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Friday, November 13, 2009

Bishopthorpe

Can you guess why the following two passages in a 1911 describing the ancient estate of the Archbishop of York caught my eye this morning? How many connections to JA can you spot? Do you see which of her novels in particular seems to be everywhere implied?


"It was, however, the next archbishop, Robert Hay Drummond, " a man of parts and of the world, and a dignified and accomplished prelate," who made the greatest changes and enlargements at Bishopthorpe since the original manor-house had been first added to by Rotheram. Drummond practically transformed the entire residence, and the alterations made by him were great improvements as far as convenience was concerned, but the taste of the period proved a hopeless drawback to any true artistic design or continuity in the construction of the new buildings. Indeed, the preservation of the old character of the house does not seem to have occurred to the architect, Thomas Atkinson of York, who preferred to adhere to the fashionable Strawberry-Hill style of the age, and reproduced a semblance of Gothic architecture entirely wanting in its spirit. The entrance gateway which he built in 1765, partly from stone taken from the ruins of Cawood, is a striking example of this. Drummond pulled down the old stables and built the present ones, including a coach-house, brewhouse, bakehouse, and living-rooms, on the other side of the gateway. He demolished the old Early English west front of the house, and threw the whole forward, adding the present drawing-room and business-room, and greatly enlarging the entrance-hall. The servants' hall and other offices were built underneath, as well as new rooms above, and a flight of stone steps leading up to the main entrance under a somewhat florid porchway was also constructed. The archbishop, who loved the old house, spared no pains in remodelling it. Nor did he neglect the chapel and the garden. The latter he laid out anew, and the chapel windows he filled with stained glass, probably putting down the black and white marble pavement at the same time. Drummond's generosity was one of his most attractive characteristics, and he was renowned for his open-handed hospitality. The death of his wife in 1773 was a grievous blow, from which he never recovered. He died three years later at Bishopthorpe, and was buried under the altar of the parish church, according to his desire, with as little display as possible.

His successor, William Markham, occupied the see of York for nearly thirty-one years, from 1777 until 1807. He did not confine his attention to his diocese, and took no small share in public affairs. In the same year that he was consecrated to York he was appointed Lord High Almoner and a member of the Privy Council. Contemporary writers allude to his hot temper, his pompous bearing, and especially to his commanding presence. He was a friend of Lord Mansfield, and narrowly escaped from the Gordon rioters when they attacked the latter's house in London. He was also very intimate with Edmund Burke, until the trial of Warren Hastings severed their friendship, and he is said to have corrected and revised Burke's Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas on the Sublime and the Beautiful. Markham's attention to Bishopthorpe was chiefly directed to the kitchen garden of seven acres. According to a writer of 1788, he "built a large icehouse, an exceedingly good, convenient pinery, and a flued wall 181 feet in length."*//*


I don't normally ascribe much significance to this sort of thing in terms of penetrating JA's secrets, but there is such a high density of connection here, especially with William Markham, that I believe it cannot be coincidence. But at the moment, I also can't see what the meaning of it is......

ARNIE

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