Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
On the western end of the ladies’ bower, a window opened into a delightful garden, richly stored with flowers and delicious fruits. By opening the casements beneath the transom, one might pass out into this charming, secluded retreat. There was also a private entrance through the green-court, by a broad flight of steps at the end of the alley from the grand staircase: as the ground rises rapidly on the western side of the mansion, the steps landed on a broad terrace-walk, which conducted, at either end, through gardens and orchards, to the rabbit-warren, fishponds, and bowling-greens, with garden pavilions, rustic seats, aquatic and other embellishments, which added much to the delight of old-fashioned pleasure-grounds, which were always designed for use as well as for recreation. On the bank, sloping towards the morning sun, the ground between the mill-brook (that still flows through the orchard), and the window of "My lady's bower," would be beds of pinks and roses, sweet-william and margery (marjorum), clove-gilliflowers of various colours, diffusing a perfume sweet as the spices of the East. The primrose, violet, and snowdrop might be seen peeping from the shady bank beside the brook, and lilies drooping over the stream. In all parts of the garden would be seen growing with little care or culture,
From the soft wing of vernal breezes shed,
Anemones, auriculas, enrich’d
With shining meal o’er all their velvet leaves:
And full ranunculus of glowing red."
There the "fresh pervinkle, rich of hewe," may still be found, showing its azure blossoms and glossy leaves, mingled with many a garden flower now growing wild. On the sunniest spots were banks of lavender and thyme, alive with bees; the beds of flowers were edged with daisies, grass-pinks, saxifrage, cliff-pinks, or the fine-leaved wood-strawberry plant. There were roses of various kinds to be found in all parts of the garden—the damask and cinnamon roses, with sweet-briars and honeysuckle, formed thickets of bloom which grew around uncared for, in every hedge. In more distant nooks and corners of this sunny retreat, where "Fair-handed Spring unbosoms ev’ry grace," were sunflowers, poppies, whitsun-gilliflowers, honesty, and other showy blossoms, besides many other hardy old-fashioned flowers, now rarely seen except
in some cottage garden, far away in the country. Yet these modest sweet-scented flowers are more worthy of a place under the bower window of a lady's garden then the scentless, flaunting, short-lived foreign flowers and shrubs by which they have been supplanted. Divided only from the flower-garden by a hedge of roses, boy's-love (southern wood), rosemary, toutesain, sweetbriars, and other common flowering shrubs, were aromatic herbs for pottage and distilling as balm, mint, summer savoury, marjorum, tansy, organ (pennyroyal), and many others much esteemed by the ladies of old for making their strong-waters and medicated drinks, worts, or tizans. Joining these, farther down beside the stream, were other beds of culinary and medicinal herbs. Among these were always found sage, rue or herb of grace, the dragon plant, fennel, &c.; besides many esteemed wild herbs were often cultivated in the lady's herbary, that they might be found at hand, such as agrimony, horehound, vervain, valerian, comfrey, bettony, burnette, St. John's wort, mugwort, and scores of others, little thought of now that more powerful kill-or-cure foreign drugs are found to make quicker dispatch than the native plants, which one might have thought Nature would have placed where most wanted.
Farther up the sunny slope (nearly opposite the bower window), under a sheltering hedge of holly, bays, box, and privet, protected on the north by a close-cut hedge of yew, were placed the rows of bee-hives.
In swarming time the bees could be watched by the lady and her damsels, as they wrought at their tapestry or embroidery, or spun the flax with distaff and spindle, in the cosy window-seat of their bower.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when sugar was an expensive luxury, only to be procured by the rich, the care and cultivation of these interesting creatures was well understood and attended to, as vast quantities of honey were then used for brewing mead * which was more esteemed
than any but the richest wines. Then, as now, the bees were regarded as having some mysterious sympathy with the weal or woe of the families to whom they belonged. On this account, if any important event happened in the family of their owner, it was thought necessary "to tell the bees," and, in the case of death, to place some mourning on the hives; otherwise it was supposed that the bees would fret themselves to death. What would appear to be the same fancy or feeling is still further indulged, and shows itself in what appears a greater weakness, to all but our simple country dames, with whom it is a general custom to hang crape on their window-plants, under the idea that, if neglected, the plants would pine and die, There are many other strange fancies among us connected with the bees and flowers, but they are not of such special interest as to be worth mentioning.
