Vanishing England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 374 pages of information about Vanishing England.
“It is a long range of chambers built of mellow brick and immemorial oak, having in their centre a small hall, darkly wainscoted, the very table in which makes a collector sinfully covetous.  In front of the modest doors of the chambers inhabited by almsmen and almswomen runs a tiny cloister with oak pillars, so that the inmates may visit one another dryshod in any weather.  Each door, too, bears a text from the Old or New Testament.  A more typical relic of the old world, a more sequestered haven of rest, than this row of lowly buildings, looking up to the great church in front, and with its windows opening on to green turf bordered with flowers in the rear, it could not enter into the heart of man to imagine."[60]

  [60] Highways and Byways in Berkshire.

We could spend endless time in visiting the old almshouses in many parts of the country.  There is the Ford’s Hospital in Coventry, erected in 1529, an extremely good specimen of late Gothic work, another example of which is found in St. John’s Hospital at Rye.  The Corsham Almshouses in Wiltshire, erected in 1663, are most picturesque without, and contain some splendid woodwork within, including a fine old reading-desk with carved seat in front.  There is a large porch with an immense coat-of-arms over the door.  In the region of the Cotswolds, where building-stone is plentiful, we find a noble set of almshouses at Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire, a gabled structure near the church with tall, graceful chimneys and mullioned windows, having a raised causeway in front protected by a low wall.  Ewelme, in Oxfordshire, is a very attractive village with a row of cottages half a mile long, which have before their doors a sparkling stream dammed here and there into watercress beds.  At the top of the street on a steep knoll stand church and school and almshouses of the mellowest fifteenth-century bricks, as beautiful and structurally sound as the pious founders left them.  These founders were the unhappy William de la Pole, first Duke of Suffolk, and his good wife the Duchess Alice.  The Duke inherited Ewelme through his wife Alice Chaucer, a kinswoman of the poet, and “for love of her and the commoditie of her landes fell much to dwell in Oxfordshire,” and in 1430-40 was busy building a manor-place of “brick and Tymbre and set within a fayre mote,” a church, an almshouse, and a school.  The manor-place, or “Palace,” as it was called, has disappeared, but the almshouse and school remain, witnesses of the munificence of the founders.  The poor Duke, favourite minister of Henry VI, was exiled by the Yorkist faction, and beheaded by the sailors on his way to banishment.  Twenty-five years of widowhood fell to the bereaved duchess, who finished her husband’s buildings, called the almshouses “God’s House,” and then reposed beneath one of the finest monuments in England in the church hard by.  The almshouses at Audley End, Essex, are amongst the most picturesque in the country.  Such are some of these charming homes of rest that time has spared.

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Vanishing England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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