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Arkwright family pedigree

Cromford Hall (Willersley Castle), before 1791

Engraving, 1802

Has a picture of
the second lodge

Lovers' Walks

Willersley Castle originally had two lodges. The one shown in the image above and enlarged below is at the bottom of the Castle's drive on Willersley Lane, so close to Cromford Bridge and the Lea Road. The second lodge was under Scarthin Rock beside the A6 on Derby Road in Matlock Bath and was known as Willersley Rocks Lodge or Scarthin Lodge but the building was demolished when the A6 was widened.

Amongst those employees of the Arkwrights who are known to have lived at the Willersley Lane Lodge between 1841 and 1911 were - as far as possible named in chronological order - Mr and Mrs. William Smith[1] (he was also a gardener), the Gardoms[2], William Froggatt and his wife[3], Thomas Mather[4] and Mr. William Kidd[5].

Enlargement of the picturesque Georgian lodge.
The message on the card reads:
"We are spending a very enjoyable holiday here at Willersley - came up by car on Saturday
& had a very good trip - but was it hot! The weather has been really lovely

When Willersley was sold in 1927 its grounds covered 290 acres. This included the Pleasure Grounds or Lovers' Walks (dealt with elsewhere on the site), ornamental and tennis lawns, a rock garden, a productive walled-in kitchen garden, meadowland and a range of glasshouses. There was also 1½ miles of exclusive dry fishing in the River Derwent[6].

Although they were not open on a daily basis the castle grounds were one of the tourist attractions of the district and visitors could arrive by canal barge at Cromford Wharf in earlier days, then later by train and charabanc. In 1889, for example, the gardens and grounds were open to the public every Monday, from the first of May till the end of October[7]. The gardens were still opening on Mondays during the season in 1903; tickets could be obtained from the hotels and boarding houses in Matlock Bath, and admission was free. By 1911 visitors had to apply to the Steward for their tickets and this was still the case in 1926, shortly before Willersley was sold[8].

In late November 1902 it was announced that "The gardens at Willersley Castle will be thrown open for public inspection on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, entrance being possible either from Lodge or the Lovers' Walks gates"[9]. This was most likely for an event similar to the one held in 1906. That year, despite poor weather, a constant stream of people visited Willersley over the course of a weekend in November to see the magnificent display of chrysanthemums grown by Mr. Jeal[10]. The Willersley blooms were said to be one of the principal floral displays in the district.

Willersley's gardeners competed against their counterparts from the other grand houses in the district at the local flower shows, some of which were held in Willersley's grounds. On the day of the Cromford's Annual Horticultural Show of 1901, an event run by the Cromford & Matlock Bath Society, the Castle grounds and gardens were open to the public for the entire day. Tents (presumably marquees) were put up in the paddock below the mansion and the exhibitors took along what they wished to show. "Beautiful green grass, majestic trees, a swiftly flowing river, rugged rocks - these form the foreground". And, of course, the Masson Mill Brass Band provided the music[11].

The gardens were also used for fund raising bazaars such as the one in 1893 "in aid of the Cromford Voluntary School Building Fund, held in the superb grounds of Willersley Castle"[12].

The rock garden, bordering the carriage drive.
Looking towards Scarthin Rock and its cliffs. The ground falls away fairly steeply.
This card has a serrated edge, so was previously part of a small booklet of cards.

Sometimes there were unwanted "visitors" to the gardens. In 1905 the chairman of Matlock Magistrates Dr W. Moxon J.P. had some strong words to say to two men who had stolen a large number of ferns from Willersley Castle. "If people like you are allowed to prowl about private gardens the early hours of the morning, and take away their beautiful plants, we will all be in danger". Dr. Moxon was convicting Thomas Edge, a piano-organ grinder, and his assistant John Green, who were both of Derby, for stealing ferns to the value of £3 from Willersley Gardens on 25th August that year. They had been caught in the act by Sargeant Brady, accompanied by PC's Denton and Goodwin, who were checking the castle grounds at 4.30 a.m.. They came across the two men and another accomplice and found them pulling up ferns and putting them into a basket. The two named men were captured but the third man got away and the two who were convicted claimed they did not know him!

One of the hampers of plants that the thieves had filled weighed over a hundredweight, and some of the ferns had taken half a century to grow to the size they were. They were planted amongst the rocks in the pleasure grounds as well as by the side of the walks and the principal walks had been totally denuded of plants. It is not known whether any of what had been dug up was able to be re-planted but it was claimed that it would take 40 years to replace them. In addition to the damage to the gardens, the police discovered more problems when they went to the fernery with Mr Jeal, who was the head gardener at the time. They found considerable damage had been done, with ferns pulled up and others trampled. It was said at the trial that the lowest value was £3 but the ferns would have fetched considerably more than that. The culprits were sent to prison for three months with hard labour[13].

