Page images
PDF
EPUB

SUNDAY VISITORS.

395

above all, the scene is of the gayest : it is often so crowded with rowing boats, steam launches, sailing boats with various coloured sails, and houseboats decked with drapery and flowers, that one would imagine a regatta was going on. Through Molesey Lock also, just above the bridge, ceaseless streams, literally of hundreds of pleasure boats, each with their merry party of holiday makers, pass all day long; while upon the banks stroll throngs of young people, not perked out in "Sunday-go-to-meeting best," but men rationally dressed in easy shooting suits or flannels, and girls in neat and pretty lawn tennis or boating costumes. In the meanwhile, perhaps, from the deck of some pleasure craft, floating down the stream opposite the Water Gallery, there is a “sound of music on the waters,” in the lively strains of the last new valse; while a crowd of boats gathers around, and on the ear “drops the light drip of the suspended oar.'

To exchange a scene like this, with all its freshness, naturalness, and abandon, for the hot London streets and parks on Sunday, with their conventional dressed-up crowds, parading, prayer-book prominently in hand, along the pavements, or crawling in dense masses by Rotten Row, enables us to judge how heavy is the load of formalism that still weighs upon so many English men and women.

Reverting now to the period immediately subsequent to the opening of Hampton Court free to the public, we should notice that the palace thenceforth was much better cared for, and that many excellent restorations were carried out, both on the exterior and in the interior of the building. The hideous sash windows, for instance, that had so long disfigured many parts of the old Tudor West Front, were replaced by Gothic mullioned, casemented, and latticed windows; the ornamental stone-carvings were restored ; and chimney-shafts, of finely moulded brick, substituted for the shapeless and graceless masses of yellow brick of the Georgian era.

The restoration of the interior of the Great Hall was also undertaken : the walls, so long bare, being rehung with old tapestry; the east and west windows being filled, in 1843, and the side windows in 1847, with appropriate stained glass by Willement; and the roof redecorated.

All these matters were carefully supervised by the late Mr. Edward Jesse, then Surveyor of the Royal Parks and Palace, who had a happy knack, in all the regulations he laid down, of combining that freedom from vexatious restraint so essential to the public enjoyment of a popular resort with the respect and dignity which should invest a royal palace, and the reverence with which a great historic building should be treated. Mr. Jesse was the inventor of the felicitous phrase, which has ever since been inscribed on the notice-boards in the gardens, “The public is expected to protect what is intended for the public enjoyment,” a sentiment which won the commendation of the great French critic, M. Taine, and which, while much facilitating the protection of the flowers and plants from heedless mischief-makers, has had no small influence in educating the popular conscience to the proper appreciation of Hampton Court and its attractions, now almost invariably evinced by all classes of excursionists.

A recipient of the Queen's favour at Hampton Court about the period which we have now reached, was Professor Faraday, to whom, in 1858, her Majesty, at the thoughtful and kindly instance of the Prince Consort, offered the Crown house on the Green, which now bears the name of "Faraday House.” Needless to say that Faraday had not solicited this favour; and he, at first, hesitated to accept it, fearing lest he had not the means to do up the house properly. But when he was informed that all that was needful would be done at no cost to himself, he accepted her Majesty's gracious offer with deep and unfeigned gratitude, not only for the kindness itself, but for the delicate and considerate way in which it was tendered.

Here, accordingly, two doors from the house formerly occupied by Sir Christopher Wren, this noble, illustrious man passed the evening of his life, still eager in the quest of scientific truth, yet enjoying the repose of the summer life in the country, and delighting above all “in the beauty of the sunsets from the palace gardens.” His death took place at Faraday House on August 27th, 1867.

Nothing else worthy of note occurred in relation to Hampton Court until about the year 1880, when there began an epoch in the annals of Hampton Court which has been, in various ways, interesting and eventful. In the first place, it was in 1880 that her Royal Highness Princess Frederica and

HAMPTON COURT OF TO-DAY.

397

her husband, Baron von Pawel Rammingen, came to reside at Hampton Court, the Queen having placed at her disposal the suite of rooms in the West Front of the palace, formerly known as the "Lady Housekeeper's”; and in these apartments, on the 7th of March in the following year, was born their daughter Victoria, an event which was the occasion of a private visit by her Majesty the Queen to the Princess.

Unfortunately, her Royal Highness's little daughter died within three weeks after her birth. In this sad event, the Princess and the Baron had the lively sympathy of everyone at Hampton Court and in its vicinity. For, short as had then been the Princess's residence in the palace, she had won all hearts by the kindliness and courtesy of her nature, and her consideration for all those with whom she had been brought in contact. Since then, as years have gone by, the cordial feeling, entertained by her neighbours towards her Royal Highness and her husband, has increased and deepened into a sentiment of warm regard and affection.

