Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Aston, Shallcross & Offerton Halls

IS it along the chancels of the Churches of the County that we must look for the tombs of our illustrious dead? No! Take the family of Balguy. John, one of the greatest of theological controvertialists, lies at Harrogate, County York; Thomas, who refused a bishopric, in the south aisle of Winchester Cathedral; Charles, the famous translator of Boccaccio, in the chancel of St. John's, Peterborough. If we tread the cloisters of Westminster Abbey or the chapels of York Minster, if we go east into Norfolk, or south into Cornwall, or in the sacred edifices of Paris, we note the resting-places of men, who, in the flesh, had passed their boyhood in the valley of the Derwent. The Balguys were one of those Peak families who have obtained a niche in the temple of fame, from their literary attainments or legal acumen, in company with the Ashtons, Bagshawes, Barkers, Bradburys, Buxtons, Cavendishes, Cotterells, Cokaynes, Eyres, Fulwoods, Greaves, and Milnes.

The Halls of the Balguys were at Aston, Hope, and Derwent, all situated in the Peak. During the reign of Charles II., one of the lads took up his abode in Sheffield, and became Master of the Grammar School. Both son and grandson of this luminary, though clergymen, greatly distinguished themselves by Philippics, that ranked them not only as brilliant rhetoricians but as philosophers and logicians. The opponent of one was Stebbing; the opponent of the other, Priestley; thus we can estimate both men by their antagonists. The son of the grammarian, in his youth, gave no promise of his after celebrity, for he spent it in the perusal of romances. The perusal of Livy, however, inspired him with nobler purpose. He entered St. John's College, Cambridge, where he took his degree of B.A., at the age of twenty. He became tutor to the family of Banks, of Scrofton, Nottinghamshire, but very soon was ordained by Sharp, Archbishop of York. Sir Henry Liddell, of Ravensworth Castle, gave him a chaplaincy, and the livings of Lamesby and Tanfield. When Bishop Headley shocked the Anglicans by his sermon before King George I., John Balguy pitted himself on the side of the Bishop, and established himself as a master of debate of the very first order. Among his literary labours was his work on Divine Rectitude (which he held to be “the first spring of action in the Deity”, as opposed to Groves, who asserted it was “Wisdom”; and Bayes, who believed it was “Benevolence”). Among the works of his son (who refused to be made a bishop and died Archdeacon of Winchester) were Observations upon Church Authority, which was attacked by the celebrated Priestley; and Divine Benevolence Asserted.

Shalcross Hall is situated on the north-west boundary of the county, some four miles east from Buxton, on the site of which stood the homestead of Benedict Shakelcross when he was bailiff of the forest and attended the Inquisitions at Wormhill, in the reign of Edward II. (1307-27). The present edifice was a veritable residence of the last of the bailiff's race, who was twice sheriff of the county, and died in 1733. How singular that the last century should have been so fatal to the senior lines of the old Peak families, and those families whose ancestors were forest officials in the middle ages - Bagshaws of The Ridge and Wormhill; Foljambes, Shalcrosses, Bradshaws, Bowdens, Meverells.

John Shalcross, the sheriff, already mentioned, had one son, who pre-deceased him, and two daughters, co-heiresses: Anne married Richard Fitzherbert, and Frances espoused Robert Jacson, of Ashbourne. The daughter of Anne mated with her cousin, the son of Frances, and was the mother of those two ladies whose literary turn gave us Rhoda and the Florists' Manual, with other works of considerable merit. The present representative of the Jacsons is the worthy J.P. and D.L. of Barton, County Lancaster. The last of the Shalcrosses was the builder of the Market House at Chapel-en-le-Frith. It was this gentleman's grandfather who garrisoned Chatsworth for King Charles I. There are copies of many ancient deeds of the Shalcrosses in Vol. VI. of The Reliquary. The Shalcross estate is now the property of the Joddrells. Here is an old Peak family who were of Glossop Valley before the Black Prince had won his spurs, and one of the lads, William, was an archer with the Prince at the victory of Poictiers. The son of William (Roger) was squire to the body of Richard II., and afterwards fought at Agincourt. Francis Charles Joddrell, late of the Grenadier Guards, buried at Paris, 1868, terminated the senior male line. The present squire of Yeardsley, County Chester, and Shalcross, County Derby, is of maternal descent, having taken the surname by Royal license.

Offerton Hall is delightfully situated (with all the beauties of Hope Valley opening to view) about one mile west by south from Hathersage. With few exceptions, we know of no other building in Derbyshire where the kitchen recalls those baronial times when oxen were roasted whole, and where the structure of the fireplace is of such huge dimensions. The chimney shaft is a square tower or lantern, with a circumference of over forty feet; and formed out of the stone arch are racks, on which rested the arquebuses of olden time: there would be no difficulty in secreting a company of troops within the lantern. The whole interior of the building has so many curious features that we will instance only a few. The staircase is lit by triple lancet windows under one arch, which are certainly Elizabethan, if not older. In one of the upper rooms of the west wing there are two massive oak beams, which, from their appearance, have held a tenancy of at least four centuries. Their peculiar formation is simply a conjunction of rafter and brace in one. We must remember that this old homestead originally belonged to the Eyres, and is said to be one of the four which old Nicholas, of Highlow, in the reign of Henry IV., built for his sons. There are numerous specimens of elaborate carving, principally jacobin, but some of a very much earlier date. One small chair, evidently very antique, has a fleur-de-lis for centre ornament, which gives rise to the belief that it is a relic of the Eyres, of Padley, for one of the boys married with the Fitzwilliams, of Marplethorpe, about 1450, whose shield was emblazoned with a fleur-de-lis at fesse point, hence, here may be a veritable seat of a child who had Joan, of Padley, for grandmother. If there be any truth in the tradition that Sir Henry Slingsby stayed at Offerton Hall in 1657-8, when he was attempting to arouse the loyalty of the Peak gentry in the cause of the Stuarts, and which ended in his execution, there would be an historical importance to this building. We looked into the room he is supposed to have used as a council chamber, and, truly, it seemed to convey an idea of plot and conspiracy and secret cabal.

