Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Snitterton Manor House

LITTLE ROWSLEY is one of the four manors within the parish of Darley. Lysons adds Wendesley or Wensley also, though he admits it was a moiety of Matlock during the Norman period, while the Inquisitionum Post Mortem for 1579 show it as a manor of Wirksworth. Of these manors - Cowley, Darley, Rowsley, and Snitterton - the last three were Royal demesne at the Survey; though, before the reign of Richard I. Little Rowsley was held under the Crown by the family of Rollesley, who took their patronymic, evidently, from the manor. Henry Rollesley, the first of this old and extinct Derbyshire house of whom there is any trace, had a son Jordon living here while Coeur de Lion was yet King, whose only issue being a daughter, persuaded her husband to take her name.[1] Nicholas, who was the fifth in descent from Jordon, married an heiress of the Hoptons, whose great grandson and namesake espoused an heiress of the Cheneys. The fifteenth in descent from Henry died in boyhood, and so the Manor of Little Rowsley passed to Sir William Kniveton, who married the lad's sister, Matilda. This was towards the close of the sixteenth century. The father of Matilda, and virtually the last of his race, espoused Mary Shakerley, of Little Longstone, while his mother was Elizabeth Eyre, of Holme, near Chesterfield. The Knivetons of (Rowsley and) Mercaston are another old family that are gone; they were of that ilk for fifteen generations, while the elder line were of Bradley very remotely. Sir William, who married Matilda Rollesley, was created a baronet by James I. in 1611; was knight of the shire in 1603; was sheriff of the county in 1614. His mother was a co-heiress of the Leches of Chatsworth. The Manor of Little Rowsley was sold by his son, Sir Gilbert, to Sir John Manners, of Haddon, while the whole of the paternal estates were conveyed away by the third baronet, who was a zealous cavalier ruined by his loyalty, and the line had become extinct about 1706. This family differenced their heraldic coat as much as the Chaworths. In the reign of Edward I. they had two; a chevron between 3 knives; and Gules, a bend vaire, argent and sable. A century later they bore a bend vaire between 6 crosses formee, while the arms of the baronets were, Gules, a chevron vaire, argent and sable. The lady of the last of the Suttons of Over Haddon was Anne Kniveton.

There is an entry in the Historical Manuscripts Commission which relates to Little Rowsley, and which makes us understand how thoroughly obnoxious to the people must have been the taxation imposed upon the nation by Charles I. “The cessment of Over Haddon, Great Rowsley, Little Rowsley, and Darley, for Ship Money, made by George Columbell, senior; George Columbell, junior; John Taylor, Henry Bradley, John Stevenson, Hugh Newton, George Broadhurst, William Goodwin, and George Hatfield, the total amount being £44”.

Those Wendesleys who were lords of Wensley were sometime lords of Cold Eaton and Mappleton, and were evidently a knightly family of military prestige, of county influence, irrespective of their landed estates, besides being tenants in capité to the Crown. They were knights of the shire four times in the reign of Richard II., and twice in that of Elizabeth; they were at Wensley for four hundred years; one of them was among those crusaders who, after reaching the walls of Jerusalem, found themselves incapable of taking the city. Richard de Wendesley, who married Lettuce Needham about the middle of the sixteenth century, was the last of his line. This was the gentleman who purchased the Chantry of Snitterton from the Warners. His wife sold a moiety of Wensley in 1591 to the Harpurs, and in 1603 disposed of the other moiety in four parts: one to Richard Senior, one to Roger Columbell, and two to John Manners. The Wendesleys had a knack of letting this manor, as we find it being held under them by the Foljambes, Harpurs, and others.

Although there is no vestige of Snitterton Chantry left, nor is the site of it known with certainty; still, there is a gable left of the edifice, where remotely dwelt the lords of the soil.

“Honor Virtutus Premium” was the motto of the earliest tenant of this old manor house. Fidelity seems to have been a characteristic of the different men who have owned it or been its tenants, whether as the Shirleys in pouring out their blood for the house of Lancaster, or as the Sacheverells in looking after the interests of Henry VIII. while keepers of the Abbey estates, or, as in the case of John Dakeyne, by honourably adhering to a plighted troth which carried with it the disinheritance of himself and his heirs for ever. In the days of Queen Elizabeth there used to issue forth from its portals a youth whose steps were bent towards old Chatsworth, for the purpose of paying his devoirs to one of the Maids of Honour to the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots. It is asserted that this lady was a daughter of the Earl of Rothes; this we cannot verify, but of their ultimate marriage there is no doubt, for it was their firstborn who was cruelly deprived of his birthright. The Derbyshire Dakyns were the original stock from whence those of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and London sprang. Glover, in his Derbyshire, together with a writer in the Topographer and Genealogist, have it that our Dakeynes were descendants of the Norfolk knights who came in with William the Conqueror, and who settled around Chelmorton about the temp. of Edward III. This is incorrect, for it is against evidence. There were the Dakyns of Fairfield, while the great grandfather of that monarch was having a rough time of it with his barons. How curiously this family has altered the orthography of its name with the change of locality is worth note, and the fact is corroborated by the College of Heralds. Those of Chelmorton, in the reign of Edward IV., spelt it Dawkin; those of Hartington (temp. of Henry VII.), Dalkin; those of Biggin Grange (temp. of Henry VIII.); Dakyns, which. they further altered to Dakeyne; those of Snitterton (temp. of Elizabeth), Dakyn, while their present representatives in Sheffield - one of whom has made the name a household word from his endowment of an institution for the relief of deserving women struggling with penury - adopt the Hartington termination with an additional vowel, Deakin. It was of the Chelmorton branch, after their settling in Yorkshire - Linton and Harkness - of which Arthur Dakyns, a general in the army, was a member. Every Englishman would like to know more of this brave soldier than he does. Why William Flowers, Norroy King-at-Arms, in 1563, granted him the extraordinary device of “Stryke Dakyns, the Devil's in the Hemp”, is a question that has been asked by thousands. Denham, in his Slogans of the North, is the only writer that has attempted any explanation. He states that generals fought then afloat as well as on shore, and assumes that Dakyns performed some marvellous feats of cutting the cordage of an enemy's vessel at a critical moment, when victory or defeat depended upon the act, and that it was an encounter with the Spanish fleet. But why so? Had not the English both taken and lost the port of Havre in the very year previous to the grant? and if there is no other evidence than assumption, the greater probability is, some desperate struggle with the French. Anyway, the deed, whatever it was, made the Dakeyne of Biggin Grange claim the motto from St. George, the Herald, when he made his Visitation to the Peak in 1611. He, however, made them difference the flaunches of their shield with griffins. We believe that the document by which this grant was made is in the keeping of one of our most particular friends, though formerly it was with the Gladwins, of Stubbin Court. Seeing that the gentleman who was disinherited by his father in 1613 was not of Stubbin Edge but of Bonsall, and seeing that it was his younger but more fortunate brother who was so designated; seeing, further, that the descendants of this brother became extinct after the third generation; while there were scions shot off from the disinherited man who settled themselves in Darley Dale and Holt House; in Gradbach, County Stafford; in Manchester, County Lancaster; in Attercliffe, County York; in Bagthorpe, County Nottingham; we cannot satisfy ourselves but that the Dakeynes should retain the ancient coat of their sires, for the flaunches charged with griffins were given to a branch which has passed away and from which they do not spring. We should not forget that the Dakeynes (Deakins) of Attercliffe and Bagthorpe are fron the firstborn of John, who was cut off by his father; while those of Derbyshire are not, but from his third son.

