The gardens at Hoghton Tower, though necessarily confined in space, owing to their situation on the brow of a hill, were beautifully laid out, and commanded from their balustred terraces magnificent views of the surrounding country. Below them lay the well-wooded park, skirted by the silvery Darwen, with the fair village of Walton-le-Dale immediately beyond it, the proud town of Preston further on, and the single-coned Nese Point rising majestically in the distance. The principal garden constituted a square, and was divided with mathematical precision, according to the formal taste of the time, into smaller squares, with a broad well-kept gravel walk at each angle. These plots were arranged in various figures and devices—such as the cinq-foil, the flower-de-luce, the trefoil, the lozenge, the fret, the diamond, the crossbow, and the oval—all very elaborate and intricate in design. Besides these knots, as they were termed, there were labyrinths, and clipped yew-tree walks, and that indispensable requisite to a garden at the period, a maze. In the centre was a grassy eminence, surmounted by a pavilion, in front of which spread a grass-plot of smoothest turf, ordinarily used as a bowling-green. At the lower end of this a temporary stage was erected, for the masque about to be represented before the King. Torches were kindled, and numerous lamps burned in the branches of the adjoining trees; but they were scarcely needed, for the moon being at the full, the glorious effulgence shed by her upon the scene rendered all other light pale and ineffectual.
After supper, at which the drinking was deeper than at dinner, the whole of the revellers repaired to the garden, full of frolic and merriment, and well-disposed for any diversion in store for them. The King was conducted to the bowling-green by his host, preceded by a crowd of attendants bearing odoriferous torches; but the royal gait being somewhat unsteady, the aid of Sir Gilbert Hoghton’s arm was required to keep the monarch from stumbling. The rest of the bacchanalians followed, and, elated as they were, it will not be wondered that they put very little restraint upon themselves, but shouted, sang, danced, and indulged in all kinds of licence.
Opposite the stage prepared for the masquers a platform had been reared, in front of which was a chair for the King, with seats for the nobles and principal guests behind it. The sides were hung with curtains of crimson velvet fringed with gold; the roof decorated like a canopy; so that it had a very magnificent effect. James lolled back in his chair, and jested loudly and rather indecorously with the various personages as they took their places around him. In less than five minutes the whole of the green was filled with revellers, and great was the pushing and jostling, the laughing and screaming, that ensued among them. Silence was then enjoined by Sir John Finett, who had stationed himself on the steps of the stage, and at this command the assemblage became comparatively quiet, though now and then a half-suppressed titter or a smothered scream would break out. Amid this silence the King’s voice could be distinctly heard, and his coarse jests reached the ears of all the astonished audience, provoking many a severe comment from the elders, and much secret laughter from the juniors.