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CHIDDINGSTONE AND HEVER,
ON THE SOUTH-EASTERN RAILWAY.
[From the Railway Chronicle.]
ole day, to the tourist shouldhatari
This Excursion, as here projected, will take the whole day, so the tourist should start by an early train. At the same time, if he alight at Edenbridge station and hire a carriage to go to Hever only, it might easily be made in an afternoon).
The South-Eastern Railway, traversing the whole weald of the ancient kingdom of Kent, is most abundantly rich in materials for Excursions, both historic and picturesque, and the Directors seem fully alive to this feature of their railway, and to its employment for other purposes than those of mere necessity. The placard which decorates every station justly proclaims the Dover Railway to be a “pleasure” line, possessing many tempting curiosities in abbeys, castles, mansions, parks, &c. The fares are cheap by all carriages.
In about an hour and a half after leaving London, we arrive at the Penshurst station. If, however, the pleasure-seeker is unable to accomplish a walk of nearly seven miles, he should stop at Edenbridge, the station before Penshurst, where a carriage may be hired. From Penshurst station we ascend a deliciously shaded lane which separates the grounds of Redleaf from the park of Penshurst. It is a lane well worth all the journey to behold and saunter in: and the substantial rustic cottages, erected by Mr. Wells, in the lane, make us long for and gardens at Redleaf. On the present occasion we shall not stray into the park of the Sidneys, at Penshurst-but having followed the lane until we have passed the entrance to Redleaf on the west, and descended the hill until we are in sight of the house at Penshurst, we reach some stone steps which rise abruptly on the west side of the road, and cross the stile at the summit of them. Here we are in the midst of quiet pastures, and a walk of a mile and a half over them, crossing in our way the river Eden, which some maps call the Medway, brings us to the village of Chiddingstone, a village consisting of some half-dozen
old timber houses of the sixteenth century, in as perfect and picturesque a state as heart of painter or antiquarian could desire. The house of one Master Brooke, a general chapman, is just the genuine model to suggest impressions of what the house of his namesake in the Merry Wives of Windsor' must have been. We almost looked to see sweet Anne Page tripping from beneath the shade of the gabled porch. Master Brooke is proud of his residence, as well he may be, and civil too, for he invited us to see the panelled parlour, remaining almost untouched since its first erection. Adjoining Brooke's house is an inn of similar architecture, in the tidiest order and most attractive peacefulness. One or even two beds may be had : and what a world of good it would do to many, just to travel here for a night's lodging, and up to business again by the railway the next morning! It might be managed, ride and all, for ten shillings. The church, which is opposite the old houses, is of a later “decorated” style, but is kept too orderly and respectable to have much picturesque attraction. The grounds Chida of Chiddingstone Park are most pleasant, and adjoin the village.
The pretty village itself is situate just on the junction of the clay, called the Oaktree clay-a slaty and strongly bituminous compound, similar to that at Kimmeridge-and the sand. We keep along the base and during the whole walk the spire of Hever Church and the square turrets of Hever Castle appear above the foliage which environs them in the valley below. The tradition has come down to us, that on these hills watchmen were stationed, to announce by sound of bugle the approach of the lusty and royal suitor to Anne Boleyn, as, galloping from Eltham and Greenwich, he descended the opposite sand hills. It was with reference, probably, to his excursions hither, which Court babblers might disclose to inquisitive partisans of the injured and neglected Catharine, that Majesty desired its rovings should be unseen. The “Statutes of Eltham," as they are called, enacted that the “ officers of his privy chamber shall be loving together, keeping secret everything said or done, leaving hearkening or inquiring where the King is or goes, be it early or late, without grudging, mumbling, or talking of the king's pastime, late or early going to bed, or any other matter." Harry cared little for the bruiting of his ordinary indulgences, with which the public was familiar-but he had reasons, whilst his divorce was in progress, not to create popular enmity against the lady he had already destined to be Queen Catharine's successor.
A rude little inn at Hever, which perpetuates in its sign the name and effigy of Henry the Eighth, will supply a sort of dinner, if hunger ensues before reaching Edenbridge: in that case give timely orders before visiting the castle, so that the meal may be ready as you pass the inn on your return, which you must at all events do, in order to reach Edenbridge. The only object of interest in Hever Church, is a fine and perfect brass, on an altar tomb erected in the chancel, to the memory of Sir Thomas Boleyn, Anne's father.
The Castle lies contiguous to the river Eden. Hasted records a traditionary saying that
Jesus Christ never was but once at Hever,
And then he fell into the river. The meaning of which is supposed to allude to the carrying of the host across the river, and its falling from the priest's hands.
