Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire

by Joseph Tilley

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 1999-2008

Volume I, The High Peak Hundred
Stoke Hall

WE purpose to direct attention for a moment to those Rolls of the Country which are the sources of historical data, which repay with such interest for any perusal, but which are seldom referred to, except by the antiquarian or the curious. Our motive has been prompted from a belief that even the references which Lysons gives at the foot of any page of his Derbyshire are unintelligible to many who are by no means deficient in their knowledge of Latin, and who would not object to some explanation to render those references readable. Say the reference is “Inquisitionum ad quod damnum,” what does it mean? Simply that if we want to find out when Bakewell or Sheffield or any town was granted a market we shall have to search the Rolls bearing this designation; because before the grant was made in old days, it was considered necessary to enquire into the policy of the grant, and to see if in any way it was prejudicial to the King's interest. Another frequent reference of Lysons is the “Placita de Quo Warranto” These Rolls, says Sir Harris Nicholas, often contain not only the boundaries of many free chases, free warrens and fisheries, and the allowance in eyre of various franchises and liberties, but many Royal Charters both to ecclesiastical and lay corporations not to be elsewhere found on record. The descent of manors, advowsons, &c., from the earliest periods are everywhere apparent; many obscure passages and obsolete words in Charters are repeatedly explained; and much learning of the laws and customs of the country, both illustrative of the laws and customs of the country. Take the “Placitorum in Domo.” Now if the student wants the particulars of the “Dictum de Kenilworth,” here they are; if he wants historical facts about the De Montfords, here they are; if he wants curious facts about trials by ordeal or by battle, or curious tenures, here he can find them, though the major heading of the Roll is relative to pleadings before, and petitions to the kings. Again, “Calendarium Rotulorum” relate to Royal grants of privileges to cities, towns, and corporations; grants of markets and fairs, and of free warren; and also relate to creations of nobility. The Hundred Rolls not only set forth the lands held by tenants in capité, but enumerate Royal demesne; and inquire into whether anyone has more than his share; whether the demesne lands of the Crown are ancient or newly acquired; set forth an account of manors held and how acquired; while among other things not the least laudable are the inquiries into the oppressions by nobility, clergy, and others, and executions of excessive or illegal payments as tolls. There is the “Fædera,” another important source of information relating to treaties, leagues, capitulations, manifestoes, and correspondences that have taken place and passed between this country and other States. But England, as a nation, possesses a Roll in two volumes (kept beneath a strong glass case, or was but recently, in the Public Record Office), which has no counterpart among the nations of Europe, and which, says Spelman, “if not the most ancient, is yet without doubt the most venerable monument of Great Britain.” We refer to the Domesday Book. So far as its name goes it is known to everybody, but the circumstances which led to its compilation, the particular features which characterise it, the importance of a knowledge of its contents to the historic student, are by no means too well known. If the student will refer to the Saxon Chronicle he will see an account of the Council which ordered the General Survey to be made, and he will read there, too, the indignation with which a writer of eight hundred years ago expresses himself, from the Surveyors not only doing the important work of ascertaining how many hides of lands in each county; how much woodland pasture; how many ploughs either in the tenanted or demesne of parts; how many mills; the respective worth of any particular lands, whether taxed or no - but from the Surveyors taking an account of the ducks and the pigs. The old writer brings all the rhetoric at his command to bear, which should be read by any student. There can be no doubt but that the Surveyors did take an account of the live stock, for in Vol. II. we find under Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk, the actual fact. There is no account for the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Durham, and part of Lancashire, but there was a Survey of the See of Durham in 1184, or a century later to that of the Conqueror. This Survey is to be found in a work railed The Bolden Book, of which an edition has been published by the Surtees Society.

