Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Peveril Castle

POSITIVE information respecting the boundaries of the Peak Forest can be obtained from an Inquisition taken 3 Edward I., 1274. “Beginning the south side of the river Goyt, and so along that river to the river Ederowe, and so by the river Ederowe to Langley Croft, near Longdendale Head, and so by a certain byway to the head of Derwent, and from the head of Derwent as far as Mittemford, and from Mittemford to the river of Bradwell, and from the river of Bradwell to a place called Rotherlawe, and from Rotherlawe to the Great Cave at Hazlebache, and from the Great Cave to Little Hucklowe, and from Hucklow to Tideswell, and to the river Wye ascending to Buxton and the springs of Goyt”. These were the boundaries of the thirteenth century and subsequent to the Charter of the Forest, while it is asserted that originally they extended from Glossop to Bakewell, from Hathersage to Buxton. Two hundred years had gone by since the first Peverell was High Steward, and living in his Castle of the Peak. At the close of the twelfth century the severities of the Forest laws had become inhuman, and even diabolical. “Cruel mutilation”, says Bishop Stubbs, “and capital punishment not to be redeemed by any forfeiture are a leading feature of a code so tyrannical that even its authors screened its brutality by a circumlocution”. All Forests “were outside the common law, or right of the kingdom; they were not liable to be visited by the ordinary judges of the Curia Regis, but by special commission and by special officials; they had laws and customs of their own, and these were drawn up rather to insure the peace of the beasts than that of the King's subjects”. These laws have a definition liable to escape detection. They were clearly the enunciation of a despot who sought to make all law subservient to his will; they were the initiative of a King who would rule as an autocrat. The barons were not blind to this definition, and hence their struggle for the Charter excites the greater admiration, for the Forest laws struck at all grades of society with the same monstrous injustice and barbarity. King John even asserted his authority over the fowls of the air; and under his sway the Master Forester was independent of, and not amenable to, the Chief Justiciar. The frightful burden of the Forest laws, apart from their severity, lay in them making it imperative on every freeholder to attend all the Courts of the Forest. This is how we meet with the names of those men on the Inquisitions held at Wormhill, who were not officials, as the Staffords and Bradburys.

The circumference of the Peak Forest is supposed to have been sixty miles. The principal animals were the red deer, wild boar, bears, harts, wolves, and wild bulls. To kill any one of them was more heinous than murder, nay the semblance of killing was specifically defined and visited with execrable torture. The Swainmote met three times a year and the justice Seat once in three years. Let us listen to the charges! He was seen drawing a bow: this was the crime of “Stable Stand”. He was seen with a dog following a wounded animal: this was “Dog Draw”. He was caught with the dead animal in his possession: this was “Backbear”. He was seen with the marks of killing upon his clothes: this was “Bloody Hand”. These offences, as well as all business of the Forest, payment of salaries, adjustment of disputes, evidently had a settlement at the Swainmotes, usually held at Wormhill. It must be exceedingly interesting to some of us to know that among the freemen who sat on the Inquisition, held at Wormhill in 1318, there were William de Stafford, Hugh de Bradbury, Richard de Clough, William le Ragged, Richard de Bagshawe, William del Kyrke, Robert le Taylour, John de Chinley, Richard de la Ford, and Thomas Martyn. There were nine principal offices (some of which required more than one official) connected with the Forest:- The High Steward, whose appointment was from the King by letters patent, whose position was honorary, but whose power was unassailable by any law. 2. The Master Forester, whose position was also honorary, but not by letters patent. 3. The Receiver: he was a paid official, whose duty it was to enforce the payment of all rents and fines due. He had two assistants, called the bailiffs of the franchise and winland. 4. Constable of the Castle: this must have been a nominal position, otherwise it would not have been honorary, for there is evidence extant which shews the Castle to have been the place of detention for prisoners. 5. Ranger: this was an appointment from the King, and no doubt lucrative, beside the nominal emolument. He was collector of all moneys, both attachment and assessment, and the office comprised that of Bowbearer, for which there was a salary. 6. Beremaster: this official had to see to the weighing of all ore, for which he was paid by a percentage or profit, yet the appointment was by letters patent from the King. 7. Woodmaster, and 8. Bailiff of the Forest: were both appointed by the King, yet the difference was this, that while the Woodmaster was a paid official, the Bailiff had often to pay up, as we find there was a Foljambe holding that position in 1274 who paid our hundred marks for the fines of the Forest for nine years. 9. Forester in Fee: of all the offices this was the most enviable to anyone beneath the rank of noble. It was hereditary, and gave the holder of it lands in perpetuity. There would be no difficulty in tracing that many of our landed gentry at the present moment hold their estates by virtue of their ancestors having been Foresters in Fee. The Eyres held this office for generations; so did the Foljambes, Bagshawes, Meverells, Needhams, Woodroffes.

