Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
North Lees Hall

ON the 25th October, 1248, the right of free warren was granted by Henry III. to Matthew de Hathersage; this franchise applying to Hathersage, of which manor Matthew was lord. Free warren was a right in perpetuity, wherein the holder could convey away his lands and yet retain to himself and his heirs the right of sport to themselves over those lands. We believe (though we are nowhere told so) that Matthew had acquired the manor with his wife, heiress of the Meynells, who had been demesne tenants of Ralph Fitzhubert, who, in Domesday Book, is shown as holding it. Old Ralph came in at the Survey (1086) for twenty-four lordships in the county, and moieties of ten. others, while he held Hopwell under the Bishop of Chester.[1]

Was it the beauty of the Derbyshire ladies of time past that attracted the attention of the squires of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire, or the dowries they had in their pockets? We trove it was a matter of affection, but whether for the lands or the women presents a difficulty. The union of Matthew de Hathersage and the heiress was blest with two daughters: Cecilia, afterwards the wife of Nigel de Longford,[2] and Matilda, who mated with Walter de Gousell. The Gousells were of Hoveringham, Nottinghamshire, where they had been located for several generations, but not as lords,[3] for we find that Matilda Hathersage, after she became the wife of Walter, purchased lands from the family of Hoveringham, who were in possession of that manor. Although so little is known of the Gousells, we gather that they were extremely lucky fellows, for, after securing one-half of the extensive lands of Matthew de Hathersage, who held at least twenty lordships, one of them married Elizabeth, an heiress of the Fitzalans, Earls of Arundel. Robert Gousell acquired with this lady, plus her dowry, the heraldic quarterings of the baronial and princely houses of Peverell, Albany, Mechines, Lupus, Plantagenet, Warren, Marshall, De Clare, Macmurrough, and Pargiter. In the reign of Henry VIII, the male line ceased, when the two co-heiresses allied themselves with the Wingfields and Stanleys. One fact is worthy of note, that had a given line of the Bagshawes of Ford, of last century, been further perpetuated, such particular line would have borne upon their shield the whole of these extremely aristocratic and historic quarterings.[4] The Longfords were the Eyres of the Middle Ages; we mean, if there were an eligible match anywhere to be made, they were on the look-out. Like the Eyres, they were a Derbyshire family pure and simple. Long before Nigel nestled up Cecilia de Hathersage, his ancestor (Oliver), a century before, had espoused the heiress of the Ercalds. The quarterings of the Longfords are uniquely Derbyshire, and their shield is more than interesting, for we believe that all the families to whom the quarterings belonged are gone, root and branch, Fitz-Ercald, Hathersage,[5] Deincourt, Appleby, and Solney. When Sir Nicholas died in 1610, the Longfords had passed away, too.[6] Their present representative is the Honourable H. J. Coke, of Longford Hall. The right of free warren over Hathersage must have remained with the Gousells, for we find that in the 4 Edward III. Adam de Gousell asserted his claim, and from this asserted claim we are told by Thoroton, Vol. III., p.62, of a blunder in the Gousell pedigree which otherwise would have escaped detection.

