Derby : Its Rise and Progress

By H.W. Davison

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2016

Derby - Its Rise and Progress


AUTHORITIES:- Calendars of State Papers; etc., Henry VIII. to Charles II. - "Three Centuries Derbyshire Annals", Cox - "Life of Mary Queen of Scots", Cowan - Sadler State Papers - "Lettres et Mémoires de Marie Stuart" - "History Great Civil War", Gardiner - Calendar, Clarendon State Papers - "Life of George Fox", Hodgkin - "History of Uttoxeter", Redfern - "History of the Printing Press in Derbyshire", Wallis.

THE history of Derby during the sixteenth century relates almost entirely to the religious controversies of the time, although the first thirty years was a period of quiet, during which the lofty tower of All Saints' slowly rose, to form, as it were, the last monument of the old religion in Derby. As a noble example of the Perpendicular style in architecture, it remains to-day, as it was in Hutton's time, "the pride of the place". With it is associated a tradition, at least as old as the Tudor period, that part of the expense was defrayed by the offerings of the unmarried people of the neighbourhood, and the curious may still see the words, "Yong


men and maydens" on the string-course which marks the limit of their efforts. The priests who watched its slow growth from their college under the shadow of the church were soon to disappear, the Gothic edifice which it so nobly adorned was destined to fall later before the hand of the Vandal, yet the tower of All Saints' still dominates the town, as conspicuous to the modern traveller approaching Derby as it was to the wayfarer in the days of the Tudors.

This work could scarcely have been finished when Henry VIII. began to put into execution his designs for the suppression of the religious houses. The first intimation of his policy in Derby appears to have been a demand to the Prior of St. James's, in 1532, to render an account of the emoluments of the monastery. With what bitter thoughts and gloomy forebodings the statement was prepared may be imagined; on the other hand, it is easy to over-estimate the extent of the change as felt by the actual onlookers. The secular clergy were not deeply concerned in the fate of the regulars of the monasteries, for the sympathy between the two classes had never been cordial, and it may be that some of the town clergy witnessed the deposition of their less fortunate brethren with feelings akin to pleasure.

In 1537, in the very midst of the turmoil, Robert Thacker, Vicar of St. Werburgh's, wrote a letter to his brother Thomas, who occupied the important post of private secretary to Thomas Cromwell, the King's Vicar-General, yet no mention occurs therein of the momentous changes which were happening on all sides. "I hear my cousin, James Thacker, has


written to you for money", he says, and then counsels his brother against advancing it. After giving their cousin Thacker a poor character as a man of business, the letter changes to a more tender strain. "My mother", the writer continues, "says she would fain see you ere she die. I fear me lest we shall have her but a while in this world, for she breaks marvellously".

The sole aim of the clergy seems to have been to make the best terms possible for themselves. The town clergy were anxious to leap into the vacancies which the times made plentiful; whilst the monastic clergy bargained with the Government agents for the amount of pension to be saved from the wreck of their property. In a letter from Richard Strete to Thomas Cromwell, dated April 26th, 1533, the writer states that he has heard the Archdeacon of All Saints', Derby, is about to be made a bishop, and he would be glad to succeed to the vacancy, giving his reason with a bluntness characteristic of the times. "I should like", he says, "to change my Archdeaconry of Salop for that of Derby, which is better by twenty pounds". His letter was covered by a recommendation from Rowland Lee, the divine who performed the private marriage ceremony between Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn, and this influence proved successful, for Lee was still a Court favourite.

Thomas Thacker, Cromwell's secretary, was naturally not slow in asking his master for such of the spoil as came within his reach. In a letter to him dated September 23rd, 1538, he says: "I have for three months laboured to the abbot of Darleigh,


near where I was born (Repton), and where my poor lands lie, to surrender his home to the King. I trust shortly to have his letter thereof, and beg your Lordship to help me to the house and goods". He was evidently aware that the Abbot of Darley was about to agree to terms, for the surrender followed within a month of his letter, the Abbot, Thomas Rag, renouncing his claim to the Abbey and its numerous territorial possessions for a yearly pension of fifty pounds; the Prior, the sub-Prior, and ten monks receiving smaller pensions according to position, and fifty-seven servants belonging to the monastery and Abbey farm being dismissed with a small sum in hand.

Meanwhile, the smaller kindred institutions in the town shared the same fate. The nuns of King's Mead were turned adrift, a lease of their Priory being granted to Thomas Sutton; and the Prior of St James's, Thomas Gaynesborow, retired on a small pension of seven pounds a year. In 1537, the Black Friars in Derby presented for the King's inspection an ancient charter of protection which was duly confirmed, although it proved of no avail, for early in 1539, the Friars surrendered their Priory to the Commissioners; but it was rumoured that this Order generally had diverted much of its property before the crash came.

Wild stories of a general insurrection were whispered about in the town and neighbourhood, although the common people appear to have taken little part in the proceedings. In the scanty annals of the town no mention is made of these changes, whilst such matters as a dispute with Justices of the


Peace at the Town Hall, or a struggle between two local gentlemen at St. Peter's Church, are considered worthy of record. Cromwell's agents reported that the poor in the district were tractable, and were only waiting for suitable religious instructors, but that the rich were shockingly immoral. This may mean that the poor were apathetic, and that the county gentry were averse to the policy of the Government, preferring the old order of things. A busybody named Billingford who was at Darley Abbey in 1535 repeated a rumour that "one coat of religion, the Black Monks, had gathered £160,000 for an insurrection, and that the money had been shipped in woolpacks at Southampton to the Pope at Rome". He also narrated a story, which, if true, shows the consternation into which the nuns of St. Mary were thrown by the rumours of the Dissolution. He called, he said, at their Priory, and asked Joan More, one of the nuns, the age of the Prioress who was absent, and how many nuns lived there. He also examined their granary, and altogether behaved so like a Government agent that the nuns were much troubled as to what his visit portended.

