Tales and Traditions of the High Peak

By William Wood (1862)

Transcription by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2009

Allan and Clara

or the
MURDER IN THE WINNATS:
Castleton,
in the Peak of Derbyshire

ALAS! this hapless pair in life's sweet bloom,
Untimely met their dread appalling doom;
None to their weeping friends e'er could relate
Where they had sudden fled, and what their fate.

THE tasteful tourist will not, I opine, exist overlong hour in the very singular chasm or dell, happily his recreative visit to Castleton, spending as designated the Winnats, more concisely Windgates - or more poetically rendered, “the portals of the wind”. “Happy! happy! indeed”, says some tourist, “was the imagination that first suggested its name - the gates or portals of the winds”. This wild ravine is bounded on each side by perpendicular rocks of an amazing height; yet it is not wholly devoid of beauty; numbers of rare and elegant plants [Page 36] picturesquely adorn the steepy sides of this, in other respects, steep, lonely, and dreary pass. It is not a description of this long, winding, and deeply interesting defile which is here intended; no: it is to give a few hitherto unknown particulars concerning a tale of blood connected with the local history of this ghost-haunted dell - the Winnats. To detail the particulars of a brutal and horrible murder, is not the most fascinating subject even for a juvenile writer; and, perhaps, far from being at all interesting to the general reader. But the story of the Winnats murder is full of circumstances of an extraordinary character; love on the part of the victims; awful ferocity of the murderers; and the most striking instance on record of Divine judgement! These, with other minor attendant circumstances, must be the apology for giving notoriety to a deed which has no parallel (taking all the particulars into consideration) in the annals of crime. Let us, however, just observe, that some diffidence exists in lifting or putting aside the veil which has to the present hid, in partial obscurity, the minute particulars of this fearful tragedy; the more so, as the perpetrators of the black deed may have descendants, or other kindred, who must necessarily wish all accounts of the dreadful action to be henceforth buried in oblivion. In consideration of this, the following details will not contain the names of the unfortunate actors in this deed of guilt - notwithstanding their being so well known throughout the peak - but will distinguish them by the initials of their family names as follows: [Page 37] A._; B._e; B._r; C._; H._; they being five in number; and before commencing this story, let us fervently express our sincere hope that they have found that mercy in heaven, which they so barbarously refused to their trembling victims, after the most earnest and pathetic supplication that is possible to be expressed, by pitiful gestures and impassioned language.

About the middle of April, A.D. 1758, the then isolated inhabitants of Stoney Middleton, a small village near Eyam, and about twelve miles from Buxton, were more surprised than could scarcely be imagined now, at the arrival in the village, very early in the morning, in apparent great speed, of two very richly caparisoned beautiful steeds; mounted by a tall and sprightly-looking young gentleman, and a somewhat younger (and as the rustic villagers expressed themselves) “angel-like” looking lady. Their astonishment was increased by the fair strangers galloping up to the Royal Oak Inn; an Inn, if so called, of very humble appearance. Arrived at the door they were soon dismounted, but not before they were encircled by a small concourse of the home-spun-cloth clad village younkers, who gazed on the rich attire of the strangers, until their eyes hied fair for a trip from their sockets. The gentleman rapped first gently and then louder at the half-open Inn door, asking frequently for the ostler; when, after the lapse of six or eight minutes, a girl about thirteen appeared, bearing evident marks on her frontlet that she had been busily engaged in adjusting the pot-hooks in the chimney. “The [Page 38] ostler?” repeated the gentleman. “Mastur hasna nau ostler”, replied the browny [sic], after having cleared her nasal pipes by taking three or four sniffs. The gentleman handed his fair companion into a room, and immediately proceeded to assume the office of ostler himself. During his short absence how did the lady gaze around the place: tables, chairs, fire-irons, coal-ashes, and broken pots were promiscuously squandered on the floor: satisfactory evidence of the quality of the preceding night's company. Here lay a broken chair, there a legless table, and other numberless mutilated domestic articles, which had been the weapons and shields of the “pot-valiants” of the late Bacchanalian orgies. The lady sat in mute astonishment, for never before that fatal journey had she seen such evidence of the great disparity in the manners and modes of life. By this time the host and hostess had descended from the realms of Morpheus; they entered the lady's room, but almost involuntarily started back on beholding the costly garb, and the entrancing beauty of their unexpected female guest. The gentleman now rejoined his fair one, and after having interrogated the hostess respecting her articles of provision in the house, he briefly and politely apologized for observing that he and his female companion would content themselves, as their stay was so very short, with the little provisional delicacies they had brought with them, and would pass on to the next place for breakfast. The two strangers were now in a room apart. The host [Page 39] was in the kitchen corner chair hemming and swelling with pride at the quality of his guests, fully persuaded that they had been recommended to his house for its reputed respectability and accommodation. The servant before alluded to, was busy among the dishes, and frequently one cried smash on the floor, occasioned by her imagining she could feel in the palm of her hand the shilling she should receive from the illustrious guests. The wily hostess was listening to the conversation of the stranger, through a lattice, which adjoined the room where they were partaking of their repast. The prying dame had pinned up her mobbed cap from over one of her ears, which she kept as closely fixed, and equally as steady to the lattice as was the head of Sisera to the ground when pierced by the nail of the heroic Jael. According to the hostess, the lady did not partake of the repast; but, to the gentleman's solicitations for her to take some little refreshment, she only answered by deep heart-bursting sighs. The hostess also ascertained the gentleman's adopted name to be Allan; and the lady's Clara; furthermore she heard the following dialogue, which, she averred, fixed her to the lattice in breathless fear; adding, that she could not understand all they said, for “aha thowt tha wur furiners tha tawked as quarely”.

