Hurker Hall is mentioned in every census between 1851 and 1891
as being a landmark on the boundary between Darley and Matlock.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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" and "Wright's
Meadow" was one of the closes of land at Farley that
was sold by Ralph Wildgoose in 1820.
Whether spending money on Hurker was the cause of James Swettenham's
bankruptcy is uncertain, although it is a distinct possibility.
Rev. John Wolley of Dronfield was shown to hold lands at Hurker
in the 1839 Tithe Schedule.
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.
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.
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.
The Rawsons and the Wards were amongst a handful of people
ever to live at the "Hurker" address.
Charles Rawson died in 1876 and was buried at Matlock on 11
April. By 1881 Hurker Hall was described as being "in
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.
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.
Early twentieth century newspapers reveal two other surnames
connected with Hurker. In 1907 a workman called Walter Holmes
was living at Hurker Hall.
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
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;
in the 1960s a chimney stack and an archway remained but this
has long gone.
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
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".
The property remains in private ownership.
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.
It was hewn out of a huge boulder.