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The "Mayor's feast” is held on the last day of his term of office. After dinner his successor is sworn in and honoured with the old custom of “chairing.” I will briefly describe a Mayor's dinner, at which I was present last month. It was laid out in the largest room of the George and Dragon Inn. The Mayor, ten or twelve Aldermen, the Clerk of the Court and about thirty other inhabitants of the neighbourhood were assembled. The George and Dragon is about the oldest house in the borough. The height of the dining apartment is not much above seven feet, with an open ceiling crossed by five large oak beams, re-crossed with joists, and the walls cleanly whitewashed. Dinner being over, loyal and complimentary toasts, with the discussion of a good dessert and the usual generous drinks attendant upon such festivities, consumed at least a couple of hours. The juries were then summoned (who, by the way, had been dining at the cost of Lord Delamere) to elect the usual officers for the ensuing year. They presented first their Bailiff, who was duly sworn, then the Constables, Burley-men and Ale-tasters, and then the Clerk called out—"make way “for his worship the Mayor Elect of Over.” This gentleman, whose election by Lord Delamere had been made known, was then duly sworn to “serve our Lady the Queen and administer “equal justice to the poor as well as the rich,” and so forth. Having taken the oath his worship was seated in a chair by some of the jury, who, to evince their joy at his elevation, sought to "lift” him as high as the ceiling would allow. This very silly proceeding ought to be omitted altogether.
For an account of the Church of Over a reference to vol. vii of the Historic Society's Proceedings, page 33, will suffice; but I may say that since Mr. Stonehouse's paper appeared, a beautiful glass window has been put up in the chancel, as a memorial of the late Rev. John Jackson, M.A., who died January 28th, 1863, and was forty-two years Vicar
of the Church. His “loving pupils," as the inscription states, incurred the expense of this appropriate exhibition of good feeling and reverence for their former master.
There is but little record of public doings or of the scenes of gaiety or gravity that have been enacted in the ancient borough. In a rare pamphlet, entitled Cheshire's Success, dated March 25th, 1642, describing the movements of the Parliamentary army and that of the King, written evidently by a Parliament man, we read—“Sir Thomas Aston and “his party in Chester, recovering strength after their late
overthrow, exercised the same in mischief and all wicked “outrages;" and instances “on the Sabbath, March 12, having
a little before advanced to Middlewich, they plundered “ all that day as a most proper season for it, and commanded “ the carts in all the country about to carry away the goods
to Tarporley, and kept a fair there to sell them. In Over, “ when they had plundered, they left ratbane in the houses, " wrapt in paper for the children, which by God's providence
was taken from them before they could eat it, after their parents durst return to them.”
Vale Royal, the seat of Lord Delamere, deserves more than the mere passing description that can be here given. The old Abbey must have been an imposing structure, as it occupied fifty-three years in the course of erection ; and no less a sum than £32,000 was expended out of the Royal Treasury as the cost of it. Its origin is said to have been as follows:Prince Edward on returning from the Holy Land at the conclusion of the eighth crusade, was overtaken by a terrific storm, and the safety of himself and all on board his ship was imperilled. When the jeopardy in which the ship was placed seemed to be at the highest, the Prince prayed to the Virgin to save it and all on board, vowing to erect a Monastery in her honour if his prayer should be granted. The instant the vow was made the storm ceased, and the passen
gers and crew safely landed, when the winds again arose and the ship was dashed to pieces. In gratitude Edward erected an Abbey at Darnhall, the monks of which were afterwards removed to Vale Royal.
Amongst the curious old houses erected in this vicinity Marton Grange or Hall was the most picturesque. It has been pulled down about fourteen years. On this farm there was a sudden subsidence of a plot of land two years ago, similar to that mentioned by Ormerod as having occurred in the neighbourhood of Weaver Hall, near Over, and caused most likely by the underlying salt deposits yielding to the influence of under-currents of water, which are being constantly pumped up in the shape of brine at the salt manufactories adjacent. Through these latter the river Weaver runs its course, and is navigable from Winsford to Weston Point, where it falls into the Mersey.
In this vicinity is Lea Hall, once the residence of Dr. Fothergill. It is a square dwelling, having walls at least three feet thick, and it was formerly surrounded by a moat, a portion of which still remains. The staircases are wide and the rooms wainscoted and lofty. There are other halls in the neighbourhood deserving of notice, such as Darnhall Hall, Wettenhall Hall, and Minshull Hall. The ancient city of Eddisbury, in the Forest of Delamere, was erected by Queen Ethelfleda in 915: at the top of the hill are indications of ancient earthworks which are said to be the remains of it.
THE ENGLAND OF SHAKSPEARE.
By Nicholas Waterhouse Esq., Hon. Sec.
(READ 10th NovemBER, 1864.)
DURING the present year, the tercentenary of Shakspeare's birth, I presume we have all of us paid a more than usual attention to the works of the great bard of Avon : and I think whilst reading his plays, the question must have occurred to many—Who were his masters ? Where did he acquire the wonderful power of depicting the many forms and phases of the mind of man? Where did the boy from a country grammar school, who married before he was twenty, and whose early life was immersed in the labour of supporting a family-where did he gain those poetic powers, which have made his name one of the glories of our country? Were Shakspeare's works inspired, or perhaps I should say, were they the results of intuition ? I think when we look at his principal characters we may say that such was the case. For instance, the great master has determined to delineate a royal scapegrace repenting and assuming the duties of his station, and immediately the character of Henry V, imbued with all the nobleness and majesty of birth, arises from his magic touch. Again he wishes to depict a king fitted for the cloister, not for the troubles of a crown, and there appears the gentle monarch Henry VI, singing the praises of a lowly life even amid the din of battle. In the character of Wolsey, Shakspeare has drawn the portrait of a proud, ambitious
Churchman. In Richard III, the personification of guile,
As Shakspeare was born in an inland county, let us first note down his ideas of country life. I do not think it was the life he loved ; nor is this unnatural, when we consider that