which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell

The Manor of Crich

by A. B. Watkins

In the very early 1950s the late Arthur Watkins wrote an unpublished book called " The Manor of Crich" . After being typed up by his daughter, Joan Johns, several copies were made available to people who were interested in local history. I know the document was extremely helpful to the late Dr. Geoff. Dawes when he wrote his "A History of Crich". My copy came via the late Mr and Mrs R.H. Smith. I know the document will be valuable to anyone with Crich interests – its history, people, places and heritage. I have included the whole text which has been only very lightly edited. Also, I have added extra notes (in blue) and photographs to support the text. I hope Arthur Watkins would have been pleased with the treatment of his work and it being made available to a wider audience. Peter Patilla


Chapter 1: A sketch of local history 1 – 7
Arthur Watkins general comments about the history, myth and legend of the Crich area

Chapter 2: Historical Crich 8 – 27
Early history of the parish
Notable familes
Babbington and Mary Queen of Scots
The Civil War

Chapter 3: Modern Times 28 – 55
Mineral Railways
Markets and Fairs
Trails, tracks and roads

Chapter 4: Churches and Chapels 56 – 71
St Mary's and St Michael's

Chapter 5: Photo acknowledgements


Chapter 1: A Sketch of Local History

In dealing with local history, the first step must be an attempt to forestall the critics who will be numberless in complaints as to why this, that and the other has been left out. I have tried to gather together from numerous sources the many references to Crich and district and am only too conscious that many more remain untapped.

Glover, Burke, Cox and Tilley supply most of the historical details and where these gentlemen differ, I admit I have followed the most picturesque line. There have been consultations with members of the old established families, talks in hayfields and on the roadside, and too often some spicy story crops up which cannot be used for fear of trending upon someone’s toes. For anyone sufficiently interested to keep on with the good work, there are still the Parish Registers to examine, and it would undoubtedly add to local knowledge if one could see the Title Deeds of the older houses and lands. The tithe maps of the parish would also be a useful source of information. I have left plenty for the next explorer.

There is little either sensational or spectacular in Crich history so the gazetteers and guidebooks pass it by with small comment, and that mostly adverse, yet even a slight scratching of the surface would have revealed, if no more, that here was a stronghold of the true bred Derbyshire man. “Strong in t’arm and wak in t’yed” and his works deserve more than passing notice.

One gentleman of some one hundred and fifty years ago says the tower has “a look of antiquity” and mentions the Roman coins found at Culland. “The Scientific Traveller” of 1818 strangely enough knows only of the pit dwellings in the wood at Lindway Springs, and the rare flower "Satyrium Hircinum", and is dumb on everything else. Baddeley and Firth can speak highly of the view from Crich Hill, and have some small interest in the church but the "dull straggling village" has nothing of importance for either of them.

{Note: Satyrium Hircinum is a rare orchid}

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A writer in Chambers magazine of a hundred years ago is briefly impressed by the scandalous condition of the churchyard where the older graves were being used again, and the bones of the former occupants lay uncollected on the open ground. And thereby hangs a tale which illustrates the grim humour of the Derbyshire man. Old Jack C–’s father when young lived in Nottingham and under one of the churches was a crypt filled with bones of earlier parishioners, known as “The scullery”. Many of the skulls were identifiable, and Jack’s father was dared to go into the crypt at midnight and bring out a certain skull. One of the party got there first and hid in a corner. “Father” went straight to the mark, and as he lifted the skull a quavering wail came from the corner, “Put that do o o n that’s mine!” Father obeyed and picked up another. The wail came again, “Put that do o o n that’s mine!” “Nay lad” says my father “They canna hae two heads”. And with that he tucked t’ skull under his arm, and went buggering off.

Other visitors to Crich have unthinkingly deplored what appeared to them as a superfluity of public houses which showed up the depravity of the citizens. Whereas in reality the public houses are marks of the traffic that passed through the town, and are mainly situated at strategic points on the old roads where “The First Drink In” or “The Last Drink Out” was of considerable importance to travellers in view of the hills they had already climbed and those that were to follow.

This is not saying that Crich citizens were all models of virtue, but they were far from being alone in their sins. Cox rather unfairly puts his record into the Crich section, although the whole country was tarred with the came brush. In 1362 the observance of Holy Days, when no work of any kind, was allowable, was so shockingly neglected that the Archbishop of Canterbury sent a solemn warning round the country that Holy Days were not be deemed as holidays. In Crich this was backed up strongly by Sir William de Wakebridge, but it had little or no effects.

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The rascals who should have gone to the Church services spent the Holy Day in sport and drink, thus proving that the tough Derbyshire men can never be driven*. He never did take kindly to any focus of official compulsion. In the early days of Census taking the only way to manage it was to arrange a dog fight, then from some convenient tree the parson and his clerk successfully counted the assembled multitudes. There was also another source of heartburning to “nice people”; a considerable amount of apparent laxity regarding the marriage ceremony, but this was more apparent than real. There was a strict code of decent behaviour at the back of it all, and loose minded lads and lasses have never been classed very high in social circles Possibly the extreme of this sort of thing was the lady who had lived sixteen years with the father of her ten children, and then refused to marry him because he had such a frightful temper. At the other end of the scale was Mr. X whose son married a lady of somewhat lower standing (in X’s eyes). “This is not a day of rejoicing,” said old X. “This is a day of mourning”. And he went into his house and pulled down the blinds.

Perhaps one of the greatest stumbling blocks to understand on the part of the fleeting visitor, or “foreign” settler is the cautious attitude, to put it mildly, of the native. He or she who expects to be taken at his or her own valuation will have a rude shock. There is a usually lengthy process of “summering and wintering” – the Social Thruster will get nowhere till he has proved his real worth to the community.

But this is to be found in every English village, where nothing can be hidden for long, either virtue or vice, and the native is wise in his attitude of “Wait and See”.

So much then for the superficial views of uninterested visitors. Where shall we start with our deeper investigations? Even to those ignorant of geology, Crich Cliff must strike the eye being an upthrust of limestone in the midst of gritstone country. The most common fossils are Encrinites, and there is some trace of coral on the hill top. The remains of a bed of Productus Giganteus is to be seen just above the Black Swan Inn. And Crich Hill is said to have produced the richest lead veins in the whole county.

* It is of these compulsory idle men that the Earl of Westmorland is thinking when before Agincourt he wished he "but one ten thousand of those men of England that do no work this day".

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In the Dimple valley there is considerable depth of boulder clay, and some great lumps of Cumberland granite have been found in the quarries. The botanist must go elsewhere for information. Botany is a science unknown to me.

The people are a mixed lot. There are those who are definitely classified by ethnologists as belonging to the Aborigines, a most distinct type; there are others whom, from their surnames, one would like to claim as relics from the Roman occupation, also there must be "Danish” blood too; and there are those whose features suggest on ancestor of possibly Scythian origin. There is also a large proportion of small men and women well under ordinary height, and there must always have been many of those judging from the low doorways and ceilings in old cottages where the modern man has to keep his head bowed. Undoubtedly those people are of pretty old stock, and to my thinking they played a big part in Derbyshire legend. In one of the superficial “ramble books,” now perhaps twenty years old, there was the strange assertion that Derbyshire had no tradition of fairies yet Firth’s “Highways and Byways” mentioned the genuine article caught in Deep Dale near Buxton, who made such a fuss that his captor let him go. Some thirty years back it was still in living memory that the lonely hill farmer put out bowls of cream at night to keep the fairies in good temper, and I myself have heard the expression “Ronka as a dobbin” used in the most matter of fact way.

There are plenty of "Hob" and "Dob" place names always in out of the way corners, and it would not be surprising to find that "Robin Hood" names have more real association with fairies than with the founder of our Sherwood Foresters. Now there were underground dwellings at Lindway Springs, at Smerill near Youlgreave, and I think, Marston Montgomery also; and there is good evidence available that refugees lived in caves, or even like “Hob Hurst” on Beeley Moor some times in chambered tumuli.

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The most striking case was the cave in the Manifold Valley which was explored by the Rev Wilson, a Methodist minister who for too short a time officiated in Fritchley.

There was a legend that the cave was the home of a lady in red garments, and no local would go near the place after dark. Mr Wilson found a hoard of women’s ornamental jewellery! So it is possible that these refugees came out of shelter at night time to see what they could pick up for food, and if, as I presume, they were the ancestors of our small sized people, the chance sight of a little figure vanishing underground, or into some darksome clough would undoubtedly give rise to accounts of supernatural beings.

But if the Dobbins were occasionally "RONK”, they were as nothing compared with a more dangerous goblin, whose name is commemorated in Shuckstone Cross in Shuck Wood. The Shuck was both a robber and a murderer, and Shuckstone Cross area must have suited his way of life – a few minutes start, while his victims (if lucky) were recovering, and the Shuck would be gone, and nobody could say which ridge had hidden his movements. Quite obviously his influence must have remained in the neighbour hood or there would have been no gallows standing at Cross Lane corner by Dethick. While on this sort of subject mention should be made of a curious story which appeared in a little pamphlet on Crich Church, now long out of print, and I doubt if many copies are still in existence, and I have forgotten the exact details. Briefly, the wife of on officer serving in India, in the Mutiny year, had a vision of her husband at least a day before his name appeared in the Casualty List as killed. She insisted that the death was wrongly dated. The War Office insisted that it was correct, and they had it up and down, till finally a brother officer confirmed that the wife’s date was right, and the War Office record was duly amended. "The only known instance," said the pamphlet, "of a ghost correcting a Government Department!" Another proof, if any is really needed, that a true bred Derbyshire man can never be kept down!

{NOTE: The “Pamphlet” mentioned was “History of St Mary’s Church, Crich” by A.B.Done, which is on this site. Read the booklet ...}

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To come to the present day, there were three authentic ghosts I knew off with supporting evidence for every one. Quite harmless spirits, but apt to be a trifle disconcerting at times. This of course is controversial matter, and probably most people would prefer the story of the ghost in Pentrich Churchyard. Old B – favoured a public house in Pentrich for his drinks, and his homeward way was through the graveyard. So one night he came on a white clad figure “scrabbling” on a grave; “What art a doin’ there?” asks old B –
“I canna get in! I canna get in” says the Ghost.
“Well lad” says old B –, “Tha’s no bloody business to be out!” And he laid on heartily, with the heavy stick he carried! Needless to say, there were no more apparitions in Pentrich Churchyard.

Two wars, and a host of more or less useful ideas and inventions for "brightening" life have swept the old pre 1914 world almost out of memory. The younger generations have in some ways a wider horizon than their elders. Probably the bulk of the old superstitions have disappeared for good, and possibly much of the old time wisdom has gone too. There may still be a few of the old stagers with a good knowledge of herbal remedies – and there may be a few with memories of White Magic, or the reverse. Up to forty years ago, though the term “Evil Eye” was never used, unqualified admiration of children or cattle was not greeted with any enthusiasm – It might bring bad luck.

I recall a pillar of a local chapel (not a Crich man) retiring from my door after an attempt to buy some cattle. “Well,” he said, “I’ve made you a fair offer, and you’ve refused it. You can’t expect them to do any good now! They won’t.” He must have been disappointed when the curse failed to act! I have seen a man go through the necessary motions (minus the words) to ensure a cow becoming in calf and most remarkable of all was the remedy proposed by a man, who should have know better for an epidemic of contagious abortion which was running through the cow sheds of different farms. "I shall take the next dead calf" said he, “and put it astride the cow shed roof – that'll stop it!”

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I watched his roof with interest, but either wiser counsels prevailed, or the plague was stayed. No calf appeared. Since then I found this belief recorded by Frazer in The Golden Bough; but my friend had never heard of Frazer. Even so, his idea of resisting evil was a stage better than one H –, long before my time. H – had suffered heavy losses among his sheep, so he went down to Belper, bought a new cart rope and hanged himself in his barn. Whereupon his neighbour, also undergoing the same trouble, said “I’m as good a man as H – any day!” and hanged himself in his orchard!

But this happened in Heage or thereabouts, where no man dare take off his collar in public, lest the birthmark of the rope round his neck should show. It is wiser not to speak of such things in Heage village! As for that, most villages most have a skeleton or two in the cupboard, and Heage has no real need to bother about the tradition of being the place where “they hanged them in bunches” after a brutal murder.

Crich too had its own skeleton in the last years of last century. The vicar was unfrocked for scandalous living, and the town was laid open to the ribald jests of its neighbours.

{NOTE: The scandalous Crich vicar was the Revd Acraman. The book entitled “Parish life with a troubled vicar: Crich 1875–1900” tells all. Read more ...}

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Anything before the Norman Conquest must be largely a matter of speculation. Some foundation for legends of trades in very ancient times is afforded by a Carthaginian coin dated by British Museum experts about 300 BC. This was found in Hardwick Park in the early summer of 1953.

It is claimed that lead was mined here before the Romans came, and we know that lead weights were found in the Lake Village of Glastonbury which would be from the Mendip mines, and these came into Roman hands as early as 46 AD, so it is unlikely they would neglect using Crich lead for long.

Unfortunately, accounts of Roman coins found in this district rarely give the dates of the coinage, and where are the coins now? A hoard found near Alfreton in 1748 included denarii of Trojan, Hadrian, Antoninus and Sept: Severus.

At Cullane in 1778 were denorii of Hadrian, Diocletian and Constantine. Other finds at Edge Moor, and on Crich Cliff are merely called "many small copper coins" and left at that. At least it suggests that paid, and not slave, labour was the rule in the lead mines. Crich folk in those days belonged to. the Brigantes, always a problem to the Romans who invariably found it tough going north of the Trent, and place names like Bretton, Walton, Kinder (Scout), Crich, Pentrich and Drum Hill by Duffield make it plain that the Aboriginals held on with a tight grip in the hills. And what of the river names, Derwent, Dove and Wye? Undoubtedly this was a tough corner of Britain, tough to all comers.

Now, what have we with certainty of this part of Roman Derbyshire? Start with Little Chester (Derby), there is the practically clearly marked Rykneild Street running to Chesterfield with a “camp” on Castle Hill, Pentrich, about half way. This has only had a short amateur "dig" in these last fofty years, and nothing much was found beyond a broken piece of tile.

