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and York as if a' the land had been trenched and levelled, whilk is very wearisome to my Scotch een ... “As for the matter of that, young woman,' said mine host, 'an you be so fond o' hill, I carena an thou couldst carry Gunnerby away with thee in thy lap, for it's a murder to posthorses.'”
From the top of Gonerby Hill or Gunnerby (according to the old maps) we had a long run down into Grantham, where we sought “shelter and a night's lodging " beneath the sign of the “ Angel,” one of the few medieval hostelries left to us; at the moment I can only call to memory six others in England, but there may be more.
A most interesting old building is the Angel at Grantham, with its weather-worn and time-stained front of stone facing the street and giving it quite a special character ; nor do you come upon so aged and historic an hostelry every day. At the end of the drip mouldings on either side of the central archway that gives access to the building, are sculptured heads representing those of Edward III. and Philippa his Queen; at least so we were told, we had no other means of knowing whom the heads were intended for. One has to take many things on faith in this world! Over the archway projects a fine oriel window ornamented with carvings, the window being supported on a corbel composed of an angel with outspread wings. It was in this very building — according to our landlord who had naturally studied the history of his old house—that King John held his Court on 23rd February 1213
(a fairly long time to date back to); and Richard III. signed the death-warrant of the Duke of Buckingham on 19th October 1483, in a room still called the “King's Chamber.” We found that we had this very chamber allotted to us as our bedroom—a room that surely should be haunted, if ever a room were; but we slept soundly there, and if any ghost did appear he did not disturb us; anyway we were far too sleepy, after our long drive in the open air, to trouble about such trifles as ghosts! I verily believe if one had appeared that we should simply have turned lazily over, and have told him angrily not to bother us! A driving tour begets iron nerves and dreamless slumbers..
Here in this ancient and storied hostelry we latter-day travellers were made exceedingly comfortable; we were even provided with the wholly unexpected, and, be it confessed, undesired, luxury of the electric light—which indeed appeared far too anachronistic for its surroundings. So comfortable were we made, that, remembering our letter of introduction, and finding that Staunton Hall was some nine miles away, we determined to drive there and back on the morrow, and stay on at the “ Angel” over another day, though we required no excuse to do so.
During the evening, whilst making sundry small purchases at a shop, we overheard one of a party of purchasers ask another if he had heard the drunken sermon? The question sounded to us like a bit of local scandal, and though we much dislike all scandal, still in this case curiosity got the
better of our dislikes, and when his customers had gone, we ventured to ask the shopman what the scandal was. “Bless you, sir,', replied he, “there's no scandal at all; we're far too good in Grantham to have any scandals." We were delighted to hear this, and thereupon thought what a delightful place Grantham must be to live in! It was explained to us that, according to an ancient will of a certain Michael Solomon, the tenant of the “Angel” has to pay a sum of two guineas every year to the vicar, in return for which the vicar has to preach a sermon against drunkenness, which he does annually on the first Sunday after the mayor's election. And this sermon is known locally as the “drunken sermon.” I only devoutly wish that all scandals were so readily explained away, for then the world would be a much pleasanter place to live in!
Early next morning we set off for Staunton Hall. Soon after getting free of the town we had a fine, though distant, view of Belvoir Castle, rising prominently and picturesquely out of the woods to our left, with the misty hills of Leicestershire forming an effective background. Passing on through a pleasant stretch of country we reached the pretty village of Bottesford, where we forded a little river, hence doubtless the name. Here we observed the steps and base of the shaft of a market-cross. The church chanced to be open, so we took a glance inside and found there a number of grand monuments to the Lords of Belvoir. A portion of the inscription on the magnificent tomb of the sixth Earl of Rutland we copied as showing the strange
faith in sorcery held at the period even in the highest ranks of society, and this is it: “In 1608, he married ye Lady Cecilia Hungerford by whom he had two sonnes both wch died in their infancy by wicked practise and sorcerye.” Monumental inscriptions are oftentimes curious reading, and frequently throw interesting sidelights on the superstitions and manners of bygone days...
There was nothing further noteworthy on our way till we reached Staunton Hall, an ancient home set away in a tree-shaded park, and here our letter of introduction ensured us a welcome ; not only did the lady of the house very kindly offer to show us over it herself, but also most courteously granted us the highly appreciated privilege of inspecting several of the old family documents, some of which were of exceeding interest. Amongst the treasures preserved here is the gold key of the Staunton tower and the Royal apartments at Belvoir Castle. During the Parliamentary wars, it appears Colonel Staunton, of Staunton Hall, held and defended Belvoir Castle for the King. As a recognition for this act, the head of the Staunton family are privileged to go to Belvoir Castle when any member of the Royal family is about to visit there, and to present to such member the gold key which nominally gives access to the Royal apartments.
We noticed, as we drove up, over the entrance doorway the date 1573, inscribed below a coat-ofarms, but this, we were told, only relates to the doorway which was a later addition to the building; the year of the erection of the hall being actually a little
earlier, namely in 1554, as shown cut in a stone let into one of the chimney stacks. The great and original heavy oak door is still in situ ; indented and in places pierced with shots and bullets that were fired at it during the siege of the house by the Parliamentary forces; during which attack the house was bravely defended by the wife of Colonel Staunton, who, just before it was captured, made her escape with her children. On the door over these records of that struggle is cut the date thereof, 1642. The ancient and historic door is preserved by an inner one of oak attached thereto.
Amongst the very interesting family documents is a deed in old Latin, temp. 1323, relating to the bearing of the Cross in the Holy Land on behalf of William de Staunton, to which is attached a translation ; this latter we copied, and it runs as follows
To all people about to see or hear this letter, I, William de Staunton give greeting. Know ye that in consideration of high esteem and for the safety of my own soul, and those of my ancestors and successors have made free Hugo Travers, the son of Simon of Alurington in which place he assumed the Cross for me, and have quit claimed for myself and my heirs for ever, himself and his possessions from all terrene service and exaction, and have yielded him with all his possessions or property to the Lord and the Church of St. Mary of Staunton, whereby I desire and grant that he and his property may remain free for ever under the protection of the Lord and St. Mary, and the restored church of Staunton. Witness hereof, Witto, priest of Kidvington, Radulpho de St. Paul. Walter de Hou.
And many others, the date following. Which document is food for thought, and seems to show how easily, according to the Church of those days, the