On the other side the steam (between the brook and the orchard) a large piece of level ground was enclosed, with sheltering hedges, for the pottager, or kitchen-garden, where abundance of esculents were cultivated (many of which are now but little known, as they were neglected when the culture of the potato became general). Early kinds of peas and beans were cultivated in this garden (those intended for winter's use being grown in the fields). The lentil was then much esteemed here (as now on the Continent) for making more savoury messes during fast-days than any other legumes; some few coleworts; a small perennial beet, much esteemed for its succulent leaves, which were used with parsley and other things in savoury fish- and herby-pies. This useful plant may still be found, growing about the hedges of what once were the gardens of old seats. We have, not long ago, also seen this excellent, yet neglected, native esculent growing wild near Hayle. This hardy plant may be found on many sheltered parts of the seashore, and deserves to be better known,
as it is equal as a spring green to any spinach. It continues green during the winter, and produces abundant seed in autumn without the parent plant dying. We have not botanical knowledge anough to know if this plant be a true beet or some species of endive, but we know it was called a beet by the old folks who used it, and that it is a vegetable worthy of a place in any kitchen-garden.
Besides the plants mentioned above, carrots, parsnips, and many others for salading were then grown, as lettuce, rocket, mustard, watercress. Young shoots of the hop plant were also used as a salad, and boiled as a pot-herb. The hop was probably grown for these purposes long before its flower was used for flavouring and preserving ale, as the ground ivy, or alehoof, wormwood, mugwort, centory, the tops of bannel (broom) were formerly used for that purpose, as well some other aromatic bitter plants.
A warm corner of this garden was also devoted to a class of plants which were much used for flavouring the strong waters, or spirits, both of home and foreign distillery, and as a substitute for the rarer spices of the East, in the simple confectionery of the ladies of olden days. Among these were angelica, liquorice, saffron, coriander, caraway, gentian; to these may be added lovage or wild celery, fennel, and some others of less note. Most of these, except the three former, were cultivated for the sake of their strong carminative seeds, which furnished a variety of flavours to which the drinkers of old-fashioned cordials and liqueurs were much attached.
Cummin seed is also mentioned in old recipes for flavouring cordials and also as an ingredient in the nostrums for attracting pigeons, and attaching them to a deserted dovecot; but this plant, being a native of warm climates, could hardly have been cultivated here.
Yet, within our remembrance, many elderly person, who stuck to old customs, grew all the plants, and many more than we have enumerated, in their pleasant old-fashioned gardens, where things for use, combined with those for ornament, added much more to the interest of a place than the things for show alone which we find in our model gardens, that make the French and other foreigners characterize the English garden as a place very pretty to look at, but where there is nothing to eat. Anyone who has seen the gardens of the old chateaux of France, with their ornamental fruit-trees, can well understand how uninviting and naked the modern English garden must appear to them. The garden-loving priest, attached to the house, would take care that abundance of such roots as carrots and parsnips were grown, as well as leeks, onions, cives, and garlic, and every other plant food for cooking with dry fish; and, as ingredients in lenten pies and meagre dishes, parsley and marigolds were found growing, self-sown, all over the place.
The main crop of peas and beans were grown in the fields. Peas were usually sown broadcast, and harrowed in the same as barley and at about the same time. A considerable piece of pillas or naked oats was also sown, before good substantial porridge gave place to lazy-made slops, or what is intended to pass muster for tea. It is a great pity that the cultivation of this hardy grain (which will flourish on almost any dry, poor soil) should be neglected. The number of fields, still found with the name of Park-an-pillas, is a proof that it was regarded as a most desirable product; and anyone who has ever made a hearty breakfast on milk, thickened with parched pillas groats, will way that it is far superior to rice, or to many other duty-paid farinaceous matters, with strange names, that we get from abroad. Many other sweet or savoury dishes may be made from this nutritious, bone-producing grain, which has the same appetitive-flavour as the best Welsh oatmeal.
One of the pleasantest walks to be found in the gardens of the Norman gentry, at the time that the Levelis flourished in Trove, was the trellised alley of chequered sun and shade. That this fragrant retreat was regarded with much pride by the old, garden-loving gentry of France, one may know by the frequent mention made in the old lays of Brittany and in Norman romances, of the trellised vine-shaded alley, and the grand arbour covered with every sweet-smelling flower, where the lovers often met, and where many a strange adventure frequently took place, and
These favourite promenades are still to be found in the gardens of the more conservative parts of the Continent, where all the horticultural traditions are carefully preserved respecting everything that appertained, in the good old times, to seigniorial and conventual gardens. In the latter, the beauty of the well-cultivated grounds was often enhanced by the dreary surrounding desert, in the midst of which the early founders of monastic establishments usually fixed their abode, and soon made the wilderness "flourish like the rose."
