Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Ollerset Hall

SIR THOMAS BRADBURY, one of the Worshipful Company of Mercers of the City of London, Sheriff, 14 Henry VII. (1498), and Lord Mayor in the year that Bluff Hal became King, is memorable from having died in his mayoralty. This gentleman was buried in St. Stephen's, Coleman Street. He was an offspring of the old Peak family located at Ollerset, in the Glossop valley; indeed, his grandfather and father were born at Ollerset, for which fact there is indisputable evidence; his grandmother was a daughter of the Davenports, of Bramhall, County Chester, and his mother was the heiress of the Rookhills, of Braughing, County Herts. The Bradburys, of Littlebury, County Essex, were a branch of the Braughing house, as is proved by the Herald's Visitations.

When William Bradbury left the valley of the Goyt behind him and founded the Braughing branch by marriage with the heiress of the Rookhills, it was in that troubled period of the Wars of the Roses. This fact, together with the one that his father was Robert, of Ollerset, and that his son was Thomas, the knight from whom the Littlebury branch, is found in Vol. XXII. of Harl: So. Publications. But this fact is again clenched by Herbert's Livery Companies, Vol. I., p. 248, and Herbert had access to all the City Records, for he was Librarian of the Corporation. The shields of the Essex Bradburys shew that the lads followed the example of their sire, William, in marrying heiresses. Herbert tells us that Joan Bradbury, widow of Sir Thomas, was very munificent in her gifts to the poor, and that among other bequests she gave to the Mercers' Company lands to the value of twenty pounds a year “for the maintenance of certain superstitious uses and the performance of works of charity. . . . The remarkable circumstance which justifies a particular mention of the occurrence here is that the land purchased on this occasion was no other than that now immensely valuable tract which is covered by New Bond Street and its neighbourhood, and then called ‘Conduit Mead’, a property which, had this Company retained it, would more than quadrupled the value of all their present estates”.

The earliest mention of the Ollerset house is in the Inquisition of the Forest for 1318, when Hugh de Bradbury, a sturdy yeoman, protested against the payment of tithes to the Priory of Lenton; and the last entry we can find of them being at Ollerset is for the 17th May, 1662, when there was much ado among godfathers and godmothers, for it was the christening of the heir beneath the ancestral roof. There was Uncle and Squire Joddrell, of Yeardsley, who had brought a mug of sterling worth in his pocket; there, too, was Grandmother Bradbury, who was the starchy Dorothy Bowden whom Grandfather Edmund had won half a century before; but these items concern only those descendants who still remain among us. The earliest trace of this family yields a curious fact. The Bradburys are associated with just the same counties as the De Gernons (who changed their name to Cavendish). They both first appear in Essex, then in Derbyshire, then a branch of both houses turn up in Suffolk. This is curious in the item of Essex, for it was in that county that the most opulent of the Bradburys resided long afterwards in the Tudor period. At the very time that the Peak De Gernons were becoming extinct, so were the Suffolk Bradburys; and even as the Suffolk De Gernons perpetuated their line, so did the Peak Bradburys. After an absence of three centuries the De Gernons came back to us, settling at Chatsworth, just when we find the senior Bradburys locating themselves at Youlgreave. There is more than coincident here! The Bradburys may have been the squires of the knightly De Gernons. One fact fits such a supposition marvellously: the Bradburys first appear at Ollerset just when Roger de Gernon had left Moor Hall, Bakewell, and espoused Mary Potkins, the heiress of the Lord of Cavendish, in Suffolk. We submit as an assertion to be worked out by the student of Derbyshire history, that the tenure of the Bradburys at Ollerset was, in the first place, owing to a gift, or due to the interest of the De Gernons. The Bradburys were at Ollerset for four hundred years; here before Roger Bacon had discovered gunpowder; before Chaucer had written his Canterbury Tales; here while poor blind Milton was dictating his Paradise Lost; and down to the reign of that imbecile Stuart who laboured to make our Constitution a despotism.