Around the metropolis the people in general sympathised with the Government in their overthrow of the old religion; but north of Trent opinion was more evenly divided, and a strong party remained in defence of the old system. Derby and Nottingham, as usual, allied themselves with the southern half of the country and remained loyal to the Government.

The Catholic rising in Yorkshire in November, 1536, was felt only indirectly in Derby and neighbourhood. The Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Steward


of the Household, received orders from the Government, that in case the rebels should assemble, he must advance as far as Derby and defend the bridges and other passages there. Shrewsbury, with a clearer view of the situation and aided by local knowledge which the Crown agents did not possess, replied that Derby was totally unsuitable from a strategical point of view, but added that "four miles from Derby is a river called Trent, where is a common way, a great cawsey, and a bridge in a plain country, which, if they come to Derby, must be kept". The plan he recommended to the King was to protect the Trent from Swarkestone Bridge to Nottingham; and the King at once showed his appreciation of the scheme by asking for maps of the Trent with its fords and bridges, and an estimate of the number of men required to effect Shrewsbury's purpose. The rebellion, however, was crushed on the banks of the Don, and beyond these proposed preparations Derby took no further part in the outbreak. Shrewsbury was relieved of an unpleasant task, for he had already written to Cromwell complaining of his extreme feebleness, and begging that he might be relieved by some younger man. He died in less than two years afterwards.

The dissolution of the monasteries and the subsequent changes in the English Church were not without their effect on the social condition of the people. The system of dispensing alms and charities to the poor became modified; the money which the wealthy had been accustomed to leave to a neighbouring monastery or church for a new chantry where masses could be sung daily for their souls, now began to be diverted to the building of almshouses


or the dispensing of bread to the poor parishioners after service. An instance combining the old method with the new occurred at St Peter's in Derby, where the master-dyer, Robert Liversage, left money, partly for a chantry and partly as a dole; and the new system of charity is seen in the Devonshire almshouses built by the famous "Bess of Hardwick".

In the last years of Henry VIIL, and during the reign of his son Edward VI., ecclesiastical matters had arrived at a state of uncertainty and change, in which destruction appeared to figure as the chief factor. Records remain of inventories drawn up during the short reign of Edward VI., in which mention is made of the gorgeous robes and draperies which covered the figures of the Virgin and of the Child Jesus in the church of All Saints, and even in the small chapel of St. Mary-on-the-Bridge. These inventories of vestments, mass-books, and altar plate, show that such ornaments were about to give place to the plain altars and simpler ritual of the First Book of Common Prayer. In the list of church books given in the inventory of All Saints' are two missals, and it may be that one of these very books which has escaped the destroying zeal of those times may still be seen in the library of Corpus Christi College at Cambridge. It is a Sarum missal dating from about the year 1061, and, from its red binding, known as the "Derby Red Book". This volume was regarded for centuries as possessing supernatural powers, for on the last page some person, in the style of the Reformation period, has written the following: - "The Red Boke of darbye in the peake of darbyshire. This booke was sumtime had in such reverence in darbieshire


that it was comonlie beleved that whosoever should sweare untruelie uppon this booke should run madd".

The re-establishment of Popery in the days of Queen Mary is very forcibly illustrated in the history of Derby by the martyrdom of Joan Waste, the blind girl who was burnt to death in Windmill Pit in 1556. She seems to have brought herself under the notice of the authorities of All Saints' Church by her outspoken denial of some of the doctrines of the Romish faith, and, according to Fox, was even accustomed to frequent the town gaol, speaking to and exhorting the prisoners in the new religion. The case was reported to the bishop of the diocese, although he, to his credit, did his utmost to explain away the girl's statements and thus allow the matter to lapse. A broad-minded bishop, however, in those days occupied an unenviable position, for he must either show his zeal for the Church and hurt his conscience, or, by his slackness in the cause, render himself an object of suspicion to the Government. He came to Derby and questioned the girl, and but for the interference of his Chancellor would have pronounced her innocent of heresy. The latter, however, seems to have been as anxious to find a case as the bishop was to avoid one; and in the end, the Government was advised of the circumstances, and the dreadful writ, "De heretico comburendo", was sent down.

The girl met her fate with a trust and composure which showed the firmness of her conviction, the awful punishment being witnessed by a great concourse of people. As Fox narrates in his simple style how her brother led the blind girl hand-in-hand from All Saints' Church to the scene of execution, one can


sympathise with Hutton, who in his boyhood lingered around the spot of Joan Waste's martyrdom and mused over its sad memories. The scene must have made a lasting impression on the spectators, for it is one of the few local traditions still surviving among the common people.

With the accession of Elizabeth, two years later, the Church of England again became predominant, and in a few years began to persecute both Puritans and Romanists. In 1588, three recusant priests, Garlick, Ludlam and Simpson, were hanged, drawn and quartered at Derby, their severed limbs being afterwards exposed on St Mary's Bridge, until "two resolute Catholic gentlemen" privately removed them for burial.

