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October 30th

Born: Jacques Amyot, translator of Plutarch, 1513, Melun; Cardinal Cesar Baronies, historical writer, 1538, Sora; George II of England, 1683, Hanover; Richard Brinsley Sheridan, dramatist and politician, 1751, Dublin; James Perry, editor of the Morning Chronicle, 1756, Aberdeenshire.

Died: Antinous, favourite of the Emperor Hadrian, drowned in the Nile, 130 A. D.; James Sturmius, Protestant champion, 1553, Strasburg; Charles Alexandre de Cologne, financier to Louis XVI, 1802, Paris; Rev. John Whitaker, historical writer, 1808, Roan Langhorne, Cornwall; Edmund Cartwright, inventor of the power loom, 1823, Hastings; Rev. Charles Maturin, dramatist and tale-writer, 1824; Thomas, Earl of Dundonald, distinguished naval commander, 1860, Kensington.

Feast Day: St. Marcellus the Centurion, martyr, 298. St. Germanus. bishop of Capua, confessor, about 540. St. Asterius, bishop of Amasea in Pontus, beginning of 5th century.

BURNING OF THE TOWER OF LONDON

On the night of Saturday the 30th of October 1841, the great armory or storehouse, a large and imposing range of buildings, forming part of the Tower of London, and situated on the north side of its precincts, to the east of St. Peter's Chapel, was entirely consumed by fire, which had broken out in the Round or Bowyer Tower immediately adjoining. The cause of this calamitous event appears to have been the overheating of the flue of a stove, the prolific origin of so many conflagrations. The edifice destroyed had been founded by James II, and completed in the reign of William and Mary, their majesties celebrating the conclusion of the work by visiting the Tower and partaking of a splendid banquet in the great hall of the new building. This magnificent apartment, occupying the whole of the first floor, was afterwards employed as a storehouse for small arms, 150,000 stand of which were destroyed by the fire. On the ground floor a number of cannon and other trophies, taken in the field, were deposited. Though a loss, estimated at upwards of £200,000, was sustained, it was matter for congratulation that the older portions of the Tower, so interesting by their historical associations, escaped almost uninjured. The Great, or White Tower, was for a time in imminent danger, and the Jewel Tower was so exposed to the flames, that it was believed impossible to avert its destruction. But fortunately both buildings were preserved.

In connection with the Jewel Tower, an interesting incident, as well as a remarkable instance of personal bravery, ought not to be forgotten. We refer to the removal of the Regalia, which, for a second time in their history, though in different circumstances, made as narrow an escape from destruction as when, upwards of a century and a half previously, they were rescued from the fangs of Blood and his associates. On the intelligence of a fire having broken out, Mr. W. F. Pierse, superintendent of one of the divisions of the metropolitan police, proceeded with a detachment of constables to the Tower.

Shortly after his arrival, the flames made such rapid advances in the direction of the Jewel House, that it was deemed expedient at once to remove the Regalia and crown jewels to a place of safety. Accompanied by Mr. Swifte, the keeper of the Jewel House, and other officials, including several of the Tower warders, Mr. Pierse entered the building in question. To get hold of the jewels was now the difficulty, as these treasures were secured by a strong iron grating, the keys of which were in the possession of the lord chamberlain, or elsewhere deposited at a distance, and not a moment was to be lost. Crowbars were procured, and a narrow aperture made in the grating so as barely to admit one person. Through this opening Mr. Pierse contrived, with much difficulty, to thrust himself, and hand through from the inside the various articles of the Regalia. One of these, a silver font, was too large thus to be passed, and it consequently became necessary to break away an additional bar of the grating. While the warders were employed in effecting this, repeated cries were heard from outside, calling to the party within the Jewel House to leave the building as the fire was close upon them.

Determined, however, to accomplish the behest which he had undertaken, Mr. Pierse unflinchingly retained his post within the grating, and at last succeeded in rescuing the font. The precious articles were all conveyed safely to the governor's house, and a most extraordinary spectacle presented itself in the warders carrying the crowns and other appurtenances of royalty between groups of soldiers, policemen, and firemen.

The heat endured by the party in the Jewel House was such as almost to reduce their garments to a charred state. Some public reward to Mr. Pierse, who had thus so gallantly imperilled himself to save the Regalia of the United Kingdom, would, we should imagine, have been a fitting tribute to his bravery. But no such recompense was ever bestowed.

THE RHYNE TOLL, OR THE CUSTOM OF CHETWODE MANOR

Many ancient rights and customs, which have long since lost much of their significance, and perhaps now appear to modern notions ridiculous, are nevertheless valuable when viewed in connection with history. For they often confirm and illustrate historic facts, which, from the altered state of the country, would otherwise be unintelligible, and perhaps discredited at the present day. Such a custom or privilege is still possessed and exercised in connection with the manor of Chetwode, in Bucks, which, although very curious both in its origin and observance, has escaped the notice of Blount and other writers on the 'jocular customs of some manners'.

