Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Bubnell Hall

ALONG the whole course of the Derwent - from its separation with the Wrongsley till its confluence with the Trent - there is no edifice, not excepting glorious old Haddon, that has the historic associations of Bubnell Hall. These associations are linked with every landmark of our constitution, from the reign of the Conqueror till the overthrow of feudalism at the battle of Bosworth. To be conversant with these associations is to be familiar with our constitutional history for four centuries subsequent to the Norman subjugation, with our foreign policy, with all the brilliant military engagements of the same period. Bubnell Hall, says Lysons, was one of the residences of the baronial house of Basset. But how many of us know anything of the famous memorabilia of this family? They were the intellectual factor of the Norman period; they were among the earliest justiciaries the nation had; they played conspicuous parts in all the great Councils in which liberty and justice struggled for recognition. When the people took the side of Monarchy, in the fight between Henry I. and the Barons, led by Robert of Belesme, they were the legal advisers of the Crown; when the Barons, a century later, took the side of liberty against the tyranny of the Throne, they were among the champions of right; when Henry II. summoned the clergy to Clarendon, in 1164, to that famous Council in which it was clearly enunciated to the horror of Thomas à Becket that an ecclesiastic was amenable to common law, their voice was raised in support. They were at Runnymede, and their name is on the Magna Charta as a witness; their brains are recognisable in the Charter of the Forest; and when Simon de Montfort issued his summons for the first semblance of a representative Parliament England ever had, two of the gentlemen summoned were Ralph Basset, of Sapcot, and his cousin and namesake, of Drayton. Now it so happened, as we shall see directly, that Bubnell belonged to one of these men. The Bassets rose into power under Henry I. Ralph, the Chief Justiciar of that period, was a man whom the King (so says Dugdale) “raised from a very low condition, and conferred on him a very ample estate, exalting him above Earls and other eminent men”. There is an excellent reason to be assigned for the rapidity with which the Bassets acquired wealth and power. They were lawyers intuitively, for the law of frankpledge, of which our courts leet are a remnant, was undoubtedly the work of Ralph Basset in its application, if not embodiment, and Henry Beauclerc was a King quick to perceive that their brains were of more worth than their courage. Still, their names are on the rolls of heralds; their bravery has favourable mention in our annals, and in the pages of Froissart. They were Crusaders with Richard I. in the Holy Land, and one of them was Geoffrey, “the Troubadour”. The, were with the first and third Edwards in their glorious campaigns, and shared in all those famous victories from Dunbar to Cressy. Among the first men created Knights of the Garter after the institution of the Order was a Basset. One of them was given large possessions in Oxfordshire for “his special services in divers wars”. Down in the West of England, near to the valley of the Tamar, there is still the residence of a living representative of the man whose name is on the Roll of Battle Abbey.

The Bassets, of Bubnell, are ever designated by the old writers and by the County Compilers as of Blore. Good! Whom were the Bassets, of Blore? Neither Dugdale in his Baronage, nor Lysons in his Derbyshire, nor Burke in his Extinct Peerages, throw one ray of light upon such a question; nor whether they were an offshoot of the Drayton, or the Weldon, or the Sapcot, or the Wycombe, or Hedendon this Lord's will which shows us that ease and elegance were not unknown to the barons of the Middle Ages. “One great velvet bed” - we thought that the baron of the fourteenth century slept on harder material - “four silver basons with two ewers, whereon his arms were graven, six silver dishes, two silver pots and four chargers, all with his arms; as also a cup with cover gilt, having one ring on the side thereof”.

In 1378, Bubnell passed to the Bassets, of Blore, about which time the moiety of Nether Haddon, which the Bassets had held, passed to the Vernons. Indeed, we are not so sure that it was not then that the Manor of Bubnell was not acquired by the Vernons in some way, and merged into Baslow. We find it stated over and over again that King John dispossessed the Bassets of Bubnell, and gave it to the Nevilles, who by marriage conveyed it to the Talbots. There are deeds extant which show this to be false. We admit that the Bassets did incur the ire of John, for they were no admirers of such a despicable being; we admit that he divided the manor between the Vernons and Bassets when the two families quarrelled; but the confusion has arisen from the Manor of Baslow being in moieties for about four centuries. The Vernons are said to have been given Baslow by Henry de Curzon about 1330, and to have held it till their famous heiress Dorothy took it to her husband. Yet the Inquisitions Post Mortem show it with the Talbots in the reign of Henry VI., which is a confirmation that the manor was in moieties. At the General Survey both Bubnell and Baslow were Royal demesne. Simon Basset, who acquired Bubnell with his wife, Avicia Avenell, had a brother Ralph, who settled at Cheadle, in Stafrordshire, and whose descendant married the heiress of Sir Henry Brailsford, whose wife was the heiress of Audley, lord of Blore; thus the Bassets, of Sapcot, who first possessed Bubnell, and the Bassets, of Blore, with whom Bubnell will ever be associated, were cousins.

The Barony of Sapcot has been in abeyance for five hundred years (one of the heirs general is Squire Pole, of Radborne, we believe), but we should not be surprised to see it again held, for in our time there has been the celebrated case of Beaumont, another old Derbyshire family, who regained their titles after an abeyance of three hundred and thirty-three years.

In 1583 Bubnell Hall was held by Richard Copwood, in right of his wife Margaret, the daughter of Sir William Basset and Anne Cokayne, whose father was Sir Thomas, of Ashbourne. Lysons has it that this lady was of Ashford, but we think this must be a printer's error, as Nye cannot trace that the Cokaynes had a residence at Ashford, though they were yet holding Hartle Hall. Margaret, the wife of Copwood, was the last of the Bassets who dwelt at Bubnell. Her son, Basset Copwood, to whose memory there is a brass in Bakewell Church, was been and died here. The Hall was the gift of her nephew Ralph, the last of that illustrious line of men, so dauntless in courage, either in field or council, and whose statesmanship is stamped into our most memorable Charters. His heiress mated with Sir William Cavendish, Earl and Duke of Newcastle; whose Memoirs many of us have read without remembering that she was a Basset.

As we look upon the old edifice, situated in one of the most lovely spots in Derbyshire, the mind wanders back to those remote days while yet Norman-French was the language of the nobility. The Bassets had right of free warren long after they had ceased to be lords of the manor. How many of those old barons brought their brides here, while they laid aside their armour and followed the chase? Was it at Bubnell where the son of Avicia Avenell had the row with his cousin of Haddon? There is more than. one tradition told, which links itself with the ivy on the old homestead. When the muster roll of Falkirk was called, the Basset who had fought at Dunbar was missing; this is historical fact, but tradition has it that there was a certain lady, of the De Gernons, of Bakewell, whom he had espoused secretly, and whose sudden death made him break faith with his king. We have been at some pains to verify this tradition, but we cannot, further than he was absent from Falkirk, and that his answer satisfied Edward I.

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

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