ALLAN- “Clara, my dear, pardon me for saying that I imagine I have perceived, during this morning's ride, a shade of despondency upon your angel brow; pray let me hear if ought, - ah! if even a thought - disturbs [Page 40] your mind, that I may willingly bear the suffering it occasions”.

CLARA- “Ah! my Allan, your anxious gaze has long bespoken some interrogation; but alas! what weighs so heavy at my heart, cannot! cannot be alleviated by human sympathy!”

ALLAN- “Come, my adored, my ever dearest Clara, come tell me what it is that has produced this change in your till now soul-gladdening countenance? Surely your love has not, during our journey, suffered the least diminution?”

CLARA- “Allan, my faithful Allan, speak not of impossiblilities. Do you forget the numberless expedients which have been used to estrange my affections from you: but in vain. Let me now tell you that, on the night I left my father's house to meet you to fly to Derbyshire, I more than fully proved the intensity of my love! Ah! that evening! that evening! I sat beside my father, whose eye, methought, almost discovered our secret in my face. Jocund were my dear brothers and sisters, while I, feigning illness, early retired to bed: but not to sleep. When midnight came, the appointed hour, I arose; my sisters, sleeping, I kissed again and again, and left their cheeks suffused with tears. Softly I stole into my parents' room. I stood beside their bed, and sighed farewell, farewell! O! never can I forget the conflicting emotions that, during those few moments, rent my soul. I saw, in imagination, my aged parents aroused from their slumber in the [Page 41] morning by the wailing of my sisters. “O! father! O! mother! our Clara's gone! our Clara's fled!” The consequent distraction which I imagined had nigh compelled me to retract from my vow, when I heard your signal, and in a moment I was in your arms. Allan! my Allan! why doubt the unchangeability of my love?”

ALLAN- “Then why this change which I have so painfully noticed this morning?”

CLARA- “Allan, I will tell you: 'tis a dream which I had last night: a dream so full of horror that, the chillness of death creeps through my body at the thought of reciting it: yet I will essay. Methought that we alone were walking among some barren hills, which, I imagined, as we rode along this morning, much resembled those which we behold in the distance. There was a stillness and strangeness in the scene which affected me most peculiarly as we walked along. After awhile we descended a hill into a valley, the most romantic and picturesque that imagination can conceive. A rivulet was winding through the vale, singing a song of peace, most enchantingly delightful. In the centre of the valley we sat down on a daisy-decked knoll, reciprocally vowing the fervency of our affections and love. It was at this moment that I felt a consciousness of someone being near; I turned my head to the right, when lo! I saw the shade, or image of, a little brother of mine, who had been dead twelve years. I started with the most intense surprise: his countenance was pale and ghastly as when I saw him in his last moments; [Page 42] his eyes were fixed on me, with a kind of meaning of expression, perfectly indescribable. A tremor agitated his frame as I attempted to call him by his name; however, I repeated his name twice, and, the last time, he lifted up his ashy hand, pointed to the top of the opposite hill, shook his head and vanished. I then, absorbed in thought, looked for awhile towards the hill to which my brother had pointed; when I could perceive four or five distinct beings advancing towards us; yet I could scarce believe them to be human. Soon they reached us, and their terrific aspects made me tremble with horror; for although they were men, their garb, demeanour, and brutal countenances, induced me to imagine or think they were monsters unknown to mankind. Now, my dearest Allan, commenced the terrible scene which has left so deep and indelible an impression on my mind. Methought they seized us both, and hurried us away into a gloomy cavern, the interior of which filled me with the most painful horror imaginable. And what increased my agony to the uttermost was, I beheld them mangle your body in the most bloody and awful manner; then did they fix their deadly glance on me; and with a suffocating shriek I awoke, and for some moments, with open eyes, I struggled hard with the dread phantom of my dream.”