The manor of Chetwode a small village about five miles from Buckingham has been the property of the Chetwode family from Saxon times. Though of small extent, it is the paramount manor of a liberty or district embracing several other manors and villages which are required to do suit and service at the Court Leet held at Chetwode every three years. The Lord of Chetwode Manor has also the right to levy a yearly tax, called the 'Rhyne Toll,' on all cattle found within this liberty, between the 30th of October and the 7th of November, both days inclusive. The commencement of the toll, which is proclaimed with much ceremony, is thus described in an old document of Queen Elizabeth's reign:

'In the beginning of the said Drift of the Common, or Rhyne, first at their going forth, they shall blow a welke shell, or home, immediately after the sunrising at the mansion house of the manor of Chetwode, and then in their going about they shall blow their home the second time in the field between Newton Purcell and Barton Hartshorne, in the said county of Bucks; and also shall blow their home a third time at a place near the town of Finmere, in the county of Oxford; and they shall blow their borne the fourth time at a certain stone in the market of the town of Buckingham, and there to give the poor sixpence; and so, going forward in this manner about the said Drift, shall blow the home at several bridges called Thorn borough Bridge, King's Bridge, and Bridge Mill. And also they shall blow their horn at the Pound Gate, called the Lord's Pound, in the parish of Chetwode.. .. And also (the Lord of Chetwode) has always been used by his officers and servants to drive away all foreign cattle that shall be found within the said parishes, fields, &c., to impound the same in any pound of the said towns, and to take for every one of the said foreign beasts two pence for the mouth, and one penny for a foot, for every one of the said beasts.' All cattle thus impounded at other places were to be removed to the pound at Chetwode; and if not claimed, and the toll paid, within three days, ' then the next day following, after the rising of the sun, the bailiff or officers of the lord for the time being, shall blow their home three times at the gate of the said pound, and make proclamation that if any persons lack any cattle that shall be in the same pound, let them come and show the marks of the same cattle so claimed by them, and they shall have them, paying unto the lord his money in the manner and form before mentioned, otherwise the said cattle that shall so remain, shall be the lord's as strays.' This toll was formerly so rigidly enforced, that if the owner of cattle so impounded made his claim immediately after the proclamation was over, he was refused them, except by paying their full market price.’

Though the custom is still regularly observed. it has undergone some changes since the date of the above document. The toll now begins at nine in the morning instead of at sunrise, and the horn is first sounded on the churchhill at Buckingham, and gingerbread and beer distributed among the assembled boys, the girls being excluded. The officer then proceeds to another part of the liberty on the border of Oxfordshire, and there, after blowing his horn as before, again distributes gingerbread and beer among the assembled boys. The toll is then proclaimed as begun, and collectors are stationed at different parts to enforce it, at the rate of two shillings a score upon all cattle and swine passing on any road within the liberty, until twelve o'clock at night on the 7th of November, when the 'Rhyne' closes. The occupiers of land within the liberty have long been accustomed to compound for the toll by an annual payment of one shilling. The toll has sometimes been refused, but has always been recovered with the attendant expenses. It realised about £20 a year before the opening of the Buckinghamshire Railway; but now, owing to Welsh and Irish cattle being sent by trains, it does not amount to above £4, and is let by the present lord of the manor for only £1, 5s. a year.

The existence of this toll may be traced to remote antiquity, but nothing is known of its origin except from local tradition, which, however, in this case, has been so remarkably confirmed, that it may safely be credited. The parish of Chetwode, as its name implies, was formerly thickly wooded; indeed, it formed a part of an ancient forest called Rookwoode, which is supposed to have been conterminous with the present liberty of Chetwode. At a very early period, says our tradition, this forest was infested with an enormous wild boar, which became the terror of the surrounding country. The inhabitants were never safe from his attacks; and strangers, who heard of his ferocity, were afraid to visit, or pass through, the district; so that traffic and friendly intercourse were seriously impeded, as well as much injury done to property, by this savage monster. The Lord of Chetwode, like a true and valiant knight, determined to rid his neighbourhood from this pest, or to die in the attempt. Bent on this generous purpose, he sallied forth into the forest, and, as the old song has it:

‘Then he Mowed a blast full north, south, east, and west
    Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
And the wild boar then heard him full in his den,
    As he was a jovial hunter.

Then he made the best of his speed unto him
    Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
Swift flew the boar, with his tusks smeared with gore,
    To Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.

Then the wild boar, being so stout and so strong
    Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
Thrashed down the trees as he ramped him along,
    To Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.

Then they fought four hours in a long summer day
    Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
Till the wild boar fain would have got him away
    From Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.