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Then there is the Little Chester – Buxton – Manchester road very indefinite and disputable as far north as Brassington, after which it is well known. Beyond these all is guesswork. Haverfield postulated a road from Wirksworth to Belper, mainly on account of a wood called “Street’s Rough”. Apparently he did not know that "Street" is a personal name in these parts. Still he was on the scent, better than he knew. There is little doubt that the road from Brassington to Wirksworth is very old. Somewhere near Thet Low there is, or was, a tall rough monolith, most certainly once a Guide Stone. From Wirksworth to Alport Hill the road runs by Broadgate Farm, and a little to the south of Alport Hill is another "camp" similar to that at Pentrich. A few hours “dig” here nearly fifty years ago produced Roman tiles at a depth of about three feet. Near Shottle a pottery site was excavated in 1958. There is a choice of route here. One by a straight footpath leading down to Belper Lane End and so by a straight road to Belper river crossing by the English Sewing Cotton Mill. The other goes by road towards the Chevin and Duffield. Then there was a road "proved" about fifty years ago under Duffield Bank, this would run to Belper and northwards through Belper market place (the oldest part of the town) and either by the present Crich Lane, or the footpath parallel to it actually on the ridge, to Crich and its lead mines. Cross-country from Wirksworth to Crich is not an easy speculation, yet there must have been a road more or less direct to the river crossing at Whatstandwell and so upwards. At Crich itself we have three points. A small square tower on the Cliff, behind the first house on the Holloway road after the Cliff Inn is passed; the tower is now half in ruins, but it must be the building mentioned by Glover where “many small copper coins” were found. About fifty years ago a great number of pieces of broken Roman pottery were found on the Hill a little below the position of the Old Stand.

Tower at Crich
Square mining tower behind the Cliff Inn

As said before, coins were found at "Edge Moor"; now, at Edge Moor there is a ridge cutting which is almost invisible from the Crich side, but shows sharp cut on the skyline as seen from S. Wingfield village on the road to Morewood Moor. The path today swings abruptly down towards Hollins Farm, but there are indications that it joined Wood Lane below Hilltop Farm and there divided one line running across to the Moorwood Moor – Wingfield road and so to the river crossing at South Wingfield, and the other following lane, field paths and road to Wire Mill bridge and Pentrich. Whatever its origin, it is plainly connected with the Lead mines on Crich hill.

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And so we come to Culland Farm. The length of occupation recorded by the coins suggests a fairly substantial dwelling place. There is an old tradition that Fritchley village was on Thorpe Hill – could Culland have been a villa? To the east of it runs an old green lane that has been claimed as a “prehistoric” track, this appears to join the Ridgeway track to Belper. South of Culland runs the Dimple land from Crich and an old packhorse trail goes up through the woods and over the hill to Wiremill river crossing. This is locally known as Street Lane and said to be a Roman “road”.

It should be noted that all those local tracks mentioned are, at least in part, “covered” by the “Camp” at Pentrich.

All that can be said with certainty is that Roman money was plentiful in these parts, and one can only wonder why and when the owners buried their cash and never recovered it.

And so then is silence till the Norman Conquest. One question arises in the meantime. How comes it that the Celtic christian missionaries did not reach Crich? They left their mark in so many other places and penetrated as far south as Repton. Or does the Cross stand on the site of one long since destroyed?

With the Domesday Book we get our first picture of the town. “Lewric and Levenot had four oxgangs of land to be taxed. Land to one plough, three acres of meadow, wood pasture three miles long by one broad. One lead mine. Ralf holds it”.

In the Domesday survey the Derbyshire lead mines were: –
Three at Wirksworth,
One at Crich,
One at Ashford,
One at Bakewell
One at Mestesford (supposed to be Matlock)
So the Manor of Crich was a prize worth holding.

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Levenot and Lewric have been claimed as sons of Earl Godwin, but the list of Godwin's sons given by Freeman includes no names like these. Even a Norman scribe struggling with old time Derbyshire dialect could hardly twist Leofwine into either Levenot or Lewric. They may have been fairly close kin to Godwin. Be that as it may they were big people. Between them, they held thirty-two manors from Dinting in Longdendale down to the Trent. And possible Levenot held some Manors in Cheshire as well.

Footnote to above
Manors and lands held by Levenot and Lewric:
Ashover, Aston in Sudbury, Ballidon, Barlborough, Bolsovor, Boulton, Boylestone, Breaston, Clifton, Crich, Dinting in Longdendale, Duckmanton, Eckington, Edensor, Egstow, Foston, Hathersage, Kirk and Meynell Langley, Linton, Middleton by Youlgreave, Newton in Blackwell, Normanton, Oakerthorpe, Palterton, Pentrich, Ripley, Scarcliff, Shlrland. Snelston, Stenson, Stretton in Shirland, Tunstall, Twyford, Ufton, Whitwell and Willington.
Earl Goodwin held Ireton and Kedleston.

The bulk of these manors passed into the Lands of Ralph Fitzhubert, and Crich was his principal residence. He was hanged in 1140 during the wars of Stephen and Maud and his son Ralph FitzRalph became 1st Baron of Crich. His son Hubert FitzRalph gave Crich Church to the Abbot of Darley, and this gift was confirmed when Darley Abbey was built. Hubert was granted a Chase in Crich, and this was most likely the Wood Pasture mentioned in the Domesday survey. One of his daughters married Peter de Wakebridge, and the eldest (Juliana) married Asker de Frechville. On Hubert’s death in 1225, De Frechville became Lord of the Manor of Crich. Frechville’s son Anker married a Masond of Staveley, and through her became Lord of the Manor of Staveley as well as of Crich, He died in 1268.

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His son Ralph in 1324 sold out the Manor of Crich to Thomas Lord Beler of Kirby Bellers, Leicestershire. But Thomas 1st Baron Beler of Crich got little out of it, as he was murdered in the following year. His son Roger, 2nd Baron Beler is of much more importance to us. He must have been a very young man at the death of his father, but when he did take hold, he did things in style, and at any rate up to a very few years ago the dust from his affairs had not entirely settled.

Roger built a great house where the Baptist Chapel now stands, most of it of course destroyed, but there still remain some parts of an ancient house behind Mr Alsop’s bakery, and what some of us like to think of as Roger’s Watch Tower is still there at the highest point of the garden looking over towards Wingfield Manor.

Roger Belers Watchtower
Roger Beler's watchtower in 2010

He enclosed a park which covered Plaistow Green and the land down to Culland (known in later times as Culland Park), the eastern boundary presumably being the ridge from Edge Moor to Parkhead. Wingfield Park was yet to come, but now we have a picture of the general lie of the land in Roger’s day. Duffield Park up to the Amber and Derwent, Alderwasley Park being the northern end of it (the deer were finally killed off in the 1939-55 War). Crich Chase on the East bank of the Derwent, Roger’s park to the East and South of Crich, the small town of Crich, and some cultivated land at Fritchley. To the north the Manors of Wakebridge and Dethick, and beyond them wild moors. And for communications, little more than pack horse trails. There would of course be Crich Common open land which remained unenclosed up to 1786.

So far so good, and all clear going, but Roger’s family affairs have all the experts guessing. There are at least four versions. Of these I have chosen to follow Burke (1844). In this version, Roger has a brother Thomas, they marry the co-heiresses to the Manor of South Wingfield. Roger marrying Margaret Rivers the elder, and Thomas marries Margaret Rivers the younger. Roger marries six times but can get only one daughter Avice as heiress. Thomas also has one daughter Alice.

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Avice marries Ralph Lock Cromwell. Alice marries Sir Henry Whatton. (Query, as nobody up to a much later date knew how to spell their surnames, do the Wottens, Wottons and Wootons of Crich descend from Sir Henry? If so they have the blood of William the Conqueror in their veins for the Belers had direct descent from him through the female side). After Roger’s death the two sides had endless quarrels and law suits to decide the ownership of the Manor of South Wingfield and it finally went to the Cromwells.

In another version, Roger has no brother, but two daughters in another it is Roger’s sister who marries Lord Cromwell, and Cromwell claims the Manor over the head of Roger’s legal heiress, and in this case the co-heiresses to Wingfield are a generation above Roger! Whatever the truths the result comes out the same. Ralph, Lord Cromwell secured, the Manor of South Wingfield, appears to have pulled down an older Manor House, the home of the Swillingtons, and started to build the house now in ruins, but before it was completed he sold the place to the 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury, somewhere about 1453 More will be said later of Roger’s house in Crich.

He left another puzzle, did old Roger Beler. There is an effigy in the Church of a man in a long gown. No name is on the tomb and nothing but conjecture is left. Is this effigy Roger Beler, or is it William de Wakebridge? The Beler supporters argue that if it was Sir William he would be in armour, but Sir William had given up soldiering long before his death and was devoted only to the fortunes of the Church in his later days. He might well be represented in a gown. On the other hand if it isn’t Roger, where was Roger buried? He died in the 1380s and the Manor of Crich together with South Wingfield was in the hands of the Shrewsbury’s up to 1660. And if it is not Sir William, where was he buried? As yet on unsolvable problem! It is possible that Sir William was buried in his own chapel at Wakebridge, but there appears to be no record.

Tomb of William de Wakebridge
Now believed to be the tomb of William de Wakebridge

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Turn now to the Wakebridge family of Wakebridge who were pretty important people in their day. As noted above, Peter son of Ralph married a daughter of Hubert FitzRalf in John's reign. (This “Wave of Ralfs’ makes one wonder if it was the cause of the name Ralf or Raphe remaining popular to this day), nothing seems to be known of his son Ranulph, or grandson Nicholas, but Peter was summoned to parliaments of Edward III as Knight of the Shire. His son was Sir William, a great soldier in the French Wars. He also was summoned to parliaments as Knight of the Shire for Derby and Nottingham, obviously the real ancestor of our "Notts. & Derby" Sherwood Foresters! The family was wiped out by the Black Death of 1349. Within three months, Sir William lost father, wife, three brothers, two sisters and a sister-in-law. Only his sister Cecilia was left, Celcilia who had married Sir John de la Pole of Hartington. After this visitation Sir William turned his attention to the affairs of the Church. He founded two chantries, for whose upkeep he bought lands in Firrchasleye (the first mention I have of Fritchley) Riber, Tansley, Dethlck, Cromford Lees, Holloway, and possibly Alderwasley. One Richard Whiteman was appointed permanent chaplain to these chantries in 1368 (There were Whitemans in Crich up to the 1880s at least). Sir William died in 1372, and Sir John de la Pole and Cecilia took over the Manor of Wakebridge. They had two sons Peter and Ralph. Peter was the founder of the Poles of Radbourne. Ralph followed his father at Wakebridge. Sir Peter at Radbourne had three sons, one was to follow him, nothing seems to be known of the second, and Henry was the youngest. Sir Peter had the wardship of the daughters of the late Robert Dethick of Dethick, so he married one to Henry and set them up at Heage, probably building Heage Hall for them about 1400 and Poles were in residence there till 1681.

The other Dethick daughter married Sir Thomas Babington who thus took over the Manor of Dethick and so the Babingtons come into local history. At Wakebridge, Thomas followed Ralph, Ralph followed Thomas, then came John who was the father of German Pole who died in 1588. His second wife survived him and married John Clay of Crich, which is as far as we need take them.

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In 1724 the male line ran out, and by inheritance it passed to the Morphys who sold out to the Nightingales of Lea, and the old house was demolished about 1771.

illustration of a door at Wakebridge ManorThe foundations of the old house show on the ground behind the farm buildings. The window of Sir William’s private chapel was removed to Lea Hurst, and the only remains of the old house is said by Cox to be a doorway in the kitchen. To return for a moment to Sir William and his purchase of lands whose rents were to support his Chantries. What was there of Fritchley? The Radford house below the Green has only "The Farm" for its title, which suggests it is on the site of the first farm in the village. This house and a cottage opposite the Shoulder of Mutton both belong to the 14th century, according to the old windows, and may even be older than that.

Land at the Bobbin Mill is called in old deeds: Doverings, Dovenlx, Dovenicks and even Doe Phoenix. The name was known to nobody, so it is obviously very old. Investigation by the English Place Name Society produced the 17th century name of “DOVE ING” – meadow frequented by doves. “Ing” for meadow is not a living word here as it is in the West Riding. It may be old Saxon or Scandinavian. So one may suppose this was farm land before the Conquest.

It must be remembered that Sir William’s choice of land was limited, what with the Common land on one side, and Roger’s Park on the other. (Mordern’s map of 1695 or thereabouts, shows the Crich and Fritchley area to be much the same as in Sir William’s time. practically surrounded by woodland). What there was of Fritchley village and land must have been bounded by a line, roughly from the present school to the Hat Factory to Barnclose Farm and the Amber. And in the middle of Barn Close Lane is Nun Field which once belonged to the Nuns of St Mary’s Convent in Derby. When the Convent secured that is unknown to me; it may have been handed over by Darley Abbey which held sixty acres of land in Crich, with a tithe of hay as well.

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As said before, Crich Church was given to Darley Abbey in Henry II reign. A vicarage was built early in the 13th , century, about 1220 or so, and the Abbey supplied the priest up to the dissolution of the monasteries. The last priest appointed by the Abbey was one Bradshaw. Darley Abbey had a wide sweep of power from below Derby up to Grange Mill. Among other Derby churches they held St. Peter’s which has many close links with Crich history. In 1338 a chantry was founded in St. Peter’s “at the altar of the Blessed Virgin". The founder of the chantry and its first priest was John de Crich. Masses were to be said daily for the soul of Geoffrey de Crich (supposed to be father of John). John was priest from 1342–49 when presumably the Black Death removed him. And in 1382 another of the family, Richard de Crich, exchanged churches with the Vicar of Crich.

This family must have been of some social standing as they carried a Coat of Arms in two styles.
1 Sable, a chevron between two crescents in chief, and a pelican vulning itself on base on. (Crich of Crich)
2 (Crich of Stubbing court). Ermine on a pale sable, three crosses patee fitchee on.

After the Dissolution the Babingtons were granted the Patronage of St. Peter’s; and after the Babington attainder the Patronage was secured by Sir Francis Beaumont of Grace Dieu, and so descended to his granddaughter Barbara whose second husband was Wolstan Dixie of Bosworth. Their son Beaumont Dixie married Mary Willoughby grand-daughter of John Clay of Crich, and through this marriage the Dixies claimed the Patronage of Crich and secured it in later years. The Dixies held the Patronage of St. Peter’s from 1662 until the early years of the 19th century. They were Patrons of Crich until about 1840

When Crich Church was "restored" in 1861 the rood screen went for scrap. It was seen in a Derby builder’s yard by the vicar of St. Peter’s who bought it and set it up in his own Church. Presumably it is still there.

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Apropos of the Beaumonts of Grace Dieu, one of the family was Francis the friend of Shakespeare, and partner to Fletcher. The Beaumonts obviously had Derby as their social centre and their road thither was either by Swarkestone bridge, Kings Mill Ferry or Shardlow. Is it merely a coincidence that Shardlow boasts an old big coaching Inn – The Shakespeare – which fifty years ago carried a good portrait of William on its sign-board, or is it really a trace of Shakespearean tradition of friendship between the Poets? (The Shakespeare Inn of Sadler Gate, Derby, might have been Beaumont property).

However, we are jumping the centuries and must hark back. Apart from the legal troubles of Roger Beler’s heiress, and Cromwell building Wingfield Manor House, which must have given plenty of employment to the local quarrymen, masons and lime burners, Crich appears to have no history during 1400–1500. The stones for the Manor House are said to have been cut from the rock face in Culland Wood, where, I have been told, dressed stone still lies.

