SURREY LANDSCAPES

ORIGINAL ETCHINGS

BY

PERCY ROBERTSON
A.R.E.

Works by Percy Robertson
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Click here to view a larger image. St. Anne's Hill, Chertsey

A mile or so westward of Chertsey, a wooded hill rises abruptly from the level meadows, commanding from the natural terrace of its crest, 200 feet up, a wide view over the country south of the Thames. Once called Oldbury Hill, the site of an ancient camp, it changed its name when, in 1334, a chapel, now destroyed, was built upon it and dedicated to St. Anne.

The house of the same name is memorable as the home for many years of that brilliant but fitful star of politics, Charles James Fox. The estate was brought to him by his wife ; and in the grounds a pedestal still records in the stiff language fashionable at the period, how -

Cheerful in this sequestered Bower,
    From all the Storms of Life removed,
Here Fox enjoyed his evening hour
    In converse with the Friends he loved.

If the most famous measure carried by Fox was the abolition of the slave trade, some share of the glory is due to another inhabitant of Chertsey, who was among the first to agitate for the suppression of slavery :- Thomas Day, the friend of the Edgeworths, the philanthropist, the reformer, the educator :- whose sole claim to recollection to-day in most men's minds, is as the author of a book famous to three generations - " Sandford and Merton."

At Chertsey, too, is the house in which the poet Abraham Cowley spent the last few years of his life, the Porch-House, as it was formerly called from the large outer porch, with rooms above, which projected ten feet into the highway, to the great inconvenience of passengers. The poet had served the Royalist cause well in its time of adversity ; he had been secretary to Lord Jermyn, who accompanied Queen Henrietta Maria during her exile in Paris, had risked much in returning to England on a secret political mission; yet it was with difficulty that some years after the Restoration, he was granted the lease of a farm and lands at Chertsey, which he was destined to enjoy for so short a time. The story of his death is typical of the times. He and his great friend, Dean Sprat, long remembered as the drunken dean, had paid too festive a visit to a convivial neighbour. Leaving his house late, they were unable to reach home owing to the depth of their potations. A night in the fields gave Cowley a chill and fever, to which he succumbed.

Of the most ancient abbey which from Saxon times was the head and front of Chertsey, nothing remains. The eyot on which it was founded has long been united to the mainland, where what is now Chertsey parish was the demesne of the Abbey. At the Dissolution, the monks were treated leniently for a while, and merely removed to refound the Abbey of Bisham ; nevertheless the buildings at Chertsey, which covered four acres, were subsequently demolished ; the greater part going to build houses in the town, as in the case of Dr. Hammond, the chaplain permitted to attend on Charles I. during his captivity in Carisbrooke, who was enabled to "build a fair house" out of the ruins.


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