The woodcut, above,
dates from about 1860 and was published in the very first
volume of "The
a paper called "The
Love Steps of Dorothy Vernon" by Silverpen which
is partly reproduced below.
The story of Dorothy Vernon's flight from Haddon and elopement
with [Sir] John Manners is a well known and often repeated
tale, yet it is historically unproven. It was even made into
a film in 1924, with Mary Pickford playing the leading role.
The couple were married at Aylestone in Leicestershire in
1558. As Charles Cox and many others over the last couple
of centuries have pointed out, John Manners would have been
considered to be a good match for Dorothy Vernon and was welcomed
by her family.
Even the doorway Dorothy is supposed to have passed through
when she eloped, shown wide open in the above engraving, was
built after the marriage had taken place.
Nor was Dorothy disinherited as, when her father died not
long after her marriage, she came into her share of his estate.
Not one of the Derbyshire histories
or guides written before 1830 mention the story.
The tale grew from two
sources, a short story written in 1822 and a romantic novel
published in 1823.
By 1840, we find it being briefly alluded to in "Gem
of the Peak" and
in 1860 Silverpen's article (below) was published, which popularised
the legend. This romantic tale would have appealed to Victorian
readers, true or not, and is still enjoyed today.
LOVE STEPS OF DOROTHY VERNON.
From Pedigrees in the Harleian MSS. and in Nichols' History of
BY ELIZA METEYARD (SILVERPEN).
Authoress of "Mainstone's Housekeeper;" "Lilian's
Golden Hours;" the "Doctor's Little Daughter;" etc.,
THREE centuries are nearly past and gone, three hundred gilded
summers have waned into russet autumns - and autumns brought
their winters rough and cold - and yet no drear oblivion has
fallen on a sweet old story: it is as new as though of yesterday,
and hallows Haddon Hall.
On the left side of the flagged hall or passage which leads
from the lower to the upper Court of Haddon Hall, in Derbyshire,
and directly opposite the screen which separates it from the
banqueting hall, are four large doorways with high pointed
arches. The first of these, still retaining its massive oaken
door, has clearly been the pantler's room, as the little shutter
within the door still shows that through this were doled the
different sorts of bread then in use; the next leads by a dark,
descending passage to the still finely preserved baronial kitchen;
the third into a sort of vintry or wine room; and the fourth,
with an iron girded door, opens up to a great steep staircase,
quite distinct from the grand, staircase of the house, on to
a large landing, still containing a huge linen press or cupboard
of very rude workmanship, and from thence to the right to a
wilderness of chambers, more remarkable for their extraordinary
number, than for size or ventilation; whilst to the left and
front of this landing lie two chambers possessing much interest.
The one the old nursery of the" proud" Vernons and
the belted Manners; and the other the reputed bed-chamber of
her who, blending the royal or of the boar's head with the
blazonry of the peacock, brought such a regal dowry to grace
the Earldom of Rutland.
According to the authority of Camden, for the varied dates
given in these pedigrees are difficult to reconcile, it was
somewhere late in the autumn of one of the early years of the
reign of Queen Elizabeth, or between 1558 and 1564, or 1567,
that preparations were begun already to be made for the hospitality
of Christmas-tide, for before its holy days were passed, Margaret
Vernon, the elder daughter, and co-heiress of Sir George Vernon,
of Haddon, was to be married with much pomp and ceremony in
the chapel of the ancient hall, to Sir Thomas Stanley, a younger
son of the ducal and royal house of Derby.
