Page images

well-furnished houses and opulent establishments of many of the inhabitants engaged in business prove the success of their commercial enterprize : yet the town, having no manufactories, depends altogether on the carrying trade.

We hastened from an excellent repast at the Beaufort Arms, to enjoy the scenery in the vicinity of Chepstow-bridge; where an assemblage of objects was disclosed, highly interesting, imposing, and beautiful.

Below the bridge, and on the opposite side of -the deep and rapid Wye, enlivened by numerous shipping, a series of cliffs appeared issuing from the water, whose rocky surface, warmly tinted with various hues of red and yellow, was pleasingly diversified with the vivid green of aspiring ivy, while the lofty summits were fringed with impendent oaks, This trait was highly agreeable; but directing our attention up the river, the princely ruin of Chepstow Castle, stretching along a grand perpendicular cliff, which proudly emerges from the stream; and the steep hills of Piercefield rearing their varied plantations, in leafy majesty, from the river to the clouds; were features too nobly impressive not to



stamp an interest in the coldest observer. A transient


did not satisfy us : we paused a long time over the rails of the bridge; advanced to the opposite shores; compared the yarying effect at different distances and elevations; and, as we changed our points of view, discovered fresh gleams of picturesque beauty at every movement. Nor were the leading objects of this scene less gratifying when examined in detail, than the striking coup-dæil of their general composition.

As we advanced toward the massive battlements and lofty turrets of Chepstow's ancient castle, the grand entrance, a Norman arch flanked by circular towers, figured all the repulsive gloom of feudal reserve and violence; even the very knocker was em blematical of hostility; for we thundered at the portal for admission with a cannon-ball suspended by a chain. The warder of the castle did not wind bis liorn in reply, nor, raising himself on the ramparts, did he demand our quality and business; but a pretty smiling damsel, conjuring up all her rosy dimples, bade the gate, or rather made it, revolve on its creaking hinges, and welcomed us into thie castle.


Upon entering the court, our attention was somewhat divided, between the remains of the baronial hall, numerous apartments, and the kitchen, which surrounded the area; and the well-turned arm that pointed to the several objects. A number of rooms in this court are kept in repair, and form a commodious residence, which is tenanted by Mr. Williams under a lease from the Duke of Beaufort. From this we passed to the second court, now laid out as a kitchen-garden. The third court contained the chapel, a fine remnant of antiquity, possessing a greater degree of decoration than any other part of the castle : a range of niches appear within the walls of this structure, at some distance from the floor, which is said to have been filled with statues'; and the mortices of beams seem to indicate, that a gallery was conducted round the room.

The style of the windows and enrichments is Gothic ; but the original part of the building is Norman. Indeed, a unity of design and architecture appears throughout the fundamental parts of the castle; although, as may be expected, the continual alterations and additions of successive proprictors have left us several specimens of the


intermediate modes of building between the Norman foundation and the present age. Among the undecorative additions of the latter period, are the deserted works of a glass-house, and a dog-kennel. Beyond the chapel we ascended a flight of steps to the battlements, · shadowed by wide branching trees of various descriptions, issuing from the moat beneath. Opposite to us, beyond the moat, appeared the low embowered ruins of the fourth and last court, separated from the principal mass of building by a drawbridge.

Returning, our fair guide conducted us to a subterraneous chamber with an engroined roof, excavated in the rock, beneath the ruin, and opening to the overhanging brow of the cliff. Here several old ivys darted from stony fissures that seemed to forbid vegetation, binding the mouldering summit of the cliff in their sinewy embrace; and, shedding their light tendrils round the cavern, embowered its aperture as they aspired in frequent volutions to the loftiest turrets of the pile. Here, and from several points in our perambulation of the ruin, we timidly looked down on the rapid Wye, rolling its swelling tide at an immense depth perpendi


cularly beneath us; and at other times the green waving hills of Piercefield rose in all their peculiar grandeur to our view, darkening the river with their widely projected shadows.

Before we left this baronia! fortress, we did not fail to explore a large round tower in the first court, that was the ancient citadel; but is more noticed for having been the prison of Harry Martin the regicide. We entered a Gothic doorway, and, following the taper heels of our gentle conductress up a spiral staircase, visited each apartment in the tower; all of which proved spacious and commodious * Here the parliamentary colonel was confined near thirty years; but not in the “ durance vile” which his sympathizing biographer represents t : his family lived with him, and he had offices for his 'servants; he had the free range of the castle in the day-time; and, with a guard, was allowed

* Owing to a neglect of the roof, the upper stories of the building were swimming with water, and perishing very fast. It is to be hoped, that before this the Duke of Beaufort's agents have looked to their charge, and adopted proper means to prevent the entire loss of a useful habitation, and an interesting remnant of antiquity.

† Southey's Poems, p. 378.


« PreviousContinue »