Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred

MORE than two hundred years ago old Philip Kynder - a scion of the Peak family, who built Hayfield Church in the reign of Richard II. - wrote his quaint History of Derbyshire. He speaks of the county as “The amphitheatre of renowned persons. The glorious Cavendish of ye illustrious family of ye Cavendishes who gave the World a girdle in two Solar revolutions. Anthonie Fitz Herbert of ye familie of Norbury, who gave life and law unto ye common lawes of England and in comparison putt ye Codes and Digests into a bagg. Bradford ye crowned martyr yt cutt ye triple crowne and rent ye Roman pale asunder. Ripley of Ripley an other Hermes in his twelve gates concerning ye Philosophers stone; he suffered death for making a Peare tree to fructifie in winter. Mr. Sentlo Clyfton of ye familie of Bradley, a renowned Antiquarie who left many MSS. But alas! we must commend them like many of Tully's orations w'th this unhappie Elogie Reliqua desideratum. They are all wanting and much desired, none extant.”

The careers of these “renowned persons” have suffered more from the compilers than the strata or flora or fauna of the county. To get anything like a glimpse of the careers of the “renowned persons” of the Peak Hundred alone, there is no exaggeration in saying that hundreds of volumes and many thousands of pages have to be waded through. No county has been so sadly fleeced of its honors as Derbyshire. Men whose homesteads are yet standing, whose memorabilia are so much of the nation's history, have had the orthography of their names altered to make them Frenchmen,[1] or are said to be natives of Lancashire, Cheshire, or Notts. And yet, forsooth, such reprehensible inaccuracy has been recapitulated again and again without exciting indignation or comment.

We purpose, therefore, to set down something of the domestic lives of these men, of their memorabilia, and of the buildings they inhabited, and made famous by, their chivalry and statesmanship, their genius and acumen. The pathetic interest of these buildings lies in their reception-rooms having been converted into sculleries, their drawing-rooms into dairies, their private chapels into cowsheds.

There are other associations. At Snitterton Manor House dwelt the man who chose to be disinherited, and his heirs, for ever, rather than break with the woman he loved; at Ford Hall lived one of those two thousand clergymen who were expelled their livings on black St. Bartholomew's Day of 1662; at Newton Grange lived the gentleman who saddled sixteen horses for the wars of Henry VI. and filled each saddle with a son of his loins: Their mother (née Agnes Haswell) must have known the swell of a maternal heart at the mount. At Hopton Hall lived that Roundhead so memorable in the Civil Wars; at Hartle Hall lived one of the warriors who fought against Hotspur and Douglas on the field of Shrewsbury; to Holme Hall came courting the brother of the regicide Bradshawe.

These homesteads, as simply relics of past ages, would be of great interest; but we would enhance this interest; we wish to resuscitate facts incrusted with centuries of forgetfulness; we wish to glance at the exploits of those men who dwelt beneath their roofs; at the quaint conditions on which some of them held their estates; the singular tenures of the lands, whether for holding the towel when Royalty washed its hands, the yearly production of a rose, or the annual payment of threepence. We wish, also, to glance at the ladies whom these men brought home as their brides, and at those cruel feudal laws of wardship which respected not the throes of a human heart, but treated a lady as a chattel for disposal.

A vast debt of gratitude is undoubtedly due to dear old Lysons for the many facts he extracted from the Rolls of the Country which relate to the old Peak families; but these facts are so meagre, taken individually, that they only create a desire to know more or to have known nothing. Since Lysons wrote, there have been the researches of the Camden Society and the affiliated Societies - Surtees, Harleian, Chetham, Index - which have brought to light many a gem of intelligence long buried in dismal lumber rooms.

We purpose to deal with the ancient homesteads located along the route from Buxton to Ashbourne; from Darley Dale to Glossop Valley; we desire to jot down some of the vicissitudes of the old families, and we believe that some of our facts will present a novel appearance, and, from their startling character, have a relish, whether to the student or general reader. We propose to sketch these old edifices; to give the arms of the families, together with particulars gathered from various Visitations of the Heralds, and from private sources.

Several gentlemen - living representatives of the old families - have courteously allowed the writer to peruse private documents, which will enable him to make these particulars a record of those alliances wherein there was a touch of human affection.

