Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Mellor Hall

THE Royal Manor of Longdendale, of which the extensive Parish of Glossop was a portion, has evidently been the bugbear of the compilers. Not one, with the exception of Lysons, has had the courage to face it, or the courtesy to admit that their research was simply limited. Even Lysons is almost provoking. He tells us how it was given by Henry I. to the Peverells; how Henry II., on the flight of the third Peverell, granted it to the Abbey of Basengewerke; how Henry VIII., at the dissolution of Monasteries, made it a present to George Talbot, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury (surely this statement needs amending, as we shall see directly), in 1537; how one of the co-heiresses of Gilbert, seventh Earl, took the Manor of Glossop, with Chunal, Dinting, Hadfield, Padfield, Simmondley, Whitfield, Hayfield, and Charlesworth to the noble family of Howard, whose dukedom was under attainder at the time. Now the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury had been dead years in 1537,[1] so that Lysons is in error, either in devisee or date, though this is probably a mere slip of the pen - George being written for Francis; still there are other items of much more consequence. What about the huge slice, known (until very recently) as Bowden Middlecale, which reached from the Scout to Mellor, and comprised the hamlets of Beard, Ollerset, Whittle, Thornsett, Great Hamlet, Phoeside, Kinder, Chinley, and Bugsworth, not to mention Chisworth or Ludworth? We know very well that the three co-heiressess of the seventh Earl of Shrewsbury played a kind of catch me, kiss me business with the manors of the Peak - as to wit, Monyash was split up between their husbands, the Earls of Arundel, Pembroke, and Kent, but these ladies never had it in their power to make ducks and drakes of Bowden Middlecale. Herein is the kernel of the difficulty which has frightened the compilers. But with the vast researches of Lysons there should not have been much difficulty in making plain how Bowden passed. True, Lysons undoubtedly saw where he was treading, for he tells us that Whitfield was purchased by John Foljambe from Thomas le Ragged in 1330, but how Master Ragged got it, or John disposed of it, he is silent. Chinley could never have been given to the Talbots, for James I. sold it, or some portion of it, when he was hard up.

Why the magnificent scenery of the Goyt Valley is known to so few Englishmen, we are at a loss to understand. There is railway communication (more or less) along the whole course of the river, from its source among the declivities of Axe Edge to its junction with the Etherow. To alight at Marple, and return by way of Mellor, Thornsett, Birch Vale, and Hayfield to Chapel-en-le-Frith (the whole distance being scarcely ten miles), will repay a thousandfold, there are so many objects of interest on the way. Within the church at Mellor is the oldest pulpit in Christendom; it was in use when John Wycliffe was a student at Oxford, and we learn from Dr. Cox[2] that it was but recently rescued by the Rev. M. Freeman from a limbo of rubbish to which it had been consigned by some soulless churchwarden. Here also is a font of the days of King Stephen - seven hundred and fifty years ago. What varied accents of our language must have been uttered before it - Saxon, Norman-French, Middle English, with the Latin of the priest!

Not five minutes' walk from the church (but so nestled among the hills that it would never be found without a knowledge of its position), is old Mellor Hall, linked with the Mellors, Radcliffes, Staffords,

Chethams, Bridges, Moults, and Cravens. The approach is by crossing a meadow and over a stile that admits to a lane, apparently reserved for the strolls of those who think to make life brighter for one another. On a slight acclivity to the right is the ancient homestead. We wondered if Bob Radcliffe came this way when paying his devours to Emma Mellor in the days of Richard II.

From the Hundred Rolls - 3 Edward I. (1274), we learn that there was a Robert de Meluer, of Mellor, who was tenant in capité to the Crown. From the Inquisition of the Forest, held at Wormhill in 1318, we gather there was a Richard de Meluer of the same place, who was an official of the Crown, holding lands in perpetuity. With this gentleman's son Roger the senior line became extinct, when the co-heiresses married with the Radcliffes and Staffords. Lysons says that the founder of the family was Simon, of Stavely, and that they were living at Mellor in the reign of Henry III. (1216-72). There was a junior branch, however; which settled at Iderichay, and were there for thirteen generations at least, but in 1795 the senior male line ceased of the elder scions, and the co-heiresses mated with the Cresswells and Cocks. There was a junior member of this house who located himself at Derby, whose present representative, is the Rev. Thomas Vernon Mellor, Vicar of Iderichay and rural dean. This gentleman and his son, Henry Vernon Mellor, are (so it is thought) the only descendants and survivors of Mellor of Mellor. The first Mayor Derby ever had was of this house, and Henry Mellor made his year of mayoralty doubly memorable by dying in his robes. A pedigree of this branch is to be found in Glover's Derbyshire, Vol. II, p. 584, from which we glean that they selected their brides from the Alsops, Bradshaws, Maddocks, Bradburys, Sleighs, Wooleys, Websters, Wilmotts, Catesbys, and Hopes. The shields of these ladies shew the greatest display of birds we remember as heraldic charges in any family - doves, owls, eagles, choughs, and martletts.

Among those public records relative to “Proceedings in Chancery from the reign of Richard II. to that of Elizabeth”, will be found various instances in which a Mellor was plaintiff or defendant; the particulars of which are most interesting to the curious. Some of these cases involve most exceptional points, as to whether it is trespass for the cattle of one man to graze upon the land of another, when such lands are not cultivated by the owner nor productive of benefit; and whether a field track can be said to be a public road. These cases give us an insight into the minds of the Peakrells three or four centuries ago.