ALLAN- “'Twas horrid, surely; but calm your mind, my love; dreams are only the freaks of fancy, which take their hue and character from circumstances, often, if not always, ideal and insubstantial”.

[Page 43] CLARA- “Ah! my Allan! I think! I fear not! That which has received the concurrent and undercurrent testimony of mankind in all ages of the world, is entitled to some respect and credence. That some calamity awaits us, I have a most agonising dread”.

ALLAN- “Be comforted, my fond Clara - banish from your bosom such doleful thoughts. I have a thousand times over dreamed of our happy union in the bonds of matrimony; dreamed of leading you to the altar, and felt, during those blissful moments, a happiness that I should in vain attempt to describe; but which I now hope, ere the sun sets behind the western hills, to enjoy in reality. Come, my Clara, take some little refreshment, while I just speak to the host and see our horses in readiness”.

The host and Allan were now in the stable, and Allan took the opportunity of asking the following questions: - “How far is it to a place named the Forest of the Peak?” said Allan; “why, about eight miles”, replied the host. “What is the distance from there to Buxton?” asked Allan; “not a many miles”, said the host. “We shall go through Castleton to the Peak Forest, I suppose?” said Allan; “Ah belike, and then through the Wunnets”, replied Boniface. “Well, good host, you will bring the horses to the door, in a few minutes, will you?” “Ah, Sir, ah, Sir, I wull”, replied the polite and gentlemanly host. Allan again rejoined his loved one, who sat absorbed in thought; “come, my dear”, said he, “we must away, the horses [Page 44] are ready - they will now mount the hills, like Apollo's steed, in heaven's steep”. Clara rose from her seat and sharply sighed; a stark presentiment of evil was envisioned round her heart; and her agitation greatly affected Allan, although he endeavoured to conceal it from her notice. Soon they were mounted on their fleet-footed coursers, and very quickly out of sight. A few villagers had been conning the strangers anent the Inn, to whom, when the strangers were gone, the host approached, and thus immediately vociferated, “Na, I'll bet any one on ya my new drab-coat cloth that yon two are for a Gretna Green job, tha are for th' Peak Forest, and yo known jobs a that sort is done thare welly same as Gretna Green.”

The hapless pair are now wending their way to Castleton, where they intend stopping a short time. Allan looks with wonder on the lanigerous vales and the manifold mist-capt hills which bound their view on every side; Clara rides by his side, silent and thoughtful; her bosom heaves at intervals with bursting despair; unconsciously, with trembling hands, she guides the rein; for ah! her thoughts are full of that fell dream,

“And through her veins a chilling horror glides.” - Tasso

It is a merciful dispensation of Providence that, a foresight or knowledge of a tragical end or termination of life, to which members are doomed in all countries, is impenetrably veiled from their mental vision until the almost actual transpiration. Indeed, [Page 45] were it otherwise, human existence would be insupportable; a torrent of despair would overwhelm and utterly destroy those mental emanations which so unequivocally evince the glory and wisdom of the Great Author of our being. It is, however, difficult to account for the opinion which has been held with such tenacity by great numbers, that they have had prognostications of their fates; pressages of their or others tragical destinies; and in a manner convincingly impressive. By the especial interposition of Providence alone can this opinion be accounted tenable; and when Providence does interpose cannot be determined infallibly by the evidence of human testimony.