When Henry, Lord Grey of Codnor, sold the Manor of Stoke to Thomas Barlow, in 1473, he wanted the money to further his experiments in the transmutation of metals, and so absorbed was this nobleman in his efforts for giving to copper the value of gold, that he forgot the woman he had sworn to wed, and died surrounded by his crucibles and elixirs, instead of a wife and children. Whether the Greys acquired Stoke from Edward IV, and it was an item only of the many good things he showered upon them when he became enamoured of Lady Elizabeth Grey, there is no trace apparently. The Greys were of Codnor, and had a castle there seven hundred years ago; but this branch expired, and the peerage of the Codnor house, with the alchemist. This family, led on by ambition and by alliance with Royalty, ultimately played conspicuous parts in events which were derogatory, if not nefarious. Under the Houses of York and Lancaster they secured coronet after coronet by enacting the Vicar of Bray, as Burke says, generations before that individual existed. How famous some of them were, as Marquises of Dorset and Earls of Kent; how they lost heads and coronets, too, by aspiring to the Throne, under the Tudors, is very familiar. One of the men who sat on the trial of the fourth Duke of Norfolk was Reginald Grey; while his brother Henry was one of the judges who pronounced sentence on Mary, Queen of Scots, shewing “much more zeal for her destruction,” says Dugdale, “than befitted a person of honour.” The Greys have occasioned verdicts in our highest Courts of judicature memorable for future time. Take one: When Henry, Lord Grey de Ruthyn and Earl of Kent, died without issue in 1689, his earldom went to his uncle Anthony, while his barony passed to his sister Susan. Against this there was an appeal on the ground “that when a barony by writ was once involved in an earldom, it should wait upon such earldom, and might not be subsequently transferred to another family;” but the House of Lords found that “an earldom or other superior dignity does not attract a barony in fee.”

The past holders of the Manor of Stoke excite the greatest interest and curiosity. Not one of them but suffered from his loyalty to the Houses of York or Stuart. Every page of research tells of coronets, or mitres, or chasubles, and of men, famous and brave all of them. What names in our peerage more ilustrious than Grey, Cavendish, Bridgeman? or in our ecclesiastical history than Barlow, Sacheverell, Simpson? At the very time that the last Grey of Codnor sold Stoke his family were holding two marquisates, three earldoms, two viscounties, and five baronies, besides claiming certain ties of blood with Edward IV, King of England. At the time that William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, was defeating the allied armies of Scotland and the English Parliament beneath the walls of York, his favourite seat was at Stoke, of which manor he was lord; but after he had allowed the rash Rupert to persuade him to fight the disastrous battle of Marston Moor, these lands and homesteads passed, to the Sacheverells.[1] A century later, Elizabeth, heiress of the Rev. John Simpson, brought them in her dowry to Henry Bridgeman, fifth Earl of Bradford, who was then a baronet simply, and fourth in descent from that famous lawyer, who was consecutively Chief Baron of the Exchequer, Chief justice of the Common Pleas, and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. The third son of the heiress adopted her name and arms and resided there.

More than four hundred years ago there was a hall at Stoke tenanted by the Barlows, and where they remained for generations, and this is a fact which arouses no little curiosity. The chemical mania of Henry Grey is told by a dozen writers, and even how poor devoted Catherine Fynderne forsook home, and honour, and everything for his sake. The valour and generalship of William Cavendish, together with the pluck of his fair lady, is related by Clarendon in his famous Rebellion; but what of the Barlows? Who were they? We have before us a pile of genealogies, in which we can trace that they allied themselves with the baronial houses of Chaworth, Talbot, and Frecheville; with the Cokaynes, Eyres, Strelleys, Foljambes, Hardwicks, Meverells, and Beresfords; but the compilers of Derbyshire history are silent about them. Was not the first Protestant Bishop of England a Barlow? Was it not while this family were living at Stoke that Queen Elizabeth ordered the dignitaries of the Church to consecrate Parker Archbishop of Canterbury, and did they not refuse; and was it not William Barlow, Bishop of Winchester, who relieved her out of her difficulty? And is it not a doubt to this hour whether Barlow himself was ever consecrated, not to mention Parker? To whom did poor Bunyan owe his release from Bedford gaol but to a Barlow? Did not one of the Sacheverells send the nation frantic by a sermon he preached at Derby? But, forsooth, such matters are not of sufficient moment for the compilers, and they give us in lieu a likely spot to catch a fat trout, or a scale of cab fares perchance.

