charles I. It contains, under a classical colonnade, statues of the baron and his wife, as well as of the second Lord and his wife. The epitaph, which we may presume was composed by the second Lord, is in Latin, very long, and concluding thus,

William, Lord Petre, his inconsolable son, who inherits his estate (I wish I could say his virtues), erected this monument to the memory of so deserving a father.

And the epitaph on Catherine, Lady Petre, the said Lord William's wife, is equally quaint. It sets forth her goodness, and goes on to say that

being more desirous of a mansion in the skies, than of a longer life, she departed (migravit) on the 30th October,


, aged 49. It is a question whether she was most worthy of heaven or of earth (

coelone dignior an mundo lis est