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Picturesque England
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The Isle of Wight

HIS beautiful little island contains some of the most picturesque scenery in England. Situated in the English Channel, opposite Portsmouth Harbour and Stokes' Bay, it lies an emerald gem on the waters. The point of St. Helen's and the Needle Rocks at opposite ends of the island are striking objects from the sea; on the south-east side is beautiful Bonchurch; and more to the south, Ventnor.

At Bonchurch is the picturesque churchyard, sloping down to the sea, in which the shadow of the cross falls on the grave of the Rev. W. Adams, the author of the beautiful allegory of that title, and of the "Distant Hills," etc. The Rev. Legh Richmond was curate in the island of the parishes of Brading and Yaverland. Here he wrote his touching story of the "Young Cottager," in which he gives the following admirable description of the island seen from the churchyard of Brading.

"Eastward of us extended a large river, or lake of sea water, chiefly formed by the tide, and nearly enclosed by the land. Beyond this was a fine bay and road for ships, filled with vessels of every size, from the small sloop or cutter to the first-rate man of war. On the right hand of the haven rose a hill of peculiarly beautiful form, and considerable height. Its verdure was very rich, and many hundred sheep grazed upon its sides and summit. From the opposite shore of the same water, a large sloping extent of bank was diversified by fields, woods, hedges, and cottages.

At its extremity stood, close to the edge of the sea itself, the remains of the tower of an ancient church still preserved as a sea-mark. Far beyond the bay, a very distant shore was observable, and land beyond it; trees, towns, and other buildings appeared, more especially when gilded by the reflected rays of the sun. To the southwestward of the garden was another down, covered also with flocks of sheep, and a portion of it fringed with trees."

It was in Brading churchyard that "little Jane" learned the epitaph,-

"Forgive, blest shade, the tributary tear."

The "Dairyman's Daughter," another tale of the Isle of Wight, acquired extraordinary celebrity, and was immediately translated by the Religions Tract Society into French and Italian, and subsequently into most languages. It was the most popular tract ever known. We have heard of one rather queer translation of it, told to a relative by Mr. Austin Layard. He found an Arab sheik with a copy of it in Arabic in his hand, looking rather puzzled. He asked what was the difficulty. The sheik replied, "The title - he did not know what 'The Daughter of the Father of Milk' meant." Thus the "Dairyman's Daughter" had been translated.

For seven years Mr. Richmond worked in the Isle of Wight, and wrote there all his "Annals of the Poor."

Carisbrook Castle is one of the most interesting of the fortresses of the Isle of Wight, from its great antiquity and strength. It was probably a British camp, and when Vespasian took the island he garrisoned the fort. The first authentic mention of Carisbrook is in 530, when Cerdic, king of the West Saxons, took the island, exterminated its inhabitants, and gave the fortress, strengthened as it had been by the Romans, to his nephew Whitgar.

The castle is extremely picturesque and romantic; the Keep stands on an artificial mound; it lies to the north, and is much higher than the ground plan of the fortress. It is supposed to have been built in the sixth century by the Saxons. In the eleventh century FitzOsborne, the Norman, built a larger castle, and included the Keep and the portion near it in his enclosure of an acre and a half. This was of a square form with rounded angles, and was surrounded by a fosse, or ditch. Here the lords of the race lived, and all lands held of it were granted on condition of serving it and defending it from all enemies. Hence it was called the Honour of Carisbrook. FitzOsborne's castle was repaired and enlarged by the Earl of Salisbury in Richard's II.'s reign; and was again enlarged and some parts rebuilt by Lord Woodville, who was put to death by Richard III. at Pontefract, two months after the death of Edward IV.

Entrance to the Keep, Carisbrook Castle

When the Spanish Armada was expected, Queen Elizabeth fortified Carisbrook with outer walls, faced with stone and defended by five bastions. The Queen gave 4,000 towards the repair of the fortress, and the gentlemen of the island 400 The patriotic commons dug the outer ditch gratuitously.

Among the curiosities of Carisbrook are two wells - one, in the centre of the keep, three hundred feet deep, is now partially filled up; the other, in the castle yard, is two hundred feet deep, and the water is drawn up from it by means of a wheel, turned by a donkey. The wheel is broad and hollow, and furnished inside with steps of projecting pieces of wood; the donkey is placed in the interior of the wheel, and by treading from one step to another, makes the wheel turn round, and bring up the bucket. This well is also remarkable for echoing the fall of a pin distinctly.

