SEAWARD SUSSEX - online book

A Description of Travels in Sussex During the early 1900s

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The park is a beautiful pleasaunce for the inhabitants of Midhurst; thickly carpeted with bracken and heather and broken by many picturesque knolls and hollows. The famous burned and ruined mansion lies on the west, close to the town and river. This beautiful old house was destroyed in 1793 through the carelessness of some workmen employed in repairing the woodwork of some of the upper rooms. Within a month of the calamity the last of the Montagues, a young man of 22, was drowned while shooting the falls of the Rhine at Schaffhausen. These tragic happenings were supposed to fulfil a curse of the last monk of Battle pronounced against Sir Anthony Browne when he took possession of the Abbey. "Thy line shall end by fire and water and utterly perish."
The following is a contemporary account of the tragedy: "Lord Montague was engaged to the eldest daughter of Mr. Coutts (the present Countess of Guildford) and, with a view to his marriage on his return to England, the mansion house had been for several months undergoing a complete repair and fitting up. The whole was completed on the day preceding the night on which it was consumed, and the steward had been employed during the afternoon in writing the noble owner an account of its completion. This letter reached his hands. On the following day the steward wrote another letter announcing its destruction: but in his hurry of spirits, he directed it to Lausanne instead of Lucerne, by which accident it was two days longer in its passage to his lordship's place of abode than it otherwise would have been. Had it not been for that fatal delay, in all human probability this noble family would not have had to deplore the double misfortune by which its name and honours have become extinguished; for the letter arrived at his lordship's lodging on the morning of his death, about an hour after he had left them, and, as nearly as can be computed at the very moment in which he was overwhelmed by the torrent of the Rhine."
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