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Derwent, The Old Chapel, about 1867

Notes on the Chapelry of Derwent in Hathersage, North Derbyshire.
By the Rev. Francis Jourdain, M.A.[1]
(Full extract of the paper published in "The Reliquary", Vol 10 (1869-70))

"THE following account of Derwent is presented to the readers of "RELIQUARY" with the object rather of eliciting further information, than of supplying a strictly accurate or exhausted record of this ancient Chapelry. The writer desires to lay before his readers a specimen of what may, in his opinion, be collected from many a small township or hamlet in the county with greater success, and more important results, than have been either attempted or attained in the present instance. Removed from the ordinary sources of information, and obliged to depend almost entirely on his own unaided judgment, the writer begs that this plain sketch may be regarded in its simple aspect - viz., as the record of traditions, customs, and legends still floating with more or less distinctness in the memory of man, now strung together with as much correctness and cohesion as the subject matter would allow, and strengthened where possible by patent and undeniable facts.

The Chapelry of Derwent, in its present form, is apparently the wreck of a more imposing ecclesiastical establishment. From the fact that the whole township is tithe-free, we may not unfairly conclude that the 3,300 acres of which it is composed, together with a large portion of the adjacent Township of the Woodlands, belonged, in times past, exclusively to the church. By way of proof, it may be noted that the farm, which now forms portion of the glebe, not only preserves the name of "The Abbey," but actually one wing of the ancient monastery, whilst the foundations of large adjacent buildings may readily be traced. When we add that another cottage, though rebuilt in 1820, still bears the name of the "Abbey Grange," and that the wood near Ashopton, on the right bank of the Derwent as we descend, is called "The Friars' Walk," we have strong presumptive evidence that the church had considerable, if not complete, hold of the district. But there are other evidences at hand which all tend in this direction. When the chapel* (erected, according to the date on the corner-stone, in 1757) was pulled down in 1867, portions of an older church were discovered imbedded in the walls; fragments of capitals, mouldings, and pillars, with sills and jambs of fourteenth century work, were observed; in some cases with the colour still fresh with which the stone had been formerly decorated. And having thus determined the fact that a more ancient chapel had once occupied the site, it is no less certain that another chapel existed in what is still called "Chapel Lane," on the woodland side of the River Derwent, between Birchin-lee and Marebottom, and nearly opposite to the "Abbey." In Saxton's Map of Derbyshire (circa 1570-1610) this chapel is marked as being then in existence, and the tradition still lingers in the neighbourhood how, when the building became desecrated, and passed into the hands of some farmer, his cows obstinately refused to enter within the walls, and when at last compelled, they stood trembling and affrighted, as though possessed by some mysterious influence. It seems further probable that the ancient corn mill, which passed with the manor lordship into the hands of the Earl of Devonshire, was part of the monastic property: inasmuch as formerly it was a socon mill, which every farmer resident within certain limits, was obliged grind (a not uncommon source of income for an abbey). This, coupled with its close proximity to the chapel at Derwent (for mill dam and chapel were contiguous), forces upon us the conviction that they belonged to the same masters, and formed part of the establishment.

The question then arises, to what abbey was the property attached? Neither Tanner in his Notitia, nor Dugdale in his Monasticon, allude, in the most distant manner, to an independent religious foundation Derwent. In the list given of monasteries suppressed during the reign of Henry VIII., there is no mention made of this particular Abbey. We are, then, directed to the conclusion that it rather formed an offshoot, or cell, of some superior foundation; and hence destruction of a mere branch would pass unnoticed in the more signal ruin of the mighty parent tree. And here I would call attention to a notable fact: the rich and powerful Abbey of Dunstaple, founded by Henry I. for the regular Canons of S. Augustine, was possessed of a large tract of country in the Peak of Derbyshire. From the annals of that Priory, edited by the Rev. H. R. Luard, we gather that the sheep and shepherds thereto belonging are always described as being "in pecco;" but, to quote a communication of the learned editor, there is no datum given by which the exact situation of the Sheep-walk can be determined." Now the whole tract of country comprised in the Townships of Derwent and the Woodlands forms pre-eminent the Sheep-walk of Derbyshire; not only are the moors extensive, they adjoin those of Glossop in Derbyshire and Bradfield in Yorkshire; in fact, the main stay and profit of the farms in this locality may be regarded as depending upon this particular branch of farming. The horned sheep common in this district, and so well suited to climate, form a distinct breed, and derive their name from " Woodlands."

