Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Long Lee, Beard & Simmondley Halls

WITH a circumference of thirty miles. Such is the extent given to the Manor of Glossop, by Rhodes, in his Peak Scenery; eight-tenths of such area being with a junior branch of the illustrious house of Howard. The other two are with the noble family of Cavendish. What is the percentage o£ tourists to Derbyshire who reach Hayfield or ascend the Scout? How many have stood by the Mermaids' Pool, which, tradition said, had “a subterranean connection with the far-distant Atlantic and at twelve o'clock on midsummer eve a mermaid arose out of the pool and, singing with enchanting sweetness, allured to destruction any reckless swain who had watched to see her rise?”

For two hundred and seventy-five years have the Howards been lords of Glossop. Thomas, Earl of Arundel, who first acquired it by his marriage with Lady Alatheia Talbot about 1616, was the son of the nobleman who was attainted by Queen Elizabeth and died a prisoner in the Tower; grandson of the nobleman, fourth Duke of Norfolk, executed by the same Queen for his expressions of sympathy with Mary Queen of Scots; and great-grandson of the immortal Surrey. who was cruelly done to death by Henry VIII. There is a feature of this noble house, which to us is of very great interest: the many sons who have contributed to our literature. We have them as poets; as dramatists; as translators; as philosophical and antiquarian writers; as compilers of family records; as topographers of foreign countries and delineators of characters and scenes, new to Englishmen. “The character of Henry, Earl of Surrey”, says Lodge, “reflects splendour even upon the name of Howard. . . . He revived, in an age too rude to enjoy fully those beauties which mere nature could not but in some degree relish, the force of expression, the polished style, and passionate sentiments of the best poets of antiquity”. He was the link between Chaucer and Milton; the first Englishman who attempted to express himself in blank verse, the first writer of love sonnets whose verses are polite, without a shade of indelicacy. His short career of twenty years; his chivalry before the walls of Montreuil; his being thrust in the Fleet prison for eating flesh in Lent; his paraphrasing Ecclesiasticus while a captive in the dungeons of the Tower; his trial and its atrocious particulars; his being “the flower of the English nobility”, have no need to be remembered to induce a perusal of Songes and Sonnetts. We have attached a list of those members of this patrician house who were literary men. The Berkshire Howards have been dramatists; those of Yorkshire, statesmen and keepers of diaries of historic value. The nobleman who is Lord of Glossop, and who so recently brought to his Derbyshire home his illustrious bride, we wish all those blessings of which the Creator is alone the dispenser.

What can Englishmen possibly know of the north-eastern extremity of Derbyshire; or why do they scamper away to the Continent in their holidays in search of scenes of wild grandeur? What do even Derbyshire men know (at least seven-eighths of us) of the valleys of the Sett, Etherow, or Kinder? Spots where the wildest nature weds with the most perfect loveliness; where the river rushes madly on as if in disgust at the factories on its banks, and then glides away through the glens with a cadence of ripples as if singing its deliverance to the nymphs.

Even when an old edifice proclaims by an inscription upon its portals whose residence it was more than two centuries ago, the compilers do not evidently consider it belonging to their province to find out who this particular family were, or anything about them. This fact is illustrated by the inscription on the slab over the entrance to Long Lee Hall; and yet more forcibly by the well-known hostelry at Rowsley; the Peacock. Is there not the name of John Stevenson, 1652, over the entrance? Were not these Stevensons lords of Elton at the very time? Had they not extensive lands in Stanton? Was not this building their hall? Were they not the senior line of the Stevensons of Unstone and Matlock? Did not the heiress of the Rowsley branch marry with the old and historic Holdens? And is not her descendant at the present moment a peer of the realm? Reference to Burke's Landed Gentry, Peerage, and Lysons' Derbyshire gives the affirmative in each case: and yet, forsooth, one compiler (of no mean ability) tells us that John Stevenson was a publican. Where love of Derbyshire history consists of assumptive evidence without search such affection is spurious.

Neither in county history nor on map of Ordnance Survey Department can we find the position of Long Lee Hall, nor of the track of country in which it stands - by the name it was known to our fathers (Bowden Middlecale) - nor any particulars of the family, of which the builder was a member (whose initials are over the door), and whose grave is close to the threshold of the old homestead, just within one of the out-houses. Whether this singular being - John Hyde, gentleman, as his tombstone relates - who was one of the Peak notables of the seventeenth century, was a miser, and considered the costly outlay attending the interment of a squire in those days as ruinous; or had formed an acquaintance with that old sinner and philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, who was living at Chatsworth at the time, we cannot trace. Any way, the bedstead on which he died (somewhat elaborately carved, and of the time of Elizabeth) has never been allowed to be removed, and is there in perpetuity; the chamber is traditionally said to be haunted, and known to this hour as the “boggart room”. Having asked if anything had ever been seen, we were assured that marvellous noises had been heard, as to wit: “One niglit”, said the good lady who is mistress here, and who allowed us to examine the bedstead, “when I and my children had just retired, we all heard the long clock on the top of the landing go smash down the stairs, but when we all rushed out to see, it was ticking in its proper place”.

