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Hall's "Days in Derbyshire", 1863*
Eighteenth and nineteenth century tour guides about Matlock Bath and Matlock
Chapter the Eighth. Lea Hurst and Holloway.

The Villa, an illustration in Days in Derbyshire
"Days in Derbyshire"
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Lea Hurst

Florence Nightingale

Sale of Lea Hurst
1946 and 1951

Anna Neagle starring in the film "The Lady with the Lamp".

Nightingale pedigree

Decorative border at the beginning of Chapter 8


[A] A SHORT mile from Lea is Lea Hurst, a spot scarcely surpassed for the natural beauty surrounding it, and with which the name of Florence Nightingale will be associated as long as England has a history; for though her birth-place was Florence, her home during [a] great part of her life has been here, and pilgrims from many a clime will visit it in after ages for her sake. It is at a point, too, so very easy of access from every quarter, by roads passing through such interesting scenery, as to afford a manifold attraction to the tourist and the devotee. Any one coming up from the North of England by the Midland Railway may alight at Wingfield-station, see Wingfield Manor-ruins, get the view from Crich-cliff by the way, and reach Lea Hurst in a walk of not more than four and a half miles by a very good road. From Derby it may be gained easily by a short ascent from the Whatstandwell-station ; from Matlock by a converse ride via the same station ; or a four miles' journey by the road, via Cromford, Lea Wood, and Nether Holloway. Or the ramble from Matlock Bridge or Bank, by way of Riber and Dethick, may be extended to it with ease, if you are so inclined. For myself, I love to go up from Whatstandwell, either by Crich Carr or by that romantic and

lonely pass through the Duke of Devonshire's stupendous stone-quarries, to a point between Cliff House and the Lead-mines, taking care to avoid falling into any of the disused shafts by the way ; then walk on by Wakebridge, taking a foot-path there is along the fields and the hill-top towards Over Holloway; and thence look down over the Lea Shaws, on all that God and Nature and Art have done to gladden the eye with a landscape that rivets the soul, and causes the gazer only one regret - that all the world cannot come and see it with him.

It is but a few weeks since (in April, 1861,) I was on this walk, with Messrs. Fowler and Wells, the celebrated American phrenologists. Mr. Luke Alsop was our guide, and made every part of the view more interesting by associating with it some touch of history or personal incident, or of geology and mineralogy. That farm-house we had just passed at Wake-bridge was on the site of an ancient residence of a distinguished family ; beyond it were small old groove-hillocks, not unlike petrified flocks of sheep on the bleak hill-sides ; the more imposing machinery of modern mining was near, by the side of a little mountain-brook ; and unique and strange seemed all that eastward scene, culminating at Crich-stand which stood alone in the cloudless sky. But turning from this to the west, what a magnificent contrast spread itself before us ! Deep beneath went the wooded scaur, crossed mid-way by the white line of the turnpike-road, and finishing only where the canal and the river, spanned by picturesque bridges, with the railway and the old road, run side by side for several miles, - Shining Cliff and Alderwasley Hall beyond - the latter at that time awakening some touching thoughts from the fact that the chief of the house was lying dead within. Captain Goodwin's pleasant domain of Wigwell lay farther off to the west - Wirksworth Moor, and the hills above Cromford and Matlock, embosoming Willersley Castle, more westerly still. Harmoniously were blended masses of wood, blue water-gleams, and spots of pasture of lively green. Holloway hamlet, with its sweet old homes, its increase of new, and its two little chapels, was resting and smiling in the sabbath-sunshine, to the right. The flashing waterfall, far down the valley, sent up its voice with the river's to invite our notice of it and the cupola by its side ; while the lark sent down its music from on high to win our glance from earth to heaven, if so be one might find such a trembling little speck in space as that which could thus fill it so largely with song. The anemone, primrose, and violet, nestled among the moist verdure almost close at our feet ; and Nature itself seemed to rejoice that it could yield such joy to the human heart. "But what" said our American friends, "is that lovely place - that gem of the whole landscape, almost directly beneath us - that many gabled mansion with its terraces and green lawns, harmonising with, yet unlike everything else we can see ?" "That" answered I, "is Lea Hurst, the Derbyshire home of Florence Nightingale ;" - and I shall not soon forget the emotion with which they continued to regard it, taking away leaves and flowers, and even bits of stone, to treasure across the wide Atlantic as memorials of the time and scene.