The next Crich men who appear on the scene are Thomas Wall and his son Thomas who became the Chief Heralds in Henry VIII time. One of these Wrights introduced "Differences" in Coats of Arms to distinguish families of the same name. Thomas the son was Garter King at Arms when he died in 1537. And for wholly local news Crich Fair was going strong in 1539.

Then came the Dissolution of the Monasteries which caused trouble in Crich social circles and Church history for the next two hundred years. The “Great Tithes” of Crich were granted to the Babingtons of Dethick, and the 16th century barn at Dethick was probably built to hold the proceeds.

A certain Thomas Thacker of Toadmoor (or Thacker) Hall comes into the picture here. He called himself Steward to Thomas Cromwell (Wolsey’s successor), gained some notoriety from his proceedings at Repton Priory. Generally speaking the Abbeys were more or less prepared for the coming storm, had realised a good many of their assets and "salted" them away. The gain to the Exchequer was by no means as large as expected.

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And if Thacker’s "job lot" at Repton can be taken as a typical sample, there was not much keenness displayed at the sale of Abbey property. For fifty shillings he secured “One high altar, thirteen images, plus the twelve Apostles, six alabaster tables, three candlesticks, one pair of organs, two lamps, two roods, one altar cloth, three wooden tables (one gilt), one iron gate, two wooden tables, seven wood partitions, one ladder, two bells, and the stalls and old books”

He then set up as Thacker of Repton and sported a Coat of Arms with a Crest which should be of interest to Derbyshire naturalists. Was the bittern known on either the Trent or the Derwent? At least Thacker took a British bird and that is something to his credit, no pelicans for Thacker! (N.B. A visiting Bittern is by no means a rarity to this day, perhaps it nested in Thacker’s time).

And so we come to 1569 when Mary, Queen of Scots, had her first sight of Wingfield Manor house.

In a volume on Derbyshire published by the Cambridge County Geography series in 1910, the author Arnold Bemrose, who should have known better, and had every facility for knowing better, makes the extraordinary statement that Mary spent all the eighteen years of her captivity at Wingfield! Nothing could be further from the truth. Her longest residence was about three months, and the combined total of all her visits does not exceed six months. Yet the legend persists. She was mainly at Sheffield, with occasional visits for health reasons to Chatsworth and Buxton, where she is said to have scratched a verse on a window pane. But wherever she was, either Sheffield, Wingfield, Chatsworth or Tutbury she was always on territory belonging to the Earl of Shrewsbury, which may perhaps account for Bemrose’s departure from accuracy.

Mary herself does not much concern us, but we get some sidelights on the conditions of life in her time from the official correspondence. Nobody seems to have liked Wingfield, it was cold, short of fuel and furniture, but it was better in one respect than Tutbury Castle in 1569 where the sanitary arrangements, if they can be called arrangements, were simply appalling.

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Wingfield was isolated, one gentleman called it “living in a wilderness” whereas Tutbury was much more easily supplied with necessaries both food and fuel (mostly coal) and the beer at Burton was excellent. “I call this, England!” says the writer of a report on Tutbury in 1584.

As for the roads – Sir Ralph Sadler was contemplating going to Tutbury from Wingfield via Mercaston in January 1585 and thought it advisable to send a couple of trustworthy men “to see if there were any way passable with coach and carriage”. They reported “there was no other possible way for a coach but the common way, and scant that at that time of year, by reason of hills, rocks and woods”.” Sadler had a look for himself, and though he made bridges “to avoid many evil passages”, he was driven to use the road by Derby, and that was very little better.

One legend of Mary is worth recording. Sometime in the 1890s a pane of glass in a window at Heage Hall was found to have a verse in French scratched on it. Needless to say, it was at once attributed to Mary, no doubt on account of the Buxton window pane. For a time it was in the possession of the Fritchley antiquary Henry Wake, and then sold by him to some unknown customer and has vanished into oblivion.

Why drag In Mary? Heage Hall had plenty of mysteries of its own. There was a coach drawn by headless horses, a ghost or so in the house, and there was "Old Poole" and his two black dogs, and if I remember correctly “Old Poole” had to be exorcised by the Church. Setting ghost stories aside, a dry well shaft was opened up in the late 1890s and a pair of 17th century style leather breeches was found at the bottom. There was a cut in one leg, the mark of a blood stained hand. The women refused to have them in the house and one of the sons cut off the fancy buttons and put them on a waistcoat. On the more sentimental side there had been a patch of snowdrops in the garden set in the form of a date of 1611 (as far as memory goes) which was changed by the family to 1901. There is no need to drag Mary Queen of Scots into the history of Heage Hall.

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To return to Wingfield Manor House, when Mary was there every road was picketed at night, besides the sentries on duty around the house, and some reliable men were posted in the nearby villages to report on all travellers and strangers. Horses were kept ready for action, and the guards slept with their weapons handy. It may be fashionably sentimental, to sympathise with the Queen of Scots; to my thinking it is the Earl of Shrewsbury who deserves the sympathy. He was harried by Queen Elizabeth, nagged at by his wife, and Mary was always complaining over everything she could, and her health was a constant worry. All fell on Shrewsbury's shoulders, and he must have been devoutly thankful to be relieved by Sir Ralph Sadler.

Wingfield Manor
The ruins of Wingfield Manor

The Babington Conspiracy brings Crich into the picture, and Its effects endured for a long time. Young Anthony was selling portions of his estates to raise funds, and to John Clay he sold, except for two farms, all land in Crich, Plaistow and Edge Moor, and also the Great Tithes of Crich originally granted to his grandfather Thomas Babington. Old Thomas had also been granted the Tithes of Wessington, but no right of Patronage was included in that Grant.

The problem In Crich was whether or no the Right of Patronage was included with Crich Tithes, and it was on the presumption that the Babingtons had held the Patronage (which passed to John Clay) that the Dixie family claimed it through the Clay heiress, who married Beaumont Dixie. Somehow they proved their case, though there seems to have been strong feeling against them, “foreigners” thrusting themselves onto Crich have never been heartily welcomed! Glover quotes from the notes made by an antiquary named Reynolds of Plaistow who was living at the end of the 18th century, that after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Patronage by Darley Abbey passed to the Crown, and with the Crown it remained. When Clay settled his Crich estates on his daughters there was no mention of the right of Patronage; therefore the Dixie claim was false. The vicar (of Reynolds time) went so far as to say:
“it does not appear from the Bishop’s records at Lichfield that any clerk had been legally presented to the Church since the Dissolution!” Mr Walker, the vicar, had been presented by the Lord Chancellor. Obviously he had no liking for the Dixie family.

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So young Anthony Babington had raised a local as well as a national storm. Possibly the most unexpected result of his attainder was that the two farms not sold to Clay come into the hands of Sir Walter Raleigh! But he never appeared in Crich and soon parted with them. They were close in to Dethick, probably Anthony had kept them back to go with his house.

(Footnote to the Dixie claims; and see also The Civil War.)

Clay of Crich

Family tree of Clay family

(Clay must have had a brother or some relation to carry on the name for my sisters were at school(1900) in Liverpool with a girl named Clay who was descended from the Crich family)

Beaumonts of Grace Dieu, Leicester

Family tree of Beaumont Family

(Note from Gladwin Turbutt Esq. of Ogston. There is no record to show that the Babingtons ever held the Patronage of Crich Church.)

To return to the Shrewsburys, and the fate of Wingfield Manor House. In 1616 the old Earl died, and the Manors of Crich and South Wingfield passed into the hands of his three daughters, the Countesses of Pembroke, Kent and Arundel, and in 1660 the Countess of Kent’s share of the Manor of Crich passed to local men, but of this more will be said later.

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Wingfield Manor House changed hands several times and came hack to the Earl of Arundel, who either sold, or gave it, to his auditor, Immanuel Halton in 1678. Halton had been living there in 1666; in 1675 he observed a solar Eclipse, on which he wrote a learned treatise. He was both astronomer and mathematician, and endeavoured to teach Flamsteed algebra in his spare moments, apparently with little success. Immanuel also made some repairs of the damage done in the Civil War. Had his descendants been of the same nature, the Manor House today might still have rivalled Haddon as a show place. Unfortunately for us, Halton’s grandson was not a respecter of the past. He destroyed the rooms traditionally occupied by Queen Mary, and we can form only a very rough idea of what they were like.

Tilley is viciously bitter on the younger Halton, and as his remarks have some bearing on local affairs his outburst is worth quoting. Says Tilley, “This ignorant brute – for certainly he was no better – built himself a description of a house ...... of the very stones he had desecrated before his villainous hands were laid upon it (The Manor House). But neither historic prestige, nor the hoar of ago, nor associations of the most endearing character, can save an edifice from ruthless hands in the County of Derby..... If the building has been of such importance that armies have fought in deadly combat for its possession; if it has sheltered some of the most famous of England’s sons; if its architectural beauty were evidence of a dead art; no matter, down with it! For its material may save expenditure in rearing some outhouse.”

This outrage is dated 1774. Could any words be more damning of Halton’s new built residence than “A description of a house”? One would like to shake hands with Mr Tilley. And so with the sale in recent years by the Duke of Devonshire of the Pentrich estate, 500 years association with the Shrewsbury and Cavendish families has come to an end, and the last relic of old time grandeur is a small farm on the lane to the Manor House called on modern maps “Shrewsbury Cottage”.

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And next we come to the Civil War. There were no great battles In the County, and it is mostly a story of march and countermarch with a few fairly brisk skirmishes thrown in. The background is one of non-combatants trying to carry on business as usual, with the badly paid or unpaid troops of' either side plundering friend and foe alike. As for the fighting men no one seems to have fought longer than he saw reason, skirmishes were a tip and run affair, and a prisoner who could “compound” for his liberty with arms, horse, and any cash he might have, usually went home quietly without,more trouble.

The chief local character was Sir John Gell of Hopton, whom nobody loved. He had been so active in collecting “Ship Money” * that Charles I knighted him early in 1642 but he joined the Parliamentary side at the earliest opportunity, presumably in the hopes that he would save his estates from confiscation. Even the contemporary reports by his own side do not show him as a pleasing or heroic character. He never fought unless the odds were heavily in his favour, and he made the most he could of trifling successes. As for his men, a Parliamentary writer says “they were good stout fighting men but the most licentious ungovernable wretches that belonged to Parliament!” They certainly did well at Hopton Heath, the horse bolted without firing a shot, but Gell’s “foot, musketeers and pikemen, saved the day. Even so, he did not care to try them too severely and retired towards Derby during the night.

Gell’s business was to hold Derby, covering the Trent crossings, and at times it seems to have been very convenient to remember that business, especially when a superior Royalist force was in the neighbour hood. There was an active Royalist commander, Colonel Hastings, at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and the two sides watched each other like cat and mouse. Hastings had been repulsed twice when trying to force the passage of the Trent, but there was always the chance he might try again. And Gell in awkward moments elsewhere, most frequently have felt like Buckingham in Richard III, ”Let me think of Hastings and be gone !” And back to Derby he went hot foot.

*The local residents who had to pay towards Gell’s Ship Money are listed on this site – Ship Money

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His first great victory was the taking of the Earl of Chesterfields house at Bretby. The Earl, had a garrison of forty musketeers, some horse, and seven light cannon. Against this Gell sent four hundred foot, with dragoons and two light cannon. Some light resistance was made, and then the Earl and his men withdrew, no doubt partly to save the house from bombardment, and of course the odds were beyond reason. According to the rules of war in those days the house was now lawful plunder. Some attempt was made by Gell’s officers (probably local men), to compound with the Countess, if she would pay 2/6 a head for drinks all round, the house would not be touched! She refused this offer, and also one at a lower rate, and the house was sacked to the value of many thousand pounds. To their credit Gell’s officers protected the Countesses personal belongings. Probably it was much the same story when Gell took Bolsover Castle in 1643. From plunder at Locko his men got the value of £200, and at Morley £3,000 in cash besides horses and other goods to say nothing of plundering the non-combatants on their way to and from market. After the victory at Bretby, and a repulse to Hastings at Swarkestone bridge, the next thing was an attack on Ashby itself. This was doing well and Hastings was in his last ditch, when there came a rumour, and nothing but a rumour, that Prince Rupert was on his way to the rescue. This was enough for Gell and company, and they got out while the going was good. Better men than Gell had business elsewhere when Rupert was about. Cromwell at Marston Moor could boast his men had driven Rupert’s horsemen before them like dust, but he knew the Prince had been caught at a disadvantage, and he made no attempt to follow the retreat to the north. Gell’s men did actually have the misfortune to meet Rupert at Newark, and for once the plunderers were plundered – they lost everything but their shirts!

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But to return to strictly local events, Gell had one hundred and forty men in Wingfield Manor House in 1643, but was called on to supply a number of troops for operations elsewhere. He did not care to weaken his force in Derby (Hastings again) so withdrew the men from the small garrisons in the other captured houses. This left Wingfield with what might be called a skeleton garrison, and the Earl of Newcastle coming from the north clearing the county before him took the house within a few days in December of 1643. The Earl was too strong for Gell to tackle in open fight, so he kept a watch on the Royalists, one thinks at a safe distance, waiting for a chance. He cut off a few troopers in Wingfield village, and captured some more at Kilburn, with several “Troop Colours”. This was another victory, according to Gell, but it was poor compensation for the loss of a strong point that left the town of Derby the only place in the County in Parliamentary hands. The Royalists held the Manor House till the following August, by which time they were considered such a menace to the peace of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire that they had to be cleared out. But it was not as easy for Gell as it had been for the Earl of Newcastle; he had no heavy guns, and could make no impression at all. After a fortnight spent in vain, word came that a relieving force was massing at Burton. Gell detached some of his troops to meet it, (with the instruction “Keep an eye on Derby!”) The Royalists met with disaster at Royleston and Wingfield Manor House was doomed. Gell returned to the siege, borrowed “four Great Pieces” (36 pounders) from another Parliamentary force, and when the bombardment had lasted three hours the garrison surrendered “on composition”. They had held out in the place for a month. It is a disputed point where the Great Pieces were placed. Some say on the Roman camp site on Pentrich Common, and same say Coalburn Hill. It would be long range from the Common for guns in those days. In Nelson’s time it was a good gun that curried for a mile; of course it is not possible to say what was war damage or Halton’s, but the east wall certainly was not breached very severely, and the gate has suffered no structural damage at all. The south wall has gone entirely, though the earthwork outside it remains. Therefore my support goes to Coalburn Hill, as the south side would be most suitable for an assault. The House was dismantled for military use in 1646.

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But beside the use of armed force the Parliamentary government had another string to its bow to keep down disaffection. The Royalist gentry had to compound for their estates by stiff payments, and among the names we find Wolotan Dixie down for £l,835 Gervase Pole of Wakebridge got off lightly with £255. Some had their fines reduced on condition they paid so much a year to support their local Church, and among these in 1647 is Timothy Pusey (or Pursey) of Selston, who was booked for £967, which he was allowed to reduce by £500 on condition that he paid £50 a year “forever” to Crich Church. Pusey, it will be remembered, was the husband of Mary Clay.