The Hydes have been resident in the Peak for three hundred years, and have intermarried with the Shalcrosses and other old families. From the records of Hayfield Chapelry we learn that the grandfather of the gentleman whose apparition is said to haunt Long Lee Hall was one of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors of the City of London, and devised certain property to the company for the yearly payment of ten pounds to the chapelry for the purposes of education, which no doubt is still most scrupulously complied with. In the Visitation of London by St. George. (1633-4), there is the pedigree of a John Hyde, who is shown to have a grandson John, but no one has taken the least trouble to establish the fact that the John Hyde of the pedigree was the gentleman who devised the property for the benefit of Hayfield Chapelry. We believe that the Peak Hydes, so long and still located among us, are a branch of that old Cheshire house of which there are many particulars in Earwaker's East Cheshire.

Along the north bank of the Goyt, from Kinderscout to Mellor, is the tract once designated Bowden Middlecale. Within this tract there once stood a solitary mill, situated in a romantic glen, which did duty for centuries for all the. surrounding townships. There are several mills now (it is the district of mills), and a railway station, too, from whence it is a comfortable stroll to Beard, or Ollerset, or Thornsett, or Scout, or the Mermaids' Pool, or Hayfield, or Long Lee. Here we are surrounded by those picturesque spots where some of the oldest of the Peak families were located in such remote times. Here almost within sight of each other, were the homesteads of the Beards, Bradburys, and Needhams. In our stroll we noticed a shopkeeper (a chemist, druggist and colourman), named Kinder; we remembered that Hayfield Church was built by the munificence of a Kinder in 1385. Is it not probable that the colourman may be a descendant. of an ancestor whose name is found on several glorious Roils?

The Manor of Beard, says White, was given to John, Earl of Shrewsbury by Henry VIII. This could not be, for there was no John Talbot who wore the coronet under that monarch; though White is correct in saying it was given to the Talbots, and this brings us face to face with a fact Lysons could have rendered intelligible. If Henry VIII. gave it to the Talbots, how could the Beards, Leghs, and Duncalfs have possessed it and passed it by heiress previous to the Talbots? The Royal gift would show it to be Royal demesne, while there is no evidence that the Beards were tenants in capité. We have an idea that the tenure of the Beards, and their heirs, was under the Abbey of Basingwerke. These are the kind of facts the compilers will not face. The senior line of the Beards became extinct about 1400, when the heiress mated with the Leghs (she was wife of two brothers successively; and, the manor was certainly in her dowry. Beard Hall was assuredly distinct from the manor, for the homestead remained with a junior line of the family till the days of Queen Elizabeth anyway. The old edifice is delightfully, situated about half-a-mile from New Mills, and from its position commands a splendid view of the surrounding country. The masonry, of the remains (for there is only a gable left of the original structure) was evidently the work of William Beard, who was living here in 1570, and whose daughter, Elizabeth (senior co-heiress), married Ralph Ashenhurst. We do not refer to the foundations, for they are considerably older, nor to a small portion of the interior, which has the appearance of having been formed out of a tower with port-holes. How an old Peak family gets lost sight of can be instanced by the Beards. The most careful and accurate of Derbyshire compilers (dear old Lysons) has these sentences: “The grandfather of the last Beard, of Beard Hall, had four sons; the two elder died without male issue, each of them having an only daughter and heir; Alice, daughter of Nicholas; married Blackwell; Alice, daughter of Richard, married Bowden; William, son of John, the third son; was of Beard Hall, and had three daughters married to Ashenhurst, Holt and Yeaveley. The Ashenhursts inherited Beard Hall; Ralph, the fourth son, had four sons, but we know nothing of their posterity”. The descendants of this fourth son are yet among us; yes, living within a short stroll from their ancestral homesteads, but not as lords of a manor, but as vendors of treacle and soap, and other delectable necessaries of life. We had little hope of finding any remains of Beard Hall yet standing, for intelligence had reached us - indeed, we were so told as we were plodding our way from Bugsworth - that it had been entirely rebuilt. There was more than one pleasure awaiting us, for not only was there the old gable, but a resident within who was a descendant of the historic Staffords, who has been repeatedly asked why he makes no attempt to recover one of the peerages once held by that family, and which is still in abeyance. The courtesy of Mr. Daniel Stafford and his lady we most gratefully acknowledge, while their willingness to give information makes us their debtor, to which we would add, that if our ideas could have been as readily grasped by some people who are tenants of other old edifices as by this lady and gentleman, we should have gathered more facts by the way than we have. The Leghs who held the Manor of Beard were offshoots of the great Cheshire house who had branches at Adlington, Bothomes, Bruche, Lime, and Ridge. The name they held was really not their own, paternally, for they were descendants of the Venables, Baron Kinderton, one of whom, in the reign of Henry III., married the heiress of the Leghs, and adopted her name. Their son espoused Ellen de Corona and acquired Adlington, thus the two quarterings of their shield become intelligible. The pedigrees of Cheshire families given by Earwaker tells us of many unions with Peak families, of which we gather but little from our own compilers. The wife of the last Beard of Beard Hall was. a daughter of the Davenports of Henbury.

