Roundell Palmer's Memorials

Memorials. Part I. Family and Personal. 1766-1865. Roundell Palmer, Earl of Selborne. Volume 1. London, Macmillan & Co. Ltd. 1896. Index



I HAVE departed from the order of time, to bring together these memorials of a part of my Father’s life, which preceded my birth, or was beyond my recollection. He married my Mother, Dorothea Richardson Roundell, the youngest sister of his school and college friend, Richard Roundell, on the 10th September 1810. She was then nearly eighteen; he was thirty-two years old. She was one of a large family, seven sons and three daughters. Her father, William Roundell, a clergyman, had, on the death of an elder brother, succeeded to a considerable estate, situate chiefly at Marton in Craven, a district of rich upland limestone pastures and interesting scenery, on the borders of Lancashire and Westmoreland, including the upper valleys of the Ribble, the Aire, and the Wharfe. The nearest town to Marton is Skipton; Bolton Abbey, and the fine rock scenery of Malham Cove and Gordale, of Peny-y-gent and Ingleborough, are within easy distance from it. The Roundell family had been settled for more than four centuries in the West Riding of Yorkshire, of which Craven forms part; their title-deeds to some land at Screven, near Knaresborough, going back to the year 1425.

Gledstone, my Grandfather’s house, was built for his brother by a popular architect of that day, in a plain Italian style, in the parish of East Marton. The situation was happily chosen, a wooded eminence, looking down upon a rapidly-descending slope interspersed with clumps of trees, dotted with picturesque old hawthorns, and surrounded by a circle of blue hills; the moors near Colne to the east; Pendle Hill over Clitheroe to the south; Ingleborough westward; and to the north Rumbold’s moor above Skipton, and the Rylstone Fells.

My brother William was born at Mixbury on the 12th July 1811, and I on the 27th November 1812. Two brothers followed, Thomas, and Henry Roundell, then two sisters, Mary Richardson and Eleanor; afterwards two more brothers, George Horsley, born in 1822, and Edwin, in 1824; and three sisters, Emma, Dorothea, and Emily Frances.

I recollect but little of my Gledstone Grandparents, though more than one visit was paid to them during my infancy. The impressions which remain with me are, that they were very old and kind; that I and my brother William were more mischievous than we ought to have been; and that my Uncle Richard (then practically master of the house) was a strict disciplinarian. The journey of 180 miles from Mixbury was performed in post chaises, and took three days. Sometimes we went by way of Manchester, sometimes by Leeds. On the last of those occasions, when I must have been about six years old, I had an adventure at Warwick, and was nearly left behind. There was a kennelled fox in the inn-yard, off which I could not take my eyes, having never seen a fox before. Our party was a good post-chaise full, and we were duly mustered at the moment fixed for our departure; but I contrived to slip out again, to take a last look at the fox. In the meantime the carriage came to the door, parents, brothers, and nurses were packed into it, and it drove away down the hill. The hostler, discovering me in the courtyard, ran after it, carrying me in his arms, and shouting ‘Stop, stop! you have left a little boy behind!’ I never forgot the sensation with which I saw my Father put his head out of the window, and heard him deny the fact, and order the postillion to drive on. The evidence, however, was conclusive; and after a little time the chaise stopped, and I was packed in with the rest. How my parents settled between themselves the responsibility for this oversight I do not recollect; but the fault was my own, and I never played the truant during such a journey again. The story has interested my children and grandchildren, and I record it for the benefit of little people of future generations.

My Grandmother, Mrs. Roundell, died in 1819, and her husband in 1821.

She bequeathed to her descendants the following table of rules drawn up by her Father for her edification on entering into society, two years before her marriage to William Roundell. It is labelled

31st May 1773—Directions For Molly whilst Abroad.

1. Read a Chapter in the Bible every Morning early.
2. Then say your Prayers.
3. Apply yourself to something of Busyness.
4. Set down every Night what You saw or heard remarkable that Day.
5. Say Your Prayers; beginning and ending every Day with Applications to Almighty God.
6. Improve Your playing on the Harpsichord and Singing.
7. Set down the Dishes in order at every great Dinner or Supper, and get a Receipt for every pretty Dish and learn how to make it.
8. Take great Notice of any fine House, Furniture, or Gardens, and put it into writing that Night.
9. Observe Everyone’s Carriage and Behaviour, and imitate what is commendable and avoid what is not.
10. Set Yourself to be obliging to Every-one Your Equal.
11. Be not too familiar with any Servant, nor with any Man You think not fit for Your Husband; but keep such at a due Distance.
12. Strive to be Virtuous, Good, Discreet, and Wise, and avoid Sin, Folly, and Idleness.
13. Consider well what Company You are in, and take care that You say not anything to disoblige them, or any of their Relations or Friends.
14. Say nothing before Servants that may make them uneasy in their Place.
31st May 1773.
Recommended by Hry. Richardson to his daughter Mary whilst abroad.

Mary Richardson belonged to a family which in the middle of the eighteenth century produced a noted English botanist, a correspondent of Linnæus and of other great naturalists of that day. My Grandmother’s sister, Dorothy Richardson, who lived at Gargrave, near Gledstone, inherited the garden of her scientific relative; the beauty and rarity of its flowers even then made an impression on me. My aunt Mary Anne Roundell (a good artist, and in later years a favourite pupil of De Wint [i]) learnt from Dorothy Richardson a taste for botany, and particularly for English wild-flowers, with which she indoctrinated me. The neighbourhood of Gledstone was rich in them: the beautiful rose-coloured Primula (farinosa) was frequent in its meadows; Greek Valerian (Polemonium cœruleum) then grew (and I believe still grows) together with the bloody Crane’s-bill and Mossy Saxifrage (Geranium sanguineum, Saxifraga hypnoides), and other rare plants, beneath the rocks of Malham Cove; the Lady’s Slipper (Oypripedium Calceolus) was found in the mountain copses of Craven, and the cream-coloured variety of the Giant Throatwort (Campanula latifolia), a plant fit to be ranked for stateliness and beauty with the Foxglove, was common in the lanes and hedgebanks close to Gledstone. My acquaintance with these botanical treasures cannot be carried so far back as early infancy, but they enter too much into my memories of Gledstone to be left out of sight when I recall the associations of that place.