More than the usual number of steers were fatting in the stalls
to supply the huge salting trough; the rustic water mills of
Nether and Upper Haddon already turned their dripping wheels
solely in the "lord's service ;" orders were already
out in twelve of the twenty-eight Derbyshire manors, for a
fair supply of venison by St. Thomas's day; two wains had already
toiled across the moorlands from Derby laden with condiments
and spices for the confectioner and cooks; and scouts were
already outlying on the wilderness of the East Moors, for the
better preservation of black-cock and ptarmigan for the "lord's
Doll [Dorothy] stooped and
kissed the old man [her father, Sir George Vernon], for the
merry junketings amused the other guests, and then hurried
across the hall, up the staircase into the nursery. Here, as
it was the hour, and the signal already given to Luce [the
nurse] that all was ready, Dorothy Vernon hastily changed her
dress for one of coarse materials and sad colour, and hiding
the veil in her bosom, and accompanied by Luce, bearing the
mail, she tremblingly crept through corridor and chamber, by
the northern tower to the west front, and at last reached safely
the garden parlour. And now, withdrawing bolt and bar, she
kissed the weeping beldam; and like a frightened bird upon
the wing, made eleven small prints upon the eleven stone steps,
light as snow upon a flower, as dew upon a rose, and the prize
was caught as a leaflet by the wintry wind and borne away!
So then, as yet for aye, those
little tiny steps were graven and set down like iron in a rock,
like a mountain on the land, like an ocean on the earth, for
Time can be no victor over Human Love! And so the shadows and
the sunlight fall, the winter winds roar round, the sere leaves
drop, the damp and moulder linger, and the lichens grow, but
yet the sweet tradition hallows Haddon Hall.
The fugitives rode through forest and over moorland that night
and next day and the day following that were married at Ayleston,
a village two miles from Leicester, and in Leicester forest.
The feud consequent on Dorothy's elopement was of no long continuance,
for at Sir George Vernon's death in the 7th of Queen Elizabeth,
Dorothy Manners was seized with twenty-six manors; amongst
others Upper and Lower Haddon in Derbyshire. She died in 1584,
and is buried at Bakewell, and her husband, Sir John Manners
(knighted at Worksop, by James 1., in 1603,) in 1611, leaving
issue three sons and a daughter, from the eldest of whom, Sir
George Manners, the ducal house of Rutland inherits Haddon
 "The Reliquary" was
intended to be of real value and service to the general Historian,
the Archaeologist, the Biographer, the Genealogist, the Artist,
the Topographer, and to men of science and letters in every
walk of life.
 In 1924 Mary Pickford starred
in "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall", a film based
on a 1902 historical novel of the same name (written by Charles
Major and published in New York by Macmillan Co.).
 Charles Cox (1915) "Derbyshire"
said the doorway was not built until Sir John Manners became
the owner. He added that the story had been "so often
sung about in rhyme or revelled over in fanciful or foolish
prose of the last sixty years". Cox was not quite correct
as the story had been around for at least ninety years (see below).
He thought the tale was prettily told by Silverpen but "is
the pure fiction of a romantic brain". You can't get
much more dismissive than that! Nikolaus Pevsner (1953) "The
Buildings of England: Derbyshire" limited
himself to writing that the story is unproven, whilst Arthur
Mee (1937) "The
King's England, Derbyshire" believed that the legend
is spoilt only by being untrue!
 None of the books written in the
early decades of the nineteenth century mention
an elopement. For example, Richard Ward (1814) "A
Guide to the Peak District ..." mentions the couple but
not an elopement; there is nothing in Lysons (1817) "Topographical
and Historical Account of Derbyshire";
there is no mention in Rhodes (1818) "Peak
Scenery" although he visited Haddon; David Peter Davies
(1811) "History of Derbyshire" also does not mention
 In 1822 a short story by Allan
Cunningham, "The King of the Peak" had been
published by the "London Magazine". It was
followed by a long novel, written under a pseudonym (Gibbons,
Lee, pseud. [i.e. William Bennett, Solicitor.] (1823) "The
King of the Peak. A romance, etc.", published London).
 William Adam (1840) "Gem
of the Peak" went no further than writing "Out
of these doors, it is said, the beautiful Dorothy Vernon eloped
with Sir John Manners ...".
Also see, elsewhere on this web site:
Gentleman's Magazine Library, 1731-1868 (under Bakewell).
MI of Sir George Vernon family and mentions the tomb
of his daughter who is also commemorated in the church.
Directory of Derbyshire, 1891, Haddon
Parishes, 1811 includes a short piece about Haddon (under
Wolley Manuscripts, Derbyshire