Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

4 HoME SCENES, OR

stannary towns; the prison was at Lidford. Until of late years it was the custom to open the court at Crockern Tor, and then to adjourn to the town. These interesting remains of ancient jurisdiction at Crockern Tor are now destroyed or carried away. It appears that during the sway of the Romans, the Dan-monii with their neighbouring tribes maintained a rugged independence in the west. The name of Hengist-down in the neighbourhood of Tavistock, would give us leave to suppose that the Saxons under one of their celebrated leaders, attempted to penetrate into the fastnesses of “The deep valleys.” Warlike instruments have been dug up on the down, and several barrows have been discovered which would intimate that a battle took place there between the Saxons and Britons, but other accounts attribute the occasion of their being in that spot to a later encounter between the Saxons and the Danes. In the time of Athelstan the Dan-monii were driven beyond the Tamar; and Tavistock became the residence of a Saxon heretoge or Earl. Hordgarius or Ordgar is the first of whom we have some notice. Mr. Kempe in his “Antiquities of Tavistock” ingeniously supposes the manor of Hurdwick near Tavistock to have been the seat of the famous earl; Hurdwick being made a contraction of Ordwick or Ordgar's wick. Be that as it may, it has been imagined that the beautiful Elfrida, (daughter of Ordgar,) so celebrated in her fortunes and her crimes, was wooed and won, first by the favourite of the Saxon king Edgar, and then by the king himself, in this very spot. It is needless to repeat at full length the story of Elfrida, so well known in historical narrative; we would only add that Ethelwold the favourite of the king, and first husband of this faithless woman, is said to have been slain at “Wilverly (by some Warwell) on the forest of Dartmoor,” which would fix the event in

[graphic]
[graphic]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

our neighbourhood. Tradition relates that in after years Ordgar was admonished in a dream to dedicate a portion of land to the service of God. Accordingly he founded and endowed the noble abbey of Tavistock.

“Una badia,
Ricca e bella, non men religiosa
E cortese a chiunque vi venia.”
ARIosTo.

Stately buildings arose on every side, the monastery was solemnly dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Rumon, and a colony of Black Monks” or Benedictines was speedily assembled to occupy the favoured spot. Ordgar was assisted in the completion of his pious work by his son Eadulphus or Ordulph, who appears to have been a second Samson in strength and ability. He was of gigantic stature, and is reputed by Prince in his “Worthies of Devon” to have performed prodigies of valour. At one time, when travelling with King Edward the confessor, he wrenched off the iron bars of the gates of Exeter, with the greatest ease imaginable, while with his foot he broke the hinges and laid the gates open. He is also said to have stepped across rivers ten feet widell a very useful accomplishment in a country in which rivers were plentiful and bridges few.

It is not surprising therefore, that our hero should have prosecuted his father's wishes in a style of magnificence, which would seem to belong to a later age. Lands and benefactions were heaped upon the monks of Tavistock, until their monastery exceeded all others in the county in wealth and power. *

It would appear that Ordulph had partly in view to

* Oliver. Risdon calls these Black monks, Augustines, and says “the abbey was dedicated to St. Mary and St. Burien; St. Rumon being only spoken of as “Bishop of the place, interred there.”

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

HoME SCENES, OR

provide a splendid burial place for himself. His bones were collected in a stone Sarcophagus and laid in the cloisters of the abbey; one arch of which still remains over what is said to have been “Ordulph's tomb.” The Sarcophagus is preserved through the care of the Rev. E. A. Bray in the vicarage garden. Some large sized bones are still exhibited in the parish church as those of Ordulph. Ordgar was also buried in Tavistock Abbey in “a splendid sepulture.” Here too according to Malmsbury “lay Edwin, son of King Ethelred, treacherously slain by the Danes, whom, for his regardless deportment or otherwise, they called king of the churls.” About thirty-eight years after its erection, Tavistock abbey was destroyed by those fierce Northmen, the Danes, who, coming up the Tamar, landed on a spot now known as Danes'Combe, and proceeded to ravage the country, spreading terror and devastation, whithersoever they went. It is not to be supposed that the rich abbey with its hoarded treasures should escape their rapacity.

