Wilmot Tour 2006

by Stephen Jeffreys

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Jackslady
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Unread postby Jackslady » Wed Aug 16, 2006 3:20 pm

GG, thanks for following this up for me and for posting these links to the pictures, very interesting! The info.on Adderbury House is very helpful. Gathering together the various sources I have, my feeling is that at least some of the building dates back to pre-Rochester times (how else can we explain the date of 1624?) but obviously there have been many changes, and what we see today is nothing like it was when he lived there.

In the book “Blenheim, Landscape for a Palace”, I have found further information on the history of High Lodge. It seems that there was an original High Lodge which stood immediately west of the old Palace of Woodstock, not on the present site of the High Lodge we know today. Both this previous High Lodge and Woodstock Palace were demolished/damaged during the Civil War. The ruins of Woodstock Palace and this old lodge would obviously have been familiar to Rochester. The book says a lodge was built in an area of the park then known as the Straights in 1586 – 71. This is the site of High Lodge today and until the early 18th century it was known as Straights Lodge. The book goes on to say: “The High Lodge, which had already been rebuilt at the beginning of the 18th century as a plain, two-storey house with five dormer windows in a steeply-pitched hipped roof, was rebuilt again in the guise of a castellated Gothic folly, with a tall central tower, a semi-hexagonal bay to the east front and lower flanking wings, all with two-light pointed windows and surmounted with battlements. Although there is no positive proof this was designed by (Capability) Brown, it so resembles the character of his designs that the attribution can hardly be in serious doubt.”

The question therefore remains – is the version of the Lodge shown in the well-known engraving of the mid-18th century the one Rochester knew…or was the house he lived in demolished to make way for this version, which was then subsequently altered by Vanbrugh and Brown? Naturally I’m hoping that what we see today is the shell of what Rochester would have known..one plus point to this hope is that in “So Idle A Rogue”, Jeremy Lamb describes his own visit to High Lodge, saying he was shown around by officials from Blenheim Palace. Surely none involved would have gone to this trouble were the house not the one Rochester died in? There is also the mystery of his bed, which by all accounts was kept at High Lodge for years. If the house he had known was demolished after his death, one would have thought his death bed would have been either removed elsewhere or destroyed.

I've got two maps up on photobucket, but I'm going to have to fiddle with them and re-size them for the zone. If I don't get this done tonight, then I'll post them here tomorrow, sorry for the delay.
"Easy on the goods darlin!"
"Tis not an easy thing to be entirely happy, but to be kind is very easy, and that is the greatest measure of happiness"-John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Wed Aug 16, 2006 5:04 pm

No problem in your own time. In the thread which may have been suec's thread before when she did her report I think its there I found a map of the estate with some references.I came across it again when I was looking for the High Lodge pics.Your mention of Straight lodge reminded me I am sure it was mentioned on that map.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Aug 16, 2006 7:02 pm

Jackslady, thank you for all your work on this project! How wonderful there are so many historic records to draw from, even if they must be pieced together. You are a good puzzle solver! :cool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Thu Aug 17, 2006 2:17 am

Here is the info I was on about Jackslady quite a detailed report.
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=4024

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Unread postby Jackslady » Thu Aug 17, 2006 2:38 pm

Many thanks for posting this link, GG, it's incredibly detailed. I've printed it off and will read it in its entirely later tonight. I remember you posting this before, but I don't think I saved it then, so thanks again for this re-post :cool:

I'm still having problems sizing the maps, I will have a go at the weekend when I've more time, sorry about that.

What I do notice when researching Wilmot is that it's surprisingly somewhat like following Johnny, it's amazing how many sources prove to be inaccurate, misquoted, or confusing. There are noteable inconsistencies within the range of Wilmot biographies available, and sometimes the authors even take pot shots at oneanother...Germaine Greer for example is quite scathing about Jeremy Lamb's book!

It's very interesting trying to sift through the information available and solve some of these mysteries.
"Easy on the goods darlin!"
"Tis not an easy thing to be entirely happy, but to be kind is very easy, and that is the greatest measure of happiness"-John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Thu Aug 17, 2006 3:33 pm

I'm sure it is, you have to sift the info to get to the truth, to get a better idea of the man. I really must read another one about Wilmot, I have only read the Goldsworthy one, I think, I can never remember :-?
Germaine Greer I think takes pot shots at everybody.

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Unread postby Jackslady » Sat Aug 19, 2006 12:53 pm

Here are two maps...hope this size is okay for the zone.

