Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Longstone, Beeley & Darley Halls

Transcriber's Note: this chapter appears to relate to Longstone Hall alone, with an oblique reference only to Beeley (‘The Greaves’) and no mention of Darley, so the title is - I think - a trifle misleading.

SIR THOMAS DE WENDESLEY was knight of the shire in the Parliaments of 1382-4-9 and 1393. The victory of the Constitution, says Bishop Stubbs, was won by the knights of the shire. “They were the leaders of Parliamentary debate; they were the link between the good peers and the good towns; they were the indestructible element of the House of Commons; they were the representatives of those local divisions of the realm, which were coeval with the historical existence of the people of England, and the interests of which were most directly attacked by the abuses of Royal prerogative”. On the Rolls of Parliament there is an incident recorded of Sir Thomas, which reads very curiously after the eulogy by Stubbs. About the year 1403 Godfrey Rowland was living at Longstone Hall, when Wendesley (only a few days or weeks before he was slain at Shrewsbury), together with the Vicar of Hope and others, made a raid upon his homestead, and stole articles to the value of two hundred marks. They took Rowland prisoner, carrying him to the Peak Castle (which had become at that time a house of detention for criminals), where they kept him for six days without food, beside committing the vile outrage of cutting his right hand off. The petition by which Rowland solicited redress from the Commons is recorded, but the motive which prompted the Darley knight to resort to burglary and mutilation has no mention. Presuming he had not fallen at the battle of Shrewsbury, there can be no doubt but that Sir Thomas, as a Lancastrian, would have been shielded by Henry IV. It would indeed satisfy a curiosity if any light could be thrown upon so dastardly an act by a brave soldier and a reverend gentleman. The heiress of Rowland married with the Staffords, of Eyam.

There is something very remarkable about the fact that there should be a member of an old Derbyshire family still among us who is a lineal descendant of the man who actually dwelt on the same spot almost five hundred years ago. We believe, moreover, that the one family have held possession. during the whole time; though there has been the tenancy of the Carleils. The Wrights were located at Longstone in the reign of Edward III., and from the extensive lands of which they were owners, would have been lords of the manor, if Longstone, like Little Longstone, had ever been a manor, but it never was more than a berewick of Ashford. A wing or gable (Bell Court) of their Elizabethan homestead of many gables, undoubtedly remains, and the interior bears evidence that a considerable portion has weathered almost the same period. The grand staircase is a treat, being constructed with width, space, and taste. There are recesses which from their extent partake of the nature of corridors. In one of them there is a window with mullions and slight tracery, which we feel sure was formerly three lancet lights under one arch; but the old mullions have been chiselled, and thus unfortunately robbed of their appearance of antiquity. On the walls of these recesses or landings there are paintings, principally portraits, evidently by good masters. Those that are not portraits have considerable interest. Our attention was drawn to one by Bogdani, the celebrated Hungarian bird artist of some two centuries back. We never should have expected to have found one in Longstone. This was the painter who was purely self-taught, made a fortune by his art, was defrauded of it, and died in some London slum. There are several of his works in Hampton Court. In some of the upper rooms of Longstone Hall the moulding of the wainscoting is very fine, exhibiting curious designs, interspersed with shields bearing the arms of those families with which various members of the house have allied themselves, generations back. One of the girls, if we mistake not, was married to one of the Lords Coventry in 1788; while we know that one of the sons married a Miss Northcote, who was great-aunt to the late Earl of Iddesleigh. The quartering and charges of these shields reminds us of the nooks and corners in which the Wrights have settled. We find them at Aldercar and Wooton Court, in Warwickshire; at Maperley, Nottinghamshire; at Watcomb Park, Devonshire; at Castle Park, Chester; and heaven knows where. The wainscoting of Longstone Hall has met with the same fate as the wainscoting of The Greaves - all its beauty covered with paint, and, what is singular, of the same colour.

Among the various members of the Wright family whose names are preserved on State Records, Rushworth's Memorials, Hutchinson's Memoirs, or the pages of Whitelock, we will only mention one, who was made of a bit of real English stuff. When Admiral Ascue fought the Dutch fleet in the Downs, in June, 1652, one of our ships was commanded by Captain John Wright. All his officers were wounded or killed in the engagement, a ball took off one of his own legs, yet in spite of such trifles, he drove the Dutch vessel he was attacking on to the shore, and burnt her, after which he performed the feat of bringing twenty of the enemy's ships into the Lee Roads as prizes. At the Restoration, only his disloyalty was remembered, and he was imprisoned for eight years, in Newark. His ashes lie, together with his wife's, in the chancel of St. Peter, Nottingham.

The Wrights had their homestead on the site of Longstone Hall when Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Kent, was lord of Ashford; the Plantagenets have been extinct for four hundred years; the Wrights still hold the dwelling, and yet Sir Bernard Burke ignores them in his Commoners of England. Some things are very strange! A family which has seen the English throne held by four different dynasties, the crown worn by twenty-five different monarchs, must have some glorious associations.

The appearance of the front of Longstone Hall would never suggest to the mind that within its portals there were so many traces and evidences of days long ago. In acknowledging the courtesy of the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Bullivant (née Wright) in allowing us to inspect the moulding and wainscoting, we would also add that compliment is due to someone for accomplishing the difficult task of preserving intact all traces of antiquity, without interfering with the air of ease and elegance which the home presents.

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

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