Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Snitterton Hall

THERE can be no doubt that the Sacheverells acquired the greater portion of their property and heraldic quarterings by the union of John (who was slain at the battle of Bosworth in 1485) with the heiress of the Stathams in the reign of Edward IV. Three generations previously, the heiress of the Hopwells had thrown in her lot with the family; at least, so say Dr Cox and Camden, the Herald. Over this daughter of the Hopwells, old Lysons stood on his mettle and denied her identity; while Dr. Cox sits upon Lysons by maintaining this identity. We will simply state the facts as produced by these two celebrated authorities. Camden's pedigree of the Sacheverells, as given in his Visitation of Warwickshire, for 1619, is pronounced by Dr. Cox (Vol. IV. Derbyshire Churches) to be the most reliable genealogy of that family to be found. Good! Now the learned Doctor shows (and justly, for the monuments in Morley Church verify his statements) that Sir Thomas Statham, who died in 1470 (grandfather of the heiress Jane) was the son of John, who died in 1453. The Camden pedigree distinctly states that John was the son of Sir Thomas. It is on the authority of the Camden pedigree that the marriage with the heiress of the Hopwells is based. Old Lysons says he cannot find any trace of any such marriage, and, further, that the shield of the Hopwells was not argent, three hares playing bagpipes gules, but quite different. Such a coat, he adds, belonged to the Fitz-Ercalds.[1] There is a pedigree given by Thoroton, in his Nottinghamshire, which should be brought in as a witness. The researches of Dr. Cox very emphatically show, however, that the inscriptions on Church monuments are more reliable than all the Visitations of Heralds. There is another union of the Sacheverells of much greater importance for the moment - the union with the heiress of the Snittertons. By this union the Sacheverells are said on all sides to have come in for the Manor of Snitterton. But this extraordinary young lady, whoever she was, makes a greater sport with the student than she made when she trod the lanes of Darley. She was living, according to Lysons, about the middle of the fifteenth century, for her husband was William of Ible, Knight of the Shire in 1461. According to Camden she espoused Patrick Sacheverell while Edward I. was King. The discrepancy is about two hundred years in time. She was really a Shirley, says Lysons, and her arms, Gules, a snipe azgent, gorged with a coronet or. We see but one solution of the difficulty, that there were two ladies living at distinct periods, with distinct arms - for those of Shirley were a paly of six, or and azure a canton (? a quarter) ermine - whom the Sacheverells married, and that, from the Snitterton Shirleys, calling themselves Snittertons and adopting the Snitterton arms, has arisen the difficulty; for the two statements cannot be otherwise reconciled, without we repudiate Camden in the same way as Dr. Cox has repudiated Thoroton.[2]

After the Manor of Snitterton ceased to be Royal demesne and a berewick of Matlock under the early Norman monarchs, we find a branch of the Warwickshire Shirleys in possession and having a residence here. This family at the time of the Conquest was located at Etingden, holding seventeen hides of land, which were three times the quantity supposed to be held by an earl; and, what is singular, they were not dispossessed by the Conqueror. Writers (among whom is Glover, the Herald) assert that the first Derbyshire Shirley was Ralph, who became sheriff three times in the reign of Edward I. This is clearly an error, for this gentleman's great-grandfather held five knights' fees in the shire; besides, his mother was Matilda Ridel, daughter of the Lord of Hathersage. The career of the sheriff is of great importance to us. His wife was Margaret, daughter and co-heiress of Walter Walderchef, of Fairfield, bailiff of the forest, cup bearer to Edward II., favourite of Edward III., and whose lineal descendant at this moment is Sewallus Edward Shirley, tenth Earl Ferrars in the Peerage of Great Britain. The son of the Sheriff espoused Isabel Basset, and in their issue vested, and still vests, the Barony of Drayton, together with a romance. This lady was born under a cloud which prevented her knowing who her mother was, and so the Barony has remained in abeyance for almost six hundred years. To this hour, both historical and heraldic scholars quarrel over the dame one holding she was legitimately born, the other contending there was a hitch, while Sir Bernard Burke comes in between and says the proof is “almost” good enough.[3]

