In looking at these ancient buildings, which time has spared us, we seem to catch a glimpse of the Lamp of Memory which shines forth in the illuminated pages of Ruskin. The men, our forefathers, who built these houses, built them to last, and not for their own generation. It would have grieved them to think that their earthly abode, which had seen and seemed almost to sympathize in all their honour, their gladness or their suffering—that this, with all the record it bare of them, and of all material things that they had loved and ruled over, and set the stamp of themselves upon—was to be swept away as soon as there was room made for them in the grave. They valued and prized the house that they had reared, or added to, or improved. Hence they loved to carve their names or their initials on the lintels of their doors or on the walls of their houses with the date. On the stone houses of the Cotswolds, in Derbyshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, wherever good building stone abounds, you can see these inscriptions, initials usually those of husband and wife, which preserved the memorial of their names as long as the house remained in the family. Alas! too often the memorial conveys no meaning, and no one knows the names they represent. But it was a worthy feeling that prompted this building for futurity. There is a mystery about the inscription recorded in the illustration “T.D. 1678.” It was discovered, together with a sword (temp. Charles II), between the ceiling and the floor when an old farm-house called Gundry’s, at Stoke-under-Ham, was pulled down. The year was one of great political disturbance, being that in which the so-called “Popish Plot” was exploited by Titus Oates. Possibly “T.D.” was fearful of being implicated, concealed this inscription, and effected his escape.
[Illustration: Staircase Newel Cromwell House, Highgate]
Our forefathers must have been animated by the spirit which caused Mr. Ruskin to write: “When we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, ‘See! this our fathers did for us.’”
[Illustration: Piece of Wood Carved with Inscription Found with a sword (temp. Charles II) in an old house at Stoke-under-Ham, Somerset]
[Illustration: Seventeenth-century Water-clock, in Norwich Museum]