HALES OWEN:
Geographical and Historical information from the year 1824.

[Transcribed information from A Gazetteer of Shropshire - T Gregory - 1824]
(unless otherwise stated)

"HALES OWEN, a parish and market town, partly in Halfshire hundred in the county of Worcester, partly in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry. The Shropshire part contain 1,472 houses, 8,187 inhabitants, and the entire parish 10,946 inhabitants. 35 miles south-east of Shrewsbury, and 120 miles north-west of London. LAT. 52. 28½. N. LON. 2. 8 W.

Hales Owen is an insulated district, surrounded by Staffordshire and Worcestershire, and is at least twelve miles distant from any part of Shropshire. The town lies in a valley, and possesses many good houses, being the favourite residence of several respectable families. There was formerly in this place an Abbey of Praemonstratensian canons, built in the reign of King John, pursuant to a charter granted by that monarch to Peter de Rupibus, bishop of Winchester. This edifice appears, from the few remains that are now standing, and from the foundations that are still to be traced, to have been both stately and extensive. A house in the neighbourhood, which is now occupied by a farmer, is supposed to have been the Abbot's kitchen. Some fragments of the ruins are preserved in it, and among the rest, some painted tiles, with which part of the Abbey was paved. The parish church at Hales Owen is a beautiful structure and is much admired for its noble spire, supported by four curious arches. Hales Owen does not possess much trade, nor is its weekly market very large; but the manufacture of nails, and of different kinds of hardware, is carried on in the town, and its vicinity. It has a free school founded by a commission sent down from the court of chancery, in the time of the commonwealth. See appendix. Fairs, Easter Monday, and Whit-monday. Market on Monday.

Adam Littleton, the learned author of a Latin Dictionary, was born in the parish of Hales Owen, November 8, 1617. He was educated under Dr. Busby, who was so celebrated for the extreme severity with which he inculcated classical literature, and went from Westminster school to Christ church college, at Oxford, but was expelled by the parliament visitors. He then became usher, and afterwards second master, of Westminster school, and was admitted, after the restoration, rector of Chelsea, Middlesex. In the year 1674, he was presented to the prebend of Westminstor, and obtained a grant from the king to succeed Dr. Busby, as head master. He was also one of the king's chaplains, and, by the interest of Dr. Houchman, bishop of London, proceedod to his divinity degrees, without taking any in arts. For some time he was subdean of Westminster, and was licensed in 1687, to the church of St. Botolph, Aldersgate, which living he resigned after having held it four years. Dr. Littleton died June 30, 1694, in his sixty seventh year, and was buried in the church at Chelsea, where his memory is honoured by a handsome monument. He was a man of great and various erudition, and was well skilled in the Oriental languages, and in rabbisical learning. His works, consisting of sermons, translations, and a variety of papers on miscellaneous topicks are about twelve in number.

William Caslon was born in that part of the town of Hales Owen which is situated in Shropshire, in 1892. He is justly styled, by Mr. Rowe Mores, the Coryphoeus of Letter founders. He was not trained to the business, " which is a handywork, so concealed among the artificers of it," that Mr. Moxon, in his indefatigable researches on that subject, " could not discover that any one had taught it any other, but every one that had used it learned it of his own genuine inclination." (Dissertation upon English Typographical founders and founderies p. 17.)

Mr. Caslon served a regular apprenticeship, to an engraver of ornaments on gun barrels; and was taken from that instrument to an employment of a very different tendency, the propagation of the Christian faith. In the year 1720, (the year in which his eldest son was born,) the Society for promoting Christian knowledge, in consequence of a representation made by Mr. Solomon Negri, a native of Damascus, in Syria, well skilled in the Oriental languages, who had been professor of Arabick in places of note, for a great part of his life, deemed it expedient to print the new Testament and Psalter, in the Arabick language, for the use of the Eastern churches, and for the benefit of the poor Christians in Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt; the constitution of which countries allowed of no printing. Mr. Caslon was pitched upon to cut the fount, which in his specimen is distinguished by the name of English Arabick. After he had finished his Arabick fount, he cut the letters of his own name in Pica Roman, and placed the name at the bottom of a specimen of the Arabick. Mr. Palmer, (the reputed author of Pashnanazar's " History of Printing,") seeing his name, advised Mr. Caslon to cut the whole fount of Pica. Mr. Caslon did so and as the performance exceeded the letters of the other founders of the time, Mr. Palmer, whose circumstances required credit with these, who by this advice were now obstructed, repented of having given the advice, and discouraged Mr. Caslon from any further progress; a circumstance which is verified by the celebrated Dr. Franklin, who was at that time a journeyman under Mr. Watts, the first printer that employed Mr. Caslon.

Mr. Caslon, disgusted, applied to Mr. Bowyer, under whose inspection he cut, in 1722, the beautiful fount of English, which was used in printing Selden's works in 1726; and the Coptick types which were used for Dr. Wilkin's edition of the Pentateuch. Mr. Caslon was encouraged to proceed further both by Mr. Bowyer, and by his brother in law Mr. Bettenham, and had the candour to acknowledge Mr. Bowyer his master, and to own that Mr. Bowyer had taught him an art in which, by diligence and unwearied application, he arrived to that perfection, as not only to remove the necessity of importing types from Holland, but so far to surpass in beauty and elegance the best productions of foreign artificers, that his types have not unfrequently been exported to the continent. It may still, with great justice and confidence, be asserted that a more beautiful specimen than his is not to be found in any part of the world. It appears by the Dissertation of Mr. Mores (p. 86) that Mr. Caslon had a brother named Samuel who was his mould maker, and afterwards lived with Mr. George Anderton, of Birmingham, in the same capacity. Mr. Caslon's first foundery was in a small house in Helmet row, in Old street; he afterwards removed into Ironmonger row; and about the year 1735, into Chiswell meet, where the foundery was carried on, at first by himself, and afterwards, in connection with William, his eldest son, whose name first appeared in the specimen of 1743. In or about the year 1750, Mr. Caslon was put into the commission of the peace for Middlesex; and retired from the active part of business, (having realised an affluent fortune) to a house opposite the Nag's head, in the Hackney road; whence he afterwards removed to another. house in Water Gruel row; and afterwards to Bethnal green, where be died January 23, 1766; at the age of 74; and was buried in the church yard of St. Luke's, Middlesex, in which parish all his different founderies were situated. A monument erected to his memory, is thus briefly inscribed:-