The old Keep of the Peak Castle, which is all of its splendour that remains to us, has occasioned antiquarians to differ materially in their opinion. In Volume VI. of the Archæologia there is a learned article attributing its erection to the period of the Saxon Heptarchy, from the herring-bone masonry of its foundations; yet its Norman architecture is as evident to anyone as it was to Dr. Pegge. Can it ever have been a castle and a homestead of the Peverells, seeing its ballium would be useless for the mustering of forces or retainers, and yet certain authorities venture so to describe it, in the heyday of its glory? Can the entry on the Pipe Rolls be correct, that Henry II. stayed here once on a time? Can the ballads be true which tell of tournaments held and of lovely maidens who dwelt here? Tradition has it that Gaurine de Meez did battle within this castle with a Scottish Prince for the hand of Mellet Peverell. If they fought within the ballium they tossed for sides and De Meez won it. Yet in Domesday Book is the entry of its being Peverell's Castle in the Peak, and from national records we know that when De Montfort defeated the troops of Henry III. at Lewis, he considered the Castle of such importance that he demanded the custody. Twice has it been among the gifts of a royal wedding day - when King John, then Duke of Montaigne, married Isabel Clare, and when Joan Plantagenet, sister of Edward III. became the wife of David II. of Scotland. Twice has it been a stronghold of barons resisting a monarch's despotism. Twice was it given by Edward II. to favourites - Piers Gaveston and John, Earl of Warren. Up this slope, one morning in 1222, William de Ferrars led his troops to capture it for the King. Surely there is a mystery about the old place; yet about its historical memorabilia there is none. The glory of the Peak Castle lies in its being held at the commencement of the thirteenth century by men - whose disloyalty was their honour - against the most sensual tyrant who ever wielded the English sceptre. How difficult to conceive that those barons who wrested the Magna Charta from John ever held any councils here? There would be two upper chambers in the Keep then; did they ever shelter De Vesci or De Ros, watching, perchance, for Mowbray or Suteville? The nucleus of those barons who swore to make King John abide by the law (and which is too often forgotten) were of the North. The spirit to conquer an execrable ruler first arose north of the Trent. Who first took issue with this last of our Angevin Kings; refused to follow him in his wars, or to pay his ruinous taxes? Northmen and barons, all of them:- Eustace de Vesci, Nicholas de Stuteville, William de Mowbray, Robert de Ros, Peter de Bruis, Oliver de Val, John de Lacy, Symon de Kyme, Gilbert de la Val, Oliver de Vaux, Richard de Perci, Thomas of Multon.

What wrongs these barons had suffered at the hands of King John are to be found in Dugdale. In some cases the sanctity of their hearts violated, their daughters poisoned, their castles destroyed, their lands devastated. There is a horrible romance about the Magna Charta which cannot be told; but which make a kindly feeling go out to those men who swore on the altar of Bury St. Edmunds to enforce law and liberty.

No more despicable character can be found among our sovereigns than John. He defied the Church and was excommunicated; he defied his barons and covered himself with ignominy; he defied the Pope and the nation was placed under interdict. Then was all worship silent in the sacred edifices, and the dead left unburied in the churchyards. His coronation oath was doubly imposed for the keeping of the laws to which he swore, but broke immediately. He acknowledged the hospitality of his peers by hoodwinking them; he summoned those barons he had wronged to retake those provinces in France which were lost by his own imbecility; he divorced his wife because she bore him no children; he put the Chancellorship up for sale and sold it for so much. The nation was kept together by his Chief Justiciar, Geoffrey Fitz-Peter, and the clergy by Walter Hugh, the Archbishop, and when both these men were dead, he said one could salute the other “in hell, for by the feet of God now for the first time am I Lord and King of England”. Necessity compelled him to make his peace with the Pope, whose vassal he became, and from whom he held his kingdom as a fief. Here comes out the diabolical character of John. No sooner had he bound himself by signature or oath than he got his master, the Pope, to annul it. Here comes out the character of the bishops and barons, to whom tyranny and servility were alike despicable. John's vassalage separated the man from the priest, while his mis-rule changed the Norman into Englishman.

The barons (so-called rebellious) were holding the Peak Castle in 1215, so say Pegge and Lysons, so say State Records. Good! Was this before the Charter was signed or no? At the beginning of May they were at Stamford, in Lincolnshire, thence they went to Brackley, and on to Oxford. Here their demands were submitted to the King, who peremptorily refused them. Then on to Northampton, Bedford, and Ware; and on the 24th May, 1215, the City of London opened its gates to the forces under Fitz-Walter, “the Marshal of the Army of God and the Church”. This was Sunday; on Monday, the 15th of the following month, was the famous scene at Runnymede.

We all know that there were twenty-five selected to see the enactment of the Charter, of which twenty-four were barons, with the Lord Mayor of London, or Mayor rather, for the further dignity had not been conferred. The surname of this famous magistrate is not given on the Charter, only his civic designation, as there are several of the barons under their titles simply. Nor is the name of the Mayor given by England's greatest Constitutional historian, Bishop Stubbs. But a pleasing research gave the names, one here, one there, which will, we are sure, be of interest. Moreover, we have given the shields of these men, less one (Mumbezon), of whose arms there is no possible trace. The Earls of Gloucester and Hertford bore the same coat in trick and tincture, as also Bigod and Lanvally.