Again - no other locality in the High Peak (so far as I am aware) presents us with undoubted monastic remains and monastic tradition in the very neighbourhood of extensive sheep-walks, nor has any other clearly-ascertained monastic ruin been proved to occupy relation of cell to Dunstaple Priory, in Bedfordshire. But assuming that Derwent was founded as an offshoot from Dunstaple, or some religious house, we at once gain an intelligible and consistent explanation of every ruin, and every name yet surviving. The Abbey Grange q.d., the farming establishment of an abbey, would exactly answer to the requirements mentioned in the "Annals," whilst the Abbey would form the residence of a limited number of the brethren, detailed from the parent house either for purposes of penitential discipline, business, or recreation, to live in the branch station at Derwent.

Owing to the large extent of country and the scattered character of the population, two chapels would of necessity be erected - one, as described, immediately opposite to the Abbey, the other lower down the river and adjoining the mill; in both cases they would be served by priests of the fraternity. But the very extent of their possessions, and the power which they exercised, in all probability hastened their fall; and the jealousy felt against the monasteries in other parts of England was, we doubt not, equally exhibited in this locality. Amongst the grievances of the House of Commons, A.D. 1530, the third count ran as follows :-

"That priests, being surveyors, stewards, and officers to bishops, abbots, and other spiritual heads, had and occupied farms, granges, and grazing, in every country, so that the poor husbandmen could have nothing but of them, and yet for that they should pay dearly."

That the religious endowment was purely monastic in its origin is, I think, sufficiently proved from the melancholy fact, that after the Reformation all ordinary means for providing spiritual ministrations had vanished. For in 1688 we find the then Earl of Devonshire paying, through his agent (Mr. Greaves, of Row-lee), five pounds as a gratuity to the Rev. Mr. Nicholls, for his services at Derwent Chapel. It further appears, from accounts still extant, that the Earl pastured sheep on the moors, and worked the corn mill at Derwent; most probably continuing in these respects the practices of his predecessors - the monks, and also granting a portion of his profits toward supplying the spiritual wants of the parish. At this time, and for many years afterwards, the population of Derwent was much larger than at present; a considerable manufacture of Yorkshire cloth being carried on in the village and in the scattered houses; in fact, a row of houses appears to have stood upon part of the ground now occupied by the hall gardens; and in walking about the district, we may trace the foundations of many houses, whilst others once inhabited are now used as barns or stabling for cattle. This accounts both for the profusion of charitable endowments granted in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and also for the anxiety evidently felt at that time to obtain some fixed support for the resident minister.

In 1722 the first endowment of the curacy was secured by the purchase and restoration of the Abbey farm to the church, mainly through the exertions, as it would appear from "Exton's Liber Valorum," of the Rev. Robert Turie, who likewise assisted in improving the livings of Edale and Dore. On this farm the incumbent resided, and the following lines, inscribed on a quarry in one of the windows, relate to the family of a clergyman of the name of Hall, who lived there for some years, and met his death by drowning in the River Derwent, when returning at a late hour from a gathering at one Woodland farm-houses :-

"Mary Hall, Abbey, July 24th, 1764.
Long May you live, and Happy may you be,
Blest with content, and from misfortune free"