The only other near relative of the Roundell family, beyond their immediate circle, whom I ever knew was Miss Richardson Currer, my Grandmother’s niece, who lived at Eshton Hall, in the same parish with Dorothy Richardson. She had succeeded (not without a lawsuit, recorded in the law reports of Lord Thurlow’s time) to estates of large value, inherited by her father from the Currer family of Kildwick, whose name he assumed and which, if an entail had been cut off, as was contemplated in certain famjly settlements, would have gone to the Gledstone line. She was a generous and accomplished lady, and formed a splendid library, hardly inferior to that of Mr. Richard Heber, a friend of her youth, whom she was at one time thought likely to have married. From her, my parents received substantial kindness, for which I hold her memory in grateful esteem.

Among my Roundell uncles, Henry Dawson, the third living at the time of my Father’s marriage, was a clergyman, a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford; who, not long afterwards, was presented by Lord Chancellor Eldon to the Rectory of Fringford, within four miles of Mixbury. This was the source of constant and most happy intercourse between the two parsonages, which lasted till my uncle’s death in 1852. He and my Father agreed in religion and in politics, and, having friends still resident at the University, they helped each other to keep up a connection with Oxford. My uncle’s heart was in his duties; he was a genial, high-spirited, high-principled man, universally popular. To complete his own and his friends’ happiness, he married a wife of rare endowments of person, mind, and character; Elizabeth Garforth, daughter of a mill-owner at Coniston, not far from Gledstone. Through her, the ladies of the Marshall family, well known at Leeds and in the Lake Country (of whom one was afterwards Lady Monteagle, and another Mrs. Whewell), became frequent visitors at Fringford; which led to my receiving kindness from that family when I first went to live in London.

When my Mother left her home for Mixbury, the change to her must have been great; Gledstone and its surroundings had been the whole of her world. Her disposition was warm and affectionate, and her natural abilities excellent; but she had been brought up on a rather old-fashioned system; and the atmosphere of Gledstone, as to literature (though not as to art), was then less intellectual that that of Nazing.

My Father’s predecessor at Mixbury was an eccentric man, named Alt, son, I believe, of a German, who came from Hanover with King George the First. The people had many superstitions about him, and thought that his ghost haunted the place. The house which he inhabited had gone. That which replaced it was four-square, with a low line of offices dividing the garden from the stables and farmyard; built of the common limestone of the country, quarried on the spot, and covered with blue Welsh slate. It was good enough inside; but had been designed with an absolute disregard for architectural effect. The church, and the churchyard, were close by to the north. The church, partly Norman, partly in the simple decorated style of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, was good in itself, but had suffered from many generations of churchwardens; and, although in some respects improved by my Father in his earlier years, it did not undergo a complete restoration and renovation till towards the close of his incumbency, in 1849–1851; when he accomplished a work which he had long desired. In front of the house, to the west, a wall masked by a bank of laurels divided the gravelled entrance from the village street, with a row of stately elms behind it, inhabited by a colony of rooks. The garden lay to the south and east; a long oval walk ran round a grass paddock, partly bordered by flower-beds, and partly carried through shrubberies and small groups of trees planted by my father—one of which clumps screened off the kitchen-garden. Such was Mixbury in my childhood. There was then no school of the modern sort; my Father built one, long afterwards. The boys and girls of the parish were taught partly by the parish-clerk in a cottage, and partly by my Father and Mother, wherever they found it most convenient.

To Finmere, a pleasant footpath led across the fields. That village lay chiefly in a dip between rising ground on both sides; the church, smaller than and architecturally inferior to that of Mixbury, standing at the highest point, at the north-east end. The Rectory house, a picturesque rambling thatched cottage, nestled below the church, on the slope from the east to the main street. Finmere had been much better cared for than Mixbury. It was not far from Stowe, the lords of which were at that time patrons of the church, and owners of nearly all the land in the parish. They were desirous that the benefices in their gift should be held by men of education and good social position as well as character. Some of those whom they presented to Finmere had been tutors in their own family: one, William Cleaver, became Principal of Brasenose, and afterwards a Bishop; and my Father’s predecessor there, with whom he exchanged from Beachampton, was Sir George Lee, then owner of Hartwell House, in which Louis XVIII. resided during his exile in England.

When the pleasure-grounds of Stowe were laid out by ‘Capability’ Brown, he was instructed also to try his hand at making as much as was possible of the garden attached to Finmere Rectory, and he did so to admiration. The house, standing at the foot of a slope of green turf, looked out upon cedars, spruce firs, groups of other well-chosen trees and shrubs, and pretty flower-beds; all so disposed, as to produce the effect of a long perspective, and of considerable space where there was really little; altogether pleasant to the eye. The place is now changed; the thatched cottage has disappeared; the new Rectory is, doubt­less, more convenient; it stands higher, so as to overlook more of the surrounding country, and is not so close to the village; but, to my eyes at all events, the old charm is gone.

[i] Peter De Wint (1784-1849), Landscape watercolour painter.

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