A Brief Account Of Boston House And The Clitherow Family
IT seems almost incredible that in the twentieth century a station on
the Metropolitan Railway should stand amidst quite rural surroundings.
About Brentford,[*] however, there are still several fine properties
which have hitherto escaped the grip of the speculative builder--e.g.,
Osterley Park, the seat of the Earl of Jersey, and Syon Hill, the seat
of the Duke of Northumberland--and the immediate neighbourhood of
n Road is not yet covered with semi-detached villas, or sordid
streets of jerry-built cottages. It is nearly a quarter of a mile's
walk along the road leading from Hanwell to Brentford before one comes
to the first house on the right. Though not a mansion of the first
rank, it is of sufficient size and antiquity to arrest attention. This
is Boston House. It stands a little back from the high road, and the
handsome iron gates allow the passer-by a glimpse of its quaint gables
and narrow stone porch. It was built in 1622, and is a brick house of
three stories, with three gables in front, and a long range of offices,
etc., stretching from it on the north side.
[*] In a paper reprinted from Home Counties Magazine for October,
1901, occur the following remarks in 'Royalty in the Parish': 'Edmund
the Atheling, also called Ironside, in 1016 was murdered at night in a
house at Brentford by his brother-in-law, Edric Steone. Henry VI. in
1445 held a chapter of the Garter at the Red Lion Inn, Brentford.
Charles I. witnessed the Battle of Brentford between his troops and
those of the Parliament in 1642 from the grounds of Boston House. But
it is not generally known that King William IV. and Queen Adelaide
dined at that house in 1834.'
The hall, which is not large, is surrounded by shields bearing the arms
of former owners of the manor. The first of these to the north of the
entrance is that of Edward I., who granted the manor to St. Helen's
Hospital in the City of London. Then follow those of Edward VI., who
granted it to the Duke of Somerset; Elizabeth, who granted it to
Robert, Earl of Leicester; Charles II. and William IV., who visited
Boston on several occasions. In addition to these are seen in order
those of other holders of the manor: Rollesby, who devised it to St.
Helens; St. Helen's; Edward, Duke of Somerset; Robert, Earl of
Leicester; Sir Thomas Gresham, who also owned Osterley; Sir W. Read; I.
Goldsmith. These are on the south side. On the north are Clitherow and
Hewett; Clitherow and Campbell; Clitherow and Barker; Clitherow and
Paule; Clitherow and Gale; Clitherow and Jodrell; Clitherow and Powell;
Clitherow and Kemeys; Clitherow and Pole; Clitherow and Snow.
The drawing-room, which is on the first floor, has a very fine moulded
ceiling with many beautiful medallions. These contain allegorical
representations of Peace and War, the five senses, the four elements,
the three Christian graces, etc. The mouldings and borders are picked
out in red, and the Latin names of the subjects are in gilt letters.
The walls of this room, as well as those of the dining-room and
library, are hung with many portraits of the Clitherow family by
leading artists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Among
these should be specially noted a pastile by Zoffany of Mr. and Mrs.
and Miss Child, taken in the porch at Osterley. Mrs. Child (nee
Jodrell) was the sister of Mrs. Clitherow, and afterwards married
(1791) the third Lord Ducie. Miss Child married the tenth Earl of
Westmoreland, and became the mother of the Countess of Jersey. Here are
also to be seen examples of Rubens, Van Dyke, C. Lorraine, Sir P. Lely,
Sir G. Kneller, Romney, Zuccharo, Van Somers, Zoffany, and many others.
Behind the drawing-room is a State bedroom, the ceiling of which is
also moulded and coloured.
The grounds are extensive, and well planted with shrubs, roses, etc.
There are several fine trees on the lawn. A yew-tree with long branches
trailing near the house covers a circle of ground over seventy yards in
circumference, and a cedar, which was sown in 1754, is an exceptionally
fine specimen. To the east of the broad terrace lies the orchard, where
in June, 1834, the neighbours stared at the Royal party and got Queen
Adelaide's 'dress by heart,' while the haymakers cheered her Majesty
and quaffed their allowance of beer. [See Chapter VI.]
To the west of the lawn shady paths lead through a pretty wilderness to
the river Brent, beyond whose winding course there lies undulating and
well-timbered, park-like land, adjoining the grounds of Osterley--a
homely bit of characteristic English scenery.
This beautiful place, which is at present owned by the Rev. W. J.
Stracey Clitherow, formerly Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, has
been in possession of the family since it was purchased by James
Clitherow in 1670. The family, though never ennobled, is an ancient
one, with a very honourable record. In the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries they resided at Goldmerstone, in the parish of Ash, near
Sandwich. The remains of several of the family lie in the parish church
there, and the brasses of two remain, though one is sadly mutilated.
