Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
The Ridge, Marsh & Slack Halls

WHEREIN lies the difference? Our flesh creeps at the idea of the South Sea Islander murdering his parents when decrepitude sets in, because age and infirmity cannot be tolerated; yet we Englishmen - civilised, refined, educated, with a prudish conception of decency - brutally destroy those old homesteads, not only of historical interest, but to which our maternal ancestors imparted a sanctity, by wifely devotion and motherly love. Both acts - the murder of parents and the destruction of edifices - belong to the barbarian. There appears to have been a wanton brutality about the pulling down of The Ridge Hall. Here were located the Bagshawes when the last of our Norman monarchs was holding his kingdon by sufferance; and were still here when the first of the present dynasty was being persuaded to be King of England and leave Hanover behind him. In the grounds at The Ridge there are several vestiges of the ancient building which sheltered so many generations of the Bagshawes: here a broken mullion, there a fragment of a broken pillar, utilized as grotto embellishments. The outer wall of the east gable is all that is left of the venerable pile, which had many gables and windows, illuminated with the coats of the houses with which they were allied. We have particulars of three sons of this family who secured for themselves a literary immortality - Christopher, the Romish Doctor of Divinity; Edward, the controversionalist; and his namesake, the political writer.

Christopher Bagshawe will be best remembered by the reader of ecclesiastical history. He was a student at St. John's, Cambridge, while Queen Bess was yet marriageable and hoping not to die an old maid. This would be about 1566. Nine years later he took his degree of M.A. at Balliol College, Oxford. While here, that spirit of pride which ever characterised him (and his house, too) made its appearance. He quarrelled with the afterwards famous Robert Parsons, and got him expelled; he was elected principal at Gloucester Hall, and had to resign. Flinging aside his Protestantism, he went over to Rome, where he was attached to the English College; but from here he was ejected by Cardinal Boncompagno. Returning to Paris, he acquired the sobriquet of “Doctor Erraticus”. Soon after he is again in England, where he is arrested and put in The Tower, and later still is a prisoner with many others in Wisbeach Castle. One of his works is entitled A True Relation of the Faction begun at Wisbich by Father Edmonds, alias Weston, a Jesuit, 1595, and continued by Father Wallet, alias Garnet, the Provincial of the Jesuits in England, and by Father Parsons in Rome, 1601. Attached to Dr. Featley's Transubstantiation Exploded, is a “publique and solemne disputation held at Paris with Christopher Bagshawe, D in Theologie and Rector of Avie Marie College”. Wood, in his Athenæ, makes Bagshawe die in Paris in 1625, whence all his published works are dated. He seems to have left his mantle behind him, to be picked up by some of his race, as we shall see.

