Bradwell: Ancient and Modern

A History of the Parish and of Incidents in the Hope Valley.

By Seth Evans (1912)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013

Chapter XXI.


Leading Inhabitants in 1829.

The population of Bradwell has varied with its vicissitudes. In the year 1801 there were 955 inhabitants, and in 1811 the population had increased to 1,074. When the census of 1821 was taken a further increase was proved, the number being 1,130. Ten years later (1831), when lead mining was very bad, the number of inhabitants was shown to be 1,153 - still a slight increase - but in 1841 it was 1,273. In 1851 the population was returned as 1,334, viz., 650 males, and 684 females, this being the highest ever known. But from this period there was a gradual decline owing to depression in lead mining, and the closing of cotton mills, for in 1861 a slight decrease was shown, the figures being 1,304, but in 1871 it had further decreased to 1,141, the low price of lead having caused some of the mines to be abandoned. In 1881 there was another big decrease, the returns showing only 1,019, but in 1891 there were so many empty houses that the total number of inhabitants was but 837. But during the next decade the tide turned, mainly owing to the construction of the Dore and Chinley Railway, and the popularity of Bradwell as a resort for health and pleasure, and the census of 1901 returned 1,033 inhabitants. The returns of 1911 showed by far the greatest increase in the history of the place, the number of inhabitants then being 1,330.

When the River was Forded.

A century ago such a convenience as a bridge was not known in Bradwell, although the Brook flowed right through the centre of the place. As a matter of fact, the water had to be forded at a spot now known as Bridge End; at Town End, Town Bottom, The Hills, and other places, every water-course, whether brook or rivulet, being open. Water Lane, now Church Street, was an open stream, with a footpath by the side.

The date of the erection of Causeway Bridge, near the Roman causeway in Hope Lane, is not known, but it is the oldest structure of the kind in the district. Nor is it known by whom it was built, but it is repaired by the townships of Bradwell and Hope. In 1814 the Bridge over the brook at Bridge End was built, and in the same year two culverts were constructed over small rivulets. In 1817 the Commissioners of Common Lands built another bridge over the brook in the Holmes; in 1818 and 1829 other bridges were constructed. In 1823 three bridges were built over the Sitch rivulet on the Hills.

A Community of Eighty Years Ago.

A glance at the old town and its people eighty odd years ago - in the year 1829 cannot fail to be interesting. In those days they were a community to themselves, isolated from the rest of the world, with the carrier's cart to Sheffield the only means of communication with the outer world, a contrast to the growing, stirring place of to-day, with half the number of its inhabitants not natives. But even so far back the population of miners and weavers was almost as great as now.

The miners - men, women and children - were daily sending their lead ore to the smelting mills, of which there were several, with their tall chimneys belching forth volumes of black smoke. James Furniss and Company were the principal firm of lead smelters, and their works were extensive. Another smelting mill was worked by Isaac and Jeremy Royse, of Castleton.

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Jeremy was born during some excitement at Speedwell Mine Castleton, and became proprietor of that remarkable place. The smelting works and cupolas of the Furnisses and Royses have long been demolished, but that of the Middletons in the Meadow, is now used as farm buildings.

And this colony of miners found employment for a good number of tradesmen. As blacksmiths there were Thomas Bradbury, in Hollow-gate; Wm. Bennett, George Sanderson, Thomas Bradwell, George Holme, in Netherside, and Richard Walker, who came to an untimely end. The only smithy remaining is that of George Holme, but his son is at Hope.

And as with blacksmiths, so with wheelwrights. The miners found them plenty of work. There were Benjamin and Isaac Somerset, with their big timber yard full of stacks of timber for mining purposes; Jacob Marshall, at Yard Head; and George Bradwell, but their workshops have long ago disappeared.

The hatters, too, were a force to be reckoned with, for hats were made here for the London markets, and the rough felt hats were fetched to all parts of Derbyshire. The big hatters were William and James Evans, who were people of means, indeed, William endowed the old chapel; Robert Jackson; and there was a whole family of Middletons in the same business, George, Charles, Joseph, and Robert, all in business on their own account. But the industry has long been defunct, and houses now occupy the sites of the old hat manufactories.

Handloom weaving, too, was yet in vogue, though not to the same extent as at a more remote period. But the weavers still found employment for a shuttle-maker, William Fox, whose lad, Samuel, then just apprenticed at Hathersage, was destined to become one of the greatest manufacturers England has ever known, and the founder of the famous firm of Samuel Fox and Company. The house in which the celebrity was born is still there in Water Lane, now dignified by the name of Church Street. The Pearsons, too, were finding employment for many at their cotton mills, one where the white lead works now stands - indeed, the cotton mill itself remains intact - another at the bottom of Stretfield, a portion of it converted into the farm bailiff's house, and the third, the new mill in Stretfield.

Such of the rising generation whose parents could afford to give them a little schooling were being taught by John Darnley a famous schoolmaster in those days, and he was teaching the “free scholars” under Elias Marshall's Charity in a schoolroom in Hugh Lane that had just been built at the expense of John Birley, who still resided in the village. And the Wesleyans were conducting the only Sunday School in the place, with 300 scholars, in a schoolroom built by public subscription, now the Conservative Club.

Equally interesting it is to know who were catering for the wants of the people in those days. There was Thomas Hill, the great shopkeeper and lead ore buyer, whose shop is still there at the top of Water Lane. But there was no such thing as the Truck Act. There was also John Somerset, who did a big trade, in fact it was John Somerset who built the bridge over the brook at Town Bottom, so that carts could get to and from his shop, which is now known as “Brook House”. There was Joseph Barber, who lived and carried on business in Town Gate, in the property above the White Hart, now enclosed by palisadings. One night Joseph Barber and his wife returned from a prayer meeting at the Wesleyan Chapel to find that their house had been entered and robbed, and the marauders had written with chalk across the front of the mantelpiece, “Watch, as well as pray”. There was also George Middleton, Isaac Hill, Thomas Gleadhill, and Thomas Burrows, of Smalldale, who was the Sheffield carrier.