Robert Radcliffe, who espoused the heiress of the senior line of the Mellors, was a scion of the famous Lancashire family living at Radcliffe, on the banks of the Orwell, before the Conquest. Their name (so it is said) was taken from the red cliff on the opposite bank of the stream, hence the perversion by some early writers to Rougemont. William Radcliffe, who was Sheriff in 1195, had a great-grandson, from whom sprang the various branches of the house, and who was really the founder of its ultimate splendour. He was a companion of Edward I. in his great victories, and became Lord of Radcliffe; with right of free warren and chase over his demesne lands. The descendants of his second son acquired the Barony of Fitzwalter, the Earldom of Sussex, and the Earldom of Derwentwater, of such tragic celebrity: His third born was that gallant knight whose military achievements earned them the motto of “Caens, Crecy, Calais”, who was the father of the first Radcliffe resident at Mellor, and whose wife was Joan Holland, sister of the Earl of Kent. The Hollands were relatives of the Plantagenets, but no one has accredited the Peak Radcliffes with such distinguished connections. This family had held Mellor Hall for over two hundred years when St. George, the Herald, made his “Visitation” in 1611; for their Derbyshire pedigree shews ten generations, but what became of them afterwards is all conjecture, though there are Radcliffes to this hour living around the old homestead in a very different sphere of life.

The manor which was in the dowry of Emma Mellor, the heiress,[3] was a subordinate or mesne manor. We have said that this lady had a sister who mated with the Staffords. Now, whether there was any contingent remainder - for the possession of the Hall and manor - in favour of the Staffords, or whether there was a purchase from the Radcliffes, we cannot trace; anyway, it was a Stafford, of Stockport, who sold the residence[4] (the one still standing) to the Chethams in 1686 and the lands in 1704. We get at the interesting fact, however, that these Staffords were a branch of the famous and aristocratic Eyam house, and were still perpetuating an illustrious Peak family, usually said to have become extinct in the days of Elizabeth. The offshoot of the fourteenth century had lived on, while the parent stock had perished. In our own time we remember a Mellor of Mellor who was a wood steward, a Stafford of the same ilk who was a stonemason, and a Radcliffe who was a cotton spinner. We do not say that these men were descendants of the famous Peak families, but we submit that the fact is curious, and that it would not be anything marvellous for them to be descendants of junior members of these families who had branched off three or four hundred years ago.

The Chethams of Mellor were descendants of the brother of that “good Humphrey Chetham”, whose philanthropy forced the Crown into offering him a knighthood, which he refused; whose love of knowledge, together with his benevolence, is proclaimed by a Library and Society where the poorest student can have access to records of priceless value; whose princely munificence (though chiefly directed to Manchester), together with such exalted nobleness of character, has added splendour to the nation. How he left his property to his nephew George, whose grandson, while holding Mellor Hall, died without issue; how the heir was a stripling in the army, whose uncle (a poor ignorant fellow) was induced, for a trifling sum, to sign away the lad's rights by a most infamous and nefarious scoundrel and relative, Edward Chetham, barrister-at-law, living at Castleton; how this same barrister tore out the leaf of the Register in Salford Church which was a proof of the soldier's legitimacy, and defaced documents by acids; how this legal scoundrel at last blew his brains out in a room at Castleton in 1789, is too well known to need any recapitulation. We believe that this marriage, after a period of over one hundred years, has at length been proved by the discovery (suggested by a parish clerk) that it was by special license, of which there was other entry beside the Church Register. Knowing that this family has gone on generation after generation struggling for their bread in the workshops of Cottonopolis, we should, indeed, like to know if they have succeeded in establishing their right.

Mellor Hall was sold to the Bridges in 1797, from whom it passed to the Moults, while the lands were purchased by the Oldknows in the following year. When we sketched this old edifice it was tenantless, and, we were told, for sale, but it is now held by Mr. J. Craven. Its appearance shows the hand of the improver, but there are portions of it that tell a very different tale. This gentleman very courteously proffered - even without any solicitation - to allow the writer to inspect the old deeds relating to the property, which courtesy he has availed himself of, with many thanks.[5]

The charm of the spot to the student lies in its association with facts of which he strives to know something. Here was the very beginning of the Forest, as stated in the Inquisition of 1274. For fifteen miles south, and twelve miles east, did its sylvan shades extend, but all that remains of it now are the historic mansions in which its officials dwelt. Here was the earliest homestead of the Mellors of which there is any record, and where they were living before the Charter of the Forest had been obtained by the swords of the Barons. The scenery, or rather the formation of the land, between Mellor and Hayfield will give a better idea of the old Forest than all the books ever written: The distance is six miles. What a glorious sight, and how exciting, too, must have been a stampede of the animals. No scamper along an American plain, but rugged and precipitous paths apparently leading to the clouds. Of those Old Halls of the Peak - homes of the Forest officials - which mark the spots where the earliest of the Peak families were located, how many have we remaining? Who knows where the Savages lived at Castleton, or the Daniels at Tideswell, or the Foljambes at Wormhill, or the Needhams at Thornsett, or the Rossingtons at Youlgreave, or Tunsteads at Tunstead, or Woodroffes at Hope?


[1] Burke's “Peerage”. This nobleman died, 16th July, 1528.
[2] “Churches of Derbyshire”, Vol. 11.
[3] This lady owned two thousand acres at Mellor and died without issue. Information sent us by the Rev. T. V. Mellor.
[4] Hugh and his son Tristram cut off the entail and disposed of it to the Chethams. Ibid.
[5] See Addenda - Mellor.

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

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