This last is to the memory of Richard Clitherow, who was Sheriff of the
county of Kent in 1403, and 'Admiral of the seas from the Thames
eastward.' He married the daughter of Sir John Oldcastle, who, in right
of his wife, assumed the title of Lord Cobham,[*] and died for the
faith of Christ on Christmas Day, 1417, among the Lollard martyrs at
the gate of St. Giles' Hospital. The family was represented at
Agincourt in 1415; one sat for the county of Kent in Parliament in
1407, and another was Lord Mayor of London in 1635.
[*] From Sir John Oldcastle the Clitherows derive both their arms and
crest. In the reign of George IV. the head of the family was Colonel
James Clitherow, born in 1766, who married Miss Jane Snow, of Langton,
Dorset. A portrait of him hangs in the library, painted by Romney in
the year 1785. He was a high-minded, accomplished, and conscientious
English gentleman, who took an active interest in many good works, both
of local and wider importance. He was actively interested in the
establishment of the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum, in the Board Room of which
his portrait by Pickersgill may still be seen. He was Chairman of the
Visiting Justices of the institution from its opening in 1832 till
April, 1839, and in 1835 he founded the charity (still in existence)
known as Queen Adelaide's Fund.
Colonel and Mrs. Clitherow's home at Boston House was shared by his
sister Mary, who was two years his senior. About the year 1824 they
became acquainted with the Duke of Clarence, afterwards King William
IV., who then resided at Bushey, of which park he was Ranger; and they
were admitted to an unusual degree of intimacy with their Royal
neighbours, observing in their intercourse with them an honesty not
usually found in courtiers, but quite in keeping with the family motto,
'Loyal, yet true.' So close did this intimacy become that, after his
accession, the King nicknamed Miss Clitherow 'Princess Augusta,' in
allusion to her being the old maid of the family as the Princess was in
his own, and when inquiring for her of Colonel or Mrs. Clitherow would
say, 'How is your Princess Augusta?' her of Colonel or Mrs. Clitherow
would say, 'How is your Princess Augusta?'
Although, however, the Clitherows were frequent guests at Windsor and
St. James's, they were not courtiers in the common acceptation of that
term. They sought neither place nor preferment, and received no signal
mark of Royal favour. Miss Clitherow never even attended a Drawing
Room, and the Colonel and his wife only appear to have done so on one
occasion, when the Queen remarked: 'I knew Miss Clitherow would not
come; it is too public. She had almost left off going out till we made
her come to St. James's.' Miss Clitherow was naturally of a quiet and
retiring disposition, while her own account of her introduction to the
Court, and of the independent spirit which pervaded the family, is
interesting not only in itself but as illustrating the kindly sincerity
of the King and Queen. Writing to an old friend in November, 1830, she
'I can hardly believe that I feel as much at home in the Royal presence
as in any other first society, but it is the fact. It is seven years
that my brother and Mr. [sic] Clitherow have been noticed, but I am
only just come out now. For many years my health did not allow of my
dining out, and I got so out of the habit that I avoided it, and quite
escaped being asked to Bushey till the Duke became King. Before George
IV. was buried they were invited; no party but the Royal brothers and
sisters and the Fitz-Clarences. They did me the honour to talk of me,
the King calling me my brother's Princess Augusta, in allusion to my
being the old maid of the family, and then added: "I can't see why she
does not some out; you must dine here Tuesday, and bring her." So the
deed was done. Refuse I could not. I dined at Bushey, then twice at St.
James's, then on the Queen's birthday at Bushey, and then went to
Windsor Castle on Friday and stayed till after church on Sunday, and
now to dinner at St. James's last Monday. So that actually [in less
than five months] the little old maid of Boston House has dined seven
times with King William IV., and honestly I have liked it. There is a
kindness and ease in their manner towards us that must be gratifying
. . . and when we come home what a feeling of comfort we have in not
being obliged to live in that circle, with all the insincerity so often
belonging to courtiers! I am very sure my dear Jane's honest manner and
the sound judgment which she ventures to express to Her Majesty makes
her such a favourite. Much as we are noticed, we do not court them, and
never have asked the slightest favour. When they first went to Windsor
our friends said: "You must drive over and put your names down." "No,"
Mrs. Clitherow said, "we were asked to the Queen's birthday; I will not
go before the King's, it will look like pushing to be asked." And we
received our invitation to Windsor before we had called. When we came
away, the King expressed a hope to see us at Brighton, as he knew we
frequently went into Sussex. Our friends all were for sending us
thither, but it did not suit us. Don't you like independence? As soon
as they came to town we did put our names down. Miss Fitz-Clarence
writes herself to Mrs. Clitherow to inform her of her intended marriage
with Lord Falkland, and Mrs. Henry is employed to write and invite us
to dinner to meet our own friends. So I think we rather go the right
way to please them.'
Surely few families have taken their motto more faithfully as a guide
to their conduct!