Mr Honey, who had been walking the grounds of Temple Newsam, happened, on his return, to call out ‘When’s tea?’ in a very echo of a similar question put to me by Miss E of Llandudno. It was a fine spring day and he had all justice on the side of his appetite, which has never held back in its demands, yet was I minded to hold the crumpets till I had told him a tale of that great lover of lardy-cake, Capability Brown, whose landscapes are said by many to have been led directly to the invention of tea-time.
Legend thus has it that so extensive was the landscape that he designed for Belvoir Castle and so open to deer and game of all sorts, that shooting men, hunting men likewise, could lose themselves for an entire day without tiring of their sport, while their wives, left at home with their pregnancies and their plans of every sort, began to feel the time weigh heavy on them. So did the 5th Duchess of Rutland call for a pot of tea and something beside to entertain her friend the Duchess of Bedford, and so was the tea-table brought to birth.
Notwithstanding the plain look of anguish on Mr H’s face, I found myself continuing, for the fact is that Belvoir Castle is crowded with such stories. Could this account of the tea-table be true, and why should we regard it as more true than the legend of Sligo Gate, so-called because in 1893 out shooting at Belvoir the Earl of that name had his bottom peppered with shot after an inadvertent accident with the gun at that very gate? Can this be more likely than the claim recently advanced that the beautiful gully adjacent, through which the Duke’s Walk wends its way, is called Sligo Bottom to commemorate the same incident?
I was reminded of these stories by the learned Mr F of Melton Mowbray, who, following Chelsea’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur and the consequent ascendancy of Leicester City as Champions of the Premier League, sends regrets that he is currently unwell.
Alas, legend and myth will continue to rise in a mist from the rails of fact which Captain Ken would have us lay from the heart of the Brownian darkness. So I hear from Mrs L of Ilkley that Weston Park is considered one of the five surviving pleasure grounds designed by the garden-maker, Capabiity Brown. That is a noble boast, yet I would not like to pick from any of the 100 or so other of Brown’s landscapes that might claim to be one of the other four.