Setting out from Chapel-en-le-Frith with the intent of sketching the old homestead, we followed up the valley of the Goyt with its wild but grand scenery and rugged paths, leaving behind us Bugsworth, Chinley, and Beard. Inquiry for the position of Ollerset Hall brought the answer, “It is all in ruins now”. There were the ruins sure enough, the wall of the north gable with heaps of debris, shewing evidence of a once stately edifice. There was the carriage drive part grown with grass; the coach-house converted into cottages; but there was a blunder somewhere. This debris was not the debris of a mediæval building. The slightest antiquarian knowledge of architecture was scarcely needed to shew that a century had not gone by since the masons were at work. This fact was clenched by a resident of one of the neighbouring dwellings telling us that her mother could remember when Squire Newton had built the Hall, and how he had squandered his money away. But where was the Hall of the Bradburys? In Lysons there is the entry that Ollerset Hall was a farmhouse in his time, and owned by the Newtons. Had they pulled it down to build their gingerbread structure? Within a short distance was an old yeoman's dwelling, but we were assured it had never been known as the Hall. The front of this dwelling was covered with ivy, which, prevented any idea being formed, and so we asked permission to see the back part of it, to which there was no access excepting to the family. Our reward was ample. An inscription, or rather initials and date on an outbuilding, set the matter at rest: N.M.B. in written characters, with the figures 1529. We knew from the genealogy of the family that at this time Nicholas Bradbury and his wife Mary were living here. This is the very gentleman about whom there are some very interesting documents in the Record Office. Particular reference is Bundle 3 (7 Elizabeth), of the Inquisitions Post Mortem relating to the Duchy of Lancaster. It appears that Nicholas was holding “the Queen's Mill called Berde Mill or New Mill”, when Ralph Mellor purchased certain fields adjoining the Mills. Through these fields there was (and still is) a right of way for “wain and cart horse and man”. This right Squire Mellor disputed, and closed the road: Mellor was son-in-law to Bradbury, and what so probable that the closing of the road was “a Roland for an Oliver”, as a return for objection to the hand of the daughter. The Bradburys were at this time at the height of their prosperity, and during this prosperity the Youlgreave and Yorkshire branches had gone forth.

While beneath the roof of this old homestead we gathered that the staircase, on which there was some elaborate carving, had been removed but a few years since, from being unsafe through age. We have the records of the marriages of this family for at least nine generations, and from such alliances (one was a daughter or scion of a house who were and still are Peers of the realm) we feel more and more perplexed, if not astonished, that the Bradburys lost their high position among Derbyshire families. We cannot find any evidence that they became impoverished from their loyalty to the Stuarts, like the Blackwells of Taddington. Their names are not among the Royalists whose estates were sequestered, nor in the book of “Non-jurors”. How near the Bradburys in the sixteenth century were becoming relatives of the Talbots, Earl of Shrewsbury, may never perchance have been dug out by, or suggested itself to, a member of the family. Grace Shakerley, wife of the fifth Earl, was aunt to Eleanor, who married Edward, or Edmund Bradbury, of Ollerset. The neice blessed her husband with a family; the Countess had no issue, or ties of blood must have followed. How advantageous such relationship would have been it is useless to speculate. They mated in consecutive generations with the girls of the Beards, Bagshawes, Tetlows, Wests, and Bowdens. The Bagshawes have held a knighthood, and are still holding more than one lordship of a manor, besides the Halls of Wormhill and Ford. The Wests are Earls de la Warr, Viscounts Cantilupe, and Barons in the Peerage of Great Britain.

At the very time, or very shortly before, that Nicholas Bradbury was anxious for his mill and horses, his cousin, Thomas of Essex, was a knight and opulent merchant of the city, whom the King delighted to honour. In the Rutland Papers, wherein there is that curious list shewing the lords, ladies, and gentlemen who waited upon the Emperor Charles V. when visiting London, and how they had to be lodged here, there and everywhere, there is this entry: “Item, my lady Bradburye: hall parlour, III chambers, VI beddes, with all other necessaries”. Moreover, another entry says: “My lady Bradburye was allowed one hogshead of wine and three barrels of beer for own consumption”.

There are three members of this family who need particular mention.