View from the rock garden, 1930 or before.
The River Derwent can be seen about a third of the way up, on the right.
The sender's wrote: "We are sitting in front of the castle.
Its ever so hot. ... There seem to be a decent crowd staying here

One of the earliest gardeners to be employed at Willersley was George Stafford who worked for Richard Arkwright, the only son of Sir Richard, and he appears to have been well regarded by his fellow gardeners. In 1831 he supplied Mr. Smith of Selston Gardens with some small vine plants that he had propagated in the Willersley greenhouses and they were flourishing a year later. Mr. Stafford's "superior success as a grape grower is generally acknowledged by most practical gardeners". Stafford was to contribute a newspaper article of his own in 1832 (actually the following week after the story of the grapes was published); it was on the subject of the cultivation of Jerusalem artichokes as a food for pheasants[14]. When he passed away at Matlock Bath in 1846 his obituary said he was highly respected by all who knew him[15]. Stafford must have also been responsible for the growth of a massive gooseberry tree as shortly after his death, in 1847, a visitor is said to have pointed it out. The size varies slightly in different reports but its branches were then said to be "325 feet of strong bearing wood, all well covered with fine fruit"[16]. William Adam clarified things in 1857, noting that "in 1841 one branch was 40 feet long, "and the legth of all the branches together was 365 feet. It is a wall tree, and very productive. The longest branch has been removed, but one still exists of considerable length"[17].

Someone who must have worked under George Stafford was Thomas Green, later of the Rock Inn, as he became an under gardener at Willersley in 1830 when he was 18[18].

William Kerr followed on from Mr. Stafford[19] and two of his under gardeners in the 1853-54 period were Thomas Potter[20] and Joseph Rolley[21]. Five more men, Messrs Gadd (the head gardener), Boden, Worthy, Roper and Hodgkinson, were in the gardeners' cottages at the Castle in 1861[22] but by 1866 James Tissington had taken over from Mr. Gadd; he was listed as one of the mourners at the funeral of Peter Arkwright, so must have been important to the family[23]. A few years later he was a judge at the Cromford Flower Show, one of the requisites of the job. He died in 1885 and was buried at St. Mark's, Cromford[24].

He was replaced by William Barlas[25] who, in turn, was followed in 1892 by George Frederick Jeal; it was on his watch that the destruction and theft of the ferns took place (see above). George Jeal went on to win a prize for his exhibits at Matlock Bath Floral fete and we already know how superb his chrysanthemums were (see above). He was at Willersley until at least 1908 before moving on to become self employed[26].

The final head gardener to work for the Arkwright family was William Read who was at Willersley until at least 1918 when the Castle was used as the Willersley Auxiliary Hospital[27]. The Gardener's Cottages were still occupied by gardeners just before the Second World War, one by Charles Thompson and another by Albert Lynam[28], but the days of grand houses such as Willersley with a large number of staff supporting them were over.

The grounds and the river, probably before the first war. The picture shows just how steeply
the lawns in front of the house sloped down to the riverbank.
It was not unusual to see animals grazing around some of the large houses.
In this case they were probably helping to keep the grass short!

1. "The Lodge from Willersley Castle, Main Entrance". Published by A. W. Bourne, 32 Babingley Drive, Leicester, No.2. Posted on 6 Oct 1959 at Matlock.
2. "The Rock Garden, Willersley Castle, Cromford". No publisher. No.Cfd.42. Copyright. Not used.
3. "A View from the Rock Garden, Willersley Castle". Published by Lilywhite Ltd. Brighouse, No. W.C.9. Copyright. Posted on 2 Aug 1930. Matlock.
4. "Willersley Castle, Cromford, Matlock". Published by Photochrom Co. Ltd., Graphic Studios, Tunbridge Wells, Kent No.33300. Unused. This could date from before WW1.
Postcards in the collection of and provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on this web site):

[1] Mr and Mrs. William Smith lived at the Lodge in the 1841 census. He was shown as a gardener in Kelly's 1848 Directory, though not at Willersley.

[2] The Gardoms were at the Lodge in the 1851 census.

[3] William Froggatt was the Lodge keeper in the 1861 census | the 1871 census.

[4] Thomas Mather was sharing the Lodge keeper's house in 1861.

