Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Cowley Hall

IN the year 1235, Henry III. gave to “Cotterell the Norman” two oxgates of land in Taddington and Priestcliffe, in the County of Derby. So runs the earliest record we can find of that old and forgotten Derbyshire family, who were lords of Taddington a century later, and built the Church.

They held a moiety of Darley also. They are still among the gentlemen of England,[1] and, like the Foljambes and Ford Bagshawes, have a pedigree back to Edward III., both through John of Gaunt and Edmund of Woodstock. They have been conspicuous for their bravery in our naval warfare, from the youth who so heroically perished in the action against the Dutch, in Solebay, 1672, to the late Admiral, whose breast was covered with Orders and decorations for valour. The Cotterells are of unique interest to the student. The man who found his way to Taddington Dale, designated “The Norman”, was one of a religious sect whose history is written in blood - the Albigenses - a branch of the Paulicians, who merged out of the Manichoens. This sect takes us back to the early days of Christianity. They were among the first - if not the first - opponents of the Roman hierarchy; they despised its dogmas, they repudiated its multiplicity of sacraments. In 1198 Pope Innocent III. took horrible measures for their extermination, and the inhabitants of every village, town, and city who favoured their tenets were put to the sword without regard to age or sex. Even the language of the Albigenses - the musical provengal of the Troubadour - was stamped out for ever. When Beziers was taken, it was found that there were as many Catholics as Albigenses, but the diabolical order was given by Abbot Arnold “to slay all”; for, said he, “God will know His own”. It was probably from Beziers that Cotterell escaped. Yet Dugdale in his Monasticon tells us of the munificence of the Cotterells to the Church.

From certain State papers known as Originalia - being records sent from the Court of Chancery into the Exchequer of grants of the Crown - we gather much information of this family. “In the year 1311, 4 Edward II., John, son of Henry de Derleye, and Matilda, his wife, levied a line with the King for a moiety of the manor of Duleye (Darley), which was held of the King in chief, and which moiety had been taken into the King's hands because they had purchased it from William Cotterell without the King's licence”. This same William, says Dugdale, “gave a hall, called Gysours Hall, in the City of London, in the parish of St. Mildred, with divers other tenements and hereditaments in Fleet Street and meadows called Sikctsfields (1336)”. His grandson was granted by Richard II. (1397), “the above mentioned grants of Henry III. in socage for the rent of ten shillings per annum”. A few years previously (1381) the same monarch granted Thomas Cotterell “lands and tenements in the lordship of Lappeley, in the County of Stafford, at a rent of twelve shillings”. They had grants of lands from Queen Bess in Nottinghamshire and Berkshire, while from her successor they acquired their Lincolnshire estates. Walpole, speaking of their homestead in the last century, says, “Well, if I had such a house, such a library, so pretty a place, so pretty a wife, I think I should let the King send to Herenhausen for a Master of the Ceremonies”. The Cotterells held this office for about two hundred years. Among our translators of foreign literature, Charles Cotterell is celebrated for his rendering of De Costes' Cassandra, from the French; and Davila's History of the Civil Wars, from the Italian. In the library of Squire Cotterell Dormer, of Rousham, near Oxford, there is a most valuable collection of manuscripts of the family. In Report II. pp. 82-3 of the Historical Manuscripts Commission there is an enumeration of these documents which excites a craving to be among them, as they relate to events of history of which no historian has told us anything. Among the children of Sir Charles were Anne, wife of Robert Dormer, and Elizabeth, the beautiful and accomplished spouse of Sir William Trumbell, Secretary of State to William III. Another of the lads became Bishop of Ferns and Leighlen, while the third was president of the Society of Antiquarians. This old family were of Taddington, while yet the name of the noble house of Cavendish was De Gemon, with a neighbourly residence at Bakewell; yet who remembers them now? Even Lysons is almost silent about them, and ignores their heraldic coat altogether, while they themselves have voluntarily assumed a name, as if to prevent anyone knowing anything of them.[2]

