Изображения страниц

chaces; the See of Norwich possessed thirteen; the Abbey of Glastonbury owned seven: indeed there were very few monasteries which did not possess, at least, one deer park in which the members of the house took their pastime, valetudinis gratia,' and from which the refectory and the abbot's table were abundantly supplied with venison. The bishops and mitred abbots were, in truth, not only the keenest sportsmen but the greatest bon vivants of their day.

A curious grant is extant to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's by Sir William le Baud, in 1275, of a doe yearly on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, and of a fat buck upon that of the commemoration of the Apostle, the formal reception of which in the Cathedral is said to have continued up to the reign of Elizabeth, the clergy standing on the steps of the choir wearing garlands of flowers upon their heads, while the antlers of the buck were carried in procession round the church on the head of a spear, with a great noise of horns.'


The practice of imparking appears to have been carried to such an excess at one period of our history as to have given rise to serious popular discontents, which manifested themselves in frequent breaches of the peace. In the 'Lives of the Berkeleys' it is related that in the reign of Edward III. the people, warlikely arrayed,' made an attack upon Sir Maurice's recently-enclosed park in Gloucestershire. Thornbury was also the scene of a popular tumult, because, Leland says, the Duke of Buckingham had made a fair park hard by the castle, and took much ground into it very fruitful of corn.' It is highly probable that, in the process of imparking, many commons and wastes had been enclosed with very little consideration for the rights of the tenants of manors, who thus lost many valuable privileges for which they received no compensation. It is stated by Holinshed that the deer parks in the two counties of Kent and Essex alone amounted in his time to a hundred, 'whereby,' adds the chronicler, 'is to be seen what store of ground is employed upon that vain commodity, deer, which bringeth no manner of gain or profit to the owners, since they commonly give away their flesh, never taking penny for the same, because venison in England is neither bought nor sold by the right owner; but the deer are maintained only for his pleasure, to the no small decay of husbandry and diminution of mankind.' The increase in parks was necessarily in some degree restrained by the cost of obtaining a licence or it would have been even greater than it was. The House of Commons, as appears by the Rolls of Parliament of the sixth year of the reign of Henry IV., endeavoured to get this right of the Crown annulled; but it being one 2 B 2 of

of the modes of obtaining money for the exercise of which the sovereign was not under the necessity of asking his subjects' consent, the attempt, as may be supposed, was unsuccessful.

Deer-hunting may be said to have been almost a ruling passion with many of our kings. There were several curious tenures in different parts of the country having reference to the enjoyment of their favourite pastime by these royal sportsmen. Thus, the manor of Bletchingdon, in Oxfordshire, was held by the singular service of carrying a shield of brawn, price twopence halfpenny, to the king, whenever he hunted in his Park of Cornbury; it being understood that the shield so provided for the use of his Majesty on his first day of stag-hunting should suffice for the whole of his stay at his manor of Woodstock. In the vicinity of the New Forest one manor was held by the tenure of finding provision for the king while hunting, and another of providing an esquire clad in coat of mail to attend upon him, together with litter for the king's bed and forage for his horse for forty days. The obligation of supplying arrows was attached to another manor bordering on the Royal demesne.* The chief forester of the Forest of Dean stated before the Royal Commissioners in 1767 that it was his duty to attend the king with bow and arrow, and six men clad in green, whenever it might be his Majesty's pleasure to hunt in that part of his dominions.

Notwithstanding the number of the parks and chases belonging to the Crown, the extent of the Royal forests, and the abundance and variety of game which they harboured, in the frequent progresses made by our sovereigns through their realm they rarely failed to do considerable execution among the bucks of every nobleman and gentleman whose seats lay in the route; and this practice seems to have continued up to the time of Charles I. Deer-hunting had indeed become quite a fashionable amusement in the reign of Elizabeth, and the parks in which England then abounded were not, as in the present day, enclosures where deer are maintained chiefly for ornament, but hunting-grounds wherein the inmates of the castle, the stately mansion, or the baronial hall regularly took their diversion. The Queen herself was an expert archer, and on one occasion killed with her own bow twenty-seven bucks in Lord Berkeley's park in Gloucestershire, to the intense disgust of that nobleman, who immediately disparked the scene of the exploit, and thus drew upon himself the anger of her Majesty for an act which seemed to reproach her, as she said, for her successful day's sport and to grudge her the pleasure she had enjoyed. As an especial mark of her regard, Elizabeth sometimes honoured

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

her favourites with the present of a stag shot by herself, for we learn from a letter from the Earl of Leicester to Archbishop Parker, written by her Majesty's command, that she had sent him a great and fat stag, slain with her own hand, and which, because the weather was hot, she had caused to be parboiled for its preservation. James I. was a keen sportsman, and the Royal Park of Windsor, and Theobalds, his favourite seat, were weil stocked with deer, which he hunted both in season and out of season. Mr. Shirley quotes from Nichol's Progresses of James I.' the following example of the Royal taste. 'His Majesty having a little while reposed himself at Widdrington Castle (in Northumberland) after his great journey, found new occasion to travel further; for, as he was delighting himself with the pleasure of the park, he suddenly beheld a number of deer near the place. The game being so fair before him he could not forbear, but, according to his wonted manner, he went forth and slew two of them; which done, he returned with a good appetite to the house, where he was most royally feasted and banquetted that night.' This was, as Mr. Shirley properly remarks, a most unsportsmanlike proceeding, having taken place in the month of April, during the King's journey from Scotland to take possession of the Crown of England. A few days afterwards, at Worksop, he is related to have offended against the laws of the chace in a similar manner.