As for Sir John Gell, he got what he deserved. At the end of 1646 his force was disbanded, and for their four years service his troopers drew £4 6s 0d each, and the foot £1 6s 0d. The officers never drew a penny officially, no doubt they, like their men, had managed to feather their nests! Gell got into trouble with the Government, and in August 1650 he was charged with misprision of treason, (he was still grumbling over his missing pay, and said if war come again he would fight for the King), found guilty, sentenced to forfeit his personal estate, together with the rents of his lands for life, and was also sent to the Tower for imprisonment for life. He was lucky to be pardoned after eighteen months. He died in 1671.

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Another victim of the Civil War, or rather its aftermath, was the Rev Thomas Shelmerdine, formerly Vicar of Crich. He was said to have been one “who aspired to commune with God face to face.” Mrs Shelmerdine is entitled as “a very melancholy though pious wife.” Thomas had moved to Matlock, whence he was ejected under the Act of Uniformity In 1662. He died in Wirksworth. His troubles were shared by his son Daniel, who was born in Crich In 1637, educated at Repton, and Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he took his degree of Bachelor of Arts. In 1657 at the age of twenty he was ordained minister by the Presbyterian Assembly of Elders for the Wirksworth district (which included Crich). We must suppose his father’s influence had some weight with the Elders for Daniel was well under ago, and so ought not to have been qualified for the ministry. If the Elders abode by the other rules of selection Daniel must have been an exceedingly capable young man to satisfy their requirements. The Presbyterian Church, in theory at least, asked for a very high standard of learning. He went to Barrow on Trent and was ejected in 1662 aged twenty-five. In 1689 he became again a licensed preacher under the Toleration Act, one of the first legally qualified nonconformist preachers in Derbyshire. He died at Findern in 1699.

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The year 1660 may be fairly said to mark the beginnings of present day Crich, for with the Shrewsbury heiresses parting with the Manor we are finished with historic names and titles and come to the private citizen. Though some part of the Shrewsbury inheritance, both here and South Wingfield, was retained till 1710–11 the larger portion was sold in 1660. A view of old time Title Deeds would be very useful here, for by the appearance of many houses, most of them unfortunately not dated, there must have been much building done by the new owners at this time. Another link with the past also vanished, there was now no definitely recognised Lord of the Manor, and there have been many claimants since. Among the names of the purchasers in the list given by Glover, we have Anthony Bennet and Ralph Smith, Thomas Wright “gent” of Fritchley, another Bennett (gent) from Brackenfield, Richard Vardon of Fritchley and Wm. Wood of Crich, yeoman. Bennett’s Lane Crich is probably named after these Bennetts. The sale included one third of Crich Chase, Culland Park, (Ralph Smith had a large part of this) a Red Lead Mill, where was that? and a water corn mill “In Crich” which is the Mill at Mill Green on Dimple Lane. All was sold except a Lead Mine granted on a fifty year lease by the Earl of Arundell to James Wright, and John Newton (gent) of Oakerthorpe. They were to carry on with the Great Sough and Groves. Up to the time of writing this mine has not been identified, and the Great Sough remains somewhat of a mystery. It must have been the earliest attempt at deep drainage, as the records show the other big soughs date from about the middle of the 18th century and not before. As stated earlier, it is not known when lead mining began in Crich and today there are hopefuls still carrying on the work of the Old Man. The old workings wore usually very shallow, and Crich Hill is thick with humps and hollows where the Old Man scratched, and then moved on to another claim.

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Though the mining laws were much the same in every district, Crich was always an independent “Field” and had its own Mining Court and Officials. Any man could dig where he chose, except on roads, in gardens, or churchyards. If he found lead it had to be reported to the Barmaster, and the claim was properly staked out. There was a Tithe for the King, the Lord of the Manor, and the Church, (As late as 1852, according to Cox, the Vicar of Wirksworth drew £1,000 in tithe from one mine in this year!)

wakebridge lead mine
Lead mine at Wakebridge

The Barmaster kept an eye on all claims, and a lapse of working a claim for three weeks, unless some good excuse was forthcoming, such as illness or stress of weather, left it free for any newcomer to “jump” and take over. The “jumped” worker had no legal remedy, he had broken the mining laws, and if he took the law into his own hands and drew blood in the quarrel, he was liable to a fine. A lead stealer faced more drastic treatment! He was quite likely to find himself pinned to the woodwork of the mine hoist with a knife through his hand, and he could then decide for himself how he got free.

As the workings grew deeper the trouble with underground water increased and there was no efficient method of dealing with this. Even with modern pumping appliances the famous Hill Close mine at Darley Dale was drowned out only a few years ago, and there were no pumps in the 18th century, or none that could deal with water in quantity. The only effective remedy was a drain (or sough) from the lowest point in the mine, and the Old Man, who was never afraid of work, set to in style. To the best of my knowledge the three mile sough from the Wirksworth area to the Derwent by Cromford is the longest of these undertakings. At Crich the 1753 made sough from the Old End mine to Fritchley is practically two miles long, and it is said that a man can stand upright in the sough from Wakebridge down to the Derwent. And it must be remembered this would all be mainly done by brute strength with pick and crowbar. There are others of which I know nothing, but surely the few I have mentioned ought to have come to the notice of the visitors and guide book makers as worthy of report in this “uninteresting village”. As for us, we take off our hats in respect of the memory of the Old Man.

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During the early years of this century a demand for spar across in the steel industry, and many of the Old Man’s rubbish dumps have been turned to good account. Much of the spar was exported to U.S.A. An enquiry a few years ago (1949-50) by a lead prospector brought out the fact that there were now no mining authorities for Crich “Field” in existence. It was not known where the archives had gone, and for general convenience the lead field came under the Barmaster at Wirksworth, and so ended another link with the far back past.

Up to the Industrial Revolution the principal occupations had been lead mining, limestone quarrying, and agriculture, but the success of Arkwright’s water powered cotton mill at Cromford in 1771 (the first in England) opened up a new horizon. There was water power in plenty in the Dimple brook – why not use it? There was already the corn mill at Mill Green to show it could be used to advantage, so four more dams came into being at various dates. What became the Bobbin Mill in later years started as another Corn Mill in 1790. One of the mill stones survives to this day. The two dams for the Hat Factory were probably made about the same time; but how long the Hat Factory (straw plait) lasted is not known to me.

Bowmer’s Corn Mill dates from 1818, and below that on the Amber at Bullbridge was another Bowmer built Mlll. And over in Wingfield Park where there was not such a strength of water, Towlsons of Pentrich made two small dams to work a cotton and lace mill, this was working up to 1900 and I understand it employed at least fifty girls.

{Footnote: The three mills on the Dimple Brook all set up steam engines to help out the water supply. The Mill Green engine was in position till 1912 and this mill worked for the last time in 1906, using water power.}

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No one can accuse the Crich men of being slow to grasp their opportunities! In addition to the mills there were the numberless small “stocking shops”, recognisable today by the long range of window. Much work was done at home by the family, or perhaps o few extra hands, Tom Ludlam of Thorpe Hill Farm used to tell how the girls in the little “shop” built there were serenaded at work by youths, discoursing sweet music on a triangle, thus anticipating B.B.C. ideas of “Music while you Work” by a good many years!

Besides those mentioned, there were two small dams, at the top of Fritchley to serve a carpenters shop, these have long since vanished. Springs were tapped whenever possible and small soughs made to carry the water down to the dams in the valley. These were large enough to deal with any ordinary rainfall, but in the great cloudburst of May 1932 there was too much for them. In consequence there were rushing wide rivers down our fields, water knee deep on the old quarry railway, and every crevice in the wall was spurting fountains. A sight never to be forgotten. Another spring was piped to serve Bobbin Mill Cottage, Fernside House and four cottages now demolished, surplus water from this ran into the Mill Dam. The advance of civilisation in the shape of deep boring for Crich and Alfreton water supplies, (piped “Town Water”), has intercepted much of the water, and many a cattle drinking trough, once unfailing, is now dry in summertime. And while many a well and pump has been condemned as unfit for drinking purposes, we get the absurdity of “Town Water” being doctored with chlorine to make it wholesome, it must be all the same liquid anyway, and what once was nature’s free gift has now to be paid for. This is progress!

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The Cromford Canal was made In 1790, to join the Erewash Canal at Pye Bridge, passing through Butterley Tunnel where the boatmen worked the boats through with their feet, while the horses went over the top. The tunnel was closed many years ago as unsafe, and the last canal traffic was mainly coal from the Ripley Collieries to the Wire Works at Ambergate and the mills at Cromford. Even this has now ceased, and the canal is derelict and deserted except by water hens, kingfishers, and a wandering family of swans. Yet in its day it was the starting point of Derbyshire stone for both London and Liverpool big buildings. It has one curious feat of engineering at Bullbridge where it crosses the Amber river by a solid stone built aqueduct fifty feet above road level, (there is a dry dock for boats at the south end of this, so the whole affair is generally known as “The Aquedock”, a convenient portmanteau word). Going down Bullbridge Hill, the road crosses the canal, a few yards farther down it crosses the river and goes under the railway, then turning sharp left towards Ripley the road now runs under the canal, so at one point you have the railway, crossing the river, with the road alongside, and the canal topping the lot. Every mode of transport, ancient and modern, all crowded together in the space of a few square yards.

Bullbridge aquaduct
Canal crossing the railway at Bullbridge

Not much has come through from canal life. It may be that the canal families were not regarded as among the steadier citizens, and it was not a popular occupation accordingly. I don’t know; all I can say is those I knew were quite respectable in their old age however wild they may have been in youth. Not long ago a man was telling me of a prank of his younger days, how he and a friend went down by night to the canal, very quietly boarded a moored boat and blocked up the cabin chimney, chuckling over the certain discomfort of the sleeping skipper. In the morning, to their intense disgust, they found out that the victim instead of being suitably asphyxiated, according to plan, had been taking his ease in his inn putting away his customary pints. “All our trouble for nothing!” says my informant.

There was another old Skipper, dead long before ray time, whose skill at weather forecasting was put down to his years of voyaging. Do doubt he had time at the tiller to study the clouds while his offspring worked the lock gates.

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Another told how his father would show his sons once, and once only, how to do anything on the boat. If they failed after that lesson, he slung them overboard to sharpen their wits.

Another told how when comfort ably loafing in idleness on the canal side at Eastwood he was offered a job on a passing boat. He took it, with the result he “walked his, passage” to London!

And finally there was Tabitha Neville who had been, in her youth, more often to London by water, than many of her neighbours had been by train.

After the canal, the next innovation was the tramway from the Butterley Co’s quarries to Bull Bridge. This is shown on Greenwood’s map of 1824, so it must have been one of the earliest railed tracks in the country. The sleepers were heavy blocks of stone about ten inches square, and may be seen built into the walls of the old track. It is said that when those were replaced by ordinary wooden sleepers one of the workmen struck a hoard of treasure, and never worked again! Apparently other people besides the Romans buried their cash, and never recovered it. I do not know when locomotive engines replaced horses for pulling the limestone trains. My earliest recollection only goes back as for as 1896 when the fussy little “Fitz” was probably in the pride of his youth. Fitz lasted till 1930 or 39 when the quarry was shut down and the rails went for scrap metal. And in all the years I had watched him pulling sixteen loaded trucks three or four trips a day I had never thought of taking a photograph. When it did come to my mind that he was an historic figure, it was too late, he had been cut up on the previous day!

Fitz railway engine

If these last few pages have failed to show how the Crich men kept pace with new ideas, every word has been written in vain. These men may have lived in a “dull looking village”, but they were true Derbyshire, “Wak’ in t’yed”.

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Lead of course had been the principal source of the importance of Crich, second to it came Crich lime both for building and agricultural purposes, and it would be interesting, if it was possible, to trace the growth of the quarries from the numerous small privately owned affairs and their small and scattered lime burning furnaces, usually of one kiln, to the greater works of the Butterley & Clay Cross Companies. A very great quantity of lime stone must have been got from the quarries between the Jovial Dutchman and the Church, and quite probably smelting was done on Crich Cliff as well. The only name that has come through to me is Mold *, who at one time had a Lane called after him, but exactly where Mold Lane and Mold’s Quarry were is wrapped in mystery. No present day citizen could supply any information, but it seems likely that the quarry was on the Cliff.

The Butterley Co. was first to tackle the job in a big way. They opened up what we now know as “The Old Quarry”. From the quarrying point of view it must always have been a rather speculative venture, for the limestone is deeply covered by boulder clay and there was no profit in moving that. The Flower Bank field was one of their tips, and obviously enough this represents a great amount of rubbish.

It was in this Quarry that tho two great egg shaped granite boulders were found, a very conservative estimate would put their weight at a ton apiece. They are not visible today, having been rolled back into a great pool of stagnant water.

The Quarry was entered by a tunnel about sixty or seventy yards long. This was finally demolished when operations were started again in 1898. The quarry being known as “Klondyke” in honour of the Yukon Gold Rush. (Incidentally this area also contains the field known as “Barbadoes” the origin of which is not known to me, and even this name seems more or less unknown to the younger generations. It sticks in my mind that this field had sixteen corners, and used to provide some fancy work for mowing machines).

*Note: John and Chas. Mold were listed in the 1846 Bagshaw’s Directory for Crich as iron and coal masters

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There is no trace today of the Tunnel, and I do not know whether it was run through rock or boulder clay. The general lie of the land naturally helped the usual practice in quarrying, the loaded trains ran down to the Kilns by force of gravity, and until the introduction of steam power, the empties were pulled back by horses. The making of the Tramway has resulted in leaving some very odd little corners of land along the route, and in many cases it is possible to note how walls and hedges on either side of the line were once connected. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the “Sunnyside” orchard and field on Kirkshaw Lane and the Bobbin Mill Woodyard field and the small one next to it. This in 1812 was all one property. The tramway turned out to be useful to the owner for he left one part of the ground to one heir, and the other part to another; it must have prevented a good deal of quarrelling. Glover’s visit to these parts makes interesting reading, for he is strangely inaccurate; he misses limestone and grit, and he gets “upside down” on his way to the quarry. One imagines he had a rocky ride in one of the empty trucks, was unable to make notes on the way and finally tried to write his account from memory. The most curious point is that he seems to have missed the three mills altogether, yet they must all have been in full view. Possible he meant to deal with them at some other time, and never got there.

Tramway at Fritchley
Butterley Company's Tramway at Fritchley

I do not know when the Hilts Quarry was opened. My oldest map is the OS for 1880 and in this the Old Quarry appears to have been derelict for many years. Here the limestone was close to the surface and was easy to got, but in its last years shortly before the second war the clay was making its presence felt. What had only been a small dump in 1900 had by that time become a mountain, and though there was talk of tunnelling under the Alfreton road to land below the Church, nothing came of it and the Quarry closed down. The tramway was taken up for scrap metal, and engines and metal trucks shared the same fate.