W. Caslon, Esq., ob. 1766, aet. 74. Also W. Caslon, Esq., (son of the above) ob. 17 August, 1778, aet 58.

One particular in Mr. Caslon's character is thus excellently described by Sir John Hawkins (History of Musick Vol. 5, p. 127.) "Mr. Caslon meeting with encouragement suitable to his deserts, settled in Ironmonger row, in Old street; and being a great lover of musick, had frequent concerts at his house, which were resorted to by many eminent masters; to these he used to invite his friends, and those of his old acquaintance, the companions of his youth. He afterwards removed to a large house in Chiswell street, and had an organ in his concert room. After that he had stated monthly concerts, which for the convenience of his friends, and that they might walk home in safety after the performance was over, were on that Thursday in the month, which was nearest the full moon; from which circumstance, his guests were wont humorously to call themselves lunaticks. In the intervals of the performance the guests refreshed themselves at a side board, which was amply furnished, and when it was over, sitting down to a bottle of wine and a decanter of excellent ale, of Mr. Caslon's own brewing, they concluded the evening's entertainment with a song or two of Purcell's, sung to the harpsichord, or a few catches; and about twelve, retired."

About a mile and a half north-east of Hales Owen lies that celebrated spot, the Leasowes, formerly the property and the favourite residence of Shenstone, the poet. Here that amiable and ingenious man was born, Nov. 18, 1714. Even in infancy he was distinguished by superior capacity, and a prediliction for study. He learned to read of an old matron, whom he afterwards celebrated in that pleasing poem, written in imitation of Spencer, entitled the "Schoolmistress". So great was the delight he received from books, that he was always calling for fresh supplies, and expected when any of the family went to market, that a new book should be brought him, which, when it came, was laid in bed by him. It is said that when his request had been neglected, his mother was accustomed to wrap up a piece of wood of the same form, and thus pacify him for the night.

He went for some time to the grammar school at Hales Owen, but was afterwards placed under the care of a Mr. Crompton, an eminent schoolmaster at Solihull, where he was soon distinguished by the rapidity of his progress in learning.

In June, 1724, when be was only ten years of age, he lost his father, and two years afterwards, on the death of his grandfather, he was left with his brother, to the care of his grand-mother, who managed the family estate.

From school he removed, in the year 1785, to Pembroke college, Oxford, where it may be presumed that he found both delight and advantage, since he continued his name on the books for ten years, though he never took a degree. He had been designed for the church, but notwithstanding his impression of the importance of the sacred function, be did not enter into orders.

Shortly after he removed to Oxford, the care of his affairs, in consequence of his grandmother's death, devolved upon the Rev. Mr. Dolman, of Brome, in Staffordshire, of whose attention and kindness, he was always accustomed to speak in the most grateful terms.

On quitting Oxford, he wandered about in order to make himself acquainted with life, and resided sometimes in London, sometimes at Bath, or any other place of publick resort. In the midst of his rambles, he did not forget his poetry, and in 1741, published his "Judgment of Hercules," which be addressod to Mr. Lyttleton, whose interest he warmly supported at an election. In the course of the following year, appeared his " Schoolmistress."

In 1745, Mr. Delman, to whose care he had been indebted for his ease and leisure, was removed by death, and the care of his fortune now fell upon himself. Having lived for a while with his tenants, to whom he was distantly related, he took his estate into his own hands, not so much to the increase of its produce, as the improvement of its beauty.

His delight in rural pleasures, and his ambition of rural elegance, were now strongly excited. From this time he began to employ himself in pointing his prospects, diversifying his surface, entangling his walks, and winding his waters. In this elegant occupation he displayed such a combination of judgment and fancy, that his circumscribed domain became the envy of the man of opulence, and the admiration of the connoisseur. To embellish the form of nature was his innocent and delightful amusement, and surely the most supercilious observer will allow some praise to him, who does best what so many endeavour to do well. This praise was Shenstone's. Of the Leasowes thus ornamented, with so much trouble and expense, his friend Mr. Dodsley gives the following minute description.

'About half a mile from Hales Owen, in the way from Birmingham to Bewdley, you quit the great road, and turn into a green lane on the left hand, where, descending in a winding manner to the bottom of a deep valley, finely shaded, the first object that occurs is a kind of ruinated wall, and a small gate within an arch, inscribed, "The Priory Gate." Here it seems, the company should begin their walk, but generally chuse to go up with their horses or equipage to the house, from whence returning, they descend back into the valley. Passing through a small gate at the bottom of a fine swelling lawn, that surrounds the house, you enter upon a winding path, with a piece of water on your right. The path and water overshadowed with trees that grow upon the slopes of this narrow dingle, render the scene at once cool, gloomy, solemn, and sequestered, and form so striking a contrast to the lively scene.you have just left, that you seem all on a sudden, landed in a subterraneous kind of region. Winding forward down the valley, you pass beside a small root house, where, on a tablet, are these lines:-

Here in cool grot and mossy cell,
We rural fays, and fairies dwell;
Tho' rarely seen by mortal eye,
When the pale moon ascending high,
Darts through yon limes her quiv'ring beams,
We frisk it near these crystal streams.