How busy the “improver” has been in the Manor of Darley during the last hundred years or so. Edifices built as remotely as 1321 (of which the original document of contract between the builder and Sir John de Derlegh is still extant) ruthlessly pulled down that he might erect the gimcrack structures of his own foolish brain. One of them stood not so far from the Church, and was the homestead of that knight whose figure lies beneath the window of the south transept, and who was lord of the manor more than five hundred years ago. Even the figure was reprehensible in some way with these beautifiers of sacred precincts, for it is only within our own time that it was not hid away by their soulless artifices. The figure is of exceptional interest, for it not only represents the man who was the very last holder of the manor in its entirety, and that by Covin, but it shews a Crusader in his mail and surcoat overall, which is curious. The surcoat had long been abandoned by the Crusader, for history says Sir John Chandos was the last who donned it, and he had fallen at the battle of Lussac; yet here is the lord of Darley shewn as wearing it.

Even as the Eyres held the Manor of Wormhill by an annual payment of threepence, so the lord of Darley made his possessions safe by a yearly amount of thirteen shillings and fourpence, which, by Royal command, was appropriated for the repairs of the Peak Castle. The Inquisitions Post Mortem, 33 Henry III. (1249), shew Andreas de Darley as holding the manor, and what is curious, as being seized of Bakewell, too. Between this gentleman and the Crusader there were five generations, and how judiciously does record shew them to have selected their wives. Sir Henry, whose name appears on the Hundred Rolls of 1284, went courting to Haddon, and won one of the Vemons; their son, St. Nicholas, brought home a daughter of Sir Richard de Herthill; their grandson. Sir Robert, chose his betrothed from among the Fitzherbert ladies, of Norbury; while the fifth in line, and brother of the Crusader, carried of a Frecheville, of Criche, whose father was a Baron.

In the reign of Edward II. (1309) the Manor of Darley was in moieties between the Darleys and Kendalls, hence the Crusader got himself into the black books by making some sly bargain with the heirs of the Kendalls by which he held the whole. The two moieties were termed the “Old Hall” and “Nether Hall”, after the residences upon them. From the death of the knight in 1370-1, the possession is tolerably clear, besides being accompanied with exceptional particulars. Sir Godfrey Foljambe purchased the Old Hall, while the heiress of the Darleys (Agnes) married Thomas Columbell, of Sandiacre, and adopted Nether Hall as a home. The name of the lady whom Sir Godfrey espoused gives to the lover of Derbyshire history considerable pleasing research. Burke says she was Avena Ireland; Thoroton asserts she was a Villiers; while Glover wisely asks how can she have been either, as the impaling of her shield in Bakewell Church shows six fleur-de-lis, three, two, and one, which was undoubtedly that of a Darley. But both Glover and Thoroton were in error, as we have shown elsewhere, for the lady was one of the Irelands, of Hartshome, whose shield in trick and tincture was identical with the Darleys. A few years later (1388) the Old Hall moiety passed to the Plumptons by heiress, and it was while they were in possession that it became a bone of contention which lays bare phases of human malice existing between relatives because of property, and makes us acquainted with infamous scoundrelism maintained in the name of the law. Have our annals a more memorable knave than Richard Empson, the legal adviser of Henry VII.? Did he not revive some musty crochet of the law about heirs general, and did he not reduce scores of old families to abject penury by filching from them their lands, and was not the Manor of Darley among them? The story of how he reduced the Plumptons to a debtor's prison, as told in the Correspondence[3] of that family, makes one almost gloat in the fact that his head afterwards rolled in the sawdust on Tower Hill. The means he used to dispossess the Plumptons, of Darley, alone concerns us. This infamous business can be told in a very few words. Sir Robert, of Hassop (temp Edward IV.), had two neices: Margaret, married to Robert Rocliffe, and Elizabeth, the wife of John Sotehill, of Leicester. These ladies, knowing that their uncle had neglected to get the late King (Richard III.) to sign some documents which secured to him his vast estates, and thinking some portion of them ought to be theirs, at once perceived that the crochet of Empson would enrich them and gratify their spite. The lawyer brought the case on in the Autumn Assizes of 1501, packed the jury with the dependents of the Sotehills, and laid claim to Darley, Stanton, and Hassop, and got a verdict less Hassop, which some three years previously had been sold to Catherine Eyre. The Rocliffe moiety of the Old Hall Manor was very soon sold to the Columbells, while the Sotehill share of the plunder, after passing through the hands of the Drurys, Needhams, and Seniors, was purchased in 1631 by Sir John Manners, of Haddon. It will be seen that the Columbells were virtually now in possession. For eleven generations were they living at Nether Hall. The tenure has a curious feature, too, but not infamous - say, rather facetious. Peter Columbell, whose will is dated 20th October, 1616, left his goods to his son Roger, on condition of his refraining from smoking tobacco, for, if he was caught by brother or sister with a pipe in his mouth, the forfeiture of the property was the mulct laid down. When we recollect that the wife of this Roger was the lady we mention under Snitterton Hall, who had given up everything for the sake of her husband, there was little fear of his being caught if he sometimes set the injunction of the will at defiance. It must have been the grandfather of this gentleman (of the same name, Roger) who reported to the Council of Queen Elizabeth, in 1587, that Padley Hall was “a house of evil resort”, because poor Sir Thomas Fitzherbert worshipped God in a different way to himself.[4] In the year 1673 the last of his line passed away (there was a branch settled in London, as we find from the Visitation of St. George, 1633-4), and his heiress took the lands to the Marburys, but the death of the man she had married brought them back to her. She gave them out of love to his memory to his relations, the Thackers, who sold them in parcels to various purchasers, among whom was Mr. Richard Arkwright, who bought Nether Hall, and became lord of the manor. During the present century two famous names have become linked with this lordship - Heathcote and Whitworth. One is to be found among the projectors of the Bank of England, on the lists of famous Lord Mayors, and on the Rolls of the Peers of Great Britain ; the other is known to our enemies as attached to a gun rather destructive to their interests.

