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side ; a venial fault, and easily forgiven. “Doctor,” said Mr. Allen to him one day, when conversing on the subject of the Divine Legation,"your adversaries appear to me to advance only weak and futile arguments against you.” “Sir,” replied Warburton, “you have spoken more to the purpose in those few words, than all the rascals, in all their volumes, have written."
After Mr. Allen's death, Warburton took possession of Prior Park, in right of his wife ; and there produced some of those profound literary labours, which will be an ornament to the English language and nation as long as they exist.' was a man” (as Johnson observes) " of vigorous faculties ; a mind fervid and vehement, supplied, by the incessant and unlimited enquiry, with wonderful extent and variety of knowledge, which yet had not oppressed his imagination, nor clouded his perspicacity.”
This is Warner's account. The Priory lands at the time of the Dissolution originally comprised the Widcomb of Camalodunum, the Lyncomb, the Smallcomb,^ Bathwick, and certain property within the
The Bishop's literary labours confined him a great deal to Prior Park. After a long absence from London, he appeared at Court, when the King, for the sake of saying something, observed to him that he supposed he had just left his diocese. Warburton, considering the speech as a tacit rebuke, replied, with point and spirit, “ No, please your Majesty, I am come from Prior Park, near my diocese, but not in it, where I have been combating the enemies of that faith, of which your Majesty is the avowed and zealous Defender.”
2 The wide combe, or valley, extending from the road bounding Widcombe House to the head of the Dunum, or hill, as the word signifies.
3 Lyncombe, signifying the watery valley.
The Small Combe, or valley running parallel with Widcombe Hill. At the time referred to there was no road either up Widcombe or precincts of the walls or liberties of the city. Allen bought the Camalodunum, and it was under the brow of the hill, at the head of the combe, he resolved to build his great mansion. At the period to which we refer the site rose somewhat abruptly, and the land was full of springs. It was necessary, therefore, to take a wide sweep from the east side and to level it into the grand terrace-like form to the west, which gives it its dignified aspect. It was in the year 1728 that the incident connected with the Greenwich Hospital Governors occurred as to the relative qualities of Bath and Portland stone, which decided Allen to build a large mansion with Bath stone, though it was not until some years afterwards he carried that resolution into effect. When the ground was broken and prepared for the foundation is not clear from any authority to which we have access ; but from the nature of the soil, and some natural difficulties that had to be overcome, it is probable that the site was not ready until about 1735,
Some idea may be formed of the nature of the preparatory work from the fact that for the foundation or stereobata of the central mansion alone 800 tons of freestone in large blocks were required, so that for the whole work it may be assumed that the foundation and the walls required in the aggregate not less than 30,000 tons of stone. The conception of the general plan was on a larger scale, and the building itself more ornate than that which was finally determined upon and carried out. The original design represented “Three sides of a duodecagon inscribed within a circle of a quarter of a mile diameter,” but the offices being one, merged into the east wing; the extent of the circle was, therefore, proportionately circumscribed. Nor was this the only important modification of the design.
In the first dream of this big house—in the exuberance of
Lyncombe Hill. The main road was over the Old Bridge, along the beach and Prior Park road, which led to the private drive to Mr. Allen's house, and was the only carriage access to Widcombe House and Church, his fancy to “exhibit the Bath stone in a seat he had determined to build for himself near his works ”-Allen had pictured a mansion in which the “ Orders of Architecture were to shine forth in all their glory.” But ultimately this ideal, whether on the persuasion of Wood or from his own taste, yielded to a style less elaborate in principle and detail. Writing some seven years after the completion of the house, Wood says (vol. i., p. 96, 2nd edit.), the “Seat consists of a Mansion House in the Centre, two Pavilions, and two Wings of Offices. All these are united by low buildings ; and while the chief part of the whole line fronts the body of the city, the rest faces the summit of Mars' Hill.” It is more likely that the adoption of the less magnificent and costly design was due to Allen's own desire, because Wood says in reference to the grander design, “the warmth of this resolution at last abating, an humble simplicity took its place.”