Her beams reflected from the wave,
Afford the light our revels crave;
The turf, with daisies broidered o'er
Exceeds we wot, the Parian floor;
Nor yet for artful strains we call,
But listen to the water's fall.

Would you then taste our tranquil scene,
Be suro your bosoms be serene,
Devoid of hate, devoid of strife,
Devisid of all that poisons life;
And much it 'vails you in their place,
To graft the love of human race.

And tread with awe these favour'd bow'rs,
Nor wound the shrubs, nor bruise the flow'rs;
So may your path with sweets abound,
So may your couch with rest be crown'd;
But harm betide the wayward swain,
Who dares our hallow'd haunts profane!

These sentiments correspond as well as possible with the ideas we form of the abode of fairies, and, appearing deep in this romantick valley, serve to keep alive such enthusiastick images, while this sort of scene continues.

You now pass through the Priory Gate before-mentioned, and are admitted into a part of the valley somewhat different from the former, tall trees, high irregular ground, and ragged seats. The right presents you, with, perhaps, the most natural, if not the most striking, of the many cascades here found; the left, with a sloping grove of oaks; and the centre, with a pretty circular landscape appearing through the trees, of which Hales Owen steeple, and other objects at a distance, form an interesting part. The seat beneath the ruinated wall, has these lines of Virgil inscribed,- suiting well with the general tenor of Mr. Shenstone's late situation:

Lucis habitamus opacis, Riparumque toros, et prata recentia rivis Incolimus.

You now proceed a few paces down the valley to another bench, where you have the cascade in front, which, together with the internal arch, and other appendages, make a pretty irregular picture. I must observe once for all, that a number of these pro tempore benches (two stumps with a transverse board) seem chiefly intended as hints to spectators, lest, in passing cursorily through the farm, they might suffer any of that immense variety the place furnishes, to escape their notice. The stream attending us with its agreeable murmurs, as we descend along this pleasing valley, we come next to a small seat, where we have a sloping grove upon the right, and on the left, a striking vista to the steeple of Hales Owen, which is here seen in a new light. We now descend farther down this shady and sequestered valley, accompanied on the right by the same brawling rivulet, running over pebbles, till it empties itself into a fine piece of water at the bottom. The path here, winding to the left, conforms to the water before-mentioned, running round the foot of a small hill, and accompanying this semicircular lake into another winding valley, somewhat more open, and not less pleasing than the former: however, before we enter this, it will be proper to mention a seat about the centre of this water scene, where the ends of it are lost in the two valleys on each side, and in front it is invisibly connected with another piece of water, of about twenty acres, open to Mr. Shenstone's, but not his property. This last was a performance of the monks, and part of a prodigious chain of fish ponds, that belonged to Hales Abbey, The back ground of this scene is very beautiful, and exhibits a picture of villages, and varied ground, finely held up to the eye.

I speak of all this as already finished, but through some misfortune in the mound that pounds up the water, it is not completed,

We now leave the priory on the left, which is not meant for an object here, and wind along into the other valley: and here I cannot but take notice of the judgment that formed this piece of water; for although it is not very large, yet, as it is formed by the concurrence of these valleys, in which two of the ends are hid, and the third seems to join with the large extent of water below, it is to all appearance, unbounded. I never saw a more natural bed for water, or any kind of lake that pleased me better; but it may be right to mention, that this water, in its fall extent, has yet a more important effect from Mr. Shenstone's house, where it is seen to a great advantage. We now, by a pleasing serpentine walk, enter a narrow glade in the valley, the slopes on each side, finely covered with oaks and beeches, on the left of which is a common bench, which affords a retiring place, secluded from every eye, and a short respite, during which the eye reposes on a fine amphitheatre of wood and thicket.

We new proceed to a seat beneath a prodigiously fine canopy of spreading oak, on the back of which is this inscription:

Hue ades O Melibaee ! caper tibi salvus et haedi, Et si quid cessare potes, requiesce sub umbra.

The picture before it is that of a beautiful home scene; a small lawn of well varied ground, encompassed with hills and well grown oaks, and embellished with a cast of the piping Faunas, amid trees and shrubs on a slope upon the left; and on the right, and nearer the eye, with an urn thus inscribed,

Ingenio et amicitiae Gulielmi Somerville.

And on the opposite side,

G.S. posuit, Debita spargens lacryma favillam, Vatis amici.

The scene is inclosed on all sides by trees; in the middle only, there is an opening, where the lawn is continued, and winds out of sight.

Here, entering a gate, you are led through a thicket of many sorts of willows, into a large root house, inscribed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Stamford, It seems that worthy peer was present at the first opening of the cascade, which is the principal object from the root house, where the eye is presented with a fairy vision, consisting of an irregular and romantick fall of water, one hundred and fifty yards in continuity; and a very striking scene it affords. Other cascades may possibly have the advantage of a greater descent and a larger torrent; but a more wild and romantick appearance of water, and at the same time strictly natural, is what I never saw in any place whatever. This scene, though comparatively small, is yet aggrandised with so much art, that we forget the quantity of water which flows through this close and over- shaded valley, and are so much transported with the intricacy of the scene, and the concealed height from which it flows, that without reflection, we add the idea of magnificence to that of beauty. In short, it is not but upon reflection that we find the stream is not a Niagara, but rather a water fall in miniature; and that the same artifice, upon a larger scale, were there large trees instead of small ones; and a river instead of a till, would be capable of forming a scene that would exceed the utmost of our ideas. But I will not dwell longer upon this inimitable scene; those who would admire it properly mnst view it, as surely as those that view it must admire it, beyond almost any thing they ever saw.