Edward Bagshawe, the controversionalist - so memorable for his quarrels with Baxter, L'Estrange, and others; for his long terms of imprisonment, on account of his religious tenets; and from his being one of the ministers of the Church of England who was expelled by the Act of Uniformity - received his early education at the Westminster Schools, where later in life he was to be second master under the “terrible” Dr. Busby. His vindication of himself against Busby, says the present Dr. Gosart, is now a rare work, and among the curiosities of literature. He went to Christ Church in 1646, “where he was refractory and self-conceited”, and “conspicuous for his insolent bearing towards the Vice-Chancellor”. Here he took his B.A., but it was at Cambridge that the M.A. was conferred. In 1659 he was ordained by Bishop Brownrigg, and became Vicar of Ambrosden, which he held till the Bartholomew Day of 1662. There cannot be any doubt but that Bagshawe suffered tremendously for his religious opinions, and his love of disputation of which he was so thorough a master. Then again the “Conventicle Act” made it criminal for five persons to be congregated together for the worship of God, and seven years' transportation for the third offence. The “Five Miles Act” made it equally criminal for a Nonconformist minister to come within five miles of any city, town, or borough. Bagshawe was consigned to the Gatehouse; then The Tower; then South Sea Castle; then Newgate - only by a fluke that he did not die in Newgate; for at the time he was out on parole at his house in Tothill Street, Westminster. Baxter (whom we admit he attacked very bitterly) designated him as an Anabaptist and fifth monarchy man, but the works of Bagshawe show the epithets to be undeserved. One of his works in particular, Saintship, no Ground for Sovereignty, is proof that he was no fanatic. Not only cruelly persecuted by law, for his conscience sake not only enduring years of imprisonment in loathsome gaols; he seems to have embittered against himself both Churchman and Nonconformist. Immediately he was expelled from Ambrosden he was appointed chaplain to the Earl of Anglesey, but one of his pamphlets removed him from his study to the Gatehouse. They buried him in Bunhill Fields, and the inscription on the tomb, written by the celebrated Dr. John Owen, sets forth, among other things, his deliverance “from the reproaches of pretended friends and persecutions of professed adversaries”. He was the son of the famous Puritan Member of Parliament for Southwark, who afterwards became Royalist. Edward Bagshawe, the elder, as this gentleman was termed, was a lawyer of the Middle Temple, where he was Lent Reader in 1639. Then it was that he delivered two discourses, entitled “A Parliament may be held without a Bishop”, and “Bishops may not meddle in Civil Affairs”. His discourses set Laud against him, but the burghers of Southwark in return elected him as member. The proceedings of the Long Parliament made him a partisan of the King to whom he fled at Oxford, but being taken prisoner was confined in Southwark gaol. It was while here that he wrote his treatises defending the revenue and the doctrine of the Church. He also corrected his speeches made in Parliament on “Episcopacy”, and the “Trial of Twelve Bishops”. Some of his writings are printed with Rushworth's collection. He had another son besides the Vicar of Ambrosden, also a clergyman; who willingly abided by the Act of Uniformity, and who held consecutively the Prebendaries of Southwell, of York Cathedral, of Fridaythorp, and Durham. He “enjoyed a high reputation as a pulpit orator”, which may be assumed from his “Sermon preached at Madrid, on the occasion of the death of Sir. R. Fanshawe, 1667”, to whom at one time he was chaplain. Here we have a son of an old Peak family as chaplain to a scion of a Scarsdale House.

For eighteen generations were the Brownes living at Marsh Hall, of which edifice there is still a wing standing. With the exception of The Ridge having been the seat of the Bagshawes for six hundred years, Marsh Hall stands alone among the historical old edifices of the Peak Hundred, from having given shelter to such a long line of men. There is a pathetic interest centring in it: what became of this family? They were here at the commencement of the present century, for it was then that they sold their estates to the Gisbornes. What a tight grip necessity must have had to force them to sell such a relic of their house! Here their sires had brought home their brides from among the Vernons of Haslington, the Meverells of Tideswell, the Eyres of Alfreton, the Bagshawes, the Shalcrosses, and a score other old families; while their remote ancestor, Richard, who had married Matilda, the heiress of the Fords, in the reign of Edward I., and acquired the property, had only adopted as a residence what had been a homestead of the sires of his wife. The Brownes were Foresters in fee themselves, and we can trace them as officials as far back as 1318. They appear among the Peak gentry of 1570; they were granted a confirmation of arms and a crest by William Flowers, Norroy King-at-Arms, in 1581; they were holders of certain moieties in Darley, beside the lands from their office and dowry of bride, and now they are gone, no one knows whither. Research seems to meet a check from delicacy in trying to find out anything about them, for their motive for rushing into obscurity must have arisen from what is only the natural pride of a gentleman when adversity comes upon him. The old homestead stands about half-a-mile from the Church at Chapel-en-le-Frith in a southerly direction. From the extensive use of the whitewash brush; which is by no means the greatest indignity it has suffered, its appearance makes an indignation arise that is difficult to suppress. Surely such historical mansions should not be allowed to pass into the hands of men who seem possessed of souls which were never brushed before delivery.