This map shows the park as it is today. A land train takes visitors from the Palace to the Garden Centre (now known as the Pleasure Gardens). From here to reach High Lodge you take the road to Eagle Lodge, but turn right before the end of it, passing Middle Lodge and on towards the bridge. Spring Lock Lodge is the little house in the woods and High Lodge with its ponds can be found beyond. I would imagine the Lodge can also be reached from the other way round, commencing the walk by Rosamund's well. This ancient well has many stories surrounding it and it was known to Rochester. It is mentioned in one of his letters when he describes (rather rudely!) the way one of his friends danced naked around it! "Woodstock Manor" marks the site of the old Woodstock Palace, which Rochester would have known as a ruin as it was badly damaged during the Civil War.

Image

This map shows the park in Rochesters' day. It will be seen that High Lodge is marked then as Straights Lodge and was probably accessed via Combe Gate. Woodstock Palace and Rosamund's well are clearly marked. Capability Brown created the lakes from what can be seen illustrated here as a marshy river.
Image
"Easy on the goods darlin!"
"Tis not an easy thing to be entirely happy, but to be kind is very easy, and that is the greatest measure of happiness"-John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Aug 19, 2006 1:04 pm

Jackslady, the size of the maps is fine. The rule is nothing larger than 800 x 1000. You can always right click on them to view properties and see the size of any pic. Thank you for all your hard work. :notworthy: These maps will be here on the board or eventually in the ONBC archives for anyone that might be making the trip and will be very helpful! :cool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Utopiah » Sat Aug 19, 2006 1:20 pm

Jackslady, Take me on a tour of this place if you go again? Beautifully written. I really enjoyed your writing. ~ Anna

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sat Aug 19, 2006 2:13 pm

Thank you Jacklady for the maps they are very detailed and very good, I now see where I would have to go to get to High Lodge.
The second map there I see has another place marked as High Lodge I presume this is the older one you mentioned in your previous post .
Whats interesting is that I have visited the Park so many times but before I knew anything about Wilmot I did not even know the Lodge was there.

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Unread postby Jackslady » Sun Aug 20, 2006 12:30 pm

Glad the size of the maps is OK! I'm still very new to photobucket and have a lot to learn as regards putting pics on the zone :blush:

Yes, GG, just to clarify, on the 17th century map, "Straights Lodge" is the High Lodge that we know today, "High Lodge" here refers to the older lodge of that name, near to Rosamund's well.
I too visited Blenheim on several occasions years ago and had no idea of its connection to Rochester! (Attended an open air Barry Manilow concert there, I confess!). I was a little disappointed that in their well-stocked gift shops, they didn't have a single book or postcard referencing Rochester, but since the Lodge is not open to the public, perhaps they don't want to draw attention to it. But, given that part of TL was filmed there and they are presumably getting more visitors like me because of that, and the Lodge, I think they could be missing out!

So, GG, are you planning on a visit?
"Easy on the goods darlin!"
"Tis not an easy thing to be entirely happy, but to be kind is very easy, and that is the greatest measure of happiness"-John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sat Aug 26, 2006 12:37 pm

Jackslady wrote:Glad the size of the maps is OK! I'm still very new to photobucket and have a lot to learn as regards putting pics on the zone :blush:

Yes, GG, just to clarify, on the 17th century map, "Straights Lodge" is the High Lodge that we know today, "High Lodge" here refers to the older lodge of that name, near to Rosamund's well.
I too visited Blenheim on several occasions years ago and had no idea of its connection to Rochester! (Attended an open air Barry Manilow concert there, I confess!). I was a little disappointed that in their well-stocked gift shops, they didn't have a single book or postcard referencing Rochester, but since the Lodge is not open to the public, perhaps they don't want to draw attention to it. But, given that part of TL was filmed there and they are presumably getting more visitors like me because of that, and the Lodge, I think they could be missing out!

So, GG, are you planning on a visit?


Not in the near future. We went on Boxing Day last year and found it more pricey than in the past, but you never know its a good place for a winters walk.
I doubt very much that they are getting more visitors because of the Libertine, it gets a huge amount anyway and it was not hugely publicised that it was one of the locations not like so many other films/tv series. As you say no mention of Rochester connection, mainly I would think because he has nothing to do with Blenhiem itself.

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Unread postby Jackslady » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:08 pm

I'm now adding in the text from the leaflet on Wilmot which is available at Spelsbury Church. I think it is very nicely written, focusing on the more positive aspects of John's life and personality. It details the opening of his coffin some years ago and also contains the only mention I have yet found his having fathered a child with a servant girl. If anyone ever uncovers further info. on these two matters, please let me know.


John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

“so great a man and so great a sinner.”