Proceeding on the right hand path, the next seat affords a scene of what Mr. Shenstone used to call his Forest Ground, consisting of wild green slopes, peeping through a dingle of irregular groupes of trees, a confused mixture of savage and cultivated ground, held up to the eye, and forming a landscape fit for the pencil of Salvator Rosa.

Winding on beside this lawn, which is overarched by spreading trees, the eye catches at intervals, over an intermediate hill, the spire of Hales Church, forming here a perfect obelisk, the urn to Mr. Somerville, &c., and now passing throngh a kind of thicket, we arrive at a natural bower of almost circular oaks, inscribed in the following manner:-

TO MR. DODSLEY.

Come then, my friend, thy sylvan taste display;
Come hear thy Faunus tune his rustick lay;
Ah ! rather come, and in these cells disown
The care of other strains, and tune thy own.

On the bank above it, amid the fore-mentioned shrubs, is a statue of the piping Faun, which not only embellishes this scene, but is also seen from the court before the home, and from other places; it is surrounded by venerable oaks, and very happily situated. From this bower also, you look down upon the fore-mentioned irregular ground, shut up with trees on all sides, except some few opening to the more pleasing parts of this grotesque and hilly country. The next little bench affords the first, but not most striking view of the priory. It is indeed, a small building; but seen as it is beneath trees, and its extremity also hid by the same, it has in some sort the dignity and solemn appearance of a large edifice. Passing through a gate, we enter a small, open grove where the first seat we find affords a picturesque view, through trees, of a clump of oaks at a distance, overshadowing a little cottage, upon a green hill: we thence immediately enter a perfect dome or circular temple, of magnificent beeches, in the centre of which it was intended to place an antique altar, or a statue of Pan. The path serpentising through this open grove leads us by an easy ascent to a small bench, with this motto:

Me gelidum memus, Nympharumque leves qum satyris chori Secernant populo: - HOS.

Which alludes to the retired situation of the grove. There is also seen, through an opening to the left, a pleasing landscape of a distant hill, with a whited farm house upon the summit, and to the right hand a beautiful round slope, crowned with a clump of large firs, with a pyramidal seat in its centre, to which after no long walk, the path conducts us.

But, we first come to another view of the priory more advantageous, and at a better distance, to which the eye is led down a green slope, through a scenery of tall oaks, in a most agreeable manner; the grove we have just passed on one side; and a hill of trees and thicket on the other, conducting the eye to a narrow opening, through, which it appears.

We now ascend to a small bench, where the circumjacent county begins to open; in particular, a glass house appears, between two large clumps of trees, at about the distance of four miles; the glass houses in this country, not ill- resembling a distant pyramid. Ascending to the next seat, which is in the Gothiek form, the stone grows more and more extended; woods and lawns, hills and valleys, thicket and plain, agreeably intermingled. On the back of this seat is the following inscriptions which the author told me that he chose to fix here, to supply what he thought some want of life, in this part of the farm, and to keep up the spectator's attention, till he came to scale the hill beyond.

Shepherd would'st thou here obtain
Pleasure unalloyed with pain
Joy that suits the rural sphere?
Gentle Shepherd,! lend an ear:

Learn to relish calm delight,
Verdant vales, and fountains bright,
Trees that nod on sloping hills,
Caves that echo tinkling rills.

If thou canst no charm disclose,
In the simplest bud that blows,
Go forsake thy plain and fold,
Join the crowd, and toil for gold.

Tranquil pleasures never cloy;
Banish each tumultuous joy;
All but love - for love inspires
Fonder wishes, warmer fires.

Love and all its joys be thine -
Yet ere thou the reins resign,
Hear what reason seems to say,
Hear attentive, and obey.

Crimson leaves the rose adorn,
But beneath them lurks a thorn,
Fair and flow'ry is the brake,
Yet it hides the vengeful snake.

Think not she whose empty pride,
Dares the fleecy garb deride,
Think not she who light and vain,
Scorns the sheep - can love the swain.

Artless deed and simple dress,
Mark the chosen shepherdess;
Thoughts by decency controll'd,
Well conceived and freely told.

Sense that shuns each conscious air,
Wit that falls ere well aware;
Generous pity prone to sigh,
If her kid or lambkin die,

Let not lucre, let not pride,
Draw thee from such charms aside;
Have not those their proper sphere?
Gentle passions triumph here.

See ! to sweeten thy repose,
The blossom buds, the fountain flows;
Lo ! to crown thy healthful board,
All that milk and fruits afford.

Seek no more; - the rest is vain,
Pleasure ending soon in pain,
Anguish lightly gilded o'er:
Close thy wish, and seek no more.

And now passing through a wicket, the path winds up the back part of a circular green hill, discovering little of the country, till you enter a clump of stately firs upon the summit. Overarched by these firs, is an octagonal seat, the back of which is so contrived as to form a table or pedestal, for a bowl or goblet, thus inscribed -

"TO ALL FRIENDS ROUND THE WREKIN."

This facetious inscription being an old Shropshire health, is a commemoration of his country friends, from whom this part of Shropshire is divided; add to this, that the Wrekin, that large and venerable hill, appears full in front, at the distance of about thirty miles.