There was, however, something in the dream of Clara, as we shall see hereafter, strikingly coincident with the fate of herself and her unfortunate lover. Her despondency increased during their journey from Stoney Middleton to Castleton, which was about nine miles; a journey amid mountains which wore their unchanging garb of thousands of years; mountains mist-shrouded when man may

“Look down
On towns that smoke below, and homes that creep
Into the silvery clouds, which far-off keep
Their sultry state! and many a mountain stream,
And many a mountain vale, and ridgy steep:
The Peak, and all his mountains, where they gleam
Or frown, remote or near,
More distant than they seem.” - ELLIOTT

It was near ten o'clock of the fatal day when the [Page 46] unfortunate pair reached the village of wonders - Castleton; they rode up at a brisk pace to one of the Inns, but not the principal; this plan they had, besides taking a circuitous route, invariably adopted during their journey; a necessary expedient to avoid being traced and overtaken by Clara's father and brothers, who had the most inveterate antipathy to Allan. They alighted from their smoking steeds at the Inn-door, and were shown into a room somewhat more respectable and comfortable than that at the Royal Oak, Stoney Middleton. Allan, after having ordered the horses to be stabled and fed, called for breakfast to be served with the greatest despatch. Clara took her seat in a corner of the room, leaned her head against the wall, and deeply sighed; Allan placed himself by her side, and in the most endearing, loving, and pathetic language he could command, conjured her to raise her drooping spirits; and then, in the glowing colours of heart-born affection, portrayed the years of unallayed happiness with which they should be henceforth blessed. The earnest exhortations of Allan aroused Clara to some degree from her death-like stupor; she turned her head, gazed him steadfastly in the face, until the burning tears

“Rushed from her clouded brain,
Like mountain mist, at length dissolved to rain.” - BYRON.

Breakfast was served, and Allan was in the act of endeavouring, in the most kind and persuasive language he could summon to his aid, to induce his Clara to [Page 47] partake, when an opposite room-door was thrown open, and he beheld, with some emotion, four uncouth, savage-looking men seated round a table, evidently in a state bordering on inebriation. While he looked on them with some surprise, one, seemingly by his glaring eyes the most intoxicated, broke out, in a voice, rough as his garb and nature, with an attempt to mouth or sing the following doggerel lines:

“Come fellows drink - drink, drink your fill,
Full soon we must gang up the hill,
Where Odin then in shining ore
Shall give us glasses - hundreds more;
Then luck to Odin, - golden mine,
With metal bright, like th' sun doth shine.”

The last couplet was a sort of chorus, in which they all joined with a bawl so loud, that - “roof and rafters a' did dirl”. [sic] The worthy host now appeared among them, and thus politely vociferated: “As you've been these five days and netes, fellows, and as you've now begun: wanting to chalk, I'd rather you'd mizzle - I've a gentleman and lady ith' parlour, no bounce!” On this they all arose; swung their groove-clothes on their backs - gave the landlord a hearty curse, and reeled out of the house. Staggering down the village they went: halting, however, at all the other Inns; but at every one of which they met the door “slap bang” in their faces, accompanied with the significant exclamation, “go where you've been, sots!”

These drunken bacchanalians (the initials of four of [Page 48] whose names are mentioned in the commencement of this narrative, were A._; B._r; C._; H._); now repaired towards Odin, where they were employed - a mine which was worked, as its name imparts, in the time of the Danes: a thousand years ago. It is about a mile north-west of Castleton: and it was on the way thither that the following criminous conversation transpired among the four miners alluded to - conversation darkly ominous:- “I sey, chaps”, said A_, “what did ye think about th' old d_l of a landlord, t'order us awey because we'd no money, and he'd better company ith' parlor?” “Why”, replied B_r, “I didna think sa much about that as about summat else as crost my ene”. “What's that, old buck?” asked C_; “Nay, nout very much”, replied B_r. “Na, I know, as sure as Mam Tor and that old Castle, what B_r means”, H_ immediately exclaimed. “Wa, what is it? what the d_l is it?” said C_. “Ah! out weet” out weet“, said A_, wear aw one aint us?” “Belike, belike”, rejoined C_; “well na, if B_r al not deny it, I'll guess, and guess reet”, H_ said, immediately. “Come, then, at it”, the other three replied. H_ then commenced, and said “na, B_r, didst na see the gentleman with the lady, tak saddle bags off his horse at th' Inn door, an didst na think they were full of money, they seemed sa heavy, and didst na think tha shud like sum of it?” “Well, I did, lad”, replied B_r; “an if yoan mind, we'll go o'er th' hill here, and meet em ith' Winnats, an [Page 49] tak it on um - they'll go up there, I'm sure!” “By the d_l hee's B_e, leaving his work”, said H_, “we must take him with us, we'll make him go, or crack a pick shaft on his skull; now be plucky, we'll have him with us”.[1] After a hot but short altercation with B_e, they agreed to B_r's proposal, and they wended their way swiftly towards the Winnats.

