Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Padley Hall

IN this age of religious toleration, how many of us know anything of the Statute of Recusancy, passed in the reign of Elizabeth; or how, by its effects, some of the old Derbyshire families forfeited their estates and fled to the Continent; or suffered imprisonment and were left to rot in gaol? A recusant was not allowed to maintain any suits at law or in equity, neither could he become a professional man, either as lawyer or doctor, nor was he permitted to travel five miles from home without a license. He could not present to an advowson or become an executor or guardian; he was liable to the penalties attending excommunication, and was mulcted [Ed: sic] twenty pounds a month for non-attendance at church. If he was convicted of recusancy and did not conform, he was banished the country, and if he returned he committed felony with the punishment of death. In the case of a married lady being a recusant, she could be kept in prison unless her husband dubbed up ten pounds a month for her company. What family suffered more for their recusancy than the Fitzherberts, and, in particular, Sir Thomas (who was lord of Padley, as also of Norbury), together with his brothers? Among those old families of the county which we have still with us, and whose names are either in the Peerage or Landed Gentry, the Fitzherberts have an unbroken pedigree of male descent from the founder with an entry on the roll of Battle Abbey. This family has two branches, the one now lords of Norbury and Swinnerton, and the other lords of Tissington. They were Derbyshire landlords before Henry I. had eaten of that memorable dish of lampreys which gave him a few feet of earth in Reading Abbey. Dr. Cox, in his Churches, says there are not two branches, but two houses with a “totally distinct ancestry”. The learned Doctor, except he is dealing with ecclesiology, invariably allows his assumptions to trip him. What says Vol. I. of the Genealogist? What says Vol. IV. of the Topographer? What says Burke, and every known Heraldic scholar (except Dr. Cox)? That Sir Henry Fitzherbert, lord of Norbury, Sheriff of the County, 48 Henry III., Knight Banneret, 3 Edward I.; M.P. for Derbyshire 1294-1307, had a brother, Thomas, from whom Nicholas (fifth in descent), who married Cicely Francis, the heiress, with a moiety of Tissington in her dowry. Long before Dr. Cox was born, a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine (1804, p.1194) had clearly shewn that the Fitzherberts of Norbury and Tissington were the same house. Long before the Doctor wrote his Churches, a writer in the Topographer had grappled with, and exploded the assumption that the Fitzherberts, of Tissington, were an offshoot of the Fitzherberts, Earls of Pembroke.

Before we shew that it was while Sir Thomas Fitzherbert was residing at Padley that the Hall acquired its celebrity, we will state a few facts which relate to the previous tenancy of the edifice. This desecrated building - for it is now used as a cowhouse and hay store - which is situated about two miles north of Grindleford Bridge, on the eastern bank of the Derwent, was a wing of the original structure, and was the residence of the Bernakes, who took the name of Padley; subsequently it was with the Eyres, Fitzherberts, and Ashtons. The Gothic ecclesiastical fittings within show it to have been used for religious purposes, hence it is usually called Padley Chapel. There are few spots in Derbyshire where the beauty of the scenery surpasses this portion of the Derwent valley, while the associations of the old edifice lend to such beauty a romance. Among the associations there is an episode of brutality, performed in the name of religion, whereof proof can be found in our annals or Challoner's Martyrology; while there is a pretty tradition (made fact by the altar tomb of Hathersage Church) of a loving heart remaining true and firm to the vows she had plighted; and this in an age when a woman had no right to her own soul. Most of us forget that a daughter, under the feudal laws, was a kind of chattel in a household, to be given to whom her parents chose; and if she became a ward, her guardian made her a description of merchandise, or enhanced the splendour of his own house by mating her (nolens volens) to one of his sons. Joan Padley has had no famous writer to make the world familiar with her loving heart like Dorothy Vernon, though both played a similar part, and both were loveable women; neither has the Hall of her sires furnished subject for the brush of famous artists, like Haddon, but while men care to cherish the memory of faithful women, she will never be forgotten. The beauty, amiability, and gentleness (characteristics of Derbyshire women) of Joan Padley had won her many hearts, but she refused to listen to expressions of affection, even when those expressions had the sanction of her father. The truth was, she had plighted her troth with Robert Eyre, third son of Nicholas, lord of Highlow. Now Sir. Nicholas was under the ban of the Church for some dark deed (tradition says it was murder), and Joan's father had forbidden the union of the young people. They managed to meet secretly and repeat their vows of constancy, for the tower of Stony Middleton Church is said to mark their trysting place. That church was certainly built by Robert Eyre after he had gained his knighthood. Just then Henry V. was fitting out his memorable expedition against France, and requiring volunteers from the Peak of Derbyshire. Among these volunteers was Robert Eyre. That he gained his knighthood is historical fact, but the wherefore is tradition. In the attack on Harfleur his gallantry attracted the notice of Talbot, the first Earl of Shrewsbury; and in the desperate encounter at Agincourt he led a charge in the thickest of the fight, taking prisoner one of the marshals of France, for which the King knighted him on the field. The subsequent union of Robert and Joan and their numerous children (who became founders of numerous houses) is told by the altar tomb in the chancel of Hatbersage Church.