The scene is a very fair one, divided by the firs into several compartments, each answering to the octagonal seat in the centre; to each of which is allotted a competent number of striking objects, to make a complete picture. A long serpentine stream washes the foot of this hill, and is lost behind trees at one end, and a bridge thrown over at the other. Over this the eye is carried from very romantick home scenes, to very beautiful ones at a distance. It is impossible to give an idea of that immense variety, that fine configuration of paths, which engage our attention from this place. In one of the compartments you have a simple scene of a cottage, and a road winding behind a farm house, half covered with trees, upon the top of some wild sloping ground; and in another a view of the town, appearing from hence, as upon the shelving banks of a large piece of water in the flat. Suffice it to say, that the hill and vale, plain and woodland, villages and single houses, blue distant mountains that skirt the horizon, and green hills romantically jumbled, that form the intermediate ground, make this spot more than commonly striking. Nor is there to be seen an acre of level ground, through the large extent to which the eye is carried.

Hence the path winds on betwixt two small benches, each of which exhibits a pleasing landscape, which cannot escape the eye of a connoisseur.

Here we wind through a small thicket, and soon enter a cavity in the hill, filled with trees, in the centre of which is a seat, from whence is discovered, gleaming across the trees, a considerable length of the serpentine stream before- mentioned, running under a slight rustick bridge to the right; hence we ascend into a kind of Gothick alcove, looking down a slope, sided with large oaks, and tall beeches, which together over-arch the scene. On the back of this building is found the following inscription:-

O you that bathe in courtlye blysse,
Or toil in fortune's giddy sphere,
Do not too rashlye deem amysse
Of him that bydes contented here.

Nor yet disdeigne the russet stoale
Whyche o'er each carelesse lymbe he flyngs,
Nor yet deryde the beechen bowle,
In whyche he quaffs the lympid springs.

Forgive him if at eve or dawne,
Devoide of worldlye cark be stray,
Or all beside some flowerye lawne
He waste his inoffensive daye.

So may he pardonne fraud and strife,
If such in courtlye haunt he see;
For faults there beene in busye lyre,
From whyche these peaceful glennes are free.

Below this alcove is a large sloping lawn, finely bounded, crossed by the serpentine water before-mentioned, and interspersed with oaks, single and in clumps, at agreeable distances.

Further on the scene is finely varied, the hill rising and falling towards the opposite concavities, by the side of a long winding vale, with the most graceful confusion. Among other scenes that form this landscape, a fine hanging wood, backed and contrasted with a wild heath, intersected with cross roads, is a very considerable object. Adjoining to this is a seat, from whence the water is seen to advantage in many different stages of its progress, or where, (as a poetical friend observed) the proprietor has taken the Naiad by the hand, and led her an irregular dance into the valley.

Proceeding hence through a wicket, we enter upon another lawn, beyond which is a new theatre of wild shaggy precipices, hanging coppice ground, and smooth round hills between, being not only different, but even of an opposite character to the ground from which we passed. Walking along the head of this lawn, we come to a seat under a spreading beech, with this inscription:-

Hoc erat in votis: modus agri non ita magnus, Hortus ubi, et tecto vicinus jugis aquae fons, Et paulum sylvae super his foret: Auctius atque Dii melius fecere!

In the centre of the hanging lawn before you, is discovered the house, half hid with trees and bushes: a little hanging wood, and a piece of winding water, issues through a noble clump of large oaks, and spreading beeches. At the distance of about ten or twelve miles Lord Stamford's grounds appear, and beyond these, the Clee hills, in Shropshire. The scene here consists of admirably varied ground, and is, I think, a very fine one. Hence passing still along the top of the lawn, we cross another gate, and behind the fence begin to descend into the valley. About half way down is a small bench which throws the eye upon a near scene of hanging woods and shaggy wild declivities, intermixed with smooth green slopes and scenes of cultivation.

We now return again into the great lawn at the bottom, and soon come to a seat, which gives a nearer view of the water before-mentioned, between the trunks of high overshadowing oaks and beeches, beyond which the winding line of trees is continued down the valley to the right. To the left, at a distance, the tops of Clent hills appear; and the house upon a swell amidst trees and bushes. In the centre the eye is carried by a side long view, down a length of lawn, till it rests upon the town and spire of Hales, with some picturesque and beautiful ground rising behind it.

Somewhat out of the path, and in the centre of a noble clump of stately beeches, is a seat inscribed to Mr. Spence, in these words,-

JOSEPHO SPENCE eximio nostro Critoni; quem sibi vindicare vellet Musarum omnium et Gratiarum chorus, dicat amicitia 1758.

We now, through a small gate, enter what is called the " Lover's Walk," and proceed immediately to a seat where the water is seen very advantageously at full length; which, though not large, is so agreeably shaped, and has its bounds so well concealed, that the beholder may receive less pleasure from many lakes of greater extent. The margin on one side is fringed with alders, the other is overhung with most stately oaks and beeches, and the middle beyond the water presents the Hales Owen scene, with a group of houses on the slope behind, and the horizon well fringed with wood. Now, winding a few paces round the margin of the water, we come to another small bench, which presents the former scene somewhat varied, with the addition of a whited village among trees upon a hill. Proceeding on, we enter the pleasing gloom of this agreeable walk, and come to a bench beneath a spreading beech, that overhangs both walk and water, which has been called the assignation seat, and has this inscription on the back of it:-

" Nerine Galatea! thymo mihi dulcior Hyblae, Candidior cygnis, hedera formosior alba! Cum primum pasti repetent praesepia tauri, Si qua tui Corydonis habet te cura, venito."