Ten different families have held the Manor of Cowley since the Conquest: the De Ferrars, Colleghs, Cadmans, Needhams, Seniors, Bagshawes, Fanshawes, Fitzherberts, Walls, and Arkwrights. What a goodly sprinkling of real old Derbyshire houses. The Fanshawes were of Dronfield as far back as five hundred years ago; the Needhams appear on the Hundred Rolls of 3 Edward I. (1274); the Walls were resident in Darley Dale for six centuries; the De Ferrars had ceased to be lords of Cowley before the Hundred Rolls were compiled; while the Bagshawes were of Bowden Edge prior to the De Ferrars acquiring the lordship. Coronets, coifs, and gold spurs have been plenteously worn by some of these families. Four have held peerages, of which three are extinct; two baronetcies; and three produced famous judges, whose careers are related by Foss. But Burke and Leslie Stephen tell us of political and domestic incidents of some of them that make such names imperishable in the memory.

How many of us remember that the monarchs of England were shorn of their prerogative of imposing taxation upon the nation by a De Ferrars? To have secured a constitutional right in a feudal age is worthy of a kind thought. This family held their Derbyshire estates for nine lives in succession, yet what do we know of them? Just a few facts that are of interest to the curious. The first one was on the General Survey of 1086, and founded Tutbury Priory; the second fought at the Battle of the Standard, and, with his Derbyshire lads, secured the victory; the third choose an ox hide for a coffin, and was buried in the Abbey of Meervale; the fourth held seventy-nine knights' fees, and espoused Margaret Peverell; the fifth rebelled against Henry II., and lost his castle of Duffield; the sixth led on the third Crusade; and fell before the walls of Acre in the Holy Land; the seventh had a diamond wedding; or seventy-five years of wedded life - Thomas à Beckett, the Patron Saint of Chapel-en-le-Frith, being the priest of his early marriage; the eighth suffered from gout, like his sires, and was drowned at St. Neots;[5] the ninth was the colleague of De Montfort in securing a representative Parliament, fighting gallantly at Lewes and Evesham, and was deprived of his estates in consequence; the tenth no longer (like his fathers) lord of two hundred and nine manors, was still sufficiently powerful to compel Edward I. to concede the memorable feature in an Englishman's liberties, that no taxation can be imposed upon him “without the consent of Parliament”. In the year 1269 the Manor of Cowley was given by Henry III. to Gilbert de Collegh. How it passed to the Cadmans there is apparently no trace, but with the next possessors, the Needhams, we come to an egregious blunder made by the whole of the compilers. They tell us, that in the reign of Elizabeth, the heiress married Otwell Needham, and brought it to him in her dowry. Now mark! This lady gave to her husband twelve sons and a shower of daughters, which Dr. Cox admits. One of these daughters was named Dorothy, and married John Dakeyne, of Snitterton, in 1541; this would be when Henry VIII. was thinking of cutting off the head of Catherine Howard, and the Princess Elizabeth would be in short skirts and primitive pinafores. The heiress of the Cadmans must have been a venerable dame.