Carisbrook Castle was defended against the Parliamentarians by a lady, who somewhat resembled the celebrated Countess of Derby.

The Earl of Portland had been governor of the island for many years during the reign of Charles I., but at an early stage in the civil war he was removed by Parliament on account of his religion. He was a Roman Catholic. He was imprisoned in London on this ground, and accused also by the Commons of having wasted the public money in ammunition, entertainments, and drinking loyal healths in Carisbrook. The principal inhabitants of the island drew up a petition in behalf of Lord Portland, whom they styled their "much honoured and beloved captain and governor," declaring that he was not only a good Protestant, but that there was not one Papist in the Isle of Wight. No notice was taken of this petition, and they drew up a spirited remonstrance, in which they spoke of defending themselves by arms, and admitting no new governor who was not appointed by the king.

The lower class of the people were, however, led by the Mayor of Newport, Moses Read, who was a staunch Parliamentarian, and who sent in a petition representing the great danger accruing to the cause from the Countess of Portland remaining in the castle, and retaining Colonel Brett as her warden. Read speedily received orders to reduce the fortress, and secure Colonel Brett, Lady Portland, her five children, and some relatives who had taken refuge within the walls, Read summoned the Militia of Newport, and drew four hundred sailors from the vessels at anchor off the island to carry out his orders.

The garrison of the castle did not exceed twenty men, but the Countess resolved that she would not surrender it unless under honourable conditions. As soon as she saw the forces from Newport approaching, she took a lighted match in her hand, walked deliberately to one of the bastions, and declared that she would fire the first shot from the cannon at the foe.

Moses Read was not of a warlike turn of mind; he cared not to encounter the lady's firm and warlike resistance, and came to terms with her. The castle was surrendered on honourable conditions, and the Countess left the island.

But the most memorable incident connected with Carisbrook is the imprisonment of Charles I. in it. We have seen the total defeat of his army at Naseby; we have read how the Scots, as the old rhyme says,-

"Sold their king for a groat;"

how the Parliament confined their sovereign in Holmby House, and how Cornet Joyce seized his person for the army; but at Hampton Court he was treated with a certain amount of respect and attention by Cromwell and Fairfax, with whom he was then negotiating.

The Levellers, who, we are told by historians, now looked on Cromwell as their greatest enemy, and Colonel John Lilburne in alliance with Wildman had formed a plot to assassinate him as a renegade to cause of liberty. 1

They attacked Charles still more fiercely, calling him an Ahab, a man of blood, and demanding justice on his head.

All these threats were repeated to the king. Mr. Ackworth told his majesty that Colonel Rainsborough was resolved to kill him.

The king, dreading assassination, took the imprudent resolution of flight without having any determined place of refuge.

Accordingly, on Nov. 5th, 1647, the unhappy Charles fled from Hampton Court, attended by two confidential servants.

They rode all night in storm and darkness, and found themselves at daybreak in the New Forest. At first the king thought of going to Titchfield, a seat of Lord Southampton's, which was in the neighbourhood ; but reflecting that here it was not possible that he could remain in safety, they resolved to send a message to Colonel Hammond, governor of the Isle of Wight, expressing the king's desire to place himself under his protection, one of his attendants having told Charles that Hammond had expressed great disapproval of the conduct of the army, and the king being aware that Hammond was a nephew of his own chaplain. He hoped, therefore, to find a friend in the governor; but he was fatally deceived. Colonel Hammond was a devoted adherent of Cromwell, through whose good offices he had married a daughter of Hampden, and had obtained the government of the island.

Thither, however, the king proceeded, and was respectfully received by the governor, who treated him as a guest rather than a prisoner; allowed him to ride where he chose, and to receive all who desired admittance to him.