The sun was near its meridian height, when Allan and Clara left Castleton. Rapidly they rode along into the Winnats; but what pen can describe the agonising fear of Clara, when on entering the most secluded part of the defile, up sprang the five human savages, and seized the bridles of both horses, and with horrid imprecations bade the riders dismount. Allan, with a countenance pale as death, looked towards Clara, who with quivering lips faintly ejaculated, “Allan, my dream! my dream!” H_ and B_r had hold of the bridles, while the other three paced round the horses, and with their pickaxes uplifted, swore that if they did not immediately alight they would bury the steel in the horses' heads and after that, in theirs. Allan, in the most beseeching manner, said, “I hope, my friends, you intend no injury to two strangers. See! see! the lady is falling off her horse with fear! Pray, have mercy on us, spare our lives, and you shall have everything we have; but in [Page 50] mercy injure us no further for this dear lady's sake!” “No cavil”, said H_, and springing up, he seized Allan's cloak, and brought him to the ground. “Somebody'll be coming; let's haul 'em to the barn, there”, said H_, and they immediately hurried Allan away, piteously supplicating for mercy! This done, some of them remained for Clara, whom they

“Dragged from among the horses' feet”.

and carried her away, in a state of insensibility, to the same fearful and fatal place.

The awful suspense - the indescribable agony experienced by Allan, while these inhuman beings were gone for Clara, language cannot portray! H_ had been sent to prevent Allan from escaping, or giving any alarm during the others' absence; and Allan, in this bitter extremity, would fain have won him over by promises and tender supplications; but the callous hearted villain, who stood in the doorway of the barn, swore vehemently that if Allan moved one limb or spoke one word more, he would bury his uplifted pick-axe in his body, on which Allan shuddered and said no more.

On the savages entering the barn with Clara, Allan received them on his knees, and with his purse in his hand, said, “for Heaven's sake, take this! take this; take our all, but O! in mercy spare our lives! do not, my dear friends, for that lady's sake, injure us any further!” B_ snatched the purse from Allan, [Page 51] while the other rifled his pockets. This done, they retired outside the building to consult on further proceedings.

“I wish”, said A_, “we'd na com'n at'a a Castleton t'dey; we's be fun at'e shure enough, an be hang'd”. “Wa'”, replied B_r, “If we are fun at'a, we's know ar doom but we mun stop that if we can”. “Stop it! stop it!” exclaimed B_r, “there's naught but one chance a that, na”. “What's that?” asked C_; “why”, said H_, “he means t'kill 'em; and I'm in same mind”. “I dunna like that”, A_ emphatically rejoined. “Well”, H_ swore, “if tha's qualms of conscience, we's be obloig'd to do it arsels; an if wer fun at'a after, tha man swing wa us - not for murder - but for company; come, B_r, let's all in to um, or shure we's be catched with horses standing yonder.”

During this awful consultation Allan had crept to Clara, whom he had by the most tender caresses brought back to sensibility. He endeavoured to persuade her that the worst was past, but, her wild gaze round the barn, and her faint ejaculations, “my dream, Allan! my dream! my dream!” filled his despairing soul with bitter agony. Returning footsteps now fell on their ears with all the terrors of immediate death. H_ entered first; and Allan fell on his knees again, and said, “O, my friends! if you will but spare this lady's life, I will! I will with my own hands take mine before your eyes! Do not, I implore you, injure her, do what you. [Page 52] will with me”! This heart-rending appeal had little effect. The heartless monsters were busy about the door, - making it fast inside, - when Clara suddenly sprang up from the corner of the barn where she had been laid, and in an attitude of humble prostration thus exclaimed: “If ever woman's tongue did raise a thought of pity - if ever sighs and tears could move the heart of mortal man, let me now beseech you, in pity to spare the life of my companion, my love, my Allan! 'Tis me! 'tis me! Ah! 'tis through me alone, that we are here. Come, in this my naked bosom plunge [your] weapon; but, O! in mercy spare my loved, my dearest Allan”. Clara, as she finished this pathetic exclamation, closed her eyes, hung back her head, and presented her snow-white naked bosom to the savage monsters. Meanwhile, Allan, aroused by the moving appear of Clara, sprang upon his feet and rushed between her and the heartless murderers; a moment elapsed, and he, in the agony of despair, leaped towards the savages, seized B_r by the throat and dashed him to the ground. Then, with the fury of a tiger, he sprang upon the others, who instantly surrounded him, and a struggle ensued which only the pencil of a Salvator Rosa could portray. In a few minutes Allan was overpowered and fell; yet, against their united strength he had almost gained his feet again, when either H_ or B_r struck Allan on the head with a pick, and he fell senseless, to rise no more. In what manner they took the life of Clara is not known; but it is said their blood [Page 53] co-mingled together on the floor of the fatal barn. Silent and horror-struck the murderers looked on their victims as they lay stiffening with death, wishing intensely, when alas too late, they had spared their lives. Then it was that the enormity of their crime overwhelmed them with a life-lasting anguish; then it was that blood-bought guilt stamped their accusing minds with the deadly seal of horror implacable. They gazed on each other in speechless awe; the beautiful form and features of Clara aroused their attention, for oh!