Born at Ditchley 1647
Buried at All Saints Church, Spelsbury 1680

“In all his works there is a sprightliness and vigour, and everywhere may be found tokens of a mind, which study might have carried to excellence.” Dr Johnson

Over a quarter of a century ago, the then vicar of Spelsbury accompanied by church officials, decided to finally settle a rumour current among the local population for centuries, that a certain tomb in the church held riches. They descended into the vault where the coffin rested. The coffin plate was removed and the lid raised. The first thing they saw was a small casket which, when opened, clearly revealed it had contained viscera and which gave off a strong scent of the herbs in which they had been packed more than three centuries before. There was no sign of treasure. Instead the searchers found themselves gazing upon the mortal remains of one of the most complex, talented, wayward and controversial figures of the seventeenth century. He was John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, a notorious rake, yet a poet so gifted that his lyric and satirical verses are today included in anthologies of the works of the greatest poets in our language.

John Wilmot was born locally, at Ditchley House on 1st April 1647, son of the first Earl of Rochester, Henry Wilmot, and Anne, previously a widow and the owner of Ditchley, whom Henry had married in 1644. John grew up at Ditchley and attended Burford School, going from there to Wadham College, Oxford, at the age of twelve, where he was awarded his M.A. only eighteen months later. In 1665, after fathering a daughter with a servant girl, he kidnapped the young heiress, Elizabeth Malet, for which he was imprisoned in the Tower. In 1667, he married her. She bore him a son and three daughters and showed singular forbearance of the years of his profligacy which were to follow, though his genuine affection for his family was never in doubt. A chequered career followed, with travel in France and Italy, voluntary involvement in a naval assault on Dutch ships, during which he distinguished himself with great courage, then establishing himself at court and being appointed Gentleman of the King’s Bedchamber.

Between John and King Charles II existed an affectionate friendship, as this example of their mutual wit bears witness:

To John’s jesting epitaph: “Here lies a great and mighty king, whose promise none relies on; He never said a foolish thing, Nor ever did a wise one.” Came Charles’s reply: “my words are my own, but my acts are my ministers.”

At the court of King Charles, with its reputation for unbridled revelry, John made two other friends, George Villiers and Sir Charles Sedley, both of whom had made their names as rakish poets. It was not long before John’s own reputation as a poet began to outshine theirs with his fashionably amorous, scurrilously obscene and satirical verses, among them many skilfully-crafted poems which have stood the test of time and which are currently enjoying a revival of interest and re-evaluation.

In 1674, John was appointed Keeper and Ranger of Woodstock (now Blenheim) Park and given High Lodge as his residence, which he welcomed as a retreat where he could escape from his wife and mother living at the family seat at Adderbury. This new role he carried out conscientiously, although his degenerate lifestyle caused him to be plagued by scandals for which he was frequently dismissed from court, then reinstated. Then, towards he end of what was to be his short life, he began to fight his inner demons. There were indications that, had he put his mind to it, he could have converted to become a politician or a statesman of stature.

But he had left the fight too late. Like a candle that had burned too brightly, bringing about its own end, his health began to fail. His final days were spent, bedridden, at High Lodge, where he was comforted and counselled by the future bishop of Salisbury, Gilbert Burnet. In late May 1680, John asked to receive the Sacrament. The profligate had become a penitent.

Friends continued to visit. One of these, his mother’s agent and architect of Spelsbury almshouses, was John Cary. He wrote to the dying man’s former guardian Sir John Verney: “God almighty restore him if it be his will, for he is grown to be the most altered person, the most devout and pious person as ever I generally know, and would certainly make a most worthy brave man, if it would please God to spare his life.”

It was not to be. On 26th July, John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester, died peacefully at the age of thirty-three after being heard praying. On August 9th, the funeral cortege brought his body from Woodstock to Spelsbury Church to be placed in the vault. In his funeral sermon, Robert Parsons described him: “so great a man and so great a sinner.” Within a year, John’s wife and only son were to join him, followed in turn by Henry, his father, brought from his grave in Bruges, and Anne, his mother. And there, with his family, John Wilmot rests, his poems his enduring epitaph.
"Easy on the goods darlin!"
"Tis not an easy thing to be entirely happy, but to be kind is very easy, and that is the greatest measure of happiness"-John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

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Unread postby Liz » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:15 pm

Thanks for including this and the maps, Jackslady. This is quite well-written and is a nice tribute to him. Interesting about the servant girl. :-O
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:47 pm

Yes, it is interesting and I think suec reported that too before. I think there would be no way to know unless the vicar had found that info in the Parish Registers seems odd its not mentioned anywhere else. I did say I would check out the registers even though it will only be a transcribed version as its no longer possible to consult the originals once they have been transcribed. I can only assume this was where his evidence comes from if it is not recorded in any of the biographies.


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