In the meanwhile the historical and artistic aspects of the Palace of Hampton Court, which had, for a long timein fact, since the first few years immediately succeeding its free opening to the public—been almost entirely overlooked and neglected, began, about the period we have now reached, to receive renewed attention.

This was principally due to the appointment, in 1874, of Mr. A. B. Mitford, C.B., as Secretary to the Board of Works, who, appreciating at its priceless worth the picturesque and romantic edifice intrusted to the care of his office, and taking, not merely a perfunctory, but a warm, personal interest in everything relating to it, at once devoted all his energy and taste to preserving its ancient structure, and to effecting everything that might add to its attractions and interest. One work only, which was at once taken in hand, may be particularized here. It was the establishing of a system of precautions and appliances against fire—the efficiency of which was tested only too soon, by the way they successfully coped with two serious conflagrations.

Of the division of Hampton Court Palace into private apartments, and its occupation by private families, we have already said something when dealing with the reign of George III. We may further observe here that the suites, which now number altogether fifty-three, vary considerably in size, comfort, and convenience; some, such as that formerly the Lady Housekeeper's, having as many as forty rooms, with five or six staircases; others, that is, the smaller suites, having no more than ten or twelve. The average accommodation lies between fifteen and twenty rooms; but the sizes, again, of the rooms themselves vary very much, some being exceedingly large and lofty; others, on the contrary, very small and low. Scarcely any two suites, either, resemble each other in arrangement or shape-a fact partly due to the haphazard way in which the palace was first diverted from its original to its present use, and private and separate residences cut and carved out of a series of rooms, intended for the very different purpose of accommodating a Court. Some indeed are, as it were, complete houses in themselves, of several storeys, with front and back doors and staircases, with large entrance halls, galleries, and passages; others, again, are rather in the nature of “flats," all the chief rooms, and sometimes the offices also, being on one floor; while others are something between the two, resembling rather what are known in London as “upper parts.”

Again, though, in some cases, the suites of apartments are entirely self-contained and compact; in others they are inconveniently disjointed and disconnected; the offices, perhaps, being on the ground floor, and the rest of the rooms in the upper storeys; the bulk of the suite on one floor, up one staircase, and a couple of bedrooms on another floor, up a different staircase; or, again, as in one or two cases, the kitchen and offices being across a semi-open cloister.

Anomalies such as these were partly occasioned by the capricious fashion in which, in old days, rooms in one corner of the palace were, for no apparent reason, attached to an apartment far away at the other end of the building; and partly by the way in which some of the inhabitants would take any room that might be vacant, anywhere in the palace, and appropriate it to their own use.

In the present day, of course, anything of this sort would be utterly impossible ; for not only is the Lord Chamberlain's full and deliberate sanction requisite, before the smallest nook or corner can be occupied by an inhabitant, but every

MULTIPLICATION OF AUTHORITIES.

399

room, and even receptable, is separately numbered, and its allocation to any particular person carefully recorded in the books of the department. In the meantime such inconveniences as still subsist are much less than they were formerly.

Life, however, in the royal palace is subject to some strange peculiarities where, owing to the subdivision of departments, distinct and even antagonistic authorities claim control. An amusing case of this is recorded of some windows of a royal palace which needed cleaning, but which remained dirty for a considerable time, because the outside of the panes being subject to the Woods and Forests, and the inside to the Lord Steward, nothing could be done until these two high departments of State were induced to combine for this important purpose.

But a still more curious instance of this sort of thing occurred at Hampton Court, many years ago, to a lady who inhabited a suite of private apartments in the palace.

By way of preamble we must remark that “the spheres of influence” of the various departments are, in a broad and general way, delimited thus : the outside or “shell” of the building, including all that relates to structural maintenance and repairs, falls under the jurisdiction of the Board of Works; the regulation of the interior of the building, involving all such high questions as the use to which rooms are to be put, the opening and closing of doors, and the passing from one room to another, are within the province of the Lord Chamberlain; while, superimposed over all, and, to a certain extent, co-ordinate with both the foregoing, is the undefined and indefinable authority of the Lord Steward, or the “Board of Green Cloth”: so that, to decide, in certain cases, whose is the responsibility, and whose the power, may give rise to discussions transcending in nicely the most recondite legal arguments, and involving points of the subtlest metaphysics. Further to complicate matters, the portions of the palace open to the public are, even as regards their interior, to a certain degree, within the purview and control of the Board of Works; while, in addition to these three departments, there is the Office of Woods and Forests, which, at one time, had a roving commission over everything in the nature of parks, gardens, and open spaces.

When we add to all these, the departments of the Master of the Horse,

« PreviousContinue »