The Project Gutenberg eBook of Reminiscences of Epping Forest

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Title: Reminiscences of Epping Forest

Release date: November 10, 2016 [eBook #53496]

Language: English

Credits: Transcribed from the 1873 edition by David Price


Transcribed from the 1873 edition by David Price, email






p. 5Epping Forest Reminiscences.

It is most desirable that the above charming locality should be better known to the inhabitants of London; but, to be fully appreciated, it must be visited and explored from time to time, but especially during the fine months of the year.

The popularity of this place was enhanced considerably by the formation of the Loughton, Woodford, and Ongar branch of the Eastern Counties Railway, although, prior to that, the p. 6prejudices against Essex scenery had kept many persons, who now wander about its sunny slopes with unmixed delight, from seeking air and exercise North-east of the Metropolis; indeed, when we take into consideration the “barr’d up” and comparatively exclusive character of the approaches to London in Kent, Surrey, and Middlesex, it is a matter of surprise and wonderment that there can be found people who prefer dusty roads (which are only enlivened by notices to trespassers of prosecutions with all the rigour of the law) to the jolly freedom connected with rambling in pure air only ten miles from London wherever their inclinations may lead them.

The Roebuck Gardens and Grounds have always been historically associated with the adjacent Forest, and p. 7the quaint old edifice has been referred to chiefly as the Foresters’ and Keeper’s Home for more than two centuries, so much so, that it was under the consideration of the late proprietors, Messrs. Green Brothers, at the suggestion of their neighbours and visitors to name it The Lord Warden’s Roebuck Hotel!

The situation (on the brow of a lofty hill), with two deep valleys on either side of it, watered by the rivers Lea and Roding, is scarcely to be rivalled, as to scenery, even by the far-famed contiguous eminence of High Beech.

In the extreme distance is the ancient town of Epping, from which the Forest takes its name, and “ye wodes of Waltham,” referred to in p. 8“Doomsday Book,” are on the opposite heights.  To the North-west is the cave of the renowned Turpin; and this haunt of the Essex freebooter may be seen from hence, and easily reached by descending a ravine and climbing the high hill beyond it.

To the lovers of poetry this place will be interesting, inasmuch as at Fair Mead Bottom the author of the “Pleasures of Hope” lived in sedation, but so great was his love for the retreat we are now describing, that he (Thomas Campbell) half cut a way to it with a knife, and although this vista was relinquished through his death, it was finished by a gentleman of the same name, who resided at the Hotel for years, he remarking, with emphasis, that “A Campbell began it, and a p. 9Campbell completed it.”  Another great author, the late Charles Dickens, no later than about seven years since, in a conversation that he had with the proprietors, Messrs. Green Brothers, stated that it have him great pleasure to visit this house, inasmuch as he had always considered it as the central rendezvous for all Foresters from time immemorial.

During a great part of the last century, the ragged and romantic vicinage of the “Roebuck,” whose ferny brakes screened and protected the red and fallow deer which trooped on its verdant swards and grassy walks, was the hunting ground where the Earls of Tilney and the famous “rideing forester, Baron Suasso” hunted the stag for upwards of fifty years.  Although p. 10these sylvan pursuits have partially fallen into disuse, and the woods no longer re-echo the sound of the horn, the London visitor will shortly hear the wild notes of the cuckoo and nightingale, and his senses be regaled by the fragrance of the flowers and the waving masses of verdant foliage around him.

There is one material fact which must be here mentioned respecting the probable fate of Epping Forest, and which ought to be known to the public, viz.: there are still 3,500 acres left, the greater part of which are adjacent to or plainly be seen from the “Roebuck;” and although (pending the Chancery Suit, which is now being proceeded with, viz.: The Corporation of the City of London versus the Lords of the different Manors) nothing in p. 11the way of improvement by Government can be expected, yet the people have a right to anticipate a proper drainage and good paths through these vast solitudes, and a restoration of the antlerred denizens of the woods.

At present the “Roebuck” is the only hotel near which these improvements will take place, and will, no doubt, be the head quarters of the public functionaries, surveyors, contractors, &c., under Her Majesty’s Commissioners, since the present proprietor and remaining partner of the firm, late Green Brothers, has, at a heavy outlay, made every arrangement for their comfort and convenience, as well as for that of the public at large.

p. 12Looking forward to the proximity of summer, and the near advent of thousands from Town, a short description of this establishment may not be uninteresting to the reader.  This antique edifice, the Hotel, which is detached from the high road to Cambridge about a furlong, is approached by a semi-circular carriage way which diverges from the above road on the summit of Buckhurst Hill, re-entering the same further down towards Loughton.  It is provided with an ample bar and airy and well ventilated apartments, overlooking prospects principally of immense tracts of forest, relieved by corn fields and undulating meads.  Adjoining the hotel a Ball or Banquetting Hall has been erected, capable of dining 500 persons; indeed the proprietors found it necessary, to meet the continually increasing demands p. 13for large Annual Dinners, Masonic Banquets, Fetes, &c.

When it is borne in mind that these Grounds cover over 22 acres, and that the greater part of this area is laid out in Gardens, Terraces, Bowling Greens, &c., with a profusion of Flowers, some idea may be formed of the whole, but it must be visited and inspected, since no description can possibly convey an adequate idea of the place.

There is every accommodation for Horses, Carriages, &c., and the Buckhurst Hill Railway Station is little more than ten minutes’ walk from this ancient hostelry.