The south front of Osberton Hall, c1905.
WANDERING about the sumptuous pleasure grounds and gardens of a great house like Osberton, where some thirty or forty acres of land, set apart to serve these purposes, are kept in the most faultless order, one unconsciously experiences a sense of territorial consequence, which is pleasant enough while it lasts. Mr. Foljambe’s gardens are amongst the finest in the county. There are velvet stretches of lawn of the greenest hue, watered by a lake, which is narrowed into intersecting strips of silver. It is the home of the swan and the coot, and of wild fowl, which inhabit its remoter reaches. There are shady trees, Scotch firs, the tallest and sturdiest of their species, and some of them dip to the waters of the lake ; Australian pines, with their upward-pointing leaf spikes, and there is the spreading plumage of the cedrus deodara, which grows here in far-spreading luxuriance. There are beds of bright flowers, and when they arc in bloom the air is filled with perfume. Mr. Foljambe’s horticultural theory is akin to that of Lady Corisande; his gardens are sweet and luxuriant, and not mere hard and scentless works of art. There is within the Osberton pleasure grounds a little garden, whose box-lined mazes suggest the idea of a large puzzle. Its geometric beds are sacred to one species of flower, the heliotrope. It is a common flower certainly, but its simple purple blossoms enshrine an odour richer than that which more pretentious scent-bearers can disperse. In his last years the late Mr. Foljambe was deprived of sight, and he loved the scent of the flowers which he could not see. His successor has inherited this taste for sweet-smelling flowers, and the gardens of Osberton are always redolent of perfume. There are abundant patches of heliotrope and mignonette, and the sweet-scented stock in the open air in the conservatories the subtler perfume of exotics is prevalent. Near the heliotrope garden there is a fernery, where the violet berries of the barberry mingle with the long fronds of the ferns—a delicious retreat on a hot day. There are abundant growths of clematis, whose flowers look like clusters of beautiful purple-winged butterflies. The people who go to the handsome Norman church within the pleasure grounds, which was built by Mr. F. F. Foljambe, in 1833, have to traverse a broad, straight gravel walk. The grass on either side is beautifully kept, and planted at corresponding distance with the tall and delicate shapes of the kumea etegans, which, in their scarlet feathery gracefulness, look like lines of phantom soldiers. There is a stained glass window at the eastern end of the church, in which are coloured the arms of the family, with their heraldic devices. The crest of the Foljambes affords an heraldic study. Time calopus, or chatloup, passant, granted to Sir Godfrey Foljambe, 1513, and modelled in enduring oak in one of the principal rooms in the house is one of those chimerical figures of heraldry as to the origin and meaning of which I have no information. The calopus is not an elegant beast, and does not appear to have been adopted by Sir Godfrey’s descendants. In time lawnlike turf of the sacred enclosure a beautiful cross of white marble is implanted, marked with the letters G.F.S.F., and time first four lines of an exquisite hymn that is sometimes sung in our churches. The grave is most carefully tended, and time trees and flowers with which it is planted are never allowed to languish. Under extensive ranges of glass in kitchen gardens there are abundant growths of pines, peaches, and grapes, in various stages of development, and the pomiferum or red guava, and the Cape gooseberry, in its quaint pod, are successfully cultivated.