It was not till after some time that Hammond changed his conduct. Then he told the king that orders had been sent down for the instant dismissal of ail his attendants, and they were compelled to leave on the following day. As soon as they were gone, the unhappy monarch was told that he was a prisoner, and must remain within the precincts of the castle, but that he might walk on the ramparts; and Hammond had a bowling green made that his royal prisoner might enjoy his favourite game. Books were also supplied to him. He walked on the ramparts in the morning, and played bowls in the afternoon, and employed much of his time in reading. Persons desiring to be touched for the king's evil were permitted to see him, and doubtless many made the pretext to gain admission to their sovereign. Still Charles was absolutely a prisoner, and his friends and himself were occupied in planning his escape. Many attempts were made unsuccessfully for this purpose; the first on December 29th, which failed through the mismanagement of its deviser, Captain Burley, the captain of Yarmouth Castle, who not only failed in his attempt, but was apprehended and put to death for it.

A faithful Loyalist of the name of Firebrace succeeded in obtaining a place amongst his pages, and thus was enabled to consult with Charles as to the possibility of escape.

One of Firebrace's suggestions was that the king should escape by his chamber window, he proposed cutting the bars before it through with a saw. But Charles feared discovery from the sound of sawing, and thought that he could get through between the bars; for he had tried his head, and believed that where the head could go through, the body could also. He therefore ordered Firebrace to get every thing ready for his escape, and the design was imparted to some trusty friends.

It was arranged amongst them that, at the time appointed, Firebrace should throw something up to the window, as a signal that all was clear, and that the king should then let himself down by a cord with which his page supplied him. Firebrace was then, hidden by the darkness, to lead Charles across the court to the main wall of the castle, from which he was to descend by means of another cord, with a stick fastened across it to serve as a seat. Beyond the ditch into which the king would descend was the counterscarp, but that might be easily ascended, and near that place two Loyalists, named Worsley and Osborn, were to wait ready mounted, and holding a spare horse with pistols and boots for the king; while a fourth friend, Mr. Newland, was at the seaside with a large boat ready to take his majesty wherever he desired.

At the appointed time Firebrace gave the signal, and the king attempted to get out of the window, but found, too late, that he had been entirely mistaken in thinking that, if his head passed, his body would.

Carisbrook Castle

He found great ease in passing his head out, but stuck fast between the breast and the shoulders, and could neither move in nor out. He had, however, tied a piece of cord to the bar of the window, by means of which he could force himself back again; and this he, after great difficulty, succeeded in doing. Firebrace heard him groan, and was not able to lend him the least assistance. When the king had freed himself, he put a candle in the window, as a signal that he could not get out. But it is said that a Major Rolfe, who happened to be at Carisbrook at that time, and kept most careful watch, was ready to have shot Charles in the act of descending. He thus escaped assassination, through the attempt to escape failing.

"On the 6th of April," says Knight, "Cromwell had written to Hammond: 'Intelligence came to the hands of a very considerable person, that the king had attempted to get out of his window; and that he had a cord of silk with him whereby to slip down, but his breast was so big that the bar could not give him passage. This was done in one of the dark nights about a fortnight ago. A gentleman with you led him the way and slipped down. The guard that night had some quantity of wine with them. The same party assures that there is aquafortis gone down from London, to remove that obstacle which hindered; and that the same design is to be put in execution on the next dark nights.' He then points out that 'Master Firebrace' was the gentleman assisting the king; and mentions Captain Titus, and two others, who 'are not to be trusted.' It is probably to this time that the statement of Clarendon must be referred, when he says that the king 'from thenceforth was no more suffered to go out of the castle beyond a little ill garden that belonged to it.'" His walks on the ramparts where he could gaze on the sea, and his pleasant games of bowls, were ended.

Charles now gave up the hope of escape in despair. In 1648 he was permitted to go to Newport to confer with the Parliamentary Commissioners, on giving his honour that he would make no attempt to escape. On the following 29th of November, about two months after this meeting, he was seized by a party of soldiers, and carried off to Hurst Castle, on the coast of Hampshire, from which he was taken to London, for his trial and execution about six weeks afterwards.

The part of the castle where Charles was confined is now in ruins, but the window in which he so unfortunately stuck is still shown to visitors.

After the execution of the king, his two youngest children, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Gloucester - the seven-years-old child, who answered his father's injunction, not to take the crown while Charles or James lived, with the words, "I will be torn in pieces first," - were sent to Carisbrook. They had at first been placed with the Countess of Leicester, at Penshurst, in Kent, and Parliament allowed 3,000 a year for their maintenance.

