« AnkstesnisTęsti »
the fates ordained otherwise, and this grand old hall been situated anywhere near the beaten track of travellers, it would certainly be as tourist-besieged, as much photographed, painted, and written about as other more famed though not more interesting old homes. Fortunately Layer Marney has not suffered the indignity of being turned into a sort of peep-show, with crowds of sight-seers at so much a head, personally conducted by a guide with his ready-made stories to suit all tastes. It was owing to the courtesy of its present owner and occupier that we were permitted to see the whole of this truly magnificent building; he not only showed us over and gave us all the information in his power, but of his good nature also offered us refreshment, and this was by no means a single instance of the kindness and hospitality we met with from total strangers.
Travelling by road is a very different thing from travelling by rail. Who ever makes friends travelling by train? Yet on our most enjoyable outing we made many, indeed it seemed to us that 'wherever we met a stranger, there we left a friend.' I know not why it should be, but so it is, railways appear to freeze the friendliness out of people. I have travelled by train from London to Edinburgh and never spoken to one of my fellow travellers, or they to me: we might all have been the greatest enemies; by road we chatted with every one we met, and because of this our journey was full of interest and life seemed ever so much brighter. The kindness we met with from all we came across impressed us much; several total strangers we came upon actually
put themselves considerably out of the way to show us places and things of interest that we should not have seen otherwise. Some of these strangers were gentlemen and ladies to whom we could only express our warmest thanks, others were small shopkeepers, some were labouring men. But the latter did it not for love of gain, as was proved in more than one instance by our 'tip' being politely but firmly refused. By the way, when on the rail I cannot call to recollection a single case of either guard or porter refusing a gratuity for any little service rendered, even though it were against the rules of the company and subjected them according to those rules to instant dismissal'! As Seneca says, 'He who would make his journey delightful, must first make himself delightful,' so we found that civility invariably begot civility and often secured us substantial benefits besides; when on a driving-tour the world always seems to us a very happy and bright place to live in, whatever it may be at other times. 'Deed, sir,' said a farm-labourer to us one day when we offered him a trifle for going far out of his road, doubtless after a hard day's work, to show us the way to a very interesting old church; 'deed, sir, I'm right glad to show such a civil-spoken gentleman the way. I didn't do it to be paid, 'deed I didn't;' and do what we could he would not accept anything for the trouble he had taken on our behalf, he replied that he was main proud that he had been of any service to us.' We found out, however, that he had some little ones at home, and so we managed with some diplomacy to induce him to accept a shilling for the children.
But I have been sadly digressing; it was the unexpected kindness shown to us by the owner of Layer Marney Hall that caused me to wander away so from the matter in hand. It would be interesting, did space permit, to trace back the history of the Marney family, who seem suddenly to have become famous and almost as suddenly to have died out. According to the 'Proceedings of the Essex Archæological Society,' vol. iii., Henry Lord Marney, to whom we owe this grand gateway (grand, though merely a portion of the entire scheme of what was manifestly intended to have been a most stately mansion), Henry Lord Marney then, we learn from the authority above quoted, 'numerous and splendid as were the honours which he acquired, started in life as plain Henry Marney, Esq.,' and belonged to a class described by Henry VIII. as 'scant well-borne gentlemen, of no great lands.' He was created a baron by title of Lord Marney, a Knight of the Garter, Lord Privy Seal, and Captain of the Body Guard. The patent of nobility he only enjoyed for a year, and his son John succeeded to his title and property, who also died the year following his father's decease, leaving no issue, and so this family, so suddenly brought into prominence, became extinct.
Had Lord [John] Marney lived, probably Layer Marney Hall would have been completed in all its intended magnificence, and it would then, there is little room to doubt, have compared in stateliness with the most splendid mansions of the kingdom. The gateway alone is of great interest, not merely
A UNIQUE BUILDING.
on account of its architectural grandeur and beauty, but because of the originality of its design and the unusual materials (for the period) employed in its erection. The structure is of bricks, which are peculiarly small, with terra-cotta mouldings. This is one of the earliest, if not indeed the very earliest specimen of the revival of brickwork in any building of consequence since the time of the Romans, but the chief feature of the structure is, of course, the terra-cotta adornments, and it is curious to note that the clay from which these are made is not to be found in the neighbourhood. Lord Marney is said to have imported Italian workmen especially to make this terra-cotta, which proceeding on his part may account for the classic details in the ornamentation, though the quaint dolphins at the top of the flanking towers scarcely seem to belong to this formal style. But though no rigid or particular style has been adhered to, the general effect of the gateway is excellent; manifestly the architect, by his bold departure from previous forms of building, was left a free hand and wisely decided to be original, not only in his general design and ornamentation, but, as before noticed, even in the materials employed.
This mansion of Layer Marney, it is evident, was to have been a notable building, a monument to the greatness of the family. Here we have no slavish copy of preceding work, but something fresh and suitable to the changed needs of the time, a building expressing great individuality, yet happily free from eccentricity, effective without any sugges
tion of straining after effect, and, above all things, dignified an edifice that tells of the genius of its designer and the splendour of the age.
With the kind permission of the owner we mounted up numerous steps to the top of the tower. From this we had a glorious bird's-eye view : near at hand we looked down upon the tallest trees, and far away to the south we caught sight of the silvery gleam of the Blackwater River. Long we rested on that time-worn tower, for we felt in a lazy mood that day, drinking in the beauty of the scene. We gazed upon a wild wooded country stretching from us long leagues to river and distant sea; the landscape that we looked upon is much the same that the lordly builder of this stately tower must have seen when he came here, as doubtless he often did ; the hoary old church, almost directly beneath us, stands still as it did of yore, within whose hallowed walls, under stately altar-tombs, the once proud possessors of this splendid home now sleep their last long sleep. It would be difficult to find in all England a spot more suggestive of remoteness than Layer Marney; it is the very embodiment of quiet and peace-dulness, if you will-far removed as it is from the vulgar hurry and rush of the outer world. Henry, Lord Marney, could he rise from his cold marble tomb, might look well around him, and from all that he could gather here, he would imagine in all probability that the world, or this corner of England at least, had changed little in all the fateful centuries that he had been sleeping in his grand tomb, for here no railway is in sight, no sound of