Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Derwent Hall

THE estate of Derwent Chapel, or rather a portion of it, was given by King John, when Duke of Montaigne, to the Abbey of Welbeck; the Abbey held the remaining portion from bequests of the Longfords. Welbeck was with the Præmonstratensian Order of Monks, and at Derwent they had an extensive Grange. This was while the Order was yet known for their rigid abstinence, deep piety, and graceful dress. They were the vegetarians of the Catholic hierarchy till Pope Pius II., in 1460, allowed them to have a knowledge of a beef steak or a mutton chop. They had not as yet acquired their skill of brewing the best stoup of ale in the county, nor their ability in consuming it, nor their partiality for a stiff shuffle at cards, nor their habit of going to matins hard to the wind in odd sandals and their garments inside out. Derwent Chapel was deemed so valuable by the Abbey that its possession was secured by two Royal Charters, besides one from the De Ferrars, to prevent that family exercising a propensity to seize other people's property.

Why the De Ferrars, Peverells, Foljambes, Longfords, and other old Peak families, who thought well to endow the Church with their lands, chose the Cistercian or Augustinian, Præmonstratensian or Cluniac Abbeys for their munificence; ignoring the Benedictine and Carthusian Monasteries, is very strange. The Monks of Basingwerke, who were given Glossop in the twelfth century, were Cistercian; so were those of Rufford, who held Brushfield from Robert, son of Waltheof, before (and not disturbed at) the Conquest. Lenton Priory was Cluniac. Even when Royalty gave their Peak Manors to the Church, they passed them to the Augustinians, as to wit: Grindlow was a gift from King John to Lilleshall.[1] Not an acre was with the Benedictines. The Avenells, of Haddon, gave Conksbury to Leicester Abbey; its inmates were Austin Canons. There was a small slice of land, by Ashopton, with the Priory of Dunstable; they were Dominican Friars. The fact only becomes still more curious by being followed up. Only by a cell at Derby were the Benedictines represented in the county. Darley Abbey was Austin Canons, while Dale was Præmonstratensian monks. Both Priories of Repton and Gresley belonged to the former, while that of Breadsall was Austin Friars. When Wulfric Spott founded the Benedictine Abbey of Burton, in 1002, he endowed it with nineteen manors in the County of Derby, but in the reign of the Conqueror there were only six remaining.

Connoisseurs of rural beauty assert the prettiest of Derbyshire villages to be Derwent Chapel, and we are not inclined to dispute their opinion. It stands at the head of the dale clustered by the hills, and a more pastoral or primitive beauty is not to be met with. We should not have been startled if one of its old tenants in his cassock and rocket, cloak and scapulary, had risen up before us. With this spot what associations are linked. The mill speaks to us of a famous monastic order, whose love of literature makes us remember it kindly; and the old Hall, of associations which far more historical edifices cannot claim. It was one of the Peak residences of the Balguys; afterwards of the Newdigates of Kirk Hallam, and is now held by His Grace Henry Fitz-Allan Howard, hereditary marshall and premier Duke of England. These are representative families of the English gentleman, knight, and nobleman. Marvellous length of genealogy, frequent espousal of heiress, and sons celebrated as lawyers or ecclesiastics, are characteristic of each of them. The Balguys have a pedigree that begins while Edward I. was settling the dispute

between Baliol and Bruce; the Howards commence with Hereward the Saxon Thane, who was outlawed by the Conqueror; but the Newdigates go back to the Heptarchy, and yet in the year 1880 Mr. Francis William Newdigate, J.P., D.L., was High Sheriff for the County of Derby. The famous marriages of this family (all prior to the last two-and-twenty generations) gave to the heraldic knowledge of Dugdale matter to emblazon and illuminate.

Six hundred years ago the heiress of the Astons brought in her dowry to Thomas de Balgi, lands in the counties of Derby, Chester, and Lancaster; but it was the wealth of Grace Barber, some four centuries later, that enabled Henry Balgny, in 1672, to build Derwent Hall. This gentleman was an attorney, with a particular trait for the accumulation of money, which he fostered by establishing a private bank. He had an eye to the picturesque when he purchased the site of the Hall from the Wilsons. In the church, a modern edifice, erected on the site of one of the chapels of the monks, is a font hearing the attorney's name, spelt Bauegay, and the date 1670 - which font, says Dr. Cox, “up to a recent date served as a geranium pot in the Hall gardens”. The family of Balgny had been located at Hope, Aston, and Rowlee for generations, and held extensive possessions in the Peak, but the old homesteads know them no more, and the lands have other lords. The present representative is Mr. John Balguy, J.P., of Duffield.