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There is an old lead working in the Hilts quarry, and pockets of lead were frequently found in quarry work. This was all handed over to the Company, and for many years lead miners from Bonsall came over to dress the proceeds. The quarryman had a hard time of it, he was laid off in bad weather, and there was no unemployment pay. Wages were not high at the best of times. Until the pneumatic drill came into use, all shot holes were laboriously cut out by crowbar and hammer (one man steadily turning the bar, while his mate swung the hammer). It was against the regulations to drill in or near an old shot hole, there might be an unexploded charge in it. But the risk was frequently taken, and accidents did happen.

The Cliff Quarry worked by the Clay Cross Co. opened up about 1840. George Stephenson was one of the four original founders of the Clay Cross Company. Crich Cliff quarry was bought about the middle of the 1840s, the Ambergate lime kilns were also built. The extension from Ambergate to Rowsley on the railway and the little tramway from the quarry to the kilns were Stephenson's best works, and the quarry tram line was his particular pet. In fact he was a very frequent visitor to Crich, and he enjoyed nothing better than to bring a party of friends with him for a trip up and down the line, especially delighting in the steep incline down to the kilns. After the trip they visited the old Wheatsheaf for a well earned drink. So after all, that unpromising public house has a claim to History.

Map of Crich mineral railways

The great difference between the Cliff and the Butterley Co.'s working was in handling the stone. From the quarry to Chadwick Nick the trains came down under steam power. Then there was a most fascinating scheme, a winding drum and cable. The loaded trucks ran by gravity to the top of the steep incline above the kilns, and so they went down the line the empties came up.

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At the top of the incline there was another drum and cables and only two trucks went down at a time, hauling up two empties. The same scheme is used on the High Peak Railway for the steep descent to Cromford Wharf. Cliff Quarry shut down in 1957 or 8 and all the rails were sold to the Talyllin and Ffestiniog narrow gauge railways in Merioneth

cable drum.
Drum and cable at the top of Chadwick Nick incline

Nowadays however, the drum at Chadwick Nick is out of use, and the train goes down with the engine right to the top of the incline, where the cable still takes over. One notable affair in the Cliff’s history was the great landslip of 1881 which blocked the Holloway Road and completely destroyed Rolley House. It is said that Sunday dinner was ready on the table and the family went out by the front door as the landslide came in at the back. Up to a few years ago the sole survivor of the catastrophe was an aged fruit tree struggling for existence among boulders and brushwood, but a spar working party quite recently unearthed a sun dial, so even now something more may turn up.

Crich landslide 1881
After the 1881 landslip

Coal mining as a source of local employment hardly comes into the picture. The great Derbyshire coalfields had been little more than scratched up to 1824, and what work was done was mainly confined to outcrops and very shallow workings. The tapping of this coalfield with its estimated life of 2,000 years and its almost incalculable benefits to all concerned was one of the alluring prospects set forth by the projector of a canal from Whaley Bridge to Chesterfield with a southerly connection to the Cromford Canal at Buckland Hollow. The plans make very interesting reading today – either the Aristocracy had more actual power to look after themselves, or there was more polite consideration for the feeling of others. The modern coal authorities with their roughshod methods would be surprised that anyone could say, “It is gratification to be enabled to state that no part the proposed canal lines comes near the residence of any nobleman or private gentleman, the tunnels to be so constituted as to admit the boats and horses together, which will prevent any possible nuisance to those noblemen and private gentlemen who belong to the different Manors under which the same would pass”.

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An actual case of this kind is of course the Haddon Railway Tunnel, where the Duke of Rutland’s interest had to be considered. Our manners have certainly deteriorated since then! Our own immediate countryside has been so mauled by opencast workings that it is pleasing to record an occasion when the project came to nought. This was an attempt to tap the seam that appears in the old quarry brickyard at Sawmills. Quite unexpected old workings came to light, and all the coal had been removed long ago! The whole site had been completely forgotten. One or two field names might have given a clue, but there was no man living who knew their origin.

And now we turn to the third most important source of employment, agriculture. It is generally considered that enclosure of the waste lands and commons was the first step to real farming. Crops of every sort could not be grown when cattle, sheep and pigs had a free range. The enclosures came hard on the commoners of course, and as such they are to be regretted, but in the main it undoubtedly was a genuine advance. Needless to say, the most prominent citizens took the lions share. Here again inspection of Title Deeds would be well worth while, to show how the smaller fry secured their plots of ground. Some relic of the old free ground time may have lingered on till our war days, many cottages kept a pig, and where there was more room, even breeding sows; remains of old pig pens in any odd corner may still be found. Neither pigs nor their owners were ever the worse for living close together, but the modern ultra-hygienic authorities put a stop to it.

As usual the new landowners rose to their opportunities. The French war kept the price of corn high, and practically every field still shows the marks of the plough and even the really small holdings could show a little threshing floor.

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Modern improvements have done away with many. Also, up to very recent years the stone pillars of the corn stack staddles were often to be found. They knew how to deal with rats in the old days! Many of these stone pillars had well cut circular capitals with enough overhang to defeat the most determined rat. More easily visible proof of the amount of corn grown in the district is the number of corn mills. Bull Bridge, Pentrich Mill, Wire Mill, Wingfield Mill all on the Amber, our three on Fritchley brook, and Windmills on the Main Pieces and at Heage. This last is something of a curiosity in now having six sails, a rare thing in English wind mills. It originally had only four, but the top was blown off in a gale in 1894 and when re-erected two more were added. It was working for some years after 1900.

These mills were not all in existence at the same time, and some of them were the result of wishful thinking especially those built about 1818 and after. The French War ended in 1815, and with it the price of corn dropped. Then came the highly complicated Corn Laws which practically killed the corn grower, for he never knew what return he might get for his crop, sons held on in hopes of better times, but roughly it may be said that any alteration in price was nearly always for the worse, and field after field went back to grass. As mentioned earlier the Main Pieces Windmill went out of action by 1817, and probably it was at this time that the mill at Bobbin Mill changed over to wood turning instead of corn grinding. Glover remarks how little arable land he saw, and the process of laying fields down to grass continued up to 1914, when the War brought about a small revival of ploughing. The second war changed the whole face of the countryside. This could only have come about through the use of machinery. In 1914 we were still mainly dependent on the horse and unaided man power, and there is a definite limit to the endurance of both man and horse. And where is the horse today? It must be almost as dead as the Dodo. If Earl Baldwin ever “revisits the glimpses of the moor” he will look in vain for the “one eternal sight of England, the plough team coming over the brow of a hill”, and Gray instead of seeing the plough men plodding wearily home would see him on his tractor bussing past at 30 mph. No doubt all to the good, but one rather regrets the more leisurely sociable old days.

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Modern improvements were not all to the benefit of Crich. The Turnpike Road from Belper to Matlock, made about 1812, diverted traffic from the old hilly roads, and Crich was left more or less on the shelf. Apart from the importance of its lead and limestone trade, it was listed among the market towns of the County, though the market was never a great success, and there were the two Fairs in Spring and Autumn, the latter in my time being by for the greatest occasion. This Autumn Fair (October 11th) vanished after the 1914-18 war, its place being taken by the weekly auction sales in neighbouring towns, and the introduction of the cattle lorries made for more easy choice of market.

Crich Fair

But those who have never seen the street from the Cross to the Town End filled with cattle and sheep and a great throng of buyers and sellers have missed seeing the town in its full glory.

Crich Market c1905
Crich Cattle Market

The schools had a holiday, and the so called Market Place was full of amusements, swing boats, shooting galleries, merry-go-rounds, coconut shies and other side shows. Today, Fair Week is a mere shadow. As to the cattle lorries, they also put on end to the droving trails, perhaps a good thing – for the average drover was a fairly tough customer, and used his stick with too much energy.
“They say I am the worst of a bad family”, said a workmate to me, “but you should have seen my brother George!” and went on to tell how George and his wife were bringing a drove out of Derby Market one hot day. George was cross, tired and thirsty when a convenient inn came into view, and George went in for a drink, leaving his wife with a threat that if she let the cattle stray, he would throw her in the horse pond. George took a long time to quench his thirst – his wife couldn’t keep the drove together – and when George came out she went into the pond! There can be few regrets for the disappearance of each as George.

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But to return to the importances of Crich as a road centre, the main stream of traffic appears to have used the Wirksworth – Whatstandwell – Alfreton road. Next would come the Holloway – Matlock road, and before the cut was made at Scarthln Nick in the 16th century, traffic to the north from both Wirksworth and Crich went through Starkholmes and old Matlock Town. The old road from Belper (Crich Lane) through Crich and over Dethick and Tansley Commons had degenerated to a rough moorland track and had long ceased to be of any great importance end it is only in recent years that the County Council turned their attention to it. For us it is worth mention as the road by which the Quaker prisoners from the Eyam district came to Derby Gaol in 1660, stopping for the night “in a room at Crich”. *

Clays Barn, Crich
Clay's Barn where the Quakers were held overnight

We have had a glimpse of the “roads” of Elizabeth’s day. The next to approach the problem was Charles II who must have had a good deal of experience in his travels through the length and breadth of England before and after Worcester fight. It was in his time that the suggestion of the Turnpike system first saw the light, yet it was not until nearly a century later that the turnpike road came into existence and the map makers found it worth their while to show at least some of the main lines of communication. They had merely put in the towns and villages and left the traveller to find his way as best he could. It was not until Cary's time, at the end of the 18th century, that the by-roads begin to appear on the maps, and even then they are not entirely safe guides; in some cases the map makers followed their immediate predecessor, in some cases the later man will omit a road marked on a former map, and what with the probable divergence of a turnpike road from a former track, the change frequently from road to footpath, the diversion of old routes by field inclosure etc., to say nothing (in this district) of interference of road, rail and canal, it is not too easy a task to decide where old roads and pack trails really did run. The surest points to work from are the old river crossings, and then fit in the public houses on the various possible routes. Then the network of roads and tracks that centre mainly on Crich Cross begins to take some shape.

*Note: Read more about this in the Quaker prisoners' article.

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And what roads they were, even the main ones, at the beginning of this century! All made of limestone, thick with dust in dry weather, or deep in sticky mud in wet, and not enough traffic to justify the speedy use of a heavy roller for repairs. Yet to the eye of one coming off city streets, there was romance and glamour in a white road climbing to the skyline; an effect that can never be approached by a modern tarmac construction. So let us have a look at our peninsula between the Amber and the Derwent, being only concerned with the routes that centre upon Crich. These routes can best be followed on the marked map, which will be easier reading than pages of attempted description –
(1) We begin with the Church Bridge at South Wingfield – the route westwards from Alfreton. The Church set low down near the river, though it is dated 13th century, may well be taken as connected with the river crossing, for the Amber can come down in big flood, and even the passage across the bridge might be a dangerous one at such times. The road runs up through the village, the small public houses being not of much accounts as they are too close to the famous, old Peacock Inn at Oakerthorpe to have gained much custom from passing travellers. The old Toll Gate at Parkhead, was destroyed in widening the road at the Reservoir corner. The gate posts were moved to Crich long ago, and may be seen near the top of the Dimple Lane. At Parkhead the old route went across the fields, some traces of heavy stone paving can be found along the track, and then it came out by Mt. Tabor Chapel. This part has been destroyed by the quarry. The turn pike took a big sweep from Parkhead to avoid the marshy ground. The field path was probably an old, pack- horse track.

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Arriving at the Cross – The old Smithy, recently demolished, stood here at the junction of so many tracks we find “The Jovial Dutchman”, but he is really connected with the Whatstandwell side. This place has been rebuilt in my time, and as far as my memory goes the old house may-have been l7th century. The question arises who was the “Jovial Dutchman”, surely not William III? This Inn probably has some connection with Vermayden and his Lead Mines at Middleton by Wirksworth. But Vermeyden can hardly be claimed as a jovial character.

Crich Cross
Crich Cross showing the old blacksmith shop

Next we come up from the Wire Mill bridge on the Pentrich road, this joins the Wingfield road at Parkhead just on the wrong side of the Toll Bar! Tom Ludlam’s father (of Thorpe Hill) remembered wheeled transport using “Street Lane” to avoid the Toll gate, it must have been a squeeze in some places, yet one finds farm tractors go a long way up, and motor cycle events are fairly frequent. This cut into the Dimple Lane and the first place of importance in Crich was the well named and well placed “Rising Sun”. By this time, anyone coming from Pentrich had earned his drink. An alternative route from Coalburn Hill led by the modernised “Lynam Road” into Fritchley. (This road is clearly marked on Greenwood's 1824 map). And Fritchley's “Red Lion” reaped its welcome. With the Red Lion we drop back a few centuries and remember it was the standard of old John of Gaunt, a name which still survives, though it must be fairly stated for the benefit of romantic minds that “Gaunt” can mean a glove maker, and may have no connection at all with “Time Honoured Lancaster”. The Red Lion too has been rebuilt, the old house certainly was 17th century, and it is said that no photograph of it is in existence. It was thatched till some time in the early 1890’s.

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(3) I think there is no doubt of a pack trail from Ripley and Heage crossing the Amber and Fritchley brook and coming up Bowmer Lane into Fritchley, I am told the old crossing was a little to the east of the present modern footbridge. This track on the south side of the river brings you to Heage Hall, where the tracks over the ridge are easily followed.

(4) At Bull Bridge we are on Crich Lane, and here we find “The Lord Nelson”, undoubtedly built In the early 1800s. Next we find “The Canal Inn”, presumably built at the time the canal was made. It used to have a picture of itself over the front door, showing a second picture of itself : a speculation follows – how far could these reproductions be carried with accuracy?

There was much activity in the field by the inn before the Butterley Company laid the little railway, Lime was dumped here for easy shifting into the boats. At the top of Bull Bridge Hill at the turn for Allen Lane stood a toll gate. The house still stands, but the gate posts have been moved into one of Radford’s fields, perhaps about one hundred yards east from their position on the road. And so, on and up across the old Crich Common finding more refreshment on the way, first at the “Kings Arms” and then by what used to be the “Royal Oak”, both rather curiously named, for Crich was notoriously Puritan and Parliamentary in the Civil Wars, and on by the “Rising Sun” to the “Black Swan” where again one pauses on the name. The Black Swan must have had considerable importance in the old days judging by the entrance into what was the stable yard. But why the Black Swan? Such a bird was not known before Capt, Cook’s voyages – Did one of his men come from Crich * and return to so commemorate his travels? Such things have occurred in other places – Tom Crean (coxswain to Capt. Scott) named his west of Ireland Inn "The South Pole", and nearer home the "Crispin Inn" at Ashover got its name after the return of Sir Thomas Babington of Dethick from Agincourt. Or is it some heraldic bird off some local Coat of Arms?