Here the path begins gradually to ascend beneath a depth of shade, by the side of which is a small bubbling rill, either forming little peninsulas, rolling over pebbles, or falling down small cascades, all under cover, and taught to murmur very agreeably. This soft and pensive scene, very properly stiled the Lover's Walk, is terminated with an ornamental urn, inscribed to Miss Dolman, a beautiful and amiable relation of Mr. Shenstone, who died of the small pox, about twenty one years of age, in the following words, on one side,

Peramabili sum consobrinae M.D.

On the other side,

Ah ! Maria ! pvellarum elegantissima ! ah ! flore venustatis abrepta, vale! heu quanto minus est cum reliquis versari, quam tvi meminisse !

The ascent from hence winds somewhat more steeply to another seat, where the eye is thrown over a rough scene of broken and furzy ground, upon a piece of water in the flat, whose extremities are hid behind trees and shrubs, among which the house appears, and makes upon the whole, no unpleasing picture. The path still winds under cover up the hill, the deep declivity of which is somewhat eased by the serpentine sweep of it, till we come to a small bench, with this line from Pope's Eloise,-

" Divine oblivion of low thoughted care !"

The opening before it presents a solitary scene of trees, thicket, and precipice, and terminates upon a green hill, with a clump of firs on the top of it.

We now find the great use, as well as beauty of the serpentine path in climbing up this wood, the first seat of which, alluding to the rural scene before it, has the following lines from Virgil:-

Hic latis otia fonis, Speluneae, vivique lacus, hic frigida Tempe, Mugitusque beum, mollesque sub arbore somni !

Here the eye, looking down a slope, beneath the spreading arms of oak and beech trees, passes first over some rough furzy ground, then over water to the large swelling lawn, in the centre of which the house is discovered among trees and thickets; this forms the fore ground. Beyond this appears a swell of waste, furzy land, diversified with a cottage, and a road that winds behind a farm house, and a fine clump of trees. The back scene of all is a semicircular range of hills, diversified with woods, scenes of cultivation, and inclosures, to about four or five miles distance.

Still winding up into the wood, we come to a slight seat, opening through the trees to a bridge of five piers, crossing a large piece of water, at about half a mile distance. The next seat looks down from a considerable height, along the side of a steep precipice, upon irregular and pleasing ground. And now we return upon a sudden into a long straight-lined walk in the wood, arched over with tall trees, and terminating with a small rustick building. Though the walk, as I said, is straight-lined, yet the base rises and falls so agreeably, as to leave no room to censure its formality. About the middle of this avenue, which runs the whole length of this hanging wood, we arrive unexpectedly at a lofty Gothick seat, whence we look down a slope, more considerable than that before-mentioned, through the wood on each side. This view is indeed a fine one, the eye first travelling down a well variegated ground into the valley, where is a large piece of water, whose sloping banks give all the appearance of a noble river. The ground from hence rises gradually to the top of Clent hill, at three or four miles distance; and the landscape is enriched with a view of Hales Owen, the late Lord Dudley's house, and a large wood of Lord Lyttleton's. It is impossible to give an adequate description of this view, the beauty of it depending upon the great variety of objects and beautiful shape of ground, and all at such a distance as to admit of being seen distinctly.

Hence we proceed to the rustick building before-mentioned, a slight and unexpensive edifice, formed of rough, unhewn stone, commonly called here the Temple of Pan, having a trophy of the Tibia and Syrinx, and this inscription over the entrance;-

Pan primus calamos cera conjungere plures Edocuit; Pan curat oves oviumque magistros.

Hence mounting once more to the right, through this dark umbrageous walk, we enter at once upon a lightsome, high, natural terrace, whence the eye is thrown over all the scenes we have seen before, together with many fine additional ones; and all beheld from a declivity, which approaches as near a precipice as is agreeable. In the middle is a seat with this inscription,-

Divini gloria ruris.

To give a better idea of this by far the most magnificent scene here, it were perhaps better to divide it into two distinct parts; the noble concave in the front, and the rich valley towards the right. In regard to the former, if a boon companion could enlarge his idea of a punch bowl, ornamented within with all the romantick scenery the Chinese ever yet devised, it would perhaps afford him the highest idea he could conceive of earthly happiness: he would certainly wish to swim in it. Suffice it to say, that the horizon, or brim, is as finely varied as the cavity. It would be idle here to mention the Clee hills, the Wrekin, the Welsh mountains, or Caer Caradoc, at a prodigious distance, which though they furnish the scene agreeably, should not be mentioned at the Leasowes, the beauty of which turns chiefly upon distinguishable scenes. The valley upon the right is equally enriched, and the opposite side thereof well fringed with woods, and the high woods on one side this long winding vale, rolling agreeably into the hollows of the other. But these are a kind of objects, which, though really noble in the survey, will not strike a reader in description, as they would a spectator on the spot.

Hence returning back into the wood, and crossing Pan's temple, we go down the slope into another part of Mr. Shenstone's grounds, the path leading down through very pleasing home scenes of well shaped ground, exhibiting a most perfect concave and convex, till we come to a seat under a noble beech, presenting a rich variety of fore ground, and at perhaps half a mile distance, the Gothick alcove, on a hill well covered with wood, a pretty cottage under trees in the more distant part of the concave, and a farm house on the right, all picturesque objects.

The next and the subsequent seat afford pretty much the same scenes a little enlarged, with the addition of that remarkable clump of trees called Frankly beeches, adjoining to the old family seat of the Lyttleton's, and from whence the present Lord Lyttleton derives his title.