Within the Parish of Hathersage there are four manors - Padley, Stony Middleton, Bamford, and its own. The family of Ashton, who were lords of Padley subsequent to the forfeiture of Sir Thomas Fitzherbert, were a branch of the famous Lancashire house. Deeds of chivalry and a knighthood for their bravery were ever characteristic with them (and they have a pedigree from a Saxon Thane), [f]or loyalty to a fallen dynasty, followed by terrible and ignominious punishment. The Royal Standard of Scotland was captured at Neville's Cross by one of the lads; another was at the battle of Huttonfield, and after he had won his spurs, he rose to be Lieutenant of the Tower and Vice-Constable of England; a third was an Admiral, a Justiciary of Ireland, warden of the Cinque Ports. When the plot against the life of Oliver Cromwell failed, Edward Ashton, to whom the most hazardous part had been entrusted, was executed, drawn, and quartered at the corner of Mark Lane. One of the most faithful adherents of James II. was John Ashton, and he was hanged at Tyburn, which is memorable from the fact that the non-juror clergymen mustered in a body and attended him to the scaffold. From the pages of our annals we turn to the Venerable Doctor of Divinity, Chancellor of Cambridge, Prebendary of Ely, and profound Classic, Charles Ashton, a Derbyshire man, one of the very family who held Padley. We remember how Keller has had a lot of praise for an edition of Tertullian, and Reading for a particular Origen, but both these writers got their corrections from the notes of Ashton. Yes, he was a Derbyshire man, and therefore robbed of his glory; indeed, who would notice the appropriation. There is a marvellous story told by Froissart of an ancestor of our Ashtons. It appears that in the reign of Edward III. the English troops were lying before the French town of Noyeau when the following incident occurred, at least so says Froissart. There was a knight in the English army who performed a most gallant deed of arms. He quitted his troop with his lance in its rest, and, mounted on his courser, followed only by his page, striking spurs into his horse, was soon up the mountains and at the barriers. The name of the knight was Sir John Ashueton, a very valiant and able man, perfectly master of his profession. When he arrived at the barriers of Noyeau he dismounted, and giving his horse to his page, said, “Quit not this place”. Then grasping his spear he advanced to the barriers and leaped over them. There were on the inside some good knights of that country, such as Sir John de Roye, Sir Launcelot de Lorris, and ten or twelve others, who were astonished at his action and wondered what he would do next. However, they received him well. The knight, addressing them, said, “Gentlemen, I am come to see you; for as you do not vouchsafe to come out beyond your barriers, I condescend to visit you. I wish to try my knighthood against your's, and you will conquer me if you can”. After this he gave many good strokes with his lance, which they returned him. He continued in this situation against them all, skirmishing and fighting most gallantly upwards of an hour. He wounded one or two of the knights, and they had so much pleasure in this combat they frequently forgot themselves. The inhabitants looked from above the gates and top of the walls with wonder. They might have done much hurt with their arrrows if they had so willed; but no, the French knights had forbidden it. Whilst he was so engaged his page came close to the barriers, mounted on his courser, and said to him aloud in his oven language, “filly lord, you had better come away, it is time, for our army is on the march”. The knight, who had heard him, made ready, to follow his advice, and after he had given one or two thrusts to clear his way, he seized his spear and leaped again over the barriers without any hurt, and, armed as he was, jumped up behind the page on his courser. When he was thus mounted he said to the French, “Adieu, gentlemen; many thanks to you”, and spurring his steed, soon rejoined his companions. This gallant feat of Sir John Ashueton was highly prized by all manner of men.[7] This is by no means the only gallant feat we shall have to mention, for we have others recorded in our note book, which we have dug out, in which the principal actor was a Peakrell or the descendant of one.

The Shuttleworths, of Hathersage, and lords of Padley, are the senior living branch of the Shuttleworths, of Gawthorpe, County of Lancaster, where we find them as far back as the time of Richard II. One was Chief Justice of Chester, 31 Elizabeth, and builder or designer of that splendid Gothic structure known as Gawthorpe Hall. One was Bishop of Chichester in recent days, while one line now holds a baronetcy.

How the Longfords' share of the Manor of Hathersage passed subsequent to 1481 is not clear, but it presumedly merged into the Gousell moiety, which had been purchased by the Thorpes in 1450, from whom it passed to the Eyres by remainder, to the Pegges by purchase, who disposed of it in 1705 to the first Duke of Devonshire.

We are told by Lysons that Bamford was with Fitzhubert at the Survey, and then, taking a jump of three centuries, he finds it with the Talbots. But the dear old chap ventures no observation as to how it came to the Talbots. If we remember that this illustrious family got Eyam from the Furnivals, together with Stony Middleton; and that William Furnival, who bought Stony Middleton from Richard de Bernake in 1307, was a great lover of broad acres, for which he paid broad pieces, there is some ground, we submit, that the Talbots got Bamford in suchwise. In 1802 the manor was with Francis Evans, from whom to the Mellands and Primes, from whom in three moieties to Wallesby, Shuttleworth, and Robinson.