“A form of wax
Wrought to the very life was there;
So still she was, so pale, so fair.” MARMION.

These miserable wretches, who had dyed their hands with innocent blood, remained in the barn until the shades of evening chased the weary day from every mountain side. During their stay in the fatal place a violent thunder storm occurred, which added immeasurably to their perturbation of mind. The lightning flashed on the bloody faces of their fated victims; the thunder rebellowed in the horrible dell, and the guilty murderers trembled with excessive fear. Conscience-stricken, they heard in every crack the appalling voice of justice, calling aloud for vengeance, and worlds they would have given to have undone their bloody deed.

Night had approached when they divided the booty which was £100 in money and other valuables, and stripped Clara of her outer silken vestment, and lay her beside Allan, covered them with some unclean [Page 54] straw, and retired, having first agreed to return to the barn at midnight and inter the bodies. Midnight came and they repaired to the solitary place; but their “blood guiltiness” peopled the shades of night with horrid forms; they heard in imagination the shrieks of woe and they retreated with precipitation from the dismal place. The following night they ventured again; but on their arrival at the scene of blood, two steeds, each mounted by a spectre, with hair dabbled with gore, rushed past them, and entered the barn; on which their retraced their steps more terrified than before. On the third night they again repaired to the place, determined to accomplish their purpose; at the door they heard the same dismal wailings of distress, and were about to return, when B_r exclaimed, “it's only the d_l, he'll not hurt us”, on which they entered; put the bodies on two sacks, and by the dim light of a solitary lantern, buried them at a little distance from the scene of their horrible death. This done, they returned, but not alone; visibly they beheld,

“Two ghastly spectres,
Ever rising in their view;
Eyes wide glaring, - face distorted,
Quiv'ring lips of livid hue.” - JEWITT.

The day following the interment of these hapless lovers their horses were found, saddled and bridled, on the forest adjoining the Winnats; and when brought into Castleton, great surprise was thereby excited. [Page 55] The probability of the riders having been murdered and thrown into Elden Hole, was generally entertained; but a descent into that fearful chasm, and nothing found appertaining to them, proved the supposition erroneous. The horses were, in due time, removed from Castleton to Chatsworth as waifs, the Duke of Devonshire being tenant to the Duchy of Lancaster, for the manorial rights of Castleton.

A many years after this circumstance, some miners in removing the earth to sink an engine shaft, discovered two skeletons, which were generally believed to be those of the gentleman and lady who belonged to the horses: this was further corroborated by one of the skulls having all its teeth perfect except one in the front, a deficiency which had been observed in Allan, both at Castleton and Stoney Middleton. The skeletons were buried in the church-yard at Castleton, but no positive evidence of the murderers had then been discovered. After the discovery of these human remains, there were, now and then, a few dark hints dropped respecting the supposed guilty persons: originating, chiefly, in the sudden change in circumstances of the suspected individuals, and in words spoken by them in unguarded moments. A_ bought horses with his share of the booty, but they died in rapid succession; and when on his journeys, he frequently said, “I have always a beautiful lady with me - she rides on my horse”. C_'s daughter went to the Church not very long after in a very rich silk dress, which excited the notice of the [Page 56] whole village. As no inquiry was ever made after the two unfortunate lovers, there was less possibility of ascertaining who the perpetrators of the murder were, except by the voluntary confession of one or all of the murderers; which as the reader will see, was the case with A_.

