which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell

Crich Families

Ralph Wheeldon Smith 1792–1861

A brief history by Bruce Smith

Below is a brief account of the family of Ralph Wheeldon Smith. His ancestors were well-to-do figures –

The Hon. Henry Howard, Son of the Earl of Arundel sold his property, in 1660, to Anthony Bennet and Ralph Smith for £3270. The deed of sale mentions the property as including one-third of each of:
· the chase of Crich
· Culland Park
· a limestone Quarry
· a red-lead mill
· a water corn mill
Bennet and Smith sold two-thirds of their mineral rights – which were divided up into many shares then owned by separate individuals including Thomas Wright of Fritchley.

A short abstract of that deed, and two others relating to this manor, follows :
" By Indenture of feoffment, dated 7th April, 1660. The Honourable Henry Howard (second son of the late Right Honourable Henry, Earl of Arundel and Surrey) and the Right Honourable Lady Anne, his wife. In consideration of £3270 did grant, release, enfeoffe and confirm unto Thomas Wright, of Fritchley, gent. Anthony Bennett, of Brackenfield, gent. Ralph Smith, of Hognaston, yeoman, Richard Verdon, of Fritchley, yeoman, John Oates and John Wetton, of Wheatcroft, yeomen, and William Wood, of Crich, yeoman, all that the third part of the manor or lordship of Crich, with the rights, members and appurtenances thereof, in the county of Derby, and the third part of the chase of Crych aforesaid, and of Culland park, in Crych aforesaid, and the third part of a limestone quarry and limeing, with the appurtenances, and the third part of the red lead mill and the water corn mill, in Crych aforesaid, and the third part of all and singular the messuages,
lands, tenements, hereditaments and premises in Crych, Lea and Tansley, to the said manor belonging, and the third part of all and singular other houses, edifices, buildings, lodges, barns, stables, courts, yards, orchards, gardens, lofts, crofts, closes, enclosed grounds, lands, tenements, meadows, pastures, feedings, mines, and quarries of stone, coal and ironstone, woods, underwoods, trees, with the ground and soil thereof, commons, common of pasture, common grounds, wastes, heaths, moors, marshes, mills, wears, waters, streams, watercourses, ways, easements, passages, rents, chief rent, rent secke, and all other rents and services, courts, court leet and court baron, view of frank pledge, perquisites and profits of courts, fines, amerciaments, waifs, estrays, tolls, customs, duties, rights, royalties, liberties, privileges, immunities, franchises, profits, commodities, emoluments and hereditaments whatsoever to the said manor or lordship of Crych, or other the premises belonging, &c. situate, lying, and being in the parishes, fields and precincts of Crych, Lea, Tansley, Crych chase, Culland, park, Fritchley, Wheatcroft, Over Holloway, Nether Holloway, Coddington, or Lindey lane, every or any of them, in the said county of Derby, and the reversion, &c. and all and singular deeds, &c. to be delivered up on or before 20th September then next, &c. to hold to the said Smith and Bennett, their heirs and assigns, for ever. To whom the grantor warrants the said third part, and covenants with them to levy a fine to ensure to them in fee, in order that a common recovery might be thereof suffered, which should ultimately be to the use of Wright, Verdon, and the others. Grantor covenants that for and notwithstanding any act, &c. by him, or by Thomas, then Earl of Arundel and Surrey, Henry, late Earl of Arundel and Surrey, his father, Thomas, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, his grandfather, and the Lady Alathea, his wife, Countess of Arundel and
Surrey, Elizabeth, Countess of Kent, sister of the said Alathea, or Gilbert (then) late Earl of Shrewsbury, father of the said Alathea and Elizabeth, &c. for the title, &c. and that free and clearly, &c. except one lease, dated April, 1658, made by the said Henry Howard and others, Lords of the said manor of Crych for thirty-one years, unto James Wright, John Newton, gent. and others, their partners for the carrying on the great sough and grooves within the said manor, and that within seven years he would do any other for further assurance,

Bennett and Smith disposed of the above purchased third part of the manor in severalties, as is partly evident by the following short abstract :
"14th February, 14 Charles II. (1660) Anthony Bennett, of Brackenfield, gent. and Ralph Smith, of Hognaston, yeoman, granted two-thirds of the mineral duties of the lot and cope of Crich to John Newton, of Okerthorpe, gent. Anthony Wood, of Wakebridge, yeoman, Robert Sage, of Wirksworth, yeoman, and Francis Alleyn, of the Lea, yeoman."

It is obvious that the Smith family owned substantial land in the Crich area they owned fish pond house and Wheeldon House.There is vague mentions of the Smith family being important in the area but a total lack of information. The Denman Mason diary gives some insight into this. It gives some insight into middle-class affairs in Crich in the mid-19th century. Denman's father Edwin Mason was, it seems, an easy-living man who had fritted away his property. In a diary note of March 20th 1868 Denman recorded that his father was just recovering from a drinking bout that had lasted about three weeks. (Such bouts were not at all uncommon in Victorian and Edwardian times and - various local people have confirmed that it was still occurring in the 1920's and the 1930's). Moreover Edwin had sold to cows, his pony and trap and other things - "for a supply of drink". Denman said of his father that he had been "nothing but a scatterer during the whole of his life". Denman's mother was Julia. Her father had been Ralph Wheeldon Smith, who was a direct descendant of the Ralph Smith who, in 1660, had acquired part of the property and some of the manorial rights in Crich from Henry Howard - of the House of Arundel.