A glimpse of the divisions between these two religious parties is afforded in a letter written by Robert Bainbridge to the Government in 1592, containing a list of Papists, open or suspected, among the county nobility. This he did, he writes, "for love of the Gospel and the Queen's safety".

Some of the county nobility, chief among them being "Bess of Hardwick", managed to temporise with both parties; but the FitzHerberts and others, active in the Roman Catholic, interest, were less fortunate. John FitzHerbert, after the confiscation of his property, was thrown into Derby gaol, where he remained for two years. The place, always insanitary, was rendered worse by the number of recusants crowded there at this time, and his son Anthony (described by Bainbridge as "the most noted recusant in Derbyshire"), being confined there for over three years, suffered severely from the gaol-fever which was rampant.


Recusant priests, in spite of the terrible punishments that threatened them, flitted from one country house to another, dispensing the sacraments, carrying news domestic and foreign, and maintaining a Roman Catholic combination, which the Government considered dangerous to the safety of the Queen's person and to the State. In 1593, a priest named Robert Gray confessed that he recently paid a visit to Margaret Thomson at Langley, knowing that she had just been released from Derby gaol, where her husband was still imprisoned as a Popish recusant. He had also said mass at Mr. Langford's house at Longford, a mansion suspected of harbouring these priestly fugitives for several years.

It was in the midst of this period of plots and counterplots that the famous Queen of Scots passed one night in Derby on her journey from Wingfield Manor to TutBury Castle (January, 1585). The Government, knowing that she was the idol of the English Romanists, and always fearful lest some new attempt might be made to release her from captivity, were anxious that the journey should be made across country in a single day, to avoid the publicity of passing through the county town. Sir Ralph Sadler, who had the custody of the Queen of Scots, was as anxious as the Government to avoid risk, but pronounced the journey across country to be impossible, on account of the many hills and woods. Mary, who, as is well known, was lame through rheumatism, could only make the journey by coach, and the only route by which this vehicle could be taken was through Derby. Even the road from Wingfield to Derby appears from Sadler's letters


to have been almost impassable, being evidently little better than a packhorse way; but he caused the road to be surveyed previous to the journey, and arranged temporary deviations at points where it would have been impossible to pull the coach through. In his opinion, the road was "very evell", and the journey of sixteen miles too far for one day.

It was at first intended to begin the journey on Monday, January 11th, but as this was found to clash with the Quarter Sessions at Derby, when there would be more people in the town than usual, the departure was postponed until Wednesday, the 13th. Sadler wrote to the town authorities, giving them strict orders to maintain quiet in the streets, and "to provyde that there be no assemble of gasing (gazing) people". He also wrote to Sir John Zouch and four other county gentlemen, to wait on the Queen at Derby, each with a small train of servants. On the morning of the thirteenth, he wrote to Lord Burghley and to Walsingham, advising them of the arrangements he had made, and the Queen of Scots at the same time despatched a letter to her cousin Elizabeth, of England, which concluded as follows:-

"As I enter my coach, I kiss your hand and pray God to give you, madam, my good sister, long and happy life, and to me your good will".[9] It is one


of the grim facts in history that the hand she affected to kiss signed, two years later, the warrant for her execution.

The journey appears to have been made without mishap, due, perhaps, to the completeness of the preparations made by Sir Ralph. Moreover, the day was fine, and the heavy luggage and most of the servants had gone forward some days previously. The party entered Derby over St. Mary's Bridge, and made their way through the streets, deserted save for the burgesses who had been sworn as special constables to watch at each corner, or to patrol the Market Place, and reached the journey's end near St Peter's Church, at Babington House, a mansion belonging to the unfortunate Anthony Babington, who was destined to lose his life in the conspiracy which decided the fate of the Queen of Scots.

Here occurred an incident which afterwards brought down on Sir Ralph a sharp reprimand from headquarters. The hostess, a widow named Beaumont, had invited a few neighbours, apparently to assist in giving the royal lady a reception suitable to her position; but this excess of hospitality did not escape the notice of one Somers, an agent of the Government, who intruded himself into the rooms occupied by the Queen and her people. In due course Sir Ralph was taken to task on the subject, and was obliged to write an humble explanation, in which he incidentally complains that he was kept awake all night at his inn opposite, partly through anxiety and partly by the noise made by the special watchmen who paraded the street calling the hour.


On the morrow the company was reinforced by the county gentry whom Sadler had invited, and who, with their servants, armed and mounted, accompanied the Queen's coach out of the town and along the Uttoxeter Road to Tutbury.

A glimpse of the character of this fascinating woman is afforded in Sadler's letter relating what took place at Babington House. The Queen of Scots advanced and kissed her hostess, assuring her, with a frankness of speech common to the time, that "she also was a widow, and therefore trusted that they should agree well enough together, having no husbands to trouble them". In the journey from Derby she thanked the gentlemen for their courtesy in escorting her, and told Sir Ralph that she felt grateful to her Majesty for the honour done to her. Sadler states that he thought she was sincere in her belief that the escort had been arranged to do her honour, when in reality it was ordered by the Government to "make a shew of feare" should any zealous Roman Catholics have conspired to rescue her. His anxiety of mind was not improved by the appearance of a gentleman suddenly leaving his house at Hilton and speeding on horseback across country. No untoward incident, however, occurred. Tutbury Castle was reached in safety, and here for two years Mary Stuart lived, passing her time, as she told a visitor, "with her nydill, and contynued so long at it till very payne made her give it over"; although it is to be feared that her employment was not always of so innocent a nature, for it was at Tutbury that the letters were written which involved her in the conspiracy for which nominally she suffered.