The most singular man perchance of a singular race was Thomas, the Nonconformist. He was one of the Yorkshire branch. When George I. came to the Throne, Bradbury was among the clergymen who waited upon him with an address. They went in their gowns. “Pray, sir”, said the nobleman in waiting, “is this a funeral?” “Yes, Sir”, replied Bradbury, “it is the funeral o£ the Schism Act and the resurrection of liberty”. The oddities of Bradbury are traditionary. He was known as the facetious preacher. Born at Wakefield, educated at Leeds and Attercliffe, he became an assistant to Dr. Gilpin, one of the expelled ministers who took his degree of M.D. for the curing of diseased bodies when his avocation was gone for the curing of uneasy souls. This was at Newcastle-on-Tyne. From here Bradbury went to London, where he succeeded Benoni Rowe, at the Fetter Lane Chapel. He was here for twenty years. He was afterwards preacher to the congregation at New Court, Carey Street. His sermons were published in 1763, and from these extraordinary compositions we can imagine the man. There is a political heading attached to each one, as to wit: “The Divine right of the Revolution”, the text being taken, I Chronicles xii., 23; “The Primitive Tories, or Persecution, Rebellion, and Priesteraft” founded on Jude II. Bogne has it, that “from the great number of sacred texts applied to the occasion, one would imagine the Bible was written only to confirm, by Divine authority, the benefits accruing, to this nation from the accession of King William III”. Neal says, “I have seen Mr. Bradbury's sermons just published, the nonsense and buffoonry of which would make one laugh if his impious insults over the pious dead did not make one tremble”. On the day that Queen Anne died he preached (so it is said) from the text, “Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her, for she is a King's daughter”. One oddity of Bradbury is thus told: “Tom generally gave audience at supper time, and the ceremony was thus conducted”. On a little table lay two pocket Bibles, one of which was taken up by Bradbury and the other by his daughter, and each having read a portion, one of the visiting ministers was desired to pray, they then adjourned to supper, after which Tom entertained the company with ‘The roast beef of old England’, which, it is said, he sang better than any man in England.[1] Bradbury will be remembered by the bookworms from his famous lectures delivered at the Weigh-house, and from the part he took in the memorable Arian controversy among the Dissenters. He voted in the minority, and in answer to the hisses he turned and said, “It's the voice of the serpent, and may be expected against a zeal for the seed of the woman”. This strange combination of theology and satire lived to a marvellous old age, like many of his race, and was buried in Bunhill Fields, not far from John Bunyan.

Whether George Bradbury, Baron of the Exchequer under William III., was a son of one of the lads who went forth from Ollerset and settled in London about the beginning of the seventeenth century, or was a scion of the Essex Branch, is not very clear. When but a young barrister he was junior counsel in the famous Ivry case, and by a marvellous display of acumen he detected that certain deeds were frauds, and at once placed himself in the front rank of his profession. The particulars of the case are in Vol. X. of the State Trials; that execrable creature Jeffreys was the judge. These deeds gave a right to an enormous amount of property in Shadwell, and purported to have been made out in the reign of Philip and Mary. The title by which these Monarchs were designated Bradbury remembered they did not hold until several days subsequent to the date of the deeds; hence the documents were spurious. Jefffreys complimented him, but immediately followed the famous scene. Bradbury found it necessary to reiterate certain facts, on which Jeffreys turned on him: “Lord, sir, you must be cackling, too; we told you your objection was ingenious but that must not make you troublesome; you cannot lay an egg but you must be cackling over it”. Some four years after came the Revolution, when James II. fled, and Jeffreys became a prisoner in the Tower. “The chief of the Bar”, says Hamilton, “were summoned to consult with the Peers upon the political crisis, and Bradbury was among the number”. On the accession of William III. he became Puisne Baron of the Exchequer, and sat on the Bench for seventeen years.

Some fifty years ago William Bradbury, of Bakewell, took up his residence in London, and founded the Daily News and Field newspapers, and became publisher of Punch.[2] A more brilliant staff of literary men were never brought in contact than by this member of the Bradbury family - Dickens; Thackery, Hood, with many more whose names are imperishable. Such facts are known to everybody, but there is one of pathetic interest connected with William Bradbury which may come as a surprise, even to members of the Peak family. This gentleman had a son, Henry, who at the age of nineteen, in the year 1850, entered the employ of the Imperial Printing Office at Vienna, bent upon learning the art of “Nature Printing”. Five years later, when but a youth comparatively, his masterly and splendid delineations of the “Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland”, together with his “British Seaweeds”, came as a marvel of art to the civilized world. Then followed his lectures on other subjects at the Royal Institution, some of which were illustrated by Leighton, now president of the Royal Academy. Another five years and this young man of such astonishing promise (on Sunday, and September, 1860) passed away from among his fellows from a rash act of his own hand.

There was a branch of the Ollerset family who settled at Bankhead, and long sustained the dignity of their house. Just beside the little door sacred to the priest at Chapel-en-le-Frith Church, there is a grave of a daughter of this offshoot, and from a quaint expression upon the tombstone we ever turn aside to look at it, as there is a dash of real, natural, human affection about it. Besides, it is two hundred and twenty years since a loving hand placed it there, and from the depth the letters were cut they were meant to last till the day of resurrection. To find one of the old Peak families moving in such a distinct sphere from that of their forefathers excites even more than a passing interest.


[1] Chalmer's Biography: National Biography, by Leslie Stephen.
[2] See Addenda - Bradbury.

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

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