Then Sir Ryalas he drawed his broadsword with might
    Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
And he fairly cut the boar's head off quite,
    For he was a jovial hunter.'

Matters being thus settled, the neighbourhood rung with the praises of the gallant deed of the Lord of Chetwode, and the news thereof soon reached the ears of the king, who liked him so well of the achievement,' that he forthwith made the knight tenant in aunts, and constituted his manor paramount of all the manors within the limits and extent of the royal forest of Rookwoode. Moreover, he granted to him, and to his heirs for ever, among other immunities and privileges, the full right and power to levy every year the Rhyne Toll, which has already been described.

Such is the purport of the Chetwode tradition, which has descended unquestioned from time immemorial, and received, about forty years ago, a remarkable confirmation. Within a mile of Chetwode manor house there existed a large mound, surrounded by a ditch, and bearing the name of the 'Boar's Pond.' It had long been overgrown with gorse and brushwood, when, about the year 1810, the tenant, to whose farm it belonged, wishing to bring it into cultivation, began to fill up the ditch by levelling the mound. Having lowered the latter about four feet, he came on the skeleton of an enormous boar, lying flat on its side, and at full length. Probably this was the very spot where it had been killed, the earth around having been heaped over it, so as to form the ditch and mound. The space formerly thus occupied can still be traced. It extends about thirty feet in length, and eighteen in width, and the field containing it is yet called the 'Boar's Head Field.' The jaw and other portions of the skeleton are now in the possession of Sir John Chetwode, Bart, the present lord of the manor. There is a somewhat similar tradition at Boarstall, which stands within the limits of Bernewood Forest, as Chetwode does within those of Rookwoode. These forests formerly adjoined, and formed a favourite hunting district of Edward the Confessor and his successors, who had a palace or hunting lodge at Burghill (Brill), where the two forests met.

That the mere killing of a boar should be so richly rewarded, may appear incredible. But many a wildboar of old was so powerful and ferocious, that he would even attack a lion; while such was his stubborn courage that he would never yield till actually killed or disabled. The classic reader may here recall to mind the celebrated tale, in Greek mythology, of the Calydonian boar that ravaged the fields of AEtolia, and was ultimately slain by Meleager, with the help of Theseus, Jason, and other renowned heroes. Such, indeed, was the nature of the wild bear, that most of the early poets have chosen it as the fittest animal to illustrate the indomitable courage of their heroes: thus Homer:

‘Forth from the portals rushed the intrepid pair,
Opposed their breasts, and stood themselves the war.
So two wild boars spring furious from their den,
Roused with the cries of dogs and voice of men;
On every side the crackling trees they tear,
And root the shrubs, and lay the forest bare;
They gnash their tusks, with fire their eyeballs roll,
Till some wide wound lets out their mighty soul.'

And Spenser, perhaps not without the charge of plagiarism, has the same illustration:

‘So long they fight, and fell revenge pursue,
That fainting, each themselves to breathen let,
And oft refreshed, battle oft renew;
As when two boars with rankling malice met,
Their gory sides fresh bleeding fiercely fret,
Till breathless both, themselves aside retire,
Where foaming wrath their cruel tusks they whet,
And trample the earth the while they may respire;
Then back to fight again, new breathed and entire.'

Such animals were most dangerous, not only to travellers and unarmed rustics, but to the hunting expeditions of the king and his nobles. It need not, therefore, surprise us to find that the destruction of a wild boar ranked, in the middle ages, among the deeds of chivalry, and won for a warrior almost as much renown as the slaying an enemy in the open field. So dangerous, indeed, was the hunting of wildboars, even when the hunter was armed for the purpose, that Shakspeare represents Venus as dissuading Adonis from the practice:

‘0 be advis'd! thou know'st not what it is
With javelin's point a churlish swine to gore,
    Whose trushes never sheath'd he whetteth still,
    Like to a mortal butcher, bent to kill.
His brawny sides, with hairy bristles arm'd,
Are better proof than thy spear's point can enter;
His short thick neck cannot be easily harm'd;
Being ireful on the lion he will venture.'

Such hunting expeditions were generally fatal to some of the dogs, and occasionally to one or more of the hunters. Such was the case with Robert de Vere, ninth Earl of Oxford, who was killed in 1395 by the boar he was pursuing.

The knight of Chetwode, then, who from benevolent motives encountered and slew the boar that ravaged his neighbourhood, deserved to be richly rewarded; and what reward could be more appropriate than the privilege of claiming a yearly toll over those roads which he had thus rendered secure? Perhaps, too, the exacting of toll for nine days was to commemorate the period during which the gallant knight persisted before he achieved his object.

Such a custom, as the Rhyne Toll, is not without its use. It is a perpetual memorial, perhaps more convincing than written history, of the dangers which surrounded our ancestors, and from which our country has happily been so long delivered, that we can now scarcely believe they ever existed.

October 31st

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