*A Tissington man was in Cook’s “Endeavour”. Much nearer than Tissington was the residence of Sir Joseph Banks at Overton Hall in Ashover. He was in the “Endeavour”. Banks was one of the first men who saw a kangaroo)

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And again on and up past the Cross and the Dutchman and past Wheatsheaf Lane to pause again for a very odd coincidence. My grandmother (father's side) was a Kirkham from East Anglia, whose family used a “Wheatsheaf” for a seal. And here in Crich in 1900 was a rather unattractive beer house called the Wheatsheaf managed by a gentleman named Kirkham!

Wheatsheaf Inn Crich
What was once the Wheatsheaf Inn

On again, and opposite the Church is the old “Bull’s Head” which also rouses some fancy speculations, but they can wait a little longer. At the Town End the road divides, on the Holloway road we meet the “Cliff Inn” on which is saddled the story of the landlady vainly trying to pluck a hare for the sportsmen’s dinner – (one wonders what lies behind the Fritchley “Shoulder of Mutton”, what cooking expert there made a wrong step?). Except for the vanished “Miners Hack” at Wakebridge, our last drink was at the “Cliff”. On the road over the moors by Causeway Lane there also was a “Last Drink Out”. And then a long dry spell to Tansley. It must have been a long, long trail to Beeley and beyond.

lat drink out inn
"Last Drink Out" on Causeway Lane, Plaistow Green

But before we think of pushing on to the north over the moors or turning back shortly to Ambergate and the Halfpenny bridge, there is another check here. There stands the tower over the shaft of the “Old End” Lead mine, the Old Man was presumably much troubled by water, and ran two soughs from the depths, one down by Hollins Brook, (some of his mounds may be seen) and the other down to the cottages at Mill Green on the Dimple Lane at Fritchley. It is suggested that the Old Man ran the Fritchley sough on its coarse through Culland fields, where the dumps are plain to see, using the edge of the limestone area as one of sough wall to save labour. The geological map certainly offers proof, that it was so. Some attention was given to this sough in 1951-2-3. And a pair of valiant cave explorers tried to penetrate the sough mouth, but found it too narrow, with too much mud and foul air for any real progress to be made. At the bottom of the garden by Ludlam’s Lane, the sough with its never falling water was used as a well, but one of the then Ludlam boys was drowned in it, and it was covered over.

*See Photo Album of Pubs and Inns of Crich.

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On Culland Lane there was a break through where calves and sheep occasionally fall in to their deaths, so the sough must be fairly big. This hole has been covered only in very recent years. It was this sough that brought me so happily into touch with Nellie Kirkham, the authority on Derbyshire lead mining. She was looking for the dated sough mouth, and was directed to call on me as the local “Know-it-all” (a quite unfounded reputation!). In ten minutes we had discovered many interests in common, and without her help and guidance this sketch of local history would never have been started.

She then presented me with a local problem passed on to her by the Wirksworth Barmaster (just come into his unknown kingdom of Crich Lead Field). He had an old bill of sale, unfortunately not dated, of land belonging to Dame Mary Dixie, and known as "Dixie Lane". Where was it? Cox threw some light on the Dixie family, but it was local men who knew the ground. Thanks to some more old records, and.the knowledge of the late John Radford Esq. formerly of Hollins Farm, and help from Alban Bower Esq. of Crich Common, this portion of Dixie Land turned out to be Plaistow Green, beginning at Town End, running along the east side of Crich Hill to the cross-path from Wakebridge, then bounded by Causeway Lane and so to the cross lanes at Edge Moor. This must have been part of John Clay’s land, and may have been Babington property before that. Dame Mary was the wife of Beaumont Dixie and if my memory of lost notes is correct she lived to a very great age and saw her great grandson Wolstan (5th bart). She also sold some land to Morley, a potter of Crich; where his pottery was, I know not. Potter’s clay is being mentioned as being found NE of Crich Hill (Query “Pot House” at Plaistow.)

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And now back to the river crossing at Ambergate and the roads and trails from the West.

(5) There is some controversy over the date of building the Halfpenny Bridge (it sticks in my mind that ½d Toll was still charged in the early 1900s), but there must have been a ford here for long enough. One old pack trail went uphill via Heage Firs (a landmark on Crich Lane) to Heage and Ripley, but that is outside our business.

And again the old maps seem very uncertain of the existence of the Ambergate – Ripley road. It would appear to be a modern turnpike probably of the 1812 vintage, and I can give no information of the lower Hagg Lane. (N.B. There was a toll bar at Ambergate, hence the modern name – the old name was Toadmoor. On the Ripley – Ambergate road there was a toll bar at Buckland Hollow).

But the Top Hagg Lane unfenced for most of its course, was the road from the old bridge up to Crich, and old Mr Wilmot of the Chase Farm used to bring his cattle to Crich Fair to keep the way open. It has quite wrongfully been closed as a road in recent years despite all evidence in its favour. There is also a disputed right of way up the hillside past the keepers cottage in Chase Wood, which joined the old road below Chadwlck Nick, then connected with Bulling Lane and so by Coast Hill (and the Dutchman) to the Cross, or by the vicarage fields could cut out Crich altogether and joins the Holloway Road by the Cliff Inn.

There was also apparently a third route running above the Canal via Thurlowbooth (below Chase Cliff House) which went by Crich Carr and Coddington and on to Holloway road near Wakebridge and probably connected with the old pack trails at Wakebridge to Dethick and Shuckstone Cross.

From Whatstandwell Bridge, which closes our survey of old roads and trails round Crich, there were two routes to Crich to say nothing of footpaths straight over the hill which may or may not have been more important once upon a time.

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The first is the main Wirksworth – Alfreton road, the Turnpike. The old route went up by what is now a field path which leaves the modern road just opposite Chase Cliff gates and ran into Coast Hill Lane. This modern road must follow an old pack track which runs by a footpath into Chadwick Nick Lane and so down into Fritchley for Heage. A cottage at the top of the footpath down to Fritchley Lane was once a public house and there was a row of drinking troughs close by for the pack horses, a mark stone in the field wall shows their position. At the corner where the Nick Lane joins the Top Hagg old road was the old tithe barn for the south end of the Parish. This was pulled down about 1906 and a modern house called the "Barn" was built on its site. (The tithe barn for the north end of the Parish is on the Coddington road just before the road turns down hill, a modern bungalow has been built just in front of it.) And lastly the gem of the whole road and track system, – the old, old, pack trail up the Robin Hood ravine and Oxhay Wood to Wakebridge and the high ground post Shuckstone Cross. In the wood above Wakebridge Farm there is a good length of deeply trenched track, the path runs right along the top of the ridge giving very wide views, and on the summit (about 890 ft. or more) is the base of Shuckstone Cross carved with a cross and various letters of whose meaning one can now only guess. Presumably “C” means Crich, “M” may mean Mansfield, and “A” either Ashover or Alfreton. Another doubtful “M” or “W” might mean either Matlock or Wirksworth.

Photo of Shuckstone cross
Sketch of Shuckstone Cross base by George Wigglesworth

The old track then follows the present road for a short distance, and then again crosses fields to Highoredlsh where there is a markstone more plainly seen from the Ashover side. There are two very ancient watering places before reaching Highoredlsh. The line of the trail after this high point is lost in a network of roads at the SE of Ashover Hill by the Chimney, but. the map definitely suggests a clear course beyond that for Wirksworth and Chesterfield. Between Wakebridge and Highoredish the line is practically straight as if laid down by a ruler. An old, old trail.

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There was a diversion to Dethick and beyond from the deep trench above Wakebridge. This path across the fields was marked by a stone causeway, now pulled up to make way for ploughing, and it ran into a deep trenched line which came out most conveniently at the “Three Horse Shoes” in Lea village.

It is well worth while having a look at tho old pre-railway maps, and noting the changes of traffic on the old roads. As mentioned before Cary (1789 and map revised in 1805) was the first to enter some of the by-roads, but he is mainly concerned with the turnpikes, and has no remarks to make on the mail coach routes. His map records that he “followed the best authorities” NB Cary's Road Book (my edition 1815) deals with every road in the county, even if it is not marked on his map. He is a trifle doubtful in his spellings of place names. He gives PELPER, CRITCH, FRITHLEY. In his day Belper does not seem to have been much of a place, for the turnpikes left it alone. There was some sort of a road by Belper Lane End to join the main Duffield – Wirksworth turnpike, where above Belper Lane End you may still find a mile post marked Wirksworth on one side and London on the other!

Wallis of 1810 sticks to turnpikes almost entirely, but he shows the mail coach roads, one from Birmingham, and one from London to Derby, and from there by Ashbourne and Leek to Manchester, and to Sheffield via Duffield, Holbrook and Heage to the present day road along Pentrich Common,

The Manchester road originally went by Brassington and Pike Hall to Buxton. Both these roads (Manchester and Sheffield) kept very close to the old Roman routes. Wallis now gives Belper the Turnpike to Ashbourne, which passes on to the east to join the mail coach road to the north.

Both Cary and Wallis show Trinity Chapel as of some importance, today it is merely a ruin. It stands very near Highoredish and Mather’s Grave.

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This Chapel served the Brackenfield area and had Morton as its parent Church. It seems to have escaped the notice of guide book makers like Baddeley and Firth and even the modern thoroughgoing Persner had missed it. It is now almost hidden from the Ashover road by a thick clump of young trees. There are now only the four walls standing and perhaps its most striking feature is its utter plainness. The east window is about six feet high and the tall mullions have no sign of decoration. The local people say it dates from the14th century and they are probably right. Yet though the chapel looks deserted and forgotten, there is still an annual Service on Trinity Sunday.

Trinity Chapel
Trinity Chapel, near Brackenfield

Wallis also spells CRITCH. He marks the Fritchley Brook, but apparently on his small scale the village was not worth notice. And Crich has only the Wirksworth – Alfreton road shown.

He may have travelled the Derby – Buxton road for he marks the Newhaven Inn and Arbor Low.

One of the most interesting and ambitious maps is that by Cole & Roper in 1805 “to accompany the Beauties of England and Wales”, and their zeal lead them terribly astray. Their turnpikes and mail track roads agree with the other map makers, and they still write CRITCH, but their ideas of where the Roman roads should have run get somewhat fantastic. Buxton – Brassington was too well known to go wrong, and so was Rykneild Street from Burton to Derby. After that, they became fancy free, and even Melandra Castle near Glossop has shifted some miles to the south of its proper position. Rykneild Street from Derby to Chesterfield leaves its proper line altogether. But let us say of them kindly “They did what they could”, and of course on interested traveller could always ask the way to any particular beauty spot if he reached the vicinity of it. Smith of 1801 produced a really good map on a somewhat larger scale than his competitors; and Smith I think actually must have been over a good deal of the ground. He enters Newhaven Inn and Kendall’s Peacock Inn at Oakerthorpe as if he had pleasing memory of both, and from all accounts Mr Kendall of the Peacock was an ideal host.

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Smith still spells CRITCH and FRITHLEY, and he avoided the moorland road from Crich, he probably stopped at the Town End where his road fades into nothing. He also reached the Fritchley Brook, but did not venture on by Lynam Road. He puts in Chadwlck Nick Lane and the road from Park Head to Pentrich, which in common with the others he spells PENTRIDGE. There is little doubt that Mr Kendall directed his movements round here. He has his own way of spelling Whatstandwell which appears as HOSTANDEL BRIDGE, and one rather wonders if George Bradshaw’s 1845 map of Canals and Railways was influenced by Smith, for Bradshaw spells it HOTTSTANDELL, which is a little nearer tho mark; and he did manage to spell CRICH successfully.

Smith keeps in the ruin of Trinity Chapel, and also South Wingfield Manor House, and Wingfield Lodge, the latter presumably not long built.

In all these maps Crich Lane is still important enough to be shown as one of the main roads north from Belper. When we come to the Greenwoods map, made from their actual survey in 1824–25 and published in 1830, there are signs of an approaching change in life. Down in the south-east of the county the colliery districts are starting their lengths of railways to the canals. And here is the High Peak Railway shown in all its meanderings from Whaley Bridge (off this map) to the Cromford Canal. And as mentioned earlier here is the railway from the Butterley Company‘s quarries to Bull Bridge. And certain proof that the Greenwoods passed over these local lanes is shown by marking the Windmill above Lynam Road, already out of use in Greenwoods day. He makes no mention of the Heage Windmill.

The Greenwoods did not cover every road in the County, they occasionally omit what their predecessors put in, and like Defoe’s cavalier in his youth they obviously “had no guts for antiquities”. Roman roads and sites were of no interest to them, they leave out Trinity Chapel, they have never heard of Arbor Low, and even Wingfield Manor House is missing! But take it all round it is a very good map indeed, and after all no small scale map can include every name. For once, they get their spelling right, we have CRICH, FRITCHLEY and PENTRICH, but they fall foul of DETHICK which appears as DETHWICK.

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And to their credit they left neither Crich nor Fritchley with fading out roads. There is Lynam Road all complete, though fifty years ago I was told it had never been more than a farm track and its various lengths joined up by local men. The Belper – Matlock Turnpike was not new by 1825, butthey still show Crich Lane, and what is more, they followed it out to Beeley. For them Crich was not a dead end.

A smaller scale map of Pigot & Co. dated 1826 possibly comes nearest to the OS maps, it has no special interest. Pigot puts in Wingfield Manor House, but he returns to wallowing in the mire with CRITCH and FRITHLEY. The OS map of 1839 (sheet LXXI N.W. Nottingham) must be one of the last to show the old order of life. It shows the tollgates of the turnpike roads, though oddly enough it omits the gates at Park Head and Buckland Hollow. Though keeping to its original form it underwent various additional changing to a geological map in 1855, and then had the railways added up to 1890.

For those interested in lead mining, the lead veins in the Wirksworth district, and Crich Hill, are all plainly shown. In 1954 opencast coal working was following a sketchly line of coal marked on this map between Barnclose Farm and the Railway line.

Six years later in 1845 comes Bradshaw’s map of existing and projected railways. A change of life has come. Bradshaw has little use for roads, he merely puts in small towns and villages to indicate how well they will be served by railways.

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Only the old North Midland line, Derby – Sheffield via Rotherham is in existence. The Derby – Manchester route is still only “projected”. One rather curious “projected” line is marked as running from a point :between Ashford and Bakewell to Dronfield. And so began an era which left the roads empty and badly repaired for many years. With considerable experience of road travel, I should say it was not until 1909–10 that there was any long distance journey, and the roads began to come again into real use. I have known, prior to that date, when cyclists could ride six abreast on the Matlock road without any hindrance. And I have seen loose stones laid on long stretches of the Derby – London road wait for weeks for the roller.

To return for a minute to the old North Midland Railway, the old station buildings at Ambergate are still there, just south of the present station, and express trains still go through the Toadmoor Tunnel. And down by the Wire Mill, by the Amber, there is a cottage which once was a navvies public house when the long railway embankment was being made. There are some rumours of savage fights, and possibly murder, in this house but I have never heard any particulars: It was a long time ago. *

The slow progress to Manchester is curiously reflected by the large scale OS map for 1900. Here though the connection with Manchester had been in existence for thirty years, the OS map maker still calls it “The Ambergate to Rowsley Railway!”