Some thirty years ago we saw, with much regret, the ruins of many of these fair, trellised alleys, in the deserted gardens belonging to the spoiled convents in the Basque provinces. More recently we have enjoyed the freshness and fragrance of these bowery vine-covered walks in the seigniorial gardens belonging to some old French families of Lower Canada, where the good, simple, honest inhabitants preserve everything connected with gardening, and retain most of the other customs of La
[paragraph continues] Belle France at the time they left their Norman valleys and Provence roses to follow their heroic Sebastian Cabot and Jacques Cartier to the new Acadia.
Here the only grape vine that stands the intense cold of the winters in the Lower Province is the indigenous kind, which is almost worthless, as its fruit (known by the name of fox's grapes) is very poor and sour, and not much larger than fine currants.
When the less hardy sorts of vines are grown, they are taken off the trellis, on the approach of winter, laid flat on the ground over a thin layer of bush-wood sprays (to serve as drainage), and lightly covered with straw to protect them, until the snow-blanket falls and keeps them safe through winter, when the mercury and salt water are frozen and the Canadian farmer bring their milk to market in baskets, or folded up in snow-white napkins. The hop-plant, major concolvulus, and several native creepers (which may almost be seen growing as soon as the snow leaves the ground) are trained among the grape-vines to make a denser shade during the two or three months when it is as hot there as in the tropics, notwithstanding its Russian winter.
It is often remarked that the inhabitants of Lower Canada are more French than the French are themselves, and many of them take so little interest in what is going on in the rest of world, that they think the descendants of the Grand Monarque still occupy the throne of the country in which they believe that their ancestors were all people of note.
From the gardens of this conservative race we may venture to copy anything we find, for the reconstruction of our ancient pleasure-grounds, as we may be pretty sure that the same modes of gardening (as far as climate would admit) prevailed in France and England three or four centuries ago, when, from the frequent pilgrimages of wandering penitents and restless palmers, to and from southern and eastern lands, everything worthy of imitation, or cultivation, that could be brought from Paynim or Christian countries was introduced, and naturalised, if possible, in the gardens of conventual establishments, the occupiers of which were often as celebrated for their horticultural skill as they were for graphic and architectural arts.
After this long digression, we may suppose that from the middle of the terrace (we have mentioned as passing north and south at the lower part of the various gardens) a few steps ascended to a straight alley, at right angles to the terrace, which—crossing the flower-garden and a rustic bridge over the mill-brook—passed through the gardens devoted to the growth of small fruit-trees and bushes, to a gate in a high yew hedge which divided these gardens from the orchards. Each side of
this walk was bordered by such shrubs and trees as either grew, or might be kept, in formal shapes by pruning. These were varied by choice flowers and such fruit-trees, interspersed, as are more ornamental by far than many plants and shrubs grown for mere embellishment.
Among others, one was sure to find the medlar, mulberry, quince, filbert, dwarf cherry, and dark crimson-flowered crab-apple trees. Here and there drooping trees arched their pendant branches over the walk which led to a gate of Gothic screen-work, which was seen between a pair of wrought granite posts surmounted by sculptured, urn-shaped ornaments. The gate and its supporting pillars were canopied by an arch made by the spreading branches of yew, extending from the closely-clipped hedge. Through the orchard, beyond the garden, might be seen the alley, turning with graceful curves towards a fish-pond on one side, and the rabbit-warren on the other. A short distance from the brook, the formal walk, which passed through the gardens of small fruit-trees, was crossed by an alley about eight feet wide, covered with horizontal trellis of willow, or osier, wands supported on strong poles of ash, elm, or oak, about the size of hop-poles. The rods were fastened together, and to the poles, with tough twigs of the tree or Huntingdon willow. Vines, of all the most hardy kinds, were trained up the poles with a single stem and allowed to branch out over the trellis from either side. On the treillage, between the poles, choice dwarf fruit-trees and myrtles were extended as espaliers, or the spaces filled in with flowering shrubs, honeysuckles, and other creepers. The walk through this shady bower would be about four feet wide, leaving a border of two feet on each side. These were edged with the delicate-leaved Alpine or wood strawberry, which would there be found in flower and fruit best part of the summer. On either hand violets, primroses, cowslips hanging their dewy heads, lilies of the vale, fragrant hyacinths and jonquils, and many other choice flowers, which thrive best in partial shade, perfumed this bowery walk, and decked it with endless bloom. Near the southern end, the bower-alley was widened to ten or twelve feet. The flower-borders here gave place to velvet turf of the brightest green, in which the camomile was thickly planted, that it might give out its refreshing, strawberry-like perfume when walked on. And here were placed seats enough for a goodly company, if they chose to partake of a banquet in the fresh air of the garden.