The story of her arrest in the forest around Tutbury Castle and of her removal to Fotheringay, where she was tried and beheaded in February, 1587, belongs to the general history of the time, as also does the question of her innocence or complicity in the plot in which young Babington was a central figure.

Whatever may be the consensus of opinion on her character, the eagerness of the Government in hunting for evidence with which to incriminate her has done much to prejudice their case in the judgment of posterity. The Queen of Scots had only been settled a few weeks at Tutbury when an agent of the Government suggested to Walsingham that the carrier between Derby and Tutbury, one Alsop, should be secretly arrested whilst on his journey, and examined before some Justice of the Peace. Alsop had for some time carried parcels openly for the Queen of Scots, and the Government suspected that he might be the medium of a treasonable correspondence. He was to be searched if necessary, but charged upon oath not to disclose what had happened, so that, says the writer, "it may perhaps be the better kept from her knowledge". Evidently the writer's motive in recommending secrecy was not that of respect for the feelings of the royal prisoner, but that the Government might still continue secretly to watch her correspondence.

At the time of Mary's removal to Tutbury the anxiety of the Government concerning the secret plottings of the Romanist party was at its height; but the execution of the Queen in 1587, and the utter defeat of the Spanish Armada in the following


year, allowed the Government and the Protestant party to breathe more freely, although imprisonment of their opponents long continued. As late as the year 1611, Mary Langford, belonging to a Roman Catholic family which had suffered persecution for a generation, was deprived of her property as a Popish recusant

These religious troubles were confined principally to the county gentry, for there is little or no evidence that the common people in Derby were deeply interested in matters of this nature; they had other things to think about. Famine, because of the changes in land tenure, recurred more frequently than formerly, and plague followed in its train, decimating the people in 1592-3, so that in All Saints' parish "there were not two houses together free from it" The miserable condition of the people is apparent from the reports made to the Government in 1623, which also show that, notwithstanding these periodical famines, the landowners resented the recent importation of rye from abroad, and objected to any attempt to remedy thus the evils of scarcity.

The Puritan party, steadily increasing in strength and numbers in London and the home counties, did not figure conspicuously in the religious life of Derby previous to the Civil War, although the troubles of the latter half of the seventeenth century show that Presbyterians, Quakers and Baptists were growing in numbers in town and neighbourhood. On the outbreak of the Civil War, Derby did not declare itself strongly for either party, for the county gentry resolved themselves into Roundhead and Cavaier, without any leader of distinction to give

[Image] ST. JAMES'S LANE (Now St. James's Street).


prominence to either side. Consequently, this great convulsion in the political history of England during the seventeenth century is not memorable in the town's history for any great movement or any decisive action performed there, although the efforts made by Charles I. to levy taxes without the consent of Parliament were as stoutly resisted in Derby as in the country generally.

In the early part of his reign the King endeavoured to collect a general loan, but met with very partial success. The Commissioners for Derbyshire reported to the Council in September, 1626, that in some Hundreds every man refused to pay; in others "they thrust their denial on the Justices with a great and joint noise", saying they would give, "but only by way of Parliament" This method having failed, Charles revived the ancient tax of ship-money, and, contrary to precedent, levied it on inland and maritime counties alike.

In the assessment for this tax Derby was rated at £120, and Sir John Gell, the Sheriff, set about the work of collecting it with a high hand; but the Derby men were in no hurry to meet his demands, and he complains to the Secretary of State in September, 1635, that "they will neither suffer him to be present at their assessments, neither admit he has anything to do with them, or to receive moneys from them". He is evidently annoyed at this rebuff, speaks of the "ill example" which Derby is setting other towns, and concludes his letter by spitefully informing the Government that Derby, instead of paying £120, is "very well able to bear £250 or £300", there being "many very rich men


in the town". Consequently, the levy was raised to £175, but several of the townspeople still refused to pay, and threatened to sue the Sheriff if he distrained on their property.

The bitter feeling which this action of the Sheriff engendered is shown in a letter from the bailiffs to the Council four months later, in which they speak of the "unwarranted burden which the late Sheriff Gell thrust upon them". They had, however, collected the amount (£175) with much difficulty, and had paid it over to the then Sheriff, Sir John Harpur. The following year (1637) is memorable on account of the trial of John Hampden, who refused to pay the tax, and whose public-spirited action raised the courage of the country party. Its effect was apparent in Derby, where the bailiffs, "with much pressure and hardship in regard to their long-continued affliction with the plague", were only able to collect £60.

Eight months later, Henry Mellor, who, in the interval, became the first Mayor of Derby, wrote to the Secretary of State that he had paid-in another thirty pounds, "a great part out of my own purse". He evidently disliked his task of distraining on the defaulters, and, ingeniously suggesting that the writ which he had received as bailiff was void now that he had assumed the office of mayor, asked that a sergeant-at-arms might be sent down to attach the refractory. What steps were taken by the Crown does not appear; but that Derby persisted in its refusal to pay the tax is plain from a letter of Sheriff Agarde, in June, 1640, in which he complains that he cannot collect the ship-money, and that "the mayor


gives him" no answer, except that they will not be answerable to the Sheriff". From the endorsement it would appear that the Mayor received a sharp letter, ordering him, under penalty, to pay in the amount by a fixed date; but five months later, the Long Parliament assembled, and ship-money soon gave place to more serious questions. Events moved rapidly towards a crisis, and the two great parties of the State soon appealed to the sword.

