« PreviousContinue »
Now is there stillness in the vale,
WORDSWORTH'S FORCE OF PRAYER. URING a visitor's sojourn at Harrogate, one day, at least, must be spent at Bolton. I have appended, therefore, though beyond the limits assigned to my pages, the following brief notices,
which may consequently be considered as suggestive, rather than descriptive, of objects to be seen or anticipated.
In the year 1120, William de Meschines and Cecily his wife, the heiress of Robert de Romillè, to whom William the Conqueror
granted vast possessions in Craven, founded at Embsay—two miles east of Skipton-a Priory for Austin Canons, to the honour of the Virgin Mary and St. Cuthbert.
After the death of the founders, and in the year 1151, Alice, their elder daughter and coheiress, who retained her mother's name of Romillè, and had married William Fitz-Duncan, nephew to David king of Scotland, is said, in a record which formerly belonged to the Priory, to have translated the foundation to Bolton.
There is generally some wild legend connected with the origin of our monastic foundations ; and a tradition, that had not passed away in the middle of the seventeenth century, affirmed that this circumstance took place in consequence of “the Boy of Egremond," the only surviving son of the second foundress, having been drowned in attempting to cross the Strid, an unusually narrow part of the river Wharfe ; and that Bolton was selected as being the nearest eligible site to where the misfortune happened.
This legend cannot, however, be implicitly received ; for, when Alice
gave the Canons her manor of Bolton, in exchange for their manors of Skibdun and Stretton, her son William-and in a pedigree, exhibited to Parliament in 1315, he is set down as her only son-appears in the charter as a consenting party to the transaction. Dr. Whitaker conjectured, therefore, that it might refer to one of the sons of the first foundress, both of whom died young; but, I think it may be better reconciled with this stubborn piece of evidence, by supposing that the manor of Bolton had been exchanged, for the convenience of Alice, before the accident, and that, subsequently, the Canons were glad to find a pretext, in her disconsolate lamentation, for descending, from the cheerless heights of Embsay, to the warm and sheltered seclusion of their newlyacquired possession.
But, whatever may have been the truth of this dim and faded story, we should rejoice that it lingered long enough to be revivifiedphønix-like—from its ashes, in the memorable lays of Rogers and of Wordsworth.
After having existed upwards of four hundred years, the foundation was surrendered by Richard Moon, the prior, and fourteen of his brethren on the 26th of January, 1540. On the 3rd of April, 1542, the site, with many of the possessions of the house, were granted to Henry Clifford, first Earl of Cumberland, but nineteen days before his death, for the sum of 24901. From him they have descended to the present worthy owner, the Duke of Devonshire.
“The ruins of this celebrated Priory stand upon a beautiful curvature of the Wharf, sufficiently elevated to protect it from inundation, and low enough for every purpose of picturesque effect;" in which respect the competent judgment of Whitaker has pronounced that "it has no equal among the northern houses -perhaps not in the kingdom.” Its site is so shut in by rising ground and embosomed in trees, that the visitor, who has come from Harrogate across Knaresbrough forest,” may not be aware that he is approaching it until he is almost on the spot.
The bridge retains no vestige of that structure which was erected or rebuilt in 1314, nor of the Chapel that was attached to it for the benefit of passengers ; but the following inscription may yet be seen graven on an oaken beam in a cottage at the south-west angle, that most likely occupies its site :
Thow yat passys by yis way one aue maria here yow say.
There is a pleasant footpath from the bridge, across the Townfield,” to the abbey; but strangers, generally, proceed a few hundred yards further down the road, and enter the Abbey-close by an opening in the boundary-wall, which remains there in good preservation.
The gateway of the Priory is nearly opposite the west front of the church, and is a substantial work of the Perpendicular era, constructed with an idea of defence. As it had not been erected long before the dissolution, the arches were closed, and it was, soon after, fitted up as an occasional place of retirement for the Cliffords, or as a residence for one of their stewards. The house has recently been enlarged by the Duke of Devonshire, who occasionally retires here in the shooting season. It contains nothing of general interest except some curious pictures, chiefly family portraits, which visitors are allowed to inspect.