Whether or not butchers did a roaring trade is a question, but there were plenty of them, and their old shops still remain. There were John Bradwell and his son John in Town Gate; Elias Needham, next to the White Hart; and Alexander Cheetham, in Water Lane. The tailors were Joseph Elliott and his son Thomas, and Richard Kay; and the shoemakers - there were no machine-made boots then - were Robert Middleton, in Town Gate, Anthony Marshall, Thomas Elliott, William Revill (who lived in Nether Side), and Obadiah Stafford. The stonemasons were John Broadbent, George Downing, and George Walker.

But the miners were proverbial for weting their whistles, and on their reckoning days the place resounded with their merriment. No wonder then, that there should be a good number of “houses with the picture over the door”. Which is, or where was the oldest of these old inns, is not known, but certain it is that in the year 1577, Godfrey Morton and Ottiwell Yellott kept inns in Bradwell. Eghty odd years ago the White Hart was kept by Elias Needham, the Bull's Head by Ellen Bradwell, and the Green Dragon (now cottages) by Joseph Bocking. These three lived in the old Town Gate, and right in the centre, as if placed there ready to catch their victims, were the stocks, where the tipplers were made fast. At the top of Smithy Hill Robert Morton, an auctioneer, kept the Rose and Crown, while the Newburgh Arms, which had only just been built, was kept by William Kenyon, and the Bramalls were at the Bowling Green in Smalldale. William Bradwell kept the Rose Tree, a house that lost its license seventy years back, and in Nether Side there was the Old Ship kept by Thomas Gleadhill, now old cottages close to the Wesleyan Manse, and the New Ship kept by William Revill, where Crompton and Evans' Bank now stands. The Shoulder of Mutton, the

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Bath Inn, and the Bridge Inn came into existence as public-houses some years afterwards.

In religions work the Wesleyans were providing accommodation for most of the people in their present chapel; the Primitive Methodists had not long built their first chapel, now a cottage; the Baptists were struggling along in their old chapel, now the Primitive School, dipping their converts in the waters of the brook, and the congregation of the old Presbyterian Chapel had by this time become Unitarian.

And there were three Friendly Societies (one a Women's Club), with a total membership of 280.

Joseph Hibberson, Famous Singer of 19th Century
Clement Morton, Famous Singer of Last Century

A Musical Community.

Most of the people in the Peak district are strongly attached to musical pursuits, the inhabitants of Bradwell, Castleton, Tideswell, Litton, Eyam, Hucklow, and other places in particular. Very often the whole family cultivate the taste for music, and the villages contain their choirs of singers and bands of instrumental performers. To mention those who were famous as musicians in the olden days is impossible, but it is close on a hundred years since the old Bradwell Band was formed, a mixture of brass and reed instruments, one of which, a curious instrument known as the serpent, belonging to the late Job Middleton, being still in existence, as also is the fiddle of the late Jacob Hallam, another local worthy. These musicians were looked upon as institutions in the locality, and as they rendered service to the community the latter felt under some kind of obligation to keep their instruments in tune. Jacob Hallam was fiddler at the Wesleyan Chapel, and in an account book, under date 1833, there is the following entry:-

“Jacob Hallam's Fiddle Repaired, cost
with strings 15s.”

“Robert Middleton 1s., Josiah Barber 1s.,
John Maltby 1s., John Middleton,
shoemaker, 1s., Joseph Barber, sen., 1s., Thomas
Hill 1s. Johnson Evans 6d., George Fox 1s.,
Hugh Bocking 1s., Thos. Bradwell 6d.,
Robert Bocking, sen., 6d., Wm. Bocking 6d.,
Robt. Bocking, jun., 1s., John Bradwell
1s., Messrs. Pearson 3s.”

And a glimpse at the Hope Churchwarden's accounts serves to show that Bradwell instrumentalists were to the fore quite a century and a half ago, at the old Parish Church. In 1759, “the inhabitants of the parish of Hope in vestry assembled agree to pay the sum of sixteen shillings and sixpence towards paying for a Bassoon and Hautbois to be used in the Parish Church”. And no doubt William Jeffery, of Bradwell, found playing that Bassoon thirsty work, for in the accounts there are numerous entries of payments for ale and dinners for William at the Woodroofe Arms. Presumably, he spent the Sunday at Hope, having his dinner provided by the wardens between morning and afternoon services.

Other notable folk in the musical world in the early part of last century were

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Joseph Hibberson, a famous bass singer; Ambrose Gleadhill, one of the finest fiddlers in Derbyshire; and Clement Morton.

When a Cattle Fair was Held.

Formerly a cattle fair was held at Bradwell. A century ago it was well attended, the old Town Gate being the Market Place. There was also all the usual paraphernalia of a pleasure fair. But half a century ago it declined until it ceased altogether. Here are its latter years:-

1859, two cows, one sheep, and one stirk; 1860, two cows and one sheep; 1861, not a single thing of any description; 1862, seven cows, one sow, three pigs, and one donkey. In 1863, six buyers turned up, but not a beast of any description was offered for sale, and this was the last fair.

The Wakes.

The date of the establishment of the Wakes is a mystery. For centuries it has been held on the second Sunday in July, and continued through the following week, but the bull-baiting, bear-baiting, cockfighting, rabbit coursing, badger-baiting, and drinking which characterised the festival generations back have long ago ceased and given way to a holiday for health and pleasure.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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