My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915 Chapter IX: Deene and its History is in My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915.
One of my friends has often said that to visit Deene is to step back into the past, for the place bears upon it no impression of modernity, and even the additions made to the house are thoroughly in character with the older parts.
Deene is first mentioned in the Domesday-Book, when the surveyors noted the wood of a mile long belonging to it which joined Rocking- ham Forest. It was the property of the Abbey of Westminster, and was used as a hunting-box by the Abbots. It was called the Grange, and "the monks' well" is still to be seen in the park. A most interesting feature of the house is the Great Hall, 50 feet long and 50 feet high, which is a duplicate in miniature of Westminster Hall, and the carved chestnut roof, the wood of which is impervious to the ravages of insects, has never had an accident since it was first erected in 1086.
The Brudenells have been landowners in Northamptonshire since the time of Henry III, and in 1518 Sir Robert Brudenell, a Justice of the King's Bench, bought Deene from William Litton. Robert Brundenell made a large fortune, and his wife, Margaret Entwyssel, became heiress to her brother's estates of Staunton Wyvile, which naturally added to the wealth of the family. In 1520 Sir Robert settled Deene on his eldest son, Thomas, and eleven years later he died and was buried in the transept of Deene Church.
Sir Thomas, who was a hospitable and generous man, died in 1549, and Deene passed to his son Edmund, who married Agnes Bussey, a member of the great Lincohishire family. Sir Edmund Brudenell carried out extensive building operations at Deene, and the numerous initials of E. and A. and the many shields with the Brudenell and Bussey arms show that he considered his alliance with their family an important one. Camden mentions that Sir Edmund had literary and antiquarian tastes, which were also possessed by his nephew Thomas, who succeeded to the estates in 1606. He also built largely, but the great Tower was not finished until about 1628. Sir Thomas was a staunch cavalier, who raised soldiers for the King's garrisons, and he was made a Baron by Charles I. After the Royal cause was lost he suffered the penalty of his loyalty and was imprisoned in the Tower for twenty years. The brave old cavalier kept a most interesting diary during his imprisonment, which is still preserved in the library at Deene; it consists of about 30 or 40 volumes of MS., which give interesting details of his confinement and the principal events of the time.
In 1661, Charles II rewarded his father's faithful adherent by creating him Earl of Cardigan on April 22, but the old man did not live long to enjoy his new honours, for he died at Deene in 1663, aged eighty.
The second Earl became a Roman Catholic, and spent most of his long life of 102 years at Deene. His daughter, Lady Anne Brudenell, was one of the most lovely of the beauties associated with the Court of Charles II She married the Earl of Shrewsbury, and the story is well known of how she, dressed as a page, held the Duke of Buckingham's horse whilst he fought with and slew her husband.
Allan Fea, in his interesting book, " Nooks and Corners of Old England", describes how, " some time before the poor little plain Duchess (of Buckingham) suspected that she had a formidable rival in the beautiful Countess, she was returning from a visit to Deene to her house at Stamford, where her reckless husband found it convenient to hide himself, as a warrant for high treason was out against him, when she noticed a suspicious little cavalcade travelling in the same direction. Ordering the horses to be whipped up, she arrived in time to give the alarm. The Duke had just then set out for Burleigh House with some ladies in his company, and the serjeant actually saw the Duke alight and lead a lady into the house, but he and his soldiers were not in time to force an entrance, and so the Duke escaped ! ".
The wicked Countess and her lover lived at Clieveden — "the bower of wanton Shrewsbury and of love " — and her spirit is supposed to haunt the beautiful riverside retreat, but I am thankful to say she has never appeared in the old home of her innocent girlhood. Her portrait by Sir Peter Lely hangs in the White Hall at Deene, and is a fine example of the artist's well-known very décolleté style of " robes loosely flowing, hair as free", with the usual mise en scène of a beauty of Charles II's time. The third Earl of Cardigan was Master of the Buckhounds to Queen Anne; he married a daughter of the Earl of Ailesbury, and their fourth son inherited the Ailesbury title and estates. Lord Cardigan's eldest son married the heiress of the Duke of Montagu in 1766 [Note. Married on 07 Jul 1730. He was created Duke in 1766]. He was a friend of Horace Walpole, the influence of whose pseudo-Gothic tastes may still be seen in the south front of Deene, built at this time, and which now incorporates the great ball-room built for me by my dear husband.
There are many features of interest in the old house. In the Great Hall there is a blocked-up entrance to an underground passage through which despatches were carried in the Civil War; and there is a hiding-place large enough to hold twenty people. Henry VII slept at Deene, when as Earl of Richmond he rode to Bosworth Field; the room is known as " the King's Room", and the Royal arms are sculptured over the fireplace. The Tapestry Room has a fine ceiling, and is the room always reserved for Royal guests, the last visitors who occupied it being the sons of the Infanta Eulalia, Don Alphonso and his brother, who stayed at Deene in 1907. They both thoroughly enjoyed the shooting, and used to telegraph the bags to King Alfonso, who wired that he was not having anything like such good sport !