The three old edifices to which we have directed attention are all within the Parish of Hope, and the noble House of Cavendish are the lords of the manors in which these edifices stand. We will, therefore, add a few sentences more to our succinct review of the literary celebrities and judicial dignities of the Peak families with those members of this illustrious house whose careers form part of our national biography.

Sir John Cavendish was Chief Justice of King's Bench in 1371. “It has been the subject of dispute;” says Foss, “whether the name of Cavendish was first assumed by his father or himself, each being said to have acquired it by marriage with the heiress of the lord of the manor so-called in the County of Suffolk. There seems sufficient evidence to show that the father bore it, inasmuch as the brothers of John as well as himself were called by the name; and yet it is certain that John married Alice, the daughter of John de Odyngseles, who died 27 Edward III., in possession of ‘Kavendych maner’”. Foss reasons the assumption of name from the place of residence as apart from the manor, while a recent writer in Leslie Stephen says, “In 1359 one John de Odyngseles, Knight, conveyed by fine the Manor of Overhall and Cavendish to John Cavendish and Alice his wife, probably by way of what we should call marriage settlement”. Every writer hitherto has assured us that the name was acquired with the heiress of the Potkins, who were lords of Cavendish, whom the father of the judge espoused. Again Foss comes to the rescue. He suggests there was more than one manor, by which he may mean a paramount and a mesne lordship, or the names of the parish and manor coming in conflict. Dugdale raises Sir John to the Bench in 1365, which is certainly an error, for the Year Books for 1371 shew him still as an advocate, though this blunder Lord Campbell has copied in his Lives of the Judges.[1] There are many judgments on record that were pronounced by Sir John, but there is one worth quoting. There was a case before him in which a lady attempted to defeat the ends of justice and commit a fraud by asserting her minority: “Her Counsel pressed the Court to have her before them and judge by inspection whether she was within age or not”. Said Cavendish, “no man in England can judge correctly the approximate age, or full age; for all the ladies of the age of thirty years endeavour to make themselves appear at the age of eighteen years” The original, which our translation may have spoilt, runs thus: “Il n'ad nul home en Engleterre que puy adjudge a droit deins age, ou le plus age; car ascuns femes que sont de age de XXX ans, voite apperer d'age XVIII ans”. The tragic end of the judge is a matter of history, but the oft repeated assertion that he was murdered by the rebels under Jack Straw, in the Market Place of Bury St. Edmunds, in revenge for the slaughter of Wat Tyler by the son of the judge, has been cleverly exploded: the two events occurred on the same day.

There are so many members of this famous house one would like to mention. It was Thomas, eighth in descent from Roger, who left Bakewell behind him six hundred years ago, who circumnavigated the earth in a small craft called the “Desire” of only one hundred and forty tons, who was the first settler in Virginia, and the first Englishman to discover St. Helena. We have already spoken of George, the faithful Usher and biographer of Cardinal Wolsey.[2] We have instanced, too, Sir Henry of Dovebridge, to whom we owe the particulars of the “unreported Parliament”; we will just glance for a moment at that celebrated man who first propounded the decimal properties of air; who is said to have discovered hydrogen, and demonstrated the exact constituents of water. Sir Henry Cavendish was the grandson of the second Duke of Devonshire. Like Lord Macaulay and many men of vast intellect and genius, he left Cambridge without taking a degree. Why he adapted himself to chemistry is obscure. His first scientific work was Experiments on Arsenic. He must in all good faith be allowed to be the discoverer of nitric acid. His Experiments on Air was read before the Royal Society, in January, 1784, while two or three years before this he had obtained his results - results which have been accredited to others - which cling to the names of Priestley and Black. In the volumes of the Philosophical Transactions for 1766-1809, will be found many papers which will give an idea of his vast labours and splendid discoveries. “The mass of manuscripts which he left behind him, proves that nearly every subject which in his time engaged the attention of the chemist or natural philosopher had been closely studied by him”. Why this profound “mathematician, electrician, and chemist”, and, above all, natural philosopher, led such an austere life; why he regarded a woman as a being to be shunned and never under any circumstances to be spoken to; why (so it is said) he shut his heart against all human sympathy, might have an explanation of a sensational nature. True, in his speech he had an impediment; his very walk was a kind of shuffle, while a shrill cry, as Lord Brougham said, was ordinary utterance. Had he lived in the Middle Ages, he might have been the second Englishman to have worn the tiara.


[1] Foss, Vol. IV.
[2] Vide ante “Chatsworth”.

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

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