The principal landowners around Chapel-en-le-Frith, during the last six hundred years, so far as authentic information can be obtained, have been the Bagshawes, Foljambes, Brownes, Shalcrosses, Bradshawes, Bowdens, Kyrkes, Bradburys, Taylors, Mosleys, Degges, Slacks, and Gisbornes. The Foljambes had virtually ceased to be Peak landlords in the seventeenth century, while even the site of their homesteads became forgotten. The Bowdens were an old Cheshire family, located at Bowden; in that county, as early as the thirteenth century, and it is somewhat curious that they should have purchased Bowden Edge, in the parish of Chapel-en-le-Frith, from the Leghs, about 1457. They were living at the Hall, and held the estate till 1668 anyway, and their old residence was standing within living memory; but with the death of Nicholas in 1668, or soon after, it passed by purchase to the Degges, and so to the Hibbersons and Slacks. The Bowdens of Clown, says Glover, were descended from this family, but this is simply assumption, without the slightest proof to support it. Within the church at Chapel-en-le-Frith there-was a marble tomb to their memory, on which was their quartered coat (Bowden, Woodrofe, Barnby); there was a chantry or quire bearing their name, but the tomb has long since disappeared, while the quire is differently designated. We refrain from expressing our opinion of the destruction or removal of memorials, whether stone or brass, from this church, further than observing that within its precincts are the ashes of famous Puritans, to whom in the flesh Gothic architecture was a vestige of Popery, elaborate carving a description of idolatry, and armorial bearings so much pomp and vanity. The purchaser from the Bowdens was a most singular character. He was a lawyer of no mean ability, and Recorder of Derby; was called to the Bench, and refused to come there, for which he was fined a hundred marks; was appointed Lent Reader of the Temple, and treated the appointment with contempt, for which he was mulcted in two hundred pounds and disbenched. He was Sheriff of the County in 1695, and is said to have served it in his barrister's gown, with a sword by his side.[1] Sir Simon Degge was a scion of an old Staffordshire family located at Strangesall, Uttoxeter, in the reign of Richard II. Nine years before he was called to the Bar he suffered imprisonment for being a Royalist. At the Restoration he became judge of West Wales and Justice of the Welsh Marches, and was knighted at Whitehall in 1669. The bookworm will kindly remember him from his Parson's Councillor and the Law of the Tithes, as well as his Observations on the Possessors of Monastery Lands in Staffordshire, which he attached to his edition of Erdeswick. The Degges were of Bowden for four generations.