It is not my intention to give a very minute description of the house of Lea Hurst, the seat of Mr. W. E. Nightingale, it has been done by so many writers, but chiefly by that ardent antiquary and litterateur, Mr. Llewellynn Jewitt, who in his "Stroll to Lea Hurst," and by allusions in other works, has noted pretty nearly every particular. He says "The Hall is erected in the Elizabethan style, is most enchantingly situated on an expansive sloping lawn on the outer edge of an extensive park, and is surrounded and overhung with luxuriant trees. It is built in the form of a cross, with gables at its extremities and on its sides, surmounted with hip-knobs, with ball-terminations. The windows, which open beneath the many gables, are square-headed, with dripstones and stone mullions, and the general contour of the building is much heightened by the strongly-built clustered chimney stacks which rise from the roofs. At the extremities of the building, large bay windows stand out into the grounds, and are terminated with balustrades and battlements. The Hall, with its out-offices, gardens and shrubberies, is enclosed from the general park by a low fence, and is approached by a gateway, whose massive posts are terminated by globes of stone."

Imagine such a building in such a spot, with a landscape as varied as landscape well could be - Holloway, a populous but very clean and peaceful hamlet, near - farms and cottages scattered broad-cast, so that seclusion without solitude seems everywhere a characteristic feature - and you have one of the scenes amid which Florence Nightingale first began to develop those feelings that sought afterwards a more active field, and made her name a cherished word in almost every land. I well remember her in days gone by, visiting the cottages of the poor whenever illness was there, and doing all she could to soothe and bless the sufferers. There is one cottage by the road-side, and overlooking a good part of the Hurst and the scenery beyond, where, long before she became known to the world, a poor old relative of mine, a chronic invalid, delighted in nothing so much as talking of the way she visited and made inquiries about her without fuss or unwelcome freedom, and when any of the poor neighbours got hurt in the quarries or mines, she was always one of the first to offer them genuine help and solace. People wise in their generation, instead of imitating her, thought her rather eccentric ; but the wiser people of generations to come will pass a different verdict, and think nursing an honourable calling for her sake - especially after the fame she at length gained for the part she took in the Crimean war; since good nursing was getting sadly out of fashion in many quarters, until she arose and gave it new prestige by her heroic example.

Holloway (commonly contracted into Howy) is a place that the wayfarer, of whatever rank, might long to loiter if not to live in, a great portion of his days ; it is so sunnily situated, so clean and quiet, and one part of it is so well supplied with pure water by an upland rill. When first I knew it the inhabitants were but few ; but Mr. Sims has lately made such a great addition to the number of habitations for working people, and it is so convenient to Lea-mills as well as to the quarries and mines, that there is no wonder it should be growing into a considerable village. There was something very agreeable to me, in my boyhood, in lingering among its simple denizens and listening to their traditions and passing experiences none of which, however, were more interesting to a psychologist than what I am now about to relate, as happening to a person still living there in Philip Spencer's cottage.

Philip and his first wife, Martha, who was a cousin of mine, having no children of their own, adopted the little daughter of a young woman who went to live at Derby. The child called them father and mother as soon as she could speak, not remembering her own parents - not even her mother. While yet very young, she one day began to cry out that there was a young woman looking at her, and wanting to come to her ; and according to her description of the person it must have been her mother. As no one else saw the apparition, and the child continued for more than half an hour to be very excited, Philip took her out of the house to that of a neighbour ; but the apparition kept them company, talking by the way. They then went to another house, where it accompanied them still, and seemed as though it wanted to embrace the child ; but at last vanished in the direction of Derby - as the little girl, now a young woman, describes it - in a flash of fire. Derby is about fourteen miles distant from Holloway, and as in that day there was neither railway nor telegraph, communication between them was much slower than at present. As soon, however, as it was possible for intelligence to come, the news arrived that the poor child's mother had been burnt to death ; that it happened about the time when it saw her apparition; and, in short, that she was sorrowing and crying to be taken to the child during the whole of the time between being burnt and her expiration. This is no "idle ghost story," but a simple matter of fact, to which not only Philip, but all his old neighbours can testify ; and the young woman has not only related it more than once to me, but she told it in the same artless and earnest manner to my friend, the late Dr. Samuel Brown, of Edinburgh, who once called at the cottage with me, - repeating it still more clearly to Messrs. Fowler and Wells on our recent visit. Those people who ridicule all psychical phenomena they may not themselves have seen, will possibly be disposed to explain away this fact; but all we need say to such is what Shakspere [sic] said long ago - "There are more things between heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Nor could I well quit Holloway on this occasion without recording the story.

Nightingale Jewel

*Transcribed by Ann Andrews in Dec 2021 from:
Hall, Spencer Timothy (1863) "Days in Derbyshire ..." With sixty illustrations by J. Gresley (artist), Dalziel Brothers (illustrators). Simpkin, Marshall and Co, Stationers' Hall Court, London, and printed by Richard Keene, All Saints, Derby.
Image scans © Ray Ash with the steel engraving of Lea Hurst, the Home of Florence Nightingale and wood engraving of the Nightingale Jewel above © Ann Andrews collection. Keene's image is on the opposite page to the beginning of the chapter, and not where it is placed in this transcript.
Intended for personal use only.