From this bower there was a glimpse of the changing sea between the ivy-covered gable and the wooded hills on the western side of Lamorna vale; and here the murmuring main was heard, and scarcely heard to flow. All around the choicest climbing plants were trained, with roses, myrtles, eglantine, and honeysuckles in profusion. Near the southern end of the arbour was seen a miniature cascade, falling over long, moss-grown stones, by which the brook was dammed up so as to form a broad smooth canal.
This canal, or piece of smooth water, with its banks fringed with hazel, like a gently-flowing river, came into the garden between high and thickly-wooded banks that separated the garden from a meadow where grew many old, yet still fruitful, apple, pear, and plum trees. On this meadow-orchard, poultry, house-lambs, and other young cattle were allowed to range at pleasure, and here the water, spreading over a broader space, gradually lost its artificial character. The thickets of hazel, and filbert, and other trees that flourish in moist ground, threw out their spreading branches and twisted roots to give shelter and shade to waterfowl and fish, and the green branches bending over the water with the weight of their cluster of nuts, made a rich frame to the liquid mirror.
The high bank or hedge, which served for a fence and shelter the garden, was thickly planted with holly, hawthorn, elder, wild cherry-trees, and mountain-ash, with barberry-bushes, privet, and other plants of lower growth between: from either side the opening in the woody bank, through which the waters flowed, broad-spreading alders shot out their branches, and formed a verdant arch over the tranquil water; here, near the brink of the bank under the pendant branches of the elder, grew tufts of the water-flag, with its sword-shaped leaves and yellow flowers, bordering brakes of reeds and rushes. On the more sunny edge of the bank, majestic plants of flowering-fern (Osmunda regalis) hung over the smooth water, where one saw their regal, feathery fronds, mirrored with all the grace and freshness of their tender verdure. At the foot of this inaccessible bank, among the reeds, rushes, and soft sedgy grass, the swans made their nests, and a secure retreat for their young brood. When the cygnets were a few months old, the lady of the mansion no sooner came to her garden-bower than the stately swans (followed by their young, and other water-fowl, at a respectful distance) would leave the sunny bank, or shadowy nook, and come sailing down, arching their proud necks to see their snowy plumage reflected in the water, till they came to the cascade, where they would leave the brimming river, that was ever "without o’er-flowing full," come to the bower, and take the bread from the lady's hand to their young; or, later in the season, when the cygnets had become as tame as the parent swans, old and young would leave the water, and here, among the fresh blooming flowers, these graceful birds delighted to remain whilst the lady and her fair damsels pourtrayed with their fairy needles, and silk or wool of brilliant dyes, the love-sick heroine on her tower watching the ardent Leander breaking through the flood; or, the majestic form of the sorrowing Dido bidding adieu to the wandering Æneas; or it might be the scene of some more recent story, that the minstrel sung the while, graced the canvass, for then
Pour’d forth at large the sweetly-tortur’d heart,
Or sighing tender passion, swell’d the gale,
And taught charm’d Echo to resound their smart;
While flocks, woods, streams, around repose and peace impart."
Perchance some wandering troubadour would hither wend his way, strike his harp, and sing some gay song of Provence, or tender lay of Brittany. Then some old romance of chivalry would while the time away, and transform the blooming garden into the fairy domain of Avalon, and recall the times of pomp and splendour, tilts and tournaments,
Or they might be moved to tears by hearing the sad trials of the patient Griselda; or the melancholy legend of the fair Melusina—
moved them to pity, honour, love, and hate by turns. In those times, the story of Melusina was held to be perfectly true by "people of honour," as well as by the old wives, who then were quite familiar with fairies, dwarfs, and giants, and the transformations effected by fays and enchanters. Many of the old Norman nobility were supposed to derive their lineage from this enchanted lady, who was said to be, at times, half woman half serpent. As they were ambitious of showing a descent from her, they must have been proud of the dread fame of their ancestors. So true it is that many would rather be connected with a demon (of note) than pass un-remarked among the crowd.