When they were sent to Carisbrook, Mr. Lovel, the young Duke's tutor, went with them - "an honest man," Clarendon calls him. "But orders were given that no person was to be allowed to kiss their hands, and that they should not be otherwise treated than as the children of a gentleman." The Duke was always called "Master Harry." Elizabeth was old enough to feel deeply her father's death, for he had dearly loved his children. At their meeting at Hampton Court, before his flight, even Cromwell had wept at the touching meeting of the father with his children. She knew, too, that he had been a prisoner at Carisbrook, and he must have been constantly in her thoughts. She pined and grieved; and then one day, about eighteen months after her father's death, she got accidentally wet on the bowling green; cold and fever ensued, and in her state of depression took fatal hold of her. Supposing her, one day during her illness, to have fallen asleep, her attendants left her for a short time. When they returned, they found that she had passed away; her hands were clasped as if in prayer, and rested on an open Bible that had been her beloved and regretted father's last gift.

Elizabeth Stuart slept in peace.

Her remains were embalmed, and buried in the church at Newport, dedicated to St Thomas a Becket. The letters E. S. on an adjacent wall alone pointed to the grave of the princess, and the spot was forgotten till 1793, when a grave being preparing for a son of Lord Delaware, a leaden coffin was found bearing the inscription "Elizabeth, 2nd daughter of the late King Charles. Deceased Sept. 8, 1650." Soon after the discovery, a small brass plate was placed over the grave; but when it became necessary to rebuild the church at Newport, which had become ruinous, Queen Victoria took the opportunity of erecting a monument to the unhappy Stuart Princess.

It was designed and executed by Baron Marochetti, and represents the Princess lying on a mattress, her cheek resting upon an open Bible, at the words, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." From the Gothic arch beneath which the figure lies, hangs an iron grating, with its bars broken asunder, as an emblem of the prisoner's relief by death. Two (side) windows of stained glass were added by her majesty's desire, and the following graceful inscription: "To the memory of the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Charles I., who died at Carisbrook Castle on Sunday, September 8th, 1650, and is interred beneath the chancel of this church. This monument is erected, a token of respect for her virtues and sympathy for her misfortunes, by Victoria R., 1856."

Two years after the death of his sister Elizabeth the young duke was liberated by the advice and influence of Cromwell, who caused 500 to be paid by the Treasury to defray the expense of sending him to his mother on the Continent, the only condition being that he should sail direct from the Isle of Wight, and not touch the coast of England.

At the south-east angle of Carisbrook are the remains of Mountjoy's Tower. Its walls are of enormous thickness.

The entrance to the Keep is by an exceedingly steep flight of eighty-two steps. Seventy-two of these steps are external, the remainder leading through a small square portal to the interior. This portion is supposed to be Saxon.

After the release of the Duke of Gloucester - who died of small-pox after his brother's restoration - the Commonwealth still used the castle as a prison, and one of the most interesting of its inmates was Sir William Davenant, the poet, and godson to Shakespeare. He had fought in many battles for the king, but at the downfall of the monarchy fled to France. "While here he laid," says old Aubrey, "an ingenious design to carry a considerable number of artificers, chiefly weavers, from thence to Virginia, and by Mary, the queen mother's influence, he got favour from the king of France to go (into) the prisons and pick and choose; so when the poor wretches understood what his design was, they cried uno ore (with one voice), 'Tous tisserands,' 'We are all weavers.' Well, he took thirty-six, as I remember, and not more, and shipped them; and as he was on his voyage to Virginia, he and his weavers were all taken by the ships belonging to the Parliament of England. The French slaves I suppose they sold, but Sir William was brought prisoner to England. Whether he was first a prisoner at Carisbrook Castle in the Isle of Wight, or at the Tower of London, I have forgotten. He was a prisoner at both. His 'Gondebert,' quarto (a play), was finished at Carisbrook Castle. He expected no mercy from the Parliament, and had no hope of escaping with his life. He was saved, however, by the intervention, according to one account, of two aldermen in his favour; according to another, by the wit of Henry Martin."

In Newport Church is a curious monument to an adherent and tool of Leicester's, a Sir Edward Horsey, who was Captain of the Wight in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Leicester entrusted him with the secret of his clandestine marriage with Lady Douglas Sheffield, whom Horsey gave away at the altar; yet he denied all knowledge of the nuptials when the earl wished to make a bigamous marriage. In reward for this false evidence, Leicester gave him the captaincy of the island.