On August 22nd, 1642, the King raised his standard at Nottingham, where he stayed for three weeks collecting an army. On September 13th, he marched to Derby, being met on the way by the trained bands (militia), from whom he selected five hundred men. These soldiers, however, were not altogether well-disposed to the King's cause, for at Nottingham it was found advisable to disarm the trained bands, handing their muskets and pikes to the Royalist recruits; and the account of one Creswell shows that at Derby there was no spontaneous movement to join the royal service. The King's press, he says, took all the men who could be spared. He himself, servant to a gentleman in St. Alkmund's parish, escaped by scaling the garden wall when the guard came, and made his way to Darley, crossing the river by means of the weir, and proceeding to Nottingham, where he joined a troop of horse under the Roundheads.

After staying three days at Derby, where the Corporation, it is said, lent the King a number of small-arms and three hundred pounds, he marched with his forces to Uttoxeter, on his way to the Welsh border; and Derby, like the neighbour town of


Nottingham, eventually became a centre for the Parliamentary forces. On the other hand, the Vicar of All Saints' entered in the Church Register the text which decrees that "every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation"; the Earl of Devonshire, the chief magnate in the county, withdrew to the Continent, leaving his Countess to secretly support the Royalists; and many of the nobility and gentry took sides according to their political or social inclination.

The cause of the Puritan party found a strange champion in Sir John Gell, who had made himself notorious over the collection of the ship-money, and who, six weeks after the King's departure westward, marched into Derby with his followers from Wirksworth,[10] and held the Town Hall as his headquarters for nearly four years. What were the considerations that prevailed with a man of such erratic principles to induce him to accept the leadership, is not plain; certain it is that he was regarded askance by the leading Puritans of the neighbourhood, and it is hard to believe, considering his action when Sheriff, that he commanded either the confidence or the respect of the Derby townspeople. He was regarded rather as a man lacking principle and having no real heart in the cause; whilst his soldiers are described as "stout fighting men, but the most licentious, ungovernable wretches that belonged to the Parliament".[11]


Some allowance must be made for the strong Puritan bent of this writer, and for the fact that she was contrasting them with the soldiers of Nottingham, whose strictness of speech and conduct resembled that of the Ironsides. Gell's soldiers were similar in character to the levies raised generally at the beginning of the war - "a set of poor tapsters and town apprentices", as Cromwell styled them, and from the State correspondence respecting the troops raised in 1640, two years before the outbreak of the Civil War, their general character may be judged. Writing about July in that year, Sir John Coke complains that the troops marching north against the Scots broke into the county gaol at Derby, and questioned the prisoners as to their offences. Finding among them a debtor and a deserter, they took these men with them, saying "they would have no soldier in prison for that"

The Earl of Devonshire, Lord Lieutenant of the county, writing on the same subject to the Council, after mentioning the levy raised by him of four hundred soldiers, with twenty carters and sixty horses to carry stores, says he has billeted them at Derby as being the only place in the county where the law was strong enough to assert itself, "no other place being able to rule or secure itself against a dozen of them". These troops had lain idle at Derby so long that the town and neighbouring gentry were grumbling at the expense, which exceeded that of


other counties by three thousand pounds. Moreover, he is of opinion that the moral tone of the troops was lowered by contamination with the various levies passing through the town during the delay. Such being the description of the local troops of the period, it is no surprise to find that the farmers in the west of the county were afraid to bring their produce to Derby market lest they should be robbed on the way by the soldiery.

The account given of the sacking of Bretby House, near Repton, lends colour to Mrs. Hutchinson's description, and renders it doubtful whether these local troops fought so much for the good of the cause as for plunder and personal malice. The master of the house having retired before them with his men, the besiegers tried to bargain with the Countess, who was left in possession. They would forbear to pillage the place, they said, if she would pay each soldier half-a-crown. On her refusal, they lowered their terms to a lump sum of forty marks; but as she eventually refused to treat with them on any terms, the house was plundered, although the officers saved her own room with its effects.

The Earl of Chesterfield, whose property was so unceremoniously appropriated, retired with his followers to Lichfield, where the cathedral and close, surrounded by a wall dating from medieval times, was easily converted into a fortress for the Royalist party, who placed the Earl in command. Here they were soon besieged by the Puritans under Lord Brooke, who, whilst directing a cannonade, was killed by a musket shot from the battlements.[12] Upon this,


Sir John Gell marched from Derby with what forces could be spared, and resumed the siege with such vigour that part of the central tower fell through the roof into the church, and the besieged soon begged for terms. The victors established themselves in the cathedral, using it as a barracks, and, according to the accounts of Cavalier writers, destroying the monuments, the windows, and the valuable documents; although it should be mentioned that the Royalists had themselves invited this destruction by using it as a place of defence.

During the period of the Civil War, Gell continued his policy of harrying bodies of Royalists as far off as Newark, Leicester, Chester and the borders of Yorkshire, his object being to prevent any serious concentration of the enemy in his district. In general, these expeditions were successfully accomplished; occasionally his troops met with reverses, causing them to retire on Derby as the base of operations. Their reports complain that the Royalists robbed and plundered the country people, and on one occasion, when the Derby men fell back before the superior forces of the Earl of Newcastle, the enemy "pillaged to the very gates of the town"; but in the attack on Bretby House, already noticed, their own report proves that all the pillaging did not belong to one party, and a letter written by a prisoner, taken in one of their assaults on Burton, dearly shows that the question of booty and ransom was always prominent. The writer states that he was taken from his house to Derby, where he was kept prisoner for ten or twelve weeks, his cattle having been driven off to Derby for sale.