[5] The Kidds were living at the Lodge in the 1871 census | in the 1881 census. They were probably still there in the 1891 census, although it doesn't say so, and then living in 4 rooms at Willersley Lodge in the 1901 census.

[6] This is from several sources, including Willersley Castle Estate Sale, 1927, "The Times", Wednesday, 7 Nov, 1923 and the "Derbyshire Times", 1 December 1923. The last two references are from when the house was advertised to be let, furnished or unfurnished.

[7] "Derbyshire Times", 27 November 1889. Willersley Castle, Gardens and Grounds.

[8] Information from Ward Lock Guides published in 1903, 1911-12 and 1926-7.

[9] "Derbyshire Times", 26 November 1902.

[10] "ibid.", 24 November 1906.

[11] "Derbyshire Courier", 30 July 1901.

[12] "Derbyshire Times", 12 August 1893. Grand Bazaar at Willersley Castle.

[13] "ibid.", 2 September 1905.Willersley Castle Ferns Destroyed. Will Take 40 Years To Replace Them.

[14] "Hereford Journal", of 4 July 1832 and 18 July 1832.

[15] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 22 May 1846. "Suddenly at Matlock Bath, on Friday the 15th instant, Mr George Stafford, late gardener to the late R Arkwright, Esq., of Willersley, aged 70 years, highly respected by all who knew him". He was buried at St. Giles'. George Stafford was living at Willersley's Gardener's Cottage in the 1841 census. His widow, Theophilia, was living near the Temple Hotel with her daughter's family at the time of the 1851 census and was still there in 1861. She died, aged 81, in 1868.

[16] "Hereford Times", 26 June 1847 [and other papers]. Gooseberry Tree. It is worth mentioning that the "Derby Daily Telegraph" of 2 Feb 1926 reported that the family had no record of the existence of such a large tree and its existence was doubted.

[17] Adam, W. (1857, 6th edition) "The Gem of the Peak; or Matlock Bath and Its Vicinity". ... John and Charles Mozley, Derby and 6, Paternoster Row, London; Bemrose ....

[18] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 19 June 1909. The information is from a report on the 90th birthday of Mr Thomas Green of the Rock Inn in Matlock. He had been born at Allestree in 1812. There is more about him on Holt Lane and Dale Road, about 1900.

[19] William Kerr was shown at the Gardener's House in Bagshaw's Directory 1846 | the 1851 census | White's 1857 Directory. He had retired by 1861 and had moved to Baslow. He eventually moved to Bakewell where he was buried on 23 Mar 1875

[20] "Derbyshire Courier", 14 May 1853. Report of the death of "Mr. Thos. Potter, assistant gardener at Willersley Castle, aged 59 years, much respected".

[21] "ibid.", 6 May 1854. [Notice of Death] "Cromford, on the 26th of April, Joseph Rolley, under gardener P. Arkwright, Esq., of Willersley Castle, aged 23 years, much respected".

[22] Messrs Gadd, Boden, Worthy, Roper and Hodgkinson were all in the Gardener's accommodation in the 1861 census. Not all were gardeners. Unfortunately, John Worthy was to take his own life in 1870, aged 46, leaving behind a wife and child ("Sheffield Independent", 8 January 1870). He had worked for the Arkwright family for almost 25 years.

[23] "The Derby Mercury", 3 October 1866, mourner at the funeral of Peter Arkwright.

[24] James Tissington, a local lad who had been christened at St. Mary's in 1834, was living at the Gardener's House in the 1871 census | the 1881 census. James died at Willersley-gardens on 24 Sep 1885. His will was proved by his brother Henry, headmaster of Cromford School. There is more about James Tissington in Strays, Surnames T (scroll down the page).

[25] The Barlas family can be found in the 1891 census. He was mentioned as the gardener for F. C. Arkwright in the "Derbyshire Times" of 16 August 1890. By 1901 they had returned to Perthshire and were living at Moulin.

[26] Mr. Jeal was (presumably, as it doesn't say so) living in the Gardener's House the 1901 census. He had previously worked at Rawdon Hill Hall in Yorkshire. He was mentioned as working at Willersley in the "Derbyshire Courier" of 20 August 1892 in a report about although they mis spelt his surname. He subsequently moved to Sudbury in Suffolk where he worked for himself as a nurseryman and florist, passing away in 1928.

[27] In 1911 William Read was at the Gardener's Cottage. He was the Head Gardener and was still there in 1918 when it was the Willersley Auxiliary Hospital.

[28] Information from the 1939 Register, available on FindMyPast.