“The step of the destroyer fell
Around its holy altars.”

The sacred edifice was attacked, and almost levelled with the ground, whilst the robbers went on their way, pursuing their plunders as far as Lidford, reckless of the maledictions of the untenanted brotherhood who viewed with horror their sacrilegious deeds. Dearly did the marauders pay for their merciless incursions, when the day of retribution came. The horrible massacre of the Danes when the unholy spirit of persecution directed in one hour the slaughter of a countless multitude, will ever stain the annals of Ethelred the Unready. Yet could greater mercy or lenity have been expected from the son of the murderess Elfrida Ž In the mean time, Tavistock

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

abbey was restored to more than its original splendour by the exertions of Livingus, its second abbot, as well as by the benefactions of several private individuals amongst whom the De Edgecombes shine conspicuous. From this period the monastery appears to have enjoyed varying prosperity under a succession of Abbots; who were more or less distinguished for their virtues and vices. “The Kings of England from the Conquest at least were reputed its founders and patrons.” Henry I. granted to the Abbots the entire jurisdiction of the hundred of Tavistock, and a weekly market and annual fairs, and invested them with other privileges. The monks appear to have derived much revenue from levying a toll on every article brought into the town to the market or fair. They enforced many strict regulations to prevent theft and deceit ; amongst others “every person was required to take an oath at the toll gate before he was permitted to pass, that during his continuance in the fair he would neither lie, steal, nor cheat.” In the 13th century during the reign of Edward II. the conventual church was rebuilt, which is said to have been 378 feet long without including the Lady's chapel. It was finally taken down in 1670. In the same year Bishop Stapeldon dedicated the parish church to St. Eustace. Under the amiable and benevolent abbot, Robert Champeaux or Campbell, who lived at this time, the Abbey seems to have flourished greatly. One charitable act of his is still recorded, namely, that “he appropriated the whole profits arising from an estate called Westly-deton (granted two years before to his abbey, by Sir Odo Le Arcedeakne), to the providing of the poor with clothes and shoes; the annual distribution of which was made in the cloisters on the 2d November, the commemoration of all the faithful departed.” Of the two immediate successors of Campbell little

[graphic]
[graphic][graphic]
[graphic]

good is said. John de Courtenay who presided in 1334 “had very little of the spirit of a religious man. He was passionately fond of field sports, (probably often favouring with his presence the hunting seats of Morwel and Leigh,) was very conceited and foppish in his dress, and a most incurable spend-thrift. During his government discipline seems banished from the convent; the ancient refectory was neglected, the monks choosing to enjoy secret feasting in their private chambers. From the neglect of repairs, the monastery was falling into a dilapidated state : and moreover was overcharged with debts.” In 1450 it appears that the abbot John Dynynton obtained from the Pope the privileges of a bishop in using the pontificals, and bestowing benediction at mass and at table. But the power of these proud and ambitious monks arose to its utmost height in the early part of the reign of Henry 8th. Richard Banham was created a mitred abbot, and “was admitted a baron of the higher house of parliament” in 1513: nor was he contented with such dignity but aspired also to be exempted from all episcopal visitation. After various disputes with the Bishop of Exeter, Hugh Oldham, who excommunicated him for contempt of his superior authority; Banham, by dint of assiduity and perseverance obtained from Leo X. a bull of such ample and extraordinary privileges as completely to exempt the Abbey from all episcopal jurisdiction, and to place it under the sole and immediate protection of the Holy See. “As an acknowledgment of such sweeping liberality, the Abbot was annually to pay to the Apostolic Chamber, on the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul, half an ounce of gold, i.e. twenty shillings of lawful money of England.” While the Abbey was thus heaping up

* Oliver.

[graphic]
[graphic][graphic]
[graphic]
« ZurückWeiter »