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Darley Dale, Hurker Hall (Farley)
Terrace Wall, Hurker Hall


Hurker Hall is mentioned in every census between 1851 and 1891 as being a landmark on the boundary between Darley and Matlock[1]. Yet it is one of those places about which very little is known.

It shows up on early maps as being at Farley, quite close to Farley House and would have been accessible via Bowler Lane[2]. The Darley Dale enclosure of 1769 indicates that the land was owned by the Wolleys of Riber but there was no evidence of a building at that time[3]. Neither the property nor an owner are mentioned in any of the major books published about Derbyshire at the beginning of the nineteenth century (i.e. Davies, Lysons and Glover). However, a letter sent in 1819 by Samuel Wright of Over Broughton in Nottinghamshire indicates he had done some improvement to Hurker and was offering it for sale[4]. He did not consider the price offered by George Ward, the letter's recipient, through the intermediary of Ralph Wilmott was sufficient "considering the improvement I have made[4]". Neither the improvement made nor the actual size of the property was given, and it is not known if Ward bought Hurker, despite the interest in it that he had shown.

In early 1833 Hurker belonged to the Wirksworth attorney James Swettenham, who was declared bankrupt about 1832 and his properties were put up for auction to pay off his creditors. Amongst the land he owned were several acres at Cuckoostone in Matlock and Hurker Hall was amongst the Lots that he owned in Darley. Hurker was then described as a Freehold Estate consisting of "a neat and substantial cottage and outbuildings, a large unfinished house", with several closes or parcels of land covering just over 5 acres in total. The property was auctioned on 29 Jan 1833[5]. Hurker Wood, which still bears the name today, would have been part of Swettenham's property and was adjacent, to the east of the Hall and across the parish boundary in Matlock. Interestingly, part of Swettenham's Matlock property in Cuckoostone Dale included "Wright's allotment"[5] and "Wright's Meadow" was one of the closes of land at Farley that was sold by Ralph Wildgoose in 1820[6]. Whether spending money on Hurker was the cause of James Swettenham's bankruptcy is uncertain, although it is a distinct possibility[7]. Rev. John Wolley of Dronfield was shown to hold lands at Hurker in the 1839 Tithe Schedule[8].

There is little to help in the Parish Registers of either Matlock or Darley. The only record of anyone living at Hurker Hall is the burial at Matlock on 9 Aug 1846 of Jane Rawson, age 49, whose abode was Hurker[9]. From the Darley census returns for 1841 we learn that Jane was the wife Charles Rawson, a farmer. The "neat and substantial cottage" sold by James Swettenham would have been the Rawsons' home[10]. Charles Rawson's occupation was shown a tailor in 1851 and he was then living with a housekeeper. He remarried in 1858 and he and his second wife were still living at "Darley Hurker" in 1871[11]. The Rawsons and the Wards were amongst a handful of people ever to live at the "Hurker" address[12]. Charles Rawson died in 1876 and was buried at Matlock on 11 April. By 1881 Hurker Hall was described as being "in ruins"[13], which is confirmed by OS maps published not long afterwards.

It has been suggested that Charles Rawson was Richard Arkwright's tailor. This is unfortunately not true as there is no suitable candidate of that name on the Arkwright family tree at the time Charles Rawson was a tailor, although he could have worked for one of the other Arkwrights[14].

In 1898 Hurker Hall was sold to the Government. This came to light when an application was made to the agent, Mr. Joseph Hodgkinson, by Mr. David Pearson, who wanted to buy the estate for building[15].

Early twentieth century newspapers reveal two other surnames connected with Hurker. In 1907 a workman called Walter Holmes was living at Hurker Hall[16]. Some twenty four years later "the public works committee [of North Darley UDC] reported that Mr. Slater, of Hurker Cottage, Farley, had not obeyed a closing order issued by the council, and the clerk was instructed take proceedings to get the house closed"[17].

Little remains of Hurker Hall today. The top photograph shows the terrace wall in the field in front of the site. Below is a close up of what little remains of the masonry. The house was built into the hillside. In the 1940s an extensive wall was still standing[18]; in the 1960s a chimney stack and an archway remained but this has long gone[19].


Remains of a stone wall
Close up of some of the stone.
The site is very overgrown.