I believe my husband replaced a great deal of the original furniture at Deene with more modern examples, but many valuable old pieces still remain. The pictures are very beautiful, including a priceless Vandyke representing Queen Henrietta Maria, in the happy days of her early married life, as a regal, gracious figure arrayed in shimmering satin. There is a lovely portrait of Louise de Keroualle and her son, the Duke of Richmond, who married a Brudenell, and there are many examples of Lely, Sir Joshua Reynolds and other eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artists. One painting by Sant represents the Prince Consort and the Royal children listening to the account of the Charge of the Light Brigade by Lord Cardigan, and there are also some interesting pictures of hunting-field incidents, depicting Cardigan and his friends on their favourite mounts.
The house has been very judiciously added to, each architect retaining the motif of the old house, so it has not a patched appearance. My husband's father (91) built the dining-room, and in 1861 Lord Cardigan added the ball-room, especially to please me. It is 70 feet long and 40 feet high; and I designed the heraldic stained-glass windows which represent the family's forbears of Royal descent. The windows were executed by Lavers and Burrow, but my aid as an artist reduced their account by £200 ! There is a magnificient marble fireplace in the ball-room, which has an oak floor and a musician's gallery.
The White Hall is full of Balaclava relics, including my husband's uniforms, and the head of " Ronald", the horse he rode when he led the Charge of the Light Brigade. I gave one of "Ronald's" hoofs, mounted as an inkstand, to the King, who expressed a great wish to have it as a souvenir. The illuminated addresses received by Lord Cardigan are in the Great Hall, and some of them are really works of art.
After my husband's death I decided to have the parish church of St. Peter restored, and an altar tomb erected to his memory. The church adjoins the park, and was originally a quaint Early English structure of which little now remains.
The restoration cost me £7000, and I built the Brudenell Chapel, which contains my husband's beautiful tomb by Boehm. His recumbent figure is full of dignity and I had my own marble effigy placed by his side. At each end of the tomb are bas-reliefs representing the Charge and the address to the troops, and at the sides are many armorial bearings. The late Mr. G. Bodley, R.A., was responsible for the restoration and redecoration of the church, which was finished in 1869. On the occasion of the inauguration of the church, the Bishop of Peterborough preached, and I afterwards entertained 300 people at a banquet in the ball-room. During the afternoon " Ronald " (who lived for some years after) was led about the grounds, and many of those who saw him sighed as they thought of his gallant master, now sleeping "far from the stress of war's alarms"..
Lord Cardigan hated the idea of being put underground, so his coffin was placed immediately under his effigy inside the tomb and not in a vault. He had always intended to have a monument erected during his lifetime in the Rectory grounds, and actually had some stone brought from his Stanion quarries for this purpose. One day Lord Westmorland called, and noticing the quantity of stone, asked what it was to be used for. Cardigan told him. "Nonsense", said Lord Westmorland, "give the stone to me instead. I want to make an entrance-hall at Apethorpe, and it will be the very thing!" My husband very good-naturedly gave him the Stanion stone, and the low entrance-hall at Apethorpe was built of it.
The late Queen Victoria greatly admired the design for the monument, and I was told on good authority that she even had her own figure modelled in her lifetime for her memorial tomb but that when search was made after her death the figure had disappeared and nobody knew what had become of it.
Deene lies like some rare jewel in a setting of peaceful lake and well-timbered parkland; its own peculiar charm would be gone for ever if it relied on blazinsr flower-beds and obtrusive gardening triumphs to make it attractive.
Behind the bowling-green are the kitchen gardens, where the fruit ripens on the mellowed walls, and in spring and summer, masses of old- fashioned flowers make vivid splashes of fragrant colour everywhere. The stables and the riding-school, which I built, are close to the house, and I have a most interesting collection of ancient carriages, many of them over a hundred years old and unique specimens of the coach-builder's art.
Naturally Deene has a ghost. The story goes that when it was a Religious House, monks and nuns lived there together, an arrangement that was naturally rather dangerous to the morals of the community. A young nun is said to have loved and been loved in return by one of the monks; they both met with a tragic end, and her spirit appears at times in the Great Hall as a young and lovely woman dressed in the white robes of her Order. A curious discovery was made when the house was drained that perhaps is a silent record of dark doings in monkish days. Quantities of young children's bones were found under the floorings, and I often wonder whether the horrible practices of Gilles de Retz ever took place at Deene long ago, or if the tiny bones were those of unwanted and unwelcome babies at the Religious House !
My friend, Walter Seymour, wrote the following verses, which I set to music, about the phantom nun: ...
For fifty years I have been chatelaine at Deene. There is no place I love so much. I saw it first as a mere child and even then it seemed to welcome me. It was the home of my married life; and I am never lonely there. Memory opens wide her gates, and from them issue the beloved dead who loved Deene. Husband, relatives, and friends surround me again, and the dream is so real that I am always happy with my dear ones who people it. The peace of the old house envelops and soothes me, and I always hope that when the time comes for me to lie by my husband's side, my spirit will be sometimes allowed to revisit the place that has always been " sweet home " to me.