Eventually it was suggested that he should lend to Major Molineux, one of Gell's officers, the sum of a hundred pounds, evidently as ransom; and after some bargaining, in which Gell himself took part, he was released for sixty pounds.

Amongst a number of raids and marches around Derby, the chief event deserving of record was the battle of Hopton Heath, near Stafford, in March, 1643, memorable on account of the death of the Earl of Northampton, whose body was brought to Derby and deposited in the Cavendish vault in All Saints' Church. Charging too far into the ranks of the enemy, his horse was killed under him and his helmet struck off. The Roundheads, who surrounded him, offered him quarter, but with the contempt of a true Cavalier he shouted, "I scorn to take quarter from such base rogues as you are!" whereupon a soldier rushed at him with his halberd and slew him. At Uttoxeter a trumpeter waited upon Gell with a request from the dead man's son that the body should be delivered to them; but Gell made a counterclaim for surgeons' charges for embalming the body, adding thereto an insulting demand for ordnance captured in the battle, with which the young Earl not being able to comply, the matter fell through.

In this engagement the Royalists at first succeeded in driving Gell from his position, although the Roundheads eventually recovered their ground and won the day. This was effected by a junction of Gell's forces with the troops from Cheshire under Sir William Brereton, and under these circumstances both sections of the victors claimed the honour of having decided the issue. Gell says the victory was achieved


by his "getting his musketeers in order and giving the enemy such a vollie of shott upon their chardge" as made them retire; although another account states that Brereton came up at the critical moment with fresh troops, which enabled the Derby men to regain their ground

During the four years that Gell kept his headquarters at Derby, the leaders of the Puritan army gradually changed its character, and the New Model under Cromwell eventually carried all before it. The system of local attack and reprisal, which obtained in Derbyshire and elsewhere, was not destined to effect any serious or lasting result; but a drilled army, concentrated on a set purpose, soon succeeded in bringing the war to a successful issue. Shortly after the surrender of the King to the Scots at Newark, in May, 1646, the Derby men were disbanded, and the local unrest was at an end According to the report, each dragoon received £4 6s., and each foot soldier £1 6s.; but the officers complained that they could obtain nothing from the Parliament, not even repayment of the sums they disbursed during the war; for money was scarce, the pay of the army generally was greatly in arrear, and Parliament was too deeply occupied in considering measures for its own safety to concern itself with the minor question of finance.

During the subsequent period of the Commonwealth the pulpits were filled with Puritan ministers and others, who upheld the religious changes of worship favoured by the Government. Whether any considerable enthusiasm was shewn for the Puritan system in Derby is not apparent; but an


earlier report exists, of March, 1639, evidencing that some little resistance was offered to the Romish tendencies of the Government of Charles I. It is therein stated that the Vicar, the Rev. Dr. Wilmot, had on a certain Sunday omitted parts of the service, such as the Gloria after the Psalms, and had also thought fit to omit the sermon, preferring to use some catechism of his own in place thereof. Nearly three thousand persons were present, which shows that something extraordinary was expected; but whether the crowd was drawn by curiosity or by conviction does not appear.

In 1643, in the heat of the Civil War, Joseph Swetnam was appointed to All Saints', which post he filled with moderation and ability until 1662, when, foreseeing the trend of wents under the rule of Charles II., he quietly retired. That he was a man of some standing, appears from a news-letter forwarded to Lord Clarendon in exile, dated May, 1653, in which it is stated that Cromwell was arranging for the return of Prince Charles, and that among the Presbyterians who boldly advocated this course was Swetnam, of Derby, although this statement is not borne out by subsequent events.

An item of personal interest which appears during this period is the imprisonment in Derby of George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, or "Quakers", a nickname first applied to them by the Derby magistrate, Gervase Bennett, when Fox bade him "tremble at the word of the Lord". Fox, narrating in his diary his eccentricities in Derby, incidentally throws some light on the religious life of the town. Hearing the church bells ringing, he


made inquiry, and was told there was to be a great lecture that day, and that many officers in the army were to be present to hear Colonel Barton preach, a man of some note, who three years later sat in Barebones' Parliament. Fox thereupon walked up to the "steeple-house", as he styles it, and, entering the church, interrupted the preacher's discourse by his usual wild denunciations. For this he was committed to the town prison (October 30th, 1650), although under the Commonwealth such | "blasphemy" was considered by many of the Council deserving of death. The leniency of the town magistrates did not end here, for they permitted him to go at large to the extent of a mile from the prison, hoping, as the gaoler privately told him, that he would take the opportunity of leaving the town and would trouble them no more. Fox, however, remained true to his parole, preaching in the streets and in the Market Place, after his eccentric fashion, and always returning to the noisome prison at night, until after more than a twelvemonth he was formally released, and left the town.

A general rising in the north of England, planned by one John Booth, a member of an influential Presbyterian family in Cheshire, was arranged for August 5th, 1659. The Government troops prevented an outbreak, but some of the plotters, including one Colonel White, eluded their pursuers at Nottingham and came to Derby on market day (August 26th), where they read Booth's declaration demanding a free Parliament. Some of the more enthusiastic townspeople responded, closing their shops and seizing the horses of the militia, many


of whom espoused the cause of the rebels. The colonel of the troops discreetly drew them out of the town on to Nun's Green, where he refused to take any further part, and retired, when dissension did its work. The soldiers dispersed to their quarters, and the townspeople, finding they had acted too precipitately, made haste to admit their error. A troop of horse was hastily despatched from Stafford, but hearing at Uttoxeter that the matter had ended, they withdrew.