Even as in the last century several of our oldest Peak families became extinct (in the senior male line anyway), so others, some two centuries previously, separated themselves from their ancestral homesteads, as the Leches of Chatsworth, Milnes of Ashford, Cokaynes of Hartle, Lyttons of Tideswell. In those days many lads of Derbyshire houses donned their knapsacks and shaped their course towards the great city, where they eventually amassed fortunes and acquired municipal honours. The founders of houses long settled by the Thames, Tamar, Humber, Severn, Mersey, Ouse, can be traced as having left the Derwent behind them when the feudal customs of the mediæval ages were breaking up under the sway of the Tudors, and agricultural pursuits abandoned from encouragement given to commercial enterprise and brilliant adventure. To track the footsteps of these lads, whether north, east, south, or west, take the Heralds' Visitations[2] from about the reign of Henry VII. till they were discontinued. From such sources we not only track them, but gather particulars which no history of the county supplies. In the Visitation of Shropshire for 1623, by Vincent, there is a splendid pedigree of the Blounts, shewing the ancestry of the Eckington Blounts, together with others of the Bagshawes, Needhams, Twyfords, and Vernons. The Visitation of London for 1633-4, by St. George, yields up most interesting facts. Robert Bateman, who declared his pedigree before this herald, and who was a member of the Worshipful Company of Grocers, said his father was Robert of Hartington, and his mother Ellen Topleyes of Tysington, County Derby. Gervase Blackwell, of the Worshipful Company of Skinners, declared his father to be of Dethick Hall, and his grandfather of Wendesley, near Darley. Anthony Bradshawe, of the Ancient Guild of Goldsmiths, asserted his father was William of Derby, and his mother Anne Whinyates of Chellaston. In this Visitation we meet with Francis Columbell, whose home had been at Darley, whose mother was Margaret Needham of Thornsett, and whose grandmother was Benet Foljambe of Morehall, by Chesterfield. We find a Burdett as an ironmonger, a Beresford as a haberdasher, a Shalcross as a draper, and a Sleigh as a mercer. Here, too, John Milward, of the Eaton, Dove Dale, and Snitterton family, is designated “one of the captaines of the ye Cittie of London” and governor of the silkmen of England, Wales, and Ireland. What, too, is not only interesting but curious, we come across branches of such old and supposed extinct families as the Darleys and Leches, while both the Darley and Columbell, who declared their arms, belonged to the Guild of Merchant Taylors. The value of the Visitations of St. George lies in the fact that he would not allow the possession of arms to old families, who had held them for generations, without the proof was perfectly clear. There were other scions of Derbyshire houses who swore their pedigrees before this herald, as a Bradbourne, Cokayne, Fitzherbert, Harpur, Horton, Leake, Meverell, Newbold, and a Pott of Stancliffe. From a glance at the same herald's Visitation of Hertfordshire we find branches of the Bradburys, Fanshawes, Lyttons, Needhams, Rotherhams, Seliokes, and Vernons. William Bradbury of Braughing, told St. George that his father was Robert of Ollerset, while we know from other Visitations that he was a relative of the Bradburys of Essex, whose shield had eight quarterings. Turning to the Visitations of Yorkshire we meet with the Banks, Blyths, Burdetts, Chaworths, Dakins, Derleys, Eyres, Plumptons, and Thornhills. We gather from here that one of the Dakin girls married the second son of Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex.

If those writers, who have expressed such surprise at the marvellous manner in which so many of the old Peak families became extinct or disappeared from among us, had distinctly stated that they referred to the senior lines simply, and then had troubled themselves to dive among the farmhouses of Chapel-en-le-Frith and the Glossop valley, giving a look into any wheelwright's shop on the way, they, would have found that a number of the families supposed to have become extinct have not, in a junior or collateral, if in a senior line. Moreover, if these writers had troubled themselves to make it distinctly understood that some of the families who are still with us, presumedly in a senior line, hold their surnames by letters patent, they would have conferred a benefit upon the student and saved very much confusion. The farmhouses of the Peak are the places where the compiler of the vicissitudes of Derbyshire families, earnestly bent upon his work, will gather an abundance of information, and find himself among men whose sires have historic mention. In some instances these farmhouses are the veritable homesteads once held by the Bagshawes, Brownes, Beards, Kyrkes, Greaves, Hydes, Sacheverells, and Dakeynes. Among the wheelwrights of this tract of country we found Needhams, Bagshawes, and Beards, and not so far either from the spots with which these names have been connected for centuries. We noticed, too, a Cokayne, who spelt his name with the orthodox termination. Among the sturdy yeomen we found Bowdens, Bagshawes, Beards, Bradburys, Buxtons, Staffords, Shalcrosses, Ashtons, and others, with names equally famous in the Peak. We met with an aged farm labourer, busy repairing a partition wall of a field, who told us his name was Buxton, which prompted us to enter into conversation. We gathered he had some knowledge of the memorabilia of this house, and on our rough sketching the family shield he at once recognised it. There was gentility in the old man's features. How graphic such a vicissitude would have become if handled by a Burke.


[1] Lyson's Mag.: Brit.: Vol. V. cxxi.
[2] Vide Heraldic Visitations in Appendix.

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

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