In pursuance of the modified design, the west wing was begun, but again some deviation from the design was made before its completion. This wing consisted of a principal and half-story, extending 172 ft. 8 in. in front by 34 ft. 4 in. in depth on the plinth course of stone. In the centre there was the hay-house, 20 ft. high, with a pigeon-house over it of the same altitude ; four six-horse stables ; three coach-houses, with a harness-room behind them, at one end ; a barn at the other end ; and proper granaries in so much of the half-story as was to be over the stables, coach-houses, and harness-rooms. The stables and hay-house were arched or vaulted over with stone, which was so intended from the first by the architect, who borrowed the idea from the stables of Mr. Hanbury, of Pontypool. The rest of the floorings and roof of the whole were intended to have been of timber, covered with Cornish slate. But in the extension of the building, Allen resolved to make use of nothing but stone for a covering for this wing of offices.'
· This wing now constitutes a portion of the college.
This substitution of stone for timber disarranged the architect's plan, and, changing the material of the roof, not only interfered with the altitude of some of the offices, but also greatly interfered with the essential characteristics of the building itself. Of the external walls only that which fronts the south was faced with wrought freestone, and this was to have exhibited the Doric order in its plainest dress, but so high as to include the principal and half-story, those separated by a fascia. A tetrastyle frontispiece in the middle of the whole line before such an advance part of the building was to have contained two of the staircases, one on each side of the end of the hay-house, and at the same time appear as a proper basement of the pigeon-house, which was to have crowned the edifice with magnificence and beauty, for the basement extends 50 ft., and a square of that size in the middle of the building was to have been covered with a pyramidal roof, divided into two parts, and to have discovered the body of the crowning ornament. It will be seen, therefore, in what respect the change affected the edifice. The joists intended for the timber roof had such a projection given them in the design as would have afforded protection in wet weather to persons walking from one part of this wing of offices to the other; when, however, the ends of the joists came to be represented in stone, they were contracted to small corbels, of little use and less beauty, when considered as part of the crowning ornament to columns of the Doric order.
The stables were divided into six recessed stalls on every side, arched and lined with dressed stone. Allen treated his horses like gentlemen. They were richly caparisoned, and he always had four to his coach, in which he drove out with much state. Wood was not quite satisfied, however, with the stables ; he wanted a little more magnitude, and would have preferred a recess at the end of each stall to contain a bin for each
horse. This wing was finished about 1736 or 1737, for it must be observed that to follow Wood like groping in the dark without a single ray of light in the shape of a date to guide us. After the completion of the west wing the pavilion was to serve as an arch for coaches to drive under, and as a poultry and pigeon house. The structure was built and finished with wrought freestone ; the lower part of it was composed of four hollow legs, each 9 ft. square by 13} ft. in length, every front containing an aperture of 16 ft. in breadth, all arched over. The body of the building was crowned at the altitude of 22 ft. with a cornice, surmounted by a plain attic, 6 ft. in height, supported by a pyramidal design, terminating in an octangular pedestal turret, 10 ft. in diameter, covered with a dome, the whole being finished with an ornament consisting of a base, ball, baluster, and vane, making the extreme height 59 ft. or 39 ft. above the vaulted arch for coaches. The cells necessary by the addition of a closet, which destroyed the continuity of the basement lines of the whole building, from the necessity it involved of placing the pavilion lower than was intended. Another consequence was that, the line having for the pigeons were made with wrought iron freestone. The poultry were similarly cared for in the low building, by which the west wing was united with the pavilion. It consisted of three rooms facing southward, with three apertures to every room, arched over, the whole being constructed of wrought freestone. Some deviation from the plan was rendered
This great architect, in fact, was more careful about the horses than of their master. For in the main building—the centre—there is not a single good room.
2 It may be well to state that the domain as well as the mansion during the occupancy of Mr. Thomas, from 1817 to 1827, suffered very much from parsimonious neglect. In 1829 Bishop Baines, of honoured memory, purchased the estate, and repaired, to some extent, the mischief done ; and, we believe, it was he who built the stately flight of steps on the north side.