This decisive action on the part of the colonel of the militia succeeded in suppressing an attempted rebellion which had been fermenting for some time. Four years previous, the gentry of the Midlands were plotting against the Government and arranging their rendezvous in Derbyshire; and the Presbyterians, who were anxious for the downfall of the army and of the Independents, joined their forces with the Church party for this object The preachers in Derby urged-on their congregations from the pulpit to rise in favour of the restoration of Charles, who, as they vainly believed, would establish Presbyterianism as the religion of the State; but Swetnam, better able to read the signs of the times, continued to uphold the Commonwealth, "and said they were fools".

As it happened, Booth's rising failed more through lack of organisation than from want of followers. The Government took speedy measures to prevent any further outbreak; troops were brought into the town, and many of the gentry and others of the neighbourhood were arrested. The register of St. Peter's Church records the burial of many


prisoners about this time, who died in the county gaol that stood over the brook.

Politics moved rapidly at this period, and with the fall of the Commonwealth and the restoration of the Stuarts in 1660, the Presbyterians, for a short time, came into favour, although they soon found themselves deserted by their old allies, the Church party, and even driven from their benefices. The consequence was a series of attempted plots against the Government which they had helped to establish. In November, 1661, signs of approaching disturbance appeared in Derby, and the militia were called out; but Sir Francis Burdett, finding after three days' training that all was quiet, disbanded them. From the statements made by persons arrested during the next three years for alleged complicity in these plots, a great deal of unrest is apparent. In June, 1664, one Thomas Calton was arrested in the town for spreading sedition and enlisting four men, but the constable permitted him to escape, and he was not re-captured for some weeks. He then divulged the names of a number of Presbyterians in the neighbourhood who, he affirmed, were members of a widespread conspiracy, one in particular being Captain Wright, who was only awaiting the signal to rise in arms. This person, on being arrested, asserted his innocence, and was bailed in two thousand pounds whilst further enquiries were made. Calton further stated what was the popular impression of the time, that the King favoured the Papists, who were expected to rise and murder their Protestant neighbours.

For ten years, successive Acts forbidding the


meeting of Nonconformists, for public worship were rigidly enforced, until the year 1672, when a royal indulgence towards the Roman Catholics and Dissenters was granted. Two Presbyterian preachers, John Oatfield and Luke Cranwell, then obtained licences to officiate at the houses of Thomas Sleigh and Samuel Warde, in Derby; but after a year's trial the Dissenters, regarding this concession to the Roman Catholics as a dangerous precedent, decided to abandon their share of the privilege, and on petition it was withdrawn.

The fear of a Roman Catholic rising gained strength with time; and when in the autumn of 1678 the infamous Titus Oates came forward with stories which drove London mad with terror, the country gentry spread the panic by "taking for Gospel everything he affirmed". Derby suffered in the general contagion, for on the night of Sunday, December 1st, the rumour was spread broadcast that a letter had been found at Thurlston, in which it was hinted that five hundred Papists would assemble on Nun's Green on the following night; yet, according to a religious census taken two years before (1676), the Romanists in Derby numbered only four persons, against 101 Protestant Dissenters and 2,014 Churchmen. The sequel showed the rumour to have been an idle tale, but the townspeople passed twenty-four hours of miserable suspense, in which, doubtless, the Roman-Catholics shared.

Seven years later, James II. ascended the throne, and at once started on that mad career which drove him into exile. His sole aim being to re-establish the Roman Catholic religion in the land, one of his


first acts was to admit members of that sect to offices of State. It was in resisting this early inroad upon the power of Parliament that Derby was indirectly made famous by the action of its member, John Coke. The House of Commons went in procession to Whitehall with an address which mildly protested against the suggestions made by the King in his speech, but he regarded this display as dictatorial, and was displeased The members returned to the House, and "were considering their position, when the member for Derby precipitated matters by rising from his seat and saying, "I hope that we are all Englishmen, and that we shall not be frightened from our duty by a few high words". The effect of this observation shows the awe and fear in which the Crown was held in those days. The House broke into a turmoil. The Court party, seizing their opportunity, shouted, "Take down his words! To the Tower!" and in the uproar, his own party, who suggested that Coke should be reprimanded, could not obtain a hearing. Nothing short of imprisonment could efface this insult to the Crown, and to the Tower Coke was sent. In the House of Peers, where the same question came under discussion, the leader of the Opposition, or country party, was the Earl of Devonshire, a coincidence which suggests that Coke knew the opinion of the chief magnate in his county, and felt emboldened in consequence. This stubborn action of the Commons had no effect on the determined policy of the King, who, during the three years of his reign, broke both law and precedent in order to attain his object. The Corporation of Derby, like other boroughs,


was re-modelled, so as to ensure the return of a Court nominee, who would vote according to order; although it may have been whispered in Derby that the Earl of Devonshire was cautiously working for their deliverance, and that a change was impending. It soon came. On the landing of the Prince of Orange in November, 1688, the Earl, with a large body of friends and dependents, rode into Derby and called on the local gentry to join him. The details of the rising of 1659 and its miserable sequel, however, were still remembered. Moreover, the Earl of Devonshire, if matters should go wrong, might "fly" over sea; but in the recollection of the Derby tradesman there was such a person as Judge Jeffreys, who had recently conducted "The Bloody Assize". They, therefore, held cautiously aloof, and the Earl proceeded to Nottingham, which became his headquarters.

