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Mrs Lilian Shuman Dreyfus
LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET.
IF there be one thing more than another in the nice balance of tastes and prejudices (for I do not speak here of principles) which inclines us now to the elegance of Charles, now to the strength of Cromwell -which disgusts us alternately with the license of the Cavaliers and the fanaticism of the Roundheads; it would be the melancholy ruins of cast-down castles and plundered shrines, that meet our eyes all over our fair land, and nowhere in greater profusion than in this district, lying as it does in the very midst of some of the most celebrated battles of the Civil Wars. To say nothing of the siege of Reading, which more even than the vandalism of the Reformation completed the destruction of that noble abbey, the third in rank and size in England, with its magnificent church, its cloisters, and its halls, covering thirty acres. of buildings-and such buildings! within the outer courts;-to say nothing of that most reckless bar
barity just at our door-we in our little village of Aberleigh lie between Basing-House to the south, whose desperately defended walls offer little more now than a mere site-and Donnington to the west, where the ruined gate-towers upon the hill alone remain of that strong fortress, which overlooked the well-contested field of Newbury-and Chalgrove to the north, where the reaper as he binds his sheaf, still pauses to tell you the very place where Hampden fell. Every spot has its history! Look at a wooden spire, and your companion shakes his head, and says that it has been so ever since the Cavaliers were blown up in the church-tower! Ask the history of a crumbling wall, and the answer is pretty sure to be, Cromwell! That his Highness the Lord Protector did leave what an accomplished friend of mine calls "his peculiar impressions" upon a great many places in our neighbourhood is certain; on so many, that there is no actual or authentic catalogue of all; and in some cases there is nothing but general tradition, and the nature of the "impressions" in question, to vouch for the fact of their destruction at that period.
Amongst these, one of the edifices that must have been best worth preserving, and is even now most interesting to see, is the grand old castellated mansion, which in the reign of Elizabeth belonged to one of her favourite courtiers, and was known as Master Comptroller's House, at Grays.
The very road to it is singularly interesting. Passing through the town, which increases in growth every day until one wonders when and where it will stop, and looking with ever-fresh admiration at the beautiful lace-work window of the old Friary, which I