Outside the hall window are placed several curious EarlyEnglish bosses, which, I apprehend, have been removed from the passage leading from the Court to the Chapter-house of the Priory.
HISTORICAL NOTICE OF THE PRIORY.
The shell of the Priory Church remains entire, and the nave is still used as a parochial chapel. It exhibits all the styles of architecture that prevailed from the period of its foundation to that of its dissolution; and some of them in a degree of excellence that has not often been surpassed. The choir was evidently the first work of the Canons, after, or, more probably, a little prior to, their translation from Embsay ; and from thence the work proceeded westward—a considerable time having apparently elapsed before they brought it to a conclusion.
The domestic buildings were, probably, built in the intermediate period between the erection of the choir and the nave; and after, or nearly contemporary with, the completion of the church may have been the erection of the Chapter-house, and the introduction of the Sedilia in the choir.
But the Canons were not long content with the structure of their church. We are not, directly, informed at what period they resumed operations; but, as the Compotus of the Priory from 1290 to 1325 contains no payments on that account, we have this confirmation of existing architectural evidence, that it was soon after the latter period that the old choir was deemed incompatible with the condition of their house, and that a structure, exhibiting the more elegant forms of the decorated style, was substituted on its foundation. Except a portion of the inner wall, as high as the base of the windows, and fragments at the junction with the tower, the whole of this part of the church was rebuilt at this period. The south transept was also then, apparently, renewed from the foundation, and ramified windows introduced into the opposite member of the cross aisle. So great, indeed, was their disposition for improvement that they rebuilt the aisle of the nave, and added a parapet and battlements to the clerestory above.
After the lapse of nearly two centuries, the spirit of renovation again moved the house, and while Richard Moon-a native of the adjacent village of Hazlewood—was Prior. In 1520 he began to erect a tower at the west end of the church, after a florid and ambitious design ; but the days of monachism were numbered, and the rude hands of Henry were laid upon him, ere the work had risen above the nave.
SURVEY OF THE PRIORY.
The first part of the Priory that attracts the notice of a stranger is this Tower. The exterior exhibits great originality of design ; but internally, the sectional outline of the arch by which it should have communicated with the nave is of very insufficient projection. The arms of Clifford and those of the Priory, derived from the bearing of the Earls of Albemarle, are introduced in the spandrils of the doorway. The mouldings of the niches above, after making the heads, expand into the resemblance of embattled turrets—thus betraying a tendency, in the decoration of the work, at least, to the cinque-cento vitiation. A frieze above presents the inscription by which alone Moon has retained the credit of the work :
In the yer of owr lord mvcxx. B. begaun thes fobndachon on qwho sowl god haue marce. amen.
On the first stage of the south-west buttress stands a figure in a cap and gown reaching to his knees, holding a short staff in his right hand and a round shield under his left arm, a cross-flory being embossed on his breast. Whitaker considered that it represented a pilgrim with his staff and slouched hat; but it may be doubted whether one of those champions by whom wager of battle was conducted was not intended.
THE West Front of the nave exhibits a deeply-recessed doorway, surmounted by three lancet-lights, and enriched with a series of arcades, true to the still lingering spirit of the old Lombard works, but detailed, of course, in the Early-English style.
THE SOUTH SIDE of the nave is earlier than the north. At its western end we see indications of the roof and wall of the Dormitory; and of the Store-houses, or whatever might be the buildings below. From the point of junction of these buildings with the nave, its south side is decorated with a pointed arcade on cylindrical shafts-exhibiting a good example of the transition from the Norman to the Early-English style. Above this arcade may be observed the corbels and groove by which the penthouse roof of the Cloister has been supported. At the east end of it has been a doorway communicating with the church, and a stoup, exquisitely foliated in undulating lines, like the boss over the western door.