Under the tolerant rule of William III. the Protestant Dissenters were permitted to build meeting-houses without any serious restrictions, and the old Friar Gate Chapel, built in 1698, still retains the coat-of-arms of the King who re-established the Protestant religion and abolished the old persecutions. About 1694, the Independents and Presbyterians throughout the country combined to build their chapels, known as Presbyterian Meeting-houses; and, in 1713, the Friar Gate assembly is described as "the Congregation of Protestant Dissenters in Derby". The first minister was Ferdinando Shaw, M.A, a scholar and writer, who gave his sect a position, of which the Church party of the ultra-Tory school soon became envious.


This strong feeling against the Dissenters was emphasised in the sermon preached in All Saints' Church by Dr. Henry Sacheverell on August 15th, 1709. That he should have preached in Derby at all appears to have been a matter more of accident than of design. His relation, or supposed relation, George Sacheverell, was Sheriff of Derbyshire, and the Doctor, his chaplain, described as being "an inordinately vain man", seized the opportunity to preach the Assize sermon on a subject about which the nation was strongly divided; although his discourse, judged from the modern standpoint, was more calculated to send his audience to sleep than to inspire religious bigotry or animus. The gist of the sermon was in the conclusion, the many heads and sub-heads being as innocent of offence as they were dreary and commonplace.

The text was Timothy's advice, "Neither be partakers of other men's sins"; and the preacher, after elaborating on the varied methods by which men might commit this error, came to his sixth, which denounced the "authorising or publishing any heresy, false doctrine, schism, faction, irreligion, or immorality". From this standpoint it was but a small step to proceed to denounce the Quakers and other sectaries as people of wicked and infamous character, and to lay down the proposition that "a show of more zeal and purity is the most infallible token of a dexterous and refined hypocrite and knave". In spite of these bold assertions, it is scarcely probable that the bare delivery of the sermon would have aroused much controversy had it not been published, ostensibly at the "request of


the Grand Jury. It was furnished with a preface by Dr. Sacheverell, which is simply a eulogy upon the High Sheriff.

For this sermon, and for another which he preached in St. Paul's Cathedral, he was tried before the Lords in Westminster Hall, and suspended for three years; but this lenient punishment was regarded by his friends as a virtual victory, and Derby, with other towns, showed its satisfaction by the usual bell-ringing and bonfires.

The accession of George I. brought the Whigs again into power, and religious toleration, which had waned under the Tory rule of Anne, again asserted itself. The Church, however, threw the whole of its strength against the Government, some of the clergy even going so far as to espouse the Jacobite cause. In Derby, the methods of some fifty years previous now returned, the ministers exciting their congregations from the pulpits by their political harangues, whilst the Dissenters went in bodily fear, and kept a nightly watch over their Meeting House. Hutton tells us that the Vicar of All Saints' ventured to slip King James into the Litany in place of King George, but was quickly brought to book by the military gentlemen present; whilst Mr. Cantrell, of St. Alkmund's, drank the health of the Pretender on his knees.[13]

It was during this period in the history of politics in the Church that the ancient Gothic body of All Saints' was demolished (1722), to give place to the


present classical structure. The minister, Dr. Michael Hutchinson, has been humorously depicted as the prince of beggars, who succeeded in collecting from far and near, and all and sundry, the sum of about four thousand pounds; but his efforts at church building were less successful, for the rebuilt edifice, although regarded at the time as very beautiful, remains as a gloomy example of the Roman Doric style affected by Gibbs, its architect.

In the year 1719, the literary history of the town commenced with the establishment of The Derby Postman, which appears to have lapsed in 1731, its place being taken in the following year by a living weekly newspaper, The Derby Mercury. From this date, the fragmentary and often obscure records of the past centuries give place to an unbroken chronicle of town events - the story of its modern expansion and development.

[9] "De Wingfield le 13 Janvier (1585).
"Madame ma bonne soeur,
". . . Aussitost que j'auray un peu
"recouvert mes forces à Tutebury je ne fauldray vous
"escrire sur vostre response à mes articles et espère
"que vous en demeurerez satisfaicte. Cependant preste
"à entrer en mon cosche je vous bayse les mayns et
"prie Dieu qu'il vous donne madame ma bonne sœur
"longue et heureuse vie, et à moy vostre bonne grace.
"Vostre humble et tres affectionatàe sœure et cousine,
"Marie R".
[10] Defoe, who passed through the district around Wirksworth some eighty years later, mentions the daring character of the miners there, and states that they were often employed in the army in the risky work of sapping and mining.
[11] See Mrs. Lucy Hutchinson's description of Gell's following (Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson, 4to, 1806, p. 156), as "nimble youths at plunder", and her sarcastic remarks are amply justified by contemporary writers. In a tract entitled A Case for the City Spectacles (4to, 1648), it is related that "one Hope", one of Gell's officers, "plundered most sacrilegiously a Communion cup and [which?] was pulled out of his Breeches". The same writer accuses Gell's men of stripping the slain at Hopton Heath.
[12] The spot where he fell is still pointed out to visitors. It was reported, and currently believed, that he had that morning prayed openly, "That, if the cause he was in were not right and just, he might presently be cut off".
[13] The truth of this story has been held questionable, but from the private diary of Mr. Cantrell, seen by the writer of this note (although now unhappily destroyed by his last descendant, together with many other important documents), it is certain that his sympathies were strongly in favour of the Stuarts.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in November 2016.

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