Two or three centuries ago this legend was related in hall and bower, as well as by old crones around the kitchen fire, Keightly, in his "Fairy Mythology," speaking of the fay-ladies of France says:
"Of these Fees the most celebrated is Melusina, who was married to the Count of Lusignan. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, Jean d’Arras collected the traditions relating to her, and composed what he called her "Chronicle." Stephen, a Dominican of the house of Lusignan, took up the history written by Jean d’Arras, gave it consistency, and cast such splendour about his heroine that several noble houses were ambitious of showing a descent from her. Those of Luxembourg and Rohan even falsified their genealogies for that purpose; and the house of Sassenage, though it might claim its descent from a monarch, preferred Melusina, and to gratify them it was feigned that when she quitted Lusignan she retired to the grot of Sassenage, in Dauphiny."
We should not have said so much about the story of the fair Melusina had it not been that some traditions of a similar legend still linger about Pengerswick Castle.
A well-known scientific gentleman informed me that several persons of Breage had told him of some curious traditions about a lady of Pengerswick who (by means of enchantment) was often seen, wholly or in part, in the form of a serpent that long haunted the ruins after the lady's decease. No doubt the story of Melusina was often told here in days of old by wandering bards; and centuries after (all but the most striking parts of the legend being forgotten) the little that was remembered became located and associated with the ruined castle.
A few steps below the northern end of the covered alley, the channel of the mill-stream was contracted for the purpose of making a more rapid current; and here were placed on the stream two norias, or Persian wheels, of curious yet simple construction.
The axles of these machines terminated in hook-handles, at which grotesque puppet figures were placed with the handles in their hands. These effigies—so contrived as to appear to be working for dear life, in turning the wheels—were such figures of fun that none but the sourest could behold them without a hearty laugh. The norias and their puppets added to the gaiety of the scene, and raised a streamlet from the brook which was conducted, over the tiny river's bank, to a small pond, surrounded and shaded by overhanging shrubs and drooping trees. Close by the pond, was a pavilion fronting the vale, and a window in the southern end this garden-house opened on the pond, where the speckled trout might be seen leaping out of the water, tempted to display themselves by the shining dragon-flies that sported their wings of brilliant hues close over the surface of the water.
When the shades of evening came over the water, these tame fishes might be seen in shoals leaving their secure abodes, beneath the tangled roots of pendant trees, and swimming in on the steps which descended into the pond. The stones were only covered with an inch or two of water. In they came, boldly, to seek the crumbs and other food usually brought to them at that time. So familiar had these happy fishes become with the footsteps and voices of those who brought them food that they no sooner heard the lady in the pavilion singing some old ballad, or heard the music of her harp, than old fishes and young fry swam together to the shore of their happhome, and seemed more intent on the music than to care for food;—
Through the arcaded front of the simple garden-house at this end of the trellis, there was also a view of the vale, and a glimpse of the sea here and there between the trees. On benches, as well as suspended overhead, from the roof-timbers of rustic building, were many hives of bees. Rows of hives were also placed on shelves against the inside of the southern wall, holes being left in the wall for the passage of the bees: instead of leaving the place, swarm after swarm had fixed themselves unobserved under the rafters, from which the combs hung within reach, dropping with honey. Though the place was all alive with bees they never stung any to whom they were accustomed, who did not molest them. And here, too, the ladies worked and sang, as cheerily as the birds among the apple blossoms greet the rising run in the flowery month of May.
The orchards of Trove were formerly remarkable for the variety and excellence of the rare sorts of apples, pears, plums, and other kinds of fruit, now seldom found in this neighbourhood except in the gardens belonging to ancient places which have mostly been occupied by the proprietors. Mulberries, quinces, and medlars were formerly well known here, and would be found growing near the walk which passed through the orchards to the rabbit-warren, higher up the hill.