It is from the will of John Dakyn, who espoused Dorothy Needham, in 1541, and took up his abode at Snitterton Manor House, that we learn some items of local interest at that period. He calls Robert Fitzherbert, of Tissington, his brother. He applies the same term to Richard de Wendesley, of Wensley, close by. Such relationship with one, can be substantiated by reference to genealogy, but we cannot trace any such close tie of blood with the second, though it goes to prove the predeliction of Derbyshire men to marry with the daughters of their neighbours. If there were any relationship with the Wendesleys, as stated by the will of John Dakyn, it is curious that the widow of Wendesley had power to sell her estates to the Harpurs, Seniors, Manners, and Columbells. Lysons calls this lady (and, of course, the compilers have copied him) the heiress of the Wendesleys. The term may be correct, but we doubt it, as she had no relationship by blood, only by marriage certificate. Her maiden name was Lettuce Needham. Are not domestic incident and historical association sufficient to invest an old edifice with interest? Richard Dakyn had a Royal Maid of Honour for his wife, and disinherited his son. The Manor House had been held by men whose names are preserved on the Rolls of the Nation, but very few tourists ever shape their course south of Darley Bridge to look at the old gable. We admit that we went purposely to satisfy ourselves if it was still standing, for, further than an allusion to it in Dr. Cox's Churches of Derbyshire, we cannot find the slightest mention of it anywhere. The Maid of Honour who married Richard Dakyn (according to the Brailsford manuscripts) was Katherine Leslie, daughter of the Scotch [Scottish] nobleman who was present at the nuptials of Mary Stuart with Frances II., of France, and died at Dieppe on his way home. Some authorities say her name was Strange; we believe with the writer in the Topographer that she was Catherine Strange, and relative of the Earl of Rothes. When her son incurred his father's anger she was dead, and her husband had taken a second wife in Elizabeth Hunloke, of Wingerworth. The romance of the Manor House lies with this discarded son. There is something appealing to the human heart, if not noble, about a man forfeiting so much for the woman he loves, particularly when she is so far beneath him in social position that even her surname is kept back from the family genealogy. Still the disinheritance was accompanied with immortality, for the College of Heralds still proclaim it, the student of Derbyshire history kindly remembers it, and in generations to come the act that called it forth will yet be spoken of in accents of pity and admiration.

In the volumes of the Historical Manuscripts Commission there are various references to the Dakeynes. From the Melbourne Papers we transcribe a letter written, if we mistake not, by a grandson of John, the disinherited, which is of interest, if only as illustrating servants' wages in those days. It is written by John Dakeyne to Thomas Coke, of Melbourne Hall, and dated 16th September, 1704: “I came hither to-day to wait upon you, and also to desire that I may serve you in any post or place in the country or London you have to dispose of. Business relating to the law is much less than formerly. That is my profession, and I could easily embrace more of that or other concerns that may be offered. I am glad my daughter has the happiness to wait upon yours at Wing. I hope she gives good satisfaction in her place, and if you think fit, I desire her wage may be something augmented, being as I hear but three pounds per annum. I had the favour to be one of your Clerks at the election”. Thus we see, that a lady of this old family, and daughter of a lawyer, was a menial, with a wage of a decimal above a shilling a week.

The Manors of Snitterton, Cowley, and Wensley were purchased, if we mistake not, by that marvellous type of industry, ingenuity, and indomitable perseverance, Sir Richard Arkwright. The extraordinary career of this gentleman, and how certain writers have attempted to question his inventive genius, or the originality of such inventive genius, will be found under the article on “Sutton Hall”.


[1] This fact is curious when we remember that Avicia Avenell, of Haddon, married Richard Vernon and had a daughter, who wedded with Gilbert le Franceys and persuaded her husband to do the very same thing. Lysons' “Derbyshire”, p.28.

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

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