*NOTE: The Ambergate – Manchester line was a slow progress. In June 1849 it had reached Rowsley. The next section to Millers Dale was opened in 1863, and the unexpected difficulties with tunnelling broke the contractor. The Millers Dale to New Mills section was opened in February 1867, and from here the Midland used an already existing railway into Manchester.

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As regards our immediate neighbourhood this map shows one or two inaccuracies. Morden marks his villages with a symbol that apparently represents a Church, probably he could not visualise a village without one! So we find “Frithley” with a “Church” which is more easily seen than the genuine one at Crich; somewhat of a surprise as what is officially known as “Fritchley Mission Church” was not built before 1869, and now also is used as the school.

Morden also goes wrong with Crich Chase, which has somehow got to the south side of the Amber where Ambergate village now stands.

But it is his scale of miles that raises the most interesting point. He shows three lengths of ten miles in three different styles – the Great Mile, the Middle Mile and the Small Mile. Without more precise measuring instruments than I possess, the lengths in yards of these differing miles cannot be accurately reckoned, but roughly ten Middle Miles are the equivalent of eleven Small Miles and ten Great Miles are the equivalent of 11½ Small Miles. Morden thus has given us a sort of Rosetta stone in the history of English measures of length, and strangely enough it seems to have escaped notice. Apparently the length of the English Mile, like the US Navy Midshipman's fathom “depended on circumstances”, and nobody was really concerned with the definite number of yards it contained; and after all the time required for a .journey is still more important than the actual mileage.

Leland (of Henry VIII's time) used the Great Mile on his travels, but it is not known how he measured his distances, and to add to the confusion his mile varies very considerably in length. It has been calculated to be anywhere from 2200 – 2400 yards, and is still a disputed point. Some of his distances must have been guesswork.

*{NOTE: on Morden’s maps Greater Mile = 2430 yards; Middle Mile = 2200 yards; Lesser Mile = 1830yards}

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The Mile of 1760 (the Small Mile) yards came into being in Elizabeth’s reign, but it seems that this was for special purposes only, and not for general use. The 1760 yd mile did not become a national standard of length till the 1820s.

Ogilby of 1675 worked out his Strip Road Maps on the 1760 yard mile, and used some form of meter for recording his distances. A little drawing on his map shows him trundling a wheel along the .road, something like a barrow with neither legs nor body. He appears to be accompanied by a party of cherubs, no doubt singing songs of praise of the great undertaking.

Ogilby also entered Leland’s figures, and on their differing averages all computations of the length of the Great Mile have been based, and to my thinking (thanks to Morden’s Scale) the Great Mile has usually been made too long.

The Middle Mile seems to be somewhat of a mystery. The usually well informed Penny Cyclopaedia of 1840 spreads itself on the Great Mile and the League, but has never heard of the “Middle”. A century later, (March 1930, to be exact) Mr G.B. Grundy wrote an article in the Geographical Journal (Vol XCI, No.3) on the old English Mile and used Leland and Ogilby’s figures to support his views. He then quotes Plot's "History of Oxfordshire" (1677) as saying in that count: all three lengths of mile were in use, though the Middle Mile was the most popular. Mr Grundy writes that he can find no other reference to it anywhere. Plot called it the “Oxfordshire Mile” and he estimated its length as “about 91/4 furlongs”. My own rough reckoning comes very close to Plot. And here was Morden, eighteen years after Plot, showing all the three Miles quite as a matter of course! How comes it that he was so utterly overlooked?

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As mentioned before, neither Baddeley (1883) nor Firth (1903) had much opinion of Crich apart from the views from Crich Stand and the Tors. Baddeley dismisses the Church with the brief remark that it has “some interesting features”, and leaves it at that. Firth speaks only of monuments to a Bellair (Roger Beler, if it is Beler) Beresford, a German Pole and a John Clay. Both of them must have been in haste to quit the “dull village” and the “rather tedious road to Ambergate”. They may have thought that Cox had dealt sufficiently with the Church, and so did not venture onto his ground.

Crich Church in Cox
Crich Church as illustrated in Cox

It is left to a later explorer, Nikolaus Pevsner (1953), to show a much warmer appreciation –”Quite an important Church” says he, and this is much more gratifying than the cold lack of detail of the others. He deals fully with the architecture, which I shall not repeat except to mention the plain late Norman arches, the Norman font, and tho stone bible rest built into the north wall of the Chancel, which is found in only five other Churches in the County.

There still seems to be some doubt as to the dedication, whether it is St Mary’s or St Michael’s Church. It is now generally known as St Mary’s, yet Pevsner calls it St Michael’s. I do not know his authority for this, but it at least adds another point to the very tempting speculation that the Church would have been of interest to Hadrian Allcroft! Perhaps his views are not acceptable to all, and admittedly Crich does not entirely fill his requirements. Up to the present time (1954) I have seen no plans of tho shape of the Churchyard, neither do I know of any tradition of the Church being built on a pagan sacred site. Allcroft thought that circular churchyards followed the lines of Stone Circles. Churches dedicated to St Michael usually stood on high ground, and the place name “Plaistow” was found close by. Some of this would certainly fit with Crich, and tradition or no tradition, there is abundant evidence that sacred buildings did follow one another on the same site; witness the little Hampshire church which in 1936 or 39 was proved to be on the foundations of a chapel of Mithras and the most aged inhabitant brought up the legend of a Golden Calf being buried in the churchyard!

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Which leads me to more fanciful speculation –- does the old “Bull’s Head” Inn enshrine such a tradition of some ancient prehistoric site? Excavation at Arbor Low and at the “Bull Ring” at Dove Holes produced plenty of sacrificial remains of cattle. It may well have been so here. Folk memory is a queer thing. More probably the Inn has some reference to bull baiting, just as the “Greyhound” does to coursing.

The Churchyard holds plenty of interest. Many of the older stones are now quite illegible, but many remain that are worth more than a passing glance. The hunter of “curious” epitaphs will not gather much here, but he might be intrigued by the comparative unimportance of wives, whose names are frequently cut in smaller letters than the husbands who appear twice on the stone. And there is every variety of inscription, ranging from mere initials and a date such as “T.B” 17– –? to rather pompous long-windedness. There is every variety of the stone cutters art to study – from what looks like amateur work with its uneven lettering, as for instance

to the skilled hand that indulged in the most fantastic elaboration of the opening words, and a fashion that endured for a good many years. Those should be seen, as it is almost impossible to describe them. It has been suggested that the stone cutter was perhaps trying to imitate the flourishes that decorate the beginning of some important legal document. It certainly looks like that.

In pleasing contrast to these flights of ingenuity is the gentleman who goes in for little skulls and crossbones labelled “Memento Moi”, one on each side of a remarkably deep cut “HERE”! which is the most conspicuous word on the stone. Obviously he did not intend to be overlooked on the Last Day!

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But undoubtedly the finest work done in the churchyard is that on the stone to Alice Wheatcroft (at the west end of the church) 1751. She must have been dearly loved, and it was an artist with the chisel who cut the inscription. Clearly he tried to represent an outstanding personality in a way more telling than any lengthy catalogue of her virtues, and I think he succeeded, for after 200 years his work still has the power to stir the heart and the imagination. Here, you feel, was most certainly a “lady sweet and kind”, one whose life was inspired by a genuine piety, who was dainty in all her ways, and a lover of beauty. Yes, one would have dearly liked to meet Alice Wheatcroft. This poor sketch cannot do justice to the mason’s work. All the lettering and figures shown here are cut in relief. Thirty years ago when I made my discovery of the stone, everything was clear to see. Today in 1955 it is almost unreadable. I suppose the flowers to be meant for tulips; perhaps her favourite flower.

Not for from Alice Wheatcroft is a stone which records a tragedy, and is rather unusual in giving the parents names as well as the husbands. It has curiosities of lettering, as the stone mason was cramped for room, and the last words of the two lost lines of the verse had to be cut very small indeed. Also he spells God with a small “g”. This is a stone which calls up the passing tribute
of a sign.
Here lieth
the body of PHEBE the daughter
of John and Alice Hay, and wife to John Allin
who departed this life April y 11th 1759
aged 22 years
Also Mary the Daughter of John and
Phebe Allin who resigned this life y 19th

0 awfull death that would not be deni’d
That broke the nuptial bonds so slackly ti’d,
Render with speed for this great chance prepare
Least god should call thee when thou’rt not aware.

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That stone of course tells its own story, no need for more detail. There is another type that perhaps goes too far the other way, for instance the stone of Jeremiah Odanvant. Here too the stone mason was cramped for room, or if you like, he spaced his words badly. Jeremiah has two old fashioned lamps for decoration
Sacred (this is somewhat ornamental)
to the memory of
Jeremiah Odanvant late of Leek
in the county of Stafford who do_
parted this life October 13 1797
aged 60 years in consequence
of a fall which he received wit-
hin the Dwelling house of Sa-
muel Rowe of Crich Ironhol.
If well prepared what need delays
The summons come, the soul obeys
The flesh rests here till Jesus come
To claim his merits from the Tomb.

One imagines from this that Jeremiah’s death was perhaps the only matter that brought him into the public eye. Then, no doubt of it, his manner of departing this lifo would give the town something to talk about. A snap of ghoulish gossip never comes amiss, and the lurid details increase with every telling.

It would be very interesting to know more of sergeant Vallance. This stone might reasonably catch the attention of the hunter of “curious” epitaphs since it is one that might have been more happily worded. It is also a good example of the comparative unimportance of wives: Mrs Vallance appears in small letters, while the sergeant appears twice in large one
In (this is very elaborate)
Remembrance of
who departed this life
November 28th 1833
aged 79 years
Hannah wife of the
who departed this life
November 26th 1835
aged 80 years.

He served is Majesty 36 years
and retired as Sergeant with a
pension in 1814. Since then he has
led a life of Piety and Integrity.
They were both highly respected

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“Since then” raises unavoidable speculations. Were piety and integrity unknown quantities in his Majesty's forces? Was George Vallance a wild young follow craving for excitement when he enlisted at the age of twenty-four? Did his experiences of war lead him to change his ways of thought and life, as has to my own knowledge been the case with many an old soldier? But let his bones rest in peace, he must hove been a steady men and a good soldier.

The more modern epitaphs do not compare well with the older stones. Too often they resemble the most hackneyed forms of doggerel verse seen in the “In Memorium” notices of any local newspaper. They may truly reflect the sorrow of the survivors, but they lack both the dignity and quiet confidence found time and again among the older inhabitants. They tend to dwell too much on the sufferings of the dear departed. The older stones tell a different story – they are not concerned with ear thly sufferings – the grave is merely a temporary resting place before a “Joyful Resurrection” as more than one stone has it, for instance :-
Farewell dear Friends our souls is gone
Into a world to you unknown
And here our ashes must remain
Until they meet our souls again

or again:-
Wrapt up in silent dust
We hear together sleep
Till the last Trumpit sound
This grave our bodies keep.

Gray might have called these “uncouth rhymes”, but at least they show that the grave has won no real victory. What better message can be given on a tombstone?

There are few references to Crich in the evidence available to me during the troublous years from Henry VIII's founding the Church of England to the Toleration Acts of 1688. We had a glimpse of the disregard of Holy Days in William de Wakebridge’s day, and it is not likely this behaviour grew any better through the years that followed. The change in the ecclesiastical regime apparently came about with very little excitement, and as the interferences in English Church matters by the Pope had never been well received, there was probably a good deal of satisfaction when the breach with Rome actually occurred.

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But this satisfaction cannot have lasted very long, a rather shadowy and distant Head of the Church had been replaced by a sterner and nearer master – The State – and the state had a heavy hand. Conformity with the new Church was compulsory, and woe betide those who attempted to flout the law. Every effort was made to bring the new state of affairs home to the people. Under Henry VIII four sermons a year had to be preached in every Parish Church and these sermons were as much political as religious, upholding the Crown on one hand and denouncing the Pope and all his works on the other. Moreover the preacher was a picked man, licensed nominally by the Archbishop, but in reality by the Crown. It did not follow that the vicar of every parish was a licensed preacher; it did not matter what was his learning or his spiritual gifts, he was chosen as an unshakeable loyalist to the Crown. At the end of Elizabeth’s reign out of one hundred and thirty-eight Derbyshire parish clergy, only a small proportion had University degrees, and only thirty were Licensed Preachers. Among these we find the vicar of Crich, a man with no degree, licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. His stipend was £6 13s 4d. The vicar of Wirksworth was a Doctor of Divinity, I think the only man in the county so qualified. He had no license! It is on record that on one occasion of a State Sermon in his time in Wirksworth by a licensed outsider the congregation went out in a body as a protest against the slighting of their own vicar! Obviously the men of Carsington were not alone in being “very ticklish and capricious, very hard to be pleased in ministers,” so was said of them in the 17th century.

Crich Parish seems to have kept on the noiseless tenon of its way, whether this was loyalty to the State Churchy, apathy in religious matters or expediency, must remain a matter for speculation. Troubles with tho Roman Catholics in Elizabeth’s reign apparently left it untouched; if there were any “Recusants” in the parish, they were probably fry too small to be any benefit to the Exchequer and so were left alone.

Note: Recusants were those who refused to attend Anglican Church Services

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Both Elizabeth and James I made a very good thing out of fines on non-churchgoing “Recusants”. £20 a month was the payment exacted. Under the harsh Elizabethan laws a Roman Catholic was lucky to get off with a fine. Any Romish priest taken (or accused of) celebrating Mass was liable to execution for high treason, and the same applied to his congregation, and many an innocent died in prison.

In short, under Elizabeth, every Roman Catholic was regarded as a potential traitor and it must be remembered that Elizabeth herself was facing unending conspiracies against her, and the country was faced with dire peril from oversea. There had been one taste of Papal domination in Henry’s reign, and now there had been further terrible examples of it in the Netherlands and France. “It must not happen here” was the verdict of the whole country, and every step was taken to prevent it. Politically necessary no doubt, but it is not a pleasing picture of the spacious days of Queen Elisabeth I.

The 17th century brought more trouble to the Established Church. No doubt the six people in Crich arrested in 1634 for the crime of being absent from Church “these three Sabbath days last past” were Roman Catholics, but the Protestant Dissenters – Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists were growing in strengths and after them came the Quakers, all these had to be reckoned with.

Theological arguments were the chief popular interest, and the old books of mid 17th century too often reveal the hair splitting debates that the rival sects indulged in. Crich seems to have taken all changes in its stride. If Mr Shelmerdine was accepted during tho fifteen years the Established Church of England was dominated by the Presbyterian element, the churchgoers apparently also accepted the change in 1662 back to the old ways without a murmur. When in 1675. under the threat of a -possible revival of Roman Catholicism by the heir to the throne (the future James II), the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered a religious census of the country, the figures for Crich parish show that out of four hundred and nine people entered in it, there were only two “Papists” and three other nonconformists.

