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R A B Y CA S T L E.
“ The stately homes of England,
How beautiful they stand !
O'er all the pleasant land.
Through shade and sunny gleam;
Raby Castle, situated within the parish of Staindrop, on the east side of an extensive and beautiful park, is the magnificent seat of the Duke of Cleveland. This noble family is allied to that of the Earls of Westmorland; both families being descendants of the gallant Sir Henry Vane, who was knighted for his valiant achievements at the battle of Poictiers, on the 19th of Septeinber, 1356. A member of the Cleveland branch of the family was elevated to the peerage, as Baron Barnard, in 1699; the title of Earl was granted in 1754; the Earldom was exchanged for a Marquisate in 1827; and for a Dukedom in 1830. The site of Raby Castle is pastoral, rather than romantic, being in the midst of a richly-cultivated country, which exhibits all the valuable results of agricultural science. The prospect from the Castle is bounded on the east and west by distant hills; while towards the north, the scene is enriched by luxuriant plantations, raised by Henry, second Earl of Darlington, to whose excellent taste this princely domain owes some of its greatest beauties.
This noble pile, which retains much of the appearance of antiquity, and gives a vivid idea of a great baron's palace in feudal ages, is supposed to stand upon the site once occupied by“ Canute's Mansion.” A considerable part of the present castle was built by John de Nevill, to whom, in the year 1379, license was granted to castellate and fortify the building. In its general appearance this noble residence retains its primitive character; the recent repairs and additions having been made in strict conformity with the original style and design of the structure. The mansion and surrounding domain continued in the Nevill family till their forfeiture by Charles, sixth Earl of Westmorland, in 1570, when they fell to the crown. In the reign of James I., the manor and castle of Raby, with their appendages, were purchased by an ancestor of the present noble proprietor. Raby Castle stands on a commanding eminence,
a commanding eminence, and with its feudal-looking ramparts is surrounded by a deep fosse or moat, inclosing an area of about two acres.
"Large, lofty, gorgeous, all that meets the eye,
Strong with the stamp of ancient majesty,
The south front of the edifice is exceedingly beautiful; the windows in particular are very graceful in their proportions. The interior of the mansion has been much modernized, and comprises numerous apartments, which are furnished with great elegance. The great hall, through which a carriage-road now passes, is a truly magnificent room, having two rows of octagonal pillars, and a groined roof of singular beauty. This noble hall, which is one hundred and twenty feet long, by thirty-six feet broad, is crossed, at the west end, by a gallery, which, in the olden times, was appropriated to orchestral purposes. To this ancient place of “rendezvous” historical recollections of the proudest character are attached. Here, in days gone by, were celebrated those baronial festivals, at which, on some occasions, there were assembled full seven hundred “knights of fame," who held their estates under the Nevill family.
“They quitted not their harness bright
They lay down to rest
With corslet laced,
They carved at the meal
With gloves of steel,
Here, too, at intervals, when the laughter and loud merriment of the feast were suspended, the aged minstrel told his legendary tale ; charming the listening warriors, as
“ In varying cadence, soft or strong,
He swept the sounding chords along," and sang, now of the ecstasies of love—now of the thunders of battle.
In many respects “old times are changed, old manners gone;" but never, even in feudal times, was the Lord of Raby Castle held in higher regard by his dependants than at the present time. The late Duke of Cleveland, being, as it is well known, an ardent lover of field-sports, associated much with the tenants upon his estate, and was indeed generally accompanied by the greater part of them in his hunting expeditions. Such intercourse between the Lord of the Manor and his dependants was of course productive of mutual advantages; and greatly tended to strengthen the attachment which should always subsist between those who stand in such relation to each other. Much has been said at various times, and by various writers, both for and against field-sports. Without attempting to discuss, much less to pronounce judgment respecting the pros and cons on this subject, we may at least observe, that a common attachment to such sports has a direct tendency to draw closer between landlord and tenant those ties which can never be loosened but with mutual disadvantage. The fox-hounds on the Cleveland estate, and the hunting appointments generally, are said to have surpassed, especially during the life of the late duke, those of any other hunting establishment in England. The habitations of the tenants on the Cleveland estate may be known by the circumstance that they are universally white. They are all substantial and convenient structures, and being kept in the most perfect repair, their whiteness forms a striking and agreeable contrast with the rich and varied green of the luxuriant woods, by which its former noble proprietors have adorned the princely domain attached to Raby Castle.