Otwell Needham was the senior member of the Thornsett family, and ninth in descent from the founder. Lysons says that this old Derbyshire house was of Cheshire origin. This statement Dr. Cox denies, but does not tells us where the inaccuracy lies, for he simply makes a counter statement that John, the youngest son of Thomas Needham, of Thornsett, in the time of Edward III., was a famous lawyer, and settled in Cheshire. We would remind the learned Doctor that there was a William de Needham, lord of Staunton in that county, living there in 1102; and we would add, that if he is not prepared to shew (which he has not) that the Thornsett Needhams were not William's descendants, then his apology is due to the shade of dear old Lysons.

How the vicissitudes of this family were a counterpart of the vicissitudes of another famous Derbyshire house is not only strange, but remarkable - we refer to the Cokaynes, of Ashbourne. John Needham, the lawyer, was made a Knight and Judge of Common Pleas by Henry VI.; John Cokayne was Chief-Baron of the Exchequer under the same monarch. Both became sires of illustrious sons who mated with the daughters of the aristocracy and founders of patrician houses. In both cases the distinction lay with the junior branches. Simultaneously with the elder Cokaynes selling Middleton-by-Youlgreave to the Fulwoods, the elder Needhams were disposing of Cowley to the Seniors; simultaneously with the junior Cokaynes becoming Viscounts Cullen, the junior Needhams became Viscounts Kilmorey. If we wanted a senior representative of either of these old houses at the present moment we should find them among the business men of the Peak.

Richard Senior, who purchased the Manor of Cowley from the Needhams in 1613, and resided at the Hall, was evidently an early example of a fox-hunting squire, though of doubtful reputation. He is ignored in the Visitations of St. George and Dugdale, neither has Burke any mention of him. Old Leonard Wheatcroft, poet, tailor, schoolmaster, and clerk of Ashover Church, in the reign of Charles II., has left us the squire's portrait, together with the proof that he held the Cowley home of the Needhams:

That's Cowley Hall, where oft I heard the cry
Of large mouthed doggs, who did not fear to kill
What was their master's pleasure, word, and will;
His name was Sinner, whoever did him know,
He's dead and gone, now many years ago.

The heiress of this gentleman brought the edifice and manor to the Fanshawes.

Amongst those “honest old Cavaliers” who mustered around the standard of Charles I. there was no nobler type than Richard Fanshawe. How he was stripped of his estates through his loyalty to the house of Stuart; reduced to penury and suffered imprisonment; how his noble wife (a Fanshawe maternally) went to his prison window every morning to cheer him; how she lived with him in a garret at Oxford, subsisting on bread and water; how the King, while in exile, created him a baronet, and at the Restoration sent him Ambassador to the Court of Spain, where his lady was offered an annuity of thirty thousand ducats if she would turn Catholic - is told by this loveable creature in her own Memoirs, which are confirmed by a score of authorities. Several members of the family were Clerks of the Crown under the Tudors. One of them was Remembrancer of the Exchequer, of whom Queen Elizabeth was so proud that she gave him Dengey Hall, in Essex; another was created a viscount by Charles I.; Lady Fanshawe (whose husband held Cowley) was daughter of Mary Fanshawe, of Fanshawe Gate; while her father was Sir John Harrison, who lost one hundred and thirty thousand pounds by his loyalty to the Stuarts. The pluck of the Fanshawes is a characteristic which yet adheres to them. One of them who died so recently as 1867 was a general in the Russian army and aide-de-camp to the Emperor Nicholas: Burke tells us that he took part in the campaigns of the Caucasus and Finland, was one of those who passed the Gulf of Bothnia on the ice, was present at the battles of Anapa, Smolensko, Borodino, Witepsk, Tarontino, Borisson, Beresina, Molodaczno, Lutzen, Bautzen, Dresden, Kulm, Brienne, Fere-Champenoise, the taking of Paris, and the siege of Adrianople. For distinguished services and brilliant acts of bravery, he received the golden sword of honour, with the inscription, “For bravery”; the Order of St. Radimore, with the sword; the Cross of St. Anne, of the second class; the Prussian Cross; the Cross of Leopold, of Austria; the Cross of Maximilian, of Bavaria; the Cross of Prussia, “For merit”, and was successively named Knight of the Grand Cross and Bands, St. Kadimar, the White Eagle, St. Anne, and St. Stannislaus.

