The story of our vanished and vanishing churches, and of their vanished and vanishing contents, is indeed a sorry one. Many efforts are made in these days to educate the public taste, to instil into the minds of their custodians a due appreciation of their beauties and of the principles of English art and architecture, and to save and protect the treasures that remain. That these may be crowned with success is the earnest hope and endeavour of every right-minded Englishman.
[Illustration: Reversed Rose carved on “Miserere” in Norwich Cathedral]
One of the most deplorable features of vanishing England is the gradual disappearance of its grand old manor-houses and mansions. A vast number still remain, we are thankful to say. We have still left to us Haddon and Wilton, Broughton, Penshurst, Hardwick, Welbeck, Bramshill, Longleat, and a host of others; but every year sees a diminution in their number. The great enemy they have to contend with is fire, and modern conveniences and luxuries, electric lighting and the heating apparatus, have added considerably to their danger. The old floors and beams are unaccustomed to these insidious wires that have a habit of fusing, hence we often read in the newspapers: “DISASTROUS FIRE—HISTORIC MANSION ENTIRELY DESTROYED.” Too often not only is the house destroyed, but most of its valuable contents is devoured by the flames. Priceless pictures by Lely and Vandyke, miniatures of Cosway, old furniture of Chippendale and Sheraton, and the countless treasures which generations of cultured folk with ample wealth have accumulated, deeds, documents and old papers that throw valuable light on the manners and customs of our forefathers and on the history of the country, all disappear and can never be replaced. A great writer has likened an old house to a human heart with a life of its own, full of sad and sweet reminiscences. It is deplorably sad when the old mansion disappears in a night, and to find in the morning nothing but blackened walls—a grim ruin.
Our forefathers were a hardy race, and did not require hot-water pipes and furnaces to keep them warm. Moreover, they built their houses so surely and so well that they scarcely needed these modern appliances. They constructed them with a great square courtyard, so that the rooms on the inside of the quadrangle were protected from the winds. They sang truly in those days, as in these:—
heigh ho for the wind and the rain,
For the rain it raineth every day.
[Illustration: Oak Panelling. Wainscot of Fifteenth Century, with addition circa late Seventeenth Century, fitted on to it in angle of room in the Church House, Goudhurst, Kent]