We cannot help thinking but what many men whose lives have added honour to the country either from military exploits, literary acumen, or from statesmanship were members of Derbyshire families, yet said to have belonged to those of adjacent counties, simply from the men and the places having the same names as, to wit: the Bradshawes, of Bradshaw, in Lancashire; and the Bradshawes, of Bradshaw, in the Peak; or the Barlows, of Barlow, near Manchester; and the Barlows, of Barlow, near Dronfield. Many good biographical dictionaries teem with particulars about the Lancashire Barlows, but not a word - not a syllable - about the Derbyshire Barlows. Only from wading through a mass of pedigrees, which relate to other families can we learn anything of them. No one has apparently troubled to inquire if the family settled at Chorlton-cum-Hardy were offshoots of the Dronfield house, or if either one was a scion of the other. Lysons has it, that the founder of our Barlows was one of the Abitots, who dwelt at Barlow and assumed the name. But this was, as he admits, at an early period, when, in fact, surnames had not arisen. One or two more facts, however, of our Barlows can he proved: that they espoused daughters of the Frechevilles; Talbots, and Chaworths, and these girls (members of patrician houses) were not likely characters, in those days, to marry “Bob Snooks”, even if he had money. They held a knighthood, too, in the Middle Ages, but we cannot learn whether it was from being tenants in capité to the Crown, or if they held such tenancy. To learn anything whatever of the Derbyshire Barlows is like trying to decipher the inscriptions on a mummy case without the aid of a Rawlinson. Then there are certain items connected with them that tantalise. In the fifteenth century they were holding the halls at Barlow and Stoke, together with Dronfield Woodhouse; the residents at Barlow and the Woodhouse were each knights, which facts should be the key to information somewhere; but even the tie of blood between the three branches is not obtainable. Lysons says that those of the Woodhouse were the junior line. Just so; the differencing of their shield with a fleur-de-lis alone would shew from the sixth branch of the founder; but what had become of the intervening four? Was the Chorlton house one of them? Then again, to which of the Derbyshire branches did that brave fellow belong who first lent himself in the shape of a husband to Bess of Hardwick, just to let her get her hand in? In Dronfield Church there is a monument of the Barlows, dating back four or five hundred years, but the inscriptions are effaced. Their three homesteads changed hands almost simultaneously: Stoke went to the Cavendishes, Dronfield Woodhouse to the Eyres, and Barlow Hall was sold to George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, in 1593. About this time there was a dignitary in the Church named William Barlow, who had five daughters, whom he married to five Bishops, which fact may not be known to everybody. Of course he is spoken of as of Chorlton; but we feel positive that research will establish the fact that the memorabilia of the Derbyshire Barlows have never been placed to their credit.

Few residences in the country are more delightfully situated than Stoke Hall. The river, with its bridges and weirs; the majestic edges of Froggat, Millstone, Curbar, Baslow, Dore; the valley through which the Derwent glides, dotted with villages from Calver to Padley; tracts of wild moorland adjoin to cultivated pasture; the natural heather only removed from the pansy in the cottager's garden by a fence - what tourist has ever ascended the slight aclivity, from Stoke to the Eyam Road but has been moved by the beauty of the scene before him. At the beginning of the present century the hall was held by one of the Arkwrights; its present owner is Alderman M. Hunter, J.P., of the firm of Michael Hunter and Sons, of the Talbot Works, Savile Street, Sheffield, who makes it his summer residence. We are told that the hall is scarcely two centuries old, and that the architect was the one who designed the stables at Chatsworth. Writers, who visited the edifice more than a hundred years ago, speak of it then as old, but such conflicting assertions only point the finger of reproach at any of us who are Derbyshire men, for not showing more interest in the preservation of facts. We believe that the present structure was built during the tenure of the Cavendishes or Sacheverells; and in either case the assumption of White and Rhodes would be correct. Both the hall and manor are in the parish of Hope, and not Hathersage. Hope is a Saxon word (Hôb), meaning a wild boar, and may throw some light upon the curious and extensive boundaries of this parish, if at any remote time the haunts of this animal gave possession to a particular church.

There is a tradition told of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, while lord of Stoke, that during the night following his taking possession of Bradford, for the King, from the Parliamentarians, the ghost of a lady appeared to him and said “Spare poor Bradford.” And when he rose and gave the order that no life should be taken the spirit vanished, blessing him. History shows that he and his troops left the town during the next day, to the joy, of the inhabitants. Many of us frequently pass Stoke Hall and never remember the man whose figure was ever foremost in those sad conflicts when liberty fought loyalty at such a frightful cost and sacrifice.


[1] The daughter and heiress of the Duke (Margaret) married John Holles, and brought him, with her dowry, thirty-three heraldic quaterings. The daughter and heiress (Henrietta) of Margaret and John mated with Edward Hartley, Earl of Oxford. The arms of this lady bore seventy-five quaterings. The daughter and heiress of Harley (Margaret) took her ninety-eight and herself to William Bentinck, second Duke of Portland.

Extract from Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire, 1892.
Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in January 1999.

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