How a knowledge of these old homesteads yields up not only historical but domestic incidents of love and friendship is curious; indeed, with the three great families who held Snitterton Hall in succession, there is an abundance of interesting particulars. One were knights as early as the twelfth century, barons in the thirteenth, and from distinguished marriages quartered the Royal arms of Plantagenet and Valois; another, who were buyers and sellers of monastery lands, and obtained a knighthood on the Field of the Cloth of Gold,[4] has a real romance of human love throwing aside wealth; while a third, who also held their gold spurs and a judgeship, fought conspicuously among the Cavaliers. Yet this old edifice, linked with the Shirleys, Sacheverells, Milwards, Adderleys, Fernes, Turners, Falkners, Elsies, Sybrays, and other families, is positively unknown to people living within a mile of its threshold. When approaching from Darley Dale we attested the fact by inquiring from two householders separately and getting the answer in each case that they could not direct us; one adding he had never heard of such a hall. Situated within two miles from Matlock and one from Darley, in a glorious part of the Derwent Valley, being almost the boundary mark that divides the Hundred of High Peak from the Wapentake of Wirksworth, having reminiscences that vie with more celebrated buildings, together with architecture that commends itself to the beholder, such a fact is unintelligible.

The Shirleys, who were located at Snitterton for generations, adopted as their patronymic the name of the manor, but it never adhered to them. As famous military men the Shirleys stand out in our annals. Among the heroes of Cressy and Poictiers was Sir Thomas, while one of the leaders on the field of Agincourt was Sir Ralph. One of the knights, whom Henry IV. bamboozled into donning the Royal tunic at the battle of Shrewsbury, to become a target for the Douglases and Hotspur, was Sir Hugh. In six different counties at least did this family hold lands - Derby, Leicester, Warwick, Northampton, Stafford, and Sussex. It was one of the last branch who made himself so celebrated by his travels into remote corners of the earth, and excited the wrath of James I. by his fame. Like so many of the old families of Derbyshire, the male issue of the Snitterton Shirleys failed about the middle of the fifteenth century, and the heiress passed the lands on to John Sacheverell of Ible. By the way, it is not generally known that Earl Ferrars is not only a Shirley, but a descendant of De Ferrars;[5] and thus two extremely old Derbyshire houses are represented in this nobleman. There was a junior member of the Snitterton Shirleys who was one of the Foresters in fee for the Edale portion of the Peak Forest under Bluff Hal.

The Sacheverells were of Hopwell and Morley, but held Ible (which is about four miles south-west of Snitterton) from the Shirleys. By this marriage they acquired it, and afterwards sold it to the Vernons in 1498. Their name is said to be derived from Sau-Cheverell, a town in Normandy, which in turn is from de sallu caprioli, the leap of a goat. The most illustrious member of this house was probably Sir Henry, who was created a Knight of the Bath (and was present at the coronation of Henry VIII., 24th June, 1509). Such a fact we cannot find in the compilers, but we shall append a list of those Derbyshire gentlemen who have had this honour bestowed upon them since the institution of the Order to the present time.[6]

The Sacheverells stood very high with Henry VIII. He made one a captain of his bodyguard (another of which bodyguard was Sir Geoffrey Foljambe, of Walton, by Chesterfield), took him to France, knighted him at Tournay, was anxious for his acquiring municipal honours in Derbyshire, and did not forget him when he played football with the Monasteries. They had an hereditary mania for buying and selling Church (and other) property, and advantageously too. They purchased Darley Abbey for twenty-six pounds - the whole of the building, including aisles, altars, candlesticks, organ, timber, pavement, roof, gravestones, and brasses - which they sold to the Bullocks, with a considerable balance no doubt in their favour. After they had tenanted Snitterton for four generations - if Lysons is right, or twelve, if Camden is right - they sold the building, and a moiety of the manor, together with the old Manor House (a gable of which is yet left), to Colonel John Milward, and then purchased Stoke Hall from the Bullocks, which, in the language of the gutter, looks like a swop. The other moiety of the manor they disposed of to the Shores. While they were yet living at Snitterton, the heiress of the Radcliffe-on-Soar Sacheverells used to visit her relatives at the old homestead, and so became acquainted with Roger Columbell, the lord of Darley. The acquaintance of the young people ripened into love, but her father threatened to withhold the proverbial shilling. Anyway, they cared nought for the threat, and were married. True enough, the lands and money which should have been hers went to her cousin, Sir William Hutchinson, but he, be it remembered, to his credit, had scruples about the receipt thereof, and so split the difference.