The warren was about two acres, securely walled in. Artificial burrows were made for the security of the rabbits, and a few rough rocks left here and there for the greater enjoyment of the bunnies, or of those who watched them (through openings in the warren wall), chasing each other, by hundreds together, over the rocks and around the bushes, of moonlight nights, or morn and eve, nibbling the dewy clover between their turns of skipping and frisking. Hares often found their way into the warren and had to remain there, as the openings (at the foot of the wall) through which they entered had wire gratings on hinges at the inner end: these gave way to the hares when they entered the warren; and they were so constructed that they immediately closed after them and so prevented their escape. Rabbits, hares, kids, and other pet animals were kept in the warren more for pleasure than profit, as the hills and moorlands abounded in game, and the lord of the domain delighted in the sports of the chase. It was merely one of the delights of this old place, to see these wild animals enjoy their frisky play within a minute's walk of the lady's bower.
Another structure, for ornament and use, pleasure and profit combined, was the pigeon-house erected on the corner of the rabbit-warren, with the orchard on one side, and the meadow which served for the poultry-run on the other. This pigeon-house was a tower of nine or ten feet
square within, about thirty feet high, divided into three storeys, of which the uppermost only was the dove-cot; the lower part, from which one entered the warren, served as a place of shelter, and for other purposes. The next storey was intended for a look-out, and an occasional apple-chamber. This room had windows on three sides and a door opening on the top of the warren-wall, which for a few yards on this side, next the sea, was six or seven feet wide and formed a pleasant terrace-walk, overlooking the warren, orchards, gardens, and house.
The only parts seen of the mansion were the turret-like chimney-stacks and peaks of the gables just peeping over the trees of the orchard; clear over the roof, and on either hand, one had a view of Lamorna vale, Trevella cairn, the distant hills, and the boundless ocean. Stone steps led to this terrace, and the door of the pigeonry in the upper storey was reached by placing a ladder on the terrace, by which one ascended to a small balcony and a door (over the one to the look-out). This entrance was used when squabs were wanted for pies, and for giving the requisite care and attention to these birds of luxury. There were entrances for the pigeons in a rising above the roof, and consisting of small holes, three or four by twelve or fourteen inches. Three ranges of these were placed over each other in a boarded front looking towards the south, with a shelf td each range. The interior of the pigeon-house was either lined with hoes in the walls, as they are usually made on the outside of the building's, or by horizontal shelves, divided vertically at three feet distance which were generally esteemed preferable to any other mode—the width of the shelf about twenty inches and the height between shelf and shelf eighteen inches; and a slip of board three or four inches high, carried along the front of the partitions to keep in the nests; also a partition fixed in the middle of each three-feet division, thus dividing it into two nests.
We have been, perhaps, tediously minute in describing the colombier, because they are always ornamental structures and were regarded as indispensable appendages to the manor-house; besides, in these old-fashioned pigeonries the birds were easily kept free from vermin by having the nests frequently cleaned. To facilitate this the board in front was mostly contrived to slip up and down in a groove, by which means each nest could be cleaned at pleasure. The dung (most valuable as a manure for melons, cucumbers, and all other plants of the gourd tribe) will soon repay a little extra expense in making a comfortable habitation for these beautiful birds. Tares, and other pulse of the lentil tribe, as well as buck-wheat and hemp-seed, were regarded as good for a change of food for the young, until they became strong enough to roam abroad and seek the wild grains and insects which constitute great part of their living.
The lady of the mansion, who was too proud of her pigeons and poultry to turn them over to the tender mercies of her servants, regularly—morning, noon, and eve—fed and inspected her feathered favourites.
[paragraph continues] As soon as the pigeons, perched on the roofs, saw the lady leave the granary, with a basket of corn on her arm, they flew down, alighting on her head and shoulders in such numbers that she was compelled to scatter the grains on the way, as she passed through gardens and orchard, followed by her fluttering train of doves.
The old mural pigeoneries were among the most pleasing and picturesque features to be seen about the ancient manor-houses, and were often highly ornamental when they rose, tower-like, among the group of farm-buildings, with the roof surmounted by an elegant louvre, in which the entrance was made, on the south side, for the pigeons.
The inner end of the avenue was formerly called the bowling-green. Probably this was the common playing-place, and there would be some warm, dry, and sheltered enclosure at the end of the orchard, surrounded with high hedges of yew, laid with the smoothest turf, and having covered seats at the end where the pins were set up.
For a good description of an old-fashioned bowling-green, see the account of Mr. Shandy's, before Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim began to make their model fortifications therein.