For about two years Osberton Hall has been in the hands of the builders. It is some seventy years ago since Osberton underwent any material alteration, and now it has been enlarged to suit modern requirements, and in such a manner that some of its original features have been destroyed. It is a large house with a vast front of unbroken red cement, which, undimmed as yet by time, gives it the appearance of a very modern mansion. Its portico of Ionic columns has been pulled down to be replaced by a structure of a more convenient character composed of Roche Abbey stone; the terrace has been taken further out, and the approaches to the house, which commands a sweep of fine sylvan scenery, are being altered and improved. A new wing has been added at the north-west front, comprising a dining room, a library of spacious dimensions, and other apartments. The old library, with its pleasant outlook across the park, is already converted into a billiard room. From the tall windows of the new library, with its handsome oak cornices and fittings, you overlook a broad sweep of park land, and the trees are not tall enough to hide the pediments surmounting the church tower. On the site of the old drawing room has been built a magnificent saloon, or central hall, the most sumptuous apartment in the whole house. It is lighted by domelike arrangements in the roof ; a broad massive staircase of oak leads to its gallery where the family pictures are hung. This splendid apartment within its Ionic columns, oak pilasters, and carved oak chimney-piece, is called the museum. It contains a perfect collection of British birds, which has been arranged by Mr. Shaw, of Shrewsbury, in their new glass cases on the ground floor. This superb collection—I believe it is the most complete one existing of British birds—was commenced by Mr. F. F. Foljambe, an intimate friend of Mr. Montague, the eminent ornithologist, and great grandfather of time present owner. Most of the earlier specimens were set up by Mr. Corbett, a London naturalist of some repute, and he was succeeded in the curatorship by Reid, of Doncaster, and Graham, of York. The collection contains, amongst many rare specimens, one of the great auk—the alca impennis, which has in former time been met with on the northern shores of Great Britain, and the red-breasted goose so seldom seen. The specimens are in beautiful plumage and excellent preservation the greatest care having been bestowed upon them. Amongst the other curiosities which are to have a place in the museum, are part of the altar piece of Beauchief Abbey, representing the death of Thomas a Becket—supposed to have been erected soon after the occurrence in atonement for the foul deed; a signet ring that belonged to time Abbot of Roche Abbey ; an old Roman collar, found at Littleborough, which was formerly a Roman station, and entomological, zoological, and geological specimens, old coins, and weapons from the South Sea Islands. In the gallery of the saloon the painter’s art tells a portion of the family history. The owner of Osberton can trace his lineage as far back as Sir Thomas Foljambe, of Derbyshire, who lived in the reigns of Henry III. and Edward I., and was bailiff of the High Peak, in 1272. A later ancestor was created a baronet, in 1622, and at his death the baronetcy expired. Francis Ferrard Moore, M.P., for the county of York, sometime about 1780 took the surname of Foljambe, and by marriage the family became associated with the Thornhaughs, who originally held Osberton, the Saviles, of Rufford, and later with several of the noble houses of the realm. Among the family portraits there is one representing Colonel Francis Thornagh (at one time M.P. for Retford) in a suit of armour, who was killed at Preston during the Civil War, and a full-length of Sir George Savile. There is Mr. F. F. Foljambe, of Aldwark, who married the heiress of John Thornagh, of Osberton and Fenton, for forty years, M.P. for Notts. The Lady Scarborough of a past generation, the younger sister of Sir J. Saville, has been treated by the master hand of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the other portraits are of Bridget Lady Thornagh, Sir Godfrey Foljambe, of Walton, who was High Sheriff of Derbyshire in his day ; the late Mr. G. S. Foljambe and his wife, and his wife, and time present owner when a child, by Partridge. There are two very fine sporting pictures, which serve to indicate the tastes of the wealthy owners of Osberton. The one is a shooting picture, with the famous Clumber spaniels, and portraits of Mr. G. S. Foljambe and Sir William Milner, and a painting of the meet of the late Mr. Foljambe’s hounds at Grove, with portraits of the late Duke of Portland, the late Lords George Bentinck and Henry Bentinck, Lord Gaiway, Mr. Bridgman-Simpson, and others. This collection comprises landscapes by Ruysdael, Van Ostade, Claude Lorraine, and others, interiors by Teniers, a sketch by Rubens, and other valuable works of pictorial art.
The north front of Osberton Hall in 1900.
Mr. Francis John Savile Foljambe, M.P. for the Hundred of Bassetlaw since 1857, and a magistrate for Notts. and for the West Riding of Yorkshire, is the owner of some 10,000 acres of land in Nottinghamshire, and of 5,368 acres of valuable territory in the West Riding, and this does not represent the whole of his landed possessions. He has his residences in both counties—Osberton amid Aldwark—and a pretty hunting-box and Monks’ Tower, near Lincoln. He is an ardent sportsman, tall, broad-shouldered, and clean of limb ; in politics a moderate Liberal, a man of refined taste and established culture, who is not above taking a pride in his herd of shorthorns, and an interest in the operations of his farm, which, during his residence at Osberton, he visits regularly. The Foljambes have always been famous sportsmen—they belong to a race of Englishmen. The late Mr. Foljambe bred a pack of hounds, one of the most famous in the county, which he subsequently sold to the late Lord Galway. In 1871 Mr. Frank Foljambe assumed the mastership of the Burton Hounds, which, though a Lincolnshire pack, had been under Nottinghamshire masters since 1822, except during the periods it was led by Mr. Chaplin and Lord Doneraile. At the close of a recent season Mr. Foljambe, after leading the Burton Chase for about ten years, determined to retire from the mastership, a decision which was received with regret by all those who had been associated with him in the field. The Osberton shorthorns are known wherever great shows are held. Numerous are the prizes which have been won from time to time by the pick of this herd, which is quartered at the Scrofton farm, not ten minutes’ walk from the house.