Cowley Hall again changed bands in 1718, when Thomas Bagshaw, of Bakewell Hall, was the purchaser. This tenure was remarkably short, for in three years it was conveyed again by heiress to William Fitzherbert, of Tissington. Here we have another of those glorious old Derbyshire families. Their name is on the roll of Battle Abbey; they became lords of Norbury in 1125, and, what is singular, one of the attesting witnesses to their charter of possession is Robert de Ferrars, who was lord of Cowley. Sir Henry Fitzherbert was Knight of the Shire in 1294, which was the year in which Parliament first met - in the sense as we understand it. What Judge of Common Pleas was more famous than Sir Anthony, the author of De Natura Brevium? What family suffered more from religious persecution? Were not the rents of their lands insufficient to pay the fines for worshipping God with a ritual differing from the Anglican Church? Did they not forfeit the Manor of Padley from the same cause? Yet what family more heroically defended the very Crown which had so mulcted them, when in its turn it was attacked? Witness their defence of South Wingfield and Tissington against fearful odds. They have held a peerage (St. Helens), and still hold a baronetcy. They retained Cowley for twenty-eight years, and then sold it to George Wall, yeoman, of Darley Dale.[6]

The Walls had been knights of the plough for twenty generations; had attended to their sheep shearing and tilling for six centuries, and, while the ambitious aspirations and improvidence of their neighbours had brought only ruin, they had lived on in quietude and perpetuated their race. There is something sad about the widow of the last representative of such a long line of men selling Cowley to the Arkwrights in 1791.

Within the Cowley homestead of the Cadmans and Needhams there are a few vestiges of by-gone days, but the hands of the Sorbys, who were resident here some few years ago, have given the same appearance to the building as we can imagine a lady of four score years would present if given a maiden's countenance. But the associations cling to it so long as there are any vestiges whatever, and dead indeed must be the soul if such associations cannot endear it. There has been a homestead at Cowley for at least four hundred years, and from its contiguity to Haddon, from its facilities for the chase, from the De Ferrars having some interest in the not-far-removed lead mines, there may have been some description of shooting-tower here long before. How glibly we do all speak of these Barons, as if we know anything of them! Only that they founded Abbeys and Priories, but apparently in expiation of a troubled conscience; only, that beneath their armour they wore a dress of leather, and in their girth a dagger of mercy, to despatch the quicker the life of a foe; only, that they encased their elbows with poieigns, their knees with genouiullères, their legs with jambeaux, and their arms with brassarts.

[1] Mr. Charles Upton Cotterell Dormer, of Rousham Hall, County Oxford.
[2] Evelyn : Diary II. 281.
[3] Camden Society Publications, Vol. IV.
[4] Roger, who made the report to the Conncil, was husband of Frances, daughter of Sir Peter Frecheville, of Staveley. His mother was Bennett Foljambe, of Skegby; his grandmother was Elizabeth Stockwith, a Lincolnshire heiress; his great-grandmother was a Rollesley, of Rowsley; and great-great-grandmother Beatrice Bradbovne. In Lee's “Visitation of Lincolnshire”, for 1592 (by Metcalf, 1882), is the best of the Colombells we have seen.
[5] Old Hatton has it (Hist. of Derby, p. 69), that “Being too much afflicted with the gout to use his feet, he rode in a chariot; and by the carelessness of the driver was overturned in passing the bridge at St. Neots and killed in 1254”.
[6] Vide Articles on Norbury and Tissington. Vol. II.

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

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