The Ashenhursts were a Staffordshire house of remote antiquity. John, the grandson of the Beard heiress, who was born here, became that famous, or infamous Parliamentary Colonel during the Civil Wars, whose compound treachery is known to historical students. This fact alone would have attracted many an individual to Beard. The father of the Colonel was a J.P., who donned the profession of a clergyman occasionally, for the entry is on record that he married seventeen couples of Chapel-en-le-Frith lads and lasses one morning. Is it not singular that this old building, after having sheltered the Beards and the Ashenhursts, should now be the dwelling of a gentleman whose ancestor not only fought at Hastings; and whose name is on the Roll of Battle Abbey, but who was cousin to the man to whom the victory gave the throne of England? Is it not singular, too, that the Halls of Beard, Shalcross, Ollerset, and Mellor (all comparatively within a stone's throw of each other), all teeming with historic associations all within about twenty miles from Bakewell, should be so little known even to the curious.

The following is a list of the noble family of Howard as literateurs, with works published:-

ANNE (Viscountess Irwin) - “A Character of the Princess Elizabeth”; “An Ode on King George III.”; “An Answer to Lady Mary Wortley Montague”.
CHARLES. - “Tanning Leather” (1674); “Planting of Saffron” (1678).
CHARLES (Earl of Carlisle). - “Three Embassies to the Courts of Muscovy, Sweden, and Denmark” (1669. Reprinted in Harris's “Voyages”.)
CHARLES (Third Earl). - “To my Son, Lord Morpeth” (a poetical address).
CHARLES (10th Duke of Norfolk). - “Thoughts, Essays, and Maxims”; “Historical Anecdotes” (1769).
EDWARD.- “The Usurper”(1668); “Six Days' Adventure ”(1670); “The Woman's Conquest”; “The Man of Newmarket”; “The Changes of Crownes”; “The London Gentleman”; “The United Kingdoms”; “The British Princes”; “Poems and Essays”.
EDWARD I. - “Philosophy of Descartes” (1701); “Copernicus Convicted” (1705).
FREDERICK (Fifth Earl of Carlisle). - “Poems” (1773); “The Father's Revenge”; “The Stepmother”; “Tragedies and Poems”.
GEORGE (Seventh Earl). - “Diary in Turkish and Greek Waters”; “The Second Vision of Daniel” (1658).
HENRY (Earl of Surrey). - “Songes and Sonnettes” (1557) - there were seven editions in thirty years; “Poems” (1587); “Fourth Boke of Virgill” (1557).
HENRY (Earl of Nottingham). - “Exposition of Dreams, Conferences with Damned Spirits, &c”. (1583); “An Apology for the Government of Women”; “A Devotional Piece”; others in MS.
HENRY. - “Antiquarian Papers” in “Archæologia” (1800); “A Drill of Light Infantry”; “Catholic Religion”; “Memorials of the Howard Family” (1834).
JAMES.[1] - “All Mistaken, or the Mad Couple” (1672); “The English Monsieur” (1674).[2]
ROBERT.[3] - “Fourth Book of Virgil” (1660); “Poems”; “Statius's Achilles”; “Four New Plays” (1665); “The Great Favourite”; “The Duels of the Stags”; “Observations on the Reigns of Edward I., II., III., and Richard II.”; “History of Edward and Richard II.”; “Letter to Samuel Johnson”; “Five New Plays”; “History of Religion”; “Poems”; “Dramatic Work”.

[1] James and Robert were sons of the Earl of Berkshire.
[2] This gentleman was the “ Sir Positive Atall” of Shadwell in his “Sullen Lovers”.
[3] Was the “Bilboa” of Buckingham's “Rehearsal”.

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

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