Two of Julia's brothers, Rupert and Thomas, emigrated to Australia and it seems that Julia had sent Denman out to Australia to live with his uncles hoping to give him a better start in life than he might expect in Crich. But times in Australia were hard. The uncles were farmers and butchers and on April 8th 1868 Denman recorded in his diary that although butchers in Crich could sell second quality beef at 8d a pound and mutton at 7½d a pound, in Melbourne Australia it was reported that good mutton was only fetching 1d or 2d a pound. In the hope of restoring their fortunes, uncles Rupert and Thomas sent Denman back to England to progress the settlement of his grandfather's estate. He arrived in Crich on August 31st 1866 and his diary covers
the period from then to July 1869.

His grandmother, now Mary Marshall, was a widow and in her eighties and was living in a cottage near Dial Farm. Mary had married William Marshall after the deaths of her two previous husband's; John Mason (father of Edwin) and Samuel - brother of Ralph Wheeldon Smith. Denman also had an uncle Ralph W. Smith living in Crich – at Fishpond House which is at the foot of the last peak of Crich Hill.

William Marshall had bequeathed the Crich Manor House below Edge Moor – the "Pot House" - to Grandmother Mary. When this was put up for sale on October 16 1866 Denman Mason was given authority, as her agent, to receive the monies from the sale.

Ralph Wheeldon Smith had owned much property in Crich and at one-time lived in Ralph Beler's 14th century Manor House on what is now Crich Market Place, and which later was renamed Wheeldon House. The Smiths also owned Fishpond House; "the Common House", where Aunt Smith had entertained John Wesley a century earlier: land on the Nether, the Upper and the Middle Cliff as well as rights in a local lead mine, fishing rights on the Derwent and so on. Some of these were sold – as a step towards settling Ralph Wheeldon Smith's estate – on February
25th 1867 at the 'Jovial Dutchman' at Crich Cross. The last sale of R.W. Smith's property also took place at the 'Dutchman' about a year later, on January 14th 1868. On that occasion the Butterley Company bought the Cliff Land for £62 per acre and S. Radford of Bullbridge bought the Common Farm for £751.

Ralph Smith, who had been living at Fishpond House when his son, and Denman's cousin Joseph Smith had died there (aged 18) on August 29th 1867, moved to Wheeldon House in February 1868. (it had been standing empty for over 3 years). Denman Mason helped his cousin Susannah to tidy-up the old front garden, which was in a very bad state. He contrasted it with its condition when his Grandmother - as wife of Sam Smith - took pride and tended it with so much care.

Ralph Smith owned the 'Jovial Dutchman' and on March 23rd 1868 Denman drew up an agreement for letting the Inn to a Mr. Boole from Sheffield. Ralph also had the rent from Fishpond House and he received an income of £1 a week (and travelling expenses) from the Crich Co-operative Society – a company of butchers – for "buying in and selling out". Denman thought this to be good pay for about three days work. Later, property-owner Ralph began working 'physically'. He started slaughtering cattle for the Co-operative Society, and Denman used to help his uncle. For instance on March 5th 1868 together they killed a cow and two sheep, and on March 12th 1868 they killed a calf and a sheep. Denman must have felt he had aquired skill as a butcher for, on May 25th 1868, he "wrote to Messr. Money Wigram and Sons for a
situation as butcher for the voyage out to the Colony".

He was ready to return to Australia but before he went he, on September 30th 1868, helped his Uncle Ralph by painting at the "old house on the green" (i.e., the Market Place) and he noted that Ralph had given-up butchering for the Crich Co-operative Society and was now in business for himself "in the old shop on the green". On October 9th 1868 Denman and Ralph slaughtered two cows and five sheep for Crich Fair. Ralph "sold out all the Wakes beef and has killed another cow, making his share three. I think Crich people are noted for beef eating, especially at the Wakes for this time there was sixteen slaughtered in all".

In an earlier part of his diary, Denman noted, on September 2nd 1867, that Squire Hurt (of Alderwasley) and Squire Wass (of Holloway) had spent today shooting on Crich Common and had called at the Mason house for refreshment – giving Denman "full permission to fish their rivers any time I thought well". The next day, September 3rd 1867, he recorded that he and his brother had good days sport - fishing on Gregory Pond (nowadays called the Gregory Widehole) on the Cromford Canal on Squire Nightingale's land. They caught 32 roach and several perch. A few days later Denman "received at present of three brace of birds and one rabbit from Sir H.. F. Every, Egginton Hall as a return for the privilege of shooting over the Inkermill land" and on September 13th 1867 he had "a hare and brace of birds from Squire Buxton, being his annual present for the privilege of sporting over the Hilton Common land - now in the occupation of Mr. Blood". Both these were family properties.

So, although the Smith's and the Mason's were no longer so prosperous as formerly, they were obviously in easy social contact with the local squirearchy – and recognised as 'gentry'."

Read Denman Mason's Diary 1866–1869

Additional information by Stuart Hill

The piece in Bruce's article about Ralph Wheeldon Smith's ancestor, Ralph Smith purchasing land at great expence, along with Anthony Bennett, could be 'mistaken identity'. The administration for Ralph Smith (who died 1697 at Crich) dated 1698, intestate, stated his effects were just over £10 which went to his son Samuel. It also says that Ralph Smith was from Hognaston. It seems that we have two different Ralph Smiths here.

Read William Smith's will dated 1822

Note: the name Ralph Wheeldon SMITH occurs very regularly in the newspapers of the mid 1800s. VIEW

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