In the Plumpton Correspondence, published by the Camden Society, there is a letter written at Padley almost four hundred years ago, showing how a father covenanted for the marriage of his son, and also that there was a park at Padley. The terms of the covenant were that Arthur Eyre (the last of the Padley Eyres) should be matched with Margaret Plumpton, in consideration of two hundred and fifty marks, though, for the keep of the young lady, “fifty shillings were to be henceforth allowed out of each instalment” of the payment. The letter is of interest, from its being written at Padley, from its antiquity, and from its showing the custom of those days of assuming ties of relationship which never existed.

“To My Right Worshipful Brother, Sir Robert Plumpton, Knight, These be delivered.

“Right worshipful brother, I recommend me unto you and to my lady your wife, and to my daughter and to yours, with all my other cousins your children, desiring to hear of your welfare and theirs both, which I beseech Jesu preserve unto your most hearts comfort, evermore thanking you and your good lady your wife of the great and worshipful cheer I and my kinsmen had with you. Brother, you be remembered how the writings of the covenant of marriage of my son and your daughter, as it be not made up by the advise of learned counsel; wherefore, if it please you to appoint any day and place about the beginning of Lent to wait upon you and a learned man with me; and all such promise as I have made on my part shall be well and truly performed with the grace of Jesu, for you shall find me ever, one man. Also brother I pray you that you will send me by my servant, William Bowott, the bringer, the payment which I should have of you at Candlemas last past, for I have put myself unto more charge since I was with you than I had before. For I have married another of my daughters, and I have begun to make a wall about my park that I shewed you, I was minded to do, which I trust when you see it you will like it well. Praying you not to fail as my trust is in you and to give credence to this bringer. No more than Jesu preserve. Written at Padly on St. Valentine's Day” (1499-1500)
“with the hand of your brother,

The issue of the marriage of Arthur Eyre and Margaret Plumpton was a daughter and heiress, Anne, who mated with Sir Thomas Fitzherbert. This gentleman was knighted by Edward VI., and was allowed by his enemies to be of irreproachable character, of a kind heart and munificent disposition; of great scholastic attainments. His persecution by the Councils of Elizabeth is piteous; half his life spent in loathsome gaols was his punishment for adhering to his religious belief.