Robert Fitz-Walter.John de Lacy.William Mallet.
William de Clare.Richard de Perci.William de Lanvaley.
Robert de Vesci.Robert de Vere.William de Albine.
Geoffrey de Say.Richard de Clare.Gilbert de Clare.
Saer de Quincy.William de Mowbray.Richard de Muntfichet.
Henry Bohun.Robert de Ros.Roger de Mumbezon.
Roger Bigod.John Fitz-Robert.William Hardel, the Mayor.
William de Fortibus.Hugo Bigod. 
William Marescal, junr.William de Huntingfield. 

It will be seen that the list contains three Clares and two Bigods. The truth is there are four Clares, for their leader, the most determined enemy of John, was Robert de Clare, called Fitz-Walter. The Clares had learned early to be Englishmen; had held offices of distinction under Henry Beauclere; when Henry II. ordered the descent upon Ireland the command was given to Richard de Clare (Strongbow); when Longchamp had his quarrel with the Crown, Robert “the Marshall” stood by the Bishop, and from this quarrel was the Peak Castle given into the custody of the Bishop of Ely, Hugh de Novant. The selection of Fitz-Walter as general of the barons' army was not only from his oath to rescue the nation from a despot, not only from his having private injuries to avenge, but from his known prowess. His chivalry was conspicuous in a chivalrous age. His bravery called forth from the miscreant King. “By God's truth he deserves to be a King who hath such a soldier of his train”. Fitz-Walter had once a daughter (Maud) whose beauty attracted the King and whose honour resisted him, only to be poisoned by the wretch in revenge. This is an item of the romance of the Charter. The wrongs of de Vesci, with which this being called a monarch assailed him, are too filthy to mention. How often have we heard it said that these barons extorted the Charter for the protection of the patrician classes simply. We will quote the document itself:- “No free man”, says the 39th clause, “shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseized, or outlawed, or exiled, or anywise destroyed; nor will we go upon him; nor send upon him, but by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. To none will we sell, to none will we deny or delay right and justice”. Within two months from the signing of the Charter, Pope Alexander III., at the wish of John, pronounced it to be void, which brought out the bishops in their splendid characters of Englishmen, apart from their sees. They threatened John with excommunication if he broke the laws, and though he in return swore to seize their goods, cut off their noses, and put out their eyes, he dared not to brave their interdict, and the mandate of the Pontiff was ignored by them. The baseness of John occasioned the barons to still hold their strongholds, and with his son, Henry III., they had their struggle for the repeal of iniquitous laws, until De Montfort secured a representative Parliament.

Peak Castle was one of the two castles in the Honor of Peverell. The court of this honor was held at Nottingham till 31st December, 1849, when it was abolished after existing for almost eight hundred years. Within this honor there were one hundred and twenty-seven towns and villages in Northamptonshire, one hundred and twenty in Derbyshire, besides some detached places in Leicestershire and Yorkshire, including Sheffield and Rotherham. The principal high stewards of the honor are given in the Conspectus.[1]

The Manor of Castleton, we are ever led to understand, was given by Edward III. to his son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, of which duchy it is still a portion on lease to the Duke of Devonshire. We will distinctly show elsewhere that John of Gaunt acquired it (and his dukedom too) from the lady he led as his first wife to the altar. During the reigns of the Tudors, the manor, with the castle, was held under the Crown by the Eyres, Thornhills, Gallins, Someralls, Eyres, and Foljambes consecutively. Of its original glory we should like to know something; of its historical memorabilia we should like to know more; while its associations with so many famous men, about whom we may know more when the spirit of inquiry can be kindled, and with so many incidents of Derbyshire history which are worth the search to discover, make the old Keep an object of the greatest interest to the antiquarian and historical student.

As Pepy says in his diary, “Good lord, but the times do change!” How vividly we realise the expression when we look at the long list of names on the Inquisitions of the Forest that have come down to us, and remember how few representatives there are among us now. Indeed, we find it difficult to say whether astonishment or grief predominates. At the last Herald's Visitation in 1662, when the celebrated Dugdale was the Herald, there were only five Peak families proved their shields. The Meverells of Tideswell, Bagshawes of The Ridge, Ashenhursts of Glossop Dale, Tunsteads of Tunstead, and the Staffords of Botham Hall, and even these are gone. Where were the Bradshawes, Barleys, Bradburys, Bowdons, Cloughs, Daniels, Gounfreys, Hallys, Hychleys, Mellors, Needhams, Radcliffes, Savages, Strattons, Strelleys, Woodroffes? Yes, and fifty other families.

We know that the High Peak Forest was divided into three wardships:- Longdendale, Edale, and Champaign: we know that the boundaries of these wardships were marked by crosses, of which some remain. We cannot help thinking, therefore, that those venerable stone emblems of Christianity in the churchyards of Bakewell and Eyam may have been the boundary marks of portions of the old Forest, while yet the Christianity of our forefathers had a dash of Druidism about it, denoting spots that were sacred to their worship.

[1] Vide Conspectus of Families in Appendix.

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

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