The founder of Hever Castle was one William-a Kentish sheriff, in the time of Edward the Third, who took his name, Willielmus de Heure or Evere, from the place. He rebuilt the old mansion, and having obtained the royal licence to embattle the new structure, he converted the same into a castle. This estate came into the possession of the Cobham family, and was distinguished as Hever Cobham. Sir Thomas Cobham sold the estate to Sir Geoffry Bulleyn, a wealthy London mercer, and it continued in possession of the Bulleyns until after Anne's execution, when her grasping consort seized it to grant it as a residence to another of his discarded wives, Anne of Cleves. The castle had been surrounded by a park, but in the reign of Philip and Mary it was disparked.
Independently of its connexion with the romantic fate of Anne Boleyn, this comparatively mean castle is worth half the show houses in England, as bringing vividly before us all the rudeness and discomfort of past days. It has almost entirely escaped the wreck of the modern spoiler, and has thus retained the most essential characteristics of its original state. Its natural position-low and marshy-would
the dank, green-skimmed, fetid moat, which still surrounds the castle. So that the precautions which our ancestors took, to keep out an occasional foe placed them in the presence of a more deadly and insidious one at all times. The drawbridge has been supplanted by a permanent roadway, and the ivy luxuriates over the broad-shouldered archway; but in other respects the southern or principal front appears much in
the same state as it must have been in when Harry was accustomed to pass beneath its portcullis. Since its original construction in Edward the Third's time, some few gradual changes in its exterior, tending to transform it from a fortress to a domestic residence, may be traced by an observant visitor. The insertion of windows generally throughout the exterior - especially square-headed ones, identifying extensive changes with the Tudor times, and the panelled buttresses at the south front, are all evidences of this tendency. Passing through the gateway we enter a small low quadrangular court, at no time very ornamental, but less so at present from the coatings of whitewash which have hidden the chequered markings of the timber work. The surrounding apartments are lighted by square-headed and mullioned windows. Opposite
to the entrance is a passage which takes us into the ancient hall, now used as a kitchen, but remarkable for nothing but its rude construction. The old kitchen offices were close to the hall, very dark, dirty and gloomy, little resembling the cuisine of a modern nobleman, with its apt and delicate knick-knackeries. We are led up a rude staircase into
uneven and imperfectly joined oak floors-suggestive of draughts and colds at every crevice, even when littered daily with straw, as the chambers of royalty were accustomed to be. The chamber assigned traditionally to Anne Boleyn, contains an ancient bedstead with yellow silk furniture, and remains almost untouched, and hence apparently unused. But Anne of Cleves' bed-room has been papered with a blue
Ball Room at Hever Castle. modern paper, and is now inhabited. Mounting up a narrow rude staircase we enter the long gallery extending along the upper part of the north side of the castle, formerly used for general assemblages and meetings of revelry. The sides are lined with oak panels. The garret-like ceiling is very low, almost within arm's reach, and exhibits the bare rafters which support the roof. At the upper end is a raised recess, in which Harry whispered his soft small-talk to his lady-love. This gallery, excepting the filling up of one of its windows, remains entirely in its original state. As a climax, you are conducted to another room across the court-yard on the south side, which has been restored in late times; but its restorations make it far less real than the long gallery we have just spoken of. There are ample subjects for the sketcher's portfolio to be met with throughout this castle and its adjacent parts, not forgetting the old stabling we pass on approaching it.
That Hever Castle was the residence of Anne Boleyn, several times during her eventful life, cannot be questioned. Whether it can claim to be her birthplace, as some say, admits of much doubt, for both Rochford Hall, in Essex, and Blickling Hall, in Norfolk, assert similar claims. The latter place, indeed, on the authority of Spelman, a Norfolk man, was once the seat of the Boleyns, from whence sprung Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, and Anne Boleyn, the mother of the divine Queen Elizabeth. To Blickling was decreed the honour of Anne Boleyn's birth.” After the death, of her mother, which took place in 1512, Anne resided at Hever with a French governess named Simonette, who taught her music and needle-work. “Besides all the usual branches of virtuous instruction, they gave her teachers in playing on musical instruments, singing and dancing, insomuch that when she composed her hands to play and her voice to sing, it was joined with that sweetness of countenance, that three harmonies concurred; likewise when she danced, her rare proportions varied themselves into all the graces that belong either to rest or motion.” When Anne returned to England from France, whither she had gone in the suite of Mary, the King's youngest sister, who had been forced to marry Louis XII., she took up her residence at Hever, and it is related that her first meeting