At the dissolution of the Monasteries there was a Chantry in Snitterton attached or near to the Manor House. This the De Wendesleys bought; while the Brownes, of Chapel-en-le-Frith, purchased the Chantry lands. From the fact that our Sacheverells, De Wendesleys, and Brownes, have passed away, and have no lineal descendants, there is a mysterious colouring given to Burke's aphorism. One of the Sacheverells, who was physician to Charles II., had properties which became sequestered under the Commonwealth, and expected to regain them from Royal favour; but the Stuarts never remembered their obligations to other people. It is said that the disappointment brought the physician to an early grave.

The possession and tenancy of Snitterton Hall by the Milwards enables us to bring to light two or three facts which escaped such celebrated authorities as Lysons and Glover, and even the indefatigable Dr. Cox. They are of interest to the Peakrell. On the 19th May, 1426, when Henry VI. was made a Knight of the Bath, so was Ralph Milward. The father of the Colonel who bought Snitterton was Chief Justice of the Palatine of Chester; while Robert, the brother of the Colonel, was in 1669 one of the Lords of the Privy Seal. The judge was trustee, if we mistake not, under the will of Thomas Eyre, of Hassop, in 1636; he is distinctly mentioned in a volume of the Topographer, and in one of Notes and Queries, but no one links him on to Snitterton. Then again there is the poem, written two centuries ago by Leonard Wheatcroft, clerk of Ashover Church, in which the fact is corroborated

A Knight the father, and a Squire the son;
One heir is left, if dead that name is gone.
This heir being young, with ladies durst not play,
So he in sorrow, quickly went away,
Leaving no heir o' the name, no, not one;
So farewell Milwards, now of Snitterton.

John Milward, the Royalist colonel who purchased Snitterton, was a scion of the great Eaton - Dove Dale family, whose paternal home was at Chilcot. His father had also bought the Manor of Thorpe from the Cokaynes, and indeed, if we mistake not, they were relatives of the Ashbourne knight. In the poems of Sir Aston Cokayne, published in 1658, there are several sonnets to the Milwards, one in particular addressed to his “sweet cousin” Isabella.

With the death of the Colonel in 1670, his estates descended in moieties to his three daughters, though, apparently, the senior co-heiress retained Snitterton with the Manor House. The eldest, Felicia, married Charles Adderley, who sold his share to Henry Ferne, Receiver-General of the Customs, whose heiress married Turner of Derby. We mention this fact to remind the lovers of Derbyshire history of two extraordinary cross Chancery suits, in which Ferne was virtually plaintiff and defendant both, over a claim to the Manor of Bonsal, of which he assumed he was lord. The Shore moiety of Snitterton passed consecutively to the Hodkinsons and Banks, but the lordship now rests with the Arkwrights.

The Hall has known many owners since the Milwards, whose tenancy would be tedious to follow. We wondered if it was garrisoned during the Civil Wars for the king - like Hassop.

Here is an old edifice that echoed with shouts while yet the King of the Peak was living at Haddon; the homestead of Cavaliers who fought at Edgehill and Naseby; the rooms in which gathered the Dakeyns, Cowleys, Needhams, Brownes, Wendesleys, Sacheverells; where Sir Aston quoted his own epigrams over his wine; and it is neglected and forgotten. But not intentionally. Oh, no! It is the fault of those compilers who tell us of Stratas, of which they know little; of Flora, of which they know less; of Fauna, of which they know nothing. Let us know something of the domestic traits of our sires, of those men whose pluck, whether in the House of Commons or on the field of battle, we are justly proud of; of those women whose love and fidelity have hallowed the old homesteads of Derbyshire.

[1] Mag. Brit., Vol. V., p. CIII. There is something provoking about this shield. The words of Lysons and Burke (General Armoury) are identical, that “it has usually been assigned to Hopwell”, but belonged to Fitz-Ercald. Cox says (Vol. IV., p. 333), “It has been usual to attribute the hares and bagpipes to Fitz-Ercald”; while they should be assigned to Hopwell.
[2] “Churches”, Vol. IV., p.332.
[3] “Extinct Peerages”, p.27.
[4] Derbyshire Knights on the Field of the Cloth of Gold, Sir Richard Sacheverell, Sir John Burdett, Sir Godfrey Foljambe.
[5] Vide Article on Burnaston. Vol. 2.
[6] Vide Appendix.

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

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