Though the hand of human justice did not reach these guilty beings, yet the hand of God found them out, even on earth. C_, some years after the discovery of the bodies, fell from a precipice in the Winnats, and was killed on the spot; a stone fell from a hill near the place of the murder and killed B_, and in a manner which astonished those who saw it; B_r went mad and died in a most miserable state, after having attempted several times to commit suicide; H_ hanged himself; and A_, after lying two weeks on his own death-bed, declared that he, C_, H_, B_, and B_r, did rob, murder, and bury the gentleman and lady whom they met in the Winnats; adding that “she was the handsomest woman he ever saw”, - he died the same day,

“What can escape Thine eye, just God?
Ah! who can fly Thy vengeful rod?”

Who those unfortunate victims were, and whence they came, is not satisfactorily known; Clara was supposed to be an English nobleman's daughter, and Allan, a gentleman from the south of England. Some unusual opposition to their union by Clara's haughty father, caused them to come to Derbyshire, to be married at [Page 57] the Peak Forest, which was at that time extra-parochial, and where persons were united in matrimony without the slightest inquiry whence they came - Jewitt, in the notes to his “Wanderings of Memory”, fixes the date of this direful tragedy in 1768; but the confession of A_ (published in two popular periodical works) makes the date of the murder 1758. The same author represents them as having been married on the day of their murder. This for various reasons, I believe to be in error. The author of the “Peak Scenery” thinks the whole story is falsehood. Of the truth of this tale of blood, committed to paper at his death; - the finding of the bodies; - the horses without riders; - one of the saddles is now in Peak Cavern Museum, bought at a sale of articles from the museum of the late Thomas Bateman, Middleton near Youlgreave. It was purchased of Mrs. Willis, Grindleford Bridge, one of whose ancestors obtained it at Chatsworth, where he was a groom at the time of the tragedy. This saddle belonged to the horse rode by Clara; it is made of, or covered partly with, red morocco leather, and has a stirrup shod, or shoe; - the recognition of the horses on the way through Stoney Middleton to Chatsworth, by the host of the Royal Oak Inn; - the testimony of the landlord's servant who was married to Mr. John Andrew of Eyam and who died more than thirty years ago, after having a thousand times repeated the circumstances of the gentleman and lady calling at the Royal Oak Inn [Page 58] always adding a la A_ “Oh! she was a pretty woman!” - the remains of the barn is still pointed out; - and the unexceptionable, concurrent impression of the truth of the melancholy story among the inhabitants of the Peak. Many more corroborative proofs might be brought forward; among the rest, a Mrs. Simpson, of Oakard, near Hope, remembered seeing a pair of stays and a chemise when she first went to Oakard, after becoming the second wife of Mr. Simpson. On observing these articles in the house, she asked her husband who could ever have worn such things at Oakard, to which he replied, that they came with his first wife from Castleton, and belonged, he believed, to the lady of the Winnats. A Mr. Hallam, of Stoney Middleton (whose daughters are now living), answered them some question on their leaving Stoney Middleton, and saw the horses on their way back to Chatsworth.

Readers, do not imagine that the barbarity of the perpetrators of this foul deed in the Winnats is still the prevailing characteristic of the inhabitants of the Peak. Thanks to the humanising efforts of mechanical genius - the mountain barriers of this wild district are now penetrated, and these wonder-working excavations operate as channels of civilisation! It may be added, that the inhabitants of Castleton, and the Peak in general, are now distinguished by a many excellent traits, of humanity, kindness, and social importance. That the inhabitants of this mountainous locality generations back, should have been rough, uncouth, yea, even [Page 59] savage and ferocious, may be accounted, if not apologized for by the generally stated fact that the north of Derbyshire was, during and after the Septarchal ages, a penal settlement; that criminals were sent here, to work in mines (under captains) as a fit punishment for certain crimes. I was surprised that my good neighbours of Castleton should have been a little chagrined on the first appearance of this take in print: I am certain it cannot affect their material interests; and their being otherwise sensitive would be exhibiting finer or more touchy feelings than even a very many of the most eminent of mankind: Dr. Johnson, for instance, told his wife, while he was paying his addresses to her before marriage, that his grandfather was hanged. And as to places where crimes have been committed, it may be said of them as the poet sings of cities:-

“Thou canst not find a spot whence no city stood”.

Notes
[1] It is said that B_e, who was a blacksmith, and worked at the Odin mine, wanted to turn back; and only consented on being threatened with death.

Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in January 2009.

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