But the great feature on the farm is the large grave mound existing in what is called "The Low Field," which has been always venerated as the burial-place of a British king. It originally measured about twenty-five yards in diameter. On the top of the hill immediately to the north of Derwent Village is another place of interment, called "Pike Low;" hence a degree of sanctity appears to have been attached to Derwent before the introduction of Christianity; whilst, owing to its retired position, and yet comparatively easy access to such important stations as Brough, near Hope, Melandra Castle, near Glossop, and the Yorkshire towns and villages, it may have thus reached some degree of importance, independently of its ecclesiastical foundation : certainly the names of the hills and farms in the parish furnish us with undoubted Saxon derivations - e.g., Whinstone-lees, q.d. Battle Stone Meadows; Grimbo Carr, q.d. Grimbald's Rock; The Shire Owlers, Ouzel-den, &c.

As to the history of Derwent in more modern times, perhaps the best authenticated and most interesting tradition is that connected with the Rebellion of 1745. A company of stragglers from the Pretender's army took possession of Derwent for some time, and gained a living by the unscrupulous, but not over easy, process of robbing the inhabitants, who took care that articles of value should be buried, or hidden out of sight in crow's nests, until the intruders had vanished. It would seem that the chapel received some damage during their visit, which, indeed, would not be unlikely if, as I have been given to understand, the rebels were starved to death within its walls. At all events, it was rebuilt shortly afterwards by Mr. Balguy, of the Hall. The bodies of the Highlanders were not taken to Hathersage, the parish churchyard, but buried in a little nook called Smithy Hill near to the present parsonage stables: skulls and bones have been turned up on this spot within a comparatively recent period. It is also said that an application was made at the Derby Quarter Sessions for money to rebuild the chapel at Derwent; and as the hundred of a county is legally held responsible for damage done to a place of worship in times of civil commotion and rebellion, this would, if true, form an additional testimony to this account.

Perhaps the recollection of what foreign occupation really meant induced the worthy farmers of Derwent and the Woodlands to meet, A.D. 1798, in the chapel, with the object of forming a company of volunteers, to repel the then threatened invasion of England by the French; and resolutions were on that occasion unanimously passed for organizing and clothing a contingent for this purpose.

It remains to be added, that the ancient feast day is still observed in honour of the patron saint, James the Greater, to whom the chapel was dedicated. On the font is carved the coat of arms (three lozenges) of the Balguy family, also the date of 1672, and the name of the Squire spelt phonetically, thus-" Henery Bauegey."

The Hall itself, which was rebuilt, or considerably enlarged, in 1672, has passed from that family through many hands to its present possessor, His Grace the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of England.

* This chapel is engraved on Plate VI., from a sketch taken at the time (i.e. the above image).

Engraving of a sketch of "The Old Chapel at Derwent,Derbyshire, taken down in 1867" published in "The Reliquary Quarterly Review", Vol X, (1869-70) Llewellynn Jewitt (Ed.), Bemrose and Sons, Derby.
In the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Text OCRed, from the same volume, and information researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Rev. Francis Jourdain was living at The Parsonage, Derwent in the 1871 census, aged 37, with his wife and family. He had been the Curate of St. Phillip's, Hulme, Manchester before becoming the Vicar of Derwent-Woodlands. He later became Vicar of Ashbourne & Roster (1881 census) and chairman of Ashbourne Grammar School's Board of Governore. Rev. Jourdain's paper on Derwent was used by J. Charles Cox for the Derwent entry in his (1877) "Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, Vol 2, Hundred of the High Peak and Hundred of Wirksworth", Chesterfield: Palmer and Edmunds, London: Bemrose and Sons, 10 Paternoster Buildings; and Derby.

Also see:
Kelly's 1891 Directory of Derbyshire: Derwent-Woodlands, Derbyshire
Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811. Very short entry.
The Wolley Manuscripts, Derbyshire. See names - Balguy
See Rosemary Lockie's transcript of The Chapelry of Derwent, taken from Cox J. Charles (1877) "Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire", on the Wishful Thinking web site.

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