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Darley Dale: Stancliffe Hall, early twentieth century
Stancliffe Hall

When Sir Joseph Whitworth bought Stancliffe Hall it was a stone built Stuart mansion, constructed following the demolition of an earlier building[1]. Stephen Glover (1833) tells us that it was "held by a younger branch of the Clumber family" [sic Columbell] and "was passed by successive heirs to the families of Newsam and Pott". In 1655 John Digby of Mansfield Woodhouse sold the property to Robert Steere of Bridgetown, gent. Sir Paul Jenkinson gave it to Lettice, his daughter, who sold in to Robert Greensmith in 1718. William Heathcote of Batavia, Demerera (d.1811) became the owner in 1799. He was succeeded by his brother John and early in the 1820s their nephew and heir, Arthur Heathcote Shepley (who changed his surname to Heathcote), was in residence[2]. In White's Directory we find that "The Hall itself was built with stone got at this quarry", the quarry being Stancliffe Quarry within the estate[3].

Terence Kilburn, Whitworth's first biographer, states that Whitworth had tried - unsuccessfully - to buy the Stancliffe estate in 1847 and made another offer in 1854. The negotiations took two years to complete, with Whitworth paying £33,850 for the estate[1]. Although he was staying at the Hall in 1861[4], he did not reside here permanently until after his second marriage in 1871[5]. By the time he was knighted in 1869 he had become world famous through his inventions in improved rifles and ordnance, although he was self-made and for many years had been involved in mechanical pursuits in Manchester[6].

He was described in 1865 as owning good deal of the land in the neighbourhood, including the Darley Dale stone-quarry, "from which the getting of stone has been stopped, in order that it may be rendered by planting, an ornament of the estate"[8]. A great deal of money was lavished on transforming the grounds under the watchful eye of Joseph Dawson, who had worked under Sir Joseph Paxton[1].

There were two references to Stancliffe Hall facing demolition in the 1860s, both connected to Llewellynn Jewitt. The first was in "The Reliquary" when Celtic remains were discovered in the grounds, close to the back of the Hall[7]. The second was in 1866 when The British Association arrived for a day's tour of the area and were met at Darley Dale Station by Mr. Whitworth. After looking at a number of local places the group arrived for a late lunch at the hall where they were entertained by Whitworth. Three of his nieces were also present. Afterwards the Derby paper stated that the hall was about to be pulled down to make room for a new mansion[9].

The house was altered but not demolished. Work was undertaken firstly by Thomas Roger Smith in 1872 and then in 1879 by Edward Middleton Barry. Both architects worked in the French Renaissance style[1], which may also explain the architecture of West Lodge, a gatekeeper's house within the grounds. In 1881 Stancliffe Hall was still described as a stone building in the Tudor style[10].

One of Sir Joseph's great pleasures was the breeding of horses and cattle. He kept Shorthorn cattle at his model farm and in his stables were trotting horses, the descendants of his old mare Katy and a famous trotter[11].

Unfortunately, Whitworth did not always endear himself to his neighbours and was in dispute with both Jacob Millward[1], Samuel Holmes and even Darley's Rector. For example, in early 1873 there was a landslip, caused by work in the hall's gardens some 60 to 120 feet above the road. It "upheaved" the road, moved a strong stone wall some four yards into the road and also as damaged Holmes' property[12], so little wonder there was ill feeling.

Sir Joseph Whitworth died in Monte Carlo aged 83 and was buried at St. Helen's, Darley Dale, on 2 February 1887[13]. The hall's interior was being decorated at the time[14]. He left his home to his widow Lady Louisa and it was said that "The house is a very fine one; and contains many valuable works of art"[15]. "The grounds ... are unequalled in Derbyshire for rock, scenery, and magnificent views"[16].The parish was a major beneficiary of Sir Joseph Whitworth's estate, and his wife continued to do a great deal for the village. She passed away in 1896 and was buried beside her husband on 30 May, aged 68[13].

Joseph Dawson became Sir Joseph's agent and was given a house on the estate to live in[17]. He was succeeded in the role by his son Sir Joseph Dawson (1857-1915). The latter gentleman was instrumental in the purchase of the Whitworth Estate after the death of Lady Whitworth and the foundation of the Stancliffe Estates Co Ltd in 1897[18]. However, one of the first things he did was to apply to sell "intoxicating liquor to be consumed on or off the premises at Stancliffe Hall with a view to it becoming a first class residential hotel", which faced strong opposition so was turned down although not all the magistrates were present at the session[19].

In 1899 the Rev. Ernest Owen, M.A., formerly of the Llandaff prep school, approached the Stancliffe Estates Company with a view to the property becoming a school. There were extensive alterations before the school opened, including a new schoolroom and dormitories being built. The first batch of pupils, some 50 boys, arrived in Darley Dale in early October the same year[20].

The school closed on 3 August 2001[21]; the house (a hotel by 2022) is Grade II listed.

Enlargement, showing the oldest part of the house, and its 1885 Winter Garden (conservatory) which is hidden
in the trees on the right. The Winter garden was demolished.

The Celtic Urns found at Stancliffe in 1863.[7]

celtic urn and a small cup

A number of Celtic urns were discovered in the Hall's grounds in 1863. Jewitt describes them as having been found on a rock, covered by a compact sandy mound, over and around which the soil had accumulated to a depth of from four to five feet. The barrow they were in had been at the foot of a sloping hill.

