Extracts from a book about the Isle of Wight by Edmund Burton probably published about 1950 which contains some interesting information about Calbourne and Swainston..
miles nearer Newport lies Calbourne, which signifies “ The Cold Stream.” It
is a pretty village possessing an early English church which contains some
interesting brasses, among which is one to Daniel Evance, a ”precher,” dated
1652, with a curious rhyming epitaph ending in an anagram on his name—” I
Can Deal Even.”
this church also there is a unique brass with a strange history. Part of the
south aisle of the original edifice was occupied by a large tomb supported by
four columns of Purbeck marble and bearing a fine brass effigy of a knight in
armour of the time of Edward III. (end of 1377), with a dragon under his feet
and his hands folded as if in prayer upon his mailed breast.
tomb was destroyed about 1816, twenty years before the repairs of the church
took place. The brass effigy was then placed against the wall and the marble
laid down in the belfry as a flooring.
columns were inserted in the windows of the mortuary chapel, but a canopy in
ornamental brass-work, which once surmounted the head of the knight, has
seems that an inscription and date were cut on the slab of Purbeck marble in
which this brass was set and which covered an altar tomb close to the south
transept, hut not a fragment of this slab is to be found.
above information was supplied to me by Laura, Lady Simeon, and on my last visit
to Calbourne I paid particular attention to this interesting memorial, which
represents William Miontacute, son of fourteenth century Earl of Salisbury—the
family who were the ancient possessors of Calbourne.
met with a tragic death during a jousting bout with his father, when the
latter’s lance blinded him, and so grieved was the unhappy parent that he
devoted himself to building an altar tomb with a brass of his son, in the church
of every district where he owned property. The date here given is A.D. 1379.
Gray (Miss M. A. Tuttiett) who was the daughter of a Newport doctor, used
Calbourne as a background for her famous novel, “The Silence of Dean Maitland
“; whilst many say that Arreton was the scene of another book of hers, almost
as well known—” The Reproach of Annesley.”
Estate, the gates of which are just opposite the church, is the residence of the
Moulton-Barrett family—the same family who form the pivot of the well-known
stage play and film, “The Barretts of Wimpole Street.”
grounds are very extensive, and at one spot is an ice-house, 30 feet deep, into
which snow was at one time shovelled in winter to provide ice for the summer.
an old wall is a beautiful wistaria growth, while the kitchen garden is very
large and included, when I visited it, parallel trenches of French and German
strawberries, which strike one as being rather appropriate though perhaps
somewhat grimly reminiscent.
are also some particularly fine elms on this estate, and an old bowling green
which may well have been in existence when Sir Francis Drake played his famous
game with Sir John Hawkins on Plymouth Hoe.
there is “The Children’s Garden,” in which are many flowers such as we
loved when we were very young—those sentimental blossoms upon which we used to
tack favourite pet-names which no botanist on earth would recognize!
grounds contain a great variety of trees, among which is a very fine fig tree;
together with a truly remarkable cedar; and there is a very tall tree near the
house which used to be occupied by the white owls, but later the little owls
took up their abode there.
Moulton-Barrett told me that he often watched these birds from his window, as
they waited in ambush for some unsuspecting sparrow or other small fry, and
would then swoop down from the tree, wantonly killing their prey but never
eating it. The carcasses would be left for beetles or other voracious insects to
devour, all of which seems to suggest that the little owl is the “ Hun “ of
the feathered world.
Estate also possesses some fine peacocks, whose stately step and spreading
fan-like tails of such lovely colouring lend the finishing touch to a really
beautiful picture with the old mansion for a background.
house itself was formerly Elizabethan, but the present building is Georgian, and
it contains many things of interest. One is a copy of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s
famous painting—” Pinkie “—so well executed that it would be difficult
to distinguish it from the actual masterpiece.
original of this picture was Miss Barrett, who became aunt of Mrs. Elizabeth
Barrett Browning, the poet, and has the distinction of carrying the highest
price ever paid for a picture by Lawrence.
