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 XXX.


And Their Impressions.

Bradwell has often been honoured with the visits of men of letters, who have given their impressions of the place and its people. Some of these are curious reading in these days.


When Hutchinson made his tour of the Peak a hundred years ago the Bagshawe Cavern had just been discovered in 1807. Going down Bradwell Dale he inquired for the newly discovered cavern, and here is his own version of his experience:- Several of the country people answered that they knew nothing of it; and it was some time before I found that they did not understand the meaning of the word cavern; for upon changing my question to that of a place underground, information was immediately given; observing one person more simple than the rest I could not help asking him a few further questions.

“Is it two miles, my good fellow, to Hope?” said I.

“Aye”, answered he.

“Is it twelve o'clock?”

“Aye”, answered he.

“Is that Bradwell before me?”

“Aye, mester”.

“These ayes being still answered to several other interrogations, I asked him, as he seemed between forty and fifty years of age, whether to the best of his knowledge and belief he had ever said yes in his life”.

“The simpleton immediately scratched his head, produced the following candid and ingenious answer: 'Why mester, to tell yo th' truth, for its now use telling a lie, I believe I ne'er did.'”


Glover, the Derbyshire historian, who visited Bradwell (1829), appeared to be particularly impressed with the early marriages here, and handed down to future generations the information that “The young people here of both sexes generally marry at the age of 18”. With these few words he dismisses the subject.

William Wood, the historian of Eyam, with whom Bradwell was a favourite spot, said (1862) that “Like all other mountain-hid villages, it contains a population strongly marked by peculiarities of custom. retaining notions of a highly superstitious nature, and most pugnaciously tenacious of their numerous time-honoured, antique usages. Here, to a deplorably excessive degree, inter-marriage exists, and have existed for ages”.


Bernard Bird, in his “Perambulations of Barney, the Irishman” (1850), alludes to this trait of character, for he observes: “The attachment of the inhabitants of Bradwell to their own people is very strong; they seldom or never inter-marry with, strangers, and are a community of relations, consisting of about 300 families, or 1,500 inhabitants. . . . I have traded with the inhabitants for 38 years, and in justice to them must say that I have always found them (without exception) of sterling worth and integrity”.


James Montgomery, “The Christian poet”, his friends Ebenezer Rhodes, author of “Peak Scenery”, Sir Francis Chantry, the eminent sculptor, James Everett, the Wesleyan historian, and John Holland, were frequent visitors to Bradwell in the early part of last century, and in the life of the poet, written by Holland and Everitt, there is an interesting and curious reference to Bradwell.

On April 26th, 1823, Montgomery being then 51 years of age, he took tea with Mr. Holland and Mr. Molineaux, of Macclesfield, at the house of Mr. Cowley, a Sheffield manufacturer, whose place of business was in Pinstone Street. In the course of the evening the conversation turned on the writing of epitaphs for tombstones. Montgomery spoke of the reluctance he felt in composing them, though they were often extorted from him. “I have an order to write an epitaph on a good woman at Bradwell by next Tuesday”, said the poet. “If Mr. Holland pleases, he shall write it”.

Holland's reply was “I might surely venture to do it for an obscure burying-ground in the High Peak. Did you ever visit Bradwell?” asked Holland.

“Yes”, replied Montgomery, “on one occasion many years ago, and I have good occasion to remember the visit. The entrance into the village amidst the rocks is by a very steep descent. When my horse reached a certain part of the road he suddenly went down upon his knees, pitching me as suddenly over his head upon the stones. I was not, however, much hurt, and got up again as well as I could, unassisted by any one of half a dozen petrifaction of men who stood and witnessed the accident apparently with as little emotion as the limestone crags around us”.

“Then they offered neither assistance nor commiseration?” observed Holland.

[Page 110]

“Not they”, replied Montgomery. “Such an occurrence appeared to be not strange to them; for I heard one of the fellows say ‘Aye, that's where everybody falls’”.

The lines of the epitaph sent to Bradwell on this occasion were as follows:-

“The wicked cease from troubling here,
And here the weary are at rest;
Henceforth, till Christ their life appear,
The slumbers of the just are blest,
The saint who in this silent bed
Waits the last trumpet from the skies,
Shall then with joy lift up her head,
And like her risen Saviour rise”.


Nearly quarter of a century afterwards on July 31st, 1847 - the two poets, Montgomery and Holland, had the following conversation on Holland's return home after spending a few days at Hope.

“I am glad to find you have escaped safely from the caverns and all the other perils of the Peak”, said Montgomery.

“I shall not soon forget the alarm of one of my nieces on being ferried over the little lake in the celebrated Castleton cavern”, observed Holland.

“Nor shall I ever forget my sensations under similar circumstances”, said Montgomery. “Indeed I never felt so powerfully the combined impression of awe and sublimity as when I lay in the shallow boat on my back, and my breast nearly in contact with the under surface of a mass of thousands of tons of rock that only appeared suspended, as it were, by a hair, while the number of immense blocks lying about me reminded me that these portions of the roots of the mountains had at some period been actually detached. When I used to visit that neighbourhood on the annual recurrence of Bible Society and missionary anniversaries, Dr. Orton was vicar of Hope, and the Methodists, placed as they were, between the noted preaching-stead of Bradwell and the famous love-feast locality of Woodlands, were exceedingly zealous and flourishing. Did you you go to the church or to the chapel?”

“We went to both”, replied Holland, “to the church in the morning and afternoon, and to the Wesleyan Chapel in the evening. The present worthy vicar of Hope is the Rev. W.C.B. Cave, and I was equally surprised and gratified to recognise his excellent wife sitting on the lowest form among the poor women in the Methodist Chapel. Indeed, I was more struck with the rare fact - for rare it is now-a-days - of a lady in her position affording such evidence that her religion raised her above mere church or chapel prejudices than I was by the magnificent mountain masses of Mam Tor, Winhill, Losehill, and the Winnats, which I could see from the chapel windows. I have mentioned to two or three clergymen, since I came home, the fact of the frequent attendance of good Mrs. Cave at this little hill-side conventicle, with all the circumstantial aggravations of the case - such as the vehemence of the rustic preacher, the loud and indecorous responses of the humble mountaineers, the great number of them present, the hearty singing of Wesley's hymns, with which the lady in question was evidently provided - nay, that she had been known to go into a class meeting! and, above all, the consideration that she is, in all other respects, an active, intelligent and excellent woman. And my good clerical friends not only expressed their surprise at my statement, but regarded such conduct in a vicar's wife as highly scandalous - the morning attendance of those Peak Methodists at church notwithstanding!”

“The more shame for them”, exclaimed Montgomery. “Her conduct as a Christian woman is highly to her credit. Why should she not join in social worship with her Methodist neighbours when there is no service at the church? And why should she not make herself personally acquainted with, and even encourage those good men who are engaged in preaching the gospel to scores of persons in the parish who might not come to hear her husband? I warrant she is not on that account less active in the discharge of her other position and proper duties”.

“Not she, indeed”, replied Holland, “if I may judge from the reports of the villagers as to the way in which she labours among them, and from what I saw of her activity in shepherding up all the boys and girls who were old enough, to be examined and instructed preparatory to their confirmation by the Bishop”.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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