After the initial find four more urns were located. They were inverted and had been placed on flat stones. Two were removed intact but the other three fell to pieces when they were moved. The urn depicted here, the most elaborate of those discovered, was one of the ones that was in fragments when found, but Mr. Jewitt pieced it together for the engraving. Unusually, it had four loops or handles. The mouth was 9½ inches across. Next to it is a little incense cup with a looped handle measuring 1¾ inches in height and with a top diameter of three inches[7].

References to Stancliffe Hall or the Estate:

Stone Quarrying in the Matlocks mentions Stancliffe Estates Company Limited

Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1891, North Darley (Darley Dale)

Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, 1899 - Matlock Bridge mentions Stancliffe Estates Co. Ltd.

The Matlock photographer William Nathan Statham worked here when it was a school.

Riber school played rugby and cricket matches against the school.

Darley Dale War Memorial is constructed from Stancliffe stone

  Wolley Manuscripts, Derbyshire:
Pedigrees, Documents & Deeds : Surnames C - F, Herbert Greensmith Beard, Stancliff Hall
Pedigrees, Documents & Deeds : Surnames G - L, Sir Paul Jenkinson

1. "Stancliffe Hall, near Matlock. View from the Park". Published by P. A. Buchanan & Co., Croydon. Printed in Berlin. Unused. (1/2d postage stamp Foreign 1d)
2. Engraving by Llewellynn Jewitt of Celtic Urn and Incense Cup, published in The Reliquary, Vol. 4"
Both images in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Page 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] Kilburn, Terence (1987) "Joseph Whitworth, Toolmaker", Scarthin Books, Cromford, ISBN 0 907758 22 3. Kilburn's book was the first modern popular biography of him. The foreword was written by A. E. Derbyshire, the then Chairman of the Whitworth Trust.

[2] Glover, Stephen (1833) "The History and Gazetteer of the County of Derby ..." Edited by T. Noble. pub. Derby and London. Darley Dale's PR shows A. H. Heathcote at Stanton Hall in late 1822 and at Stonecliff (Stancliff) in 1824. The 1821 Will of John Heathcote of Stonecliffe, parish of Darley (probate 18 May 2021), confirms the relationship between John and Arthur as uncle and nephew.

[3] "History. Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Derby", (1857) by Francis White, transcribed by Neil Wilson.

[4] The 1861 census is available on FindMyPast. His first wife, Lady Frances (Fanny, nee Ankers), was not with him as she was by then living alone at Delamere. Nor was she with Joseph in either 1851 (when she was visiting Utkinton) or 1841. She died just about a year after he had been knighted, on 28 Oct 1870, at Forest House, Delamere ("Runcorn Examiner", 5 Nov 1870), and was buried at Tarvin on 3 Nov 1870 (from Tarvin PR).They had married by licence at Ilkeston in 1824.

[5] "Shipping and Mercantile Gazette", 13 April 1871. He married Mary Louisa, widow of Alfred Orrell, Esq., of The Grove, Cheadle at St. James, Piccadilly, on 12 May. Her first husband had died on 8 Jan 1849 after just 15 months of marriage, leaving Louisa with an infant daughter "Kendal Mercury", 20 January 1849). She was just 22 years old. Her father, Daniel Broadhurst, was borough treasurer of Manchester Corporation whilst her mother, Sarah, was a member of the Tootal family. Louisa's daughter, Mary Orrell Higginbottom, died at Glasgow in 1889 and she is also interred at Darley.

[6] "The Times", 11 Oct 1869. The New Baronets.

[7] "The Reliquary, Quarterly Journal and Review Vol. 4". (1863-4) Ed. Llewellynn Jewitt, F.S.A. Published London: John Russell Smith, 36 Soho Square Derby : Bemrose & Sons, Irongate.

[8] "Derby Mercury", 13 September 1865. A Run Through Pretty Spots in Derbyshire.

[9] "ibid.", 5 September 1866. Darley Dale, Stancliffe Hall and the Low Peak District. Almost 100 members of the British Asociation had travelled to Darley Dale by train and visited other places of local interest before visiting Stancliffe. There was no mention of any imminent demolition work in the "Nottinghamshire Guardian" of 7 September 1866 which also reported the visit.

[10] "Kelly's Directory of ... Derbyshire [with other counties]", (1881), pub. Kelly and Co.

[11] "Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press", 6 October 1877. Sir Joseph Whitworth at Stancliffe, extracted from "Celebrities at Home" in "World" and published in numerous newspapers of the time.

[12] "Derby Mercury", January 1873. Great Landslip at Darley Dale. Samuel Holmes was able to return to Torr House, but eventually moved to another property in Darley Dale. His wife was the 3x great aunt of the web mistress.

[13] Darley Dale Parish Register.

[14] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 29 January 1887.

[15] "ibid"., 15 February 1887.

[16] "Derbyshire Times", 2 October 1897.

[17] Joseph Dawson lived at Fircliffe (sometimes Firr Cliffe), a property Whitworth had bought from Walter Sorby in 1863 (DRO deeds Clients of Messrs Brooke Taylor & Company of Bakewell, solicitors : D504). In 1843 the house was described as being in a delightful part of Darley Dale ("Derby Mercury", 17 May 1843). It was not, as has been alleged in one biography of Sir Joseph, given the name Fircliffe by Mr. Dawson.

[18] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 3 September 1915. Death of Joseph Henry Dawson.

[19] "Derbyshire Times", 2 October 1897. Brewster Sessions. Matlock. The Stancliffe Hall Application Refused. Fierce Opposition.

[20] "ibid.", Saturday 14 October 1899.

[21] Government record of the school's closure.

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