The earliest known lords of Stony Middleton were the Chaworths, say in the thirteenth century, for before the end of it the Bernakes were in possession. Now this is curious. The last of the senior branch in the male line became extinct at this time, for the heiress, Maud, married Henry Plantagenet, nephew of Edward I.; but these Chaworths (though a branch of the same house) were not our Chaworths, who mated with the heiress of Alfreton, and were such munificent patrons of Beauchief Abbey. The extinction of this line, and Stony Middleton passing simultaneously to the Bernakes, reasons, we submit, that the Chaworths who held Stony Middleton were a distinct branch of that old, famous, baronial munificent Scarsdale family, with whose careers some of us may be familiar.

The position of North Lees Hall is about a mile and a quarter north of Hathersage, and lends a mockery to its desolation, for it commands one of the most lovely views it is possible to conceive. Ten generations of Eyres went forth from its portals to ally themselves with noble families, to establish fresh branches of their house, to perform important duties of the nation, and to leave their names on the rolls of the country; but now the old edifice is deserted, left to the ravages of time, without one loving hand stretched forth to prevent its ruin. Yet there is a nobility in its gloom, an honour in its very degradation. It saw the income of the Tudors, the Stuarts, and the Guelphs; it has seen the changes of four centuries, and from its solidity of masonry it is, apparently, capable of weathering four more. Within this venerable pile there are traces left, though they are fast disappearing, of that originality of taste and skill which arose in the fifteenth century, in adding beauty to a homestead by the dexterous manipulation of the carpenter and plasterer. There are two ceilings that have been splendid specimens of the plasterer's art. The moulding is a succession of squares, divided alternately by lesser squares, angled by fleur-de-lis, and again alternately centred by four of the same beautiful device. The tracery seems to us to embody a fact which hitherto has never been noticed - that of proclaiming the name of the lady, who was its first mistress. The design is clearly an elaboration of the heraldic charges of the Ashursts, of Keaton, Nottinghamshire;[8] for Edmund Eyre, son of Robert and Joan, of Padley, the first resident at North Lees; married Agnes, heiress of the Ashursts, hence the tracery had a hidden grace, and the sentence over the lower hall window is the motto of the Ashursts, “Vincit peal patitur”, thus confirming our supposition. But now everywhere is gloom and desolation; we failed to find within the slightest vestige of its former splendour, excepting its broken cornices, and soffits, and ceilings. There is a spiral staircase, however, of massive oak, which gives the idea that the carpenter was thinking of a millennium, and wished to make no alteration during the term. When James II. fled in 1688, the Eyres, as adherents of that monarch, forsook North Lees, perchance hastily, for, as Catholics, they could expect little mercy from an infuriated populace that made Protestantism a badge to plunder.

The old building, shorn of every ornament that cupidity could convert to some modern use, is piteous in its desolation.


[1] Ashover, Bamford, Barrow, Barlbrough, Ballidon, Boulton, Cliptune, Crich, Duckmanton, Eckington, Ingleby, Henlege (Hanley?), Nether Hurst, Hathersage, Hartle, Merrell Langley, Langley Lede, Middleton-by-Youlgreave, Mosborough, Newton-in-Blackwell, Ogston (a moiety), Palterton, Pentrich, Bradburn (a third), Ripley, Scarcliff, Oakerthorp, Stretton (in Shirland), Egstow, Tunestal, Werredune (?), Willington, Wessington, Whitwell.
[2] See article on “Longford Hall” (Appletree Hundred).
[3] Vide Thoroton's “Nottinghamshire”.
[4] Vide article on “Ford Hall”.
[5] A branch of the Tennysons, relatives of the Port Laureate, have assumed the name of D'Eyncourt, and are so maternally.
[6] Old Sir Nicholas, like Sir Thomas Fitzherbert, was a Catholic and recusant, and fined ruinously for his faith. He died in London, we believe, hiding away from the barbarous edicts against those of his religion. At the suppression of the Monasteries, Sir Ralph Longford came in for the lands of Colwich Abbey, in Staffordshire, of which his ancestors were the founders.
[7] Froissart, Vol. I.
[8] A cross between 4 fleur-de-lis.

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

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