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LEASE OF THE MANOR TO WOLSEY.
exchequer for the general purposes of the ruling body. The establishment at Hampton, however, though a typical one, must have been on a small scale, and maintained for little more than managing the property and collecting the rents.
For 160 years or so, we hear little of the manor of Hampton Court. But the house was still inhabited by the Order in the year 1503, when Elizabeth of York went there from Richmond Palace, as we gather from her privy purse expenses, to make a retreat, and pray for a happy delivery, just a month before she died in childbed.
We may observe here that long before the manor was acquired by Wolsey it was known by the name of “Hampton Court," and that it is incorrect to suppose that the word "Court" has anything to do with the palace, which he built. It has, in fact, the same origin and meaning as in the names Ember Court, Sayes Court, etc., and signifies, in distinction to the whole manor, that portion of it which was retained by the Lord for his own use, and called the demesne lands, and in which was situated the manor house, or capital mansion of the manor.
The next date in the history of Hampton Court is 1514, on the 20th of March of which year Henry visited the manor in company with Katharine of Arragon.
A little later, in the same year, 1514, namely, on Midsummer day, by an indenture executed on the 11th of January of the following year, the manor of Hampton Court, with all its appurtenances, was leased by the prior, Sir Thomas Docwra, and his brethren Knights of the Hospital of St. John to "the most Rev. Father in God Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York,” for a term of ninety-nine years, at a rent of £50 per annum. A contemporary copy of the lease is still extant in the chartulary of the priory in the British Museum, and confirms our surmise that there was a manor house on the site of the present palace previous to its acquisition by Wolsey, though it was evidently of small dimensions, and very rudely furnished.
Several motives probably weighed with Wolsey in fixing on Hampton Court as a residence. In the first place, he was in need of a secluded country place, within easy access of London, whither he could withdraw occasionally for rest and quiet without being too far from the centre of affairsas he would certainly have been, had he retired to his diocesan palaces of York, Lincoln, or Durham. At the same time he was anxious to select a place where his health, which suffered much from the fogs and smoke of London, might be recruited in fresh and pure air. We may presume, too, that he was not regardless of the advantage attaching to a site on the banks of the Thames, in days when, on account of the badness and danger of the roads, no route was so safe, convenient, and expeditious as the “silent highway” of a river.
With these objects in view, he is declared by the legend of the parish to have "employed the most eminent physicians in England, and even called in the aid of doctors from Padua, to select the most healthy spot within twenty miles of London.” The decision of the faculty was emphatically in favour of Hampton Court, on account of its “extraordinary salubrity"; and Wolsey, in accordance with their advice, forthwith proceeded to treat for a lease of the manor.
Whether this tradition be founded on fact or not, it would be impossible now to decide; but certainly the healthiness of Hampton Court at the present is an unquestioned fact, nor has anything ever happened, during the last 370 years, to belie the favourable opinion of Wolsey's doctors. The building, though the ground floor is scarcely 10 feet above the average level of the river, is wonderfully free from damp, while the air, though sometimes foggy, is never unwholesome. Much of this is doubtless due to the gravelly nature of the soil, the absence of moist vegetation, and the proximity of the running stream of the river, which acts as a drain to carry off all surface water and impurites.
Wolsey had no sooner entered into possession of Hampton Court, than he began with characteristic energy to plan the erection of a vast and sumptuous edifice commensurate with the dignity and wealth he had just attained to. He was then on the threshold of his career of greatness, and already receiving enormous revenues. Besides his office of Grand Almoner, he had been appointed within a year to three several bishoprics—that of Lincoln, that of Tournay in France, and the archbishopric of York; and in quick sucCARDINAL WOLSEY'S EARLY DAYS.
cession followed the Abbey of St. Albans in commendam and the bishopric of Durham (though he surrendered Durham soon after into the King's hand to take the bishopric of Winchester instead), and the bishoprics of Bath, Worcester, and Hereford, in farm. To these and many minor dignities were added those of Cardinal on the 20th of September,
BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF HAMPTON COURT, SHOWING THE
EXTENT OF WOLSEY'S PALACE.
1515, of the Lord Chancellorship of England on the 22nd of December in the same year, and of a Legate à latere in 1518. And yet amid the multifarious labours that these offices entailed upon him, he found time to supervise everything relating to his buildings and his household. No matter was too insignificant, no detail too trivial, to come within the grasp of his all-reaching intellect.
Though engaged till midday in the administration of justice in Westminster Hall, and occupied the rest of the day in carrying on the whole government of the kingdom, receiving foreign ambassadors, reading despatches, writing instructions to his agents abroad, and retaining in his mind the whole complex thread of continental politics, we find him superintending the most minute details in regard to the works at Hampton Court, besides doing the same for his school at Ipswich, his college at Oxford, and his other place at Whitehall
. He was resolved to have a country residence, befitting the dignity of his high station as a prince of the Church, and he spared no effort for this object. Hundreds of artificers, of all sorts, were daily engaged on “my Lord Cardinal's works” in the parks, gardens, and buildings, which were pushed on with the greatest speed possible.
The old manor-house already stood in the midst of an extensive domain of pasture land, consisting of some 2,000 acres. All this he proceeded to convert into two parks, fencing them partly with paling, and partly inclosing them with a stout red-brick buttressed wall, a great part of which remains to this day, and may be identified by its deep crimson colour, toned here and there with chequered lines of black burnt bricks.
There may be found, too, inserted in this wall of Wolsey's on the Kingston Road, near the Paddock, a curious device of these black bricks, disposed in the form of a cross, evidently an allusion to his ecclesiastical character.
At the same time he surrounded the house and gardens with a great moat--a precaution which is noticeable, as the mediævalcustom of so defending dwelling places had generally died out, since the Wars of the Roses, and Wolsey's moat here must have been one of the last made. It remained as a prominent feature in front of the palace till the time of William III., and traces of it still exist on the north side of the palace.
His gardens, also, were to be an appanage in every way worthy of the princely residence he was projecting. Many curious entries for wages of gardeners, and for spades, shovels, barrows, seeds, plants, for the use of my Lorde's garthinges at Hampton Courte,” occur in the original bills, which are still preserved in the Record Office.
WOLSEY'S EXTENSIVE BUILDING SCHEMES.
Nor did the Cardinal neglect the sanitary arrangements of his house. Every part of the building was carefully drained, and the rain-water and other refuse was carried off by great brick sewers, 3 feet wide and 5 feet high, into the Thames. So excellent, in truth, was his system of drainage, that it was not found necessary to interfere with or supersede it till the year 1871.
Another aim of the Cardinal's was to secure, for the use of himself and his household, the purest water that was to be had anywhere in the vicinity, for though people in these enlightened days are content to drink the “diluted sewage” of the Thames, Wolsey, living in the benighted times of the
Tudors, would by no means tolerate its then comparatively innocuous waters. With the object, accordingly, of procuring the best possible supply, the springs at Coombe Hill, a spot about three miles distant from Hampton Court, were collected in several conduits or water-houses, whence the water was conveyed, in a double set of strong leaden pipes, from Coombe to Surbiton, under the Hogsmill River (a small tributary of the Thames), and then under the Thames above Kingston Bridge, and so through the Home Park to the palace. The leaden pipes as originally laid down were moulds in lengths of 25 feet each. The diameter of each pipe is about 2 inches, the thickness is half an inch, and the amount of lead used must have been about 250