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Various
The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction / Volume 17, No. 491, May 28, 1831

AMPTHILL HOUSE, THE SEAT OF LORD HOLLAND


This is a delightful retreat for the statesman and man of letters—distinctions which its illustrious occupant enjoys with high honour to his country and himself.

Ampthill is throughout a never-tiring region of romantic beauties. These were sung in some lines of great sweetness and poetical feeling, a few years since by Mr. Luttrell, who appears to have taken his muse by the arm, and "wandered up and down," describing the natural glories and olden celebrity of Ampthill. We remember to have read his "Lines" with unmixed pleasure.

The Engraving is copied from one of a Series of "Select Illustrations of Bedfordshire;" the letter-press accompaniments being neatly written by the Rev. I. D. Parry, M. A. author of the "History of Woburn." Ampthill follows.

Ampthill House, now the seat of the Right Hon. Lord Holland, is a plain but very neat edifice, built of good stone. It was erected by the first Lord Ashburnham, then the possessor of the estate, in 1694. It is situated rather below the summit of a hill, which rises at some little distance behind, and much less elevated than the site of the old castle, but has still a commanding situation in front, and is sufficiently elevated to possess a great share of the fine view over the vale of Bedford. It is also well sheltered by trees, though the passing traveller would have no idea of the magnificent lime alley, which is concealed behind it. The house has a long front, abundantly furnished with windows, and has two deep and projecting wings. In the centre is a plain angular pediment, bearing the late Lord Ossory's arms, and over the door is a small circular one, pierced for an antique bust, and supported by two three-quarter Ionic pillars. In this house is a small collection of paintings, &c., principally portraits.

At the foot of the staircase is a large painting, formerly in fresco at Houghton House, which was taken off the wall, and put on canvass by an ingenious process of the late Mr. Salmon. It represents a gamekeeper, or woodman, taking aim with a cross-bow, full front, with some curious perspective scenery, 6 feet by 9-1/2 feet. We have heard a tradition, that it is some person of high rank in disguise; some say James I., who was once on a visit at Houghton. From the propensities of "gentle King Jamie," this is not unlikely.

The pleasure ground at the back of the house, commands a pleasing, extensive view; beyond this is the lime walk, which is certainly one of the finest in England.—It is upwards of a quarter of a mile in length, the trees in some parts, finely arching; and may be pronounced, upon the whole, superior to any walk in Oxford or Cambridge.

The park in which this house stands, is well known, from many descriptions, to be a singularly picturesque and pleasing one. It is, at the same time, a small one, but the dimensions are concealed by the numerous and beautiful groups of trees with which it is studded. The oaks are particularly celebrated for their great size and age, several of them are supposed to be upwards of 500 years old, and some do not hesitate to say 1,000 years; the girth of many of them is ten yards, or considerably more. A survey of this park, by order of the Conventional Parliament, in 1653, pronounced 287 of these oaks as being hollow, and too much decayed for the use of the navy. The whole of these remain to this day, and may, perhaps, continue two or three centuries longer; some few of them have been scathed by lightning.

Behind the house, near the entrance of the park from the turnpike-road, are some ponds, similar in appearance to those frequently seen adjoining ancient mansions; above these, at the edge of a precipice, was the front of the ancient castle. This building is doubtless that erected by Lord Fanhope, at the beginning of the fifteenth century. It was used as a royal resort by Henry VIII., who was often here, and by Queen Catherine, who resided here some time previous, and during the time her divorce was in process at Dunstable. There are, in the possession of Lord Holland, two ground plans of this castle, which, by the late Lord Ossory, were supposed to have been taken about the year 1616, at which time it was supposed the castle was demolished. From these, the following particulars of this building are collected:—The area was a square of about 220 feet; in front was a large court, 115 feet by 120; behind this were two very small ones, each 45 feet square; and between these was an oblong courtyard. Between the front and back courts, the building had two small lateral projections, like the transepts of a church. In front were two square projecting towers; and round the building, at irregular distances, were nine others, projecting, of different shapes, but principally five-sided segments of octagons—if this description be intelligible. It was, probably, from the general appearance of the plan, intended more as a residence for a nobleman or prince, than a fortress, although the situation was favourable for defence. The view in front is extremely beautiful for this part of the country.