We come now to a handsome Gothick scene, arched with a clump of firs, which throws the eye in front, full upon a cascade in the valley, issuing from beneath a dark shade of poplars. The house appears in the centre of a large swelling lawn, bushed with trees and thicket. The pleasing variety of easy swells and hollows, bounded by scenes less smooth and cultivated, affords the most delightful picture of domestick retirement and tranquillity.

We now descend to a seat inclosed with handsome pales, and backed with firs, inscribed to Lord Lyttleton. It presents a beautiful view up a valley contracted gradually, and ending in a group of most magnificent oaks and beeches. The right hand side is enlivened by two striking cascades, and a winding stream seen at intervals, between tufts of trees and woodland. To the left appears the hanging wood already mentioned, with the Gothick screen on the slope in the centre.

Winding still downwards, we come to a small seat where one of the offices of the house, and a view of a cottage on very high ground, is seen over the tops of the trees of the grove in the adjacent valley, giving an agreeable instance of the abrupt inequality of the ground, in this romantick and well variegated country. The next seat shews another face of the same valley, the water gliding calmly along betwixt two seeming hills, without any cascades, as a contrast to the former one, where it was broken by cascades: the scene very significantly alluded to by the motto,-

Rura mihi et longi placeant in vallibus amnes, Flumina amem, sylvasque inglorius.

We descend now to a beautiful gloomy scene called Virgil's grove, where, on the entrance, we pass by a small obelisk on the right hand, with this inscription,-

P. Virgilio Maroni, Lapis iste cum luco sacer esto.

Before this is a slight bench, where some of the same objects are seen again, but in a different point of light. It is not very easy either to paint or describe this delightful grove: however, as the former has been more than once attempted, I will hope to apologize for an imperfect description by the difficulty found, by those who have aimed to sketch it by their pencil. Be it therefore first observed that the whole scene is opaque and gloomy, consisting of a small deep valley or dingle, the sides of which are enclosed with irregular tufts of hazel and other underwood, and the whole shadowed with lofty trees, rising out of the bottom of the dingle, through which a copious stream makes its way through mossy banks, enamelled with primroses, and a variety of wild wood flowers. The first seat we approach is thus inscribed,-

Celeberrimo Poetae Jacobo Thompson, Prope fontes illi non fastiditos, W.S. Sedan hanc ornavit. Quae tibi, quae tali reddam pro carmine dona ? Nam neque me tantum venientis sibilus austri, Nec percussa juvant fluctu tam littora, nec quae, Saxosas inter decurrunt, flumina valles.

This seat is placed upon a steep bank on the edge of the valley, from which the eye is here drawn down into the flat below, by the light that glimmers in front, and by the sound of various cascades, by which the winding stream is agreeably broken. Opposite to this seat the ground rises in an easy concave, to a kind of dripping fountain, where a small rill trickles down a rude niche of rock work, through fern, liverwort, and aquatick weeds, the green area in the middle, through which the stream winds, being as well shaped as can be imagined. After falling down those cascades, it winds under a bridge of one arch, and then empties itself into a small lake which catches it a little below. This terminates the scene upon the right; and after these objects have for some time amused the spectator, his eye rambles to the left, where one of the most beautiful cascades imaginable is seen, by way of incident, through a kind of vista or glade, falling down a precipice overarched with trees, and strikes us with surprise. It is impossible to express the pleasure which one feels on this occasion; for though surprise alone is not excellence, it may serve to quicken the effort of what is beautiful. I believe none ever beheld this grove without a thorough sense of satisfaction; and were one to chase any particular spot of this perfectly Arcadian farm, it should perhaps be this; although it so well contrasts both with the terrace, and with some other scenes, that one cannot wish them ever to be divided. We now proceed to a seat, at the bottom of a large root, on the side of a slope, with this inscription:-

O let me haunt this peaceful shade,
Nor let Ambition e'er invade,
The tenants of this leafy bower,
That shun her paths, and slight her power.

Hither the peaceful halcyon flies,
From social meads and open skies:
Pleased by this rill her course to steer,
And hide her sapphire plumage here.

The trout, bedropp'd with crimson stains,
Forsakes the river's proud domains,
Forsakes the sun's unwelcome gleam,
To lurk within this humble stream.

And sure I heard the Naiad say,
Flow, flow, my stream, this devious way,
Tho' lovely soft thy murmurs are,
Thy waters lovely, cool, and fair.

Flow, gentle stream! nor let the vain,
Thy small unsully'd stores disdain;
Nor let the pensive sage repine,
Whose latent course resembles thine.

The view from it is a calm, tranquil scene of water, gliding through sloping ground, with a sketch through the trees of the small pond below.

The scene in this place is that of water stealing along through a rude, sequestered vale, the ground on each side covered with weeds and field flowers, as that before is kept close shaven. Farther on, we lose all sight of water, and only hear the noise, without having the appearance; a kind of effect which the Chinese are fond of producing, in what they call their scenes of enchantment. We now turn all on a sudden upon the high cascade which we admired before in vista. The scene around is quite a grotto of native stone running up it, roots of trees overhanging it, and the whole shaded over head. However, we first approach upon the left, a chalybeats spring, with an iron bowl chained to it, and this inscription upon a stone,-

Fons Ferrugineus Divae quae aecessv isto frvi concedit.

Then turning to the left, we find a stone seat, making part of the aforesaid cave, with this well applied inscription:-

Intus aquae dulces, vivoque sedilia saxo, Nympharum domus.