The following report was published in the Matlock Guardian on 13th January 1906:

"From an authorative source we learn this week the mystery of Hurker Hall on Matlock Moor has been cleared up at last. The building now fallen to the ground under the stress of the weather was built by an old sea captain, a member of the banker Wright's family. He engaged a lot of local labour in the construction of Hurker Hall, and history shows that several of these developed palsy before death. Peter Spencer and a man named Bad Stockings worked on the building and the date is the latter end of the 17th century. The building was near completion when the adjoining owner stepped in, and there being no road to the hall it was abandoned. It was believed Hurker Hall was intended for a shooting box, and it has a remarkable summer house cut out of solid stone. There was a water supply to it but no roadway. Early in the [18]50's the whole lead roof was stolen by a gang of thieves who made off scot free with their plunder to Sheffield over the moors. The Farley robbers used to have a cave on the Moor and were the terror of the district"[20].

The property remains in private ownership.


Summer house, or Hermit's cave
The "summer house", or Hermit's cave as it is known today, was probably used as a shelter by Sheffield robbers in the early 1850s[21]. It was hewn out of a huge boulder.


Photographs of the remains of Hurker Hall at Farley kindly donated by John Mastin © 2012.
Research provided by and © Ann Andrews apart from the searches provided to John Mastin by the DRO and County Hall Local Studies Library as well as a map and document from Joyce Copestake. Joyce also provided some helpful additional written material in January 2013.
Intended for personal use only

References (coloured link go to transcripts elsewhere on this web site):

[1] See the indexes to the Matlock on site transcripts for 1851 | 1861 | 1871 | 1881 | 1891
[2] Bowler Lane was named after the Bowler whose surname is on the 1769 Enclosure Award.
[3] Information from Derbyshire Record Office Matlock and map from Joyce Copestake: "Plan of the several allotments upon Darley Common, 1769". The land was then owned by Adam Wolley.
[4] Letter from Samuel Wright, dated 13th Nov 1819, to George Ward (no address given). Provided by Joyce Copestake from the original in the possession of the late Heather Ward of Farley. George Ward was [approximately] the 2 X great grandfather of Heather. Wright would not accept the price offered; he wanted £500 for the property. Joyce comments that, amongst her own research material, is a reference to a J. B. Wright being connected with the renovation of Sydnope Hall when owned by Francis Sacheverell Darwin, son of Erasmus Darwin and a possibility that he was connected to Hurker.
[5] "The Derby Mercury", 9 January, 1833 and 23 January, 1833. A James Swettenham was living at "Aukland Hall" in Matlock and District in the 1820s. See: Glover's Directory, 1827-8-9. Also see James Swettenham's name in Matlock & Matlock Bath: Nineteenth Century - Game Duty Lists
[6] "The Derby Mercury", 10 May, 1820
[7] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 1 April 1899.
[8] Mr. Jonathan Wolley is listed amongst the Gentry and Clergy of Dronfield in Pigot's 1835 Directory.
[9] Jane Rawson's burial is recorded in the on site transcripts for St. Giles', Matlock. Jane Ward (nee Wragg) had married Charles Rawson at St. Giles in 1837.
[10] Joyce Copestake says part what was probably a driveway still existed in the 1940s, as well as the remains of the cottage, which was around 500 yards from the end of the wall in the top photograph.
[11] Charles Rawson married his second wife, Elizabeth Knowles, at St. Giles in 1858.
[12] Census returns are available on FindMyPast (an external site, so it will open in a new window). Widow Ward, i.e. Jane widow of John, was living at Hurker at the time of the Swettenham sale.
[13] 1881 Census, RG11/3449 f65 p30
[14] See the Arkwright pedigree
[15] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 25 June 1898: "It is stated to have financially finished the man who spent a big sum of money on the erection". The article refers to Hurker as also being known as "Wright's Folly" and pointed to a connection with the Ward family of The Duke of Wellington.
[16] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 21 March 1907. Holmes witnessed a lady trying to kill herself.
[17] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 29 January 1931. This agrees with the former Matlock hairdresser, Jimmy Slater, saying he was born at Hurker.
[18] Joyce Copestake saw a drawing of Hurker many years ago which showed the ruins in almost the same state as she remembered them. This drawing might have been a teenager's drawing. See: Drawing of Hurker Hall, Farley, Matlock 1922-7 (external link, so will appear in a new tab or window). Thanks to John Mastin for sending me the link.
[19] Recollections of John Mastin, 2012
[20] Extract from the Matlock Guardian, from County Hall Local Studies Library. Whilst some of the story cannot be verified, Hurker clearly a connection to the Wright family. Peter Spencer of Matlock Bank would have been a young man when the building work is supposed to have begun. He was baptised at Matlock on 7 Mar 1779. See His burial.
I have been unable to find a reference to the sea captain or Bad Stockings.
[21] The thieves were caught. The web mistress read about them in a Sheffield Newspaper, but cannot currently locate the reference.

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