Four hundred and four were church attenders. Incidentally this is a useful sidelight on the population of the parish at that time, though it does not include children under sixteen.

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The Independents and the Baptists do not come on the local scene till much later, there may have been some in Crich; but there seems no record of any 17th century activity. We do, however, get a sight of the Quakers. It may be worth mentioning that the name “Quaker” originated in Derby, and it is probably the only reason that Judge Bennett has kept out of complete oblivion. He told George Fox that he would make him quake before the law – an allusion to the religious fervour that shook the preaching Quaker from head to foot and the name “given in scorn” as George Fox says, took the popular fancy, and “Quakers” his followers have been ever since.

It is a sidelight on the theological spirit of the times that Fox was offered a commission In the Parliamentary forces on the strength of his preaching powers!

There are few local names to be found in Besse’s “Sufferings of the People called Quakers”, and non I think, survive to this day as members of the Society of Friends.

We read of a party taken at a Meeting near Eyam who spent a night in Crich on their way to Derby Gaol. And there is the case of John Lynam of Wingfield Park, which had a rather surprising sequel. John Lynam* had several short terms of imprisonment for non-payment of Tithe, and also had a cow worth £3 taken from him. It seemed strange that when there was tithe on all land, that Lynam’s farm should be called "Tithe Farm”; it looked as if it might be a kind of nickname commemorating John Lynam’s troubles. But it turned out that there had never been any tithe payable on land in Wingfield Park; Wingfield Parish was a poor one, and this farm had been selected to help out the vicar. I then made some enquiry into the cow story, but the older members of the family knew nothing of it. By a queer coincidence just at the time of my enquiries, the village school children were writing essays on what they each knew of village history, and a small girl of ten who was some kin to the Lynam family, had introduced the cow into her essay! The tale had been told to her by her grandmother, and the grandmother’s great-great-grandfather was John Lynam! Now if the memory of such a minor episode has been retained for nearly three hundred years, what must have been the feelings of those Dissenters who suffered every form of the utmost brutality in the effort to make them conform to the Church? Even Cox who was a staunch Churchman and had no fondness for Dissenters, admits the years 1660 – 1689 were a black page in Church history.

Read more about Besse’s “Sufferings of the People called Quakers.

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We shall do well today to remember that our fore-fathers bought our freedom with their blood. Relief came in the Toleration Acts of 1689, that is, to all but the strange combination of Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. These last only gained religious freedom and civil rights in 1829 and then not without opposition!

Dissenters were now allowed their own meeting places which were mostly in private houses. These had to be registered along with the name of the householder. According to Cox the first nonconformist chapels were built about the middle of the 18th century. Crich as usual was well to the fore. The Methodists had now made their appearance, and the Wesleyan chapel in Chapel Lane is dated 1765. The Primitive Methodist chapel in Fritchley came next, dated 1829. The Congregational Chapel in Fritchley followed in 1841; (these were the old Independents) previous to the building of the chapel they held their Sunday School and presumably their Services in a room over what is now called “Fritchley Stores”, better known to most of us old stagers as “The Shop”.

Note: See Places of Worship on this site.

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The Sun Lane Primitive Methodist chapel is dated 1855, and there was also the later built Mount Tabor. The Baptists made their appearance about this time; the date on the old chapel on Roe’s Lane (now Smith Bros. workshop) is 1850, but either they did not care for the position or their numbers had grown too -many for it, for they chose a new site on the Market Place, and the building is dated 1877. And here, unfortunately, the Antiquary has a bone to pick with the Baptists for they demolished Roger Beler’s old 14th century house. It must be made plain that I have heard only one side of the story, and what follows must be received with caution, we all know how village gossip can be exaggerated; and I make all apologies to present day Baptists for telling what was told to me and if they choose to put their side forward I shall be grateful for any correction. Beler’s house, known as Wheeldon House, was owned by Ralph Wheeldon Smith, a descendant of the Ralph Smith of the 1660 deal with the Shrewsburys. He was also one of the claimants of the Lordship of the Manor. He got into some financial difficult and had to part with some of his property, but never intended to let his house go. However, the Baptists wanted the site, the auctioneer was a Baptist, and Smith lost his house before he knew what was happening! To the end of his days he considered he had been tho victim of sharp practice, and there was much bad feeling about the whole affair, so much so, that an aged inhabitant, only a very few years back, who was an ardent supporter of Mr Smith, said with great bitterness “All tho Baptists ought to dangle like tassels at the end of ropes!”

There is on old picture of Wheeldon House still in existence so all is not entirely lost. Mr Tilley’s opinion on the destruction of the house might have been worth having, in his view it would have been another sad example of the Derbyshire man's callousness regarding historic buildings. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the tale I have told, there is no getting away from the fact that Crich lost a treasure.

Belers Manor House
Drawing of the Manor House, by Irene Sinclair, from the phograph

It was not until the the late 1860s that the Quakers had their first Meeting House in Fritchley at the bottom of Bobbin Mill Hill. In the early 18th century the Meeting House for the district was at Furnace (South Wingfield) and the little graveyard there is still in use

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Those rather shortsighted visitors who have deplored the number of public houses might more usefully have noted the number of places of worship, and realised that if Crich had an eye to material needs, it was far from blind to spiritual welfare. Nor did it stop at places of worship. In 1833 there were ten day schools which dealt with 115 boys and 112 girls, and three Sunday schools with 157 boys and 140 girls. Crich Sunday school had a Lending Library attached to it.

In the more outlying parts of the parish there was another day school with 36 boys and two Sunday schools with 137 boys and 92 girls. So much for the care of youth: at the other end of the scale was the Workhouse for the aged and crippled citizens. This still survives in name at least, as”Workhouse Row”. * Nor were the very poor forgotten. At Christmas time there was a distribution of the various charities which still takes place at the present day.

Kirkland’s Charity dates from 1562 and gave 40s a year from a farm in Wheatcroft. Combined with this is Shelden’s Pingle given by “some person, unknown” amounting to 5s a year, half going to the vicar and the other half to the poor. The Pingle is stated to have been land of less than an acre but the actual word seems to have died out completely.

Charity Plaque in Crich Church
Charity Plaque in St. Mary's Church Belfrey

Gisborne’s Charity (1817) supplied “coarse Yorkshire cloth and flannel” to the value of £7 5s 0d and is known locally as the “Flannel Charity”. It is now paid in. cash. Rev. Francis Gisborne was Rector of Staveley and he provided similar charities to several other parishes.

Kirkland’s and the Pingle charities were to be paid out in sums from 6d. to 2s 6d. to “poor persons not receiving Relief”

Cornthwaite's Charity dates from 1838, and was founded by the Rev. Thomas Cornthwaite a former Vicar of Crich from 1801 – 1838. He died in Derby that year leaving a legacy of the income from £200 in 3% consols to be distributed to the poor of Crich.

{NOTE: Workhouse Row is now called Chapel Row}

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After the foundation of the now Parishes of Tansley and Wessington a small share of the charities, nine thirtieths to be exact, had to be passed on to them. The vicar of Crich remained patron of both though he had lost his full rights owing to the merger of Tansley with Matlock, and Wessington with Brackenfield.

To return for a moment to the rise of nonconformity in Crich, what change has come over the people who have hitherto taken every variation of church management in their stride? Was Cox’s “black page” of Church of England history even "blacker locally then shown by the few instances he quotes? How much was due to the fiery eloquence of the Parliamentary fighting preachers of the Civil War? How much was due to the too frequently poor quality of the Church of England clergy? Every one of these things must have had some influence on men's minds to make such a decided break. No love was lost between Church and nonconformists, and if the feeling of hostility is not so strong as it was at one time, even today it is not far below the surface. Like 17th century Carsington this remains a “ticklish” parish. It would seem that so long as the nonconformists had few pieces of worship the higher authorities of the Church made very little move. The “building of the chapels (two at Whatstandwell should have been mentioned) put a different completion on the matter. As shown above concerning the charities up to 1862 Crich Parish appears to have included Tansley and Wessington, (Tansley Church was built in 1840, but I have no information as to when exactly it became a separate parish) and if the vicar of Crich carried out his duties over such a wide area conscientiously there is no doubt that he more than earned his vicarage and his princely stipend of £98 per annum. Tansley and Wessington were then formed into new parishes which lightened the burden considerably, and Crich was free to concentrate on its own affairs. The parish church was restored in 1861 and happily the "restoration" was not as drastic as in other places.

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In 1869 the so called “Mission Church” was built in Fritchley, no doubt in the eyes of such still churchmen as Cox and others of more recent date, a small village with three nonconformist places of worship, Methodists, Congregationalists and Quakers, must have been desperately in need of missionary effort. Cox had no opinion of Dissenters and Quakers in particular were to him, an utterly abhorrent species of mankind. And Cox did not stand alone. But Fritchley had its own tough brand of local patriotism never caring to to patronised by outsiders, and possibly this has some bearing on the general dislike to speak of “Church St.” instead of the time honoured “Mutton Row”.

Judging by the style of building, the church schools in Crich and Whatstandwell were built about the same time, and the Fritchley “Mission Church” has also been long used as a school. And it was not until the erection of the Council School in Crich that the church lost its complete control of education in the parish. What the future holds for the church run schools must remain a matter for speculation. The Council School was undoubtedly a shadow of things to come.

Fritchley School
Fritchley Mission and School

And now let us turn to the still persisting legend of the “Quaker village” of Fritchley, for legend it surely is. Even when their numbers were strongest, the Quakers represented only a small proportion of the population, and this small proportion gathered itself into a rather exclusive self-sufficient little community, it might to said, living in the village and yet not .of it. And it has sometimes been a disappointment to enquiries to find that Fritchley Meeting has not had a continuous existence since the days of George Fox. It may to some consolation for these people to know that this quiet little community put Fritchley village on the map. Its name is known in Scandinavia and more widely perhaps in the eastern States of U.S.A. through personal visits and correspondence with kindred meetings. This is not the place to go into the story of the founding of the Meeting at great length.

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Here it must be sufficient to say that in the middle of last century the Society of Friends was passing through a very troublous time. Many of the more conservative Friends thought the Society was slipping from its first principles as regards doctrine, discipline, management of meetings, and personally in matters of speech and dress. To the modern eye some of these vital points at issue seem rather like straining at gnats, but both sides were sincerely in earnest and and considered that they were right. One of the leaders of the conservative group was John Sargent then living at Cockermouth engaged in a wood turning and bobbin making business. The controversy lasted for some years until it became intolerable. Judging from letters written at the time it must have been heart rendering to those principally involved, before it was finally decided that the only possible course was to set up a Meeting which would not accept the authority of the main Society of Friends. The conservatives regarded themselves not as split from the main body, but as the true remnant of the Society. It is not clear why John Sargent came to Fritchley, it was partly no doubt a wish to be in closer touch with his supporters, for he was a great traveller up and down the country, partly perhaps that the existing Bobbin Mill enabled him to carry on his business.

Photo of Sargent Family
John Grant Sargent and family

He came to Fritchley in 1863, followed by a group of his Cockermouth workpeople who, according to two old gentlemen who must have been in 1948 the last living links with the mill at John Sargent’s time, walked every step of the way! How many employers of today could hope for such a tribute of loyalty from their workmen? Meetings for worship were first held at Fernside, as it was difficult to attend Furnace meetings with a large family and no convenient form of transport. But it soon became apparent more room was needed, and accordingly Fernside Cottage was taken over, and the first meeting was held in it in September of 1864. No date can be given for the establishment of a night school in the lower room, where up to very recent years a text remained on one of the walls:but it must date before 1869 when the church was stirred into action by this nonconformist activity, and as aforesaid the “Mission Church” was built.

Fernside Cottage
Fernside Cottage
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No date can be given for the “Fritchley Lending Library”, nor do I know how long it lasted. Books were allowed out for a fortnight after which there was a fine of one penny for the first week and twopence for the second. It was evidently run in a business like manner. Another worthy action by the younger members of the Sargent family was lightening the burden of country postman who had a round of twenty miles every day of the week. The Sargent’s work resulted in the postman getting his Sunday off.

In 1868 came the final break with the main Society of Friends, and Fritchley henceforth stood as an independent body, though there were still constant visits to other Meetings up and down the country. After this date various other Friends came to live in the village but as the names would mean nothing to people today, it is hardly worthwhile going into detail. They came from Cumberland, from Lancashire, from the southern counties, and some from Scotland. Among the Cumberland group was the antiquary Henry Wake who had a good deal of publicity from time to time as a friend of Thomas Carlyle, and also for his marvellously neat hand written catalogues, copies of which are much prized. But few know the story of his advice to his wife who asked him which two cows she should buy. True to his business he looked them over and remarked with his dry humour, “If it was a case of antiquity, I should choose that one!”

There was Martha Rickman who endowed the little Quaker School at Chestnut Bank, which must have carried on for fifty years till the supply of children ran out.

Chestnut Bank pupils
Pupils at Chestnut Bank in 1898

There was my uncle Edward Watkins from Birmingham who took over the Bobbin Mill from John Sargent in the early 1880s and ran it till the disastrous fire in June 1885 put an end to its existence. There was an attempt to revive the business at the small mill at the bottom of Bull Bridge where Stevenson’s Dye works now stand but it was not a success. Edward Watkins also built Chestnut Bank.

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There was Thomas Davidson from Aberdeen who for many years ran “The Shop” and bakehouse on the Green. His original partner was George Smith, also from the north.

Davidson PO, Fritchley
Davidson shop on the "Green" at Fritchley

Kelsalls from Lancashire were early comers, and they and their descendants farmed at Barn Close from 1868.

Fernside remained in Quaker hands from 1863

There were the two main residences, but there was always what might be called a floating population of Quaker visitors too numerous to mention, to say nothing of the company that came to the Spring and Autumn “General Meetings”. At such times the village really did present a Quakerly aspect, and is probably the foundation of the Legend.

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Photo acknowledgements

Page 9: Beryl Calladine
Page 12: Peter Patilla
Page 13: Peter Patilla
Page 15: From "High Peak to Sherwood" by T. L. Tudor
Page 18 : © Copyright Sam Styles
Page 29: Beryl Calladine
Page 32: Hugh Potter
Page 33: Graham Swift
Page 35: Hilda Thorpe
Page 37: Multiple sources; Rosemary Hall
Page 40: Beryl Calladine; Rosemary Bower
Page 43: George Smith Collection, courtesy Stan Smith
Page 45: Peter Patilla; Sue Worboys
Page 48: George Wigglesworth
Page 50: George Wigglesworth
Page 56: From Cox "Derbyshire Churches: Crich 1877"
Page 65: Irene Sinclair
Page 66: Peter Patilla
Page 68: Private album
Page 69: Both from Walter Lowndes Book, "Quakers of Fritchley"
Page 70: Walter Lowndes Book, "Quakers of Fritchley"
Page 71: Walter Lowndes Book, "Quakers of Fritchley"

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