As scholars, divines, and lawyers the Balguys have been conspicuous from the reign of Elizabeth. When the Oxford Press published its first book in 1585, among its critics selected by the University was Nicholas Balguy, which fact old Strype thought worth recording in his Annals of the Reformation. There are but few instances of a prebendary of a Cathedral crying “Nolo Episcopari” when offered a bishopric, yet such was the answer of Thomas Balguy when George I. wished to translate him to the See of Gloucester. When Bishop Hoadley preached his memorable sermon before Royalty, in which he asserted that Christ had not delegated His power to any ecclesiastical authorities, and which resulted in the famous Bangorian controversy, John Balguy (the father of Thomas) came to the front as one of the most brilliant and astute of reasoners. The only portions of the controversy (to which Hallam has applied his bitterest invectives) worth reading are pamphlets of Balguy's. Defending the Bishop against the supporters of Apostolic succession, his logic, philosophy, and rhetoric left his opponents far behind. He was holding the small livings of Lamesby and Tanfield at the time, but the Cathedral of Salisbury soon heard his eloquence as a prebend, and the Church of Northallerton as its vicar. His sermons are always cited as the best in our language, and his Essay on Redemption is a remarkable work.

Among the scholars who have enriched our literature by their translations of foreign authors, Charles Balguy, who was born at Derwent Hall in 1708, stands in the front rank. His assimilation of the idioms of the Italian and English languages has never been equalled, excepting by Carey in his rendering of Dante's Inferno. His early education was obtained at Chesterfield Grammar School, when the Rev. William Burrow, M.A., was head master; and where Samuel Pegge, the future antiquarian, was his companion. Hence he proceeded to St. John's College, Cambridge, where so many of his race have taken their degrees. He chose the medical profession, and as a physician practised at Peterborough, but his contributions to the Philosophical Society, together with his Boccaccio, have removed him from our medical to our literary celebrities.

We find members of this house as Recorders either of Stamford or Derby, as justices of the Peace, or as Doctors of Law for successive generations, but they apparently never held a judgeship. This is where they fail to keep in touch with the other two great families connected with Derwent Hall. With William Howard, the celebrated judge of Common Pleas in the reign of Edward I., began the splendour of this illustrious and historic race; with Richard Newdigate, cousin of the immortal Hampden, we have a judge sacrificing position for the administration of justice, as he was removed by Cromwell, says Foss, “for not observing the Protector's pleasure in all his commands”. Yet we must not forget Thomas Balguy, who was Member of Parliament for Stamford in 1594. He was one of the men who trod upon the corns of Queen Elizabeth, and brought her to her knees on the infamous granting of Monopolies, and who showed to the Lords that the privilege of originating money bills lay exclusively with the Commons of England. There is a sensational scene recorded of this Parliament, in which there is some ground for believing Balguy to have been principal actor. The list of Monopolies was read over to the House. “Is not bread among the number?” cried a voice, “Nay, if no remedy is found for these, bread will be there before next Parliament”.

We would point out a blunder made by a celebrated authority respecting the grandson of this gentleman, who was sheriff of the county. Burke calls him John, and makes the year of his shrievalty 1663-4. Glover quotes the Roll of Sheriffs, on which he appears as Henry, and not holding office till 1681; thus the sheriff and the builder of Derwent Hall were identical; but surely this is a point to Glover! The sheriff for 1663 was Thomas Gresley, whose successor was George Vernon.

We are told that Henry Balguy kept his hoards of gold in a chamber at Derwent Hall. Just look on the front of the edifice. Is there not the date 1672, and was not this the year when Charles II. shut up the exchequer, and declared the nation could not nor should not pay its debts? Time indeed to hoard when the King turns dishonest. This gentleman had married the heiress of the Barbers of Rowlee, which is a neighbouring hamlet to Derwent. They were a branch of the Barbers of Malcalf, and, like most of the scions of Derbyshire houses, had done better than the parent stock. On the list of landowners for the year 1570 appears the name of Edward Barber, of Rowlee. This list, which is remarkably interesting, is to be found in The Reliquary. It was William Barber, of Malcalf, a cousin of the mistress of Derwent Hall, who espoused the daughter of the famous Nonconformist of Ford Hall. The pedigree of the Balguys in Pegge's Collections shows the lads to have mated with the Brailsfords, Longfords, Knyftons, Leghs, Foljambes, Bassetts, Barlows, Leches, Lowes. Indeed the sheriff had two other wives after the decease of Grace Barber. His second spouse was Elizabeth Allyn, of Tideswell, and his third Anne Morewood, of the Hallowes, by Dronfield.

The Manor of Hathersage, of which Derwent was an adjunct, was held at the Survey by Fitzhubert. In the reign of Henry III. it was with Sir Matthew de Hathersage. This fact suggests two very curious questions. Sir Matthew had married the heiress of the Meynells, whose ancestor was a demesne tenant of Fitzhubert. Did this lady bring the manor in her dowry? If she did, the fact is nowhere shewn by the compilers; or was the knight really a Basset? Let us explain. If Hathersage were not in the dowry of his wife, the facts for assuming him to have been a Basset are these:- Richard Basset, who was justice of England in the reigns of Henry I. and Stephen, espoused Maud Ridel, an heiress and granddaughter of Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, in whose dowry were lands in Hathersage, if not the manor; which Dr. Cox admits, for this lady endowed the Priory of Launde “with seventeen churches, one of which was Hathersage”. Now the eldest son of this union retained the maiden name of his mother; had two wives and issue by both, and we submit that the possession of the manor by Sir Matthew either arose from relationship with the Bassets, or came to him in the dowry of his wife. The co-heiresses of the knight brought the manor, with many others, to their husbands, Longford and Gonshill; and how it ultimately passed will be shown in the conspectus. From 1705, however, it has been with the Dukes of Devonshire by purchase.

The illustrious family of Howard has held more coronets than any other patrician house. We find them in the Extinct Peerage as Earls of Northampton, Stafford, Norwich, Bindon, Nottingham; as Viscounts and Barons. They still hold the Earldoms of Carlisle, Suffolk, Efingham, and Wicklow - irrespective of the nobleman who holds the senior Dukedom of England, and whose Derbyshire residence is Derwent Hall. No other family in the realm, perchance, has furnished such dramatic, such marvellous, such romantic scenes for our annals. The first Duke was slain on Bosworth Field; the third was the chief witness against his own son, the valiant Earl of Surrey, and against his niece, poor Catherine, and only escaped the block himself by the death of Henry VIII. The fourth Duke was beheaded on Tower Hill, but such items are intensely dramatic, read in the pages of Froude. A younger son of the fourth Duke, created Earl of Suffolk, was father of two daughters, whose careers are romances of thrilling character. How Lady Frances, as a girl of thirteen, married Robert Devereux, third Earl of Essex, and the union was never consummated; how she cited her husband before a public tribunal arranged by James I., sueing for a divorce, and advancing reasons that read like a wild chimera of a disordered brain, and so vile that they cannot be reiterated; how she formed an amour with Robert Carr, Earl of Rochester, whom she ultimately espoused; how she and Carr were afterwards arraigned for the murder of Overburie and found guilty, can be gleaned from the State Trials. Her sister Elizabeth became the wife of William Knollys, Earl of Banbury. This lady, with all the remarkable beauty peculiar to the female line of her race, was scarcely arrived at womanhood when the union took place, while the Earl was fast approaching his eightieth year. This lady's hand, however, seems to have been given to one nobleman and her heart to another. There was a certain Lord Vaux of Harrowden who was devoutedly wishing for the Earl “to shuffle off this mortal coil”. On the 25th May, 1632, the Earl died, and, after the expiration of a calendar month, the Dowager Countess became Lady Vaux. No sooner was she again a wife than she produced two children whom she declared were the lawfully begotten sons of the late Earl, though no one remembered to have seen them during his life. Whether it was the happiness arising from her union with her lover which made her neglect producing proof of their legitimacy, or whether she thought any such proof of legitimacy unnecessary, we do not know; anyway, when time made such a thing compulsory, such proof was useless, for there was going on the great fight between liberty and Royalty, or what is known as the Great Rebellion. During the Commonwealth the younger of these sons (for the elder had been slain in France) sat in the House o£ Peers, and also in the Conventional Parliament of Charles II. This was the overture of one of the most singular episodes in our history. How, when Parliament met in 1661, the King ordered there should be no writ issued in this case; how a committee of the Upper Chamber found the claimant was legitimately born, while the Lords brought in a bill declaring him a bastard; how Lord Chief Justice Holt was summoned to the bar of the Peers for giving an opinion, and the Lords, mustering in exceptional numbers, thought to awe him; how the brave and upright old lawyer answered as only an English judge can and dare answer; how the claim was resuscitated generation after generation, until one hundred and seventy-six years had gone by since the death of the husband of Lady Elizabeth Howard, before the case was finally dealt with, can also be learnt from the State Trials, Journal of the Lords, and other sources. There is an episode in the house of Howard which is piteous in the extreme; the execution of Sir William, Viscount Stafford, who was the last victim of that execrable miscreant, Titus Oates. When he protested his innocence from the scaffold, even the most implacable enemies of Catholicism answered, “God bless you, my lord! We believe you, my lord”.

We do not advise any antiquarian to ask permission to see the interior of Derwent Hall, for there will be envy in his heart when he comes away; yea from his very entry. Oak carvings everywhere, that date from the twelfth century, the workmanship of men whose very nationality has disappeared from the map of Europe and become forgotten; carvings that make us wish to sell our birthright for a single piece. One sideboard rivetted our attention, not from its exquisite design, but from the inscription upon it: “Rex Carolus I., Anno Do. 1646”. Did this belong to the monarch who had lost his kingdom and was so soon to lose his head? Was it with him while a prisoner at Holmsby House? If but given a voice what might it not tell us? Those who are interested in the ingenious and artistic devices conceived by our fathers in times when there was a King de facto and a King de jure for the secreting of documents in furniture, whether table, chair, or bedstead, will be amazed, if ever fortunate enough to see the marvellous wonders of the oaken treasures in Derwent Hall.

Notes

[1] Dr. Cox “Churches”; Vol. II., p.268 - in a note says it was a confirmation of a gift, not a gift as Lysons has it, and that the gift came from Matthew de Stokes a few years previously.

Extract from Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire, 1892.
Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in March 2008.

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