Moulton-Barrett’s father owned the original, which was sold to Sir Joseph
Duveen, but it was afterwards disposed of at Christie’s to a rich American for
£5,000, and it is still probably somewhere in the U.S.A.
is another painting of Mrs. Browning when a girl, and also several excellent
water colours by the Colonel’s father, who was plainly an artist of no mean
prowess. These are mainly landscape and seascape views, and each bears the touch
of an expert.
outside the gates is Calbourne’s famous “Winkle Street.” There is a little
bridge close by, beneath which gushes a crystal-clear stream from the lake in
Westover grounds, and this babbles along in front of a row of the prettiest
if you imagine that winkles can be gathered here, you will be quite wrong, the
quaint-sounding name merely being derived from an Anglo-Saxon one which has
nothing whatever to do with shellfish. No: there are no winkles at” Winkle
Street,” and neither is Wroxall all rocks.
little farther along the road towards the railway station there is a cottage
bearing a plaque or tablet, with the inscription :—
“Mr. William H. Long, Author of the I.W. Dialect Dictionary, and other works; Editor of the Oglander Memoirs; was born in this house, October 6th, 1839”.
remember spending a considerable time touring this fine old house, when I saw
the Edward I. alms window, where broken victuals were thrown out to the poor.
This was in the wall of the old chapel, but the original entrance to the
building had been bricked up. There was, however, another opening through which
it was possible to view a most interesting thing—a newer oak roof which had at some time been added, and this roof was an
absolute replica of the former one which existed there.
of attention, also, were some stone mitres carved in the walls down in the
cellars which, though whitewashed over, were still plainly to be seen.
these cellars, a regular labyrinth, helped to keep the dwellinghouse very dry.
In fact, they were up to the time of the catastrophe used as store-rooms, while
the scullery, larder and coalhouse were in the old chapel itself.
despite all these changes which modern life makes imperative, these ancient
relics had lost none of their dignity and I could not help feeling impressed and
wondering at everything I saw, as I wandered from room to room—wondering at
their history, and at the slow but sure way in which the hand of Time works its
changes and gives posterity something upon which to ponder.
my former visit I was conducted over the mansion by Laura, Lady Simeon, and she
went to a great deal of trouble to supply me with such information as I needed. I shall always remember her gratefully
not only for this but also for the obvious interest she displayed in these
“Island Impressions” of mine.
the thirteenth century Swainston was the episcopal palace of one of the Bishops
of Winchester, and in the reign of Edward I another bishop—John de
Pontiserra—was appointed against the King’s wishes. He was finally fined
heavily and his property confiscated.
was given by Egbert (A.D. 826) to the Monastery of St. Swithin, at Winchester,
and was used as a summer palace until King Edward I., in 1286 (twentieth year of
his reign), disgusted with the Pope for introducing John de Pontiserra into the
Bishopric against his wishes, vexed the Bishop in many ways and deprived him of
this Manor. The Bishop, to purchase the peaceable enjoyment of the other lands
belonging to his See, relinquished the Manor of Swainston and paid a fine of £2,000
to the King. The Bishop was allowed to retain Calbourne, Brixton and Binstead.
In 1285 Edward I. himself came to Swainston, attended by his Chancellor and
others, and the Burgesses of Francheville (Newtown) obtained from him a
confirmation of their charter, which had been granted by Aymer, Bishop of
Winchester, in 1256; and the confirmation of that charter was sealed at
Swainston by the King on 5th November, 1285. The Manor of Swainston has come
down to the present owner as follows :—
the Civil War between Charles I. and his Parliament, the Barrington family
definitely sided against the King. In fact, Sir John Barrington was nominated as
one of Charles’s judges, though he did not approve of certain things and
refused to attend the sittings.
And Sir Thomas Barrington melted down a large amount of plate to provide a troop of horse for Cromwell : so it can be taken for granted that Swainston was certainly one Island residence in which King Charles did not stay at any time!
Now—alas !—Swainston has suffered as so many other fine places have suffered. When I last saw it little more than the outer walls seemed to be standing, with the roof open to the skies; yet the vandals who did this deed could not destroy tradition, and because of its great importance to the history of the Isle of Wight this book could not have been considered complete without the inclusion of a chapter about the Island’s oldest dwelling of its kind.
Note: Swainston was subsequently rebuilt, it initially became a school and a hotel, but now appears to be in private use.
15 June 2010