The Isle of Wight is a garden of beauty; everywhere are objects of interest and natural loveliness. The views - ever-varying - are perfect, having nearly always a glimpse of the sea, and being rich in woodlands, meadows, and hills. We remember the exclamation of an Indian Rajah who came to England in our steamer as the Wight came into full sight. "It is small, very small, but beautiful. Ah, though, how much jungle fever there must be in it!"

Alum Bay is noted for its coloured sands, with which the seashore people fill bottles very ingeniously.

Norris Castle is a fine building as seen from the sea, and was inhabited occasionally by the Duchess of Kent and her daughter, Princess Victoria. It was there, probably, that our Queen became acquainted with the beauties of the Wight, and was led to wish for a house of her own there.

Norris Castle

Shanklin Chine is a pretty and picturesque little waterfall. Every beauty of the isle of Wight is in miniature, though exquisite of its kind; and this tiny cascade is lovely, overshadowed as it is by trees, and looking seaward. A walk descends beside it, and in summer the broken, hilly ground, wearing its emerald green hue, the waving trees, the sunshine on the sea, and the soft dash of the water, make it a delightful stroll.

Osborne, at East Cowes, was, during the civil wars of Charles I. and his Parliament, the property of Eustace Mann, Esq. Adjoining it is a copse called Money Copse, where Mr. Mann is said, at that time, to have buried his money, plate, and jewels; but, though searched for, the treasure has never been found, and is thought to be still hidden.

Her Majesty the Queen bought Osborne in 1844 from Lady Isabella Blachford, and has made it a princely residence by extension and improvements inaugurated by the lamented Prince Consort. The nightingales at Osborne are remarkable for singing perpetually day and night during the short period of their stay in England.

ALUM BAY. Thread the gorge,
And, turning on the beach, while the low sea'
Spread out in mirrored gentleness, allows
A path along the curving edge, behold
Such dazzling glory of prismatic tints
Flung o'er the lofty crescent, as assures
The orient gardens where Aladdin plucked
Jewels for fruit no fable, - as if earth
Provoked to emulate the rainbow's gauds
In lasting mould, had snatched its floating hues
And fixed them here for never o'er the bay
Flew a celestial arch of brighter grace
Than the gay coast exhibits; here the cliff
Flaunts in a brighter yellow than the stream
Of Tiber wafted; then with softer shades
Declines to pearly white, which blushes soon
With pink as delicate as Autumn's rose
Wears on its scattering leaves; anon the shore
Recedes into a fane-like dell, where stained
With black, as if with sable tapestry hung,
Light pinnacles rise taper: further yet
Swells out in solemn mass a dusky veil
Of purple crimson, - while bright streaks of red
Start out in gleam-like tint, to tell of veins
Which the slow-winning sea in distant time
Shall bare to unborn gazers,

If this scene
Grow too fantastic for thy pensive thought,
Climb either swelling down, and gaze with joy
0n the blue ocean, poured around the heights,
As it embraced the wonders of that shield
Which the vowed Friend of slain Patroclus wore,
To grace his fated valour; nor disdain
The quiet of the vale, though not endowed
With such luxurious beauty as the coast
Of Undercliff embosoms; 'mid those lines
Of scanty foliage, thoughtful lanes and paths,
And cottage roofs, find shelter the blue stream,
That with its brief vein almost threads the isle,
Flows blest with two gray towers, beneath whose shade
The village life sleeps trustfully, - whose rites
Touch the old weather hardened fisher's heart
With childlike softness, and shall teach the boy
Who kneels, a sturdy grandson, at his side,
When his frail boat amidst the breakers pants,
To cast the anchor of a Christian hope
In an unrippled haven. Then rejoice,
That in remotest point of this sweet isle,
Which with fond mimicry combines each shape
Of the Great Land that by the ancient bond
(Sea parted once, and sea united now),
Binds her in unity, - a Spirit breathes
On cliff and tower and valley, by the side
Of cottage fire, and the low grass-grown grave,
Of home on English earth, and home in heaven!

* * * * * *

1. C. Knight's it "History of England."

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Picturesque England - Matthew Spong 2004