We next visit the mill, which was a necessary adjunct to the manor-house when the greatest part of the grain was consumed on the place, or in its immediate vicinity. We have many pleasing remembrances of the old grist mills, where the women of all ranks in the parish used to delight to assemble, and whilst the corn was grinding have a merry dance on the mill-bed or outside on the green—the music the miller's fiddle, or simply the time beaten up on the crowd (sieve covered with sheep-skin) or their high-heeled shoes would echo the tune of some lively old ballad that would set them a going one and all. The mill, too, was the chief place for news, and we fear for a trifle of scandal now and then. We are
sorry to see so many of the old grist-mills going into disuse, and to find that working-people have to purchase flour instead of corn, and that even the farmers must often come to the shopkeepers for their flour.
The principal causes for the decay of the old mills are the monopolising propensities of the flour manufacturers, who have lately spring up, and the proverbial rascality of the grist millers themselves, who have done much to cut their own throats, by stealing corn and tolling thrice. Trove mill is working still, and we hope the mill-clack will keep time as long as the stream continues to run, for the sake of the hearty old dames of Burian and Paul, who used to come here and serge (bolt) their own flour, to see that the honest miller mightn't take more than his due. This mill, and the surrounding cottages, formed a pleasing rural feature, a few years ago, when they were half-concealed by the embowering trees, before that side of the hill and vale was stripped bare of the flourishing wood which gave some idea of what the place must once have been, when best part of the hills around were clothed in sheltering groves, as one may be sure they were by the stumps that yet remain about the hedges.
We shall often have occasion to revert to this mill, as in many of the legends about Trive and its old inhabitants the miller and his wife are the chief actors.
We have noticed all the most important appurtenances of the ancient sea, yet many buildings that we now seldom see near a mansion were considered necessary adjuncts to the manor-house, when lord and franklin were obliged in great measure to limit the requirements and elegancies of their homes to the produce of their own estate. Then every considerable establishment was like a little colony, with its artisans and manufacturers, who were no longer required when merchant princes brought from over seas the riches and luxuries of foreign countries which were only known to our forefathers from the tales of pilgrims and crusaders, or from the romances of chivalry; and these distant lands were not regarded by many as more real than Avalon and other fairy realms of those charming fictions.
253:* The old method of making mead, or metheglin, in West Cornwall was to put four pounds of honey to one gallon of water; boil it one hour, skim it well then add one ounce of hops to every gallon, and boil it half-an-hour longer, and let it stand till next day. Put it into your cask or bottles. To every gallon add a gill of brandy; stop it lightly till the fermentation is over; then stop it very close. Keep it one year before you tap. More recently the old ladies who were noted for making good mead (or sweet-drink as they call it), boiled the combs from which the honey had been drained until all the honey that remained was extracted. They then strained it, and added as much more honey as made the drink strong enough to float an egg. To every gallon they added one ounce of cloves; the same of allspice; half-an-ounce of coriander; the same weight of caraway-seed. Sometimes cinnamon and mace were used instead p. 254 of the seeds. Others, who preferred the flavour and perfume of aromatic plants, boiled in the water, before they added the honey, the tops of sweet-briar, flowers of thyme, rosemary, sweet marjorum, or any other sweet herbs they liked; then finished as above. All, or any, of the flavouring ingredients were used according to taste. We append a recipe for making the celebrated Polish mead which is extensively used in the North of Europe.
"The process of brewing mead in Poland is very simple. The proportion is three-part of water to one of honey, and 50 lbs. of wild hops to 163 gallons, which is called a waar, or brewing. When the water is boiling, both the honey and hops are thrown into it, and it is kept stirring until it becomes milk-warm: it is then put into a large cask and allowed to ferment for a few days; it is then drawn off into another cask, wherein there has been aqua vitae, or whiskey, bunged quite close, and afterwards taken to the cellars which, in this country, are excellent and cool. This mead becomes good in three years’ time; and by keeping, it improves, like many sorts of wine. The mead for immediate drink is made from malt, hops, and honey, in the same proportion, and undergoes a similar process. In Hungary it is usual to put ginger in mead. There are other sorts of mead in Poland, as wisniak, dereniak, maliniak; they are made of honey, wild cherries, berries of the cornus mascula and, raspberries; they all undergo the same process, and are most excellent and wholesome after a few years’ keeping. The lipiac is made in the same way, but it contains the honey and pure water only."