Lord Ossory planted a grove of firs at the back of this spot, and erected, in 1773, in the centre, a monument, consisting of an octagonal shaft raised on four steps, surmounted by a cross, bearing a shield with Queen Catherine's arms, of Castile and Arragon. This was designed by Mr. Essex, the improver of King's College, Chapel, and is very neat, but of small dimensions. On a tablet inserted in the base of the cross, is the following inscription, from the pen of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, which when read on the spot, excites some degree of interest:—

 
In days of yore, here Ampthill's towers were seen,
The mournful refuge of an injured queen;
Here flowed her pure, but unavailing tears,
Here blinded zeal sustained her sinking years.
Yet Freedom hence her radiant banner wav'd,
And Love avenged a realm by priests enslav'd;
From Catherine's wrongs a nation's bliss was spread,
And Luther's light from lawless Henry's bed.
 

The possessors of Ampthill are thus traced by Mr. Parry:—

The survey of Ampthill Park, made by order of Parliament, 1649, speaks of the castle as being long ago totally demolished.1 There was, however, what was called the Great Lodge, or Capital Mansion. King James I. gave the Honour of Ampthill to the Earl of Kelly. It soon reverted to the Crown. In 1612, Thomas, Lord Fenton, and Elizabeth his wife, resigned the office of High Steward of the Honour of Ampthill to the King. The following year the custody of the Great Park was granted to Lord Bruce, whose family became lessees of the Honour, which they kept till 1738. In the 17th century, the Nicholls's became lessees of the Great Park under the Bruces, who reserved the office of Master of the Game. The Nicholls's resided at the Capital Mansion. After the Restoration, Ampthill Great Park was granted by Charles II. to Mr. John Ashburnham, as some reward for his distinguished services to his father and himself (vide Hist. Eng.) The first Lord Ashburnham built the present house, in 1694. In 1720 it was purchased of this family by Viscount Fitzwilliam, who sold it in 1736 to Lady Gowran, grandmother of the late Lord Ossory, who in 1800, became possessed of the lease of the Honour, by exchange with the Duke of Bedford. His family name, an ancient one in Ireland, was Fitzpatrick; he was Earl of Upper Ossory in Ireland, and Baron of the same in England. He died in 1818, and was succeeded by Lord Holland, the present possessor, who has also a fine old mansion at Kensington.2

The present Lord Holland, Henry Richard Vassal Fox, Baron Holland of Holland Co. Lincoln, and Foxley, Co. Wilts, Recorder of Nottingham, F. R. S. A.; was born November 23, 1773, succeeded to the title in 1774; married, 1797, Elizabeth, a daughter of Richard Vassal, Esq.

CHARACTER OF A GOOD ALBUM

(For the Mirror.)
 
——"Here's a gem of beauty!
It sparkles with a pure and virgin lustre,
And many prize it much."
 
Old Poet.

There is something very interesting associated with a well-arranged and elegant album, embodying passages of delicate taste and superior talent, and containing the diversified, playful, pointed, eloquent, and original papers, of a number of intellectual and distinguished contributors.

I had, a short time ago, one of these beautiful albums placed in my hand, which was characterized by marked and pre-eminent excellencies. In addition to its being bound in the most splendid manner, and containing the most tasteful embellishments, on paper exquisitely embossed, it was adorned with appropriate contributions, from the vigorous mind of Mrs. Hannah Moore—from the pure and classic taste of the eloquent Robert Hall—from the fervid and poetic imagination of James Montgomery—and many an elegant and beauteous production, communicated by our superior and ingenious writers. It was deeply interesting to mark the specimens of penmanship which the various contributors furnished: the bold hand of one—the neat style of another—the careless and dashing strokes of another—and the stiff, awkward, and almost illegible writing of another. I was much struck, also, with the variety of mind which the album exhibited: on one page, there was the comic strain of Hood; on another, the pure and exquisite taste of Campbell; on another, the fire and vividness of Scott; on another, the minute and graphic painting of Crabbe; and on another, the bold, condensed, and impassioned style, in which Byron so peculiarly excelled.

Now, if all albums could be of this character, their value would be intrinsic and superior, and they would be permanently interesting, because to them we could frequently recur with refreshing and peculiar enjoyment.

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