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HOTEL: The Berkeley Arins. Berkeley Road Station from Bristol, 22 miles ; from Gloucester, 15; Chel
The small but ancient and interesting town of Berkeley is pleasantly situated in the fertile vale of the same name, about two miles from the Berkeley Road Station of the Midland Railway. According to Sir Thomas Atkyns, the historian of Gloucestershire, the name is derived from Berk, a birch tree, and Leas, a pasture. In the time of the Saxons, Berkeley was the site of a nunnery of considerable wealth and importance. Walter Mapes, an English poet of the 12th century, has related the device whereby the Saxon Earl Godwin came into possession of the rich estates of the sisterhood. He caused his nephew, “ a young, proper, handsome spark," to counterfeit illness as he was travelling past the nunnery. The youth was received and nursed by the nuns ; and during his stay he succeeded in seducing several of them, including the abbess herself. Earl Godwin at once brought an accusation against the nuns; and, the case being proved, their lands were seized, and granted by King Edward the Confessor to the Earl. As the story goes, he did not long enjoy his ill-gotten estates ; “ for the large fruitful isle, since known by the name of Goodwin Sands, being part of his possessions, was irrecoverably swallowed up by the sea ; and he and his whole family were not long after rooted out of the kingdom.” William the Conqueror assigned the manor of Berkeley to Roger, one of his followers, who assumed the name of Roger de Berkeley. Roger followed the usual practice of the Normans by building a castle on his estate, thereafter becoming a shorn monk in the Priory of Stanley St. Leonard, where he died in the odour of sanctity, leaving his possessions to his nephew William de Berkeley. Subsequently we find the manor bestowed by Henry II. on Robert Fitz-Harding, ancestor of the present Earl of Berkeley, in whose family it has remained ever since. The town grew up under the protection of the castle, which was repaired and enlarged at different times. Town and castle will always be associated in history with the barbarous murder of King Edward II. A more agreeable association is that which connects the town with Dr. Jenner, whose introduction of the practice of vaccination has proved a universal blessing. Dr. Jenner was born here in 1749, and died in 1823.
In itself, the town has little to call for notice, beyond the castle and church. It is pleasantly situated, and has some old houses of picturesque appearance. There is a neat modern town-hall for the transaction of public business. The principal trade of the district is in agricultural produce and coal from the neighbouring forest of Dean. According to the census of 1861 there are in the borough of Berkeley 196 inhabited houses, and 1011 persons, showing the slight increase of 4 houses and 62 persons since 1851.
THE CASTLE is on the south-east side of the town, and is in a state of perfect preservation. It was founded, as already stated, by Roger de Berkeley shortly after the Norman Conquest. Robert Fitz-Harding, the second of the name, enlarged and repaired the fortress, and further strengthened himself in the possession of the estates, by arranging a marriage between Maurice, his son and heir, and Alice, the daughter of Roger, Lord of Dursley, who had been dispossessed by King Henry II. The heir of Lord Dursley, in his turn, espoused Helena, the daughter of Lord Berkeley ; and by the double marriage all feuds between the two families were happily ended. The old historians inform us that the FitzHardings have in their veins the blood-royal of Denmark, and that they are moreover connected by marriage with the Dukes of Normandy, the ancient Saxons, the Princes of Wales, etc.
The building contains a good deal of genuine Norman work, and part of it is open to the inspection of visitors. It has been defended by a moat, which is still well marked. The donjon keep, the citadel of the fortress, stands on a mound within an irregularlyshaped courtyard, and is flanked by semicircular and embattled towers. On the right of the great staircase leading into the keep an apartment is pointed out which is said to have been the scene of the murder of King Edward II. in 1327. The particulars of this cruel murder are too familiar to the readers of history to require to be detailed at length. Edward had been forced to resign his crown by the machinations of his queen Isabella and her paramour Mortimer, who assumed the regency in name of Edward III. The unfortunate king was treated with great cruelty, in the hope that he might die under the hardships to which he was exposed. The process, however, proving too slow, Adam, Bishop of Hereford, who was in concert with Isabella and Mortimer, sent the keeper of the castle of Berkeley, where he was confined, the following enigmatical message, without any points to mark the sense in which it was to be understood : “Edvardum occidere nolite timere bonum est.”
The placing of a comma before, and the placing of it after timere, give readings precisely the opposite of each other :-“To kill Edward be unwilling, to fear it is good ;" “ To kill Edward be unwilling to fear, it is good.” King Edward's gaolers took the message, as it was intended they should, in its fatal sense, and the wretched monarch was put to death with circumstances of cruelty seldom paralleled. The furniture of the apartment is said to be the same that it contained at the time of the murder. There is also some antique and interesting furniture in several of the other apartments. The apartments of the ancient part of the castle are in general of a gloomy character, unless where they have been made lighter by the introduction of modern windows. It is unnecessary here to mention the different rooms in detail, as all needful information regarding them is given by the person who conducts visitors through the parts of the castle which are open to inspection. The castle contains some good paintings and other objects of art.
THE CHURCH, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is in the immediate vicinity of the castle. It is chiefly in the Early English style, and consists of nave, aisles, chancel, and south chapel. A little way from the church stands a square tower surmounted with battlements and pinnacles, probably part of a previous edifice.
In the interior of the church are various interesting monuments. The chief of these is to Thomas, Lord Berkeley, who died in 1385, and Margaret his wife. The tomb, which is in the body of the church, bears their lecumbent effigies in alabaster. This Lord Berkeley, we may remark, figures as a somewhat important personage in Shakspere's play of “Richard the Second.” In the chapel, on the south side of the chancel, is a stately monument in memory of James, Lord Berkeley, who died in 1463. It has the recumbent effigies in marble of himself and his son. Another fine monument has the recumbent figures of Henry, Lord Berkeley, and his lady. This Lord Berkeley died in 1613. Dr. Edward Jenner is buried in the chancel, and a tablet in the wall records the fact. There are several other monuments; but they are of no special importance.
VICINITY OF BERKELEY.—There is a good deal of attractive scenery in the neighbourhood of Berkeley.