Allen and Clara, were on their way to a new life in April 1758. Forbidden to marry by her father they had set off on horseback for Peak Forest (Derbyshire’s Gretna Green of the time). They stayed overnight at the Royal Oak in Stoney Middleton to rest before their final journey which they would never complete.
Richly attired lovers Allen & Clara, forbidden to marry by her father arrived at the Royal Oak to stay the night. The following morning they set off on horseback for Peak Forest (Derbyshire’s Gretna Green of the time) where they could be legally married. Sadly they never made it as they were murdered by five miners in the Winnats near Castleton for their valuables. Clara’s saddle was kept in the pub before it closed and now resides at the Castleton Museum.
There is an account of this murder in Highways and byways in Derbyshire; by J.B. Firth:
There was a murder in the Winnats long ago. In 1768 a runaway pair, to whom tradition has given the names of Henry (Allen) and Clara, were married at the extra-parochial chapel of Peak Forest, a sort of minor Gretna Green. While on their way to Castleton they were seized by five miners in the Winnats, dragged to a barn and murdered. Juliet was killed by a pickaxe ; Romeo had his throat cut ; and the bodies were hidden in a cave. Their horses were found at Sparrowpit and taken to Chatsworth, but were never claimed, and the saddles were long preserved there. The murderers were punished not by human justice but by divine. One is said to have broken his neck at the Winnats ; a second was crushed by a fall of stone ; a third committed suicide ; a fourth died mad, and the fifth made a death-bed confession. The bodies of the victims were not found for ten years. Such is the story, but I confess I am sceptical. It inspired a clergyman, the Rev. A. G. Jewitt, to compose in 1815 an amazingly doggerel ballad which concludes as follows:
Christians, I have told my ditty, If you shudder not with fear, If your breasts can glow with pity, Can you now withhold a tear?