Which I have often heard Mr. Shenstone term the definition of a grotto. We now wind up a shady path on the left hand, and crossing the head of this cascade, pass beside the river that supplies it in our way up to the house. One seat first occurs under a shady oak, as we ascend the hill; soon after we enter the shrubbery, which half surrounds the house, where we find two seats, thus inscribed, to two of his most particular friends. The first thus:-

Amicitiae et meritis Richardi Graves. Ipsae te Tytyre! pinus, Ipsi te fontes, ipsa haec arbusta vocabant.

And a little further the other, with the following inscription:-

Amicitiae et meritis Richardi Jago.

From this last is an opening down the valley, over a large sliding lawn, well edged with oaks, to a piece of water, crossed by a considerable bridge in the flat,- the steeple of Hales,- a village amid trees,- making, on the whole, a very pleasing picture. Thus winding through flowering shrubs, beside a menagerie for doves, we are conducted to the stables. But let it not be forgot that, on the entrance into this shrubbery, the first object that strikes us is a Venus de Medicis, beside a basin of gold fish, encompassed around with shrubs, and illustrated with the following inscription,-

"Semi educta Venus."

To Venus; Venus here retired,
My sober vows I pay,
Not her on Paphian plains admir'd,
The bold, the pert, the gay.

Not her whose am'rous leer prevail'd
To bribe the Phygian boy,
Not her who clad in armour fail'd,
To save disastrous Troy.

Fresh rising from the foaming tide,
She every bosom warms;
Whilst half withdrawn, she seems to hide,
And half reveals her charms.

Learn hence, ye boastful sons of Taste!
Who plan the rural shade,
Learn hence to shun the vicious waste,
Of pomp at large display'd.

Let sweet concealment's magick art,
Your mazy bounds invest;
And while the sight unveils a part,
Let fancy paint the rest.

Let coy reserve with cost unite,
To grace your wood or field,
No ray obtrusive pall the sight,
In aught you paint, or build.

And far be driv'n the sumptuous glare
Of gold from British groves;
And far the meretricious air
Of China's vain alcoves.

'Tis bashful Beauty ever twines,
The most coercive chain;
'Tis she that sovereign rule declines,
That best deserves to reign.

[The original beauty of the Leasowes has undergone many alterations, according to the caprices of different possessors, so as to exhibit a true picture of sublimary vicissitude. It is now the residence of John Atwood, Esq., a banker in Birmingham.]

Shenstone died at the Leasowes, of a putrid fever, February 11, 1763, and was buried by the side of his brother, in the church yard of Hales Owen. In person he was above the common statute, and somewhat inelegantly formed. His face, which at first sight seemed plain, grew very pleasing in conversation. He was negligent in dress, and was remarkable for wearing his hair, which became grey very early, in a peculiar manner, for he thought that every one should in some degree consult his particular shape and complexion, in adjusting his dress; and that no fashion ought to sanctify what is very ungraceful, absurd, or really deformed.

He was never married, though Dr. Johnson assures us that be might have obtained the lady, whoever she was, to whom his pastoral ballad was addressed. He is represented, by his friend Dodsley, as a man of great tenderness and generosity, kind to all that were within his influence; but if once offended, not easily appeased; inattentive to economy, and careless of his expenses.

The embellishment of his estate, necessarily made him exceed his income; but he had too much spirit to expose himself to insults for trifling sums, and guarded against any great distress, by anticipating a few hundreds, which his estate could very well bear, as appeared by what remained to his executors, after the payment of his debts, and his legacies to his friends and servants.

His mind, Dr: Johnson tells us, was not very comprehensive, nor his curiosity active; he had no value for those parts of knowledge, which be had not himself cultivated. His life was unstained by any crime; the "Elegy on Jesse," which has been supposed to relate an unfortunate and criminal amour of his own was known, by his friends, to have been suggested by the story of Miss Godfrey, in Richardson's "Pamela."

What Gray thought of his character, from the perusal of his letters, was this:-

'I have read too an octavo volume of Shenstone's letters. Poor man! he was always wishing for money, fame, and other distinctions; and his whole philosophy consisted in living against his will in retirement, and in a place which his taste had adorned, but which he only enjoyed when people of note came to see and commend it; his correspondence is about nothing else but this place, and his own writings, with two or three neighbouring clergymen, who wrote verses too.'

'The general recommendation of Shenstone's poetry,' says Dr. Johnson, is easiness, and simplicity; its great defect, want of comprehension, and variety. Had his mind been better stored with knowledge, whether he could have been great I know not; he could certainly have been agreeable.'"

"CAKEMORE (or CAKEMOOR), a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry. 2½ miles north-east of Hales Owen.

"CRADLEY, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry. 2 miles north- west of Hales Owen."

"HASBURY, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry. 1 mile sonth- west of Hales Owen."

"HAWN, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry."

"HILL DIVISION, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry."

"HUNNINGTON, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry. 2½ miles south of Hales Owen."

"ILLEY, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry."

"LAPALL, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry."

"OLDBURY, a chapel, in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry, in the diocese of Worcester, the deanery of Kidderminster, and archdeaconry of Worcester, 4 miles north-east of Hales Owen."

"RIDGACRE, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division, of the hundred of Brimstry. 2 miles north-east of Hales Owen."

"ROMSLEY DIVISION, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry. 3 miles south of Hales Owen."

"ST. KENELM, a chapel in the parish of Hales Owen, in the diocese of Worcester, the deanery of Kidderminster, and archdeaconry of Worcester. 2½ miles south-west by south of Hales Owen."

"WARLEY, a township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry. 3 miles north- east of Hales Owen."

[Description(s) transcribed by Mel Lockie ©2012]

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