We purpose to dig out, if possible, every Baron of the Exchequer, Knight of the Garter, Bishop, Admiral, Lord Mayor, Peer, or Poet, whose home was by the Derwent, Wye, Dove, Lathkill, Goyt, Sett, Etherow, and Kinder. Were there not any Peakrells among the Crusaders led by Coeur de Lion, or among the forces of De Montford when he struck at the despotism of the Throne? Were there not certain Derbyshire lads in those famous Parliaments of the Plantagenets? Certainly forsooth; and what is curious, the Knights of the Shire during this reign were invariably a Foljambe whose home was at Wormhill, and a Cokayne whose hearth was at Ashbourne. Among that celebrated Assembly at Clarendon, in 1164, in which Henry II. made Thomas à Beckett eat humble pie, and swear inwardly, were there no men whose dwellings were somewhere along the Wye? Yes; but such facts have apparently been of little consequence.

There have been thirty-five Baronial houses holding lordships in the Peak since the Conquest, and how few of us know anything of that old baronage which, prior to 1485, meant equality with the King, a baronage gained by chivalry and military prowess. The aristocracy, which arose with the Tudors, consisted of subservient creatures of the Throne, greedy of gain, covetous even to infamy. Then, again, the first Baron ever created by letters patent was a Derbyshire landlord.[2] Chivalry and the old nobility came in with William, the Norman, and fell with Warwick at the battle of Barnet; but we have among us still some descendants of the old Peak gentry who were located around Buxton before the General Survey of 1086. There was a Bagshawe, of Bowden Edge, prior to the Conquest; there is a Bagshawe there now. True, many families are gone, leaving no trace; therein will lie the pathos of our facts, yet there are other facts to which we refer with pride. There was a Foljambe at Wormhill seven hundred years ago; there is a Foljambe, and a lineal descendant, on the Rolls of Parliament of 1292. There was a Cotterell, of Priestcliffe, in the thirteenth century, whose representative (paternally not maternally) is still among the gentlemen of England. There was Nicholas Eyre, of Hope Valley, when Henry III. was covenanting marriage with four women at once, and breaking with them for a fifth; and so well has the issue of Old Nicholas obeyed the Scriptural command to increase and multiply, that we have known his descendants in every rank of society, from an Earl to a fishmonger. There was a Longsdon, of Little Longstone, while the first division of the first crusade was being led by Walter the Penniless; and the late rector of Eyam now resident in Bakewell, is in a straight line from so remote a founder. There was a Vernon, of Haddon, before the Magna Charta had been thought of, and close by the banks of the Dove is the residence of his living representative.

We intend to give the shields of the old families with their quarterings (whether four or forty), thus forming a General Armoury for North Derbyshire; there are curious episodes attached to some of these quarterings.

We shall glance incidentally at those monasteries - Augustinian, Cistercian, Pramonstratensian - which benefited by the possession of Peak lands; at the old forest, the forest laws and officials. We shall snatch a look at some of those arbitrary, though quaint, statutes which directly applied to Derbyshire; as in the reign of Richard II. if a labourer was starving for bread and could get work out of his own parish he was not allowed to do so; yet the Peakrell was exempt from this barbarous edict.

From other sources we shall gather some information of the industries of the middle ages. We intend to direct attention to those Rolls of the Country so valuable to the historical student, so interesting in their perusal, but which unfortunately are only referred to by the curious. With the aid of the Heralds' Visitations of various other counties, and the. Harleian Society's publications, we shall endeavour to track the footsteps of those Derbyshire lads who left the Derwent and Wye behind them in the days of Elizabeth, and founded fresh branches of their houses by the Thames, Tamar, and Humber. Neither shall we forget those fatuous cavaliers who fought so valiantly; nor those Puritan clergymen who forfeited their benefices for conscience sake. We shall strive to state our facts clearly but tersely, that those who run may read them, yet shall they lose none of their interest to the student.

No person, excepting a student of Derbyshire History, can imagine for a moment the great difficulty in acquiring any particulars of the old Peak families. The sources where we should expect to find information, either ignore them, or confuse them with families of the same name of other counties, or speak of them so incidentally that it amounts to absurdity. The most splendid attempt at a National Biography ever pursued is the voluminous work commenced by Leslie Stephen, and which has now reached the twenty-fifth volume, yet our old house of Foljambe has no mention. Again, the places where facts are met with often exceed credibility. We pick them up in works which relate to other counties, as Leicester, Northumberland, Essex; in the registers of remote country villages, or on the documents of city Corporations. Our attempt to bring various facts together which relate to the Peak families may be criticised as being patchy. But given enough patches, which other students as earnest as ourselves may eventually collect, and then the labour of stitching and designing them into a work of worth, importance, and art, may be undertaken by a more skilful hand than ours. We simply claim credit for the collection of the first batch of patches.

MARCH, 1892. J.T.
[1] Vide article on “Whitehough”.
[2] Sir John Beauchamp.

Extract from Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire, 1892.
Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in April 1999.

This is a Genealogy Website
URL of this page: https://texts.wishful-thinking.org.uk/Tilley/Introduction.html
Logo by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library