[ocr errors]

Deer preserves at this and earlier periods of our history were managed with much regularity. The most exact inquiries were made as to the quantity and condition of the game in every forest and chase within the realm, and warrants for the killing and delivery of deer were made out and signed with due legal formality. The number of deer parks in England attained its maximum about the time of Charles I., and their multiplication had become so great that there was scarcely, it is said, a country gentleman with a rental of 500l. a year who did not possess one. During the interregnum they became, like the feudal castles, objects of hostility to the republican party. They were regarded as the creations of aristocratic taste, and they excited the cupidity of the numerous soldiers of fortune who had entered the ranks of Cromwell's army. 'The destruction,' writes Mr. Shirley, of that unhappy period resulted in the almost total desolation not only of the royal preserves but of those of all who were of the loyal party, in other words of the parks and deer of the greater number of the lords and gentlemen of England.' The Great Park of Windsor was sold, and the money distributed among soldiers of Colonel Desborough's regiment. Evelyn describes Charles II. as passing much of his time in


superintending the planting of trees, and in otherwise repairing the devastations that had been committed on the royal domain. In the Park of Eltham, to use the words of a writer of the time, there was scarcely wood enough left to make a gibbet. The Park of Kenilworth, then the property of the Crown, and which for its size and beauty was unrivalled in England, was utterly destroyed, and the land divided by Cromwell among several of the superior officers of his army. The pales of numerous other parks were tumultuously pulled down and thousands of deer slaughtered. There were few seats of the nobility and gentry that did not sustain irreparable injury. Of the eight deer parks belonging to the Duke of Newcastle only one escaped entire destruction. Not only were the deer killed, but the ornamental woods were ruthlessly felled. Avenues, the growth of centuries, were cut down and the timber sold. In some parks not a tree was left to denote the spot that had been the pride and delight of families for generations. There were other causes in operation after the civil war which tended still further to diminish the number of deer parks in England. Indeed the really ancient parks are very few, for by far the greater number of our three hundred and thirty-four existing deer parks have been formed within the last two hundred years. The increased expenditure which the progress of luxury after the civil war entailed upon country gentlemen obliged them to look more to profit than to pleasure in the management of their property, their attention began to be directed more closely to their rent-rolls, and the satisfaction derived from an improved income generally exceeded that which had arisen from the pleasures of the chace or the gratification of a taste for venison. Accordingly, in the quaint language of the time, many landed proprietors made the deer leap the pales to give the bullocks room.' Doubtless many an old country gentleman was content to live on, as his ancestors had lived, in a dignified simplicity like Sir John Huddestone of Millom in Lancashire, who, Lysons says, 'although his castle was old and ruinous, pleased himself more in his stately park and plenty of timber and deer than others did in their new modelled dwellings and fine gardens which embitter their pleasure by their charge.'

In a work on Planting, written in 1612, and probably one of the earliest which was published in England on that subject, the author, Robert Church, says :


A fine park not only greatly delighteth the eye by the variety of its greens and pleasant colours; but the music and harmony of the birds are pleasant to the car, and the cooling walks in summer are well fitted not only to shelter from the heat of the sun but to solace the owner when distracted in his affairs.'


Our ancestors showed great judgment in the selection of ground for their deer parks.


Variety of surface,' says Mr. Shirley, and, if possible, a difference in the geological character of the soil and consequently of the herbage is, although not essential, a very desirable consideration in the choice of land for the formation of a deer park. The ground should be broken up into wood and lawn with a due proportion of underwood, banks covered with rough grass, and especially fern or common brakes, are very ornamental and most useful as a covert to the does and fawns.'

In most licences to impark, a certain proportion of woodland, meadow, underwood, and briars is generally observed, and a charming combination of smooth-turfed lawns with woody brakes and thickets is generally conspicuous in our oldest parks. It is surprising how much has been sometimes made of a few acres of originally wild ground judiciously planted so as to conceal the boundaries, and giving to a really confined space an appearance of considerable extent, insomuch that a visitor may wander over a deer park of very limited dimensions and nevertheless leave it with the impression that he had been traversing one of several square miles.

The oak, with its moss-covered boughs, gnarled with age, but green and vigorous in its foliage, is pre-eminently the tree which gives dignity to the scenery of a park. The beech, the chestnut, and the ash form pleasing contrasts, and are serviceable for their mast and shade. The elm is particularly valuable, the leaves as they fall being greedily devoured by deer, and it is almost the only leaf they eat. This useful tree is supposed not to be a native of England but to have been imported from France together with the practice of planting it in rows. The celebrated avenue in the Great Park of Windsor is believed to have been the first in which this tree was so applied. The elm is now one of the commonest of trees in our hedgerows, which is accounted for by its producing so large a quantity of brushwood when trimmed and thus affording a plentiful supply of fuel. The holly, if planted in clumps, is highly ornamental, and when covered with its bright vermilion berries and reflecting from its glossy leaves the rays of the winter sun, is strikingly beautiful. The white thorn is most useful, deer being extremely fond of the haws which are said to impart a superior flavour to the venison. The wild crab is better still, the blossom is most beautiful, and the apples are eaten by deer with great avidity. A due proportion of timber is not only highly ornamental in a deer park but is important for shade and shelter, and care should be taken by timely and judicious planting that it shall


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »