History of the Village of Stoney Middleton

By Thomas E. Cowen (1910)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2003

History of the Village of Stoney MiddletonNOTABLE PERSONS LIVING IN MIDDLETON


WM. CAPPS was a gentleman of herculean strength. He was a wrestler, and invariably overthrew all comers. He was never thrown, nor ever known to fall. Many dashing feats of his superior horsemanship are still recorded. He was a great favourite with all who knew him, and died a bachelor. Only this remnant of his monument remained until the restoration in 1861:-

In Memory of Wm. Capps
Stoney Middleton
Who died Jan. 24, 1703.
  “Deaths Harbinger with surprising wings
Summons poor souls before th' Eternal kings
Death with his dart, Time will his glass combines
To bring poor mortal soules to th' bar betimes
Cheer up Dear souls, These to your Spirit brings
Blest Hallalujas to the King of Kings”.
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He was interred in the nave of the Church of Stoney Middleton. A mural monument of slate was erected, and above a white marble effigy of Capps on horseback. Owing to the delapidated state of the Church, the nave was taken down and rebuilt in 1758-9. The monument of Capps was removed and placed outside on the wall in front of the new building. The action of the air disintegrated the statuary marble, and in 1861 a “Restoration” of the Church took place, and the slab offended the public taste, and the last remnant of this handsome monument of the gallant, generous, and honoured Capps was cast to the ground. Furness in scornful tones, says: “Most probably it will be utilised should any modern Vandal require a flagstone for his pigstie”. (Mr. Peter Furness in the “Reliquary” of 1863-4.) => More on William CAPPS...

THE RAGGS, or Wragge, were a noted family of Stoney Middleton and Eyam. At Eyam their residence was called Rag House, and the field adjoining it was “Rag Garth” or Rag Croft. Matthew, second son of Richard Furness, of Eyam, married Ann, only daughter of Dennis Ragge, of the Bank, Stoney Middleton, who had a farm under the Morewoods of Alfreton. He afterwards went to reside at Stoney Middleton at Ragge's farm, and from him the Furness's of Middleton Bank are descended. The marriage must have taken place sometime about the year 1600 or immediately afterwards. James Furness, late of Sheffield and Middleton Bank, and the wife of Mr. Peter Furness, Eyam, were descended from this marriage. He purchased the principal part of the Morewood Estates which Rowland Morewood obtained by his marriage with Katherine, daughter of Humphry Stafford. By a will dated May 2nd, 1808, he left a sum of money to the poor widows and Sunday school at Eyam. The late Rev. John Furness, author of a “Life of Solomon”, an able controversialist, who died about 1837, also belonged to this family. George Furness, born at Middleton Bank, one of the contractors of the gigantic undertaking of the Thames Embankment was also a descendant. Dennis Ragge would be a collateral relation of the Furness family, and would either be a grocer, miller, or tallow chandler. These

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businesses were often followed by various members of the Furness family at Stoney Middleton. About 1670 a Dennis Ragg had a Trader's Token, as was customary in Derbyshire in these times.=> More on Matthew FURNESS...

Denis Ragg's Token (a) Denis Ragg's Token (b)

The following names are to be found in the Parish Register at Eyam relating to the family of Ragg:-

Joseph, ye son of Dennis and Alice Ragg, de Middleton, 
July 31st, 1653. 
Enoch, ye son of Thomas and Alice Ragg, de Middleton, 
bap: Sept. 10, 1656. 
Alice Ragg, bur: Oct. 23, 1665These died of
Thomas Ragg, bur: Aug. 18, 1666the Plague.

Alice Ragg named above is buried beneath the floor of one of the residences of Mr. Peter Furness, of Eyam. The grave-stone inscribed to her memory is underneath the floor. It was boarded over about 1837. The following is the inscription on the gravestone, which is but one of the many sadly interesting memorials of the Plague of Eyam:-

Alice Ragg was
BVRIED the 23 Oct:
Ano Dni: 1665.

In the inscription itself the “A” and “l” in Alice, and “w” and “a” in was, in the first line, and the “the” in the second line are conjoined. (Llewellyn Jewitt in the “Reliquary” of 1867.)

MR. PETER FURNESS, of Bank House, Middleton, was the son of Samuel Furness, and brother of Richard Furness, schoolmaster of Dore. He was a man of considerable taste and mental acquirements, and his letters indicate an educated and well-informed mind. He assisted Dr. Calvert Holland, of Sheffield, in compiling the “Life and Writings of

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Richard Furness”. He had the high and rare merit of having placed himself in independent circumstances by his industry, energy of character, and prudence.

The poet, Mr R. Furness, writing in 1857, the year in which he died, to his brother, Mr. P. Furness, of Stoney Middleton, then on a visit to London, expressed a wish that the change might restore Mrs. Furness to perfect health. He exclaimed: “‘Health’, that one word, is a jewel, and will be most highly esteemed by those who have lost it. Truly we perceive the blessing more by the want of it than by its enjoyment.”

He lived at “The Bank House”. The visitor would be surprised at the lavish way in which the interior has been fitted up.

A Sun-dial still stands in the garden as it did in former days.
[Ed: A sketch of the Sun-dial is reproduced opposite Page 51]

RICHARD HANDLEY was a shoemaker, and probably occupied the post of sexton. When asked his age, even at 80, he was always 75. He has left one specimen of his handiwork in the form of a looking-glass set in the mantel piece in the house at the corner of Vicarage Lane. He made a pretty house of cork and exhibited it in the window. He was an inveterate card player, and on one occasion when the parson visited him he called out, “Full up”.

Richard was a keen sportsman, and upon one occasion Lord Denman encountered him at the top of Booth Hole. After enquiring the direction which the hounds had taken, his lordship remarked, “Well, Dickie, you've got your leggings on.” “Yes, my lord”, replied Handley. “Its to keep the dust out of the lace-holes”.

RICHARD GORDON was the village sexton and sweep. He was a diligent Sunday School teacher, but his imperfect education was a menace to his usefulness. When the children reached a difficult word, he would call out, “Call it Manchester”.

CORNELIUS CHAPMAN lived in a house in Chapman's Croft. For many years he worked at Calver Cotton Mill, sold barm, and was, also, the village Pounder, and took charge of the pinfold with his wife Mary. Upon one occasion he fastened up some sheep in the pound, and then went to the owners to demand the charges. While on the errand someone went and

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untied the sheep, and when he reached the farmer's house the sheep had arrived before him.

His widow, becoming reduced, was obliged to dispose of the house and croft, which is still called “Chapman's Croft.”

MARY CARSON lived on the Dial. She had a basket containing cottons and tape, and on certain days visited the surrounding villages. The late Vicar, the Rev. Urban Smith, was often favoured with a visit from her. When he saluted her with “Hello, Marie, and how art thou to-day?” she frequently replied, “Alright, my child, and how art thou?” Her son went to New Zealand, and before he went she said, “Let me bake thee a cake to take wi' thee”. On one occasion she remarked to Mrs. Goddard (wife of the chandler), “Ay, what dost think, Shrove Tuesday's goin' to be on Wednesday this time”.

GEORGE BOOTH kept the old Moon Inn, and afterwards removed to Highfield Farm. He had four sons, John, George, Thomas, and Charles, John Booth, the Miller, lived on the nursery and the Weeping Willow, now standing in the garden of Mr. Barber, once occupied the centre of the lawn. It is commonly asserted that the three cottages below the Gateway were formerly the stables attached to his house. Thomas Booth, of Leam Hall, worked the Tannery at Goatcliffe, Grindleford, for some years, it having, been left by legacy from Mr. William Smith.

Charles was afterwards the eminent Dr. Booth, of Chesterfield.

REV. URBAN SMITH, M.A., educated at the Trinity College, Cambridge, was incumbent of the Parish of Stoney Middleton for 53 years. He was born 1804 A.D., and became first Vicar of this parish in 1834. He was a noted geologist, a fine Greek scholar, and held the position of Secretary to the Clerical Greek Testament Meeting. He was a very benevolent gentleman, and spent much of his time in the cottages of the inhabitants of the village.

The Vicarage was built in 1836, chiefly through the energy of the Vicar. It stands on an eminence, south-west of the church. At the side he had a schoolroom fitted up and had private pupils, amongst whom were Dr. P. Fentem, Rev. C. S. Cutler, and others. He died December 9th, 1887, aged 80, and was buried in Stoney Middleton Cemetery on Dec. 13th, amid much sorrow and sympathy of the villagers.

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A tablet, made of beautiful Derbyshire marble, with specimens from his own collections, has been placed in the Church to his memory by the members of the Clerical Greek Testament Meeting:

“In Grateful Remembrance of his long and valued Services as Secretary”. This was designed by Dr. E. M. Wrench, who furnished the sexton of the church with the names of the marbles, which are not quarried now.

Modern Footnote [1]
WM. CAPPS [who] was a gentleman of herculean strength...
(By Rosemary Lockie, compiled with the research assistance of Glenn R. Trezza, PhD)

Cowen's reproduction of the inscription on CAPPS's Memorial is most useful, but his assertion that William was a bachelor appears to have been inaccurate. The date of death quoted on the MI of 24th January 1703 [old style] corresponds with a burial recorded in the Bishops' Transcripts on that date, and an Administration of “William Capps the Elder of Stony Middleton in the county of Derby, yeoman” dated 19th April 1704, granted to his son, also William CAPPS. The Inventory accompanying the Admon. indicates he had goods to the value of £19 13s.

The son, William, does however appear to have died a bachelor. What is assumed to be his burial was recorded in Stoney Middleton parish register on 5th April 1728, with no evidence of a wife, or marriage previously; whereas the elder William was (probably) married at Stoney Middleton in October 1665 to Elizabeth LOMAS. To some extent therefore William the younger, having youth on his side, would appear to have been a more likely candidate to make a name for himself as a wrestler, and to qualify for the description of “bachelor”. If that was the case, then it is quite easy to understand, how more than 100 years after the event, when first noted by Peter Furness in The Reliquary, his “strong man” reputation would have become associated with the Memorial, which in fact makes no mention of it.

Modern Footnote [2]
THE RAGGS, or Wragge [who] were a noted family of Stoney Middleton and Eyam...
(By Rosemary Lockie, compiled with the research assistance of Glenn R. Trezza, PhD)

Cowen's account of the RAGGs, and their connection with the FURNESS families of Eyam, is somewhat awry. Matthew FURNESS (1664-1746/7), son of Martin FURNESS (by Elizabeth SYLVESTER) did indeed marry a lady from Stoney Middleton, named Gertrude RAGG, but they do not appear to have had any children. The more obvious candidate as founder of the family on Stoney Middleton Bank was, rather, his nephew Matthew (1705-1769), son of his brother Joseph FURNESS (1671-1744), by Ann HASLAM of Great Longstone. Matthew junior married Ann HALLAM of Stoney Middleton in 1731 at Peak Forest, and they had at least 10 children.

It should also be noted that Alice RAGG, who was recorded as buried in the plague on 23rd October 1665 was the daughter of George and Elizabeth RAGG, and an infant, whilst Thomas, buried on 18th August 1666 was the son of Margaret RAGG, widow, and probably aged about 6. They were not, therefore, as might be inferred from Cowen's notes, the Thomas and Alice RAGG of Stoney Middleton.


OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2003.

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