Padley Hall acquired its celebrity during the residence of Sir Thomas; pathetic in its detail and interesting in its outline. We mean the residence was his without the chance of residing there, for during the last thirty years of his life, which terminated in 1591, “with only three short intervals of freedom”, says Dr. Cox, “he was dragged about from goal to goal, now in the Fleet, now in the county goal, at Derby; now at Lambeth, and now in the Tower, in which State prison he finally died”, aged seventy-four. During his imprisonment he was deprived of the greater portion of his estates; was accused of complicity with the Northern Rebellion, though the temporal power of Elizabeth had scarcely so loyal a subject; was fleeced of his cattle; and finally, the Manor of Padley was confiscated. In February, 1587, there were three men hiding within the walls of Padley, for whose arrest the Council of Elizabeth was particularly anxious. Two were Catholic priests named Nicholas Garlick and Robert Ludlam, and the other was John Fitzherbert, the brother of Sir Thomas, who had taken over the care of the estates. The priests had been appointed by colleges abroad as missionaries for the teaching of the doctrines of Rome in England, on account of their indomitable spirit in enduring persecution for what they thought was the cause of Christ. Garlick was a Derbyshire man, bred and born, which would cause an interest to arise about his previous life, even if that life were not tinged with romance. His childhood had been passed in the little village of Dinting, in the Glossop valley, and his family appears to have belonged to the yeoman class. The precocity of the boy soon exhausted such knowledge as was to be obtained at the neighbouring school of Mellor. His more than ordinary love of culture had gained him the friendship of the pastor, who fostered the lad's love of study by lending him what books his meagre library possessed. His attainments soon qualified him to take up an appointment at Tideswell, and this at a time when Pursglove was at his elbow to test his efficiency. But to him this appointment was more than life, and why? Years before, when a boy, as he lay on the banks of the Etherow one lovely Summer's afternoon, there passed by the retinue of Richard Stafford, of Eyam, lord of Tideswell. The lad saw not their prancing steeds nor gorgeous livery, it was the exquisite sweet face of a child who rode her horse so stately. That face he had set up in his heart as a deity to bow down to and worship, and now, as schoolmaster at Tideswell, he would have the one desire paramount of all others, to be near to her, where he could see her, to admire. to adore. But the haughty descendant of Nigel de Stafford could never mate with the son of a yeoman. The purity of his love ignored self, in its very possession, and when he had become settled at Tideswell, and year followed year, all the bitterness of his hopeless affection came upon him, and one evening as he wandered through Monk's Dale he entered the old oratory (of which there are a few stones remaining), and before one of its deserted altars he vowed to put aside the passions of his heart and devote himself to the service of God. Garlick was surrounded by those who strove to strengthen his resolve. In 1582 he entered the English College at Rheims, where he was ordained priest. In the following year he returned to England, when he was arrested and banished. Yet on Candlemas Day of 1587 we find him an inmate of Padley Hall. The search made on that day, though led by Columbell, lord of Darley, failed, and yet all three men were secreted about the building. The ingeniously constructed chimneys are asserted to have been their hiding place. The following Spring the Earl of Shrewsbury, accompanied by Columbell and Manners of Haddon, again searched Padley Hall, and this time John FitzHerbert and the priests were arrested. In the Lent Assizes of 1588 the latter were tried at Derby and condemned, and soon after executed. The horrible torture of cutting down before life was extinct, and quartering their bodies, was carried out.[1] Challoner tells us he saw these men meet their doom, and that, when Sympson (another priest, condemned to death also) trembled to ascend the scaffold, Garlick pushed him aside, kissed the ladder, and “with remarkable joy and alacrity finished his course”.[2] John Fitzherbert was sent to Lodon, where he eventually died, in that prison where the Carthusian monks had met a similar fate half a century before. Among those Talbot MSS. published by Lodge, there is a letter written by John Manners of Haddon to the Earl of Shrewsbury, respecting the search at Padley Hall for John Fitzherbert, which is of considerable interest:-

“Yesterday being Candlemas Day (3rd February, 1587), Mr. Columbell went himself early in the morning with sixteen or twenty of our men to Padley, where he found Thomas Fitzherbert's wife, Anthony Fitzherbert, two of his sisters, and about twenty persons besides, seeming to be of their household; and made diligent search for Mr. John Fitzherbert, yet could not find him, but was informed by them that he was in Staffordshire. Thence he went to the North Lees, and took Mr. Fenton and searched his house, but found no suspicious persons. He used himself very obediently, and came with him willingly to Haddon, where he showed a protection, and desireth that it may stand with your lordship's pleasure, to have the benefit thereof, for the liberty to be in his own house, according to the same; by which it appeared that he hath entered into a bond of two hundred pounds to be forthcoming at any time within twenty days' warning. And if this cannot be granted him, then his humble request is that he may have respite to go to his own house for a week, to take order for his things, and chiefly to comfort his daughter, who was brought to bed the same morning, and seemed amazed with his sudden apprehension. Also, the same morning, we sent Robert Eyre, of Bubnell, with the constable, and seven or eight persons, to Harwood Grange, where they found Brown and brought him hither; but Corke and the Lady Talbot be removed hence. The said Brown offered to come to the Church, but is very loath to go to the gaol, because, as he saith, there is an execution forth against him for debt; who yet for recusancy was never indebted. Padley may be doubted much to be a house of evil resort, and therefore, my lord, there will be no good redress there (in our simple opinions in those matters, unless that some may be resident there that will be comfortable; and some preacher be placed among an here in the Peake to teach the people better.”

We are told by Dr. Cox, in an article on Norbury (Vol. VII. Derbyshire Archæological Journal), that John Fitzherbert “was condemned to death for harbouring priests, and the estates of Padley were confiscated for a like reason; but it was intimated that his life might be saved if the then enormous sum of ten thousand pounds could be raised. His son-in-law, Thomas Eyre, of Holme Hall, by Chesterfield, sold his Manor of Whittington, and with the help of others, gathered together the whole sum. It is said that it was also stipulated that John Fitzherbert should be set at liberty, but as this was a secret transaction the recipients of the money could not be brought to task, and he died in prison.” To whom the Manor of Padley belonged at the Survey (1086) there is no trace, but we assume it was simply a berewick of Hathersage. After the Fitzherberts were deprived of it the Earl of Shrewsbury evidently held it for a short time, though it soon passed to the Ashtons, of Castleton, from whom by heiress to the Spencers, from whom by heiress to the Shuttleworths.

There is reason to believe that the Manor of Padley would never have been escheated, nor the two priests taken, nor John Fitzherbert have died in prison, but for the fiendish scoundrelism of one of the spies of Talbot - nay, a spy entrusted by Queen Elizabeth herself. The character of Richard Topcliffe is hideous. He ingratiated himself with the Fitzherberts, and partook of their hospitality while he betrayed them. He affected sympathy with the Romish priesthood, and secured their capture by his villany. He seduced the daughters of his prisoners under pretence of securing their father's liberation, and then forced them by threat of exposure to bear witness against their parent. We shall speak of Richard Topcliffe elsewhere.

Another letter which Lodge found among the Talbot papers is of great interest to the Peakrell, as it was written by poor Sir Thomas Fitzherbert, after his expulsion from Padley, to the Earl of Shrewsbury.

“Very good Lord,

“With all humble duty, I crave leave in lonly wise to open my griefs unto you. I suppose your Honour hath known me about fifty years and my wife that was daughter and heir into Sir Arthur Eyre. I trust I have been dutiful unto my Lords, your grandfather, father, and your Honour, and I have found your Honours all my good Lords till now of late your Lordship entering into the house of Padley found two seminaries there, all unknown unto my brother, as was confessed at their death and is well approved since by good testimony; since which time your Lordship also, hath entered my house of Padley and the demesnes thereof, seized all the goods of my brothers and mine, that was in that house, amongst which I held certain evidences of wood and meadow under Levin House, called Faultcliffe, which as I am informed your Honour hath entered upon and occupieth wholly to your use, though I have been possessed and my wife's ancestors thereof time out of mind. Very good Lord, these things are greater than my present poor estates can suffer, or in anywise bear, I paying Her Majesty the Statute of Recusancy, being two hundred and sixty pounds by year, which is more than all my rents yearly rise unto. Loath am I to complain of your Honour in any way, wherefore I complain myself first unto your Lordship, hoping you will deal so nobly and charitably with me, as I shall be restored to my house, Lands and goods by your Honour, so as I shall be fully satisfied, and be able to pay Her Majesty, and forever bound to pray for your Lordship's life in all honour long to continue.
“From London” (say one of the goals) “this 28 May, 1589.

As Lodge says, the poor fellow dared not sign his own name lest it be produced in evidence against him. The letter was endorsed by Henry Talbot - “John Watson affirmed that he brought this letter from Sir Thomas Fitzherbert, which was received the 3rd June.”

[1] In the case of Garlick, he recovered full consciousness and was thus quartered alive.- “Annals of Derbyshire”, Vol. I., p.262.
[2] Dr. Cox quotes a local ballad of the time in his “Annals”:
When Garlick did the ladder kiss,
And Sympson after hie,
Methought that there St. Andrew was
Desirous for to die.
When Ludlam looked smilingly
And joyful did remain,
It seemed St. Stephen was standing by
For to be stoned again . . .

Extract from Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire, 1892.
Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in July 2001.

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